– Text provided by Sr. Jean Moore –
The works of Piero Casentini are based on the 13th century Umbrian poem, The Canticle of the Creatures, composed by Francis of Assisi shortly before his death in 1226. Cited as the first poetic work of Italian Literature, the poem sings of his praise for all of God’s Creation, and the familial relationship humans have with the natural world. While Francis did not “craft” this poem, there is a particular structure to it that begins with the praises to the “Most High” God (Altissium, the ultimate) and ends with the word “humility” (humilitate, the least). This “downward mobility” is paramount to Franciscan Spirituality to live among, and on behalf of, the poor and the outcast, and in a dependent relationship with God from whom all gifts come.
In addition, the poem follows the order of natural and human experience. The poem of praise begins with praises to the sources of Light – Brother Sun, Sister Moon and the Stars, continueing with the four basic elements – Brother Wind, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and Sister Mother Earth, and finally the human experience of Pardon and Sister Death. The final line speaks of Francis’s fundamental ethos of gratitude and service for the gifts given in all of Creation. In addition, to the balance of the “Almighty” with “Humility”, the poem holds a balance between the masculine filial relationship of Brother with the feminine relationship of Sister, as well as the divine nature of God as masculine (Altissium) and feminine (Mother Earth).
These renditions of The Canticle of the Creatures were purchased for the Viterbo Collection in recognition o the Core Values of Viterbo University. In particular, we focus on the Value of Stewardship – “practicing responsible use of all resources in our trust” and the Value of Contemplation – “reflecting up on the presence of God in our lives and work”.
In light of the new residence hall, The Canticle House, it is fitting that we take the time to contemplate these images of the Love of God manifested in God’s Created Works as inspiration for our efforts to use responsibly all that is gift from God.