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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OFS Prayer Intentions for 2018

2018 MONTHLY INTENTIONS OF PRAYER – OFS and YOUFRA

 

To underline our communion with the Pope, we offer the intention of the Holy Father for the month and an intention for OFS according to the life and important events of the Order.

2018

January

For the Evangelization: That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian Countries, may be able to practice their faith in full freedom.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Togo, Mozambique, and Korea.

Our Father…

February

Universal: That those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption.

OFS: For the national fraternities of RD Congo (VP), and Cyprus (VFP).

Our Father…

Marzo

For the Evangelization: That the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Brazil (VFP), Switzerland, Russia and Japan.

Our Father…

April

Universal: That economists may have the courage to reject any economy of exclusion and know how to open new paths.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Mauritius, Cuba, Latvia, Taiwan and for the CIOFS Presidency.

Our Father…

May

For the Evangelization: That the lay faithful may fulfil their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Canada, Costa Rica and New Zealand (VFP).

Our Father…

June

Universal: That social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects others for their differences.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Haiti, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, El Salvador, Austria, Malawi and Puerto Rico.

Our Father…

July

For the Evangelization: That priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Rwanda and for the Pan-African Congress.

Our Father…

August

Universal: That any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Paraguay (VFP), Ireland, Brazil and the European Congress.

Our Father…

September

Universal: That young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Great Britain, Oceania Australia (VFP), Angola and Sweden.

Our Father…

October

For the Evangelization: That consecrated religious men and women may bestir themselves, and be present among the poor, the marginalized, and those who have no voice.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Croatia (VFP), Sri Lanka and India.

Our Father…

November

Universal: That the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.

OFS: For the national fraternities of the United States, Portugal, Vietnam (VFP), Nicaragua (VFP) and for the CIOFS Presidency.

Our Father…

Dicember

For the Evangelization: That people, who are involved in the service and transmission of faith, may find, in their dialogue with culture, a language suited to the conditions of the present time.

OFS: For all the national fraternities in difficulty.

Our Father…

 

 

Reflections from Father Sariego, OFM Cap – January, 2018

January 2018

 

Lord, just as I believe that at an earlier time

(I may have been sinful and not fully open to Your will)

so now I realize that, because of Your abundant mercy

and in Your own time, You have shown an abundance of Your mercies to (me)…

Give glory to Your name,

(may I) offer the fragrance of good life, doctrine, and good reputation

to the whole Christian people.

I ask you therefore, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies,

not to consider our ingratitude.

May (I) always be mindful of the abundant mercies which you have shown (me),

that (I) may always … glorify Your name blessed and glorious throughout the ages.

Amen.

(Paraphrase [in parenthesis] of the blessing of Saint Francis for the City of Assisi)

The month of January celebrates The Holy Childhood of Jesus.

Excerpts and Daily reflections are taken from various sources

1

Blessed Francis held that to beg for alms for the love of the lord God was of the greatest nobility, dignity, and courtesy before God and before this world … blessed Francis would say that a servant of God must beg alms for the love of God with greater freedom and joy …  – In order to love Jesus, we must offer to others the gift of ourselves.

2

I must be a model to your poor.  Especially because I know that in the life and religion of the brothers there are and will be Lesser Brothers, in name and in deed, humble in all things, obedient and of service to their brothers. – It is only in the giving of ourselves through charity, service and compassion that we can experience true joy.

3

At…Rivo Torto, there was a brother…who prayed little, did not work, and did not want to go for alms…blessed Francis…told him:  Go on your way, Brother Fly, because you want to feed on the labor of your brothers, but wish to be idle in the work of God…he went away…and did not ask for mercy.  – Suffering is transformed and elevated when, in those moments, we become aware of God’s closeness and solidarity.

4

When blessed Francis lay gravely ill…he often asked his companions during the day to sing the Praises of the Lord which he had composed a long time before his illness.- There is something of the apostle Thomas in every human being.  Each one is tempted by unbelief.

5

(Blessed Francis said to Brother Elias) Allow me to rejoice in the Lord, Brother, and to sing His praises in my infirmities, because, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I am closely united and joined with my Lord, through His mercy, I can well rejoice in the Most High Himself.   – We have to open our eyes and our heart to the light of the Holy Spirit.

6

Blessed Francis did not want to address anyone called ‘Good’ by their name, out of reverence for the Lord, who said: No one is good but God alone.  – May every family truly rediscover its own vocation to love!

7

(Blessed Francis) did not want to call anyone ‘father’ or ‘master’, nor write them in letters, out of reverence for the Lord who said:  Call no one on earth your father nor be called masters, etc.  – Do not separate your faith from your daily life and your daily life from your faith, as so many people do today.

8

(Blessed Francis said to the doctor): Tell me the truth. How does it look to you?  Do not be afraid, for, by the grace of God, I am not a coward who fears death…- The life and the whole being of each Christian must be unified around a central axis: fidelity to Jesus Christ.

