There will be an opportunity to Gift Aid your donation, and/or to direct your gift to the brothers, or sisters or a particular house, after you have completed the final page on PayPal (PayPal account not required).

‘Being present with the delightful and the difficult!’

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Anglican Novice Guardian Conference 30th June-3rd July
Title: ‘Being present with the the delightful and the difficult

This was held at St Mary’s abbey, West Malling. Br Amos and I together with 7 others took part.
Chris Cullen who is a mindfulness teacher and psychotherapist gave the input and shared with us mindfulness techniques, which were very helpful. It was a valuable and thought provoking day and we all wanted to learn more and build on what he had taught us.
The remainder of the time was spent planning the study programme for the novices 2016-2017 and other business. This annual conference gives us time to be together and opportunity to share and  learn from each other, as well as pray with the Community where we stay.
Beverley CSF

The blessing of the ‘mobile monastery’

IMG_0158The ‘mobile monastery’ was blessed by  the bishop of Leicester, the Right Revd Tim Stevens on Monday 22ndJune in Bushy Park, opposite St Matthew’s house in Leicester. Sisters joined Beverley and Chris James, from Birmingham, London and Metheringham, friends from Leicester and further afield also attended.

The rain began to pour ten minutes before the service so about 15 of us squashed into the ‘van’ while others gathered around the entrance. After the service the sun came out and we stood outside the van and had tea and chocolate cake! Children from the local primary school and their mothers came into the park and some of the children came up to the ‘van’ thinking we were selling ice cream! The balloons were given to the Mothers later for the children to take home.

The vision for this project has now come to fruition through a Trust Fund giving funding for a 3 year WP_20150622_15_15_58_Properiod.

The idea  for the project is for Anglican Religious to be more mobile and visible, to attend Summer festivals, visit schools, encourage people in their faith journey, to visit theological colleges, clergy conferences, and other events within dioceses.

As well as Franciscan sisters and brothers taking part in this project, other members of Religious Communities will be asked to help out too.

Beverley CSF

 

The Order of Service for the Blessing may be downloaded as a Word document here.

A short video of the Blessing may be found here.

“Seeking Sustainability” at Hilfield

On the 27th of June 2015 the Hilfield Community will be hosting an event entitled ‘Seeking Sustainability’ from 10.00am to 4.00pm. A PDF of the Poster is available here.

The Friary

St Francis House, Hilfield by Minna Harvey

Franciscans ‘Speak up for the love of …’ at the Mass Climate Change lobby at Parliament

Br Hugh writes:

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Religious, who work together through Justice and Peace Links, after the service in St Margaret’s, with Big Ben in the background.

On 17th June thousands came to the Houses of Parliament to speak to their MPs about climate change. Franciscans of the First and Third Orders were among them. Hilfield Friary Community members Jonathan and Daniel came with me with a coach group from Dorset, while Sr Maureen came from Metheringham and Br Micael Christoffer from Canterbury. Srs Sue and Gina had to come a very short way from Southwark. We were asked to speak up for the love of the good things our planet supports that could be spoilt by climate change – hence the title of the day, Speak up for the love of

The Climate Coalition, the group of charities and faith groups that organised the mass lobby claim around 9,000 constituents were there and that about 250 MPs were lobbied. Christian Aid is a member of the Coalition and had helped us to organise our trips. I saw people from Oxfam, A Rocha (which works closely with Hilfield), Cafod, and WWF among others who are in the coalition.

The lobby was timed to meet our MPs soon after the election, and in good time before the international conference on climate change in Paris in December. We were there to tell our MPs that it is vital that Britain does all it can to persuade the nations of the world to come to a deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – something they failed to do at the 2009 conference in Copenhagen, where I was part of a C/SSF team.

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West Dorset constituents (Daniel and Br Hugh from Hilfield on the extreme left) meeting their MP The Rt. Hon Oliver Letwin MP, Minister of State for Government Policy (from Oliver Letwin’s website)

It was also on the eve of the publication of the Pope’s Encyclical on climate change and its terrible consequences for our planet if we do not change our lifestyles. While the encyclical is unusually addressed to all human beings, not just to Catholics, it is of particular interest to Franciscans as it is entitled Laudato Si (Be Praised), the opening words of St Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures.

We Franciscans and members of other religious orders who we work with in Justice and Peace Links began the day with an ecumenical service at the packed St Margaret’s Westminster, a church where Politics and Prayer have mingled for centuries. The preacher, the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said: “This is not just our individual concern. It is our Christian concern together as the church. It is the concern of people of all faiths. It is our human concern in solidarity with all people. The world is our home.” He praised the Encyclical, and also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change.

After the service we walked a short distance, in lovely sunny weather, to meet our MPs by the stretch of the Thames from the House of Commons and over the bridge to Lambeth Palace. Some of them arrived in rickshaws that the organisers had laid on. Our West Dorset MP, Oliver Letwin, gave us ten minutes and asked us to meet him again at home. After that the three of us from Hilfield visited a Muslim environmental stall at the interfaith area in Lambeth Park, and information stalls run by other charities in St John’s, Smith Square.

Going home to Dorset, our coach met horrible traffic, and it took two hours to get from Westminster to Hammersmith. It was a reminder me that even attending a climate lobby can involve emitting even more greenhouse gases.

A newspaper report published in the Guardian the next day can be found here

 

Hugh SSF

Internoviciate Conference at Hilfield.

A conference for Novices from various Communities was held in the Friary at Hilfield recently. As well as having the opportunity of living alongside the Hilfield Community for a few days they received input from Br Sam (the Guardian of Hilfield) and learnt about the ministry which takes place there.

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Sr Sue visits Korea.

In April Sue spent 2 weeks in Korea visiting Frances and Jemma, the CSF sisters there. They have now lived in their purpose built traditional Korean style convent at Il-Seon-Ri near Gumi for one year, and have planted a small garden around it. Alongside their other ministries they are members of Samsohoe, a movement of sisters and nuns from different faiths in Korea, who meet together regularly to share concerns and pray for peace. During Sue’s visit the group met at Holy Cross Convent in Seoul. The sisters – Anglican, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians, and Buddhists of different traditions talked together about justice and peace issues, and sang a Korean version of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun. They also spent time in silent prayer for peace. Jemma was across the room, but Frances and Sue are in the picture.

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Samsohoe meeting.

In September Frances and Jemma will be visiting UK to join all the sisters and brothers for the European Province’s General Chapter, where the theme will be “Faith to Faith: Franciscans in a multi-faith society.” As there are no CSF sisters elsewhere in that part of the world the two Korean sisters are part of CSF’s European Province, and obviously both UK and Korea are multi-faith societies, though in very different ways.

