The Complete Francis: a book review

Paraclete Press has a number of books on Christian Spirituality. Their Paraclete Giants series presents the complete works of various saints. I have several of these. They are affordable editions of Christian classics. The Complete Francis of Assis is an exceptional volume and a great edition to the series.

the-complete-francis-of-assisi-his-life-the-complete-writings-and-the-little-flowers-6Edited, translated and introduced by Jon Sweeney (independent scholar and cultural critic, The Complete Francis of Assisi includes the complete text of Paul Sabatier’s  classic The Life of St. Francis of Assissi (published as The Road to Assisi with Sweeney’s introduction and notes), Sweeney’s edition of Francis’s writings (Previously published as Francis of Assisi In His Own Words: The Essential Writings) and Sweeney’s translation of The Little Flowers of S. Francis by Brother Ugolino.

Of these three shorter works, Sabatier’s biography was the most difficult for me to read.   Sweeney calls Sabatier Francis’s first modern biographer (3). He first published his Life in French in 1894. Sabatier employed the methods of  textual and historical criticism and contemporary psychological insight. Yet it is still a text from a hundred years ago and reads like. Sabatier sought to be a faithful interpreter of Francis. He was a man of his times and is reticent about what legendary material he includes in his history, discounting the most fanciful tales (i.e. appearances of the devil, heavenly virgins, etc.); however he doesn’t complete demythologize him either, he includes an account of Francis’s stigmata.

Francis’s Essential Writings is of the most historical interest to me. Here is Francis in his own words–letters, prayers and monastic rules. These are important documents of the early Franciscan movement. Sweeney’s introductions and comments provide context for each piece of writing.

The Little Flowers is well known and well loved. What sets this edition apart from others (other than Sweeney’s translation) is their arrangement. Sweeney places these stories in what he thinks is their most straightforward chronological rendering (rather than the traditional order.

Anyone interested in Francis and the movement he founded will love this volume. If you do not have any Francis on your shelf, this is a good deal. I give it five stars.

Note: I received this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.


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