Dr. Bruce Davis contacted me to review his most recent book entitled The Love Letters: Saint Francis and Saint Clare Meet Pope Francis. I wasn’t aware that the content was what I will call mystical fiction strictly from reading the title alone, but once I read the first several pages, it was evident as to the layout and purpose of this story that unraveled from a creative mind.
Davis somehow is able to transcend time by connecting our current pontiff with the well-known saints of the thirteenth century through a series of fraternal love letters between Francis and Clare, a love that is innocent and pure and mutually shared through their ardent yearning for God. The reader is captured by what Davis imagines is the innermost recesses of the thoughts and affections of Francis and Clare, as well as what they might have said to one another about Pope Francis had he held the papacy during their lifetimes.
Although the book is just shy of 100 pages long, it is not necessarily a swift read, as much of the content leaves the reader with phrases like “garden of my heart” and “war of care and attention” to ponder more deeply the metaphors used and their spiritual implications. Davis’ style and voice are resounding in the breath of simplicity and spiritual poverty, both virtues that were breathtakingly captured by both Saints Francis and Clare. It is not difficult for the reader to drift into an epoch of centuries past, to imagine with vivid detail the terrain of Italy and even the culture and political tension of the times; this is due to Davis’ creative ability in drawing his audience into a time and place forgotten to many yet intriguing to most.
Saints Francis and Clare, being popular and well-known throughout the ages, are persons even the average, religiously apathetic American has most likely encountered, at least nominally. Even so, the Francis and Clare we think we know are not the ones depicted in The Love Letters, for Davis does not recount their historical significance, but rather captures their hearts.
One caveat for the avid reader: Davis does make some grammatical and spelling errors, but if the reader is forgiving, s/he can easily look past those mistakes and delve into the mind of Davis, who reveals the questions pertinent to the time of Francis and Clare: questions of all of humanity. These include such musings as, “Who is God? How is He revealed in all of creation and in and through my life?” “Is love merely human affection, or is love something – or someone – far greater than my psyche can grasp?”
When reading this book, one is confronted with him/herself: the wanderings of our own thoughts, emotions and dreams. The reader is gently invited to take a look at his/her own inner sanctuary, to discover oneself by sharing in the possible expressed love of these beloved and timeless saints: love of one another, of all of humanity and creation, and ultimately in a unitive love of God.
For the reader who is seeking or perhaps one who is curious, for the reader who invites an opportunity for meditation and contemplation or even one who truly appreciates fiction and mysticism, this is a book that is sure to captivate the interest of a vast audience.
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing