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of Saint Francis of Assisi?

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

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

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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St. Francis Fraternity (Easton) Chapter of Elections – March 17, 2024

Greetings to all from St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, PA, where St. Francis Fraternity held a Chapter of Elections on St. Patrick’s Day.  The fraternity had 100% attendance, with 21 members present to cast their votes.

                                           

With great joy, we introduce the new servant leaders of this fraternity:

Minister Mark Shedden,, OFS
Vice-Minister Andrea Olock, OFS
Secretary Joan Hilstolsky, OFS
Treasurer Stephen Puccino, OFS
Formation Director Rosemary Rossner, OFS
Councilor-at-Large Thomas Coleca, OFS
Councilor-at-Large Mandy Gero, OFS
Presider Teresa Redder, OFS

St. Katharine Drexel Regional Minister

Ecclesial Witness Fr. Loren Connell, OFM (Delegate)

Our Lady of Guadalupe Province

Secretary of Elections Rosemary Rossner, OFS
Tellers of Election Thomas Coleca, OFS

Malia Dillard, OFS

Top row (l-r): Br. Loren Connell, OFM (Spiritual Asst), Rosemary Rossner, OFS (Formation Director), Tom Coleca, OFS (Councilor-at-Large), Mandy Gero, OFS (Councilor-at-Large), Steve Puccino, OFS (Treasurer)

Bottom row: Andrea Olock, OFS (Vice-Minister), Mark Shedden, OFS (Minister), & Teresa Redder, OFS (SKD Regional Minister)

Not available for the photos: Joan Hilstolsky, OFS (Secretary)

May God bless the outgoing council members for their long and dedicated service and may the Holy Spirit animate the new leadership council to serve the Lord with gladness for the next three years with fidelity and humility!

 

March 2024 – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – Monthly Spiritual Reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel Regional Fraternity 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

Alleluia!  He is Risen!  He is Truly Risen!  Alleluia!

March 2024

 

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 forever.

Amen.

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

Daily excerpts from Franciscan Sources and brief daily sayings from various spiritual writers

From Little Flowers of St. Francis

OF THE SECOND CONSIDERATION OF THE MOST HOLY STIGMATA

1 – The second consideration is touching the conversation of St. Francis with his companions upon the said mountain of Alvernia. And as to this it is to be known; that, when Messer Orlando had heard that St. Francis with three companions had gone up into the mountain of Alvernia to dwell there, he had very great joy thereof; and, on the following day, he set out with many of his retainers and came to visit St. Francis, bearing bread and wine and other victuals for him and for his companions; and, coming to the place where they were, he found them in prayer; and drawing nigh unto them he saluted them.

Carry the Cross patiently and in the end it will carry you.

2 – Then St. Francis rose up and with very great charity and joy welcomed Messer Orlando and his company; and, when he had thus done, he entered into conversation with him; and, after they had talked together and St. Francis had thanked him for the holy mountain which he had given him and for his coming there, he asked him that he would cause a poor little cell to be made at the foot of a very beautiful beech-tree, which was distant a stone’s throw from the Place of the friars, because that spot seemed to him most apt and to dedicate to prayer.

Kindness is loving people more than they deserve.

3 – And straightway Messer Orlando caused it to be built; and, when it was finished, because the evening drew nigh and it was time for them to depart, St. Francis, before they went, preached unto them a little: and, after he had preached and given them his blessing, Messer Orlando, since he could no longer stay, called St. Francis and his companions aside.

Life can be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.

4 – (Messer Orlando) said unto them: “My most dear friars, I do not want you, in this savage mountain, to suffer any bodily want, that might hinder you from spiritual things; and therefore I desire (and this I tell you once for all) that you do not hesitate to send to my house for all that you need; and, if you do not do so, I shall take it very ill of you”. And, having thus spoken, he departed with his company and returned to his castle.

To repent is to alter one’s way of looking at life.

5 – Then St. Francis made his companions sit down and instructed them concerning the manner of life which they, and whoever desires to live religiously in hermitages, must lead. And, among other things, he especially laid upon them the observance of holy poverty, saying: “Do not consider over the charitable offer of Messer Orlando too much, that in may not offend our lady and mistress, holy Poverty.

To repent is to take God’s point of view instead of my own.

6 – Be sure that the more we shun Poverty the more the world will shun us; but, if we shall closely embrace holy Poverty, the world will follow after us and will abundantly supply all our needs. God hath called us to this holy religion for the salvation of the world, and hath made this covenant between us and the world; that we should give to the world a good example and the world should provide for us in our necessities. Let us continue, therefore, in holy poverty, because that is the way of perfection and the pledge and earnest of eternal riches.

Feed your Faith and your doubts will starve to death.

7 – And, after many beautiful and devout words and admonishments touching this matter, he concluded, saying: “This is the manner of life which I lay upon myself and upon you; for I perceive that I draw nigh unto my death, and I am minded to be solitary, and to turn all my thoughts to God and to bewail my sins before Him; and Friar Leo, when it shall seem good to him, shall bring me a little bread and a little water; and in no way are you to permit any layman to come to me; but you speak to them for me”.

We become that which we think.

8 – And when he had said these words he gave them his blessing, and went to the cell beneath the beech-tree; and his companions abode in the Place, firmly resolved to observe the commandments of St. Francis. A few days later, as St. Francis was standing beside the said cell, considering the conformation of the mountain, and marveling at the huge chasms and clefts in those tremendous rocks, he betook himself to prayer; and then was it revealed to him of God that those wondrous fissures had been made miraculously in the hour of Christ’s Passion, when, even as the evangelist says, “the rocks were rent”.

Character may be manifest in great moments but it is made in small ones.

9 – And this, as God willed it, was singularly manifested in that mountain of Alvernia because it was pre-ordained that, in that place, St. Francis must renew the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in his soul through love and pity, and in his body through the imprinting of the most holy stigmata.

The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find God is.

10 – Now, when he had received this revelation, St. Francis straightway shut himself up in his cell, and, closing his mind to all earthly things, disposed himself to await the mystery of this revelation. And from then on, because he continued always in prayer, St. Francis began, more often than befpre, to taste the sweetness of Divine contemplation; whereby he was often so rapt in God that he was seen by his companions uplifted from the ground and rapt from out himself.

Strong beliefs win strong people and make them stronger.

11 – In these raptures of contemplation, not only were things present and future revealed to him by God, but also the secret thoughts and desires of the friars, even as Friar Leo, his companion, on that day, proved in his own person. For the said Friar Leo being bothered by the devil with a very grievous temptation, not carnal but spiritual, there came upon him a great desire to have some holy thing written by the hand of St. Francis; for he thought that, if he had it, that temptation would leave him, either altogether or in part; nevertheless, albeit he had this desire, for shame and reverence he lacked the courage to speak thereof to St. Francis; but what Friar Leo did not tell him, was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost.

You can’t lead anyone further than you have gone yourself.

12 – Wherefore St. Francis called him unto him and made him bring inkhorn and pen and paper, and with his own hand wrote a laud of Christ, according to the desire of the friar, and at the end thereof made the sign of the Tau, and gave it to him saying: “Take this paper, dearest friar, and keep it diligently until your death. God bless you and preserve you from every temptation. Be not dismayed that you have temptations, for then do I hold you more my friend and a truer servant of God; and I love you the more the more you have fought against thy temptations. Truly I say to you that no man may call himself a perfect friend of God until he has passed through many temptations and tribulations.”

Love is the only force that can make things one without destroying them.

13 – And when Friar Leo had received this writing with very great devotion and faith, every temptation left him; and, returning to the Place, he related to his companions, with great joy, what grace God had done him as he received that writing from St. Francis; and he put it in a safe place and preserved it diligently; and therewith, in after-time, the friars wrought many miracles.

Not to decide is to decide.

14 – And from that hour the said Friar Leo commenced to scrutinize and to consider the life of St. Francis, with great purity and goodwill; and, by reason of his purity, he merited to behold how many times and often St. Francis was rapt in God and uplifted from the ground, sometimes for the space of three cubits, sometimes of four, and sometimes even to the height of the beech-tree; and sometimes he beheld him raised so high in the air, and surrounded by such radiance, that scarcely could he see him.

When character is lost, all is lost.

