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Friday, January 14, 2011

"Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron

This is one of the first genuinely good books I've read in a long time that adequately meshes good storytelling with sincere Christianity. The protagonist is a pastor of an evangelical mega-church; his name is Chase. One day, when faced with an already deteriorating faith that is given the big kick with the death of a beloved child, Chase tells his entire congregation that his faith is no more. When confronted by his church elders, he is told to take some time off. Emotionally spent, Chase travels to Italy to visit his uncle Kenny who is a Franciscan priest. Through a long pilgrimage that continues even after Chase leaves, Chase comes to know what St. Francis was really like, what he did, and what he taught. Kenny and his other Catholic priests / monks take Chase around to view places of historical importance in the church and even allowed Chase to see poverty firsthand and let him help. Chase even learns what it means to be a true follower of Christ, not just a so-called Christian. Of course, at the end, Chase regains his faith. However predictable this ending may be, the passage to get there is heartfelt and real. The pages keep turning as readers see themselves in various parts of the story. As a Catholic, I like how bits of Catholicism from the liturgy to cathedral to transubstantiation are introduced in a positive way without being overbearing. Chase doesn't convert to Catholicism in the end, but he does grow closer to God through various Catholic venues. He even prays to St. Francis after a while. At the end of the book, there is a lengthily study that includes excerpts followed by questions with space to fill in answers. Christians of all types can learn more about God, worship, and themselves with this book. Best of all, due to the construction of the book, they will most likely want to live out what they learned.

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