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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Prayer for those dealing with the Coronavirus

Dear Father, Almighty Healer and Physician, we bring our fears, anxiety and petitions to you during this outbreak of coronavirus.  Please restore our inner peace so that we can be a shining light to those stuck in the darkness.

And let us pray for

+        All those who have the virus and fear the outcome, may they find their peace in you.

+        All the medical staff who cannot work from home but need to be in the ‘trenches’ taking care of the sick, may they have the stamina and good health to continue to serve.

+        For all the working parents who are suddenly faced with their childrens’ schools being closed. Help them to find a solution that does not impact their earnings too greatly.

+        For all those who are worried, please grant them the peace to get through this time.

+        For all those working extra hours to provide more test kits, masks and sanitizer, shower them with the ability to keep up their difficult schedule.

+        And for all the rest of us, please help us make good decisions about where we go and when to stay home, what supplies we buy and how much/many, and most especially keep us calm and filled with Your grace so that we are able to reach out to others in need.

We ask these things through the Sacred Heart of Your Son, Jesus.  May we be open to Your Ministering to us so that we are equipped to minister to others.   Amen

 

 

Thought for the Day by Father Francis – March 2020

March 2020

All-powerful God,

everlasting, just and good,

of ourselves we are nothing but poverty;

but grant, for your own sake,

that we may do what we know is your will,

and always desire what is pleasing to you…

Amen.

(Conclusion of the Letter to the Entire Order)

Following are daily excerpts taken from various Franciscan sources. 

Daily meditative phrases from various sources

1

His sermons were not vain and shallow but they were filled with the power of the holy Spirit (Major Legend,chpt.2) – God’s mercy, if we only let him take over, will take us much farther and higher than our own scant justice.

2

He began to preach all over with great commitment and assurance.  He did not have recourse to reasoning founded on human wisdom, but based his teachings on the doctrine and virtue of the Holy Spirit, faithfully proclaiming the kingdom of God (Three Companions,chpt.54) – God’s predilection for the humblest and lowest emphasizes the point that he likes to make of upsetting men’s calculations and betraying expectations based on rank, merit, age or tradition.

3

His style was not as one preaching but as one who is conversing…he spoke clearly and respectably (Thomas of Spalato) – Self-reliance will get us nowhere…the whole process is better looked after when placed in the hands of God than when held tight in our grip as though we were bent on seeing it through at all costs by ourselves.

4

His words were like and ardent fire that penetrated the depths of the heart and filled the mind with admiration; … (his preaching) had the aroma and essence of divine revelation (Major Legend,chpt.12) – The fact that we fall is not important, but the hopeful effect of the fall to make us turn to God…is such a necessary lesson that it outweighs the fall and soothes the hurt.

5

He always used simple and very practical examples when preaching to the uneducated people, for he realized that virtue is more important than (stylish) words (Major Legen,chpt.12) – When faith joins hands with reason, their union bears the happiest fruits of spiritual understanding and heavenly wisdom; but the way to that union is paved with difficulties.

6

When proclaiming the word of the Lord before thousands of people, he was calm and confident, as though he were speaking with his brother and companion (2Celano,chpt.107) – Human weaknesses do not hinder God’s work in the soul, while human pride does.

7

From the purity of his heart he acquired the self-assurance of his words; even when he was unexpectedly invited to preach, he spoke marvelous things that had not been heard before (2Celano,chpt.107) – Pray in faith and you will obtain all you need…Jesus never disappoints.

8

He did not offer excuses for those living sinful lives, but he chastised them firmly, having himself practiced what he was now asking others to do (1Celano,chpt.36) – Faith is the greatest power on earth, and prayer its exercise.

9

He was speaking with such fire of spirit that he could not contain himself for joy.  As he brought forth the word from his mouth, he moved his feet as if dancing, not playfully, but burning with then fire of divine love, not provoking laughter but moving them to tears of sorrow. (1Celano,chpt.27) – Penitential prayer increases faith…Grow in faith by practicing prayer; and practice prayer by asking God for what you need…

10

Let no brother preach contrary to the rite and practice of the Church or without the permission of his minister.  Let the minister be careful of granting it without discernment to anyone. (Earlier Rule,chpt.17) – It is not easy to ask, because petition is submission, is dependence, is humility and is commitment.

11

Let all the brother, however, preach by their deeds. No minister or preacher may make a ministry of the brothers or the office of preaching his own, but, when he is told, let him set it aside without objection. (Earlier Rule,chpt.17) – To pray is to anticipate the parousia, i.e. May the Kingdom come today in token and in sign, so that it may come one day in its fullness.

12

I admonish and exhort those brothers that when they preach their language be well-considered and chaste for the benefit and edification of them people, announcing to them vices and virtues, punishment and glory, with brevity, because our Lord when on earth kept his word brief. (Later Rule,chpt.9) – The danger of prayer is that we very correctly pray for ‘the right things’, with no desire to receive them.

13

He wanted ministers of the word of God to be intent on spiritual study and not hindered by other duties.  He said that these men were heralds chosen by a great king to deliver to the people the decrees received from his mouth. (2Celano,chpt.122) – Prayer, when made with sincerity, brings us face to face with God and makes us deal with him a person to person..

14

The preacher must first secretly draw in by prayer what he later pours out in sacred preaching; he must first of all grow warm on the inside, or he will speak frozen words on the outside. (2Celano,chpt.122) – When we have some years behind us and look back on life, and come to realize how wise God was in not granting some of our prayers, we may even thank Him for not giving us what we did not know for what we were asking.

15

We should honor and revere all theologians and those who minister to us the words of God, as those who minister to us ‘spirit and life’. (2Celano,chpt.122) – Our view of things is of necessity short, biased and selfish, and we grab impatiently the quick relief when the true benefit would be the long endurance.

16

He…directed himself to invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Suddenly he began to overflow with such effective eloquence and to move the minds of the high-ranking men to compunction with such force and power that it was clearly evident it was not he, but the Spirit of the Lord who was speaking. (Major Legend,chpt.12) – God can well answer a prayer for escape with a grace to endureInstead of removing the trial, God grants the strength to, go through it.

17

In the presence of the Cardinal, Francis addressed himself to the brothers and said: ‘Christ…has told me: ‘I want you…by word and work to preach the folly of the cross’. (Angelo Clareno) – ‘Lord, give me what is best for me’…can you pray this without conditions or hesitating?

