WISDOM OF THE
Eloi Leclerc, OFM. Franciscan Herald Press, 1989, 126pp.
little book of meditations was first published in French and translated into
English in 1961. This re-printing is both timely and valuable. It is timely
because the meditations of this friar-philosopher-poet- professor at Lille
are as pointed as they were when issued thirty years ago. They make for
light, reflective reading or meditation in a style that is captivating and
full of imagery. Leclerc calls us to "Listen to the crackling of the wheat
as the breeze moves across the field. One must have silence to hear such
things....Yes, and to hear the word of God." Therein lies the value of this
little work. It is recommended for any Franciscan and for any of our
THE SONG OF THE DAWN,
Eloi Leclerc, OFM. Franciscan Herald Press, 1977, 70pp.
read these brief but profound meditations for the second time, they are
still as vibrant today in the beauty of thought and ideas as when they were
first written. It treats of the Canticle of the Creatures, the song of
Francis that reveals to us the depth of his own soul and spirit. "His
canticle is the confession of a man in whom the basic forces of life have
recovered the transparency of the primal sources and the brilliance of a
sunburst." It is recommended for meditation and spiritual reading, as well
as for any Franciscan library.
SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI AND NATURE,
Roger D. Sorrell. Oxford University Press, 1988, 204pp.
Francis is often depicted as a kind of proto-hippie or early
environmentalist. This is the first study to debunk modern anachronistic
interpretations, arguing convincingly that Francis' ideas can only be
understood in their 13th century context.
Through close analysis of Francis' statements, such as the Sermon to the
Birds and the Canticle of Brother Sun, Sorrell shows that many of Francis'
beliefs concerning the proper relation of humanity to the natural world have
their antecedents in scripture and the medieval monastic orders while other
ideas and practices--his nature mysticism, his concept of familial
relationships with created things, and his extension of chivalric
conceptions to interactions with creatures--are entirely his own. Sorrell
demonstrates that only by seeing Francis in terms of the Western traditions
from which he arose, can we appreciate the true originality--even
eccentricity--of his thoughts and its relevance to modern religious and
Sorrell's work is unparalleled in its clarity and sensitivity to elements of
the traditional and original in the beautiful and memorable expressions of
Francis. It is certain to appeal to scholars of Franciscan and Medieval
History and Religion, and students of the environment and ecology.
It is basically a serious study recommended for libraries in houses
THE STIGMATA OF ST.FRANCIS OF ASSISI: A CRITICAL INVESTIGATION IN
THE LIGHT OF 13TH CENTURY SOURCES
Octavian Schmucki, OFM Cap, translated by Canisius Connors, OFM,
Franciscan Institute Publications, St.Bonaventure, NY, 1991, 393pp.
We need not
hesitate to base our reflections concerning the Stigmata on (his)
conclusions, since they come to us precisely through strict adherence to the
scientific methodology of historical criticism....(H)is
conclusions...furnish us with the highest- level guarantees within the
category of history.
are the words of our former General Minister, Constantine Koser which he
wrote on the 750th anniversary of the impression of the Stigmata on the body
Octavian Schmucki, a member of the Capuchin Institute of Franciscan Research
(Collegio San Lorenzo da Brindidsi, Rome) offers the Order a painstaking
examination of the Stigmata of St.Francis. Schmucki is not only an
exhaustive research scholar, but one who also presents us with a critical
examination of sources on whataever topic he studies, in this case, the
In this English edition Schmucki begins his study with a
revised bibliographical review of publications on the topic from 1850 to
1985. He then treats of the historical-critical method in the study of the
Stigmata. His subsequent
chapters treat of the situation prior to the Stigmatization, the events
immediately preceding the Stigmatization, the Crucified Seraph and the
Stigmatization, and finally the form of the Stigmata.
An immediate reaction to his work is the new insights and ways that he
stretches the mind that studies the Stigmata from his accumulation of data.
Some sample statements of this type are:
This is the principal problem regarding the vision: it did not affect
the external but only the internal senses, and therefore it neither had nor
could have had true eyewitnesses, even though others were perhaps present at
the time [p. 196].
