A Taste of Italy Art Exhibit

Roxy Poster

 

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

The Cathedral of Assisi

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.

Two lions stand guard at the central portal, with one eating a Christian martyr and the other clutching a ram in its claws.

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.

artistically edited due to poor lighting to an ‘antique’ style

artistically edited due to poor lighting to an ‘antique’ style

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.

Who do you say that I am?

Best laid plans …

My original intent was to post a photo everyday while in Assisi and Rome.  However that was not meant to be.  Perhaps it was for the best, though … since Father ‘does’ know best.  Not being able to ‘send’ from my MacBook enabled me to “let go” of the burden to blog daily and just take in the whole adventure and capture more in the camera.

Despite about 10 hours now of patient and expert help from the Apple team I am still not able to ‘send’ from my MacBook, but am remaining patient.  More help is on the way:)

I have been posting ‘Animoto’ shows on my Facebook page.  This is my first post here on “Franciscus Meus” since our fabulous ‘pilgrimage’ to Assisi.

This photo is a ‘close-up’ from a copy of the crucifix/cross that originally “spoke” to Francis in the church of San Damiano.  This copy is found in the Chiesa Nuova (New Church) built in 1615 and is located at the location of St. Francis’s home.

I can truly understand why Francis was moved by this cross of Jesus.  I blurred all but his face in this photo that you, too would be moved by his face.  As I study his eyes I sense a deep compassion and love, and a longing for me to let Him to be my “all that matters.”

He seems to be asking, “Who do you say that I am?”

Outside are two statues of his mother and father, holding the chains by which his father held him prisoner, attempting to hold him back from following Lady Poverty.  But his mother released him.  In this case mother knew best.

Inside the church you can view the dungeon where Francis was held prisoner.  There are beautiful paintings of early Franciscan themes.  There is a stairway that leads down to what used to be a workshop and now shows a copy of the crucifix, some excellent art of St. Francis and St. Clare and a wonderful stained glass window.  It is indeed a perfect place to spend some time with the One who yearns to be my “all that matters.”

The Sanctuary of Worship

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This photo was taken in old town Mazatlan, Mexico

One of my favorite things to do when in other countries is to visit their churches.  They come in many sizes and shapes.  Some are rather simple and non assuming, while others are quite beautiful and extravagant.  As a child I was always drawn to a church with a choir and pipe organ.  There seems to be something almost super spiritual when being in the presence of so many voices in harmony along with the power of a huge pipe organ that helps you forget the cares of this world.

But I have also been moved to tears by a small group singing a hymn or praise song when the words reached deep into my heart and touched me personally.

In the passage from John 4 Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and after a few interchanges she says, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know;  we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4: 19-24)

Immediately after Jesus gave up his spirit “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” allowing us direct access to the throne of God.  (see Matthew 27: 51)

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Thus we can worship God in spirit and truth in any “sanctuary”.  I have many favorite “places” :  Cornerstone Christian Church, our ‘home’ church, the living room in our home, the beautiful beach in Bandon, etc.  But sometimes I am caught by surprise and I hear a song on the radio while driving and my car becomes my “sanctuary.”

This will be my last “Francis blog” from home.  I will be leaving for Italy Easter morning.  Lord willing, I will send a few blogs from Assisi after worshiping in the same “sanctuaries” where God spoke to Francis’s heart and changed the direction of his life.

So, my Jesus, let the pilgrimage begin.  I am the clay.  You are the potter.  All praise and glory belong to You.

Keeping Watch

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“STAY  HERE  AND  KEEP  WATCH  WITH  ME.”

Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane

“Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”  he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us go!  Here comes my betrayer.”    (Matthew 26: 36-45)

This passage has always been a sobering one to me.  I can so easily identify with the disciples.  “The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  If ever there was an area in my spiritual life that needed improvement this is it.  Becoming like Francis and shirking all possessions, wealth, and position would in some ways make this process easier …. but what a price!   Certainly there must be a ‘middle road’ of sorts for a “post modern Christian” like myself.

As I embark on this ‘pilgrimage’ I am hoping that I will be able to balance the role of “photographer” and that of “pilgrim”.  I hope to find (perhaps I will need to “make”) time to spend in prayer and meditation.  I have set a goal of attempting spend all such time NOT thinking of ‘self’ but rather waiting in silence for what God puts on my heart.  This will likely be very difficult.

We ‘pilgrims’ that are “Chasing Francis” all desire to become more and more like Jesus as we follow him.   “Stay here and keep watch for us.”

Spirituality of Place

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In Chasing Francis, Ion Cron  explains that a ‘pilgrimage’ is a “way of praying with your feet.”  One generally goes on a pilgrimage “if you feel there is something missing inside your soul, and the way to find it is to go to sacred places … places where God made himself known to others.  In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for yourself.”

He further introduces the concept of “spirituality of place” where something mystical happens through spiritual energy of past events (is a special place) to you, the pilgrim.  He uses the example of going to Yankee Stadium with his uncle.

