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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 for the Day – March 2021 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

March 2021 

Wherever we are, in every place, at every hour, at every time of the day, every day and continually, 

let all of us truly and humbly believe, hold in our heart and love, honor, adore, serve, 

praise and bless, glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks 

to the Most High and Supreme Eternal God, Trinity and Unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 

Creator of all, Savior of all who believe and hope in Him, and love Him, Who, 

without beginning and end, is unchangeable, invisible, indescribable, ineffable, 

incomprehensible, unfathomable, blessed, praiseworthy, glorious, exalted, 

sublime, most high, gentle, lovable, delightful, and totally desirable above all else for ever. 

Amen. 

(Prayer of Saint Francis taken from the Earlier Rule, chapter 23)

 

Month of Saint Joseph completes Holy Season of Lent. 

Let us invoke the patronage of St. Joseph to guide us on our journey. 

Chapter XIV 

THE CHAPTER THAT WAS HELD TWICE A YEAR 

AT SAINT MARY OF THE PORTIUNCULA 

1

After blessed Francis had obtained that place of Saint Mary from the abbot of Saint Benedict, he ordered that a chapter be held there twice a year, that is, on Pentecost and on the Dedication of Saint Michael. At Pentecost, all the brothers used to gather at the church of Saint Mary and discuss how they could better observe the Rule. – Remember that Calvary is the hill of the saints. 

2

They appointed brothers throughout the various provinces who would preach to the people, and assigned other brothers in their provinces. Saint Francis, however, used to give admonitions, corrections, and directives as it seemed to him to be according to the Lord’s counsel. Everything that he said to them in word, however, he would show them in deed with eagerness and affection. – Suffering is short-lived but the reward is eternal.

3

He used to revere prelates and priests of the holy Church, and honored the elderly, the noble, and the wealthy. Moreover, he intimately loved the poor, suffering deeply with them, and he showed himself subject to all. Although he was more elevated than all the brothers, he still appointed one of the brothers staying with him as his guardian and master. – Heaven and earth will pass away but the word of God assures that all who live in His will,  will sing victory.

4

He humbly and eagerly obeyed him, in order to avoid any occasion of pride. He zealously used to admonish the brothers to observe the holy Gospel and the Rule which they had firmly promised; and particularly to be reverent and devoted about divine services and ecclesiastical regulations, hearing Mass devotedly, and adoring the Body of the Lord even more devotedly.- May Jesus be your comfort and compensation in this life.

5

He wanted priests who handle the tremendous and greatest sacraments to be honored uniquely by the brothers. He also admonished the brothers not to judge anyone, nor to look down upon those who live with refinement and dress extravagantly or fashionably. For, he would say, their God is ours, the Lord Who is capable of calling them to Himself and justifying those called. – That Jesus never leaves us even for a moment should bring the greatest consolation.

6

He also used to tell them he wanted the brothers to show reverence to these people as their brothers and lords. They are brothers, because we were all created by one Creator; they are lords, because they help the good to do penance by providing them with the necessities of life. He added: “The brothers’ way of life among the people should be such that whoever hears or sees them glorifies and praises the heavenly Father with dedication.” – Live joyfully and courageously and don’t extinguish the Spirit of the Lord in you.

7

For his great desire was that he, as well as his brothers, would abound in such good deeds for which the Lord would be praised. He used to tell them: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that greater peace is in your hearts. Let no one be provoked to anger or scandal through you, but may everyone be drawn to peace, kindness, and harmony through your gentleness. For we have been called to this: to heal the wounded, bind up the broken, and recall the erring. In fact, many who seem to us to be members of the devil will yet be disciples of Christ.” – Let us do good while we still have time.

8

Moreover, the pious father used to reprove his brothers who to him were too austere, exerting too much effort in those vigils, fasts and corporal punishments. Some of them afflicted themselves so harshly to repress within them every impulse of the flesh,  that they seemed to hate themselves. The man of God forbade them, admonishing them with kindness, reprimanding them with reason, and binding up their wounds with the bandages of wholesome precepts. – Sanctify yourself and give good example to others.

9

Among the brothers who had come to the chapter, no one dared to discuss worldly matters, but they spoke of the lives of the holy fathers, and how they could better and more perfectly find the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. If some of the brothers who came to the chapter experienced any temptation or tribulation, upon hearing blessed Francis speaking so sweetly and fervently, and on seeing his penance, they were freed from their temptations and were miraculously relieved of the tribulations. – We don’t reach salvation without crossing the stormy sea.

10

For, while suffering with them, he spoke to them, not as a judge, but as a merciful father to his children, or a good doctor to the sick, knowing how to be sick with the sick and afflicted with the afflicted. Nevertheless he duly rebuked all delinquents, and restrained the obstinate and rebellious with an appropriate punishment. – Beneath the cross one learns to love.

11

When a chapter had ended, he would bless all the brothers and assign each of them to individual provinces. To anyone possessing the Spirit of God and eloquence suitable for preaching, whether cleric or lay, he gave permission to preach. When those men received his blessing with great joy of spirit, they went throughout the world as pilgrims and strangers, taking nothing on their way except the books in which they could say their Hours. –  The best way to avoid falling is to lean on the cross of Jesus.

12

Whenever they found a priest, rich or poor, good or bad, bowing humbly they paid him their respect. When it was time to seek lodging, they more willingly stayed with priests rather than with seculars. When they were unable to stay with priests, they would seek more spiritual and God-fearing persons with whom they could more suitably be welcomed. After this, in each city and town that the brothers wanted to visit, the Lord inspired some God-fearing people to offer them hospitality, until some places were built for them in cities and towns. – The Lord loads us and sets us free from our load.

13

The Lord gave them the word and the spirit, according to need of the time, to speak with most incisive words, penetrating the hearts of the young—as well as the elderly—who, abandoning fathers and mothers and all they had, followed the brothers, by putting on the habit of religion. Then, indeed, a sword of separation was sent to the earth, when the young came to religion. – By bearing the weight of the cross we are relieved of it.

14

Those whom they received to the Order they led to blessed Francis,  that they might receive from him the habit of religion with humility and dedication. Not only were men converted to the Order; but also many virgins and widows, struck by their preaching, on their advice secluded themselves in cities and towns in monasteries established for doing penance. – Convince yourself that you belong to Jesus 

15

One of the brothers was appointed their visitator and corrector. Similarly, both married men and women given in marriage, unable to separate because of the law of matrimony, committed themselves to more severe penance in their own homes on the wholesome advice of the brothers. And thus, through blessed Francis, a perfect worshipper of the Holy Trinity, the Church of God was renewed in three orders, just as the earlier repair of the three churches foreshadowed. Each one of these orders was in its time approved by the Supreme Pontiff. –  Belong to Jesus and any storm satan blows against you cannot harm you at all.

