The Franciscan Gift
May the Lord give you peace! Most of us grew up being taught to think of others first. We take care of everyone else and see to their needs before taking care of ourselves. That really was our first brush with Franciscanism! This time of year is especially filled with thinking of others. What gift shall I buy for Johnny, don’t forget to bake those special cookies that Grandmom likes so much, make sure you write a note to your old neighbors before you send their card. If we ever make time for ourselves it surely isn’t at this time of year!
Although it goes against the grain, this year we need to give ourselves a gift…..a Franciscan gift. Do something different at your prayer time. That’s it, that’s the gift. If you have a particular space where you say your prayers, change it up somehow; place a nativity scene where you can see it. Light a candle. Doing even the smallest thing differently will (hopefully) make you stop, take a breath, shake off the demands of the world for just 20 minutes and enter into the presence of God. If you do the Office from your cell phone and text messages and/or phone calls intrude, go back to using your prayer book. Leave the phone outside your prayer space.
During our Advent journey, ‘place’ yourself in the manger while you are praying. Be part of the wonder and joy that took place there. Feel the love that Mary and Joseph have for each other. Surely God chose them to be His Son’s parents because they did have a great love for each other. And by Christmas morning, may you be so close to the new born King, that you can smell the hay on which He lays!
May the Lord bless each of us with a happy and holy holiday!
Let every creature
in heaven, on earth, in the sea and in the depths,
give praise, glory, honor, and blessing
to Him Who suffered so much,
Who has given and will give in the future every good,
for He is our power and strength,
Who alone is good,
Who alone is almighty,
Who alone is omnipotent, wonderful, glorious
and Who alone is holy,
worthy of praise and blessing
through endless ages.
(From the Later Admonitions and Exhortation of Saint Francis of Assisi)
Daily excerpts from Franciscan Sources
Daily reflections taken from various sources
The holy man Francis, beloved of God, had already, in his holy way of living, portrayed the life of Jesus the Redeemer, which the world had consigned to oblivion, and had set it out in his evangelical Rule, so that it should be truly evident to all the world that what he was illustrating, both in the Rule and in the life he led, was the life of Jesus the Savior himself. – While we are pilgrims on earth, we look toward heaven, our definitive homeland.
Jesus in his exceeding goodness and mercy knew what the evangelical Rule of Francis and the perfect transformation he had brought about would have to endure from future generation’s persecutions, unfortunate expositions, and infringement … Within a short time after the Rule’s institution, He would furnish the seal of His high priesthood both the life of Francis and the established Rule, through a miracle unheard of in previous ages … – Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate … there the grace of mercy is needed … to bring about peace.
Christ’s standard-bearer was Francis as he carried (the wounds of the Savior) on his sacred body for two years. Defying nature, he lived with his side opened; blood flowed from it; a memorial of blood of the living God, shed for us. Breathtaking are these signs … – For Christians, being the light of the world means spreading everywhere the light that comes from on high.
He Himself shaped Francis into the seal of His pleasing perfection … He said … ‘I have chosen you, because by grace alone, I made you the angel of the sixth seal, which I have chosen from all the sons of grace for its purpose: for I choose the weak to confound the strong’. – The truth about God is not abolished because it is told in human language…because the one who speaks and acts is the Son of God made flesh.
He stamped the signs of His passion on the flesh of Francis, so that human negligence, seeking reasons to flee the footprints of Christ, may not say: “We did not see the signs, so this is no prophecy.” … The sign on the flesh of Francis will be evidence that cannot be doubted. If humanity loses the meaning of God, it will close itself to the future and inevitably lose the perspective of its pilgrim journey in time.
The Tau of divine protection was first signed on Francis. But it is also his office to sign with the Tau, on the foreheads of the men who are grieving and mourning over the Rule as it is tread upon and transgressed, putting a sign on them that they may not perish … – Why birth, why death? Why sacrifice, why suffering? Christianity offers a satisfying answer … Christ … He is the true meaning of our present, because he is our sure future.
Thus they may not doubt that, just as the strength of Jesus maintained the natural life of Francis in that wounded body by supernatural power, so, despite the natural defects of our flesh, the strength of Jesus protects them in the literal observance of the most holy Rule’s rigor, upon which the vigor of the Blood of the Crucified so openly flowed. – The son of God embraced human time with his humanity to guide man through all measures of this time towards eternity.
