Merry Christmas to you and yours;
May you experience genuine peace … despite your circumstances … this Christmas and all through the new year as you begin to truly realize God’s amazing love shown through his son, Jesus.
My Exhibit includes photos while on my first “Chasing Francis” Spirit Venture in 2012 with photos from Assisi, Rome and Florence. It is at the RoxyAnn Winery in Medford, Oregon. Come on by for a glass of Cabernet Franc:)
If you are interested in joining us we will be going again next spring during the last couple of weeks in March. Pax et Bonum
We are killing our planet! Our oceans are a prime example. I am becoming more aware of how detrimental plastic is to our environment. And I will be the first to confess that I too have been guilty. Did you know that over 200 billion pounds of plastic are produced worldwide each year and that only 4 to 7 % is actually recycled. Plastic pollution now affects at least 267 species worldwide. These are photos of pollution that has washed ashore:
100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die yearly from entanglement. There are estimates that marine debris kills 1 million seabirds a year. 80% of marine debris comes from land via street storm drains, waterways, and rivers that eventually empty into the ocean. Apparently we Americans use approximately 1 billion disposable shopping bags that create 300,000 tons of waste each year. Fish and birds confuse the debris for food. Plastic has moved into the food chain! Plastic is not biodegradable. It eventually breaks down to the size of plankton.
Fish bites can be seen from marine animals mistaking the plastic for food. This can be deadly by blocking their digestive tracts and reducing their ability to absorb nutrients. In addition plastics contain contaminants … a toxic meal. Scientists on research boats mid-ocean have opened fresh caught fish and found pieces of plastic in their stomachs.
An ocean gyre (jahyur) is a large, slow spinning vortex of ocean currents caused by trade winds. There are five major gyres in the world’s oceans pulling plastic garbage from every continent and churning it into bite-size pieces for sea life. It is estimated that 11 million tons of plastic ride the North Pacific Gyre between Asia and North America eventually washing ashore on beaches or breaking down to microscopic pieces.
When we were on our annual spring trek to Bandon by the Sea in Oregon earlier this year we became aware of the Washed Ashore Project. All this information is from their exhibit in Bandon and their website.
Artist and director Angela Haseltine Pozzi leads the Washed Ashore community in creating large-scale sculptures of the very sea life that is threatened by the marine debris. Communities, schools, and state parks gather the debris off of the beaches. They are then washed, sorted, drilled, cut and processed into art supplies. Only re-purposed plastic debris found on beaches are used in Washed Ashore art.
The Project has impacted the lives of over 1 million spectators. The exhibit features massive sculptures.
100’s of volunteers have processed over 4 tons of plastic pollution into art supplies. Washed Ashore’s traveling educational exhibit of sculptures continues to spread the message internationally. Activity/Action Books and Curriculum based on Washed Ashore’s Marine Debris Awareness Program can be ordered through their website.
Use less plastic. Bring your own water bottle and mug with you. Use cloth or canvas grocery bags. Buy in bulk. Refill containers. Reduce and re-use whenever possible. Recycle. Contact Washed Ashore to start a Satellite Project in your community. Each one of us can make a difference.
“Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature …” (Gen. 1:28).
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)
Bearing in mind that ruling requires constant care and wisdom let us each do our part to help preserve our planet … God’s creation.
Yesterday I inadvertently sent my post “Art for Life” to my Life, etc. blog rather than Franciscus Meus where this series Do you like a Mystery? has been unfolding. This story could easily fit in either, but due to St. Francis’s love and concern for all living creatures and our precious planet I chose FM. I will therefore place the last post with The Rest of the Story on both blogs because I believe so strongly in it’s message.
The Basilica di San Francesco is a distinctive landmark that can be seen from miles away as you approach Assisi. As you draw nearer you can appreciate the huge supporting arcades. The Basilica of St. Francis is considered one of the artistic highlights of medieval Europe, as well as one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in the world. It is definitely a ‘must see’ while visiting or on pilgrimage as it continues to be a powerful place both for believers and art-lovers alike. The basilica is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor more commonly known as the Franciscan Order.
Brother Francis died in October of 1226 and less than two years later his disciple and fellow-worker Brother Elias (of Cortona) had plans underway for construction of a church in his honor. The Friars Minor, Pope Gregory IX (who, as a cardinal, enjoyed a close friendship with Francis), and the people of Assisi were all involved in supporting the early construction of what became an incongruously grandiose and beautifully embellished memorial to a profoundly converse man who preached and lived a simple life of poverty, abstinence, and renunciation of worldly goods in search of a greater spirituality.
