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Christine Sunderland

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Review of Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron
by Christine Sunderland   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Posted: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

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Pastor loses his faith and looks for it in Franciscan Italy.

Chasing Francis is part novel, part memoir, about an evangelical pastor who has lost his faith.  We aren't exactly sure why, except that it suddenly it isn't there, and he is in crisis.

 

He journeys to Italy where he learns about Saint Francis and the beauty of liturgy found in Catholicism.  He experiences the bond of communion and encounters God in the Mass. He hears about Franciscan spirituality, apparently a blend of ecology, peacemaking, and serving the poor.

 

In this pilgrimage, Mr. Cron highlights a trend currently found in the evangelical world, in which liturgy-poor worship discovers the beauty of traditional Christianity.  I laud him for this.  But to say Francis would have lobbied the government for fuel efficiency or anti-war programs is, I believe, a bit overreaching, turning a thirteenth-century humble saint into a modern activist.  From what I have read of Francis Bernadone, this description is inaccurate. 

 

As our hero journeys, I found it curious that only parts of Francis were accepted and lauded.  Gone was the saint's devout Catholicism, his respect for the priesthood (he felt himself unworthy to be ordained), his allegiance to the Pope.  This picking and choosing is, at the least, disingenuous.

 

The author's syntax and vocabulary are folksy, with many colorful metaphors, and this style might endear him to a good many readers.  We often hear about "lots of" and "bunches of" when referring to people, and one old woman's head is nodding like a "dashboard Bobblehead."

 

This journey is laden with meaning for our contemporary culture.  As an Anglo-Catholic who values Church tradition, liturgy, beauty, mystery, creeds, and, to be sure, dogma (he rails against "dogma," that invaluable accounting of what we believe to be true ), I would encourage everyone to make a similar journey into the heart of Catholic liturgy and embrace it in all of its splendor. 



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