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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.

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Thoughts from Your Regional Formation Director – June 2018

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

All peace and good be with you! It appears that spring has actually arrived and we are now heading towards summer! It is time to pick up where we left off in April, our discussion about Initial Formation and in particular, Inquiry.

I have already said initial formation doesn’t formally start until Inquiry, although Orientation is very important. We are helping a person to get to know the “Franciscan” language and some of our customs. But the real meat of formation starts in Inquiry and never ends! As we said in April, during Inquiry, it is essential that all of the “Admission Documents” be collected and reviewed with the formation team and council. The goal should be that by the end of Inquiry, the indications of a vocation to the Franciscan life should be easy to see by the individual, and the council. Although individuals and the council may discover otherwise during Candidacy that should be the exception not the rule. Candidacy should be a time of continued discernment and seeking and learning that which is already loved!

Inquiry formally starts with the very simply “Ceremony of Welcome” it is in the Secular Franciscan Ritual (sometime called the Brown Book)1. It should be noted that it is not a Rite and should not be done in the context of liturgy, or liturgy of the hours. It should be performed during the regular gathering time after prayer.

I have mentioned several times that the Formation Team and or council should discuss the individual’s progress at the normal monthly council meetings. They should also be praying for the individuals. During Inquiry, there should be at least two opportunities for the individuals to talk to the council and the council to talk to them. This can be done in very creative ways so it is not so stressful for everyone. In my local fraternity, we typically have a BBQ or some sort of Potluck with the formation team, council and those in Inquiry in order to have some quality time with all.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.

Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

1Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order: page 9

 

 

 

 

Daily Reflections from Father Francis – June 2018

June 2018

All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,

Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth

we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will

and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit

You have created everything spiritual and corporal

… making us in Your own image and likeness …

We thank You …

Following are excerpts taken from various Franciscan and other sources.

1

The truly clean of heart are those who look down upon earthly things, seek those of heaven, and, with a clean heart and spirit, never cease adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true (Admonitions,#16) – Let yourselves be charmed by Christ…attracted by his example…loved by the love of the Holy Spirit…fall in love with Jesus Christ.

2

We carry Him (Jesus) in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example. (Letter to Faithful) – Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!…Open to his saving power.

3

He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check the external senses, through which death enters the soul. (1Celano,chpt.16) – Human beings are called to become disciples of that Other One who infinitely transcends them, in order to enter at last into true life.

4

Unbending in discipline he stood upon his guard, taking the greatest care to preserve purity of both soul and body (Major Legend,chpt.5) – In the mystery of his cross and resurrection, Christ…has bridged the infinite distance that separates all people from new life in him.

5

He used to say that it should be incomparably more tolerable for a spiritual man to endure great cold in his flesh rather than to feel even slightly the heat of carnal lust in his heart. (Major Legend,chpt.5) — Faith must be quickened by love.  It must come alive through the good works which reveal God’s truth in us.

6

If, at the instigation of the devil, any brother commits fornication, let him be deprived of the habit he has lost by his wickedness, put it aside completely, and be altogether expelled from our Order.  Afterwards he may do penance. (Earlier Rule,chpt.13) – Being a Christian must mean being a witness for Christ.

7

The Rule of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the holy Gospel of Pour Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of one’s own, and in chastity. (Later Rule,chpt.1) – The commandments must … be understood … as a path involving a moral and spiritual journey toward perfection, at the heart of which is love.

8

He was naturally courteous in manner and speech, and following his heart’s intent, never uttered a rude or offensive word to anyone … His reputation, because of this, became so widespread…that many who knew him said that, in the future, he would be something great. ( Three Companions,chpt.1) – Through the Spirit, (Jesus) gives the grace to share his own life and love and provides the strength to bear witness to that love in personal choices and actions.

9

He taught not only that the vices of the flesh must be mortified and its prompting checked, but also that the exterior senses, through which death enters the soul, should be guarded with the greatest care. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – God who is always merciful even when he punishes … preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide (murder of Abel by Cain) be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide.

10

To carry in his own body the armor of the cross, he held in check his sensual appetites with such a rigid discipline that he scarcely too what was necessary for the sustenance of nature. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – Peace … must become the goal of all men and women of good will.

11

At that time the brothers dedicated themselves to the practices of fasts, of vigils, of work, in order to dominate the incentives of the flesh. (Anonymous of Perugia) – Peace is our duty: our grave duty, our supreme responsibility.

12

The brothers were sometimes surprised that he did not often visit such holy handmaids (St.Clare and Sisters) of Christ…but he would say: ’Don’t imagine, dear brothers, that I don’t love them fully…But I am giving you an example, that as I do, so should you also do’. (2Celano,chpt.155) – t the last judgment we shall all be judged without distinction on our practical love of our brothers and sisters.

13

When he spoke with her (St. Clare) or about her, he never mentioned her by name, but he called her the Christian. (Bro. Stephen) – It will be in the practical love they have shown that many will discover that they have in fact met Christ, although without having known him before in an explicit way.

14

Father Francis exhorted her (St. Clare) to despise the world…and instilled in her ears the sweetness of being wed to Christ, persuading her to preserve the precious gem of her virginal chastity for her blessed Spouse. (Legend of St. Clare,chpt.5) – If you want peace, reach out to the poor!

15

(St. Clare) entrusted herself totally to Francis, choosing him as her guide, after God…and she accepted with an ardent heart all that he taught her about the good Jesus. (Legend of St. Clare,chpt.6) – (The church is a ‘pilgrim church’); her pilgrimage is interior: it is a question of a pilgrimage in the Holy Spirit … strengthened by the power of God’s grace promised her by the Lord …

16

The week that Francis passed from the this life, Clare … informed Francis of her desire to see him.  The saint, informed of this, was deeply moved, because he loved Clare and her sisters with a father’s love. (Legend of Perugia) -(There is) a need for a profound transformation of hearts through the rediscovery of the father’s mercy and through victory over misunderstanding and over hostility among brothers and sisters.

17

(As the body of Francis is brought to Assisi passing San Damiano, Clare and sisters weep saying):Father, what shall we do…Why are you abandoning us poor women?… all consolation ebbs away along with you …who will comfort us in so great a poverty, poverty of merit as much as of goods? Who will help us in temptations? (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.10) – Refusal of God’s fatherly love and of his loving gifts is always at the root of humanity’s divisions.

18

(Clare and Sisters continue): You, who experienced so many temptations!  Who will comfort us in the midst of distress? You, who were so often our help in times of distress!  What bitter separation!, what painful absence! (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.10) – God, ‘rich in mercy’, … does not close his heart to any of his children.

19

Among the virtues Francis loved and desired the brothers preserve after holy humility he loved the beautiful and immaculate virtue of chastity.(Mirror, 86) – (God) waits for (his children), looks for them, goes to meet them at the place where the refusal of communion imprisons them in isolation and division.

20

Unbending in discipline, he kept an exceedingly attentive watch over himself.  He took particular care in guarding the priceless treasure in a vessel of clay, that is, chastity, which he strove to possess in holiness and honor through the virtuous purity of both body and soul. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The initiative on God’s part is made concrete and manifest in the redemptive act of Christ, which radiates through the world by means of the ministry of the church.

