“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Can you remember the first time you were “disciplined”? Was it at home in that moment when your parents reacted to you about to undertake an unsafe action? Was it at school when you broke the rules? Was it later in life, when your employer or other authority figure made you account for a wrongdoing?
Discipline is healthy. It’s derivation is unclear but most probably dis-ciplina – to make someone follow you. It is a teaching which is why the appropriate university term for a particular study is a “discipline”. Those of us born before 1980 probably most associate it with corporal punishment, a physical reaction to wrongdoing or ignorance. A violence against the unknowing. I recently watched an episode of The View where they asked the audience who had ever been smacked as a child. A vast majority had and it had “done them no harm” and probably, in fact, taught them a lesson about limits for their own protection.
However, the reading from Hebrews is opposite to this. God does not proverbially “slap” the errant believer, one of his own children. The Lord teaches with love and he shows that love through rebuke and chastening. Let’s just pause to reflect on those two words.
A rebuke is the use of the imperative to limit the other – “No”, “Stop”, “Enough”. How many of our students could hear those words more often?
“Can I go out this weekend?”
“Why not? Everyone will be there!”
“No, they won’t and no YOU won’t.”
“Stop it. No. That’s enough.”
Chastening someone is slightly different. It is a verbal restraint with a subtle reason to keep them single-minded. In this example,
“Can I go out this weekend?”
“Why not? Everyone will be there!”
“Please don’t raise your voice to me. Do you want to discuss what happened last time with … and … ?”
God recalls us constantly to love, no matter what we do. God is a nurturing parent who doesn’t reach for the wooden spoon when we err. We can all recall times when we were struck by an adult and it didn’t teach us anything other than that there is an easy way out. When I was a student, a quick backhander from Sister said volumes but all I learnt was to resent teachers. And, after a few of those, there is a tendency to grow immune to the “discipline” being meted out. I can remember our sportsmaster, Mr Cornwall, punching a classmate and ripping the buttons from his shirt because he did not bring his PE uniform to class. I can also remember being quite afraid of him after that which is no way to encourage a student. I also recall a Sister who hit students in choir for not singing loudly enough and then hitting them for yelling. I think she retired with RSI and carpel tunnel syndrome as a karma, sorry, consequence. In our day, we all have students who have “maxed-out” their capacity to do detentions. That method has failed to work. So why not try God’s way?
God does not love us because we are good, said Murray Bodo ofm, but because God is. God’s inherent goodness means that the silly things we do can be let slide with a quick admonition and the unspoken encouragement to the errant “son” that he can do better. But what about the undisciplined? Those who frustratingly will not follow? What about those times when we just can’t communicate with the student?
Never give up. In our sources, there are several examples of friars who, probably out of the best intentions, just couldn’t get their act together. Even for Jesus, St Peter and the Apostles failed to see the big picture of the Reign of God, constantly taught by Jesus, driving him to distraction. But our inherent love of others will guide us. So long as we don’t want the other to be like us but rather to be the best that they can be, we will have to expend every frustration, every disappointment and every second chance (which is more like third, fourth and fifth chance), in order to help them to see that they have a future ahead that is beautiful and cradled in God’s loving embrace.
A wooden spoon is never going to make a good disciple. A loving mentor who accepts the immaturity and lack of wisdom of the other and tolerates it over and over will produce a good follower of truth and understanding. Then, the joy of teaching, years later this well-rounded, chastened, rebuked but not abused student will become the gentle master of another. And that builds God’s reign on earth.
SUNDAY, 25 August
A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
Francis always sought out a hidden place
where he could join to God
not only his spirit
but every member of his body.
When it happened that he was suddenly overcome in public
by a visitation of the Lord
so as not to be without a cell,
he would make a little cell out of his mantle.
Sometimes, when he had no mantle,
he would cover his face with his sleeve
to avoid revealing the hidden manna.
He would always place something between himself and bystanders
so they would not notice the Bridegroom’s touch.
Even when crowded in the confines of a ship,
he could pray unseen.
Finally, when none of these things was possible,
he made a temple out of his breast.
Forgetful of himself,
he did not cough or groan;
and being absorbed in God
took away any hard breathing or external movement.
Thus it was at home.
But when praying in the woods or solitary places
he would fill the forest with groans,
water the places with his tears,
strike his breast with his hand
and, as if finding a more secret hiding place,
he often conversed out loud with his Lord.
There he replied to the Judge,
there he entreated the Father;
there he conversed with the Friend,
there he played with the Bridegroom.
Indeed, in order to make
all the marrow of his heart a holocaust in manifold ways,
he would place before his eyes
the One who is manifold and supremely simple.
He would often ruminate inwardly with unmoving lips
and, drawing outward things inward,
he raised his spirit to the heights.
Thus he would direct all his attention and affection
towards the one thing he asked of the Lord,
not so much praying as becoming totally prayer.
How deeply would you think he was pervaded with sweetness,
as he grew accustomed to such things?
I can only wonder.
Lord, help us to find the high places, to connect with you, to encounter the sweetness of our love. Amen.
MONDAY, 26th August.
A reading from ‘The Inscription of Brother Leo’ in the Breviary of Saint Francis.
Blessed Francis acquired this breviary from his companions Brother Angelo and Brother Leo, and when he was well he wished always to say the Office, as is stated by the Rule. At the time when he was sick and not able to recite it, he wished to listen to it. And he continued to do this for as long as he lived. He also had the book of the gospels copied, and whenever he would be unable to hear Mass due to infirmity or any other manifest impediment, he had that gospel read to him, which on that day was read at Mass in Church. And he continued to do this until his death. For he used to say, ‘When I do not hear Mass, I adore the Body of Christ in prayer with the eyes of my mind, just as I adore it when I see it during Mass.’ After blessed Francis read the gospel or listened to it, he always kissed the gospel out of the greatest reverence for the Lord. For this reason, Brother Angelo and Brother Leo, as much as they can, humbly beg the Lady Benedetta, the abbess of the Poor Ladies of the Monastery of Saint Clare, and all the abbesses of the same monastery who are to come after her, that in memory of and out of devotion to our holy father Francis, they always preserve in the Monastery of Saint Clare this book out of which he so many times read.
Lord, we are inspired by our spiritual mothers and fathers. May we heed their advice and follow them in your way. Amen.
TUESDAY, 28th August
St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. His mother Lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370· He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life. St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back to Africa from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.
A Prayer of St Francis, inspired by the Lord’s Prayer.
O Our Father most holy:
our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler and Saviour:
Who are in heaven
in the angels and the saints,
enlightening them to know, for you, Lord, are Light;
inflaming them to love, for you, Lord, are Love;
dwelling in them and filling them with happiness,
for you, Lord, are Supreme Good, the Eternal Good,
from whom all good comes
without whom there is no good.
Holy be your Name
may knowledge of you become clearer in us
that we may know
the breadth of your blessings,
the length of your promises,
the height of your majesty,
the depth of your judgements.
Your kingdom come
that you may rule in us through your grace
and enable us to come to your kingdom
where there is clear vision of you,
perfect love of you,
blessed companionship with you,
eternal enjoyment of you.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
that we may love you
with our whole heart by always thinking of you,
with our whole soul by always desiring you,
with our whole mind by always directing all our intentions to you,
and by seeking your glory in everything,
with all our whole strength by exerting
all our energies and affections of body and soul
in the service of your love and of nothing else;
and we may love our neighbour as ourselves
by drawing them all to your love with our whole strength,
by rejoicing in the good of others as in our own,
by suffering with others at their misfortunes,
and by giving offence to no one.
WEDNESDAY, 28th August
– ST AUGUSTINE
This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. “What are we doing?” he cried to his friend Alipius. “Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”
Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, “How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?” Just then he heard a child singing, “Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.
He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: “Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. “Too late have I loved You!” he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion.
A Prayer of St Francis, inspired by the Lord’s Prayer.
Father, give us this day
in remembrance, understanding and reverence
of that love which our Lord Jesus Christ had for us
and of those things that he said and did and suffered for us.
our daily bread
your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Forgive us our trespasses.
through your ineffable mercy
through the power of the passion of your beloved Son
and through the merits and intercession
of the ever-blessed Virgin and all your elect.
As we forgive those who trespass against you
and what we do not completely forgive,
make us, Lord, forgive completely
that we may truly love our enemies because of you
and we may fervently intercede for them before you,
returning no one evil for evil
and we may strive to help everyone in you.
