Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review - Parallel Lives by Richard F. Cassady


By comparison, the achievement of Francis of Assisi marked a beginning rather than an end. It is true that Francis's dream of a monastic order that renounced the encumbrance and corruption of property was frustrated by the papacy and by his own successors. Mr. Cassady regards this as the destruction of Francis's work and points to the magnificent and costly double basilica at Assisi as the ultimate betrayal. But it is more complicated than that.

Although the Franciscans were obliged to accept a limited form of property holding, their founder's ideal of a group of missionaries living among the people but marked out from them by a simpler and purer way of life survived intact. The Franciscans transformed the spiritual life of 13th-century Europe, especially among the laity in the growing cities, very much as the Benedictines had transformed the spiritual life of a more rural society centuries before. Although the initial inspiration waned with the passing decades, as such inspirations always do, the Franciscans remained a significant influence on Christian spirituality until the Reformation, and their missionary work since the 16th century has been more impressive, over a longer period, than that of any other group.

Read the entire article here.

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