That Francis had given a brief hint concerning the harsh treatment he
received from the angel added
further stimulus to the imagination [p.197]. The
overpowering ecstasy of the Saint, which he had experienced according to
Br.Leo, entirely excluded
perception by the external senses [p.207].
The appearance of the Crucified joined to an angel presented a difficult
puzzle to the Saint. . . .The
disturbance of his mind, which was caused by doubt, did not cease until he
noticed the wounds opening in his
All link the opening of the wounds, begun immediately
after the mystical experience,
to a causal connection with the Seraphic vision; and they say that the
impression of the marks was
brought to completion not all at once, but progressively [p.213]. I would
recommend this book for our libraries, definitely for houses of our
ST. FRANCIS AND THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD
by Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle, ofm, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Stuart Taylor;
Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 1993, 184 pp.
is a book that one does not read straight through from cover to cover in one
sitting. It is a work that calls
for reflection in each of its chapters.
The four authors “chose to tell stories of Francis in the format of
this book because (they) are convinced that stories can be more effective
than doctrinal statements in communicating the truth” [p.1].
Some of the
truths they chose to communicate in their eight chapters are encounter with
the poor, ongoing conversion, community, friendship, non-violence, creation,
suffering, contemplation. The
authors approach each topic by “theological reflection, scriptural study,
social analysis, reflection on personal history and experience, and active
After reading each chapter, it is clear that much benefit could be derived
from engaging in a process of personal reflection or group reflection.
With regard to the latter, this book would be most beneficial to
friars and sisters to use at a house chapter or community meeting.
A chapter could be used as the basis of a day of recollection.
the entire book could serve one or even a group making an annual
retreat. The process of the book
lends itself handily to all of the above.
In speaking about
characteristics of the early Franciscan movement, one could question the
statement the authors make about Clare:
“he (Francis) could encourage Clare to draw up guidelines for her
sisters” [p.50]. Margaret Carney
writes: “An important witness to
the nature of Francis’ instruction of Clare and her sisters exists in the
Form of Life.
Esser states...(that) it is surely correct to assign the date of
composition of this opusculum to
the beginning of Clare’s religious life” (Cf. M. Carney, The First
Franciscan Woman, p. 39). From
the existence of the Form of Life,
it would seem improbable that Clare drew up guidelines for her sisters in
the early years of the Franciscan movement.
Clare’s work “guidelines,” on her own Rule is usually dated after
Innocent IV gave them his own rule in 1247, some twenty-one years after
In their chapter on Friendship, when talking about
intimacy and Francis’ intimate friends, they speak of Lady “Jacoba, an
older (italics mine) woman, was a
close friend of Francis” [p.71].
Recent scholarship on the Lady Jacoba speaks about them as chronological
peers. this would put such a
relationship in a very different light in the sense that Francis befriended
a woman of his own age. It
speaks to the healthiness of his friendships--not just with the brothers but
including women as well. When
Lady Jacoba arrives at the enclosure of the Portiuncola when Francis was
dying, the brothers informed him of her presence.
He responded: “Blessed be
God, who has guided the Lady Jacoba, our brother, to us.
Open the door and bring her in, for our Brother Jacoba does not have
to observe the decree against women” [3Cel 37].
He disregards his own decree by making her a “brother.”
also some minor inaccuracies or printing errors.
“He went to Rome early on to ask Innocent VI’s formal approval. . .”
[p.54]. It was Innocent III.
Later on we read: “Surely
his mother, Pia. . .” [p.71].
Her name was Pica. In a quote of
Mark 9:2 [p.75] Andrew was added to the list of those who witness the
Transfiguration. This verse
includes only Peter, James and John.
In spite of these minor points, this
book is definitely recommended for any Franciscan library.
GOSPEL LIVING EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES:
A FORMATION GUIDE TO THE RULE OF THE SECULAR
by Teresa V. Baker, SFO, Barbo-Carlson Enterprises, Lindsborg, KS, 1994, 131
with warm welcome that this text comes to the Franciscan family.
Having worked with the initiation of a new Secular Franciscan
Fraternity and its formation for about ten years, it was very difficult to
find solid material for instructing new members.
This text very adequately fills the gap.