And lead us not into temptation.
hidden or obvious,
sudden or persistent.
But deliver us from evil,
and to come.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now, and shall be forever.
THURSDAY, 29th August
A reading from ‘The Legend of Saint Clare
The usual signs prove
how much strength Clare received in her furnace of ardent prayer,
how sweet the divine goodness was to her in that enjoyment.
For when she returned with joy from holy prayer,
she brought from the altar of the Lord burning words
that also inflamed the hearts of her sisters.
In fact, they marvelled
that such sweetness came from her mouth
and that her face shone more brilliantly than usual.
Surely, in his sweetness,
God has waited upon the poor,
and the True Light
which was already revealed outwardly in her body,
had filled her soul in prayer.
Thus in a fleeting world,
united unfleetingly to her noble spouse,
she delighted continuously in the things above.
Thus, on the wheel of an ever-changing world,
sustained by stable virtue
and hiding a treasure of glory in a vessel of day,
her mind remained on high while her body lingered here below.
It was her custom to come to matins before the younger sisters,
whom she called to the praises by silently arousing them with signs.
She would frequently light the lamps while others were sleeping;
and she would frequently ring the bell with her own hand.
There was no place for tepidity,
no place for idleness,
where a sharp reproof prodded laziness
to prayer and service of the Lord.
FRIDAY, 30th August
A reading from ‘The Third Letter of Saint Clare to Blessed Agnes of Prague
Therefore, dearly beloved, may you too always rejoice in the Lord. And may neither bitterness nor a cloud of sadness overwhelm you, 0 dearly beloved Lady in Christ, joy of the angels and crown of your sisters!
Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your entire being into the image
of the Godhead itself through contemplation.
So that you too may feel what his friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
that God himself has reserved from the beginning
for those who love him.
And, after all who ensnare their blind lovers
in a deceitful and turbulent world
have been completely sent away,
you may totally love him
who gave himself totally for your love,
whose beauty the sun and the moon admire,
whose rewards and their preciousness and greatness
are without end.
SATURDAY, 31st August
A reading from ‘A Mirror of the Perfection of a Lesser Brother
When blessed Francis had chosen from those brothers the ones he wished to take with him, he said to them, ‘Go, in the name of the Lord, two by two along the way, humbly and decently, in strict silence from dawn until terce, praying to the Lord in your hearts. And let no idle or useless words be mentioned among you. Although you are travelling, nevertheless, let your behaviour be as humble and as decent as if you were staying in a hermitage or a cell because wherever we are or wherever we travel, we always have a cell with us. Brother Body is our cell, and the soul is the hermit who remains inside the cell to pray to God and meditate on him. So if the soul does not remain in quiet in its cell, a cell made by hands does little good to a Religious.’
Lord, help us to make a little cell for ourselves in this busy world of ours. Keep us quiet in recollection of your mystery. Amen.
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The above may seem a strange image for this week. It is a relic, the Roman collar of Pope Pius X who was Pope from 1903 until his death in 1914 at the age of seventy-nine. Having seen this relic for myself, I was struck by one feature in particular, as irreverent as it might seem. Around the band of the collar made of canvas covered with watered silk is a yellowing due to perspiration. You can see it here in this image. It would have been very easy for the authorities to have bleached this article of clothing, to have made a pristine and far more antiseptic relic in memory of a tremendous leader of the Church. But, then, that would be as pointless and somewhat sacrilegious as running one of Padre Pio’s mittens through the spin cycle for it then just becomes a mitten.
Picture yourself as Pope Pius X. Each morning, he would rise in the Apostolic Palace and, after his prayers, would put on the vestiture appropriate to his office. Over his shirt, this collar would be the next item of clothing he donned. As he tied the bands to tighten the collar, what thoughts do you think went through his mind? Was it the trials of his duties that would burden him? Was it the stress of endless interviews and audiences with other heads of state in a perilous era? Or was it the pleadings to his beloved Virgin Mary for help from a man born into poverty and who considered himself poor and worthless? And, as he continued to dress, the layers of cassock, mozzetta, constricting fascia might have even resembled the heavy layers of his roles as a Head of State and Servant of the Servants of God.
Pope Pius X has an unfortunate reputation as a conservative, rejecting perceived accretions of the secular world of the Church. He was particularly cautious around popular social causes. From this, he drew much criticism. However, it was he that introduced frequent communion, involving lay people in a vital part of their sacramental life. Having grown up in poverty in Riese near Padua in the now-Italian region of Veneto, Pope Pius X would frequently go to the poor regions of Mantua and Venice and teach the children catechism. He rescued many young people from the collapsed morals that was afforded to them by their lack of material sustenance. Even in Rome, he would be often seen in the courtyard of San Damaso in the Vatican teaching Christian doctrine to poor men and women and, especially, younth. He most famously housed refugees in the Apostolic Palace after the Messina earthquake in 1908, well before the Italian authorities did anything to assist displaced people. His family continued to live a very simple life and Pope Pius drew criticism from the Roman civil authorities when he refused to make his pauper sisters Papal countesses. He said, “I have made them the Pope’s sisters – what more can I do for them?” Pope Pius drew criticism from the very beginning of his pontificate. Instead of having a gold pectoral cross made, he would only wear his simple gilded metal cross. When challenged, he simply stated that that was the only one he had brought with him. Pope Pius cut down on Papal ceremonies, relegating the triple tiara of the Popes to the museum.
He was deeply compassionate which probably explains his love of mariology and the motherhood of Jesus. Even Begnini callled him Mama behind his back, indicating Pius’ beautiful gentleness. He had a heart-attack on the 15 August, 1914. His closest attendants at the time said that he was incredibly sorrowful at the outbreak of World War I. He lasted only five days until another heart-attack brought him home to the Mother he had loved for so long.
Echoes of Pope Francis may be detected here. I’m surprised that Pope Pius X wasn’t a Franciscan, such was his love of the poor. But, then, he knew what it meant to be poor – he said, “I was born poor, I have lived poor and I wish to die poor.” St Francis would say that all creatures are essentially poor but happy! The lilies of the field neither toil or sew, their beauty praises God. What do we care what comes tomorrow when we have God? Easy to say in a life riddled by cares. The pure faith of Pius X and St Francis instructs us and, God knows, it is hard to keep faith at times.
Sometimes when I read (much more than I hear) about the failings of the papacy, the corruption of the Church, the disconnect with the laity, I remember men like Giuseppe Sarto who became Pope Pius X. I think of good men who used their power for good, who stayed true to themselves amid criticism and persecution, who opened their home to the poor and who lived life in the faith with joy and love and compassion.
I wish I could be like that.
SUNDAY – 18 August
A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation’
When Francis washed his hands, he chose a place where the water would not be trampled underfoot after the washing. Whenever he had to walk over rocks, he would walk with fear and reverence out of love for him who is called ‘the Rock’. Whenever he recited the verse of the psalm: ‘You have set me high upon the rock,’ he would say, out of great reverence and devotion, ‘You have set me high at the foot of the rock.’ He also told the brother who cut the wood for the fire not to cut down the whole tree, but to cut in such a way that one part remained while another was cut. He also ordered the brother in the place where he stayed to do the same. He would tell the brother who took care of the garden not to cultivate all the ground in the garden for vegetables, but to leave a piece of ground that would produce wild plants that in their season would produce ‘Brother Flowers’. Moreover, he used to tell the brother gardener that he should make a beautiful flower bed in some part of the garden, planting and cultivating every variety of fragrant plant and those producing beautiful flowers. Thus, in their time they would invite all who saw the beautiful flowers to praise God, for every creature announces and proclaims: ‘God made me for you, 0 people!’ We who were with him saw him always in such joy, inwardly and out- wardly, over all creatures, touching and looking at them, so that it seemed his spirit was no longer on earth but in heaven. This is evident and true, because of the many consolations he had and continued to have in God’s creatures. Thus, shortly before his death, he composed the Praises of the Lord by his creatures to move the hearts of his listeners to the praise of God, and that in his creatures the Lord might be praised by everyone.
Lord, you set us in the rocky fastness and beautify our world with flowers. Grant us always the gift of your natural beauty and may we always protect the gift of the environment from exploitation and harm. Amen.
MONDAY – 19 August
A reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis’, by Thomas of Celano.
