This will be a different post, but one I think perhaps we might all need, including me, after last week.
More than thirty-five years ago, a friend tucked a folded parchment into a Christmas card. It was a letter written by a 16th Century monk, Fra Giovanni. I was inspired by it, so I kept it and took it with me everywhere.
I put it up in my classrooms (extra credit if you can explain it) and on the walls of offices until it was tattered and torn. It takes a little thought since it was written in 1513 thus worded a bit differently than today. But, I savor that and the letter itself is an invitation to look at things deeper, to not be discouraged by what appears on the surface, or be defeated by the challenges of life, but to look at what it may become if you let yourself see possibilities.
Especially once I had responsibility for a large Family Service Department, when I was troubled, stressed, or stymied or when everything seemed to be going to pieces in life or at work, I would take it off the bulletin board and reread it. Depending on my state of mind one line or another would be just the advice I needed. Then, I would thumb tack it back up on the board until the next time.
By 1987, when I finished my MSW, my poor parchment had sticky layers of old, yellowed, tape on the corners and was punched through with holes. For my graduation, I commissioned an artist friend, Janet Greabell, to recreate it and frame it as graduation present for a friend who admired it and who was graduating with me. However, unknown to me, my husband, Doug, had Janet do a duplicate, so I could receive the same gift. The newly elegant framed version hung in my office in Syracuse until I left for a job here in North Carolina in 2007.
Once it was in a frame, it was a little harder to take off the wall, but it has always comforted and inspired me. I hope it will you,,,I have added an emphasis in blue of my favorite “lesson” from the dear monk and inserted one my mind always adds in parenthesis. Fra Giovanni says:
“There is nothing I can give you that you do not already have, but there is much that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today…..Take heaven.
No peace lies in our future which is not hidden in this present moment…Take peace.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow, behind it but within reach is joy. (Reach!) There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see it, and to see it we have only to look…I beseech you to look.
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy, or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it. Grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, the angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an over-shadowing presence.
Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, contain diviner gifts.
And so at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem, and the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.” Fra Giovanni
With gratitude to the good brother for all the wisdom of his words, I echo them in prayers for you that you do search and reach and seek and see, and take…peace.
(For my data junkie friends: Born in 1433, Giovanni Gioconda was originally a Dominican Friar, but later joined the Franciscan order and was an architect and archeologist and classic revivalist.)