In the foreword Dr.
Thomas Groome of Boston College mentions the fact that Baker “employs a
pedagogy here (‘shared Christian praxis’)” [p. ix] which he very clearly
elucidates on pp.ix-xi. Then
Baker, in her introduction, states:
It was with these deep convictions
about the importance of the Rule and our formation in it that I set out to
prepare this guide. . . .I chose this topic for two reasons.
The first was to deepen and broaden my understanding and application
of the Rule to my own life. The
second was to set on paper a guide by which others might probe their own
vocations as Secular Franciscans [p. 2].
Summarizing Baker’s advice to
formation directors, she writes:
1. Study of each Article of the Rule will begin with a focusing
From the focusing activity, two sets of reflection questions are drawn:
one set is intended for those in initial formation and one set for
those in ongoing formation.
3. From the sharing of personal reflections,
this guide will introduce each Article
of the Rule and give a brief synopsis of how it may apply to the life of a
4. The integration questions ask how each person
might change his or her life in response to the particular Article of the
5. The decision question asks each participant to take a stance to
change his or her life. [pp.
In spending time with the text, the following observations came to mind
which I would suggest for consideration should the text go into a second
Aware of the fact that the chapter entitled
Historical Background was based
predominantly on the historical
text cited in the endnotes, that of Iriarte published in 1979, there has
been more written since the publication of that text.
Especially weak in this chapter is a clearer reference to the origins
of the Third Order Regular branch of the Order.
Such an omission is also reflected in the text [cf. p114] where the
Meetings with other
Franciscan groups should be encouraged and fostered.
These meetings could easily take on a wider scope than that of the
local fraternity. they could
also introduce Secular Franciscans to other members of the Franciscan family
(Friars Minor or Poor Clares) or other Secular Franciscans....One
omission in a formation guide such as this is text of Robert Stewart, OFM,
De Illis Qui Faciunt Penitentiam: THE RULE OF THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN
ORDER. ORIGINS, DEVELOPMENT, INTERPRETATION, Instituto Storico Dei
Cappuccini, 1991, 461pp. Stewart
writes: "Let us, then, begin the
journey toward an interpretation of the 1978 Rule of the Secular Franciscan
Order" [p.43]. And indeed, it is a journey! Robert Stewart's work on the
1978 Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order is an important contribution not
only to Franciscan research, but also to the material available to the
Secular Franciscan Order itself. It is a work done in five chapters.
Stewart has the new 1978 SFO Rule in his hands. What he does with his
work is to give us the complete story of the evolution of this new Rule from
its origins, development, and interpretation.
The sections in chapters
one and two entitled “Franciscan Focus” were taken from two books by Bodo
and Carretto. Having worked with
Secular Franciscan for several years, it seems that they are not exposed
enough to the basic Franciscan sources, basic biographies on Francis by
Celano or Bonaventure. Quotes
from these works and others would serve to introduce any person interested
in the Secular Franciscans to basic source works thus providing the
beginning of a foundation in Franciscan study and reflection.
that when the author cites the Rule about
the temptation of exploiting creation
[p. 89] or being bearers of peace...seek[ing] out ways of unity and fraternal harmony
through dialogue [pp. 90-91], something could have been said about
Franciscans and their work as a Non-Governmental Organization at the United
Nations. And in citing the Rule
about the Secular Franciscans having
international [p. 100] status, something could have been added about the
fact that the Secular Franciscan Order has its own General Minister, a
recent development in its long history.
Aside from these few
observations, Teresa Baker’s volume would be most helpful in the work of
formation of all Secular Franciscans.
It is definitely recommended for use as well as for a place in all
A SEARCH FOR THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE AND A JOURNEY INTO SOLITUDE:
books which address a topic which the Franciscan Order is emphasizing for
all its members, namely, our contemplative dimension.
“Merton, in a conference with the monks at Gethsemani Abbey, said
that the contemplative life is a life in which we constantly move from
opaqueness to transparency, from the place where things are dark, thick,
impenetrable, and closed to the place where these same things are
translucent, open, and offer vision far beyond themselves” [Clowning
In Rome, Henri Nouwen, pp.88-89]. One can easily pick up this movement
from opaqueness to transparency in Patricia Hampl’s search for God in the
silence of prayer and in Karen Karper’s journey into solitude.