Once while Francis was staying near the town of Greccio, a certain brother brought to him a live rabbit caught in a trap. Seeing it, the most blessed man was moved to tenderness. ‘Brother rabbit,’ he said, ‘come to me. Why did you let yourself get caught?’ As soon as the brother holding it let go, the rabbit, without any prompting, took shelter with the holy man, as in a most secure place, resting in his bosom. After it had rested there awhile, the holy father, caressing it with motherly affection, let it go, so that now free it would return to the woods. As often as it was put on the ground, it rushed back to the holy man’s lap, so he told the brothers to carry it away to the nearby forest. Something similar happened with another little rabbit, a wild one, when he was on the island in the Lake of Perugia. He had the same tender feeling towards fish. When he had the chance he would throw back into the water live fish that had been caught, and he warned them to be careful not to be caught again. Once while he was sitting in a little boat at the port on the Lake of Rieti, a fisherman caught a large fish, commonly called a iin, and reverently offered it to him. He accepted it gladly and gratefully, calling it ‘brother’. He put it back in the water next to the little boat, and with devotion blessed the name of the Lord. For some time that fish did not leave the spot but stayed next to the boat, playing in the water where he put it until, at the end of his prayer, the holy man of God gave it permission to leave.
Lord, you give us the capacity to liberate others. May we show gentleness to all people, freeing them from captivity and allowing all a second chance at life. Amen.
TUESDAY – 20 August
A reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis’, by Thomas of Celano.
On another occasion, blessed Francis was travelling through the Marches and Brother Paul was gladly accompanying him when he came across a man on his way to market. The man was carrying over his shoulder two little lambs bound and ready for sale. When blessd Francis heard the bleating lambs, his innermost heart was touched and, drawing near, he touched them as a mother does with a crying child, showing his compassion. ‘Why are you torturing my brother lambs,’ he said to the man, ‘binding and hanging them this way?’ ‘I am carrying them to market to sell them, since I need the money,’ he replied. The holy man asked, ‘What will happen to them?’ ‘Those who buy them will kill them and eat them,’ he responded. At that, the holy man said, ‘No, this must not happen! Here, take my cloak as payment and give me the lambs.’ The man readily gave him the little lambs and took the cloak since it was much more valuable. The cloak was one the holy man had borrowed from a friend on the same day to keep out the cold. The holy man of God, having taken the lambs, now was wondering what he should do with them. Asking for advice from the brother who was with him, he gave them back to the man, ordering him never to sell them or allow any harm to come to them, but instead to preserve, nourish and guide them carefully.
Lord, in the simplest of your creatures, may we draw lessons about purity of heart and defeat our sophistocation and arrogance. Amen.
WEDNESDAY – 21 August
A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation’
Once during summer, blessed Francis was at [Saint Mary of the Portiuncula], and he stayed in the last cell next to the hedge of the garden behind a house where, after his death, Brother Raineri, the gardener, stayed. It happened that one day, as he came down from that little cell, there was a cricket within on the branch of the fig tree next to that cell, and he could touch it. Stretching out his hand, he said, ‘Sister Cricket, come to me.’ It obeyed him at once and began to chirp. This consoled blessed Francis greatly and he praised God. He held it in his hand that way for more than an hour. Afterwards he put it back on the branch of the fig tree from which he had taken it. And in the same way, for eight days constantly, when he came down from the cell, he found it in the same place. And daily he would take it in his hand, and as soon as he told it to sing, touching it, it sang. After eight days, he said to his companions, ‘Let us give permission to our sister cricket to go where she wants. She has consoled us enough; and the flesh might vainglory from this.’ As soon as it had received permission, the cricket went away and never appeared there again. His companions admired how obedient and tame she was to him. Blessed Francis found so much joy in creatures because of love of the Creator, to console him in his inner and outer self, that the Lord made even those that are wild to people become tame to him.
Lord, you are revealed in the smallest of creation. We are your smallest creatures too. May we rejoice in you greatly despite our failings and forever sing your name. Amen.
THURSDAY – 22 August
A reading from ‘The Little Flowers of Saint Francis.’
At the time that Saint Francis was staying in the city of Gubbio, in the district of Gubbio there appeared a very big wolf, fearsome and ferocious, which devoured not only animals but even human beings, so that all the citizens were in great fear, because many times he came near to the city. Saint Francis had compassion on the people of the town, and decided to go out to this wolf, even though all the citizens advised against it. Making the sign of the most holy cross, he went out of the town, he and his companions, placing all his confidence in God. Then that wolf, seeing many citizens who had come to see this miracle, ran towards Saint Francis, who made the sign of the most holy cross on him and called him, ‘Come here, Brother Wolf I command you on behalf of Christ that you do no harm to me or to anyone.’ Immediately, the fearsome wolf closed his mouth and stopped running; and came meekly as a lamb, and threw itself to lie at the feet of Saint Francis, who said, ‘Brother Wolf, you do much harm in this area and you have done great misdeeds, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his permission. You are worthy of the gallows as a thief and the worst of murderers. But I want to make peace between you and these people, so that you do not offend them anymore, and that they may pardon you every past offence, and so that neither the people nor the dogs will persecute you anymore.’ And after these words were said, the wolf showed that he accepted what Saint Francis said and wanted to observe it, by movement of his body and tail and ears and by bowing his head. Then Saint Francis said, ‘Brother Wolf, since it pleases you to make this pact of peace and keep it, I promise that I will have food given to you constantly, as long as you live, by the people of this town, so that you will no longer suffer hunger, since I know very well that you did all this harm because of hunger. But in order for me to obtain this grace for you, I want you to promise me that you will never harm any human person nor any animal. Do you promise me this?’ Saint Francis reached out his hand to receive his guarantee, the wolf lifted his right paw in front of him and tamely placed it on top of the hand of Saint Francis, giving the only sign of a guarantee that he was able to make. Immediately, this news was known throughout the whole city and all the people poured into the piazza to see the wolf with Saint Francis, whogot up and preached to them saying that God allows such things and pestilences because of sins; and the flame of hell, which lasts forever for the damned, is much more dangerous than the fierceness of the wolf, which can only kill the body. Afterwards, that same wolf lived in Gubbio for two years, and he tamely entered the houses without doing any harm to anyone and without any being done to him; and he was kindly fed by the people. Finally, after two years, Brother Wolf died of old age, at which the citizens grieved very much, because when they saw him going through the city so tamely, they better recalled the virtue and holiness of Saint Francis.
FRIDAY – 23 August
A reading from a medieval Franciscan manuscript.
Brother Tebaldo once told us something that he himself had seen. When Saint Francis was preaching one day to the people of Trevi, a noisy and ungovernable ass went careering about the square, frightening the people out of their wits. And when it became clear that no one could catch it or restrain it, Saint Francis said to it, ‘Brother Ass, please be quiet and allow me to preach to the people.’ When the donkey heard this, it immediately bowed its head and, to everyone’s astonishment, stood perfectly quiet. And the blessed Francis, fearing that the people might take too much notice of this astonishing miracle, began saying funny things to make them laugh.
Lord, when we are careering around, frightening others with our carelessness, bring us to a place of calm and serenity. Amen.
SATURDAY – 24 August
A reading from a medieval Franciscan manuscript.
Brother Masseo has said that he was present with the blessed Francis when he preached to the birds. Rapt in devotion, Francis once found by the roadside a large flock of birds, to whom he turned aside to preach, as he had done before to another flock. But when the birds saw him approaching they all flew away at the very sight of him. Then he came back and began to accuse himself most bitterly, saying, ‘What effrontery you have, you impudent son of Pietro Bernardone’ – and this because he had expected irrational creatures to obey him as if he, and not God, were their Creator.
On a personal note, happy birthday to my Life Coach and God-Son, Damon! He would hate this photo but it shows off the very fashionable hat I bought him for his birthday. Happy birthday, mate! God-bro.
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Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Who hasn’t watched X Factor over these last couple of years? It is simultaneously enthralling and cringe-worthy viewing but, for all of its delusional narcissism, it does speak of where these contestants find their treasure, their hearts desire. The more successful talk about how they feel to be on stage, singing and sharing their gift with the world. They are ecstatic, elated, not just about the prospects for fame and fortune but because they have opened their treasure chest and shown the world what precious and unique gifts lay inside. The truly gifted don’t want to “be someone”, they want to be more themselves, perhaps in a culture that spurns the over-achiever (our well-known “tall-poppy syndrome” which was a term first used by Herodotus and Aristotle), bullies or persecutes the truly special and creative people this can be a courageous journey. Franciscan theology teaches us that to allow your gifts to shine forth is not the hallmark of the egomaniacal, but recognises God’s beauty and returns thanks to the God that has given us all the blessings and rewards for which we did not labour. Such is God’s neverending grace.
