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

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

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

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

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

About our region

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

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Special Profession Anniversaries in 2019

January Years Professed
Candace Bakasy, OFS 10 years
Paul Beisel, OFS 10 years
Mary DiSanto, OFS 40 years
Nick Kotchision, OFS 20 years
Theresa A. Leone, OFS 50 Years
February
Dr. William Dennis, OFS 15 years
Mary Filipponi, OFS 65 years
Ms. Maria Innocenti, OFS 15 years
Mrs. Helen Jeral, OFS 15 years
Rita Pacheco, OFS 25 years
Ann Pirro, OFS 15 years
John Pirro, OFS 15 years
March
Bill Doyle, OFS 15 years
Tibor Pavlanzsky, OFS 15 years
Anita Vilagossy, OFS 15 years
April
Madeline Anderson, OFS 20 years
Brett Frieze, OFS 10 Years
Cynthia Louden, OFS 55 years
Sally Staats, OFS 10 Years
May
Frances Bossard, OFS 25 years
Susan Buttner, OFS 25 years
Theresa Cassata, OFS 15 years
Diane Fleishinger, OFS 15 years
Mary M. Jacques, OFS 15 years
Amanda Jamnicky, OFS 5 years
Margaret Kolbe, OFS 15 years
Anne Leis, OFS 10 Years
Anne Marie Madrigale, OFS 10 Years
Elizabeth Marczak, OFS 60 Years
Jacob Marquart III, OFS 5 years
Patricia Meisner, OFS 20 years
Angel M Mottola, OFS 55 years
Adela Ortiz-Esposito, OFS 15 years
Marie L. Oscar, OFS 15 years
John A. Oscar, Sr., OFS 15 years
Steve Parris, OFS 5 years
Gloria Prokap, OFS 25 years
Grace Schumann, OFS 30 years
Loretta Shields, OFS 15 years
Patricia Simmons, OFS 20 years
Anne Sullivan, OFS 15 years
Elizabeth Thiel, OFS 10 Years
Kathleen Yurkevicz, OFS 25 years
Maureen Wuelfing, OFS 20 years
June
Donna Benner, OFS 10 Years
Rose Benner, OFS 40 years
Mary Connaire, OFS 15 years
Rose Marie Gantz, OFS 25 years
Mrs. Miriam L Gomez-Bracety, OFS 15 years
Kathleen Hornung, OFS 35 years
Diane Passerin, OFS 15 years
Rita Perry, OFS 20 years
James D. Tynan, OFS 65 years
Patricia M Tynan, OFS 65 years
William Welsh, OFS 40 years
Jerry Yanchek, OFS 20 years
August
Sandra Barto, OFS 10 Years
Emilio Cardona, OFS 10 Years
Patricia Mickey LeRoy, OFS 10 Years
Ann Marie Schramm, OFS 25 years
September
Barbara Bennes, OFS 20 years
Gretchen Bienkowski, OFS 15 years
Mr Ted Bienkowski, OFS 15 years
Joseph Campos, OFS 10 Years
Philomena Fischer, OFS 10 Years
Arline Mazzella, OFS 20 years
Bernadette Ruggiero, OFS 5 years
October
Henry Agosto, OFS 15 years
Carol Davidson, OFS 30 years
Mr. Peter Davidson, OFS 30 years
Pat Ferko, OFS 20 years
Kathleen Fletcher, OFS 20 years
Cristen J Gregory, OFS 15 years
John Guba, OFS 45 years
Joan Guenther, OFS 15 years
Joseph Guenther, OFS 15 years
Anna Gurgel, OFS 20 years
Adele Leder, OFS 15 years
Dolores Lydon, OFS 30 years
Dorothy Maleski, OFS 10 Years
Barbara Meehan, OFS 20 years
Rev. Mr. Daniel Meehan, OFS 20 years
John Perate, OFS 15 years
Joan Pesta, OFS 10 Years
Rosalie Scurio, OFS 20 years
Kathy Serafin, OFS 20 years
Betsy Lou Willets, OFS 30 years
Stephen Williams, OFS 20 years
November
Florence Ammirata, OFS 20 years
Theresa Aponte, OFS 20 years
Marie Bonagura, OFS 20 years
Karen Borgia, OFS 20 years
John P Breslin, OFS 20 years
Eleineo S Choi, OFS 10 Years
Brian Courtney, OFS 5 years
Lynn DeFreitas, OFS 5 years
Marlene Dennis, OFS 20 years
Josephine Fuoco, OFS 40 years
Mrs. Maria Greco, OFS 25 years
Hugh Grier, OFS 35 years
Mari-Michaella Han, OFS 10 Years
James C. Helmlich, OFS 5 years
Mary Hinds, OFS 10 Years
Lucia K Hong, OFS 10 Years
Kate Kleinert, OFS 15 years
Deborah Lewis, OFS 5 years
Theresa Lisiewski, OFS 35 years
Mr. Carmen Lombertino, OFS 15 years
Mary Markowski, OFS 5 years
Lucy Mashura, OFS 20 years
Eileen Mason, OFS 25 years
Warren McGee , OFS 5 years
Geraldine Miller, OFS 20 years
Carol Roberts, OFS 10 Years
Jean Roberts, OFS 10 Years
Elizabeth E Shelly, OFS 20 years
Georgette Wells, OFS 40 years
Bill Wendt, OFS 5 years
Kathryn Yalch, OFS 35 years
Frank Zoltowski, OFS 60 years
December
John Flynn, OFS 5 years
Bernadette Ganiel, OFS 55 years
Marie Ganiel, OFS 55 years
Carla McElven, OFS 35 years
David Misilewich, OFS 40 years
William Ridge, OFS 10 Years
Raymond Vetrini, Jr., OFS 60 years

Glorious Day for the Region!

Brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you peace!  It is not often enough that there is joyful news to share but today is certainly one of those days.  After studying for 20 months, the first Lay Spiritual Assistants’ Class has finished and produced 5 newly certified Lay Spiritual Assistants.  They are: Kathy Agosto, OFS, Liz Bueding, OFS, Imelda Cruz, OFS, Edith Kurzweil, OFS, and Jean Peziak, OFS,
These ladies have worked hard and are to be congratulated!  Many, many thanks to the Lay Spiritual Assistants’ Team:  Justin Carisio, OFS, Marie Clardy, OFS and Cindy Louden, OFS.  Although the ‘students’ worked hard, the team worked harder!  A great effort by all involved has certainly produced fruit!

Congratulations, Mary Filipponi, OFS

Congratulations and Best Wishes to our own Mary Filipponi, OFS, of Holy Assumption fraternity on reaching her 65th anniversary of profession on February 21 and her 93rd birthday on May 1!  There is nothing holding Mary back! She’s even still driving!!

From the Heart of Your Minister – May 2019

What is perfect joy?  Hhhhmmmmmm………where have we heard that before? My dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you peace and help you find perfect joy!  I just watched what is the personification of perfect joy.  When I wake up in the mornings, I usually check my cell phone first thing to make sure I catch any messages that came during the night.  And I’ll admit, I usually take a peek at ‘what’s happenin’’ on Facebook.

