St. Francis of Assisi
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St. Francis of Assisi

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,206 ratings  ·  120 reviews

The patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment, Francis of Assisi led the rediscovery of nature in the Christian West. This accessible spiritual biography by a phenomenally popular author chronicles the beloved saint's calling, order, and influence. Its charm and wit will appeal to even the most secular-minded readers.

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Published by London: Hodder and Stoughton (first published 1923)
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Jesse Broussard
I have one tremendous criticism to make of this book. If you have some perfectly good, bitter resentment towards the Franciscans (entirely legitimate), or towards St. Francis himself, or even the Jongleurs de Dieu, this book will take that exquisite resentment and turn it into an entirely unsatisfactory mushy benevolent feeling.

Another of Chesterton's brilliant works. Frederick Buechner once fondly criticized Chesterton with the comment that he'd written entirely too much for all of it to be exc...more
Lee Ann
I hadn't thought seriously about Francis for a while and this book makes me think I've never thought seriously about him at all. GK rescues Francis from fuzzy Victorian myth and returns him to a most severe Christianity. By reading Francis in the light of him time period (the medieval) and in the light of the troubadour movement, GKC reveals the romantic passion underlying the saint's religious severity. The Franciscans were born as a romantic movement, sacrificing all for the Beloved. Francis l...more
Read this for a retreat I took with John Michael Talbot back in 1998. Finally reread it or rather re-listened to it. In light of our new Holy Father's choice of a namesake, I want to listen to it again. Chesterton's writing is dense and needs a great deal of unpacking. It includes a long introductory explanation about how a biographer might approach the life of this unusual historical figure. Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, has so many popular legends and untruths assoc...more
Darren Corpe
This book read more like one of Chesterton's personal dilemmas - complaining that historians write about historical figures without giving historical context. He rambles on about how to write a good biography rather than teaching the reader. I found it difficult to read. St. Francis is awesome though.
This book was written early in Chesterton's career, and soon after he became a Christian, even though St. Francis had always inspired him as a young boy. St. Francis is easy to like, and Chesterton brings him to life. Francis seems almost impulsive in his fervor to do God's will - actly rashly at times in ways that get him into trouble (with his family, the law!) but always with the best of intentions. This book was well-done, although, as with Chesterton's book on St. Thomas, I wish I was bette...more
Mark Schofield
GK Chesterson is a wonderful writer. He reminds me of C.S. Lewis in that they are both writers of Christian Apologetics but Chesterson knocks Lewis's socks off.

Chesterson says that we can only understand Francis if we think of him as a troubadour of the Middle Ages and accept the fact that he loved God with the passion that we normally associate with romantic love. Chesterson also talks about early Christianity being a turning from the nature worship of the Greeks and the Romans. He feels that t...more
M.G. Bianco
G.K. Chesterton puts forth a masterful piece of literary work describing the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He first puts St. Francis and his life into historical perspective. Why was his ascetism necessary? Why was the world then ready for someone who could love nature the way he did? Chesterton answers these questions.

Next, he describes what drove St. Francis to his life and then his life. At this point, he has said nothing of those things that would be considered supernatural or miraculous, o...more
I picked up the book hoping to read a thorough biography of St. Francis, and though I was moved by the Franciscan anecdotes the author shared, this is largely an overwrought essay by G. K. Chesterton defending his new conversion to Catholicism and luxuriating in his self-conscious witticisms: "There are many who will smile at the saying; but it is profoundly true to say that the glad good news brought by the Gospel was the news of original sin" (28). Fine, it's pithy, but where is your editor?!...more
I undertook to read this work shortly after the appointment of our newest Pope, Francis, as the saint with whom he identifies most strongly. I wanted to study the words of a great writer (Chesterton) about a great historical figure (Francis of Assisi) and I was not disappointed. However, beyond broad strokes, it is ultimately impossible, either for Chesterton, as he wrote it, or for today's reader, to cut through the hagiography that envelopes a saint of such renown. In the end, all that can be...more
Dense to read, but an excellent provider of insight into the famous saint's life. Provides religious guidance as well as historical context.