Chapter XV 

THE DEATH OF LORD JOHN, 

THE FIRST PROTECTOR OF THE ORDER 

AND HOW THE LORD HUGOLINO OF OSTIA 

ASSUMED THE ROLE OF FATHER AND PROTECTOR OF THE ORDER 

16

The venerable father, the Lord Cardinal John of Saint Paul, that cardinal who more frequently offered counsel and protection to blessed Francis, commended the life and accomplishments of the saint and his brothers to the other cardinals. Their minds were moved to love the man of God with his brothers, so that each one of them wanted to have brothers in his own household, not for any service they might provide, but because of their holiness and the dedication with which they burned for them. – Trust in God and don’t fear the storms because your spirit will never be submerged.

17

After the Lord Cardinal John of Saint Paul had died, the Lord inspired one of the cardinals, Hugolino, at that time the bishop of Ostia, to cherish, protect, and support Francis and his brothers. With burning intensity, he held them in awe as if he were the father of them all. What is more, more than the love of a carnal father reaching out naturally to his own sons, the love of this man overflowed spiritually on the man of God and his brothers, loving and supporting them in the Lord. – Jesus is more powerful than all of hell. 

18

The man of God heard of this man’s glorious reputation, for among the cardinals he was famous, and with his brothers approached him. Receiving them with joy, he told them: “I am offering you myself for advice, assistance and protection, ready to give myself according to your good pleasure. I only ask that, for God’s sake, you have me remembered in your prayers.” Then blessed Francis, thanking God, told that lord cardinal: “My lord, I gladly want to have you as the father and protector of our religion, and I want all my brothers to have you always remembered in their prayers.” – This present life is given to us to acquire the eternal. 

19

Then blessed Francis asked him to be present at the chapter of the brothers at Pentecost. He immediately agreed graciously, and, from then on, was present every year at their chapter. When he came to the chapter, all the brothers who had gathered at the chapter would go in procession to meet him. As they were approaching, he would dismount from his horse and go on foot with them to the church of Saint Mary. Afterward he preached to them and celebrated Mass, during which the man of God, Francis, would chant the Gospel. – It is God who calls us to himself and it is he who watches our journey. 

Chapter XVI 

THE ELECTION OF THE FIRST MINISTERS 

AND HOW THEY WERE SENT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD 

20

Eleven years after the founding of the religion when the brothers had increased in number and merit, ministers were chosen and sent with some of the brothers throughout nearly the entire world in which the Catholic faith was practiced and observed. They were received in some of the provinces, but were not permitted to build houses. On the other hand, they were expelled from others for fear they might be non-believers, because, although the Lord Pope Innocent III had approved the Order and the Rule, nonetheless, he did not confirm this by letter, and the brothers, therefore, suffered many adversities from clerics and lay people. – God will never permit anything to happen to us that is not for our greater good. 

21

When this had been made known to the Lord Cardinal, he called blessed Francis to him and took him to the Lord Pope Honorius. He had another rule—composed by blessed Francis as he was taught by Christ—confirmed by the same Lord Honorius with a seal solemnly affixed. In this rule, the time between the chapters was prolonged to avoid hardship for the brothers living in remote areas. – Don’t philosophize on your defects.

22

Blessed Francis proposed to ask the Lord Pope Honorius, therefore, that one of the cardinals of the Roman Church be a sort of pope of his Order, that is, the Lord of Ostia, to whom the brothers could have recourse in their dealings. For blessed Francis had had a vision which led him to ask for the cardinal, and to entrust the Order to the Roman Church. – Don’t let little imperfections discourage you.

23

He saw a hen that was small and black, with feathered legs and the feet of a domestic dove. It had so many chicks that it was unable to gather them all under its wings, and so they wandered all around her in circles. Waking from sleep, he began to think about this vision and, immediately, he perceived by means of the Holy Spirit that that hen symbolized him. – Try to be always watchful in order to avoid sin.

24

“I am that hen,” he said, “short in stature, and dark by nature. I must be simple like a dove, flying up to heaven with the feathered strokes of virtue. The Lord in his mercy has given, and will give me, many sons whom I will be unable to protect with my own strength. I must, therefore, commend them to the holy Church who will protect and guide them under the shadow of her wings.” – When you see you fail in some way, don’t become lost in useless complaining

25

A few years after this vision, he came to Rome and visited the Lord of Ostia who obliged blessed Francis to go with him to the Curia the following morning. He wanted him to preach before the Lord Pope and the cardinals, and to commend his religion to them with devotion and eagerness. Although blessed Francis excused himself, claiming he was simple and stupid, he nevertheless had to accompany that man to the Curia. – Be embarrassed at your moments of infidelity, and humbly ask pardon of the Lord.

26

When blessed Francis presented himself before the Lord Pope and the cardinals, they saw him with boundless joy. Getting up, he preached to them, prepared only by the Holy Spirit’s anointing. After he finished speaking, he commended his religion to the Lord Pope and to all the cardinals. The Lord Pope and lord cardinals had been greatly edified by his preaching, and their hearts were moved to a more burning love of the religion. – When you fall, propose to be more watchful and then get up immediately and carry on.

27

Afterwards blessed Francis told the Supreme Pontiff: “Lord, I am suffering with you over the worry and continuing labor with which you must watch over God’s Church, and I am greatly ashamed that you must have such solicitude and care for us lesser brothers. For, since many nobles, rich people, as well as many religious, are unable to come to you, we, who are surely poor and looked down upon by some religious, must have great fear and shame not only to have access to you, but even to stand at your door and to presume to knock at the tabernacle of Christian virtue. – Walk with simplicity in the ways of the Lord.

28

Therefore, I humbly and resolutely beg your Holiness to give us the Lord of Ostia as pope, so that, at a time of need, the brothers may have recourse to him, always saving your pre-eminent dignity.” The Lord Pope was pleased with the petition, and he granted blessed Francis that Lord of Ostia, appointing him a most fitting protector of his religion. With the mandate of the Lord Pope, as a good protector, he extended his influence to protect the brothers, writing to many prelates who were persecuting the brothers. He did this so that they would no longer oppose them, but would rather give them advice and assistance in preaching and living in their provinces, as good and holy religious approved by the authority of the Apostolic See. – Hate your faults, but with a quiet hate, not troublesome and restless. 