21

His mastery over the flesh was now so complete that he seemed to have made a covenant with his eyes; he would not only flee far away from carnal sights, but also totally avoid even the curious glance at anything vain. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love.

22

Even though he had attained purity of heart and body, and in some manner was approaching the height of sanctification, he did not cease to cleanse the eyes of his soul with a continuous flood of tears. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the church his bride.

23

We prohibit anyone of you to wander outside of obedience with the habit of your holy religion and thus corrupt the purity of your poverty. (‘Cum Secundum’ of Pope Honorius III) – Man cannot live without love … His life is senseless if love is not revealed to him – if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.

24

Encompassed by the weakness of the flesh, a human cannot follow the spotless crucified Lamb so perfectly as to avoid contacting any filth.  Therefore he taught those who strive after the perfect life to cleanse themselves daily…(Major Legend,chpt.5) -(We are) to become a temple of the Blessed Trinity.  What greater degree of communion with God could (we) ever aspire to?

25

Although he had already attained extraordinary purity of heart and body, he did not cease to cleanse the eyes of his soul with a continuous flood of tears, unconcerned about the loss of his bodily sight. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – The hectic pace of daily activity, combined with the noisy and often frivolous invasiveness of the means of communication, is certainly not something conducive to the interior recollection required for prayer.

26

(The Dominican theologian after visiting with Francis said to the friars) My brothers, the theology of this man, held aloft by purity and contemplation, is a soaring eagle, while our learning crawls on its belly on the ground. (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.69) – You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. (St. Augustine)

27

I beg in the Lord all my brothers who are priests, or who will be, or who wish to be priests of the Most High that whenever they wish to celebrate Mass, being pure, they offer the true Sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with purity and reverence, with a holy and unblemished intention…(Letter to the Order) – The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes into man’s heart together with prayer. In prayer he manifests himself first of all as the gift that ‘helps us in our weakness’.

28

Seeing the Foe was carrying the day, the most high Lord sent in the cavalry with a well-trained commander.  St. Francis was chosen as standard-bearer…He wanted no one to ride with him who did not accept the reins of three bridles: poverty, obedience, and chastity. (Jacopone of Todi) – Evangelization will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force when it is carried out through the gift not only of the word proclaimed but also of the word lived. In particular the life of holiness …

29

Wherever they may be or may go, let all the brothers avoid evil glances and association with women…Let us all keep close watch over ourselves and keep all our members clean…(Earlier Rule,chpt.12) – The life of holiness … constitutes the simplest and most attractive way to perceive at once the beauty of truth, the liberating force of God’s love, and the value of unconditional fidelity to all the demands of the Lord’s law…

30

Saint Francis used to engage carefully in a daily, or rather, constant examination of himself and his followers.  Allowing nothing dangerous to remain in them, he drove from their hearts any negligence…he was on his guard at every hour…He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check external senses, through which death enters the soul. (1Celano,chpt.16) – The Mother of God is a type of the church in the matter of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ … the church brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God. (Vatican II)

 

 

 

Greetings from 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

June 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

ur Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a totally Eucharistic soul whose love for the Eucharist led him to revere all priests, even those whose lives were not as exemplary as they should have been. Why?  Because they give us spirit and life through the sacraments they offer and the Word they proclaim. All the faithful have a share in this marvelous gift of the priesthood through their baptism and attentive participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.

The immediacy with which the celebration of the Eucharist ends seems so abrupt.  After the faithful have received the Eucharist and shared in their Holy Communion the liturgy seems to say a quick ‘good-bye’, ‘be on your way’ to the assembled faithful.  Nothing of the sort!  The Dismissal is a capsulized and intensely packed moment that carries with it an extraordinary privilege, responsibility, and awesome power.

When (Jesus) had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…Then He appeared to the (disciples) … He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not be believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover…  (Mark 16: 9-19)  And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 20)  (The disciples) went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16: 20)

The moment  we sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we begin an extraordinary spiritual journey.  This mystical experience of our salvation history is an intimate immersion and participation in the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus. As the early followers of Jesus, we also listen to and reflect on the words of our ancestors in faith.  As the first disciples, we listen to and learn from the words of Jesus. In the gift of the Holy Spirit Who will remind you of all that I said, we grow in the strength that will empower us to go forth and be ‘heralds of the Great King’.

Our Seraphic Father proclaimed himself as the ‘Herald of the Great King’ when confronted by a band of robbers. The robbers beat, stripped, and threw St. Francis into a ditch, considering him a mentally challenged person of little worth. They could not and would not accept or understand the freedom and joy that Francis had encountered when he allowed Jesus to ‘take over’ his life.  The Eucharist, celebrated well and received with the appropriate spiritual dispositions empowers us in the same way to be free to ‘be Christ’ and proclaim Him to all the world. We become ‘heralds of the Great King’. We are entrusted not only to bear a message to others in words, but to become the message in our actions. With courage, and fearless of any opposition we might receive  for the sake of the Name, we preach Jesus with our lives. How others receive the message/messenger depends on human nature that influences that reception.

Today we sense a growing aversion in many areas of our world to Christ and His message.  There are those who seek to follow Him with a sincere heart. There are those who follow the image they have created in their own likeness that responds to their personal situations rather than His Word. There are those who stand in opposition to Christ, even going so far as to proclaim they are acting in His name.

Often those who seek to foster a love for the Gospel, the Church, and our Catholic Christian values and traditions face the same problems the first followers of Jesus, and all sincere seekers of Truth, face down through the centuries.  If they are not physically attacked, those who seek to do God’s will and live in His Truth are beaten with barrages of negativity and harsh words, or stripped of integrity by slander, false accusations, or even by an embellishment of the truth for the sake of destroying the reputation of the innocent, who are left on the ‘road of indifference’ or in the ‘ditch of discouragement’ alone to fend for themselves with their physical, and sometimes spiritual, strength depleted.  There is no stifling the power of God and His Spirit in those who seek His will.  We find strength in our weaknesses, as St. Paul reminds us when speaking of his own vulnerabilities and defects.  One of the great Fathers of the early Church, Tertullian, stated: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.   What greater ‘martyrdom’ is there than the ‘witness’ of bearing with patience, trust, and forgiveness, an ‘ongoing death’ that seeks to destroy the soul over the course of days, weeks, months and perhaps years!  What greater amount of ‘blood’ can we shed than the ‘lifeblood’ of our time, talents and even treasures spent in the daily practice of our faith and its defense against the power of the one who is in the world’. This ‘one in the world’ is always at work insidiously in the minds and hearts of those who proclaim a ‘heaven on earth’ and a god created to their own image!

The Eucharist offers us a bit of heaven on earth,.  We bask in the light of the Son, and find strength and peace in Him. Once we have received the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass, it seems as though everything precipitates so quickly that we have little time to spend with the Lord in the protected solace of the church, chapel or other ‘sacred space’.  The brief words and quick dismissal, Go, the Mass is ended or perhaps, translating the words literally, Go, it is sent, are an urgent commission entrusted to all who participated (and the key word is ‘participated’) in the Eucharist.  Christ sends us out, as He did His disciples when He ascended to the Father, to bring to others what we have seen with our own eyes, heard with our own ears, and touched – Jesus. The commission is urgent. Thus the dismissal is immediate.  We have celebrated the mysteries of our salvation. We have re-presented the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of the Savior. We have actively participated in the Mass – we are witnesses to all this.  There is no time to waste. We must be out and about with the Lord and proclaim Him with our lives!