15 – And what did this simple friar do when St. Francis was so little raised above the ground that he could reach him? He went softly and embraced his feet and kissed them with tears, saying: “My God, have mercy upon me a sinner; and, for the merits of this holy man, grant me to find Thy grace.”

Let us be paths to be used and forgotten.

16 – And, one time among the rest, while he stood beneath the feet of St. Francis, when he was so far uplifted from the ground, that he could not touch him, he beheld a scroll inscribed with letters of gold descend from heaven and rest above the head of St. Francis, and upon this scroll these words were written: “QVI È LA GRAZIA DI DIO—Here is the grace of God; and, after that he had read it, he saw it return again to heaven.

It is never a question of faith or no faith, the question always is:

In what or whom do I put my faith?

17 – By reason of this grace of God which was in him, not only was St. Francis rapt in God through ecstatic contemplation, but also he was sometimes comforted by angelic visitations. Thus, one day, while St. Francis was thinking of his death and of the state of his Religion after his life should be ended, and was saying: “Lord God, what after my death shall become of Your mendicant family, which through Your goodness You have entrusted to me a sinner? Who shall console them? Who shall correct them? Who shall pray to You for them?”

When you consider anyone or situation hopeless,

you are slamming the door in the face of God.

18 – While he spoke these and such-like words, there appeared unto him the angel sent by God, who comforted him, saying: “I tell you in God’s name that the profession of your Order shall not fail until the Day of Judgment; and there shall be no sinner so great that, if he shall love your Order from his heart, he shall not find mercy with God; and no one who persecutes your Order maliciously shall live long. Moreover no one, in your Order, who is very wicked and who does not amend his life will be able to remain long in the Order.

An honest person is the noblest work of God.

19 – Therefore do not grieve if you see in your Religion certain friars who are not good, and who do not observe the Rule as they ought to do; neither think that for this reason your Religion will decline; for there will always be very many in the Order who will perfectly follow the life of the gospel of Christ and the purity of the Rule; and such as these, as soon as ever their earthly life is done, will go to the life eternal, without passing through purgatory at all; some will follow it, but not perfectly; and these, before they go to paradise, will be in purgatory: but the time of their purgation will be remitted to you by God.

–  We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together like fools.

20 – But for those who do not observe the Rule at all, do not be concerned, says God, because He does care about them.” And when the angel had spoken these words he departed, leaving St. Francis consoled and comforted. Thereafter, when the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady drew nigh, St. Francis sought to find a fitting spot, more secret and remote, wherein in greater solitude he might keep the forty days’ fast of St. Michael the Archangel, which commences on the said feast of the Assumption. Wherefore he called Friar Leo and spoke to him saying: “Go and stand at the doorway of the oratory of the Place of the friars; and, when I shall call you, do return to me”.

  • Walk one step toward God and God will run ten steps to you.

21 – Friar Leo went and stood in the said doorway; and St. Francis called loudly. Friar Leo, hearing him call, returned to him; and St. Francis said: “Son, let us search for another more secret spot where you shall not be able to hear me when I shall call you”; and, as they searched, they saw, on the southern side of the mountain, a lonely place exceedingly well suited for his purpose; but it was impossible to reach it, because there was in front of it a rocky chasm, horrible and fearful, and very great. Wherefore, with much labor they laid a tree across the same, after the fashion of a bridge, and passed over to the other side.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

22 – Then St. Francis sent for the other friars and told them how he purposed to keep the forty days’ fast of St. Michael in that solitary place; and therefore he asked them to make him a little cell there, so that they would not hear him crying out; and, when the little cell of St. Francis was finished, he said to them: “Go to your own Place and leave me here alone; for, with the help of God, I mean to keep this fast in this place without any trouble or disturbance of mind; and therefore let none of you come here to me, nor allow any layman to come to me. But you, Friar Leo, alone shall come to me, once a day, with a little bread and water, and at night once again, at the hour of matins; and then shall you come to me in silence; and, when you are at the head of the bridge, you shall say to me: Domine, labia mea aperies; and, if I answer you, pass over and come to the cell and we will say matins but if I do not answer you, leave immediately.”

Lord, help me never to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

23 – And this St. Francis said because he was sometimes so rapt in God that he heard not nor perceived anything with the bodily senses; and, when he had thus spoken, St. Francis gave them his blessing; and they returned to the Place. Now, the feast of the Assumption was approaching. St. Francis began the holy fast with very great abstinence and severity, mortifying his body and comforting his spirit with fervent prayers, vigils and flagellations; and in these prayers, ever growing from virtue to virtue, he prepared his mind to receive the Divine mysteries and the Divine splendors, and his body to endure the cruel assaults of the fiends, with whom often he fought bodily.

Life is a voyage that’s homeward bound.

24 – And among the other times was one when, on a day, as St. Francis came forth from his cell in fervor of spirit, and went to a place difficult to reach, to pray in the cavity of a hollow rock, where from down to the ground there is a very great height, and a horrible and fearful precipice; suddenly the devil came in terrible shape, with tempest and with very great uproar, and smote him to cast him down from there.

If your faith cannot move mountains, it ought to at least climb them.

25 – Wherefore, St. Francis, not having any place to flee to, and being unable to endure the passing cruel aspect of the demon, forthwith turned himself round, with his hands and face and with all his body against the rock, commending himself to God, and groping with his hands if, perhaps, he might find something to lay hold of. But, as it pleased God, who never allows His servants to be tempted beyond that which they can bear, suddenly the rock to which he clung miraculously hollowed itself to the form of his body and so received him into itself; and even as if he had put his hands and face into liquid wax, so was the shape of the face and hands of St. Francis imprinted upon the said rock; and, in this way, being helped of God, he escaped from the devil.

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?

26 – But that which the devil could not then do to St. Francis, namely to cast him down from there, he did a good while after, when St. Francis was dead, to a dear and devout friar of his, who, in that same place, was adjusting certain pieces of wood to the end that it might be possible to go there without peril, for devotion toward St. Francis and toward the miracle which was wrought there; and one day the devil pushed him, when he had a great log on his head which he wished to set there, and caused him to fall down from there with that log on his head; but God, who had saved and preserved St. Francis from falling, through his merits saved and preserved that devout friar of his from the peril of the fall; for, as the friar fell, he commended himself with very great devotion and with a loud voice to St. Francis, who straightway appeared to him and took him and set him on the rocks below, without permitting him to suffer any shock or hurt.

We see things not as they are but as we are.

27 – Then, the friars, having heard his cry as he fell, and believing that he was dead and dashed to pieces, by reason of the great height from which he had fallen upon the sharp rocks, with great sorrow and weeping took the bier and went from the other side of the mountain to search for the fragments of his body and to bury them. Now, when they had already come down from the mountain, the friar who had fallen met them, with the log wherewith he had fallen upon his head; and he was singing the Te Deum laudamus, in a loud voice.

An empty meaningless faith may be worse than none.

28 – And, because the friars marveled greatly, he related unto them in order all the manner of his falling, and how St. Francis had rescued him from every peril. Then all the friars accompanied him to the place, singing most devoutly the psalm, Te Deum laudamus, and praising and thanking God together with St. Francis for the miracle which he had wrought in his friar.

They stand best who kneel most.

29 – St. Francis, then, continuing (as has been said) the fast, although he sustained many assaults of the devil, nevertheless he received many consolations from God, not only through angelic visitations but also through the birds of the air; for, during all the time of that fast, a hawk, which was building its nest hard by his cell, awakened him every night a little before matins, with its cry, and by beating itself against his cell, and departed not until he rose up to say matins; and, when St. Francis was more weary than usual, or weak or sick, this hawk, after the manner of a discreet and compassionate person, into uttered its cry later than it was wont to do. And so St. Francis took great joy of this clock, because the great diligence of the hawk drove away from him all sloth, and urged him to prayer: and besides this, sometimes, in the daytime, it would familiarly sit with him.

Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips and the world in your heart.

30 – Finally, touching this second consideration, St. Francis, being much weakened in body, both by reason of his great abstinence, and of the assaults of the devil, and desiring to comfort his body with the spiritual food of the soul, began to meditate on the immeasurable glory and joy of the blessed in the life eternal, and therewith he began -to pray God that He would grant him to taste a little of that joy.

