Is God calling you to walk in the footsteps
of Saint Francis of Assisi?

Come and see how Secular Franciscans live joyfully In the world & celebrate God’s creation.

The Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) is a branch of the world-wide Franciscan Family. We are single and married. Some of us are diocesan clergy. We work, worship and play in the community where we live.

The SFO was established by St. Francis of Assisi more than 800 years ago. Our purpose is to bring the gospel to life where we live and where we work. We look for practical ways to embrace the gospel in our lives and try to help others to do likewise.

A local group of Secular Franciscans is probably meeting near you. Please use this map to locate your closest fraternity or feel free to contact one of the members of our Regional Executive Council who will be happy to put you in touch with a Fraternity near you.

About our region

All local Secular Franciscan fraternities in the United States are organized into one of 30 regions. The Saint Katharine Drexel Region includes parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. There are currently 27 local fraternities in the region. We are under the patronage of St. Katharine Drexel, who was a Secular Franciscan and whose feast we celebrate on March 3rd.

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You Can’t Blow a Kiss to Your Leper – Kate Kleinert, OFS, November 2019

You Can’t Blow a Kiss to Your Leper

We are often asked “who” or ‘what’ our leper is.  That can be a tough question or one that is glaring at us from every angle.  Once we figure it out, how do we approach our leper?

When St. Francis heard God command him to rebuild His church, Francis didn’t contact United Builders Local 500 and ask them to put in a bid for the job.  No, Francis rolled up his sleeves, scrounged for materials and got down and dirty. Literally.

When Pope Francis was newly elected, there was a phrase being bandied about “Smell Like Your Sheep”.  I have it on a tee shirt.  And back in the day, the shepherd did smell like his sheep.  He slept with them, he herded them to a place where food was more plentiful, he tended to their needs. And he smelled like them.  The sheep were comforted by that.  No strangers here…..he’s one of us!  You never see a collie herding sheep from the sidelines – they are always in the middle of the fray.

The ultimate example, of course, comes from Jesus. There was only once (that we know of) where he cured someone from a distance (the Centurian’s servant) and that was done to teach faith.  Otherwise, He is face to face with those He is ministering to.

How do we live that part of the Gospel??  The first article of our Rule states:

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi. In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

The words that jump out are life-giving union with each other.  That phrase isn’t directing us to walk past the homeless on the street, or ignore the person holding the sign and walking among the stopped cars at any given intersection.  Life giving union doesn’t necessarily mean to bring the homeless home with you, but when you hand that person a few dollars or a blessing bag, look into their eyes and ask what their first name is.  And then say…”____________ (Joe, Jane, whatever) I’m going to pray for you.”

Life giving union……Life giving dignity!  We ignore the homeless because we don’t’ want to be bothered or put on the spot for a donation.  If I don’t look at them, they don’t exist.  And the homeless embrace that treatment as being a necessity of living on the streets.  No identity, no address, no one caring.  If the light is still red and there is time, more often than not, Joe or Jane reply “I’ll pray for you, too:”

 

I’m sure there are many definitions of Life giving union.  This is only my own interpretation.  Remember our plea to God to ‘make me an instrument’  No instrument can be played unless it is willing, warmed up, and ready to deliver God’s music.

 

You cannot play an instrument from the sidelines.  You cannot kiss a leper without getting close. Maybe Francis (we) got the message wrong in the beginning – Rebuild my church – Life giving union –  or just maybe God wants us to start with getting our hands dirty – the Franciscan way.  Look people in the eye when you tell them God cares for them.  If we are truly living the Gospel life, when that person looks back at us, he or she will see God shining through us! May the Lord give you peace.  And may you give it to someone else!

Thought for the Day – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFMCap – November, 2019

November 2019

 

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,

Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing,

To you alone, Most High, do they belong,

and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,

especially Sir Brother Sun, …  Sister Moon and the stars, …Brother Wind, …

Sister Water, … Brother Fire, … our Sister Mother Earth, …

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, …

Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,

from whom no one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,

for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.

Amen.

(Canticle of the Creatures [abbreviated] by Saint Francis of Assisi)

 

 

Excerpts from: The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus

 (Ubertino da Casale)

 

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

 

1

(St. Francis) did indeed come down from where the sun rises, as, ever rising from strength to strength, following the deeds of Christ as he grew in his humanity, he configured his holy way of living to the life of Christ. – We were made for heaven. The Christian life means journeying here below with our hearts turned upwards, toward our heavenly Father’s house.

2

This reached the high point of his carrying the seal of the living God; he lived to become worthy to have on his body the imprints of the wounds of the Crucified. – Pray fervently for the dead, for their family members, and for all our brothers and sisters who have died, that they may obtain the remission of the punishments due to their sins and may hear the Lord’s call.

3

Now, as to Christ’s life itself, an attentive survey of the gospels will reveal its salient features, its most striking notes: the crucifixion, the profound humility, the extreme poverty, the fervor of charity shown by desiring our salvation in undergoing the torment of the cross, as well as by the sheer graciousness of His stooping to compassionate sinners and the afflicted. – The ’little ones’ according to the gospel are those who know they are God’s creatures and shun all presumption. They expect everything from the Lord and so are never disappointed

4

Yet the crowning perfection of Christ’s life lay in His interior cultivation and consummation of divine charity.  In one continuous act, on His own behalf and that of all His members, He duly paid the service of worship to the divinity, to which in His own person He was united. – This is the basic attitude of the believer: Faith and humility are inseparable.

5

The fact is that the Blessed Jesus, virginal Son born of virginity, saw fit to transfuse purity into (Francis), since complete cleanness cannot live in tainted flesh without a continuous crucifixion of self. That is why the most pious Jesus…afflicted His own sacred flesh…Francis, his true son and imitator, taking this to heart, disciplined himself so rigidly… – Justice and peace are not abstract concepts or remote ideals. They are values that dwell in the heart of every individual.

