St Francis of Assisi

by G.K. Chesterton

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



One of the finest writers I have been reading is G.K.Chesterton who has written extensively on human matters as well as the mysteries of Father Brown on television. He writes in a fluid and engaging manner. His first chapter about St. Francis is entitled: The Problem of St. Francis. Chesterton has three ways of looking at Francis’ life: he may deal with this great and most amazing man as a figure in secular history and a model of social virtues; he may go to the opposite extreme, and decide, to be defiantly devotional, that is make the theological enthusiasm as thoroughly the theme as it was the theme of the first Franciscans; he may try to do what I have tried to do in this book he puts himself in the position of a man who already admires St. Francis, but only for those things which such a man finds admirable. The modern reader will almost always find that if he could only feel this kind of love as a reality, he could feel this preliminary point because, though it is very far from being the final truth in the matter, it is the best approach to it


This is a book that all believers and non-believers should read. It will change your life. In the chapter entitled: The Testament of St. Francis, there is a sense of irony between our present day society and what took place during St. Francis’ time: “In one sense doubtless it is a sad irony that St. Francis, who all his life had desired al men to agree, should have died amid increasing disagreements. But we must not exaggerate this discord, as some have done, so as to turn it into a mere defeat of all his ideals both the wickedness of the society and the wickedness of the Church.”


We turn to St. Francis in the spirit of thanks for what he has done. He was above all things a great giver; and he cared chiefly for the best kind of giving which is called thanksgiving. Francis left to the world a grammar of acceptance; a grammar of gratitude. Francis understood down to its very depths, the theory of thanks; and its depths are a bottomless abyss. People realized his sense of importance which was more than half his power. He was an inspiration to all of history that is captured in straggling and meagre sentences. Francis felt at once the desire to have done infinitely more and the futility of having done anything. Throughout the universe St. Francis has left his legacy of the Franciscan Order and there service throughout the world.