18

We are mothers when we carry Him in our heart and body through a divine love and a pure and sincere conscience and give birth to Him through a holy activity which must shine as an example before others. (Letter to the Faithful,chpt.1) – The courage to pray in the face of rejection brings us close to Jesus himself in the deepest moment of his life.

19

A person is as learned as his actions show; and a religious is only as good a preacher as his actions show; for a good tree is known only by its fruit. (Mirror of Perfection,chpt.1,#4) – Every unanswered prayer is Gethsemane.

20

As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that greater peace is in your hearts. Let non one be provoked to anger or scandal through you, but may everyone be drawn to peace, kindness, and harmony through your gentleness. For we have been called to this: to heal the wounded, bind up the broken, and recall the erring…(Three Companions,chpt.14) – Faith has to be tried in order to be itself, and the greatest trial for the believer is to feel abandoned by God.

21

A preacher must be wept over, as over someone without real piety, who in preaching seeks not the salvation of souls, but his own praise, or who destroys with the depravation of his life what he builds up with the truth of teaching. (Major Legend,chpt.8) – Suffering is not a problem to be discussed, but a reality, dark and painful though it is, to be lived.

22

The lord Pope confirmed their Rule and authorized them to preach in whatever church they so desired, after, out of respect and reverence, they requested permission from the prelate of the place. (Jacques de Vitry) – Life, whatever it is, is a test, and our reactions to its vicissitudes mark the path to our future, whatever again that may be.

23

He (Pope Innocent III) granted what was asked and promised even more.  He approved the rule, gave them a mandate to preach penance, and had small tonsures given to all the lay brothers, who were accompanying the servant of God, so that they could freely preach the word of God (Major Legend,chpt.3) – The one redeeming trait of suffering is that it helps to bring out love.

24

The brothers must not have large churches built in order to preach to the people or for any other reason, for there is greater humility and better example when they go to other churches to preach.(Mirror of Perfection,chpt.1,#10) – God has come to do what he could not do in his heaven: to suffer with man.  The cross of Christ is the meeting point of suffering humanity.

25

On Sundays and Feast Days, they leave their small dwellings and go to preach the word of life in the parish churches. (Roger of Wendover) – The infiniteness of God in the concreteness of a man, a few years that span eternity, a limited presence that fills creation…is Jesus!

26

The prelates of the church saw these documents (Papal documents approving the Order and the brothers’ preaching) and having verified their authenticity, generously permitted the brothers to build, live and preach in their dioceses.(Three Companions) – If the Son of Man can make the Father present, so can we, in our smallness and poverty, reflect his glory till he comes.

27

He used to say that, because of the office of prelacy or of zeal for preaching, they should not abandon holy and devout prayer, going for alms, working at times with their hands, and performing other humble tasks like the other brothers, for good example and for the benefit of their souls, as well as others. (Mirror of Perfection,chpt.3,#73) – We are signs in the Sign.

28

The blessed father knew through the Holy Spirit and even repeated it many times to the brothers, that many brothers, under pretext of edifying others, would abandon their vocation, that is, holy humility, pure simplicity, prayer, devotion, and our Lady Poverty…because they will think themselves to be more imbued and filled with devotion…and enlightened by knowledge of God because of their understanding of the Scriptures. (Mirror of Perfection, chpt..3,#72) – Faith is the capacity to be disturbed, to let God into one’s life, to cope with the unusual and to be surprised into glory.

29

He felt deeply sorry for those preachers who often sell what they do for the price of some empty praise. (2Celano,chpt.123) – Faith, in turn, is the capacity to disturb others, not in the obnoxious pride of inconsiderate manners, but in the humble role of carriers of faith…reflecting with delegated light the presence and the demands of the One Sign.

30

The preacher who rejoices over many as though they were born through his power will then discover that he has nothing of his own in them. (2Celano,chpt.123) – The path of God’s people across the desert into the promised land is marked by altars…remember the past in order to trust for the future.

31

He had little love for those who would rather be praised as orators than as preachers or for those who speak with elegance rather than feeling.  He said that they divided things badly, putting everything in preaching and nothing in devotion. But he would praise that preacher who takes time to taste and eat a bit himself. (2Celano,chpt.123) – Remember, God does not do things by halves…God follows up what he begins…’The Lord will accomplish his purpose for me. Your true love, O Lord, endures forever: do not leave unfinished the work of our hands’.

 

 

 

 

Monthly Meditation by Father Francis – March, 2020

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

March 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

In the his Letter to All the Faithful St. Francis of Assisi wrote: We ought indeed to confess all our sins to a priest and receive from him the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…Let us, moreover, ‘bring forth fruits worthy of penance’…Let those who have received the power of judging others, exercise judgment with mercy as they hope to obtain mercy from the Lord…We ought also to fast and abstain from vices and sins and from superfluity of food and drink, and to be Catholics…But all those who do not do penance and who do not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who give themselves to vice and sins and walk after evil concupiscence and bad desires and who do not observe what they have promised, corporally they serve  the world and its fleshly desires and cares and solicitudes for this life, but mentally they serve the devil deceived by him…they see not the light, our Lord Jesus Christ…Beware,…for its is sweet to the body to commit sin and bitter to serve God  because all vices and sins come forth and proceed from the heat of man…And all those who shall receive (these words) kindly and understand them…, if they persevere in them unto the end, may the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless them. Amen.

The better we are within ourselves, the better we are able to deal with what surrounds us.  We may not be able to change the situations (physical, moral, spiritual…) that afflict us, but when we are at peace within our hearts and souls, the forces around us cannot overcome us. There is an essential relationship between our minds and souls, and our bodies. The search for inner peace, calm, and serenity do not require us to go beyond the treasure of the patrimony of our Faith.  We have all been offered effective means to genuinely know and acknowledge ourselves, acquire true peace, and be transformed.   Jesus, the Church, the Church’s holy men and women down through the centuries have all indicated the way, method, and results that are far more effective and everlasting than the exotic expressions and systems that so many attach themselves to today. There are deeper, more effective, and lasting, results when we enter a Spirit-centered experience in Jesus, Who leads us to the Father.  We live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28) in God alone.  All we are comes from and must be directed to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.  We are destined to fail, even if we gain the whole world, when we deviate from this process.  Fulfillment is not a feeling but a way of being.  Only God and goodness in grace can lead us to this state of perfection.

