Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi

by Donald Spoto

Hardcover, 2002



Call number



Penguin Books (2002), Viking Compass Edition: 257 pages


In Reluctant saint, Donald Spoto shows us a Saint Francis who transcends the image of Francis familiar to even the least religious among us. Spoto's unprecedented access to unexplored archives and the saint's own unpublished letters help reveal how Francis pioneered an entirely new historical movement, one that eventually slipped from his grasp. Spoto highlights Francis's position within the ecclesiastical, political, and social forces of medieval Italy in all its violence, color, and mystery. It was a time of crisis with a craving for reform and for a deeper, simpler, more personal faith--yet concern for the common good, and for the poor and sick, was virtually unknown. A key part of the revolution Francis brought about was his insistence that such concern lay at the heart of the Gospel. Reluctant saint portrays a life that has captured the hearts and minds of millions over the centuries.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member TedWitham
Of the making of books on St Francis there appears to be no end, so only the brave rate new biographies in comparison with earlier tellings. There are two newer elements in this life of St Francis that make it stand out: firstly, Donald Spoto is able to make a good story out of all the
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socio-economic chaos of later 12th and early 13th Century Europe. This 'Reluctant Saint' has more depth because we see more clearly his world. Secondly, like Julien Green's in "God's Fool", Spoto burrows down to the psychology of St Francis, and particularly in the 'middle years' between the visit to Rome of 1209 and the First Rule dragged out of him in 1221.

The title paints St Francis as 'reluctant' because (a) he always thought of himself as a sinner, a penitent, and (b) because his fame (in his lifetime and since) is bound up with the Order that he didn't want and couldn't stop.

If you are looking for a biography of the saint from Assisi either as a first-time reader, or to refresh your understanding of who Francis was, then read "Reluctant Saint".
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LibraryThing member disneypope
A wonderful, insightful biography that shows Francis in his glory and in his pain.


Original language


Physical description

272 p.; 5.6 inches


0142196258 / 9780142196250

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