Jemma in the garden at Il-Seon-Ri

Jemma in the garden at Il-Seon-Ri

In Seoul Sue also had the opportunity to connect briefly with Brothers Stephen and Raphael who are part of the Korean SSF community at Gangchon Friary. They are members of the Province of the Divine Compassion which encompasses the SSF brothers New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka as well as Korea.

Treasures Old and New

A number of brothers and sisters were in Whitby this week for ‘Treasures Old and New’ – a conference bringing together members of religious communities, both traditional and new.

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With thanks to Tom Colbran for his permission to use this picture

First Professed Conference in Freeland.

First Professed Brothers met in Freeland from Friday 17th until Monday 21st April. It was a wonderfully relaxing time and a delight, as always, to spend time with the Second Order Sisters. Pictured are all of the First Professed Brothers (with the exception of Br Joseph Emmanuel who was taking the photograph) and Br Amos (currently the Guardian of the First Professed).

 

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Alnmouth Brothers visit Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw.

Brothers from Alnmouth Friary set off earlier this morning for a visit to the Cistercian Abbey at Nunraw. The beautiful journey from Alnmouth, over the Scottish Border, to the beautiful county of East Lothian was bathed in sunshine and we arrived at the Abbey in time for Sext. Following Sext we went to the Refectory for a meal which was followed by some time for discussion in the library. Our visit finished with the singing of None after which there was more conversation and a chance to take some pictures.

We are most grateful to Abbot Mark and the Community for a lovely, restful day.

 

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Healing Mission in Bolivia.

Br David Jardine has just returned from a healing mission in Potosi and La Paz in Bolivia. A team from Interdenominational Divine Healing Ministries conducted the 11 day retreat and felt greatly sustained by the prayers accompanying them. More pictures of the mission are available from the Interdenominational Divine Healing Ministries website (link above) or their Facebook Page.

A street scene.

A street scene in Potosi.

Br David Jardine outside a house of prayer (linked to the 24/7 prayer movement)

Br David Jardine outside a house of prayer (linked to the 24/7 prayer movement)

The ministry team taking part in a  radio discussion

The ministry team taking part in a radio discussion

Brothers attend National Climate March in London.

Brs Micael Christoffer,  Edmund and Hugh joined the National Climate March in London on 7th March. Starting with a service in St Mary le Strand organised by Operation Noah and Green Christian, we then joined Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Faith block of the march. In glorious sunshine, with perhaps 20,000 others, we ended with a rally at Parliament Square. Speakers were Caroline Lucas MP  and Naomi Klein, author of the recently published and much discussed This Changes Everything. The rally encouraged the nation to prepare for both the General Election and the UN Climate Summit this December in Paris.  The Photo also shows us with Angela Forbes TSSF outside Parliament. The next big climate event for us is likely to be the Christian Aid rally in London in June.

 

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Divine Healing Ministries on Facebook

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Br David Jardine SSF has made a series of videos on the ministry of healing which are on the Divine Healing Ministries Facebook page. Br David will be conducting a teaching day on Divine Healing at Hilfield Friary on Saturday the 13th of June. To view one of the videos click hereUnknown

“The Consecrated Life in the Anglican Tradition and the Ecumenical Journey” – Br Clark Berge SSF

Br Clark Berge SSF

Br Clark Berge SSF

Brother Clark Berge, SSF Minister General, recently presented a  paper  “The Consecrated Life in the Anglican Tradition and the Ecumenical Journey” at an Ecumenical Symposium on the Year of the Consecrated Life.  This event held in the Vatican City from 22-25 January was part of a programme of events to mark The Year of the Consecrated Life proclaimed by Pope Francis and  running from Advent 2014 until Candlemas 2016.   Brother Desmond Alban SSF and Sister Joyce CSF also attended with other Anglican Religious.
The text of Clark’s paper is available from the ‘Wider Picture’ page on the website or by clicking here.

A new Novice for SSF

Peter receives a Blessing from Br Benedict

Peter receives a Blessing from Br Benedict

Peter receives the Statutes.

Peter receives the Statutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Postulant Peter Southall was clothed as a Novice today during Evening Prayer taking the name Peter Aidan. At the service, which was witnessed by a Chapel full of Peter’s friends, Peter was presented with the Statutes of the Society of St Francis, received a Blessing from the Minister Provincial (Br Benedict) and was clothed in the habit of St Francis.

Br Peter Aidan nSSF with Br Benedict SSF

Br Peter Aidan nSSF with Br Benedict SSF

Hilfield Community Volunteer film

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The Hilfield Community have released a short video about volunteering as part of the Community. The video (which is in Youtube) may be viewed by clicking here. More information about Hilfield may be found  by clicking here.

Korea

The CSF sisters in South Korea are part of CSF’s European Province, and so are included on this website, whereas the SSF brothers belong to the Province of the Divine Compassion which may be accessed here.

Sr Jemma learning carpentry

Sr Jemma learning carpentry

Gumi Convent.

In the Gyeongsangbukdo Province of South Korea, in the Diocese of Busan, at the outskirts of Gumi, there is a beautiful and peaceful traditional Korean village where in 2014 we built a traditional Korean-style convent. Il-Seon-Ri is a model village, formed according to the principles of Confucian thought, and in this place the Korean Franciscan sisters have put down roots among the villagers, working to enable the budding forth of a new way of living that allows Confucianism and Christianity to co-exist side by side.  To people thirsty for rest and peace, tired out by the complexities of modern life, the sisters offer a warm welcome and friendship, prayer and the opportunity for spiritual guidance.  Through working for the welfare of young people and the production of clerical vestments, the Korean sisters are forming links with the church and the local community; and by actively welcoming those who wish to visit the convent, the ‘open days’ of Tuesday to Saturday provide an opportunity to share in the Daily Office and the day to day life of the convent.  With two guest rooms, the outer traditional form of the building is complemented by an interior with the comforts of modern living, and the guests are welcome to use the convent chapel, living room, garden, and common spaces of the house.

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Outside the Convent in Il-Seon-Ri

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Srs Frances (seated) and Jemma with visiting Sisters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing a meal

Sharing a meal

With Guests

With Guests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taize service in chapel - Frances on keyboard (2)

Taize service in Chapel

 

 

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Frances, Jemma and Stephen SSF at Seoul Franciscan Centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At a Samsoehoe interfaith gathering

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Br Nicholas Alan’s sermon at the Profession in Alnmouth

Saturday 13th December 2014                                                                                                                                  Alnmouth Friary

Profession in Vows                                                                                                                        2 King 2: 9-14; Matthew 17:10-13

From now on, call nothing you own. As you are bound to Christ, so in him you are set free.

