Thursday 14 June 2018

St Francis of Assisi Founder of the Franciscan Order - Alice Curtayne

St Francis of Assisi
Founder of the Franciscan Order
Alice Curtayne
Australian Catholic Truth Society
April 10th 1936

It is hard to tell from the cover of the booklet if it was number 702 and number 59 of 1936. This little booklet is 36 pages including the two covers. I have become fascinated by the works of Alice Curtayne would be an understatement. In the last 6 months I have tracked down 15 of her works, read 9 and reviewed 8. Yet each time I do research on her, I find more books or booklets I was previously unaware of. I currently have a list of 32 books and booklets, so I am not even half way there yet. I have yet to start on trying to investigate reading all her articles, in magazines, periodicals, and newspapers. Her books appear to have the widest publican in Ireland, as would be expected for an Irish writer. But there are also several her books and booklets available from Australia such as this volume, and the one on Saint Philomena. The majority of her works are out of print currently. According to one of her grandsons, none of her books are in print in the UK; and based on my research only 3 are in print in North America. But with each one I track down I have a greater appreciation for the woman and her faith. For her incredible skill as a hagiographer.

This booklet begins with these words:

"The literature on Saint Francis has by now assumed the proportions of a new Tower of Babel, erected by writers of all creeds and tongues. There is no devotee of Franciscanism who cannot find within that edifice the writing of his choice.

The thirteenth century saint was, in a manner of speaking, rediscovered by the nineteenth century. It was then his fate to be hailed as an inspirer of the troubadours, a kind of romantic vagabondus, and as such he was appropriated by the most prosaic, the most staid, the most conservative, and the most un-Catholic period of the modern ers.

What, then, is the defence for adding to the Franciscan tower of literature even one pebble such as this brief presents? It is the same reason which explains the very bulk of Franciscan literature, in which all the discordant voices are unanimous in proclaiming the attraction of Francis. His is a story that is forever being told, and is never told."

Now, I am by no way a scholar of Saint Francis.  I have read a few books but never done intensive study as I have with other saints. But this little volume sparked flames hereto unknown, of an interest in Francis and Franciscan spirituality.  This book is split in half, the first half is a biographical brief on Francis and his founding of the three orders. The second half is an appendix with the following sections:

The Advantage of a Rule of Life
The History of the Third Order
The Rule of the Third Order
Compendium of the Rule
     Each Day
     Each Month
     Each year
     At All Times
Communication of Spiritual Privileges
The Soul of Catholic Action
The Popes and the Third Order
The Third Order Does Not Invade The Field of Existing Societies

The conclusion is basically a challenge to join the third order, if one is not already a member. It is interesting reading this book 82 years after it was published. I have tried to verify if Alice Curtayne was herself a member of the third order, from the read of this book it would appear so. Or she wrote the first half and the second half was tacked on. But I have not been able to confirm that conclusion one way or the other. 

I know that there are often comparisons made between Saint Francis and Pope Francis. I am not scholar enough to comment on them either way. But while reading this, I wondered how Alice Curtayne would write about our current Pope, and if she would add to the babel and tower of words surrounding him. In fact there are many saints I wish Curtayne had written about, Damien the Leper, Kateri Tekakwitha, and more. Or even that it was easier to track down what she did write. 

This was a wonderful little booklet to read. And to be honest everything I have read by Curtayne is excellent. If you can lay your hands on this or any of her works I give them my best of the best, and highly recommend them. My children and I love everything by Curtayne that we have read.

As an aside: It is cool to see the mission of the Australian Catholic Truth Society, and the advertisement on the pamphlet. The Australian Catholic Truth Society has been digitizing all of the only booklets. When this one becomes available it is worth tracking down. I also found copies in Libraries in Australia, Scotland, and Ireland. If you can lay your hands on this I give it my highest recommendation. And to see the advertisement on the back cover for 4 great books from 1936.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books and Booklets by Alice Curtayne:
A Recall to Dante
Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet
Lough Derg: St. Patrick's Purgatory
Patrick Sarsfield
Saint Anthony of Padua
St. Bernard Doctor of The Church 1933

Books Edited by Alice Curtayne:
The Complete works of Francis Ledwidge

Books Translated by Alice Curtayne:
Labours in the Vineyard by Giovanni Papin

Books Contributed to by Alice Curtayne:

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