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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 28 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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The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge

A very useful document has been added to our digital library — The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge. It is available as both a Word Document and a PDF. Some Fraternities make reading this pledge part of their monthly gathering. My own fraternity includes it as part of our monthly benediction service. We think you will find it to be a beautiful summary our responsibilities as Secular Franciscans:

The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge

We realize the importance of giving glory to God, of striving for holiness and of working for the spiritual and temporal welfare of others.  We see the great value of the Secular Franciscan Way of Life to achieve these all important goals in life.  Therefore, we resolve to observe the teaching and footsteps of Jesus Christ according to the spirit and rule of St. Francis.

With God’s grace, we will participate as fully and as often as possible in the Mass, the Sacraments (especially Reconciliation), and the official prayer of the Church.  We will spend a portion of time each day in personal prayer.  And we will be involved in the monthly meeting as an act of worship and a building of community.

We will contribute according to our means and time and talent and possessions for the charities of our Franciscan Family. And we will uphold the dignity of every person and the worth of all creation.

We will always be loyal to the Commandments of God and to the Church.  We will continually try to turn closer to the Lord.  And we will use what we have in a spirit of justice, moderation, and generosity.

We will be proud to display the emblem of our membership in the Secular Franciscan Order.  By our actions and our speech, we will set a good example and will strive to be peacemakers in our society, especially within our families and toward those who are poor, sick or disadvantaged.

This we resolve through the help of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Experiencing The Q

Mea Culpa!  The month of July is several days old and I am just getting to the postings.  I have been in St. Louis since June 28 preparing for the 2016 Q.  Now that I am home, there is still a smile on my face and I hope it stays there a good long time.  It is hard to describe what it is like to spend 4 days with 600 Secular Franciscans.  There is great joy at greeting old friends and new.  If there is a tau cross around your neck…..you are family!  Spending time in prayer with so many brothers and sisters who are traveling the path with you, is certainly uplifting if not life changing.

The theme for the 2016 Q is Reviving Our Spirit and it was very well chosen.  Every aspect of the weekend lifted your spirit.  There were talks by Father Murray Bodo, OFM, Father Lester Bach, OFM Cap and the keynote speaker, Father Dan Horan, OFM.  These men are Franciscan “All Stars” whose books helped to form us and now that we are professed, help sustain us.  Listening to them speak and spending time one-on-one with them is truly a hug from God. These humble men stood in line for their meals, asked if they could sit at an empty place at the table and joined in conversations. They really do preach the gospel by their actions.

Tibor Kauser, OFS, our Minister General was there and spoke of fraternities in Lebanon and Dubai.  Jenny Harrington, OFS, from Africa spoke about having fraternities in the US ‘twinning’ with a fraternity in Africa. Our order is growing around the world and we need to tap into that.

So many of you participated in the Blessing Bag project which blessed people far beyond our own reach.  Box after box after box was waiting for the Committee when we arrived. It was hard to believe the response!  We sorted hundreds of bars of soap, tooth paste, deodorant, shampoo, etc down one side of the room.  The other side was dedicated to snack items:  instant oatmeal, raisins, energy bars, crackers.  The Herr Company – a local family owned business – donated 12 cases of Herr snack paks.

Packing the Blessing Bags was optional on The Q schedule and was slated for Friday afternoon.  We had it set up like an assembly line.  Grab a zip lock bag at one end of the tables and walk down packing whatever you would like from the selection. The number of people who came to pack the bags was amazing.  Both the toiletry side and the snack side had solid lines of people giving their time to help.  At the end of both sides were a stack of holy cards with St. Francis on one side…of course!…and printed on the back was the message:  Packing this Blessing Bag for you was a blessing for me.  I will hold you in my prayers.

Sister Connie Probst, who heads the St. Anthony Food Pantry in St. Louis, arrived at 4:00 to pick up the donations.  Something happened to the communications because Sister Connie showed up in a Toyota never expecting she would need a large van!  She laughed and cried at the sight that greeted her.  When the Secular Franciscans do something, they do it right!!

So many of the Seculars who were passing through these lines remarked that this is something we should continue to do.  Many felt we can do it at Regional Meetings as well.  It certainly doesn’t have to be on such a grand scale as what we did at The Q.  If it is done at a Regional Meeting, we can donate the bags or each of us take one home to keep in our car.  When you come upon a homeless person you will be ready to bless them with a few items to make their way a little easier.