Today is a very important day for our four brothers: Cristian Michael, David, Micael Christoffer and Robert. They are about

Br Nicholas Alan preaching.

Br Nicholas Alan preaching.

to dedicate themselves to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ within the First Order of the Society of Saint Francis. Of course it is not a complete beginning; more than three years of training, first as a postulant and then as a novice, have hopefully given them a good idea of what they are committing themselves to. This is not a leap in the dark, but a clear-eyed decision and a commitment to take this next, significant step along the journey that we are already travelling together. So today we give thanks for your vocation.

It is also an important day for the whole community. Here in Britain we are known as the European Province of the Society of Saint Francis. As we steadily retreat to the heartlands of England, closing houses in Ireland, Wales and Scotland, calling ourselves the European Province has been something of a notional designation, an aspiration rather than a reality. But today Europe has come to us, and we are immeasurably enriched by the diverse life-paths of the brothers making their vows here today. In the early days of the Franciscan order, back in the time of St. Francis, language skills were not high among the accomplishments of the friars. Those going on the mission to Germany knew little more than the word ‘Ja’ for Yes, which was alright when people asked them if they were hungry or tired, but was not quite so useful when asked if they were heretics. Today we can count on missioners fluent in German, Swedish, Romanian and Arabic, not to mention various other European languages along the way.

Perhaps more significantly, here are four young men who have had time to get to know the community, and still feel that this is the place where God is calling them to be. This community, they and we believe, is the environment in which they can most flourish as people and as servants of God. That is a tremendous compliment to pay to your brothers and sisters in community: to say that this place will do, these people are good enough (if nothing more!), here are companions with whom to find true happiness and the salvation of our souls. It is a statement of faith, both in the God who gives us grace to live this life, and in this particular community, that it will continue to nurture your growth into the full stature of Christ, and enable you to give yourself most fully in the service of others. So I say ‘thank you’ for your faith in us, and for the faith of your families and friends who have entrusted you to us.

IMG_2005And we also have faith in you. Although the service we are enacting today is framed around your profession in vows, still it remains an expression of mutual commitment. Towards the end of the service the previously professed brothers and sisters affirm: ‘As we receive you into our fellowship and are united with you in the bonds of love in this earthly life, so may we, at the last, by the mercy of God, be joined together with all God’s faithful people in heaven.’ We receive you into our fellowship, though of course in so many ways you are already there, a part of us that we do not want to lose; and we pray that by God’s mercy this act of commitment may bring us all to full membership of God’s faithful people in heaven. Jesus once said that there will be no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven, so presumably there will be no Professions in Vows either, but our professions on this earth are none the less the expression and living out of a fellowship that will bring us all, together, through the good times and the bad, to rejoice in God’s company and the company of each other in God’s Kingdom forever. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that. Maybe it has taken all your courage to work up to this one provisional first vow and the thought of eternity with these brothers and sisters may be more than you can cope with right now. But don’t worry; Jesus also said that there are many mansions in his Father’s kingdom, many friaries and hermitages. Somewhere up there is a friary built for you, or at least a cell with your name on the door, and a chapel at the end of the cloister that reaches up into the universe and beyond.    

From now on, call nothing you own. As you are bound to Christ, so in him you are set free.

I quoted that phrase at the beginning of this sermon, because for me it sums up so much of what is happening here today. It is IMG_1959spoken by the Minister, at perhaps the most dramatic moment of the service, when he throws to one side the single knotted rope of a novice, and replaces it with a rope knotted three times to represent the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Newly tied, and hopefully still able to breath, you will hear these words: From now on, call nothing you own. As you are bound to Christ, so in him you are set free. This is really our Rule of Life, our Bill of Rights and our Charter of Freedom. From now on, call nothing you own. What can that mean? Call nothing your own? Well, practically speaking, some things will inevitably remain your own. Please do call your socks your own, if you have any: that way they are more likely to get washed. Call your habit your own, if you wish, and make sure that it doesn’t get too frayed at the edges. (That is bound to happen in other ways during the course of community life.) But these words of the Minister are rather more radical in their implications.

Call nothing you own. This is really about the letting go, gradually or suddenly, of everything we hold dear, everything we are attached to, for good or for ill. It is a way of practicing for the great letting go that will happen to all of us when we pass from this life to the next.   Call nothing your own: this applies even to your sense of vocation, to the vows you are making today. Our vocation is not a personal possession to be defended at all costs. It is a communal process of discernment, a working out together of that which we believe is the will of God. Call nothing you own. That applies to your time, your talents, your energy, the overflowing gifts with which God has blessed you, which we have recognised within you and which you have shared with us. In the Eucharist at the offertory we often say: All things come from you, O Lord, and of your own do we give you. This making of vows which we practice together is a way of making an offering of our lives, making ourselves a Eucharist, a thanksgiving, and a place where Christ is made real in flesh and blood.

And we cannot do this on our own. We need the example of St. Francis and St. Clare, in their self-abandonment to God in poverty and joy; we need the courage of our Blessed Lady Mary, and her Yes to the incredible call to let God come to birth within her through the Holy Spirit; and we need each other to realise that we truly are all in this together, that there is no individual salvation to be worked out on our own, that we live or die as a fellowship, a communion, a community made one in the body of Christ.

In our readings from Scripture today we are given another role model to help us on our way. Jesus speaks, briefly, of John the Baptist, his cousin and forerunner, who lived out the role of Elijah preparing the way of the Lord. Francis himself was baptised John, in honour of the Baptist, according to the Franciscan theologian St. Bonaventure. And Francis saw himself as a messenger of peace and reconciliation, beginning his sermons with the words Pace e Bene, Peace and all Good. One of the stories about Francis tells how in the early days of his conversion he was confronted on a lonely road by a group of robbers who demanded to know who he was. ‘The Herald of the Great King’, Francis replied, and being penniless was pushed aside into a snowy ditch for his pains. Francis, like John, was a herald, a forerunner, someone who points to someone else, who deflects attention away from himself to another more powerful than he.

John the Baptist is in many ways an exemplar of the religious life, and particularly of the Franciscan friar. Here is someone who dispossesses himself of all things, who goes out into the desert to fast and to pray, but then returns to preach the good news: The Kingdom of God is at hand! God’s presence is in our midst! In John’s Gospel, the Baptist says of Jesus: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ (Jn.3:30) That would be a good motto for us all as Christians, but especially for those of us who are professed brothers and sisters of St. Francis. In icons, John the Baptist is always seen pointing away from himself, deflecting attention to Jesus. Don’t look at me, he seems to be saying, Look at Him, look at Jesus. He must increase, but I must decrease. This is still what we are being called to do: to show people Jesus, to lead people to the one in whom they can find salvation.