I was drawn to a video from one of those “_______________’s Got Talent” shows. (Fill in the country – there are quite a few countries with their own version of this show.)  The video opened with a young man walking on stage and approaching the mic.  His face radiated such joy that I found it impossible to click on the next post without watching.  When I say this young man walked on stage, believe me, it was excruciating to watch.  He was very physically handicapped.  He was able to walk, but his legs were obviously crippled and he did not have complete hands and arms.  I’m sure that isn’t the politically correct way to say that but I’m not sure what is the right thing to call his condition.

After the moderator asked his name (Emmanuel) he also asked this young man who was with him backstage.  If there could be more joy radiating from him, it happened when he said his Mom and brother were with him.  The camera panned over to the Mom and another young man standing with her.  He was equally as handsome as his brother and equally crippled by not having complete limbs.

The moderator then asked Emmanuel how old he is and the answer was “Well, sir, I don’t rightly know”.  There was complete silence in the audience and lots of looks of confusion.  How could you not know how old you are?  Emmanuel went on to explain that he and his brother were found in war torn Iraq and taken to an orphanage.  There were no papers and certainly no birth certificates in the box with the two babies.

There wasn’t a lot of explanation on how it came about that his Mom visited the  orphanage and adopted the brothers, but that is what happened.  She is Australian and perhaps was in Iraq serving in her country’s military as a soldier or maybe a nurse.  However she arrived at the orphanage was undoubtedly orchestrated by God Himself and she chose to be the mother of these two exceptional boys.  They adore her and she couldn’t love them any more if she tried.  She has raised two wonderful boys and guided them to be beautiful (inside and out) young men.

Now, here stood Emmanuel on the stage barely able to contain his joy.  The moderator asked what Emmanuel was going to sing and he simply said “Imagine”.  The moderator put his head down and uttered ‘Oh man!’ knowing it would be very emotional watching this young man, who was thrown away at birth, singing these lyrics.

What a magnificent voice!  And of course, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. How poignant to see this person standing there singing the words:

You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one  

A woman who chose to be a mother to sons who would have a difficult life at best. Two sons who chose to squeeze every ounce of joy out of every day.  What a lesson, what an example. So the next time you think you have had a bad day, think of Emmanuel and his brother and the joy they found in just being.  And then reflect on the last line of Imagine…….I hope some day you’ll join us.  And the world will be as one.

 Asking God to bless this month of May for you,

kate

Thoughts for the Day – May 2019 by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

May 2019

O virgin mother, daughter of your Son, humble beyond all creatures and more exalted;

Predestined turning point of God’s intention;

Your merit so ennobled human nature that its divine Creator did not scorn

To make Himself the creature of His creature.

The Love that was rekindled in Your womb sends for the warmth of the eternal peace

Within whose ray this flower has come to bloom.

Here to us you are the noon and scope of Love revealed;

And among mortal men, the living fountain of eternal hope.

Lady, you are so near God’s reckonings that who seeks  grace and does not first seek you

Would have his wish fly upward without wings.

Not only does your sweet benignity flow out to all who beg,

But oftentimes your charity arrives before the pleas.

In you is pity, in you is munificence, in you the tenderest heart,

In you unites all that creation knows of excellence!

(Dante Alighieri – Paradiso – Canto XXXIII)

1

Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart…Whether on the lips of Christ or St. Francis, they are a short and succinct saying, which in concise and plain terms expresses the sum total of gospel perfection. – Nourish within yourself the sense of God=s presence by listening to his word, by prayer, by the celebration of the sacraments, by service to your brothers and sisters.

2

To encourage us he says: Learn from me, and to inspire us he adds: For I am meek and humble of heart…The words…can give encouragement: Take me as our model of discipleship and embrace my teaching. – Become heralds and witnesses to the loving and saving presence of God in today=s world.

3

The essence of true discipleship of Jesus Christ, which was singularly realized and shone in Saint Francis, consists first of all in separating oneself from the company of evil people…from evil and divisive company. – To forgive is the only way, because all revenge and all violence give rise to further revenge and violence.

4

Second, it is essential for true discipleship to free oneself from useless cares in the affairs of life.  Anyone who is anxious about useless things cannot give attention to those that are profitable. – It is certainly less difficult to forgive when one is aware that God never tires of loving and forgiving us.

5

It is impossible, or at least very difficult, to have great possessions without being preoccupied with them…Taking this to heart, Saint Francis on hearing God=s voice at once gave everything away to the extent that he did not keep back a stitch to cover his nakedness. – Who does not need God=s forgiveness?

6

This is what anyone must do who desires to be a perfect disciple of Christ…If one does not have the will to do that, one must at least keep oneself from the cares, anxieties and vanities that go with possessions; otherwise one will be a disciple not of Christ but of the devil. – Without God we cannot understand ourselves, and cannot even fulfill ourselves.

7

Third, the true disciple must rid himself of inordinate attachment to his loved ones…The Lord does not forbid us to love our father and mother…; what he does forbid is to be inordinately attached to our parents, because inordinate attachment rejects the teaching of Christ. – The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary.  In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary.

8

Fourth, the true disciple of Christ must purify his heart of all that militates against the practice of virtue. – When one goes through difficult times…nothing can replace an ardent, personal, and confident faith that is open to the Lord.

9

You will not be able to learn holiness from Christ unless you have resolved to eradicate its opposite, sinfulness, just as knowledge cannot be acquires unless satisfaction with its opposite, ignorance, has been uprooted. – – In every person we meet, even in those who openly profess not to be interested in the things of the Spirit, the need of God is real.

10

Saint Francis strove with constant signs of sorrow to root out vice and sin totally from the field of his heart. Nor did he cease to lament up to the moment when he was found worthy to hear from God: Your sins are forgiven. – It is the task of believers to bear witness to the liberating truth of the gospel, offering the light of Christ to everyone.

11

Saint Francis, then, can rightly say, Learn from me, that is, take me s our model of discipleship, for I am a true disciple of Christ…Likewise he can say to us…embrace my teaching, because by being a true disciple, he became an authentic teacher. – A sign of the power of God is the witness borne by missionaries…shining with the glory of those who sacrificed themselves to save the lives of others.

12

(St. Francis) taught what he himself had learned without error because of the truth of God=s revelation…The teaching which anyone receives from revelation cannot be other than true. – If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is…because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.

13

To arrive at knowledge without a human teacher is not for everyone, but the privilege of a few.  Though the Lord himself chose to teach Saint Paul and Saint Francis, it is his will that disciples be taught by human teachers. – In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came to Fatima to ask men and women to >stop offending God, our Lord, who is already very offended=.  It is a mother=s sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake.

14

He taught what he had learned without guile…That is to say, as ardent love brought me to learn without guile, so it moves me to share without jealousy or grudging envy what I have learned. – The Holy Spirit…takes from Christ and transmits to all, unceasingly entering into the history of the world through the heart of man.

