Sunday, July 15, 2012

St. Francis of Moroni

One of my favorite movies is Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun Sister Moon - the story of St. Francis of Assisi.  My wife and I saw it again the other night. This 1972 film, as a product of its day, kind of portrays St. Francis as the first hippie (music by Donovan). But much better than a drug-addled counter-culturist picking flowers, St. Francis served the poor, the lepers, and of course, the birds of the sky and all creatures of our God and King. My wife isn't as taken by the film as I am. You have to remember my personality profile and the fact that it was 1972 in the midst of my teenage angst.

A good scene to sum it all up, very powerful and somewhat disturbing, is when Francesco's friend Bernardo, recently returned from the Crusades, goes out to find his old friend rebuilding the church of San Diamano:

Something connected this time that I hadn't thought of before. Having been to England and Wales and seen the evidences of the veneration of Saints and holy places even in a toned-down officially Protestant country,  it struck me that many of our ancestors converted to Mormonism from those traditions. When they came to Utah, they were inclined to create their own religious myths out of those spiritual yearnings. While based, sometimes remotely, on actual LDS teachings, they may have created stories like that of Moroni wandering the deserts to dedicate the ground for the Manti Temple. (See Ardis's work on this at It's not so different from the little church we visited to escape the rain in the tops of the Black Mountains (when I lost the car keys) that claimed its altar to be built on the site of a shrine built by St. David, Patron Saint of Wales, in the 6th Century.

Sheltered from the rain at St. David's, Llanthony, looking out at the ruins of the Priory
(one of the best parts of the whole trip - even if my wife disagrees)
Back to St. Francis, I am still moved beyond my teenage cravings for idealism as an escape from angst. He was a Crusader, after all. He battled in his youth and later, after his mystical change of life becoming a holy monk dedicated to Sister Poverty and preaching to the poor (and animals), he accompanied the Fifth Crusade to Egypt where he may have preached to Malik al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt. It's hard to separate fact of fiction after nearly 800 years, but some accounts have the Sultan later convert to Christianity on his deathbed. What is fact is that St. Francis and his order were given a special dispensation to reside in Jerusalem and were the protectors of Christian holy sites for centuries.

St. Francis. That's the kind of Crusader I like.

Croce Terrasanta from Wikipedia

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