6

So, he called his frail body an ’ass’, gave it endless hard work to do, provided it with coarse coverings and a bed of straw, and fed it with small amounts of inferior fare. – Individuals, families, communities, and nations, all are called to live in justice and to work for peace. No one can claim exemption from this responsibility.

7

In order to achieve full purity of heart he completely abstained from all familiarities which might inwardly defile him and give bad example to others. – Freedom is not only the choice for one or another particular action; it is also, within that choice, a decision about oneself and a setting of one’s own life for or against the good, for or against the truth, and ultimately for or against God.

8

He had become so candid in mind, so clean in heart, that he seemed to have attained the state of innocence at that time … he had practically all creatures, even the inanimate, at his command; a level of grace, indeed, in which he surpassed natural innocence … Thus did the elements put themselves at the service of the unspoiled Francis  – If we truly love with the love of God, we will also love our brothers or sisters as God loves them. This is the newness of Christianity: One cannot love God if one does not love one’s brethren.

9

He so perfectly imitated Christ that his wish was to place himself and his Order at the feet of everybody.  In order to be the least of all, he did not want to have any of the Church’s authority, except her authority for observing the holy Gospel. – The indispensable source of energy and renewal, when frailty and weakness increase, is the encounter with the living Christ, Lord of the covenant.

10

He certainly wanted to promote the salvation of souls, but only through the virtue of humility, not with pompous power. And though … he had several Supreme Pontiffs … who held him in the highest regard, sincerely convinced of his sanctity … he would never ask for or accept any privilege that might diminish his being a humble subject. – Develop an intense spiritual life and open your soul to the word of life.

11

For this reason, Francis, in his holy Testament, forbids all brothers, prelates, and subjects, to ask for any letter from the Apostolic See either to facilitate the work of preaching or to avoid persecution. The humble Francis used to say that when they meekly ask permission of bishops and priests, they were by their example edifying the very pastors of the Church – To pray is not to escape from history and the problems that it presents.  On the contrary, it is to choose to face reality not on our own, but with the strength that comes from on high, the strength of truth and love, which have their ultimate source in God.

12

Even if permission were refused, patience and humility will bring them to change their minds; meanwhile they themselves, by bearing refusal patiently, will keep intact a virtuous and flawless way of acting. – Human perfection consists not simply in acquiring an abstract knowledge of truth, but in a dynamic relationship of faithful self-giving with others.

13

To brothers who troubled him over their reluctance to be a this level of submissiveness to everyone, he replied in deeply plaintive terms: ’My brothers, my brothers, what you want of me is to give up overcoming the world. For Christ sent me to overcome the world by being subject to everyone, so that by love I might draw souls to Him through the example of humility’. – Let yourself be charmed by God, the Infinite, who appeared among you in visible and imitable form.

14

‘My brothers, humble yourselves before others, and you will convert them all.  Those who persecute you unjustly will turn to Christ, having seen your patience tried, and they will be anxious to kiss your footprints…’ – Fall in love with Jesus Christ, to live his very life, so that our world may have life in the light of the gospel.

15

‘But if I were to use the salvation of others as a pretext for wanting some prerogative, it would mean my forfeiting the humblest of positions which belongs to the condition I am in.  And it is through that  I advance in virtue, and the people advance in the mercy that save them’. – Love is the principle of divine life in the soul. Love is the law of our abiding in Christ.

16

He wanted to rule out for them all affectation to ecclesiastical dignity and maintain them in their lowly existence.  For this reason he called them ’lesser’, so that they would not presume to become ’greater’, and in no way did he wish them to aspire to the rank of prelacy. – Only genuine evangelical love will be strong enough to help communities pass from mere tolerance of others to real respect for their differences.

17

For everybody knows well enough that their ascent to rank spelled their descent from virtue…what they sought in promotion was not so much an improvement of other’s conduct as a life of relaxation for themselves. For, self-denying once, they have turned into gluttons; poor men once, they have become grasping and greedy; thought nothing of once, they have ended up proud and arrogant. – Only Christ’s redeeming grace can make us victorious in the daily challenge of turning from egoism to altruism, from fear to openness, from rejection to solidarity.

18

Oh, what a true prophet Francis was! …  The humble Francis, in order to keep himself on the lowest possible level and to confound the ambitions of the future, had no desire to be promoted to the priesthood.  As he saw it, the guidance of souls was not to be conducted through prelacy, if it were to be beneficial, but rather to be committed to the spirit of poverty. – We need more heart.

19

To men of perfection…nothing should be a source of bother except what would drive them to sin, to which, of course, no one is forced against his will. – God’s love is love which is freely given … He loved us first.  He took the initiative.

20

Apart from Jesus, his most humble Mother, and the college of the Apostles, never should the world have in it such a profound expression of lowliness as that of this status of poor lesser ones, nor indeed such a gross deformation of it as that of those who fall away. – To heal the wounds of a recent bitter and painful past, one needs patience and wisdom, a spirit of initiative and honesty.

21

And because Francis crushed pride underfoot with his humility, he held off the proud demons with authority.  Therefore he was showing that his status was blasting away pride from the world. – The Christian vocation is walking with men and women as brothers or sisters, sharing their joys and hopes, difficulties and sufferings, offering them the road word which rekindles hope in their hearts.

22

For whoever, like Francis, keeps the humility of Jesus continually before his eyes and is delighted to resemble Him in meekness of heart, will subject himself to everyone and loathe issuing commands and prohibitions. The blessed Francis did commend humble obedience in the strongest terms, and observed it to the extent of always wanting to obey his brother companion. – Selfishness makes people deaf and dumb.