A brief review of each book is offered to foster our contemplative
experience of God.
by Patricia Hampl, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1992, 242pp.
all that is being written and spoken about the contemplative dimension to
our Franciscan lives, Patricia Hampl’s book is the author’s quest for the
contemplative life. Hampl is a
professor at the University of Minnesota, living in St. Paul.
She had befriended a nun at the local Poor Clare monastery.
Hampl not only enters into dialogue with this Poor Clare, but begins
a search for an experience of the God of silence in prayer.
Her search takes her to Italy on a walking tour called “The Road to
Assisi,” then to the “Assisi
Experience,” next to Lourdes, and finally to a monastery near the Lost Coast
of Northern California. “Virgin
Time meets head-on the challenges to spirituality raised by contemporary
life and responds to them searchingly, honestly, and movingly.
Patricia Hampl’s book has unforgettable resonating power.”
The New York Times Book Review
describes her writing as “a quarry of richly imagined lines. . .Ms.
Hampl’s writing sings.”
WHERE GOD BEGINS TO BE
by Karen Karper, Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994,
spending about 30 years in a Poor Clare Monastery, Karen Karper left the
monastic life to take up a life in solitude in Appalachia, in one of the
hollers of West Virginia. It is
a very earthy account of the beginnings, early stages, and later
developments in her life as a hermit.
Karper weaves together a description of her daily life through the
prism of mud, snakes, wild roses, deer, and a
In her battle
with ever-present mud, Karper
writes: “The mud mirrored my
inner state too exactly for me to find it anything but totally distressing.
My spirits were shrouded in gloom as I endured the grieving, the
anger, the recurrent panic about the future that assailed me during this
period” [p. 29].
After an encounter with a copperhead
snake, Karper reflected:
“To have met a ‘snake in paradise’ was not a sign that I shouldn’t be
living where such dangers lurked but rather proof that risks are inherent in
any worthwhile venture” [p. 37].
What is most fascinating and captivating at the same time is the fact that
the reflections recorded by Karper have direct applications to her
life’s struggle as a hermit seeking the face of God.
Both volumes briefly
described are pleasant and easy reading.
Nevertheless, in the very descriptions of their journeys Hampl and
Karper paint a clear picture of struggle in the search of a contemplative
life and “the nitty-gritty, muddy details of a hermit’s daily life.”
WORDS OF FIRE, LIFE OF LIGHT
by Madeline Pecora Nugent, SFO, Daughters of St. Paul, Boston, 1995, 408 pp.
had the opportunity to read the life of St.
Francis by Nikos Kazantzakis, you
would have a good idea of what an writer could do with the life of an
historical figure in the genre of a novel.
Reference is usually made to his work as an historical novel narrated
through the eyes of Brother Leo.
And this is the mode of the biography Nugent has written on St. Anthony.
She writes in her introduction:
This book looks at Anthony through
the eyes of those who knew him, thus giving the reader a sense of what it
may have been like to know the saint. As much as possible, I have used
details and characters who were real.
Where details and characters were missing,
I have supplied them in an imaginative way and indicated this in the
chapter notes (italics mine).
In all cases, descriptions of historical places and events are as
accurate as I can make them. I
have remained true to history’s record of how Anthony looked and spoke, and
have created no miracles or background history for him.
Scholars can refer to the references at the end of this book for more
in-depth study of what we know and believe about St. Anthony [p.xvi].
an imaginative piece that makes use of history as a backdrop, Nugent has
done a wonderful job. In fact,
it makes the reading of Anthony’s sermons as she quotes them in bits and
pieces very palatable when she imaginatively inserts them into an historical
The main reason for sharing this information about this book is
for those friars who assume the responsibility of preaching about St.
Anthony, sometimes for the famous 13 Tuesdays.
It would make for a very imaginative and reflective accompaniment as
one prepares to speak about our famous Brother Anthony.
caution: at times the author
uses facts that would be inaccurate.
