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?

Punch On: Humility and Violence.

Last night, we happened to be cabbing through Fortitude Valley at about 11pm returning from a friend’s birthday dinner.    It has been quite a few years since I was in the Valley at that time of night and not much seems to have changed except for the volume of people on the street.    It was exciting:  every type of person lining up for entry into clubs, colourful Japanese tourists running hand-in-hand across the road, a couple of hen’s nights teetering on stilettos and squealing their exuberance, young men wearing their uniform of fitted T-shirts, jeans and skate shoes, cool-handed bouncers playing Cerberus in regulation black scrutinising ID cards and relative states of intoxication – everything about the Valley shouts “have a GREAT time!”  Even the names of clubs splashed across awnings suggest welcome and togetherness:  “Family”, “Oh, Hello!”, “Birdees”, “Love and Rockets”.    There was none of the seediness that one would inevitably encounter at 8:00am the next morning when people are finally preparing to go home.  

As I watched the smiling, jostling crowds in the Valley, I felt a pang of sadness as tonight, like most weekends, some of these very alive young people will wake up in the emergency room, police watch-house or, all too regularly, not at all.    So much violence in the news over the past week – from the shooting of cinema-goers in Aurora, Colorado, yet another violent attack in one of Australia’s famous entertainment strips.   And now, the violence has to stop.   There has been a massive attempt at trying to understand the root causes of street violence, recorded on the Real Heroes Walk Away campaign news feed, and it appears to be an amalgam of issues.   Some say it is the provision of high-alcohol content drinks or drink promotions such as $5 rum and cokes etc, some say it is a lack of duty of care on behalf of licensed premises who do not take seriously their obligation to see a patron off the premises safely or into a taxi if they are intoxicated, some say it is a lack of police presence, some say it is the late hours that clubs stay open (“nothing good happens after two o’clock”), some say it is a sexist and brutal sports culture that embeds the notion to punch-first-ask-questions-later within the psyche of young males, others say there are insidious and all-pervading amphetamine-based drugs easily available now more so than in any other peiod in our history.

Our Franciscan readings this week focus on the virtue of humility.   Humility is the seed-bed from which courtesy and respect are able to grow, nourished by patience and compassion.    Humility, our authors write, is to accept the small slights from others, to forgive little discourtesies and carelessness, to walk away and not let pride leads us into harsh and violent acts.   The humble person is content enough with themselves to never be goaded but realises their own worthlessness.   Within this, the humble person also recognises how greatly they are loved from the core of their being and when you know you are loved, you wish to treat everyone in the same manner.   Humility and anger are incompatible.   Humility looks upon those who lash out at others as people who are in pain, not as psychopaths who are out of control.

The problem in our society is that a healthy sense of that humility has been lost.    There is a profound lack of respect that is obvious all around us and, sadly, it begins with a lack of self-respect.   Drinking to the point of hospitalisation or blacking out doesn’t suggest to me someone who loves themselves to a great extent.   Respect for all God’s creation means to understand that the life of another is as precious as our own, even if they did bump into us and make us spill our drink.

Let’s try harder to be humble people who cause offence to no one.  In this way, let us be peacemakers.


Sunday, 29th 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 littlesness.   May we be the cradle of peace and goodwill.  Amen.

Monday, 30th 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, 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, 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, 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 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, 2nd August


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.

Friday, 3rd August.

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 ourcountry 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.

Saturday, 4th 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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