15

He learned with such diligence that he became teacher of many disciples whom he taught to think of the Lord with uprightness and seek him with sincerity of heart, because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him. – Justice will never be fully attained unless people see in the poor person … not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment.

16

He taught what he learned without forgetting it, because he put it into practice…and because of that he was an excellent teacher … He did not acquire his knowledge by reflecting in general terms on a limited number of truths , but by individual experience over a wide range of life – The true Christian can nurture a trustful optimism, because he is certain of not walking alone.

17

Saint Francis learned…by experiencing sufferings not joys…At the outset of his conversion Saint Francis experienced derision, beatings, fetters, imprisonment, destitution, nakedness, and adversity. – In sending us Jesus, the eternal Son made man, God has drawn near to each of us.

18

He taught what he had learned without doubting because of the trustworthy signs he was given…and so like the Apostle (Paul) he went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with him and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. – In Christ (God) has become our traveling companion.

19

It pleased the Lord to endorse and confirm the teaching and Rule of St. Francis, not only by miraculous signs, but also by the marks of his own stigmata, so that no true believer could possibly call them into question on external or internal evidence. – Wherever people are praying in the world, there the Holy Spirit is, the living breath of prayer.

20

It pleased God in his goodness to affix his own seal to the Rule and teaching of Saint Francis…God revealed to him the entire Rule…Christ, having recognized the teaching of Saint Francis as his own, affixed the seal of his stigmata to his body, and thereby irrevocably confirmed his teaching. – Man cannot live without hope.

21

His teaching could not have had its lasting character, in the eyes of others, from Saint Francis himself, for he was an uneducated merchant and no learned doctor. Therefore, it was the Lord=s good pleasure to confirm it…so that none of the learned could dare despise his teaching and Rule as only the efforts of an uneducated man. –Christian hope >does not disappoint=, because it is based on the solid foundation of faith in the love of God revealed in Christ.

22

Anyone who doubts that the doctrine and Rule of Saint Francis are a more perfect way to reach eternal life, when these have been confirmed by such signs, must be exceedingly hard of heart. – Is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic Communion?

23

The whole world ought to give thanks to the Most High Creator for his sublime gift, that by the stigmata imprinted on Saint Francis, he deigned not only to reveal the way of truth, but to establish it in a wondrous way and for readily intelligible reasons. – Believers testify by their deeds that the good news is not limited to the proclamation of abstract truths, but becomes concrete in a charity that can take the form of struggling against the injustices found in the world.

24

If we raise our minds a little and consider the stigmata in terms of supernatural causes, we discover…This miracle was made necessary  under the law of divine providence, for the needs of the church in this final age and because of Saint Francis= eminent holiness. – May dialogue, solidarity, and love prevail over the many forms of pride and deceit.

25

The law of divine providence required it because God willed to make this cloth merchant a fisher of men, and the leader of those who imitate Christ perfectly. Therefore, he handed over to him his own ensign, namely, the marks of the Crucified Lord. –  Put the defense of the basic rights of the human person above every other consideration.

26

At the beginning of the Church unbelief held sway…in these latter times, he bestowed the signs of goodness and mercy on Saint Francis to enkindle love, and what are the signs of consummate love except the marks of the passion which God chose to endure for us out of measureless love? – Friendship lived with the sensitivity of the gospel is an effective way of being Christian in the world.

27

This miracle was made necessary because of Saint Francis= eminent holiness which found expression in his most fervent love f the Crucified Lord.  For the sake of that love he so weakened his eyes by tears of compassion that he lost his sight. – Friendship becomes a reconciling force…needed in our time.

28

Such is the power of love, that it transforms the lover into the Beloved.  Love of the Crucified Lord was supremely and gloriously aflame in his heart, and so the Crucified Himself, in the form of a Seraph, and angelic spirit burning with the fire of love, speared before his saintly eyes and imprinted the sacred stigmata on his body.– A productive and sure program of formation  for joy is nourished and rests on assiduous prayer, frequent Communion, rediscovery of the use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, daily and familiar contact with the Word of God, the fruitful exercise of fraternal charity and service; and then devotion to Our Lady, the model and true cause of our joy.

29

Because Saint Francis set Christ crucified as a seal upon his arm, the precious gems of the stigmata of Jesus Christ appeared visibly on his body.-  Christ…became man to reveal the eternal love of the Creator and Father and to make known the dignity of each one of us.

30

Let no one begrudge God=s generosity, but let everyone listen to and learn the teaching of Christ, indeed, of Saint Francis, that good teacher who taught others what he had learned without error, without guile, without forgetfulness, and without doubting.  –  Whenever violence is done in the name of religion…make it clear…we are not dealing with true religion. For the Almighty cannot tolerate the destruction of his own image in his children.

31

Saint Francis, therefore, can rightly say: Learn from me, to encourage others, and equally, for I am meek and humble of heart, to impress them. –  Remembering that the Son of God became man, we must become conscious of how great each one of us has become because of this mystery!  (Give thanks to Mary for saying >Yes=to the Father)

 

Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – May 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

May 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi speaks so lovingly of Mary.  He places her in that privileged position she holds as Mother of the Savior and “Virgin made Church”.  St. Francis never forgets to refer to Mary in her role as Mother of Christ and example for all the children of God.  Without being a formal theologian, St. Francis always places Mary in her proper position within the mystery and history of salvation.  Her eminence and his love are beyond question.  She is the Heavenly Mother, greatest of all mothers, whose love and protection he had always been able to see in his own mother, Donna Pica.  St. Francis saw in Mary the highest example of humanity after that of Christ.  She embodied the image of the first disciple who followed the Christ faithfully, as well as the mother who gave birth to the Master.   She is the first among all the faithful of the Church as well as the “Virgin Made Church”.  The following praise of Mary says so much of the love the Poverello had for Mary:

Hail, O Lady,

Holy Queen,

Mary, holy Mother of God,

Who are the Virgin made Church,

Chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven

Whom he consecrated with His most holy beloved Son

And with the Holy Spirit and Paraclete,

In whom there was and is

All fullness of grace and every good.

Hail His Palace!

Hail His Tabernacle!

Hail His Dwelling!

Hail His Robe!

Hail His Servant!

Hail His Mother!


What beautiful words! They are the fruit of a heart enamored of Our Lady. In these words we are reminded of the love and devotion that people of all times and at all levels of society and learning fostered for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the great Mother of God. In a few words, St. Francis reminds us of the great dignity of Mary and Her intimate relationship with the Most Holy Trinity.  We are reminded of humanity’s dignity and the depth of God’s love for what might seem to others to be a “lesser level” of creation.  Human beings are a “lesser level”, yes, because we are not God. But, humanity bears the greatest of dignities because God deigned to become one of His own creatures through the collaboration and consent of one of His creatures, Mary. Accepting and believing the impossible, the Divine became human through a human being, so that humanity could share in the Divine who became one with us. What a mystery! What a marvelous gift! And all this because Mary, one of God’s own creation, said YES!