I beg You Lord, let the glowing and honey-sweet force of Your love draw my mind away from all things that are under heaven, that I may die for love of the love of You, who thought it a worthy thing to die for love of the love of me. – The Immaculate Conception is a pledge of salvation for every human creature.
Therefore, the sons who have been fashioned in the likeness of their father, by the fire of his seraphic vision, must understand that their fashioning has to take place in there soul and be carried out by the glowing crucifixion of Jesus. – Let us remain alert, to be ready to meet the Savior who comes to reveal to us the face of the heavenly Father.
They will be living like “little Christs”, smaller figures of Jesus, as it were, perceiving themselves in their mortal flesh transformed into Christ. – Contemplation of nature reveals not only the Creator, but also the human being’s role in the world that he created.
Jesus, the perfection of our whole created world, established in His own life, and in that of His Mother most amiable, the gospel life in all its fullness, as though upon the holy mountain and on the unshakable foundation. – By virtue of her unique position, Mary is our steadfast support in the arduous struggle. With faith (nature) reveals the greatness of our dignity as creatures created in his image. le against sin and its consequences.
Hence the Rule of gospel living is founded in Christ Jesus and in His most holy Mother and, by analogy, Christ passed this on, His own perfection, to the Apostles with the command that they observe it. – The door of life is undoubtedly demanding. Those who want to pass through it must make themselves small so that Christ can grow.
It is not alone an evangelical Rule, having been established in and by Christ, but also an apostolic Rule, for it was laid down for the Apostles by Christ Jesus, and they kept it till their deaths. – Leave behind all that is superfluous and marginal to make more room for Christ.
Christ did not impose on the apostles anything except what he said to everyone, that they should take up the cross. Therefore Francis formed hi habit according to the teaching of the Crucified in the form of a cross, that a crucified mind might fight under a crucified tunic. – Let us…open our eyes to daily life, to its joys and worries, calling on God to be close to us to guide us with his words that ensure serenity and grace.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Francis opened the book of the Gospel. He opened it three times and came upon: perfect expropriation and the perfect abnegation of self, crucifixion of the life of the flesh, and the perfect following of Jesus. – “Watch” This admonition that Jesus addresses to us is the basic message of the Advent season.
Francis was warned by a revelation from God. In a vision he saw crumbs of bread, which he made into a host. And some received worthily, and some refused and were struck with leprosy. – Life is a long road on which each human being struggles to find a safe and stable dwelling place.
A voice from heaven (said): Francis, the crumbs of last night are the words of the Gospel: the host is the Rule and the leprosy is wickedness. O how sadly we see the vision proven true! – Our true and definitive home is heaven.
The rule and life of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At the end, as it was confirmed for Saint Francis, it concludes: … so that we may observe poverty, humility, and the holy gospel of God, as we have firmly promised. – (Christ) visits us through the people and events of daily life.
It is clear that the blessed Francis intended to oblige himself and his whole Order to those same things to which he could understand that Christ obliged His apostles. – The loss of contact with God’s wise design is the deepest root of modern man’s confusion.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit made it clear by laying down spotless, purity, extreme poverty, complete obedience, and perfect denial of oneself, under firm and stable vow, as the foundation of all Gospel perfection. – By living “as if God did not exist”, man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of his own being.
Jesus who is all goodness (responded to Francis who had been confronted by the ministers of Italy to ‘soften’ the Rule): Francis, I am Jesus and I am speaking to you from heaven. The Rule is my doing, and you have put nothing of your own in it … – The promise of peace made at Bethlehem will become a reality when the dignity and the rights of human beings made in the image of God are acknowledged and respected.
(The voice continued): I am willing to give the help which I recognize is needed, as I recognize human frailty too. And taking these into consideration, I know that the Rule can very well be kept, and therefore I want it to be observed exactly as it is written, without any gloss. Those who are not happy with it, let them be gone, for I have no wish to make any changes in it. – Advent is a season of rejoicing. To know that God is …close…compassionate…merciful…who follows us lovingly with respect for our freedom.