For example, one reference to Clare as descended from the Scifi
family, the new research done on the Lady Clare clearly speaks of her as
daughter of Favarone and Ortolana, being a descendant of the Offreduccio
GOSPEL LIVING [FRANCIS OF ASSISI YESTERDAY AND TODAY],
Anton Rotzetter, OFM Cap; Willibrord-Christian Van Dijk, OFM Cap; Tadée
Franciscan Institute Publications:
St. Bonaventure, New York, 1994, 308 pp.
volume is a collaborative venture of three Franciscan scholars.
In Part One “a theologian [Rotzetter] present(s) the spiritual
richness of Francis’ evangelical mission as that mission is expressed in the
historical sources: the saint’s
writings and the first biographies” [p. 253].
In Part Two “a historian [Van Dijk] (gives) us a panoramic view of
the richly varied adventure, with its grandeurs and weaknesses, to which the
dynamism unleashed by Francis gave rise during the almost eight-century
history of his Order” [Ibid].
And in Part Three the last friar-scholar [Matura] attempts a response to
living the Gospel today and its relevance for us.
He treats of the questions:
“Is Francis still living today; and if so, in what sense is he
present? How do we of the late
twentieth century perceive him, and what do we expect from him?
What is the progeny that claims him as its father; on what basis does
it feel justified in doing so; what is its life like, what motives enliven
it, what problems cause it concern?” [Ibid].
Rotzetter begins Part One
with a crisp summary of Francis’ life.
His sections on “The Franciscan Vocation” and “The Basic Experience”
are full of original and thought-provoking insights.
For example, he writes:
“It is not proper to speak of Francis’ life as a ‘mixed life,’ that is, of a
life in which activity and contemplation alternate in somewhat equal
measure. . . .What Francis has in mind is that
activity itself is to be an act of
contemplation” [p. 89, emphasis mine].
And regarding the early friars’ hope for martyrdom, Rotzetter claims:
“While Francis insisted that they should not provoke others, but
rather work for peace, some, like Brother Giles, felt that they should
deliberately court death. I
believe that they had a mistaken view of Franciscan mission” [p. 131].
Van Dijk basically gives us in Part Two a survey of the history of the
Order, a very helpful tool for anyone who needs a broad, quick overview.
Some fascinating remarks pepper the entire text.
Van Dijk writes: “. . .at
the end of the Middle Ages, the
sequela Christi approached much more
closely the rigors of asceticism than the serenity of contemplative
St. Peter of Alcantara (d. 1562)
almost undermined St. Clare’s spirit of joy” [p. 181].
would St. Clare and St. Francis have wanted women to share the spiritual
experience of Francis by being consecrated to God through religious vows
like the Friars Minor, but also living like them outside the monastic
cloister? . . .Many indications lead us to believe that this is what Clare
and Francis envisaged [p. 235].
And finally, Van Dijk says that “it is
doubtful that either St. Louis IX (d. 1270) or Christopher Columbus (d.
1506) was a tertiary and even more doubtful that St. Joan of Arc (d. 1431)
was” [p. 240].
Part Three is replete with challenging material regarding our present and
future as a Franciscan family.
Matura claims that Francis and Clare “introduce us to the Gospel and bring
us to Christ, the sole master; they are but guides who retire in the
presence of Jesus” [p. 264]. The
author becomes lyrical in this section which shows how Francis constantly
“points beyond’ himself to Jesus Christ and “would spurn with horror anyone
who, yielding to a ‘personality cult,’ attributed too much importance to his
own person” [Ibid].
Optimistically, Matura states: To live the Gospel
calling calmly and in depth, one must be firmly rooted in the past, utterly
open to the present and the future.
It seems to me that Franciscanism, despite its present woes, is not
crumbling. On what appears to be
ruins a new structure is rising, perhaps more comely than the old.
Yes, even in these difficult times it is good to be a Franciscan [pp.
This work is recommended for reading by all segments of the
THE TEACHER OF HIS HEART [JESUS CHRIST IN THE THOUGHT AND WRITINGS
OF ST. FRANCIS],
by Norbert Nguyên-Van-Khanh, OFM; Franciscan Institute Publications:
St. Bonaventure, New York, 1994, 253 pp.
