Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: Chasing Francis



About the Book:
What happens when the pastor of a mega church loses his faith?

Pastor Chase Falson has lost his faith in God, the Bible, evangelical Christianity, and his super-sized megachurch. When he falls apart, the church elders tell him to go away: as far away as possible. Join Chase on his life-changing journey to Italy where, with a curious group of Franciscan friars, he struggles to resolve his crisis of faith by retracing the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, a saint whose simple way of loving Jesus changed the history of the world. Read this riveting story and then begin your own life-changing journey through the pilgrim's guide included in this powerful novel.

Hidden in the past lies the future of the church.  When his elders tell him to take some time away from his church, broken pastor Chase Falson crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest. There he is introduced to the revolutionary teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi and finds an old, but new way of
following Jesus that heals and inspires. Chase Falson's spiritual discontent mirrors the feelings of a growing number of Christians who walk out of church asking, Is this all there is? They are weary of celebrity pastors, empty calorie teaching, and worship services where the emphasis is more on Lights, Camera, Action than on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit while the deepest questions of life remain unaddressed in a meaningful way.

Bestselling author Ian Morgan Cron masterfully weaves lessons from the life of Saint Francis into the story of Chase Falson to explore the life of a saint who 800 years ago breathed new life into disillusioned Christians and a Church on the brink of collapse. Chasing Francis is a hopeful and moving story with profound implications for those who yearn for a more vital relationship with God and the world.

My Comments:
In Chasing Francis, the author, Ian Morgan Cron, uses a a wrap-around story of a Protestant mega-church pastor going through a crisis of faith to present biographical and spiritual information about St. Francis of Assisi.  Chase started the church he now pastors, a church in one of the least church-friendly areas of the United States, the Northeast.  Chase had been raised as a nominal Episcopalian and during college he found Jesus through the evangelistic efforts of a friend.  His parents were aghast and never really approved of his career.  He started a church that now has all the trappings of the stereotypical mega-church.  Now he is having a crisis of faith and it shows in his preaching and he is asked to take a leave of absence to get his act together.  Chase calls and uncle who is a Franscian Friar and his uncle invites him to Italy to learn about St. Francis.  Together with some other friars they spend a few weeks touring sites important to St. Francis.  Chase reads about St. Francis and writes in a journal.  In short, through St. Francis Chase rediscovers Christ and what Christ wants from His Church.  

I loved the book.  I read it while on vacation in Gulf Shores, sitting on the balcony, looking at the lagoon, listening to the birds, bugs, rains and waves.  It was a contemplative setting and this is a book to contemplate.  

In some ways the book was a combination of Catholicism and Protestantism.  The setting is Catholic.  Chase prays in front of a crucifix.  He lives in a priory with his uncle and other friars.  He attends morning prayer and evening ;prayer (though those aren’t really described).  However, he generally avoids Mass, ostensibly because he is afraid he won’t know when to sit, stand, kneel etc.  Eventually he does attend and at communion, the friars invite him to come forward.  The first time he goes, he refuses to do so; the second time, he does.  While Chase‘s problems with modern Evangelical Protestantism are explored, in the end, Chase remains Protestant.  The friars tell Chase that all Christian communities have something to offer the others.  

Chase is introduced to Franciscan/Catholic spirituality.  He sees how stained class, cathedral architecture, mosaics and statues can draw him to God.  He is moved to tears during communion even though he doesn't receive.  He finds God in nature and listens to the friars explain that while Francis saw the Creator through creation, it was the Creator he worshiped, not creation.  St. Francis’ devotion to poverty is discussed as well as  his relationship with St. Clare.  

At Mass this week the priest talked about rubrics.  He said that the rubrics call for Communion to be received kneeling and on the tongue, and that the American custom of standing and receiving in the hand was an exception requested by our bishops.  In this book when they receive communion they do so at the altar rail, though it sounded like they received in the hand.  

In the book Chase is on a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey and as readers we take the journey with him.  It was one of those books I really needed to read and I’m thankful that God (and NetGalley) put it on my Kindle this week. The book ends, as many books do, with questions for thought.  In this case I actually read them and believe they add something significant to the book and the reading experience.   Grade:  B+.  

3 comments:

  1. off to see if it's still available on NetGalley

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am making a note of this one.

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  3. I read this and loved it!

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