16 June 2015

St Francis, il Poverello d'Assisi

Saint Francis, il Poverello d’Assisi

Travelling through the Spoleto Valley, the Saint
preached to a company of his feathered
brothers and sisters who had waited
patiently for him in a glade beside the hot
and rock-strewn road.
From the topmost branches
of the tallest trees to the drab bushes
green-dulled with dust thrown
up by a thousand travelling feet,
they watched as the Saint approached.

The Poor Man of Assisi robed in a tunic of humble
undyed peasant wool, bleached by the burning sun
and stained by the rich dark soil of Umbria,
stopped in the centre of a vivid circle
of finely marked plumage. 
Jays elegant in pale coral and black trimmed
with elegant stripes of blue, crests raised,
chattered high up in the trees
and then fell silent as the Saint
raised his hands in a gesture of love.

Eurasian Nuthatches in waistcoats of pale brown
and coats of drab blue-grey, ceased their scurrying
and their busy walks down old gnarled trunks
where a hungry bird might find insects and seeds,
and lifted up their thin black beaks to honour him.
A Little Owl, Athene’s darling, in a sweetly specked robe
of brown and cream, bowed his head in the face
of the unaccustomed mid-day sun,
while jade Kingfishers and Yellow Wagtails
stretched out their wings to bid welcome to the Saint.
“My brothers and my sisters, I greet you”
Francesco spoke in a voice those sweetness
 echoed the passing stream and, with a countenance
as fair as a lily, he smiled upon his avian congregation.
“Here, my brothers and my sisters, we may see
the wonders of God: our brother the resplendent Sun
who lights up the day and our sister Moon
who makes lovely the bleak darkness of night;
and the wind and the rain which scatter and nourish
the burgeoning grains which feed us.

“Praise God for our sister Water whose rivers
slake our thirst and make clean our land;
for brother Fire who warms the long nights of winter
and for our sister Mother Earth, in whose demesne
we have found a a secure place to build our nests,
there to rear our precious  fledglings.
Go in peace now my children and take with you
as you fly the blessing and love of Him
who made you and gave to us all
this extraordinary world.”

As the Saint delivered his blessing,  a solitary Blue Rock Thrush
turned his face towards the distant shimmering mountains
and sang an ethereal Te Deum of thanks and praise.
For here in this sylvan chapel beside a dusty road,
the quiet eager listeners had been moved
by the tenderness and wisdom
of this man of God. 
A random gaggle of birds they would be no longer,
but the grateful denizens of this hallowed place.
Would that we might follow their example.