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?

Treasure Hunt!

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Who hasn’t watched X Factor over these last couple of years?   It is simultaneously enthralling and cringe-worthy viewing but, for all of its delusional narcissism, it does speak of where these contestants find their treasure, their hearts desire.    The more successful talk about how they feel to be on stage, singing and sharing their gift with the world.   They are ecstatic, elated, not just about the prospects for fame and fortune but because they have opened their treasure chest and shown the world what precious and unique gifts lay inside.   The truly gifted don’t want to “be someone”, they want to be more themselves, perhaps in a culture that spurns the over-achiever (our well-known “tall-poppy syndrome” which was a term first used by Herodotus and Aristotle), bullies or persecutes the truly special and creative people this can be a courageous journey.    Franciscan theology teaches us that to allow your gifts to shine forth is not the hallmark of the egomaniacal, but recognises God’s beauty and returns thanks to the God that has given us all the blessings and rewards for which we did not labour.  Such is God’s neverending grace.

 It exposes the heart, the passions of humanity.   It would be a bleak world indeed without those who are prepared to give openhandedly of themselves, to share that treasure which inherently reflects the individual.   And yet, we are taught from a young age to be the same, to conform, the O’Callaghan Razor – the nail that sticks out will always get hammered back in.   On The Hill, we expect every student to sit upright, to look not right nor left, to never venture a dangerous opinion out of place.   We expect students to cope, never to thrive.  We expect students to dampen their enthusiasm until scheduled times.   We expect them to look a certain way, dress a certain way and speak in a certain way – our way.   And, at a basic level, rightly so.   Recognising one’s individuality is no excuse for chaos within an institution with norms and benchmarks where respect for the giftedness of others is also important.

However, one can reflect on an institution or a society that doesn’t permit any degree of self-expression.   The “while-you’re-living-under-our-roof” argument so often heard by errant teenagers is a bit of a non sequitur because if not during those “nesting” years, then when is one allowed their freedom to express their treasures?   It is in those environments where the young are allowed to develop their gifts that we find a future being shaped that is wonderful and enriching for all.   Fostering giftedness is vital otherwise we resign ourselves to producing sort of half-people.

The greatest sin in modern education and in Australia’s dysfunctional addiction to being the “underdog”, heard again tonight ad nauseum during the debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, is the lowering of aspirations among students.   The dreams are gone, shattered in a maelstrom of bell curves and rank orders.   I can still remember being told that, with the subjects I had chosen for my senior year, I could be “a nurse or nothing”.   Thanks, Mr Carmichael.  Charming.   What stops us from dreaming big?  What stops us from flinging open that treasure chest within and throwing a generous handful of gold dubloons to a waiting world so in need to beauty and enrichment?  The boldness of Christ, the ethereal journey of St Francis, the excellent groundbreakers of our tradition in Bonaventure, Matthew of Aquasparta, Duns Scotus, John Capistrano, Angela of Foligno and so many others, all went out on that ledge that your treasure calls you, not to fall …

… but only to leap and fly.

I can’t believe I found this on YouTube!  A great (and very corny song) about giftedness and doing one’s best.  FLASHBACK!



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Sunday, 11 August.

A Reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis’, by Thomas of Celano

The first work that blessd Francis undertook, after he had gained his freedom from the hands of his carnally-minded father, was to build a house of God.   He did not try to build a new one, but he repaired an old one, restored an ancient one.  He did not tear out the foundation, but he built upon it, always reserving to Christ his prerogative, although unaware of it, for no one can lay another foundation, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus.  When he had returned to the place mentioned where the church of San Damiano had been built in ancient times, he repaired it zealously within a short time, aided by the grace of the Most High.  This is the blessed and holy place where the glorious religion and most excellent Order of Poor Ladies and holy virgins had its happy beginning, about six years after the conversion of the blessed Francis and through that same blessed man.  The Lady Clare, a native of the city of Assisi, the most precious and strongest stone of the whole structure, stands as the foundation for all the other stones.  For after the beginning of the Order of Brothers, when this lady was converted to God through the counsel of the holy man, she lived for the good of many and as an example to countless others.  Noble by lineage, but more noble by grace, chaste in body, most chaste in mind, young in age, mature in spirit, steadfast in purpose and most eager in her desire for divine love, endowed with wisdom and excelling in humility, bright in name, more brilliant in life, most brilliant in character.

