An edifying and meticulous exploration of two saints.

FRANCIS AND CLARE

THE STRUGGLES OF THE SAINTS OF ASSISI

A historical work examines the intersecting lives of two Roman Catholic saints: St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi.

St. Clare was born in Assisi in the closing years of the 12th century to a noble family distantly related on the maternal side to Constance, the wife of Henry VI, the Holy Roman emperor. From an early age, she was incorruptibly devoted to God and steadfastly prayed and fasted as expressions of her spiritual fervor. Her parents fecklessly tried to compel her to marry, but she resisted, sold off her inheritance, and used the money to rebuild the Church of Saint Damian, a project to which St. Francis was committed. In a show of remarkably painstaking research, Brady chronicles the turbulent journeys of the two saints. They were joined by their relentless religious ardor and an insistence on a life of poverty, a condition St. Francis could be “pitiless” enforcing—and a stricture that put St. Clare at loggerheads with Pope Gregory IX. In addition, the author brings to vivid life the religious and political tumult of the time—which included the Crusades—and astutely articulates the various lines of theological division. Furthermore, the book is lucidly written, a scrupulously thorough account enlivened by what Brady calls “novelistic details,” the minutiae, however imagined, that immerse readers in the drama. But the author’s tendency to interpret the miraculous elements of her subjects’ lives in narrowly scientific terms seems not only gratuitous, but also distorting. For example, she theorizes that St. Francis’ temptations by demons were likely the result of severe undernourishment: “Throughout his religious life, Francis would blame tribulations and temptations on the Devil and other evil denizens of Hell who knew how to taunt and vex him when he was most vulnerable, but his own mistreatment of himself and the ravages of semi-starvation were certainly responsible for much suffering.” This is more speculation than empirical science and doesn’t help illuminate the nature of the spiritual or existential crisis St. Francis endured; in fact, it obscures it. Nevertheless, despite the blandness of this obeisance to scientific explanations, the work as a whole is as captivating as it is rigorous.

An edifying and meticulous exploration of two saints.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73754-981-9

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Lodwin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2021

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A well-written account about a young man’s mistake and the threat of dire consequences.

INTO TROUBLE

In this memoir, an American man recounts heading to Europe to see his German girlfriend and ending up on the wrong side of the law in Franco’s Spain.

Gorman was 19 years old in 1969 and dreading the thought of the Vietnam War draft. He had a girlfriend, a German exchange student named Hilke, who had encouraged him to meet her in Hamburg. Anxious to escape his rough home life, the author left Washington state and hitchhiked across America, getting into some precarious situations along the way. He made it to Europe via Icelandic Airlines, followed by more hitchhiking to Hamburg. Gorman was tall, blond, and young, but he wasn’t quite ready for the women he met on the way to West Germany, and he was only thinking of Hilke. Unfortunately, her reception was somewhat cool, so he ventured on to Paris and Barcelona, loving the sights but not the winter weather. A friend encouraged him to go to the Canary Islands, and the author readily agreed (“If Barcelona was dark and mysterious, Las Palmas was vibrant as it basked in a golden Impressionistic glow”). Las Palmas wasn’t very touristy yet; Swedish women lined the beaches; and the cost of living was cheap. Even so, Gorman was wayward, often slept on the beach, and some of his friends were sketchy. A Canadian lured him into a tricky insurance scam, which promised a decent payout but came with risks for a naïve person in Fascist Spain. The author’s wistful, graceful memoir harkens back to the days when Europe wasn’t completely overrun with tourists and the cultural norms were more clear-cut. His vivid, penniless romp around Europe included adventures both big and small, some danger, and the occasional kindness from strangers. It’s an engaging story that has enough unlikely details to seem believable, especially as he entered the Spanish prison system. Like many travelers, Gorman mainly associated with expatriates, so the local Canarian culture is left in the background.

A well-written account about a young man’s mistake and the threat of dire consequences.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-94847-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Rain City Cinema LLC

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2022

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A compendium of intriguing but uneven dramas posing theological questions.

WRESTLING WITH GOD

THREE MYSTICAL DRAMAS

A collection of religious-themed librettos imagines three versions of the afterlife.

Who knows what awaits people on the other side. In this volume of opera librettos, Lass dramatizes a few possible outcomes. In Severe Passage, Mark, an accomplished academic with a bone to pick with God, meets the angel Gabriel in a void between lives. Gabriel tells Mark that God has decided to grant him three wishes, but the obstinate man refuses them. They argue for a long time about the nature of God’s justice, but when one of Mark’s former loves, Dorothy, arrives in the same void—a recent death by suicide—the stakes of the dispute suddenly get a lot more personal. In The Wrong Heaven, the biblical Lazarus dies, but in the afterlife, he isn’t greeted by his God—the God of the Jews—but rather by Zeus, the god of the Greeks. Zeus is angry at the way humans have treated all the gods. It turns out Zeus is hoping to use Lazarus to get to the figure who has really piqued his interest: Jesus. But as Lazarus goes back and forth between death and life, he learns that he may be a pawn in an even larger game. In The Archaeologists, a group of eponymous excavators unearths artifacts of first-century Israel, a time and place that all of them seem to somehow have visited before. Lass’ verses vary from a philosophical register to a lyrical one, as here where Zeus mocks Lazarus upon his return to the afterlife by describing his cosmic journey: “Back across the horizon / Where the planets are aflame? / Back from the black holes, / Where suns explode / Beyond the latent borders of time? / Back, and riding the pale moon, / Like a wild bull / In a cucumber field?” There are moments in each work that are exciting and thought-provoking, many of which grapple with foundational questions of faith, purpose, and meaning. But as larger pieces, none of them really succeed. Each is concept-driven, with few characters and long arguments, adding up to a rather tedious experience. It’s admirable of the author to ask such big questions, but in doing so, he often loses the human scale of existence.

A compendium of intriguing but uneven dramas posing theological questions.

Pub Date: March 22, 2005

ISBN: 978-1-4134-8431-1

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

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