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?

Save My Seat!

What a week in the life of the Church!

Pope Benedict XVI in an incredible moment in our history announces that he will resign from the papacy due to his frailty and increasing incapacity to fulfil his duties.   It was a humble announcement, filled with pathos and honesty.   You can’t help but respect the deep love the Holy Father demonstrated for the Church.    Unkind commentators have spun the usual trail of nastiness aimed at the Catholic Church as a whole and laid upon the shoulders of an elderly, frail man.    Some of the more cynical and evil remarks I have read over this last week really do show enormous courage.  It must take a lot of gumption to name-call someone in their eighties, hiding behind pseudonyms and social networks.    There is little integrity in kicking someone while they are down and I feel nothing but compassion for Pope Benedict.

It reminded me of the fact that Francis of Assisi himself surrendered his leadership from the Order and passed the baton to Brother Peter of Catanio.  His own human frailty, whether or not emphasised by Francis’ own heightened awareness of his failings, allowed him the freedom that it must take to step aside allow others to lead you.   Perhaps Pope Benedict like Francis, after making the announcement, retired to a quiet place, closed the door and simply uttered one word: “Phew!”

What this means for the Church is a mystery but, as always, guided by the Holy Spirit.   We can only pray that God will give us another Pope that will help us to be a Church defined by the Gospel and not the politics of a creaking institution.   It is a new age now with another chance to wrong the rights of the past and to purify our future.   And as the barque of Peter sails into another uncertain ocean, we can be assured that nothing can harm us so long as we keep faith.   We do not have to worry about tomorrow because today has problems enough of it’s own.

During this Lent, we pray for the leadership of the Church.   We pray that the gift of prophecy will be bestowed upon the Vatican and so benefit the Church in the world.


Sunday, 17 February

A reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis’, by Thomas of Celano.
Day by day the blessd father Francis was being filled with the consolation and the grace of the Holy Spirit and, with all vigilance and concern, he was forming his new sons with new instruction, teaching them to walk with steady steps the way of holy poverty and blessed simplicity.  One day, he was marvelling at the Lord’s mercy in the kindness shown to him. He wished that the Lord would show him the course of life for him and for his brothers, and he went to a place of prayer, as he so often did. He remained there a long time with fear and trembling before the Ruler of the whole earth. He recalled in the bitterness of his soul the years he had spent badly, frequently repeating the phrase, ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ Gradually, an indescribably joy and tremendous sweetness began to well up deep in his heart.

He began to lose himself;
his feelings were pressed together;
and that darkness disappeared
which fear of sin had gathered in his heart.
Certainty of the forgiveness of all his sins poured in
and the assurance of being revived in grace was given to him.
Then he was caught up above himself and totally engulfed in light
and, with his inmost soul opened wide,
he clearly saw the future.
As that sweetness and light withdrew,
renewed in spirit,
he now seemed to be changed into another man.

Lord God,
you who breathed the spirit of life within me.
Draw out of me the light and life you created.
Help me to find my way back to you.
Help me to use my life to reflect your glory
and to serve others
as your son Jesus did.

Monday, 18th February

A reading from the ‘Later Admonition and Exhortation’ of Saint Francis.
The Lord Jesus Christ wishes all of us to be saved through him and receive him with our heart pure and our body chaste. But, even though his yoke is easy and his burden light, there are few who wish to receive him and be saved through him. Those who do not wish to taste how sweet the Lord is and who love the darkness more than the light, not wishing to fulfil God’s commands, are cursed; it is said of them by the prophet: ‘Cursed are those who stray from your commands.’  But how happy and blessd are those who love God and do as the Lord himself says in the gospel: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ Let us love God, therefore, and adore him with a pure heart and a pure mind, because he who seeks this above all things has said: True adorers adore the Father in Spirit and Truth. For all who adore him must adore him in the Spirit of truth. And day and night let us direct praises and prayers to him, saying, ‘Our Father in heaven …’ for we should pray always and not become weary.  We must, of course, confess all our sins to a priest and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from him. Whoever does not eat his flesh and drink his blood cannot enter the kingdom of God. But let him eat and drink worthily because anyone who receives unworthily, not distinguishing, that is, not discerning, the Body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgement on himself.