And John the Baptist, proclaiming the way of the Lord, was himself re-enacting the role of another archetype of the religious life, the Old Testament prophet Elijah. In our intriguing reading from the Second Book of Kings, Elijah is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, leaving Elisha his disciple gazing up in wonder at the fast disappearing chariot and horses of fire. Elijah, like John, was one who went out into the desert, and it was there that he found God in the sheer silence at the mouth of a cave. At our monastery in Worcestershire we used to have a hermit living not in a cave but in a hut at the bottom of the garden. His name was Brother Ramon. He rarely came up to the house, but he did come up to preach at my own profession in first vows 15 years ago. I can still hear his rolling Welsh consonants echoing in my head. I always wanted to say to him before he died: ‘Grant me to inherit a double share of your spirit!’ But I never did, nor did I see him ascend into heaven in a whirlwind, in a chariot of fire. Perhaps he did, but I wasn’t there.

But in a way we are all Elisha’s to the Elijah’s who go before us. We all of us have a chance to pick up the mantle, or the habit, of those who have gone before us, and to strike the waters before us with a cry of: ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Ramon?’ Or the God of Martin? Or the God of Nathanael? Perhaps you should try this with these new ropes after the service: go to the causeway leading to Holy Island at high tide, strike the water and cry: ‘Where is the Lord, the God of St. Francis, of Fr. Algy and Br. Douglas?’ Perhaps the waters will part; if you wait long enough it will happen anyway with the turn of the tide. (Most things do.) But don’t wait too long or you might get swept out to sea. In fact I think you would do better to find first the true River Jordan that each of you has to cross. Because now the journey begins in earnest. It may feel as though at last you have arrived: you are about to become a professed brother in the Society of St. Francis. But that is only the beginning. Now you have to cross the river, whatever the river is to you: to call nothing your own, and to let everything else float away down the river and out into the vast ocean. Now is the time to stand alongside Moses at the Red Sea, Joshua at the River Jordan, and Jesus as he crossed the icy waters of death to re-emerge new-born on the other side. But hold onto this habit and rope. Treat it as a heavenly garment fallen from a chariot of fire, entrusted to you by the prophet Elijah himself. May this rope bind you to Christ and so set you free; and may you in your freedom bring all people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

 

Hope for the Future ‘write-in’ at Hilfield

Br Hugh writes:

On Sunday 14th December, after a sermon in the Eucharist about how John the Baptist prayed (in the desert), practised a simple lifestyle (foraged locusts and camel hair clothes) and engaged in politics (criticising  King Herod’s corrupt taxation system), the Hilfield Friary community enjoyed African Fair Trade honey with home baked rolls for breakfast. Then, in a corner of the refectory,  community members and guests held a Hope For The Future ‘write-in’, shown in the photo, to their various MPs asking them to get realistic climate change policies into their manifestos before the General Election next May. We asked ‘ What is in your party’s manifesto that will enable the UK to reach the target of at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act’. The completed letters (with environmental pictures by those too young to write) lay in front of the altar in the Friary chapel for the rest of the day. By combining prayer, practice and politics – with  proclamation on the internet – we hope we are walking in the sandals of the Prophet John.

For further details of the campaign see www.hftf.org.uk.

HFTF write-in at Hilfield

Four Brothers Professed in Alnmouth!

More than seventy people joined with Brs Cristian Michael, David, Micael Cristoffer and Robert as they made their first Professions in the Society of St Francis. Br Nicholas Alan SSF (the Guardian of Glasshampton Monastery where all Novices spend a period of Enclosure) preached and Br Benedict SSF (the Minister Provincial) presided at the Eucharist and received the vows on behalf of the Society. The guests (who came from Sweden, Germany and around the United Kingdom) joined the Brothers for a delicious lunch after the Eucharist.

Br Nicholas Alan preaching.

Br Nicholas Alan preaching.

Br Benedict receives Br Cristian Michael's Promises

Br Benedict receives Br Cristian Michael’s Promises

The three knotted rope (symbolising the three vows) is knotted around Br David.

The three knotted rope (symbolising the three vows) is knotted around Br David.

The rope is tied around Br Michael Cristoffer

The rope is tied around Br Michael Cristoffer

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Br Robert receives his rope

The newly Professed Brothers exchange the sign of peace with their Brothers and Sisters

The newly Professed Brothers exchange the sign of peace with their Brothers and Sisters

Br Benedict presiding

Br Benedict presiding

The newly Professed with Br Nicholas Alan

The newly Professed with Br Nicholas Alan

The newly Professed with Br Desmond Alban (the Novice Guardian)

The newly Professed with Br Desmond Alban (the Novice Guardian)

The four Novice ropes remain in the Chapel until tomorrow.

The four Novice ropes remain in the Chapel until tomorrow.

Br David Jardine SSF “Quiet Peacemakers”

A portrait of Br David Jardine SSF appeared in an exhibition of portraits by Susan Hughes entitled ‘Quiet Peacemakers.’ The exhibition, which was held in the Duncairn Centre for Culture and the Arts consisted of thirty five portraits of those termed the ‘unsung heroes’ by the Lord Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallan. The men and women portrayed in the exhibition had all contributed to the forging of peace in Northern Ireland over the past troubled decades.

Br David Jardine with his portrait

Br David Jardine with his portrait

 

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Br David Jardine praying at a healing service.

Farewell to Bishop Michael Perham, retiring after nine years as our Protector.

Members of all three Orders of The Society of St Francis  from various parts of the country gathered at St Philip and St James Church Plaistow in east London on Monday 8th December for a Eucharist and lunch to celebrate the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to mark Bishop Michael’s retirement as Bishop Protector for the European Province of The Society of St. Francis, occasioned by his retirement as Bishop of Gloucester.

Br Benedict, the brothers’ Minister Provincial presided at the Eucharist, and Sr Helen Julian, CSF Minister General and former Minister Provincial, gave the homily. Sr Damien OSC, Abbess at Freeland, read the epistle, and Rev Joanna Coney TSSF, formerly Minister Provincial for the Third Order, who was representing Averil Swanton TSSF, the current Minister Provincial, read the gospel. Sr Sue CSF, the sisters’ Minister Provincial also took part in the service, and expressed the Society’s thanksgiving for Bishop Michael’s ministry with us, presenting him with gifts – a picture of the courtyard at Hilfield and book tokens, as a sign of our appreciation.