This last year being on The Q Committee was more work than I ever dreamed of. But it resulted in so very many blessings for all who attended and that is a big blessing to me.  I carried each of you in my prayers throughout the week and hope that you will be able to experience a Quinquennial at some point.  It certainly helps you feel that you belong to an Order and not just a Fraternity.  The next Q will be in 2021 – 100 years since the very first Q was held.  Start saving those nickels and dimes because it promises to be spectacular!

Servant Leadership from our Regional Formation Director

Brothers and Sisters,

When we talk about Servant Leadership we first look to Christ as Leader. In Matthew 20-27 we read, whoever ranks first among you must serve the needs of all. I did not come to be served but to serve. At the last supper Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to leave us an example.

Let us look at Article 21 of our rule which states, on various levels of fraternity is animated and guided by a council and Minister who are professed and elected according to the Constitutions.

The description of each position on fraternity council is listed in our Constitutions from 49-52.

In the Earlier Rule of St. Francis Chapter Vll we read “And whoever comes to them friend or foe, thief or robber, they should be received with kindness.

Clare in her rule for her Poor Ladies as they were first called we read “She should strive well to preside over the others more by her virtues and holy behavior then by her office.”

We know that Leaders and Servants and that we are all responsible for every member in fraternity.

Although we are called to serve fraternity some servant leadership positions call for skills and talents. It is important when electing a council to be sure the person’s gifts and abilities fit the position.

The form of servant leaders takes place as we call upon the animator, which is the Holy Spirit. We need to be open to the many ways the Holy Spirit speaks to us and the grace of God.

Describe your understanding of being a servant-leader? What are some qualities needed by a servant leader?

How can we apply Francis Earlier Rule to being a servant leader? How about Clare and her rule?

What are some responsibilities of a local fraternity council?

July Reflections from Father Francis

July 2016
All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,
Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth
we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will
and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit
You have created everything spiritual and corporal
… making us in Your own image and likeness,…
We thank You…
Thoughts about St. Francis and Thought for the Day from various sources
1
Servants of the Lord should not be ignorant of the lives and teachings of saints through which they can come to God.  – When you come to Christ, Christianity demands the personal, intimate bond.  We have to be one with him, and reflect the person, mind, will, heart and humanity of Christ.
2
On the 16th of April, after 1207 years completed since the Incarnation of the Lord … God saw that His people … had forgotten His commandments … desiring not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live… God willed to send workers into His vineyard. – Faith is not the will to believe; it is the acceptance of truth based on the authority of God’ revelation.
3
Preoccupied with thoughts of wealth … Francis sent (a beggar away) without giving him alms … touched by divine grace, he began to accuse himself. – Reconciliation is inseparable from the death of Christ. We never have reconciliation without the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord.
4
(After sending the poor man away, Francis thought): 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?  – Because of sin we all need a fresh start.
5
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. – Let there be less of me and more of Christ.
6
He arrived in Spoleto … half asleep, he heard a voice asking 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? – The more ego there is, the less there is of Christ.
7
Francis sold the horse … as well as the wardrobe … and put on cheaper clothing … he approached a church … he threw the money on the windowsill of that church for he considered it worthless. – The more we are Christ, the more he can use us.
8
Without any worldly possessions, dressed in cheap and very miserable clothing … The Lord enriched the poor and contemptible man. Filling him with His Holy Spirit, He put into his mouth the words of life … – Christ does not open doors and give us opportunities, until we are flexible in his hands, obedient like a pencil in his hands.
9
(The Lord) put into his mouth 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. – Nothing in all the world is worth a moment of time except to know more of him.
10
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. – Christ wants us to be available so that he can display his power through us, his truth through us.
11
Almost everyone considered him mad. But he did not care, nor did he answer them. He strove with all eagerness to fulfill the task God had shown him. – The Christian is another Jesus.
12
He walked not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in the display and power of the Spirit. – When Christ becomes the rule of life, then his life becomes ours.
13
Two men of Assisi inspired by divine grace, humbly approached him…We wish to live with you from now on … Tell us, therefore, what we should do … (Francis) answered them kindly: Let us go and seek counsel from the Lord.  –  Conscience can never be covered up; guilt will always come out.
14
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 … 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. – Conscience bothers us when it is not where it is supposed to be
15
Having no place to stay, they went and found a poor and nearly abandoned church called Saint Mary of the Portiuncula,.  There they built a small dwelling where they lived together. – Every atheist is afraid of the dark. You don’t find atheists in foxholes.
16
They were filled with a great joy, as if they had acquired an immense treasure.  They were able to rejoice so much because they had forsaken so much, and considered as dung the things over which people usually grieve. – It is not man who is on the quest for God.  It is God who is on the quest for man
17
The man of God … would encourage men and women to fear and love the Creator of heaven and earth and to do penance for their sins. – We need to fall in love with the Lord.
18
Even though hardly anyone followed them, people remained nevertheless in awe at the holy way of life which they seemed to be marked for the Lord’s sake. – When we love the Lord, we want to be one with him.  That is love’s first effect.
19
They suffered extreme want.  Even their relatives and families would persecute them.  Others from that city – great and small, men and women – would scorn and ridicule them as senseless and stupid, except for the city’s bishop to whom the blessed Francis frequently went to seek counsel. – In prayer we shrug off the burdens of the world.
20
One day … the bishop told (Francis): It seems to me that your life is very rough and hard … The saint of God answered: Lord, if we had possessions, we would need arms to protect them because they cause many disputes and lawsuits,.  And possessions usually impede the love of God and neighbor. Therefore, we do not want to possess anything in this world. – There will be a shrinking from the blessed sacrament whenever there is not a good spiritual attitude in the soul.
21
Calling together his six brothers in the woods next to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula … (Francis) told them: My dear brothers, let us consider our calling because God has mercifully called us not only for our own good but also for the salvation of many… – When we are used to seeing his divinity through the species of bread, then we will be better at seeing the image of God in people.
22
(Francis told his brothers) Let us go through the world encouraging and teaching men and women by word and example to do penance for their sins and to remember the Lord’s commandments, which they have forgotten for such a long time … – God does not abandon us; he makes us according to his liking, whatever it happens to be. We are not abandoned.
23
He also told them: Do not be afraid, little flock, but have confidence in the Lord.  And do not say among yourselves ‘We are simple and illiterate men …’ But be mindful of the Lord’s words to his disciples: ‘You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will speaking in you’. – The world we live in is the battleground of the church.
24
These devout servants of the Lord … seemed to differ from all others … When they entered a city, town or a home, they would announce peace.  Whenever they saw men or women on the streets or in the piazzas … they would encourage them to fear and love the Creator of heaven and earth … – We live in a world that challenges us. Our summons is to resist the current that carries so many downstream.
25
Some asked them: Where do you come from?  While others asked: To which Order do you belong? They answered simply: We are penitents and we were born in Assisi. – As with Gideon, God is thinning our ranks now as then, because we are preparing for a stronger and more holy church.
26
(The brothers) suffered all these things with constancy and patience …When people saw them rejoicing in their tribulations and enduring them patiently for the Lord, unceasing in very devout prayer, neither accepting nor carrying money…possessing such a great love for one another … many of them, by the kindness of the Lord, experienced a change of heart. – The Holy Spirit always works through minorities, never through majorities.
27
They were rooted and founded in love and humility … They all dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to obedience … They abstained from carnal desires and, in order to avoid being judged, they judged themselves carefully … They sought to combat each vice with a corresponding virtue. – We draw strength from our suffering sisters and brothers.
28
(Francis) used to revere prelates and priests of the holy Church.  He would respect the elderly, and honored the noble and the wealthy.  He loved the poor intimately and showed compassion to them.  In a word, he showed himself to be subject to all. – We must realize in minds and hearts that the only argument left to convince others is holiness.
29
If any brother … experienced … some kind of trial, the temptation would go away either on hearing blessed Francis … or on seeing his presence.  For he spoke to them compassionately, not as a judge, but as a father to his children and a doctor to his patient … – The world has heard every other argument, and it is ready to reject them all, all except one: holiness.
30
He carried God in his heart, praised Him with his lips, and glorified Him with his deeds … Wanting to show the love He had for him, the Lord impressed on his members and his side the stigmata of His most beloved Son … – Does the crucifix mean anything to us? Or do we look for Christ without the cross?
31
Meditate earnestly on the things recorded … understand them correctly, and strive in deed to fulfill them, so we may deserve to share with them in the glory of heaven. May our Lord Jesus Christ lead us to this glory. – Drawing closer to the light of Christ, our fears are gone, remorse is swallowed up in the intense love of Christ.

July Greetings from Father Francis

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
July 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you his peace!
St. Francis of Assisi has a powerful hold over the hearts of many Catholics, non-Catholics, and even non-Christians.  The ‘Poverello’ of Assisi, whose death occurred over eight centuries ago, lives on in his spiritual children and all those who have come to understand the importance of his all-embracing ministry.  God offers us extraordinary signs to remind us that God is with us.  The miracles that suspend or enhance the laws of nature are only messages reminding us that what seems permanent is only passing.  The famous ‘bookmark’ of Saint Teresa of Avila states: Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you.  All things are passing. God alone remains.  Who possesses God possesses all things. Holiness is being possessed by God. If we seek only the extraordinary, we may fail to recognize the wonderful gifts found in the ‘ordinary’ experiences of life. God is always at work fulfilling His will in both ordinary and extraordinary.  Focusing on ‘the wonder of the miraculous’ in the life of any holy person, we may lose sight of the ever-present gifts of grace in him/her, that we too share with the saint according to our cooperation with God’s grace.   The gift of grace we receive at Baptism awaits to be developed in our own unique way so that our lives be God-centered, following Jesus and the Gospel, in a word, Holy!
Holiness is not a static quality; it is exciting and ‘ever-new’, to paraphrase Saint Augustine, O (Holiness), ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You. True holiness is a reflection of the One Source of all Life, Whose Love is eternal, and Who is always at work in creation. Like the moon, a ‘holy’ person reflects the light of the Son of God, Jesus, in Whose Name we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 18:28). Holiness reflects the goodness of God in our human nature. St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures is a reminder of how he was able to see the attributes of God reflected in all creation. Though we are weak and infinitely less perfect than God, grace urges us to be active agents of God to others.
As the adage goes, saints, like the prophets of old, are called into service for others in the name of God, in order to give comfort to the troubled and to trouble the comfortable.  They are women and men who have turned their lives over to the Lord, and who must confidently struggle like all human beings to fulfill the purpose for their existence. Scripture tells us that this purpose is: Be holy because I your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2)  … Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  The Spirit Jesus gave as the Gift of Easter to His Church is the same Holy Spirit we receive at Baptism and Who strengthens us at Confirmation. The Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son is the ‘God within’ (In Greek the words are ‘en-theos’ from which we get the word ‘enthusiasm’) encouraging us to be excited about life and our role in fulfilling God’s eternal plan for all creation. ‘Holy’ people are not secluded from the world.  They live aware of their responsibility ‘to be Jesus’, to assume the image of Christ to others.  Secular Franciscans live in the world, but not of it, so they can be the yeast in the dough, the salt in the food. Like yeast and salt they must be as though lost or dissolved that they might truly affect a change in others as they allow themselves to be spent for the Lord’s greater glory. Like Jesus, they too must endure the consequences of rejection, as well as the joys of acceptance. Do not be afraid!  What we lose is the ‘extra baggage’ we have allowed to clutter our lives.  In allowing the clutter to be eliminated from our lives, we offer Jesus and His Spirit the opportunity to enter our lives more deeply. If only we could make our sincere prayer that of an elderly Franciscan sister who said her prayer each day was: “Jesus take over”. And she mean it with all her heart!
The various words taken from Hebrew and Greek originally used to express the word ‘holy’ actually indicate a ‘separate-ness’,  an ‘other-liness’,  an ‘un-earthliness’.  The world and our lives seen from that perspective make the challenge more interesting.  Holiness is not a question just of not doing bad things. It is a life grounded in the reality of the world of which we are intimately a part by nature, but lived in a way that allows the ‘super-nature’ to be the root and goal of every moment. It takes a lifetime to fulfill and that’s what makes it interesting and exciting. Every moment till the end of our earthly journey is an act of faith in God, of trust in His providence for the future, and of love for the One Who journeys with us through time to eternity. Isn’t this what our Seraphic Father taught all his children by his total trust in Divine Providence?  Two ‘gifts’ accompany our journey and enhance and feed our desire to be holy: the Eucharist, source of holiness, and our brothers and sisters given by God to us as ‘gift’ (cfr. Testament). The Eucharist is the constant pledge and strength of the One Who said: I am with you always (Matthew 28: 20). It is the Eucharist that gives meaning and purpose to all we do, since in this wonderful Sacrament we are one with the Lord in everything, and are strengthened in our bond of charity with each other and all creation. Our brothers and sisters challenge us each day to be ‘Eucharist’ in thanksgiving and to always see the image of Jesus in others.
The more we strive to ‘do holy things’ in order to ‘be holy’ the more we realize we do not always achieve what we proposed; it only reminds us that what matters is what God disposes for us in life.  Father … not my will but Yours be done (Luke 22:42). Holiness is a question of seeing all things in the light of God’s Eternal Will. We must be able to say with Jesus: It is accomplished (John 19: 30); or with Saint Paul: I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).
Goodness surrounds us in many ways.  Often we fail to recognize the depth of it because it is so ‘normal’.  Holiness takes on many faces.  Character, circumstance, challenges, and the like, influence how holiness is perceived and/or expressed. Much has to do with how holiness is portrayed and perceived. There are varied ways in which sanctity is portrayed, presented ad even promoted in this world.  The image is so often distorted, exaggerated, and sometimes even rendered ridiculous because of fanaticism and misguided ‘religiosity’.  The Orders and Congregations in the Church all have their Rules and Constitutions, and Statutes and Regulations.  These are spiritual and/or organizational documents that strive to keep everyone focused on how that religious family seeks to grow in holiness for God, Church, humanity and obviously for the person who has professed that particular life.
–   Self-styled saints make it difficult for anyone to live with them, since they see themselves as the ‘code of holiness’. Holiness without humility is just pride with a mask!
–   There are good people who struggle each day to live God’s will; they pray and desire others to do the same. They forget that holiness is like love.  A fruit of love, holiness is an ongoing act of the will that strives to cooperate with God’s will at every moment.  No one can be forced to be ‘holy’ but anyone in proximity to many ‘well-meaning holy ones’ are often ‘bulldozed’ into one practice or another. ‘Live with a saint and become a martyr’ is an adage that may have its foundation in these two examples. They forget that the kingdom of God is not a matter of  food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and  joy in the Holy Spirit  (Romans 14:17).
–   Then there are the ‘saints’ who strive to live in God’s will, to ‘live Jesus’ and His Gospel, and who offer others by their words and example the opportunity to understand God’s love. As they grow cooperating with grace at their own pace, they become an encouraging example for others.  Nevertheless, the more they affect the lives of others by their good example, the more they often become the object of scrutiny and personal demands to ascertain their authenticity. What better vocation promotion than an authentic life: integrity leads to credibility!
Secular Franciscans, Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, have  ‘things’ that they ‘do’.  Nevertheless, the basic objective of being a spiritual child of St. Francis of Assisi is to be a saint! We believe God has called us to this life that we might give God glory and save our souls, to become saints.  This is not exaggerated or proud.  All of us are called to holiness.  Life and the things we do are intended to help us to fulfill this challenge. In the Poverello of Assisi we find a privileged soul who speaks to our heart.  His example and words help us to see God and evaluate our response to God’s will.  Like the great leader he has remained, our Seraphic Father helps us to have confidence in God and in the gifts God has given us.  These ‘gifts’ are  reflections of the attributes of God we are called to share with others. No one can make us holy but God and our own free will totally available to God’s Will.  As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi let us all make a committed promise to the Lord each day to be holy.  Let us offer each day and all it contains to the Lord.  Let us recommit ourselves daily to the ‘Covenant’ the Eternal Father made with us in the Blood of Jesus that is renewed every time the Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass is offered.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit will strengthen us to become the holy people we were called to be, and have sought to become through the intercession and charism of our Seraphic Father.
We all have an invitation to eventually to meet in heaven. Thousands of spiritual children of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi have gone before us and await our arrival. July 16th commemorates the canonization of Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis eight centuries ago. That day the Church officially declared Francis Bernardone of Assisi  a saint to be revered as a friend of God and pattern for God’s People who seek an example in word and lifestyle to enter a deeper relationship with God.  Let us be true children of our spiritual ‘parents’, our Father Francis and Mother Clare. The holiness to which we are called is not a pious reflection but a vital call that will determine our eternal destiny.  To paraphrase our Seraphic Father: There is so much good that is in store for us, that even pain and difficulty are tolerable and even pleasing.
May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look over each one of us, his spiritual children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant

What Part of the Message Did You Miss?

St. Francis rebuild my church

My dear Brothers and Sisters, may God’s peace and grace be with you! The month of June is upon us.  Last weekend we were wearing coats, this week, the AC is on full blast.  How did it happen so quickly? There was no easing into summer this year.

I have never been tied to my cell phone like it was my lifeline to the world. I’m not the President of the United States; so, no one needs to get in touch with me that urgently. Of course, when ‘life’ is urgent and I am ‘needed’, the cell phone is never far. But we don’t get to pick and choose when we are needed.  Life doesn’t work that way.

One late afternoon recently when I remembered I hadn’t looked at my cell phone all day, I picked it up and found it was out of ‘juice’.  I plugged in the charger and went about my business.  Around 10:00 p.m, I heard the sound for an incoming text message.  That had the hair on the back of my neck standing up.  When I do get text messages, they definitely don’t arrive at 10:00 p.m.  It was from my ‘baby’ sister and it stated “Just wanted to let you know that we are all OK and home again”.

What had I missed?  There was something that came before this message that I didn’t see or bother to check.  There were two texts that came in around 5:30 a.m. and I hadn’t checked my phone when I got up.  The first message was “PRAY! The police just called and said Bill was in a very bad accident and they were trying to get him out of his truck.”  The second message was “I’m at the accident scene.  A young lady had been on her cell phone – t-boned Bill’s pickup at such a high rate of speed, that his truck was catapulted through two lanes of north bound traffic, across the three lanes of southbound traffic, rolled down a hill and knocked over two trees.

I felt terrible that I had not responded to the early morning messages and at the very least been in touch with my sister to let her know I was available to come be with her and was praying.  Those messages had been a call to action and I missed it. God gave me an opportunity to serve and I wasn’t connected.

During the Profession ritual, there are three different times that we answer “Yes, this is what I want”. But how connected are we to the meaning of our “Yes”?

Rule 21  The ministers’ and councilors’ task to lead is temporary.  The brothers and sisters, rejecting all ambition, should show love for the fraternity with a spirit of service, prepared both to accept and to relinquish the office…….

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

…should show love for the fraternity with a spirit of service.  Is that the part of the message we have missed? When it comes time for the fraternity elections, so many are sitting on their hands and avoiding eye contact in order to not be asked to serve. There is no member of this Region that doesn’t have other things going on in their lives.  We all have family issues, health issues, financial issues, job issues.  If we wait until life is calm and without any obligations, we will have missed the opportunities that God has offered. Our vocation is one of service. We cannot rebuild the church (fraternity) if we aren’t willing to pick up a brick or two.
I am learning to keep my cell phone close….and charged.  My brother-in-law’s injuries were relatively minor compared to how that pickup looked; thank the dear Lord. But I failed my sister that day by not being ready to serve when I was needed.

If we have missed the first part of the message, the second part won’t make any sense. Check with God to see what message He is trying to send you.  Stay connected and be ready. God doesn’t dial wrong numbers. The message is for you!

Father Francis' Reflections for June

june_small
June 2016
All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,
Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth
we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will
and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit
You have created everything spiritual and corporal
… making us in Your own image and likeness,…
We thank You…
Following are excerpts taken from various Franciscan writings
Daily meditative phrases based from Saint Pope John Paul II
1
The truly clean of heart are those who look down upon earthly things, seek those of heaven, and, with a clean heart and spirit, never cease adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true – Let yourselves be charmed by Christ…attracted by his example…loved by the love of the Holy Spirit…fall in love with Jesus Christ.
2
We carry Him (Jesus) in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example. (Letter to Faithful) – Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!…Open to his saving power.
3
He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check the external senses, through which death enters the soul. – Human beings are called to become disciples of that Other One who infinitely transcends them, in order to enter at last into true life. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Reflections for June” »

