The Hill

Franciscan Readings for the Christian Year – gladly hosted by the Franciscan Friars (Holy Spirit Province) in Kedron, Australia. Have you seen the view from The Hill?

Bad Parents And Getting On With It.

I am tired of bad parenting.  The perpetual debate about teacher versus parent is now resolved – it’s you, not us.   We have to pretend daily that we don’t know about your dysfunctional marriages and treat your traumatised child as though the nuclear family still exists.  We have to pretend that the atrocious homework and achivement level must be a result of poor independent learning, not in fact a product of shared custody orders where he can’t study because the father he sees once a week is over-compensating with trips to Movie World or what have you.   We cop the abusive and, again, overcompensating email that blames us for a result that was displeasing because in your Frankensteinish family it’s a fun game to rubbish the teacher rather than to detach the bolts from the cobbled together remains of a stable family unit that has been destroyed because mummy needed her space or find herself or daddy ran off with the junior sales assistant.

It’s every day. And it is so tiring.  In my sixteen years of working with young people, I could fill a book with the variety of ways that parents end up hating one another – withholding payments, being late for custodial appointments, surrendering their children because it no longer suits the new boyfriend, allowing their fifteen year olds to get tattoos by way of rendering rapport, nightclubbing with their underage daughters – I have seen it all.  And I continue to see appalling parenting even now. The children just become adjunct to an unhappy marriage and we, teachers, are the worst in the world if we name it.  If I was to say that it is the parents fault that their son self-harms, what would they say?  If I was to suggest that it is the parents fault that their son has an eating disorder or attempted suicide, what would they say?  If I was to say that is the parents fault that their son has now contracted an STI because they allowed him to have unsupervised parties at their place, what would they say?  To abbrogate responsibility is a fine trait of a dysfunctional adult.  And these parents do it so well.   And how DARE we tell them how to raise their kids.  So far is John 3:16, the noble reckoning of a son with much to give and offer the world.

And yet the most popular bible verse is John 3:16 – That God so loved the world that he gave his only son – to us.  That we might live no longer for ourselves but for Christ, to live as we were claimed – as Christians who care for one another.  God surrendered himself in a mystery of love that we can never understand.  To fulfill the scriptures, to redeem humanity, to be our saviour – it is hard for us to reflect upon when we are so caught up in the triviality of a loveless communion that is only going to hurt and never restore.

God, in that infinite wisdom that astounds us, found fulfilment in the crucifxion and resurrection of Christ, so that we might understand that life has meaning, that it is not a temporary moment, but that we will live forever in the joy of a God who loves us to the end.  Jesus, flesh and bone, went through that journey to show us that the there is life beyond the pain.  Why can’t we complete that journey too?  Or are we just too caught up in ourselves?


Sunday, 18th March

A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
What tongue could
tell of this man’s compassion for the poor?
He certainly had an inborn kindness,
doubled by the piety poured out on him.
the soul of Francis melted for the poor,
and to those to whom he could not extend a hand,
he extended his affection.
Any need,
any lack he noticed in anyone,
with a rapid change of thought, he turned back to Christ.
In that way
he read the Son of our Poor Lady in every poor person.
As she held him naked in her hands
so he carried him naked in his heart.
Although he had driven away all envy from himself,
he could not give up his envy of poverty.
If he saw people poorer than himself,
he immediately envied them and,
contending with a rival for poverty
was afraid he would be overcome.
It happened one day when the man of God was going about preaching he met a poor man on the road. Seeing the man’s nakedness, he was deeply moved and, turning to his companion said, ‘This man’s need brings great shame on us; it passes a harsh judgement on our poverty.’ ‘How so, brother?’ his companion replied. The saint answered in a sad voice, ‘I chose Poverty for my riches and for my Lady, but look: she shines brighter in this man. Do you not know that the whole world has heard that we are the poorest of all for Christ? But this poor man proves it is otherwise!’