Have we ever considered how much we can truly be changed by the power of grace working within those who trustingly and lovingly surrender themselves to the Eternal Source of Life and Love – God! What often obstructs the way is our inability to believe that God can love us beyond our frail and sinful habits.  God’s sentence over us is His mercy, and God’s vengeance is His love. We have heard the saying When God forgives, God forgets!  Our stumbling block to this marvelous reality is that we frequently willingly wallow in our weaknesses, even those forgiven sacramentally. We allow discouragement to enter our souls and to cloud our vision of God’s presence that forever welcomes us into His loving embrace.  God holds us tightly in His Love. We are the ones who wriggle ourselves out of that eternal grip and lose our way again and again.  But God is faithful.  The letter to the Hebrews states, He is the same yesterday, today and always. (Hebrews 13: 8)  God is forever God.  We are the ones who are fickle. In this Lenten Season, what are we doing to make this time spiritually fruitful, and our lives once again at one with our Loving God?

The words ‘At one with God’, express the effects of the saving act of Jesus – at-one-ment (atonement) with God. The atonement made for us is one that we must continue in our personal lives, until the end of time, making up in our bodies what is lacking in the passion of Christ. (Colossians 1: 24)  Christ’s Passion-Death-Resurrection redeemed all humanity.  It is up to each one of us to cooperate with that one great act of love.  Live Jesus!  This should be our motto and program.  To Live Jesus means never to deplete or lose the grace He acquired for us.

All of this necessitates trust and sincerity. We must trust in God’s love, mercy and providence. We must be sincere with God and ourselves about all that refers to us and our relationship with God, our sisters and brothers, and ourselves.  This entails a deep awareness of the state of our souls, an acknowledgment of personal responsibility for all our faults and sins, a sorrow for anything that keeps us away from a grace-filled life, an accountability for our transgressions of God’s love, a desire to be forgiven, and an active commitment to do all, with the help of God, to avoid what leads us into sin.

Nowadays, this procedure may seem difficult, because we are affected by a world that has lost the sense of sin. Everything has become relative.  Sin is no longer considered a personal disposition and act against the love of God.  Sin is now explained as a dysfunction of the psyche, not necessarily the soul. Sin is explained as the result of a psychological imbalance, an uncontrollable habit, a social-religious-economic and so on conditioning.

While these explanations may be a true diagnosis in some circumstances, we still must admit that most times it is plainly and simply SIN. We camouflage the word by calling it A “fault”, A “weakness”, An “attitude”, and the like, so that we do not have to accept the brunt of the reality nor our own responsibility and accountability for it.  But, sin is sin, as sin is sin!  To cure an illness one has to know and believe he/she is ill, otherwise no help is sought nor is anything done to recover and get better. Unfortunately, all too often, people either become scrupulous with their lives and see sin everywhere, or they become indifferent and accustomed to questionable or sinful practices and justify everything.  Both attitudes are blasphemous: one makes God a tyrant ready to condemn even the most natural of acts created by God Himself; the other makes God a fool who can be manipulated anytime for any convenient reason!

The Lenten Season offers us opportunities to grow in prayer and reflection, to be of service to one another, and to work at ridding ourselves of what keeps us from growing in grace.  There is a practice we Catholics were accustomed to accomplish regularly, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. We are encouraged and expected to clarify our vision, set our site, and strengthen our souls for the Lenten journey of Repentance, Renewal, and Reconciliation. A successful accomplishment of  this three-step program requires a daily examination of conscience – preferably before retiring at night, and possibly briefly in the course of the day – regarding our faithfulness to all we profess as Catholic Christians, and a regularity in the personal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through Confession and Penance.  The original title of the followers of St. Francis of Assisi was the Penitents of Assisi. We as his spiritual children acknowledge an ongoing conversion process our entire lives.

This ongoing process follows a definite format: examination of conscience, sincere confession of faults and sins, acceptance and execution of the remedy (penance) prescribed.  This leads to our reconciliation and “at-one-ment” with God.

In Lent we enter a more intense spiritual experience of growth and healing through our immersion into the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. In His wounds and through His death we are healed and brought to a wholeness of life.  We journey with our fellow Christians through this holy season. We encourage and support one another to enter the mystery of the Cross and to die to ourselves. It can be a painful process.  No pain, no gain!  We have to risk being honest with ourselves so that we can be transparent before God.  Why not?! He already knows us before we know ourselves. Be honest with God! This honesty leads to transparency of soul that ultimately permits God’s grace to envelop our lives and transform us.

Even hidden situations and circumstances that control people, often conditioning them to choose the road of least resistance that leads to brokenness and sin, begin to find resolution in the transparency of truth with God and ourselves. How many people suffer from hidden weights that overburden them: abuse issues; dependencies such as drugs, alcohol, sex; phobias and manias, just to mention a few?  They might be hidden to others but never to those who bear them.  These spiritual and moral marks in a personality and character are reminders of the vulnerability and mortality of human nature.  These hidden stigmas cause pain to the one who is overcome by the inability to control what is controlling him/her. These sisters and brothers are spiritual victims who cry out for strength, courage, and trust to overcome what is overwhelming them. The answer to their plea is found through trust and prayer, and the assistance of qualified persons of faith – both religious and medical – if needed.  These moments can be converted into occasions of growth in virtue and grace, as they are spiritually strengthened – as are we – for their daily battles with the world, the flesh, and Satan.  No fear when God is near!  In Him we are victors!

How could anyone not be transformed by the experience of grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! The Confessional and Sacrament is transformed into a grace-filled encounter where the guilty are absolved and released, totally free to resume with dignity their place among the children of God.  Every sincere celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation introduces us to the Tribunal of Mercy, where the penitent offers the deposition of his/her own miseries and crimes, hears the direct judgment of a compassionate brother, and receives the liberating Sentence of Divine Love. It baffles the soul why so many Catholics keep away from this wonderful Sacrament, or just ‘go to it’ rarely.  Do we, as Spiritual Children of the Penitent of Assisi understand the awesomeness of this Sacrament and appreciate the fact that we can celebrate this act of God’s love frequently? Yes, just like the Loving Father and the Prodigal Son, we celebrate our return home.  It is always a joyful happening when we are embraced by the Father and reinstated with dignity (robe), freedom (sandals), and authority (ring) into the Father’s Family.  This is what every Sacrament of Reconciliation, worthily celebrated, does.