There’s a hole in every heart that only God can fill.

31 – And, as he continued in this thought, an angel appeared to him there, with very great splendor, bearing a viol in his left hand and in his right a bow; and, while yet St. Francis was all amazed at the sight of him, the angel drew his bow once across the viol; and straightway St. Francis heard so sweet a melody that it filled all his soul with rapture and rendered it insensible to every bodily feeling; insomuch that, according to that which he afterward told his companions, he doubted whether, if the angel had drawn the bow back again across the viol, his soul must not have departed out of his body by reason of the intolerable sweetness. And this suffices for the second consideration.

Christ changed the dark door of death into the shinning gate of life.

 

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Truly Risen! Alleluia!

We are an ‘Alleluia’ People.

Live His Resurrection – it is ours – Live In-With-For – The Risen Lord Jesus

Through The Cross To The Light

 

 

March 2024-Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – Monthly Greetings

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

March 2024

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord grant us the gift of His peace.

A prayer card honoring the Holy Family portrayed St. Joseph at his work bench, our Blessed Mother Mary preparing something in the background, and the Boy Jesus in the doorway of the house. Jesus was standing with His arms wide open and smiling at Joseph and Mary. Mary and Joseph looked at Jesus with subtle joy. There seemed also to be a meditative glance they both had as they looked at Jesus. The brightness of the sun caused a shadow to be formed in the house. The shadow was in the form of a cross that started at the feet of Jesus and extended toward Joseph and Mary. From the beginning of His earthly life the shadow of the cross followed Jesus, it was “fastened” to His Person. In fact it was at the very “root” of the Incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1: 14) with the mission to preach the Gospel of God’s love and mercy and to show the extent of His love even to death and death on a cross (Philippians 2: 8).

The fact is that the Word is one of us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4: 15). He began His public ministry preaching, teaching and openly preparing His disciples that the Son of Man must first suffer and be put to death, and then be raised on the third day (Luke 9: 22-27). People search for meaning and purpose to their lives: why am I here? Why was I born? What am I expected to do” Who am I? It sounds like psychotherapy. These questions come from the depths of a searching heart.

Our objective in life is to become one with the One in Whose image and likeness we are created. The Incarnation speaks to us of the humility of God willing to become an integral member of humanity as a human so that humanity, through-with-in Him might become one with God more intimately. Collaborating with God’s grace we are “conformed” to Christ – more deeply. As St. Paul states: It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2: 20). Some, more privileged are given a share in the life of grace through the “Mystical Union” we read so often about in the spiritual writings of many saints. The mystical union, a unique divine gift of God alone, transforms the person in various ways. For St. Francis of Assisi, the reception of the Stigmata of Jesus was the ultimate sign of his “one-ness” with Christ. The fullness of this union, begun years before, took a lifetime of willingly surrendering to God’s will.

The conformity of St. Francis with Jesus the Christ was made visible only two years before his death. What began in his heart at San Damiano (Go Francis rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is falling into ruin) was visibly imprinted on his body for the world to see and reflect upon years later on Mount La Verna.

 

The stages of this process/journey are traditionally referred to as the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways. Terminology may differ, but the gradual transformation follows the same order. St. Augustine reminds us, when speaking to God in his Confessions: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. The “restlessness” initiates a dialogue with God that leads to a more profound awareness of our relationship with Him.  God’s word penetrates more deeply than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4: 12). A difficulty often encountered is recognizing and understanding God Who speaks to our hearts. Our response is vital. It determines whether we continue along the road offered or seek another path. God breathed us into life and created us to the image and likeness (cfr.Genesis 1: 26) of Himself. The image remains alive and develops as we cooperate with grace.

Thus: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step. Immeasurably more than a thousand miles is life’s journey from time to eternity. We must set priorities, overcome obstacles, and trust enough to let go of fear.  Fear is useless. What is needed is faith (Mark 5: 36). Do we understand the gift of being alive as God’s gift to Himself and to us? Have we ever considered the fact that if we are that “gift”, we must share our gifts with others who themselves are “gifts”. Even the height of “conformity” to Jesus, is not solely for the gifted one, but intended to encourage others on the road to divine intimacy.

The Cross, always seen as a symbol of hatred and death, is also a sign of love, hope and challenging transformation. The cross indicates, embraces, determines, explains, challenges, nourishes, fills, fulfills, calls, distances, and much more.The cross elevates and presents to the whole world the depth of God’s love in Jesus, His Incarnate Son. Viewing and accepting the events and encounters of our lives, from the perspective of the cross of Christ, leads us to a greater conformity with Christ. The “one-ness” we desire, according to our collaboration with grace, conditions us to be prepared for God to enter a mystical union with us, should God so will. This is for anyone, but definitely for the one blessed with the charism (gift) to live as a witness for everyone.

The early years of St. Francis’ life journey spoke to him so candidly of the power riches wield over others. He experienced how easily we are possessed and controlled by our wealth and possessions. He saw how often society distances and rejects its own who have fallen into dire straits of any kind. He was paralyzed by his own fear of lepers, a fear that haunted him until he embraced the leper on the road and overcame the last hurdle he needed to overcome in order to let go and let God form him into the new man the old having passed away (cfr.  Corinthians, Romans, 1 John, and others). Realizing, understanding, accepting and responding to the challenge of “being Jesus” – being a “living Gospel” – St. Francis took the road of conformity to Christ more deliberately.

The Little Poor Man became the “Universal Brother”. He embodied the image of a Christ Whose cross as a symbol of total giving for the sake of the other, was the support of his life. The cross of the naked crucified Jesus was a vivid reminder to him of those “crucified” each day by the distorted values of society. Like the image of the Byzantine Christ of San Damiano the poor are nailed to their crosses yet they are fully alive to the demands of a world that fails to acknowledge their value as equals. It is the contradiction of the cross: image of hatred indicates love, image of death indicates life. It is a love that overcomes hatred and violence (Pope Francis).

Francis, whom is it better to serve the master or the servant? The Master, Lord. Then why do you run after the servant. Return home. The “dialogue” with the God within his very soul encouraged him to face humiliation, criticism, parental punishment and public ridicule of being a coward so that he might surrender to God rather than his dreams of a confused greatness. Until we break with what keeps us bound, we are still a slave. The Seraphic Mother, St. Theresa of Avila, tells us that whether it be with a cord or a thread as long as a bird does not break the bond that keeps it from flying away, the bird is still bound.

Unless we break with what keeps us from letting go, we are still a “prisoner”.  The “old self” is not necessarily evil. We often become prisoners of complacency, and that keeps us from becoming better or even the best we can be. That is what “perfection” is all about.  Faith reminds us that perfection is achieving the purpose for which we were created. You are who you are before God and nothing more (St. Francis), The acceptance of this truth is a most liberating awareness. Thus, with St. Clare, we can gratefully say: Thank you, God, for creating me.  

Grateful and available to God introduces us to a journey that accompanies us to total “Journey into God”. “Oneness” with God brightens our every moment: good, less good, challenging, and so on. Regardless of the external challenges, the heart is at peace. St. Francis’ early life and the individuals who opened his eyes and heart to the Christ within them – beggar, knight, leper, and others – encouraged detachment, selflessness, and unconditional love beyond his greatest fear. It is the agony of Gethsemane by participation: Father if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me. However, not my will but Yours be done.  (Matthew 26: 39) 

Running through the streets of Assisi with his friends Francis began feeling a tension to something else, something more, Someone better. The secret affection and love he was beginning to feel for the “love of his life” confused him and took hold of his heart. The struggle and confusion, the fear and final “plunge” into the baptism of a new life created the new man, the old having passed away, a new creation (2 Corinthians: 5: 17) The tension to “live” or “die”,  is the story of most sincere people. It is the challenge of the cross. The challenge of the cross directs our spiritual sights from bottom to top vertically and our horizontal awareness of what surrounds. The conjunction of the two beams is Christ. In Him we find balance in our lives. The Cross maintains everything in the perspective of eternity and accompanies us on our journey through time to eternity.

