- Studies in Early Franciscan Sources Edited by Michael W. Blastic, O.F.M., Jay M. Hammond, and J. A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M.Conv
Following the publication of the first volume (The Saint) in the three-volume series Francis of Assisi: Early Documents (New York, 1999) and the publication of Regis Armstrong’s Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, The Lady (Hyde Park, NY, 2006), the three volumes under review come as a welcome complement to these English translations of the writings of the two saints. Each volume comprises chapters [End Page 127] written by internationally respected scholars, the majority of whom are working in the United States: Regis Armstrong, Michael W. Blastic, Michael Cusato, Laurent Gallant (Canada), Jean François Godet-Calogeras, Jay M. Hammond, Wayne Hellman, Lezlie Knox, Luigi Pellegrini (Italy), Ingrid Peterson, and William Short.
As stated in all three introductions:
The essays make available a new resource for further study and interpretation in two ways. First, the essays define the status quaestionis by informing the reader about the state of current research on each of the texts considered. The aim is to help the reader find a point of departure for either interpreting the texts or for moving the research forward. Second, the essays are intended to introduce the reader to these texts within the dimensions of their multilayered contextual-historical framework. Hopefully, this will open the door for solid theological reflection, the only foundation for further development of Franciscan spirituality.
Each of the essays adopts the same format, providing (a) the historical context of the writing; (b) an explanation of the way in which the text has been transmitted and perhaps altered over the centuries; (c) recent scholarship concerning the text; and (d) a presentation of the way a given text provides insight into the personality of St. Francis or St. Clare and those they influenced. Each chapter concludes with a select bibliography. The essays presuppose a certain familiarity with the lives of the two saints and Franciscan history in general; for that reason, a short general bibliography for this purpose is also provided in each volume.
The essays in volume 1 examine the letters and prayers of Francis, beginning with an explanation of the manuscript tradition and the transmission of the saint’s writings by the noted Capuchin Franciscan scholar, Luigi Pellegrini. A detailed and informative analysis, Pellegrini’s essay provides important background for those that follow. Unfortunately, this English translation of the Italian original is so literal as to impede the uninitiated reader from following the author’s argument with ease. Of particular contemporary interest is Blastic’s observation that, following his visit to Egypt, the later prayers of Francis reflect the experience of God as “all powerful,” a central dimension of the Muslim faith (pp. 110–11). Godet-Calogeras’s discussion of The Praises of God (pp. 66–71) is especially informative concerning the influence of Islam on the Poverello. Overall, Francis emerges from these essays as a man of deep faith and literary genius. All is gift. Praise God (Hammond, p. 240).
Volume 2 is dedicated to the Rules, the Testament, and the Admonitions of Francis. These essays provide insight into Franciss’ struggle to maintain the essence of his calling within the brotherhood that developed around him, while remaining a faithful son of the Church. The authors also take the reader to the heart of the struggle to interpret the charism of the founder as the brotherhood was transformed, in the wake of...