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

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

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

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

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

About our region

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

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World Down Syndrome Day – March 21

Thanks to our sister, Teresa Redder, OSF, for sharing this great video.  Take a minute and watch!

 

Call to action 2019

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director - March 2019

March 2019

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. All peace and good be with you! May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary!

 

In my February 2019 “Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director” I continued a discussion on the wonderful Feast of Epiphany. This month I will finish our discussion on what it means to be “Epiphany” and why it is so important.

 

I want to go straight to the sacred scripture and hear what our Lord has to say. You might expect me to share the Gospel of John chapter 3 verse 16. We hear it all the time and even see it at sporting events. And it is a beautiful and special passage but there is one even more special to me.

 

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

 

This entire passage should bring us to our knees and make us cry with joy and amazement! Listen to it slowly and prayerfully, Jesus is explaining that what our Heavenly Father has done thru Jesus’ love is enfolded us into the Blessed Loving Circle of the Trinity! The Father loving the Son loving the Holy Spirit loving us and then back the other way! This is not only why we should be Epiphany but it is how we are to be Epiphany.

 

By being completely immersed in the Trinitarian love we can then be brought to perfect love. That perfect or Agape3 love will cause us to love God more perfectly and love those around us. This love will in turn attract those that are seeking perfect love themselves, even if they don’t know it at the time. That same love helps us to live and love as Jesus does and how our seraphic father, Saint Francis did. Our desire should be the same! That all those given to Jesus should be enfolded into the Blessed Trinity!

 

I know some may think all this talk of love is a bit over sweet, but let’s look at how the prophet Isaiah describes Jesus treatment even the sinners.

 

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice.”

This passage is powerful and should speak volumes to us. Jesus would not damage the bruised reed or put out the smoldering candle. What did he do? He healed the sinner and reignited the sinners’ light to the world. He did it in a gentle loving way. But some might say “he made a whip and cast out the money changers” that wasn’t so gentle.

 

We need to take a close look at that event. First, it was not Jesus’ normal behavior. Secondly we must ask why he did it. It is very simple really, the money changes and sellers set up their shops in the outer court of the temple. The outer court was also known as the court of the Gentiles. You need to know a little about temple worship back then. Gentiles wishing to worship the one true God were allowed to enter only into the outer court to pray and worship. The next court was the court of the women. Women, even Jewish women, were only allowed to enter the temple to that point. Then there was the inner court. That is where Jewish men could go. It was right next to the Holy of Holies or where the tabernacle was. And only the high priest could go there and only once a year to offer sin offerings for himself and the people.

 

“Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”

 

So, when the ruling priests and Sanhedrin8 allowed the sellers and money changers to set up shop in the outer court they in essence made it impossible for the gentiles’ to enter into a prayerful and worshipful relationship with God! That is way Jesus did what he did. The Jews were actually preventing people from encountering God in a meaningful way and they were doing it to make a profit. To them the gentiles had little value as people and could be abused.

 

My sisters and brothers, I ask you to truly be Epiphany to let the love of the Blessed Trinity shine thru you and place a spotlight on Jesus!

Pax et Bonum Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

1 John 17:20-26 2

2 Emphasis mine

3 This Greek word, agápē, and variations of it are frequently found throughout the New Testament. Agape perfectly describes the kind of love Jesus Christ has for his Father and for his followers.

4 Isaiah 42:3

5 Gentiles (Heb., usually in plural, goyim), meaning in general all nations except the Jews.

6 Luke 19:45-46

7 Emphasis mine

8 The Jewish ruling council or government

Thoughts for the Day – March, 2019 by Father Francis

 

March 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Prayer Inspired  by the Our Father – abbreviated

Following are daily excerpts taken from various sources.

1

Once there was a great war between the citizens of Perugia and Assisi. Francis was captured … and …endured the squalor of prison.  His fellow captives were overcome with sadness … but Francis rejoiced in the Lord. (2Celano, bk.1, chpt.1) – Passion according to Matthew: chpts. 26&27 – Anyone can stand up to an opponent: give me someone who can stand up to a friend.

2

Though staying in a pit and in darkness, he was imbued with an indescribable happiness never before experienced. (1 Celano, bk.1, chpt.5) – Passion according to Mark: chpts.14&15 – I may have all the faith needed to move mountains, but if I have no love, I am nothing.

3

He rose therefore swift, energetic and joyful, carrying the shield of faith for the Lord, and strengthened with the armor of great confidence, he set out for the city. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt.5) – Passion according to Luke: chpts. 22&23 – We get no deeper into Christ than we allow him to get in us.

4

Though delighting for the most part (in his dream), he silently wondered to himself  about its meaning…With a happy spirit he awoke the next morning…Considering his vision a prediction of great success… (1Celano, bk.1, chpt.2) – Resurrection Gospels: Luke 24 and John 20 – The Gospels do not explain Easter; Easter explains the Gospels.

5

When morning came, then, he returned in haste to Assisi, free of care and filled with joy, and, already made an exemplar of obedience, he awaited the Lord’s will. (Major Legend,chpt.1,#3) – 1 Corinthians 1&2 – The lives of Jesus’ followers changed the course of human history. No reasonable explanation has ever been given for their transformed lives except their own: they had seen Jesus alive.

6

Saint Francis with his brothers rejoiced greatly at the task and the favor given by so great a father and lord.  They gave thanks to Almighty God, who places the lowly on high and raises up mourners to health. (1Celano,bk.1,chpt.14) – 1 Corinthians 3&4 – That which you cannot let go of, you do not possess.  It possesses you.

7

They had great joy, because they saw nothing and had nothing that could give them empty or carnal delight…Only divine consolation delighted them, having put aside all their cares about earthly things. (1Celano,bk.1,chpt.14) – 1 Corinthians 5&6 – One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.

8

This holy man insisted that spiritual joy was an infallible remedy against a thousand  snares and tricks of the enemy.  He used to say: ‘The devil is most delighted when he can steal the joy of spirit from a servant of God’…(2Celano,bk.2,chpt.88) – 1 Corinthians 7&8 – We can live forty days without food, eight minutes without air, but about one second without hope.

9

‘But if spiritual joy fills the heart, the serpent casts its poison in vain. The devils cannot harm a servant of Christ when they see him, filled with holy cheerfulness.’ (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.88) – 1 Corinthians 9&10 – Our job is not to do something for the Church, but to do something with it.

10

The saint therefore always strove to keep a joyful heart, to preserve the anointing of the spirit and the oil of gladness. He avoided very carefully the dangerous disease of melancholy, so that when he felt even a little of it slipping into his heart, he quickly rushed to prayer.  (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.88) – 1 Corinthians 11&12 – No one ever made more trouble than the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

11

O martyr, laughing and rejoicing, who endured so gladly what was bitter and painful for others to see! (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.7) – 1Corinthians13&14 – Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.

12

I see that (the devils) cannot harm me through myself.  Indeed whenever I feel tempted and depressed and I look at the joy of my companion, because of that joy I immediately turn away from temptation and melancholy toward inner and outer joy. (Mirror Perfection, #96) – 1Corinthians15&16 – The person who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.

13

By a joyful face he understood the fervor and solicitude, the disposition and readiness of a mind and body to willingly undertake every good work;  because through this kind of fervor and disposition others are motivated than through the good deed itself. (Mirror Perfection, #96) – 2Corinthians 1,2,3 – We can’t understand the Holy Spirit, but we can understand the Spirit’s impact on our lives.

14

He did not want to see a gloomy face, which more often shows laziness, a closed mind, and a body listless for every good work. (Mirror of Perfection,#96) – 2 Corinthians 4&5 – I cannot change the whole world, but I can change a small part if it…myself.

15

It is not right for a servant of God to show himself  to others sad and upset, but always pleasant.  Deal with your offenses in your room, and weep and moan before your God. (2Celano, bk.2, chpt.91) – 2 Corinthians 6,7,8 – God is already in our lives.  Our business is to recognize this.

