Theme 6 Image 4

Reflection Title: 
Nature Restored
Reflection Content: 

Giovanni di Bernardone, born in Assisi in 1181 or 1182, had the ambition to be a knight and serve the lord of the land. Through his struggles he glimpsed the “kingdom of heaven [which] is at hand” and aspired to be a herald of the great King. For a time, he courted the beautiful Clara, playing the lute outside her window late at night. Then he fell in love with Lady Poverty, Paupertas, Queen of the Virtues. “The foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”; these words of Jesus in the Gospel became his signature. Scholars have suggested that if the narratives of Christ’s passion and crucifixion were lost, they could be reconstructed through the life of Francis of Assisi. That is why, Pope Pius XI declared him “the second Christ [alter Christus],” Encyclical Rite Expiatis (30 April 1926). 

 

We would be mistaken to interpret Francis’s poverty and asceticism as despising the natural world, however, for Francis restored the love of nature to the medieval Christian imagination. Poverty and the identification with Jesus Christ, the fullest expression of the human nature, was a pathway into life not out of it. Communion was restored even with the wolf, in all those, like Francis, who “develop a spirit of poverty, a deep sense of humility, and an attitude of profound compassion.” 

—Jaroslav Pelikan, (1923-2006). Jesus Through the Centuries.  

Story Title: 
All in Wisdom
Story Content: 

Bless, O my being, the Lord!

Lord, my god, You are very great.

Grandeur and glory You don.

Wrapped in light like a cloak,

stretching our heavens like a tent-cloth.

Setting beams for His lofts in the waters,

making His chariot the clouds,

He goes on the wings of the wind.

He makes His messengers the winds,

His ministers, glowing fire.

He founded earth on its solid base,

not to be shaken forevermore.

With the deep You covered it like a garment—

over mountains the waters stood.

From Your blast they fled,

from the sound of Your thunder they scattered.

They went up the mountains, went down the valleys,

to the place that You founded for them.

A border you fixed so they could not cross,

so they could not come back to cover the earth.

You let loose the springs in freshets,

among the mountains they go.

They water all beasts of the fields,

the wild asses slake their thirst.

Above them the fowl of the heavens dwell,

from among the foliage they send forth their voice.

He waters mountains from His lofts,

from the fruit of Your works the earth is sated.

He makes the hay sprout for cattle,

grass for the labor of humankind

to bring forth bread from the earth,

and wine that gladdens the heart of man

to make his faces shine brighter than oil,

and bread that sustains the heart of man.

The trees of the Lord drink their fill,

the Lebanon cedars He planted,

where the birds make their nest,

the stork whose home is the cypresses,

the high mountains for the gazelles,

the crags a shelter for badgers.

He made the moon for the fixed seasons;

the sun—He appointed its setting.

You bring down darkness and it turns to night

in which all beasts of the forest stir.

The lions roar for prey,

seeking from God their food.

When the sun comes up, they head home,

and in their dens they lie down.

Man goes out to his work

and to his labor until evening,

How many Your deeds, O Lord,

all of them You do in wisdom.

All the earth is filled with Your riches.

The sea great and wide,

where creatures beyond number stir,

the little beasts and the large.

There the ships go,

this Leviathan You fashioned to play with.

All of them look to You

to give them their food in its season.

When you give them, they gather in it,

when you open Your hand, they are sated with good.

When You hide Your face, they panic,

You withdraw their breath and they perish,

and to the dust they return.

When You send forth your breath, they are created,

and You renew the face of the earth.

May the Lord’s glory be forever,

may the Lord rejoice in His works,

Who but looks down to earth, and it trembles,

but touches the mountains—they smoke.

Let me sing to the Lord while I live,

let me hymn to my God while I breathe.

Let my speech be sweet unto Him.

As for me, I rejoice in the Lord.

Let offenders vanish from earth

and the wicked be no more.

Bless, O my being, the Lord,

Hallelujah!

