Tag Archives: Assisi

Year of activism #39

It is October 4th – feast day of St Francis and day to celebrate creation and all the creatures. It is the only day on the calendar I am 100% sure which saint it belongs too. There are more words and images of Francis in the western world than the founder of his strand of spirituality. His radical transformative lifestyle changed his little town and generations who followed, and continued to our time when the latest incarnation of the role of Bishop of Rome sent a definitive message to the faithful and non-believers alike in choosing the name Francis for his papacy. At the time one of my favourite liberation theologians, the Brazilian Leonardo Boff (also a Franciscan monk who had been kicked out by the previous administration) was welcomed back and remarked on the choice of the Argentinian of Francis – was not choosing a name but an agenda. The agenda was around simplicity, creation and care of the earth and a call to disrupting the institutional power. I had high hopes and there were early signs, and I remain encouraged, although long for more. This ancient global institution pivoting to these times, feels more like a shipwreck laden with barnacles where only time and/ or a tsunami might bring new life. Francis is releasing a new encyclical today on friendship. I am going to be interested in reading it. His last one (Laudato Si) was a powerful instruction on how to care for the earth and all that required personally and politically, and poignantly to go back to the basics and ‘rebuild the church’. Such a shame for the patriarchy and language and colonisation that much of the good gets washed away by the clumsy and lack of restitution the church, to say nothing of all the apologies to first nations, women and LGBTIQ+ . Francis of Assisi turned the tables and publicly admonished power, privilege and embraced simplicity, had a beautiful relationship with Clare of Assisi and together they offered an alternative lifestyle of poverty, service, stewardship and speaking truth that inspired generations. In their part of Italy, Clare attracted more women to her community, than men were able to attract to be their wives – it was very disruptive – and turned the tables on the economics of the region.

Francis was my father’s middle name as he was born Oct 3 and would have been 84 this year. I sang Donovan‘s version of Francis’ Canticle of Creation at his funeral and while he wasn’t a believer, he did love all of creation and respected his roots and traditions. The opening lines of this poem are: Brother Sun and Sister Moon, indicative of the close relationship Francis had with all of creation. From the most ancient of astrological surveys it is the Sun who rules as masculine energy the Moon as feminine. It is this deep friendship with the earth and the sky that has guided our species and all the instruction we need remains available to us should we look to the skies and look to what lies below our feet.

The cry of the earth for rehabilitation and decolonisation, is a lamentation, an ache. As her sisters and brothers we are being called to care for our Sister, our Mother, the earth. There is a strong trajectory in all world religions for care for the earth, simplicity and ecological justice. In my own tradition, it is often to Francis and Clare that I look, but they are not alone and throughout history and all around the world in communities in mountains, deserts, cities and slums individuals have risen up as lone nuts and founded movements, some of which have become institutionalised, and others that flowered for a single season, but it is the deep thread we can all pull on as activists and remind ourselves of our lineage and humbly make the use of this time we have to make our contribution. I think that is the message for me on this Feast of St Francis to take instruction from the sun and the moon, to recalibrate and set a course by the stars to take me back to my roots and to deeply listen to the land, its original custodians.

John O’Donohue says “friendship is an act of recognition” and maybe that is part of the pilgrim way, to recognise ourselves and familial relationships in the landscape and have the landscape invite us to see that in ourselves. Imagine if we could recognise the beauty around us in the heavens and on the horizon and know, really know, we are both custodians and reflections of this beauty. Nature is the pause and refresh button as well as the plug in and play for so many activists and this day is as good as any to celebrate all of creation and enter into more friendship and intimacy.

Arriving in Assisi to a rainbow, June 2013

Dancing with Speeches #28 Francis of Assisi

While we can’t be completely sure St Francis gave his speech, a cosmic rhapsody, the Canticle of the Sun is attributed to the 12th century monk from Assisi and is the inspiration for this week’s dance from the vantage point of the River Murray.

Dear Friends,

I speak to you today from the banks of an ancient river, lost to the inland and often struggling to find its voice. Home to an abundance of creatures and more likely to be silenced by others than to speak for herself. She rests gently between two banks and gets separated by man-made devices who regulate her passage across the land.

The creaks in the house boat give a little, adjusting to the changing temperature as day breaks, as the earth beneath expands opening up to welcome the rays. Next comes the warmth from Brother Sun as he finds his place in the sky, settling in to cast both light and shadow. There is no place to hide, all of creation is conspiring you to applaud and rejoice in the wonder and beauty. The smallest of creatures the ants make their way to water, collecting nano drops of hydrogen and oxygen to sustain their tiny lives. The pelicans rise in formation from the fog on the river, with their head wind breaking captain pointing them to food from her vantage point. Corners of the sky compete on how blue they can be (the west is winning).

Teeming with life and promise, the day breaks confident it will unfold and ready to receive what is offered. The day brings yes and, not yes but. Here is some fresh air would you like birdsong with that? Here is some greenery, would you like all the colours of the rainbow as well? Here is some laughter, would you like sighs and crying so you know what joy is?

All affairs of the heart leave you poetically speechless, overwhelmed by the astonishing thought that you are loved back for who you are, no strings attached, unconditional, pure. When Creation sings her song to you, wooing you and wowing you with her beauty, seduction is inevitable and surrender the only option.

