The Black Bird

Another stop on my ride last weekend was at Marmion Academy. It’s an all-boys Catholic school situated on a lush expanse of property in Aurora. It’s a very pretty campus with several idyllic places for reflection tucked away in the trees surrounding it.

According to their website, Marmion Academy was founded in 1933 by a handful of Benedictine monks. The “Marmion” moniker comes from the name of an abbot, Columba Marmion, in whose honor the school was named. The Marmion Abbey church is an interesting piece of architecture. I don’t think I’ve seen any other buildings quite like it. It sort of looks like the pope’s hat, in a way.

Photo of Marmion Abbey church

Marmion Abbey Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury (whew! that’s a mouthful)

In front of the church is a wooden carving of Saint Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order.

Photo of Saint Benedict statue

Wooden Carving of Saint Benedict

The bird near his foot made me very curious, so I did some research. The bird references an allegory about St. Benedict:

“On a certain day when he was alone, the tempter presented himself. For a small bird, commonly called a blackbird, began to fly around his face, and came so near to him that, if he wished, he could have seized it with his hand. But on his making the Sign of the Cross, the bird flew away. Then such a violent temptation of the flesh followed as Saint Benedict had never before experienced. The evil spirit brought before his imagination a certain woman he had formerly known, and inflamed his heart with such vehement desire at the memory of her that he had great difficulty in repressing it; and being almost overcome, he thought of leaving his solitude. Suddenly, by Divine Grace, he found the strength he needed, and seeing close by a thick growth of briars and nettles, he stripped off his garment and cast himself into the midst of them. There he rolled until his whole body was lacerated. Thus, through those bodily wounds he cured the wounds of his soul, and was never again troubled in the same way.”
— Source: Discover Catholic Miracles

Photo of bird carving

Black bird tempting Saint Benedict

A fascinating story in its own right, but I also found it particularly interesting because I had recently read The Maltese Falcon. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the elusive falcon is a “black bird” statue which is worth a lot of money. The characters in the story go to great lengths to obtain this statue, including theft, bribery, lying, betrayal, and even murder.

We eventually find out (SPOILER!) that the statue is actually made of gold and encrusted with jewels, but one of its previous owners covered it with black enamel in order to disguise its real value from potential thieves. I think this is an interesting parallel, and perhaps why Dashiell Hammett chose to use a “black bird” as the object of desire as opposed to any other figure. Desire for the statue corrupts nearly everyone who hears about it, except for one person, Sam Spade. Though, ironically, he is no saint.

Well, that’s enough about literature. This is a motorcycle blog, after all! I should get back to my own black bird–the Nighthawk. 😀


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