During prayer before the Byzantine Crucifix of San Damiano, St. Francis heard a voice addressed to him: Francis, go and repair my Church, which, as you can see, is falling into ruin. The message was clear enough. How was he to do this? There were still hurdles to overcome. Growing requires moving forward and leaving things of the past in the past. We break with the “way it was” and move forward to “the way it must be”. Now Francis’ vision of life was seen and decided in the light of the “voice of God” he heard.  He was beginning to understand the more intimate yearnings of his heart and soul.

St. Francis knew and believed God was leading him. Nonetheless, he needed strength and decisiveness to go beyond the “line of demarcation”. We could even call it the “red line”. It placed him at odds with so many, including his loved ones. The first move in the direction of conformity is a wrestling match, not with God but within ourselves. The first big step into the “wholeness of perfection” can be painful and confusing. The cross is vivid and true, and can be frightening.

On the feast of the Apostles, Mass was being celebrated in the Portiuncula Chapel. The celebrant read the Gospel. The words struck Francis so deeply that he requested the priest explain them to him.  On receiving the explanation Francis’ reply was This is what I want. This is what I desire with all my heart. The goal of his heart now empowered his desires to will with all his heart and strength to walk the walk of intimacy with God. The focus of his life would always be the Cross, sign of the sublimity and humility of God. These words expressed the condescension of compassion (St. Leo the Great) at the Incarnation, birth, ministry, Passion-Death-Resurrection, and the Eucharist. At each moment the greatest of all God’s children, loved by St. Francis and always in his heart, is present. She is there with Her “yes” to the impossible to the foot of Cross to Her “yes” to the unthinkable and horrific ingratitude, to the joy of new life at the Resurrection.

Focus on the Crucified. The love of Jesus enlightens us to see more clearly who we really are. We are impassioned to love Him more dearly, empowered to follow Him unconditionally, almost as His “other self” if that were possible.  We learn to Love that continues loving (Hymn Pescador). Surrendering ourselves to the One Who surrendered Himself for us on the Cross leads to a growth in the spirit and a conversion of heart thus making Easter a true Resurrection Day.

We fail so often to surrender ourselves to God Who speaks to us in and through His Word and His Church. Love is expressed fully in the total surrender of those who surrender to each other totally and unconditionally without counting the cost. Total surrender allows us to investigate and question, without doubting. Total surrender strengthens us when we are suffering or burdened, so that we persevere in trust. Total surrender gives us courage in the face of persecution of any kind and even death, with serenity, peace and joy. There is so much that we could enumerate, but the basic truth that makes the rest meaningful is as the Apostle John states in his letter: God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4: 16). Isn’t that what conformity and mystical union is? We become, as it were, the Other.

The first followers of our Seraphic Father were known as ‘The Penitents of Assisi’.  The true spirit of penance guides us during this season that seeks to help us be more conformed to Christ and the Paschal Mystery.  The moment of our Baptism begins the road of conformity to Christ, gradually, through life, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Penance is a gradual liberating experience that leads us to a “re-forming” in the person of Jesus, as we strive to live the Gospel – “Live Jesus” – each day more deeply. During Lent the Church us to take more time to reflect on God’s words and inspirations, to do the necessary to reform our doubtful, questionable, or even grace-less ways we may have acquired, so that we may renew our lives becoming more like Jesus. Thus, we may re-establish a deeper relationship with God and all creation. 

This is a season of joy-filled expectations. We live in the awareness of the reality of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  ‘Reconstruction’ and re-birth are for those who seriously take advantage of the spiritual opportunities available.

Lent can lead us, who seek to be conformed to Christ as best we can, to a renewal, of the ‘edifice of the Spirit’, ‘the Temple of God’ that we are ‘. We come alive’ in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus and our greater conformity to Him. Spiritually signed with the Sacred Marks of His Passion on our hearts and soul, the power of God’s loving grace allows us to truly become the “Alleluia People” we are called to be..

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

 

Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Saint Katharine Drexel Region Feast Day Prayer (March 3rd)

A Prayer Service for St. Katharine Drexel – March 3

(Canonized October 1, 2000)

Leader: Let us pray…

Ever loving God, You called Saint Katharine Drexel to teach the message of the Gospel and to bring the life of the Eucharist to the Black and Native American peoples. By her prayers and example, enable us to work for justice among the poor and oppressed. Draw us all into the Eucharistic community of your Church, that we may be one in You. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Side 1: Eucharist

The Eucharist is a never-ending sacrifice.  It is the Sacrament of love, the supreme love, the act of love.  Help us each moment today and always to communicate myself to You by doing Your will.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, lover of the Eucharist, pray for us

Side 2:  EVANGELIZATION

We look up in wonder at God’s wonderful ways and thought how little we imagine what may be the result of listening and acting on a desire He puts into the heart.  Nourish before Him great desires…May our desire be to bring Him hearts, for all are His by right, having been purchased by every drop of His blood.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, model for those who evangelize, pray for us.

Side 1:  PEACE

Peacefully do at each moment what at that moment ought to be done.  If we do what each moment requires, we will eventually complete God’s plan, whatever it is.  We can trust God to take care of the master plan when we take care of the details.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, steadfast in trust, pray for us.

Side 2:  SERVANT OF THE POOR

Kindness is the natural fruit of goodness of heart.  He (Jesus) loved every human being as the image of God…and so all that came within range of His benevolence were treated kindly for God’s sake and their own.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, lover of the poor, pray for us.

Side 1:  SUFFERING OF CHRIST

Often in our desire to work for others we find our hands tied, something hinders our charitable designs, some hostile influence renders us powerless.  My prayers seem to avail nothing, my kind acts are rejected, I seem to do the wrong thing when I am trying to do my best.  In such cases I must not grieve.  I am only treading in my Master’s steps.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, follower of the suffering Christ, pray for us.

Side 2:  THE CROSS

(Christ) may be leading me out to a cross.  If so, I can have no hesitation about following Him!  I must follow Him closely, so that…I shall be near Him, my good Shepherd, Who will help me to carry it, for He still bears His Cross in each one of His children.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, bearer of the cross, pray for us.

Side 1:  DEVOTION TO MARY

Teach us, O my dear Mother, the lesson of sacrifice.  Help me, Mother, to take from the hands of Jesus, in the spirit of humble love, devotion to my daily crosses. – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, daughter of Mary, pray for us.

Side 2:  BUILDING FOR ETERNITY

Out of our common todays and yesterdays, we are building for eternity.  No thought, no work of ours ever dies.  We shall meet them all again, and in the world to come shall find our gathered harvest.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, woman of vision, pray for us.

Side 1:  PRAYER AND WORK

The active life to be productive must have contemplation.  When it (contemplation) gets to a certain height it overflows to active life and gets help and strength from the heart of God.  This is the way the saints produced so much fruit, and we’re all called to be saints.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel, model for the union of prayer and work, pray for us.

Leader: CLOSING PRAYER:

We wish to be one who conscientiously takes part in the unfolding of God’s plans, and eventually have a glorious part in the final unfolding of time into the glory of God’s Kingdom in heaven.  If we are disciples of Jesus, we shall be happy to spend ourselves and be spent for the salvation of souls.  – Saint Katharine Drexel

Brief pause for reflection

ALL: Saint Katharine Drexel, pray for us.

 

Edited/Captured from the St. Katharine Drexel Church (Mechanicsburg, PA) Website – Prayer and Novena

Cindy Louden, OFS (Vice Minister, SKD Regional Council & Minister, Living Word Fraternity

March 3, 2024

Joyful Gospel Living – February 2024

FEBRUARY ENDS WITH A “LEAP” OF FAITH

Brothers and sisters,

At our Region’s November gathering, we distributed Franciscan Solitude calendars to the Fraternity Ministers and Formation Directors to provide Franciscan inspiration for 2024.

