Publisher's Letter - October 2017

Robert Ellsberg

In the month of October we remember Francis of Assisi, the saint who answered Christ’s call to “repair my church.” He is affectionately celebrated for his winsome qualities: his preaching to the birds, his praise for “Brother Sun and Sister Moon.” Above all, St. Francis stands as one who made the way of Jesus credible and concrete. Embracing the radical spirit of the Gospel, he boldly challenged a world obsessed with power and status, and a church that conformed to such values. Those today who pursue the cause of peace, who stand with the poor, who engage in respectful dialogue with other faiths, or defend the Earth and its creatures, are following in his path. In our program, we have tried to do the same.

I think especially of our many authors from the wide Franciscan family, including Sister Ilia Delio (Making All Things New), who has promoted the principle of wholeness or “catholicity”; the works of Leonardo Boff (Francis of Assisi, The Prayer of St. Francis); and Michael H. Crosby, a beloved Capuchin-Franciscan priest who recently died. His many books included Finding Francis, Following Christ, and Repair My House: Becoming a “Kindom” Catholic. In St. Francis and the Foolishness of God Marie Dennis and her ecumenical team of co-authors outlined the ways that St. Francis speaks to the needs of our time, while George Dardess and Marvin L. Krier Mich’s In the Spirit of St. Francis & the Sultan draws on the inspiration of St. Francis for the cause of Christian-Muslim dialogue.

Perhaps no one in our time has so dramatically embodied the Franciscan ideal as our current Pope. In Francis of Rome & Francis of Assisi, Leonardo Boff showed how Pope Francis’s choice of a name implied an agenda and a mission. In a new book, Pope Francis and the Theology of the People, Rafael Luciani traces the deep roots of the Pope’s commitment to the poor and marginalized in a particular school of Latin American theology. (Harvey Cox calls this “The best book I have seen so far on Francis.”)

In The Problem of Wealth: A Christian Response to a Culture of Affluence, Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty shows how our understanding of poverty shifts when we begin with the idea that the real problem is wealth and how we create it. In the spirit of Francis, she asks what it would mean for the world if we chose to live by an ethic of enough. How could relationships be transformed if we sought to embody love and the values of reciprocity, collaboration, and interdependence in our contemporary economy? In Ecowomanism, Melanie L. Harris draws on the experience of African American women to propose a spirituality that honors the earth and resists ecological depredation.

The vision of St. Francis poses a stark contrast to the values that rule our society today. And yet they point to a way of kindness, gentleness, and humility that could truly repair our world, which is evidently falling into ruin.

In the spirit of St. Francis, may we join our intentions with his prayer that we might become instruments of God’s peace.


Robert Ellsberg

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