This Lent, let us make every effort to rid ourselves of all that hinders our advancement on our journey to holiness.  We must not let our temptations and even our sins discourage us.  An attainable and effective Lenten program of ongoing conversion could be the following: Valiantly fight temptations with strong souls, and fight along with the Supreme Chief.  When you fall, do not stay there prostrated in body and spirit. Humble yourself greatly, but without being discouraged.  Lower yourself without degrading yourself.  Wash your imperfections and falls with sincere tears of contrition, without lacking trust in divine Goodness, which will always be greater than your ingratitude. Propose to make amends without being presumptuous, but your strength must be in God alone.  Finally, confess sincerely that if God were not your breast-plate and shield, you would be imprudently pierced with every kind of sin.  And it is for this reason that you must always keep yourself in the grace of God with perseverance in carrying out your spiritual exercises, and let this be your principal concern…always have courage…run to the foot of the cross…and you will undoubtedly be comforted and invigorated. These words, offered by a son of St. Francis of the twentieth century, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, encourage us to trust in Divine Mercy that redeems us as It washes us from our sins and failings in the Blood of Christ.

May God bless you; Our Heavenly Mother guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look on each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  May this Lent bring us all closer to Jesus in Whose Passion-Death-Resurrection our life is worth living at every moment and through every experience.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – March 2020

SKD Formation Monthly-February 2020 SKD Formation Monthly-February 2020

PLEASE NOTE:  This posting is for March 2020 even though February is cited in the title.

From the Regional Formation Director - January 2020

SKD Formation Monthly-January 2020

January 2020 Meditation by Father Francis

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

February 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

Our Seraphic Father had left an indelible mark on most of Christian Europe before his death. Some in Assisi may have still remembered the excitement caused between Francis and his Father Pietro when Francis decided to return everything to him in the public square of Assisi before his father, the bishop of Assisi, and all the townspeople. He gave his father even the clothes on his back and from then would call only God my Father.  The people remembered the gossip – perhaps they had even been participants in it – when the wealthy Bernard, the farmer Giles, the priest Peter, and the other first followers sought to follow the ’beggar-son’ of the wealthy merchant. After all the initial criticisms, cautious doubts, interested questioning, and patient observation to see ’how it would all work out’, the people of Assisi were proud of Francis, The Universal Brother.

God Himself had set His Seal of approval on Francis two years before he passed to eternity, imprinting on his body the five wounds of the Passion of our Savior. Before his death, thousands had accepted to follow the Gospel lifestyle he proposed.  His Lesser Brothers had reached the far corners of Europe, arriving at the Middle East and North Africa, joyfully proclaiming the time of fulfillment and the kingdom of God in our midst in Jesus Christ.  Francis had set in motion a tsunami of Gospel Life that did not devastate but ennobled those it engulfed. The waves of consecrated Brothers and Laity seeking the Poverello as their guide in this evangelical endeavor, gave witness to the excitement and beauty of lives dedicated to the Lord and His people in the Name of Jesus.  Is it any wonder that our Holy Mother St. Clare would be captivated and enamored by this ’Herald of the Great King’, the messenger of God’s Peace and Blessings to all who heard and received the message!? Is it any wonder a young, spiritual, and enthusiastic girl would want to be part of something so exciting?! She would be the “other side” of the “Franciscan Coin”, the complement to the charism lived by the Lesser Brothers, for women living the consecration of the vowed Gospel life in obedience, with nothing of their own, and in chastity.

 

The story of a soul is the story of a call, a response, and a commission.  Most people think of ’vocation’ as pertaining solely to service in the Church, usually as consecrated religious and/or priests.  While this traditionally is how most people view the word ’vocation’, truthfully, it pertains to everyone.  We are all called by God to hear, listen, respond and fulfill God’s Will.  God speaks to us in varied ways.  The first official words of Jesus to the crowds was: This is the time of fulfillment (God has kept the pledge He offered the world centuries before); The kingdom of God is at hand (His presence is now among all creation in His Incarnate Word made flesh, Jesus); Repent and believe the Good News (Listen to, reflect on, and live what you have come to know of what God wants for you).  All who became our sisters and brothers in the Seraphic Family of the Gospel Life heard a call to repentance and conversion and were/are assisted in understanding and courageously responding to it by the example and words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi.

 

There comes a moment when all of us must decide whom we will follow and serve. Though we may not be “great sinners” in the common understanding of the words, we are still all called to Remember You are Dust and to Dust You will Return so that we encouraged to Repent and Believe the Gospel. The call to repentance and conversion is necessary in the life of everyone.

 

Repentance is a positive experience.  Most think that ’repentance’ involves the return of a sinner to grace; that is part of it.  But, ’repentance’ also involves the awareness a ’saint’ has that he/she must always progress in the will of God. Understanding repentance in this way, we can easily see how all our ancestors in the Franciscan Family (I,II,III Regular and Secular … and possibly even our “IV Order” affiliates) were and are attracted to the ’Penitents of Assisi’.

 

St. Francis stated When I was in sin in his Testament, and continues to speak of his vocation and that of those who sought to follow their call with him.  St. Clare speaks of the vanities of the world from which she and the Poor Ladies of San Damiano were called.  St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare of Assisi and all our sisters and brothers in the Franciscan Fraternity were/are called to a life of detachment from whatever may impede ’taking flight’ into the arms of our loving God. Our lives are simple yet penetrating examples of the effective and fulfilling power of a life lived in-with-for-through Jesus. This is how we best lead others to take up the challenge of the Gospel Life. Some have a conversion journey from bad to good. Then for all we go from good to better, until we achieve the “best” we can be before time becomes eternity.

 

We are on the road that leads to Life. Whether we believe we must go from bad to good (as the sinful woman in the Gospels), or from good to better (as the young man in the Gospels seeking ’to be good’), we must listen to and accept the call to repentance. In both cases the process involves:

 

–   Discovering something wonderful about ourselves: We are God’s beloved children. We are redeemed in the Blood of Jesus in-with-through Whom we seek forgiveness of sin and a life lived in harmony with God’s grace.

 

–   Recognizing the spiritual and natural talents specifically ours which God has entrusted to us to be used well and with which to grow in age, wisdom, and grace before God and all people.

 

–   Acquiring new vision to see beyond the limits that convenience, comfort, complacency often place before our eyes conditioning us to ’stay put’ rather than courageously and trustingly forge forward where God leads us.