I'd Challenge non-Catholics to find anything reprehensible or tainted in Chesterton's treatment of his subject.
A short introduction to Francis of Assisi. Chesterton acknowledges that he is only skimming the surface and is writing for a skeptical newcomer to the subject. The chapters are more topical than chronological, and thus the outline of Francis' life is somewhat fragmented. Chesterton considers Francis a key figure (the key figure, perhaps) in the emergence of the Middle Ages and the modern world, in that he was independent of the classical distant past and moved beyond the asceticism and withdrawa...more
Seth Hanson
Beware the audio version of this book available from The unremitting monotone of the narrator and overall poor quality of the recording combined to make this a difficult book to power through. I readily admit that i zoned out for long periods. But i did retain at least some of what i heard and the main take-home message is that St. Francis blazed the way for a new kind of monk. Rather than spending their lives sequestered away in isolated monasteries, this new breed of monk drifted...more
Aprovechando que iba a pasar unos días en La Verna, monasterio franciscano donde el santo recibió los estigmas, retomé la lectura abandonada hace un año de este libro de Chesterton. He reconocer que lo abandoné transcurridas unas pocas páginas, pareciéndome un tostón importante.

Sin embargo, esta vez, superadas las pesadas páginas introductorias, he disfrutado de él. a pesar de que como el autor reconoce este es una mera introducción al personaje, no recomendaría que se leyese como primer libro a...more
Nov 12, 2008 Chelsea rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested if both radically self-less love and reckless trust in mankind can actually work.
Recommended to Chelsea by: Br. Robert at St. Catherine of Sienna in SLC, Utah
There are quotes from this book that I will forever hold dear to my heart. He also painted a lovely picture of Christ and His love for humanity- one I have never considered or seen before.

I really had a hard time, however, getting through the first few chapters of this book. I had originally decided to give it only 1 star UNTIL I got to the last 3 chapters. In the last 3 chapters everything from the first few chapters, of what I thought was just garble, came together to make the book a real wort...more
Dhanaraj Rajan
A Warning:
If you are a person new to the life of St. Francis and if it is your objective to know more of the saint's life then this is not the book for you. G. K. Chesterton himself says that this is just an introduction. But I would say that this is not an inclusive and appropriate introduction into the saint's life for the new and inquiring person.
But if you are well aware of the life of st. Francis then this book can serve you well by offering few interesting reflections on some of the vents...more
Josh L
You can read my full review at Quieted Waters.
In the opening pages, Chesterton describes this biography as a sketch of the famous man. Rather than attempting a full picture, the author chose to paint a brief description. Additionally, Chesterton makes no attempt in these pages to explain the variety of miracles alleged to have occurred in the life of St. Francis. As he explains at the outset, Chesterton’s goal is to present a skeptical reader with an introduction to this saint.
Zacaro Caro

Has G.K. Chesterton really written far too much for it all to be good? I haven't read anything of his that I didn't like.

An amazing glimpse of saint Francis, a really enjoyable work of Chesterton, and a book I would enjoy reading again. It's a very surface level book, mostly written for the skeptic or for a person who is not too familiar with St Francis, which is actually most people even if they have a statue of him in their yard...