Loving God,
you call us back to you with all of our hearts.
I feel your call for me deep in my heart
and I know you want me back
as much as I want to return.
Please, Lord,
give me the wisdom to know how to return.
Make my journey back to you this Lent
one of grace, forgiveness and gentle love.

Tuesday, 19th February

A reading from the ‘Later Admonition and Exhortation’ of Saint Francis.
Let us love our neighbours as ourselves. And if anyone does not want to love them as himself, let him at least not do them any harm, but let him do good.
Let whoever has received the power of judging others pass judgement with mercy, as they would wish to receive mercy from the Lord. For judgement will be without mercy for those who have not shown mercy.  Let us, therefore, have charity and humility and give alms because it washes the stains of our sins from our souls. For, although people lose everything they leave behind in this world, nevertheless, they carry with them the rewards of charity and the alms they have given, for which they will receive a reward and a fitting repayment from the Lord.  We must also fast and abstain from vices and sins and from an excess of food and drink and be Catholics.  We much also frequently visit churches and venerate and revere the clergy, not so much for themselves, if they are sinners, but because of their office and administration of the most holy Body and Blood of Christ which they sacrifice upon the altar, receive and administer to others. And let all of us know for certain that no one can be saved except through the holy words and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which the clergy pronounce, proclaim and minister. And they alone must minister and not others. Religious, however, who have left the world, are bound to do more and greater things, but not to overlook these.

Father of my soul,
Mother of my heart,
I know your love for me is limitless beyond imagining.
You care for me as a loving parent.
Through my smallest Lenten sacrifices,
help me to become less selfish
and more aware of your ways.
Fan the flame of my desire
to draw ever closer to you.
Guide me to seek your love.

Wednesday, 20th February

A reading from the ‘Later Admonition and Exhortation’ of Saint Francis.
We must hate our bodies with their vices and sins because the Lord says in the gospel: ‘All evils, vices and sins come from the heart.’
We must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.
We must observe the commands and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We must also deny ourselves and place our bodies under the yoke of servitude and holy obedience as each one has promised to the Lord. And let no one be bound to obey another in anything in which a crime or sin would be committed. Instead, let the one to whom obedience has been entrusted and who is considered the greater be the lesser and the servant of the other brothers. And let him have and show mercy to each of his brothers as he would want them to do to him were he is a similar position. Let him not become angry at the fault of a brother but, with all patience and humility, let him admonish and support him.
We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh but, instead, we must be simple, humble and pure. And let us hold our bodies in scorn and contempt because, through our own fault, we are all wretched and corrupt, disgusting and worms, as the Lord says through the prophet: ‘I am a worm and no man, the scorn of men and the outcast of the people.’
We must never desire to be above others but, instead, we must be servants and subjects to every human creature, for God’s sake.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon all those men and women who have done and persevered in these things, and the Spirit will make a home and dwelling place in them. And they will be the children of the heavenly Father, whose works they do. And they are spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord,
I know you receive what is in my heart.
Let me be inspired by your words
and by the actions of your son, Jesus.
Guide me to make sacrifices this Lent
in the spirit of self-denial
and with greater attention to you
and to those around me.
Help me to believe that you will grant me this
because of the sacrifice Jesus made for me.