23

(Francis) put a restraining clause (in the Rule) to protect subjects, when he told ministers not to command them anything that is against their souls and our Rule, and subjects to obey in all things which they have promised the Lord to observe and are not against their souls and our Rule. – Love opens eyes and hearts, enabling people to make that original and irreplaceable contribution which … can change the tide of history.

24

The obedience of Francis cannot contain a greater purity, integrity, or depth, since it obeys in all things and refuses to obey false traditions that destroy the Rule, for to obey them is to apostatize.  Because it follows from the fact a prelate (superior) derives his authority from the Rule, that to command or obey something contrary to it is to apostatize from the Rule. – The future of evangelization depends in great part on the church of the home.

25

But, do we want to go further with Francis’s idea of obedience?  He himself, after all, was in everything the least of all the lesser ones. Well might we compare him to the tiniest of infants … or to the smallest of all seeds … or to the least of all the saints … or to Benjamin, the smallest of his brothers, who in many ways was a type of Francis… – Every authentically religious person is obliged to ask God for the gift of peace, with renewed determination to promote and build peace together with other believers.

26

O Francis, true Benjamin! The first-born Joseph had you seated at the table of evangelical life with your other holy brothers.  There your portion exceeds the others by the five portions of the sacred wounds … – It is not easy to proclaim the gospel in a world that claims not to need God.  Yet we are bound by the compelling words of St. Paul: ’Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel’

27

He leads the whole Church of the people of Israel to the evangelical life and the full news of Christ … Humble and despised, the cup of your brothers’ evangelical wisdom and observance of the Rule and your most holy witness is contained, hidden, in the sack of observance of poverty. – The desire for unity is born and grows from the renewal of the mind, the love of truth, self-denial, and the free outpouring of love.

28

How Francis proved himself the friend of the bridegroom, by striving to conform himself to Jesus through the fervor of his charity and desire for the salvation of those to whom he was brother, is evinced by the fact that from the beginning of his conversion to the end he blazed continually like a fire with an ardent love for Jesus. – If you want peace, reach out to the poor!

29

Fanned by the breath of the Holy Spirit, he kept the furnace of his heart ever ignited, so that once he heard the love of God mentioned he was excited, moved, and animated as the beloved spouse … – God loves everyone, … wills the good of everyone, … and offers to everyone the gift of peace!

30

All things created were a means by which he fired this love of his.  Through looking on things of beauty he would contemplate the Beautiful; in frail creatures he would recognize the infirmities which Jesus in His goodness bore for our salvation.  He made a ladder of everything by which he could reach the One he loved. – Every day dedicate some time to conversing with God.  This is a sincere proof of your love for him, for love always seeks to be near the beloved.

November Meditation – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website: skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

November 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!

Is it possible to live the Gospel to the letter, with all of its divine demands, crucifying renunciations, and blessed certitudes?  Yes! … but with a condition!  We must allow ourselves, as St. Francis of Assisi did, to be seduced by the love of Christ. We faithfully embrace, learn, and live this love more deeply when we love the Church as Mother, Teacher, and Queen of our life.  The Gospel is not a dream.  The Gospel is a reality that can transfigure not only the individual but also history itself.

There are billions more non-Christians than Christians who do not accept the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Word of God. Nonetheless, when the Gospel is lived, when Christ, through the Church Universal and the individual Christian, proclaims and is proclaimed to others, His Word begins to achieve its goal. My word will not return without having fulfilled the purpose for which It was sent.  These prophetic words should be an encouragement for us all to enter God’s will and be available to the prompting of His Holy Spirit.

Franciscanism is a life experience as understood and lived by those who accept the challenging example and words of St. Francis of Assisi.  At the center of this experience is the Humanity (never minimizing the essential reality of His Divinity) of Christ, Son of God, Messenger-Message and Bearer of the Father’s Love.  The Humanity of Christ reflects the face of the Father, and speaks to men and women in the language of God’s creatures.

Francis picked up on this wonderful insight and ran with it.  It was a love that filled every fiber of his being. The love for Christ in St. Francis of Assisi was contagious.  He sought the Father’s will through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and allowed the  ’overshadowing’ power of the Holy Spirit to lead him into living a more personal relationship with Jesus. He built this relationship on the Gospel.  He was concrete and passionate. St. Francis did not limit this conformity to Christ as something purely interior. He felt the need to conform himself in all things to Christ, even in the reality of his daily activities. Our Seraphic Father lived this ’spiritual tension’ from the beginning of his conversion.

God gave His ’seal of approval’ when St. Francis was signed with the wounds of the Passion of Jesus on La Verna. What was imprinted in his heart at San Damiano eventually was made visible and imprinted on his body for all to see at La Verna. Thus he became a living image of the Christ he so ardently desired to know, love, and serve wholeheartedly in his life. This is where we encounter the radical evangelical life that is so characteristic of St. Francis of Assisi.  He accepted the Gospel as his concrete form of life in all things, without gloss, in it purity and integrity.

The key words to consider are ’without gloss’. They have challenged the Family of St. Francis for centuries.  During the life of our Seraphic Father the friars experienced strong tensions in how they were to live the Rule.  History recalls two basic directions the ’Conventuals’ and the ’Spirituals’. Though the ’dialogue’ could have been rather heated at times and even quite ’physically expressive’, friars on both sides of the discussion were basically good men seeking to live a life in emulation, if not imitation, of our Seraphic Father.

In the Church there are various types of ’religious’ life offered those who seek to deepen their personal relationship with God within the Church. The ’within’ does not necessarily exclude contact and interaction with others ‘outside’ the Catholic Church ‘jurisdiction’.  On the contrary, even the solitary life of the Carthusian, hermit, or even the recluse, demands an openness in charity to all creation if it is to be complete and fully express the mandate: Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. Like our Seraphic Father, we are called to disarm our hearts to all. We are called and have accepted the Gospel command to love. Our ’outreach’ brings the effects of the evangelical life beyond the boundaries of the community even to those outside the Church, outside the faith, and even to adversaries of the faith.

