I love reading the lives of the saints, but often don't have time to sit down and read an entire book on the lives of individual saints. If you're like me and have been looking for the perfect saint book to read over morning coffee, or as a quick reflection before going to bed at night, you'll love The Franciscan Saints by Robert Ellsburg. Each entry contains a short biography (we're talking two or three pages), as well as a short reflection written by the saint.
Little known peasants, queens and kings, married couples, and single lay people fill the pages of The Franciscan Saints with their inspiring love for God. Their passionate stories span centuries. Some are well known- think Saint Francis. Others are obscure - ever heard of Blessed Odoric of Pordenone? Neither did I 'til I read this book! Here are three of my favorites from the book:
1. Saint Agnes of Assissi
You've probably heard of Saint Clare of Assisi, but have you ever heard of her younger sister, Agnes? After Saint Clare left her family and exchanged her fine robes for the habit of a Franciscan, she ultimately became the foundress of the female branch of the Franciscan order. One of the first women to join her was her little sister, Agnes.
Agnes later went on to be the abbess of a new convent in Florence, where she missed Clare's presence greatly. In a letter to Clare, Agnes wrote, "Oh sweetest mother and lady, what shall I do, what shall I say, since I do not hope to see you and my sisters again in body. Oh, if I could express the thought in my mind as I might wish! Oh, if I could open to you on this page the long sorrow I expect, which is always before me! My mind burns within me and is tortured by infinite tribulations and fires. My heart moans within and my eyes do not stop pouring out rivers of tears. I am filled with sadness and without spirit I am altogether wasted away."
2. Saint Birgitta of Sweden
Saint Birgitta was married to a nobleman for twenty-eight years and became the mother of eight children. After getting fed up with life at the court, the couple left on a pilgrimage and walked to Compostela in Spain. When they returned, her husband died and Birgitta joined the Third Order of Saint Francis.
Later in life, she became a religious sister, founded monasteries, crossed continents through pilgrimages and filled books with her visions of Christ. When she traveled, Birgitta spoke to others about injustice. She once wrote, "The people of earth have need of a triple mercy: sorrow for their sins, penance to atone for them, and strength to do good."
3. Saint Roch
Saint Roch appears on the calendar of Franciscan saints, but little is actually known about his life. We do know that he was born to a rich family in France. By the time he was twenty, his parents had both died. He left behind his inheritance and committed his life to pilgrimage. While traveling to Rome, he came across many people suffering from the plague, and stopped to nurse them back to health. Unfortunately, Roch was struck by the plague, too.
Roch dragged himself into the woods to die, but a dog found him. The dog brought Roch food and licked his wounds. During his recovery, Roch wrote the prayer, "O Jesus, my Savior, I thank thee that thou puttest me to affliction to thine other servants, by this odious ardour of pestilence, and most meek Lord, I beseech thee to this desert place, give the comfort of thy grace." Roch made a full recovery and went back to help others who were battling the plague.