For eight hundred years there has been a vast book industry surrounding the memory of Francis of Assisi and the only information that has leaked out to the ordinary people of the Western world is that he loved wild animals. Well, perhaps pets too!
This new book from Patrick Noonan, bestselling author of "They're Burning the Churches", seriously undermines that cosy perception. It is a mature person’s guide to Francis of Assisi – a young man, a dandy in his day, who nearly became the greatest cult leader of his time. Reader be warned!
Why is it that for 800 years a vast amount of research and writing has surrounded St Francis yet the ordinary people of the Western world still see him simply as a saint who loved animals?
Why did their families think that Francis and Clare were runaway lovers, caught up in a strange medieval cult of which, some thought, Francis was the leader?
Was St Clare, who spoke truth to power, an early leader in world feminism?
Why do some elements of Islam, a faith from which Francis learned so much, even today claim St Francis as their “saint” and Time magazine speaks of this as a crucial link between East and West?
In this no-holds barred, eye-opening account the author peels away layers of tired thinking and discovers a bright new world with many alternative questions to ask. He invites the reader (and biographers straining to explain Pope Francis) to join him in exploring avenues that shaped the tantalizing, even unorthodox, spirituality of St Francis and Clare of Assisi.
Whenever Patrick Noonan puts pen to paper prepare for a few surprises. He has done it before and he does it again with St Francis, Uncensored. And that is what we need most today. To be surprised out of our boring routine.
To be awakened again to the dream of Francis which is old but always new.
Brendan Forde – a friar who has accompanied people in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia over the past 40 years.
Veteran activists gathered in the Vaal triangle in November 2012 to celebrate the role of a priest in the struggle and to chart a way forward in the country that appears to be completing a full circle since the days of apartheid, hunger and blood.
On a rainy and windswept November Saturday in the Vaal, the Roman Catholic Church in Sebokeng’s Zone 12 was packed to honour a remarkable individual, Father Patrick Noonan, a priest who has dedicated 50 years of service to the community.
Father Noonan’s Irish accent is still replete with the frothy whip of the north Atlantic and sooty peat bogs, yet he speaks fluent Sesotho. The warmth and devotion of the congregation to him is evident, and is clearly reciprocated. It is an affection wrought through the furnace of oppression and sacrifice. The priest who stood with the community throughout those terrible times has become a struggle icon.
Worshippers danced and sang in the aisles as congregants carried up a new vestment honouring Noonan’s commitment to justice – on it was embroidered “If you want Peace, work for Justice”.
Once the Mass was over, the church reverted to another of its roles – that of a venue for community mobilisation. This church, more than two decades ago, was a centre of resistance to Apartheid, and was repeatedly petrol-bombed by the security police.
The South African Council of Churches’ Rev Gift Moerane recalled those days: “Last time I was here, was the week before our leaders, the Delmas Treason Trialists, were arrested. This church was surrounded by security forces.”
An activist from the 1980s who was detained and held in solitary confinement for a mind-numbing two years, Richard “Bricks” Mokolo, recalls that the church was used for secret community meetings, and how the security forces repeatedly petrol bombed it.
That was in the 1984, when the townships of this gritty industrial area rose up against the tyranny of Apartheid’s local municipalities and their black councillors during the Rent Boycott.
For many, it was a bread and butter issue; they were not concerned with the larger picture, or the ideology of Apartheid. It was simply that they were unable to feed their families.
One of the speakers after the mass, Clement Nkhumishe, elaborated: “Some of us were not even aware that we were oppressed. Father Patrick opened our eyes.
“Our Vaal history is rich, but it is unwritten. South Africa changed because of what happened here.”
Story by Greg Marinovich - The Daily Maverick
This is an important book, one that has great relevance for the future of our country at a time when moral leadership is so sorely needed.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu
An eloquent and precise narrative of what happend in the townships of the Vaal triangle in the 1980's.
(The late) Professor Colin Gardner