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Book Review

Laurent Gallant OFM and Andre Cirino OFM
The Geste of the Great King

Office of the Passion of Francis of Assisi
ISBN 1-57659-175-1
Franciscan Institute St. Bonaventure University, NY, 2001, $14.95

(price at publication of review)

Reviewed January 2003; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2002

I was delighted when I came across a copy of this beautifully presented little book. Many readers of franciscan will be vaguely aware, as I was, that Francis had written a series of small, devotional offices, for use in addition to the official Divine Office, but how could one lift the confusing array of texts and rubrics from a volume of sources and actually pray them as Francis had intended? This book answers that desire and gives us too an invaluable new insight into the meditations and reflections of Saint Francis. At the heart of this book are 'pray-able' translations by Murray Bodo OFM of the fifteen 'psalms of Francis' which he composed from verse of the Old Testament Psalms and other sources. Each is presented with the other necessary texts (such as the 'Praises to Be Said at all the Hours' and the Antiphon 'Holy Virgin Mary') so that they stand alone as complete offices. A useful set of clear tables show which one of the fifteen to choose at any season and any time of day, whether praying in this was 'as Francis did seven times daily' or as little as once daily. The book is illustrated throughout with delightful illuminations based for the most part on details from the San Damiano Crucifix, but the text is also 'illuminated' in two other ways: A set of musical settings for all the texts follow the main section (a CD recording is apparently also available), but there is also a substantial introduction and academic commentary on the texts and their meaning to Francis. In this section the texts are presented in a more rigorously direct English translation produced by Gallant and Cirino themselves. It is in the introduction that the genre of the heroic medieval 'geste' is explained, though the choice of this title for the front of the whole volume would be the only thing I would really want to question, as I simple didn't know what it meant! On the other hand, it is the other title, 'Office of the Passion of Francis of Assisi' which appears on the spine, but the commentary rightly questions how appropriate that traditional title is for the texts as a whole ('Psalm' 15 for instance being a Christmas text.) Francis, it seems, didn't call his little offices anything he just prayed them. This book can help us to do the same.

Desmond Alban SSF


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