I had such an experience in 2004 when my wife and I visited Copenhagen.  I had not been there in 40 years.  But prior to that we (my Danish parents and I) would spend 2 weeks vacation time there every year.  It was and still is quite safe to walk the streets of Copenhagen.  My parents would allow me to leave the hotel at 11:30 am and walk to the ‘Old Fort’ and catch the King’s Guard marching down the streets.  I would walk beside them all the way to Amalienborg Slot, the Royal family’s castle in the city where the ‘changing of the Guard’ takes place everyday at noon.  When the king was home there would be a band playing, as well.  If it was the King’s birthday the Guards would change from their blue uniforms to their red dress uniforms and have a large parade through the city.

After so many years it was like stepping back in time.  Hearing the orders being ‘barked’ out, the clicking of their heels on the cobblestones, and following the visitors as the soldiers worked their way around the square in the castle brought back great memories and it was extra special this time because I was sharing the experience with my wife.

I am willing to bet that you, too have experienced a similar ‘spirituality of place.’

We are only 2 weeks away from our “Chasing Francis pilgrimage.”  I am not certain what to expect.  I do not necessarily believe that there is ‘something missing in my soul’ but perhaps there is.  I have determined to be open to what God will do in me.  Already, by reading Ian’s book and ‘When Helping Hurts’ I sense a yearning for even a ‘deeper’ prayer and quiet time, as well as a need to somehow begin ‘simplifying’ our lives and doing ‘something more’ to help the poor, especially in our community.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”  (Titus 2: 11-14)

Rebirth; A new creation

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“Get thee behind me, Satin.”

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  (John 3: 6)

Continue to work out … your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling … for it is God who is all the while at work in you–energizing and creating in you the power and desire–both to will and to work for his good pleasure …(Philippians 2: 12-13)

As Francis does an “about face” to follow Jesus, he chooses to ignore the laughter of his ‘old friends’ and becomes  angry, but not at them, but rather at himself.  For suddenly “he sees his former life before him, in its folly, its lack of object, its childish vanity.  He saw himself in all his pitiful reality–and in front of him stood in shining beauty the life he hitherto had not led–the true life, the just life, the beautiful, noble, rich life–life in Jesus Christ.  (Jorgensen)

Francis began to seek the will of God.  Nearby, just outside the city limits was a cave in the cliff where he liked to go to pray.  Sometimes alone, but usually with a single friend, a distinguished person who remained true to him despite his “change of mind.”  (Thomas of Celano)

And there, away from the world, in this dark cave, he found a ‘secret chamber’ where he could pray to his Heavenly Father.  And little by little, day by day his desire to do the will of God increased.  He began to devalue himself and eventually the poor took the place of his ‘old friends.’

As God’s sons and daughters, we should be without the kind of guile that gives to others only when it will mean a good return in some way for us.  We should seek, before God, to be His humble servants, pure in our heart’s desire to give and do, just as He directs us …

God’s Spirit will come to rest upon you, and upon anyone who will live this way, enduring to the last the constant temptation to live for yourself alone (Isaiah 11:2).  The Father has promised that if we obey his command to love others, He and His Son, our Jesus Christ, will come and make their home with us and dwell with us forever (John 14: 21-23).  Moreover, we will be seen and known as children of the heavenly Father because it will be obvious to all that we are busily, faithfully doing His work and not seeking our own ends (Matthew 5:45).

When we live this way, it may be said that we are truly wedded to Him–in spirit, we the brothers, the sisters, and the mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:48-50).

A man or woman begins to live in the Spirit by determining to become “the bride” of our Lord.  In faith, we wed our souls to the Spirit of Christ and begin to enjoy doing His will.  We become His “brothers and sisters” as we do the will of His Father who is in heaven.  And we are “mothers” to Him when we allow Him to sit enthroned deep within our hearts by loving Him dearly and purely, keeping in good conscience by surrendering to His lordship over all that is ours.

As we knit ourselves with Him in this way, joined to Him in our hearts, a new spirit is born in us.  Thus, our spiritual progress is similar to the way life grows within a physical womb.  Eventually, we will no longer be living like men and women of the world.  Instead, we will be so filled with the Spirit of Christ that we birth Him again into this world by doing the loving acts He himself would do if He were present in the body (John 14: 12)  First Letter to All the Faithful: 45-53   (A Day In Your Presence, David Hazard; Rekindling the Inner Fire, Series)

This then, Lord Jesus, is my prayer and desire:  “that something more of you may be born into this world through me.”   Amen

When Helping Hurts pt3 “The Mission of Israel and Now the Church”

As I read Corbett’s and Fikkert’s book I am continually humbled.  I feel that I have failed my Savior in one of his primary missions.

Jesus’s mission was to preach the good news of the kingdom in word and deed.  We see numerous examples of him spreading the good news among the hurting, the weak, and the poor.  God intended Israel of the Old Testament to be a foreshadowing of what Jesus would be like.  “Throughout history God’s people have been commanded to follow their King’s footsteps into places of brokenness.”

