Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis is a rich, well-researched study of the selfless brand of agape love by which the saint from Assisi was known. I was pleasantly surprised to find some truly beautiful excerpts from poems in addition to a number of references to religious classics that are lovely lyrically.
It is evident that author Ilia Delio, O.S.F., has captured the essence of Christ’s self-sacrificing love in her description of St. Francis life and service to others. Thoughtful Scripture reflection and carefully chosen passages from literature, religious classics, as well as quotes from more recent books give this work a well-rounded feel instead of the more academic one a straight biography of St. Francis would be likely to have. Each chapter ends with a meditation and some reflection questions to help the reader examine his/her life to gauge caring quotient and compassion reactiveness.
One of my favorite passages from Chapter Five, I marked and have shared with my husband and also read it as the closing prayer at a Human Concerns meeting. The paragraph begins with “Compassion is a way of being in relationship with another that accepts the other in his or her weakness and responds to the needs of the person with mercy. In this way, compassion is Eucharistic…” (p 58) The relationship between mercy, Eucharist, and compassion is powerfully made here. Next the author includes a very poignant poem by Graziano Marcheschi called Tabernacles which perfectly describes humility and reverence due the Blessed Sacrament…and each person, who is made in God’s image.
At times, I was a bit thrown off by the high number of quotes in a book that seemed at first glance like it would be more of a reflection than a dissertation or a research paper. However the works cited (of which there are fifteen pages at the end) certainly add to and explicate the message of mercy.
From Chapter Eight to the end of the book, the topic seems to shift more from spirituality and how St. Francis lived to a scientific and sociological analysis of how technology and its implications in our current society have adversely affected people’s aptitude for and tendency towards compassion. These are certainly important elements to consider since so many people are plugged in practically 24/7 and not spending as much face-to-face time communicating.
I’d definitely recommend this book for all Catholics, as compassion is certainly key to living a Christian life, and St. Francis modeled the virtue in very inspirational ways.