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?

On Detention With Your Godfather

Something quite beautiful happened this week. Some boys from our school chose to receive the Sacraments of Initiation which is always a real sign of hope and an occasion of celebration. Within this occasion, though, a very unique event occurred that I couldn’t resist writing about. It was truly a Hill moment.

A Year 12 student had presented himself for the Sacraments of Initiation. He was in the Church with his two best mates from his year level. His godfather, however, was a Year 12 classmate. The manner in which these young men conducted themselves through the very moving liturgy was impressive, yes, but it was the beaming faces, the gestures of support, the hug at the end, the inclusivity and generosity that had been extended mutually by the parties present that made it unique. That a young man of seventeen can desire to belong to our Catholic Church in an era when it has little or nothing to recommend itself is surely evidence of faith. That a young man wants to join with his friends in belonging to our faith tradition is a great honour and also a responsibility.

None of the students mentioned here could be characterised as especially devout, nor even particular well-behaved at times. Words such as “larrikan” may have been applied to them on occasion. And perhaps these students are not gifted with superior intelligence and maybe hitting the town took priority over homework on a couple of weekends. As a matter of fact, godfather and godson have probably spent their share of afternoons in the detention room at the school!

What we can draw from this is the operation of a God of surprises. What moves someone in faith is mysterious and deeply personal. The fact that someone wishes to share that spiritual, personal journey with someone, a Godparent, is a blessed type of relationship that should be characterised by openness and friendship. We all need people in our lives who can teach us to pray, to console in those moments when God is silent, to give us hope when God’s design for us is obscure. We all need someone who can support us in our faith and these people can be found in peraps most unlikely quarters.

In this week’s readings, we find Francis’ spiritual sponsorship, his prayer life and the way that Francis encountered God in silence and contemplation. For these boys who were in the church last Thursday, these lads of whom we are so proud, they don’t need to find the high places or study the Breviary to encounter Christ. Their friendship and love for one another is the best example of Christ-likeness that a new Catholic can ever be given.

Welcome to the family, Jordan!

SUNDAY, 26 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?
He knows.
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, 27th August. ST MONICA

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 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 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.

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, 29th August

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,
past,
present
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.
Amen.

THURSDAY, 30th August

A reading from ‘The Legend of Saint Clare

The usual signs prove
how much strength Glare 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, 31st 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, 1st September

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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