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?

“Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love.”

Like many saints, especially women, we tend to prefer the plaster-cast, Pellegrino special that can sit on our mantlepiece, mute with eyes heaven-bound, clad in a nice clean habit, nimbus framing that oh-so beatific non-smiling face.   We implore these saints to intercede for us.  St Clare, patron saint of television, must be on vacation as Big Brother seems to have made a return to our screens.

St Clare was a renaissance woman, not by virtue of her occupation of a particular epoch in our collective history, but by her forthrightness and the length of her vision.   Clare was not going to be demurred from her life’s project of poverty and autonomy by  the papacy.   Clare was not going to fill the role of medieval Abbess which was not unlike that of a Bishop.   Clare was not going to forsake her “brothers”, the friars, simply because it was unbecoming of religious women to associate with men.   Indeed, Francis was no different in his relationship with Clare and Jacopa di Settisoli – both exceptions to the Rule of the friars regarding women and the entry into monasteries of “Ladies”.

What I find germane in the mutual story of Francis and Clare is in the intersection at San Damiano.   San Damiano, the place where Francis heard the voice of Christ say, “Rebuild my Church,” and the first place that Francis physically rebuilt was the location of the first community of Poor Clares.   Chiara Offreduccio, claris praeclara – “The clearest light” – was an Italian woman through and through.   There is no evidence that she had ever even left the Commune of Assisi and yet St Clare occupied a new Church both in reality and metaphorically.

This is the lesson we can take from St Clare.  We, too, are occupying a Church that is slowly being rebuilt.  Like St Clare, it will require us to be strong, simple and clear about our intentions in our faith journey.   I predict that in our rebuilt Church, gone are the days of starched linen and highly polished brass.   Now are the days or earthiness and bare feet.  St Clare wished to feel her faith, not simply observe it going on around her.   We are called similarly.   As the stones of the original San Damiano had worn away never to be recovered, new stones have replaced them to assemble a sacred place that is forever ancient and ever new.    And, as in the story of San Damiano, not everyone was delighted with this.

There are those that would wish to drag us back to the times we can’t reclaim.  Both Francis and Clare endured this from their kinsfolk – Clare being physically dragged from the chapel and Francis dragged up the hill from San Damiano to the Piazza della Populo – and anyone who has been there knows what a long and rough torment that must have been.   And, in our day, the renovations to the Church initiated by Pope Francis will be stymied by the mainstream bishops and clerics that wish for security once again, a security of the 1950s, a denial of the Royal Commission and a “back turned to the people” attitude both liturgically and in every other way.   Pat Power and Geoffrey Robinson, two retired and well-respected bishops of Australia, say that our current of renewal will not go anywhere near enough to restoring our Church.  Archbishop Mark Coleridge is perhaps a little too concerned at the moment with renovating the Cathedral and its sacristy which is another kind of makeover.

In her day, St Clare did an enormous amount for bringing faith down to its most basic level – God.   No one who has ever sat on the hillside of San Damiano can deny that God is abundantly present in the majesty of creation.  The sweeping valley below, punctuated by the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the silver thread of Rivo Torto, the cool breeze that silently but profundly sings God’s praise.  What better place for a revolution of spirituality?

And so, we owe much to St Clare.  She is not that plaster-statue holding a monstrance to ward off the evil Saracens.  She is no hollowed-out figure but a woman whose love and single-minded dedication to a life in Christ is almost too much for us to fathom.

I was completely blown away by this beautiful video!  I wish we could all do this once in our lives! Enjoy! 🙂

READINGS FOR THIS WEEK!

SUNDAY, 4th August

‘The Blessing of Clare of Assisi’ to her sisters.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May he show his face to you and be merciful to you. May he turn his countenance to you, my sisters and daughters, and give peace to you, and to all others who come and remain in your company, as well as to others now and in the future who have persevered in every other monastery of the Poor Ladies. I, Clare, a servant of Christ, a little plant of our most holy father Francis, a sister and mother of you and the other poor sisters, although unworthy, beg our Lord Jesus Christ through his mercy and the intercession of his most holy mother Mary and blessed Michael the Archangel and all the holy angels of God, of our blessed father Francis, and all men and women saints, that the heavenly Father give you and confirm for you this most holy blessing in heaven and on earth. On earth, maybe multiply you in his grace and his virtues among his servants and handmaids in his church militant. In heaven, may he exalt you and glorify you among his men and women saints in his church triumphant.
I bless you during my life and after my death, as I am able, out of all the blessings with which the Father of mercies has and does bless his sons and daughters in heaven and on earth and a spiritual father and mother have blessed and bless their spiritual sons and daughters. Amen.
Always be lovers of your souls and those of all your sisters. And may you always be eager to observe what you have promised the Lord.
May the Lord always be with you and may you always be with him. Amen

Lord, like St Clare, may always be lovers of our souls and of those we meet.   Let us love through to the heart of everyone, judging no one and glorifying you through our deeds and words.  Amen.

