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About the Author
William J. Short is Dean of the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California who utilizes theological theories and historical records of Catholicism to further advance the understanding of theology and the message of salvation espoused by Jesus Christ.
About the Book
Poverty and Joy by William J. Short delve into the foundation of the present-day Franciscan tradition by examining the founders of the order, Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Through this historical examination, he sets the stage for an examination of several key thematic elements that are at the core of being a Franciscan name: suffering, healing, poverty as a means of reaching God, harmony with nature, and other such elements.
The path to true and everlasting happiness can be found in service to others, humility, and love for God and all his works.
Critique/Analysis/Judging of the book
When reading through the book it becomes immediately apparent that while it was written from a theological perspective, it was not meant as a purely academic text, instead, it was written in such a way that a broader audience could understand the contents. For example, when examining the historical accounts of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi, Short did not dwell so much on their respective “mythology” instead he focused on their works and the lessons they attempted to impart to their respective congregations. It is this and other key aspects of the Franciscan tradition that Short elaborates on such as the Franciscan embrace of poverty and the Humility of the Incarnation that reveals the author’s stance on materialism, the pursuit of happiness, and the necessity of humility and suffering in truly being able to understand one another1.
By reading the book, the reader is exposed to the Franciscan mindset that materialism and the pursuit of happiness are on opposite ends of the spectrum wherein the accumulation of wealth does not lead one towards happiness. Instead, what Short espouses is the development of the self in which one takes into consideration the suffering of others by experiencing it firsthand. This is where the concept of poverty enters the argument of Short. Basically, by espousing a life of poverty Short explains that one can become closer to God and one’s fellow man since extraneous aspects such as money, wealth, and fame are removed leaving nothing more than the desire to help others. On the other end of the spectrum, it should be noted that the book is lacking in its attempt at showing a balanced viewpoint regarding how life should be lived. While this review is not disparaging how Short explained the benefits of the Franciscan way of life, it lacks an overview of how modern-day living has created an assortment of complications that may create problems in terms of actually being able to follow the Franciscan way of life. People at the present live lives that are constantly mired in debt as a result of society’s current predilection towards using credit. This has created a society that is more likely to pursue debt repayment than live a life of sacrifice and poverty.
Overall, the book Poverty and Joy – The Franciscan Tradition is an excellent example of literature that can be used to guide the human mind towards actions related to piety, humbleness, and sacrifice for the greater good.
Short, William J. Poverty and joy: the Franciscan tradition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999.
- Short, William J.. Poverty and joy: the Franciscan tradition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999.