May 7, 2012

Book Review: Compassion: Living in the Spirit of Saint Francis

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis. They are also a great source for baptism gifts or first communion gifts.  This book was given to me at no cost.  All opinions are my own. 

I loved the way that Ilia Delio combined many rich quotes, poems, and stories with examples of the life of Saint Francis to provide a deeper look at compassion from a Catholic perspective.  It was really inspiring to read about his journey from being a more materialistic, self-centered person to someone who deeply loved all of Creation and "embraced the weak, the sick, and the disgruntled, as if each reflected the face of Jesus Christ."  The book talks about how he developed this through forming a deep love of nature as well as through recognizing Christ's compassion for us through the crucifixion and the Eucharist.

Now, I am the kind of person who likes to highlight and underline everything that really stands out to me in a reading.  There are so many great quotes in this book that I loved, and it made me feel like I was highlighting everything.  Here are just a few of the many, many quotes I loved to give you just a little taste of the book:

"Love, not sin, held priority for Francis as it should for us.
When we see only the weakness of another or judge another by their wrong actions, we fail to see the goodness of God within them.  Francis asks us to let go of our judgments and criticisms of one another and to love with compassion." 

"Love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor, for the neighbor is the very presence of God.  When we reject the neighbor, we reject God.  We crucify Christ over and over, adding more violence to a violent world.  Thus we are to love deeply.  The more deeply we love the one who suffers, the more deeply we love God."

"He showed compassion to persons because he believed their humanity reflected God.  His compassion was not 'doing for' but 'being with,' a solidarity in love that accepted weakness as an invitation to love." 

There was one part I did struggle through a little bit, and that was a chapter about the relationship between the soul and space.  It was very philosophical and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around things like that.  However, I thought that overall this was an excellent, thought provoking book and it made me think a lot about the way I live out my life.  I loved reading about the life of Saint Francis, and I think he is an excellent model to look up to because of his love of all of God's creation, his understanding of interdependent relationship between all living things, and his willingness to give up everything so that he could better serve others with compassion. 

I thought the best part of this book was the fact that there were meditations and a set of reflection questions at the end of each chapter that encouraged me to think more deeply about the reading and how I could apply it to my life.  I loved this because, as I recently wrote, I need to work on not just reading something  inspiring, but acting on what I read.  This book encouraged me to want to do several different things.  First of all, the chapter about technology encourages spending one day a week doing a "cyberfast," so I am am going to seriously consider doing that.  Secondly, I need to think about ways I can be more "present" to strangers in public places.  Finally, once we buy a second car I would really like to find a place in our new town to volunteer at on a regular basis. 


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