For the month of February, the picture was of the sanctuary of La Foresta in the Rieti Valley, a place very special to St. Francis.  The calendar urged us to read Chapter XIX of the Little Flowers of St. Francis.  In many respects, this story is similar to the loaves and fishes, requiring patience and faith when our senses are challenged.  A great crowd had followed Francis to this property where grapes had been planted.  The host priest had doubts that the grape crop could survive this great crowd.  This story is a powerful reminder to us of how we must place our trust in God.  I would like to share some of my photos with you from my 2019 pilgrimage to La Foresta as you read the story; the last photo is from the calendar…

Little Flowers of St. Francis – Chapter XIX

HOW THE VINE OF THE PRIEST OF RIETI, WHOSE HOUSE ST FRANCIS ENTERED TO PRAY, WAS TRAMPLED UNDER FOOT BY THE GREAT NUMBERS WHO CAME TO SEE HIM, AND HOW IT YET PRODUCED A GREATER QUANTITY OF WINE THAN USUAL, AS ST FRANCIS HAD PROMISED; AND HOW THE LORD REVEALED TO THE SAINT THAT HEAVEN WOULD BE HIS PORTION WHEN HE LEFT THIS WORLD

St Francis at one time being grievously tormented with a disease in his eyes, the Cardinal Ugolino, protector of his Order, who loved him dearly, wrote to him to come to Rieti, where there were excellent oculists. St Francis, having received the Cardinal’s letter, set off first to San Damiano, where was Sister Clare, the devout spouse of Christ, to give her some spiritual consolation, intending afterwards to go on to the Cardinal. On arriving at San Damiano, the following night his eyes grew so much worse that he could not see the light, and was obliged to give up going any further. Then Sister Clare made him a little cell of reeds, in order that he might repose the better; but St Francis, owing partly to the pain he suffered, and partly to the multitude of rats, which much annoyed him, could rest neither day or night.

After suffering for several days this pain and tribulation, he began to think that it was sent to him by God as a punishment for his sins, and he thanked the Lord in his heart and with his lips, crying out with a loud voice: “My God, I am worthy of this, and even worse. My Lord Jesus Christ, thou Good Shepherd, who hast shown thy mercy to us poor sinners in the various bodily pains and sufferings it pleaseth thee to send us; grant to me, thy little lamb, that no pain, however great, no infirmity nor anguish, shall ever separate me from thee.” Having made this prayer, a voice came from heaven, which said: “Francis, if all the earth were of gold, if all the seas and all the fountains and all the rivers were of balm, if all mountains, all hills, and all rocks were made of precious stones, and if thou couldst find a treasure as much more precious again as gold is more precious than earth, and balm than water, and gems than mountains and rocks, if that precious treasure were offered to thee in the place of thy infirmity, wouldst thou not rejoice and be content?” St Francis answered: “Lord, I am unworthy of such a treasure.” And the voice of God said again: “Rejoice with all thy heart, Francis, for such a treasure is life eternal, which I have in keeping for thee, and even now promise to thee; and this thine infirmity and affliction is a pledge of that blessed treasure.”

Then was St Francis filled with joy at so glorious a promise; and calling his companion, he said to him: “Let us go to the Cardinal.” He humbly took leave of Sister Clare, after having comforted her with holy words, and took the road to Rieti. When he approached the town, such a multitude came out to meet him, that he would not go into the city, but went to a church which was about two miles of. But the people, hearing where he was gone, went thither to see him; so that the vine which surrounded the church was greatly injured, and all the grapes were gathered; at which the priest, to whom it belonged, was very grieved in his heart, and repented of having received St Francis in his church. The thought of the priest being revealed to the saint, he called him to him and said: “Dearest father, tell me, how many measures of wine does this vine produce when the year is a fertile one?” He answered: “Twelve measures.”

Then said St Francis: “I pray thee, father, have patience and endure my presence here a few days longer, as I find great rest in this church; and, for the love of God and of me his poor servant, let the people gather the grapes off thy vine; for I promise thee, in the name of my Savior Jesus Christ, that it shall produce every year twenty measures of wine.” And St Francis remained there for the benefit of the souls of all who went to see him, for many went away filled with divine love, and gave up the world. The priest, having faith in the promise of St Francis, left the vineyard open to all those who came to see him. And, wonder of wonders! although the vine was entirely ruined, so that there scarcely remained, here and there, a few small bunches of grapes, when the time of vintage arrived, the priest gathered the few bunches which were left, and put them into the winepress; and according to the promise of St Francis, these few little bunches did not fail to produce twenty measures of excellent wine.

This miracle teaches us that as, in consequence of the merits of St Francis, the vine, though despoiled of its grapes, produced an abundance of wine, so in the same way many Christians, whose sins had made them barren of virtue, through the saint’s preaching and merits, have often come to abound in the good fruit of repentance.

* *************************************************

Let us find strength and joy in this story no matter what challenges we face in our daily lives!

Peace and all good,

Teresa S. Redder, OFS

St. Katharine Drexel Regional Minister

St. John the Evangelist Lenten Retreat (February 25, 2024)

Fr. Tom Betz, OFM Cap (Pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church-Philadelphia, PA) offered a Lenten retreat on Sunday, February 25th, with the theme of “Jesus of Nazareth.”  In his reflection, Fr. Tom also spoke about the Stigmata of St. Francis.  Bob McKee, an inquirer to the fraternity, presented perspectives on Jesus’ forgiveness from the Cross.

The fraternity shared some photos from this special day of reflection and conversion…

St. John the Evangelist Fraternity also shared links to two of the reflections:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vblJ-0Y0gnoKmVQkQvRaG2wO49vPUsad/view?usp=drive_link

https://drive.google.com/file/d/18dxmTuvd0pDA9qfO-MlNoJ0bYkbq-MNo/view?usp=drive_link

May our Lenten journey bring us closer to Christ through deep reflections such as these!

Pope Francis & CIOFS Prayer Intentions for 2024

This link contains the Holy Father’s and CIOFS prayer intentions for 2024 for fraternity use in newsletters and gatherings:

EN-Monthly-Intentions-2024

February 2024 – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, Monthly Spiritual Reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel Regional Fraternity Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2024

 

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.

Amen.

(Prayer of Saint Francis in the Second Version of the Letter to the Faithful)

 

In the year we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Francis receiving the Stigmata, our daily excerpts from Franciscan Sources will be taken from those concerning the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. The daily excerpts for the next five months will be taken from the five considerations concerning the Stigmata of St. Francis as found in the Little Flower of St. Francis.

OF THE FIRST CONSIDERATION OF THE MOST HOLY STIGMATA

1 – As to the first consideration, it must be known that, in 1224, St. Francis, being then forty-three years old, was inspired by God to depart from the Val di Spoleto and to go into Romagna, with Friar Leo his companion. As he went, he passed at the foot of the Castello di Montefeltro; where a great banquet and festival was then being held for the knighting of one of those Counts of Montefeltro; and St. Francis, hearing of this festival, and that many gentlefolk were gathered there from divers lands, said to Friar Leo: “Let us go up to this feast, since by God’s help we shall gather some good spiritual fruit” – When we try to make an impression, that’s the impression we make.

2 – Now among the other gentlemen, who had come there from that district to that ceremonial, was a great and rich gentleman of Tuscany, by name Messer Orlando of Chiusi in Casentino. By reason of the marvelous things he had heard concerning the sanctity and miracles of St. Francis, with great devotion and very great desire he went to the festival to see him and to hear him preach.- The great thing in this world is not so much where we are but in what direction we are moving.

3 – St. Francis having arrived at this town, entered in and went to the piazza, where were assembled a multitude of those gentlemen; and, in fervor of spirit, he climbed upon a little wall and began to preach, taking as the text of his sermon these words in the vulgar tongue: So great the bliss I hope to see, That every pain delights me.The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.

4 – And from this text, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, he preached so devoutly and so profoundly, proving the truth of the saying by divers sufferings and torments of holy apostles and of holy martyrs, by the severe penances of holy confessors, and by the many tribulations and temptations of holy virgins and of other saints, that every man stood with eyes and mind fixed upon him, and listened to him as if it were an angel of God that spoke. Among these men, the said Messer Orlando, being touched in the heart by God, through the marvelous preaching of St. Francis, was minded to consult and speak with him after the sermon concerning the affairs of his soul. – Hatred does more damage to the one in whom it is stored than the one on whom it is poured.

5 – Wherefore, when the preaching was done, he drew St. Francis aside and said unto him: “O father, I would take counsel with thee touching the salvation of my soul”. St. Francis made answer: “Well content am I; but go this morning and do honor your friends who have invited you to this festival, and dine with them. After you have dined, we will talk together as long as you please”. Messer Orlando, therefore, went to dinner. After dinner, he returned to St. Francis and laid before him fully all the affairs of his soul and took counsel with him concerning the same. – God’s grace within me and God’s strength behind me can overcaome any hurdle ahead of me.