 

–   Taking a new direction, especially if it means having to make a one hundred eighty degree turn in values, principles, desires, character traits that lack propriety though not sinful, spiritual practices that lack heart and are only pious actions without substance, and so forth.

 

–   Setting more worthwhile goals, since Christians are never satisfied with the ’ordinary’. We know we are called to be light and salt in the world. We sincerely strive to achieve those goals that lead to a fuller grace-filled life that affects not only our relationship with God but with ourselves and others in all we do.

 

–   Ultimately, in living a more committed Gospel Life, with our feet well grounded in life and its responsibilities and our hearts awaiting life’s fulfillment with God in the heavens.  We live rejoicing as not rejoicing, buying as not owning, using the world as not using it fully (1 Corinthians 7: 29-31).

 

The road to conversion through repentance is always exciting and leads to joy.  Aspects of the journey may be difficult and even painful. Nevertheless, confident in the hope of acquiring the end result for those who persevere, we the ’Penitents of Assisi’ are urged to continue.  Let us never forget that the Christian life is a continuous process of conversion. The repentant person who is transformed by grace rather than conformed to the age in which he/she is called to be a pilgrim and stranger, is transformed (con-verted) and thus, called to discipleship. A response to repentance leads to conversion as it invites us to discipleship that we in turn might be sent as apostles to call others in the Lord’s name to repentance-conversion-commission.

 

Jesus had more difficulties with the ’saints’ of His day, than with the ’sinners’.  The sinners needed and wanted someone who would see, hear, understand and forgive them.  The ’saints’ forgot the adage: Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Thinking themselves secure on the correct road and in the favor of God for fulfilling all the ’laws’, they forgot that stopping on the climb to holiness means sliding down to levels that make the re-climb more difficult.

 

What were the problems then with those who held back from accepting the call to repentance-conversion?  They are the same today as then and anytime. More than dealing with a sinful life, they deal with an ’un-fulfilled’ life.  This sense of ’un-fulfillment’ often stems from our own faulty human nature and sinfulness. The ’call’ urges us to go forward even beyond the limits that fear, complacency, indifference, and so on, have created in our lives. They are false securities and spiritual illusions that masquerade as the tranquility of God’s pleasure with us for having satisfied all required to do to be ’holy’ and live in God’s Presence. Spiritual lethargy stifles any desire to move forward or even to consider the need to ’go beyond’.

 

God never abuses the gift of our freedom.  The invitation to intimacy with God here and for eternity begins with an acknowledgment of our need and deep desire to be what we could and should be.

 

–   ’Could’ because God never expects the impossible from us unless He is willing to offer us all that we need to achieve what He has planted in our hearts.  It can be done!

 

–   ’Should’, because whatever God asks is really an offer we would be foolish to refuse. If God asks, Who knows us better than we ourselves, how can any reasonable person refuse what ultimately will lead to the greatest fulfillment of his/her life?

 

Recognizing our unworthiness of such a ’divine’ gift, for which we have determined to live and work, other signs manifest themselves more strongly:

 

– a dissatisfaction with oneself …  Our hearts can find no rest until they rest in God.  This profound  yearning – for something better – can be found in all people, even those who as yet do not understand the working of God and His Spirit;

 

– a longing for something better … Complacency leads to spiritual sloth and keeps us from seeing an attainable goal that goes beyond the limits we set in our lives;

 

– a sense that something is awry, something is missing … Love desires and demands to be one with the beloved.  Until we know that we are one with God Who loves and calls us, we feel an emptiness or an incompleteness.

 

The whole process is really not as long-drawn-out or difficult as it can seem.  It is not a ’heady’ problem to solve, but a ’hearty’ relationship to strengthen.  Once we open our hearts and lives to God and His Loving Will, all we have to do is surrender and ’enjoy the ride’ even when it gets rough and demanding.  It is something like a spiritual roller coaster ride. God takes us on an ’exciting ride’ when we place ourselves totally and trustingly in His hands. Let go and let God.  To make it all happen be open, honest, humble, and courageous.

 

Courage is definitely necessary.  The word itself means to let the heart take over (cor’heart … age’do, act); when heart speaks to Heart, or Heart speaks to heart, how can we do anything but let go!  Our courage demands an end to self-deception, a confrontation with the sad realties of our lives, admission of guilt for those areas we have conveniently tried to ’cover up’ in our hearts, a sincere request for forgiveness, and a firm resolve to change, that leads to conversion through repentance to transformation in God’s grace.

 

Lent begins at the end of this month. Hopefully we can celebrate this holy Season of Penance as a joy-filled time of repentance-renewal-rebirth in the Spirit.  The Lenten road may have its pains and sacrifices. As we advance on the journey, we strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, Christ, the Church, all Humanity, and even all Creation.  Having responded wholeheartedly, we are now ready to accept the ’commission’ to be ’Apostles of God’s Love, Mercy, Providence’.

 

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare, we prepare to enter a yearly experience that is never the same each year, and that has eternal effects. Our Father Francis and Mother Clare responded to the invitation to follow in the footsteps of the Savior, poor and humble. Jesus emptied Himself, though He is God, that we, through His poverty, could, poor in this world’s goods, be enriched by grace for eternal Life. What more could we ask?  Why do we hesitate to give our all?   With the example of the courage and total response of our heavenly patrons and parents to urge us on, let us, Penitents of Assisi, enter the Lenten journey with joyful hearts and ready wills.

 

May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare, together with all the Holy Ones of our Seraphic Family of Penitents of Assisi, assist us on our Lenten journey from Ashes to Palms, From Calvary to the Empty Tomb and onto the Mount of Olives where the commission is given for us to be a living Gospel to others.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A, Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Intentions for January 2020

Pope’s Intentions:

JANUARY

Promotion of World Peace

We pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote peace and justice in the world.

CIOFS Intentions:

OFS: For the national fraternities of Chad, Ivory Coast and Albania (Chapters)

Thought for the Day – January 2020 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

January 2020

 

Most High, Glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of our minds.

Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,

so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

1

When Saint Francis delivered the second Rule to the Lord Pope Honorius for confirmation at Christ’s command…he said to Blessed Francis: Blessed is he who, strengthened by the grace of God, will observe this Rule happily and devotedly, for all the things written in it are holy and Catholic and perfect.  – Many find plenty of time to gossip about and/or criticize others, but so little time to spend and speak with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

2

(When asked to modify certain aspects of the Rule) Blessed Francis answered: It was not I but Christ who put these words in the Rule.  He knows best what is useful and necessary for the salvation of souls and of the brothers, and for the good state and preservation of the religion. – Separation from earthly things, ambitions, and even friendships at times, often is the mysterious material that cements a soul closer to God.