Through those he spoke to from heaven Jesus was speaking to all … for the Holy Spirit’s influence is poured out generously upon (the Rule) in a broad stream of charity, and it is only through that charity that a Gospel Rule can be resolutely adopted, fruitfully professed, and observed as sacrosanct. – Filling people’s hands is doing too little. It is also a question of satisfying their hearts’ desires…
Christ Jesus is the eternal wisdom of the Father. He wanted His Spirit of Life renewed in the Church to lead in the exalted saint, the confessor Francis, through His paths. – The truth that Christ reveals tells us that we must support one another and work together with others…
He sat down among (his brothers) and set about encouraging them in compelling words to preserve their poverty and lower-class existence, and alerting them to the flood of back-sliding that would spring up at a future time. – Every day is Christmas in the hearts of Christians. Every day we are called to proclaim the message of Bethlehem, to the world. The Eternal Word, God from God, Light from Light, has become flesh and has made his dwelling among us.
As Moses with God and God with him, so Saint Francis spoke with the Lord, and the Lord fully related to him future events, concerning not only the Order but also the whole Church until the end of the world. – Christ is at hand! He comes by virtue of the Holy Spirit to announce the Good News; he comes to cure and set free…Let us therefore rejoice and exult!
(Francis said to the brothers): While I was at prayer, I begged the Lord for peace for the Christian people, because it was revealed to me that many trials would come upon Christian people. And so the Lord Jesus Christ was kind enough to appear to me … – Mere technological; progress does not satisfy man’s inner yearning for truth and communion.
(Jesus said to Francis): Francis, I am pleased that you beg for the peace of my people, but do this for me: that your brothers remain in the state in which I have placed them. And if in the whole world there remain no others, I promise you that for love of you and your brothers I will not allow another trial to come, except at the end of the world … – Deeper spiritual needs have to be met if individuals, families, and society itself are not to fall into a serious crisis of values.
The Lord forgave blessed Francis every debt down to the last penny at the beginning of his conversion, he was assured of eternal life at the time the stigmata were impressed in his hands and feet and side. The remission of all his sins took place at Saint Mary of the Angels; the assurance of eternal life at San Damiano. – In this is love: not we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as an expiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)
Blessed Francis wanted the brothers to enter through the door of humility, and so both the wise and the uneducated should rise from strength to strength in humility, until the Lord inspired the prelates of the Order to exalt them with the grace of God and the virtue of humility, as long as they have first the grace of God and virtues, so they might teach others as much by right behavior as by teaching about the virtues and spiritual power, and produce a harvest of souls. – Look to God who in the mystery of Christmas show his graciousness to human beings , in order that appreciating divine goodness, they may continuously find their true dignity and salvation.
Blessed Francis was once at prayer at Saint Mary of the Angels saying: Lord, spare your people. Christ appeared to him and said: I gladly grant you that, for it is of great value to me as well. But please do this for me, that your Order stay with me … – As this year draws to a close let us invoke the Lord’s forgiveness for the shortcomings that have marked our personal and community life. Only in this way can our thanksgiving for the many benefits we have received be true and sincere.
HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2017!
MAY IT BE A YEAR FILLED WITH GOD’S
PEACE AND BLESSINGS
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
May the Infant Jesus grant your heart the Peace you desire.
May His Star enlighten your mind with the splendor of His Truth.
May His Love consume your heart so that it beats solely for Him.
The Magi came in search of the ‘newborn King’. Arriving in Jerusalem they inquired: Where is the newborn King? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. Having left the palace of the king, the star preceded them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star. They saw the child and his mother…and did him homage. (Matthew 2: 1-12).
Thus began the quest of the Magi from the East, not of the Children of Abraham, for the Child who was the fulfillment of the lives of those truly Wise Men. They accepted the challenge to go beyond the boundaries of their secure and comfortable world in search of Wisdom Itself. The Wisdom of God, incarnate in Jesus, born at Bethlehem, came to lead all humanity back to a deeper relationship with God. He would accomplish His mission by His Love and Truth.
In the Book of Genesis, the sacred writer reminds us that pride seduced freedom at the very beginning of human history when our first parents opted to seek their own interests rather than the Will of their Father and Creator. From that moment, human history, life itself, became a quest to regain what was lost: harmony, serenity, peace. Harmony became enmeshed in the mechanism of compromise, connivance, convenience, and all that cloud our vision of the road traced out for us by the One Who calls us to Himself. Serenity was shaken by the inner struggles of insecurity, indifference, indolence and all that keep our hopes from encouraging us to move forward to grow in the gifts bestowed on us by our Creator. Peace became the unfulfilled dream of those who were challenged daily by fearful anxiety, dominant arrogance, blind ambition. The world has not been the same ever since that fateful moment. And thus began the quest to regain what was lost!