 

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Bishop Michael during the presentation, following the Eucharist.

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Bishop Michael and Brother Samuel, Guardian of the Hilfield Community, holding Minna Harvey’s picture of the Courtyard. Sr Sue and Sr Damien can be seen in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in June Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, was chosen by all three Orders as the new Bishop Protector, to take over at Bishop Michael’s retirement.  We are very grateful to Bishop Stephen for agreeing to take on this role, and look forward to his ministry among us.

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Bishop Stephen Cottrell

Climate change and the forthcoming General Election

hope-for-the-futureBr Hugh writes:

As we approach the  General Election next May, and then in December the UN Climate Conference in Paris, there is a danger that climate change will be sidelined in the election debate.

Hope for the Future, backed by the Bishop of Sheffield, Christian Aid and a number of charities and communities, wants  individuals and churches to write to their MPs and candidates  to make sure climate is an election issue. Their website may be found here.
There are leaflets on display at Hilfield for guests and visitors to take home with them. Or please download the leaflet below and write to your MP, and  the candidates of the main parties as they are announced. Then let HFTF know of any answers you have. The HFTF website gives you lots of hints for writing letters, or even one to copy, and tells you your MP’s name, and address at Parliament if you don’t know it. Some churches around the country are holding ‘mass write-ins’.

Hilfield is in the West Dorset constituency, which is one of HFTF’s targets as our MP Oliver Letwin is a Government Minister. So 2 of the community went with a Christian Aid Group to lobby him  at one of his surgeries in Beaminster, and to ask him to confirm that climate change would be at the heart of his party’s manifesto.

A link to a PDF of the Hope for the Future leaflet may be found here.

Sr Sue celebrates with a church she started 35 years ago

Sr Sue was invited to share in the joyful 35th anniversary celebration of Mead Vale Church in Worle, near Weston-Super-Mare, on 16th November.  Sue had started the church with people living on the Mead Vale estate in 1979 in the newly built Mead Vale Community Hall, when serving as a Methodist deaconess in the Worle Ecumenical Parish.  Bishop Peter Maurice Bishop of Taunton preached and gave the church a special gift – the banner proclaiming “God always keeps his promises”, which he had treasured for many years, and wanted to hand on to a living faith community before he retires next spring.   Rev’d Emma Amyes, currently the Team Vicar at Mead Vale,  led the service, and Sue shared  memories of the church’s beginnings.

Sr Sue with Bishop Peter Maurice, the Rev'd Emma Amyes and parishioners.

Sr Sue with Bishop Peter Maurice, the Rev’d Emma Amyes and young parishioners.

“Tea and Taize” – a new initiative in Byker.

The Brothers of St Anthony’s Friary in Byker have begun a new initiative entitled “Taize and Tea.” The services (which are about 45 minutes long) are held in St Anthony’s Church in Byker. There will services on Saturday 15th November and Saturday 6th December both starting at 4.00pm

 

Taize Poster

Understanding Islam at Hilfield.

FrancisSultan
The present crisis in Syria and Iraq, and anxieties about international terrorism, are heightening fear and prejudice in our own western culture about Muslims and the religion of Islam to which the terms violence and extremism are often attached. If we are to live peaceably and justly in the multi-cultural society that we find ourselves today it is important to have a broader view of the religion of Islam than that of the violence and brutality of the forces of the so-called Islamic State. Fear and hatred between people of different religions and cultures comes about as a result of ignorance or partial understanding of what the religions and cultures are about; it is easy to portray or fit ‘the other’ into one’s misunderstanding and so reinforce the fears – at this time, particularly, of Muslims.

Chris HewerDr Chris Hewer, who led a course at the Friary in October entitled ‘Understanding Islam’, is a Christian theologian who has thirty years of experience studying Islam and engaging with Muslims. While remaining firmly rooted in his own tradition, Chris gives a knowledgeable and sympathetic introduction to the subject, explaining the history of Islam, the place of the prophet Mohammed and of the Koran, and of the world views and ways of life of Muslims today. The 3 day course at Hilfield was attended by people from different parts of the UK, including some Muslims from Dorset. Wisdom was shared, mutual respect was established and friendships were made. All religions are definitely not the same but we can live peaceably and hospitably with each other through understanding and humility before each other and under God.

SSF Ministers at Alnmouth

The Pastoral Meeting at Alnmouth Friary (attended by the Minister General and the Ministers Provincial) is coming to a close in Alnmouth. They were able to take a rest from their deliberations for this photo:

The Minister General and Ministers Provincial at Alnmouth Friary. Front Row (l-r): Br Oswald Dumbari; Br Benedict; Br Clifton Henry. Back Row (l-r): Br Jude; Br Christopher John; Br Clerk Berge

The Minister General and Ministers Provincial.
Front Row (l-r): Br Oswald Dumbari; Br Benedict; Br Clifton Henry. Back Row (l-r): Br Jude; Br Christopher John; Br Clerk Berge

Interfaith Conference in Turkey.

Kentigern recently attended a conference on Inter faith and ecumenical dialogue hosted by the Roman Catholic Franciscans (OFM) in Istanbul.  As part of the conference the group visited some of the ‘Seven Churches of Revelation’ in Anatolia. There is a report of the Conference here

Members of the Group standing outside a rare Mughal-influenced Mosque in Istanbul

Members of the Group standing outside a rare Mughal-influenced Mosque in Istanbul

Members of the group standing in front of the Hagia Sophia (formerly the Patriarchal Cathedral of Constantinople and Imperial Mosque of Mehmet II)

Members of the group standing in front of the Hagia Sophia (formerly the Patriarchal Cathedral of Constantinople and Imperial Mosque of Mehmet II)

Br Kentigern in the Hagia Sophia

Br Kentigern in the Hagia Sophia

Br Kentigern at the ruins in Pergamon (Temple of Trajan)

Br Kentigern at the ruins in Pergamon (Temple of Trajan)

Religious Superiors’ Conference 2014

Br Benedict SSF, Sr Sue CSF and Sr Damien OSC attended the conference for Community Leaders earlier this month. The conference was held in Mirfield and hosted by the Community of the Resurrection.

 

The Community Leaders in the Community Church at Mirfield.

The Community Leaders in the Community Church at Mirfield.

A Franciscan View of Creation – wisdom for a world going mad by Br Samuel SSF

What follows is based on the text of a lecture given in Wells Cathedral by Br Samuel SSF in 2007.