—Psalm 104

Contemporary Story Title: 
A Story in Your Hand
Contemporary Story Content: 

Video: Patrick Lane, (born 1939). Convocation speech at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus on June 6, 2013.

Patrick Lane, born 1939, is an award-winning Canadian poet, and author of the 2008 novel Red Dog, Red Dog.  On June 6, 2013, he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of British Columbia, and delivered the convocation address at the Okanagan campus in Kelowna, where he spoke powerfully about the value of beauty. 

 

“Back in early December of 1958, I was 19 years old, living with my wife and baby boy in a two-room apple picker’s shack a few miles down the road from here. I had a job driving a dump truck for a two-bit outfit that was working on a short stretch of highway just down the hill from where this university was built so many years later. I remember leaving the shack and walking out to stand by the highway in the wind and snow. I stood there shivering in my canvas coat as I waited to be picked up by the grader operator in his rusted pickup truck. The sky was hard and grey. Its only gift that winter day was ice disguised as a fragile, bitter snow.

“As I stood there in the false dawn, I looked up for a moment and as I did, an iridescent blue butterfly the size of my palm fluttered down and rested on the sleeve of my coat just above my wrist. It was winter, it was cold and I knew the Okanagan Valley where I had lived most of my young life did not harbour huge, shiny blue butterflies, not even in summer. I remember stripping off my gloves and cupping the insect in my hands, lifting that exquisite creature to the warmth of my mouth in the hope I could save it from the cold. I breathed upon the butterfly with the helplessness we all have when we are faced with an impossible and inevitable death, be it a quail or crow, gopher, hawk, child, or dog. I cupped that delicate butterfly in the hollow of my hands and ran back to the picker’s shack in the hope that somehow the warmth from the morning fire in the woodstove might save it, but when I reached the door and opened my hands, the butterfly died.

“I do not know what strange Santa Anna, Squamish, or Sirocco jet-stream wind blew that sapphire butterfly from far off Mexico, Congo, or the Philippines to this valley. I only know the butterfly found its last moments in my hands. I have never forgotten it and know the encounter changed me. There are mornings in our lives when beauty falls into our hands and when that happens, we must do what we can to nurture and protect it. That we sometimes fail must never preclude our striving. The day the beautiful creature died in my hands, I looked up into the dome of the hard, cold sky and I swore to whatever great spirit resided there in the dark clouds that I would live my life to the full and, above all, I would treasure beauty. I swore, too, that I’d believe in honesty, faithfulness, love, and truth. The words I spoke were the huge abstractions the young sometimes use, but I promised them to myself and, now, more than half a century later, I stand here in front of your young minds, your creative spirits, your beautiful lives, and I can tell you that I have tried.

“I told myself that year and in the subsequent years in the sawmill crews and construction gangs I worked with that I would become a writer, a poet, a man who would create an imagined world out of the world I lived in, that I would witness my life and the lives of others with words. The years went by filled with the tragedies and losses that all our lives are filled with. My brother’s early death, my father’s murder, my divorce and the loss of my children did not change the promises I made. There were times I lived a dissolute, irresponsible, and destructive life. There were times, too, when I was depressed and wretched, but I continued to believe in spite of my weaknesses and fears. I wandered the world and as I did I wrote of the lives that shared my times. And I wrote of this Okanagan Valley, its lakes and hills, its stones, cacti, cutthroat trout, magpies, rattlesnakes and, yes, its butterflies.

“What I have told you is a story. It arose from my life for where else but from a life can a story come? What I promise each of you is that there will come a day or night, a morning or evening when something as rare and fine as a blue sapphire butterfly will fall into your hands from a cold sky, a fearful child will climb into your bed and cleave to you, a woman or man will weep, will laugh, will sleep with you in the sure belief that the one they abide with is governed by a good and honest love. No matter the degrees you have earned and the knowledge you have accumulated, remember to believe in yourselves, to believe in each other. In a world as fearful as our present one, I ask that you not be afraid. Today is merely an hour. Remember in the time ahead of you to hold out your hands so that beauty may fall safely into them and find a place— however briefly—to rest.”