The exact quote escapes me, but someone once said: Life begins as the quest of the child for the man, and ends as the quest of the man for the child … that childlike person hidden within each one of us crying out to be set free. We are like those Wise Men who saw His star and sought Him out. We too seek Him. We are searching for the Child Who alone can help us find what we lost and to re-establish it in our lives. We seek harmony with God, ourselves and all creation. We desire serenity before the challenges we face, assured that all works out for those who trust in God. We confidently await peace of heart, a fruit of love, that sees the image of the Child (Jesus) we seek in all people.
How can the Message of an Advent of Joyful Expectation and a Christmas of Hope Fulfilled be happy and uplifting when all around us we hear of scandals in religious and political arenas, job downsizing, economic insecurity, division in families, violence in the streets, terrorism around the world, international instability with threats of escalating conflicts that could have devastating effects for the whole world…and much more?
The answer is simple. We follow the star of faith with the inner desire to rediscover the child within us. Within we recognize the Child Who is the Only One who restores us to initial innocence, regardless of how deep we may have fallen in life. Thus, faith blossoms into hope. And hope enables us to see Love Incarnate and believe in a presence that can and will envelop us all with His eternal Love. No matter what happens around us, we know that greater is the One within than one who is in the world.
We renew our quest every Advent Season. We know where we are going with our rituals and liturgies. We know the stories that are retold each year at this time to help us get into the spirit of the season. We hear the words of Isaiah who promises to an anguished and frustrated nation, Israel, the Woman who would usher in God’s era of peace through her son. We hear the words of John the Baptist who proclaims the Lord in our midst and tells us to prepare the way for him through humility, trust, transparency of life. We hear Mary’s response to God’s challenge of divine maternity when she says so simply and yet so powerfully transforming: I am no more than His handmaid. Let it be done to me as you say. Yet, every year we allow materialism and consumerism to distract our hearts from the real Gift we were given two thousands years ago. We are blinded by the lights of society’s allurements that often do not speak of the One Whose birthday we celebrate. We are concerned more with receiving gifts that reaffirm ourselves, rather than giving of ourselves to strengthen, reassure, encourage, lift up, affirm the life of another. We must show that we can love beyond the limitations of human nature when we do what we do in the name of God.
Where is the newborn King to be found? He can be found alive in the hearts of every one of us. He is there waiting for us to rediscover his presence.
The Magi met many expected and unexpected difficulties in their quest. They expected the hardships of the journey and the physical demands it would place on them, but they continued nonetheless. They did not expect the fear, intrigue, lying and hypocrisy they found in Jerusalem, but they listened to their heart and did not pull back in fear or discouragement.
Their belief was so strong, that they were even able to go beyond the barrier of disillusionment when they found the child not in a palace surrounded by courtiers and wealth, but in a poor dwelling surrounded by a young woman, simple carpenter and a few beasts of burden. Poverty and humility did not conceal the true splendor of a God so great He could be seen as a Child and still be revered as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings…
In the silence of faith we journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. In the joy of great expectations we hurry to the stable with the Shepherds. In undaunted hope we travel with the Wise Men bearing the gift of ourselves. Let all fears be dispelled, all hope rekindled, all love blossom new in our hearts. The Child of Bethlehem blessed our history becoming one with us that we might again be one with Him.
The beauty and simplicity of the Birth of the Savior is wrapped in the aura of faith that looks beyond the obvious child and sees the almighty God. Faith guides us and we follow its sure light on the way which conducts us to God and His Homeland as the holy Magi were guided to the desired place by the star, a symbol of Faith.
Bethlehem, ‘House of Bread’, speaks of the God Incarnate, Who came to make His dwelling among us that we might dwell with Him. His needs as a human were satisfied through the love and care of Mary and Joseph. He is the One Who satisfies the needs of all humanity. He becomes and remains with us as the Bread of Life. The Eucharist invites every heart be a ‘Bethlehem’ – ‘House of Bread’ – where the Divine Manna is no longer the symbol but the Real Presence of Him Who was born in time that we might be reborn in eternity. Advent prepares the way, and Christmas presents the Gift of the Father in the Son through the Holy Spirit. We travel from the Crib to the Cross, from Bethlehem to Calvary, with the one Who is Victor because He accepted to be Victim of Love.