Our Franciscan vocation is a way of life, not a ministry. You live in the world but not of the world. You are truly a light put on a lampstand but even more yeast that is kneaded into the dough of everyday life. The Secular Franciscan lives the same spirit of commitment as that of their vowed sisters and brothers.  In both cases, vows or promises, a good motto to remember is: ’You are as good as your word’.  The First, Second, Third Regular, and Secular Franciscan Orders, and we might even add in acknowledgement the ‘fourth order’ of those who are not professed but journey with us and participate and assist in our charism in many ways, attract to the Franciscan life by example.

When we allow complacency to rule our hearts and indifference to control us, our Franciscan life and ideals suffer and may even ’die’. When we fail or refuse to accept our call as a true vocation, or we consider our profession as a formal affiliation in some ’monthly prayer group’ we permit those attitudes to gnaw away at the beauty of what our Seraphic Father believed and fought for in all its original dignity.

We are called to faithfulness.  The question is to what are we called to be faithful?  Profession in the Franciscan Order introduces us to a whole ’lifestyle’ that is not limited to pious devotions, particular activities, personal particular interpretation of the Rule of Life and Constitutions.  Jesus and His Gospel are our ’devotion’, living the life of Christ is our ’activity’, and Christ speaking to us through the Church and the Order indicate and challenge us how to live our life in fraternity, secular or otherwise.

Our Franciscan charism, so beloved by God and the Church, is a powerful instrument in God’s loving plan for the edification and salvation of millions down through the centuries.  Our life is to LIVE THE GOSPEL … LIVE JESUS!

Christ among us is the Center of our lives; we are Eucharistic.  The Word made flesh is our life; we are a Gospel People bound in the Holy Spirit’s love to be a fraternity, a family of hearts and souls; we are an evangelical community. Mary is the Virgin Made Church our Queen and Mother loved and proposed by St. Francis to all the Order; we are Marian. The Church is our Mother and Teacher on earth with the Holy Father as Vicar of Christ and Successor to Peter who presides over the family of God redeemed in the Blood of Christ; we are totally Catholic as was our Seraphic Father who admonished all to be faithful to the Church.  This list could go on and on to remind us of our unity with the Church of Christ founded on the Apostles, and of our profession to be a Gospel People whose life envelopes all that makes us one with Christ and His Church.

We Franciscans are simple in our lives of minority and transparent in our desire to be detached from all that could possess us, particularly our own will. Without the Eucharist there is no Church, without the Church there is no Eucharist. We are the Church and through the ministerial priesthood we continue the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ of whom we are the essential ’body parts’. With Mary as the Mother of the Christ she is the Mother of the Christian and thus of the Church for whom we have a particular love and to whom we are particularly devoted.  The Gospel and Apostolic writings of the New Covenant tell us the story of Jesus, Mary and the first Christian community, teaching us through the Apostles’ writings all that makes us Christian. These facts and many others have always been professed and practiced ’without gloss’ by the followers of our Seraphic Father.  To be Franciscan is to be totally Catholic with all that entails.

We are children of the Poverello of Assisi.  While our manner of affiliation may differ from the canonical perspective, our hearts and souls are one. We are centered and rooted in the Gospel Life following Jesus in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. Let us strive to be “true to our word”, for we are as good as our word. Let us remember always that God is faithful in His Word, Jesus the Christ. He called us to hear, listen and respond. May our response always be “Yes”, as was that of our Heavenly Mother who believed the humanly impossible and gave birth to God-made-man in Jesus. Jesus Who calls us and then sends us to be a living Gospel in today’s world.  May we be faithful and strive to fulfill well what we have promised.

God bless us; Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Katharine Drexel 25th Anniversary

What a perfectly perfect day!!  In spite of the rain, more than 130 folks attended the 25th anniversary of St. Katharine Drexel Region! It truly was a family reunion. The Mass, celebrated by Father John Frambes, OFM, was beautiful. The church itself was filled….filled!!….  The choir sounded great with Brother Kip providing phenomenal harmony.  In an effort to be inclusive, the petitions were read in both English and Spanish which was comforting to all.

Back to the Hall and let the fun begin! The potluck dishes provided such a grand variety of food with something to entice everyone.  There were a Franciscan nun and Friar with their faces cut out providing a picture opportunity and a few laughs.  Justin Carisio, OFS, gave a very informative presentation on St. Katharine Drexel.  So many folks were heard saying they learned lots of new info about our patron.  Thanks, Justin!

The gift bag that everyone received had a logo that Justin’s son, Sebastian created for us commemorating the anniversary.  The bag itself contained a coloring book with a page for each fraternity and a box of crayons, some mints that were made with water from the shrine at Our Lady of Lourdes, a pen, bookmark created for the occasion and prayer card of Mother Katharine Drexel.

Everyone left well fed and happy! What more can we ask!? May the next 25 years bring us as much joy as the anniversary party did!!

OFS and General Prayer Intentions for October 2019

For the month of October, CIOFS has asked us to pray for the National Chapters of Election for

Croatia and France and for the National Visitation in the Philippines.

Our own NAFRA Gathering begins 10/14.  Please pray first for the safe travels of all us headed to Corpus Christi and second that we may be guided by the Holy Spirit in all decisions that will be made to shape the coming year.

The general intention is: That the breath of the Holy Spirit engender a new missionary “spring” in the Church.

Let us do what we are called to do….

 

Choose to be Grateful - From the heart of your Minister - October 2019

I was in the middle of a “man-about-the-house” job and loving every minute…..NOT….when I realized I needed longer zip lines.  The closest place is Walmart and it was dinner time – either the best or worst time to go to Walmart.  Was everyone home eating dinner or did they all decide to postpone dinner and get to Walmart right away.

