I enjoy biographies and even though I have already read a couple of biographies about St. Francis I accepted the offer by Handlebar Publishers to review this book as well. (Full disclosure: I received this book free in exchange for my honest review.)
That Elizabeth Goudge is an eloquent writer I cannot deny. That she adores her subject I cannot deny either.
While not an extensive bibliography, she has definitely read a number of books about St. Francis' life and, based on other sources I've read, gives an accurate account of where he was born, who his parents were, how and when he gave up a life of wealth and prestige to become a pauper and founded his order of Franciscan brothers.
Her writing style is rather flowery and fawning which is not appealing to me, however, based on other Amazon reviews, other people enjoy it.
My biggest reason for not enjoying the book is I simply disagree with the doctrine of sainthood. Saint simply means "sanctified" which is what happens to all believers at the point of salvation. Christ's grace covers our sins and we are made clean.
I know this is not compatible with Catholic doctrine that states that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross only saved us from original sin. According to Rome, each person must complete their salvation through good works, the confessing of sins and continually re-crucifying Christ by partaking of the Eucharist over and over again until last rites are given. In other words people are in partnership with Christ in saving their souls.
Some people perform more good works than others by sacrificing their lives to help the poor and giving up their own wealth. Francis did this. He and his brotherhood gave everything they had to the impoverished. They ate side by side with lepers. Francis so focused on God and performing good works that, according to this book (and the Catholic church) he was able to perform miracles, which is a qualification for Sainthood. Through his own efforts at continual worship, prayer, and good works, Francis made himself holy enough to be venerated.
Because of this he joined a hierarchy of "Holy people" created by the Catholic church that allows people to pray to Canonized humans that have already died to mediate on their behalf as a means of increasing their own atonement. A Catholic friend of mine explained that "God is too big for us and we are too unworthy so it helps to pray to saints as a mediator."
I read an article where the writer argued that Jim Elliot and the other missionaries who went to share the Gospel to the Auca Indians in South America and were killed could not be considered martyrs because they did not meet the criteria the Roman Church required to qualify.
These Indians became Christian and said that Jim Elliot and the others saved them because it put a stop to their blood feuds. These same Indians later baptized Elliot's children in the river where they murdered him. According to Rome, this accounts for nothing. Not that Protestant missionaries care where they stand with the Pope but I simply point out the perversity of a system that discounts sharing the gospel and saving others because it didn't go through the proper channels of the Church.
In this biography so much adulation and glory is given to St. Francis that God seems pushed to the side. The focus is very much on Francis and all his wonderful works and this is what makes him worthy of worship and not God's great mercy and forgiveness of sins, which is what makes God worthy of worship.
When I read the Bible I see people who were not so good. They were adulterers, murderers, liars and cheats. Yes I'm talking about Abraham, Samson, David and even Peter and the disciples. They did not make themselves good they were sanctified by Jesus Christ's crucifixion and were saved from death by His resurrection. Focusing on humans, no matter how great their brotherhood and legacy may be is a distraction and strikes me as a form of idolatry. And, sorry to be offensive, praying to dead people strikes me as a form of necromancy.
Goudge's book seems to be an attempt to perform a good work as if writing such a fawning biography about a saint will get her a few years out of purgatory. She died in 1984 so she should know by now.
Having made what I'm sure will be viewed as an anti-Catholic rant I will say that one of my favorite authors, the very Catholic G.K. Chesterton has also written a biography of St. Francis. I have actually broken my book buying fast and ordered a copy because I wish to get another perspective by a writer I greatly respect. Stay tuned.
Marsha Randolph's review of My God and My All