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we read: (Jesus said to His disciples) you will be witnesses in Jerusalem … and to the ends of the earth … As (the disciples) were looking on, he was lifted up … from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky … suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? ( cfr. Acts 1: 1-12) The celebrant conveys the same command to us at the end of Mass.  It is as though he were saying: ‘You have celebrated the sacred mysteries of our salvation. You have entered the ‘inner circle’ of the Great King’. You have been privileged to be entrusted with His message and His Spirit to inform and remind you. The Victim is sacrificed. Our offering is sent and received by the Father.  The Sacred Communion that empowers those who receive worthily has been received and consumed.  What are you waiting for? Don’t stand around! It’s time to go and be the One we received. Drive out the demons of ill will, confusion, doubt, discouragement, despair by the spirit of goodness and compassion. Speak the new language of Christ’s command of love that can be understood by anyone regardless of ethnic origin or even religious affiliation. Deal with the deadly serpents of verbal and physical persecution for the sake of the Name.  Know that I am with you all days even to the end of the age. Don’t fear the deadly poison of a world that insidiously attempts to corrupt mind and heart from within with seductive enticements and glittering allurements. Lay hands of reassurance and sensitivity on those who have grown ill through lives that are weak, those who have possibly given up … Be their strength … Be the Jesus you have celebrated and received to them’.

Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.  Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity (transparency of character and life) .  Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.  Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.  Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self- surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter but by the offering of your free will. (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 108)

Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi do not use prayer, personal sacrifice, and even charitable giving as an excuse to keep aloof from the realities of life.  Our Eucharist is celebrated sacramentally everyday at the altar, and then continued in the streets and our homes through our daily activities.  Once we’ve received the sacramental Jesus and allowed the grace of His Spirit to flow through our veins, we must ‘Go, the (liturgical) Mass is ended’ … ‘It is (or we are) sent’, to bring others, to lead the whole world, into the mystery of God’s love in the Sacrifice and Sacrament of Jesus the Christ.  The Eucharist is not just a goal to be reached but also a starting point that leads to greater heights in, with, and for God and His People.  The priest who acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) accompanies us as one of God’s People, and prays with and for us as one set aside to intercede as a ‘mediator’ between the divine and the human.  He too is called to be victim with the Victim. He and those entrusted to his ministry are called to share in the Victory of the Eucharist that fills the world with the Real Presence of an awesome God.  God invites us all to an intimate relationship with Him, and then commissions us to be ‘Eucharist’, to be an act of thanksgiving in God to, with, and for all who accept His Love.

Continue to pray for all priests and those contemplating the priesthood. Pray that we priests live according to the Heart of the Savior in Whose person we live, and move, and have our being. Pray that we may be willing ‘victims’, if the Lord should ask that grace of us, that others with and through us may experience the victory promised by the One Who said: I have conquered the world.  Do not be afraid.  ‘Greater is the one within you that the one in the world’.  ‘Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’. Pray for yourselves, as I do for you, that the Jesus we celebrate and receive may always be the One Whom others see in you.

May the Eternal High Priest, Jesus, show us His Most Sacred Heart, pierced by the centurion’s lance, that we may enter the door thrown wide open leading to the Father’s loving embrace. May Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart. May Our Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

 

From the Heart of Our Minister - June 2018

On Wednesday, I took myself to the movies and saw Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.  I knew it only had one more showing at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and yet I was dragging my feet about going.  I told myself the week before that I was absolutely going to get there before it left the theater.  But every day there were a half dozen reasons why it couldn’t be that day.  It wasn’t going alone that bothered me.  In the nine years that I have been widowed, I have learned if I want to do something….go do it!

So to insure that I got there, I went on line and bought my ticket.  Now that I had spent $$, I was much more likely to get there. And so I went.

To my surprise and delight, the opening scene is about St. Francis.  The movie hadn’t run more than 10 minutes when I was rummaging in my handbag for paper and pen.  I wanted to write down everything the Pope was saying.

I have loved Pope Francis from the day we saw the white smoke.  After seeing this movie, I love him more. He is the definition of humility……and kindness…..and compassion. But he is not afraid to tell it like it is.

The first thing I wrote down on a scrap of paper I found in my pocketbook was the Pope’s question:  “Who is the poorest of the poorest of the poor?”  Mother Earth!  Because we rob her continually and don’t give back.  Sounds like a Franciscan opportunity to me!

The next note I have is “The Church is suffering from Spiritual Dementia”.  Wow.  He pulls no punches there.  I take the message as the Church has forgotten where it came from.  Go back to the grassroots of the church and look around. Yes, there were troubles and persecutions, but the Apostles didn’t worry about where they would sleep at night or where their next meal would come from. Carrying God’s love out to the people was all they could or needed to carry.

Then my notes went to “We are a culture of waste.  We look at the Earth upside down.  We are not the Earth’s master but its caretaker”.  Culture of waste, you can say that again.  Every part of our lives has become disposable.  Food, products, people…. even ourselves.  How much do you value yourself?  Enough to slow down?   Another quote from the movie is “We run with the accelerator all the way down which ends up affecting our mental health, physical health and spiritual health.”  I need to take some time to meditate on this one!

I know there were many more jewels to be had from this movie and I wasn’t keeping up with my note taking.  I want to see the movie again to hear what I missed the first time and to have what I did hear be reaffirmed.

The movie ended beautifully with another scene of St. Francis. When I walked out of the theater, there was a woman standing on the sidewalk waiting for her husband to pick her up.  She saw my Tau cross and asked if I had just seen the Pope Francis movie.  When I said yes, we looked at each other and just sighed.  We talked for several minutes and I found out her father had been a Secular Franciscan.  When her husband pulled up, my new friend, Peggy, and I spontaneously hugged each other.  It was a blessed moment.  Two days later, I’m still feeling blessed.

The movie isn’t being shown in many of the main stream theaters, but if you Google the title, Pope Francis, A Man of His Word,  all the places which are showing it will come up.  Do yourself a huge favor and go see it.  You are worth it!

 

 

 

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – May 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

May 2018

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

All peace and good be with you! It finally looks like spring has arrived. NEPA, north of the tunnel, hasn’t had snow or ice for several weeks and our flowers and trees are blooming praise God.

On April 22, 2018 Holy Cross Fraternity had the privilege to profess two candidates1. It was a wonderful experience and a joy filled time for all! But it got me thinking, along with some other events, about profession and the deeper meaning. It got me thinking it is time to remember what profession means and what we all actually did during that priceless Mass.

I want to start with something I know you all are familiar with but is always worth repeating. That is Father Cangelosi words, “Indeed, most people have foggy ideas2 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 Christ3 aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.4”

We must work hard to not let our Fraternities be “Foggy” places or not fully embrace all that profession is; “A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Chris aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.” As Father Cangelosi said, we have been professed into a nuptial relationship for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God and by that relationship firmly bound to each other, the Church and all that the church is! We are not alone, nor are our fraternities. We are all bound together and journeying together.

