Wayne Simsic teaches courses on spirituality at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio, and is the author of Praying with Thomas Merton and Praying with Meister Eckhart. In this exhilarating paperback he brings us closer to the extraordinary St. Francis: “Though he lived eight hundred years ago, the little poor man of Assisi speaks clearly to our hearts today. He offers a new consciousness, a new practice, and a new vision.”

These meditations are divided into sections on “Toward a Sense of Kinship,” “Opening the Heart,” and “Learning to Sing.” Simsic includes practices to try after each commentary. One of the most remarkable facets of St. Francis was his attempt to retranslate the ideal of chivalry into a practice of kindness in everyday life. Simsic notes: “He counseled his friars to be courteous to each other, to the poor, to people of every kind — and to all creation. After all, a courteous Creator gave us life; should we not show the same generosity by treating others, whether people or creatures, with reverence?”

This spiritual practice of kindness is at the core of Francis’s “Canticle of Brother Sun” where he gives thanks for the good Earth and her dowry of treasures. He even extended his thoughtfulness to the elements of the universe. Simsic tells a story about the saint’s eye infection near the end of his life. Before a white-hot iron was applied to his eye, Francis asked the fire to be gentle with him. Kindness is a two-way street.