Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff (Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor) believes that the story of Saint Francis "makes visible and possible dreams that we have carried all our life . . . he continues to live as an archetype in the minds and hearts of people and of many cultural movements, in the spirit of nonviolence, universal kinship, joyfulness, love for animals, and ecology." In this salutary and profoundly meditative work, the author delves into the Prayer of Peace, attributed to the saint but actually written by an anonymous person in 1913. Today it is recited and revered by spiritual people all over the world as a devotional classic.

"Lord make me an instrument of your peace. / Where there is hatred, let me sow love, / where there is injury, pardon . . ." Underneath these phrases, Boff mines depth charges of meaning. It enables him to ponder the reasons why there is lack of peace in the world — namely the force fields of rivalry and envy, the mismatch between consciousness and death, and the loss of connection with "the originating Fount."

As a result, we see wars, ethnic violence, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Or, in Boff's words: "Two-thirds of all human beings are excluded from the benefits of development, victims on the altar of the Mammon of speculative financing." The antidotes to this discord, these imbalances, are the spiritual practices incarnated by Saint Francis in his ministry: love, forgiveness, unity, faith, hope, and joy.

How do we follow in the spirit of this caregiver? We can practice self-denial, work with the shadow sides of ourselves as he did, open the door to those we despise, let our compassion go out to all the downtrodden, and practice reverence in the presence of the good Earth and all her wondrous creatures. In this brief but impressive theological work, Boff makes Franciscan spirituality accessible to all.