Lord, Clare was most brilliant of all your saints, endowed with the best of all virtues.  Lead us by her example into your divine love. Amen.

Monday, 12 August.

A reading from ‘The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano.

A noble structure of precious pearls arose above this woman, Clare, whose praise comes not from mortals but from God, since our limited understanding is not sufficient to imagine it, nor our scanty vocabulary to utter it.  First of all, the virtue of mutual and continual charity that binds their wills together flourishes among them.  Forty or fifty of them can dwell together in one place, wanting and not wanting the same things forming one spirit in them out of many.  Second, the gem of humility, preserving the good things bestowed by heaven so sparkles in each one that they merit other virtues as well.  Third, the lily of virginity and chastity diffuses such a wondrous fragrance among them that they forget earthly thoughts and desire to meditate only on heavenly things.  So great a love of their eternal Spouse arises in their hearts that the integrity of their holy feelings keeps them from every habit of their former life.  Fourth, all of them have become so distinguished by their title of highest poverty that their food and clothing rarely or never manage to satisfy extreme necessity.   Fifth, they have so attained the unique grace of abstinence and silence that they scarcely need to exert any effort to check the prompting of the flesh and to restrain their tongues. Sixth, they are so adorned with the virtue of patience in all these things, that adversity of tribulation, or injury of vexation never breaks or changes their spirit. Seventh, and finally, they have so merited the height of contemplation that they learn in it everything they should do or avoid, and they know how to go beyond the mind to God with joy, persevering night and day in praising him and praying to him.

Lord, bless us with the grace of continual charity, humility, chastity, abstinence and silence in order to find you in the ordinary.  Amen.

Tuesday, 13 August

A reading from ‘The Notification of the Death of Clare of Assisi’

To all the sisters of the Order of San Damiano throughout the world, the sisters living in Assisi wish salvation in the Author of Salvation.

Since the sting of a darkening sadness has risen, we embark upon – not without tears – the narration of a report full of sadness. We break faith – not without the sorrowful sounds of mourning – to tell you that the mirror of the morning star, whose image we admired as a type of the true light, has vanished from our sight. The staff of our religion has perished! The vehicle of our profession, I am sorry, to say, has departed from the stadium of the human pilgrimage!

Our Lady Clare, our leader, venerable mother, teacher, was called by the separating best man of carnal bond, that is destructive death, and ascended not long ago to the bridal chamber of her heavenly Spouse.

Her festive ascent from earth, from the shadow of darkness to brilliance, and her celebrated appearance in heaven – although spiritually suggesting joy to the senses – from a temporal point of view, has, nevertheless, overwhelmed our light with an outpouring of grief. While she has taken us from the slippery path of worldly desire and has directed us on the path of salvation, nevertheless, she has left our sight. For by the guilt of our imperfection, perhaps deserved, the Lord was pleased to make the glorious Clare more brilliant with heavenly rays rather than have her graciously remain any longer among her sisters in their earthly places.

Why proceed any further? The depth of this bless&lness does not know any explanation in human terms. But listen to that gift of the Divinity that she received towards the end of her time on earth. The Vicar of Christ with the venerable College of his brothers visited her when she was dying and, because he more graciously remained afterwards and did not pass up the funeral of the deceased, he honoured her body at her burial.

Lord, death is not the end of holiness.  In the memory of your servant Clare, let us find an example of prayerful contemplation.  Amen.

Wednesday, 14 August – St Maximilian Kolbe

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., (Polish: Maksymilian Maria Kolbe; 8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II.  He was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.Pope John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”. Due to his efforts to promote Consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.





A reading from ‘The Versified Legend of Saint Clare’

Let our mind keep vigil in praise of this virgin and let our voice sound Clare’s praise, extolling her brilliant virtues with praises, sing of her mellifluous conduct, proclaim her radiant deeds.  Her excellence puts bodily ailments to flight, drives away the spirits’ frenzies, mitigates the soul’s rage, and compels the wild beasts to be tame. Let us commend ourselves to her exalted merits and blessed prayers, and let us beg the Lord that he would enlighten all the soul’s senses by this virgin’s help and, by her holy prayers, grant serenity to our mind and purify our deeds; that, after the clouds of this world, after the darkness of the present life, he would breathe into tomorrow’s morn, and he would instill the joys of a  heavenly life.