9

With the Lord’s help, by His mercy and grace, I am so united and joined with my Lord that I am equally as happy to die as I am to live – In every circumstance, the starting point is to intensify prayer (in order) to increase one’s faith and make it more vigorous.

10

At the beginning of the religion, when blessed Francis would go with a brother who was one of the first twelve brothers, that brother would greet men and women along the way as well as those in their field, saying: May the Lord give you peace.  – God alone is our true and unfailing support.

11

Blessed Francis instructed all the brothers … that they should not abandon holy and devout prayer. Going for alms, and working with hands like the other brothers, for good example and for the benefit of their souls as well as others – Love and prayer are the only sure spiritual levers with which it is possible to lift up the world.

12

(Blessed Francis said): The brothers who are subjects are very edified when their ministers and preachers devote themselves freely to prayer; and the subjects are inclined to humility, when they see the prelates and the greater ones co-operating in their enterprises and labors.  – We are all called to live a life of holiness.

13

That faithful disciple and imitator of Christ (Blessed Francis), while he was in good health, practiced what he taught the brothers. – In baptism God has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence’.

14

From the time of his conversion till the day of his death, blessed Francis, whether healthy or sick, was always concerned to know and follow the will of the Lord.  – The Holy Spirit makes man realize his own evil and at the same time directs him toward what is good.

15

Blessed Francis praised God with great fervor of spirit and joy of body and soul, and told (the brother who informed him of his terminal condition): If I am to die soon, call Brother Angelo and Brother Leo that they may sing to me about Sister death.  – Thanks to the multiplicity of the Spirit’s gifts, every kind of human sin can be reached by God’s saving power.

16

From the beginning of his conversion blessed Francis, with God’s help, like a wise man, established himself and his house, that is, the religion, on a firm rock, the greatest humility and poverty of the Son of God, calling it the religion of ‘Lesser Brothers’- Love nothing more than Christ who reveals to the world the mystery of divine love and true human dignity.

17

After the brothers grew in number, he wanted the brothers to stay in hospitals of lepers to serve them…whenever nobles and commoners came to the religion, they were told, among other things, that they had to serve the lepers and stay in their houses. – True relationships are rich in inner depth, gratuitousness, and self-sacrifice.

18

Let the brothers remain as strangers and pilgrims in the houses in which they stay.  Let them not seek to have anything under heaven, except holy poverty, by which, in this world, they are nourished by God with bodily food and virtue, and, in the next, will attain a heavenly inheritance.  – Love Christ present in those burdened by illness.

19

The bishop (of Terni) said: …God has beautified his Church with this little poor man, lowly, unlettered…And because of this you should live and honor the Lord and avoid sin for He has done thus for every nation.  – Call with faith on the name of Jesus (and experience the power that flows from that Name).

20

Blessed Francis bowed down before the Lord Bishop and fell down at his feet, saying to him … (People) attribute glory and holiness to the creature, not to the Creator.  You, however, like a discerning man, have separated what is precious from what is vile.  – Provided that we approach the word of God and listen to it as it really is, it brings us into contact with God himself.

21

If at any moment the Lord wanted to take back the treasure He has loaned to me, what would I have left except just body and soul, which even non-believers have?  – The word of God brings us into contact with Christ, the Word of God, the Truth, who is at the same time both the Way and the Life.

22

I must believe, rather, that if the Lord had granted a thief and even a non-believer as many gifts as He has given me, they would be more faithful to the Lord than I.  – The Holy Spirit is the author of our sanctification.

23

… a servant of God … must not attribute anything to himself, but give all honor and glory to God.  He should not attribute anything to himself while he is alive except shame and trouble, because, while he is alive, the flesh is always opposed to God’s gifts.  – The Holy Spirit transforms us deep down, divinizes us, makes us participants in divine nature, just as fire makes metal incandescent, just as spring water quenches thirst.

24

A few years after his conversion he resigned the office of prelate (superior) before all the brothers during a chapter held at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula.  From now on, he said, I am dead to you.  But here is Brother Peter di Catanio: let us all, you and I, obey him. – Christians need reconciliation with one another; we need mutual forgiveness.

25

I want you to put one of my companions in your place regarding me, so that I may obey him as I would obey you.  For the sake of good example and the virtue of obedience, in life and in death I always want you to be with me.  – (We should not be afraid) of openly and courageously expressing our faith in Christ in our daily lives, especially in works of charity and solidarity with those who are in need.

26

Among other favors, the Most High has given me this grace: I would obey a novice who entered our religion today, if he were appointed my guardian, just as readily as I would obey him who is the first and the eldest in the life and religion of the brothers. –  Be men and women of integrity and sound moral character worthy of the respect and trust we seek from others.