It exposes the heart, the passions of humanity. It would be a bleak world indeed without those who are prepared to give openhandedly of themselves, to share that treasure which inherently reflects the individual. And yet, we are taught from a young age to be the same, to conform, the O’Callaghan Razor – the nail that sticks out will always get hammered back in. On The Hill, we expect every student to sit upright, to look not right nor left, to never venture a dangerous opinion out of place. We expect students to cope, never to thrive. We expect students to dampen their enthusiasm until scheduled times. We expect them to look a certain way, dress a certain way and speak in a certain way – our way. And, at a basic level, rightly so. Recognising one’s individuality is no excuse for chaos within an institution with norms and benchmarks where respect for the giftedness of others is also important.
However, one can reflect on an institution or a society that doesn’t permit any degree of self-expression. The “while-you’re-living-under-our-roof” argument so often heard by errant teenagers is a bit of a non sequitur because if not during those “nesting” years, then when is one allowed their freedom to express their treasures? It is in those environments where the young are allowed to develop their gifts that we find a future being shaped that is wonderful and enriching for all. Fostering giftedness is vital otherwise we resign ourselves to producing sort of half-people.
The greatest sin in modern education and in Australia’s dysfunctional addiction to being the “underdog”, heard again tonight ad nauseum during the debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, is the lowering of aspirations among students. The dreams are gone, shattered in a maelstrom of bell curves and rank orders. I can still remember being told that, with the subjects I had chosen for my senior year, I could be “a nurse or nothing”. Thanks, Mr Carmichael. Charming. What stops us from dreaming big? What stops us from flinging open that treasure chest within and throwing a generous handful of gold dubloons to a waiting world so in need to beauty and enrichment? The boldness of Christ, the ethereal journey of St Francis, the excellent groundbreakers of our tradition in Bonaventure, Matthew of Aquasparta, Duns Scotus, John Capistrano, Angela of Foligno and so many others, all went out on that ledge that your treasure calls you, not to fall …
… but only to leap and fly.
I can’t believe I found this on YouTube! A great (and very corny song) about giftedness and doing one’s best. FLASHBACK!
READINGS FOR THIS WEEK! LOL!
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Sunday, 11 August.
A Reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis’, by Thomas of Celano
The first work that blessd Francis undertook, after he had gained his freedom from the hands of his carnally-minded father, was to build a house of God. He did not try to build a new one, but he repaired an old one, restored an ancient one. He did not tear out the foundation, but he built upon it, always reserving to Christ his prerogative, although unaware of it, for no one can lay another foundation, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus. When he had returned to the place mentioned where the church of San Damiano had been built in ancient times, he repaired it zealously within a short time, aided by the grace of the Most High. This is the blessed and holy place where the glorious religion and most excellent Order of Poor Ladies and holy virgins had its happy beginning, about six years after the conversion of the blessed Francis and through that same blessed man. The Lady Clare, a native of the city of Assisi, the most precious and strongest stone of the whole structure, stands as the foundation for all the other stones. For after the beginning of the Order of Brothers, when this lady was converted to God through the counsel of the holy man, she lived for the good of many and as an example to countless others. Noble by lineage, but more noble by grace, chaste in body, most chaste in mind, young in age, mature in spirit, steadfast in purpose and most eager in her desire for divine love, endowed with wisdom and excelling in humility, bright in name, more brilliant in life, most brilliant in character.
Lord, Clare was most brilliant of all your saints, endowed with the best of all virtues. Lead us by her example into your divine love. Amen.
Monday, 12 August.
A reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano.
A noble structure of precious pearls arose above this woman, Clare, whose praise comes not from mortals but from God, since our limited understanding is not sufficient to imagine it, nor our scanty vocabulary to utter it. First of all, the virtue of mutual and continual charity that binds their wills together flourishes among them. Forty or fifty of them can dwell together in one place, wanting and not wanting the same things forming one spirit in them out of many. Second, the gem of humility, preserving the good things bestowed by heaven so sparkles in each one that they merit other virtues as well. Third, the lily of virginity and chastity diffuses such a wondrous fragrance among them that they forget earthly thoughts and desire to meditate only on heavenly things. So great a love of their eternal Spouse arises in their hearts that the integrity of their holy feelings keeps them from every habit of their former life. Fourth, all of them have become so distinguished by their title of highest poverty that their food and clothing rarely or never manage to satisfy extreme necessity. Fifth, they have so attained the unique grace of abstinence and silence that they scarcely need to exert any effort to check the prompting of the flesh and to restrain their tongues. Sixth, they are so adorned with the virtue of patience in all these things, that adversity of tribulation, or injury of vexation never breaks or changes their spirit. Seventh, and finally, they have so merited the height of contemplation that they learn in it everything they should do or avoid, and they know how to go beyond the mind to God with joy, persevering night and day in praising him and praying to him.
Lord, bless us with the grace of continual charity, humility, chastity, abstinence and silence in order to find you in the ordinary. Amen.
Tuesday, 13 August
A reading from ‘The Notification of the Death of Clare of Assisi’
To all the sisters of the Order of San Damiano throughout the world, the sisters living in Assisi wish salvation in the Author of Salvation.
Since the sting of a darkening sadness has risen, we embark upon – not without tears – the narration of a report full of sadness. We break faith – not without the sorrowful sounds of mourning – to tell you that the mirror of the morning star, whose image we admired as a type of the true light, has vanished from our sight. The staff of our religion has perished! The vehicle of our profession, I am sorry, to say, has departed from the stadium of the human pilgrimage!
Our Lady Clare, our leader, venerable mother, teacher, was called by the separating best man of carnal bond, that is destructive death, and ascended not long ago to the bridal chamber of her heavenly Spouse.
Her festive ascent from earth, from the shadow of darkness to brilliance, and her celebrated appearance in heaven – although spiritually suggesting joy to the senses – from a temporal point of view, has, nevertheless, overwhelmed our light with an outpouring of grief. While she has taken us from the slippery path of worldly desire and has directed us on the path of salvation, nevertheless, she has left our sight. For by the guilt of our imperfection, perhaps deserved, the Lord was pleased to make the glorious Clare more brilliant with heavenly rays rather than have her graciously remain any longer among her sisters in their earthly places.
Why proceed any further? The depth of this bless&lness does not know any explanation in human terms. But listen to that gift of the Divinity that she received towards the end of her time on earth. The Vicar of Christ with the venerable College of his brothers visited her when she was dying and, because he more graciously remained afterwards and did not pass up the funeral of the deceased, he honoured her body at her burial.
Lord, death is not the end of holiness. In the memory of your servant Clare, let us find an example of prayerful contemplation. Amen.
Wednesday, 14 August – St Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., (Polish: Maksymilian Maria Kolbe; 8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. He was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.Pope John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”. Due to his efforts to promote Consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.
A reading from ‘The Versified Legend of Saint Clare’
Let our mind keep vigil in praise of this virgin and let our voice sound Clare’s praise, extolling her brilliant virtues with praises, sing of her mellifluous conduct, proclaim her radiant deeds. Her excellence puts bodily ailments to flight, drives away the spirits’ frenzies, mitigates the soul’s rage, and compels the wild beasts to be tame. Let us commend ourselves to her exalted merits and blessed prayers, and let us beg the Lord that he would enlighten all the soul’s senses by this virgin’s help and, by her holy prayers, grant serenity to our mind and purify our deeds; that, after the clouds of this world, after the darkness of the present life, he would breathe into tomorrow’s morn, and he would instill the joys of a heavenly life.
Lord, let us see the beauty of every human soul, the reflection of your glory, through the sanctity of Francis and Clare. Amen.
Thursday, 15 August – THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY
A reading from “The Major Legend of St Francis”, by Saint Bonaventure.
Francis embraced the mother of the Lord Jesus with an inexpressible love since she made the Lord of Majesty a brother to us and, through her, we have obtained mercy.
