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Brother Duck – the latest biographer of St Francis July 5, 2013

Posted by Ted Witham in : Franciscan, Story Telling , 2comments

Jay Stoeckl SFO, Saint Francis and Brother Duck, Paraclete Press 2013, from $US 16.38 online

Reviewed by Ted Witham

French clergyman Paul Sabatier published his Life of St Francis of Assisi in 1893. Since then, there have been hundreds of lives of St Francis. Sabatier’s Life has had a powerful influence on those who followed him, but ironically it was placed on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books because of its unreliable telling of the story.

Jay Stoeckl, a Secular Franciscan from the United States has produced a life of St Francis in part aimed at children. The only invented character in the story is Brother Duck, a drily humorous fellow who followed St Francis after he saved him from the cruelty of soldiers. Brother Duck brings a wry and innocent voice which enables us to hear the thoughts of St Francis as he makes decisions to follow Christ more closely, and to choose Assisi and humility over Rome and glory.

Saint Francis and Brother Duck is a graphic novel, a comic book. It is not the first graphic novel about saint Francis: in the early 1980s, Marvel Comics teamed up with Fr Roy Gasnick OFM to produce the first telling of the story in this style. Jay Stoeckl’s new graphic novel is full colour making the experience of reading the story immediate and bright.

The challenge for those who tell the story of St Francis to children is make sense of the motivations that drove St Francis to defy his parents and to defy the normal pathways of marriage and work. Stoeckl makes good use of the graphic novel genre to make Francis accessible to children. After the scene in front of the cathedral where Francis returns everything of his father including his clothes, Jay Stoeckl shows Francis asking for forgiveness for the hurt that he had done to his family. While there is no evidence of the attitude to his father that Francis held from then on, this invention does help ground St Francis for children.

This would be an appropriate book to put in the hands of any child 8 years and upward, or in the library of any Primary School. While it does not claim to bring new insights to the story of St Francis, it has a high level of detail, making it suitable as a comprehensive introduction to the Saint’s life.

Compating Jay Stoeckl's stigmta scene (left) with that of Roy Gasnick

Comparing Jay Stoeckl’s nativity scene (left) with the stigmata scene of Roy Gasnick

Happy Feast Day August 11, 2011

Posted by Ted Witham in : Franciscan, Provincial Chapter, Resources , add a comment

Dear sisters and brothers,

Today, the Feast of St Clare, is a joyful day in our calendar. I invite you to rejoice in this humble and enduring saint of Assisi, who took the vision of St Francis and made it concrete in her situation.

St Clare inspires to live more generously, to love more unconstrainedly, to sing God’s praises more warmly, and to walk bravely with Christ.

To mark today’s feast, I offer this hymn for you to use as you wish in celebrating St Clare. The hymn is here: http://wp.me/pI7Dl-1L

Peace, joy and love,

Ted Witham.
Minister Provincial

A prayer on the feast of St Clare August 11, 2010

Posted by Ted Witham in : Franciscan , add a comment

“Wait in silence for God, my soul,
for from Him comes my hope.”

We might take as a theme song for the next few days Psalm 62, set for Morning Prayer for the feast of St Clare.

The heart of the Psalmist’s spirituality, his “soul”, has three parts: waiting, deep silence, out of which grow an expectation that God will make known to us the divine presence.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

We human beings are not good at waiting. People today scoff at the idea of waiting. We want it all, and we want it now. This impatient greed throws our common life out of kilter. Those who insist that they should have a new, four-bedroom house, with LCD TV screens – you know the scenario – skew the market so that housing in our country is further out of the reach of the poor. There are too few simpler, cheaper houses.

If, in our life with God, we cannot bear to wait, we will cheapen our prayer-life, and cheat our souls of growth. If, in our life with God, we cannot bear to wait, the strength that comes from bring rooted in community will simply pass us by.

St Clare in Assisi placed waiting at the heart of her life: she knew that there is a right time when we receive God’s gifts. She waited, presumably for quite a time, until it was right for her to leave her home on Palm Sunday 1212 to present herself to Francis as a potential member of his community.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

Silence is also counter-cultural. In a world of continuous entertainment through our different screens and the sound-track of our MP3 players, we have forgotten to nurture silence. It was obvious to our forebears that silence is the language of prayer, and we have crowded it out. Silence always has its coming out: as with light, the silence speaks into the noise, and the noise does not overwhelm us.

Quite.

Quiet.

St Clare would have preferred a more “active” life than the one allowed her by Francis and by the Pope. However, the secluded cloister at San Damiano resounded to a nurturing and empowering silence. Clare made silence her friend, and her sisters in the Poor Clares, and in the Anglican Community of Saint Clare, have continued to make space for God in their choice for silence.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

Waiting, silence, God: three elements of a spirituality. They continue to resound in my soul. In them are my hope and my salvation.

Let the Lady of Assisi sing in your heart over the coming days.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

Bear