27

A subject should not consider his prelate, a human being, but God, for love of Whom he is subject to him… But the Most High gave me this grace: that I want to be content with all, as one who is lesser in the religion.  – We must enrich the world not only by the gifts God has entrusted to us, but also by our goodness.

28

Frequently, when some of the brothers did not provide for his needs, or said something to him that would ordinarily offend a person, he would immediately go to prayer.  On returning, he did not want to remember it …  – The first step in evangelization is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God.

29

The closer he approached death, the more careful in complete perfection he became in considering how he might live and die in complete humility and poverty.  –  Our relationship with God demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of who we are.

30

A few years after he began to have brothers, (Clare) was converted to the Lord through his advice…Her conversion not only greatly edified the religion of the brothers, but also the entire Church of God. –  O Lord of life, when the moment of our definitive ‘passage’ comes,  grant that we may face it with serenity, without regret for what we shall leave behind.

31

Saturday evening before nightfall, after vespers, when blessed Francis passed to the Lord, many birds called larks flew low above then roof of the house where blessed Francis lay, wheeling in a circle and singing.  We, who were with blessed Francis, have written about this … – Jesus asks us to follow him and to imitate him along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren out of love for God.

 

 

Reflections from Father Sariego, OFM Cap - January 2018

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 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace and blessings now and throughout the New Year!

The prophet, speaking in the name of God, says, My Word will not return without fulfilling the purpose for which It was sent.  From the very beginning of time, when the Almighty Creator and Father of all life brought out of nothing all that is and all that ever will be, there has been a yearning in creation for something, or better ‘Someone’.  This ‘hope’ that groans until now is our constant companion on life’s journey that urges us to move forward into God’s Providence.  We journey without knowing what the next moment will bring.  We journey, and we trust.  We trust because we believe.  We believe because our hearts have been touched at birth by the Spirit of God Who enables us to see signs of The One greater than all Who encourages us to know Him more deeply as we see Him in and through the many gifts of His Creation. We are the epitome of His creating love; and Jesus is the excellent and flawless example of His magnificent creation.

Jesus is the Word that the Father sent Who returned to the Father having fulfilled the purpose for His becoming one with humanity. We continue that ministry of fulfillment each time we re-present the Mystery and “miracle” of the Eucharist.  It is the same Holy Spirit of God that overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary, giving flesh to the almighty-eternal God within her immaculate womb that overshadows the bread and wine at the celebration of the Eucharist.  The “overshadowing” by the hands of the priest and power of the Holy Spirit and words of Consecration make Jesus the Christ real for us, not just in His Word, but in His Sacrament. This “Real Presence”, through the power of the Holy Spirit, urges us to enter the mystery more deeply and personal. We are called to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation. We courageously and unconditionally accept the mission “to be sent”, as was He, to be a living message of peace and blessings to all.  In Persona Christi the priest celebrant of the Eucharist is both Jesus the Master Who celebrates by virtue of his ordination, but also a disciple and apostle – as are all the faithful – who must listen to what he himself preaches and teaches, live the message he conveys in harmony with God’s Word, Church teaching and Tradition, and go among the People of God inviting all to receive the Good News in the Name of Jesus.

The Eucharist is not just a prayer but an experience of ‘at-one-ment’ with God through Jesus in the Spirit.  It is that Holy Action of the people – liturgy – into which we enter, often oblivious to the awesomeness of the moment and even to the Divine Presence before Whom we confect with the priest the Sacrifice and Sacrament of our Salvation in Jesus.  The Eucharist re- presents for us – subtly, succinctly, and soundly – all of Salvation History.  The Father’s Spirit and Word, present at the beginning of time and down through the millennia, are in the liturgy breathing life for those who are  participants, not merely spectators.  In the Eucharist, celebrant and people acknowledge their personal and collective sinfulness and need for a Savior.  Together they hear the words of ancient Israel in the Old Testament passages, the teachings of the Early Church, and the words and life of Jesus in the Gospels. All this preparation (Liturgy of the Word) takes time, valuable time needed to make us realize the awesome experience we are soon to witness and become (Liturgy of the Eucharist) . In this celebration the Spirit encourages us to consume the Victim – consummatum est – so that all can be fulfilled and we might share in the fruits of the ‘mission accomplished’ of the Lord.

Of His own free will and to the fullest extent the divine Word to descend to our level. Jesus hid His divine nature beneath the veil of human flesh.  In this way, says St. Paul, the Word of God humbled Himself to the point of emptying Himself: He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).  Jesus was pleased to hide His divine nature so fully as to take on the likeness of man in everything, even exposing Himself to hunger, thirst and weariness and, to use the very words of the apostle of the nations: in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:1).  The climax of His humiliation was in His Passion and Death. He submitted His human will to the will of His Father, endured great moments and suffered the most infamous death, the death of the cross. The eternal Father, bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians2:9). It is by virtue of that name alone that we may hope to be saved. The most holy Name of Jesus that we venerate and repeat so often is a source of graces. As Jesus reminds us, we ask in His Name and the Father hears and answers. The Name of Jesus is terror to the demons. If His Name is so powerful, how much more must this very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity be that we receive in the Eucharist?!

