Tag: Assisi

Spiritual Reflection: The Vision of The Poverello

It was the artist Giotto who got me really interested in “The Poverello”. Symbols and beauty so often speak louder than words…

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Before the Cross

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Praying

before a cross

and

 it

spoke

to

him.

Prayer, silence, meditation, and the resulting insights and visions – there are many of these recorded about Francis of Assisi. There is the voice from the crucifix (as painted by Giotto, above), the vision of the palace, the vision of the six-winged seraph that resulted in the legendary stigmata…And Giotto wasn’t the only artist called to record them in wondrous frescoes.
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Which symbols speak to us today?
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What beauty calls us deeper?
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Do we have any kind of sense of being called to work towards a vision?
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Who are our inspirers?

The Generosity of The Poverello

“The Poverello” was St. Francis of Assisi’s way of describing himself – the poor man.

One day Francis sent away empty-handed a man who had begged him for money for the love of God.  He quickly regretted what he had done, ran after the man, gave out of his own wealth, and resolved never again to refuse anyone who begged from him for the love of God.

Another time he met a knight who was badly clothed and had become poor.  Francis took off his own expensive clothes and gave them to the poor knight there and then!

Later, he met a man with leprosy.  Francis had an understandable disgust and fear of this horrible disease and at first reacted with horror.  But he remembered the vow he had made, and when the leper reached out a hand to beg, Francis not only gave him money, but also a kiss.  “That which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness”, he later wrote.

Francis giving his cloak to the poor knight – Giotto

Inspirers – Francis of Assisi

Why Him?

 

Why him

why him

why him?

 

Because it seems God chose

one so foolish and so poor

 

To show that only

openness to God

is enough.

onlyopenness FOP

This poem was inspired by one of the stories about St. Francis of Assisi, a man open to nature, open to other men and women (especially the disadvantaged and diseased), open to God.

The poem “Canticle of the Sun” was written by St. Francis of Assisi – and maybe this is one of the reasons I am so inspired by him – he was a poet!

This beautiful piece alone has inspired me a number of times…

 

Brother sun

“…Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful…”

Sistermoon

Francis was open to nature – in a big way.

I grew up in south London, and even there I connected with brief glimpses of nature’s beauty – a kestrel hovering over a reservoir, or a stunning sunset in the skies over the less inspiring suburban sights of the London Borough of Wandsworth…

When I moved into the countryside for my first full-time job, it felt like both finding a new home, but also coming home, to a kind of spiritual feeling at home, connected, more strongly now, with nature.

 

Walking the Hills

 

The wild birds inhabit these hills

            and I, a walker,

glancing down the valley

            dazzled by gleaming lights

                        flung across the fields like necklaces

 

I feel connected with the wind

            the grass under my feet

                        God’s sky above my head.

 

connectedFWTS

 

 

 

 

 

The spirituality of St. Francis, and his “brothers”, was an outdoor spirituality, deeply connected with the natural world.  It included praying in the woods – as above – as well as the better-known preaching to birds and talking to wolves…And it was also a felt and lived spirituality, not a dry, theoretical, abstract belief system.

 

In the Wood

 

To one praying in the wood

The word of God came

 

Louder than the human voice

The other saw deeper into Christ

 

Through his tears

Than forests of theologians.

 

seedeeperforests FOP

But the poem with which I began this post – “Why him?” – draws attention to another quality: his complete openness.  What does this mean?

Stories about St. Francis portray him as open to God, open to changing his life, open to others, including those who were shunned by others.

There is a story about how Francis could not bear the sight of those suffering from leprosy.  But through his openness, “that which was bitter became sweet”.  His whole attitude of mind and heart changed.

 

Bitter Sweet

 

When the sweet

becomes bitter,

 

The bitter,

sweet,

 

Then you are

on the way,

 

Transformed

from darkness to light.

 

onwaydarklight FOP2

 

Openness is also about the practice of contemplation, and being open to change through grace.

 

Like a Droplet

 

Your nature is absorbed

like a droplet of water

into the mighty ocean

of divinity.

 

absorbedoceandivinity FOP

 

Eternity

 

Raised to the infinite grace

of life and love

I plunged into eternity

conscious of nothing created

 

Absorbed in the infinity

of godliness

that ocean of light

where nothing is seen

but God in all things.

 

oceanoflight FOP

Openness is also about being open to others – through listening, through imaginative awareness and through compassion.

 

The Welcome

 

We must welcome

the guest

 

Who enters our lives

however briefly

 

Seeking

what we do not know

 

And minister

in unknown ways,

 

Meet many

an angel.

welcometheguest meetangel

If you have read through to the end of this post, I hope you have learned something about St. Francis of Assisi, and what he means to me.  I hope I might have sparked an interest in you to find out more, and would be happy to recommend some of the books that have inspired me if you are interested.

Do leave a comment if you would like to know more.

Best wishes,

Michael

(aka Flowering Poverello)