It was the worst time to go. Figures.  I found what I needed and decided rather than make a U-turn in that aisle to go to the checkout counter, I would go down the next aisle which had Fall and Halloween decorations.  There was a flat wooden pumpkin with the words Choose to be Grateful painted on it.  Yes, that is it, pictured above because I did buy it along with the longer zip lines.  I was intrigued by the pumpkin because what has Autumn or Halloween have to do with being grateful and the bigger question….when did Walmart start selling inspirational items???

Choose to be Grateful?  You mean it’s an option??? YES!  Just like we choose to be upset and choose to be angry or hurt or wounded.

Yesterday, I drove my sister to an appointment.  She is going through something right now and was in no state to follow these complicated directions to get to the office she needed.  I was happy to help.  We arrived in enough time that we sat in the car and talked for a bit.  She went in for her appointment and I walked around the back of the building to deadhead the marigolds that were planted there.

A woman came out the door and said “Oh!  You are stealing the plants!”  Like a guilty kid with her hand in the cookie jar, I immediately held out my hand to show what I had and assured her I was only picking the dead ones.  She laughed and said she was only kidding but I still felt the need to explain.  “See, (holding up my Tau Cross) I’m a Franciscan and we are doing a project with these seeds.  I’m only picking the dead ones because that is where the seeds are.”  She thought it was a nice idea and started walking to her car.  Halfway across the parking lot, she stopped and turned back to me.  “Can you say a prayer for me?” she asked.  “You bet I can!  What’s your first name?” It turned out to be Marian and she was so grateful for the promise of a prayer.  She has been having severe pain in her back and that day the doctor decided she needed an injection at the Pain Intervention Center.  The first appointment is November 14; a long time to wait in pain.

I returned to the car to see my sister coming out of the building, visibly upset and shaking. While I was deadheading marigolds, she was going all over the building looking for the right office only to find out that they had moved.  We were at the wrong place.  Her cell phone rang and it was the person she was supposed to meet with and he was apologizing for not giving her the right address and directions.  The appointment was not an easy one to make and she was afraid she had missed her chance.  The man said he would see her as soon as we got to the right place.  Now she was feeling guilty that she was holding me up and that we would be going home in rush hour.

I chose to be grateful.  First, I told her it was never a waste of time to be with her which calmed her down some.  Then I told her about picking marigolds and having an opportunity to pray for someone. Both things to be grateful for.  If we had not been at the wrong place, I wouldn’t have more marigold seeds, or have met someone who needed to hear from God.  Make me an instrument….

 I could have been upset about losing more time when I have so much to do right now.  I could have been annoyed with my sister for not having the right address, and I could have been very angry being stuck in rush hour traffic on the Blue Route.  But I chose to be grateful…grateful for how God used me to reach out to a woman who is scared and in pain.  And grateful that God allowed me to spend time with my sister who I dearly love.  Yes, being grateful is a choice.  Not always an easy one. But something I want to continue to work on.  I feel a lot better choosing to be grateful than being tied up in knots on the Blue Route!  While you are trying to choose to be grateful, say a prayer for Marian.  She could use it!

St. Francis LBI 90th Anniversary

Today, October 6, 2019, St. Francis, LBI, fraternity celebrated their 90th anniversary and were kind enough to invite me to celebrate with them.  The Mass, celebrated by Father John Frambes, OFM, was beautiful.  A wonderful reflection on the fraternity was given by Carole Infante, OFS.  And then there was food………….lots and lots of food! The fourth picture is of the remaining living ministers with yours truly and Father John.  And the ocean…………I can’t remember the last time I was at the shore so on my way home, I stopped to hear the seagulls and breathe in that salt air.   Thank you, LBI, for a truly great afternoon.  May you have 90 more anniversaries!

From the Formation Director – October 2019

SKD Formation Monthly-October 2019  

 

Thought for the Day by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

October 2019

Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God,

grant to us wretches, by your will, to do what we know you wish,

and ever to wish what pleases you,

in order that, purified in soul, lighted up within,

and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit,

we may follow the footsteps of your Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ,

and reach you, Most High, by your grace alone.

For you live and reign and are glorified,

in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, Almighty God

forever and ever.

Amen.

(Letter to the Chapter)

Franciscan verses taken from A letter on the Passing of Saint Francis attributed to Elias of Assisi.

1

To Gregory, his beloved brother in Christ, the minister of the brothers who are in France, together with all his brothers and ours, Brother Elias, a sinner, sends greetings. Before I begin to write, I sigh, and rightly so. – Intelligence may drive machines, but it is the heart that beats with life!

2

My groans gush forth like waters in a flood.  For what I feared has overtaken me and has overtaken you.  And what I dreaded has happened to me and to you. – Allow God to enter your life: Then you will brighten with divine light.

3

Our consoler has gone away from us and he who carried us in his arms like lambs has gone on a journey to a far away country. – Without eternal life, temporal existence, however rich, however highly developed in all aspects, in the end brings man nothing other than the ineluctable necessity of death.

4

He who was beloved by God and of man, who taught Jacob the law of life and of discipline, and gave to Israel a covenant of peace has been received into the most resplendent dwellings. – Like Francis of Assisi, preach peace and repentance, promote justice, defend the rights of the human person, raise your voice against exploitation and violence, and attentively care for all the wounds that make humanity groan today.

5

We would rejoice on his account, yet for our own part we must mourn, since in his absence darkness surrounds us and the shadow of death covers us. – Especially through His lifestyle and through His actions, Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live.

6

It is a loss for all, yet it is a trial singularly my own, for he has left me in the midst of darkness, surrounded by many anxieties and pressed down by countless afflictions. – Love is endlessly inventive. These words of St. Vincent (de Paul) marvelously express this reality in the church.

