FRANCIS OF ASSISI, SORTES BIBLICAE, & SAVORY PIE

Although St. Francis of Assisi died in the evening of October 3, 1226, his feast day is celebrated on October 4 due to a misalignment in the medieval and modern-era calendars. Technically, he’s my birthday patron saint, but officially, he’s my daughter’s birthday patron saint. We enjoy arguing over him. “He’s mine.” “Nope, he’s mine.”

You know what? If your name is Frank or any derivative of Francesco in any language; you live in Assisi, San Francisco, or any place named for him; you love animals; you have an affinity for “Brother Sun and Sister Moon;” you agree with his perspective that priests are to be treated with great respect because they’re responsible for the Eucharist; you believe the Sermon on the Mount is our instructions; you appreciate his writings; you’re drawn to the way he cared for the sick, poor, his brothers, and sisters; you’re attracted to his deep humility; or you relate to his little bit of crazy; then St. Francis of Assisi can be your patron saint, too.

Fascinatingly, when you choose your own patron saints, you’ll find them easy to connect with because they’re the ones who’ve been waiting to hear from you.

This is similar to the way Jesus takes every step on our spiritual journey right along with us even though we think we are journeying toward Him but haven’t yet reached Him. He’s not waiting for us to get to Him, He’s waiting for us to recognize Him, right there next to us all along.

There’s a moment in St. Francis’s early life when he recognized Jesus in the eyes of someone afflicted with leprosy. Thereafter, he recognized Him everywhere in everyone. (Francis’s moment is so much more noble than my moment of recognition of Jesus in a Grateful Dead video. But, you know, nevertheless.)

I love researching and writing about St. Francis. He is a beloved and well-known saint throughout the world. He was born in either 1181 or 1182 in Assisi, Italy. He founded the Franciscan Order of Friar Minors and Sisters, lived the gospels in obedience to the Church, traveled in peace to the Middle East during the crusadescreated the first Nativity scene, saw God in everyone and everything, received the Stigmata of Christ Crucified inspired countless people in his lifetime, and continues to inspire us as leaders today.

He is the patron saint of animals and ecology and he’s honored in the Roman Catholic, Anglican (including Episcopal), and Lutheran Churches. St. Francis is a patron saint of Italy (along with St. Catherine of Siena) and many other places throughout the world. Many parishes celebrate his feast day with a Blessing of the Animals on October 4 or the Sunday before or after.

Let’s zoom in to the part of St. Francis’s biography that deals with sortes biblicae. This section originally appeared in my St. Clare of Assisi post:

After Francis publicly renounced his father’s name and inheritance declaring himself a son only of our Father who art in Heaven, he spent two years as a solitary penitent, caring for the lepers with great joy, and repairing churches in the countryside surrounding Assisi. He provided for himself as a day laborer, preferring that to relying on alms. He prayed often with the utmost reverence to Jesus on the Cross whose sacrifice is served at the Communion rail.

And then one day in 1208,

The Lord gave me some brothers. — Testament, St. Francis of Assisi

Bernard of Quintavalle perhaps a former friend of Francis’s, arrived at San Damiano because he was interested in Francis’s life. After a long talk, he gave away all his possessions and joined Francis. At the same time, a poor man from Assisi named Peter also arrived and asked to follow Francis.

Francis had no idea what to do with these men, so he took them to his family’s parish church, San Nicolo di Piazza, to talk to the priest. It should be noted that his obedience and respect for priests came from their caring for the body and blood of Jesus Christ and sharing it in the form of bread and wine. In fact, his later writings contain more references to the divine gift of the Eucharist than to the pursuit of poverty.

In seeking direction, he asked the priest to perform a sortes biblicae, a not-really-sanctioned Church practice that was common among the laity. Sortes biblicae is the opening of a book of gospels and randomly pointing to the verse that reveals God’s will. The three verses the priest opened to were:

Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: then come, follow me. — Mark 10:21

Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. — Luke 9:3

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. — Luke 9:23

And so, together with Francis, the men began to follow the way of Jesus Christ. Francis attracted more followers. Then, upon the advice of Assisi’s Bishop Guido, he traveled to Rome with some of them to ask permission of the pope to base their new order on those three gospel passages. The pope granted his permission and gave them an extra assignment to “preach penitence.” Their order would eventually be known as the Franciscan Order of Friar Minors (lesser brothers).

Now, the Church frowns upon sortes biblicae because we’re supposed to be reading and studying the gospels, not “drawing straws” with the passages. But, it’s not exactly forbidden. In fact, the Church’s opinion here is really more what you might call a guideline than an actual rule.

So, I tried it myself. Here are the three passages I landed on:

Once again Jesus went out besides the lake. — Mark 2:13

Afterwards, Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the sea of Galilee. — John 21:1

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. — Luke 4:42

Okay, so law of attraction does play a part in this game, and I’ve been spending a lot of time alone at the water’s edge. But, that doesn’t mean the message in these passages isn’t valid. They refer to my practice of beach meandering and treasure collecting. My past treasures have been sea glass, shells, coins, a military dog tag and toys delivered upon the surf or mostly buried in the sand. They’ve also been wildlife sightings, weather conditions, and visits with friends, either planned or surprise.

