Saint Francis of Assisi
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By Johannes Jørgensen
At the beginning of his classic biography of “le jongleur de dieu,” G. K. Chesterton sets forth three ways in which a “sketch of St. Francis of Assisi in modern English may be written.” First, the author “may deal with this great and most amazing man as a figure in secular history and a model of social virtues”; second, “he may go to the opposite extreme, and…be defiantly devotional”; and third—by the “ordinary” route—“he may try to use what is understood to explain what is not understood.” The achievement of Johannes Jørgensen’s Saint Francis of Assisi is to have employed all three of these methods to weave a harmonious account of one of the most beloved saints of all times. Artfully examining the four major phases of St. Francis’s life—Francis the Church Builder; Francis the Evangelist; Francis, “God’s Singer”; and Francis the Hermit—the biography produces a striking portrait of the genuine character of Francis, the grand romance of his faith in Christ, and the tireless devotion of his love for the Church.
I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant. (Exodus 15:1)
For what else are the servants of God than his singers, whose duty it is to lift up the hearts of men and move them to spiritual joy? (Saint Francis of Assisi)
The fruit of years of studious pilgrimage through the source material, Saint Francis of Assisi (which first appeared in T. O’Connor Sloane’s elegant English translation in 1912) has endured as an immensely popular treatments of one of the Church’s most beloved servants, the saint known as “Il Poverello.”
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Johannes Jørgensen (1866–1956) was a Danish author of novels, poetry, and biographies. After a transformative visit to the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, he converted to Catholicism in 1896. Alongside the best-known Saint Francis of Assisi, his works in English include: Don Bosco, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Bridget of Sweden. Over the course of his career, Jørgensen was a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.