In her, after Christ, he put all his trust and made her the advocate of him and his brothers and, in her honour, he used to fast with great devotion from the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul to the Feast of the Assumption.
He was joined in a bond of inseparable love to the angels who burn with a marvellous fire to pass over into God and in tinflame the souls of the elect.
Out of devotion he used to spend the forty days after the Feast of the Assumption of the glorious Virgin in fasting and continual prayer.
Friday, 16 August
A reading from ‘The Letter of Brother Bonaventure to the Abbess and Sisters of the Monastery of Saint Clare in Assisi’.
To his beloved daughters in Jesus Christ, the Abbess of the Poor Ladies of Assisi in the monastery of Saint Clare, and to all its sisters, Brother Bonaventure, Minister General and servant of the Order of Friars Minor, sends his greeting and wish that you, together with the holy virgins, follow the Lamb and his attendants wherever he goes.
Dear daughters in the Lord, I have recently learned from our dear Brother Leo, once a companion of our holy Father, how eager you are, as spouses of the eternal King, to serve the poor crucified Christ in total purity. I was filled with a very great joy at this, so that I now wish, through this letter, to encourage your devotion and your generous following of the virtuous footprints of your holy mother, who, by means of the little poor man Francis, was taught by the Holy Spirit.
May you desire to have nothing else under heaven, except what that mother taught, that is, Jesus Christ and him crucified. My dear daughters, may you run after the fragrance of his blood according to the example of your mother. May you strongly hold on to the mirror of poverty, the pattern of humility, the shield of patience, the insignia of obedience. And, inflamed by the fire of divine love, may you totally give your heart to him who on the cross offered himself to God the Father for us. Thus you will be clothed with the light of your mother’s example and on fire with the delightful burning flames that last forever. Imbued with the fragrance of all the virtues, you will be the perfume of Christ, the virgin’s Son and the Spouse of the prudent virgins, among those who have been saved and those who are perishing.
Lord, let us follow you to Calvary, to be with you in your moment of trial that we may with those who undergo trials this week. Amen.
Saturday, 17 August
A reading from ‘The Letter of Brother Bonaventure to the Abbess and Sisters of the Monastery of Saint Clare in Assisi’.
Be so attentive in continuing your affections and fervent in the spirit of devotion that when the cry is raised, ‘the Bridegroom is coming,’ you will be able to meet him with faithfulness and with the lamps of your souls filled with the oil of charity and joy. While the foolish virgins are left outside, you will go in with him to the wedding of eternal happiness. Christ will have his spouses sit down there with his angels and chosen ones, will minister to them, and offer them the bread of life and the meat of the Lamb that was slain, roast fish cooked on the cross upon the fire of love, that burning love with which beloved you. Then he will give you a cup of spiced wine, that is, of his humanity and divinity, from which his friends drink and his dearly belovd, while miraculously maintaining their sobriety, drink deeply. While enjoying that abundance of sweetness reserved for those who fear him, you will gaze upon him who is not only the most beautiful of all children but also of all the thousands of angels. It is upon him, moreover, that the angels desire to look, for he is the brightness of eternal light, the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty and the radiance of the glory of paradise.
Therefore, dearly beloved daughters, as you continue to cling to him who is our everlasting good and when he had done good things for you, commend such a sinful person as me to his indescribable kindness. Keep up your prayers that, for the glory and honour of his wonderful name, he will be good enough to guide my steps mercifully in caring for the poor little flock of Christ entrusted to me.
Lord, always faster, higher and stronger is your love for us. Let us with renewed zeal, fly into our future with excitement and wonder. Amen.
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Like many saints, especially women, we tend to prefer the plaster-cast, Pellegrino special that can sit on our mantlepiece, mute with eyes heaven-bound, clad in a nice clean habit, nimbus framing that oh-so beatific non-smiling face. We implore these saints to intercede for us. St Clare, patron saint of television, must be on vacation as Big Brother seems to have made a return to our screens.
St Clare was a renaissance woman, not by virtue of her occupation of a particular epoch in our collective history, but by her forthrightness and the length of her vision. Clare was not going to be demurred from her life’s project of poverty and autonomy by the papacy. Clare was not going to fill the role of medieval Abbess which was not unlike that of a Bishop. Clare was not going to forsake her “brothers”, the friars, simply because it was unbecoming of religious women to associate with men. Indeed, Francis was no different in his relationship with Clare and Jacopa di Settisoli – both exceptions to the Rule of the friars regarding women and the entry into monasteries of “Ladies”.
What I find germane in the mutual story of Francis and Clare is in the intersection at San Damiano. San Damiano, the place where Francis heard the voice of Christ say, “Rebuild my Church,” and the first place that Francis physically rebuilt was the location of the first community of Poor Clares. Chiara Offreduccio, claris praeclara – “The clearest light” – was an Italian woman through and through. There is no evidence that she had ever even left the Commune of Assisi and yet St Clare occupied a new Church both in reality and metaphorically.
This is the lesson we can take from St Clare. We, too, are occupying a Church that is slowly being rebuilt. Like St Clare, it will require us to be strong, simple and clear about our intentions in our faith journey. I predict that in our rebuilt Church, gone are the days of starched linen and highly polished brass. Now are the days or earthiness and bare feet. St Clare wished to feel her faith, not simply observe it going on around her. We are called similarly. As the stones of the original San Damiano had worn away never to be recovered, new stones have replaced them to assemble a sacred place that is forever ancient and ever new. And, as in the story of San Damiano, not everyone was delighted with this.
There are those that would wish to drag us back to the times we can’t reclaim. Both Francis and Clare endured this from their kinsfolk – Clare being physically dragged from the chapel and Francis dragged up the hill from San Damiano to the Piazza della Populo – and anyone who has been there knows what a long and rough torment that must have been. And, in our day, the renovations to the Church initiated by Pope Francis will be stymied by the mainstream bishops and clerics that wish for security once again, a security of the 1950s, a denial of the Royal Commission and a “back turned to the people” attitude both liturgically and in every other way. Pat Power and Geoffrey Robinson, two retired and well-respected bishops of Australia, say that our current of renewal will not go anywhere near enough to restoring our Church. Archbishop Mark Coleridge is perhaps a little too concerned at the moment with renovating the Cathedral and its sacristy which is another kind of makeover.
In her day, St Clare did an enormous amount for bringing faith down to its most basic level – God. No one who has ever sat on the hillside of San Damiano can deny that God is abundantly present in the majesty of creation. The sweeping valley below, punctuated by the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the silver thread of Rivo Torto, the cool breeze that silently but profundly sings God’s praise. What better place for a revolution of spirituality?
And so, we owe much to St Clare. She is not that plaster-statue holding a monstrance to ward off the evil Saracens. She is no hollowed-out figure but a woman whose love and single-minded dedication to a life in Christ is almost too much for us to fathom.
I was completely blown away by this beautiful video! I wish we could all do this once in our lives! Enjoy! 🙂
READINGS FOR THIS WEEK!
SUNDAY, 4th August
‘The Blessing of Clare of Assisi’ to her sisters.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May he show his face to you and be merciful to you. May he turn his countenance to you, my sisters and daughters, and give peace to you, and to all others who come and remain in your company, as well as to others now and in the future who have persevered in every other monastery of the Poor Ladies. I, Clare, a servant of Christ, a little plant of our most holy father Francis, a sister and mother of you and the other poor sisters, although unworthy, beg our Lord Jesus Christ through his mercy and the intercession of his most holy mother Mary and blessed Michael the Archangel and all the holy angels of God, of our blessed father Francis, and all men and women saints, that the heavenly Father give you and confirm for you this most holy blessing in heaven and on earth. On earth, maybe multiply you in his grace and his virtues among his servants and handmaids in his church militant. In heaven, may he exalt you and glorify you among his men and women saints in his church triumphant.
I bless you during my life and after my death, as I am able, out of all the blessings with which the Father of mercies has and does bless his sons and daughters in heaven and on earth and a spiritual father and mother have blessed and bless their spiritual sons and daughters. Amen.
Always be lovers of your souls and those of all your sisters. And may you always be eager to observe what you have promised the Lord.
May the Lord always be with you and may you always be with him. Amen
Lord, like St Clare, may always be lovers of our souls and of those we meet. Let us love through to the heart of everyone, judging no one and glorifying you through our deeds and words. Amen.
MONDAY, 5th August
A reading from ‘The Form of Life of Clare of Assisi.’
