Though it may be overused, Fyodor DOSTOEVSKY’s saying “beauty will save the world” still remains valid today. In the “Canticle of the Creatures” by St. Francis of Assisi, everything about the beauty of creation, from the merest herb to the brightest star, becomes praise to God the Most High.
Recently, the coronavirus, after making a mockery of our schedules and sense of security, has now forced us friars to stay at home (#noirestiamoinconvento). Perhaps for some, this is really about having to stay put.
This has finally given me a chance to explore and discover my own friary, a place I have rarely been able to stay at because of my continuous commuting as the Assistant General for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP). The first thing I needed to do was to become more acquainted with the friars and the physical spaces of the friary. Thus, I discovered the corridor filled with Friar Armando’s orchids. He had them planted in clusters of vases sitting on old tables. Each table was positioned before its own window so that the orchids could quench their thirst for light. I gradually approached the area, stalking the orchids from one day to the next, until I ended up enjoying their graceful beauty at ground zero and even took pictures of Friar Armando’s lovely companions.
Friar Armando MIAZZON was born in 1933, in Schio, Province of Vicenza, Italy, a town within the Italian Province of St. Anthony of Padua (Northern Italy). Friar Armando has lived at our Friary of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome since 1973. I don’t know how interested he is in orchids, plants and flowers in general, but he treats them with the same gentle attentiveness that he addresses to his work as the gatekeeper of the General Curia at Piazza Ss. Apostoli 51. It has been his job from time immemorial. Friar Armando knows the name of each orchid and where they prefer to be placed. In that way, they get a chance to shine with their own true colors.
Friar Armando is tall and thin. He walks at a solemn pace. He seems – mutatis mutandis – like the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and they, recognizing his voice and sensing his love for them, follow him (since we are talking about orchids, that last verb is meant figuratively). And the orchids repay his love with enchantment for the eyes and the heart. Any friar passing down that corridor, or rather, anyone who is attentive and the takes the time to notice, is thankful for this delicate and free offering of grace, this true cache of beauty.
Yes, it is about taking notice. The coronavirus ordeal has put us in touch with our real selves, with our fears and our psychological coping mechanisms, with our faith and with certain parts of our character that we thought were better. It has given us a head to toe check-up, free of charge. It has also shown us who the friars really are to us and how we are with them (at a safe distance of at least one meter, [four feet], of course).
I believe that when Friar Armando cares for his orchids in the morning, when he marvels at each new shoot and does what is necessary for his older plants, he engages them in a confidential conversation. I dare to think that this “correspondence of such deep affection” (Ugo FOSCOLO) is good medicine for Friar Armando, along with the presence of us friars who truly love him (hopefully) because, like his creatures, Friar Armando, too, is delicate and real. Thus we see how friars can teach us without using a lot of words.
For my part, I sent my friends and confreres some photos of Friar Armando’s orchids under the heading #iorestoacasa It seemed to me that this was enough. Friar Carlos TROVARELLI, our Minister General, used his cell phone to show Friar Armando the photos I would eventually send. Then, the Minister General asked me to publish this little article on the Order’s website. Since the subject was Friar Armando and his orchids, I gladly accepted. I am sure that in all our fraternities we can find a lot of beauty at “ground zero”; it will do us a lot of good to cherish that beauty and rather than pass our brothers by—talk to them—keeping the proper distance. “Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.” (St. Francis, Canticle of the Creatures). Let us take notice, praise and be saved.
Friar Giovanni VOLTAN