"My God and My All: The Life of St. Francis of Assisi", by Elizabeth Goudge (book review)

Elizabeth Goudge was a true wordsmith.  She wrote with such artistic style, and her thoughts were so elegantly strung together.  However, after reading this book, I think St. Francis must have been one of the THE most boring historical figures...EVER!  So it's a good thing Goudge was such a fantastic writer.

That said, there's always something to learn from any book, whether I like the subject or the author's style.  Here are 5 thoughts that I took away from it.

1) If Christ has given me so much, and has loved me tremendously -- especially when I didn't deserve it -- how can I give so cheaply, and love my fellow man so little?  As a follower of Jesus, I need to be much more spontaneously generous and more loving to the unlovable than I am.  How far would I go, and to what depths would I reach to help my fellow man in need.

2) Is Christ all to me that he should be?  I he my all, or simply a portion?  Does Christ have all of me, or just a segment?  How radically different would my life be if Christ was my All in All?

3) St. Francis chose to live a life of self-imposed poverty, attempting to identify with those around him who had little or nothing.  If a person's self-imposed poverty and piety do not incline him to reach out to those who are involuntarily need and hungry, then what value is that man's religion to anyone?  If one's religion only serves to edify herself, then is her faith any good at all?

4) When I consider pan-handlers on city streets or freeway exit ramps, I often ignore their requests for hand-outs because I think to myself, "They will only misuse it for drugs or alcohol anyway, so why should I enable them?"  I may be wrong for thinking those thoughts, but they are, nevertheless, real thoughts.  As I read this book, chapter 11 made me think of my reactions to these people: Do I give to the poor only when I think they deserve it?  Must they merit my generosity in some way, or must they reach a certain level of need before I give?  Is it not my obligation to love and serve even when -- especially when -- others least deserve it?  After all, is that when Christ died for me, when I least deserved it?

5) These final thoughts pertain to my opinion of St. Francis of Assisi. While he longed to be filled with love and peace for all people, his repeated comments (as described throughout the book) that he was a vile, undeserving worm (for example) seemed to rob him of the joy to be found in the Lord.  I wonder if Francis ever crossed over in his own mind from his status of being a sinner (which would qualify him as vile and undeserving) to being a saint of God (one who has been forgiven by God and is truly blessed of God).  While I suspect he knew his sins were forgiven in Christ, I wonder if he ever knew the JOY of sins forgiven.  I pray that I may never seek such "piety" that I forget that Jesus Christ has accomplished all that is necessary for my salvation, and that I do not need to prove my worth to God.

So this makes me wonder if Francis truly understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  On p.285 is written that Francis thought he was an infirm because God was punishing him for being a wretched sinner.  But the gospel reveals the sun rises and falls on the righteous and the wicked; the rain falls on the just and the unjust.  The gospel reveals that those who are forgiven are truly blessed, not cursed by God.  Sickness and death are the result of sin in our world, and ought not be considered as punishment by God.  The psalmist wrote, "Blessed is the one whose sins are overcome! (Ps. 32:1).

RATING: I give this book just 3 stars because (a) I took lessons away from it, and (b) Goudge is a wonderful writer.  Otherwise, it was not really all that interesting, to say the least.  She had a difficult subject for a biography, and she did her best.  I doubt I will recommend this book to anyone's reading list.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from Handlebar.  I was not required to provide a positive review; all opinions are mine.

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