As a reminder to what we actually say during our profession is important, all of it is important, but here I will focus on the actual “words of profession”.

“I, (Name), by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state, I promise to live all the days of my life the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Order of Franciscan Seculars, by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our holy father Saint Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.5”

Those words are powerful and full of significance. What does it mean to consecrate oneself?

{Verb (used with object), consecrated, consecrating6. 1 – to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: to consecrate a new church building. 2 – To make (something) an object of honor or veneration; hallow: a custom consecrated by time. 3 – To devote or dedicate to some purpose: a life consecrated to ministry. 4 – To admit or ordain to a sacred office, especially to the episcopate. 5 – To change (bread and wine) into the Eucharist.}

In our case number 3 is the definition to use. We promised to dedicate ourselves to the church, the order and the rule. We made that promise to each other, to the Church thru the ecclesial witness and to those participating other than our sisters and brothers. We should never forget we are family and an ecclesial order bound to each other and our higher fraternities by our promise!

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

1 Media presentation available on the HCF web site: www.holycrossfraternity.wordpress.com or on the HCF You-Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/74KqWOZfDB8

2 Emphasis mine

3 Emphasis mine

4 Emphasis mine

5 Taken directly from the “Ritual of the SFO”

6 Modified from the New Catholic Dictionary (On Line) Emphasis mine

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. May 2018

May 2018

Hail, O Lady, holy Queen, you are the virgin made church

and the one chosen by the most holy Father in heaven

whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son

and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, 

in whom there was and is all the fullness of grace and every good.

Hail, His Palace! Hail, His, Tabernacle! Hail, His Home!

Hail, His Robe! Hail, His Servant!  Hail, His Mother!

And hail all you holy virtues which through the grace and light of the Holy Spirit

are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from

their faithless state you may make them faithful to God.

(Salutation of the Blessed Virgin)

1

It was not that he was a man who prayed, than he himself was a living prayer. – Abraham hoped everything would stay put, but he left everything and everyone on God’s word and traveled into the unknown.

2

His sure harbor was prayer not for a moment, … but profoundly devout, humble and prolonged as much as possible.  If he began at night, with difficulty he ended his prayer in the morning. – Like Abraham, we are sustained by not simply a promise, but by the Promise of God which was fleshed out in Jesus.

3

Often, almost daily, he withdrew secretly to pray.  He was inclined to do so by that same tenderness he had tasted  earlier, which now visited him ever more frequently, driving him to prayer in the piazza and in other public places. – Moses longed to see his dreams completed and stopped short of the land he was allowed to see but not enter.

4

Francis … totally unaware of earthly desires through love of Christ, and strove to keep his spirit present to God by praying without ceasing lest he be without them consolation of the Beloved. – It was enough for Moses to be given evidence of the future to die fulfilled and in peace.

5

The man of God gathered with his companions … they spent their time praying incessantly, directing their efforts mentally rather than vocally to devoted prayers, because they did have liturgical books from which to chant the canonical hours. – Joseph, in spite of the rough breaks he had experienced since being sold by his brothers, refused to quit.

6

Let all the brothers always strive to exert themselves in doing good works … Servants of God, therefore, must always apply themselves to prayer or some good work. – God intends you to be the person on whom He has conferred a unique ‘personhood’. God has committed Himself to you…agree to do the same to Him.

7

Let us always make a home and a dwelling place for Him Who is the Lord God Almighty, father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who says: Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent … When you stand to pray say: Our Father in heaven. – David wanted to build a monument to God but had to prepare the material for another to build.

8

Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working may work faithfully and devotedly so that, while avoiding idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all temporal things must contribute. – You who are meant to be part of God’s family, are one of the community of the Crucified One; you too must crucify self and forget ego trips…Trust Him!

9

I admonish and exhort the brothers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to … pay attention to what they must desire above all else: to have the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity, to pray always to Him with a pure heart, to have humility and patience in persecution and infirmity. – Elijah was so demoralized he wanted to give up, but God knew the inner strength of Elijah and gave him a firm ‘no’.

10

I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers providing that, as is contained in the Rule, you do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion, during study of this kind. – There is no permanent retirement for a Christian, only temporary respites from time to time to rest and reequip.

11

Francis 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. – Jonah tried to run away from God’s Will and acceptance of his responsibilities, but he couldn’t run from God.

12

He said that (ministers of the word of God) were heralds chosen by a great king…For he used to say: 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.  – God still replies in the negative to those who claim a special relationship, but try to escape from responsibilities, or fall into a narrow, self-centered outlook.

13

(Description of General Minister) … He must be a committed friend of holy prayer, who can distribute some hours for his soul and others for the flock entrusted to him … – Job questioned God and demanded answers, but God gave him no answers; His questions were more profound and penetrating.

14

They never or hardly ever stopped praying and praising God…They gave thanks to God for the good done…They would have thought themselves abandoned by God if they did not experience in their ordinary prayers that they were constantly visited by the spirit of devotion. – We present-day Jobs also are promised God’s sufficiency. He gives more than answers … He shares His life with us.

15

They were so devoted to prayer that there was no hour of the night that someone could not be found at prayer in the oratory. – The God who has committed Himself to us insists on a like-minded commitment.

16

The brothers at that time begged him to teach them how to pray, because, walking in simplicity of spirit, up to that time they did not know … – The ‘covenanting’ God has given His word to us that He will not desert us.  That promise has been sealed in blood – literally!

17

He implored divine clemency to show him what he had to do. – The cross has been so sentimentalized by so many generations of songwriters and preachers that it no longer has any sting.

18

He had recourse to prayer that he might insistently implore what the will of God was regarding some specific matter. – You have been given the gift of living and dying just one death. You may lay down your energies, your time, and your goods for others, or you may stockpile self until it crushes you.

19

Fasting and weeping, he earnestly prayed for the savior’s mercy, and lacking confidence in his own efforts, he cast his care upon the Lord. – Time does not necessarily heal all wounds; sometimes it merely covers them with scar tissue.

20

Foreseeing the great things that God would do through him and his Order … he was calling and praying to God that, by his mercy and omnipotence, without which human frailty can do nothing, he should supply, help, and fulfill that which he could not do by himself. – Jesus has called ‘friend’ the one we would label ‘enemy’; He pronounces themm subjects of concern rather than objects of contempt.

21

Francis said: Wait for me a bit, because I first want to pray to God that He make our journey fruitful, that Christ, by virtue of His most holy passion, be pleased to give us poor and weak men this noble prey that we’re planning to take from the world. – Peter tried to bury his guilt of denial and grief of lose in work; he couldn’t forget or conceal in activity his ‘failure’.

22

He saw St. Francis devoutly at prayer before Christ, who had appeared to him during that prayer and was in front of him … he saw Francis lifted up bodily from the earth.  Because of this he was touched by God and inspired to leave the world … – The Resurrection is God’s mighty ‘no’ to depression and death.

23

He never ceased crying out to God with humble prayers and fervent affection, that God would protect the Order and grant salvation to all the friars, present and future. – A beggar pleaded for a handout and was given a hand up. God gives us His gifts that we may learn to help ourselves.