It is believed that Brother Elias, although devout, was more worldly that Francis, and the popularity of the Franciscan order through the ages owes a great deal to Elias’ marketing skills.
Construction began in 1228. The basilica was built into the side of a hill and actually consists of two churches known as the Upper Church and Lower Church, and the saint’s tomb which is yet below the Lower Church. A site for the church was donated to Pope Gregory by Simone di Pucciarello on the western tip of Asio hill outside the Assisi city walls on what was known as the “Hill of Hell” where criminals were put to death. It is now called the “Hill of Paradise”.
Francis was declared a saint on July 16, 1228 and the following day the pope laid the first stone of the Church of St. Francis. The Lower Church was quickly finished by 1230, and on Pentecost May 25, 1230 the body of St. Francis was taken from its temporary burial place St. George, now the Basilica of Saint Clare of Assisi, to the Lower Church (or Lower Basilica). The actual burial place was hidden in the earth beneath the high alter and sealed up with stone to protect St. Francis’ remains. It was not till 1818 that the tomb of St. Francis was rediscovered beneath the high altar. After being hidden for nearly 600 years the coffin was opened and Francis’ skeleton was found completely intact. A new crypt was built first in neo-Classical style then later in a simpler neo-Romanesque style. Thus modern pilgrims are able to approach the very tomb of St. Francis, which no medieval pilgrims were ever able to do. (Notes from Sacred Destinations)
Construction was begun on the Upper Church in 1239 and completed in 1253. Both churches were consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253 and designated a Major Basilica in 1288. On September 26, 1997 two earthquakes hit this region of Italy damaging many ancient buildings. The Lower Church walls are nearly nine feet thick and were unscathed while the Upper Church with larger windows and walls only three feet thick were damaged. An aftershock killed two Franciscan friars and two specialists while they were inspecting the damage to the Basilica. Many of the frescoes of the life of St. Francis by Giotto in the Upper Church were destroyed in the collapse. The basilica was closed for two years for restoration.
The photo above shows the lower piazza and the side entrance to the Lower Church in the early morning before the activity of the day. The alternating striped colors of the street almost seem like an escalator drawing you toward the grand side entrance.
By mid day the piazza becomes a hub of activity with tourists and pilgrims. Here are a couple of young art students on an “art venture”.
This is the grand side entrance to the Lower Church showing the stairway to the Upper Piazza and Upper Church and the benediction loggia on the left side of the facade and supporting curtain wall which was added in 1754.
This equestrian statue is one of my favorites showing Francis with his head hung low as he slinks back home after God has told him to “let go” of his dream of becoming a heroic “knight in shining armor” and to instead follow the way of Jesus.As much as the outside architecture of the basilica is interesting and beautiful, the inside of the basilica is even more so. It is frescoed from top to bottom by the leading artists of the day with works from Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti. Unfortunately photography was not permitted inside. But taking time to experience the inside will convince you that it is as spectacular as the Vatican or St. Peter’s Cathedral in a simpler beauty. Discovery Venture Tours has scheduled another Spirit Venture – “Chasing Francis” next year from March 19th to the 29th. We will be spending 6 nights in Assisi and 4 nights in Rome. Below is the brochure. It was such an amazing experience many of us are going back. Let us know if you are interested in joining us.
(Notes from Rick Steves, Sacred Destinations, and Wikipedia)
After his ‘triumphal entry’ to Jerusalem seated on a donkey’s colt Jesus predicts his death.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said and angel had spoken to him.” John 12: 23-29
Now Jesus and his chosen few withdraw to an upper room in Jerusalem to partake in the Passover Feast. Here he institutes the “Memorial” of the Eucharist:
“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way , after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Mt.26: 26-29, Mk.14: 22-25, Lk.22: 17-20.
He then makes hints of being betrayed by one of them at the table and they question each other who it might be.
It seems absurd, amidst this setting, but it is presumed due to Jesus’ indication that the coming of his ‘kingdom’ is imminent, some of the apostles begin to discuss which of them is the greatest. How can this be? After walking with Jesus throughout his ministry, listening to his teaching regarding the nature of this ‘kingdom’, how can they not understand?
Of course, now, this is so easy from my current perspective. I am not being persecuted under the power of the Roman Empire longing for a new ‘earthly kingdom.’ So what does Jesus do? He begins to wash the feet of his disciples.
“A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Lk.22: 24-30
“Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.”