29

Many other cardinals likewise sent their own letters for the same reason. In the following chapter, after blessed Francis gave the ministers permission to receive brothers into the Order, he sent them to those provinces, carrying the letters of the cardinals as well as the Rule confirmed by the apostolic seal. Once the prelates saw all of these, and recognized the endorsements shown by the brothers, they permitted the brothers to build, live, and preach in their provinces. And after the brothers lived and preached in this way in those provinces, many people, seeing their humble and holy way of life, and hearing their very pleasant words, moving and inflaming minds to love of God and to doing penance, they came to them and humbly accepted the habit of holy religion. –  Walk with simplicity in the ways of the Lord and do not torment your spirit.

30

Seeing the trust and love that the Lord of Ostia had for the brothers, blessed Francis loved him most affectionately from the depths of his heart. And because he knew, through an earlier revelation of God, that he would be the future Supreme Pontiff, he predicted this in the letters he wrote to him, calling him the father of the whole world. For he wrote to him in this manner: “To the venerable father of the whole world in Christ …” – Be patient with your faults and gain from them through holy humility.

31

Shortly afterwards, after the death of the Lord Pope Honorius III, that Lord of Ostia was elected the Supreme Pontiff, named Pope Gregory IX, who, until the end of his life was a remarkable benefactor and protector of the brothers as well as of other religious, and above all, of Christ’s poor. For this reason, he is believed to be numbered deservedly in the gathering of the saints.- How can anyone be anything but happy and at peace when Jesus is with them? 

 

March 2021 – Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

March 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

May the Lord grant you peace! 

Our Seraphic Father left an indelible mark on most of Christian Europe before his death. Some in Assisi remembered the excitement caused by the verbal altercation between Francis and his Father Pietro Bernardone. In the public square of Assisi, before the bishop of Assisi and the townspeople Francis returned everything he owned to his father. He gave his father even the clothes on his back. From then on, Francis called only God my Father.   

The people remembered the gossip – perhaps they had even been participants in it – when the wealthy Bernard, the farmer Giles, the priest Peter, and the other first followers sought to follow the ‘beggar-son’ of the wealthy merchant. After all the initial criticisms, cautious doubts, interested questioning, and patient observation to see ‘how it would all work out’, the people of Assisi began to admire, respect, and became proud of their native son, Francis.  

God Himself set His Seal of approval on Francis two years before he passed to eternity. While on Mount La Verna, a Seraph imprinted visibly on the body of Francis the five wounds of the Passion of our Savior. Before his death, thousands had accepted to follow the Gospel lifestyle he proposed.  His Lesser Brothers had reached the far corners of Europe, arriving at the Middle East and North Africa, joyfully proclaiming the time of fulfillment and the kingdom of God in our midst (Mark 1: 15) in Jesus Christ.  Francis had set in motion a tsunami of Gospel Life that did not devastate but ennobled those it engulfed. The waves of consecrated Brothers and Laity, seeking the Poverello as their guide in this evangelical endeavor, gave witness to the excitement and beauty of lives dedicated to the Lord and His people in the Name of Jesus.  Is it any wonder that so many were captivated and enamored by this ‘Herald of the Great King’?  He was called to be the messenger of God’s Peace and Blessings to all who were willing to hear and accept the message! His vocation was to “rekindle the hearts of a world grown cold” to God’s limitless love.  

The story of a soul is the story of a call, a response and a commission.  Most people think of ‘vocation’ as pertaining solely to service in the Church, usually as consecrated religious and/or priests. This is traditionally how most people view the word ‘vocation’. Truthfully, it pertains to everyone.  We are all called by God to hear, listen, respond and fulfill God’s Will.  Remember the words of God through the prophet Isaiah: So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it (Isaiah 55: 11). God is always communicating with us. Are we listening?  Are we part of the “word that goes from my mouth” fulfilled, or are we waiting for a “better offer”?! 

The first official words of Jesus to the crowds were:  

This is the time of fulfillment.  (God has kept the pledge He offered the world centuries before);  

The kingdom of God is at hand.  (His presence is now among all creation in His Incarnate Word made flesh, Jesus);   

Repent and believe the Good News.  (Listen to, reflect on, and live what you have come to know of God’s love who enters time to save and not condemn creation).   

Repentance is a positive experience.  Most think that ‘repentance’ involves the return of a sinner to grace; that is part of it.  But, ‘repentance’ also involves the awareness a ‘saint’ has that he/she must always progress in the will of God. Francis stated When I was in sin… in his Testament, and continues to speak of his vocation and that of those who sought to follow their call with him. The more we approach God, the more we become aware of what is still necessary for perfection.  

We are on the road that leads to Life. Whether we believe we must go from bad to good (as the sinful woman in the Gospels), or from good to better (as the young man in the Gospels seeking ‘to be good’), we must listen to and accept the call to repentance (metanoia – change of heart/mind). We know that as long as there is life, there is need for growth and improvement, especially in the spirit. In both cases the process involves: 

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

–   Recognizing the spiritual and natural talents specifically ours which God has entrusted to us to be used well and with which to grow in age, wisdom, and grace before God and all people (Luke 2: 52). 

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

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

–   Setting more worthwhile goals.  Christians are never satisfied with the ‘ordinary’, knowing they are called to be light and salt in the world (cfr. Matthew 5: 13-16). We sincerely strive to achieve those goals that lead to a fuller grace-filled life that affects not only our relationship with God but with ourselves and others in all we do. 

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

The road to conversion through repentance is always exciting and leads to joy.  Aspects of the journey may be difficult and even painful. Nevertheless, confident in the hope of acquiring the end result for those who persevere, we the ‘Penitents of Assisi’, are urged to continue.  Let us never forget that the Christian life is a continuous process of conversion. The repentant person who is rather transformed by grace than conformed to the age  (cfr. Romans 12: 2-3)  in which he/she is called to be a pilgrim and stranger (cfr. 1 Peter 2: 11), is thus called to discipleship. A response to repentance leads to conversion as it invites us to discipleship that we in turn might be sent as apostles to call others in the Lord’s name to repentance-conversion-commission (cfr. Mark 16: 15 and Matthew 28: 19). 

Jesus had more difficulties with the ‘saints’ of His day, rather than with the ‘sinners’.  The sinners needed and wanted someone who would see, hear, understand and forgive them.  The ‘saints’ forgot the adage: Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future (St. Augustine / Oscar Wilde). Thinking themselves secure on the correct road and in the favor of God for fulfilling all the ‘laws’, they forgot that stopping on the climb to holiness means sliding down to levels that make the re-ascent more difficult.  The journey lasts a lifetime and there can be no stopping and standing until journey’s end. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully we can celebrate this joy-filled Lenten Season anticipating the joy of growth in grace through repentance-renewal-rebirth in the Spirit.  The Lenten road may have its pains and sacrifices. Advancing on the journey, we strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, Christ, the Church, all Humanity, and even all Creation (cfr. Encyclicals of Pope Francis: Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti) .   