24

As blessed Francis got up, he joined his hands and, lifting his eyes to heaven, said: Lord, I give back to You the family which until now you have entrusted to me… – We carry the name ‘Christian’ and stand strong in its meaning.

25

Once while his vicar was holding a chapter, he was praying in his cell, as the go-between and mediator between his brothers and God. – Paul begged for healing and was given a thorn in the flesh, and an reminder that ‘my strength is sufficient’.

26

After I resigned my office among the brothers because of my illnesses … I am not bound at all except to pray for the religion and to show good example… the greatest help I can render to the religion is to spend time everyday in prayer to the Lord for it.  – St.Teresa: Lord when you will cease to strew our path with obstacles? And the Lord: Don’t complain, this is how I treat my friends.  St.Teresa: Dear Lord, that is why You have so few.

27

The abbot of the monastery of San Giustino…happened to meet Saint Francis…he humbly asked him to pray for him, and Saint Francis replied: My Lord, I will willingly pray… when the abbot had ridden away, he said to the brother with him: Wait for me a little while, brother, for I want to pay the debt I promised. – There is a certain enjoyment of unpleasant places when the challenges they offer help us to grow.

28

A pilgrim while in the body, away from the Lord, Francis, man of God, strove to keep himself present in spirit to heaven…With all his soul he thirsted for his Christ…We will tell…about the wonders of his prayer, things that we have seen with our own eyes. – The all-powerful Lord turns even the causes of our curses into good.

29

He found (Greccio) rich in poverty and there, in a remote little cell on a cliff, he could give himself freely yo heavenly things.  – Jesus is not a ‘departed hero’, a ‘deceased leader’, but the living Lord, Who does not leave us to fend for ourselves.

30

Brother Body should be cared for with discernment…so it won’t get weary keeping vigil and staying fervently at prayer. – At the time when the outlook seems most bleak and pessimistic, God frequently opens new doors.  Sometimes, God seemingly allows roadblocks because He has bigger plans for us.

31

When he returned from his private prayers, in which he was changed almost into a different man, he tried his best to resemble the others, lest, if he appeared glowing, the breeze of favor might cancel what he had gained. – ‘Help’ signals often are hard to pick up. God, however, patiently waits for us to be sensitive enough to detect those signs and signals from others.

 

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. May 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

May 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

The Middle Ages was a time of wonderful monuments built to the glory of God.  Many of them were dedicated to the Great Mother of God, our Blessed Mother. The devotion of the people and the great saints of the Church saw Mary as the Virgin Mother who gave birth not only to the Christ, but as the Mother of the Christian and thus the Church as well.  Saint Francis of Assisi was among these great ‘lovers of Mary’.   His own Salutation of the Blessed Virgin gives proof of the depth of his awareness of Mary’s place in our Salvation History and the honor with which he personally held Her in his life. She is the virgin made church whose faith and openness to the will of the Father encourage us to abandon ourselves to so great a God and His most holy will.

Just as our Seraphic Father sought to honor Mary in his life, how could we allow this most sacred time of our Christian calendar to go by without thinking of that simple Virgin of Nazareth. Mary’s cooperation with the Father’s Will accepted the work of the Holy Spirit to ‘overshadow’ Her and thus gave us Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior and Redeemer.  Infinitely less than God but eminently greater than all humanity, Mary stands above us, yet always journeys with us. We are Her children entrusted to Her by Jesus as She stood at the foot of the Cross.  The ‘Woman’, praised in the first Book of Sacred Scripture, who gave birth to the Christ, is the same ‘Woman’ who gave birth to the Christian as the Church was born from the open side of Her Son as He hung on the Cross for all humankind.  From that moment, Mary, the virgin made church,  watches us with a mother’s eye, intercedes for us with a mother’s concern, and embraces us with a mother’s love. All humanity appeals to Mary as the ‘highest honor of our race’.  Saint Francis saw Mary always in this light. Mary is Mother of the Church, because Mother of the Christ, since She is Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Her life was an intimate relationship immersed in the reality of the Most Holy Trinity.  Totally human, Mary was privileged to reach the heights of holiness ahead of time, through the merits of Her Son’s redeeming Passion-Death-Resurrection, that She might be forever a sign of the greatness and holiness to which all God’s children are called.

Mary’s presence, prominence, and popularity, even among those not of the Catholic/Orthodox expressions of Christianity, are indicative of the yearning of the human heart to be loved. After the Marriage Feast at Cana, our Heavenly Mother takes a silent place in the Gospels.  We meet Her again at the foot of the Cross and then in the Upper Room awaiting the Promised Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Early Church. Not until St. John writes of the ‘Woman about to give birth’ assailed by the ‘dragon’ in the Book of Revelation do we meet ‘the Woman’ again in Scripture, and for the last time.  The Church has always seen the image of the ‘Woman’ of Sacred Scripture as the image of Mary. Our love and devotion for Mary has kept Her always alive in our hearts.  She is the one to whom so many of us run with our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, hopes and fears.  She is the one most Catholics will defend when Her name and honor are being attacked. We speak of Her as we do of Her Son.  The Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament is equaled by no one and nothing in this world, yet often we speak of Mary as another ‘real presence’ that accompanies us in such a way that with Her in our hearts and minds we move forward confidently. Saint Francis praised Her as Palace, Tabernacle, Home, Mother, in his Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary offers Jesus the space and place through which He makes Himself present among us and for us.  Saint Francis is so simple, yet so profound!

What was celebrated in sign, Mary bore in Her heart and mind with a depth and reality that no one ever could or ever will be able to equal. She not only received Her Lord in the Eucharist – Her Son, Savior (yes, ‘Savior’, because She was sanctified and freed of Original Sin ahead of time in Her Immaculate Conception, but had to be redeemed nonetheless), and God – but also maintained such an intimacy with Jesus by grace upon grace, that we can lovingly and devotedly say that heaven walked with Her wherever She went. To see Mary was to see a glimpse of heaven upon earth. Isn’t that what happens to us – or at least should – when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist?  When we allow the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior to enter our humanity and become one with us in an intimate and sacramental manner, aren’t we doing just as Our Blessed Mother did so many centuries ago?  We ‘give birth in faith to Christ’ as St. Augustine reminds us.  This faith and its challenges, at Communion time, must be embraced, energized, and empowered to manifest itself in the life of the one who receives the Eucharistic Lord.

In his Admonitions, our Seraphic Father writes: All those who see the sacrament sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine…believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Spirit of the Lord, therefore, That lives in Its faithful, That receives the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Behold, each day He humbles Himself as when He came from His royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day He comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest.  As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us now in sacred bread. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: ‘I am with you until the end of the age.