16

Wherever the brothers may be and in whatever place they meet they should respect spiritually and attentively one another, and honor one another without complaining.  Let them be careful not to appear outwardly as sad and gloomy but show themselves joyful, cheerful and consistently gracious in the Lord. (Earlier Rule,#7) – 2 Corinthians 9&10 – Blessed are they who place themselves in the hands of Jesus.  He will place himself in their hands.

17

They (the brothers) walked with joy wherever they went, speaking among themselves about the words of the Lord, and saying nothing among themselves which did not serve the glory and praise of God, and the good of the soul. (Three Companions, chpt.12) – 2 Corinthians 11,12,13 – What we usually pray to God is not that his will be done, but that he approve ours.

18

When they laughed, they were filled with happiness and spiritual joy, so that they no longer remembered the adversities they experienced. (Anonymous of Perugia,chpt.6) – Daniel 1&2 –How else but through a broken heart may the Lord Christ enter in?

19

Whether ill or in good health they (the brothers) were always joyful and patient. (Anonymous of Perugia,chpt.6) – Daniel 3 – Only when we learn to see the invisible, will we learn to do the impossible.

20

They were always joyful in the Lord, having nothing within them or among them that could in some way bring them sadness. (Three Companions,chpt.11) – Daniel 4 – The effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive.

21

Blessed is that religious who has no pleasure and joy except in the most holy words and deeds of the Lord and, with these, leads people to the love of God with gladness and joy. (Admonitions,#20) – Daniel 5&6 – Nature does not know extinction.  All it knows is transformation.

22

He himself felt great joy in the Lord when he heard the words of Sacred Scripture. (Legend of Perugia,#38) – Daniel 7&8 – Often the “god” that people reject is not the true God, but a mistaken notion of God that exists only in their minds.

23

If a servant of God always strives to have and preserve internally and externally the spiritual joy that proceeds from  purity of heart and is acquired through the devotion of prayer, the evils could do him no harm. (Mirror of Perfection,#95) – Daniel 9&10 – Lord, help us to deal with ugly situations in a beautiful way.

24

Because spiritual joy springs from integrity of heart and the purity of constant prayer, it must be your primary concern to acquire and preserve these two virtues, to possess internal, as well as external joy. (Mirror of Perfection,#95) – Daniel 11&12 – To be ignorant of the scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ.

25

Whenever he used to say your name, O holy Lord, he was moved in a way beyond human understanding.  He was so wholly taken up in joy, filled with pure delight, that he truly seemed a new person of another age. (1Celano,chpt.29) – Daniel 13&14 – Jesus came not to eradicate suffering, but to fill it with his presence.

26

Sometimes he used to do this: a sweet melody of the spirit bubbling up inside him would become a French tune on the outside; the thread of a divine whisper which his ears heard secretly would break out in French song of joy. (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.89) – Hosea 1&2 – The old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind.

27

(The thieves) beat him and threw him into a ditch filled with snow, saying, ‘Lie there, you stupid herald of God!’… He jumped out of the ditch, and exhilarated with a great joy, he began in an even  louder voice to make the woods resound with praises to the Creator of all. (Major Legend,.chpt.2) – Hosea 3,4,5 – The living Christ still has two hands, one to point the way, and the other held out to help us along the way.

28

Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. (Admonitions,#27) – Hosea 6,7,8 – If Christ were standing before me now, what would I feel, not about him, but about myself?

29

(Saint Francis dying, said to Brother Elias) ‘Allow me to rejoice in the Lord, Brother, and to sing His praises in my infirmities, because, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I am so closely united and joined with my Lord, that, through His mercy, I can well rejoice in the Most High Himself.’ (Mirror of Perfection,#121) – Hosea 9,10,11 – The goal of religion is not to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us.

30

(As Saint Francis lay dying the guardian) took the tunic with a cord and underwear, and offered them to the little poor man of Christ, saying: ‘I am lending these to you as to a poor man, and you are to keep them with the command of holy obedience. At this the holy man rejoiced and was delighted in the gladness of his heart, because he saw that he had kept faith until the end with Lady Poverty. (Major Legend, chpt.14) – Hosea12,13,14 – You cannot have God for your Father, if you don’t have the Church for your mother.

31

Blessed Francis, like the rising sun, brightened the world by his life, his teaching and his miracles. – Our objective in life is to become a saint.

 

Monthly Meditation for March 2019 by Father Francis OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

March 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!


Because St. Francis was in certain things like another Christ given to the world for the salvation of people, God the Father willed to make him in many acts conformed and similar to His Son Jesus Christ … Once, when St. Francis was near the Lake Trasimeno on Carnival Day, he was inspired by God to go and spend Lent on an island in that lake. St. Francis asked his friend, for the love of Christ, to take him in his little boat to an island in the lake where no one lived, and to do this on the night of Ash Wednesday, so that nobody would perceive it … St. Francis earnestly asked him not to reveal to anyone that he was there, and not to come for him before Holy Thursday … and St. Francis remained there alone … There was no building there where he could take shelter. He went into a very dense thicket … and he began to pray and contemplate heavenly things in that place … He stayed there all through Lent without eating and without drinking, except for half of one of those little loaves of bread .. It is believed that St. Francis ate the half of one loaf out of reverence for the fast of the Blessed Christ, who fasted forty days and forty nights without taking any material food … And so with that half loaf he drove from himself the poison of pride … (The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Fioretti 7)


Throughout his life, St. Francis regularly sought the solitude of forests, mountains, islands. His Canticle of the Creatures gives us an insight into his love and reverence for all creation as gift from the One Great Creator and Father.  Nonetheless, often he would retire for weeks on end from this wonderful Theater of Redemption, away from the ‘world’, the people, and the circumstances that enveloped him each day.  Why?  If all is a gift and everything is so wonderful, why leave?  If God is everywhere, why go as far away from ‘civilization’ as possible to be able to ‘touch God’? 


Good, legitimate, enjoyable, and even necessary persons, places, and things – even religious things! – can ‘possess’ us so much that we can risk losing our God-centered perspective, and confuse our priorities.  They become the end rather than the means to deepen a relationship with God Who is ‘the Other’ and though He is not His creation, yet God can be seen in all things, because He is My God and My All as St. Francis prayed.  God’s providence and love cannot be felt unless they are seen in those who proclaim them by their actions.  The spirit, immersed in God, can often become distracted and even depleted of its inner strength by the constant barrages, cacophony, seductions, allurements of our society, and also from just frenetic running around ‘in four directions at once’ without taking time for healthy rest in the Lord.  The various ‘lents’ that St. Francis practiced during the year all responded to the canons of the Church for all Christians.  They were part of his own particular devotional life and spiritual needs. They afforded him the silence and solitude to ‘recharge’ his spirit, deepen his relationship with God for Whom St. Francis was the ‘Herald of the Great King’, and clarify his view of the world that surrounded him.


In solitude and silence our Seraphic Father sought to hear more clearly the voice of God Who spoke to him from the Cross of San Damiano that had entrusted him with a mission to rebuild My Church for as you can see it is falling into ruin.  To fulfill this commission St. Francis understood he had to begin by ‘rebuilding’ himself.  Like any edifice that needs revamping, remodeling, restoring, in order to be ultimately renewed, he had to check the structure, clean out the rubble, prop up and strengthen the tottering and fragile, fix the broken, discard the corroding that was affecting and infecting the rest of the healthy structure. Once this was done he could begin the ‘job’ of  rebuilding with quality updated strong material to make the structure solid and welcoming.  It is not always necessary to tear down to renew, particularly when the treasures of time and the human spirit are intimately involved and vital components.  When our faith foundation is solid and deep, the visible ‘structure’ of our lives will be strong and solid once revisions and repairs are effected.  Thus, what others see after we have worked at ‘rebuilding’ the inner spiritual structure and ‘refinished and renewed’ the outer appearance will attract, welcome, and challenge others to do the same.