3

(St. Francis continued): All that will happen in the future to the religion and to the Church is clear and present to Him (Christ).  I must not and cannot change the words of Christ.  Do not be concerned what place you hold but how you hold that place. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

4

(Francis continued): It will happen that the ministers and others in authority in the religion will cause many bitter tribulations for those who wish to observe the Rule faithfully and literally.  – Do what you have to do, work what you have to work. (Words of Jesus to St. Francis)

5

(St. Francis concluded): Since it is the will and obedience of Christ that this Rule and life be understood literally, so it must be your will and obedience that this be done and written in the Rule. – Fear can make matters worse and can heighten pain; trust in God’s presence and providence.

6

(A Master of Theology said to St. Francis): I promise firmly to observe the Gospel and the Rule which Christ has spoken through you, until the end, simply and faithfully, with the help of His grace. – Though abstinence and prayer are of great merit, yet illness and pain suffered with patience is much greater. (St. Pachomius of Egypt)

7

(He continued): But one thing I ask of you.  If  in my lifetime the brothers fall as far away from their pure observance of the Rule as you predicted through the Holy Spirit, I ask by your obedience that I may withdraw from those who do not observe it, alone or with some brothers who wish to observe it purely.  – The cross is the gift God gives His friends (Cure` of Ars)

8

Blessed Francis added that all the promises made to him by Christ would, in the end, be fulfilled in those who would strive to observe the Rule simply, to the letter, and without glosses and with joy. – No true child of Mary will ever be lost. Love Mary and obey Her last words in Scripture: Do whatever He tells you.

9

Saint Francis also predicted a very great trial of his brothers that was to come because of the love of learning, and that a violent wind from the desert would arise (and severely shake the Order). – I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, for He rules everything (St. Patrick)

10

This cheap, rough and short sackcloth with which I cover my shoulders is the cheapness and austerity of poverty which the brothers promised the Lord they would wear proudly.  But abandoning it, they will cling to every kind of relaxation.  – We can never become saints until we place all our trust in God.

11

He believed that the highest obedience…was by divine inspiration going among the Saracens and non-believers. He considered requesting this very pleasing to God (and said). The brothers who go can live among them in a two-fold way. One way is not to engage in arguments and disputes and to acknowledge that they are Christians.  The other way is to announce the word of God when they see it pleases the Lord.  – Love the disagreeable.

12

Blessed Francis was overjoyed at the place granted to the brothers, especially because of the name of this church of the Mother of Christ, and because it was such a poor little church, and because it was surnamed: ‘of the Portiuncula’. – It is not the inner irritation, often spontaneous, that is wrong; it is the outward display of this interior annoyance that is wrong. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

13

Soon after the brothers went to stay (at the Portiuncula), almost daily the Lord increased their food, and news of them and their fame flew throughout the whole valley of Spoleto. Although the abbot and monks had freely granted it to blessed Francis and his brothers without payment, every year (blessed Francis) used to send a basket full of small fish as a sign of greater humility and poverty. – Happiness consists in forgetfulness of self (St. Therese of Lisieux)

14

(The monks in turn) because of the humility of blessed Francis, who had done this of his own free will, gave him and his brothers a jar filled with oil. – Humility is the hinge upon which hangs the virtue of patience.

15

It had been revealed to (blessed Francis) in that place (of the Portiuncula) that, of all the churches of the world that she has, the blessed Virgin loved that church. Therefore, during his whole lifetime he always had the greatest reverence and devotion toward it.  – The beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and its fulfillment is the perfection of all joy.

16

About the time of his death (blessed Francis) said: I want to leave and bequeath to the brothers the place of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula as a testament, that it may always be held in the greatest reverence and devotion by the brothers. – In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and the soul no longer lives for itself or in itself but for God. (Thomas Merton)

17

For although the place itself is holy, (the brothers) preserved its holiness with constant prayer day and night and by constant silence. And if, at times, anyone spoke after the established time for silence, they discussed with greatest devotion and decorum matters pertaining to the praise of God and the salvation of souls. –Humility is truth.

18

Blessed Francis often said these words to the brothers; I have never been a thief, that is, in regard to alms, which are the inheritance of the poor.  I always took less than I needed, so that other poor people would not be cheated of their share.  To act otherwise would be theft. – Whenever you are frightened or lonesome…visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and enter in spirit into His Sacred Heart. (St.Elzear to his wife Delphine)

19

When urged to allow the brothers to have something at least in common, Saint Francis called upon Christ in prayer and consulted Him about this.  Christ immediately responded that He would take away everything held individually or in common, saying that this is His family for whom He was always ready to provide as long as it would put its hope in Him. – Don’t worry, if uncomplimentary things are said about you.  Worse things were said about Christ. (St. Elzear to his household)

20

(When the ministers of the Order wanted Francis to mitigate the Rule) The voice of Christ was then heard in the air, saying: Francis, nothing of yours is in the Rule: whatever is there is all mine.  And I want the Rule observed in this way: to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, and without a gloss, without a gloss, without a gloss. – Remove humility and all virtue will vanish. (Cure` of Ars)

21

(And the voice of Christ added): I know how much human weakness is capable of, and how much I want to help them.  Those who refuse to observe it should leave the Order. – For anyone striving to become virtuous there is always the danger that we may fall victim of spiritual pride.

22

(At the Chapter of Mats, when prelates of the Church suggested that he adopt one of the existing Rules, blessed Francis said): God has called me by the way of simplicity, and showed me the way of simplicity. I do not want you to mention to me any rule … and the Lord told me what He wanted.  He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. – Virtue cannot thrive in a soul filled with worry, tension or fear. Sanctity grows best in serenity.

23

The Lord Jesus Christ said to Brother Leo, the companion of blessed Francis: I have a complaint about the brothers. They do not recognize My gifts which, as you know, I  generously bestow on them daily.  All day long they are idle and complain.  And they often provoke one another to anger, and do not return to love, and do not pardon the injury they receive. –  I enjoy life even more than you do; but love of life does not make me afraid to die. (St. Apollonius to his judge)

24

Blessed Francis said that he had obtained from the Lord four things. Namely, the religion and the profession of the Lesser Brothers will last until the day of judgment, no one who deliberately persecutes the Order will live long. No evil person, intending to live an evil life in it, will be able to remain in it for long. Whosoever loves the Order wholeheartedly, however great a sinner, will obtain mercy in the end. – Have a sense of humor. The essence of real humor is a heart at peace with God and the world.