Br Samuel SSF

Br Samuel SSF

 

St Francis of Assisi is perhaps the world’s most well-known and best-loved saint. The rich young man who gave away all his possessions (and some of his father’s too!) to go and live among lepers, the nature mystic who preached to the birds, the peace-maker who travelled to Muslim lands to try and convert the Sultan of Egypt, the contemplative who, towards the end of his life, received in his body the stigmata, the marks of Christ’s Passion – all this and more puts Francis among the Top Ten of saints; even school children know about him. But there’s a danger in popularity; Francis’ story is easy to sentimentalize; plastic statues with doves abound, and his romantic appeal can make him a kind of ideal ‘true Christian’ on behalf of the rest of us, ‘if only everyone was like St Francis’ etc.

In fact I believe that Francis has something much more important to offer us than surrogate sanctity, something that is particularly significant and even essential at this point in history when the world is facing a future precariously balanced between hope and disaster. Through the small collection of his own writings and through the chronicles of his life written by others, and also through the writings of those who were influenced by him, most especially the medieval theologians St Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus, who developed a Franciscan tradition of theology and spirituality, Francis offers us a way of seeing the world that is different from our own. It’s a way which, on the one hand, is critical, even subversive, of much in our western contemporary culture, and yet at the same time it’s emphatically world-affirming rather than world denying. It’s this different way of seeing which I believe can offer wisdom for a global future and which I want to share with you in this lecture. I’m not suggesting that this will be exclusively ‘franciscan’; it will resonate, I hope, with other traditions and disciplines, with poets, artists, theologians, environmentalists and people of different faiths, perhaps particularly with those who have spoken before me in this series of lectures.

An economy of gift

Thomas of Celano, Francis’ earliest biographer, says of the saint that ‘….he delighted in all the works of God’s hands and from the vision of joy on earth his mind soared aloft to the life-giving source and cause of it all. In everything beautiful he saw Him who is beauty itself and he followed his Beloved everywhere by his likeness imprinted on creation’.[1] For Francis the entire universe – the self and the total environment to which the self belongs – is a theophany, a manifestation of God, a creative outpouring of the abundant goodness and love which is the life of the Blessed Trinity. God creates the world not out of necessity – there’s nothing inevitable about creation – but rather out of love; everything that is – is pure gift.

It’s important to recognize that Francis is not saying that the world is divine, there’s no hint of pantheism in his theology; rather he shows us that every created thing, if we have eyes to see it, bears the ‘imprint’ of God and can point us to God, the generous source and giver of all. Bonaventure talks of creation as a mirror reflecting the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of the Trinity, or as bearing the footprint of God, or yet again of creation as a ‘book’ with every creature a word directing us to the Word. The ultimate word, the pinnacle of creation, is the Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ – God’s masterpiece of creation. Bonaventure says that ‘In his human nature Christ embraces something of every creature in himself’.[2] Christ fulfils the creation. John Duns Scotus proposed that the incarnation would have happened even if Adam hadn’t fallen through disobedience; the incarnation wasn’t just God’s rescue plan to save us from our sins; the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was always God’s ‘goal’ in creation. Jesus is the one who both expresses God’s love in all its fullness, and who also who returns that love to the Creator perfectly. It is to Christ that everything in creation leads[3].

Such an understanding of creation as an outpouring from the fountain-fullness of God’s love and goodness had a profound effect on the way Francis looked at the world and looked at himself. There is in Francis, as in the Hebrew tradition, no hierarchy of the spiritual over the material. Matter matters. The view is quite often expressed by preachers today that the problem with our western society is that we are too materialistic, that we overvalue the material at the expense of the spiritual. Francis, I think, would rather say that we are not nearly materialist enough. We take material things too lightly, we show no reverence towards creation; we take it for granted, we abuse and misuse it, we tend to see it as something to be possessed, controlled, manipulated or exploited for our own ends. In Francis’ world view everything is to be reverenced as having value because it is from God. Recycling, I think he would say, is important, not simply because we are rapidly running out of land-fill sites, but because nothing is to be disregarded or discarded as valueless. There’s no such thing as trash. What we do with our rubbish is a profoundly spiritual affair. Such a way of seeing gave Francis an innate courtesy towards all creatures. He preached to the birds who happened to interrupt a more conventional sermon to people; he spoke respectfully to Brother Fire when the temples on his face were about to be cauterized with red-hot irons, and he told the gardener at the Friary to leave a place for the weeds and wild flowers because they had a right to be there. What environmentalist would argue with that?

Angela of Foligno, a Franciscan mystic of the fourteenth century, said that ‘the world is pregnant with God’; the Franciscan tradition is essentially sacramental, everything in creation, even the smallest and the most despised part of it, can point beyond itself to reveal something of God to us. I get a glimpse of that when I watch one of David Attenborough’s nature programmes, or when I read Ronald Blyth’s ‘Word from Wormingford’ each week in the Church Times, or when I listen to the poetry of Thomas Traherne or of Gerard Manley Hopkins. The challenge is to extend those glimpses, as Francis did, into a contemplative gaze that transforms our whole way of life.

The key to it all for Francis was his sense of ‘giftedness’; he was overwhelmed by the generosity of God in and through creation and he lived in a constant state of grateful dependence. Essential to such an awareness was his relationship with ‘Lady Poverty’, the beautiful bride whom he sought to embrace throughout his life and whom he fought to defend against all who wanted to snatch her away from him. Poverty enabled Francis to recognise his fundamental dependence; it led him to see the simplest of things as ‘gift’, and caused him to overflow with joy and praise in response. There’s a story of Francis and another brother begging for food through the streets of Assisi, and, when their bowls were sufficiently full, finding a rock and a stream to sit beside where they could share what they had collected. When Francis began to offer praise and thanks to God for the rich banquet set before them the other brother could stand it no longer; it was humiliating enough, he protested, to have had to go from house to house seeking food, but to describe the left-overs in their bowls as a ‘banquet’ was stretching it a bit too far. Francis replied that what made it a banquet was that everything they had received was pure gift – the food, the clear stream, even the rock on which they sat. And so they dined together in peace.

There’s no beauty or virtue in poverty itself. Involuntary poverty, poverty that is imposed by circumstance of war, famine, unemployment, or injustice is an ugly curse that often de-humanises. Yet Francis, living in central Italy in a time of rapid economic growth and increasing prosperity, at the beginning of a market economy in which the use of currency was first becoming widespread, saw that affluence can be a burden that dulls our senses, our hearts and our imaginations. Living with so much, we tend to become pre-occupied and obsessed with possession, with holding, keeping, guarding, accumulating and developing – and because of it we lose that sense of giftedness and gratitude, that virtue of dependence and delight which enables us to live feely and joyfully in our world. How often, as we trudge drearily around the supermarket, do we have any awareness of God’s ‘economy of gift’ in what we drop into our trolleys? St Augustine of Hippo, preaching to his fifth century North African congregation, challenges them: ‘God longs to give you something [the precious gift of himself] but you are not able to receive it because your hands are already too full’. We are sated with what cannot sustain us; we are consumed by consumerism. I would suggest that the rediscovery of gift and the dependence, gratitude, generosity and joy which flows from it is an essential attitude to sustain us in the global future; life will be unsustainable without it.