Initially, our Seraphic Father understood the voice from the Cross of San Damiano literally. He began rebuilding the physical structures of several of the churches of Assisi with stones and mortar; and no doubt his merchant’s skills were able to eventually even get some of the townsfolk to help this affable eccentric in his ‘pro bono’ enterprise. Following this image, we too can speak of rebuilding the moral and spiritual structure of the Church, beginning with an evaluation and restructuring of our own personal church, the Temple of God each one of us has become through Baptism. St. Paul tells the Corinthians: Are you not aware that you are the Temple of God, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you?… For the Temple of God is holy, and you are that Temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-23) The voice from the Cross of San Damiano and the forty days St. Francis spent on the island on Lake Trasimeno offer us some points of reflection as we enter the most solemn season of the Church Year, the Paschal Season (Lent-Easter-Pentecost).  The ‘Penitents of Assisi’ as the first followers were called, were a prophetic presence among the people and within the Church calling the People of God to re-discover and uncover within themselves a new energy in God’s Spirit, and recognize a Presence that would transform their lives and restore harmony between them and all creation.  


Ash Wednesday heralds the beginning of this sacred season. Lent encourages us through the imposition of ashes to remember that:  You are dust and to dust you will return (look at everything in life from the perspective of eternity), and Repent and believe in the Gospel (give yourself over to God’s Will and live Jesus and His words). During these forty days we enter the Christian pilgrimage of faith and walk in the way of true conversion. We renew our commitment to rebuild and strengthen the Temple of God we are, making use of the ‘weapons’ our faith affords us. 


In the Opening Prayer of the Eucharist for Ash Wednesday, in the Latin Sacramentary, we read these words: O God our Father, grant that your Christian people may begin this fast as a journey of true conversion, that the weapons of penance may make them victorious in the battle against the spirit of evil. (free translation) This prayer introduces the beginning of the Season of Lent, springtime of the Church Year.  It offers us a simple and effective process we can follow on the forty-day itinerary ahead of us. The prayer mentions: conversion, journey, battle, weapons, victory … and a constant ‘accusing’ presence on this journey through life, ‘the evil one’.  The words are powerful and forceful.  They speak of decisiveness and determination. Reflecting on them and acting on them can make Lent a spiritually beneficial time for all who acknowledge their value and seek to implement them.


The process applies to a person of reasonably good faith, who truly wants to do what is good and right, even when the human spirit seems to be weak, tired or even contrary. Sincere awareness of our weaknesses leads to a desire and spirit of conversion, a ‘turning back’, to the intention of God in creating us and how we became when we were baptized – filled with sanctifying grace in God’s love.  Acceptance of this basic need urges us to take the first step of a journey that lasts a lifetime.  The journey is filled with pitfalls, detours, u-turns, and ‘full-steam-aheads’.  On this spiritual journey, just as in the experiences of everyday life, we encounter friend and foe, success and failure, joy and sorrow, virtue and vice, grace and sin.  We are called to wage ‘war’ and do ‘battle’ against the enemies of our soul by being prepared to recognize them, and to be energized by the gifts and assistance God affords us through Sacred Scripture, the Church and Sacraments, Tradition, the Magisterium, the holy people we follow as our spiritual guides, and one another.  The weapons of prayer, fasting, and alsmgiving keep our souls centered on the ultimate purpose of our existence – God! … and thus enliven us to confront the ‘evil one’ and the effects of his subtle and flagrant instigations in our daily lives:


            Prayer keeps our relationship with God strong, and makes us always aware that God is truly with us …

            Fasting places all things in right order that our possessions, even the spiritual ones, do not possess us …

            Almsgiving opens and disarms our heart to others … thus, the space within is cleared for the Presence of God. 


St. Francis often experienced his bouts with the ‘evil one’, sometimes directly, and more often, as with most of us, intensely through the temptations and allurements of the world around him or the ‘demons’ that lurk even in the recesses of saintly people. It is a given fact that the holier a person seeks to become, the more he/she will be assailed by the ‘spirit of evil’.  When we feel assailed and worried that we cannot overcome, remember that there is only one God, and no one and nothing can equal God in any way, no matter how strong.  The Evangelist St. John encourages us on our journey, especially when the going gets rough, when he reminded the early Church and us today: Greater is the One within you, than the one who is in the world.


Blow the trumpet in Zion!  Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber.  Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep, and say, ‘Spare, O Lord, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach…!  Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is there God?’ (Joel 2:16-17) To avoid the devastation that an infestation of locusts was causing Israel, Joel calls the people to prayer and penance.  From the terrible reality of the devastation of Israel to the great promise of the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, the people experience the blessings God offers them.  I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind.  Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions … I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth … Then everyone will be rescued who calls on the name of the Lord… (Joel 3:1-5) God is shown as both vindicator of His people and the source of all their blessings.  Lent is the time for us to re-confirm our Covenant with God in the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus.


Our desire for personal conversion compels us to take the first of many steps on a journey on which we encounter friends and foes of our spiritual lives who must be embraced in love or fought in a spiritual battle with the weapons of faith (prayer), hope (letting go and trusting in providence to fulfill our needs), and charity/love (disarming our hearts to others as we seek to assist them however possible).  Once we have embarked on this journey, guided by the Spirit of God, following in the footsteps of Jesus, there is nothing less to expect than Victory!


Yes! We are victors in the Victim!  We walk the road of the Cross.  Though there are many difficulties we must overcome, our victory is basically a victory over ourselves; that part of ourselves that hesitates or refuses to let the Holy Spirit work in and through us.  The journey of Lent leads to a victory so often misunderstood.  It is a victory whose trophy is a blood-stained Cross and a mangled, tortured, derided Person, executed as a common criminal Whose crime was truth, compassion, and love. The paradox of the Cross is the glory of the Christian.  The sign of contradiction becomes our sign of commitment, commitment to Life through death to ourselves, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me. Jesus Himself said, when I am lifted up I will call all people to myself.  Eventually, at the end of our Lenten journey we come to the foot of the Cross, not as vanquished victims, but as conquering victors who bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body, therefore let no one bother me.


Let us strive to do good and become better as we enter the Season of Renewal. To do what is good is to do what is of God.  To do what is good is to strive to be good.  To be good is to live in God’s grace. To live in God’s grace is to have begun our heaven on earth.  Lent is the beginning of our journey from Ashes to Palms, leading us from Palms to Calvary,  that we might move from Calvary to the Empty Tomb, and ultimately rejoice in the Empty Tomb that introduces us to the fullness of Life.  Lent is not a time for slackers.  In the words of one of our Capuchin saints: You don’t go to heaven in a taxi! Let us be serious about our ‘return to the future’, a phrase taken from the title of a movie that reminds us we are called not to be someone else in the future but to be who we were created to be from all eternity. Thus, we must recapture and grow in the image of God and Christ in whom we were created, that the future prepared for us may be assured.


As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us not forget that in the beginning we were called the ‘Penitents of Assisi’.  Let the true spirit of penance take hold of us this Lent.  We are called to reflect, reform, renew our lives that we may re-establish a deeper relationship with God and all creation.  Like Advent, Lent is a Season of joy-filled expectations. We live in the reality of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Lent is not a sad time of regrets, and penitential practices for the past.  It is a joyful season of ‘reconstruction’ and rebirth for all who seriously take advantage of the spiritual opportunities available. At the end of this brief yearly journey of renewal, the ‘edifice of the Spirit’, ‘the Temple of God’ we are ‘comes alive’ in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. 


May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look over each one of you, his spiritual children, with loving care. Happy Lent!


Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – February, 2019

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

February 2019

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

All peace and good be with you! May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary! As we prepare for our Regional Chapter of Elections this coming March, I ask you all to be praying for and seeking the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and that those called to serve the next three years be filled with the grace and wisdom of God!

In my last edition of “Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director” we started a discussion on the wonderful Feast of Epiphany. I asked you to reflect on this incredible feast and what it meant to us as Franciscans. I also gave you some scripture passages to reflect on as I did sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and our Rule. This month, I want to continue that theme even though Epiphany is long past. Although, for those of us who see the church’s calendar as a continuation of our faith and a part of our ongoing conversion, it is not past, it is just getting ready to come around again in eleven months!

