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?

Perfect Joy

“Perfect Joy” in the Franciscan tradition can be misunderstood.    It is kind of an expression that is used to resign oneself to bad fortune or when one has to put up with something difficult or irritating.   Dishwasher is broken – oh, well.  Pefect joy.   Burnt the dinner – oh, well.  Perfect joy.   Someone took the Lifestyle section of the paper – oh, well.  Perfect joy.

In the story of perject joy, the question from Brother Leo, Francis begins by saying that if all the Masters of the University of Paris came to join the Order, he would not rejoice more in this than in the one who cares for the poor and sick.   Francis then goes on to describe the situation where he announces himself at the door of a friary in the dead of night in the wet and cold, soaked and muddy from the road.   The porter in the friary ignores his pleas and in the end sends him to the Crosiers saying, “we have enough of your kind in here already!”  If you remain patient in these situations, then you have the most complete kind of joy.  Perfect joy.

We all know that life is not as simple as that and the patience of a saint is a whole different playing field.   Perhaps we would be filled with rage at being turned away from the friary in the dead of night.   In the story, Francis was certainly persistent.   It mirrors his other sentiments saying, “If the Father casts you out through the door, get back in through a window.”  This dogged determination to throw himself onto the mercy of others with optimism is a hallmark of St Francis’ exceptional resilience.

Hopefully, we too can be resilient like St Francis which is really what perfect joy represents.   When people hate us for who we are, we can bounce back and leave them to their prejudice.   When others treat us with discourtesy and rudeness, we can leave them to reflect on their bad manners.  When events don’t go our way, we can ride it out until it does get better.   And the joy that we experience is derived from inner strength and the pride that comes from overcoming adversity.

Maybe it does take the patience of a saint!

Something a little bit traditional for you for All Saints Day!


Sunday, 28 October

A reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis’, by Thomas of Celano.
Whenever he used to say ‘Your name, O holy Lord’, Francis was moved in a way beyond human understanding. He was so wholly taken up in joy, filled with pure delight, that he truly seemed a new person of another age.  For this reason, he used to gather up any piece of writing, whether divine or human, wherever he found it: on the road, in the house, on the floor. He would reverently pick it up and put in in a sacred or decent place because the name of the Lord, or something pertaining to it, might be written there.  Once a brother asked why he so carefully gathered bits of writing, even writings of pagans where the name of the Lord does not appear. He replied, ‘My son, I do this because they have the letters which make the glorious name of the Lord God. And the good that is found there does not belong to the pagans nor to any human being, but to God alone ‘to whom belongs every good thing.’

Lord, may we treasure your holy name and place it always in a prominent location so that we may be reminded of your loving-kindness.  Amen.

Monday, 29 October

A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation’.
Blessed Francis had this as his highest and main goal: he was always careful to have and preserve in himself spiritual joy internally and externally, even though from the beginning of his conversion until the day of his death he greatly afflicted his body. He used to say that if a servant of God always strives to have and preserve joy internally and externally which proceeds from purity of heart, the devils can do him no harm. They would say, ‘Since the servant of God has joy both in tribulation and in prosperity, we do not know where to find an entrance to enter him and do him harm.’ One day, he reproved one of his companions who looked sad and long-faced. He told him, ‘Why are you sad and sorrowful over your offences? It is a matter between you and God. Pray to him, that by his mercy he may grant you the joy of his salvation. Try to be joyful always around me and others, because it is not fitting that a servant of God appear before his brother or others with a sad and glum face.  ‘I know that the devils envy me because of the gifts which the Lord has granted me in his mercy. Because they cannot harm me through myself, they try to hurt me through my companions. If they cannot do harm either through me or my companions, they withdraw in great confusion. Indeed, whenever I feel tempted and depressed and I look at the joy of my companion, because of that joy I turn away from the temptation and depression and towards inner joy.’

Lord, we find you most when we look at the countenance of our companion.  May we share joy with each other, loving the things that are loved by all.  Amen.

Tuesday, 30th October

A reading from ‘A Letter of Saint Francis.
Brother Leo related that one day at Saint Mary of the Angels, blessM Francis called Brother Leo and said, ‘Brother Leo, write.’ He responded, ‘Look, I am ready!’ ‘Write’, he said, ‘what true joy is.  ‘A messenger arrives and says that all the Masters of [the university of] Paris have entered the Order. Write, this is not true joy! Or, that all the prelates, archbishops and bishops beyond the mountains, as well as the King of France and the King of England [have entered the Order]. Write, this is not true joy! Again, that my brothers have gone to the nonbelievers and converted all of them to the faith; again, that I have so much grace from God that I heal the sick and perform many miracles. I tell you, true joy does not consist in any of these things.’

Then what is true joy?’
‘I return from Perugia and arrive here in the dead of night. It is winter time, muddy, and so cold that icicles have formed on the edges of my habit and keep striking my legs and blood flows from such wounds. Freezing, covered with mud and ice, I come to the gate and, after I have knocked and called for some time, a brother comes and asks, “Who are you?” “Brother Francis,” I answer. “Go away!” he says, “this is not a decent hour to be wandering about! You may not come in!” When I insist, he replies, “Go away! You are simple and stupid! Do not come back to us again! There are many of us here like you: we do not need you!” I stand again at the door and say, “For the love of God, take mein tonight!” And he replies, “I will not! Go to the Crosier’s place and ask there.”

‘I tell you this: if I had patience and did not become upset, true joy, as well as true virtue and the salvation of my soul, would consist in this.’

