Our St. Francis Garden was dedicated in 2006. It serves as a transition from our secular world to a place of worship. The garden invites us to reconciliation and to love in all its forms. St. Francis with his arms open is universal love. He welcomes all of God’s creation, and he is welcoming us. The central statue is 40” tall. At the feet of the saint is a dog representing unconditional love (the basset hound is actually a portrait of Temperance, one of Msgr. Patrick Bishop’s dogs). On the other side are two larks. St. Francis had a particular fondness for the song of the larks, and their hoods reminded him of monks. The birds are bobbing one wing to each other, a gesture of greeting for a gathering flock. They put forth the concept of fraternal love. In front of St. Francis, there is a fox and hare. The fox is presenting his neck to the hare. This is a canine gesture of non-aggression. The hare, instead of cowering is reaching out to the fox. This was conceived to emphasize atonement.

Recently, additional boulders were placed to provide for replanting of a Mission Olive tree. This olive cultivar was brought to the new world by the Franciscans at the time of the Spanish Missions. While it is vulnerable in our area, care will be taken for winter protection.

St. Francis, recognized as a holy man, was often called upon to resolve disputes. He did so by challenging the aggressor to reconcile with victims. An example is the legend of the Wolf of Gubbio. St Francis blessed and befriended a wolf that was terrorizing the townspeople of nearby Gubbio. The story teaches us to overcome fear by loving our enemy and by doing so, forgiving transgressions.

The raised beds extending to the office entrance continue the welcoming garden motif with plantings of biblical flora and a placement boulder for the proposed Wolf of Gubbio. The cistus or rockrose produces ladanum, an aromatic resin harvested since ancient times and used for incense and perfume. Creeping rosemary and thyme provide the ground cover between the cistus shrubs and another olive cultivar planted for pollination. Two upright rosemary shrubs frame the office entrance. The gardens afford us space for reflection, a gracious approach to church, and a welcome for all.

Art & Environment Committee July 2016