May those whose hearts have grown cold because of the burdens of life or the spiritual battles they are sustaining be warmed, strengthened, and encouraged by the Christ Child for Whom we quest all our lives. May we find that Child within who helps us to see the beauty of this world in all its wonder and majesty, and the love of its Creator in all His Humility. Come, let us adore Him in His Eucharistic Presence, and see Him in those with whom we share life’s journey. With Mary and Joseph let us bask in the light of his splendor and trust in Him, and give Glory to God in the highest and pray for Peace to all people of good will.
The Peace, Joy, Blessings…and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones. May the Good Lord bless you; Our Lady and Saint Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his spiritual children, with loving care. As we receive the Gift of the Father, His Incarnate Son Jesus, may we learn from Him how to be a gift one to another. Merry Christmas to all and a very Happy New Year 2017.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Advent!
We all know that St. Francis created the first Crèche in history. Celano writes (1Celano 84-86) that when Francis went to the Holy Land he had gone to Bethlehem, bringing home with him the memory of the town where the Savior was born. He then reproduced the scene of the Nativity on the famous Christmas Eve in Greccio.
I came across an interesting article entitled No Nativity, No Eucharist by Tony Angesi (wife Diane) It captured so much of what we encounter as Franciscans, reflective and most significant of the Holy Birth. Luke2:7 “And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger…..
We all have the quiet place in our homes where we chose to perhaps make a phone call or just get away from the noise & activity of the day. It is our quiet room. This is where Diane sets up the Nativity scene every year. This place for Tony & Diane has become a place where they enjoy going to pray & reflect on the birth of our Savior.
In contemplation of the scene, they realized for the first time that the Eucharist was a continuation of the Nativity, the coming of Christmas. The manger a simple trough where the animals were fed, held the same body of Jesus the bread of life which we are fed in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
When Tony received communion the next day at daily Mass as he held the Blessed Sacrament in his cupped hands, for a moment he thought, “my hands represent the manger as I hold Jesus body soul & divinity” and his mind went back to the manger where they both prayed the night before. In that moment the stable where Jesus was born (Bethlehem “House of Bread”) became the tabernacle and the manger became the ciborium.
We as Franciscans remember what St. Francis quoted, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood”, should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life. (Rule 5)
May we be strengthened during this Advent season and be your faithful servant in the world. Let us look to Mary who said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
To you and yours, Have a Blessed Christmas of Peace! Rose
Following the Gift of God’s Mercy
As we come to the close of the “Year of Mercy” on November 20th, you and I can look back and recollect, how did I cultivate mercy in my daily life? In our family? And how about in our fraternities?
Undoubtly there are many issues within the Church being revisited as a result of the “Year of Mercy.” We know that mercy is not something we should live just for one year. It is to be forefront as compassion in our lives, so we may be the mercy of God to all we meet.
I’d like to share a few excerpts taken from the text, The Life of Saint Francis” written by St. Bonaventure (1217-1274) taken from the very Prologue to the biography. Bonaventure writes that one of the Divine perfections that is clearly reflected in St. Francis was Divine Mercy. (pg.105)
In these latter days the grace of God our Savior has appeared in his servant Francis and to all who are truly humble and a lover of holy poverty. In him they can venerate God’s superabundant mercy and be taught by his example to live in conformity with Christ, and to thirst after blessed hope with unfailing desire. In (Chap.11) section 6. Another time a woman devoted to God had an abusive husband who hindered her in the service of Christ. She besought the holy man to pray for her, that God of His clemency would soften the heart of her husband. “Go in peace” said the man of God, for in a short time you will receive consolation from thy husband, and he added: “Tell him from God and from me that now is the time of Mercy. It shall be a time of justice. And so returning home the woman gave the message to her husband and suddenly the Holy Spirit fell upon him, and in a mild voice he uttered “Lady let us serve the Lord and save our souls.
In a biography entitled: Francis of Assisi The man who found perfect joy, Michael de la Bedoyere writes that when Francis lay dying he asked his brothers to sing with him “The Canticle of the Sun” which he composed in praise of his Creator. It was Brother Elias who protested and asked Francis “Should you not keep recollected and silent” pg.302 Francis replied “O let me rejoice in Him for all my sufferings and by grace feel so close to the Lord, that in the knowledge of His mercy, I can sing again.
