Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron
Ian Morgan Cron and others of his ilk, disillusioned post moderns among them, lead the current protestant reform back again to the roots of Catholicism. As an evangelical-raised pastor’s daughter, I follow some elements of this reform, but not all.
The American evangelicals had in the first half of the past century been fortunate enough to shape much of the culture. Taboos against illicit sex, drinking, smoking, pornography, and general carousing had held at bay a culture which in our day is bulging and bursting at the seams to let the beast out, come what may.( Indeed, keeping the beast in is held with as must disdain now as holding it back used to be!) However, they brought with them a form of religion which many interpreted as lacking in dimension, legalistic, dry, and devoid of experiential spirituality.
Cron’s story, a pursuit of St Francis of Assisi, who was a medieval Christian of legendary interest, describes him as the first postmodern. In his fictional account of a pastor who has seemingly lost his way, Cron paints an alluring picture of a spirituality grounded in history, experiential encounters with God, fueled by a universal hunger for beauty.
The tension is implicit between living a life of poverty, as did St. Francis, and the obviously leisurely life filled with good food and wine of the habit-donning clerics of the book. The disparaging remarks about real live Protestant disappointments however are not equally balanced by example of Catholic failure, except for reminders about the Crusades.
Still, judgment should begin at the house of God. Let them fall as they must.
I found myself drawn to the pageantry of the ancients and their almost superstitious faith in the gospel story in contrast to our ‘knowledge-based’ faith.
Chasing Francis is certainly on my list of favorites for its inspiring imagery, historical information, and Cron’s ability to take the reader on an enchanting, yet sobering trip to ancient and modern Italy.