francis3Francis of Assisi did some amazing things during his life, but it wasn’t the extraordinary things that made him a saint and still revered today. Most of Francis’s life was lived simply and ordinarily. How he did those ordinary things, the embrace of a marginalized person outside the Assisi walls, the conversation with a leader of another faith, the nonviolent being-in-the-world, the love of all creation, the simplicity of his needs and desires—this is what made him a saint. The way we live our lives, striving to make our whole lives our prayer, is what will make us saints too. Our lives of Gospel living, our living the Franciscan tradition in the world, deeply in love with God, begins as so many amazing love stories do: with a first date.

—from Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis (2012).

Photo: File


  1. Dan, I hesitate to comment because my comment is going to raise rabble. I disagree with your comment. I disagree with your thesis statement. I disagree respectfully, I disagree gently, but I disagree. I disagree from my position in the Church, my age, my gender, my experience, my horrible being as a “rationalist” – so characterized by an Augustinian, and probably guilty, but only to a point.
    On with it woman!
    My argument (I told you/ warned you I’m a bit of a rationalist; well, perhaps more than a bit): if what made Francis a saint were not the extraordinary things he did, the amazing things, we would have a good many more saints and they would mostly be women. Just look at traditionally women’s professions and you will see that the job descriptions often require embracing the marginalized, but when it comes to confronting power, women are often perceived and characterized as not doing it well whereas men are often perceived and characterized as leaders and prophets.
    Strong women often don’t get second dates and nice girls don’t make history. Life is. Francis was sainted because he denounced his riches, ran through the streets naked and talked to the animals. Ask anyone. 🙂 Were that it were otherwise! Those things drew our attention to his quiet acts of piety and mercy and love so it’s lovely. Now think of the female saints you (or perhaps your mother) learned about — they all died horrible disfiguring deaths protecting their “virtue” or their religion, er “faith.” But for a few — but ask your mother.
    But that’s an unpleasant digression. I just meant to point out that the power structure that sainted/canonized Francis might not have been completely persuaded by his gentle acts.
    Now, please show me I’m wrong — please!! 🙂
    Love, Mary

      1. I’m not talking about canonization here. I’m talking about being a saint (not Saint) in the same sense we read about in the NT letters. You’re correct to point out the misogyny that has lead to some women models of Christian living—including Mary through the centuries—that lead to docility and other patriarchal means of control. However, your summary of such a binary or black-and-white distinction between male and female models of Christian living appears to be buying into that way of thinking you rightfully despise. The reason I ask about your actual reading of this book (or my other work, for that matter) is that I’ve spent considerable effort to bring authentic scholarship and historical research to light for a popular audience to show just how your characterization of Francis of Assisi and the reasons for his sanctity are oversimplifications. The same is true with Clare, Angela of Foligno, and many other women models of Christian living. As for the metaphor of “Dating,” which seemed to be what you’re most upset by (if I’m understanding your comment correctly), I really encourage you to read the book. It’s not what you think. The Introduction will explain it all.

    1. Dear Mary, I must confess that I didn’t read the book as Dan asked you. However, I must say that I am probably closer to Dan’s thinking since I was educated by the Franciscan’s. You did make your point in a kind and gentle way and it will cause me to think about what you wrote. Thanks for sharing especially providing others an example of how to disagree with someone in a kind manner. Bill

      1. Thanks Bill. I love everything Dan writes and I have all his books except this one. 😱😊😊. It seems a generational. It’s for me, but maybe I shouldn’t trust reviews! I was reading his recent-ish book about Francis while away in the Adirondacks with some women friends (tax lawyers, the context becomes important) and I’d given up a hike to keep reading. It left me at the camp with a woman recovering from a heart attack in her 40s who’d given it all up to go into spiritual counseling, and a woman working on some international tax work. I was stopping to rest from my reading and taking some ribbing for it — how hard is reading about St. Francis after All? I read aloud one of Dan’s sentences and the tax writer (literally now) was so shocked (as was the other woman, that the former said to me, “I have 50 Shades of Grey on my Kindle if you need a rest!”

  2. Ah, sorry then I wasn’t clear, I was only talking about the paragraph about canonization! I’m not upset about anything and I apologize if my terminology and the presentation thereof gave that impression. I am not in scholarship but in law, therefore my training is to present an argument – as an argument. I do apologize and did try to prepare the reader ahead of time, obviously inadequately.
    I was stating my reality however and if that upsets you, which I don’t believe it does because I have read your other books, it shouldn’t. You and your generation are not responsible for past harms perpetrated without malice and without knowledge of the harm being done. We know so much more now than we did then of the psychological consequences of certain behaviors. But please do not think those behaviors do not still exist or that women who have been hurt by them and still hurt as a consequence do not have a right to feel that pain. I do not happen to be one of them, but I do know women who are and I do bristle when their pain is minimized. I think you do an excellent job of bringing authentic scholarship and historical research, not to mention genuine empathy to your work! So much so I have considered calling you about being a spiritual advisor!
    I think you are frighteningly wise beyond your years and an excellent writer and I sent your Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton to my Augustinian friend and it absolutely warmed his heart and soul so that he preached about Merton for a good long while — or at least the two Sundays I went up to Philly to visit and heard him, maybe it was just while we were visiting.

    I heartily agree with the notion that we can all be saints with Francis and Clare. I was just sent an article by Elizabeth Johnson in the U.S. Catholic on the very topic:

    I very much enjoyed today’s passage by the way, I guess I should pick up the book after all. On of the book store/publisher’s summaries advertised the book as being about “nurturing your relationship with God the way you would nurture a new dating relationship.” Not having had a first date in 40 years I really didn’t think the book would be worth my reading for that reason. Having been happily married for 37 of those 40 years I figured I had a pretty good idea of how to nurture a relationship. That is why I didn’t pick up your first book.

    As I mentioned above, maybe I should have been a bit more skeptical of the publisher’s description of the book — especially after today’s excerpt! Still room for 2017 book choices however.

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