How powerful and profound is this intimate love between the human and the Divine!  When we encounter individuals who are deeply in love, that love can be seen in their demeanor.  Ask them about their love, though, and they seem embarrassed to respond.  The intimacy true love reaches in hearts and souls ‘in love’ can only be experienced, never exhaustively explained. It can be seen in its effects but not really ‘dissected’ in explanations. Love is of God, and true love is a mystery to which all are called. Love must be lived to be experienced, and once experienced it must be loved to be lived fully. The ‘virtuous circle’ of love consists in this: the more we love, the more we know love and are capable of loving. The Eucharist we receive at the moment of Holy Communion – our ‘sacred bonding’ with Jesus – offers us the opportunity to enter the Love of God in Jesus. We allow His Holy Spirit to ‘overshadow’ our lives with grace. Just as Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit and became the Mother of God, so we have the possibility to be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to our cooperation with grace, and thus we ‘give birth to Christ in our hearts’.  Even the ‘eccentricity’ of Saint Francis of Assisi can most often be attributed to his relationship with the Christ Who was so real to him in prayer and particularly in the Eucharist, that his very behavior became uninhibited. The joy of that one-ness with Christ let him forget all human respect, just as King David danced with abandon before the Arc being brought into the City of David.

The millennial continuation of the Real Presence of Our Savior among us around the world depends upon the consecration of the sacramental signs of bread and wine. This is accomplished through the ministry of those men called and ordained to the ministerial priesthood. The faithful share in this priesthood through Baptism. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice they accept to participate actively in the mystery of the Life-Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus.  They acknowledge their belief in the Sacrifice offered and strengthen the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ in their Holy Communion worthily received.  They, like the priest, are called to let the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Savior enter their lives and flow through every fibre of their being, thus enlivening their faith and filling their hearts with inexpressible inner joy and peace – the effects of the Eternal Love that possesses them.  How many of us can really say we allow that to happen?  How many of us ‘feel’ the effects of their Holy Communion, and like Saint Francis, feel a real change in attitude that even affects our demeanor? Some may even consider the expressions used above exaggerated, unreal, poetic, or of another era!  We find difficulty expressing the depth of the love we experience in the Eucharist, often because we do not give ourselves the time and silence to allow the Sacred Guest to speak to our hearts, that we might ‘feel’ it.  We are always in such a hurry.  How many good Catholics run out of Church as soon as they have ‘devoutly’ received Communion?!  The brief period after Communion, before the Last Prayer-Blessing-Dismissal, is an awesome moment, and a necessary one for us to allow the Truth Whom we have received, to lead us on the One Who is the Way, as He nourishes us with Himself and strengthens us on our journey to Eternal Life.

One of our Third Order brothers, Don Bosco, great saint of the nineteenth century, was known for his ‘dreams’.  His dreams, visions, and prophecies concerning the Church are quite revealing.  Among them he speaks of seeing the Church as a ship, with the Holy Father at the helm, steering it through severe weather on rough and stormy seas.  The ship moves to a safe harbor as it is directed between two columns. The Eucharist is atop of one and Our Lady is atop of the other.  The Eucharist and Mary are the strengths (the ‘columns’) of our Catholic Christian faith.  Mary leads us to Jesus.  Mother of the Most Blessed Sacrament, First ‘True’ Tabernacle, First Monstrance, She indicates the way. Let us follow Her example and invoke Her prayers and protection in the ancient Easter Marian Anthem that reminds us of the severe plague that subsided at Her intercession.  The Church and the world need the intercession of the Mother of all Humanity to abate the plague of anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-God campaigns that afflict the world today. May we witness Her almighty intercession with the Eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We rejoice and are glad for the Lord is truly risen, and we sing our ‘Alleluia’, ahead of time, for a God Who renews the joy of our youth, as we acclaim Our Mother, the virgin made church.

Queen of heaven rejoice, Alleluia,

For the Son Whom you merited to bear, Alleluia.

Has risen as He said, Alleluia.

Pray to God for us, Alleuia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleuia,

For the Lord is truly risen, Alleuia.

May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a continued Happy Easter time. May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers each one of us. May our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings in the Risen Lord Jesus

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Fr. Francis Reflections for April 2018

April 2018

 

Our Father most holy: Our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler, and Savior…

You, Lord, are Supreme Good, the eternal Good, from Whom all good comes…

Holy be your Name…That You may rule in us through Your grace…

Your will be done…that we may love You…with our whole heart…soul…and mind…

Give us this day…Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Forgive us…through Your ineffable mercy…and make us, Lord, forgive completely.

And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.

Amen

(Prayer Inspired  by the Our Father – abbreviated)

Daily excerpts from life of St. Francis and Thought for the Day from various sources

1

Once there was a great war between the citizens of Perugia and Assisi. Francis was captured … and …endured the squalor of prison.  His fellow captives were overcome with sadness … but Francis rejoiced in the Lord – Anyone can stand up to an opponent: give me someone who can stand up to a friend.

2

Though staying in a pit and in darkness, he was imbued with an indescribable happiness never before experienced. – I may have all the faith needed to move mountains, but if I have no love, I am nothing.

3

He rose therefore swift, energetic and joyful, carrying the shield of faith for the Lord, and strengthened with the armor of great confidence, he set out for the city. – We get no deeper into Christ than we allow him to get in us.

4

Though delighting for the most part (in his dream), he silently wondered to himself about its meaning…With a happy spirit he awoke the next morning…Considering his vision a prediction of great success… – The Gospels do not explain Easter; Easter explains the Gospels.

5

When morning came, then, he returned in haste to Assisi, free of care and filled with joy, and, already made an exemplar of obedience, he awaited the Lord’s will. – The lives of Jesus’ followers changed the course of human history. No reasonable explanation has ever been given for their transformed lives except their own: they had see Jesus alive.

6

Saint Francis with his brothers rejoiced greatly at the task and the favor given by so great a father and lord.  They gave thanks to Almighty God, who places the lowly on high and raises up mourners to health. – That which you cannot let go of, you do not possess.  It possesses you.

7

They had great joy, because they saw nothing and had nothing that could give them empty or carnal delight…Only divine consolation delighted them, having put aside all their cares about earthly things. – One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.

8

This holy man insisted that spiritual joy was an infallible remedy against a thousand  snares and tricks of the enemy.  He used to say: ‘The devil is most delighted when he can steal the joy of spirit from a servant of God’- We can live forty days without food, eight minutes without air, but about one second without hope.

9

‘But if spiritual joy fills the heart, the serpent casts its poison in vain. The devils cannot harm a servant of Christ when they see him, filled with holy cheerfulness. – Our job is not to do something for the Church, but to do something with it.

10

The saint therefore always strove to keep a joyful heart, to preserve the anointing of the spirit and the oil of gladness. He avoided very carefully the dangerous disease of melancholy, so that when he felt even a little of it slipping into his heart, he quickly rushed to prayer- No one ever made more trouble than the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

11

O martyr, laughing and rejoicing, who endured so gladly what was bitter and painful for others to see! – Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.

12

I see that (the devils) cannot harm me through myself.  Indeed whenever I feel tempted and depressed and I look at the joy of my companion, because of that joy I immediately turn away from temptation and melancholy toward inner and outer joy – The person who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.

13

By a joyful face he understood the fervor and solicitude, the disposition and readiness of a mind and body to willingly undertake every good work;  because through this kind of fervor and disposition others are motivated than through the good deed itself – We can’t understand the Holy Spirit, but we can understand the Spirit’s impact on our lives.

14

He did not want to see a gloomy face, which more often shows laziness, a closed mind, and a body listless for every good work. – I cannot change the whole world, but I can change a small part if it…myself.

