Our guide for the day in Spello, Anne, introduced us to a real treasure of a man, Brother Paul. Brother Paul lives simply and alone as the sole custodian of the Franciscan church and adjacent monastery. He has lived there alone for nearly 20 years, living mostly off of the produce he grows in his garden. Anne is his connection to our world. He has no radio or television, nor, I believe, a desire for one.
One year as he gazed out at the beautiful infiorate spread on the streets before him on the feast of Corpus Domini, Brother Paul had the idea that he would like to present such a gift to Jesus too. After the festival was over, he swept up the flower petals from the streets, sorted them by species in jars, and set to work creating his own infiorata. Based on plyboard cut outs, Brother Paul affixes the dried petals to images to create vertical scenes. He displays each year’s infiorata in front of the Franciscan church and his sanctuary is home to all of the ones he’s made in the past, perfectly preserved.
When praised for his work, this humble man replies simply “Io solo gioco con la creazione del Signore” which translated means “I only play with the Lord’s creation.” I was so moved by Brother Paul and his simple devotion. I encourage you to read more about Brother Paul here. If you plan a trip to Umbria, you must include a stop to see him. Contact Anne to make arrangements. You’ll be glad you did.
Here is an example of Brother Paul’s Infiorata. It is translated “Among the trials of life may your soul be as a vigilant bird in a thicket of brambles under shady cloister hidden cries his nocturnal song.”
He created this sculpture which includes a tiny hammer. When he strikes the hammer to the loop the sound reverberates through the chamber.
Brother Paul makes rosaries from seeds he harvests himself from his garden. He had just 3 left; one for each of us. It is a “Franciscan rosary” with just 10 beads (1 decade). I will treasure it always, along with the memory of meeting this true saint.