Monday, 19th March

A reading from ‘The Legend of the Three Companions’

[When Francis was still a young man living with his parents], although he had been for some time a benefactor of the poor, he proposed in his heart never to deny alms to any poor person begging from him for God’s sake, but rather to give more willingly and abundantly than usual. When away from home, if he could, he always gave money to any poor person requesting alms. If he had no money, he gave him his hat or belt, making sure never to send him away empty-handed. If he lacked even these things, he would go to a deserted place, take off his shirt, and give it to the poor man, begging him to take it for the love of God. He would even purchase furnishings for adorning churches, and would secretly send them to poor priests.  When his father was away and he was at home alone with his mother, although only two of them took their meals, he filled the table with loaves of bread as if he were preparing for an entire family. When his mother asked why he put so much food on the table, he answered that it would be given as alms for the poor, since he had resolved to give to anyone begging alms for God’s sake. Because his mother loved him more than the other children, she tolerated him in such matters, noticing the things he did and admiring in his heart many more. For his whole heart was intent on seeing the poor, listening to them, and giving them alms.

Lord, St Joseph, the spouse of Mary, was a father who loved his son.  Let all fathers love their children and make them a citizen of this world.  Amen.

Tuesday, 20th March

A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation

When blessed Francis went to a hermitage of the brothers near Rocca di Brizio to preach to the people of that region, it happened that on the very day that he was to preach, a poor sick man came to him. When he saw him and noticed his poverty and illness, he was moved to piety for him and he began to speak to his companion about the man’s nakedness and illness. ‘It is true, brother,’ his companion said to him, ‘that he is poor, but perhaps there is no one in the whole province who desires riches more.’
Blessed Francis rebuked him for not speaking well and he admitted his fault. Blessed Francis told him, ‘Do you want to do the penance I will tell you?’ ‘Willingly’ he replied. ‘Go, strip off your tunic,’ he said, ‘and go to that poor man naked, throw yourself at his feet, and tell him how you sinned against him, how you slandered him, and ask him to pray for you that God may forgive you.’  So he went and did everything blessed Francis had told him. When he finished, he got up, put on his tunic, and returned to blessed Francis. And blessed Francis said to him, ‘Do you want me to tell you how you sinned against him, and even against Christ?’  And he said, ‘Whenever you see a poor person you ought to consider him in whose name he comes, that is, Christ, who came to take on our poverty and weakness. This man’s poverty and weakness is a mirror for us in which we should see and consider lovingly the poverty and weakness of our Lord Jesus Christ which he endured in his body for the salvation of the human race.’

Lord, let us see you in every person, for you are Christ in us, around us and in us.  Amen.

Wednesday, 21st March

A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
Once when blessed Francis was coming back from Siena he met a poor man, and the saint said to his companion, ‘Brother, we must give back to this poor man the mantle that is his. We accepted in on loan until we should happen to find someone poorer than we are.’ The companion, seeing the need of his pious father, stubbornly objected that he should not provide for someone else by neglecting himself. But the saint said to him, ‘I do not want to be a thief, we will be accused of theft if we do not give to someone in greater need.’ So his companion gave in, and he gave up the mantle.  A similar thing happened at ‘Le Celle’ of Cortona. Blessed Francis was wearing a new mantle which the brothers had gone to some trouble to find for him. A poor man came to the place weeping for his dead wife and his poor little family which was left desolate. The saint said to him, ‘I’m giving you this cloak for the love of God, but on the condition that you do not hand it over to anyone unless they pay well for it.’ The brothers immediately came running to take the mantle away and prevent this donation. But the poor man, taking courage from the father’s look, clutched it with both hands and defended it as his own. In the end the brothers had to redeem the mantle, and the poor man left after getting his price.

Lord, you are our mantle of protection.  Keep us safe always.  Amen.

Thursday, 22nd March

A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.

