Wednesday, December 1, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi...and a Call to Action

This postcard was created by Andrea Jay who lives in New York.  The image shows a person saying "It pays to advertise!"

So what is advertising?  According to Wikipedia:

"Advertising is a form of  communication intended to persuade an audience (viewers, readers, or listeners) to purchase or take some action upon products, ideas, or services.

It includes the name of a product or service and how that product or service could benefit the consumer, to persuade a target market to purchase or to consume that particular brand.

These messages are usually paid for by sponsors and viewed via various media.

Advertising can also serve to communicate an idea to a large number of people in an attempt to convince them to take a certain action."

Saint Francis of Assisi, who is most well known, is the founder of the Franciscan Order and patron saint of such things as the environment and pets. He is well known mostly because of the order which he founded after a life of richness in Assisi, his home town.

He was born to a merchant and enjoyed a rich childhood and his young adult life was plagued with sin. He eventually had a change of heart and gave up all possessions, devoting his entire life to God and poverty, as well as charity.

This poverty is still followed by his order wherein the friars or religious give up all possessions and cannot even handle money. They are a flourishing order and thus he is still well known today.

Given this information about St. Francis, what would be a call to action that one could take as we are nearing the end of 2010?  

One idea is to read the book The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality Into Your Daily Life by John Michael Talbot or Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everybody by Susan Pritchford.

The first book has many suggestions about how to incorporate St. Francis' philosophy into one's everyday life via simplicity, joy, solitude, humility, creativity, community, compassion, creation, service, peace, and prayer. 

In the second book, author Susan Pitchford tells her own story of the Franciscan life as a member of the Third Order, founded by Francis himself so that people from all walks of life could follow the saint's ideal. Pitchford learned that the Franciscan tradition isn't the exclusive possession of friars or cloistered nuns, but a spiritual path for ordinary people living in the twenty-first century.

Either book should be available through your library; and would make for interesting reading and reflection.  If you are so moved, please share how you incorporate the philosophies of St. Francis into your daily life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

St. Francis and the Birds

This beautiful postcard was made by Marina who lives in the United States.  She described how she made the postcard: 

"The postcard is made entirely of fabric and free-motion embroidery with colored threads.  I did sprinkle some really fine glitter on the background fabric and seal it with a spray sealer before I started.

"I cut out the shapes for his corona from some gold cotton, and sewed it down first, then used light colored cotton for his head and hands, and a loose weave for his robe.  The rest is all done with thread and machine embroidery where you "draw" with the thread. 

"The belt for his robe is a piece of cotton string."

The following story is about St. Francis and birds: 

Father Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they moved not.
Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them:
“My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”
At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.
Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.

Later, Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to birds before. And from that day on, Francis made it his habit to solicitously invoke all birds, all animals and reptiles to praise and love their Creator. And many times during Francis’ life there were remarkable events of Francis speaking to the animals. There was even a time when St. Francis quieted a flock of noisy birds that were interrupting a religious ceremony! Much to the wonder of all present, the birds remained quiet until Francis’ sermon was complete.

(The story above is from HERE.)

If you would like to make something for the St. Francis Mail Art Project and have it posted on this website, please see this LINK for more information and the address where to mail your work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Postage Stamps Featuring St. Francis

This collection of Italian postage stamps was emailed to me by Marina.  She heard about the St. Francis Mail Art Project through Swap-Bot

With Christmas only a few months away, it's worth remembering that St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and founder of the Franciscan Order (clerics for the masses rather than for the aristocrats), is said to have been the first to depict a  Nativity Scene (creche, crèche) in Greccio, Italy, around 1223 AD — using life-size wooden figures of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the shepherds.

The word "creche" comes from the French word for "manger," which in turn comes from the Italian word "Greccio", the name of the town having the first nativity manger scene.

St. Francis of Assisi started experiencing unexplained illnesses shortly before he turned 40 years of age. His actual death occured on October 3, 1226 when he was only 45 years of age.

Realizing he was ill as he had started coughing up blood and had other symptoms which he had concern about the brothers seeing, he retreated to the mountains for quite some time. It was in the mountains that St. Francis received the Stigmata.

The brothers were becoming worried that St. Francis would never return to them and his longtime friend and brother in the order, Leo, decided it was time to go up into the mountains and find St. Francis of Assisi and find out if he was alright. What he found was a very ill monk lying in the snows, and he had just received the stigmata and was bleeding from his hands, feet and side.

Because the Pope had actualized the order of the Franciscans years before, the local bishops and priests wished to take care of St. Francis, because by this time his saintliness was well accepted and well known. St. Francis of Assisi had even had time to reconcile with his father over the years, and at the time of his passing there were already several thousands of brothers around the world who were joining the Franciscan Order.

As he laid in a very ornate and fancy bed, St. Francis of Assisi complained that he did not wish to die in such luxury. He preferred to die outside in poverty as he had lived. His brothers understood, although they wished to give him more comfort, they acceded to his wishes and allowed him to return to the austere San Damiano Church where he would speak his last words.

As St. Francis of Assisi was now surrounded by a few brothers he chose to be nearby as he prepared for death, he asked that they read aloud to him the Gospel of John. In a moment of intensity, he asked all his brothers for forgiveness and gave his forgiveness to all those present and not present.

When he passed quietly during the reading, one of the brothers said that he saw the soul of St. Francis of Assisi rise over many waters straight to heaven. He proclaimed that it was like a star, but large like the moon, brilliant like the sun and carried up on a white cloud.