15

It is not right for a servant of God to show himself  to others sad and upset, but always pleasant.  Deal with your offenses in your room, and weep and moan before your God. – God is already in our lives.  Our business is to recognize this.

16

Wherever the brothers may be and in whatever place they meet they should respect spiritually and attentively one another, and honor one another without complaining.  Let them be careful not to appear outwardly as sad and gloomy but show themselves joyful, cheerful and consistently gracious in the Lord. –Blessed are they who place themselves in the hands of Jesus.  He will place himself in their hands.

17

They (the brothers) walked with joy wherever they went, speaking among themselves about the words of the Lord, and saying nothing among themselves which did not serve the glory and praise of God, and the good of the soul. – What we usually pray to God is not that his will be done, but that he approve ours.

18

When they laughed, they were filled with happiness and spiritual joy, so that they no longer remembered the adversities they experienced- How else but through a broken heart may the Lord Christ enter in?

19

Whether  ill or in good health they (the brothers) were always joyful and patient. – Only when we learn to see the invisible, will we learn to do the impossible.

20

They were always joyful in the Lord, having nothing within them or among them that could in some way bring them sadness – The effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive.

21

Blessed is that religious who has no pleasure and joy except in the most holy words and deeds of the Lord and, with these, leads people to the love of God with gladness and joy. – Nature does not know extinction.  All it knows is transformation.

22

He himself felt great joy in the Lord when he heard the words of Sacred Scripture. – Often the “god” that people reject is not the true God, but a mistaken notion of God that exists only in their minds.

23

If a servant of God always strives to have and preserve internally and externally the spiritual joy that proceeds from purity of heart and is acquired through the devotion of prayer, the evils could do him no harm. – Lord, help us to deal with ugly situations in a beautiful way.

24

Because spiritual joy springs from integrity of heart and the purity of constant prayer, it must be your primary concern to acquire and preserve these two virtues, to possess internal, as well as external joy. – To be ignorant of the scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ.

25

Whenever he used to say your name, O holy Lord, he was moved in a way beyond human understanding.  He was so wholly taken up in joy, filled with pure delight, that he truly seemed a new person of another age. – Jesus came not to eradicate suffering, but to fill it with his presence.

26

Sometimes he used to do this: a sweet melody of the spirit bubbling up inside him would become a French tune on the outside; the thread of a divine whisper which his ears heard secretly would break out in French song of joy. – The old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind.

27

(The thieves) beat him and threw him into a ditch filled with snow, saying, ‘Lie there, you stupid herald of God!’… He jumped out of the ditch, and exhilarated with a great joy, he began in an even  louder voice to make the woods resound with praises to the Creator of all. – The living Christ still has two hands, one to point the way, and the other held out to help us along the way.

28

Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. – If Christ were standing before me now, what would I feel, not about him, but about myself?

29

(Saint Francis dying, 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 so closely united and joined with my Lord, that, through His mercy, I can well rejoice in the Most High Himself.’ – The goal of religion is not to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us.

30

(As Saint Francis lay dying the guardian) took the tunic with a cord and underwear, and offered them to the little poor man of Christ, saying: ‘I am lending these to you as to a poor man, and you are to keep them with the command of holy obedience. At this the holy man rejoiced and was delighted in the gladness of his heart, because he saw that he had kept faith until the end with Lady Poverty. – You cannot have God for your Father, if you don’t have the Church for your mother.

 

 

Fr. Francis Greetings for April 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

April 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’.  When He had said this He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you’. As the Father sent me, so I send you…(John 20: 19-21) It was on that same first day of the week that two disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus…Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them…but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him… While he was with them…their eyes were opened and they recognized Him and He vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures for us’…So they set out at once to return to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven…The two recounted what had taken place on the way and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (cfr. Luke 24: 13-35) A week later His disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’ (John 20: 26)

The season of Easter is saturated with Peace.  It is a time for us to enter the Joy of the Risen Jesus and realize that our  God is alive and well. We see in the few chapters that end the Gospel accounts a transforming experience for all the first followers of the Lord.  It was an inner transformation, for as yet they were fearful of the Jews, but joy-filled at the sight of the Savior.  No doubt some may have thought that ‘now He will re-establish Israel’, ‘now He will manifest Himself to the world and conquer our dominators’, ‘now the sinners and sinful nations will be put down and Israel will reign as the righteous nation’.  As childish as this manner of thinking may seem, I do not doubt that some, if not all the disciples, may have had similar thoughts or feelings. All we need do is remember what the concern was on the road to Jerusalem as Jesus spoke of His pending capture-torture-death…and resurrection; the apostles were talking about who would be first and powerful in the kingdom, and who would reign on the right and left with Jesus.

The disciples saw Jesus captured and tortured; they knew He died and was sealed in a guarded tomb.  Things were not as the disciples expected.  Things were not as the first followers had hoped.  Things seemed to be moving in a direction totally different than expected and desired.  The disciples stayed together in the upper room with Mary the mother of Jesus. They were afraid and confused, but found inner strength in their common bond in Jesus’ name and all He taught them.  They were at peace within themselves, while still frightened of the world around them. Calm demeanor, conscious awareness, and cautious outlook, were now the elements that helped them slowly regain a hope they had lost on Calvary. They began to bond as the ‘Apostolic Community’ that would fearlessly proclaim the Messiah-ship and Divinity of Jesus the Christ throughout the world.

Calvary was a tragic day for he first followers of Jesus.  The hopes and dreams of the disciples hung with Jesus on the cross.  Until He gave up His last breath, Jesus could have made everything happen as they had hoped.  When He said, ‘It is finished’, ‘Father into Your hands I commend My spirit’, the Master seemed to go the way of all other Messianic pretenders who, as good, patriotic, and even faithful Jews as they could have been, still ended their hopeful enterprise of re-establishing the independent nation of Israel with their own deaths.  Could Jesus be any different!?  In this case, the answer was ‘Yes’!  These followers could not let go, could not forget.  They were a hodgepodge crew, yet the diversity and diametrically opposed personalities among them, seemed to find a consolation and strength now with each other.  There was a ‘troubled peace’: ‘troubled’ because of human uncertainty regarding the future…’peace’ because the spirit of the three years of His life they had shared with Jesus and His teachings made them believe that the dream of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ was attainable…and for some reason, they knew they were the messengers who had to become the message…Jesus’ acceptance of Calvary told them it was ‘the hard way’ they had to follow to give a more effective witness.

At Mass, just before we receive the Body and Blood of our Savior in Holy Communion, the priest celebrant prays ‘in  Persona Christi’ for all the community as well as for himself; he too needs the graces and blessings as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. The priest prays: Lord Jesus Christ, You said to Your   apostles, I leave you peace. My peace I give you.  Look not on our sins but on the faith of Your Church (people) Again we hear the Lord in the Liturgy, after His death and resurrection sacramentally  re-presented, gifting us with His peace.  This peace can only be felt if it is given away, if we become peacemakers with others because we are at peace with God and ourselves.  We can be at peace and be peacemakers only if and when we disarm our hearts to one another.  If the sign of peace we extend at Mass is not sincere or is even refused, the reception of the Eucharist (the Real Presence of the Living Lord) will have little or no effect in the one receiving Him.  We are integral members of the Mystical Body of Christ. No member of the body acts on its own without affecting the whole body. No member can refuse to support, encourage, forgive  the whole body without affecting his/her own spiritual health.  (cfr.  1 Corinthians 12: 12-26) Let us never forget that Franciscans have always been considered the women and men with ‘disarmed hearts’.  Our Secular Franciscan family has always been singled out as those people of God who truly make peace a characteristic and a challenge for them to live.