7

For this reason I implore you.  Mourn with me, brothers, for I am in great sorrow and, with you, in pain.  For we are orphans without our father and bereaved of the light of our eyes.- The rosary brings us back again and again to the most important scenes of Christ’s life, almost as if to let us “breathe” His mystery. The rosary is the privileged path to contemplation.  It is Mary‘s way.

8

In truth, in very truth, the presence of our brother and father Francis was a light, not only for us, but even for those who were far from us in calling and in life. –  The sovereign divine initiative does not dispense man from the task of responding to it.

9

He was a light shed by the true light to give light to those who were in darkness and sitting in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. – Divine love surrounds and penetrates every human venture.

10

He did this because the true Daystar from on high shone upon his heart and enkindled his will with the fire of His love. – Let the angels guide you, so that you will faithfully put God’s commandments intro practice in your life.

11

By preaching the kingdom of God and turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the rebellious to the wisdom of the just, he prepared for the Lord a new people in the world. – The Eucharistic celebration reunites all Christians. It gathers them all in the equal dignity of brothers and sisters of Christ and children of the Father.

12

His name reached distant coasts and all lands were in awe at his marvelous deeds.  For this reason, sons and brothers, do not mourn beyond measure. – In Jesus’s cross all suffering acquires the possibility of meaning; sickness does not cease to be a trial, but it is illuminated by hope.

13

God, the father of orphans, will give us comfort by his holy consolation.  And, if you weep, brothers, weep for yourselves and not for him. – Only Jesus knows what is in your hearts and your deepest desires.

14

For ‘in the midst of life, we are caught in death’, while he has passed from death to life. – Only Jesus, who has loved you to the end, can fulfill your aspirations.

15

Rejoice, for, like Jacob, he blessed all his sons before he was taken from us and forgave them all the faults which any one of us might have committed, or even thought of committing, against him. – No one apart from Christ can give you true happiness.

16

And now, after telling you these things, I announce to you a great joy and the news of a miracle. Such a sign that has never been heard of from the dawn of time except in the Son of God, who is Christ the Lord. – The life of grace which we carry within us is the life of the risen Christ.

17

Not long before his death, our brother and father appeared crucified, bearing in his body the five wounds which are truly the marks of Christ. – The gospel of hope offers confidence, serenity, and direction in place of the hopelessness which inevitably spawns fear, hostility, and violence in the hearts of individuals and in society as a whole.

18

His hands and feet had, as it were, the openings of the nails and were pierced front and back revealing the scars and showing the nails’ blackness. – The fervent prayer of Jesus in the Upper Room continues to remind Christian communities that unity is a gift to welcome and develop in an ever deeper way.

19

His side, moreover, seemed opened by a lance and often emitted blood. – Humanity will be more easily attracted by Christ and will choose Him if they are touched by the witness of Christian faith and charity.

20

As long as his spirit lived in the body, there was no beauty in him for his appearance was that of a man despised.  No part of his body was without suffering– God has endowed human beings with the capacity to love.

21

By reason of the contraction of his sinews, his limbs were stiff, much like those of a dead man.  But after his death, his appearance was one of great beauty gleaming with a dazzling whiteness and giving joy to all who looked upon him. – It is through love that we fulfill our destiny to act in the likeness of God.

22

His limbs, which had been rigid, became marvelously soft and pliable, so that they would be turned this way and that, like those of a young child. – To believe in Jesus is to accept what He says, even when it runs contrary to what others are saying.

23

Therefore, brothers, bless the God of heaven and praise Him before all, for He has shown His mercy to us.  Hold fast the memory of our father and brother, Francis, to the praise and glory of Him Who made him so great among people and gave him glory in the sight of angels. – To believe in Jesus … means rejecting the lure of sin, however attractive it may be, in order to set out on the difficult path of the gospel virtues.

24

Pray for him as he begged us, and pray to him that God may make us share with him in his holy grace. Amen. – The family’s future is entrusted first of all to each person=s conscience and responsible commitment, and to the convictions and values that are alive within us.

25

On the fourth day before the nones of October, the Lord’s day, at the first hour of the preceding night, our father and brothers went to Christ. – We must always to turn with trustful supplication to Him who can change human hearts and minds.

26

I am sure, dearest brothers, that when this letter reaches you, you will follow the footprints of the people of Israel as they mourned the loss of their great leaders, Moses and Aaron. – The splendor of Christ’s glory is reflected in the face of every human being.

27

Let us, by all means, give way to tears for we are deprived of so great a father.  Indeed, it is in keeping with our love for him that we rejoice with Francis. Still, it is right to mourn him! – With courage and compassion, Christians must be ever attentive to the cry of the poor, serving the Lord who is present in their suffering.

28

It belongs to us to rejoice with Francis, for he has not died but gone to the fair in heaven, taking with him a bag of mercy and will not return until the full moon. At the same time it is right for us to weep for Francis. – True reconciliation between divided and hostile men is possible only when they allow themselves to be reconciled with God.

29

He who came and went among us, as did Aaron, who brought forth from his storehouse both the new and the old and comforted us in all our afflictions, has been taken from our midst.  Now we are like orphans without a father. – Authentic brotherly love is founded on love for God, who is the common Father of all.

30

Yet, because it is written, “the poor depend on you and you are the helper of orphans” all of you, dearest brothers, must earnestly pray that, though this earthen jar has been broken in the valley of Adam’s children, the Most High Potter will deign to repair and restore another of similar honor, who will rule over the multitude of our race and go before us into battle like a true Maccabee. – Authentic religious experience is a mature and noble attitude of acceptance of God, which in turn gives meaning to life and implies a responsibility to work for a better world.