This was even demonstrated in the Sabbath laws.

“For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused.  Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave.  Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.  Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.”   (Exodus 23: 10-12)

The Jubilee Year was the year for canceling all debts, allowing the release of slaves and returning land to its ‘original’ owners (Leviticus 25: 8-55).  There were other laws that ensured the poor would be cared for each day of the year.  “There should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.”   (Deuteronomy 15: 4&5)

Wow!  “There should be no poor among you.”   Old Testament Israel failed.  

The only deduction?   We are God’s people of the New Testament Church.  Now this is our task …. the task of the Church.  Now we are to be a picture of or preview of Jesus:  

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

I must confess that I do not go about my day with the humbling truth that I am a part of his body and that His fulness is in me.  In fact this is our “inheritance” just as the promised land was Israel’s “inheritance.”  The reality of this, not to mention the responsibility of it seem overwhelming.  

When Jesus sent out “the twelve” they were to “preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick” (Luke 9:2), and the “seventy two” to “Heal the sick who are there and tell them the kingdom of God is near you” (Luke10:9). 

The early church in Acts were on track:  “There were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34).  The authors remind us that “while Israel failed to care for the poor and was sent into captivity, God’s people have been restored and are now embodying King Jesus and His kingdom, a kingdom in which there is no poverty (Rev. 21:1-4).  Indeed, throughout the New Testament care of the poor is a vital concern of the church (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 6:1-7; Gal.2:1-10; 6:10; James 1:27).  

“This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Dearest Lord Jesus,  although I have a noble vocation and I hope that by your grace I am in some ways impacting the world you have given me, I can not help feeling that my life falls quite short of the way you lived, or the early apostles, or the way Francis of Assisi lived.  Soften my heart and show me what you want of me as I continue to “Chase Francis” and read this eyeopener “When Helping Hurts.”

Chasing Francis

“Chasing Francis is written in a genre called wisdom literature, which is a very delicate balance of fiction and nonfiction, pilgrimage and teaching.” Ian Morgan Cron wrote this very witty and engaging novel apparently after much research and gives credit to many authors whose writings or ideas influenced passages in his book.  There is a study guide at the end of the book to help us get the most from his book and he encourages us to get on line at www.chasingfrancis.com to learn more about Saint Francis.

“Chasing Francis is not a history or a spirituality book, though it contains elements of both.  It is a novel that touches a little something in the inner troubles of most of us who try to follow Jesus faithfully in a modern western environment.  Delightful!”

JOHN  MICHAEL  TALBOT, founder, spiritual father, and general minister, The Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage

“By guiding us to wrestle deeply with a crisis of faith experience and by re-introducing us to a giant of faith, Ian Cron paves for us a path of grace, humility, and ultimate joy even through our “ground zero” darkness.  This is a life-changing work.  I now find myself “chasing Francis” in my life as well as in my art.”

MAKOTO  FUJIMURA, artist/writer, New York City

Having read Chasing Francis myself, I too feel that Ian touched on something that has been tugging on my heart.  There is a part of me that feels I have not been truly satisfying my thirst for God.  I desire to somehow make more of an impact in “my world” for my Jesus who gave his all for me.   Does “my world” see me as being different in any positive way or am I so much like the world that I am not making an impact?  How many of you upon introspection feel the same?

Introduction to Franciscus Meus

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“For I know the plans I have for you,”  declares the LORD

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.”

   Jeremiah 29:11

 Welcome to  Franciscus Meus.

I did not really have any big plans for traveling this year.  But I believe God has opened a door that I cannot ignore.  A couple of weeks ago an incredible opportunity presented itself.  I met David Rapp of Water’s Edge Community Church and Discovery Venture Tours.   He has arranged a debut  Spirit Venture or ‘pilgrimage tour’ to Italy “CHASING FRANCIS:   Assisi, Rome, and more.”

David has been taking groups of youngsters and adults all over the world for many years.  He  designed this tour after the current popular novel, “Chasing Francis” by Ian Morgan Cron.

The package consists of 7 nights in Assisi and 3 in Rome and will include tours, excursions, historic pilgrimage sites, prayer, Eucharist celebrations, engaging discussions over great Italian food and wine, and as you can well imagine there will be nonstop great photo opportunities.

This is an invitation for you to join us and hop on this Spirit Venture to Italy from April 11th through the 21st.  We need more pilgrims.  There are still a few openings.  Unfortunately this is very short notice.  You only have 9 days to sign up.  David is hoping for a group of no more than 20.  Go to www.discoveryventuretours.com  and get all the information and the itinerary.

My blog on Chasing Francis is entitled Franciscus Meus, “My Francis,” and will include thoughts on Ian Cron’s book and interesting facts about Francis and eventually photos from the tour.  Come ‘pilgrim’ with me. Click here to read all my Franciscus Meus posts.