25

(Blessed Francis said) For my part, I want only this privilege from the Lord: not to have any privilege from any  human being, except to show reverence to all, and, by the obedience of the holy Rule, to convert everyone more by example than word – Real joy comes from a heart in harmony with God.

26

When Saint Francis went before the Lord Pope by whom the Rule was confirmed and sealed, Francis placed his hand upon it, swore and said that this was the will of God and no other.  And he did this a second and a third time. – By the sheer weight of good example we can lead others to Christ.

27

Blessed Francis re-entered the cave and spoke with God, like Moses in the tent on Mount Sinai, face to face, and God said: Francis, build me a wall between temporal affairs and your brothers. – Holiness comes not by talking about it, or studying it, but by living it.

28

Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.  As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty. – Whoever wishes to save his soul must have three souls in one; toward God the heart of a son; toward one’s neighbor the heart of a mother; and toward himself the heart of a judge. (Thomas a` Kempis)

29

Saint Francis command(ed): I strictly command all my cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or upon these words, but as the Lord has given me. – Live like one about to die. (Murillo)

30

As Moses with God and God with him, so Saint Francis spoke with the Lord, and the Lord fully related to him future events, concerning not only the Order but also the whole Church until the end of the world. – One virtue that shines more brightly in the lives of the saints is the virtue of charity, i.e. unfeigned compassion for others in need.

31

(Saint Francis came from prayer upset and said to the brother): While I was at prayer, I begged the Lord for peace for the Christian people, because it was revealed to me that many trials would come upon the Christian people.  And so the Lord Jesus was kind enough to appear to me. – If you are honestly looking for Christ, you will find Him quickest and most often in His poor.

BLESSED AND MERRY CHRISTMAS

HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2020!

Monthly Meditation – January 2020 – 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

January 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

In this New Year of Grace

May the heavenly Child look benevolently on your soul.

May the light that flooded the minds of the devout shepherds at Bethlehem

enlighten your mind and heart.

Unless we listen to what we hear or read, words are just air vibrating and making meaningless sounds, or hollow signs and symbols. We hear the Word proclaimed at Mass; we may even have selected specific Scripture passages for some occurrence. However, reading all of Scripture meditatively – this is the key word – in a systematic manner offers the attentive reader a deeper insight into the history of salvation. Reading meditatively God’s Word offers answers to some of the basic questions in life: Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is life all about?  Why sickness, violence, death?  Why is evil so prevalent if everything comes from the hands of an all-loving God? And many more questions that leave the non-believer perplexed.

Agnostics and Atheists (if there are any real and true atheists!) need to downplay or deny God, or discredit religious belief systems to quiet their own searching hearts.  Our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You, was St. Augustine’s Prayer.  How true that is for us all! … whoever and wherever God is, He remains the Mystery, for those who do not seek Him, and the Eternal Contemporary, for those recognizing His presence in all creation. The history, counsels, prayers, prophecies, of the People of Israel and the Early Church that we find in Sacred Scripture is our story.  We are the People of God who see themselves in the anticipation of a Savior, in our encounter with Him in time, as we forge ahead in faith, hoping to fulfill the purpose for our creation, that we may receive the gift of Life in full.

The drama of our redemption begins in the Book of Genesis and finds its fulfillment in the Book of Revelation. As chief characters in the drama of humanity’s redemption, Scripture speaks to us of God’s call to life and intimacy with Him, of humanity’s disobedient fall through pride because you will be like gods (Genesis 3:5), of humanity’s recall down the centuries through prophetic people who spoke in God’s Name, and of humanity’s redemption in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the One-Who-Is-To-Come Who is the Eternal Contemporary always with us – Emmanuel.  The writings of the New Covenant (New Testament),  through the teachings of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation,  guide us to live gratefully in this world, as pilgrims and strangers (Hebrews 11:13), until we reach the gift of Life pledged us when we entered our Covenant relationship with the Father, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. God’s Word helps us to reread our faith history from the perspective of God and eternity, rather than from our limited perspective of time alone. Throughout the inspired Word we seek to re-confirm the Covenant Love established with God in our Baptism, that we re-confirm each day as we enter trustingly and unconditionally into the Father’s Will.  We are called to stir into flame the gift God has given you (2 Timothy 1: 6) so that the excitement of being a people peculiarly His own (1 Peter 2:9) may never wane. Thus, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

God’s Word nourishes and nurtures all who receive It in truth and trust. The Word of God gives joy to His People. As long as God speaks with His People, His beloved children redeemed in the Blood of Christ, He is still “in touch” with them. Scripture reminds us of God’s relentless and extravagant love for those who so often do not respond lovingly. After their return from the Babylonian exile, the People of Israel wept for joy when they heard The First Five Books of Scripture –

‘The Torah’, ‘The Law’- read to them. Scripture says that the people stood the good part of a day listening with joy to what for many years they had been deprived (cfr. Nehemiah 9).  That word was a constant reminder of God’s Loving Covenant with them and they, accepting to listen to the Word, reconfirmed their Covenant with God (cfr. Nehemiah 9).  Through good times and bad their hearts were joyful. His Word was His presence. His Word was the sign that God had not abandoned them.  Even the most ‘tragic’ stories and prophecies of Scripture always end with hope in a God Who can never be vanquished.  We are reminded of our God Whose Word will not return to Him until it has fulfilled the purpose for its being sent. (Isaiah 55:11) All the Old Testament, read in the ‘Key of Christ’ prepares us to encounter God, the Almighty One, with whom we become victors with the Victor over sin and death, Jesus the Lord, the Word enfleshed in time that we might be ‘re-created’ by grace in His eternity.