6 – And finally this Messer Orlando said to St. Francis: “I have in Tuscany a mountain most apt for devotion, which is called the mountain of Alvernia, exceeding solitary, and passing well fitted for any who wish to do penance in a place remote from people, and desire a life of solitude. If it pleases you, gladly would I give it to you and to your companions for the salvation of my soul.” – If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

7 – St. Francis, hearing so liberal an offer of a thing which he desired so much, was very happy. Praising and thanking first God, and then Messer Orlando, he spoke to him saying: “Messer Orlando, when you return to your home, I will send you some of my companions, and you shall show them that mountain. If it seems to them fitted for prayer and for the doing of penance, even from this moment do I accept your charitable offer”. – A simple judge of my character is how I treat a person who can do absolutely nothing for me.

8 – And, when he had thus spoken, St. Francis departed; and after he had finished his journey he returned to Santa Maria degli Angeli. Messer Orlando likewise, when the festivities for the making of that knight ended, returned to his castle, which was called Chiusi, and which was distant a mile from Alvernia. – Reason led me to the mountain’s base and faith lifted me to the mountain’s top.

9 – St. Francis, then, having returned to Santa Maria degli Angeli, sent two of his companions to the said Messer Orlando, who, when they arrived, were welcomed with very great joy and charity: and, desiring to show them the mountain of Alvernia, he sent with them fifty armed men, to defend them from the wild beasts. Thus accompanied, those friars went up into the mountain and explored it diligently. At last they came unto a part of the mountain well suited for devotion and for contemplation. There was also some level ground. It was there they chose for their habitation and for that of St. Francis. With the aid of those armed men who accompanied and defended them on the journey, they made a little cell with the boughs of trees, and, in the name of God, they accepted and took possession of the mountain of Alvernia and of the Place of the friars in that mountain, and departed and returned to St. Francis. – Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

10 – When they arrived, they told him how and in what manner they had taken the Place on the mountain of Alverna, well fitted for prayer and contemplation. Now, when St. Francis heard this news, he rejoiced greatly, and, giving praise and thanks to God, spoke to those friars with a joyful face, and said: – Feed your faith, and your doubts will starve to death.

11 – “My sons, we are drawing close to our forty days’ fast of St. Michael the Archangel; and I firmly believe that it is the will of God that we keep this fast in the mountain of Alverna, which by Divine dispensation hath been made ready for us, so that we may, through penance, merit from Christ the consolation of consecrating that blessed mountain to the honor and glory of God and of His glorious mother, the Virgin Mary, and of the holy angels”.- We become what we think.

12 – And then, having said these words, St. Francis took with him Friar Masseo da Marignano of Assisi, who was a man of great wisdom and eloquence, and Friar Angelo Tancredi da Rieti, who was a man of very noble birth, and who in the world had been a knight, and Friar Leo, who was a man of very great simplicity and purity; for the which St. Francis loved him very much. And with these three friars St. Francis betook himself to prayer, and commended himself and his companions just mentioned to the prayers of the friars who remained behind, and he set out with those three in the name of Jesus Christ the Crucified, to go to the mountain of Alvernia; – Who stops being better stops being good.

13 – and, as he went, St. Francis called one of those three companions, Friar Masseo, and said to him thus: “You, Friar Masseo, shall be our Guardian and Superior on this journey. While we are going and abiding together, and we will observe our custom: that either we will say the office, or we will speak of God, or we will keep silence; and we will take no thought beforehand, neither of eating, nor of drinking, nor of sleeping; – One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of te shore.

14 – but when the time to rest for the night arrives, we will beg a little bread, and will lodge and repose ourselves in that place which God shall make ready for us.” Then those three companions bowed their heads, and, signing themselves with the sign of the cross, went forward; and the first evening they came to a Place of friars, and there they lodged. – What we usually pray to God is not that his will be done, but that he approve ours.

15 – The second evening, by reason of the bad weather and because they were weary, they were not able to reach any Place of friars, or any walled town, nor any hamlet; and when night and the bad weather overtook them, they sought shelter in an abandoned and disused church, and there they laid down to rest, and, while his companions slept, St. Francis gave himself to prayer; – Jesus Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all.

16 – and lo! in the first watch of the night, there came a great multitude of most ferocious demons with very great noise and tumult, and began vehemently to give him battle and annoyance; for one plucked him on this side and another on that; one pulled him down and another up; one menaced him with one thing and another accused him of another; and thus in divers manners did they seek to disturb him in his prayer; but they were not able, because God was with him. – People who falI love with themselves do not need to fear rivals.

17 – Wherefore, when St. Francis had borne these assaults of the demons for some time, he began to cry with a loud voice: “O damned spirits, you can do nothing save that which the hand of God permits you to do; and therefore, in the name of God Omnipotent I tell you that you may do to my body whatever is permitted to you by God, and I will bear it willingly; for I have no greater enemy than this body of mine. Wherefore, if you take vengeance for me upon mine enemy, you do me a very great service.” Thereupon the demons, with very great impetus and fury, laid hold of him and began to hale him about the church and to do him much greater injury and annoyance than at first.- Humanity must put an end to war or war will put an end to  humanity.

18 – And then St. Francis commenced to cry aloud and said: “My Lord Jesus Christ, I thank Thee for the great honor and charity which Thou show me; for it is a token of much love when the Lord thoroughly punishes His servant for all his faults in this world, to the end that he may not be punished in the next. – Only when we learn to see the invisible will we learn to do the impossible.

19 – And I am ready to endure joyfully every pain and every adversity which Thou, my God, may desire to send me for my sins.” Then the demons, being put to confusion and conquered by his constancy and patience, left him, – Be careful how you live, you may be the only Bible some persons ever read.

20 – and St. Francis, in fervor of spirit, went forth from the church into a wood which was nearby, and there he gave himself to prayer; and, with supplications and tears and beatings of his breast, sought to find Jesus Christ, the Spouse and delight of his soul. And when, at last, he found Him in the secret places of his soul, he now spoke reverently to Him as his Lord; now answered Him as his Judge; now sought Him as his Father; and now talked with Him as to a Friend. – Faith is like love, it cannot be forced.

21 – On that night and in that wood, his companions, after they were awakened and had come there to hear and consider what he was doing, they saw and heard him, with tears and cries, devoutly beseeching the Divine mercy for sinners. Then too he was heard and seen to bewail the Passion of Christ with a loud voice as if he saw the same with his bodily eyes. On that same night they saw him praying, with his arms held in the form of a cross, uplifted for a great space and raised from the ground, surrounded by a resplendent cloud. – Evangelization is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.

22 – And on this wise, in these holy exercises, he passed the whole of that night without sleeping; and thereafter, in the morning, because they knew that, by reason of the fatigues of the night which he had passed without sleep, St. Francis was very weak in body and could ill have travelled on foot, his companions went to a poor laborer of that district, and besought him for the love of God to lend his little ass to St. Francis, their father, who could not go on foot. – One of the greatest necessities is to discover creative solitude.

23 – Now, when this man heard them make mention of Friar Francis, he asked them: “Are you some of the friars of that friar of Assisi about whom so much good is spoken?” The friars answered: “Yes”; and that it was in truth for him that they asked the beast of burden. Then that good man made ready the little ass, with great devotion and diligence, and led it to St. Francis with great reverence and made him mount it; and they continued their journey; and he with them, behind his little ass. – People who live solely for themselves are eventually corrupted by their own company.

24 – And, when they had gone some distance, that villain said to St. Francis: “Tell me, are you Friar Francis of Assisi?” And St. Francis answered him, “Yes.” “Strive, then (said the villain), to be as good as all folk hold you to be, for there are many which have great faith in you; and therefore I admonish you, that thou fall not short of that which men hope to find you.” – God doesn’t want our deeds; God wants the love that prompts them.

25 – Hearing these words, St. Francis did not disdain to be admonished by a villain, and said: “What beast is this that admonishes me?” as many many proud fellows who wear the friar’s habit would say to-day; but immediately St. Francis cast himself to earth from off the ass, and kneeled down before that villain and kissed his feet, and thanked him humbly, because he had deigned to admonish him so charitably. Then the villain, together with the companions of St. Francis, raised him up from off the ground with great devotion, and set him upon the ass again, and continued their journey. – Life must be dedicated to a destiny in oder to have a meaning.