Speaking of friends, one recently requested instructions on how to find sea glass at the beach. This is a recipe I haven’t yet shared here because I believed it wouldn’t be fair to readers who don’t live by the ocean. Yet, once I gave it some real thought, I realized the following instructions can be adapted to finding all kinds of treasures along mountain trails, country lanes, or even city streets. It all depends on your definition of treasure.

HOW TO FIND SEA GLASS AT THE BEACH

OR, HOW TO PLAY SORTES BEACHAE

Wet penny-size piece in a pile of shells at the shoreline

Ingredients

Good walking shoes (if you need them) that you don’t mind getting wet, or bare feet

Up-to-date prescription eye glasses, if you need them

Total acceptance of the idea that you probably won’t find any sea glass at all. Until you do.

Instructions

Walk directly to the shoreline from where you enter the beach. Dip your fingertips into a wave that greets your toes, and make the Sign of the Cross with this “holy water.” Then, begin your walk along the shoreline.

Unless I’m called to veer off towards a big pile of shells, I stick close to the shoreline. That’s the beach’s Thin Place. That’s where I found a military dog tag on Veterans Day 2015, my first day of dedicated beach meandering. The shoreline is also the best place for spotting dolphins or getting up-close looks at pterodactyls (archaic for pelicans) and other sea birds. If you find something along the shoreline, you can be pretty sure it was delivered to you on purpose.

Pray. Pray the Rosary, pray The Lord’s Prayer, or pray “Dear Lord, I would very much like to find some sea glass, if it be Thy will.” This might work, but I don’t specifically ask. I’m more like, “Whatchagot for me today?”

Have a conversation with Jesus as you walk along and every so often a piece of sea glass or other beach meandering treasure will appear on your path in answer to a question or to reinforce an idea.

Believe in the law of attraction. If you want to find sea glass, you will find sea glass.

Be prepared to not find any sea glass at all. Because you’re really not out there for sea glass, you’re out there to be with God in nature. Listen to His ocean, watch His birds, breath His cleansing winds, taste His spray of salt water, feel free to wander guided by Him along a micro spiritual journey.

Remember that brown and clear/white sea glass are the most common colors, but they’re also the colors that camouflage so well in piles of sea shells. That’s why wearing good glasses, if needed, helps.

Dedicate yourself to meandering. Don’t rush your walk. Yes, you are out there for exercise, but you’ll still get a workout even if you go slow.

Look mostly down, but remember to also look up. Gaze at the horizon, sky, and ocean waves. Smile and say, “Hello,” to people as you walk by. Look to little children playing, they’ll remind you of seabirds flitting about.

There’ll be patches of empty sand. That’s when you go fast. You’ll see big piles of shells. If you head towards these piles, located either near the shoreline or further back on the beach (depending on tidal conditions), you’ll have a good chance of finding sea glass mixed in among all those shells, especially if the pile was recently created by the waves.

Accept the fact that you could go out there every day for many days and still not find any sea glass. But, you will find treasure.

Ask your favorite archangel or special saint to help you. Remember that saints intercede for us while angels intervene for us. Maybe a saint, acting on your behalf, will suggest to the Lord that it might be nice for you to find a treasure. And if Jesus wants you to find a certain treasure, an angel will place it on your path.

Understand that every treasure you find out there is a gift from God. Every. Single. One. Upon leaving the beach, make the Sign of the Cross and give thanks for whatever treasures you received that day. Hint: Insight, release, clarity, and joy count as treasure.

Interpret beach meandering treasures as a sign containing a message from God. For example, one recent day I found a bunch of heart-shaped shells and a nickel.

The next day I found a pocket full of sea glass.

This led me to a significant epiphany related to a memory of a kindergarten classmate who gave me the gift of a nickel because he deemed me worthy of 1970’s kindergarten kid’s treasure.

His name was Douglas, which rhymes with sea glass. Because of course it does. I dedicated this stepping stone to him.

Jesus considers me worthy of His treasure as well.

You see what I’m saying here, right? It’s not just me. It’s you, too. Jesus Loves us. His Love is His treasure to us. And our very being is our treasure to Him. There’s nothing we have to do to earn His Love. It’s safe for us to let go of fear. It’s safe for us to trust in His unconditional Love. It’s safe for us to believe He’s got us.

In other words, the real treasure of being with God in nature is being with God. In the same way, the real treasure of the gospels is Jesus Christ.

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ~ Collect for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost

But this doesn’t mean we can’t play a “game of chance” with our Dad now and then, just for fun. Penny ante and all that.