After the Most High, heavenly Father saw fit by his grace to enlighten my heart to do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessd father Saint Francis, I, together with my sisters, willingly promised him obedience shortly after his own conversion.
When the blessed father saw we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt of the world, but, instead, regarded such things as great delights, moved by compassion he wrote a form of life for us as follows:
‘Because, by divine inspiration, you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father, and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers always to have that same loving care and solicitude for you as I have for them.’
As long as he lived, he diligently fulfilled this and wished that it always be fulfilled by his brothers.
Shortly before his death he once more wrote his last will for us that we or those, as well, who would come after us would never turn aside from the holy poverty we had embraced. He said,
‘I, little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of his holy mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask and counsel you, my ladies, to live always in this most holy life and poverty. And keep most careful watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone.’
As I, together with my sisters, have ever been solicitous to safeguard the holy poverty which we have promised the Lord God and blessed Francis, so too the Abbesses who shall succeed me in office and all the sisters are bound to observe it inviolably to the end: that is, by notreceiving or having possession or ownership either of themselves or through an intermediary, or even anything that might reasonably be called property, except as much land as necessity requires for the integrity and proper seclusion of the monastery, and this land may not be cultivated except as a garden for the needs of the sisters.
Lord, stripped of all encumberances, let us consider ourselves rich in your infinite blessings that surrounds us daily. Amen.
TUESDAY, 6th August.
– THE TRANSFIGURATION
The Transfiguration of Jesus is an episode in the New Testament narrative in which Jesus is transfigured (or metamorphosed) and becomes radiant upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36) describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16–18 refers to it. In these accounts, Jesus and three of his apostles go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration). On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus. This miracle is unique among others that appear in the Canonical gospels, in that the miracle happens to Jesus himself. Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven. The Transfiguration is one of the five major milestones in the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus, the others being Baptism, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. In Christian teachings, the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment, and the setting on the mountain is presented as the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.
A reading from The Form of Life of Clare of Assisi.’
Let the sisters, to whom the Lord has given the grace of working, work faithfully and devotedly after the Hour of Terce at work that pertains to a virtuous life and the common good. Let them do this in such a way that, while they banish idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all other things of our earthly existence must contribute. At the Chapter, in the presence of all, the Abbess or her Vicaress is bound to assign the work that each should perform with her hands. Let the same be done if alms have been sent by some benefactors for the needs of the sisters, so that, in common, a recommendation may be made for them. All such alms may be distributed for the common good by the Abbess or her Vicaress with the advice of the discerning ones. Let the sisters not appropriate anything, neither a house nor a place nor anything at all; instead, as pilgrims and strangers in this world who serve the Lord in poverty and humility, let them confidently send for alms. Nor should they be ashamed, since the Lord made himself poor in this world for us. This is that summit of the highest poverty which has established you, my dearest sisters, heiresses and queens of the kingdom of heaven; it has made you poor in the things of this world but exalted you in virtue. Let this be your portion which leads into the land of the living. Clinging totally to this, my most beloved sisters, for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and his most holy mother, do not ever wish to have anything else under heaven.
Lord, in your transfiguration you show us the power of conversion. May we be changed, to live like you that we may die like you. Keep us in your care, living only according to our needs. Amen.
WEDNESDAY, 7th August
A reading from ‘The Form of Life of Clare of Assisi.’
Let no sister be permitted to send letters or to receive or give away anything outside the monastery without the permission of the Abbess. Let it not be permitted to have anything that the Abbess has not given or permitted. Should anything be sent to a sister by her relatives or others, let the Abbess give it lovingly to a sister who does need it. If, however, money is sent to her, the Abbess, with the advice of the discerning ones, may provide for the needs of the sister. As for the sick sisters, let the Abbess be strictly bound to inquire with diligence, by herself and through other sisters, what their illness requires, both by way of counsel as well as food and other necessities, and let her provide for them charitably and kindly according to the resources of the place. Because everyone is bound to serve and provide for their sisters who are ill, let them do this as they would wish to be served if they were suffering from some illness. Let each one confidently manifest her needs to the other. For if a mother loves and cherishes her child according to the flesh, how much more diligently should a sister love and cherish her sister according to the Spirit.
THURSDAY, 9th August
, ST MARY OF THE CROSS MACKILLOP
Mary Helen MacKillop (15 January 1842 – 8 August 1909), also known as Saint Mary of the Cross, was an Australian Roman Catholic nun who, together with Father Julian Tenison Woods, founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and a number of schools and welfare institutions throughout Australasia with an emphasis on education for the poor, particularly in country areas. Since her death she has attracted much veneration in Australia and internationally. On 17 July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI prayed at her tomb during his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008. On 19 December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI approved the Roman Catholic Church’s recognition of a second miracle attributed to her intercession. She was canonised on 17 October 2010 during a public ceremony in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican. She is the only Australian to be recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint.
A reading from ‘The Legend of Saint Clare’
Because she was clearly the teacher of the uneducated and, as it were, the director of young women in the palace of the King, Clare taught her sisters with such discipline and encouraged them with such love, that no word will describe it. First of all she taught them to drive every noise away from the dwelling place of the mind so that they might be able to cling to the depths of God alone. She taught them not to be affected by a love of their relatives and to forget the homes of their families so that they might please Christ. She encouraged them to consider the demands of the flesh as insignificant and to restrain the frivolities of the flesh with the reins of reason. She showed them how the insidious enemy lays traps for pure souls, in one way tempting the holy, in another, the worldly. Finally she wanted them so to work with their hands during certain hours that, according to the desire of the founder, they would keep warm through the exercise of prayer and, fleeing the lukewarmness of neglect, would put aside the coldness of a lack of devotion by the fire of holy love.
Nowhere was the strict rule of silence greater;
nowhere was the brightness and the quality of every virtue
There was no lax talk bespeaking a lax spirit
nor a frivolity of words producing a frivolous disposition of mind.
For the teacher herself was sparing in her words
and she abundantly compressed in few words
the desires of her mind.
Lord, in the life of Mary MacKillop we have an example of manna in the desert of the lives of the poor of her time. She was the love that gave them the will to survive. May we follow her example of loving service to the glory of your name and to never see a need without doing something about it. Amen.
FRIDAY, 9th August.
A reading from ‘The Legend of Saint Clare’.
Perhaps it would be better to be silent rather than to speak of her marvellous mortification of the flesh, since Clare did such things that would astonish those who hear of them and they would challenge the truth of these things. For it was not unusual that she covered rather than warmed her frail body with a simple tunic and a poor mantle made of rough material. We should not marvel that she completely ignored the use of shoes. It was not out of keeping for her to fast continually or to use a bed without a mat. For in all these things, she perhaps does not merit any special praise since the other sisters of the enclosure did the same. But what agreement could there be between the flesh of the virgin and a pigskin garment? For the most holy virgin obtained a pigskin garment which she secretly wore under her tunic with its sharp, cutting bristles next to her skin. At other times she would use a rough shirt woven from knotted horsehair which she would tie to her body with rough cords. Once she loaned this garment to one of her daughters who had asked for it; but, after three days, when that sister had worn it, immediately overwhelmed by such roughness, she not only gave it up far more quickly but also more joyfully than when she had asked for it. The bare ground and sometimes branches of vines were her bed, and a hard piece of wood under her head took the place of a pillow. But in the course of time, when her body became weak, she placed a mat on the ground and indulged her head with a little bit of straw. After a long illness began to take hold of her weakened body and the blessed Francis had commanded it, she used a sack filled with straw.
Lord, let us be gentle with ourselves, treating ourselves in a healthy manner. May we recognise that all your people are worthy of love, especially the poor and broken in our midst. Amen.
Saturday, 10th August
ST LAWRENCE OF ROME.
After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom.
A reading from ‘The Versified Legend of Saint Clare‘
As God plans, it is believed that as Clare’s vivacity made her shine with the splendour of deeds,
she is more distinguished by her merits in suffering. Suffering made her victorious, while a vigorous act gave her a splendid crown after vanquishing the enemy. Patience, the virtues’ guardian, preserves her
extraordinary strength, and rejoices at adding new riches. The patience of her sickness does not excel any less, preserving other virtues as if they were the treasure-chest of virtue.