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, we have entered our yearly experience that has eternal effects. Our Father Francis and Mother Clare responded to the invitation to follow in the footsteps of the Savior, poor and humble. He emptied Himself, though He is God, that we, through His poverty, could be poor in this world’s goods, but rich in those of eternal Life (cfr. 2 Corinthians 8: 9). What more could we ask?  Why do we hesitate to give all?  The example, courage, and total response of St. Francis and St. Clare, urge us on.  We Penitents of Assisi continue the Lenten journey with joyful hearts and ready wills, with hearts fixed on the ultimate goal, Who is Jesus brought to full stature (cfr. Ephesians 4: 13) in each of us. 

May God bless you; may Our Lady and Her husband St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare look over each one of you, their spiritual children, with loving care.   

Happy and grace-filled Lent to all! 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

Poverty of Attitude - March, 2021 Kate Kleinert, OFS, Regional Minister

Poverty of Attitude

A few weeks ago, a friend called to tell me that a mutual friend had passed away.  Although we knew Dottie was very sick, we were not were aware that she was so close to the end of her time and had been in hospice for a while.  My friend and I felt guilty that we had not tried harder to reach Dottie or her sons.

I called the sons to offer my condolences.  The call rolled over to the answering machine.  I was not prepared to hear Dottie’s voice and even more shocking was how wonderful she sounded.  I hadn’t heard her sound like that in more than a year.

I was so startled, that I‘m not sure what I even said on the message. But I began an entire conversation in my head that I’m sure I planned to have with everyone and anyone I ran into…..oh how awful, this poor woman died and I called and here she is sounding alive and well.  Wasn’t that a cruel trick to have to listen to that….

But as I hung up the phone, it dawned on me that Dottie was right at that moment feeling as good as she was sounding on that machine. She was already in heaven, sitting at the feet of Jesus and cured of every pain and illness.

But I almost fell into the trap of poverty of attitude.  It made a good story, why shouldn’t I tell it?  I’m sure you know people who can keep the drama going on and on and on.  And before you know it, your whole attitude has sunk to that level – to say nothing of the poor people having to listen to you.   Some people hold onto complaining and being miserable like it’s a life raft.  And maybe for them it is.  But as Franciscans, we need to be willing to give up our attachment – our materialism – to let go of our need to complain and be miserable. And put on the attitude of Christ. If CNN were able to interview Jesus on the morning of Good Friday,  do you think he would be saying” Oy, what a night, I haven’t slept, but my friends did!  Great bunch of guys, they are. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through.”  Or do you think he said, ”I loved you the most today. It’s been a tough day, but I got through it. Thanks for asking.”

God makes His presence known to mankind through each of us.  We cannot extend His hand to anyone else unless we are holding onto it ourselves.  And if we are telling our story with both our hands waving in the air, we aren’t holding onto Him. In the famous prayer attributed to him. St. Francis asks…make me a channel of your peace.  Not give me peace.  Make me a channel – let me empty myself.  From  Ephesians, chapter 4 are these words that we need to hear:   Never let evil talk pass your lips;  say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.  Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander and malice of every kind.  In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

And just what is evil talk.  We immediately think curse words would fall into that category and they do.  But Evil Talk isn’t a single entry topic.  What about gossip.? What about telling things that you promised you would hold confidentially?  Making fun of people, laughing along with the crowd when someone else is doing the insulting? What about the ‘adult topics’ you discuss when your children or grandchildren are within earshot?

God has given us two hands for a reason.  Keep one hand in His.  And keep the other one free to extend both His and your grace to someone in need. Keeping both hands occupied is a blessing.  After all, remember what your mother told you about idle hands???

May your Lenten journey continue to be filled with the graces that you need, opportunities for your growth, and the ability to take a step or two closer to Our Lord.

 

Formation Resource February 2021 by Justin Carisio, OFS, Regional Formation Director

SKD Formation Monthly-February 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This month I offer for our reflection some thoughts on the Holy Name of Jesus, devotion to which has deep Franciscan roots. Lent is a good time to meditate on the name of Jesus which St. Francis spoke lovingly and often among his brothers.

 

I also encourage you to visit one of the Capuchin websites and read a short article on St. Francis and Lent. We are told that St. Francis “observed Lent with the utmost seriousness.” The link is here: St. Francis of Assisi & Lent – Capuchin Franciscans (capuchins.org)

 
May you have a holy and blessed Lent! 
 
Pax et bonum,
 
Justin Carisio, OFS
Formation Director

Lent in the Garden of Gethsemane

Being in the Garden of Gethsemane

As I write this, Lent is just 24 hours old and I feel like I have been sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane forever.

The real problem is, the Garden is very crowded this year.  Even in the midst of misery, there is no peace and quiet!

The pandemic continues to rear its’ ugly head – now in several new mutations.  The political scene is still in an uproar, no matter which side you are on. We are coming up to the first year marker (I refuse to call it an anniversary) of when the shutdown began and life as we knew it was over.

So many problems, so many real tragedies all around.  So many requests for prayers.  It is overwhelming, disheartening.  And isn’t that exactly where the Evil One wants us?  I can see him standing at the Gate to the Garden of Gethsemane with his straw hat and megaphone saying “Hurry, hurry, hurry.  Step right up, folks”.

But, we are in good company.  Our Lord sat in this very Garden with a very heavy heart, feeling lost and abandoned by those closest to Him – including His own Father.  There is nothing wrong with being in the Garden.  After all, Jesus Himself, spent time there.

The difference is, Jesus got up and continued the will of His Father.  What a beautiful example for us.  This Lent we can offer up whatever has us sitting in the Garden – struggling with finances, adjusting to a new job or losing the old one, and certainly all the health issues that are attacking so many of us. Some of these issues have us nailed in place and it might feel like we can’t get up.  But remember Who took all these things with Him to His cross and was nailed there.  How can we do less than was done for us. Don’t let what is holding you down, keep you there. We all spend time in the Garden throughout our lives. Use your experiences in the Garden as an offering to the Father for the time that His son spent there for you.

The only good thing about the Garden being so crowded – you don’t have far to go to grasp the hand of someone who understands what you are going through. Look around.  Everyone who has ever walked this earth has been to the Garden.  Ask your loved ones who have gone “home” to pray that you will benefit from being there.

