Sunday, January 15, 2012

Books to read: "Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai" by Gavan Daws & "Francis of Assisi: A New Biography" by Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP

Last week on a plane, I had the blessing to read Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai by Gavan Daws. I would highly recommend this book. It is an incredible account of one man's self-sacrifice for Christ and his brothers and sisters. It is also a rather ugly account of the relations between missionaries of different Christian sects in Hawaii in the late 1800s. Lest Protestants take too much of the brunt of this treatment, rest assured that the Catholic Church hierarchy also wows the reader with its callousness. Still, at the center of the story is Fr. Damien, about whom I learned so much of the struggles he encountered and his development as a Christian. Plus, this was written in the 70s prior to his beatification and canonization. I loved knowing that this has now occurred~~that St. Damien continues to direct his efforts from heaven for the betterment of those down here on earth. Must read! This is what sanctity looks like "in real life."

Then, last Monday, Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP, came to Holy Family Cathedral to discuss his new book, Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, currently available for pre-order. This was an adventure! I brought my 9 year old with us who is a St. Francis devotee. Fr. Lukasz Misko had joked with me that he hoped Fr. Thompson wouldn't seek to completely discredit St. Francis' existence, which did give me pause. Would my son come out of this presentation disillusioned and no longer certain in his love for the saint? One woman commented during the talk, "You're causing me to doubt everything I know about St. Francis," to which Fr. Thompson replied that "Doubt is the beginning of wisdom." The stripping of our illusions was a blessing, as we were able to have an encounter with the humanity of St. Francis, a humanity far more compelling than bird baths. Father took us through several popular stories about St. Francis and showed how they had changed from their first tellings into the versions that have become popular today. He informed us that St. Francis himself only mentions the word "poverty" four times in his many pages of writings, three of which were Scripture verses. Fr. Thompson seeks to make the case that love for material poverty was more a politicization of St. Francis' order and teachings at the times and that his struggle for humility was a compelling tale that deserves to be told. I cannot wait to read this book.


Tonia said...

Thanks for the book recommendations Mindy. I'll definitely order the book about St Francis. I spent a wonderful 4 nights in Assisi in August but I never quite found the right book. I also enjoyed your reading list from your previous post. My favourite spiritual classics include Abandonment to Divine Providence, which you had on your reading list, and also the Russian spiritual classic The Way of a Pilgrim. You've probably read it, but if not I recommend it!

Allison in AK said...

Oooo ; will look for the St. Francis book first! Thanks.