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A book. That’s what happens.

Specifically, a wonderful piece of fiction, Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale.

Author Ian Morgan Cron recounts the spiritual journey of pastor Chase Falson, whose career as a successful pastor crumbles to pieces when he loses his faith in God, the Bible, and evangelical Christianity.

What happened? Life happened–slowly but surely, with a final straw being a tragic death in his congregation.

After a blunt moment in the pulpit where he comes clean with his struggles, his elders decide it’s time for Falson to take a break so they can decide what to do with him. Not knowing where to turn, he contacts Uncle Kenny, whom he hasn’t seen in years but always respected and liked.

Uncle Kenny lost his pregnant wife in a tragic accident years earlier.

The family said he never fully rebounded from the loss. The proof lay in the fact that two years later, he did the unthinkable–he left the conservative Baptist fold and became a Catholic. Not only did he become a Catholic; he went on to become a Franciscan priest. A conservative Baptist becoming a Catholic is like the pope becoming a Mormon. The long-haul viability of the cosmos is drawn into question when stuff like this happens.

Kenny invites Falson to visit him in Italy.

What should I bring?

An open heart, and open mind. Oh, and bring a journal.

Little does he know, but Falson is going to Italy to go on a pilgrimage. He will be retracing the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.

A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet. You go on a pilgrimage because you know there’s something missing in your soul, and the only way you can find it is to go to sacred places, places where God made himself known to others. In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for years.

Of course, Falson isn’t the only one on a pilgrimage. The readers follow along, too, and in the process learn a good bit about Franciscan teaching, and–if the timing is right–about their own spiritual state, and new possibilities open to them if they are open to God’s leading.

Cron tells a wonderfrul story with wit and insight, and along the way introduces readers to the simplicity of the Franciscan way of following Jesus. Friends of mine passed this book on to me over the summer, and I’m glad they did.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.