The Person of Jesus the Christ is present throughout the entire liturgy.  The priest, ‘in persona Christi’, leads, encourages, instructs, feeds, and commissions the People of God.  The humility of forgiveness given and accepted, teachings offered and received, nourishment prepared and shared, communion extended and embraced, empowerment instilled and undertaken, are all beautifully expressed in the Eucharist.  The Will of Christ is re-presented each time the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Jesus is the Eternal ‘Yes’ Who accepts for all humanity the office of Victim so that we can become victors with Him through the ‘at-one-ment’ that is reserved for all who journey with Him in Word, Sacrament and life.  The Power of the Name repeated and responded to with ‘Amen’ so often throughout the liturgy, gives all who call on the Name of Jesus power to live in His Name, to recognize His presence every moment, to be a powerhouse of grace and blessings for those whom we encounter, and to trustingly move forward in God’s Providence, His Holy Will, the innumerable graces, and the strength we receive from Jesus the Christ in the Eucharist we celebrate, share, and become.

As Spiritual of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi we cannot afford to begin a new year regretting the past or worrying about the future. We all look for opportunities to ‘clean the slate’ and ‘re-write’ our decisions to avoid past mistakes.  One thing we can do as we enter the New Year of Grace 2018 to learn from the past to grow in the good, and to correct what is not good by reconciling ourselves with God and one another, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Where the future is concerned, since Jesus Himself reminds us that every hair on our head is counted and all the worry in the world cannot add or subtract one moment of the life entrusted to each one of us. For greater serenity and joy in 2018 we might remember the words of a great Capuchin Franciscan saint of the twentieth century, St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  All this can so easily be accomplished by remembering that in the Person of Christ we find the trust and courage to live in the Will of the Father and are Empowered in His Name to be an instrument of God’s life-giving Love.  The Eucharist reminds us, renews us within, and repeats for us the wonderful outpouring of His Spirit that will guide us throughout the New Year and for all our life.

Be happy!  God loves you!  Tell the whole world of His Love!  Don’t be afraid to be Catholic!   Help others see in the Eucharist the treasure that must still be discovered in all its richness by so many. Let us all share in the priesthood – ministerial priesthood and that of the laity – by ‘celebrating’ our ‘extension of the Mass’ in our daily lives. Make the Jesus you receive in Holy Communion be the Jesus others see in you – the Person in your compassion and understanding, the Will in your humility and acceptance of others, and the Power of the Name in your living without compromise the Catholic-Christian values we profess in a society that seeks to challenge ‘Christ’ in us and in the Church. Following the example of our Seraphic Father, let us disarm our hearts to all. Like the leper that St. Francis embraced, the one we deem unworthy of love (though that is making a judgment that is only God’s right) or whom we fear because unapproachable or worse, is the one who needs it the most.  When Jesus nourishes and nurtures us with Himself, like our Seraphic Father, we are released from the what has bound us and can move freely to embrace creation in the liturgy of life.  Every day thus becomes a day of rejoicing and growth.

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over all of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.   This is a wonderful year the Lord has granted us.   May the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and homes! May we be Heralds of the Great King!

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord show His face to you and be merciful to you.

May the Lord look on you with kindness and grant you His peace.

May the Lord live in you.

And may you always live in Him.

 

Holy and Happy New Year 2018!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director - January, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director
January 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. I hope that this past Christmas Season was a blessing for you and your families. And I pray that the coming year, 2018, be filled with God’s abundant blessings for you, your families and for your fraternities!

As we discussed last time, those who have gone before us have laid a very good foundation and given us the tools we need to have strong Initial and Ongoing formation programs. We have the FUN Manual, the Regional Formation Handbook, the Franciscan Journey, each other and various sources on the SKD Region web site. We started with a very simple one-page document that gives you an immense amount of direction: the “Pathway to Profession” chart. The chart can be found in the Regional Formation Handbook, second section, page 43, or at the link belowi.

As I said in December, this month’s letter we will be discussing the use of letters of reference. In the SKD Regional Formation Handbook it recommends two letters:
References: Please give us the name and addresses of your pastor or spiritual director and another person who support your desire to enter initial formation in the OFS, and can attest that there are no canonical impediments to your profession in the OFS. Please have them write a letter confirming their support of your decision in a sealed envelope. Letters of reference should be sealed and mailed. Sample to Priest from Fraternity is in Part IV.ii

I recommend the following:
1) A letter from the Pastor (mandatory).
2) A letter from the spiritual director if different than the pastor (optional). This occurs on occasion and both individuals will have different opinions.
3) A letter from a third person “not Clergy or family” who knows them and their Catholic faith expression well (mandatory).
4) And lastly, a letter from the spouse, if he/she is not in the process with them. (Recommended) You need to know that they have the whole-hearted support of the person to whom they are married. We do not want marital discord!