May your journey through Lent bring you closer to the glory of Easter morning when Jesus broke free of all that had nailed Him to the cross!

To Reflect on the 7 Sorrows & Joys of St. Joseph while praying the Crown Rosary

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. has generously shared how he incorporates the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph while praying the Crown Rosary. In this year of St. Joseph, we are invited to use Father’s own way of keeping St. Joseph involved and remembered.

St. Joseph – Sorrows and Joys 

(within the celebration of the Franciscan Crown) 

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

In the year of St. Joseph, we Franciscans are offered an opportunity to celebrate the sorrows and joys of St Joseph as we recall, with our Franciscan Crown, the 7 Joys of our Heavenly Mother.

First Joy of BVM – Annunciation/Incarnation 

1st   Sorrow of St. Joseph: Confusion concerning Mary’s Pregnancy 

1st  Joy of St. Joseph: Angelic assurance of pregnancy by work of the Holy Spirit 

Second Joy of BVM – Visit to Elizabeth 

2nd Sorrow of St. Joseph: Distance from Mary for three months. 

2nd Joy of St. Joseph: News of work of Holy Spirit in life of Elizabeth and Zachary

(Not a traditional joy or sorrow of St. Joseph)

Third Joy of BVM – Birth of Savior at Bethlehem 

3rd  Sorrow of St. Joseph:          

  • Poverty of an Animal Refuge for Mary to give birth to Jesus
  • Pain imposed on Child – first bloodshed at circumcision 8 days after birth 
  • Simeon’s prophecy of future sufferings of Jesus and Mary 

3rd Joy of St. Joseph:

  • Angel announcement to Shepherds and their adoration of the Child 
  • Father’s right imposing name Jesus (“God is salvation”) 
  • Jesus would be light of revelation to gentiles and glory of Israel 

Fourth Joy of BVM – Adoration of the Magi 

4th Sorrow of St. Joseph:

  • Flight into Egypt (massacre of the Innocents) 
  • Confusion of place to dwell on return to Israel

4th Joy of St. Joseph:

  • Safety for Family and power of God manifest in Egypt 
  • Nazareth home

Fifth Joy of BVM – Finding Jesus in Jerusalem Temple 

5th Sorrow of St. Joseph: Loss of Jesus for three days 

5th Joy of St. Joseph: Finding Jesus and His obedient return to Nazareth 

Sixth Joy of BVM – Resurrection / Ascension of Jesus 

6th  Sorrow of St. Joseph: Leaving Jesus and Mary on earth in death 

6th Joy of St. Joseph:

  • Dying in the embrace of Jesus and Mary
  • Accompanied to heaven by His Messianic Son, Jesus, sharing in the Resurrection and Glory of Jesus even before His Beloved spouse. 

Seventh Joy of BVM – Assumption and Crowning of Mary 

7th Joy of St. JosephReunited to his spouse and sharing in the glory of God with His angels and saints as intercessor after Jesus the Only Mediator and Mary, His spouse, the “almighty by intercession” for all God’s creation. 

 

Pastoring our Pastors in Time of Pandemic

Photo by Nazim Coskun on Unsplash

Need for Pastoral Care of the Clergy

Herefordshire Monastery of Benedictine Sisters – used with permission

I know the word ‘pastoring’ doesn’t really exist, but I wish it did because it expresses something we are apt to forget. Those to whom we look for pastoral care are themselves in need of care and support. Throughout this pandemic we have heard a lot from parishioners who are sad or unhappy at the way in which some clergy have seemed unresponsive to their needs, especially during periods of lockdown or church closure. As one disgruntled man remarked, ‘They think they have done enough by becoming third-rate movie stars with their live-streamed Masses and what not.’ I daresay some have; but most haven’t. They have tried to be good and dutiful priests in a situation none of us has met before. A few have been blessed with the imagination and creativity to meet the new circumstances positively, but many more have struggled and one or two have been utterly crushed by the experience.

Some clergy have felt abandoned by their bishops and left to soldier on, not sure what to do for the best. They have been burdened with an extra load of admin at the very time when those they chiefly rely on to help — mainly more senior members of the parish, who may well be shielding because of age or infirmity — are not available. They live alone; some admit to being close to breaking-point, others cannot bring themselves to articulate their feelings of loneliness and discouragement. For them celebration of the Holy Mysteries is not the only aspect of priesthood that gives joy and purpose to their lives. They miss the interaction with people. More than one has confessed that, being naturally shy and without the ‘excuse’ that coffee after Mass or regular parish meetings of one kind or another provide, they are becoming more and more isolated.

Wrap and Throw Service

Happily, this is where the brotherhood of the priesthood takes on fresh meaning and importance. It has been heartening to learn of the support received from friendly ‘phone calls and video meetings with fellow priests; but it isn’t enough. Here at the monastery we do our best to listen non-judgementally and sympathetically to those who feel the need to unburden themselves of the distress they feel. I hope we manage to reassure them that they are not letting the side down or being a failure because they are not exercising their priesthood in ways familiar to them. We try to give encouragement. In the monastery we refer to this as our ‘Wrap and Throw Service’, meaning we do our best to wrap those who come to us in the love of God and throw them back into their parishes to minister to others. But again, it isn’t enough.

The Role of Parishioners

The people best placed to support the clergy through this time of pandemic are their parishioners. Yes, you! The bishop can only do so much; fellow priests and monasteries can only do so much; but you are there. You know your priest in a way no one else does. It does not take much time to send a friendly email asking how he is and saying you miss seeing him on a regular basis. A word of thanks and appreciation for what he is doing to meet the needs of the parish will never go amiss. An offer of help may be warmly received. Who can tell? Pastoring our pastors isn’t a difficult art. It simply requires a warm heart and the ability to see the human person wearing the collar — someone just as much in need of encouragement as we are ourselves.

February 2021 Thoughts for the Day by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

February 2021 

 

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) 

 Chapter XII 

HOW BLESSED FRANCIS WITH HIS ELEVEN COMPANIONS WENT TO THE PAPAL CURIA 

THAT HE MIGHT INFORM HIM OF THEIR PROPOSAL 

AND HAVE THE RULE THAT HE HAD WRITTEN CONFIRMED 

 

Seeing that the Lord would increase his brothers in number and merit, since there were already twelve most perfect men expressing the same belief, blessed Francis said to the eleven, he being the twelfth, their leader and father: “Brothers, I see that the Lord mercifully wants to increase our congregation. Then, going to our mother, the holy Roman Church, let us inform the Supreme Pontiff what the Lord has begun to do through us, that, with his will and command, we may continue doing what we have undertaken.” – Time heals what reason cannot 

And since the proposal of their father pleased the other brothers, and they had embarked together with him on the journey to the Curia, he said to them: “Let us make one of us our leader and consider that man a kind of vicar of Jesus Christ, so that wherever he wants to go, we will go, and whenever he wants to rest, we will rest.” – It is magnificent to grow old if one keeps young. 

