The brethren of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield recently gave me a relief depicting St Francis of Assisi after the School Luca della Robbia. For those of you who may not realise, Luca was an Italian 15th century artist from Florence. He is particularly noted for his colourful, tin-glazed terracotta statuary which, in my view is quite stunning. Just pop his details into Google and you will find images of many of his works. For those of you who don’t google then try the local library and they will be able to find you something I am quite sure.
This was indeed very kind of the brethren; but perhaps the fact that it had been broken into several pieces and had lain been in a cardboard box for at least 10 years made parting with it less painful than it might otherwise have been! Indeed it presented me with a very happy challenge.
So I set about sorting out St Francis with the assistance of a very talented friend from Crawshawbooth who managed to arrange the fragmented pieces in the correct place and affix them very firmly together. But in spite of his great efforts there are fractures still to be seen and the right cheek of the saint is missing. In an odd way I rather like it that way.
I can see it from my study window as I have put it amongst the roses that I planted that also came for the Community gardens. The image of St Francis has provenance; it has a story; it’s been bashed about but put together with loving care; it has been restored but retains its blemishes and I will become increasingly fond of it I am sure as it reminds me of the connection that I have with the Community at Mirfield.
This piece of Italian ceramic is a useful metaphor for our own Christian lives. We all have provenance as children of God; we all have a story to be told; we all bear the marks of discipleship; we all know the love of God and his desire to restore us not once but many times.
I am currently reading the biography of St Theresa of Lisieux; it is a most wonderful story of a young girl and her life of faith. In it she observes how “It is so easy to lose heart but I know that if I do not try to take that first step again and again I will never leave the ground.”
Surely this is the beauty of the Faith; a constant returning to God who is always waiting for us to take that small step and discover again and again the depth of his love he has for us, his Church.