In all cases, you will need to get the proper name, address and title of the persons. Write a letter to them asking them to write a return letter to the fraternity and provide them with a self-addressed stamped envelope. If the individual in initial formation is reluctant to provide this information it should be discussed, but in the end it is mandatory. The person in initial formation should let those individuals know that they will receive a letter from the fraternity’s Formation Director. A good sample of a letter to
a pastor is in the SKD Regional Formation Handbookiii. All the other letters can be adapted from that one. Anyone interested in samples can contact me and I will send PDF files.

Next month we will start discussing how the fraternity council and formation team use the Interview Form, Letters of Reference and Sacramental documents, and how to organize formation files. As mentioned in previous letters, all documents must be saved and properly stored.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

i http://www.skdregion.org/wp‐content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg ii SKD Regional Formation Handbook, page 54
iii SKD Regional Formation Handbook, page 151

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – December 2017

(A PDF version of this document can be downloaded here.)

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

I pray that the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and our spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi are with you and, in you, overflowing in life-giving abundance to others. “We must radiate” the love of God i.   It is by radiating that life giving Agape “LOVE”ii,iii that we will attract our brother and sister Catholics and help them hear the call to vocation increasing the “Helpmates” answering the call of Jesus to Saint Francis, go rebuild my Church.  As I discussed in my November letter, and spoke of at the recent regional gathering, we are called to be Jesus’ helpmates, building and rebuilding the church in love and fraternal perfection, to radiate the spirit of Francis and of Jesus!  This nuptial relationship with Jesus makes our profession sacred and our fraternity sacred. We need to protect both our profession and our fraternity, and the best way to do that is a healthy and strong formation process.

Thank God for those who have gone before us!  They have laid a very good foundation and given us the tools we need to do this important and noble task.  We have the FUN Manual, the Regional Formation Guide, and the Franciscan Journey.  We also have each other and sources on the SKD Region web site.  I want to start with a very simple one-page document that gives you an immense amount of aid:  the “Pathway to Profession” Chart (the chart can be also be found in the regional formation handbook, second section, page 43).  For this month, I will focus on the First Contacts.  The chart tells us to conduct initial interviews and Faith Inventory.  I cannot over emphasize how important this simple step is and, if done properly, can help you avoid problems in the future.  It can also help the individual going through the process to overcome any simple impediments in their faith.

The template for the initial interview is on page 53 of the regional formation guidebook.  The Holy Cross Fraternity took that template and made it a fraternity document so that it is easy to print and save to record.  (By the way, it is essential that all documents created or collected are saved.  I recommend digitizing them and saving to a file and a disk or other external drive.  That way, if something happens you have multiple file sources.)

A careful and slow read of the form will give you a very good idea of how detailed this interview is.  It gives you the opportunity to find out very specific information about the person.  And note that anyone who is not comfortable answering any of the questions should send up that RED FLAG.  Don’t be afraid to ask your own, additional questions.  For example, if you ask questions about sacramental development, and the person says that he does not have any record of being confirmed, ask some more questions concerning his family of origin and faith development.  If an irregularity is found, assist the person by directing him to a parish priest for resolution.  All irregularities or perceived impediments should be resolved before initial formation begins.

A question that comes up fairly regularly is “What about a person who is in the RCIA program?”  Can they start the initial formation process?  After all, most RCIA programs are one year and our formation can be three years.  The answer is simple, although it makes some people uncomfortable.  If a person is in RCIA, they are not yet Catholic.  To start the process a person has to be a catholic in good standing who has received all the sacraments of initiation.  Also, as a former RCIA director, I would not have wanted any of my Catechumens distracted in any way.  Their entire focus needs to be on their journey into full communion with the church!

Next month we will start discussing the importance of reference letters.  I use three at a minimum.  More on that next time.

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director


i Excerpts from Walbert Buhlmann OFM Cap – Address to European Capuchins, May 5, 2005
ii Agape (Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agápē) is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, “”the highest form of love,” “charity”” and “”the love of God for man and of man for God”””
iii H. G. Liddell; Robert Scott (October 2010). An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded Upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. Benediction Classics. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-84902-626-0.