And they chose Brother Bernard, the first after blessed Francis, and, as the father said, they served him. They, then, made their way rejoicing and spoke about the words of the Lord, not daring to say anything except for the praise and glory of God and the benefit of the soul, and they frequently spent time in prayer. – Time cries out to each one, ‘Advance’

When they arrived in Rome and found the bishop of the city of Assisi there, they were received with immense joy, for he honored blessed Francis and all the brothers with special affection. Not knowing the reason for their arrival, he began to be apprehensive, fearing that they might want to leave their native land, where the Lord had begun to do marvelous things through them. – Take time to laugh; it is the music of the soul

For he rejoiced to have in his diocese such men whose life and conduct he greatly appreciated. After he learned their purpose and understood their plan, however, he was overjoyed and promised them his counsel and help. – My worth to God in public is what I am in private. 

During the few days they were staying with that man, they so edified him with their holy words and example, that, seeing what he had heard about them to shine in deed, he commended himself humbly and devoutly to their prayers. He even asked them, as a special grace, to be considered one of their brothers. – Never consider anything of worth that makes you break your word or lose your self-respect

Then asking blessed Francis the reason why he came and hearing from him their entire proposal and intention, he offered to be their procurator at the Curia. That cardinal then went to the Curia and told the Lord Pope Innocent III: “I found a most perfect man, who wishes to live according to the form of the holy Gospel, and to observe evangelical perfection in all things. I believe that the Lord wills, through him, to reform the faith of the holy Church throughout the world.” Hearing this, the lord pope was greatly amazed and had the cardinal bring blessed Francis to him. – Power is never good unless the one who uses it is good

On the following day, therefore, the man of God was presented by that cardinal to the pope, to whom he revealed his entire holy proposal. The pope, a man of extraordinary discernment, in due fashion assented to Francis’s request, and encouraged him and his brothers in many ways. He blessed them saying: “Go with the Lord, brothers, and as He will see fit to inspire you, preach penance to everyone. When almighty God increases you in number and grace, come back to us. We will grant you more, and entrust you with a greater charge.” – You are not bound to win, but you are bound to be true

Before the saint left his presence, the Lord Pope wanted to know whether what had been, and what would be conceded, was according to the Lord’s will. And so, he said to him and his companions: “My dear young sons, your life seems to Us exceptionally hard and severe. While We believe there can be no question about your living it because of your great zeal, We must take into consideration those who will come after you lest this way of life seem too burdensome.” – Patient endurance attains all things

10 

The pope saw that their constancy of faith and the anchor of their hope were so firmly grounded in Christ, that they did not want to be shaken from their enthusiasm. So he said to blessed Francis: “My son, go and pray that God will reveal to you whether what you ask  

Proceeds from His will. – Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.  

11 

Once God’s saint had prayed, as the Lord Pope suggested, the Lord spoke figuratively to him in spirit: “There was a little, poor and beautiful woman in a desert, whose beauty fascinated a great king…“My lord,” he said, “I am that little poor woman whom the loving Lord, in His mercy, has adorned, and through whom He has been pleased to give birth to legitimate sons. The King of kings had told me that He will nourish all the sons born to me, because, if He feeds strangers, He must provide for His own. For if God gives temporal goods to sinful men out of love for providing for His children, how much more will He give to Gospel men who deserve these things out of merit.” – Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense

12 

On hearing this, the pope was greatly amazed, especially since, before blessed Francis’s arrival, he had seen in a vision the church of Saint John Lateran threatening to collapse, and a religious, small and of shabby appearance, supporting it on his own shoulders. – Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another

13 

A few days later, blessed Francis came to him, made known his proposal, as we have said, and asked him to confirm the rule he had written in simple words, using the words of the holy Gospel, for whose perfection he fully longed. As he was reflecting on how enthusiastic blessed Francis was in God’s service, and comparing his vision with that shown to the man of God, he began to say to himself: “This is indeed that holy and religious man through whom the church of God will be sustained and supported.” – Real unselfishness consists in sharing the interests of others

14 

So he embraced him and approved the rule he had written. He also gave him and his brothers’ permission to preach penance everywhere, with the stipulation that the brothers who preach obtain permission from blessed Francis. Afterwards he approved this in a consistory. – The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of oneself to others. 

15 

Therefore, after obtaining these favors, blessed Francis thanked God, and on bended knees, promised obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope humbly and devoutly. The other brothers, in accordance with the precept of the Lord Pope, promised obedience and reverence to blessed Francis in a similar way. After receiving a blessing from the Supreme Pontiff and visiting the tombs of the Apostles, blessed Francis and the other eleven brothers were given the tonsure, as the lord cardinal had arranged, wanting all twelve of them to be clerics.- When you give of yourself you truly give

16 

 As he was leaving the City, the man of God, with his brothers, set out into the world, greatly surprised at how easily his desire had been granted. He was growing each day in the hope and trust of the Savior, who had earlier shown him by holy revelations what was to happen. – Light, even though it passes through pollution, is not polluted

 

Chapter XIII 

HE EFFICACIOUS PREACHING OF BLESSED FRANCIS 

AND THE FIRST PLACE HE HAD HOW THE BROTHERS STAYED THERE AND HOW THEY LEFT 

17 

From then on, blessed Francis, going around the cities and villages, began to preach more widely and more perfectly proclaiming the kingdom of God with confidence, not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the learning and power of the Holy Spirit. – When you walk towards the light, the shadow of your burdens falls behind you. 

18 

Strengthened by apostolic authority, he was a forthright preacher of truth, not using fawning words or seductive flattery, because he first convinced himself by action and then convinced others by word, so that he spoke the truth with the greatest fidelity. Even a very great number of learned and well-educated people marveled at his power and truth, which no human had taught, and they hurried to see and hear him as if he were a person of another age. – The one who is poor in spirit has realized that God means everything

19 

Drawn by divine inspiration, many people, well-born and lowly, cleric and lay, began to cling to blessed Francis’s footsteps, and, after they had abandoned the concerns and vanity of this world, to live under his discipline. – Being poor in spirit means freedom

20 

The blessed father with his sons were staying in a place near Assisi called Rivo Torto where there was a hut abandoned by all. The place was so cramped that they could barely sit or rest. Very often for lack of bread, their only food was the turnips that they begged in their need, here and there. The man of God would write the names of the brothers on the beams of that hut, so that anyone wishing to rest or pray would know his place, and so that any unusual noise would not disturb the mind’s silence in such small and close quarters. – Poverty of spirit is an attitude of dependence on God and detachment from earthly supports. 

