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?

The Heart of the Samaritan is to Love

Celibacy or, rather, consecrated celibacy is a much-maligned and misunderstood way of life.  I am reading this week Geoffrey Robertson QC’s The Case of the Pope, a challenging book indeed.  In it, Geoffrey doesn’t so much as lay the blame for sexual assault at the feet of an argument against celibacy but more accurately about how this lifestyle has become twisted in on itself.   And we all know people for whom celibacy was an unhealthy option: those people who are bitter, angry, empty, desiring only to fill the void with anything that can make them feel alive again – alcohol, food, compulsive travel, clandestine sexual relationships, impulse spending, vengeance – only to find that they are even more miserable for the effort expended.   Then, we all know those who live their vow of chastity in a generative way – the loving, caring, creative, happy religious person who never spares themselves for their “children” which, by definition, is the world at large.  They strive not to “own” anything or anyone but give freely of themselves joyfully in fulfilment of their vocation of service.

The good Samaritan isn’t just a feel-good story to remind us to pick up the injured and poor.  It is a striking condemnation against the priest who consciously crosses the road to avoid the one in need and the lawyer (Levite – Temple official) who turns his back on the man who lies beaten and near death in a ditch.   And so we see both paradigms at work in society at the moment: a Church – a presbyterate to be precise – that crosses the road to avoid the injury it has created, denying the destruction of the human person because it is, ahem, unpleasant to a priestly sensibility.   Furthermore, a legislature that does nothing to protect victims of violence and sexual exploitation, all in evidence now as a nation that was driven to a Royal Commission.   If justice was done in the first place, there would have been no need.   But no.  The lawyer neglects the beaten and dying man because the possibility for a split in the compensation doesn’t seem likely.

And it falls to an outsider to care for the one who has been abused.   It is a command for we who dare to call ourselves Christian to love everyone and to put in every effort to do so.   It is in that moment when we see someone begging on our city’s streets to stop ourselves from thinking, “They bring it on themselves.”   It is in that moment when we see a woman in a hijab to stop ourselves from thinking, “Go back to your own country.”   It is in that moment when we see people of the same sex holding hands that we stop ourselves from thinking, “Freaks.”  It is in that moment we see a young person with tattoos and piercings that we stop ourselves from thinking, “Bogan, bad parenting.”  The list goes on and on.  Essentially, the message is not to think, just do.  Just love.  Just care.  Be just!

After all, isn’t it far easier to love than to categorise the other as not good enough, as though our affection was any kind of benchmark for someone else’s worthiness?  How incredibly counter-Christian to live by a maxim that makes our ego a kind of a posteriori premise for our relationships.  How breathtakingly arrogant.  This is a complete denial of the paschal mystery.

So, forget the nice-nice Good Samaritan story and start to live the reality – by really loving, not just in token words.   Don’t spare the kind word, the friendly greeting, the hug, the expression of gratitude for it is in this apostolic courtesy that God dwells.

“People Help The People” by Birdy – a perfect reflection!



SUNDAY, 14th July

A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation’
Francis used to pierce eyes that are not chaste with this parable. ‘A powerful and pious king sent two messengers to his queen, one after the other. The first returned and simply reported her words verbatim. Truly, the eyes of the wise man stayed in his head and did not dart elsewhere. The other returned and, after reporting in brief words launched into a long story about the lady’s beauty. ‘Truly, my lord, I saw a lovely woman; happy is he who enjoys her!’ And the king said, ‘You evil servant, you cast your shameless eyes on my wife? It is clear that you would like to buy what you inspected so carefully!’ He then called back the first messenger and asked, ‘What did you think of the queen?’ And he answered, ‘I thought very highly of her, for she listened gladly and then replied wisely.’ ‘And do you not think she is beautiful?’, the king said. ‘My lord,’ he said, ‘this is for you to see; my job was simply to deliver messages.’ And the king then pronounced his sentence: ‘You, chaste of eyes, even more chaste in body, stay in my chamber. Let that other man leave my house, so that he does not defile my marriage bed.’ Francis used to say, ‘Who would not fear to look at the bride of Christ?’

Lord, keep our gaze on all that is good a pure. May we reject the temptation to objectify others and love wholly all that has been lovingly created by you. Amen.

MONDAY, 15th July – St Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure, known as “the seraphic doctor,” was born at Bagnoregio in Tuscany, in 1221. He received the name of Bonaventure in consequence of an exclamation of St. Francis of Assisi, when, in response to the pleading of the child’s mother, the saint prayed for John’s recovery from a dangerous illness, and, foreseeing the future greatness of the little John, cried out “O Buona ventura”-O good fortune!

