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Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi Paperback – Bargain Price, August 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

She was rudder to his sail and yin to his yang, but the relationship between medieval saints Clare and Francis of Assisi was hardly the love affair depicted in literature and film, as this joint biography makes clear. Sweeney, author of the St. Francis Prayer Book and The Lure of Saints, sketches the true nature of the liaison, which he says was marked by natural affection, but never led to marriage or an affair. There is little reason to believe that Francis and Clare shared any romance other than one that was jointly with God, Sweeney writes of the partners in the spiritual movement that revolutionized Western religion. Relying on early biographies of Francis by Thomas of Celano and Bonaventure as well as more recent scholarship, Sweeney examines Francis's conversion and decision to marry poverty, showing how Clare, 12 years his junior, fled her family to embrace his radical way of life. Sweeney deals, too, with the controversy and dissension that erupted in the movement after just two decades as some followers softened the radical mendicancy espoused by Francis and Clare. Readers interested in an accurate portrayal of these two powerful figures will find this an excellent introduction to a movement that has captured the imaginations of moderns more than 700 years after the deaths of Francis and Clare. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

Sweeney, who has written several popular histories of religious movements and figures, presents a dual biography conveying the intense religious spirit of the medieval world while describing a platonic friendship of two kindred souls. Francis, of course, had an immense and enduring impact on Christianity with his devotion to compassion, simplicity, and the preaching of the Gospels. Clare, also from Assisi, was 12 years younger than Francis and deeply moved by his preaching. She consciously rejected the affectations of her upper-class friends and family, disdaining fine clothes and other ostentatious displays of wealth. Like Francis, she strove to imitate the life of Jesus by living a life of poverty combined with service to humanity. Sweeney's story is reverent and inspiring, and it also sheds light on many aspects of medieval society that are often ignored in religious tracts, including the corruption of the clergy, schisms within the early Franciscan movement, and the role of women in religious reform movements. This work will be particularly appealing to religious laypeople, but general readers can also find much of value here. Freeman, Jay

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press; annotated edition edition (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557254761
  • ASIN: B002UXS33G
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,646,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon M. Sweeney is an independent scholar and writer of popular history. He is married, the father of three, and lives in Montpelier, Vermont. He has worked in book publishing for 25 years: after co-founding SkyLight Paths Publishing, he was the editor in chief and publisher at Paraclete Press, and in August 2015 became editorial director at Franciscan Media Books.

He has written more than 20 books, seven about Francis of Assisi, including "When Saint Francis Saved the Church" and "The Complete Francis of Assisi." HBO has optioned the film rights to "The Pope Who Quit."

Sweeney has been interviewed on CBS News, WGN-TV, Fox News, and WTTW's Chicago Tonight. He also appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to talk about St. Patrick on March 17, 2013.

Jon's first 20 years were spent as an involved evangelical (a story told in the memoir "Born Again and Again"); he then spent 22 years as an active Episcopalian (see "Almost Catholic," among others); and on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi in 2009 he was received into the Catholic Church. Today, Jon is a practicing Catholic who also prays regularly with his wife, a rabbi. He loves the church, the synagogue, and other aspects of organized religion. He would never say that he's "spiritual but not religious."

In all of his writing, Jon is drawn to the ancient and medieval (see "The Road to Assisi," and "Inventing Hell"). Many of his books have been selections of the History Book Club, Book-of-the-Month Club, and Quality Paperback Book Club.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Miller VINE VOICE on August 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you do a lot of reading of Catholic books you are sure to come across multiple readings of the life of St. Francis and sometimes St. Clare. Especially since after Jesus, St. Francis is the subject of the most books.

I found though that this book gave me a fresh look at the life of St. Francis and his friendship with St. Claire. Unfortunately there is very little historical information to go on concerning their friendship and what documents we have to go by concentrated on St. Francis. Regardless of these limitations gives you a good idea of how St. Francis inspired St. Clair and how her life really lived out his ideals.

The book is not a straight serial biographical account of these two saints but various chapters addresses various themes. Though you do end up with a very good look at their lives and the world they lived in. The historical context is very important when considering these two saints and it only makes them shine the brighter considering the problems and the corruption within the Church at the time. It is always a good reminder that the Church is always need renewal and that it is only the saints that can truly bring about that renewal. But more importantly that we all need to respond to the Gospel as fully as St. Francis and St. Claire did.

I liked the balanced way these saints were covered in that the author tried to stay within what we know historically about their lives and to discern from some of the source material of books written after St. Francis' death while also at the same time not taking to skeptical of attitude to some of the surviving stories.
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Format: Paperback
Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis of Francis and Clare of Assisi is a spiritual biography of Francis and Clare of Assisi, written especially to help guide and enlighten fellow Christians in the modern day. Light in the Dark Ages reveals that the Middle Ages themselves were not necessarily innately dark - "dark ages" come whenever humanity forgets the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. Light in the Dark Ages tells of Francis' calling by God, and how Clare joined him despite the vehement and violent objections of her family. Exploring the realities of the day, including the treatment of lepers in medieval society and corruption in the Church, Light in the Dark Ages follows the example of two deeply spiritual figures to the end of their lives, and asks profound questions: how should one view a young person who rejects family for spiritual reasons? Can men and women share a deep yet purely platonic friendship? Is their value in an intentional vow of poverty? Does placing absolute value on family ignore the words of Jesus Christ? A thought-provoking examination of what it truly meant for Francis and Clare to be followers of Jesus Christ, and what that means for followers of Christ today.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Burton Keith Cossey on July 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After I read this book by Jon M. Sweeney, I ordered another one by him. The subject of Francis and Clare is one that has been written about extensively. However, Sweeney livens it up without resorting to "cutesy" tricks. He brings the subjects alive by focusing on their common charism in a way that transcends focusing on either of them exclusively. We see and feel---with Francis and Clare---the audacity-to-the-point-of-incomprehensibility of the Holy Spirit in reaching out lovingly to an era whose jaded decadence was similar in many ways to that of our modern era. I am asking the council of our local Secualr Franciscan fraternity to consider utilizing this book for our ongoing formation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Annemarie Cota on May 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a good introduction for people who want to learn about St. Francis of Assisi.The writing style is captivating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 20, 2015
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Wonderful book! Very interesting and enjoyable to read.
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