More than the others, it deserves to be made strongly one’s own. The reward of seeking equals preserving what has been sought. Virtue is no less than seeking and protecting what was acquired. Patience is the linchpin of the virtues, a friend of peace. It shines with greater nobility than all others in the hail of virtue. It is seen to be more distinguished among the virtues, and while it preserves and accumulates the others’ riches, it seeks the reward of praise for itself. A noble kind of virtue may be rewarded by endurance: to conquer while suffering. Nothing is more excellent than this kind of virtue. A reward becomes more joyful in patience as the suffering becomes sweeter. When someone afflicted suffers bodily, her spirit is stronger. Virtue frequently is perfected by the weakness of the flesh. Thus frailty becomes delectable, sickness sweet, suffering light. Thus the joyful woman approaches all evils that no complaint or grumbling is made. Not only courageously but joyfully as if delicacies: thus she receives all her illnesses. She seeks great rewards in them for herself. The higher the merit, the more productive her
The greater the merit, the greater the glory.
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What a great week for Pope Francis I! He seemed, by all reports, to have a great time in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, which concluded on Sunday. And the more we learn about the personal holiness of this man, the more a growing sense of optimism twitters through the Catholic Church. No doubt, some power-brokers in the Catholic Church who belong to the total closed system of Church governance and have a vested interest in keeping old divisions alive must be struggling to sit on their hands while they see how this pontificate plays out in the mid to long-term.
Today, the newsfeed was abuzz with Pope Francis’ answer to the question of homosexuality within the Church. “If someone is gay,” the Pope said, “and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Received positively by most sections of society, although described as a ‘largely symbolic’ comment, it bears a little teasing out for the purpose of appreciating our Franciscan readings for this week.
Who am I to judge? And we love to judge. Ironically, it can be the most devout and saintly corners of our community that simply cannot help themselves but to place individuals and groups into comfortable pigeonholes for our own moral satisfaction. The tongue of the judgmental is the middle-finger of xenophobia, raised in an act of singular derision as an affront to decency and charity and equality. The gay community, be they within the Church or outside of the Church, has been battered down, abused and treated with disdain for so long and every bit as much as any other misunderstood minority. And what is the Pope’s answer? Not to embrace or approve or champion the cause but to simply not judge. Mind your own business, is another way of putting it. Interestingly, L’Osservatore Romano in covering the interview with the press and the Pope did not specifically mention his comments about homosexuality and the clergy. The article <<a Tutto Campo>> did, however, go into particular detail about the contents of Pope Francis’ hand luggage.
For me, Pope Francis’ humility, the theme of this weeks readings, shone through in his many discourses throughout the WYD pilgrimage. His visit to the favela of Varginha, his open-air vehicle where he could lean out and touch the pilgrims and catch souvenir T-shirts (when asked about security, he remarked, “There’s craziness wherever you go”), his simple and heartwarming words in a blend of local and official languages. His incredible sensitivity to the disabled and sick. Francis I does not believe himself to be any “better” than anyone he serves. And the refreshing dimension to this is that is not an act for the cameras. The Pope is living his life as authentically as he ever did, faithful in his love of God and of his call to be Christ on earth “now”, a call that applies to each and every one of us. And this requires humility, to allow the other to shine, to suspend our judgments and allow others to live in the light of God who created all of us. Equal.
In the volley of heavy questions about ethics, theology, the reform of the “Vecchio Curia” [old curia], women in the Church and other major issues of gravity, there was that one journalist who wanted to know what the Pope had in his hand-luggage. His response? “Well, certainly not the keys to an atom bomb!” I think the one who holds the keys of St Peter has a few bombs up his sleeve yet ….
READINGS FOR THIS WEEK !!!
Sunday, 28th July.
A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
Francis, the servant of God,
was small in stature,
humble in attitude,
and lesser by profession.
While living in the world
he chose a little portion of the world
for himself and his followers,
since he could not serve Christ
unless he had something of this world.
Since ancient times, prophetically,
this place was called ‘The Little Portion’,
since it was the lot ceded
to those who wished to hold nothing of this world.
In this place
there was a church built for the Virgin Mother,
who by her unique humility
deserved, after her Son, to be the head of all the saints.
It is here the Order of the Lesser Ones
had its beginning.
As their numbers increased,
there ‘a noble structure arose
upon their solid foundation.’
The saint loved this place more than any other.
He commanded his brothers
to venerate it with special reverence.
He wanted it, like a mirror of the Order,
always preserved in humility and highest poverty,
and therefore kept its ownership in the hands of others,
keeping for himself and his brothers only the use of it.
Lord, let us make a home for you in our humility and our littleness. May we be the cradle of peace and goodwill. Amen.
Monday, 29th July
A reading from the Assisi Compilation
Once, close to a chapter that was to be held – which in those days was held annually at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula – the people of Assisi considered that, by the Lord’s grace, the brothers had already increased and were increasing daily. Yet, especially when they all assembled there for a chapter, they had nothing but a poor, small hut covered with straw, and its walls were built with branches and mud, as the brothers had built when they first came to stay there. After a general meeting, within a few days, with haste and great devotion, they built there a large house with stone-and-mortar walls without the consent of blessed Francis, while he was away. When blessed Francis returned from another region and came to the chapter, and saw that house built there, he was amazed. He considered that, seeing this house, the brothers would build or have built large houses in the places where they now stayed or where they would stay in the future. And especially because he wanted this place always to be a model and example for all the places of the brothers, before the chapter ended he got up one day, climbed onto the roof of that house, and ordered the brothers to climb up. And, intending to destroy the house, he, along with the brothers, began to throw the tiles covering it to the ground. The knights of Assisi saw this, as well as others who were there on behalf of the city’s Commune to protect that place from secular people and outsiders who were outside the place, arriving from all over to see the brothers’ chapter. They saw that blessed Francis and the other brothers wanted to destroy that house. They immediately approached them and said to blessed Francis, ‘Brother, this house belongs to the Commune of Assisi and we are here on behalf of the same Commune, and we are telling you not to destroy our house.’ ‘If the house belongs to you,’ answered blessed Francis, ‘I do not want to touch it.’ He and the brothers who were with him immediately came down. That is why for a long time the people of the city of Assisi decreed that every year their Podest [or Mayor], whoever he is, is obliged to have it roofed and repair it if necessary.
Lord, our home is with you. In the establishment of our houses, may we remember that all belongs to you and is to be shared for all people. Let us receive with humble gratitude all that is offered to us and always return good for good. Amen.
Tuesday, 30th July
A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation
Once, the Minister General wanted to build a small house at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula for the brothers of that place where they could sleep and say their Hours. At that time especially, all the brothers of the religion, and those who were coming to the religion, were coming and going to that place. For this reason those brothers were being worn out almost daily. And because of the large number of brothers gathering in that place, they had no place where they could sleep and say their Hours, since they had to give up the places where they slept to others. Because of this they frequently endured a lot of trouble because, after so much work, they could hardly provide for the necessities of their own bodies and the good of their own souls. When that house was already almost finished, blessed Francis returned to that place. While he was sleeping in a small cell one night, at dawn he heard the noise of the brothers who were working there. He began to wonder what this could be. ‘What is that noise?’ he asked his companion. ‘What are those brothers doing?’ His companion told him the whole story. Blessed Francis immediately sent for the Minister and said to him, ‘Brother, this place is a model and example for the entire religion. And it is my will that the brothers of this place endure trouble and need for the love of the Lord God, so that the brothers of the whole religion who come here will take back to their places a good example of poverty, rather than have these brothers receive satisfaction and consolation. Otherwise, the other brothers of the religion will take up this example of building in their places. They will say, “At Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, which is the first place of the brothers, such and such buildings are built, so we can certainly build in our own places, because we do not have a suitable place to stay.”‘
Lord, St Mary of the Angels is a model for humility – a small chapel providing for the basic needs of the first friars. May we recognise that even in the most grandiose, there is a small, vital core of prayer and fraternity. Amen.
Wednesday, 31st July
– ST IGNATIUS LOYOLA
Ignatius of Loyola (Basque: Iñigo Loiolakoa, Spanish: Ignacio de Loyola) (1491 – July 31, 1556) was a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and was its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. Loyola’s devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by unquestioning obedience to the Catholic Church’s authority and hierarchy.