Thursday, 21st February

A reading from the ‘Later Admonition and Exhortation’ of Saint Francis.
See, you blind ones, deceived by your enemies, that is, the flesh, the world and the devil; for it is sweet for the body to commit sin and bitter to serve God, because every evil, vice and sin flow and proceed from people’s hearts, as the Lord says in the gospel. And you have nothing in this world or in that to come. You think you possess the vanities of the world for a long time, but you are deceived, because a day and an hour are coming of which you do not think, do not know and are not aware.
The body becomes weak, death approaches, relatives and friends come saying, ‘Put your affairs in order.’ Look, his wife and children, relatives and friends pretend to cry. Glancing about, he sees them weeping and is moved by an evil impulse. He says, thinking to himself, ‘See, I place my soul and body, all that I have in your hands.’ In fact, they are cursed who entrust and place their souls and bodies and all they have in such hands; for, as the Lord says through the prophet, ‘Cursed are they who trust in another.’  And immediately they make a priest come. The priest says to him, ‘Do you want to receive penance for all your sins?’ ‘I do,’ he responds. ‘Do you wish to make satisfaction, as far as you can, out of your wealth, for what you have done and the ways in which you have cheated and deceived people?’ ‘No,’ he responds. ‘Why not?’, the priest asks. ‘Because I have placed everything in the hands of my relatives and friends.’ And the wretched man begins to lose his speech, and so dies.

I’m not always eager to do your will.
I’d often much rather do my own will.
Please be with me on this Lenten journey
and help me to remember
that your own spirit can guide me
in the right direction.

Friday, 22nd February – Feast of the Chair of St Peter

A reading from the ‘Later Admonition and Exhortation’ of Saint Francis.
Let everyone know that whenever and however someone dies in mortal sin without making amends when he could have done so and did not, the devil snatches his soul from his body with such anguish and distress that no one can know what it is like except the one experiencing it.  And every talent and power and knowledge that he thought he had will be taken away from him. And he leaves his relatives and friends and they take and divide the wealth and afterwards they say, ‘Let his soul be cursed because he could have given us more and acquired more than he distributed to us!’ Worms eat his body and so he loses his body and soul in this brief world and goes to hell, where he will be tortured without end.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I, brother Francis, your lesser servant, with a wish to kiss your feet, beg and implore you in the love that is God, to receive, to put into practice and to observe, as you should, these words and the others of our Lord Jesus Christ, with humility and love. And may the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless all those men and women who receive them with kindness, understand them and send copies of them to others, if they have persevered to the end in them. Amen.

Creator of my life,
renew me:bring me to new life in you.
Touch me and make me fel whole again.
Help me to see your love
in the passion, death and resurrection of your son.
Help me to observe Lent
in a way that allows me to celebrate that love.
Prepare me for these weeks of Lent
as I feel both deep sorrows for my sins
and your undying love for me.

Saturday, 23rd February

A reading from ‘A Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples’, by Saint Francis.
Brother Francis, your little and looked-down-upon servant in the Lord God, wishes health and peace to all mayors and consuls, magistrates and governors throughout the world and to all others to whom these words may come.  Reflect and see that the day of death is approaching. With all possible respect, therefore, I beg you not to forget the Lord because of this world’s cares and preoccupations and not to turn away from his commandments, for all those who leave him ‘in oblivion and turn away from his commandments are cursed and will be left in oblivion by him.  When the day of death does come, everything they think they have shall be taken from them. The wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, the greater will be the punishment they will endure in hell.  Therefore I strongly advise you, my Lords, to put aside all care and preoccupation and receive the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with fervour, in holy remembrance of him. May you foster such honour to the Lord among the people entrusted to you that, every evening, an announcement may be made by a messenger, or some other sign, that praise and thanksgiving may be given by all people to the all- powerful Lord God. if you do not do this, know that, on the day of judgement, you must render an account before the Lord your God, Jesus Christ.
Let those who keep this writing with them and observe it know that they will be blessed by the Lord God.

Loving God,
Sometimes my heart
turns in every direction
except towards you.
Please help me
to turn my heart toward you,
to gaze upon you in trust
and to seek your kingdom with all of my heart.
Soften my hardened heart
so that I might love others
as a way to glorify and worship you.
Grant me this
with the ever-present guidance of your spirit.

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