Detail photo St Francis and his 'little sister' by Tracy H Sugg
I’ve always been fond of St Francis, as it seems most people are. One of the things I love about him is his championing the arts; for God is Beauty, therefore, art that is beautiful should be created. However, his popularity in gardens and with wildlife is universally iconic. So I was excited when I received this commission for a bronze sculpture of St Francis. In researching his life, I came across his sermon to the birds (pasted below this note) and I didn’t realize that the sermon would be brought to life for me. At the time, I had a nest of wrens in studio…. every spring the wrens and I go through the same song and dance Though I have finally convinced the squirrels that my studio ceiling is not the best place for a family, the wrens still continue to find a way in. I keep the threshold of my studio door raised a bit, and evidently it’s enough space for the wrens to hop under and inside. While I was away at the Bernini exhibit, the wrens had found a perfect place and built their perfect nest.
They had also found St Francis, whom I was sculpting at the time.
So when I returned there were these cheeky little wrens, all snug in their nest and as I began to work on St Francis, I noticed tiny little bird tracks on the top of his tonsured head!
Ah Well, how fitting that of all my sculptures, it was St Francis that drew their attention. And so was born the full title of the sculpture “St Francis with his Little Sister” inspired by the incident with the wrens, and his sermon below.
For those wanting to know the ‘rest of the story’ the wrens had two babies, (two eggs didn’t hatch) and as I worked daily in the studio, they became familiar with me and would fly past me dozens of times a day as they would creep under the door bringing in food for the wren babies. They’ve fledged now, and I’ve kept the nest with the two unhatched eggs. They were pleasant company in the studio, a soft reminder of St Francis and his life.
My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple rainment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sow, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God.
Saint Francis of Assisi – c1220