Bird of Fire
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By Helen C. White
Of all the saints in the halls of Heaven, few are as widely beloved yet also the subject of such literary mistreatment as Francis of Assisi. With Helen C. White’s beautifully crafted Bird of Fire, the life and work of that exuberant, ingenious Umbrian youth receives the irresistible telling it deserves. Set against the exhilarating backdrop of the High Middle Ages, Bird of Fire follows Francis Bernardone as he renounces his path to knighthood, his possessions, even his family, all for the sake of Lady Poverty. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Francis becomes a beacon for men and women who seek the same simplicity and sanctity he enjoys. Slowly but surely the Franciscan Order is formed, eager to embrace its mission to bring the glad tidings of salvation to all men. From the tent of the Sultan to the reception of the stigmata, Francis must become as gold in the furnace: purified by fire for the praise and glory and honor of his Lord and God.
“I had once thought to be a knight and to do great deeds and to win glory for them. Now, I am Christ’s knight, and I have taken up my quest and put on the livery of His pain. And of that there is no fame or glory, but only something that speaks to the common heart of man.”
The last of White’s six historical novels, Bird of Fire is a triumphant conclusion to an accomplished career of storytelling. In the person of “Christ’s Knight” and the world in which he lived and loved is found a most fitting subject of her talent of bringing the past to the light and staying true to its own unique life.
Helen C. White (1896–1967) was an American Catholic author, scholar, and professor. In a career spanning nearly five decades, she wrote six novels, including A Watch in the Night (1933) and To the End of the World (1939), and studies of poetry and devotional literature. White’s many awards include twenty-three honorary doctorates, two Guggenheim fellowships, and Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, awarded to a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church, and enriched the heritage of humanity.”
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