Resource: The Message of Saint Francis and Divine Mercy by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception
Resource: Introduction to Compassion Living In the Spirit of St. Francis Ilia Delio O.S.F.
The transformation into love in Francis life making whole of the scattered fragments of life was compassion. Francis is an art of healing broken hearts by collecting the tears of the forgotten, frightened and the lonely in his hands holding the wounded as his kin. He entered the world of the stranger and made him his brother. He learned to love what was weak, fragile and to care for what the world discarded.
The Life of St. Francis by Bonaventure, for your research Chapters 9,26,&45 (on mercy)
In closing, let us ask ourselves this question “How have we shown mercy in our lives”?
May God who is rich in mercy, give us the grace of a merciful heart. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!!
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing,
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun, … Sister Moon and the stars, …Brother Wind, …
Sister Water, … Brother Fire, … our Sister Mother Earth, …
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, …
Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.
(Canticle of the Creatures [abbreviated] by Saint Francis of Assisi)
The month of November celebrates Life Everlasting of those in God’s Glory and those in God’s Mercy.
Following are excerpts taken from: A Book of the Praises of Saint Francis (Bernard of Besse)
Daily reflections are taken from various sources
Blessed Francis, like the rising sun, brightened the world by his life, his teaching and his miracles. He had a father intent on worldly affairs, but a very upright mother. – Our objective in life is to become a saint.
Like another Elizabeth, at the sacred font she called him John, and, in spirit, she predicted that, by the grace of his merits, he would become a son of God. – On the first rung of the ladder to holiness are written the words: ‘Who does not carry his cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple’.
The boy grew up … until he was twenty-five years old. Then he left all things and followed in the footsteps of Christ. He renewed the old life of the Apostles… – Stubbornness is one quality incompatible with sanctity; purpose and persistence are necessary.
We have heard that of Francis’ first twelve disciples, for whom he also wrote a rule … and all were holy men except for one … (so that) even in his disciples the similarity of Francis to Christ might not be wanting. – Live the Gospel without compromise; live like Christ. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Reflections for November 2016” »
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you his peace! The Cemetery of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception on Via Veneto in the City of Rome is not the only one of its kind in Italy nor in the world. What makes the place rather “unique” is the display made of human bones and the number of full skeletal remains, still clothed, hanging for all to see. Thousands of people down the centuries have passed through this rather strange and macabre reminder of the vulnerability of human nature and the limited time allotted each one of us. What seemed to appeal (?!) to the spirituality of a post-renaissance time, has now been, by national legislation, turned into a tourist attraction and curiosity site. At the time it was constructed, this site was considered an effective aid in longing for Eternal Life, in recognizing our call to holiness through personal conversion, and in acknowledging the transitoriness of human nature and worldly things. How times change! Living in Rome one can visit the “Church of the Bones”, as many call it, just to say a prayer for those once vibrant human beings whose mortal remains were turned into a macabre “side show” for a world always eager to dabble in and play with the exotic, the strange, the weird, and sometimes even the evil.
Death is not an appealing thought for most people. Our materialistic and consumer-driven society conditions our view of this most solemn moment in life: the young discard the thought of death as non-existent in their life, the teenager questions it theoretically but sees it too distant to be relevant; the middle-ager runs away from its reality through “busy-ness”; the elderly nostalgically hold on to the past in the hope that they can prolong life’s journey; and those who realize they stand before the reality of having to let go of this world often live in confused apprehension, fear, and even anger. It may not be this way for all, but I believe that a sufficient number of God’s children fall into one of these categories. Why? Where am I?
The response lies in what we believe of the Article of Faith in the Apostles Creed regarding “Everlasting Life”. We say that we believe in everlasting life, but we want to determine which life is going to be everlasting. What fools we can become when we allow the seductions of the world in which we live to make us their slaves rather than their masters! How foolish we are in trying to make eternally meaningful those things and aspects of this world that change, corrode and corrupt with time! Yet, how difficult it is for us to see beyond this world when our eyes are blinded by the everyday glitter of the creation that we have allowed to distract us from the eternal splendor of its and our Creator.