Belonging to the family

Francis’ joyful awareness of everything-that-is being an expression of the abundant goodness of God led him to see deep into the structure of the universe and to recognise in a profound way the fundamental connectedness of all things in God with each other. St Bonaventure, in his Major Life of St Francis, wrote that ‘he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of “brother” or “sister” because he knew that they shared with him the same beginning[4]. This sense of belonging, of ‘familiness’, is one of the particular insights of the Franciscan tradition: we are brothers and sisters, not just within the family of the virtuous or the family of the Church, so ‘Sister Leper’, ‘Brother Robber’, and ‘Brother Muslim’ are included. The family extends to the animal creation, not just to the cuddly creatures, so it’s ‘Brother Wolf’ and I suspect ‘Sister Hornet’ and ‘Brother Scorpion’ too. And the family embraces inanimate creatures as well, so it’s ‘Brother Sun’ and ‘Sister Moon’, ‘Brother Fire’ and ‘Sister Water’; even the darker aspects of life – pain and loss and ‘Sister Death’ – have familial roles to play.

The accounts of Francis’ life often refer to his ‘piety’, not only towards God but in relationship to the rest of creation. Today we understand that word to have a solely religious connotation, a pious person is someone who acts religiously or who performs certain religious actions, but the root meaning of the word refers to the faithful acknowledgement of the bonds of blood relationship within the family. Francis felt those bonds of relationship with every creature and every part of creation. Over a high table dinner in Cambridge, after preaching in one of the College Chapels, I was told by a leading geneticist that ‘of course, we share ninety per cent of our genes with a banana’. Now, I’m no expert on these matters, and it may have been the port speaking, but it’s clear that scientific advances, particularly in biology and cosmology, are increasingly bringing home to us the essential connectedness of all things; all creatures are ‘joined at the hip’, we are all ‘star dust’.

The irony of our present situation is that, in a world in which these developments in understanding are taking place, and in which we recognise the inevitability and growing pace of globalization, our actual experience is often of disconnectedness and isolation. We can communicate more rapidly than at any time in history, it’s something of an obsession, yet we seem to find the making of ‘pious’ relationships within the family or the community increasingly difficult. We travel as tourists ever more widely and more often, we see the world more extensively and relocate more easily, and yet we are losing a sense of belonging to each other and to the rest of creation. We live in a culture that is increasingly virtual; so much experience is mediated by electronic gadgets that entail sensory deprivation – of touch, of smell, of certain sounds. Meanwhile, our obsession with comfort and safety not only deprives our children of the sense of freedom inspired by outdoors, a fact we now frequently lament, it deprives adults as well: how many of us see stars on a regular basis? We live ‘at a distance’, dislocated from the world around us. The American agrarian essayist and poet, Wendell Berry, writes: ‘What we call the modern world is not necessarily, and not often, the real world, and there is no virtue in being up-to-date in it…..It is a false world, based upon economies and values and desires that are fantastical – a world in which millions of people have lost any idea of the materials, the disciplines, the restraints and the work necessary to support human life, and have thus become dangerous to their own lives and to the possibility of life.[5] Berry’s own response to that unreality is to practice good husbandry and a ‘kindly use of the land’. He writes of the need to respect and serve the topsoil, stressing that human civilization is utterly dependent for its survival upon its relationship with the twelve inches or so of what lies on the earth’s land surface. Such a vision is profoundly scriptural. Professor Ellen Davis, in her 2007 Hulsean Lectures, in which she looks at the environment through the eyes of the of the scriptures and at the scriptures through the eyes of the environment, points out that the task of Adam – ‘Son of the Earth’, with the land in Genesis 2.15, usually translated ‘to till it and tend it’, would be better rendered by ‘to serve it and to keep it’, in the sense of observing the commandments or keeping the Sabbath. ‘Serving and keeping’ the land emphasises the intimate relationship which is necessary for humankind to flourish on it. Others, such as those belonging to the ‘Slow Food Movement’, are witnessing that our relationship with food – where and how it’s grown, sold, prepared and consumed – urgently needs to change if we are to live sanely and healthily in the world. Yet others are trying, through their writing, their action and their campaigning, to challenge us into re-connecting with our natural environment. Madeleine Bunting, writing in the Guardian in praise of Mark Cocker’s wonderful book on rooks, ‘Crow Country’, points out the growing popularity of the genre of nature writing which explores the relationship between ourselves and the natural world: ‘We need that attentiveness to nature to understand our humanity, and of how we fit, as just one species, into a vast reach of time and space.’[6] St Francis was neither a ‘foodie’, nor a farmer nor a nature writer, yet I believe he would understand this language and share these concerns because of the essentially relational truth of the universe which flows from the life of the Trinity.

Instruments of Peace

His awareness of belonging to one family with and through ‘Brother Jesus’ led Francis to seek relationships of peace and harmony which he believed appropriate to that insight and he worked to reconciles enemies wherever and whenever he found them. In his Testament, written at the end of his life, he recounts how he received from the Lord himself the greeting: ‘May the Lord give you peace’, and his brothers were instructed to share this greeting with those whom they met. He became renowned as a peace-maker in situations of conflict. Thomas, Archdeacon of Split, writing of a visit by Francis to the city in 1222, tells of his preaching there: ‘….God conferred so much power on his words that they brought peace in many a seigniorial family torn apart until then by old, cruel and furious hatreds even to the point of assassinations’.[7] Three years before this Francis sought a resolution of the conflict between Christian and Muslim over the holy places in Palestine. He travelled to Egypt to join the crusading armies which were vainly attempting to wrest back control and, crossing over the enemy lines, he managed to speak directly to the Sultan of Egypt who received him with hospitality and reverence. It wasn’t so much his negotiating skills which were effective (in fact they weren’t, in the sense that the crusading army lost a disastrous battle and the Muslims kept control of Jerusalem); rather, what seems to have impressed the Sultan, himself a cultured and spiritual man, was the humble and peaceful manner of Francis’ approach which sought conversation about the things of God rather than making warlike and aggressive threats; this ‘little poor man’ was clearly a person who embodied peace and who lived in gentleness towards others. Later on, after his return from the East, Francis tells those who wish to go among the Saracens ‘….not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake and to acknowledge that they are Christians…..’[8] and again ‘I counsel, admonish and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world; but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle, and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming’[9]. His peaceable and courteous relationship with the natural world, and his humble courtesy towards those who were universally thought of at the time as enemies, were of one and the same approach.