At the age of twenty-two St. Bonaventure entered the Franciscan Order. Having made his vows, he was sent to Paris to complete his studies under the celebrated doctor Alexander of Hales, an Englishman and a Franciscan. After the latter’s death he continued his course under his successor, John of Rochelle. In Paris he became the intimate friend of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. He received the degree of Doctor, together with St. Thomas Aquinas, ceding to his friend against the latter’s inclination, the honor of having it first conferred upon him. Like St. Thomas Aquinas, he enjoyed the friendship of the holy King, St. Louis.

At the age of thirty-five he was chosen General of his Order and restored a perfect calm where peace had been disturbed by internal dissensions. He did much for his Order and composed The Life of St. Francis . He also assisted at the translation of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua. He was nominated Archbishop of York by Pope Clement IV, but he begged not to be forced to accept that dignity. Gregory X obliged him to take upon himself a greater one, that of Cardinal and Bishop of Albano, one of the six suffragan Sees of Rome. Before his death he abdicated his office of General of the Franciscan Order. He died while he was assisting at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274.

A reading from “The Holiness of Life [De perfectione vita ad sorores]” by St Bonaventure

Charity is a virtue of such power that it can both close the gates of hell and open wide the portals of eternal bliss. Charity provides the 
hope of salvation and alone renders us lovable in God's sight. It is so great a virtue that among the virtues it is called the virtue. To be 
founded and rooted in charity is to be wealthy and happy, for without charity we are indigent and wretched. Commenting on the 
words of St. Paul, "If I have not charity," Peter Lombard quoting St. Augustine says: "Just think a moment on the excellence of 
charity. Without charity it is useless to possess all else; possess it, and you have everything. To begin to possess it is to possess the 
Holy Ghost." Elsewhere St. Augustine says: "If it is the practice of virtue which leads to Heaven, I unhesitatingly affirm that 
the virtue to be practised is the pure love of God."

Pierce, O most Sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, with true, serene, and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with love and longing for Thee, that it may yearn for Thee and faint for Thy courts, and long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the bread of angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delight of taste; let my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, upon whom the angels desire to look, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst after Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the richness of the house of God.

May it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, attain Thee, meditate upon Thee, speak of Thee, and do all things to the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, and with perseverance unto the end.

May Thou alone be ever my hope, my entire assurance, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my fragrance, my sweet savor, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession and my treasure, in whom may my mind and my heart be fixed and firmly rooted immovably henceforth and for ever. Amen.


TUESDAY, 16th July

A reading from ‘The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul’, by Thomas of Celano.
Francis strove to hide the good things of the Lord in the secrecy of his heart, not wanting to display for his own glory what could be the cause of ruin. Often, when many were calling him blessd, he would reply with these words: ‘Do not praise me as if I were safe; I can still have sons and daughters! No one should be praised as long as his end is uncertain. Whenever something is on loan and the lender wants it back, all that is left is body and soul – and even non-believers have that much!’ This he would say to those who praised him. But he would say to himself, ‘If the Most High had given so much to a thief, he would be more grateful than you, Francis!’

Lord, let us not glorify ourselves and our good deeds. Let us not live in regret of that which we may or may not have done. Keep us always humble lest the world make us humble. Amen.

WEDNESDAY, 17th July

A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation
One day, [when he was close to death,] blessed Francis called his companions to himself: ‘You know how faithful and devoted Lady Jacoba dei Settesoli was and is to me and to our religion. Therefore, I believe she would consider it a great favour and consolation if you notified her about my condition. Above all, tell her to send you some cloth for a tunic of religious cloth the colour of ashes, like the cloth made by Cistercian monks in the region beyond the Alps. Have her also send some of that confection which she often made for me when I was in the City.’ This confection, made of almonds, sugar and honey, and other things, the Romans call mosrith. After the letter was written, as dictated by the holy father, while one brother was looking for another one to deliver the letter, there was a knock at the door. When one of the brothers opened the gate, he saw Lady Jacoba who had hurried from the City to visit blessed Francis. With great joy the brother immediately went to tell blessed Francis that Lady Jacoba had come to visit him, with her son and many other people. ‘What shall we do, Father,’ he said, ‘shall we allow her to enter and come in here?’ He said this because blessed Francis a long time ago had ordered that in that place no women should enter that cloister out of respect and devotion for that place. Blessed Francis answered him, ‘This command need not be observed in the case of this lady, whose faith and devotion made her come here from so far away.’ And in this way, she came in to see blessed Francis, crying many tears in his presence.

Lord, in the beauty of our relationships, may we maintain healthy bonds with friends, family and our community. May we be truly inclusive and welcoming of others into relationship with us. Amen.