As strange as it may seem, even these attitudes are signs of our desire to know more about the reason and goal of life. Holding on to all we know is an expression of our yearning to live. The exhilaration and excitement that the young seek – isn’t that a desire to fulfill a need to feel alive and be capable of anything?! The ladder-climbing of the corporate world and the go-get-it-ness of those in the middle years – isn’t that a need to know one has achieved a successful level in life among and maybe even above his/her peers, thus being necessary for life to be meaningful to others as well as one’s self?! The constant recounting of personal achievements or offering “solutions”, even when not requested, by those in declining years – isn’t this the hope of leaving a legacy that will keep one’s name alive in the hearts of others long after that person no longer walks this earth?! The memorabilia we keep of loved ones, the monuments we erect in honor of people, and so much more – isn’t this a way for us to try to keep alive today, now, those whom we recall and honor?!
It is rather easy to speak about life. People are usually interested in hearing what others have to say. But, when the thought of our passage from time to eternity is concerned, many would rather not be told or reminded. We are Christians! We believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life! We believe that Jesus redeemed us from the clutches of Satan and opened the way to the Father’s embrace through His total self-emptying death on the Cross. November, the month we dedicate to the remembrance of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, urges us to reconsider this most solemn moment in life. November urges us to see beyond the veil of our physical barrier and with the eyes of faith to see the Life we have been created to share. An entire life – all experiences, successes, failures, and so on – converges at the moment of death into a power-packed point of one’s total being. As the Paschal Mystery fulfills itself in the life of the person soon to enter eternity, the soul prepares for that moment, that instant, that “twinkling of an eye” when it will explode with gratitude and joy into the loving embrace of the Eternal Father Who waits for one of His children to come home.
Saint Francis of Assisi was God’s Troubadour, the Herald of the Great King, as he called himself. He sang of God’s creation. He saw the majesty and beauty of God in all things and all people. Life was exhilarating and exciting for him. And, when he was informed of his terminal condition and the inevitability of his imminent death, he sang and added a stanza to the Canticle of the Creatures, that famous song he composed to praise God in all creation. He joyfully invited Sister Bodily Death to come to him. Francis detached himself from society’s seductive enticements – whether persons, places, things, honors, and the like. Though his eyes were physically blinded from his infirmities, his heart saw far beyond the world in which he lived. He saw, unobstructed by worldly debris, the splendor of an Eternal Home that awaited him. And he was overjoyed!
St. Francis of Assisi was a clear and obvious sign of transcendency and of the supernatural. He was an evident manifestation of God. His presence alone was a sign, a stimulus to reflection and conversion; a stimulus to sanctity. He preached the Gospel Message undoubtedly with words, but firstly and primarily by his life. It was a message of love that continues in the hearts of millions today. And perhaps this message is more valid today than it was yesterday, because it is a message which has been liberated; it is a purified message. It is up to us to accept it; it is our job to put it into practice; it is our duty to bring it to others because we have all been called to pursue the same ideal and to conquer the same aims and ideals of our Seraphic Father. The vocation to sanctity is not a privilege of the few. It is a calling for all. It leads us to view and live life as the bridge over which we are to cross to enter Life. Thus death is the open doorway that leads to the fulfillment and realization of all we could hope.
The vow of poverty for St. Francis of Assisi and the ‘privilege of poverty’ that St. Clare of Assisi awaited before she would ‘allow herself to pass to eternity’ remind us that we do not have a permanent dwelling in this world. Our Universal call to holiness is a call to be, as the word “holy” in its basic meaning denotes, “to be other-worldly”. So, to be holy means to live in the light of the other world. Doesn’t this mean to live in expectation of that moment when we will finally enter the fullness of holiness – even if we must pass through a place of God’s mercy that purifies us for heaven – Purgatory?
St. Francis of Assisi lived his entire life in light of this moment of encounter, that he lived in mystery. It was not a dark or ominous thought for him; it helped him place all things in perspective – the perspective of heaven, the perspective of God. When he received the Sacred Stigmata on La Verna, our Seraphic Father knew the Lord had completed on his body what he had initiated at San Damiano in his heart some twenty years before.
