“Preach Christ to the Muslims”


A book review of St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims, Frank M. Rega, S.F.O, TAN Books and Publishers.  www.thepoverello.com


Reviewed by Kenneth Baker, S. J.

Homiletic and Pastoral Review (HPR), June 2009, pp. 76-77.

Fr. Baker is also the editor of the HPR.  


The below review appears in what I would term a ‘loyal mainstream Catholic’ magazine, published by Ignatius Press no less, which is why I am pleasantly surprised that Fr. Baker agrees with the approach of St. Francis – that we should try to convert the Muslims rather than simply dialogue with them.  This of course runs counter to the philosophy of ecumenism and dialogue promoted by the Church since the Second Vatican Council.  It is a philosophy which has virtually emasculated the missionary activity of the Church, causing Catholics, especially in Europe, to stand helplessly frozen in fear before the onrushing juggernaut of Muslim immigration and increasing dominance.


     There is no doubt that St. Francis of Assisi was a radical Christian – radical in the sense of going down to the very roots or essentials of the faith when it came to imitating Jesus Christ.  There are dozens of fine books about the saint.  The emphasis in this book about his life is on his attempt to convert to Christianity the powerful sultan of Egypt, al-Malik al-Kamil.

     The small book has three parts.  The first part deals with the youth and conversion of St. Francis, without going into great detail, since these facts are well known.

     The heart of the book is to be found in the second part, which tells of his missionary journey to Egypt with the intention of converting the sultan and any other Muslims who would listen to him.  The year was 1219 during the Fifth Crusade to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims.  The Crusaders were at first defeated at Damietta, which was followed by a truce of some time.  During the truce St. Francis and one of his companions crossed the battle lines and went to see the sultan.  By doing that he was risking his life, since the normal treatment of captured Christians in such circumstances was to be beheaded.  Trusting absolutely in God and willing to die for the faith, Francis was at first beaten by the guards but eventually taken to the sultan.  The sultan was favorably impressed by the humble, kindly Francis and listened to him.  The guards wanted to chop his head off, but the sultan said “No” and received him as his guest.   Francis spent a few weeks with the sultan, preaching to him the Gospel of Jesus Christ and telling him that if wanted to be saved, he had to become a Christian.

     The author says that the sultan was favorably impressed, but knew he and his family would be killed by other Muslims if he converted.  When Francis saw that he could not convert the sultan, he departed and returned to the camp of the Crusaders.  The sultan offered several rich gifts to Francis, but he refused to take anything.

     In the third part Mr. Rega says that there are credible reports that the sultan asked for baptism shortly before he died.  If that is so, then it means that it was due to the preaching of St. Francis.  In this part there is also an account of the last few years in the life of the saint when he suffered from many bodily ailments, became almost blind, and received the stigmata two years before his death.

     St. Francis was a radical follower of Jesus Christ.  He was joyful and had a pleasant personality so that he attracted many followers.  In a few short years his followers in the Franciscan way of life numbered around five thousand.  But he was not a pacifist.  He supported the Fifth Crusade and encouraged the knights.  Also he did not believe in “dialogue” or theological discussions.  After all, he was not a theologian – he was a saint who grew in knowledge of the faith by prayer, penance, meditating on the Bible and being guided by the Holy Spirit.  So he did not attempt to dialogue with the sultan.  He preached to him Jesus Christ crucified.  When he was convinced that he had done all he could to convert the sultan, he returned to Assisi to be with his friars.

     This is an excellent book for spiritual reading.  His approach to the Muslims is instructive for Christians today who think they can dialogue with them.   St. Francis preached Christ to them as the only savior of the world and he was ready to die for the faith.


Kenneth Baker, S.J.

70 Lake Street

P.O. Box 297

Ramsey, N.J. 07446




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Packed with other interesting Padre Pio articles and stories, the above book is available in print or Kindle format.


Frank Rega is the author of:  Padre Pio and America,
St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims,

The Greatest Catholic President: Garcia Moreno of Ecuador
  Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - Journeys in the Divine Will 
vols. 1 and 2
Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - volume 3 in preparation
 The Truth about Padre Pio's Stigmata and Other Wonders of the Saint
Vatican II, Evolution, and Medjugorje: Hubris, Heresy, and Mystery 

www.frankrega.com      www.sanpadrepio.com   www.thepoverello.com    www.lifeofluisa.com


This page was last updated on 04/06/14