Cover image for Reluctant saint : the life of Francis of Assisi
Title:
Reluctant saint : the life of Francis of Assisi
Author:
Spoto, Donald, 1941-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking Compass, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xix, 256 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780670031283
Format :
Book

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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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BX4700.F6 S6558 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

"Don't make a saint of me," Francis of Assisi told a friend-even as his charisma and holiness were dazzling his contemporaries and generating a legend that has lasted almost a millennium. In Reluctant Saint, Donald Spoto, author of the acclaimed The Hidden Jesus, shows us a Saint Francis who transcends the image of Francis familiar to even the least religious among us: wealthy profligate, soldier, businessman, preacher, defender of the poor, mystic-and, later, a lodestar to ecologists and animal rights activists. Spoto's unprecedented access to unexplored archives and the saint's own unpublished letters help reveal how Francis pioneered an entirely new historical movement, one that eventually slipped from his grasp. Spoto highlights Francis's position within the ecclesiastical, political, and social forces of medieval Italy in all its violence, color, and mystery. It was, like our own, a time of crisis with a craving for reform and for a deeper, simpler, more personal faith-yet concern for the common good, and for the poor and sick, was virtually unknown. A key part of the revolution Francis brought about was his insistence that such concern lay at the heart of the Gospel. Reluctant Saintportrays a life that has captured the hearts and minds of millions over the centuries.


Author Notes

Donald Spoto was born on June 28, 1941 in New Rochelle, New York. He received a B.A. from Iona College in 1963 and a M.A. and Ph.D. in theology (New Testament studies) from Fordham University in 1966 and 1970, respectively. He taught theology, Christian mysticism, and biblical literature at the university level for twenty years.

He has written more than 25 biographies of film and theatre celebrities including The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams, Diana: The Last Year, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life, Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn, High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly, Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford, and The Redgraves: A Family Epic. He also wrote biographies on religious figures including The Hidden Jesus: A New Life, Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi, and Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Celebrity biographer Spoto again limns a figure who far transcends celebrity and, as with The Hidden Jesus (1998), produces a serious, thought-provoking book. Like Jesus, Francis of Assisi had no wish for fame; he became, however, one of the foremost men of his time, the thirteenth century. Like Jesus' fame, his arose from abandoning the zeitgeist; born into a newly rich family (another parallel with Jesus, if Spoto is correct about the status of carpenters in ancient Judea) in a viciously acquisitive era, he spurned all possessions. Also like Jesus, Spoto maintains, though he fasted and largely avoided even reasonable comfort, Francis revered the material world, including the human body, as being intrinsically good because God created it. Because flesh as well as soul is good, Francis served the sick, not stinting at becoming sick himself, one might say, as a result of committed compassion. As he relates the dramatic events of Francis' life, Spoto shows that the blessing of the Incarnation was what most animated the saint's fabled gentleness, courtesy, and faith. --Ray Olson


Publisher's Weekly Review

It does not seem possible that the world needs another biography of St. Francis of Assisi, but Spoto (The Hidden Jesus) makes a credible case for adding to the glut of books and articles about the medieval saint. (Spoto cites one count taken nearly 40 years ago that puts the number at 1,575.) He argues that new discoveries in several fields and the latest Franciscan scholarship justify this new biography. Although the findings of his research required Spoto to strip away some of the romance surrounding Francis's familiar story, he manages to report them without detracting from the integrity of the saint. He raises, for example, questions about whether Francis actually bore the stigmata, or wounds of the crucified Christ, pointing out that sources interviewed for Francis's canonization denied that he had the marks. Spoto suggests that Francis may actually have suffered from leprosy and that his companions interpreted those wounds as a sharing in Christ's suffering. Spoto's chronological recounting of Francis's life is sufficiently engaging to retain the interest even of those familiar with the basic facts of the saint's story. Occasionally however, he lapses into seemingly misplaced preaching pedagogy, such as when he holds forth on the subject of conversion in a section about Francis's spiritual transformation- but given the saint's diverse appeal, this book should interest a wide audience. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Spoto is a sometime teacher of theology and a biographer of Alfred Hitchcock, Lawrence Olivier, Tennessee Williams, and Ingrid Bergman. In this life of Francis of Assisi, Spoto's elegant wordsmithing creates a "reality TV" sense of Francis's life-the elaborate details are based on an actual time and place, but the overall effect feels staged. This is nevertheless a very readable portrait of a hope-filled eccentric whose lifelong process of conversion brought him to a never unconfused but always faithful way of life under God's ordinance. There are some things Spoto doesn't get right: on the dedication page, he ascribes to St. Benedict a quote traditionally attributed to St. Augustine, and he fails to appreciate the literary genre of the medieval exemplary story, among other things. But he is a fine writer who provides insight into the saint as well as into the secular and ecclesiastical cultures of the 12th century. One of the best of the modern books to reflect upon Francis, and even to get inside his head and measure his spirit, is G.K. Chesterton's St. Francis of Assisi. Spoto's book is suitable for libraries with a circulation of nonacademic religious books.-David I. Fulton, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Spoto (an independent scholar) aims to clear away the legends and to portray realistically Francis's pilgrimage from playboy to reluctant saint. To reconstruct Francis's thoughts and feelings, Spoto lays out in rich detail the cultural influences that were part of his consciousness. A picture emerges of a very human Francis, convinced that he was in the hands of a loving God, that conversion was not a thing of the moment but the process of a lifetime, and that his mission was to social outcasts, lepers, the poor, and the destitute. Like Adrian House's Francis of Assisi (CH, Oct'01), this biography is well written and informed by the most recent scholarship. However, House describes what Francis said and did, whereas Spoto focuses on the saint's inner life. Although neither biography is a hagiography, Spoto is more skeptical than House, questioning, for example, the stigmata. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; students and scholars at all levels. P. L. Urban Jr. emeritus, Swarthmore College


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xiii
1 1181-1187p. 1
2 1187-1196p. 12
3 1196-1205p. 27
4 1205p. 44
5 1206-1208p. 51
6 1208-1209p. 67
7 1209p. 81
8 1209-1210p. 95
9 1211-1212p. 110
10 1212-1213p. 119
11 1213-1218p. 133
12 1219-1220p. 152
13 1220-1222p. 169
14 1223-1224p. 183
15 1225-1226p. 199
Notesp. 217
Bibliographyp. 243
Indexp. 249
About the Authorp. 257