Artwork Title: 
Brother Wolf
Artwork Content: 

Sassetta (1390-1450), the most significant painter of Siena, developed his unique style, which expressed transitional elements from Gothic painting to the Renaissance. Familiar with the artistic achievements of his famous Florentine contemporaries, Sassetta received commissions including complex altarpieces. One of his best surviving works is the San Francesco altarpiece. Commissioned in 1437 and installed in 1444, it was one of the largest and most expensive of the Quattrocento. The altar depicts the scenes from the life of the founder of the Franciscan Order, St. Francis of Assisi, based on the anonymous Italian text, The Little Flowers of St. Francis (Italian Fioretti di San Francesco), and contains seven panels that retell selected chapters from the Fioretti. This panel recaps the legend of the wolf, a rarely illustrated episode. The town of Gubbio was terrorized by the wolf, which was devouring children from the village. St. Francis went beyond the town walls and talked to the animal, calling it “brother wolf.” The painting depicts the moment when the wolf places its paw in St. Francis’s hand in a mutual covenant. The saint is looking at the chronicler, requesting that he document the pact to feed the wolf every day at public expense. The impressed citizens behind the saint make a promise in response to St. Francis’s words, “How much we ought to dread the jaws of hell, if the jaws of so small an animal as a wolf can make a whole city tremble through fear?”

Question Title: 
Mine is the sunlight?
Question Content: 

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,

And first my lord Brother Sun,

Who brings the day.

—St. Francis of Assisi, (died c.1226). Canticle of Brother Sun. 

A Sanctified Wolf

Francis tames the townsfolk who want to kill the wolf that had been terrorizing them. Legend has it, he goes out to the place where the wolf hunts and makes a covenant with him. The wolf comes inside the town walls, becomes the town’s protector and a playmate to its children. A crazy story? A metaphor? Perhaps both? Many aboriginal peoples say they know the spirit of the animals. Did Francis know them as well? Have you known the spirit of an animal? A few years ago, during the restoration of the Chapel of St. Francis in the town of Gubbio in Umbria, they found an unmarked grave under the flagstones near the altar. When they opened it, they found the skeleton of a large she-wolf in the place of honour, the place reserved for a local saint.  

Music Content: 

All Creatures of Our God and King

“All Creatures of Our God and King.” tune Lasst uns Erfreuen, Geistliche Kirchengesang, 1623, arranged byJohn Rutter, text W. H. Draper based on Francis of Assisi, Te Deum and Other Church Music, The Cambridge Singers, John Rutter, director, City of London Sinfonia, John Scott, conductor, Collegium Records, 1990. Track 6.

 

Sant Francesc i la Cigala (Saint Francis and the Grasshopper)

“Triptic de Mossen Cinto: III. Sant Francesc i la cigala (Triptych of Mossen Cinto: St Francis and the Cicada).” Raquel Lojendio, soprano, Rodrigo: Songs and Madrigals (Complete Orchestral Works, Vol. 10), Naxos 2001. Track 12.

 

Morning Has Broken

Percy Dearmer, the editor of the Anglican hymnal, Songs of Praise, asked English poet Eleanor Farjeon to write a morning thanksgiving hymn to the a tune from the Scottish highlands called “Bunneson” for the 1931 enlarged edition of the hymnal. Cat Stevens’s 1971 recording of it became a hit. The signature piano accompaniment of the Cat Stevens recording was written and performed by Rick Wakeman.

“Morning Has Broken.” tune, “Bunessan,” Gaelic traditional, text by Eleanor Farjeon, Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens: Greatest Hits, Universal Island Records, 1979. Track 11.

 
Layout: 
Portrait
Image Theme: 
Image Thumbnail: 
Image: 
Image Summary: 

The Wolf of Gubbio, 1437–44. Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni), 1390-1450. 

Story Audio: 

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