You know, on the surface, it doesn’t seem appropriate to equate St. Francis of Assisi with Jesus Christ. Francis would never have allowed it, even after receiving the Stigmata. On the other hand, he did spend a large part of his life absolutely devoted to following the lessons in the gospels and emulating Jesus as much as humanly possible.

There are many wonderful aspects of St. Francis of Assisi, but his inspiring love of Jesus Christ is his greatest treasure and gift to us. So let’s honor him with a special dish!

Now, I’ve written so many posts about St. Francis of Assisi I pretty much have run out of recipes for him. But, knowing he was a lovely guest in the home of whomever hosted him and he traveled to Rome often and had friends there, I purchased a new cookbook: TASTING ROME: FRESH FLAVORS & FORGOTTEN RECIPES FROM AN ANCIENT CITY by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill.

Overall, this cookbook is deliciously informative and encouragingly delectable! The photos are simultaneously comforting and breathtaking, and the recipes are easy to follow. Highly recommend!

I played sortes cookbookae with it and landed on a recipe I know St. Francis would have enjoyed immensely, especially if a friend served it to him on a feast day:

SAVORY PIE (TORTA RUSTICA)

From TASTING ROME: FRESH FLAVORS & FORGOTTEN RECIPES FROM AN ANCIENT CITY by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill

These photos here are mine. The ones in TASTING ROME are much better.

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for salting the water

1-pound fresh spinach leaves

1-pound fresh Swiss chard

1/4-pound dandelion greens

(Or equivalent. I used one pound of baby spinach leaves and one pound of “spring mix” including Swiss chard and arugula as a substitute for the dandelion greens.)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ carrot, finely grated

½ pound ricotta

1¼ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

4 large eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

1-pound rough puff pastry, homemade (recipe below) or store-bought

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Salt the water. When the water has dissolved, add the spinach, chard, and dandelion greens and blanch for 1 minute, until the stalks are tender. Drain and allow to cool, about 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water very well and chop into small, confetti-size pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, about ten minutes. Add the greens and cook until they are tender and have darkened, 15 minutes more.

Transfer the greens to a large bowl and add the parsley, carrot, salt, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, three of the eggs, and pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line an 8-in pie pan with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg. Set aside.

Slice off a third of the puff pastry and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll the remaining pastry into a 10-inch round, 1/8 inch thick. Place the pastry in the prepared pan, pressing it into the corners and leaving enough overhang to rest on the top edge of the pie pan. Trim the excess pastry with a knife. Spoon the filling into the pastry and level it to the top of the pie pan.

Roll out the reserved pastry into a 10 x 6-inch rectangle. With a knife or fluted pastry wheel, cut it into twelve 1/2-inch-wide strips. Use these to make a lattice over the top of the pie, trimming the excess strips and pressing them to adhere to the edge of the bottom layer of pastry. Brush the lattice with the beaten egg.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove the torta rustica from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. The pie is best served at room temperature. It will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 days; remove it from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

……

Admittedly, this whole recipe takes a long time to complete.

But, I enjoyed the process and now I know how to weave lattice dough!

To achieve a woven lattice: Arrange six strips of dough vertically over the filling, spacing them evenly apart. Gently fold back every other strip three-quarters of the way.

Beginning on the side where the strips are folded back, lay down a new strip of dough horizontally, closest to where the three strips are folded back. Unfold the folded strips so they cover the newly laid strip of dough, and fold back the three strips that were not previously folded. Lay another strip down horizontally, then unfold the folded strips on the top of the newly laid strip.

Repeat with the remaining strips of dough to complete the woven effect.

Trim the strips even with the edge of the pie. Moisten the underside of each with water and press to adhere.

……

Rough Puff Pastry

Makes 2 pounds 3 ounces (1 kilogram) puff pastry

4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon (5 grams) sea salt

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons (500 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces (Yes, this is over one pound or 4 sticks of butter. Yes, the recipe requires this much. It’s not a typo.)

1 cup (240 grams) ice-cold water

I love recipes that have us mixing directly on the counter. Reminds me of my grandmother.

Sift the flower and salt onto a clean, dry surface and make a well in the middle. Add the butter to the well and begin to work the butter into the flour by hand, squeezing the pieces flat as you go. Continue to mix quickly and lightly with your fingertips until the butter is grainy and resembles flour-covered cornflakes in spots.

Sprinkle half the ice water over the mixture and gather the dough into a ball. Add additional water by the teaspoon until a shaggy dough forms. (You may not need all the water.)

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, working in only one direction, roll the dough into a rectangle that is approximately 16 x 8 inches.

With one short edge facing you, fold the top third farthest from you toward the middle, and then the bottom third over that. Turn the dough clockwise a quarter turn, so that an open side faces you. Repeat the rolling-and-turning process. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Repeat the rolling and folding process one more time and allow the dough to chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator before using. It will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator or up to 4 weeks in the freezer.

(Originally posted on 10/3/2017 to Saints and Recipes on Blogger.)

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