Lord, let us see the beauty of every human soul, the reflection of your glory, through the sanctity of Francis and Clare.  Amen.


A reading from “The Major Legend of St Francis”, by Saint Bonaventure.

Francis embraced the mother of the Lord Jesus with an inexpressible love since she made the Lord of Majesty a brother to us and, through her, we have obtained mercy.

In her, after Christ, he put all his trust and made her the advocate of him and his brothers and, in her honour, he used to fast with great devotion from the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul to the Feast of the Assumption.

He was joined in a bond of inseparable love to the angels who burn with a marvellous fire to pass over into God and in tinflame the souls of the elect.

Out of devotion he used to spend the forty days after the Feast of the Assumption of the glorious Virgin in fasting and continual prayer.


Friday, 16 August

A reading from ‘The Letter of Brother Bonaventure to the Abbess and Sisters of the Monastery of Saint Clare in Assisi’.

To his beloved daughters in Jesus Christ, the Abbess of the Poor Ladies of Assisi in the monastery of Saint Clare, and to all its sisters, Brother Bonaventure, Minister General and servant of the Order of Friars Minor, sends his greeting and wish that you, together with the holy virgins, follow the Lamb and his attendants wherever he goes.

Dear daughters in the Lord, I have recently learned from our dear Brother Leo, once a companion of our holy Father, how eager you are, as spouses of the eternal King, to serve the poor crucified Christ in total purity. I was filled with a very great joy at this, so that I now wish, through this letter, to encourage your devotion and your generous following of the virtuous footprints of your holy mother, who, by means of the little poor man Francis, was taught by the Holy Spirit.

May you desire to have nothing else under heaven, except what that mother taught, that is, Jesus Christ and him crucified. My dear daughters, may you run after the fragrance of his blood according to the example of your mother. May you strongly hold on to the mirror of poverty, the pattern of humility, the shield of patience, the insignia of obedience. And, inflamed by the fire of divine love, may you totally give your heart to him who on the cross offered himself to God the Father for us. Thus you will be clothed with the light of your mother’s example and on fire with the delightful burning flames that last forever. Imbued with the fragrance of all the virtues, you will be the perfume of Christ, the virgin’s Son and the Spouse of the prudent virgins, among those who have been saved and those who are perishing.

Lord, let us follow you to Calvary, to be with you in your moment of trial that we may with those who undergo trials this week.  Amen.

Saturday, 17 August

A reading from ‘The Letter of Brother Bonaventure to the Abbess and Sisters of the Monastery of Saint Clare in Assisi’.

Be so attentive in continuing your affections and fervent in the spirit of devotion that when the cry is raised, ‘the Bridegroom is coming,’ you will be able to meet him with faithfulness and with the lamps of your souls filled with the oil of charity and joy. While the foolish virgins are left outside, you will go in with him to the wedding of eternal happiness. Christ will have his spouses sit down there with his angels and chosen ones, will minister to them, and offer them the bread of life and the meat of the Lamb that was slain, roast fish cooked on the cross upon the fire of love, that burning love with which beloved you. Then he will give you a cup of spiced wine, that is, of his humanity and divinity, from which his friends drink and his dearly belovd, while miraculously maintaining their sobriety, drink deeply. While enjoying that abundance of sweetness reserved for those who fear him, you will gaze upon him who is not only the most beautiful of all children but also of all the thousands of angels. It is upon him, moreover, that the angels desire to look, for he is the brightness of eternal light, the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty and the radiance of the glory of paradise.

Therefore, dearly beloved daughters, as you continue to cling to him who is our everlasting good and when he had done good things for you, commend such a sinful person as me to his indescribable kindness. Keep up your prayers that, for the glory and honour of his wonderful name, he will be good enough to guide my steps mercifully in caring for the poor little flock of Christ entrusted to me.

Lord, always faster, higher and stronger is your love for us.   Let us with renewed zeal, fly into our future with excitement and wonder.  Amen.

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