Book Break: The Little Flowers of St. Francis

LittleFlowersStFrancisCoverSometime in the past week or two, I finished The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of stories about St. Francis of Assisi and his earliest brothers, compiled in the 14th century. The book is a delightful mixture of familiar legends (St. Francis and the Wolf, St. Francis Preaching to the Birds), a thorough account of his receiving the stigmata (the wounds of Christ), stories of less well-known miracles, and sage spiritual advice that still applies to souls like mine, several centuries later. It also includes the same sort of stories and wisdom from a few of his contemporaries recognized by the saint and others for their holiness, humility, and simplicity.

My edition is a newer reprint of a 1915 translation by H.E. Cardinal Manning, and includes a handful of beautiful color prints of paintings by F. Cayley-Robinson. The book (pictured) does have a few mistakes in the copy—for the purposes of reading out loud, it might be helpful to pre-read first!

The style is somewhat old-fashioned and poetic, but readable even for youngsters—I can imagine it being a good volume to read out loud to your family. (And a few of the stories, like that of Brother Juniper cutting the foot from a pig that did not belong to him to cook and feed to a sick brother, are hilarious!)

If you are  looking for an enjoyable and edifying introduction to this popular saint and his spirituality, look no further!

Aesthetic Witnesses: Using Beauty to Build the Kingdom

Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God.”

The quote above is taken from Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” published on Easter Sunday in 1999. I’ve been reflecting on that letter in terms of the saint’s call, beginning in the late 1970s, for a new evangelization, and also in the context of young Karol Wojtyla’s cultural resistance efforts with the Rhapsodic Theater during the period of Nazi control of Poland. The more I reflect, the more convinced I become that the arts—visual, literary, theatrical, and musical—as well as beauty defined more broadly, are ideal tools both of evangelization and of Catholic resistance and encouragement today.

Beauty in evangelization

Beginning with the artist as an image of God the Creator, St. John Paul II makes a strong case for the special vocation of the artist in service to the true, the good, and the beautiful; their ideal role as revealers of the Incarnation and the Good News; and the necessity of art to the Church and vice versa. Continue reading

The Creation of Thunder

As originally reported on my Facebook page, I watched Ben-Hur this weekend with Brendan and Gabe. I think Brendan now wants me to go back to The Albertville Creamery antiques shop to pick up the late 19th century edition of the book they have for sale. He knows I am susceptible to such suggestions…

At the outset of the movie, as the Overture played, the DVD displays Michelangelo’s painting, The Creation of Adam, and since I was watching with two tween boys, I referenced the irreverent “pull my finger” caption you sometimes see associated with that painting. It was storming at the time, and Gabe (our aspiring priest) said, “GOD said, ‘Pull my finger,’ and the first thunder was created!”

We laughed and laughed. And it was good.