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Today’s post is sponsored by Wisdom Tales Press and leads us on a journey to a crossroads where heart, mind, and nature meet.
Author/Illustrator Demi in her book Saint Francis of Assisi brings to life the magnificent stories of this beloved saint through illuminated artwork and brilliant storytelling.
Demi effortlessly re-tales St Francis’ story from son of a wealthy merchant, to relinquishing his life for one of prayer, piety, and poverty.
The joy of reading this book is watching the transformation of St. Francis and understanding of his calling and message to the world, which still endures today.
I was so happy to see some of the better known St. Francis stories such as “Sermon of the Birds”, and “The Wolf of Gubbio,” seamlessly interwoven into the text. This is a masterful re-telling of his life story and an invitation to look further into our own lives.
** A Word on Wisdom Tales Press Books**
Recently we’ve had the honor and pleasure of reviewing several books published by Wisdom Tales Press as they are one of our sponsors. They are truly masters at collecting the world’s wisdom and sharing it in beautiful book editions that are to be treasured, shared, and passed down for years to come. I believe there is a dual benefit in Wisdom Tales Press books. First, it validates and empowers those people who come from these cultures and beliefs. Secondly , it invites those of us who aren’t from these cultures and beliefs, a safe haven to look into a window of our world and take a little wisdom along our own personal life’s journeys.
There is such beauty in the diversity of expression through our cultures and religions, but the one thing we hold in common is that we share this planet earth making us completely connected to one another and to every living thing.
Though my family isn’t Hindu, Catholic, Buddhist, or Native American, we have gleaned so much knowledge from these books and most importantly the seeds of many insightful questions, dialogs, and experiences have been had by everyone at our house. Thank you seems so understated for all the benefits of wisdom we have received. Thank you Again Wisdom Tales Press for your incredible contributions.
Something To Do:
I have to share that the person who absolutely loves St. Francis in this family is my husband, who by the way isn’t Catholic, but he greatly admires St. Francis. Thank you to my husband who filled in the blanks on this book jump and started some really brilliant conversations within our family.
From Rich to Poor:
St. Francis was a wealthy merchant’s son who at first was leading a noble life as a knight. After spending some time in jail, he began to wonder was it all worth it. After being ransomed by his father, St. Francis later fought for the Pope and saw much hardship in the Holy Lands. Again he asked himself if it was all worth it. Finally he gave up all his worldly goods and started an order of monks and nuns to live in poverty and bring kindness and the love of god to all living beings.
Make a list of your favorite belongings: Next place a star next to the ones which would be the hardest to giveaway.
Have a discussion about why these items are hard to giveaway. What special meaning does it hold for you? Could you give it away if you knew it could benefit someone else?
What do you do when you want to get rid of items ? Do you give them to a charitable organization? Do you throw them away?
Go around your house and clean out anything you no longer need. Place it in a bag or box and take it to an organization such as GoodWill, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Veterans of Foreign Wars. Make sure your child is there picking the items to give away and make sure they are with you when you take them to the non-profit organization. Letting go of our possessions is sometimes very hard but when one can see how it can benefit another, is the first steps in letting go.
Sermon of the Birds
“My sister birds, you owe God great gratitude, and should always praise him for all the things he has given you.”
One of St. Francis’ well known stories is that of ” Sermon of the Birds.” You can read the actual story inside the book and see what miracle the birds performed. St. Francis had a great connection to nature and all animals. He especially loved the birds.
Did you know that birds are the messengers of the wilderness and have multiple ways of communicating via their bird song?
Birds have 5 different ways of communicating to each other and believe it or not with us too. Here are the 5 ways a bird communicates:
- Song: Birds have many reasons to sing their beautiful songs. From welcoming the day at sunrise, to finding a mate, defending their territory, or just expressing happiness. Each bird has its own particular song which identifies them.
- Companion/Contact Calls: These are the calls used to keep in touch with their family members and flocks. This is usually a call and response type of conversation.
- Begging: This is the sound baby birds make when they are asking for food. It is usually a constant frenetic sort of crying call.
- Aggressive: This is between birds in the same species. Males fighting over a female or a female bird chasing away other females.
- Alarm: An alarm call alerts other birds about a perceived danger. Ravens and crows are very well known for their alerting calls.
Activity: Five Voices of the Bird
Walk outside to your front or back yard. If you live in the city, head to the park. Feel free to sit down if you’d like for this activity. With a piece of paper and pen, start writing down the various bird calls you hear. The easiest way to start is by watching and listening to the birds on the ground. Do you know what type of bird is making the call? Can you identify which type of call they’re making?
The Wolf of Gubbio and Wolf Tag
St. Francis tamed everything he met, even a dangerous wolf. Read the story of the Wolf of Gubbio in the book and then play a roving game of Wolf Tag.
One child is chosen to be the wolf, another child is chosen to be St. Francis, and everyone else are the villagers of Gubbio. On the word go, the wolf tries to tag the villagers of Gubbio. As each person is tagged, they must sit down where they are. As the wolf is busy tagging the villagers, St. Francis is trying to tag the wolf. Once the wolf is tagged whoever is playing St. Francis must say “let there be peace between you and the people.”