Foreward to this text we read:
Through Nguyên-Van-Khanh’s thorough study,
the profound Trinitarian foundations of Francis’ relentless pursuit of
identifying with Christ became clear. . . .While (this) Vietnamese friar
carefully focused his attention on Francis’ writings, his mentor, the
renowned medieval historian, Marie-Dominique Chenu, assisted him in
interpreting them skillfully within the context of the Middle Ages [p.
In this very precise text the Author considers in Part One Images
of Christ: Lord, Servant,
Creator, Redeemer, Savior, Word of the Father, Master, Wisdom, Light,
Beloved Son of the Father and our Brother.
In Part Two, Nguyên-Van-Khanh examines the Presence of Christ in his
most holy memory—the Eucharist and the Sacrament of His Holy Words.
text is a thorough examination of how Francis looked at the Trinity and
Christ Jesus in his life. I
experienced the text as engaging and refreshing.
For example, when speaking of the images of Creator, Redeemer,
Savior, Nguyên-Van-Khanh writes:
“None of the attributes of Creator, Redeemer, and Savior is reserved in a
special manner to Christ. In
fact, Christ is never regarded separately from the Father and the Spirit
Nguyên-Van-Khanh” [p. 88]. This
is Francis’ point of view, whereas ordinarily Redeemer and Savior as images
are usually considered as reserved to Christ.
considerations of humility [p.
108ff], Eucharist [p, 168ff] and
Scripture [p. 189ff] give the
reader much to ponder with some fascination. Nguyên-Van-Khanh writes:
“he (Francis) never uses the word ‘Eucharist,’ but prefers to speak
of ‘the Body and Blood of the Lord’” [p. 170]. Nguyên-Van-Khanh also notes
that “(i)n the writings of Francis, we never find the term ‘scripture’ used
with reference to Sacred Scripture or the Bible. . . .Francis speaks often
of the ‘Word of God,’ of the ‘most holy words of the Lord,’ and sometimes
also of the ‘written words’” [p. 189-90].
This text should be recommended
reading for all candidates in formation with guided reflections.
It is also recommended for any Franciscan library.
FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY [FOLLOWING ST. FRANCIS TODAY],
by Brother Ramon, SSF, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London,
Ramon, an Anglican Franciscan friar, has rendered the Franciscan family an
invaluable service in this text FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY.
As an ordained friar, Brother Ramon has experience both in active
ministry and in hermit life. And
it is from the wealth of these two dimensions, backed by a clear awareness
of Franciscan sources, that he composes his manuscript.
Weaving both experiences and sources has produced a text that is
engagingly reflective, challenging and presented in such a way that it seems
the Author is sitting opposite engaging the reader in a profound spiritual
It is an excellent text to share with beginners on the
Franciscan journey. It is a
meditative reflection for those already on the journey.
I would recommend the text for any Franciscan, and especially for
Secular Franciscans. It is a
most welcome addition to any Franciscan library.
by André Cirino, OFM and Josef Raischl, SFO, eds. St. Bonaventure,
Franciscan Institute Publications, 1995.
renewal of interest in Franciscan forms of contemplative living has prompted
a new and welcome publication from the Franciscan Institute.
Franciscan Solitude gathers into one place and one language
twenty-seven essays from Italian, German, Latin, and English sources.
This is a large task of editing and translating, and the editors,
André Cirino, OFM, and Josef Raischl, SFO, have done a fine job of making
this tradition accessible to an English-speaking audience.
The book's five chapters help to locate the Franciscan solitude tradition in
its context. The pre-Franciscan experience of solitude is traced first,
beginning with the New Testament accounts of Jesus in solitary places,
moving through the desert hermits of early monasticism, and into the lay and
women's eremitical movements in the centuries just before Francis and Clare.
"Ideals of the Women's Hermitage Movement" by Edith Päsztor is
especially important for casting light on the traditions contemporary with
the growth of the Poor Clares.
The work of Benedikt Mertens, OFM, on solitude and hermitages in the life of
Francis (Chapter 2) helps to illuminate an aspect of Francis' "evangelical
life" that has been gaining increasing
attention in the past decade.