MONDAY, 5th August 

A reading from ‘The Form of Life of Clare of Assisi.’
After the Most High, heavenly Father saw fit by his grace to enlighten my heart to do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessd father Saint Francis, I, together with my sisters, willingly promised him obedience shortly after his own conversion.
When the blessed father saw we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt of the world, but, instead, regarded such things as great delights, moved by compassion he wrote a form of life for us as follows:
‘Because, by divine inspiration, you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father, and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers always to have that same loving care and solicitude for you as I have for them.’
As long as he lived, he diligently fulfilled this and wished that it always be fulfilled by his brothers.
Shortly before his death he once more wrote his last will for us that we or those, as well, who would come after us would never turn aside from the holy poverty we had embraced. He said,
‘I, little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of his holy mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask and counsel you, my ladies, to live always in this most holy life and poverty. And keep most careful watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone.’
As I, together with my sisters, have ever been solicitous to safeguard the holy poverty which we have promised the Lord God and blessed Francis, so too the Abbesses who shall succeed me in office and all the sisters are bound to observe it inviolably to the end: that is, by notreceiving or having possession or ownership either of themselves or through an intermediary, or even anything that might reasonably be called property, except as much land as necessity requires for the integrity and proper seclusion of the monastery, and this land may not be cultivated except as a garden for the needs of the sisters.

Lord, stripped of all encumberances, let us consider ourselves rich in your infinite blessings that surrounds us daily. Amen.

TUESDAY, 6th August.

– THE TRANSFIGURATION

The Transfiguration of Jesus is an episode in the New Testament narrative in which Jesus is transfigured (or metamorphosed) and becomes radiant upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36) describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16–18 refers to it. In these accounts, Jesus and three of his apostles go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration). On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus.   This miracle is unique among others that appear in the Canonical gospels, in that the miracle happens to Jesus himself. Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.[6] The Transfiguration is one of the five major milestones in the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus, the others being Baptism, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.  In Christian teachings, the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment, and the setting on the mountain is presented as the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.

A reading from The Form of Life of Clare of Assisi.’
Let the sisters, to whom the Lord has given the grace of working, work faithfully and devotedly after the Hour of Terce at work that pertains to a virtuous life and the common good. Let them do this in such a way that, while they banish idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all other things of our earthly existence must contribute. At the Chapter, in the presence of all, the Abbess or her Vicaress is bound to assign the work that each should perform with her hands. Let the same be done if alms have been sent by some benefactors for the needs of the sisters, so that, in common, a recommendation may be made for them. All such alms may be distributed for the common good by the Abbess or her Vicaress with the advice of the discerning ones. Let the sisters not appropriate anything, neither a house nor a place nor anything at all; instead, as pilgrims and strangers in this world who serve the Lord in poverty and humility, let them confidently send for alms. Nor should they be ashamed, since the Lord made himself poor in this world for us. This is that summit of the highest poverty which has established you, my dearest sisters, heiresses and queens of the kingdom of heaven; it has made you poor in the things of this world but exalted you in virtue. Let this be your portion which leads into the land of the living. Clinging totally to this, my most beloved sisters, for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and his most holy mother, do not ever wish to have anything else under heaven.

Lord, in your transfiguration you show us the power of conversion.  May we be changed, to live like you that we may die like you.  Keep us in your care, living only according to our needs.  Amen.

WEDNESDAY, 7th August

A reading from ‘The Form of Life of Clare of Assisi.’
Let no sister be permitted to send letters or to receive or give away anything outside the monastery without the permission of the Abbess. Let it not be permitted to have anything that the Abbess has not given or permitted. Should anything be sent to a sister by her relatives or others, let the Abbess give it lovingly to a sister who does need it. If, however, money is sent to her, the Abbess, with the advice of the discerning ones, may provide for the needs of the sister.  As for the sick sisters, let the Abbess be strictly bound to inquire with diligence, by herself and through other sisters, what their illness requires, both by way of counsel as well as food and other necessities, and let her provide for them charitably and kindly according to the resources of the place. Because everyone is bound to serve and provide for their sisters who are ill, let them do this as they would wish to be served if they were suffering from some illness. Let each one confidently manifest her needs to the other. For if a mother loves and cherishes her child according to the flesh, how much more diligently should a sister love and cherish her sister according to the Spirit.

THURSDAY, 9th August

, ST MARY OF THE CROSS MACKILLOP

Mary Helen MacKillop (15 January 1842 – 8 August 1909), also known as Saint Mary of the Cross, was an Australian Roman Catholic nun who, together with Father Julian Tenison Woods, founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and a number of schools and welfare institutions throughout Australasia with an emphasis on education for the poor, particularly in country areas. Since her death she has attracted much veneration in Australia and internationally.  On 17 July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI prayed at her tomb during his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008. On 19 December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI approved the Roman Catholic Church’s recognition of a second miracle attributed to her intercession. She was canonised on 17 October 2010 during a public ceremony in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican. She is the only Australian to be recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint.