This month I would like to focus more on the idea that we, as Catholics, but especially as Franciscans are called to be “Epiphany” to the world around us. Remember, the word and concept of Epiphany is to reveal or to be revelation, to shed light into the world around us and to live the gospel so clearly that others will see Jesus in you and be attracted to that light and vocation.

I want to share with you a section of the prolog to our rule of life:

“Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50). We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50). We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).” 1,2

In the prologue to our rule, In the Exhortation, Francis himself said we are to “Give Birth to Him,” meaning to reveal Jesus to those around us. We further see this idea in our own rule:

“United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.”3,4

In Rule 10, we are called to “witness to Him.” What does that word witness mean? Simply put, it means to testify. But for us it means not only in word, but in actions also.

Definition of (give) witness to: To declare belief in (a god or religion) They gave witness to their faith.5

Pope Francis once asked: “Am I a Christian giving witness to Jesus or am I a simple numerary of this sect,” unable to let the Holy Spirit “drive me forward in my Christian vocation?”6

Although his Holiness did not use the word “witness,” it is definitely the idea he is conveying. “Am I simply an official elected to a lifetime position within the church, or am I truly driven by the Holy Spirit?”

For this month, I will end with another part of our rule:

“Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.”7,8

Here, too, we are called to be a light and witness for Christ, to be epiphany, not instead of Christ, but pointing to Christ as the solution to the world’s issues.

Next month we will finish up on this topic and discuss examples of what it means to be epiphany!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation

 

1 SFO Rule (Prologue) Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance In the name of the Lord!

2 Emphasis mine

3 SFO Rule 10

4 Emphasis mine

5 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary  give witness to

6 May 6 2013: Homily at Mass Tuesday in the Domus Sanctae Marthae

7 SFO Rule 14 8 Emphasis min

 

Thought for the Day by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – February, 2019

February 2019

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)

Daily reflections are taken from various sources and Talks of Pope St.John Paul II

1

Francis began to say: Even a perfect religious very often sins in ignorance. Consequently if he does not realize his sin, he is punished … so that he may see and carefully reflect internally and externally … how he may have offended. – Do not be afraid!  Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ!

2

In this life the Lord leaves nothing unpunished in those whom He loves tenderly … Indeed the Lord in His mercy granted me this gift.  He makes me understand through prayer any way in which I please or displease Him. – With humility and trust I beg and implore you, allow Christ to speak to the person in you.

3

I am bound always to give good example; because I was given to them (the brothers), especially for this. When they hear that I am carrying the same trials they endure they endure theirs with greater patience. – Everything within us urges us to transcend ourselves, to overcome the temptation of superficiality or despair.

4

Blessed Francis was always sickly … He nevertheless considered that he should show a good example to the brothers and always take away from them any occasion for complaining about him… – Left to ourselves we could never achieve the ends for which we have been created.

5

Whether he was healthy or sick, until the day of his death, he wanted to endure so much need, that if any of the brothers who knew this, as we did … they would bear them (their needs) with greater patience. – Within us there is a promise which we find are incapable of attaining.  But the Son of God who came among us has given us his personal assurance.

6

He was so devout and prayed with such reverence, that during times of prayer, he refused to lean against a wall or partition, but always stood erect, without capuche over his head, and sometimes on his knees, especially when he spent greater part of the day and night in prayer. – In the mystery of his cross and resurrection, Christ has … bridged the infinite distance that separates all people from new life in him.

7

If the body wants to eat its food in peace and quiet, and both it and the body eventually will become food for worms, in what peace and quiet should the soul receive its food, which is God Himself! – Faith cannot be only cold hard facts calculated and weighed by our intellect. No, faith must be quickened by love.

8

The devil is delighted when he can extinguish or prevent devotion and joy in the heart of a servant of God which spring from clean prayer and other good works. –Faith must come alive through the good works which reveal God’s truth in us.

9

If the devil can have something of his own in a servant of God, he will in a short time make a single hair into a beam, always making it bigger… – Being a Christian must mean being a witness for Christ.

10

(The devil will do as he wishes) unless the servant of God is wise, removing and destroying (whatever the devil has planted) as quickly as possible by means of contrition, confession, and works of satisfaction. – Love of neighbor springs from a loving heart.

11

Blessed Francis had this as his greatest and main goal: he was always careful to have and preserve in himself spiritual joy internally and externally… – Peace is our duty, our grave duty, our supreme responsibility.

12

If I am tempted and depressed and I look at the joy of my companion, because of that joy I turn from the temptation and depression and toward inner and outer joy. – If you want peace, reach out to the poor.

13

The first brothers and those who came after them for a long time mortified their bodies excessively, not only by abstinence in food and drink, but also in vigils, cold, and manual labor. – The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love.

14

The abbot of Saint Benedict of Monte Subasio granted blessed Francis and his brothers the Church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula as the poorest little church they had. And he wanted that, if the Lord increased the brothers, it be the head of the whole religion.  And blessed Francis granted this. – Man cannot live without love.

15

And he (Francis) was overjoyed at the place granted the brothers … and because of the surname it had, for it was surnamed: ‘of the Portiuncula’… This name foreshadowed that it was to be the mother and head of the poor Lesser Brothers. – The one who wishes to understand him/herself thoroughly, must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ.

16

Francis said: For this church was a prophecy that has been fulfilled in the coming of the Lesser Brothers. And although it is poor and almost in ruins for a long time, the people of the city of Assisi and its neighborhood had always held it in great devotion. – We are called to become a temple for the Blessed Trinity.

17

He wanted the church to be under the ordinance of the general who would place a holy family there, cleric brothers and lay brothers who would serve them, and he wanted the place to be kept especially pure and holy in hymns and praises of the Lord. – The God of all wants to enter into communion with us.

18

I want this place to be a mirror and a good example for the entire religion, a  candelabra before the throne of God and before the blessed Virgin.  Thus may the Lord have mercy on the faults and failings of the brothers and always preserve and protect this religion, His little plant. – Wherever people are praying in the world, there the Holy Spirit is, the living breath of prayer.

19

And so, through God’s example, he did not want to have a house or cell in this world, nor did he have one built for himself.  Moreover, if he happened to say to the brothers: Prepare this cell this way, he would refuse afterwards to stay in it, because of that saying of the holy Gospel: Do not be concerned. – Prayer is a revelation of that … depth which comes from God and which only God can fill, precisely with the Holy Spirit.

20

He used to say: From the beginning of my conversion, when I separated myself from the world and father in the flesh, the Lord put His word in the mouth of the bishop of Assisi so he could counsel me well in the service of Christ and comfort me.  Therefore, as well as the greater excellence that I consider in prelates and in clerics, not only in bishops, but in poor priests as well, I want to love them, revere them and regard them as my lords. – God calls me and sends me forth as a laborer in his vineyard.

21

After receiving the bishop’s blessing … they (the brothers) may have poor little houses built of mud and wood, and some little cells where the brothers can sometimes pray and where, for their own greater decency and also to avoid idle words, they can work. – Every one of us God called by name.

22

Brother Francis had Brother Benedict of Piratro, who celebrated for him, called, since, although he was sick, he always wanted gladly and devoutly, to hear Mass whenever he was able.  And when he had come, blessed Francis told him: Write that I bless all my brothers, those who are and who will be in the religion until the end of the world. – From eternity God has thought of us and has loved us as unique individuals.

23

(Francis) used to go through the villages and churches in the area around the city of Assisi, proclaiming and preaching to the people that they should do penance.  And he would carry a broom to sweep the churches.  For blessed Francis was very sad when he entered some church and saw that it was not clean. – The fundamental and continuous attitude of the disciple would be one of vigilance and a conscious attentiveness to the voice of God.

24

After preaching to the people, at the end of the sermon he would always have all the priests who were present assembled in some remote place so he could not be overheard by the people.  He would preach to them about the salvation of souls and, in particular, that they should exercise care and concern in keeping churches clean, as well as altars and everything that pertained to the celebration of the divine mysteries. – Human life is not limited to the time spent on earth but is wholly directed to perfect joy and fullness of joy in the hereafter.