The heart of the book is Chapter 3 on the "Rule for Hermitages" with
a critical edition of the text and commentaries.
These pages make available Kajetan Esser's Latin and German work on
the text, along with that of Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., and Ignatius Brady,
Many studies would end here.
Fortunately this one does not.
The editors have chosen (in Chapters 4 and 5) to show the ongoing
vitality of the Franciscan tradition of the hermitage from the thirteenth to
the twentieth centuries. Here
can be found: Poor Clares' expression of the hermitage tradition; an urban
hermitage experience; Third Order Regular women and men interpreting
solitude and the contemplative tradition in a Pennsylvania parish or a South
Bronx "cabin". Josef and Bernadette Raischl reflect on the meaning of this
tradition for a married couple.
Special recognition should be given here
to the translators, especially Nancy Celaschi, OSF, who took on the daunting
mass of the Italian texts. As a
translator myself, I applaud her service and that of Berard Doerger, OFM, as
well as that of the editors for their work on the German material.
On the matter of the translations, I would suggest one change of term
"houses of recollection" rather than "houses of gathering" for the sixteenth
century Spanish contemplative communities.
André Cirino and Josef Raischl
and their collaborators deserve congratulations for bringing to our
attention this important and little-known piece of our Franciscan story. 1
hope they now have the opporturtity to enjoy some of the silence and
solitude of the hermitage they so clearly love.
William J. Short OFM,
The Cord, May/June 1996
THE CLASSICS OF WESTERN SPIRITUALITY,
of us may be familiar with the series of books put out by Paulist press
called THE CLASSICS OF WESTERN SPIRITUALITY. It is described as a library
of the great spiritual masters. In this series six volumes at present are
works of Franciscans themselves or about Franciscans.
Each volume has an introduction to the particular works of the
writers that have been translated.
First, there is a volume titled
CATHERINE OF GENOA, containing
Purgation And Purgatory and
The Spiritual Dialogue,
translated by Serge Hughes, a Professor of Italian at Hunter College, New
York. Catherine leads the modern reader directly to the more significant
issues of the day. In her life she reconciled aspects of spirituality often
seen to be either mutually exclusive or in conflict. This married lay woman
was both a mystic and a humanitarian, a constant contemplative, yet daily
immersed in the physical care of the sick and destitute. I recommend this
volume as well for friary and convent libraries.
Secondly, there is the volume called
JACOPONE DA TODI, translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes, and contains
his work entitled
The Lauds. Jacopone entered
the Order during the last part of the 13th century when the conflict between
the Community and the Spirituals was raging. His
Lauds, which for a long time
have had an established place in the history of Italian poetry, sing the
praises of poverty--the observance of which brought the Spirituals and the
Community to loggerheads. I also recommend this for
friary and convent libraries.
Thirdly, there is the book titled
FRANCISCO DE OSUNA, containing his work The Third Spiritual Alphabet, translated by Mary E. Giles.
Osuna was born in Seville c.1492 on the eve of that country's golden age of
mysticism that saw the sublime achievements of Teresa of Avila and John of
the Cross. Osuna entered the Order and was spearheading a reform that
encouraged believers to nourish a simple, Christ-centered, inner
spirituality. In the midst of
the controversy over the nature of true interior prayer that raged during
the 1520s, Osuna wrote a series of maxims as a practical guide for
recollection, arranged in "spiritual alphabets," the third of which appears
here. Recommended for friary and convent libraries.
Fourthly, there is a
volume called APOCALYPTIC
SPIRITUALITY, translated by Bernard McGinn. Among its chapters, it
contains two that would be of interest to us Franciscans--the chapter on
Joachim of Fiore and that on the Spiritual Franciscans. Joachimism greatly
influenced the Spirituals, especially in their writings. These writings
manifest how beliefs about the imminent end affected the lives of its
adherents. Perhaps the task for us today is to see how in their apocalyptic
vision we can recognize how our lives are being affected by the contemporary
prophetic sense of the end of history. Again, recommended for our friary and
A fifth volume on
ANGELA OF FOLIGNO has been
published, translated by Paul LaChance, OFM.