Love for Mary has been a source of strength for so many.  Francis’ love for the mystery of the Incarnation filled his life. Mary, because of her prominent place in this great mystery, was always the love of his heart.  Love for Mary goes to the very heart of who we are as children of God redeemed in the Blood of Christ. A wonderful example of this is the person of one of the most visible and renowned men of the last century and beginning of this, Pope St. John Paul II.  When asked what motto he would assume for his pontificate, he gave the simple and deeply meaningful motto: Totus Tuus!  (Totally Yours!)   There was no need for explanations. It was quite clear. Those two words said it all: “Everything is yours! It’s all yours! I dedicate myself and all that I do and am to your loving care, that you may present me and in everything to God”.  How simple, trusting, and full of love.  Our own present Holy Father, Pope Francis, expresses a similar loving devotion and entrustment to Mary in all his major endeavors. We can note this on his immediate visits in thanksgiving to Mary after all of His pastoral visits.


Tradition has held that one of the reasons for Lucifer’s fall from grace and Heaven was his refusal to accept the Mystery of the Incarnation because it demanded reverence for a “lesser” creature. Yet, in the words of Psalm 8, the Psalmist praises the magnificence of God and prays:  O lord, our Lord, how glorious is Your Name over all the earth!  What is man that you should be mindful of him?  You have made him a little less than the angels (some translations understand the ancient word, ‘elohim’ as ‘god’) and crowned him with glory and honor. Creation is the theater of redemption.  Creation is the overflowing of God’s eternal love in time that offers all the “work of God’s hands” the privilege to know, love, and serve God in this world so that all those, created in His image and likeness, could be happy with God forever in Heaven (cfr. Old Baltimore Catechism). When God looked at all He had created, He saw it as “very good” (cfr. Genesis).  When humanity lost that beauty because of Original Sin, the Creator promised to become a creature that the beauty of the original image of God in creation might be restored. The Blood of Jesus and our collaboration with God’s grace allow our redemption in Jesus to bring about our eternal salvation.  And, Mary, Virgin made Church, Virgin image of the Mystical Body of Her own Son, becomes the one whose acceptance allowed God to begin the fulfillment of His Divine Plan of restoration. He who created us without our permission, wanted our collaboration in our salvation. 


Human beings are called to fulfill  key roles in the work of redemption. In the fullness of time, a young woman from Nazareth, Mary, heard a greeting that challenged her understanding and faith. She was offered a privileged gift that she could have refused. She didn’t though. The greeting informed her of the unique gift she had received from God Himself: Hail, full of grace. She was told: You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son.  He will be called Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore, the child to be born of you will be called holy, the Son of God. Mary accepts totally with unconditional trust not only in her own name, but in the name of all humanity.  Our Mother’s willingness to become Mother of the Christ, led her to the foot of the Cross on Calvary. It is here where Mary becomes Mother of the Christian and Mother of the Church.  The love that was rekindled in Mary’s womb begins a process that will last until the end of time.  In Mary’s motherly immaculate heart we feel the warmth of God’s peace on all who follow her example and accept her Motherhood in Christ over them.  We can see how she becomes the scope of love revealed, among all of us humans, and the living fountain of eternal hope..


Our hope is renewed in Mary. She stands before us between the Majesty of Her Son and all humanity.  She is not the source but the channel of graces.  In other words, she is the Mediatrix (channel) of all Grace. Through her we more easily approach God.  Jesus is the incarnation of almighty God in time, so that humanity, in, with, and through Jesus might know God’s love and mercy. The humanity of Jesus comes to us through Mary, and our adoption as children of God comes through the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, only-begotten Son of the Father.  It follows, therefore, that through Mary we receive Jesus, through Whom we are once again restored to our original image and likeness of the Creator. Mary’s powerful example and almighty intercession, as the first and greatest among the created children of God, continues her “yes” to the Father as she carries each one of us, created in the image of her Son, in her Immaculate Heart.


We are children of this age.  We cannot extricate ourselves from the time in which we live.  The hectic pace, technological advances, social demands, financial difficulties, international concerns, scandals in the Church, and so much more, can easily fill our minds and hearts so that there is no longer room for the spiritual child within each one of us to thrive.  Though we must be involved in life, we must not lose that inner peace and simplicity that help us to place everything in perspective.  Love for Mary and a heart open to her can help us keep focused.  We have our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, and so many other holy women and men, even of our own age, as wonderful examples. They encourage us to love Mary and discover in her a vital presence in the Church and our daily life.  A simple loving relationship with our Blessed Mother Mary brings a calm and serenity to the heart.  Thus we surrender more easily to her love and find in that total surrender an openness to God and His most Holy Will. Thus our life is full, fulfilling, and worth living. 

With every best wish for you during this season of new birth and new life, I pray we all be open to the working of the Holy Spirit, gift of the Resurrection.  May the Spirit inflame our hearts as He filled that of our Mother Mary.  Animated by this Holy Spirit, may we follow the Spirit’s inspiration and confidently respond, as Mary did, with a determined “Yes” to all the Father asks, that we may be more like Jesus.  

May God bless you, may our Heavenly Mother guide, guard, and protect you.  May our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his spiritual children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director - April, 2019

Brothers and Sisters,

May the Lord give you peace!

I am humbled to have been elected to serve you as St. Katharine Drexel Region director of formation. I would like to continue the practice of my predecessor, our brother Ted Bienkowski, OFS, by posting something for formation on a monthly basis. My format will be a PDF file that can be printed out (two sides of one sheet) and used for individual reflection or as a discussion piece for ongoing formation in a fraternity meeting or similar setting. This month, I consider how early 13th century penitents influenced St. Francis and how penance became the founding charism of our own Secular Franciscan Order. I  welcome your questions, comments or suggestions. Thank you!

Pax et bonum,

Justin Carisio, OFS

Director of Formation

St. Katharine Drexel Region

Francis of Assisi, Penitent
One of the easiest ways to misunderstand Saint Francis is to overlook how much he was a man of his times influenced by the environments in which he found himself: family, city, culture, and church (including one of the great church councils). In the Secular Franciscan Ceremony of Introduction and Welcome (1), the person who is being introduced to the fraternity is handed a biography of Saint Francis by the formation director and told “to read it carefully, in order to learn how to live the gospel life of our Lord Jesus Christ by following [Francis’s] example.” One hopes if it is the first biography of the saint a potential inquirer reads, it will not be the last. There is always more to learn about his remarkable witness and the world in which he lived.