31

And, because it is not useless to pray for the dead, pray to the Lord for his soul. – The degree of a people’s civilization is measured by the extent of their respect for the value of life.

***************

Brother Elias ends his letter announcing the death of St. Francis with the following directives and signature:

 

Let each priest say three Masses,

each cleric the Psalter,

and the lay brothers five Our Fathers.

Let the clerics also recite the common vigil office.

Amen. 

Brother Elias, Sinner.

 

 

October 2019 Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website:  skdsfo       email: pppgusa@gmail.com

October 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

For centuries, the Franciscan Family has praised the goodness of God for blessing the world with St. Francis of Assisi and for calling us to follow his example in living the Gospel life. The impact St. Francis continues to have on our world has continued for more than eight centuries.  Since the time of St. Francis himself, the I, II, III, and Secular Franciscan Orders strive to foster a spirit of peace and goodness, and universal brotherhood. The spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our holy Mother St. Clare have affected the universal Church, as well as societies and cultures in every corner of the world.  They have influenced governments and help transform the thoughts of multitudes over the years.  They have challenged people to open their hearts and minds to the world recognizing it as the theater of redemption, thus a place to love and in which to live the Gospel life that all things may be restored in Christ. There is an obvious question that arises, however, regarding St. Francis. One of his first followers, Brother Masseo, is recorded to have asked the question: Why after you? … Why does the whole world come after you?  It is an interesting and quite challenging question that certainly goes far beyond the expected response of a pious platitude.

Once Saint Francis was staying in the place of the Portiuncula with Brother Masseo of Marignano, a man of great holiness, discernment and grace in speaking of God, for which Saint Francis loved him very much. One day Saint Francis was returning from the woods and from prayer, and when he was at the edge of the woods, that same Brother Masseo, wanting to test how humble he was, went up to him and, as if joking, said, “Why after you, why after you, why after you?”  Saint Francis responded, “What do you mean?” Brother Masseo said, “I am saying why does the whole world come after you, and everyone seems to desire to see you and hear you? You are not a handsome man in body, you are not someone of great learning, you are not noble; so why does the whole world come after you?” (Little Flowers 10)

How might we have responded to such a situation if the question were asked of us?  It is an honest consideration posed by someone who gave up everything to follow St. Francis. And what about the multitudes that sought to follow Francis Bernardone either by living the Rule for friars, or by living a Rule for those in society who still wanted to be of Francis’ Family and Gospel life experience. Some undoubtedly would have been put off by the reason Bro. Masseo gave for asking the question had the reasons given concerned them.  When “ego” gets in the way we suffer from nearsightedness.  We see, hear, accept, and I dare say love, only ourselves, so that when others make us aware of our “deficiencies” or definite faults we either retreat or react.  The attributes (or lack thereof) that Brother Masseo presented were rather peripheral. Nonetheless, how would any of us like to have been told rather bluntly: “You are homely looking (aesthetically challenged), of an inadequate intellect (“academically limited”), and come from an insignificant level of society (“socially modest”)?  How might we have responded?  Masseo was thinking out loud.  He had seen, believed, and followed Francis.  Why?

At times, when people place their trust in another, there comes a moment when they want to know concretely what their heart tells them is true, good, and necessary for personal fulfillment concerning the other. Reassurance does not so much express a doubt as much as a desire to corroborate and reconfirm a decision made with firm conviction and total commitment. Brother Masseo loved and trusted St. Francis, but he wanted to hear the answer from St. Francis himself.  In the depths of his heart Brother Masseo knew God was with Francis.  He believed in the man he had chosen to follow in response to God’s call.  Life changing decisions, such as marriage, religious life, priesthood, becoming a Secular Franciscan, committing ourselves to any life that ultimately aims to transform a person from within as well as without, require prudence, trust, prayerful discernment, and courage to decide wholeheartedly.

Courage urges us to take the step, and fidelity assists us to experience the value and fruitfulness of the “yes” with which we surrender to the call.  A simple rule is “Live it and you will love it”. It is only in living our decision that we grow into loving it day-by-day.  The questions and explanations are valuable and valid, but ultimately when I believe God is in the midst of the call and my response, I must make the decision trustingly, regardless how others encourage or discourage me by their words or actions.  Remember, your vocation is yours, none other’s.  A community, fraternity, Order is made up of many individuals who have personally responded with the same affirmative reply and share a life of mutual support, encouragement, familial love.  It is a personal individual choice rooted in the conviction that expects and urges one to keep on moving forward, even if all others opt to change course.

The immediate response of St. Francis to Brother Masseo continues from the Little Flowers: Hearing this, Saint Francis was overjoyed in spirit and, turning his face to heaven, stood for a long time with his mind lifted up to God.  Then returning to himself, he knelt down and gave praise and thanks to God. (Little Flowers 10)

The key word is “immediate response”.  Francis, with all of his idiosyncrasies, was centered on God.  God was the focus, center, and source of all Francis desired to live and do in this life.  Even a response to his brother was not made until his attitude of prayer lifted him in spirit so that it was not I who live but Christ who lives in me, as St. Paul writes to the churches.  To paraphrase, ‘It was not Francis who responded, but Christ who responded in Francis’. We read in Scripture how Jesus, before He did anything of importance, would often spend the night in prayer.  Before performing a miracle Jesus would groan from the depths of his soul and gratefully acknowledge the Father’s willingness to hear His request. When we take time to enter that vertical relationship of prayer with/in God, every response we make, whether in words, actions, or both, lead us to enter the horizontal relationship with our sisters and brothers.  Thus humility.