A reading from ‘The Legend of Saint Clare’
Because she was clearly the teacher of the uneducated and, as it were, the director of young women in the palace of the King, Clare taught her sisters with such discipline and encouraged them with such love, that no word will describe it. First of all she taught them to drive every noise away from the dwelling place of the mind so that they might be able to cling to the depths of God alone. She taught them not to be affected by a love of their relatives and to forget the homes of their families so that they might please Christ. She encouraged them to consider the demands of the flesh as insignificant and to restrain the frivolities of the flesh with the reins of reason. She showed them how the insidious enemy lays traps for pure souls, in one way tempting the holy, in another, the worldly. Finally she wanted them so to work with their hands during certain hours that, according to the desire of the founder, they would keep warm through the exercise of prayer and, fleeing the lukewarmness of neglect, would put aside the coldness of a lack of devotion by the fire of holy love.

Nowhere was the strict rule of silence greater;
nowhere was the brightness and the quality of every virtue
more abundant.
There was no lax talk bespeaking a lax spirit
nor a frivolity of words producing a frivolous disposition of mind.
For the teacher herself was sparing in her words
and she abundantly compressed in few words
the desires of her mind.

Lord, in the life of Mary MacKillop we have an example of manna in the desert of the lives of the poor of her time.  She was the love that gave them the will to survive.  May we follow her example of loving service to the glory of your name and to never see a need without doing something about it.  Amen.

PRAYERS FOR THE MASS CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE!

FRIDAY, 9th August. 

A reading from ‘The Legend of Saint Clare’.
Perhaps it would be better to be silent rather than to speak of her marvellous mortification of the flesh, since Clare did such things that would astonish those who hear of them and they would challenge the truth of these things.  For it was not unusual that she covered rather than warmed her frail body with a simple tunic and a poor mantle made of rough material. We should not marvel that she completely ignored the use of shoes. It was not out of keeping for her to fast continually or to use a bed without a mat. For in all these things, she perhaps does not merit any special praise since the other sisters of the enclosure did the same. But what agreement could there be between the flesh of the virgin and a pigskin garment? For the most holy virgin obtained a pigskin garment which she secretly wore under her tunic with its sharp, cutting bristles next to her skin. At other times she would use a rough shirt woven from knotted horsehair which she would tie to her body with rough cords. Once she loaned this garment to one of her daughters who had asked for it; but, after three days, when that sister had worn it, immediately overwhelmed by such roughness, she not only gave it up far more quickly but also more joyfully than when she had asked for it.  The bare ground and sometimes branches of vines were her bed, and a hard piece of wood under her head took the place of a pillow. But in the course of time, when her body became weak, she placed a mat on the ground and indulged her head with a little bit of straw. After a long illness began to take hold of her weakened body and the blessed Francis had commanded it, she used a sack filled with straw.

Lord, let us be gentle with ourselves, treating ourselves in a healthy manner.  May we recognise that all your people are worthy of love, especially the poor and broken in our midst.  Amen.

 

Saturday, 10th August

 ST LAWRENCE OF ROME.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom.

A reading from ‘The Versified Legend of Saint Clare

As God plans, it is believed that as Clare’s vivacity made her shine with the splendour of deeds,
she is more distinguished by her merits in suffering. Suffering made her victorious, while a vigorous act gave her a splendid crown after vanquishing the enemy. Patience, the virtues’ guardian, preserves her
extraordinary strength, and rejoices at adding new riches.  The patience of her sickness does not excel any less, preserving other virtues as if they were the treasure-chest of virtue.
More than the others, it deserves to be made strongly one’s own. The reward of seeking equals preserving what has been sought. Virtue is no less than seeking and protecting what was acquired. Patience is the linchpin of the virtues, a friend of peace. It shines with greater nobility than all others in the hail of virtue. It is seen to be more distinguished among the virtues, and while it preserves and accumulates the others’ riches, it seeks the reward of praise for itself. A noble kind of virtue may be rewarded by endurance: to conquer while suffering. Nothing is more excellent than this kind of virtue. A reward becomes more joyful in patience as the suffering becomes sweeter. When someone afflicted suffers bodily, her spirit is stronger. Virtue frequently is perfected by the weakness of the flesh. Thus frailty becomes delectable, sickness sweet, suffering light. Thus the joyful woman approaches all evils that no complaint or grumbling is made. Not only courageously but joyfully as if delicacies: thus she receives all her illnesses. She seeks great rewards in them for herself. The higher the merit, the more productive her
ailment.

The greater the merit, the greater the glory.

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