An aspect of his life we should not lose sight of is that before Francis was a friar, he was a penitent, and in a very real sense, he remained a penitent all his life. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Church experienced a resurgence in penitential lifestyles as “vast numbers of the laity became voluntary penitents.” (2) Francis’s conversion took place in that context. It is likely his encounter with penitential groups influenced his vision of a life of penance and the expectations he had for penitents who later became associated with his own movement. What were some specific characteristics of Franciscan penitents? Consider a few described by Raffaele Pazzelli, TOR, in his history of the Third Order:

  • Adherence to Catholicism and fidelity to the Church. “[The penitents’] beliefs and lifestyle…correspond to Francis’s basic principle of complete adherence to Catholicism and absolute fidelity to the Church” (3)
  • High regard for the sacraments and the priesthood. “Francis understood that, according to the teachings of Christ, no spiritual life was possible without the Eucharist [and] without the sacrament of penance there would be no remission of sin. Eucharist and penance, in their turn, cannot exist without the ministry of the priesthood.” (4)
  • Penance is a journey to God. “The ‘life of penance’ is a road of ascent and a means for this ascent. This is a fundamental point of spirituality for Franciscan penitents, those of yesterday as well as today.” (5)
  • The spirit of love is part of the life of penance. The “relationship of love between God and man, between God and creation…is for Francis the only light, the only reality.”(6)

If we attend to this history, we readily appreciate that Francis’s own message of penance and conversion often fell upon fertile soil ready to receive it. Many Catholics of his day were ardent in their desire to imagine a way to live the gospel life in their own time and place and to do so literally. It is no wonder that the example of Francis and his brothers inspired so many. Francis went on to found the Order of Lesser Brothers—the Friars Minor—but in the Franciscan movement, penance would always remain the fundamental charism of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, the progenitors of the Third Order and, by extension, of our own Secular Franciscan Order. Penance, especially in the form of joyful, ongoing conversion, retains a central place in the lives of Secular Franciscans to this day. As individuals and in fraternity we should seek ways to embody the love and zeal of those early Franciscan penitents.

From the Rule & General Constitutions:
United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily. On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace. (Rule, 7) Secular Franciscans, called in earlier times “the brothers and sisters of penance,” propose to live in the spirit of continual conversion. Some means to cultivate this characteristic of the Franciscan vocation, individually and in fraternity, are: listening to and celebrating the Word of God; review of life; spiritual retreats; the help of a spiritual adviser, and penitential celebrations. They should approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently and participate in the communal celebration of it, whether in the fraternity, or with the whole people of God.
(Constitutions, 13.1)
****************************
Questions for discussion:
1. “The term Penance in Franciscanism is equivalent to the biblical meaning of metanoia, understood as an intimate conversion of the heart to God, as a continuous state of being. It is not a question of doing penance but of being penitent.”(7) What are some of our present-day characteristics of being penitent?
2. During his time as a penitent, Francis was formed in part through the influence of others. Who has been influential in your journey of penance?


(1) Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, 10.
(2) Robert M. Stewart, OFM, “De Illis Qui Faciunt Penitentiam” The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order: Origins, Development, Interpretation, Instituto Storico Dei Cappuccini, 1991, 120.
(3) Raffaele Pazzelli, St. Francis and the Third Order, The Franciscan and pre-Franciscan Penitential  Movement, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1989, 118.
(4) Ibid., 119.
(5) Ibid., 120-21.
(6) Ibid., 121.
(7) Lino Temperini,TOR, Penitential Spirituality in the Franciscan Sources, Franciscan Publications, July 1983, 41.

Copyright © 2019 by Justin Carisio, OFS

From the Heart of Our Minister – April 2019

April, 2019

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you peace!  Another three years stretches ahead of us.  It feels like turning to a new page in a notebook or turning that button on the Etch-a-Sketch to make the design disappear and have a clean slate to start again.  The new Regional Council is a wonderful blend of some repeaters and some newbies.  Old or new, experienced or not, we are a united Council ready to serve all of you over the next three years.

When the Region is hosting a weekend in Easton, it has been our tradition to gather after dinner on Saturday night for the “Let’s Talk About It” segment of our agenda.  It is very casual and relaxed and it is a time to discuss whatever you would like to bring up.  Suggestions, problems, “why-do-we-have-to-do-that?” questions are posed and answered.  There were some good suggestions brought forth:

  1. If your fraternity has a website, ask the pastor where the fraternity meets to add it to the parish’s site.
  2. Look into having either a once a year Region-wide candidates’ retreat or break it into Districts. If held by District, a candidate would have some options if he or she can’t make it to the one scheduled in his or her home district.
  3. Have our Region paired with a Region from another country and become penpals. We can learn a lot about fraternal life in foreign lands and get to know our brothers and sisters.

More suggestions are welcome.  So put on your thinking cap and let us know what you come up with!

Later this year we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of our Region.  At the moment, the plans are so much in the infancy stage, they really haven’t been born yet!  So if you have ideas about how to celebrate – bring them on!  We will be working on a history so all you seasoned seculars, start remembering!  Whatever the celebration turns into, it will be wonderfully created by the family of St. Katharine Drexel Region.

Our elections weekend was blessed in so many ways.  Our National Minister, Jan Parker, OFS, presided and was so generous with her time with all of us.  She brought along her guitar and we sang a number of Jan’s ‘adjusted hits’.  If you’ve never been privy to a sing-along with Jan, her adjusted hits are popular songs where she changes the lyrics.  The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA became Serving USA and she managed to get every town where our fraternities meet into the lyrics.  John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy becomes Thank God for Fraternity.  When Jan had played through her list, Brother Kip broke out his song book and entertained us with his tremendous talent of both singing and playing the guitar.  What a great night!

This past Tuesday night at my own fraternity meeting, our on-going formation was a presentation on Pope John XXIII. Edie Kurzweil, OFS, did a magnificent job and had so much information we had never heard before.  Pope John loved being a Secular Franciscan and lived his life as a Secular first. I’m not sure I have this correct, but I believe this quote came from Pope John himself…………….no one becomes a Franciscan.  You are born a Franciscan.  I want to get that put on a tee shirt! How great is that??

Please keep the new Council in your prayers and know that we pray for all of you. Let us know your thoughts, ideas and yes….complaints.  We can’t change what we don’t know about.

May each of us be blessed this Easter Season in whatever way we need the most.

Blessings,

kate

Thought for the Day – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – April 2019

April 2019

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)

1

Now, among the Patriarchs who have planted the great Religious families in the garden of the Church, her pride, the fairest of all, is undoubtedly the Seraphic Father, Francis.  No one resembles Jesus Crucified as much as he. (Pope Leo XIII,  May19,1896)  – The sacredness of the person keeps returning, again and again.

2

The beauties of nature held a mysterious fascination for Francis’ whole being.  Mounting up to the first origins of things, he considered created beings as coming from the fatherly bosom of God. ‘They have the same beginning as we, he used to say; like us they receive life from the thought, the choice, and the love of the Creator’(Legend 8,6) – Like trees, human beings need deeply anchored roots.

3

When he was a prisoner of war at Perugia his noble bearing so impressed his captors that he was incarcerated with the knights instead of in the common jail.  With his ideal always beside him, he could laugh at his chains and scorn them…To his companions he spoke always of courage… – Merciful love is supremely indispensable between those who are closest to one another.

4

His loving, attentive compassion for the poor was beyond telling. Grace added true piety to his natural goodness, and his heart used to melt at the sight of the poor.  If he had nothing to give them, he used at least to show them he loved them (Celano 223, 15) – In order to sing God’s praises we must learn the language of humility and trust, moral integrity and sincere commitment.

