Brother Ash, Sister Flight

Recently I have been thinking about the movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. It is in my Netflix queue, but I keep pushing it to let other things in. It may be time for me to watch it now that I have it on my mind so much. I saw it a long time ago; I wonder what I will think of it now.

For those who are not familiar with this film, it is the story of St. Francis. The name is taken from a canticle of Francis‘ of that same name. If you know me, you know I love me some St. Francis. He is one of my heroes and a truly transformational person, a real agent of God.

Lately I have also been considering post-modern life and its impact on spirituality and faith. How can the post-modern condition and faith be reconciled? It seems at one level impossible and then again, quite possible. This has caused me to pull down a favorite book from the shelf, Meeting Mystery by Nathan Mitchell. Mitchell is writing about sacraments and liturgy, but very much framed in our post-modern times.

Then  I happened to read one of Richard Rohr’s daily meditations entitled, “How Much Time Do I Spend Connected to Nature?” Rohr refers to Francis’ ability to connect with nature in a particular way, which is made clear in the link to Rohr. To St. Francis, he had a “brother” this and a “sister” that for almost everything. He called his own body “brother ass,” referring to how harshly he treated it.

All this led me to consider the contemporary plight of stranded travelers due to the plume of volcanic ash from Iceland. It is quite a reminder of the old theme of literature, man vs. nature… Guess who wins. We love to feel so master-of-the-universe-y by creating technology that can do pretty much anything in pretty much the face of everything.

But we can’t fly through the cloud. And who knows how long this will last? Or even if it ends, when it will happen again?

I am also aware of how much St. Francis’ was in touch with nature. In our postmodern world we like to think about nature a lot, but perhaps more as a commodity, rather than in what it is, which we are a part of.

Brother Ash. Sister Flight. How they struggle with one another in these days.

I imagine myself stranded somewhere, like maybe Paris. Part of that seems good enough, I mean, there are worse places to be stranded! On the other hand, life goes on and work must be attended to, bills paid and so forth. Not to mention, floating the expense of the Parisian extension. Airline vouchers only go so far.

This is no apocalyptic warning, this is no call to admonish our modern ways. It is just a moment to consider our contemporary plight.

We can’t control everything, even if it seems we can. In the nexus of can/can’t there is a space that I think is most revealing. While I find it hard to articulate just what I see there, I am called to spend some time in that space. 

I think some people may think I have lost my mind. I just wonder if at last, I haven’t found it.

It seems to me that God does not call us to be Luddites, but rather calls us to be who we are in the world that we have around us. That may invite us to some, pardon the irresistible pun, deus ex machina moment, who knows.

(That last line was completely unnecessary wasn’t it?)


8 thoughts on “Brother Ash, Sister Flight

  1. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Back in the 70s, "Brother Sun" would show up with "Romeo and Juliet," another Zefferelli stunner. A friend and I would debate which to see first: the one made first? or the one that showed the start of the Franciscan order–because there's a friar in R&J.A good deal of "Brother Sun" was filmed in and around Assisi, using local folks. In the summer of 1980, I worked at a guesthouse there and went to the evening movie that was projected on a huge sheet on the side of a building. People would cheer when their friends came on the screen. It was wonderful.Having said all that, and loving R. Rohr, I must admit that I "don't do nature." I'm certainly brought to a halt now and then by it, but I don't seek it out. I've tried. I can appreciate. But sit me down with a real nature lover and I am flummoxed. I've always been more intrigued by people. And I love the way cities look and feel. And friends will often remind me of how put off I was by the pastor's plan to spend a month at the ocean. My response? "The ocean never shuts up!"


  2. Hi Fran,This is a timely post but unlike you I am reminded of all the apocalyptic films that have been made recently. Nature does have a way of taking the rug from underneath our feet and I find it both scary and reassuring. Scary because no human advance plans are adequate to deal with the force of nature unleashed and it is always a threat. Reassuring because like you, I have a sneaky hope that deus ex machina,( as you so elegantly put it) may be working to poke at us from time to time and puncture our self assurance.Thank you Fran. Nice post for us to reflect on.


  3. I love this post, Fran. It is so very true: Brother Ash, Sister Flight. Mind you, there is an economic aspect to it that is definitely shaking the airlines, the banks, the passengers, the airports (the bonds they need to pay back), the insurance companies that suddenly will have to pay back…Friends in Europe love the plane-free skies, the pollution drops…The 'beauty' of this is its completely unexpected side, and the incredible consequences.Now imagine this happening in the US… the utter chaos, Christmas and Thanksgiving lines for days…Maybe Mother Earth has had enough and wants to get the donkey's attention…Thank you.


  4. I saw Brother Sun Sister Moon long ago and then recently rented it again. Still liked it. I posted a youtube with the Donovan song a while ago :)Thanks for the mention of Nathan Mitchell and Richard Rohr – I haven't heard of them before.


  5. Lovely post; Thank you so much Fran, for thinking these issues through to the Spirit.I'm beginning a long series of meditations at my Cecilia blog prompted by my rediscovery of a book written by a Poor Clare… I'm immersing myself in the Franciscan way as we speak!Love to you.


  6. I recently re-watched it. I wept the first time I saw it…. it is now slightly dated…. but still good.I LOVE LOVE LOVE Nathan Mitchell. He has been life changing for me.blessings dear sister.


  7. Fran, I share your dream of someday being stranded in Paris! I know the volcano has wreaked havoc on world travel and the economy, but it's high time we were "grounded." No matter how smart and sassy we get, the Creator will always astound us and pull us up short. Such love He has for us.I also share your intrigue about the interplay between postmodernism and faith. And I'm quite bullish about it, actually. Its artifice signals to me a necessary step away from "modern" high-handedness and self-reliance. Being unsure we can be sure is never a bad thing!Blessings and thank you,TimPS: Good luck with "BS,SM." I wasn't a fan the first time around–not because of the subject matter, but I found Zefferelli's operatic fondness for period detail too musty for a vital life force like St. Francis.


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