THURSDAY, 18th July

A reading from the ‘Exposition of the Rule’, by Hugh of Digne.
‘Wherever the brothers may be and meet one another, let them show that they are members of the same family. Let each one confidently make known his need to the other, for if a mother loves and cares for her son according to the flesh, how much more diligently must someone love and care for his brother according to the Spirit!’ By these words [of Saint Francis in his Rule] it is clearly demonstrated how perfect the love must be among the friars; namely, in its manifestation, in its intensity, and in deed. With regard to the manifestation of love, it does not suffice for a Friar Minor to refrain from hating his brother; for that much is demanded of every Christian, however imperfect. But every friar owes to his confreres such an external show of familiarity and such signs of family love, that one may manifest his necessity to another as he would to a member of the same family. How great should be the intensity of love is described by the example of a mother who is most strongly drawn to her child. The above-mentioned love was most fervent among the early friars. Offering themselves and all they had with a wonderful mutual readiness, they cared not only for those who lived with them, but also for all strangers that came along. For the friars received all guests – whether known or unknown – as if they were angels from God, and they did this with the greatest possible love. As soon as their guests arrived, they hastened to wash their feet and hurriedly prepared whatever was needed by the weary pilgrims. They did not look upon them as strangers, but considered them their brothers, and in a true family spirit generously offered them food and all other necessities, as if they were members of the same household. And in their works of charity and mercy, which they had to exercise, there was no false show or fraud, but all was hidden under the cover of genuine love.

Lord, let our fraternity be a place of loving witness to you. Hospitality is our expression of the Gospel, of washing the feet of the stranger. Let our friaries be places of real welcome and love. Amen.

FRIDAY, 19th July.

A reading from ‘The First Letter of Saint Clare to Blessed Agnes of Prague
To the esteemed and most holy virgin, Lady Agnes, daughter of the most excellent and illustrious King of Bohemia; Clare, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and a useless servant of the enclosed Ladies of the Monastery of San Damiano, her subject and servant in all things, presents herself totally with a special reverence that she attain the glory of everlasting happiness. As I hear of the fame of your holy conduct and irreproachable life, which is known not only to me but to the entire world as well, I greatly rejoice and exult in the Lord. I am not alone in rejoicing at such great news, but I am joined by all who serve and seek to serve Jesus Christ. For, though you, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honour and dignity of the world and could have been married to the illustrious emperor with splendour befitting you and his Excellency, youhave rejected all these things and have chosen with your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus you took a spouse of a more noble lineage, who will keep your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you have loved him, you are chaste;
when you have touched him, you become more pure; when you have accepted him, you are a virgin.
Whose power is stronger,
whose generosity more abundant, whose appearance more beautiful, whose love more tender,
whose courtesy more gracious!
In whose embrace you are already caught up;
who has adorned your breast with precious stones
and has placed priceless pearls on your ears and has surrounded you with sparkling gems
as though blossoms of springtime
and placed on your head a golden crown
as a sign of your holiness.

SATURDAY, 20th July

A reading from ‘The Earlier Rule’ of Saint Francis.
With our whole heart,
our whole soul,
our whole mind,
with our whole strength and fortitude
with our whole understanding
with all our powers
with every effort,
every affection,
every feeling,
every desire and wish
let us all love the Lord God
who has given and gives to each one of us
our whole body, our whole soul and our whole life,
who has created, redeemed and will save us by his mercy alone,
who did and does everything good for us,
miserable and wretched, rotten and foul,
ungrateful and evil ones.
let us desire nothing else,
let us want nothing else,
let nothing else please us and cause us delight
except our Creator, Redeemer and Saviour,
the only true God,
who is the fullness of good,
all good, every good, the true and supreme good,
who alone is good,
merciful, gentle, delightful and sweet,
who alone is holy,
just, true, holy and upright,
who alone is kind, innocent, clean,
from whom, through whom and in whom
is all pardon, all grace, all glory
of all penitents and just ones,
of all the blessM rejoicing together in heaven.
let nothing hinder us,
nothing separate us,
nothing come between us.
Wherever we are,
in every place,
at every hour,
at every time of the day,
every day and continually,
let all of us truly and humbly believe,
hold in our heart and love,
honour, adore, serve,
praise and bless,
glorify and exalt,
magnify and give thanks
to the most high and supreme Eternal God
Trinity and Unity,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Creator of all,
Saviour of all
who believe and hope in him,
and love him, who,
without beginning and end,
is unchangeable, invisible,
indescribable, ineffable,
incomprehensible, unfathomable,
blessd, praiseworthy,
glorious, exalted,
sublime, Most High,
gentle, lovable, delightful,
and totally desirable above all else
for ever.

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