26 – And when they had gone perhaps half way up the mountain; because the heat was very great and the ascent difficult, this villain became exceeding thirsty, so that he began to cry aloud behind St. Francis, saying: “Alas! I am dying of thirst; if I have nothing to drink I shall presently faint.” Because of this St. Francis dismounted from his ass and betook himself to prayer; and he remained upon his knees with his hands raised to heaven until he knew by revelation that God had heard him. – Tell me whom you love and I will tell you who you are.

27 – And then St. Francis said to the villain: “Run, go quickly to that rock, and there thou shall find living water, which Jesus Christ, in this hour, has of His mercy made to issue from that rock”. So he went to the place which St. Francis had shown him, and found there a fair spring which had come forth from the hard rock at the prayer of St. Francis, and he drank copiously thereof, and was comforted. And it was clearly seen that that fountain was miraculously produced by God through the prayers of St. Francis, because neither before nor after was there ever found, in that place, a spring of water, nor any living water near that place for a great distance round about. – The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear God.

28 – St. Francis, with his companions and with the villain, gave thanks to God for the miracle and continued their journey. When they drew near to the foot of the peak of Alvernia itself, it pleased St. Francis to rest himself a little beneath an oak which was in that place and which is there yet; and, as he sat beneath it, St. Francis began to consider the situation of the place and of the country thereabout; and, while he was thus considering, lo! a great multitude of birds came there from divers parts, with singing and beating of wings, all showed very great joy and gladness; and they surrounded St. Francis so that some alighted upon his head, and some upon his shoulders, and some upon his arms, and some in his bosom, and some about his feet. – Saints are persons who make it easier for others to believe in God.

29 – Now when his companions and the villain saw this they marveled greatly; whereupon St. Francis, all joyful in spirit, spoke to them saying: “I believe, most dear brothers, that it is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that we dwell in this solitary mountain, because our sisters and brothers the birds show such joy of our coming”. And when he had said these words, they rose up and continued their journey; and finally came unto the place which his companions had chosen at the first. And this suffices for the first consideration, on how St. Francis came to the holy mountain of Alverna. – God does not ask for our ability or our inability, but our availability.

Have a Fruitful and Happy Lent

February 2024-Monthly Spiritual Asst Reflection

February 2024 – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, Monthly Greetings

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2024

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi,

May the Most high, glorious Lord, enlighten the darkness of your hearts and give you a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense, and knowledge, so that you may carry out His holy and true command and may the Lord grant you His peace, as we enter the Mystery of the Cross of Christ that our Father St. Francis bore in his heart and on his body.

The Universality of the Cross cannot be denied. Besides the Cross of Jesus, there is the cross each one of us has to bear. Seen in the light of Jesus’ words, the Mystery of the Cross, accepted in faith, can help us have a perspective on life that encourages us to confidently accept the challenge to change. Unless we die to ourselves, we can never hope to really live. We want to live, and live fully, but there is something that holds us back from making strides that forge ahead.

An expression often used by Jesus in the Gospels, repeated by Pope St. John Paul II innumerable times, and taken up by his successor Pope Benedict XVI is: Do not be afraid. We need to remember these words and take them to heart. Fear seems to be the universal common denominator that seeks to control the lives of so many.

The ultimate fear for most people is the fear of death. There are also the ‘minor-yet-no-less crippling’ fears: fear of uselessness, fear of failure, fear of being forgotten, fear of being a ‘no one’. These, and many others, are all valid for those who have not yet been able to believe fully and take Jesus at His word. Among these are many Catholic Christians whose faith has been reduced to mere practices that no longer help them find a deeper meaning to life. Even the wonderful gift of the Eucharist becomes for many just ‘another pious devotional tool’ rather than the Real empowering Presence of the God-among-and-within-us. How tragic it would be had there not been a way out of this devastating situation that many camouflage so well.

The Church offers us a wonderful opportunity each year to review, reflect and renew our lives: Lent. We are called to deepen our relationship with God, Who in turn strengthens and enables us to live our lives more fully.  Lent is a time for us to look at ourselves and the world in a powerful light – the Light of the Cross. This is not just any cross, but the Cross of Christ. The Drama of the Cross of Jesus is the Greatest Act of Love humanity could ever imagine. This Act of Love  begun in the silence of the womb of Mary was made visible with the wooden Manger/Crib at Bethlehem. St Francis of Assisi immortalized for the eyes of the faithful the event of Bethlehem at Greccio in Italy. The Franciscan Family celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Greccio Nativity scene setup by St. Francis of Assisi.

From the simplicity of  Bethlehem, the “Drama of the Cross” reached its climax on the wooden Cross of Calvary. The Crib embraced the Infant for all to see in wonder and joy, and the Cross on Golgotha lifted up the Man for all to approach with adoring reverence and gratitude. The Crib offered the Infant for all to embrace; the Cross extended the arms of the Man and opened His heart for all to be embraced and enter into the Love of the Father. Do not be afraid. This loving reminder, “Do Not Be Afraid”, is repeated over 300 times in Sacred Scripture. Why be afraid, what do we fear, if He shares life with each one of us at every moment?

Since it was first hoisted into place on the Hill of the Skull, the Cross has accentuated the Sign of Contradiction first seen at Bethlehem in the Infant and then throughout Judah/Israel two thousand years ago, during the ministry of the Man. Myriads of peoples have heard of and responded to the Cross of Christ. Some have accepted and proclaimed the message. Others have rejected and sought to eliminate its impact on the world in a variety of ways. There are the open acts of physical violence that have given the Church Her holy martyrs, outstanding witnesses of uncompromising faith and love. There are the subtle allurements and enticements that seek to mislead souls from the values and principles of our faith, thus jeopardizing the very core of the person and the strength of the believing community. This is the more devious and devastating of the two. Do not be afraid. Jesus has conquered the world.

The Cross is the Truth to our questions. The Cross offers balance to our confusion. The Cross indicates the sure Way to follow. The Cross reminds us that the One Solitary Life that accepted and surrendered to the Cross in death, is the greatest image of the only Life that really matters, no matter the cost. The Universality of the Cross makes it the determining Instrument of Success and Fulfillment for all who lovingly and confidently accept the challenge to take up your cross and follow in My footsteps (cfr. Matthew 16: 24-26).

Following Greccio’s celebration, we prepare to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the reception of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi on Mount La Verna. At the mount of Greccio and the Crib of Jesus we celebrate the humility of God’s birth as a human. In this Year of the 800th anniversary of the Stigmata of St. Francis, we are transported in the spirit to the “sublimity” of God’s exaltation in His sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary, and the gift imprinted on the body of our Seraphic Father. The journey of the Christian is always From the Crib to the Cross…and beyond!  Jesus is born to die that we may be re-born to live. Jesus becomes mortal and shares time with humanity so that we may become immortal and co-eternal with Christ in His eternity.

What do we see and hear from the Cross? From the Cross of Jesus we see the anguish of the sick, the tears of the frustrated. We hear the laments of those struggling as they climb the winding road of their Golgotha. From the Cross of Jesus we see the nations of the ‘fourth’ world condemned to die of hunger, as a large crowd carries its insignia of concern for the fundamental rights of all human beings, but keeps silent when faced with the ultimate challenge to act. From the Cross of Jesus can be seen nations considered marginal and destined for extinction by the great powers of the world whose only concern is their own economic growth at the expense of others nations, most of whom are either patronized or considered ‘expendable’. From the heights of the Cross of Jesus, can be seen the newly-forming nations still struggling to be ‘free’, those massacred in the various hot-beds of war throughout the world. From the Cross of Christ we recognize the stranger in search of a homeland, those longing to make a difference in a troubled world, the segregated and oppressed of society. Do not be afraid, for I am with you (Isaiah 41: 10), in this sign (of the Cross) you will conquer (These are words of the vision to the Emperor Constantine at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, a battle that led to the end of the persecution of Christians and freedom for the Christian Church.)