In Celano in winter time Saint Francis was wearing a piece of folded cloth as a cloak, which a man from Tivoli, a friend of the brothers, had lent him. While he was at the palace of the Bishop of the Marsi, an old woman came up to him begging for alms. He quickly unfastened the cloth from his neck, and, although it belonged to someone else, he gave it to the poor old woman, saying, ‘Go and make yourself a tunic; you really need it.’ The old woman laughed; she was stunned – I do not know if it was out of fear or joy – and took the piece of cloth from his hands. She ran off quickly, so that delay might not bring the danger of having  to give it back, and cut it with scissors. But when she saw that the cut cloth would not be enough for a tunic, she returned to the saint, knowing his earlier kindness, and showed him that the material was not enough. The saint turned his eyes on his companion, who had just the same cloth covering his back. ‘Brother,’ he said, ‘do you hear what this old woman is saying? For the love of God, let us bear with the cold! Give the poor woman the cloth so she can finish her tunic.’ He gave his, the companion offered his as well, and both were left naked so the old woman could be clothed.  With the same fervour, as he was going through the city of Assisi, another old woman met him and asked him for something. As he had nothing except his mantle, he offered it with quick generosity. But then he felt an impulse of empty congratulations, and at once he confessed before everyone that he felt vainglory.

Lord, bear with the cold with us – help us to feel your warmth.  Amen.

Friday, 23rd March

A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul,’ by Thomas of Celano.
The mother of two of the brothers once came to the saint, confidently asking for alms. Sharing her pain the holy father said to Brother Peter of Catanio, ‘Can we give some alms to our mother?’ He used to call the mother of any brother his mother and the mother of all the brothers. Brother Peter replied, ‘There is nothing left in the house which we could give her.’ Then he added, ‘We do have one New Testament, for reading the lessons at matins, since we do not have a breviary.’ Blessd Francis said to him, ‘Give our mother the New Testament so she can sell it to care for her needs, for through it we are reminded to help the poor. I believe that God will be pleased more by the giving than by the reading.’ So the book was given to the woman, and the first Testament in the Order was given away through this sacred piety.

Lord, our mother is amongst us always.  May Mary intercede for us in our prayers. Amen.

Saturday, 24th March

A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul,’ by Thomas of Celano.

At the time when Saint Francis was staying at the palace of the Bishop of Rieti to be treated for his eye disease, a poor woman from Machilone who had the same disease as the saint came to see the doctor.  Then the saint, speaking familiarly to his Guardian, nudged him a bit, ‘Brother Guardian, we have to give back what belongs to someone else.’ And he answered, ‘Father, if there is such a thing with us, let it be returned.’ And he said, ‘Yes, there is this mantle, which we received as a loan from that poor woman; we should give it back to her, because she has nothing in her purse for her expenses.’ The Guardian replied, ‘Brother, this mantle is mine, and nobody lent it to me! Use it as long as you like, and when you do not want to use it any longer, return it to me.’ In fact the Guardian had recently bought it because Saint Francis needed it. The saint then said to him, ‘Brother Guardian, you have always been courteous to me; now, I beg you, show your courtesy.’ And the Guardian answered him, ‘Do as you please, father, as the Spirit suggests to you.’ The saint called a very devout layman and told him, ‘Take this mantle and twelve loaves of bread, and go and say to that poor woman, “The poor man to whom you lent this mantle thanks you for the loan, but now take what is yours.”‘ The man went and said what he was told, but the woman thought she was being mocked, and replied to him, all embarrassed, ‘Leave me in peace, you and your mantle! I do not know what you are talking about!’ The man insisted, and put it all in her hands. She saw that this was in fact no deception, but fearing that such an easy gain would be taken away from her, she left the place by night and returned home with the mantle, not caring about caring for her eyes.

Lord, let us return good for good.  Only we, Lord, can redress the cruelty of this world.  May we be the  fathers and mothers that others cannot be.  Amen.


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