That ends that round of Wolf Tag. Play as often as you like and have players switch roles to keep it fun.
Lady Jacoba’s Honey-Almond Cakes
St. Francis deliberately led a poor life but one thing he loved eating was Lady Jacoba Honey Almond cakes. Try some for yourself. They’re delicious.
1 pound blanched almonds
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Approximately 1 cup of flour
Chop the almonds very fine or coarsely grind in a blender
In a bowl combine the nuts, honey, cinnamon, and egg whites. Mix thoroughly. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a thick paste.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the paste until smooth and stiff. Roll out to about 1/4 inch. Cut into diamond shapes, about 2 1/2 inches long. Place the diamonds on a lightly buttered and floured baking sheet. Let dry for 1 to 2 hours.
Bake in a preheated 250°F oven for 20-30 minutes or until set. Do not let brown.
Yield: about 3 dozen
Here’s another Almond sweet from Italy to try which comes from the same region of Italy as St. Francis.
Paletta di Mandorla
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 cups flour
2 cups almonds, whole, finely chopped, or 4 cups almonds, ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter, sugar and eggs. Add the other ingredients and knead until smooth. Form 2 rolls about 1 inch (3 cm) diameter.
Bake in a preheated moderately hot oven 375°F for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.
When cool, cut into slices 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick, and toast in the oven for 3 minutes.
One With Nature
My son asked this question “why could St. Francis communicate with nature but we can’t ?” as we were discussing this book.
Our response was “Are you sure that’s a true statement ?”
The following activity came about through a very long conversation. The gist of it is this; in the days of St. Francis, spirituality and living were part of the same daily activity. It wasn’t separated like it is today. Everything was scheduled around the seasons of the year and church, synagogue, temple, mosque or other places of worship. In today’s world our work is one section of our life, school another, extra activities another, and our spiritual life another. All wonderfully connected by the automobile. Back in the day, it was all part of one life. No compartments and nature played a huge role.
How do we reconnect with nature, the seasons, and time of day? There are not any right or wrong answers to the following questions but merely ideas for you to put on your bucket list.
- Have you ever been outside to see the sunrise?
- Have you ever sat outside to watch the sunset ?
- Have you ever seen the moon rise ?
- Have you seen the moon in the middle of the night ?
- Have you watched the daily cycles of the moon as it gets larger and smaller ?
- Have you walked through the dew wet grass in the morning in your bare feet ?
- Have you stood in the rain without an umbrella or shoes on ?
- Have you ever seen snow ?
- Have you ever been in the desert ?
- Have you ever climbed a big hill or a tall mountain?
- Have you ever stood by the ocean or sailed on the sea ?
- What do you notice changing as one season leads into another ?
So how to bring an activity that can connect heart,mind, and spirit? St. Francis said it best, ” Sovitur Ambulando…..It is solved by walking. “
The labyrinth is the symbol of unity and wholeness. The labyrinth creates moments of connection to oneself, to another, and to creation as a whole. This walking activity connects us to the greater community of things.
First we had to find a labyrinth near us. Very easily done by searching The World Wide Labyrinth Locator .
Next we discovered how to take a labyrinth walk. There is no one way to do it. Just apply a way which works best for you, your family and belief system.
Walk, Turn, Walk, Turn, Walk, Turn, Walk, Turn…….
Taking a labyrinth walk is a revival of an ancient spiritual custom. The labyrinth, a winding one-way path which leads walkers into and back out of a central space, offers a kind of body meditation which parallels the inner journey of prayer and reflection. You may want to have a journal or paper and pen along with you to write down the insights which might come.
- Begin your journey. Pause at the entrance to the labyrinth to take a cleansing breath and focus your attention. You may ask a question, say a prayer or recite an affirmation. Some people choose to bow or make another ritual gesture to signal the beginning of their walk.
- Walk the inward path. Put one foot in front of the other, and walk at a measured pace that is comfortable for you. On the way in, focus on letting go of things you want to leave behind and releasing things that stand in the way of your spiritual journey. Pause when you need to. Don’t focus on the center as a goal; be present in each step of the inward path.
- Spend time in the center. Take as long as you wish. You may stand, sit, kneel or lie down. This part of the journey is about being present and still.
- Take the return path. When you are ready to leave the center, begin walking back the way you came. On this part of the journey, focus on what you will bring out from the center and back into your life. As before, pause when you need to. Resist the temptation to sprint to the finish line: the return journey is as important as every other part of the labyrinth.
- Reflect on the journey. Pause before you leave the labyrinth. Before leaving the area, take some time to reflect on insights you’ve gained, or make notes in your journal to explore further later. Labyrinth walking is very calming to young children. Just have them walk, one foot in front of the other all the way through and back again.
Our journey into St. Francis of Assisi has left us with many enriched experiences and a myriad of conversations about how to be more connected to nature and each other within the context of our daily lives. Here’s wishing you many happy reading moments and discoveries.