5

One day when he was riding on the plain of Assisi, he met a leper and was immediately overcome with disgust and horror. But, faithful to his promise of never refusing alms, he got down off his horse and ran to embrace the beggar.  He kissed the horrible outstretched hand and placed his alms in it. – The person who is a ‘neighbor’ cannot indifferently pass by the suffering of another.

6

In his youth he used to love to visit a small rustic chapel dedicated to the martyr St. Damian…The figure of the cross came alive and spoke to him, calling him by name:Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruins…These mysterious words had a threefold meaning: literal…spiritual…personal.  Francis felt the truth of these words by the change they produced in his whole being. – Respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit by forgiving one another whatever needs to be forgiven.

7

He wished (to) crucify his flesh and its vices and concupiscence which would lead to sin. (And Francis said) A time will come when laxity and tepidity will prevail.  Then the children of a poor Father will not blush to wear rich clothing.  Their garments will differ only in color from those of rich worldlings (Celano 224,10) – Accept one another and break down barriers in order to overcome every possible cause of division.

8

His companions asked (Francis): ‘Tell us, then, Father, what perfect obedience is’. Francis gazed within his heart and saw the ever-present, ever-adored vision of Christ obedient unto death. He used a simile to illustrate the manner in which his Lord and Ideal acted.  Take a dead body and put it where you will.  You will see that it does not object to being moved; it does not murmur about its position or complain if it is abandoned and left to one side. Put it on a throne and it will not look up, but down. Clothe it in royal purple and it will appear even more pallid than before. That is a picture of the truly obedient Religious… (Celano, 284)  – Grow in holiness!

9

Francis could obey all commands easily and joyfully.  It mattered little whether the superior was young or old, talented or not. He never beheld in the man the superior, but only God, out of love for Whom he had submitted himself to the yoke of obedience. – Build the house of your life on the rock of divine grace, sparing no efforts to found it on sound fidelity to God and his commandments!

10

The sight of the crucified Son of God inflamed Francis with love and spurred him on to total self-renunciation. Francis, the servant of the most high King, lived in nakedness in order to follow the example of the Master whom he loved and who hung naked on the cross. (Legend,2,4) – In Jesus Christ we are called to victory.

11

As St. Bonaventure attests, the Seraphic Patriarch actively mortified his flesh solely in order that he might bear outwardly in his body the Cross of Christ which he already carried in his soul. (Legend 1, 6) – The world needs the witness of ‘new men’ and ‘new women’ who, in word and deed, make Christ present in an ever more powerful way.

12

Francis, whose penetrating faiths could see his creator beneath the symbols of nature, could also pierce the veils of the Eucharist.  This ardent faith illumined his mind, enabling him to behold his God beneath the sacramental species.  In the Eucharist he saw, with the eyes of faith, Christ the Victim, immolated and crucified for the sins of the world. – Christ is the only complete and superabundant answer to the longing for truth and happiness in the human heart.

13

He used to say: If I happened to meet both a saint from heaven and a poor priest, I would first salute the priest and run to kiss his hands … He used to assist at the Holy Sacrifice every morning: He considered it a sign of great neglect not to hear at least one Mass every day whenever possible. (Celano 319, 25) – In whatever condition we find ourselves, we can always open ourselves to conversion and receive forgiveness for our sins.

14

Prayer was his safe refuge … If he began to pray in the evening, he used not to end until near dawn.  He prayed while walking, while sitting, while eating and drinking. He used to go alone by night to pray in solitude in abandoned or out-of-the-way churches … (Celano 73, 13)  – On Calvary, by the supreme sacrifice of his life, the Messiah will seal for every man and woman the infinite gift of God’s pardon and mercy.

15

God, having once willed to give us Christ through the Blessed Virgin, has not changed the order of His providence, since He does not repent of His gifts. It is and always will be true that, having once received through her the universal principle of grace, we still receive from God through her mediation the graces needed in the different stages of the Christian life. – Time given to Christ is never time lost.

16

Oh, how frequently, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit and not through the word of any man, (Francis) knew the secrets of his absent Friars’ hearts and saw into their consciences! (Celano 50, 20) – We must rebuild man from within, healing wounds and achieving genuine purification of memory through mutual forgiveness.

17

Francis himself and his Friars Minor wielded the conquering sword of the word of God; Clare and her daughters fought with the all-powerful weapon of prayer; while the men and women of the Third Oder captured hearts by the good example of their secular lives … a plan worthy of the most skillful strategist. – Sacred Scripture is a sure guide when it is read, welcomed, and meditated upon in the church.

18

Clare called herself and her daughters ‘helpers’, ‘co-workers’, titles whose implications she impressed upon her spiritual children, for they expressed their special vocation to assist Francis and his Friars in the salvation of souls…The hearts of Francis and Clare were fused into one by the fire of heavenly love, mingling together and offering to the world the seraphic ideal in all its purity and perfect unity. – The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God.

19

Our seraphic Father thought long about his project of founding a rule of life to develop this new upsurge of Christian spirituality and to bring the virtues of religious life into the home…Married people, both men and women, who could not free themselves from the bonds of marriage, followed the advice of the Friars and gave themselves over to stricter penance in their homes. – Charity is not genuine if it seeks human praise. 

20

If we wish really to understand Francis, we must follow him to his mountain cave.  There had been, and was still, the hermit as well as the evangelist and missionary in his make-up …Of all the places suitable for contemplation, Francis preferred Mount Alverna … Two years before his death, Divine providence was calling him to the summit of Alverna, the Calvary of his painful martyrdom and the Tabor of his glorious stigmatization. – Our actions are ‘beautiful’ when they reflect the light of God.

21

On Alverna, St. Francis received a more complete pledge of his mystical union, for Christ gave him all He possessed, the living nails which He placed in the hands and feet of His faithful servant, the piercing of His divine heart which He bestowed on Francis by opening in his side a gaping wound like that inflicted by the soldier’s lance on Calvary. – Mary is the ‘mother of reconciliation and the reconciled, the mother of salvation and the saved’ (St. Anselm)

22

He was also granted many of the gifts of the glorified body…His body soared above the earth, while his heart was enraptured with the love of the Savior who had regenerated his humble flesh, making it like to His own, resplendent with heavenly light. – Christ heals what is sick, strengthens what is bruised.

23

Francis’ flesh, adorned with the sacred stigmata, no longer retained any of the shameful remains of original sin.  His purified, sanctified body, consecrated by the love of the Redeemer, became a precious vessel containing and displaying the Victim of Calvary. (Celano, 101, 27) – Where a faint flame of goodness still burns, (Christ) revives it with the breath of his love.

24

Our seraphic Father’s last hours resembled those of his beloved Lord. The stigmata were not only a reward for his labors, but were also a source of progress in virtue…He used to say to his disciples: Brothers, let us begin to serve the Lord God because up to now we have made little or no progress.  (Celano 198, 24) – (Christ) forcefully proclaims justice and heals wounds with the balm of mercy.

