Nine Books for Exploring Franciscan Spirituality

This past weekend I conducted a retreat on Franciscan spirituality for the Rock Hill Oratory Center for Spirituality in South Carolina. Franciscan spirituality is such a delight, so of course I enjoyed both designing and leading this retreat.

I promised the retreatants that I would provide a list of recommended books on the subject of Franciscan spirituality. Once I drew up the list, I figured it was worth posting here — so here it is. Enjoy!

Ian Morgan Cron, Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale — I read this novel years ago; it’s a simple but well-rounded introduction to what is distinctive about Franciscan spirituality, as seen through the eyes of an evangelical mega-church pastor who is undergoing a crisis of faith.

Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer — Franciscan sister Ilia Delio is a professor of theology at Villanova University; she is well known for her writing on the intersection between science and spirituality. But she has also written a number of books on Franciscan spirituality. This book offers her insight into the Franciscan dimension of prayer.

Daniel Horan, The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton — While it may seem odd to include a book on a Trappist monk in a list of Franciscan resources, this enjoyable book — as its title implies — offers a fresh new perspective on Merton by unpacking the many ways in which he was shaped by, and engaged with, the Franciscan tradition.

Ilia Delio, Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love — Like so many women saints, Clare of Assisi often gets overshadowed by her mentor and friend, Francis — but in our day more scholars are taking St. Clare seriously as a contributor to the Franciscan tradition in her own right. Sr. Ilia offers an accessible introduction to Clare’s life and spirituality.

Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi — Easily the best-known Franciscan in America today, Richard Rohr is a best-selling author and popular spiritual teacher. All of his work is imbued with a Franciscan sensibility; this book is one of several where he offers his own insights into the spirituality of his order.

Susan Pitchford, Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone — Franciscan spirituality transcends the boundaries of institutional religion; Franciscan fraternities can be found in Anglican/Episcopal and ecumenical settings. Pitchford, an Episcopal laywoman, offers insightful commentary into the rule of life for Secular Franciscans.

Albert Haase, Soul Training with the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis — Another popular Franciscan spiritual author, Albert Haase has written a variety of books on Franciscan spirituality and spirituality in general. This book unpacks the popular “peace prayer” which wasn’t written by Francis, but certainly embodies a Franciscan spirit.

Thea Bowman, In My Own Words Thea Bowman was a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, and has recently been named a “servant of God” — the first step on the road to being canonized as a saint. As a woman of color, Sr. Thea spoke prophetically against racism in the church, and embodies the inclusive nature of the Franciscan spirit.

Francis and Clare, The Complete Works — Neither Francis nor Clare left behind a large body of writings, although both have bequeathed us spiritual classics, from Clare’s letters to Blessed Agnes of Prague to Francis’s “Canticle of the Sun.” Here is a one-volume compendium of their collected writings, scholarly translated into English.

Of course, this list of books barely begins to cover the many resources available for those who wish to explore the spirituality of Francis, Clare, and their many followers. Think of this list as just a few books to get you started. Happy exploring!

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Carl McColman
Soul Friend and Storyteller. Lay Cistercian, Catechist, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, Teacher, Retreat Leader.