I like books that tell a story, this book isn't so much in st...more
An amusing and clever take on St Francis of Assisi, this book encourages us to rethink both our image of this popular saint and of the Middle Ages. Interspliced with Chesterton's opinions on the English politics and literature scene of his own time, this is less of a straightforward biography and more a series of essays revolving around St Francis. To fully enjoy this book, a little familiarity with the basic plot of his life would be helpful, as the author assumes his reader already know most o...more
Steven Gower
"I have said that Saint Francis deliberately did not see the wood for the trees. It is even more true that he deliberately did not see the mob for the men. What distinguishes this very genuine democrat from any mere demagogue is that he never either deceived or was deceived by the illusion of mass-suggestion. Whatever his taste in monsters, he never saw before him a many-headed beast. He only saw the image of God multiplied but never monotonous. To him a man was always a man and did not disappea...more
Carol Apple
To be honest I chose to read this book because I like G.K. Chesterton more than because I was so interested in St. Francis. I got a very entertaining dose of Chesterton, a funny paradox on every page, and after reading the book, I am also fascinated by St. Francis. The book assumes you know the broad outlines of the story. Chesterton references previous biographers, those contemporary with Francis and those Victorians such as Matthew Arnold in the then recent past (St. Francis of Assisi was firs...more
Continuing with my study of the life of St Francis of Assisi, I chose this title for my next read after reading the short section in "The Francis Story" that Chesterton wrote. This book puts his life into the perspective of what the times were like just after the Dark Ages, and how the sight of a begger seeking alms changed his entire life. Chesterton called St. Francis "a poet whose whole life was a poem." The book is an unabridged republication of the 1924 original edition.
In the penultimate chapter, Chesterton hits the nail on the head when he describes his book as a thin and scratchy sketch of St. Francis, for that is all this is. The man is a serial waffler - he spends countless pages expounding his poorly pieced-together ideas and theories about the saint and his life, which leave you none the wiser as to who this great man actually was. An incoherent and utterly poor biography.
Amy C.
Chesterton is, in my opinion, an ideal author for this reflection on St. Francis (it's not really a biography, more of an extended musing). Everybody loves Francis, but very few really get him, so the world ends up brushing aside the full personality of the man (a great loss). GKC gets Francis. This book does much to restore the full picture of Francis, and beautifully so. If I could I'd quote the whole book at you.
At least 50% of this book is the author telling us what and how he is going to be writing about St.Francis. The recent is a few anecdotes about St.Francis, mostly used as an introduction to his own petty and ill conceived opinions, with a side order of mud slinging at his own contemporaries opinions.
Definitely one to avoid if you are looking to actually find out something about St.Francis!

Not nearly as much a book about Francis as a book about Chesterton. You can learn a little about Francis here but this is mainly Mr. Chesterton's ode to himself and his opinions. His effort to explain away the Inquisition is particularly bizarre. He does have some great lines and insights though, in particular his description of mysticism.
Skylar Burris
Oct 17, 2010 Skylar Burris marked it as sampled-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I read the entire Kindle sample and he hasn't even really begun to talk about St. Francis yet. I quite like Chesterton, but he can be a bit long-winded and full of his own cleverness at times, and in this book I think perhaps he is more so than usual. I'll skip.
More of an essay about St. Francis than a biography. I find Chesterton a bit difficult to read because his writing weaves much philosophy into his storytelling, and I struggle with philosophy. I do like his wit.
I felt like I knew St. Francis for the first time. Chesterton is great.

Included in the "Holy Men and Women" section of Fr. John McCloskey's 100-book Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.
Fr. Ryan Humphries
An amazing and insightful spiritual biography that's light on factual details, heavy on context and depth and chock full of Chestertonian wit and wordplay.
I must preface this review by admitting that I know very little about St. Francis.

I began reading this book thinking that it was a biography by an excellent writer that would shed some light on this saint. It is not however, a biography but more of a beautifully written argument against formerly written biographies that try to either completely explain away all of the miracles of St. Francis as being exaggerations, or against those that try to make everything more extraordinarily mysterious tha...more
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Didn't learn enough 2 11 May 02, 2013 01:04PM  
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) cannot be summed up in one sentence. Nor in one paragraph. In fact, in spite of the fine biographies that have been written of him (and his Autobiography), he has never been captured between the covers of one book. But rather than waiting to separate the goats from the sheep, let’s just come right out and say it: G.K. Chesterton was the best writer of the twent...more
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“The good Bishop of Assisi expressed a sort of horror at the hard life which the Little Brothers lived at the Portiuncula, without comforts, without possessions, eating anything they could get and sleeping anyhow on the ground. St. Francis answered him with that curious and almost stunning shrewdness which the unworldly can sometimes wield like a club of stone. He said, 'If we had any possessions, we should need weapons and laws to defend them.” 6 likes
“The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant.” 3 likes
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