Rapturous and voluptuous clouds confirm Brother Sun readily accepts the instruction to shine. And in his shining, he fills every nook and cranny, finding himself slipping through cracks no one thought possible, even at times, appearing as if coming from the bowels of the earth, refracting off complicated sets of angles and mirrors masquerading as flints and glass. He banishes fog bringing clarity by burning off the clouds who get in the way, letting them fade and dissolve. Letting the sun do his work is a lesson for us at any time – light is the most powerful of all instruments when it comes to revealing truths.

Be seduced my friends and yes, surrender. Surrender to the light and to majesty. Bow down to the ants and look up to the pelicans, prostrate yourself to the sky – they are your teachers and you are their apprentice. Let the Master of the Universe with his first brother, Sun, shine in your life, into the dark and dank places to reveal the truth of who you are: full, completed and a loved piece of Creation.


PS: Long before Brother Sun was named by Francis, a mighty warrior hunted the Murray cod and made the river.

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Source accessed 9 July 2016

Out on a limb

Dear Sor Juana,

I am in the northern hemisphere for the beginning of Lent. The season makes more sense on this hemisphere. Early hints of spring: swallows find their way to medieval rooftops and the snow starts to shrink in the distance.

Spring goes out on a limb, stretching into new spaces, not always quite ready to be occupied.

Working to the edge of our discomfort is where growth happens.

Out on a limb

Out on a limb.

Sor Juana, you were in my thoughts while I looked over Assisi, I wondered how you started your Lents? Perhaps you took yourself to the edge of your comfort zone, to find out just how far you needed to go? Francesco and his Friars, ceaselessly tramping around their world joyously proclaiming, working and praying would have had more than the echoes of their voices bouncing off the stones! Building fame through faith and fortitude, was not what his father had in mind for his son – taken to the edge for sure like so many parents past and present! Standing in front of the baptismal font at the family church of San Rufino I took pity on all parents who in good faith welcome a child and then the child belongs the world, and we get taken to our growth edges. As a mother this happens first in our bodies, our hormones, our blood and bones. Then the time comes and we burst with new life. (Perhaps pregnancy is a bit like Lent too. I am in the early stages of my grand mothering apprenticeship and find I am remembering pregnancies and the journey to parenthood most days.)

Going out on a limb is part of any journey. You take a turn in the road, come across an obstacle that needs to be traversed, limbs appear at many junctions and you can go around them, ignore them or go out on them. The uncomfortable places lead you to rely on the generosity of others, wait patiently for the moment to pass, or perhaps be silent to listen and feel explicitly what lesson the limb is inviting you to experience. Staying with the limb and not retreating to a comfortable place is what Lent is about for me, it is where you see the buds appearing, first signs of fruit and nectar being gathered up to make honey.

Biting into harvested fruits and honey is another season and another kind of courage.

Random thoughts on Conducting

I am travelling and among the many opportunities that are coming my way, I have been reflecting on the ability to conduct. Conducting means to organise or carry out, to lead or guide; a transfer of energy. I conduct often for our playback company and it is a mix of a MC and director role, it is a very specialised facilitation practice and I do think of conducting as a practice, just like meditation is a practice. I see conducting all around me. In the mother who orchestrates outcomes to meet her needs; not quite facilitating, more manipulating; the father whose conducting is akin to being master and commander rather than a channel or a vessel. Other elegant examples though appear in the travellers’ aide who enables information to flow to empower and reassure what is going to happen next; in the candle that waits silently for me to light it at the tomb of the saint; in the book gifted by a friend that remains pristine until ready to receive my thoughts.

What situations lend themselves to being conducive? Surely the sunset on the Po delta and sister moon in her fullest glory on the Grand Canale; the blue summer morning sky hosting the swallows circling over the shingled roof tops of the Tuscan valley; the warmth of the fresh wheel of Parmesan cheese about to lie in rest for the next thirty-six months; the taste of fresh produce from the octogenarian’s garden while the nonagenerian shares his memories. My task is to allow myself to receive the transfer of energy and to recognise the conducting of the other – be it human, natural or divine.

Each time I plug-in a device to get recharged, I am reminded just how much I rely on conducting! And the metaphor is not lost on me!

While I travel, I am not disconnected to what is happening at home and I won’t use this blog to reflect on the conduct and conducting of various ALP members in Canberra – that is for another day. All of Australia seemed to be witness to a Shakespearean drama unfolding before its eyes more riveting than any reality TV. The lack of a facilitator or conductor on the set a definite gap.

I do wonder what cabinet, caucus or even the House would be like with a facilitator/ conductor? A chance of harmony breaking out?

I love this little video explaining facilitation.

While I watched the cheese makers today in Parma, I thought about how they were guiding, transferring their energy, conducting the milk, turning it into cheese with their skills, a few simple tools and a blend of knowledge, timing and genuine love of all the ingredients – from the special grass for each of the cows through to the wooden slats holding the 12 metres of cheese row after row quietly sitting in the dark waiting patiently to be ready for release into the market place.

Playback training in Toronto

Playback training in Toronto