A talented actor explodes onto the stage in a simple, honest portrayal of the radical saint.

Lord, make me an instrument of you peace.

Where there is hatred let me sow love …

Christians far and wide have sung or repeated this familiar prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Few, however, know much about this radical saint whose eight hundredth birthday anniversary was commemorated this year. The founder of the Franciscan Order, his sober reflections on discipleship (his Admonitions and Testament, as well as his “Canticle to the Sun”) are still valid today. His hymn text for “All Creatures of Our God and King” is sung in churches everywhere.

Francis was the son of a wealthy Italian cloth merchant. He took literally Jesus’ command to sell one’s possessions and give the money to the poor. His purity and holiness shocked the rich and decadent church of his time and the Franciscan movement became the counterculture of the thirteenth century. (A recent biography, Francis of Assisi [Crossroad, 1981], by Arnaldo Fortini, is a valuable source of information.)

The strong and joyful spirit of Saint Francis lives on today in the drama of Oregon actor Leonardo Defilippis. The 30-year-old actor toured the Pacific Northwest this fall performing a one-man show on the life of Saint Francis. In fact, the drama has become so popular that the sponsoring Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, was swamped with over 5,000 requests for tickets for his performance at Portland’s Civic Auditorium.

The attraction seems to lie in Defilippis’s simple, dramatic acting style and the staying power of Francis himself, an imaginative, determined man who appeals to Catholics and Protestants alike. Though ...

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