25

Before he died, our seraphic Father said to his sons: I have done my work.  May Christ teach you what your task is. During his life, he had dared everything in order to attain to the divine ideal, Christ crucified. –  Peace, even if it is the fruit of political agreement and understanding between individuals and peoples, is the gift of God, whom we should insistently invoke with prayer and penance.

26

Our Franciscan vocation contains the seed of heroism, for, as the Vicar of Christ (Pope Leo XIII) has said, The Religious of the first two Orders have a special grace for tending with heroic ardor toward the sanctity of the evangelical counsels. – Without conversion of heart there is no peace!

27

According as we are faithful, God gives us new lights in our intellect and new strength of will thus leading us further along the narrow path of sanctity toward the fullness of charity.  Our fidelity should be perpetual. – Peace can only be achieved through love!

28

We must be faithful during our whole life, for God demands of us this perpetual fidelity…Our salvation depends on our perseverance, since it is the successful end, not the beginning of a combat that gives victory. – The vitality of the church today is linked to the generosity of (the) lives (of missionaries).

29

The Church and society expect great things of the sons and daughters of St. Francis. What will keep us worthy of the trust placed in us? What will sustain us in our upward flight and prevent us from falling to earth? The answer of course is fervent prayer, for the bond between the spirit of prayer and the spirit of religious Orders is so close that both spirit and prayer increase or decline together. – There could never be grounds for conflict so serious that the reasons of force need prevail over the force of reason.

30

 Beloved Father, mirror and exemplar of seraphic perfection, renew our first fervor.  We have been admitted to the great honor of professing the way of life which you consecrated by your teaching and example.  May we never cease to follow in your footsteps and to strive after our  noble  ideal. (Esprit de Saint Francois, IV, 4, 6) – It is in faithful self-giving that a person finds fullness of certainty and security.

 

Monthly Meditation – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, April 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

tel: (302) 798-1454  fax: (302) 798-3360

      website:  skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

April 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

 In his ‘Letter to All the Faithful’, St. Francis writes: And as His Passion was near, … He prayed to His Father, saying: Father, if it can be done, let this cup pass from me.  And his sweat became as drops of blood falling on the ground.  Nevertheless He placed His will in the will of His Father, saying: Father, let Your will be done; not as I will, but as you will.  His Father’s will was such that His blessed and glorious Son, Whom He gave to us and Who was born for us, should offer Himself  through His own blood as a sacrifice and oblation on the altar of the cross: not for Himself  through Whom all things were made, but for our sins, leaving us an example that we might follow His footprints … We are brothers (and sisters) when we do the will of the Father Who is in heaven… (Letter to the Faithful, Second Version).


Our Seraphic Father reminds us of ‘spiritual indifference’ that is the foundation of a peaceful and serene life. The indifference is not a matter of ‘not caring about anything’.  It is a matter of doing and acting as though all depends on us and trusting in God as though all depends on God.  Everything does depend on God: My word does not return without having fulfilled the purpose for which it was sent. However, God has entrusted us with the awesome privilege and responsibility for our own salvation by the gift of free will which can or not correspond with the will of our Creator.  Thus, a word that stands out for us to consider as we read the words of St. Francis to the Faithful and celebrate our Redemption in the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus the Christ is Surrender.  


‘Surrender’ is a powerful word.  It can also be disconcerting and even frightening when one considers ‘surrender’ as a way of life.  Jesus ‘surrendered’ to the Father’s Will from the first moment of His existence as a human being.  From all eternity, Jesus surrenders to the Will of the Father. Though He was in the form of God … He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave … He humbled Himself becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross(Philippians 2: 6-11). ‘Surrendering’ to the Father’s will made Jesus resolute, even to death and death on a cross.  This kind of ‘surrender’ leads to victory and glory, not defeat and infamy. Because of this God greatly exalted Him…(Philippians 2: 6-11).


The intensity of the resolute character of Jesus is vividly portrayed in a brief phrase from the Gospel according to St. Luke: When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he steadfastly set his face to Jerusalem … (Luke 9:51).  How often we correctly focus on the heart of a Scripture passage, but miss a detail that can offer deeper insights for a better understanding and appreciation of what we have read. This brief passage tells us so much about Jesus and how He ‘approached’ the fulfillment of His mission among us. It merits a deeper reflection as we approach Easter, the great celebration of our Redemption and New Life of grace in the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus.  There is nothing more essential for us than to consider our life and our active participation in the Paschal Mystery. We unite ourselves with Christ in His obedience to the Father’s Will, to His personal surrender, and to all His obedience implies. In so doing we encounter a more profound value to our earthly life, and thus can live in the hope of an assurance of Eternal Life. The reason I say that there is nothing more essential for us is because once we recognize, understand, and accept God’s Plan for all creation and particularly for ourselves, our life takes on a whole new meaning and expression. 


The Lenten season invites us to ‘set our face toward Jerusalem’, just as our Savior did. Though the words from the Greek and Latin Vulgate texts can be translated in several ways, the original more faithful expression to the ancient text – He resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem – offers us a powerful image of Jesus ‘eyeing’ His opponent and moving in for the encounter and confrontation.  The text speaks volumes of the character of Jesus and His personal compliance with the mission entrusted Him by the Father. Jerusalem is not another town on the itinerant schedule of Jesus the preacher. Jerusalem is not just another platform for his preaching/teaching and healing ministry to attract the crowds at Passover. Jerusalem is an anticipated and desired destination. Jesus has actively been moving both psychologically to this decisive moment and physically to this ‘center of the world’ for the Jews and ‘Seat of God’s Presence’ for those who believed in the God of Abraham. Everything must be in place: The prophets and their prophecies must be fulfilled and the ‘backup plan’ must be ready, before ‘setting his face to Jerusalem’. It is time for Jesus ‘to allow’ his life to be taken for the sake of all humanity.  Let us never forget that no one takes His life from Him: I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have the power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father (John 10:17-18). Determining episodes in Jesus’ life and ministry had led to this climactic moment. Each experience tested His obedience and resolve to fulfill the Father’s Plan as willed.  His trust in the Father and determination to obey whatever the cost to Him were put to the test, and ultimately triumphed for the sake of us all. 


–     He ‘plunged’ into the River Jordan to be baptized by John.  His plunge was an acceptance of the ministry entrusted to Him by the Father. His ministry, as Simeon had prophesied so many years before in the Temple, was to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory of (the) people Israel(Luke2:32)and at the same time He was destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that (would) be contradicted (Luke 2:32). Jesus ‘plunged’ into the realities of our world. This world accepted Him, but also confronted, contradicted, and condemned Him, and all this was done by recipients of His love and gifts!  And He set His face toward them!


–     He contended with the ‘demon’ of comfort, compromise, convenience in the desert, and withstood the easy road of complacency with the power of conviction in the Word of God.  God’s Word is God’s Will and God’s Will overcomes all things for those who place their trust in Him. Jesus did not run from the ‘demon’ but confronted the adversary face-to-face. Jesus was opposed by spiritual beings, who as yet were not sure if their Vanquisher was He. The word ‘if’ used by the tempter is so revealing!  ‘If’ is never to be used when speaking with Jesus. No hesitancy! Let go! … as Jesus did when he set his face towards Jerusalem.