Father Francis' Greetings for December 2017

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
pppgusa@gmail.com

 

December 2017

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

(Saint Francis)  highest aim, foremost desire, and greatest intention was to pay heed to the holy gospel in all things and through all things, to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus christ and to retrace His footstepos completely … We should note then … what he did … at the town of Greccio, on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ … There was a certain man … named John who had a good reputation but an even better manner of life.  Blessed Francis (said to him) ‘If you desire to celebrate the coming feast of the Lord together at Greccio, hurry before me and carefully make ready the things I tell you.  For I wish to re-enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with ox and ass standing by, he rested on hay’ … Finally, the holy man of God comes and, finding all things prepared, he saw them and was glad … There simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted, humility is commended, and out of Grecciio is made a new Bethlehem … Over the manger the solemnities of the Mass are celebrated.  (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30)

St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families set up over the Christmas Season.  St. Francis was not seeking to be innovative, or create something curious that would attract people.  He sought to make the Birth of the Savior come alive once again.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful.  Through the senses, St.Francis sought to arrive more incisively at the soul.

Grace builds on nature. The ability to allow the senses to take over and enliven the heart and soul makes our experience with God even more exciting.  Not just the intellect, but the whole person enters this intimate relationship with God. And God enters a relationship with humanity taking on every aspect of human life except sin.  In the story, as recounted by Celano, it is even stated: Moreover, burning with excessive love, (Francis) often calls Christ the ‘babe from Bethlehem’ whenever he means to call Him Jesus.  Saying the word ‘Bethlehem’ in the manner of a bleating sheep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) St. Francis was not one to be held in check by public opinion. Christmas is the birthday of the Christ Child and he was not concerned sounding like a child, or acting childlike, even if to some it seemed childish.  (When) people were bringing there little children to Jesus … (Jesus) said to (His disciples who were trying to stop them) Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.  It is to just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10: 13-16) Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child and remember the child that we once were and are called to become.  Our Seraphic Father let love let loose, just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and all the people of Israel.  David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2 Samuel: 7: 20) , could be placed on the lips of St. Francis: As the Lord lives, who preferred me … not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more … I will be lowly in your esteem … but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23)  » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Greetings for December 2017” »

Father Francis' Reflections for December 2017

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. Let us desire nothing else, let us wish for nothing else, let nothing else please us and cause us delight, except our Creator and redeemer and Savior, the one true God, Who is fullness of Good, all Good, every Good, the true and Supreme Good, Who alone is merciful and gentle, delectable and sweet, Who alone is holy, just and true, holy and right, Who alone is kind, innocent, pure, from Whom and through Whom and in Whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory … Therefore, let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us or come between us. Let us all, wherever we are … Glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the Most High and supreme eternal God ..

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi) 

 

Following are daily excerpts taken from various Franciscan writings

Daily meditative phrases from various sources

 

1

His sermons were not vain and shallow but they were filled with them 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 he hands of God than when held tight in our grip as though we were bent on seeing it through at all costs by ourselves. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Reflections for December 2017” »

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – November 2017

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

November 2017

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

I pray that the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and our spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi are with you and, in you, overflowing in life-giving abundance to others.  For it is this peace, joy and life-giving union that is truly the external sign of our Franciscan charism.  As Walbert Buhlmann, OFM Cap puts it.  “We must radiate!”  It is the love of God traveling in both directions that make us radiate.  When I say both directions I mean first and foremost from God to us, then, in response to his love for us, we love him back.  In this reciprocal love affair, we can become what Buhlmann said: “we can be a question mark, an exclamation mark…”[1].

It was in great humility and a bit of good old fashioned “Who, Me?” that I accepted appointment to the position as Regional Formation Director a few months ago.  I ask that you pray for me as I seek, with your help, the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Over the next year or so, I plan to attend your regular Fraternity gatherings in order to get to know you and you to know me.  I will also be listening to your Initial and Ongoing formation questions.

In the meantime, I do have some thoughts to share concerning Initial Formation.  These thoughts come from the study of what we have come to know as “The Cangelosi letter”.  Let’s take a look at one part of the letter, a part that I am sure we all have read before but may not have embraced it fully into our lives.

Father Cangelosi said, “Indeed, most people have foggy ideas on the value of Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order and because of this many Secular Franciscans do not live the “grace” of Profession for what it really is. A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Christ[2] aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love andthe realization of Saint Francis mission.[3]

I assume we have all heard this talk of Nuptial Alliance and realization of the mission, but have we really taken a deep look at it and grasped what the words are saying?  If we had, it would be life changing!  By virtue of our profession, we are in a nuptial relationship with Jesus.  What does that mean?  We are also called to the realization of Francis’s mission…  We are called to be Jesus’s helpmates, building and rebuilding the church in love and fraternal perfection, to radiate the spirit of Francis and of Jesus!

            This nuptial relationship with Jesus makes our profession sacred and our fraternity sacred.  We need to protect both our profession and our fraternity, always making sure that they remain sacred.  In my mind, the best way to do this is to secure our foundation and have the basics down.  And that means initial and ongoing formation!  I am asking each and every one of you to make sure that you are following the FUN manual, the Regional Formation Guidelines and the Pathway to Profession so that we may truly accomplish our mission to rebuild His church.