Wednesday, 31st October

A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
The holy man Francis insisted that spiritual joy was an infallible remedy against a thousand snares and tricks of the enemy. He used to say, ‘The devil is most delighted when he can steal the joy of spirit from a servant of God. He carries dust which he tries to throw into the tiniest openings of the conscience, to dirty a clear mind and a clean life. But if spiritual joy fills the heart, the serpent casts its poison in vain. The devils cannot harm a servant of Christ when they see him filled with holy cheerfulness. But when the spirit is teary-eyed, feeling abandoned and sad, it will easily be swallowed up in sorrow, or else be carried away towards empty enjoyment.’ The saint therefore always strove to keep a joyful heart, to preserve the anointing of the Spirit and the oil of gladness.  He avoided very carefully the dangerous disease of acedia [or depression], so that when he felt even a little of it slipping into his heart, he quickly rushed to prayer. For he used to say, ‘When a servant of God gets disturbed about something, as often happens, he must get up at once to pray and remain before the Most High Father until he gives back to him the joy of salvation. But, if he delays, staying in sadness, that Babylonian sickness will grow and, unless scrubbed with tears, it will produce in the heart permanent rust.’

Lord, may we avoid every kind of spiritual fatigue and laziness.  Give us the gift of zeal in your presence.  Amen.

Thursday, 1 November – ALL SAINTS DAY

All Saints’ Day (in the Roman Catholic Church officially the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas[3]), often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In the Western calendar it is the day after Halloween and the day before All Souls’ Day.

In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Christians who celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in purgatory (the ‘Church Suffering’), those in heaven (the ‘church triumphant’), and the living (the ‘church militant’). Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church, the word “saints” refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saint’s Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honoured and remembered

A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation’
Once when blessed Francis was in Rieti because of the disease of his eyes, he was staying for a few days in a room of Teobaldo Saraceno. One day he said to one of his companions, who while in the world knew how to play a lute, ‘Brother, the children of this world do not understand divine things. Contrary to the will of God, they use instruments such as lutes, the ten-stringed harps, and other instruments, for the sake of vanity and sin, which in times past were used by holy people to praise God and offer consolation to souls. Therefore, I would like you to obtain secretly from some upright person, a lute on which you could play for me a decent song and, with it, we will say the words and praises of the Lord, especially because my body is tormented with disease and pain. So I wish by this means to change that pain of my body to joy and consolation of spirit.’
For, during his illness, blessM Francis composed some Praises of the Lord which he had his companions recite sometimes for the praise of God, the consolation of the spirit and also for the edification of his neighbour.  ‘Father,’ the brother answered him, ‘I would be embarrassed to obtain one, especially because the people of this city know that I played the lute when I was in the world. I fear they will suspect me of being tempted to play the lute again.’   Blessed Francis told him, ‘Then, brother, let it go.’  The following night, around midnight, blessed Francis was keeping vigil. And behold, around the house where he was staying he heard the sound of a lute playing a melody more beautiful and delightful than he had ever heard in his life. The one playing it would go some distance away so that he could barely be heard, and then returned, but was always playing. And he did this for over an hour.  Blessed Francis, considering that it was the work of God and not of any human being, was overjoyed, and with an exultant heart with deep feeling he praised the Lord who was so kind as to console him with such a great consolation.  When he arose in the morning, he said to his companion, ‘My brother, I asked you for something and you did not grant it. But the Lord, who consoles his friends in their sufferings, was kind enough to console me last night.’  He then told him everything that had happened.

Lord, may we be the music that consoles others in their suffering. Amen.

Friday, 2 Novemeber – All Souls Day

A reading from a sermon by Saint Bonaventure.
One of the brothers was once living with the blessed Francis outside a castle near Siena, that is to say at Montepulciano. He said that while they were there, they had nothing to eat but some dry bread. So they went and sat outside the church and ate the dry bread and drank some water. Then they went into the church and Francis began to be filled with great exaltation. Thus he remained for a long time, until his companion began to be weary. Afterwards, the brother asked him how he had felt, and the blessed Francis replied that since his conversion he had never known such joy.

Lord, may we find joy in the simplest of things. Amen.

Saturday, 3rd November

A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation
When blessed Francis lay gravely ill in the palace of the Bishop of Assisi, in the days after he returned from Bagnara, the people of Assisi, fearing that the saint would die during the night without them knowing about it, and that the brothers would secretly take his body away and place it in another city, placed a vigilant guard each night around the palace walls.   Blessed Francis, although he was gravely Al, to comfort his soul and ward off discouragement in his severe and serious infirmities, often asked his companions during the day to sing the Praises oftheLord which he had composed a long time before in his illness. He likewise had the Praises sung during the night for the edification of their guards, who kept watch at night outside the palace because of him.   When Brother Elias reflected that blessed Francis was so comforting himself and rejoicing in the Lord in such illness, one day he said to him, ‘Dearest brother, I am greatly consoled and edified by all the joy which you show for yourself and your companions in such affliction and infirmity. Although the people of this city venerate you as a saint in life and in death, nevertheless, because they firmly believe that you are near death due to your serious and incurable sickness, upon hearing praises of this sort being sung, they can think and say to themselves, ‘How can he show such joy when he is so near death? He should be thinking about death.”‘  ‘Do you remember,’ blessM Francis said to him, ‘when you saw the vision at Foligno and told me that it told you that I would live for only two years? Before you saw that vision, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, who suggests every good in the heart, and places it on the lips of thefaithful, day and night I often considered my end. But from the time you saw that vision, each day I have been even more zealous reflecting on the day of my death.’
He continued with great intensity of spirit, ‘Allow me to rejoice in the Lord, Brother, and to sing his praises in my infirmities because, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I am so closely united and joined with my Lord that, through his mercy, I can well rejoice in the Most High himself.’

Lord, may we rejoice in you whether we are sick or well.  Encourage us to always pray for the intercession of our Blessed Mother.  Amen.

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