25

(To a family saddened that their son and brother wanted to enter the Order, blessed Francis said): This son of yours wants to serve God and you should be glad and not sad about this.  This will be counted an honor and advantage to the world, because God will be honored by your own flesh and blood, and all our brothers will be your sons and brothers… – Earthly suffering, when accepted in love, is like a bitter kernel containing the seed of new life, the treasure of divine glory to be given man in eternity.

26

(Francis continued): Because he is a creature of God and wishes to serve his Creator, and to serve Him is to reign, I cannot and should not return him to you.  But in order that you may have some consolation from all this, I want him to expropriate himself of this ox by giving it to you, although, according to the counsel of the holy Gospel, it ought to be given to other poor people. – We are called to entrust our lives completely to our providential God.

27

When blessed Francis remained alone one night to pray in the Church of Saint Peter of Bovaria, near the leper hospital of Trebio, he felt a diabolical illusion.  He got up and signing himself said: On behalf of Almighty God, I tell you, demons, you may do in my body whatever God told you. – Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the cross.

28

Brother Peter, (Francis’) companion, saw in the church that throne that had been Lucifer’s, so that the response to him was that it was reserved for blessed Francis – Let us rejoice and give thanks for (in Baptism) we have become not only Christians, but Christ … Marvel and rejoice: We have become Christ!

Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap - February, 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

In the Spring of 1207, while in the woods of Monte Subasio, Saint Francis was accosted by several thieves. They asked Francis who he was and he replied simply, I am the herald of the great King!  We know the story: they stripped him of his tunic, threw him into a ditch, and went away amused at the self-aggrandizing words of this ‘lunatic’.  Untroubled at the harsh treatment given him, our Seraphic Father, truly an example for all his children-to-be, got up and cheerfully continued his way.  Eccentric to say the least! Nevertheless, Francis Bernardone was truly in love with God and life so that even harsh treatment could not destroy the inner peace and joy he was discovering more deeply every day. 


St. Francis’ immediate response to the brigands was based on a profound conviction: the Lord had spoken to him from the Cross of San Damiano, and charged him to rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is falling into ruin.  St. Francis understood these words literally and set out at once to begin his divinely appointed commission, his ‘job’, rebuilding churches.  He was the divinely-appointed ecclesiastical architect and general contractor. Actually, it is not far-fetched to give him these titles.  The day would come when he would be the ‘architect’ of a whole new way of life.  The Family of the Penitents of Assisi who would follow his example eventually would begin to rebuild the Church and society. The Providence of God would take care of his needs. The good people of Assisi and so many others would be the all-providing hand of God for this young ‘penitent’ who had embraced his fears, kissed the leper, and given all that ‘possessed him’ back to the world.  He threw himself with abandon into the loving arms of his Father in heaven.


St. Francis considered himself a ‘man with a mission’, a mission yet to be defined, but one that St. Francis did not hesitate to begin, leaving all the specifics up to God.  How wonderful our lives would be if only we would be that trusting of God!  We trust human beings, erratic as we can be, and yet we find difficulty trusting God, Whose love is everlasting!  (Go figure!) The work of rebuilding churches with the sweat of his brow and strength of his own limbs would no doubt catch the attention of many, especially the elite of Assisi society who, as Francis, were accustomed to be catered to rather than exert themselves for others, especially those lower on the social ladder.  Some to ridicule, others to praise, and many to question and wait, but all were aware of Francis.  The son of Peter Bernardone had caused excitement and consternation among the populace of Assisi. That is how it is with true leadership: yes or no, accept or reject, adhere or detach, follow or leave.  Anyone who encountered Francis Bernardone, and knew of his previous care-free and care-less attitude, spoiled as the fair-haired-son of the self-made wealthy merchant and how he had now become, could not remain indifferent to the facts before them. 


Except for the presence and support of an unknown friend, St. Francis was relatively alone in the first years of his new life.  No doubt there were many questions and personal difficulties he would have to overcome.  He struggled with the ‘demons’ within and the difficulties without, as any of us contend during a lifetime.  With the help of divine grace he sought to become the new wine and new wineskin.  He did not seek to establish a new Order in the Church, but to establish order in his life.  His cheerful character and determination, his acceptance of voluntary poverty to avoid the entanglements that our possessions so often cause us, his deep love and concern for the ‘refuse’ of society numbering himself among them, were only a few of the characteristics of this ‘new person’ Francis was becoming more decisively each day. And these all served as ‘magnets’ attracting so many in those first few years to follow his example.  They too would eventually become ‘heralds of the great King’. 


Emphasizing the word ‘herald’ is important.  Heralds were trusted people charged with a given ‘mission’.  They spoke in the name of another; they did not wield the authority. They spoke in the name of one whose words were to be repeated ‘verbatim’. Jesus Himself speaks of the attitude of His ‘heralds’. He tells us not to worry when we are questioned regarding the ‘Good News’ we are commissioned to proclaim to the world.  Speaking in the name of Jesus and witnessing our allegiance to Him, Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid of what you are to say or how you are to say, the Spirit of my Father will be speaking in you.  Because the heralds were trusted people entrusted with the words of their master, an integrity and credibility were bestowed upon the herald by the mere fact of the office they fulfilled and the one whom they were delegated to represent, and in whose name they delivered their message. A herald spoke from a source beyond himself. He spoke with certainty.  Thus, he spoke with unquestionable authority. In this sense, St. Francis was a true herald, one who proclaimed the words of the Master, and was the first to live them.  


In the winter of 1209 – Many believe it was the feast of Saint Matthias, the apostle who took the place of Judas Isacriot, celebrated until the liturgical reform of Vatican II on February 24th – St. Francis was approaching the Chapel of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula. In the First Life of St. Francis written by Blessed Thomas of Celano, we read: Francis went to another place, which is called the Portiuncula … When on a certain day the Gospel was read in that church, how the Lord sent his disciples out to preach, the holy man of God, assisting there, understood somewhat the words of the Gospel; after Mass he humbly asked the priest to explain the Gospel to him more fully … Francis, hearing that the disciples of Christ should not possess gold or silver or money; nor carry along the way scrip, or wallet, or bread, or a staff; that they should not have shoes, or two tunics; but that they should preach the kingdom of God and penance, immediately cried out exultingly: ‘This is what I wish, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do with all my heart’.  The holy father, overflowing with joy, hastened to implement the words of salvation, and did not delay before he devoutly began to put into effect what he heard. … For he was no deaf hearer of the gospel … He then began to preach penance to all with a fervent spirit and joyful attitude … His word like a blazing fire, reaching the deepest parts of the heart and filling the souls of all with wonder… In all his preaching, before he presented the word of God to the assembly, he prayed for peace saying, ‘May the Lord give you peace’ … Many who hated peace, with the Lord’s help wholeheartedly embraced peace.  They became children of peace. (1 Celano, 21-24)


God’s word was no idle spiritual devotion for Francis. God’s Word was the guiding factor of his life.  As God spoke, so Francis sought to do. When our Father Francis heard the words of the Gospel on that grace-filled day, his concerns and questions were answered. It seemed as though God Himself were saying to Francis: ‘Abandon worries and concern for tomorrow in the hands of the One Who provides for every moment and without Whom nothing can be…Trust…Do not be afraid’. This simple, yet profound message he would preach to others more by actions than by words. His simplicity and childlike trust in the Providence of God attracted others to follow his example.  Those who would give a powerful witness were not only the Friars and Sisters who lived in formal religious houses and monasteries, but the men and women, our brothers and sisters, who could not leave their families and/or responsibilities in society, yet who, nonetheless, deeply desired and sought to live this evangelical expression of life in their daily secular experiences. They became the yeast kneaded into the dough, the light placed on a candelabra.  The Gospel was a call offered to everyone willing to listen and to follow.  The more they faithfully listened to the Word within them, the better they were empowered to respond to a world around them, indicating a life fulfilled for those who give priority to God and trust in His all-providing and all-loving Presence.


As spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us remember the power the Word of God exercised in his life and should exercise in our own.  As St. Francis, let us read the Word and listen to It with our heart. When necessary, ask clarifications, as St. Francis did. Seek enlightenment that you may better understand what the Lord is saying to you through His Word.  Following our Seraphic Father’s example, let us always have an open and disarmed heart to the challenges God’s Word may offer us.  Let the words of the Divine Word enter our heart as He speaks to each of us personally and directly. If only we realized the beauty of our Franciscan Vocation and the heights of holiness we could achieve with the help of God’s grace by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi!  We would be able to eradicate from our lives and fraternities all that does not speak of Franciscan humility and charity.  These are not ‘pie-in-the-sky’ virtues, but the foundation of a life worth living and loving.  The Church in Her leadership has always praised our Franciscan spirit and encouraged the sisters and brothers to live it fully and, in the words of St. Francis, ‘without gloss’. 


While on his visit to Assisi, Pope St. John Paul II offered the following prayer to our Seraphic Father:  Help us, St. Francis of Assisi, to bring Christ closer to the Church and to the world of today.  You, who bore in your heart the vicissitudes of our contemporaries, help us, with our heart close to the Redeemer’s heart, to embrace the events of men and women of our time.  The difficult social, economic and political problems, the problems of culture and contemporary civilization, all the sufferings of the man of today, his doubts, his denials, his disorders, his tensions, his complexes, his worries. Help us to express all this in the simple and fruitful language of the Gospel.  Help us to solve everything in an evangelical key, in order that Christ himself may be ‘the Way – the Truth – the Life’ for modern man…You have always been kind and you have always hastened to bring help to all those who appealed to you. Then he reminded all Franciscans to: Serve the Lord joyfully. Be servants of his people gladly, because St. Francis wished you to be joyful servants of mankind, capable of lighting everywhere the lamp of hope, trust, and optimism which has its source in the Lord himself.  May your, our, common Patron Saint, St. Francis of Assisi, be an example to you today and always! (November 5, 1978)


What better encouragement and confirmation can we have than that offered by the Vicar of Christ Himself!  Let us let the Word take hold of our lives. Whatever God says to us in His most holy Word, let us say with Saint Francisthat is what I want with all my heart.  Let us remember that our Rule and Constitutions are confirmed by the Church because they are founded on God’s Word. Let us not be afraid to live the Gospel we accept and the Life we have professed.  Let the spirit of Franciscan joy be an undeniable characteristic of each one of us.  Let us remember that we are a family of sisters and brothers, redeemed in the blood of Jesus on Calvary, and one family following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.  Let the hope, trust and optimism which has its source in the Lord Himself, of our Franciscan Vocation, overflow into the lives of all whom we encounter and to whom we minister. 


May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look 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

Thought for the Day by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap January 2019

January 2019


Lord, just as I believe that at an earlier time

(I may have been sinful and not fully open to Your will)

so now I realize that, because of Your abundant mercy

and in Your own time, You have shown an abundance of Your mercies to (me)

Give glory to Your name,

(may I) offer the fragrance of good life, doctrine, and good reputation

to the whole Christian people.

I ask you therefore, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies,

not to consider (my) ingratitude.

May (I) always be mindful of the abundant mercies which you have shown (me),

that (I) may always … glorify Your name blessed and glorious throughout the ages.

Amen.

(Paraphrase [in parenthesis] of the blessing of  Saint Francis for the City of Assisi)

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

1

Blessed Francis held that to beg for alms for the love of the lord God was of the greatest nobility, dignity, and courtesy before God and before this world … blessed Francis would say that a servant of God must beg alms for the love of God with greater freedom and joy – In order to love Jesus, we must offer to others the gift of ourselves.

2

I must be a model to your poor.  Especially because I know that in the life and religion of the brothers there are and will be Lesser Brothers, in name and in deed, humble in all things, obedient and of service to their brothers. – It is only in the giving of ourselves through charity, service and compassion that we can experience true joy.

3

At…Rivo Torto, there was a brother…who prayed little, did not work, and did not want to go for alms…blessed Francis…told him:  Go on your way, Brother Fly, because you want to feed on the labor of your brothers, but wish to be idle in the work of God…he went away…and did not ask for mercy.  – Suffering is transformed and elevated when, in those moments, we become aware of God’s closeness and solidarity.

4

When blessed Francis lay gravely ill…he often asked his companions during the day to sing the Praises of the Lord which he had composed a long time before his illness. – There is something of the apostle Thomas in every human being.  Each one is tempted by unbelief.

5

(Blessed Francis said to Brother Elias) Allow me to rejoice in the Lord, Brother, and to sing His praises in my infirmities, because, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I am closely united and joined with my Lord, through His mercy, I can well rejoice in the Most High Himself. – We have to open our eyes and our heart to the light of the Holy Spirit.

6

Blessed Francis did not want to address anyone called ‘Good’ by their name, out of reverence for the Lord, who said: No one is good but God alone.  – May every family truly rediscover its own vocation to love!

7

(Blessed Francis) did not want to call anyone ‘father’ or ‘master’, nor write them in letters, out of reverence for the Lord who said:  Call no one on earth your father nor be called masters, etc. – Do not separate your faith from your daily life and your daily life from your faith, as so many people do today.

8

(Blessed Francis said to the doctor): Tell me the truth. How does it look to you?  Do not be afraid,  for by the grace of God, I am not a coward who fears death… – The life and the whole being of each Christian must be unified around a central axis: fidelity to Jesus Christ.

9

With the Lord’s help, by His mercy and grace, I am so united and joined with my Lord that I am equally as happy to die as I am to live – In every circumstance, the starting point is to intensify prayer (in order) to increase one’s faith and make it more vigorous.

10

At the beginning of the religion, when blessed Francis would go with a brother who was one of the first twelve brothers, that brother would greet men and women along the way as well as those in their field, saying: May the Lord give you peace. – God alone is our true and unfailing support.

11

Blessed Francis instructed all the brothers … that they should not abandon holy and devout prayer. Going for alms, and working with hands like the other brothers, for good example and for the benefit of their souls as well as others   – Love and prayer are the only sure spiritual levers with which it is possible to lift up the world.

12

(Blessed Francis said): The brothers who are subjects are very edified when their ministers and preachers devote themselves freely to prayer; and the subjects are inclined to humility, when they see the prelates and the greater ones co-operating in their enterprises and labors. – We are all called to live a life of holiness.

13

That faithful disciple and imitator of Christ (Blessed Francis), while he was in good health, practiced what he taught the brothers. –   In baptism God has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence’.

14

From the time of his conversion till the day of his death, blessed Francis, whether healthy or sick, was always concerned to know and follow the will of the Lord. – The Holy Spirit makes man realize his own evil and at the same time directs him toward what is good.

15

Blessed Francis praised God with great fervor of spirit and joy of body and soul, and told (the brother who informed him of his terminal condition): If I am to die soon, call Brother Angelo and Brother Leo that they may sing to me about Sister death. – Thanks to the multiplicity of the Spirit’s gifts, every kind of human sin can be reached by God’s saving power.

16

From the beginning of his conversion blessed Francis, with God’s help, like a wise man, established himself and his house, that is, the religion, on a firm rock, the greatest humility and poverty of the Son of God, calling it the religion of ‘Lesser Brothers’ – Love nothing more than Christ who reveals to the world the mystery of divine love and true human dignity.

17

After the brothers grew in number, he wanted the brothers to stay in hospitals of lepers to serve them…whenever nobles and commoners came to the religion, they were told, among other things, that they had to serve the lepers and stay in their houses. – True relationships are rich in inner depth, gratuitousness, and self-sacrifice.

18

Let the brothers remain as strangers and pilgrims in the houses in which they stay.  Let them not seek to have anything under heaven, except holy poverty, by which, in this world, they are nourished by God with bodily food and virtue, and, in the next, will attain a heavenly inheritance. – Love Christ present in those burdened by illness.

