We all think we know St. Francis, a young man of privilege, changed forever by his vow of poverty. Fast forward 700+ years, and a New England minister arrives at a crisis of faith in his wealthy entitled parish. Both the characters, one real, one fictional, grace us with their stories in the book, Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. More than 15 parishioners recently read Chasing Francis and met on three consecutive weeks to discuss the variety of topics called up by this story. Cron weaves an historical account of Saint Francis of Assisi into a fictional tale of this parish priest. The priest’s journey, a modern day pilgrimage, takes him to places and provides encounters that showcase the essential role of art in our quest for spiritual clarity and the many pathways available within the near universal desire for redemption.
Our meetings were a lot like other book groups, except that we read portions of the book for each meeting, rather than the entire text for one meeting, and people came ready to discuss their own very meaningful spiritual lessons that the book called up. What was the takeaway? Interacting with a wide range of friends and acquaintances from the St. Mary’s community over the shared pursuit of meaning within this book was quite powerful. There was the shared experience of fellowship over several weeks (very low key, many came to only one or two of the meetings). We received edification on the very real modern day relevance of St. Francis. We received great lessons from George on a variety of Christian sects and their beliefs. Finally, and most importantly, many of us got to know each other well enough to share deeply about our own spiritual peaks and valleys experienced by the group. The general sentiment of the group was, “let’s do it again!” Stay tuned for book #2 in the St. Mary’s reading reflection series.