Read: St. Francis Poems
By David Craig (Wipf and Stock, 2013)
2013 was a year to ponder afresh St. Francis of Assisi. In March, our new pope took the name of this humble saint. In May, Franciscan University professor David Craig published St. Francis Poems, a crafted and insightful retelling of The Fioretti and The Three Companions, medieval texts that recount the life, deeds, and visions of one of the most beloved saints of the Catholic tradition.
Emphasizing that we most clearly see God in relation to how clearly we see our own sins, St. Francis Poems teaches as it inspires. In keeping with the original sources, the poems begin with informative subtitles, for example, “[H]ow he became generous and charitable to the poor”; “How the crucifix spoke to him for the first time . . . ”; “How St. Francis received the counsel of St. Clare . . . and preached to birds.” The poet’s conversational endnotes add contrast, context, and commentary.
Yet while the book is quite well informed, it is the wisdom and music of the poems that most directly speak to the soul. It is St. Francis—“betrothed to a lady, Poverty, / a woman hidden in so much beauty”—who calls us to examine our own lives, cluttered as they are with possessions and deadlines. In “The first consideration of the holy stigmata,” Craig tells us, “Earth was a place to be swept, cleaned: broom of dirt / on a sea of dirt, dirt on dirt dancing.” In “The second consideration ,” we are called by example to “lose” what we have “grown to love: [our] ridiculous life . . . lifted up / like the joyful paralytic, through the roof of heaven.” Thus, the poet’s narratives about grace move forward with grace.
Craig’s closing poem, “Francis helps a brother who is in sin,” ends with a challenge: “Make a wish—, he said, / one that’s not your own.” Like St. Francis, may we have the humility to do just this.
This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 11, page 43).