[1] Excerpts from Walbert Buhlmann OFM Cap – Address to European Capuchins, May 5, 2005

2 Emphasis mine

3 Emphasis mine

Peace and Good

Father Francis' Reflections for November 2017

November 2017

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)

 

The month of November celebrates Life Everlasting of those in God’s Glory and those in God’s Mercy.

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 familiarity 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 top 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. – Ezekiel 21-22; Sirach 31.1-15; 1 John 3 – 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.

 

Father Francis' Greetings for November 2017

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.org

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 

November 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

Even the saints can not always have things as they think they should be. Desiring to live in the prompting of the Spirit, they seek direction from persons reputed for being people of knowledge, good sense and holiness. They accept their advice and direction so they can be more certain to follow God’s will and not just their own impulses or desires. The way to heaven is not paved with acts of our own will, camouflaged to look like God’s. God speaks in many ways. Often the response to our prayers seems totally contrary to the request. What we see as effective, God seems, at times, to consider unnecessary. The desired presence, encouragement, counsel we seek or want to offer is often shelved, and we are asked to be patient, to let things be, not to worry…to let go and let God do as He wills.

 

Whether it is in the lives of those we want to assist, or more intimately in our own life’s search for a deeper relationship with the Eternal One and a more meaningful life, God must be first! Your will and not mine be done! The words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before our redemption was secured for us on Calvary, are words that must take hold of our lives. We are called to die daily to our ego and self-centeredness, in order to come alive in the Spirit and be shining images of the Light Who came to lead us from spiritual darkness to the brilliance of a life-giving existence. How do we do this?

 

Dying is the answer and key word. It’s a question of death and dying. These two words stand out especially during the month of November dedicated to the memory of those who have gone before us into eternity. The Holy Souls in Purgatory are the myriads of people down through the millennia who await now the promise to be fulfilled for those who were faithful but must be purified in the ardor of God’s love, mercy and providence. They were where we are; they are where we hope to be, by God’s grace. Heaven is humanity’s goal. Since our nature, subject to the consequences of Original Sin, affects the purity of our intentions, it is only God’s love that can make us worthy of Eternal Life. The stages leading to the beginning of this Life are bodily and spiritual dying and death. But, as much as we articulate these words and recite them in prayers, most people feel an aversion to them. We often quickly find substitute expressions to camouflage these words so that they sound less final, less drastic. Everyone seeks to prolong and better his/her life, often through what seem to be or are in fact foolish and exaggerated means. People will pop pills, smear salves, perform tiring and sometimes even dangerous calisthenics, some even go so far as to have surgical procedures performed, some have themselves frozen until they can be “defrosted” at a later time, and so many other means are sought or employed in the hope of prolonging one’s life or retarding the aging process. But, ultimately, Sister Death does arrive to accompany us from time into eternity. Sister Death is sent by our Loving Father to lead us home to His loving embrace.

 

Our Christian Faith and Catholic tradition remind us of the Four Last Things that all people will eventually encounter: Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell. While the first two are inevitable for all, the last two, Heaven or Hell, are determined by the choices one knowingly and decidedly makes while on earth. Some things we accept easily: we accept life as the fact that it is. Other things we conveniently forget or avoid. We avoid thinking about death and try to avoid it at all costs, no matter how inevitable it is. We reason out of our lives and minds what might cause harm and assure ourselves of what we consider better things, thus eliminating personal responsibility and accountability. We make heaven not the ultimate goal to which we should aspire by a faith-filled life, but a right we have to possess. Following this process, we almost eliminate from our minds and reflections the reality of that place that Jesus Himself reminded us is reserved for those who knowingly and willfully opt to distance themselves from God and His Divine Will. Where your heart is there will your treasure be. If our heart is in heaven, our lives and actions will always be directed there.

 

At times, this reasoning process is usually the result of fear for sins and faults that were never totally corrected in life. We forget that God’s mercy knows no limits for those who trust in Him. Thus, the Church continually reminds us that God’s Word speaks in many places of praying for the deceased, and some of the parables of Jesus speak of places where debts are paid back after the normal course of a life is ended or interrupted. These reminders tell us that between eternal bliss and eternal damnation there is a place of hope that allows us to enter into the love, mercy and providence of God. This place – Purgatory – tells us that God’s love will never close His Heart to wayward children who truly repent, and that He, from all eternity, has provided a last resort to definitively bring us to Him.

 

Purgatory is a teaching that has been ridiculed by those not of our tradition, and even downplayed by some of our own Catholics. We hear so much about toxins, toxic waste, toxic gases that can cause innumerable deaths. We are concerned about the toxic matter that is in the earth and needs thousands of years to decompose and deactivate. The word “purgatory” refers to a place where we are cleansed of those spiritual toxins that still infect our soul after its departure from this life. God’s justice cannot allow such imperfection to invade heaven, but God’s mercy will not allow one who died still infected, but sincerely seeking spiritual healing, to suffer eternal separation from Him. Why are we so prone to believe the “miracles” that scientists promise to do for us, and yet doubt God’s all-providing and merciful love for his weak children who sincerely seek Him?!

