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Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel of Life

, 2004
ISBN: 9780802827623
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Digital list price: $14.99
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Francis of Assisi is counted among the most important personalities of history. The life and ideals of this humble, semiliterate medieval friar have had a shaping influence on the Christian church that has spilled over into Western culture at large. This biography by Lawrence Cunningham looks anew at Francis’s life and legacy, seeking to counter efforts to romanticize him yet without diminishing his deep piety or abiding significance.

Pursuing a realistic view of the saint, Cunningham argues against common stereotypes that sentimentalize Francis as a “blesser of animals,” as a “church rebel,” or as a precursor of the “spirituality” movement. According to Cunningham, really seeing Francis requires the lens of theology rather than the lens of quaint spirituality so often used. Francis was a devotedly orthodox Catholic whose life must be understood as a response to reforming elements abroad in the church of his day. Francis’ originality derived from his success in articulating the “ideal gospel life”: his message and actions were a kind of “acting out” of the Scriptures.

Imbued with peerless scholarship, this book is also charmingly written. Cunningham is a master storyteller as well as a brilliant biographer—qualities that his Francis of Assisi fully displays. It will at once inform and delight anyone interested in the fascinating life of Francis or his impact on church history.

With the Logos Bible Software edition of Francis of Assisi, you have an abundance of resources that offer applicable and insightful material for your study. You can easily search the subject of natural and supernatural revelation, and access an assortment of useful resources and perspectives from a variety of pastors and theologians.

  • Focuses on the life, thought, and impact of Francis of Assisi
  • Ideal for clergy, students, and laity looking for an introduction to the study of Francis of Assisi
  • Includes the prayer of Saint Francis

Top Highlights

“More than one scholar has noted that the chivalric ideal held in high esteem two important virtues. The first was liberality (largesse) by which the knight gave freely and abundantly of himself and his goods. The second was courtesy (cortesia), a favorite word of Francis. By courtesy he did not mean manners but a certain gentle way of relating to the other. Saint Thomas Aquinas would later discuss this virtue of courtesy using the Latin word affabilitas, weakly translated into English as ‘affability.’” (Page 8)

“The significance of Francis hearing the words of Jesus from the cross early in his career should not be overlooked. It formed the first part of a parenthesis that came to its conclusion decades later when, on Mount LaVerna in 1224, he had a vision of a crucified man enclosed within the wings of a seraph. Anyone tempted to sentimentalize the saint needs to recall that his life from his youth to his final years forms a great inclusio bracketed by the Crucified One.” (Page 13)

“Francis seems to have done all the things that adults deplore in the youth of today: waste time and money; be preoccupied with fancy clothes which had to be in the latest mode; run around with the wrong crowd; chase after women; and take an interest in subversive music—in his case, the love songs (chansons) introduced from France.” (Page 7)

“we must die reconciled to God and the church so that the Evil One may not ‘snatch us away’ for all eternity.” (Page 112)

“Franciscan originality derived from the success that Francis had in ‘performing’ the gospel” (Page ix)

An engaging and informative contribution to the vast literature on the man commonly described as, next to the Virgin Mother, the most popular of saints. Among the merits of this little book is Cunningham’s guide to that literature and his description of the frequently conflicting reasons through history for the celebration of Francis.

First Things

A stimulating account of one of the most attractive figures in the history of Christendom . . . This study is one of the best and most perceptive portraits of the saint in recent years.

Catholic Historical Review

Lawrence S. Cunningham’s small study of St. Francis demonstrates the value of sound critical judgment and solid theology for grounding healthy devotion to the saints and deepening the faith in the Christian realities to which they dedicated themselves . . . Cunningham’s solid historical scholarship is omnipresent, although it is so smoothly and thoroughly integrated that the work is in no way pedantic, nor is there any trace of jargon or obfuscation.


This beautifully produced and beautifully written book by a well-known scholar and frequent writer on Franciscan spirituality argues against the entirely too familiar sentimental image of Francis that is coterminous with what the author calls “spirituality light”—a spirituality disengaged from religion that comforts its practitioners rather than challenging them.

Cistercian Studies Quarterly

  • Title: Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel of Life
  • Author: Lawrence S. Cunningham
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2004
  • Pages: 172

Lawrence S. Cunningham is John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. An acknowledged expert on St. Francis and Christian spirituality, he is also the author of Saint Francis of Assisi and the editor and translator of Brother Francis: Writings By and About Saint Francis of Assisi.


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    Digital list price: $14.99
    Save $3.00 (20%)