21 

One day while the brothers were staying in that place, a peasant came with his donkey, wanting to stay in that hut with it. And so that he would not be driven away by the brothers, on walking into the hut, he said to his donkey: “Go in, go in, because we will do well in this place.” – It is good to make sure once in a while that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy

22 

When the holy father heard the peasant’s words and realized his intention, he was annoyed at him, most of all because he made quite an uproar with his donkey, disturbing all the brothers who were then immersed in silence and prayer. Then the man of God said to his brothers: “I know, brothers, that God did not call us to prepare a lodging for a donkey, nor to have dealings with men. While we are preaching the way of salvation to people and are giving them wise counsel, we should dedicate ourselves most of all to prayer and thanksgiving.” –  He is not poor who has little but desires much

23 

They left that hut for the use of poor lepers, moving to a small dwelling near Saint Mary of the Portiuncula where they stayed from time to time before acquiring that church. – Example is the only thing that really influences others

24 

Afterwards blessed Francis, in accordance with God’s will and inspiration, obtained it from the abbot of the monastery of Saint Benedict on Mount Subasio near Assisi. – People seldom improve when they have no other model than themselves to copy

25 

The saint, in a special and affectionate way, commended this place to the general minister and to all the brothers, as the place loved by the glorious Virgin more than any other place or church in this world. – Hope for the future is not in human inventions but in better human relations

26 

A vision one of the brothers had, while in the world, contributed much to the commendation and love of this place. Blessed Francis loved this brother with unique affection as long as he was with him, by showing him extraordinary affection. – Nothing is a greater impediment to being in good relations with others than being ill at ease with yourself

27 

This man, wanting to serve God—as he later did so faithfully in religion—saw in a vision that all the people of the world were blind and were kneeling in a circle around the church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula with their hands joined and their faces raised to heaven. In a loud and sobbing voice, they were begging the Lord in his mercy to give them sight. – God made us not perfect but pilgrims in journey after perfection. 

28 

While they were praying, it seemed that a great light came from heaven and, resting on them, enlightened all of them with its wholesome radiance. On awakening, the man resolved to serve God more faithfully, and, shortly thereafter, leaving the world with its seductions, he entered religion where he persevered in the service of God with humility and dedication. – Ideals are like stars, we never reach them but we chart our course by them. 

 

February 2021 Reflections by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

 February 2021 

 Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis 

 May the Lord grant you peace! 

 The three hours of redemptive suffering of Jesus on the cross were preceded by three years of ministry among God’s people in Israel and thirty years of silent preparation in Nazareth.  (Ven. Fulton J. Sheen)   

 Jesus lived thirty years in the anonymity of the humble town of Nazareth. He lived as a laborer, although qualified in His field as an exceptional wood worker, but manual laborer nonetheless. Scripture tells us that after his return from Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph at the age of twelve, he came down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them, and grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men. (Luke 2: 51) These words strike us somewhat strangely. Jesus, who is God, grew in wisdom, age and grace!? (Luke 2: 51)  As we are reminded in Scripture, He was like us in all things but sin. (Hebrews 4: 15)  Jesus had to experience all that it means to be human. He knew the often humdrum pace of everyday living. He knew what it means to experience enthusiasm about the possibilities available to His efforts, and yet He did not expect surprising and extraordinary events – miracles – to assure his choices and the positive outcome of his work. He lived in the uncertainty of the next moment, just as we do.   

 The deep-rooted faith of every Christian carries with it the wonderful truth that God became one with us. St. Leo the Great tells us that the Incarnation is the “Condescension of Compassion”. In other words, it is the fact that God came down to share the human experience with us in all things and every way, but sin. He showed us the mercy of God, the mercy of our Eternal Father and Creator of life. The word itself, “mercy”, is a translation of the Latin word “misericordia”. Loosely translated, the word indicates taking the misfortune (or misery or “miseria”) of another to one’s heart (“cor”, “cordis”). By sharing with us in all things but sin, Jesus showed us the mercy of God who came not to condemn but to redeem and save. This is what we seek for ourselves and thus must be ready and willing to offer others, whoever they may be. Remember: The measure you measure with will be the measure used to measure you. (Matthew 7: 2) 

 We have not yet learned to live and accept the wonderful gift of God’s providence when we expect to be titillated by special happenings, pats on the back for everything we do, or even expect God to step in with a minor miracle, just to make sure we are on the right track. The exciting experience is life itself! The hidden years of Jesus far surpass the years of ministry and hours of His redeeming Passion-Death that led to our Redemption. We have here a powerful reminder for those who anticipate affirmation from the miracles of God, rather than abandoning themselves to the God of miracles. Trusting in the God of miracles we are overwhelmed and with heartfelt gratitude and wonder at the many ways God makes His providence known rather than constantly seeking after His wonders. When you are able to see the invisible, you will be able to accomplish the impossible (Oral Roberts). To see the invisible is to live in faith. To see the invisible is to expect no outward show and still to know that God is with you. It is this hidden life of faith, without the “frills”, that has the power to transform us. 

 A “frill-less” surrender to God offers us the opportunity to surrender to one another in an expression of merciful awareness of our common bond in Jesus for Christians, and in God for all human beings. The image of Christ in Whom we are created impels us to go far beyond the act of forgiving, or a generous donation offered to a needy person. We are expected to “disarm our hearts” to all people. The common life we share with every human being is a reminder each moment of our own frailty, regardless of how we might attempt to camouflage it so as to seem to others what we are not.   

 You are who you are before God and nothing more (St. Francis of Assisi), and so is everyone else. The hidden life of Jesus was exciting from the fact that the awesomeness of His Divinity was totally hidden in the “batch of dough” of human nature. And, who He is became slowly apparent to others in the Father’s time. Obedience to the Will of the Father (His “time” and His “ways”) is the prime moving force in the whole mystery of the Incarnation. As we lift up the other for the sake of the other, God lifts us up so that we can continue to look at each other in the eyes and love each other with our hearts.  