Behold each day He humbles Himself as when He came from the royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day He Himself comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest. As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us in the sacred bread.  And as they saw only His flesh by the insight of their flesh, yet believed that He was God as they contemplated Him with their spiritual eyes, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says… (Admonitions, #1)

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis reminds all the faithful that only in the living presence of Jesus among us can we ever hope to find inner peace and external serenity. The Eucharist is that awesome and most wonderful gift of the Spirit that re-presents the whole mystery of our salvation – the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. As the early followers were strengthened and empowered to become the message of “Peace and Blessings” to the world, so are we, the spiritual children of Saint Francis, called to live the joyful peace of the Resurrection and offer the experience of new life in Jesus to all whom we encounter.

Our God is a ‘hidden God’ … hidden in the hearts of everyone, for some as a Real Presence, and for others as a nostalgic memory. St. Augustine expresses the longing of the human heart when he writes: O Lord, we are made for  You, and our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You.  Repeating this expression, the Church also prays: O God, You have placed in our hearts such a deep yearning   for You, that only those who find You can find peace!  It is this hidden God that the yearning of all human beings for ‘Someone’ seeks out.  This is the God we are called to encounter in our individual lives and help others find and live in theirs. This is the God with Whom we seek a deeper relationship during the Lenten Season.  This is the God of Life in Whose Spirit we have come to recognize Jesus as the Christ, incarnate Son of God, in Whose Death and Resurrection heaven is once more made accessible to us.

People of science tell us how difficult it is today to speak about God when the immensity of the galaxies and the materialism of an entrenched secularism in today’s world question anything that cannot be tangibly experienced.  Even those involved in pastoral ministry realize the difficulty there is to speak about God today. Talking about God has become always more problematic, both because of the new ‘verbage’ required, as well as the difficulties created by a world that has ‘to see to believe’ and anything other than what can be ‘touched’ with the senses is just a ‘figment of the imagination’, ‘a relic of times past’, ‘pious people’s inability to move with the times’, and the like. The spirit of the Apostle St. Thomas lives on! Our society wants instant gratification and concrete answers.  No sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights so shall, the Son of man be …  It is precisely this ‘sign’ we Christians throughout the world remember, celebrate, and believe during the Easter Season, and every time we enter the Mystery of the Eucharist. As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi are we making every effort to be this ‘sign’? Can people hear in our words and see in our actions that Jesus’ Resurrection has filled us with confidence as it did the early disciples to fearlessly confront our world in the power of God’s Word? Has the experience of Calvary helped us see the cross as a crowning moment in life rather than a collapse of our hopes and dreams?  We are spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi; the cross was the unique gift he ‘wore’ visibly before he died; do we wear ours with dignity and joy, and carry it with confident hope in its fruits?

God’s presence envelops us, even those who have not met or even know Him.  When we build on the positives of life, the beauty of creation, the diversity-power-wonder of nature at all its levels, the complexity of the human person and our ability to reach horizons that other creatures cannot, we encounter a God of Love and Life.  All too often we seek God in the drastic, disastrous, difficult, dilemmas of life; global fears, economic instability, incurable diseases, natural disasters all ‘make us think’ of God.  At those moments we perhaps see a distorted image of the One Great God of the Covenant who entered an agreement with Humanity and seeks to fulfill it each day.  The Death and Resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus, speaks to us of this God of Life.  St. Francis sang the praises of this God Who is alive and well in all creation, in those who forgive … and even in Sister Death who accompanies us to Life. Do we accept the challenge our Holy Father Francis offers us to do likewise? Have we learned what it means to be an ‘Easter People’ and how to live the ‘Alleluia’ we so often recite in our liturgies and prayers?

When we accept our moment in life and believe in the Lord’s Resurrection, ignorance gives way to knowledge, fear to courage and strength, prejudice to impartiality and tolerance, pride to humility, indifference to concern, over-indulgence to self-control, hypocrisy to sincerity, discouragement to hope, doubt to faith, and hatred to love, because…You can’t hold back the dawn! And the Resurrection of Jesus is the New Dawn bringing the Light of Christ to all willing to accept Him.

May  the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in your life that we might have life, and have it in abundance. May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter  season.  May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers each one of us.  And may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of   us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. With a promise to keep all of you affectionately in my Masses and prayers, I wish you and your dear ones a very Happy and Joyous Easter season.

Peace and Blessings in the Risen Lord

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director 
April 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.
All peace and good be with you! In my March letter I was optimistic and said as
we say “goodbye to winter and hello to spring”, well here we are on April 2, 2018, the
day after Easter and old man winter just dumped at least six inches of snow north of the
tunnel! Praise God it wasn’t on Easter Sunday.

Last month we started talking about what we do with all the paper we collect!
And we discussed the chart “Pathway to Profession(i)” as your road map to proper Initial
formation. At the risk of repeating myself, we will continually return to that document as
a guide! And as we said last month the reason we gather all this documentation is to
assist in the discernment process for the council and the individual. It is the local
council’s responsibility to decide to accept or not accept the individual into profession(ii)
and they need all the help they can get!

This month we will focus more on the start of formal initial formation with Inquiry.
I have been asked why we say initial formation doesn’t formally start until Inquiry, I like
to say that orientation is just that. We are helping a person to get to know the
“Franciscan” language and some of our customs. The real meat of the matter starts in
Inquiry and never ends! By this time, the individuals should have made their written
request to enter formation, and that request should have been discussed among the
formation team and then with the council. If no issues arise that would prevent
continuing the person is invited into Inquiry starting with the “Ceremony of Introduction
and Welcoming(iii)” this simple ceremony marks the beginning of a life’s journey and
should not be overlooked or thought of as unimportant.

During Inquiry, it is essential that all of the “Admission Documents” be collected
and reviewed with the formation team and council. The documents are listed in the
February 2018 letter. If there appears to be any anomalies, these should be discussed
privately with the individual with recommendations for overcoming the anomaly. At
times this will require clerical intervention. If the anomaly appears to be a true
impediment such as unresolved Divorces and remarriages, lacking evidence of full
initiation into the Catholic Church (sacramental records), belonging to unapproved
organizations like the Free Masons or just plain not being Catholic (even if they are in
the RCIA[iv] program), they should be asked to resolve those issues with their Parish
Priest before starting Candidacy. Although, I usually don’t wait that long.

I have mentioned several times that the “Formation Team should discuss” I
understand that not all fraternities have an actual team. The Formation Director is it. If
that is the case the process is the same just discussing with the council. I do highly
recommend that all fraternities work towards building teams.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Directo

i Regional Formation handbook, second section, page 43; or
http://www.skdregion.org/wp‐content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg  ii Pathway to Profession chart
iii The {Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order} St Anthony Messenger Press, 1985, Page 9  iv Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults