The other week I received the novel "Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron through my friend Mike Morrell (was in charge of the Ooze Viral Bloggers and is now starting another one called Speak Easy). This is new territory for me as I have never blogged on a work of fiction. But I thought the book sounded interesting. So I agreed to read the book and write a response on it.
The book is a modern day journey in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. It is a novel about a Pastor Chase Falson who "loses" his faith and sets out on a pilgrimage to find it again. The novel reminded me a lot of the New Kind of Christian series by Brian McLaren. The interesting twist is where Chase ends up finding this faith again...in the life, ministry and footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Chase goes to Italy and take a pilgrimage to various places that are connected to the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. He spends most of his time with Friars from the Franciscan order, one of which is his uncle. As he reads, writes, visits various places, and talks with the friars, Chase begins to see the life and faith of Saint Francis as having huge traction in our postmodern world. He then begins to find his faith again, albeit a "different" or should I say deeper, richer faith then the one he lost. He then puts together a plan to develop a church that reflects the heart and ministry of Saint Francis in the postmodern world that we live in.
I would say the best part of the novel is when Chase lays out his 5 points in developing a church that contemporizes Saint Francis Rule of 1221. Those 5 points are:
1. Transcendence- more of a holistic faith then a head knowledge. Spiritual practices learned from our brothers and sisters in our times and faith traditions. Moving away from an apologetic that is only about the head to an embodied apologetic, a lived out faith.
2. Community- dealing with things like peacemaking, being a blessing in the world, realizing that all of life is sacred, life and ministry that is about the Kingdom of God, and taking care of the poor and needy.
3. Beauty- dealing with the arts and being a supportive place for artists, musicians, poets, etc.... Using art to create dialogue around spiritual issues. Care for Creation.
4. Dignity- seeing everyone as made in the image of God and worthy of love, respect, and care.
5. Meaning- Seeking meaning in the world and not labeling people and not being labeled. Being a "come and see Christian" meaning come and see if I am a Christian or not but how I live my life. Come and see church....come and see if our church is living out the kingdom.
As I read this book I realized a few things. First that Saint Francis was probably the first "postmodern" saint. Secondly, that even though Francis was Catholic, I think he would fit very nicely in Anabaptist circles. And lastly his life and ministry resonated strongly with what Veritas is seeking to be and become. So the novel is a good read, a fast read, but one that has some deep meaning and relevance to being a follower of Jesus in our emerging, postmodern world that we currently find ourselves in.