From time to time, I get excited about a writing project. Whether it's Coming Clean, the great American novel (that's all but finished), or even the Psalm series here on the blog, I'm more alive when I'm chasing down some creative idea. These days, I'm working on a serial book for my children. It's entitled Dear Little Brothers, and it recasts the biography of St. Francis of Assisi, as written by St. Bonaventure. Today, I'm offering the Preface below so you can get a taste of the project. Each month, I'll release a new chapter of Dear Little Brothers, but only to my Tiny Letter subscribers. Do you want to read along? CLICK THIS LINK TO SIGN UP (You'll receive a download link at the confirmation screen).
PREFACE TO DEAR LITTLE BROTHERS
Carol Mouk was bad to drink. For too many years, she lived in the boozy haze, stumbled sideways into the country club or Sunday brunch. Full of too much nervous energy, and with a fuse as short as bottle rocket, she was a spark-spitting, explosive drunk. She was a screamer, a shoe thrower, and a tyrant. She was unbearable.
I don’t suppose I know the full extent of Carol’s drinking problem, but I trust these recollections. After all, this is what she told me just before she died.
It may seem like an awkward starting point for a book on St. Francis of Assisi, but for me, it makes all the sense in the world. Carol was my grandmother, and in the years before I was born, the Easter lily of a woman had been transformed by a great grace. She met Jesus in a recovery room, and found sobriety. She devoted herself to the faith of her youth, rekindled an admiration for the saints revered by her Episcopalian tradition. A lover of good literature, she held Saint Lewis—as she called the The Screwtape Letters’ author—in high esteem. A woman in need of inner sobriety, she also nursed a particular affection for the saint of light and peace—St. Francis.
My grandmother told me bits and pieces of Francis’ story, but we never spoke about him at great length. I think she liked the idea of Francis’ retreat from the cares and troubles of the world, but I don’t know how familiar she was with his writings, or the writings about him. Even still, she kept weathered stone statues of the man from Assisi in her garden, and often prayed the prayer attributed to him—“make me a channel of your peace.”
Over the last few years, I’ve been walking my own road of recovery from over-drinking. When I stopped drowning my own anxieties with liquor, I remembered my grandmother’s affinity for St. Francis and thought, “maybe there’s something for me to learn from his life.” I dove into the Franciscan literature, and there I found real spiritual treasure. Francis was a man of peace, yes. But more than anything, he was an example of one who, by obedience to his King Jesus, rebuilt and revitalized the church.
In the Spring of 2015, on a visit to Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon, I picked up a used copy of a translation of The Legenda Sancti Francisci. Written by St. Bonaventure some forty years after Francis death in 1226, it is considered the official biography of St. Francis. The language of the book was stilted, and the flow was disjointed. Still, it was one of the most beautiful and timely biographies I’d read in some time.
That leads us to this work. Dear Little Brothers, comprises a series of letters, each of which is adapted from a chapter of The Legenda of Sancti Francisci. The letters open with a salutation to the “little brothers,” and close with love from St. Bonaventure himself. Every month, I mail these letters to my sons (who doesn’t enjoy receiving mail from time to time?) and we read them as a family around the dinner table, or just before bed. It’s a special time. And as I considered how enjoyable it has been to adapt Bonaventure’s biography into this series of letters, I thought others might enjoy reading along.
The purpose of these letters is to make St. Bonaventure’s work approachable for a younger audience—preteens and teenagers to be exact—and I hope you’ll read them to your children and grandchildren. But even more, I hope you’ll find some inspiration in the pages yourself. Maybe you’ll find the way peace, the way of living a life away from the world’s cares. Perhaps you’ll delve into the work of rebuilding a ruined church or two. But whatever inspiration might strike, I hope you’ll find the path of Francis leads you into a deeper understanding of the Kingdom of Jesus.
Enjoy these letters. If you do, and if you’d like to receive the next installment as it becomes available, make sure you’re signed up to receive my newsletter updates at https://tinyletter.com/sethhaines. I’ll send the new letter around the first of every month.
And now, without further adieu, allow me to introduce you to St. Francis’ personal biographer, St. Bonaventure.
Thanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the May newsletter (coming soon), I'm be giving away the first chapter of Dear Little Brothers, a serial book. Sign up and follow along!