 The hidden life of Jesus, is a wonderful example and an eloquent reminder of where we encounter God and how we are called to grow in holiness. We encounter God where we are, and we grow in holiness by doing what we know and believe to be God’s will, even if it is in fulfilling the normal responsibilities of everyday life.  In this hidden life – the common everyday life we live – we open our hearts to one another, as does God every moment of our lives for each one of us by name.  We are not an anonymous mass of human beings.  We are children of God whose names are written in God’s heart.  I see Jesus in the eyes of those whom I encounter. The person is not “just” another human being.  When we have experienced God’s love for us, and are honest about what we really deserve, that only God knows truly, how can we be otherwise with our “companions on the journey”? 

 As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we promise (Remember that one is only as good as his/her word.) a unique expression of unity in diversity.  We are “fraternity”. There is a big difference between the “community” of goods, and the “fraternity” of hearts. There are so many factors that distinguish us one from another, and even one fraternity from another. Yet, our common bond in Jesus, Mary, and our Seraphic Father St. Francis brings us together on our journey to the Father through a God-centered and holy life. We are sent as “living Gospels” and in such a joy-filled relationship with Jesus, and one another through Him in His Holy Spirit, that we are also powerhouses of prayer and true instruments of “Peace and All Good”.   

 The power of prayer is felt by praying. When we raise our minds and hearts to God, He envelopes us with His loving grace. The Secular Franciscan lives in the hidden reality of daily life, and impacts acutely on the life of the Church and the world, through the society in which they live. God cannot be contained and who lives in God always goes beyond the parameters set by circumstance. The daily “agenda” of a Franciscan, secular or otherwise, is not written in stone; it is written indelibly in the heart of the true Franciscan. The true Franciscan prays in, with, for, through the Church, in obedience – as Christ to the Father – to our Catholic Faith and all that signifies, and to the Order in its Rule, Constitutions, and Statutes approved by the Church and Order. This express life “in obedience” strengthens our sisters and brothers to live the hidden life, not seeking applause, accolades, and the like. Just as the fraternity unique in its individuals, so also the region in its fraternities, the National Fraternity in its Regions, and the International Fraternity in its National Fraternities form a wonderful mosaic of the vitality of our charism of prayer and service totally faithful to our Catholic expression of Christianity as committed Franciscan sisters and brothers. 

 We minister to one another bound by a common goal, to be holy as your heavenly Father is holy (cfr. 1 Peter 1: 16). Our sanctification must be the motivating goal of our life. Everything else is peripheral. Yet, becoming a “saint” is never an isolated experience. Even cloistered nuns and monks who live enclosed apart from society, hermits and recluses who live their lives alone, saints from all areas of life whether secular, married, single, old, young, have the common bond that no one is an island  (John Donne). We become saints acknowledging the presence of others and opening our hearts to them, as we seek the will of God in all things and everyone.   

 This month we begin the solemn period of Lent that leads us to Calvary and the celebration of our redemption in Jesus.  The manger-Crib is never too distant from the murderous-Cross. One is the humble prelude to the magnificent act of love of the other. Let us take the opportunity this month, which quickly introduces us to the Lenten Journey on Ash Wednesday, to reflect upon our own response to God’s will. Let us examine more deeply our commitment to our Franciscan Profession. This involves the entirety of life. May we feel a deeper sense of being one family in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.  

 Because of the virus, we have had and continue to be distanced from one another. Hopefully that distance will serve to bring us closer together!  Though the doors of our homes may be closed to most, the doors of our hearts can be open to all everywhere, anytime. As Pope St. John Paul II cried out so often: Open the Doors to Christ! and  Do not Be Afraid!  

 Have a Happy Lent!  Yes, a “Happy Lent”!  Lent is a Season intended to lead us closer to God through the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus Who redeems us in His Blood.  Though sad at how it had to be, it is wonderful and joy-filled at what the Paschal Mystery accomplished.  We are called to enter the mystery and live its reality every day.  Father God loves us into life. In Jesus God we are loved us by His death. Holy Spirit God invites us every moment to bring all that we really own to His Divine Heart. Everything we received is God’s gift to us; all we really own as ours are the sins that misuse or abuse the gifts we have received. Lent offers us the possibility to walk with one another using our gifts. We are all “mendicants” (beggars) who share with one another the gifts of grace and goodness we have been given to share.  We surrender ourselves to God’s Love, and thus bask in the light of God’s Son, Who is the Love, Mercy, and Providence of the Father Incarnate. All Three are One forever present to those willing to see the hidden Presence in creation with Faith, live the promise of the Good News in Hope, and travel through life with open hearts and hands with Love.  What better “penance” (metanoia = change of heart) to strive for or to deepen in Lent!?

 May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each of you, his spiritual children, with loving care.  

 Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

Be Contagious in a Good Way, from the Heart of the Minister Feb 2021

Be Contagious in a Good Way

Life has been mighty hard lately; so, aren’t we all ready for something to change? One of my favorite hymns is Let There Be Peace on Earth.  If you are familiar with it, you know the next line is….and let it begin with me.  But there aren’t any instructions in the hymn on how to do that.

PP (prior to the pandemic) instead of giving up something for Lent, I would try to add something.  Hold the door for the person coming out of the store behind you.  Help someone with a large grocery order put the bags in his or her trunk;  and the easiest one of all….smile at people.  Say hello, have a nice day.  More times than not, the other person will smile back, hold the door for the person behind him or her, say hello back to you.  See???  It’s contagious!

Fast forward to DP (during the pandemic)  We are all wearing masks.  You can’t tell if someone is smiling or sticking their tongue out!  You step back at the end of the aisle in the grocery store to let someone else pass by but they don’t see that kind smile on your face.  How do they know you are trying to be neighborly?  In the Prayer of St. Francis, he asks to be an instrument of peace.  Francis isn’t praying to have peace himself.  He is asking to be the instrument.  Let your peace pass through me to someone else.  These days are different – standing 6 feet apart, no hugs or shaking hands, and the first impression someone gets of us is hidden behind a mask.

We need to shake things up a bit and step out of the box where we are safe, protected and alone.  The rest of the world is outside of your box so step out in faith.  Find a way to project your neighborliness. Even though Lent is several weeks away, why not start now to make that sacrifice of adding something to every day instead of giving something up.  Drop a “Thinking of You” card in the mail to someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a long time.  Pay for the person behind you in the fast food line. Take your neighbors’ trash can back to their house after the trash truck passes.  Ask your elderly neighbor if you can pick up a book for them at the library.

Life is different now.  We can’t live like we always did and expect to fit in with the new way. We need to change.  Don’t wait for life to get back to normal….this is normal now.  We have to catch up and move slightly ahead.  Ask God to be His instrument, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask Him just how He wants you to do that!  Did I hear an Amen??!!