We are Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, the Poverello. We are also human beings subject to all the fear, confusion, doubt, anger, apprehension, and all the other negative characteristics that are connected to facing an uncertain future. The future is uncertain for those who have no faith. For those who believe, life is accepted and celebrated every day as the gift that it is. We celebrate life with joy and gratitude, and we seek to be a support and encouragement to others as we strive to develop all the gifts and talents the Lord has entrusted to us. BUT, as we do this to fulfill our part to restore all things in Christ, we long for that day when the Father calls us to His loving embrace. As a great pontiff once said we do not place limits on Divine Providence, but we do not fear the return home of a loving child to its Loving Eternal Father.
That Cemetery on Via Veneto is rather macabre, and it may have served its purpose. With the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, whose life and words we seek as a guide and encouragement, let us live out our years with Jesus our Savior and Mary our Holy Mother in our hearts and on our lips. Let us look to the heavens each day to remember the heights to which we are called. Let us also remember those who were where we are, and who are where we hope, in God’s mercy and providence, one day to be – the Holy Souls in Purgatory: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.
May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and 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
First, I must apologize for the delay in the November postings. The details of why I am still without electricity are not nearly as important as the apology. Rose Viragh, OFS, our Regional Formation Director and Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, our Regional Spiritual Assistant, always, always, always, have their articles to me in time for the first of the month postings. My sincere apologies to them especially!
A few weeks ago while getting my hair cut, I noticed an elderly woman in the next chair. She was getting “the works” as we women say, and she was so happy and excited that she was about to burst! She was getting all ‘gussied’ up for her grandson’s wedding that afternoon. The joy bouncing from every pore of this little old lady was because her grandson and his fiancée had asked her to be the flower ‘girl’. What a phenomenal gift to this woman. Grandmothers generally don’t have a special role in weddings other than being seated in the church while pictures are taken of her on the arm of a young groomsman.
This grandmother was remembered and honored. She would be the first to come down the aisle and as weddings generally do, emotions would be stirred up at seeing this elderly woman taking the role that is usually filled by a much younger family member.
November is the month when we remember our loved ones who have passed, especially in the previous year. It is a wonderful practice and gives importance to those in our lives who have gone to God. But even greater is remembering those loved ones who maybe slipped off our radar in the last year. Is there an elderly family member, neighbor or acquaintance from church that you haven’t spoken to in a long time? The joy that comes from a few minutes of your time cannot be measured by the one receiving it.
May all of our departed loved ones rest in peace. And may all of our living loved ones know that we hold them in peace!
THE JOY OF GETTING IT RIGHT
WHERE: SAINT JOSEPH OBLATES SEMINARY
1880 Highway 315, Laflin, PA 18640
DATE: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12TH
TIME: 9:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
PRESENTERS: ROSE VIRAGH, OFS
STEPHAINIE WIECER, OFS
RSVP: BY OCTOBER 24TH to
Rose Viragh, OFS
This is a “brown bag lunch” event, so please bring your lunch with you. A continental breakfast will be provided as well as beverages for lunch. A free will offering will be taken to help defray the cost of the day.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? Romans 10: 13-15
Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my everyday life through my words and actions.
In moments of hesitation, remind me:
If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel?
If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed?
If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?
We have been sent. The day we said “Yes, this is what I want”, the Lord sent us out. It is probably no further than your own home, neighborhood, church, work place. During this Year of Mercy, how about shaking it up a little? Bring something new to the table. Maybe make a greater effort to be God’s mercy to someone in desperate need of it.
The Lord resides within you. We all believe that. But why is He there? Not just because He loves you, but to be present to other people. You are the instrument. You are extending God’s hand in comfort every time you put your arm around someone in need. You are God’s joy every time you smile at someone or say something nice. You are God’s love every time you wipe away someone’s tears. No one understood this better than St. Francis. Make me a channel of your peace, not give me peace. Let me provide peace to other people. St. Francis also said: Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary. We are constant examples to those around us.
There are so many ways to do small things with great love. It’s more than just comforting someone in need or lifting up the spirits of someone who is ‘down’. How about not dragging someone down by gossiping, telling them how terrible someone else is, being a constant critic. It’s much easier to comfort another person than to look at ourselves to see what damage we are doing. It is the harder path to take. But imagine what a gift it would be to St. Francis for him to see us at least try.
We evangelize by wearing our Tau cross – telling the world we have chosen this path. But then do we act as if we are the Lord’s agents on this earth? In this year of mercy, let us ask to be better Franciscans and all the rest will fall into place! I wish you much joy!