Less than two years after St. Francis' death, plans were underway for the construction of a church in his honor which is now known as the Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.  A doorway in the right transept of the lower church opens into the 13th-century chapter house, which contains a 1340 Crucifixion by Puccio Capanna and a magnificent collection of relics associated with St. Francis. The relics on display include:
  • moth-eaten, patchwork grey tunic worn by St. Francis
  • white tunic worn during the last year of his life
  • hairshirt worn by St. Francis for penance
  • strip of leather chamois that wrapped the stigmata wound in his side
  • sandals made by St. Clare and worn by St. Francis when he was sick
  • linen cloths given by a noble lady in Rome and used to wipe the saint's brow on his deathbed
  • chalice used by St. Francis when he assisted in the Eucharist as a deacon
  • ivory horn given to Francis from the Sultan of Egypt, Malek el Kamel
  • the original Franciscan Rule of 1223 approved by Pope Honorius III, which marked the founding of the Franciscan order
  • Blessing to Brother Leo written in St. Francis' own hand

The town of Assisi, in the center of Italy was built on a hill that has been inhabited for about 4,000 years, and for almost as long it has been a religious center. They say that the stones that were used to build Assisi have absorbed the prayers of the millions of pilgrims that have come there over the centuries. And now, it is believed that the stones radiate a sense of peace and quiet that has a spiritual effect on visitors.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Invitation to Send in Your Artwork

The St. Francis Mail Art Project is an on-going mail art project with an on-line gallery/website.  Artwork is accepted from people of all ages and artistic levels. 

Any item that can be scanned or photographed; and positively depicts one of St. Francis of Assisi's values, beliefs or way of life is welcome. 

For more information and the address where to send your item, please see the first entry on this website.  The direct link is here:

Friday, September 17, 2010

St. Francis and Animals

A second postcard arrived this week for the St. Francis Mail Art Project.  This collage is by Hal who lives in Florida.  There are a variety of different papers and color images used on the postcard that focuses on St. Francis' relationship and care for animals.

Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis deal with his love for animals.  Perhaps the most famous incident that illustrates the Saint's humility towards nature is recounted in the "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers"), a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after the Saint's death.

Hal notes on the back of the postcard that St. Francis was a friend to many types of animal including the ones he noted: bunny, birds, donkey, and squirrel.  Below is a some information about each animal and its relationship to St. Francis of Assisi.


Once, when he was staying in the town of Greccio, a hare was caught in a trap and brought live to Francis by a brother. Seeing the hare, Francis was moved to pity and said, "Brother hare, come here. Why did you let yourself be fooled in this way?"

As soon as the hare was released by the brother, he dashed over to Francis and, without being forced to do so, settled into his lap as the safest place available. When he had rested there a while, Francis was stroking him with maternal affection, let him go so that he could return to the wild.

Each time he was placed on the ground, the hare ran back to Francis' lap. Finally Francis asked that the brothers carry him to a nearby forest. Something similar occurred with a rabbit on an island in the lake of Perugia.

The Swallows

One day Francis came to a town called Alviano. Ascending to where he could be seen by all, he asked for silence. The people became quiet and waited reverently, but a flock of swallows building nests in that place continued to chatter away, making it impossible for the people to hear. Francis spoke to them,
"My sisters the swallows, it's my turn to speak now, because you've already said enough. Listen to the word of God. Stay still and be quiet until it's over."
To the people's amazement, the little birds immediately stopped chattering and did not move until Francis had finished preaching. Those who witnessed this sign were filled with wonder and said, "Truly this man is holy and a friend of the Most High." Praising and blessing God, they devoutly hurried to touch his clothing.


It is said that, one day, while Francis was traveling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds". The birds surrounded him, drawn by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. Francis spoke to them:
My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you... you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore... always seek to praise God.

In the time of St Francis of Assisi he rode a donkey as a sign of his shedding of his wealth and the materialism that he was born into. Legend has it that St. Francis on his deathbed thanked his donkey for carrying and helping him throughout his life, and his donkey wept.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

St. Francis and Love

Received the first postcard for the St. Francis Mail Art Project.  It is from Dewi in Toronto, Ontario (Canada) who sent a pen drawing with the written phrase:  "Lord grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.  St. Francis of Assisi."  Dewi's name is signed in the lower right-hand corner.

The Prayer of Saint Francis is a Christian prayer. It is attributed to the 13th-century saint Francis of Assisi,  although the prayer in its present form cannot be traced back further than 1912, when it was printed in France in French, in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell) as an anonymous prayer.  The prayer has been known in the United States since 1936 and Cardinal Francis Spellman and Senator Hawkes distributed millions of copies of the prayer during and just after World War II. 

The English version of the prayer reads as follows:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

St. Francis Mail Art Project

The St. Francis Mail Art Project is a on-going internet gallery of mail art that is received that positively depicts St. Francis, his life, his writing, and how individuals are living a life that is inspired by St. Francis.

The project is open to any type of print media of any size (no video or audio, please), and each artist's interpretation. Postcards, photographs, textiles, sculpture, mail art, artistamps, many options.

Artists may send their work to:

The St. Francis Mail Art Project
14363 Oren Road North
Scandia, MN 55073

Items will be scanned and/or photographed and uploaded to this website. Artists will receive written acknowledgment on the website. No financial compensation is offered for being showcased on the website. Artwork will not be returned.