Saint Francis - Book review

by jptanabe

"Saint Francis" by Marie Dennis with illustrations by John August Swanson - engaging text and wonderful art

Saint Francis of Assisi is a well-known and much loved saint. This book about this wonderful man contains amazing art that brings his love of animals and God to life, as well as text that challenges us to consider our own lives in relation to the faith and work of this saint.

Although Saint Francis lived in centuries past, the issues he faced are not so different from those that confront our world today. His realizations led to peace and harmony both among people and with the world of nature, even the wild and dangerous wolves. Perhaps we should all learn from him!

What's special about this book on Saint Francis?

This book is an engaging account of the life and faith of Saint Francis, wonderfully illustrated with artwork by John August Swanson. But there are countless texts, movies, pictures, and even songs that tell the story of Saint Francis of Assisi.

We all know how he talked to the birds, fish, and animals, that he wore a simple habit made of sackcloth, that he embraced the poor and the sick, that he tamed even the wildest of animals, and that he taught of a world of peace. And he founded the monastic order of Franciscans. What can be new here?

Wonderful artwork,

moving accounts of the life of a saint,

thoughtful commentary,

what more could you ask for?

About the book

This book is not an intellectual study of the issues facing Francis, or a historical view of his life and times, or a theological discussion of his faith and beliefs - although Marie Dennis' commentary on excerpts from the writings of Thomas of Celano, first biographer of Saint Francis, is stimulating in all these aspects. Rather, this book stimulates the spirit, encouraging the reader to live a life that reflects the values and insights this great saint embodied in his lifetime.

How many of us ride off 'into battle' only to discover the emptiness of our pursuits?

Challenging the reader

This is one of the first questions asked in this book. We know that Francis began his life in a rich family and lived a carefree life of abundance and foolishness. Dressed in his finery he joined a military expedition against Perugia, no doubt expecting to achieve victory and honors. Instead, he was taken prisoner. How empty his life seemed when he returned home a sick and defeated man.

Dramatic, impulsive, foolish, passionate, Francis has sold everything ... Has he gone mad, they say?

How many people today are in this situation?

So Francis changed his life forever, abandoning the rich lifestyle and material possessions of his father's house. What a rejection! He left his friends, his family, his community - they all thought he was crazy. In this book, Marie Dennis makes it very clear how much of a sacrifice this was, and challenges the reader to consider whether they would ever choose to do the same, also noting that many have no choice in the matter - a timely comment given the contemporary economic situation!

The book continues to describe how Francis' quest became an internal one, seeking the way to true happiness.

If only Francis' insights about the value of all creation were able to inform the world's decisions

Relevant to the contemporary world

Francis realized that all people were to be embraced as his brothers and sisters, and all creation valued as precious and worthy of respect. Again, Dennis notes how relevant to today's world these insights are!

And more than the words, the art in this book lifts us out of our contemporary struggles and infuses us with hope and joy

like Saint Francis.

About the artist - John August Swanson

John August Swanson is an American artist. He lives and works in Los Angeles, California. His primary medium is serigraphy.

Although at first glance childlike, Swanson's art is far from naive. He has developed a unique style bearing the influences of the folk art of the cultures of his immigrant parents - Mexican and Swedish - as well as their traditions of storytelling. Also in the mix is Russian iconography and Islamic and medieval miniatures. Always colorful, his work is full of complex and elaborate detail.

Acclaimed for his religious art, his pieces reflect his quest for self-discovery and passion for social justice. His work is optimistic, with vibrant colors that portray scenes of peace and harmony that are illuminated with a light that is clearly as much a spiritual source of energy as a physical one.

You can see more of John August Swanson's art in these books

The Story of Ruth

Author Joan Chittister uses the biblical story of Ruth to present 12 defining moments in every woman's life.

Illustrated with Swanson's rich and evocative art this book is inspirational and potentially healing for anyone seeking to experience wholeness in their life.

There is a Season

Another partnership between Joan Chittister and John August Swanson has produced a glorious experience of words and images based on the famous biblical passage in Ecclesiastes, "There is a season."

Read it, enjoy the images, and experience true fulfillment and happiness!

Updated: 01/04/2024, jptanabe
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Have you read this book about Saint Francis? - Or have you seen John August Swanson's artwork?

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jptanabe on 02/19/2015

Good one, Frank - yes it should have been "Saint to be" Frank!

frankbeswick on 02/19/2015

Thanks for the title saint , but you get to be a saint when you are dead, so I had rather wait for that accolade.

jptanabe on 02/18/2015

Yes, to Saint Francis and yes to the art - there's more inside the book too!

ologsinquito on 02/18/2015

Saint Francis is such a good example. I really like the art on the cover of that book.

jptanabe on 02/18/2015

Well, glad you like it "Saint Frank"!

frankbeswick on 02/18/2015

An interesting review of a book about the saint after whom I was named.

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