Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Interpreting Francis and Clare of Assisi from the Middle Ages to the Present

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Interpreting Francis and Clare of Assisi from the Middle Ages to the Present

Article excerpt

Interpreting Francis and Clare of Assisi from the Middle Ages to the Present. Edited by Constant J. Mews and Claire Renkin. (Melbourne: Broughton Publishing. 2010. Pp. xvi, 416. $89.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0980-66346-4.).

This collection of studies from Australia celebrates the 800 years of the Franciscan Order (1209-2009), arising from an event at Yarra Theological Union, one institute in the Melbourne College of Divinity. In the introduction (pp. xi-xvi), the editors explain the origins of the collection and briefly summarize the contributions. The studies begin in Assisi, of course, and then spread throughout Europe and into different fields of learning. Toward the end, they rapidly survey the centuries to the present day. The book contains studies that will interest a variety of readers.

Given that it is a Franciscan collection, it often speaks about poverty. We find an emphasis on poverty in the first article (p. 4) and in a well-developed study on Franciscan identity (p. 79). Poverty is looked at closely in the study on the Sacrum commercium, a symbolic tale of St. Francis and his brothers in search of Jesus 's poverty. Poverty repeatedly comes to the fore in the attention accorded St. Clare and her sisters, whether in her day or in our own (p. 333). However, poverty is a tricky term in Franciscan history. It played no role in the beginning and first arose in the Early Rule as a defensive maneuver. In the Rule of 1223 it stands at the heart of chapter VI, the very core of the Rule. In their 1242 commentary on the Rule, the learned Four Masters define the poverty of chapter VI and mean something clearly different from what Francis meant in 1223. …

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