I was never really interested in historical fiction until I went to my first church and one of my most wonderful, kindest, sweetest parishioners was a historical fiction writer named Marian Wells. Before she passed away in 2008 Marian wrote 11 Christian historical novels. I even did some research for her at the University of Colorado library as she had wanted to write a historical novel set in the Reformation era of the early 16th century which unfortunately never materialized due to her ailing heath. Her husband Chet was a scientist and both he and Marian were wonderful friends and such a blessing to my wife and I.
This morning on my way to the church I stopped briefly at a thrift store and stumbled upon a rare find, an old historical novel – a 1944 hardcover edition of “Blessed are the Meek” by Zofia Kossak. It’s still in very good shape and I only paid $2.00 for it.
A search on Amazon reveals that this hardcover book is selling for nearly $118.00!
Zofia Kossak was a Polish writer and World War II resistance fighter who helped Polish Jews escape the Holocaust until she was captured by the Germans and sent to Auschwitz. A prolific author, in 1937 she wrote “Bez Oręża” which later in 1944 was translated into the English “Blessed are the Meek.” It’s a historical novel about St. Francis of Assisi as well as the fifth crusade instituted by Pope Innocent III which was an attempt to reacquire Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land by first conquering Cairo, Egypt. The attempt failed and the Holy Land remained in Muslim control.
Allow me to share just a paragraph of this book which gives us insight into St, Francis and the purpose of his life: “Once a learned, wealthy lawyer, he [Bernard de Quintavalle] had distributed all his possessions among the poor and followed Francis. Above all else, he was fond of solitude and would be perfectly happy to become a hermit in some inaccessible mountain cave. In this he resembled brother Rufin Sciffio who also disliked tumult and felt lost among people. In both there was that unconscious dignity of solitude which craves the silence of a hermitage. But Francis, though deep within his heart he yearned for the same thing, would not allow his brothers to escape from their fellow-men. “God has bid us to think not only of our own salvation,” he would say, “but likewise of the salvation of others. How are we to accomplish this if we hold the world in contempt?” (32).
What a beautiful reminder to us all to not hold resentment against this fallen world that we live in and respond by retreating, or worse, revolting. Yes, we all need times of necessary solitude and prayerful meditation with the Lord. But this is so that God may revive and empower us to engage as salt and light in this broken world, so that we might not only think of our own salvation, but the salvation of others!