19

The bishop (of Terni) said: …God has beautified his Church with this little poor man, lowly, unlettered…And because of this you should live and honor the Lord and avoid sin for He has done thus for every nation. – Call with faith on the name of Jesus (and experience the power that flows from that Name).

20

Blessed Francis bowed down before the Lord Bishop and fell down at his feet, saying to him … (People) attribute glory and holiness to the creature, not to the Creator. You, however, like a discerning man, have separated what is precious from what is vile. – Provided that we approach the word of God and listen to it as it really is, it brings us into contact with God himself.

21

If at any moment the Lord wanted to take back the treasure He has loaned to me, what would I have left except just body and soul, which even non-believers have? – The word of God brings us into contact with Christ, the Word of God, the Truth, who is at the same time both the Way and the Life.

22

I must believe, rather, that if the Lord had granted a thief and even a non-believer as many gifts as He has given me, they would be more faithful to the Lord than I. –The Holy Spirit is the author of our sanctification.

23

… a servant of God … must not attribute anything to himself, but give all honor and glory to God.  He should not attribute anything to himself while he is alive except shame and trouble, because, while he is alive, the flesh is always opposed to God’s gifts. – The Holy Spirit transforms us deep down, divinizes us, makes us participants in divine nature, just as fire makes metal incandescent, just as spring water quenches thirst.

24

A few years after his conversion he resigned the office of prelate (superior) before all the brothers during a chapter held at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula.  From now on, he said, I am dead to you.  But here is Brother Peter di Catanio: let us all, you and I, obey him. – Christians need reconciliation with one another; we need mutual forgiveness.

25

I want you to put one of my companions in your place regarding me, so that I may obey him as I would obey you.  For the sake of good example and the virtue of obedience, in life and in death I always want you to be with me. – (We should not be afraid) of openly and courageously expressing our faith in Christ in our daily lives, especially in works of charity and solidarity with those who are in need.

26

Among other favors, the Most High has given me this grace: I would obey a novice who entered our religion today, if he were appointed my guardian, just as readily as I would obey him who is the first and the eldest in the life and religion of the brothers. –  Be men and women of integrity and sound moral character worthy of the respect and trust we seek from others.

27

A subject should not consider his prelate, a human being, but God, for love of Whom he is subject to him… But the Most High gave me this grace: that I want to be content with all, as one who is lesser in the religion. – We must enrich the world not only by the gifts God has entrusted to us, but also by our goodness.

28

Frequently, when some of the brothers did not provide for his needs, or said something to him that would ordinarily offend a person, he would immediately go to prayer. On returning, he did not want to remember it … – The first step in evangelization is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God.

29

The closer he approached death, the more careful in complete perfection he became in considering how he might live and die in complete humility and poverty. –  Our relationship with God demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of who we are.

30

A few years after he began to have brothers, (Clare) was converted to the Lord through his advice…Her conversion not only greatly edified the religion of the brothers, but also the entire Church of God. –  O Lord of life, when the moment of our definitive ‘passage’ comes, grant that we may face it with serenity, without regret for what we shall leave behind. 

31

Saturday evening before nightfall, after vespers, when blessed Francis passed to the Lord, many birds called larks flew low above then roof of the house where blessed Francis lay, wheeling in a circle and singing.  We, who were with blessed Francis, have written about this … – Jesus asks us to follow him and to imitate him along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren out of love for God.

 

Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – January 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

January 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

(May He live in you. May you always live in Him)


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be …  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son full of grace and truth. (John 1: 1-14)


Words, words, words!   Everyone seems to have something to say.  How often are we reminded by our interlocutors that we are all ‘entitled to their opinions’.  More often than not we are expected to take their words to heart – which is fine for pondering – and then do whatever is proposed – under the guise of friendship, or fear of some unpleasant reaction, and so on.  Commercials expect us to buy the product advertised.  Millions of dollars are spent to ‘push’ some medical ‘breakthrough’ or pharmaceutical remedy as a miracle drug for what ails you.  Even when the counter warnings that must legally be presented are disconcerting not to say frightening; these products are bought to the billions of dollars, regardless of the possible dangerous, harmful or even fatal effects.  Newspapers and news broadcasts saturate us with information, often about less important, insignificant matters or even opinionated editorials, when we would rather want to be made aware of more significant events and objective comments of pressing local, national and worldwide interest that in fact may or do affect our lives.  Sermons and homilies are delivered in a manner that captivates the listeners’ attention and opens their hearts to remember what was presented to them, but the words many times are knowledgeably and beautifully delivered but do not challenge the listener. In this case, no one wants to ‘make waves’.  Something good, correct and ‘nice’ is spoken, but it is often a word that will not set the soul afire with enthusiasm to be a ‘living gospel message’.  


There is wrong or sinful speaking with one another, having an opinion in which one believes firmly, marketing products, researching and ‘experimenting’ medicines intended to help better our human condition, informing people of current events, following one’s own conscience, speaking with people of faith matters in an encouraging and uplifting manner … or even writing monthly circular letters intended to inform, instruct and, God willing, inspire people to accept the challenge every day to improve our relationship with God and others.  All these, and many other examples you are undoubtedly able to list, are intended for good…and are composed of many words.  How we cooperate with the words we hear or read will determine the good or not so good, or even the bad effect we allow them to have on our lives. The word is necessary to communicate.  The Incarnate Word communicates truth and seeks a response.  Let us remember that even silence can be a very powerful response.


We are People of the Word.  It is a fact. Whether we have heard it or not, this is what we areThe faith we share was first spoken to both the simple as well as the educated people.  They listened to the message (the Good News), reflected upon it, and ultimately decided to accept or reject what was proclaimed to them.  Once the words spoken were accepted, the next step was to concretize them in life. Until we read and allow the Lord Jesus to be ‘enfleshed’ in our lives by following His teachings and example, we can never truly be fully a ‘People of the Word’.


We who are ordained and/or commissioned ministers of the Word must also be very cautious we proclaim and spread God’s Word, and not our own! We cannot be honest to our ministry to God’s People when the Word we proclaim is intended to foster and promote personal issues and agendas. All of us, regardless of our place in the Mystical Body of Christ, are consecrated by Baptism to be attentive and faithful to the integrity of the Good News – the message of Jesus. 


Individuals are, by human nature, more ‘intuned’ to hear what they expect or want. This happens in religious organizations, political gatherings, social groupings, churches, and even in The Church.  In the Church it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit that gives the grace of infallibility in matters of faith and morals to the Holy Father, Successor to St. Peter and Vicar of Christ for the sake of Christ’s Body, the Church. Our Seraphic Father placed such trust and confidence in the presence of the Holy Spirit and His holy operation that St. Francis told the brothers that the Holy Spirit was the true Minister General of the Order (cfr. 2 Celano, chpt. CXLV). 


We must be cautious how we interpret words. Much can be lost in the translation.  Sacred Scripture translated in a language to be understood by people of every time and nation, risks alterations that can affect the original meaning.  There are many safeguards in the Church to avoid ‘misunderstandings’. Nevertheless: What happens when we read but do not perceive? What happens when we hear but do not listen? What happens when we proclaim but do not live?  What happens when we, like sounding gongs and clanging cymbals, repeat correctly all the proper words that indicate what we have been taught and have said we will accept, but then live as though we have heard nothing new, nor allowed our lives to be transformed by the power of the Word, Whose words are spirit and life


St. Francis was an advocate of respect for the Word.  Let the names and written words of the Lord, whenever they are found in inconvenient places, be also gathered up and kept in a becoming place (Letter to the Custodians, 1220). This respect for Sacred Scripture of St. Francis was rooted in his awareness that all he had become, and all he had offered thousands of others to become in response to God’s call, had its beginning in the words he read, heard and asked be explained to him by one who represented for him the official teaching of the Church (the Magisterium) … and he accepted without gloss, and gave himself wholeheartedly to a life that would change the world as it changed millions of people down through the centuries Our Seraphic Father listened to the words of Sacred Scripture so intently that he remembered them, pondered them, and assimilated them into his life.  They were the true Form of Life he accepted to follow.  To follow Jesus is to follow the Gospel.  To follow the Gospel is to be a living image of Jesus. Living the Word without gloss, as St. Francis expected his spiritual children to do, allows the Word to come alive in, with, and through us who believe It and believe in It.