The first day of the New Year celebrates the Motherhood of Mary and the Name of Jesus.  Mary, the highest honor of our race (Judith 15:9), looks down to heaven in Her arms.  The Infant in Her arms that She sees and loves is the fulfillment of Her People’s prayers and hopes.  She says His name JESUSGod is salvation, with a love only a mother can express.  All of Scripture is fulfilled in this Infant (cfr. Luke 1:26-35).  Mary saw and loved what St. John the Evangelist wrote of Him decades later: He was in the world … but the world did not know Him … to those who did accept Him He gave the power to become the children of God … The Word became flesh and dwelled among us … from His fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace … (1 John 1: 10-16) Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the living Covenant the Father makes with all creation. In His Name and redeeming Life-Death-Resurrection we enter into our Covenant with God through the Blood of the Lamb. (cfr. Revelation 7:14-17; 12:11)

Just as in the time of Jesus, our world is filled with so much that disturbs and distresses us: war, violence, natural disasters, social-economic-political-religious unrest, sickness and disease … Death!  But, if we take time to evaluate the times in which we live, there is so much good that is happening as well: people who believe in peace and strive to live it as a witness for others; women and men who come to the aid of their less fortunate sisters and brothers often at the cost of their own time-talents-personal treasures; young people who seek and truly desire a better world and are willing to work for it at the price of their own comfort and convenience; religious leaders who have stopped anathematizing each other because of differences but are searching for better ways to appreciate the goodness God instills in each; progress being made in curing debilitating and terminal diseases; love that brings young men and women to believe in the future in marriage; infants born as a trust in the value of tomorrow; and so much more!  What about the wonderful moments that happen to each one of us personally.

The God of prophecy is a God Who sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)  All this should encourage our hearts to peace and joy, even in the midst of the challenges and outright disasters of life.  Inner peace and inner joy, fruits of loving hearts who trustingly surrender to God, give us the harmony and balance for which we yearn in such a cacophonous and unstable world.  God’s inspired Word teaches us through the written experiences of our ancestors in the faith. The reassuring message that keeps recurring at all the momentous times of our journey of faith through the millennia is: Do not be afraid! It is I! (John 6: 20)

We are called to be cheerful, to be at peace and to let God do as He pleases.  Most of the things we fear and worry about often never come to pass. Remember that rather amusing statement that says: What do you mean worry does not help!  Everything I worried about never happened!  Worry only destroys inner peace and clouds the vision of our hearts. Often we worry about matters over which we have no control or certain knowledge. We compromise our inner peace and serenity in useless fretting.  Be concerned and alert, Yes!  But worry is belief that failure is inevitable. This leads to discouragement, which is one of satan’s best tools.  Even the saints experienced sadness, pain, confusion, even fear. They too sought their ‘Simons of Cyrene’ to help them bear the ‘cross of unknowing’ by opening their heart to them. Nevertheless, ultimately, they surrendered to the love and mercy of God, trusting in His divine providence, and accepted everything. Everything was part of God’s plan they were called to fulfill; they surrendered and accepted this with joy and thanksgiving.

We get so taken up with the past and the future that we fail to graciously accept the ‘gift’, the ‘present’, God gives us to live in the Real Presence of His Eucharist that nourishes and His Word that nurtures and guides.  It is now, in the present, today, that the future opens up for each one of us.  We learn from the successes and failures of the past. We confidently look forward to a future in God’s loving-care. We live our present with simplicity and trust. We know that we can be effective instruments in God’s plan capable of changing the world. We must dispel fear and learn to trust. We must trust in God, trust in others God has placed with us, trust ourselves endowed by God with gifts of time to work, talents to use, and the treasure of life and love.

 At His birth, Magi came from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). Their search for the Word made flesh is the search of everyone for the unseen God.  When they opened the eyes of their heart and saw God in an Infant, Heaven in a stable, Dignity in lowliness, Wisdom in external absurdity, Power in impotence, Providence in need, Love in rejection … then, and only then, could they, and we as well with them, acknowledge the wondrous exchange between eternity and time, the Creator and the creature: The Invisible becomes visible … The eternal enters time and is subject to it … the Almighty becomes fragile … The Unknowable is seen … The Spirit becomes a body to love and nurture, hands to caress, and a heart beating at one with His creation. Accept the mystery, acknowledge the miracle, and marvel at the wonder of God’s extravagant love in Jesus.

Mary’s role in all this should open our hearts in such a love for Her that throughout this new year we should each day say, with Pope St. John Paul II: Totus Tuus – All Yours!   All Yours, Mother!  All Yours, Jesus through our Mother! Yes! God’s Mother and ours too!  How could we be otherwise than All Hers? God is goodness, Mary is the Mother of goodness; God is Mercy, Mary is the Mother of Mercy; God is Grace Itself, Mary is the Mother of Grace and Mediatrix of all graces; God is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life; God is our Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope.

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father, let us live this new year in the peace and joy of those who know God is with us.  Let God’s Word be our guide and His Eucharist, the Incarnate Word in Sacrament, be our viaticum through life. Open to God’s Incarnate Word and His life-giving words let us be open to one another in a bond of love and truth that strengthens the unity of our Franciscan Fraternity. As we live in the Word and seek to live His words, may we witness a hope that the world seeks.

 

Some people wait for Friday to ‘get off the merry-go-round’ of their work-week. Others look forward to Mondays filled with new opportunities and challenges that help them discover the talents and strengths God gives to meet the ‘gifts’ of a new week.  May we all look forward to a New Year of Grace, in which God offers us the occasion to ‘unwrap’ the wonderful gifts He entrusts to us that we might grow in grace and be His instruments of Peace and Blessings to all throughout the year and throughout our lives. Having begun the New Year with Mary and in Jesus’ Name, let us let our Mother’s example of silent trust and anticipation of the ‘unraveling’ of God’s will, and the Most Holy Name of Jesus, before Whom heaven, and earth, and those under the earth bend the knee (Philippians 2:10), be our standard and strong support. In His Name is the Father’s Love and the Spirit’s power. In His Name we find peace. He Is Peace and Salvation!

 

As can be seen on some Church signs: No Christ, No Peace!  KNOW CHRIST, KNOW PEACE!  Let us know the Peace of Christ in our hearts, homes, and the world around us.  JESUS, OUR PEACE, DOES NOT DISAPPOINT ANYONE WHO PLACES THEIR TRUST IN HIM.  LORD, THIS YEAR AND ALWAYS, WE PLACE OUR TRUST IN YOU! May the Peace, Joy, Blessings … and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones.

My prayers are with all of you and your loved ones for a most blessed and peace-filled New Year 2020.  May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Prayer Intentions for the Month of December 2019

For the Evangelization – The future of the young: That every country determine to take the necessary measures to make the future of the very young, especially those who suffer, a priority.

OFS: For all the national fraternities in difficulty and the national fraternity of Uruguay (Chapter). Our Father…