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Jn.13: 1-17
I can only wonder how long before the disciples fully discerned the incredible intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility toward them. He, their Lord and Teacher stooped to serve their needs, and they (we) should do the same for one another. This example of humility in servanthood is what we “followers of Jesus” are to show one another. I find this very convicting. Our western culture is so ‘me first’ oriented that I will truly need an extra measure of grace to not walk in the path of least resistance.
The sovereignty of Christ from the cross is a new sovereignty. It has destroyed forever the formula that might is right. It has put to shame the self-assertion of false heroism. It has surrounded with imperishable dignity the completeness of sacrifice. It has made clear to the pure heart that the prerogative of authority is wider service. The divine King rules forever by dying. Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901)
My dear Jesus, Lord and Teacher, this example of humility and service … preceding the ultimate humiliation of the “Way of Suffering” …. crucified for all humanity … Even though you possessed the very nature of God, you claimed nothing for Your own advantage but emptied yourself taking the form of a slave. Thank you for coming to serve and giving your life as a ransom for many. I fear that I am too self-centered and selfish. Help me to become more like you. Show me how to humbly wash the feet of my brothers and sisters, bringing glory to the Son of Man. Amen
The Chiesa di San Rufino is the Duomo or the Cathedral of Assisi. The cathedral is the seat of the local bishop. Rufino was Assisi’s first bishop, it’s Patron Saint, and was martyred and buried here in the third century. It was inspirational to be in the same church where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized. It was also the bishop blessed Francis’ “spiritual awakening.” It is still the official baptismal site for the village of Assisi.
The Romanesque facade is believed to have been completed in the early 13th century. The interior is Neoclassical. It was beautifully restored after a 1997 earthquake.
The facade is divided vertically into three sections and horizontally into three stories with a row of blind arches between the the first two. All three portals are richly sculpted with red marble relief in the lunettes and geometric designs and figures around the entries.
Over the central portal the red marble relief depicts Christ enthroned beneath the moon and a star, with the Madonna del Latte to the left and St. Rufinus to the right.
The central rosette shows symbols of the Evangelists surrounding the intricate rose which is supported by three extraordinary figures standing on unidentifiable animals.
As I entered the rear of the church my eyes were immediately drawn to the two fine statues of St. Francis and St. Clare by Giovanni Dupre in 1888.
The next attraction was actually the floor. Large glass panels exposed parts of the ninth century foundation. Apparently after the 1997 earthquake inspectors discovered graves under the paving stones. It was a common practice to bury people in the churches. I have seen this in ancient Scandinavian churches as well. It is also likely that this church was built upon old Roman temple ruins. A cistern is also visible from the rear of the church. The Diocesan museum is underneath the church as part of the foundation of the early church of San Rufino where the saint’s sarcophagus and ancient art can be seen.
The floor also displayed large red marble reliefs, one with the Franciscan Tau and the other with “abba Father.”
The baptismal font has a black iron gate around it and a terracotta cover over it (installed in 1882). It is here in the San Rufino that Francis was baptized circa 1181 and Clare was baptized in 1194. Eighteen years later it was here that Clare heard Francis teach and decided to dedicate her life to following Jesus. Emperor Frederick II is believed to have been baptized here in the early 1190s.
Above the entrance to the chapel to the right stands a fresco by Giovanni Andrea Carlone, The Sacrifice of Elijah. It depicts the contest between the prophets of Baal and Elijah. Each prepared to sacrifice a bull and called on God to light the fire. Elijah’s prayer was answered the prophet of Baal was not. The people consequently returned to the one and only true living God and killed the prophets who had attempted to lead them astray.
There is also a beautiful Processional banner from the early 16th century which is variously attributed to Berto de Giovanni or Dono Doni and was incorporated as the altarpiece of the Altare di San Giuseppe in San Rufino in 1670. It depicts St. Joseph showing the Virgin’s wedding ring to an audience of kneeling men and women with a landscape of Assisi behind.
The predella (the base of the alterpiece) contains three panels depicting the Holy Family with SS Antony of Padua (on the left) and Bernardino of Siena (on the right) by Dono Doni.
The slide show has photos of Pope John Paul II and of the rose window looking from the inside with filters to appreciate the detail.
As always, with any visit to an inspirational setting such as the Chiesa di San Rufino, all the photos in the world can not capture the “Holy Spirit’s” touch on my heart or soul when sitting in this cathedral … all alone … in absolute silence. I can hear Him “calling me” … “Come follow me.”
I can only answer with the simple prayer … Here I am Lord. Show me how. I am willing. Help me stay on your path.