Everything I knew about St. Francis of Assisi before reading Chasing Francis can be summed up in these words:
I may be an evangelical Protestant, but I know that Francis is a Catholic saint from the thirteenth century who’s famous for holding up concrete birdbaths in people’s backyards. (38)
And with that, Ian Morgan Cron captured my heart with his wit, writing style and cleverly convicting observations about the church today. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Chasing Francis from Zondervan through the Booksneeze program in exchange for my honest review.)
Chasing Francis is fiction but it reads like a memoir. Chase Falson is an evangelical pastor of a New England church he started, and his faith is crumbling. When he makes some controversial remarks in a sermon, he’s asked to take a leave of absence. Not knowing where else to turn, he calls his Uncle Kenny, a Franciscan priest living in Italy, who encourages him to travel to Italy to meet someone who can help him through his time of doubting.
He’s surprised to learn that the person his uncle had in mind was St. Francis of Assisi. The rest of the book is an account of Chase’s pilgrimage to sites important in Francis’ life and the life of the Church.
How much did I love this book? I recommended it to three people before I was halfway through it. It’s that good. I’ve heard good things about Cron’s memoir, Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me, but I haven’t read it yet. “Yet” being the key word. It’ll be on my list now.
Not only is Chasing Francis a convicting look at the state of the Church today, it’s also a primer on the life of St. Francis. The book includes a study guide at the end with extra snippets of information about Francis’ life and thought-provoking discussion questions. I would love to read this book in a group and discuss the study at the end. I dog-eared dozens of pages, sometimes two per page, to record the wisdom written there.
Two of my favorite lines that relate to the setting of the story and give you an idea of Cron’s genius:
Gelato is what heaven would taste like if someone froze it and crammed it into a paper cup. (124)
When God created language, he neglected to include words that could do justice to the dazzling beauty of the old city of Florence. (36)
A warning: Chasing Francis will create a longing in you. A longing for authenticity, for beauty, for encountering God outside of the walls of your local church. Be prepared to desire a pilgrimage of your own. But don’t let that scare you. Chasing Francis is a must-read for the Church today. Surprisingly (or maybe not) we can learn a lot from a long-dead Catholic saint.