After being seriously wounded at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, he underwent a spiritual conversion while in recovery. De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony inspired Loyola to abandon his previous military life and devote himself to labour for God, following the example of spiritual leaders such as Francis of Assisi. He experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus while at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat in March 1522. Thereafter he went to Manresa, where he began praying for seven hours a day, often in a nearby cave, while formulating the fundamentals of the Spiritual Exercises. In September 1523, Loyola reached the Holy Land to settle there, but was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans.
Between 1524 and 1537, Ignatius studied theology and Latin in Spain and then in Paris. In 1534, he arrived in the latter city during a period of anti-Protestant turmoil which forced John Calvin to flee France. Ignatius and a few followers bound themselves by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1539, they formed the Society of Jesus, approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as well as his Spiritual Exercises approved in 1548. Loyola also composed the Constitutions of the Society. He died in July 1556, was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1609, canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, and declared patron of all spiritual retreats by Pope Pius XI in 1922. Ignatius’ feast day is celebrated on July 31. Ignatius is a foremost patron saint of soldiers, the Society of Jesus, the Basque Country, and the provinces of Guipúzcoa and Biscay.
A reading from The Assisi Compilation
Once when Francis was in Siena for treatment of the disease of his eyes, he was staying in a cell, where after his death a chapel was built out of reverence for him. Lord Bonaventure, who had donated to the brothers the land where the brothers’ place had been built, said to him, ‘What do you think of this place?’ Blessed Francis answered him, ‘Do you want me to tell you how the places of the brothers should be built?’ ‘I wish you would, Father,’ he answered. And he told him, ‘After receiving the bishop’s blessing, let them go and have a big ditch dug around the land which they received for building the place, and as a sign of holy poverty and humility, let them place a hedge there, instead of a wall. Afterwards, they may have poor little houses built, of mud and wood, and some little cells where the brothers can sometimes pray and where, for their own greater decency and also to avoid idle words, they can work. ‘They may also have churches made; however, the brothers must not have large churches made, in order to preach to the people there or for any other reason, for it is greater humility and better example when the brothers go to other churches to preach, so that they may observe holy poverty and their humility and decency.
Lord, let us find our little place in the world. The world provides us a spiritual home. Let us make our home in the world as humble and small friars. Amen.
Thursday, 1st August
ST ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. He was born Alphonsus Marie Antony John Cosmos Damien Michael Gaspard de Liguori on September 27,1696, at Marianella, near Naples, Italy. He was ordained on December 21, 1726, and he spent six years giving missions throughout Naples. In April 1729, Alphonsus went to live at the “Chinese College,” founded in Naples by Father Matthew Ripa, the Apostle of China. There he met Bishop Thomas Falcoia, founder of the Congregation of Pious Workers. This lifelong friendship aided Alphonsus, as did his association with a mystic, Sister Mary Celeste. With their aid, Aiphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on November 9, 1732. For thirteen years Alphonsus fed the poor, instructed families, reorganized the seminary and religious houses, taught theology, and wrote. His austerities were rigorous, and he suffered daily the pain from rheumatism that was beginning to deform his body. He spent several years having to drink from tubes because his head was so bent forward. An attack of rheumatic fever, from May 1768 to June 1769, left him paralyzed. He was not allowed to resign his see, however, until 1775. In 1780, Alphonsus was tricked into signing a submission for royal approval of his congregation. This submission altered the original rule, and as a result Alphonsus was denied any authority among the Redemptorists. Deposed and excluded from his own congregation, Alphonsus suffered great anguish. But he overcame his depression, and he experienced visions, performed miracles, and gave prophecies. He died peacefully on August 1,1787, at Nocera di Pagani, near Naples as the Angelus was ringing. He was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839. In 1871, Alphonsus was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX. His writings on moral, theological, and ascetic matters had great impact and have survived through the years, especially his Moral Theology and his Glories of Mary. He was buried at the monastery of the Pagani near Naples. Shrines were built there and at St. Agatha of the Goths.
A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
Once, a Spaniard, a devout cleric, happened to enjoy some time seeing and talking with Saint Francis. Among other news about the brothers in Spain, he made the saint happy with this report: ‘Your brothers in our country stay in a poor hermitage. They have set up the following way of life for themselves: half of them take care of the household chores and half remain free for contemplation. In this manner each week the active half moves to the contemplative, and the repose of those contemplating returns to the toils of labour. One day, the table was set and a signal called those who were away. All the brothers came together except one, who was among those contemplating. They waited a while, and then went to his cell to call him to table, but he was being fed by the Lord at a more abundant table. For they saw him lying on his face on the ground, stretched out in the form of a cross, and showing no signs of life; not a breath or a motion. At his head and at his feet there flamed twin candelabra, which lit up the cell with a wonderful, golden light. They left him in peace so as not to disturb his anointing. Suddenly the light disappeared and the brother returned to his human self. He got up at once, came to the table, and confessed his fault for being late. ‘That is the kind of thing,’ said the Spaniard, ‘that happens in our country.’ Saint Francis could not restrain himself for joy; he was so pervaded by the fragrance of his sons. He suddenly rose up to give praise, as if his only glory was this: hearing good things about the brothers. He burst out from the depths of his heart, ‘I give you thanks, Lord, Sanctifier and Guide of the poor, you who have gladdened me with this report about the brothers! Bless those brothers, I beg you, with a most generous blessing, and sanctify with a special gift all those who make their profession fragrant through good example!’
Lord, may we always be a good example to young people and to each other. May we be recollected in prayer and spread your good news to all people. Amen.
Friday, 2nd August.
THE FEAST OF OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS OF PORTIUNCOLA
A reading from ‘A Mirror of the Perfection of a Lesser Brother’.
Although blessed Francis knew the kingdom of heaven
was established in every corner of the earth,
and believed that divine grace could be given
to God’s chosen ones in every place,
he nevertheless knew from his own experience
that the place of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula
was especially full of grace
and was filled with visits of heavenly spirits.
So he often told the brothers:
‘See to it, my sons, that you never abandon this place.
If you are thrown out of one door,
go back through another,
for this is truly a holy place,
and the dwelling place of Christ and his Virgin Mother.
the Most High increased our numbers,
when we were only a few;
he enlightened the souls of his poor ones
with the light of his wisdom; here
he kindled our wills with the fire of his love;
all who pray wholeheartedly will receive what they ask
while offenders will be severely punished.
Therefore, my sons, hold this place,
truly the dwelling place of God,
with all reverence
and as most worthy of all honour,
particularly dear to him and to his Mother.
In this place
in cries of joy and praise
with your whole heart
here praise God the Father
and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, we pray for all victims of violence on this feast of Our Lady of the Angels. Let healing and self-control reign in the hearts of those who hurt others and those who have been hurt. Just as people receive grace through this Portiuncola, may the grace and peace of your Son be present in our valleys, streets and places of entertainment. Amen.
Saturday, 3rd August.
A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
Although we learn of the love which made Francis rejoice in the successes of those he loved, we believe this is also a great criticism of those who live in hermitages in a very different way. Many turn the place of contemplation into a place of laziness, and turn the way of life in the hermitage, established for perfection of souls, into a cesspool of pleasure. This is the norm of those modern anchorites for each one to live as he pleases. This does not apply to all; we know saints living in the flesh who live as hermits by the best of rules. We also know that the fathers who went before us stood out as solitary flowers. May the hermits of our times not fall away from that earliest beauty;
may the praise of its justice remain forever! As Saint Francis exhorted all to charity, he encouraged them to show a friendly manner and a family’s closeness. ‘I want my brothers,’ he said, ‘to show they are sons of the same mother, and that if one should ask another for a tunic or cord or anything else, the other should give it generously. They should share books and any pleasant thing; even more, one should urge the other to take them.’ And so that, even in this, he might not speak of anything that Christ has done through him, he was the first to do all these things.
Lord, may we spend time in prayerful contemplation, in simplicity with our hearts raised up to you. Amen.
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WE NEED SAINTS
We need saints without veil or cassock.
We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers.
We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends.
We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their power.
We need saints who have time everyday to pray and who know how to date in purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity.
We need modern saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality that is part of our time.
We need saints committed to the poor and the necessary social changes.
We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world, who are not afraid to live in the world.
We need saints who drink Coke and eat hot dogs, who wear jeans, who are Internet-savvy, who listen to CDs.
We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends.
We need saints who like movies, the theater, music, dance, sports.
We need saints who are social, open, normal, friendly, happy and who are good companions.
We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world but who aren’t of the world.