–     At Cana He changed water into wine, thus giving evidence of His power and uniqueness. This miracle attracted many to Him.  The immediate fulfillment of His mission now begins when His followers ‘believe in Him’. The extraordinary character of His actions captivate and mesmerize the wonder-seekers, as well as the vast numbers seeking hope for their confused lives.  The subtle challenges of the desert test return; miracles are signs but do not make for solid faith. True Faith seeks to enter the mystery and never demands to see miracles. Only in the mystery can the miracle be an effective sign and make sense.  Jesus would be opposed by those who needed ‘to be entertained’, or whose ‘hopes’ were not met according to their desires. And He set His face toward them!


In three years, an entire life would come full circle.  The purpose for His birth would finally reach its climax, not with joyful acclamations of a people’s fulfilled hopes, but with the shouts and jeers of a rabble crying out ‘Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!  Beneficiaries of only goodness and compassion were instigated to cry for execution by some of the leaders of the people who could and should have known better, had not ambition and jealousy clouded their vision and hardened their hearts. None of this was hidden from Jesus’ knowledge. He knew. He had told His disciples that He would be betrayed, captured, tortured, killed, and on the third day rise.  When Peter would not have Jesus accept this fate, what to Peter sounded like total failure and defeat, Jesus turned to Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do (Matthew 16: 23). Jesus knew quite well what lay in store for Him! And He set his face toward it all.


At the Last Supper, in the Upper Room, we can almost enter the mind and heart of Jesus. It is a powerful moment, filled with human sentiments. An inner sadness, a last hope and attempt for conversion are so evident when Jesus  appeals to his betrayer: Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me (John13:21).  Failing to change the heart of Judas, Jesus seeks support and strength from the others. Going with them to the Garden in Gethsemane He falls to the ground in prayer.  He was in such agony and He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke22:44).  He prayed the same prayer three times: Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but Yours be done (Luke 22:42). Jesus was that One Solitary Life Who knew what His life entailed and what awaited him, and still, from the very beginning, He set His face toward Jerusalem, and everything He was born to accomplish. 


Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you (Luke 13:34), was the city of Prophets and Kings. Jesus entered to the acclaim of the crowds who had so often heard His preaching and had benefited from His awesome power over both the spiritual and material worlds. In the course of one week, the crowds praised Him on Sunday strewing the road for Him to walk on their cloaks and palm branches, and jeered at Him as the Great Sabbath approached calling for His death.  The people yelled, His blood be upon us and upon our children (Matthew 27: 25)And Jesus set His face to Jerusalem and Mount Calvary; He was like a trusting lamb led to slaughter (Jeremiah 12: 19) without uttering anything in his own defense or denouncing those who condemned Him. His greatest sermon would be preached from the throne of a Cross were his prophetic words would resound in the hearts of the faithful down through the centuries.

For most, ‘surrender’ is synonymous with weakness, failure, ineptness, shame, maybe even cowardice, and so much more.  The spirit of the world is always urging us to ‘look out for yourself’, ‘be the first’, ‘be the best and don’t be concerned about the rest’, ‘do what you have to do, but never give up’!  How many children grow up to be psychologically wounded adults because they cannot get beyond the perfectionism expected of them in childhood.  Sometimes it is necessary to ‘surrender’ to another for help if we are to go beyond our limitations.  This ‘surrender’ can be necessary and healthy, and can bear with it positive and lasting results. 


Spiritually, there is another ‘surrendering’ that is absolutely necessary for victory and success; without this ‘surrender’ our lives ultimately are total failures.  Another word for it is ‘abandonment’- abandonment to the Will of God and total trust in the power and presence of a God Who calls, challenges and completes in those surrendered to His Will what is for their good. When our spiritual life is surrendered to the Father’s Will, we never lose sight of our duties and our goal. Jesus fulfilled His duty as Messiah and Victim, and achieved the goal for humanity as Redeemer and Victor. We share in that same Life by Baptism and Grace, and share more profoundly in the same victory every time we enter and receive the Eucharist worthily. Thus we allow the graces of redemption to strengthen and guide our life’s journey.  


Of the three great ‘tests’ Jesus experienced from others, the last was the most difficult.  The first came in the desert from satan who challenged the method Jesus would use to achieve our redemption.  The second came from the people who sought Him out with keen hopes of being ‘filled’ rather than ‘fulfilled’.  The third, and most difficult and subtle test, came from a dear friend and His Vicar, Peter, who sought to dissuade Jesus from setting his face to Jerusalem to be captured, tortured, and killed.  Unknowingly, Peter’s loving concern was most insidious and dangerous.  It challenged Jesus to ‘not surrender’ as He had done till then. Jesus’ followers loved Him and He loved them for loving Him.  And it was an awful thing to go up to Jerusalem to die.  But He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.  This was the only way. This was the Divine Plan. This was the Father’s Will. This was Jesus’ Will!


Calvary was most certainly a frightening thought that loomed always in the heart and life of Jesus.  His humanity did not seek pain and death.  But His heart knew that there was only one way to fulfill His Father’s Plan, and that is all that mattered.  The empty tomb was the visible sign of the Father’s acceptance of Jesus’ total emptying of Himself in deference to the Father’s Will. It was the Father’s response to the Son’s love. Our own Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi simply and confidently sought out God’s will through His inspired Word.  God’s Word was the Rule of life he set down for himself and those who asked to follow his way of life. He submitted always to another that he might follow the example of the obedient Son of the Father. Love is a total surrender.  The love for the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit kept Jesus in total harmony with the Father’s Will.  


As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi let us love enough to surrender ourselves to God.  We never lose when we give everything over to the One Who gives everything, especially Himself, to us.  There is always such fear in saying ‘I surrender’.  When we say it to God, why be afraid?  God knows what we are capable of and where we are headed, long before we do.  Abandoning ourselves to His Will, truly trusting in Him, and living every moment as a deliberate act of surrender to the Divine Will, we cannot help but experience an inner peace, serenity and joy.  We will discover and live a more balanced and cheerful life, even in the midst of difficulties.  When God is in control, we are always headed in the right direction. Just as a husband and wife surrender themselves in love and the two become one, let us become one with God as we surrender to His Divine Will.  Emptying ourselves of our own material and earthly desires, false ambitions, self-centeredness, pride, will allow the joy of new life and rebirth to be so palpable that our Easter celebration will be as though it were that first Easter Sunday.  Jesus is alive! He is Risen! He precedes us on the way! Let Jesus come alive in your hearts and lives so powerfully that, like the first followers, we will be, as Saint Augustine calls the People of God redeemed in the Blood of the Lamb, ‘an Alleluia People’.  May we praise Him with our lives!


May the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in us 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; 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 us; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. With a promise to keep all of you affectionately in my Easter Masses and Liturgies, I wish you and your dear ones a very Happy and Joyous Easter.  


Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant