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.

Updates, News & Announcements

Follow our updates, news & announcements via…
Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

X

or enter your email address and click subscribe to by notified by email:

Thoughts for the Day – April 2021 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

April 2021 

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

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

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

to the Most High and Supreme Eternal God, Trinity and Unity, 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 

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

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

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

sublime, most high, gentle, lovable, delightful, 

and totally desirable above all else for ever. 

Amen.

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

The next few months daily excerpts of the Franciscan story are taken from the

THE ANONYMOUS OF PERUGIA 

Daily spiritual quotes are from various sources

THE BEGINNING OR FOUNDING OF THE 

ORDER AND THE DEEDS OF THOSE LESSER BROTHERS 

WHO WERE THE FIRST COMPANIONS OF BLESSED FRANCIS IN RELIGION 

1

Servants of the Lord should not be ignorant of the lives and teachings of saints through which they can come to God. Therefore, for the honor of God and the edification of readers and listeners, I, who saw their deeds, listened to their words, and also became their disciple, have compiled and recounted, as the Lord inspired me, some deeds of our most blessed Father Francis and of a few of the brothers who lived at the beginning of the religion. – Walk with simplicity in the ways of the Lord. 

Chapter I 

HOW BLESSED FRANCIS BEGAN TO SERVE GOD 

2

On the sixteenth of April, after one thousand two hundred and seven years had been completed since the Incarnation of the Lord, God … enlightened a man who was in the city of Assisi, Francis by name, a merchant by trade, and a very vain spendthrift of worldly wealth. One day he was in the shop where he customarily sold cloth, totally absorbed in business, when a poor man came in, begging alms for the Lord’s sake. – Hate your faults, but with a quiet hate, not troublesome and restless. 

3

Preoccupied with thoughts of wealth and care of the business, Francis sent him away without giving him alms. After the poor man left, touched by divine grace, he began to accuse himself of great rudeness, a saying: “If the poor man had asked in the name of a count or a powerful baron, you would have granted him his request. How much more should you have done this for the King of Kings and the Lord of all?” – Be patient with your faults and gain from them holy humility.

4

Because of this incident, he resolved in his heart, from then on, never to refuse a request from anyone asking in the name of so great a Lord. He called the poor man back and gave him a generous alms.  After a while, a marvelous thing happened to this blessed man which in my estimation should not be passed over in silence. – What soul to whom Jesus has given himself as its inheritance can be unhappy? 

5

One night when he was asleep in his bed, someone appeared to him calling him by name. He led him into a palace of unspeakable beauty, filled with military arms, its walls covered everywhere with shining shields emblazoned with crosses. He inquired to whom these brightly shining arms and this beautiful palace belonged. – Let us spend our whole life giving thanks to the divine Father.

6

“All these things, including the palace,” said the guide, “belong to you and your knights.” Upon awakening, he began to interpret this in a worldly way, like someone who had not yet fully tasted God’s Spirit. He thought he would become a magnificent prince. After giving the matter much thought, he decided to become a knight to obtain this princely power. – Let us pray with the humility of the creature and the confidence and freedom of the child.

7

After having as expensive a wardrobe as possible made for himself, he arranged to join up with a noble count in Apulia, to be knighted by him. Everyone marveled that he was happier than usual, and when they asked him the reason why, he answered: “I know that I am going to be a great prince.” – Let nothing in the world distract us from contemplating the greatness of the Lord. 

8

It was night when he arrived in Spoleto and, anxious about his trip, he retired for the night. Half asleep, he heard a voice asking him where he intended to go. He outlined to him his whole plan. The voice then asked him: “Who can do more for you, the lord or the servant?” “The lord,” he answered. “Then why are you abandoning the lord for the servant, and the patron for the client?” – We sometimes desire to be good angels, and we neglect to be good people.

9

To which Francis responded: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” “Go back,” it said, “to your own land to do what the Lord will tell you.” It seemed to him that divine grace had suddenly made him a different man. – How burdensome this mortal life is to the children of God.

10

But when it was morning, he returned home as he had been told. And when, on the way back, he reached Foligno, he sold the horse he was riding as well as the wardrobe with which he had equipped himself for the expedition to Apulia, and put on cheaper clothing. – The most beautiful credo is that pronounced in the darkness, in times of sacrifice.

11

While he was returning from Foligno to Assisi, carrying the money he had obtained from these things, he approached a church built in honor of Saint Damian. He found the poor resident priest, named Peter, and gave him that money for safekeeping. – Remember this: That if the devil makes a din, he is still outside and not inside at all.

12

Not having a safe place to keep it, the priest refused the money. When the man of God, Francis, heard this, he threw the money on the windowsill of that church for he considered it worthless. Led by God’s Spirit, he resolved to use the money to rebuild its structure, seeing that the church was poor and on the verge of collapse. – No matter how great the trial, never lose heart.

13

After a while, with God’s approval, he completed the undertaking. When his father learned of this, he began to vent his rage against him, for he loved him in a worldly way and was longing for the money. He abused Francis with insults, demanding the return the money. – Have recourse with more childlike trust to Jesus who will never be able to resist bestowing on you some little solace and comfort.

14

In the presence of the bishop of Assisi, he promptly gave back to his father the money and clothes he was wearing. He stood there naked under the cloak of the bishop, who embraced him. Without any worldly possessions, dressed in cheap and very miserable clothing, he went back to that church to stay there. – Turn to Jesus at all times even when the devil tries to discourage you by making you more aware of your sins.

15

The Lord enriched the poor and contemptible man. Filling him with His Holy Spirit, He put into his mouth the words of life that he might preach and announce to the people judgment and mercy, punishment and glory and to recall to their minds the commandments of God they had forgotten. – God’s power triumphs over everything.

16

The Lord led him on a straight and narrow path. Desiring to possess neither gold nor silver, nor money nor any other thing, he followed the Lord in humility, poverty, and the simplicity of his heart. Walking about barefoot, he wore a contemptible habit with a wretched belt. – Humble and suffering prayer prevails over God himself.

17

And whenever his father met him, overwhelmed with great sorrow, he would curse him. The blessed man, however, took with him a poor old man named Alberto and asked him for a blessing. Many people used to laugh at him, insulting him with spiteful words. – Do not be surprised at your distractions and spiritual dryness.

18

Almost everyone considered him mad. But he did not care, nor did he answer them; instead, he strove with all eagerness to fulfill the task God had shown him. He walked not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in the display and the power of the Spirit. – Live tranquilly and do not be anxious.

Chapter II 

THE FIRST TWO BROTHERS WHO FOLLOWED BLESSED FRANCIS 

19

When they saw and heard these things, two men from Assisi, inspired by divine grace, humbly approached him. One of these was Brother Bernard, and the other, Brother Peter. They told Francis simply: “We wish to live with you from now on and do what you are doing. Tell us, therefore, what we should do with our possessions.” – Live humbly. Be docile and in love with your heavenly Lord.

20

Overjoyed at their coming and their resolve he answered them kindly: “Let us go and seek counsel from the Lord.” So they went to one of the city’s churches. Upon entering it, they fell on their knees and humbly prayed: “Lord, God, Father of glory, we beg you in your mercy, show us what we are to do.” – Do not be upset by any infirmities and weaknesses into which you can fall.

21

After finishing the prayer, they asked the priest of the church who was there: “Sir, would you show us the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ”. And, since before this happened none of them knew how to read very well, when the priest opened up the book, they immediately found the passage If you wish to be perfect, go, sell everything you possess and give to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. – Don’t upset yourself, but humbly and frankly confess before God and place everything before his divine mercy.

22

Opening up the book a second time, they discovered: Whoever wishes to come after me . . . . When they opened up the book for the third time, they came upon: Take nothing for the journey . . . When they heard this, they were filled with great joy and exclaimed: “This is what we want, this is what we were seeking.” And blessed Francis said: “This will be our rule.” – Let God be thanked for treating you as a soul to follow Jesus closely up the hill of Calvary.

23

Then he told both of them: “Go and may you fulfill the Lord’s counsel as you heard it.” – Stretch yourself out on the cross and be patient with yourself.

24

Then Brother Bernard, who was rich, sold all his possessions, acquiring a large sum of money from the transaction. Brother Peter, on the other hand, who was poor in worldly goods, now became rich in spiritual goods. Therefore, he also did as the Lord’s counsel would have it. Summoning the city’s poor people, they gave them the money acquired from the sale of their goods. – Follow the path on which the Lord has placed you, in a holy manner.

25

While they were doing this, and blessed Francis was present, a priest named Sylvester came. Blessed Francis had purchased stones from him for the repair of the church of San Damiano where he had lived before he acquired brothers. When the priest saw them giving away so much money, consumed by a burning passion of greed, he craved to be given some of that money. – Endeavor, without wearying yourself, to do what you can, and Jesus, who looks into the depths of the heart, will be pleased with you.

26

When blessed Francis, who had renounced all greed, heard him complaining unjustly, he approached … and putting his hand into his cloak where the money was, took out a handful of coins and gave them to the priest. “Do you now have full payment?” he asked. “I have it fully” – We are not all called to the same state.

27

Overjoyed the priest returned home. A few days later, the priest, inspired by the Lord, began to reflect on what blessed Francis had done. “Am I not miserable?” he said to himself. “Old as I am, don’t I still covet and desire the things of this world, and doesn’t this youth despise and scorn them for the love of God?” – The Holy Spirit does not work in all souls in the same way.

28

The following night he saw in a dream an immense cross whose top reached to the heavens, while its base rested in the mouth of blessed Francis. The arms of the cross reached from one part of the world to the other. – The Holy Spirit blows as he wills and where he wills.

29

Upon awakening, the priest then believed that blessed Francis was indeed God’s friend and that the religion he had founded would spread all over the world. – Do not be discouraged or frightened by your miseries and weaknesses, for God in his mercy did not reject you.

30

From that time on, he began to fear God and do penance in his own home. And after a little time had passed, he entered the Order of the brothers where he lived well and ended gloriously. – God will grant you his grace and will erect the throne of his glory on your misery and vileness.

 

 

Monthly Meditation – April 2021 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

 April 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!
Through the mystery of the Passion and Death of Jesus
May the Joy of His Resurrection and Renewed Life fill your hearts and lives!

Lent has run its course. We journeyed through the season by prayer, fasting, acts of charity. Now we enter the joy of the Resurrection through our spiritual immersion into the mystery of the Passion and Death of Jesus. Every day of the week we call “Holy” is another moment in that wonderful drama of our salvation. In the Father’s Plan, Jesus is the Victor, only after passing through the crucible of His Passion-Death. His Victory over suffering and death is for all humanity.

The week began with the “Hosannas” of the populace. In a brief time, “Hosannas” are followed by the intrigue and betrayal of Jesus by His nearest and dearest friends “hand-picked” by Himself. What ensues is choreographed by the religious leaders of His own nation and the foreign occupational forces. The protagonists play out their roles in the Governor’s palace, in the streets of Jerusalem, and on Golgotha. “Hosannas” turned to “Crucify Him” leading Him to crucifixion and death. Jeering remarks ridiculing a dying man are directed at Him as He hung dying on the Cross. The drama still must peak in a tragic-bloody-humiliating manner when Jesus, nailed as a criminal to the cross, is mockingly hailed as Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, (John 19: 19) and lead to a moment of desolation when He exclaims My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?!  (Psalm 22: 1; Matthew 26: 46) His death makes the bystanders return to their homes beating their breasts (Luke 23: 48), and compels a Roman centurion to say Truly this was the Son of God (Matthew 27: 54).  Everything climaxes with the death of Jesus. His death continues to proclaim love, compassion and forgiveness for all. As His spirit ebbed from His body, conflicting sentiments were felt by all present.

If everything ended there, what a tragedy it would be for us all! But, the story does not finish there! It cannot! Our story does not end on the Cross. Our story finds its true beginning there, at the Cross, and its “confirmation” only hours later on Sunday morning. When Jesus cries: Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit, (Luke 23: 46) our life-blood is renewed and we again are offered the opportunity to be one with the God who became one with us.

We are a people who profess and proclaim not death but life! Saint Paul tells the community of Corinth: If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain…But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…for in Christ, all shall be brought to life…so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15: 13-28).

Each year all Christians throughout the world gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. The denomination does not matter. Every Christian is a true Christian only if he/she believes that Jesus was nailed to a cross and died, and on the third day rose from the dead. If one does not believe in the physical Resurrection of Jesus, he/she cannot really call him/herself a true Christian. Many non-Christian people admire all that Jesus said and did; they even seek to emulate His life. But, if one does not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, as Saint Paul says, life for that individual really has no personal meaning beyond the here and now moment of philanthropic or self-centered survival. As socially, economically, or otherwise materially fulfilling as it might all seem, what way is this to live one’s life! What kind of life can it be? Is it really living?! Is it not just a co-existence (albeit good, respectful, moral…) with the world and all the world proclaims? Why would anyone invest so much of him/herself in the world if all their endeavors and accomplishments ended with the soul’s exit from the body? Unless our passage from life to Life is a reality we truly believe, and by which we live, as St. Paul says, We are the deadest of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15: 17)

We are children of the Resurrection. Our song is “Alleluia”. The theater of Redemption is the world in which we live. St. Francis in the Canticle of the Creatures and Pope Francis in the Encyclical Laudato Si’ both remind us, with so many other holy men and women, of this wonderful truth of God’s gift of Creation. And Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer, is the Victim of humanity’s ingratitude to Love Incarnate. Our hope, founded on faith in an impossible event, proclaims that the finality of death was conquered by the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus. He is alive and well! Life is worth living! Death has lost its sting! Death is no longer the “grim reaper” that destroys and reduces us to nothingness. In the Resurrection of Jesus, Death is the point of convergence of one’s life, and the threshold of eternity. Life is merely changed, not ended. And, when the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting place in heaven (Preface for Masses for the Deceased).

Why do we Catholics, like the Corinthians who were reprimanded by St. Paul, fail so often to live as the redeemed people we are? Who more than we Franciscans should be the joyful troubadours of Resurrection Joy of the “enfleshed” Son of God, Jesus the Christ?! This joy we share because the Almighty One, Who could have done all alone, sought the collaboration of a creature, our Mother Mary, to believe and accept the impossible. In our Immaculate Virgin Mother, humanity becomes an essential participant in the whole Eternal Plan of the Redemption (or Restoration in Grace) of Creation! What grace! What gift! What trust! WHAT LOVE!!!

Our world and our own immediate society is impregnated with hatred, violence, terrorism, war, terminal illnesses, tragic lifestyles, deadly addictions, pandemics, and more. This is a reality we cannot deny. But the world is, as stated above, the theater of Redemption. It is an enormous setting where all are protagonists of a marvelous story that has God Incarnate in the lead role, and the rest of us as understudies who seek to image God by the way we live. In this theater roles are exchanged often: sometimes we are among the central figures, other times we watch with hope-filled anticipation as the whole story of our salvation unravels before our eyes. What do our eyes see? Hopefully, we all recognize the Risen Lord Jesus, alive and well in our midst, as we seek to share in His Life following His words and example.

How often are we like the Israelites who kept the wounds of their years of slavery in Egypt open, even though their Passage through the Red Sea was an undeniable proof of the power and the credibility of their God. They continued to complain and expect God to do for them what they had the ability, in God’s grace, to do for themselves. We have not let the wonderful effects of Jesus’ Resurrection – our Passage from Death to Life – on that first Easter Sunday penetrate our hearts. We still have not lived our Exodus experience as profoundly as we ought. God leads and strengthens those who recognize and acknowledge their vulnerability, and who admit to their needy state without Him. Is not that what being a “penitent” means; are we not originally the “Penitents of Assisi”? God accompanies us from the mentality of self-centered individualism, to an open-hearted availability and acceptance of others. Like the Israelites of old, we would rather have the onions and garlic of a bondage we have learned to accept/tolerate, rather than the challenge to be free and go beyond the barriers we set in our lives. The Resurrection of Jesus encourages us to look beyond our failures, to move courageously forward beyond our fears, to trust confidently and use well our God-given gifts, to believe in the Life Jesus came to give us.

To go beyond is eventually to enter the Land of Promise. We cannot continue to mix the straw of complacency and indifference with the mud of confusion and earthliness. This only fabricates bricks of slavery that erect walls that hinder our journey to God. We complacently build the cities of man, rather than struggle to build the City of God. A culture of death still pervades our society. Children of the Resurrection, freed in the Blood of Jesus, imbued with the gift of the Holy Spirit, Loved by the Father, we are called to freedom – a freedom the world does not understand and yet still attempts to create through power, prestige, possessions, and the like. The motto seems to be “leave me alone and in peace, and I’ll accept anything”. No risk, no gain! (Mother Francis Bachmann, foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia). In Jesus there is no risk of loss, only gain. Yet, often we opt for the slavery that stunts our spiritual growth and blinds us to the wonder and glory of the Resurrection that speaks to us of our dignity and freedom as redeemed children of God in Jesus through the Spirit.

Like the first followers who experienced the Savior’s Passion and Death, we can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the difficulties and delusions of life. Or, we can fix our gaze on the Risen Lord. Like the women who went to the tomb, we may love Jesus deeply, but feel and act as though He is still in the tomb. Their love could not separate them from Him, even in death. It was that loyalty, that fidelity, that offered them the gift of being the first to see the Resurrected Lord… and they kissed His feet and ran to tell the others. (Matthew 28: 9) Eventually His love wins the hearts of those who sincerely seek Him, even through difficulty and failure.

The Cross was a fixed moment in time, whose effects would last eternally. There is a powerful phrase in the Passion account that many read and pass over: from noon until three in the afternoon, there was darkness over all the earth. (Matthew 27: 45) The evangelist reduces this horrific moment of humanity’s ingratitude to its Creator to a determined amount of time. Thus, we are reminded that the powers of darkness can rule only for a time, but will never prevail forever. His Life and His Light will always have the advantage over death and darkness. He is risen, go tell His brethren that He precedes them! (Matthew 28: 7)

Spiritual children of the Seraphic One of Assisi, whose body was visibly “stigmatized” with the signs of God’s love for us in Jesus, do we preach without words our belief in a living faith that leads to eternal life? Or, are we “stigmatized” not with Jesus’ selfless love for us, but with our self-centered love for survival and acclaim?  Does the Resurrection remind us of Jesus’ words, Unless the grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat ? (John 12: 24)

Fear not!  He has conquered death … Have courage! His Spirit within you can withstand all that surrounds you … He is Risen! We never stand alone before the world because we are victors in the Victim in Whose death we come alive. Easter proclaims a message of liberation and long-lasting-Life. Easter is the day and the Season that continually reminds us that the Son will always cast His Light on us. The darkness of sin, cynicism, skepticism cannot keep the light of the Son of God from enlightening our lives and our world. The question is whether we will accept to bask in the Light of the Son, or remain in darkness. When we create room in our hearts for the Lord to enter, then the power of Easter can take us to heights never imagined.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we too are reminded that only through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we fathom something of the mystery of Christ’s love for us. It is the Risen Jesus who teaches us the value of the Cross – you cannot separate the Victor from the Victim. The Cross without Christ is tyranny; Christ without the Cross is a lie (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen). In the midst of all this is the silent, dignified, and loving figure of Mary; she is always with us on our journey, leading us, who love her as our Heavenly Mother, closer to one another and to Jesus her Son. May our Easter Season help us to value all that God asks of us, so that through Mary to Jesus, in Whose Passion-Death-Glorious Resurrection we enter the Father’s loving embrace, we may live virtuously, die piously, and achieve the fullness of the rewards of Eternal Life.

