Columns, Grace Notes

It was all good, and will be again

My journey through the days of Lent and Holy Week this year was made in the presence of St. Francis of Assisi. A St. Francis garden statue, that is.

My friend and co-worker Judy and I had a mutual goal of acquiring St. Francis statues for our gardens. We wanted a statue that conveyed the feeling that St. Francis loved, and was at peace among, nature and its creatures, but in which he appeared less ethereal than he seems to be in many statues. The most appealing St. Francis of Assisi statue that I have seen is the one in the entryway of the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, Minnesota. A vibrant, life-sized bronze statue of St. Francis catches him in playful motion, with a large canine joyfully leaping into the air next to him.

Jean Johansson

By positioning the statue where I did, I think I have a good chance of seeing a living bird perch on it.

When Judy bought a St. Francis statue in late winter and sent a photo of it to me, I asked her to pick one up for me, too. She purchased for me the last St. Francis statue available at a garden center near the small town where she lives. Judy delivered the statue to me the Friday before Ash Wednesday.

The 22-inch-tall statue depicts St. Francis cradling a fawn in his arms. A dog, cat, rabbit, and squirrel are at his feet, looking up at him. Part of what appeals to me about this statue is that, except for the fawn, the animal species are ones that I see daily, and even a fawn sighting isn’t unusual.

I positioned the statue on my fireplace hearth until the snow was melted and winter turned to spring. I liked having St. Francis and his animal companions lend their quiet presence to my home.

And one day …

In mid-May, I placed the statue outside in a garden area where I have a birdbath, bird feeder, spirea bush, white salvia, and black-eyed Susans. Unlike most statues of St. Francis, this one includes no birds. By positioning the statue where I did, I think I have a good chance of seeing a living bird perch on it, in this way acknowledging the legend that St. Francis preached to his “sisters the birds” and they didn’t fly away in fright.

Despite the peaceful co-existence of the creatures depicted in my St. Francis statue, most dogs and cats would be chasing after the squirrel, rabbit, and fawn — and each other. A squirrel, rabbit, or fawn would be unlikely to willingly approach a human. St. Francis believed that God created, and intended, us to be in a harmonious relationship with the natural world. He encouraged people to live into this ideal, as the stewards of God’s creation, believing that everything God created was good, inter-dependent, and praiseworthy.

The current popular phrase, “It’s all good,” is one with which I have struggled. Is it all truly good? I can think of many situations, events, and realities that I don’t consider to be good. A statement repeated several times in the creation account found in the first chapter of Genesis is, “And God saw that it was good.”

A big part of being a Christian is the mandate to focus on making life as good as we can (as in sustainable), for as many as we can, in as many ways as we can. It was all good, and one day it will all be good again.

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