Issues concerning the environment, the possession of land, access to food, water and energy, are at the heart of most of the world’s conflicts, and the tension over these is likely to increase as resources grow scarcer with the pressure of unsustainable development. Changing climates and the rising sea levels which will displace millions in low-lying areas, increasing desertification and the collapse of fish stocks, competition for minerals and carbon fuel sources; all these make wars between different races, cultures and faith communities more likely. Ecocide and genocide are closely related. Paradoxically, it may also be that a growing concern about our destructive lack of relationship with the natural world will be the one thing which can bring together conflicting nations, races, religions and communities in common action. Finding peace among the human community will depend upon our learning to live peacefully within the wider family of creation. It’s a hopeful sign that there are being established today a growing number of Christian/Muslim projects and initiatives concerning the environment which have the potential to bring about deeper and more sensitive mutual understanding between the different faith traditions. It may yet turn out that the great world faiths are the means to peace rather than its obstacle.

Singing the Song.

Francis’ preaching often, if not always, included a call to repentance with dire warnings of hell fire for those who were unwilling to turn in penitence towards God. This may not fit in with the popular, romantic image of the Poverello, nor with pulpit practice today, yet it follows from everything I have said above about Francis’ world-view. A world which can express no gratitude for the essential goodness and giftedness of all that is; a world in which creatures – human, animate and inanimate – are out of harmony with each other; above all, a world which sees no end, no purpose, other than self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction is doomed to experience the extinction of species, including that of the human. St Bonaventure stresses the danger of losing sight of our true purpose and of living out of tune with the world around us: Open your eyes, alert your spiritual ears, unseal your lips and apply your heart so that in all creatures you may see, hear, praise, love, serve, glorify and honour God, lest the whole world rise up against you. For “the universe shall wage war against the foolish”’[10]. Bishop Rowan Williams writes: ‘…our present ecological crisis has a lot to do with our failure to think of the world as existing in relation to the mystery of God, not just a huge warehouse of stuff to be used for our convenience.’[11] The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew II, who holds a passionate concern for the environment, promotes the idea of eco-penance. It is only by expressing penitence for our abuse of creation and by a fundamental change in perception of our place and purpose in the world that we can be brought back into true relationship with each other and with our Creator.

For Francis, the goal of all creation and of every creature, is to share the life of the Trinity, to live in grateful dependence, to engage in loving and attentive relationship, and to return thanks and praise to the source of all; as the Westminster Catechism puts it: ‘…to know God, to enjoy God and to worship God for ever.’ Towards the end of his life he composed for his brothers the Canticle of the Creatures, a song which gives voice to all creation in praise and honour of God:

 

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,

To you be praise, glory, honour and blessing.

Only to you, Most High, do they belong

And no one is worthy to call upon your name.

May you be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures……[12]

 

…and he goes on to include the sun, moon, stars, earth, water, fire, plants, fruits and flowers. Everything gives praise, finds its true purpose, by being what it truly is and by doing what it does – the sun in shining, the moon in gleaming, the stars in glistening, the earth in producing fruit, fire in warming etc – and we, the human brothers and sisters of Francis, joining the song. Most people seem to think that worship is something done exclusively in and by churches – with organs and choirs and the like – and, certainly, the task of the Church is to offer praise and worship back to God, but Francis reminds us that when we worship in church we are joining in with something that has been going on since the beginning of time, since the ‘morning stars sang together’. Perhaps we should spend more effort and energy in trying to sing in harmony with them rather than just working our way through Hymns Ancient & Modern or Mission Praise! Having lived at Hilfield Friary now for a good number of years, I have seen from the experience of some of those who have come to us quite broken and lost and who have worked the land with us (and I know this from my own experience too) how engaging closely with creation can heal, restore and re-direct our lives; it can become an act of praise and worship. Singing from the same song-sheet with the whole created order brings us back into right relationship with ourselves, with each other and with the Source and Giver of all.

An Integrated Ecology

Sir Jonathan Porritt, the environmental campaigner and founder of the Friends of the Earth movement, has written that what is needed in response to the threat of climate change is not simply an international agreement on carbon emissions (important though that may be), but nothing less than a radical re-orientation of our attitude to, and relationship with, our natural environment. There is a real danger in relying solely on advances in technology to ‘sort it all out’, as some politicians propose, so that we can go on living in much the same way as before, steadily increasing our consumption, living out of harmony with creation and each other etc. The problem we face is a much deeper one than the likely devastating effects of climate change; it’s a problem that concerns the loss of our home – with each other, with the universe and in God, a loss which we are only now beginning to comprehend. The word ‘ecology’ itself refers to our ‘oikos’, our home; we need an ecology which recognises our ‘belonging’ as part of the universe with each other in God. Francis of Assisi, with his sense of abundant giftedness, his recognition of brotherhood/sisterhood, and with his participation in the song of all creation, offers an ecology which brings together the environmental, the social and the spiritual. Such an integrated ecology is one that can lead us to that radical re-orientation which Jonathan Porritt identifies as necessary – a revolution in our thinking, our living and our praying that can be wisdom for a global future.

 

[1] Celano, Second Life of St Francis

[2] Bonaventure, Five Feasts of the Child Jesus

[3] Colossians 1.16

[4] Bonaventure, Major Legend of St Francis

[5] Wendell Berry, Standing on Earth

[6] Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, July 30th 2007

[7] Francis of Assisi, Vol II Early Documents, Ed Regis Armstrong OFM. Cap.

[8] St Francis, Earlier Rule. Chapter 26

[9] St Francis, Later Rule, Chapter 3

[10] Bonaventure, The Journey of he Soul into God

[11] Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust

[12] The Canticle of the Creatures, trans Regis Armstrong, Francis of Assisi, Early Documents

 

Statue of St Francis at the Church of San Damiano (Assisi)

Statue of St Francis at the Church of San Damiano (Assisi)

 

 

 

 

Br Vincent’s Secret Garden in the Guardian Newspaper.

Br Vincent’s ‘Secret Garden’ which is situated in Hilfield Friary appeared in the Guardian Newspaper earlier this month. The text can be found here.

 

Br Vincent SSF

Br Vincent SSF