The latest issue of “Bush Telegraph” published by the Little Brothers of Francis – http://www.franciscanhermitage.org/ – has been published on-line: http://www.franciscanhermitage.org/bushtelegraph-winter2014.pdf and includes a reflection on “Brother Fire”. In the more traditional deserts, fire is most evident in the powerful heat of the sun. In the desert of the Australian bush its power is both creative and destructive on the earth.
In St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun”, he writes of Brother Fire as being mighty and strong. Anyone living in the Australian bush soon learns just how mighty and strong Brother Fire can be. Ever since we were very nearly completely burnt out in the early nineties, we have put a lot of effort into our bushfire protection strategy. This area has recently been identified as one of the most potentially dangerous areas of New South Wales for bushfires. There are four categories, the fourth is the most dangerous and that is us.
Mosaic burning and fuel reduction. Each week we try to spend at least one morning a week on creating and maintaining firebreaks. In winter, we do fuel reduction burns within the property on a mosaic pattern. Small areas of several hectares are burnt each year in creating a patchwork of burnt and unburnt areas. This strategy preserves the habitat for birds and animals and breaks up a fire front to reduce its destructive speed.
When we were under serious threat from a bushfire last year a neighbour asked what we had being doing to protect ourselves against it. One of the Brothers quietly replied “We’ve been working on our fire protection strategy for twenty six years”.
BROTHER FIRE WHO IS BEAUTIFUL, MERRY AND BRIGHTENS UP THE NIGHT
Winters at the Hermitage are mild but chilly. The early mornings especially can prove the coldest part of the day. June and July are the coldest months of the year and occasionally we may get a slight frost. Clear blue skies and crystal starry nights make for a wonderful combination. However the polar winds from the south west can on occasions blow a gale and it is definitely cold then. At such a time heating is essential. Each hermitage has a small fire of some description – usually a slow combustion stove or pot-belly. Having electric or gas heating is not practical especially when we are not connected to the mains power line.
Over winter nights, fire is indeed a friend of warmth and cheer. It brings many wonderful qualities to brighten up the night, making the ambiance of a room merry and inviting. We share its company and sit quietly, we will be drawn in by its hypnotic nature of movement and dance, a living flame which is a joy to watch.
BROTHER FIRE WHO IS PRACTICAL
We have a wonderful resource in the large number of dead trees on our bushland property as a result of borers, droughts and bushfires. The dead wood after being harvested with hard work and a chainsaw provides us with fuel and because of its abundance will do so for many generations to come. With no electricity it is essential for cooking on our wood stove and for hot water for the bathroom and shower and heating our hermitages in the winter. But it remains dead wood until Brother Fire converts it into heat and energy.
There are two prayers which are frequently used here at the hermitage invoking the image of fire:
“Lord Jesus Christ, your heart burns with love for me. Inflame my heart with love for you.”
Pietro da Rimini (floruit 1315-1335) “St Francis Receiving the Stigmata” (c. 1330)
“Lord Jesus Christ, who when the world was growing cold, to the inflaming of our hearts by the fire of your love, raised up blessed Francis, bearing in his own body the marks of your passion: mercifully grant to us, your people, true penitence and grace to bear the Cross for love of you; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.”