May God bless you; Our Lady and her beloved husband St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may Padre Pio watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. May the Risen Lord inflame your hearts with love, and bless you and your loved ones with the gift of His Easter Peace and Joy.

Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia! 

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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

March 2021 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen. 

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

 

Month of Saint Joseph completes Holy Season of Lent. 

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

Chapter XIV 

THE CHAPTER THAT WAS HELD TWICE A YEAR 

AT SAINT MARY OF THE PORTIUNCULA 

1

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

2

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

3

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

4

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

5

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

6

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

7

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

8

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

9

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

10

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

11

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

12

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

13

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

14

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

15

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

Chapter XV 

THE DEATH OF LORD JOHN, 

THE FIRST PROTECTOR OF THE ORDER 

AND HOW THE LORD HUGOLINO OF OSTIA 

ASSUMED THE ROLE OF FATHER AND PROTECTOR OF THE ORDER 

16

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

17

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

18

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

19

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

Chapter XVI 

THE ELECTION OF THE FIRST MINISTERS 

AND HOW THEY WERE SENT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD 

20

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

21

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

22

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

23

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

24

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

25

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

26

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

27

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

28

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

29

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

30

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

31

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

 

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

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

March 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

May the Lord grant you peace! 

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

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

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

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

The first official words of Jesus to the crowds were:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy and grace-filled Lent to all! 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

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

Poverty of Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

SKD Formation Monthly-February 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

 

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

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

Lent in the Garden of Gethsemane

Being in the Garden of Gethsemane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Joseph – Sorrows and Joys 

(within the celebration of the Franciscan Crown) 

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

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

First Joy of BVM – Annunciation/Incarnation 

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

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

Second Joy of BVM – Visit to Elizabeth 

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

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

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

Third Joy of BVM – Birth of Savior at Bethlehem 

3rd  Sorrow of St. Joseph:          

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

3rd Joy of St. Joseph:

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

Fourth Joy of BVM – Adoration of the Magi 

4th Sorrow of St. Joseph:

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

4th Joy of St. Joseph:

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

Fifth Joy of BVM – Finding Jesus in Jerusalem Temple 

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

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

Sixth Joy of BVM – Resurrection / Ascension of Jesus 

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

6th Joy of St. Joseph:

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

Seventh Joy of BVM – Assumption and Crowning of Mary 

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

 

Pastoring our Pastors in Time of Pandemic

Photo by Nazim Coskun on Unsplash

Need for Pastoral Care of the Clergy

Herefordshire Monastery of Benedictine Sisters – used with permission

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

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

Wrap and Throw Service

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

The Role of Parishioners

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

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

February 2021 

 

Lord, just as I believe that at an earlier time 

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

so now I realize that, because of Your abundant mercy 

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

Give glory to Your name, 

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

to the whole Christian people. 

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

not to consider our ingratitude. 

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

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

Amen. 

 

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

 Chapter XII 

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

THAT HE MIGHT INFORM HIM OF THEIR PROPOSAL 

AND HAVE THE RULE THAT HE HAD WRITTEN CONFIRMED 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 

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

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

11 

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

12 

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

13 

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

14 

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

15 

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

16 

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

 

Chapter XIII 

HE EFFICACIOUS PREACHING OF BLESSED FRANCIS 

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

17 

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

18 

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

19 

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

20 

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

21 

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

22 

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

23 

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

24 

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

25 

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

26 

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

27 

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

28 

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