 

While it is impossible to explain eternal truths clearly in human terms, it is interesting to read what the saints have to say about Purgatory. Saint Frances of Rome tells her spiritual daughters that Purgatory is nothing other than a section of Hell which is divided into various parts. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that the fires of Purgatory are similar to those of Hell. Even Padre Pio, in a letter to one of his spiritual daughters, states: My daughter, in certain spots (Purgatory) is like Hell. The greatest pain of Hell, and thus of Purgatory in this sense, is the separation from God through one’s own fault. There is, however, an essential difference: Hell is permanent; Purgatory is temporary.

 

Purgatory would thus seem to be a “hell with hope”. This contradiction in terms does make sense: The loss of God is hell, but the knowledge and assurance of the soul’s eventual entrance into eternal life is Joy. Thus, Purgatory is a place where the pains of despair are tempered by the refreshing breath of hope. This hope accompanies the souls throughout their sufferings as an encouragement and support. Throughout life’s journey the Church prays and supports her children who suffer in the “antechamber of Heaven”. The Church Triumphant glories in God’s presence and intercedes for all of us. The Church Militant continues life’s earthly journey and battles between the two forces that determine the spiritual valor and value of each combatant. The Church Suffering lives the pains of separation in hope-filled joy, confident in God’s mercy, in the prayers and sacrifices of their sisters and brothers still on pilgrimage in this world, and of their imminent release and entrance into the Father’s eternal and loving embrace. Purgatory is that place where God’s justice and mercy meet. Where God’s justice is His mercy. Where souls who struggled valiantly through life and were wounded in the daily battles they endured, bare their scars before God, and implore the compassion and mercy of the Father that Jesus manifested to others when He walked among us.

 

When we view life through the eternal perspective offered us in Jesus, we see death as the doorway that leads to a Life fulfilled in every way, there God is all in all. There we see God face to face as He is. There faith and hope no longer are needed, and Love reigns supreme. There we surrender ourselves totally to the One Who surrendered Himself for us to death and to death on a cross. There the One Who enfleshed Himself in our human history transforms time into an eternal intimacy of never ending joy for those washed in the blood of the Lamb. November, with its somber weather (at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere of the world), cold days, sleeping nature, is just God’s way through creation to remind us of the ongoing life-giving process of God’s grace. What seems like death is nothing less than the dormant period of hidden activity, the process that brings new life.

 

Everybody talks about heaven, but it seems as though few are in any hurry to get there. As Spiritual Children of of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us look to heaven and live in its light. St. Francis walked the roads of earth with his heart always in heaven. Remembering the words of Jesus to the Apostles in the Upper Room, let our hearts not be troubled at the fact that bodily death is necessary to enter eternity. Jesus tells the Apostles, and us as well: You have faith in God (the Father); have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwellings places. I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you also may be. With our sites clearly focused on eternity, our course is direct, our goal assured, and our journey is peaceful and joyful even in the midst of difficulties and burdens, through the support, concern, and encouragement of those with whom we share the same spiritual gifts.

 

Remember to pray for the Holy Souls of the Faithful Departed that they rest in peace and come quickly to the joys they so intensely desire. Many of these souls are undoubtedly our relatives, friends, and even some we may have considered not friends or even enemies.  In eternity all souls saved in heaven and saved but not yet fully purified, cannot have any other attitude but that of love for everyone. They see us from the perspective of God’s love and mercy and can only love us and pray for our salvation. Invoking our heavenly Mother’s intercession, we ask that she, Mother and Queen of the Holy Souls and of all God’s children, pray for them.

 

Before concluding this letter, please accept my sincere best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving. In the midst of our personal difficulties, or the problems and fears that we as a nation experience, there is a God who cares for us. Give thanks to God for being God. Give thanks to God for His love. Give thanks to God for having created you so that you could know, love, serve Him here and share eternity with Him. Give thanks to God for He is good, His love is everlasting. (Psalm 136: 1)

 

May the Father in His love shower His mercy upon us; may the Son “be Jesus” to us as Redeemer and Savior and not our judge; and may the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts with the gift of His grace-filled presence. May Our Lady guide, guard and protect us at all times; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, keep all of us, his Spiritual Children, in his loving care.

 

Be assured of a remembrance in my prayers everyday, and especially this month on Thanksgiving Day, as I personally thank God for all of you and for your love. As we praise God in thanksgiving for all His blessings to us, we thank God for calling us to be a blessing to others. We thank God for being God, creating us as his beloved children, and giving us in Jesus the grace to be sisters and brothers redeemed in the Blood of Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Peace and Blessings,

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant