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Seamus Mulholland OFM: I Decided to Write You a Letter

Seamus Mulholland OFM

I Decided to Write You a Letter:

A Four Week Cycle for Reading the Writings of St. Francis of Assisi

ISBN: 9780 9566 5682 7

Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury Press, 2012, £12.95

This book is not designed to be read straight through from beginning to end in one go. Rather, it is a four weekly cycle of short extracts from Francis’ writings, together with historical background to set the contexts, and suggestions about how they can be used in prayer and study. Seamus Mulholland believes his book provides a scheme of reading which allows us entry into Francis’ way of relating to God and acting in accordance with God’s guidance. So, the writings – his Rules, Testaments, admonitions, letters, Canticle, Praises and Salutation – are presented in “chunks” to be read three times a day with the Offices over a four week period, ad infinitum.  Mulholland feels this is a more readily absorbable way of understanding and remembering Francis than reading it straight through.  He notes that Francis’ writings reflect the ecclesial, theological, spiritual and cultural climate of his time, but his intention in this book is to help make them relevant to us as twenty-first century Franciscans as we endeavour to frame our understanding of his life.

So did this succeed for me? On balance, it did. I found the selections on offer both informative in the way I gained some insights into Francis’ way of being, and inspirational in the way I feel able to apply my new understandings. I looked forward to each revelation as it was incorporated into my daily Offices, be it his admonitions on virtue, his extracts from his letter to “All the Faithful”, his Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or whatever. I did however find Mulholland’s writing style to be over-complex and rather contorted. He also presumes his readers have a degree of theological and other knowledge which they may not have. In addition, the many spelling and punctuation errors inhibited the smooth flow of reading. In spite of this, I found the book to be a kindly and practical companion on my Christian journey. To find so much of Francis in one small volume was a delight. I shall not continue reading it as the author intended however, because as a tertiary it makes my Offices unrealistically long. Instead, I shall think of it as a casket from which I can choose the jewels it contains, to suit my mood or maybe at random.

 

Joanna Finegan TSSF