Please don’t think that I am talking politics. Some may even comment that I should ‘stick to spiritual things’. Our Faith must be concretized. Unless we make our faith visible in our lives, we are nothing more than plastic images, not to say ‘hypocrites’. Our faith is not a Policy, it is a Person. Faith must be concretized if it is to go beyond mere ‘lip service’. Until our faith can be translated into an awareness of those ‘crucified’ around us and in the world, we are walking with our eyes closed and are in danger of falling ourselves into the very ditches we refuse to acknowledge.

It is true that every Christian must accept his/her own cross, but it is also true that each one of us must seek to unfasten those who have been hung on the cross. One cross is our challenge in life; another is the cross that is placed upon us by others. In both cases, however, the cross becomes the challenge that says: Do not be afraid. Now is the time for us to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own (Isaiah 58: 6).

We have a tendency to speak about “spirituality” and we are enthused when we hear of extraordinary mystical experiences. Nevertheless, we hesitate or even refuse to come to the aide of our brother or sister who groans under the weight of their personal cross. Even Jesus was given a Simon of Cyrene. It is Christ Who suffers in them! Not only must we seek to alleviate their burdens, but we must also begin to identify those who construct the crosses for others to bear, and attempt to eradicate their hurtful influence in the life of others. We don’t have to go far. The opportunities to be Christ to others are all around us. Open your eyes and your heart! Do not be afraid at what you see and whom you invite into your love. It might just be the Lord knocking who waits for us to Open the Door to Christ. What a tragedy if just that one time we were busy, tired, annoyed, and we failed to let Him into our “disarmed heart”. The Cross disarmed Jesus totally And we?

Faithfulness to the Cross of Jesus demands much from us. It expects us to see in the Cross the instrument of our salvation. It presumes we recognize the Cross as a sign that redemption is near. It urges us to lift our hands and not just our hearts to help make a burden bearable if we cannot eliminate it. It is the only way – the Way of the Cross – that leads us with and through Jesus, to a more complete life. Why?  Because the Way of the Cross does not lead to death, but to a total commitment and surrender to the One Who Alone is the Source of New Life for ourselves and all with whom we share the journey to the Hill of Redemption. In so many areas of the world new hope begins to dawn because of those who have met Christ on the way and have heeded His words: Do not be afraid. For the Franciscan it could sound “do not be afraid to embrace the leper”, “do not be afraid to accept the Cross”, “do not be afraid to die…to yourself”

The certitude of a soul filled with a faith that lets go of itself to trust in the Lord, can be seen in the following words. The words are taken from correspondence between a spiritual director and the directee. I only know one thing for certain, that the Lord will never fall short of his promises. ‘Do not fear, I will make you suffer, but I will also give you the strength to suffer’, Jesus tells me continually. ‘I want your soul to be purified and tried by a daily hidden martyrdom; do not be frightened if I allow the devil to torment you, the world to disgust you and your nearest and dearest to afflict you, for nothing will prevail against those who groan beneath the Cross for love of me and whom I have taken care to protect.  Beneath the Cross one learns to love and I do not grant this to everyone, but only to those souls who are dearest to me’. May the same Cross always be our bed of rest, our school of perfection, our beloved heritage. The surest sign of love is the capacity to suffer for the beloved. We must keep our eyes fixed on the noble, majestic and holy company of those who follow Jesus to Golgotha. Each one of them without exception bears the profession of the true faith on his countenance, self-denial in his heart, and the cross on his shoulders.

The Cross is our insignia, our sign of victory, our pledge of unity with the Master, our remedy for the ills of humanity, our hope for eternity, our certitude of God’s inimitable and eternal Love for us in Jesus.

When St. Francis had disrobed of his earthly clothes and was given the poor tunic to wear, the first thing he did, we are told, was trace a cross on it. He was to bear the cross as his daily garment. The cross he wore was the dignity he shared with Jesus Himself. The cross he wore on his tunic, the cross who spoke to him at San Damiano, was the cross imprinted spiritually on his heart until it was emblazoned on his body for all to see on Mount La Verna.

Mindful of the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel telling the angel to sign the elect with the sign of the “tau,” Francis made the “tau” his signature. It became the “Franciscan Cross”. Just as the “tau” is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, so the Franciscans signed with the “tau” of the elect, herald the end of an age that introduces the Cross, the “new tau”, as the sign of the beginning of a new age. The sign of the cross and the body of the one who would be physically imprinted with its marks heralded a new age when hearts grown cold were once again enkindled with the fire of God’s love (loose translation of the old prayer for the Mass of the Stigmata) to proclaim a world of peace and blessings for all.

The holy season of Lent is upon us. We search for more ways to make the Cross of Jesus a more present and reflective reminder of the meaning of the Mystery of the Cross of Christ in our life, not just in our liturgical and devotional practices, but also more deeply in our own personal lives. The Cross must be a sign of encouragement as we seek ways of assisting others who are burdened with their crosses.

We envision and even invent devotional practices each Lent to “deepen our prayer life”. The desire is to celebrate more intensely the penitential spirit of Lent. There is however a practice many pray about sincerely with their lips, but not so much with the full affirmation of their hearts. Why? because The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It may seem simplistic. Do we ever realize that what God wants is us, our hearts, our wills? God asks and waits for one thing, and we beat around the bush without getting to the heart of it all. How many have prayed and maybe still pray the famous prayer of St.Alphonsus Liguori after each station of the Cross:  Grant that I may love you always, then do with me as you will. We mean the words “devotionally and sincerely”. Nevertheless, in the concrete, we hesitate to desire to be convinced and determined to accept whatever Cross God may permit. Yet, that would be the perfect prayer and devotion since it is not the one I want but the one the Father Himself is offering to me. Even Jesus prayed: Father if it is possible let this cross pass from me. (So we can feel hesitant) Yet not my will but Yours be done (Yet realizing it’s God Who wills, isn’t acceptance a “sure thing”?). Jesus understood the Father’s answer. His anguish of what awaited Him made Him sweat blood. Nonetheless, trusting in the Father’s Will, He faced the Cross with loving surrender. And we are redeemed.

The Father never asks His children to do anything beyond their strength. The greatest penitential practice for Lent is living each moment with loving surrender to the Father’s Will. Thus, we open our hearts to others, assisting them in their needs. Prayers and devotional practices are necessary to keep our hearts and minds focused. We remember our dignity as Christians and the spiritual treasury of our Catholic Faith. In a simpler and more serene manner we are enabled to advance swiftly and effectively on our Lenten journey. We need not try to figure out what to do.  All we have to do is be willingly, trustingly, and cheerfully available at all times in every way to God’s Will. The Cross is always a sure thing for a Christian. When more than during Lent?

Have a blessed and spiritually fruitful beginning to Lent. Let go of your hesitancy. Go beyond yourself to others. Take up the daily challenge of your cross. Look beyond the difficulties of the moment. Trust in the One Who gave Himself for us all. Do not be afraid to deepen your relationship with God (Prayer), to distance yourself from all you allow to possess you (Penance), and to open your heart and surrender to the Christ Who suffers in others and awaits your love (Almsgiving). These three elements help make for a fruitful Lent. Have confidence and courage. Do not be afraid!

In this Year of the Stigmata of St. Francis, let us keep alive in our hearts the message God offers us through the writings of St. Paul as we celebrate the Stigmata of Christ imprinted on the body of our Seraphic Father: It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. Therefore let no one trouble me for I bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body.

May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of you and your loved ones with loving care.

Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

February 2024-Monthly Spiritual Asst Greetings

 

 

 

Prayer for the Servant Leader

Brothers and sisters,

Jen Drees, OFS (Regional Formation Director) has started monthly “office hours” with local fraternity formation directors.  During their Zoom meetings, they have used a prayer resource from the National Fraternity USA website under “Pray with Us/Prayers for Fraternal Life.”

PRAYER-FOR-THE-SERVANT-LEADER

As many fraternities in our region prepare for their Chapters of Election, let us consider making this a part of our personal and communal prayer patterns.  The very opening of this prayer is a testament to someone seeking out and desiring to do God’s will:

“Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Your own.”

Let us always be open to the Holy Spirit to guide and animate us at every level of fraternity!

Peace and all good,

Teresa S. Redder, OFS

St. Katharine Drexel Regional Minister