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Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel of Life Paperback – May 11, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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."
First Things
"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."
Catholic Historical Review
"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."
Wayne Hellmann
"Lawrence Cunningham's years of reflection on the sources of and about St. Francis of Assisi open new doors for understanding his spiritual significance. This book approaches Francis in the context of the Catholic reform tradition that he inherited and embraced. Cunningham demonstrates that this tradition is key to understanding Francis's originality — a trait that continues to affirm Christian identity and provokes all toward the solidarity that God intended."
Bernard McGinn
"Among the scores of books devoted to Francis of Assisi, Lawrence Cunningham's stands out for its balance and insight. This beautifully written volume argues for a view of Francis as a spiritual classic, a devoted follower of Christ whose greatest joy was performing the gospel through a life of voluntary poverty and service to the poor. Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel is a gem. "
Cistercian Studies Quarterly
"This beautifully produced and beautifully written book by a well-known scholar and frequent write on Franciscan spirituality argues against the entirely too familiar sentimental image of Francis that is coterminous with what the author calls 'spirituality lite'? a spirituality disengaged from religion that comforts its practitioners rather than challenging them."

From the Back Cover

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 Francisbs 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 bblesser of animals, b as a bchurch rebel, b or as a precursor of the bspiritualityb 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. Francisbs originality derived from his success in articulating the bideal gospel lifeb: his message and actions were a kind of bacting outb 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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802827624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802827623
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tim S. on February 18, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Cunningham presents the life of Francis as one that is deeply committed to living the Christian life as a member of the Catholic Church. This is not to be exclusive, but Cunningham argues that one must understand Francis within this context to grasp what he did do that challenged structures both within and outside the Church. The fittingness of the title is quickly apparent, because Francis' life exhibits the total committment Francis had to following the life of Jesus. The chapters give a look at the life of the Francis before his conversion experiences and then at the Francis who was among many brothers in a newly founded religous order. Finally, Cunningham has a chapter called "Francis Reconsidered" which challenges the reader to rethink the image of Francis and decide whether or not that fits with the material found in the previous chapters. This is a very good book if one is looking for a good sense of Francis' life without the technical citations and references which can make a book daunting to some. I would highly recommend this book because of the breathe in which it asks one to rethink Francis and to see his life as a member of the Body of Christ challenging the society in which he lived.
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Format: Paperback
Francis is most often seen outside in garden statuary, surrounded by birds and other animals. This is the perception most of us have of Francis. Cunningham's book serves to take this image and place it in a historical context. Francis was a devout and very orthodox Christian. He was very literal in his understanding of the mission, life and death of Christ. His understanding led him to radical views on life - while remaining firmly planted in his church and its traditions.

This book is part theology, part history, part sociology. It is an easy and thought provoking read, although the teminology Cunningham uses is sometimes theological and obscure to those without some basis is Christianity.

I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read this small book on Francis several times, most recently after a personal pilgrimage to Assisi. In some ways Cunningham captures the spirit of Francis. What I especially appreciated is his sense that Francis was performing the Gospel - not in the style of a stage play, but in the manner of making his life in terms of the script of the Gospel.
A good introduction to St. Francis.
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Format: Paperback
It is the rare biography of St. Francis that goes beyond "lawn garden statue" spirtuality. He presents Francis as a man of the incarnation and the cross.
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