Then with great fervor of spirit (St. Francis) returned to Brother Masseo and said, “Do you want to know why after me?  You want to know why after me? You want to know why the whole world comes after me? I have this from those eyes of the Most High God, which gaze in every place on the good and the guilty.  Since those most holy eyes have not seen among sinners anyone more vile, nor more incompetent, nor a greater sinner than me; to perform that marvelous work, which he intends to do, He has not found a more vile creature on the earth, and therefore He has chosen me to confound the nobility and the greatness and the strength and beauty and wisdom of the world, so that it may be known that every virtue and every good is from Him, and not from the creature, and no person may boast in His sight.  But whoever ‘boasts must boast in the Lord’, to whom is every honor and glory forever.  Brother Masseo was shocked at such a humble response, said with such fervor, and knew certainly that Saint Francis was truly grounded in humility. (Little Flowers 10)

 

Seeing himself before the awesome love and majesty of God, he recognizes his lowliness and the greatness of God, and thus can give Brother Masseo the answer he seeks.  Francis acknowledges how insignificant he is before the immensity of God, and it is for this reason that God can work through him. Filled with ourselves there is no room for God; the humble soul is empty of itself and offers God all the space God wills. There can be no pride in one who recognizes at every moment the sovereignty of God and himself as nothing more than the ‘Herald of the Great King’.

The herald proclaims the message of the other, not their own message.  The herald must be a subject of integrity who can be trusted to communicate the message of the one who sent him, and not his own personal issues and agendas. It is here that St. Francis explained in his response the prayer he so often would say, Who are You (Lord).  Who am I, repeating the words of St. Augustine centuries before: That I may know You (Lord), that I may know myself.  There is a powerful nuance here I think should be mentioned.  Many translate the words of Augustine to mean: ‘Let me know you Lord and let me know myself’.  It seems more Augustine and even Francis to translate the phrase to mean; ‘Let me know You, Lord, so that I may know myself’.  Once Francis’ heart lifted up, saw himself in the mystery of the One Whom he sought to know, he understood more deeply the purpose and call of his own life and could rejoice in the transforming power of grace that had worked such wonders in him and, through him, in so many others.  Humility is truth.

The response St. Francis gave impressed Brother Masseo for its simplicity and truthfulness.  St. Francis had him understand the meaning of St. Paul’s words, It is when I am weak that I am strong.  It is when we recognize our nothingness without God that God can work in-with-through us and not only give glory to His Name but raise us up in Him.  True humility that does not seek applause nor put on airs of superiority, attracts and encourages.  Humility recognizes the Lordship of God over us, and therefore, all things are given besides.  We accept our dependency on God for all things, and his dependency on us to cooperate with Him in the re-creation of our fallen world and its restoration in Christ.  St. Francis told Brother Masseo that only in admitting the supremacy of God can we begin to fulfill our lives and call others to experience the same fulfillment in sharing the same gift.

G.K.Chesterton offers a brief and interesting picture St. Francis:  Saint Francis was a lean and lively little man; thin as a thread and vibrant as a bowstring; and in his motions like an arrow from the bow.  All his life was a series of plunges and scampers; darting after the beggar, dashing naked into the woods, tossing himself into the strange ship, hurling himself into the Sultan’s tent and offering to hurl himself into the fire.  In appearance he must have been like a thin brown skeleton autumn leaf dancing eternally before the wind; but in truth it was he that was the wind.


Why you?  Why does the whole world go after you, Francis?  Because like the wind: lively, vibrant, plunging into the depths, darting after the marginalized and alienated, dashing into the seclusion of prayer with nothing but his soul enamored of God, tossing himself into the strange events that God allowed to come his way, hurling himself into the midst of danger for the sake of the Name with a courage surpassing even that of the Crusaders of his time, Francis was the image of the freedom all people desire in life.  Shackled, held down by no one and nothing.  Francis was and still is free.  He believed firmly God was with him, thus he had nothing to fear.  A frail body was the vessel of a magnificent heart and soul.  So great was his desire to be one with the Father-Son-Holy Spirit, that towards the end of his life he not only carried the dying of Christ in his soul but was privileged to carry the wounds of the Savior on his body for all the world to see.  Why you, Fancis?  He might reply, “Because through me the Lord has seen fit to make Himself known and seen, that others may be encouraged to trust in God, disarm their hearts to one another, and rebuild a falling world, for as we can see is falling into ruin”.

As spiritual children of the Poverello of Assisi, reflect on your own response to that situation of St. Francis and Brother Masseo.  Why would you ask Francis the question in the first place?  What have you not understood about the one whom you have chosen to follow that he might help you live Jesus?  Why did you accept to follow the Little Poor Man of Assisi?  What does St. Francis say to you after eight centuries?  Is he still alive and well in your fraternity, in your own personal life?  Are the life and words of St. Francis, his free spirit and total humility, his all-embracing disarmed heart towards all, a source of enthusiasm, encouragement, excitement, JOY?  Is there an awareness of being a son/daughter, brother/sister in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi?  Do you allow this awareness to affect your life and encounters with the world in which you live?  Does the vibrancy and relevancy of the Franciscan Charism help you to ‘come alive in the spirit’?

Remembering that Francis was so enamored of Our Lady that he called her the Virgin made Church, may we, the living Mystical Body of Christ, reflect upon the life of Jesus during this month of the Most Holy Rosary and look at Jesus with the eyes of Mary. Sharing the great gift of life and our Franciscan charism let us strive to “infect” others with the spirit of the Poverello of Assisi.  May we all be instruments of God’s Peace and Blessings to our world.

God bless us; Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Happy Saint Francis Day to all!  Let us remember one another at the altar of the Lord both during the celebration of the Transitus and during the Eucharistic celebration of the Solemnity.  All of you and your loved ones and intentions will be in my prayers and Masses in a special way as we all celebrate St. Francis of Assisi, God’s ‘crazy one’ who has infected so many to follow that same lunacy of love that seeks to transform us all into Fools for the sake of Christ, living gospels in a world so in need of the “Good News” of God’s extravagant love.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant