Deborah Arca interviews Jon Sweeney on When Saint Francis Saved the Church

In what ways did St. Francis revolutionize and transform the Church?

Six””detailed in my book: through a high view of friendship, by embracing the other, through personal poverty, by developing a new spirituality, through gentleness and care for creatures, and by embracing death.

For many of us, a favorite image of St. Francis is that of him delivering a spirited sermon to the birds. Did that really happen, and why did that particular story become so central to his legacy?

Sure, it happened, but it wasn’t cute. Our iconography has made it seem just cute””you know? Instead, as with many of the iconic moments in his life, it happened at a time of personal crisis and uncertainty.

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