I recently finished G.K. Chesterton’s biography of Saint Francis of Assisi. Chesterton (1874-1936) did an amazing job at trying to setup the historical/cultural context in which Saint Francis lived. I was slightly annoyed with this approach at first but later came to deeply appreciate it. Chesterton’s gives a very believable interpretation of Saint Francis that even a cynic would undoubtedly find reflective and insightful. I was inspired by this real-life ‘eccentric’ troubadour for Jesus who reshaped the Middle Ages.
Here are a few of the quotes that I underlined while I was reading:
“As he saw all things dramatically, so he himself was always dramatic. We have to assume throughout, needless to say, that he [St. Francis] was a poet, and can only be understood as a poet. But he had one poetic privilege denied to most poets. In that respect indeed he might be called the one happy poet among all the unhappy poets of the world. He was a poet whose whole life was a poem.” Pg 70
“A man satisfied with small things, or even in love with small things, he yet never felt quite as we do about the disproportion between small things and large. He never saw things to scale in our sense, but with dizzy disproportion which makes the mind reel… He was quite capable of facing fifty emperors to intercede for the lives of certain little birds.” Pg 85
“It shows that the Saints were sometimes great men when the Popes were small men. But it also shows that great men are sometimes wrong when small men are right.” Pg 122
It is perhaps the chief suggestion of this book that Saint Francis walked the world like the Pardon of God. I mean that his appearance marked the moment when men could be reconciled not only to God but to nature and, most difficult of all, to themselves.” Pg 124
That’s all for now. I hope it wets your appetite for more.