The Rule, Constitutions, Regulations and even simple organizational suggestions offered by the legitimate leadership of any jurisdiction of our Franciscan Fraternity are all based on the life and teachings of the one Great Word Who is Jesus, and His words in Scripture, and how our Seraphic Father accepted them in his life. Franciscans, true to their Seraphic Father, have always considered Sacred Scripture their first and basic rule of life and guide. In a letter to the whole Order, Our Seraphic Father wrote: Because whoever belongs to God hears the words of God, we who are more especially charged with divine responsibilities must not only listen to and do what the Lord says but also care for the vessels and other liturgical objects that contain His holy words in order to impress on ourselves the sublimity of our Creator and our subjection to Him.  I, therefore, admonish my brothers and encourage them in Christ to venerate, as best they can, the divine written words wherever they find them … For many things are made holy by the words of God and the sacrament of the altar is celebrated in the power of the words of Christ (Letter to the Entire Order).


As spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi we have accepted the call to live the Gospel, according to our state in life, following Jesus Christ after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.  As People of the Word, if we have not already done so, we must let the Word of God written for us to read and meditate, and the Word of God, Jesus the Christ, enfleshed in human nature in all things but sin for us to follow, be the guiding force of our lives.  The Rule and Constitutions studied and approved by Holy Mother Church are Spirit and Life for us all, for they are rooted in the Word of God, our Seraphic Father, and the Magisterium of the Church. To disregard them for convenience or human respect, is to betray our Franciscan vocation.  The pondered and promoted decisions of the leadership of our regional and even the single fraternities in union with our national and international councils are expected to be reflected upon and then followed with fraternal trust in those elected to leadership.  Often our ‘human nature gets in the way’, and can keep the person and even the fraternity from moving forward.  


What makes us Franciscans is our ability to be sisters and brothers not intimidated nor intimidating, ready and trusting enough to be able to express our feelings – happy, sad, annoyed, contrary, and the like. However, a true Franciscan is also expected to live the essence of Franciscan Poverty, manifested in true Obedience.  Self-centered negative criticism of others, refusal to accept in humility what is asked of us in the spirit of Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, the Rule and Constitutions, devious behavior, antagonistic ‘feelings’ towards another, and much more are not only contrary to our Franciscan charism but also contrary to our Catholic Christian calling. Baptized Catholics seek always to be faithful to Sacred Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium.  They willingly strive to be an affirming presence in the world, wherever and however God has made known directly or indirectly.


We have begun the New Year.  The Christ of history walked among us two thousand years ago.  The Christ of glory will come in the Father’s time and eternal Will. The Christ of mystery is with us always in His Word revealed to us and transmitted by the sacred writers and in His Divine Presence in the Eucharist. What lies ahead of us is in the hands of God.  May we take on the commitment because of our faith-filled conviction and Franciscan profession to read Scripture more often and intently. To do so daily is not an exaggerated expectation for People of the Word. This is who we Franciscans are. St. John tells us His own did not receive Him.  There are still sisters and brothers among us have difficulty accepting the challenge of their profession to live the Franciscan-Gospel life with joy and surrender to the Word of God and heart of St. Francis of Assisi.  The Word was made flesh and must be enfleshed in each one of us. He came and dwelled among us, that others might be able to see Him through us. Those who come to believe in Him through the example of our Franciscan Gospel Life, are offered the opportunity and privilege to receive from Christ the power to become the children of God. These children of God will see His glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth, alive in their hearts and transforming the lives of others.


As you can see, there is power in a word, a power that not even hell can destroy or shake.  There is infinite might and transforming power in the Word. May that Word, who entered time with us that we might enter eternity with Him, be our guiding force each day. And may the Eucharist, great gift of the Word through the Spirit, allow the Mystery of the Incarnation we celebrate and receive to fill us with the graces of the Holy Spirit and always give us peace in the Father’s love, mercy and providence.


My prayers are with all of you and your loved ones for a most blessed and peace-filled New Year 2019.  May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi  and our holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  


Remembering the words of St. Jerome: Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, we can take that further saying, as can be seen on some Church signs: No Christ, No Peace!  KNOW CHRIST, KNOW PEACE!  May we make this a Year of the Word for us to get to Know Christ that we may Know His Peace in our hearts, homes, and the world around us.  JESUS, OUR PEACE, DOES NOT DISAPPOINT ANYONE WHO PLACES THEIR TRUST IN HIM.  LORD, THIS YEAR AND ALWAYS WE PLACE OUR TRUST IN YOU! May the Peace, Joy, Blessings … and Love fill your hearts and those of your loved ones.  Happy New Year to all!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – January 2019

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

January 2019

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

All peace and good be with you!  May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary in this New Year!  I pray that your Christmas was blessed and that, as we prepare to celebrate the wonderful Feast of Epiphany, I ask you to reflect on this incredible feast for a while. We all too often see the Epiphany as the three wise men coming to adore the Baby Jesus, and it is that, but oh so much more.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks volumes:

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.”[1],[2]  

So, we see that according to the Catechism, Epiphany is not just the visitation of the three magi, it includes the Baptism of Christ and the sign (as Saint John calls it) of the Wedding Feast of Cana.  First, I would like to take a look at this year’s Old Testament reading for the feast.

“Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you.  Though darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds, the peoples, upon you the LORD will dawn, and over you his glory will be seen.  Nations shall walk by your light, kings by the radiance of your dawning.[3],[4]

In this beautiful passage from Isaiah the prophet proclaims that not only will Zion (the chosen people) see the Glory of the Lord, but all the nations of the earth will see his great light!  This was a very new message for Israel.  In that time, and right up to Jesus’ time, Israel frequently shunned the stranger, or even castigated him, even though they were called to be the light of the world.

Now I would like to look at two scriptures that describe the Baptism of our Lord, one directly and the other indirectly.

“After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”[5],[6]

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the one of whom I said  ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.”[7],[8]

In both the Gospel of Mathew and in the Gospel of John we see the Father revealing to the world his beloved son, not as a baby but as the Lamb of God.  John’s Gospel does not directly link the revelation to Jesus’ baptism, but does link it indirectly.  In both cases, Jesus is revealed in a new and clearer way.

Lastly, we have the wedding feast of Cana:

“And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs[9] in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.[10],[11] 

Though Jesus performed many more than seven miracles, the Apostle John selectively cites only seven for this reason:  the number seven shows the completeness of God’s revelation of Jesus to the Hebrews and to the world, and is traditionally thought of as the number representing God’s perfect nature.  Each of the seven signs builds on the next to paint a complete picture of the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world.

“The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.”[12]

Accordingly we see that the Feast of Epiphany is much more than the coming of the Magi.  It is the celebration of the revelation of the Light of God to all peoples, the declaration and revelation of Jesus and God’s son and Lamb of God (sacrifice) and the revelation that Jesus is the transforming and creative force of the Godhead.

So, what does that have to do with Franciscan formation?  A great deal! And in the coming months we will continue to discuss this and reflect on our Rule of Life and the Sacred Scriptures.  I will leave you with a chapter of our rule to start contemplating.

“They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.  Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.”[13],[14]

 

 

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

[1] Taken from CCC-528

[2] Emphasis mine

[3] Isaiah 60:1-3

[4] Emphasis mine

[5] Mathew 3:16-17

[6] Emphasis mine

[7] John 1:29-32

[8] Emphasis mine

[9] “Sign” (sēmeion) is John’s symbolic term for Jesus’ wondrous deeds

[10] John 2:9-11

[11] Emphasis mine

[12] Introduction to the Gospel of John, NABRE, approved by the USCCB

[13] OFS Rule, Chapter 6

[14] Emphasis mine