A Totally Eucharistic Soul

St. Francis & The EucharistSt. 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
June 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
may you enter the loving embrace of the Eternal Father
Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love!
The Lord give you his peace!
Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a totally Eucharistic soul whose love for the Eucharist led him to revere all priests, even those whose lives were not as exemplary as they should have been. They give us spirit and life through the sacraments they offer and the Word they proclaim. All the faithful have a share in this marvelous gift of the  priesthood through their baptism and attentive participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.  The immediacy with which the celebration of the Eucharist ends after the faithful have received the Eucharist and shared in their Holy Communion seems as though the faithful are given a quick ‘good-bye’ with no ‘follow up’ or ‘follow through’. Nothing of the sort!  The Dismissal is a capsulized and intensely packed moment that carries with it an extraordinary responsibility and an awesome power.
When (Jesus) had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…Then He appeared to the (disciples) … He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not be believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover…  (Mark 16: 9-19)  And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 20)  (The disciples) went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16: 20)
From the moment  we sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we begin an extraordinary spiritual journey through a mystical experience of our salvation history, and more intimately, throughout the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus. As the early followers of Jesus did, we also listen to and reflect on the words of our ancestors in faith.  As the first disciples did, we listen to and learn from the words of Jesus;  in the power of the Holy Spirit Who will remind you of all that I said (John 14: 26), we grow in the strength that will empower us to go forth and be ‘heralds of the Great King’.
Our Seraphic Father proclaimed himself as the ‘Herald of the Great King’ when confronted by a band of robbers. The robbers beat, stripped, and threw St. Francis into a ditch, considering him a mentally challenged person of little worth. They could not and would not accept or understand the freedom and joy that Francis had encountered when he allowed Jesus to ‘take over’ his life.  The Eucharist, celebrated well and received with the appropriate spiritual dispositions empowers us in the same way to be free to ‘be Christ’ and proclaim Him to all the world. We become ‘heralds of the Great King’. We are asked not only to bear a message to others in words, but to become the message in action, fearless of any opposition we might receive  for the sake of the Name (3 John 1: 7).   Human nature influences that reception.  Today we sense a growing aversion in many areas of our world to Christ and His message.  There are those who seek to follow Him with a sincere heart; there are those who follow the image they have created in their own likeness that responds to their personal situations rather than His Word; and then there are those who stand in opposition to Him, even going so far as to proclaim they are acting in His name.
Often those who seek to foster a love for the Gospel, the Church, and our Catholic Christian values and traditions face the same problems the first followers of Jesus, and all sincere seekers of Truth, faced down through the centuries.  If they are not physically attacked, those who seek to do God’s will and live in His Truth are beaten with barrages of negativity and harsh words; they are stripped of integrity by slander, false accusations, or even by an embellishment of the truth for the sake of destroying the reputation of the innocent, who are left on the ‘road of indifference’ or in the ‘ditch of discouragement’ alone to fend for themselves with their physical, and sometimes spiritual, strength depleted.  There is no stifling the power of God and His Spirit in those who seek His will.  We find strength in our weaknesses, as St. Paul reminds us when speaking of his own vulnerabilities and defects.  One of the great Fathers of the early Church, Tertullian, stated: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.   What greater ‘martyrdom’ is there than the ‘witness’ of bearing with patience, trust, and forgiveness, an ‘ongoing death’ that seeks to destroy the soul over the course of days, weeks, months and perhaps years!  What greater amount of ‘blood’ can we shed than the ‘lifeblood’ of our time, talents and even treasures spent in the daily practice of our faith and its defense against the power of the one who is in the world’ (cfr. 1 John 4: 4).  The one who is in the world is always at work insidiously in the minds and hearts of those who proclaim a ‘heaven on earth’ and a god created to their own image!
The Eucharist offers us a bit of heaven on earth.  We bask in the light of the Son, and find strength and peace in Him. Once we have received the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass, it seems as though everything precipitates so quickly that we have little time to spend with the Lord in the protected solace of the church, chapel or other ‘sacred space’.  The brief words and quick dismissal, Go, the Mass is ended or perhaps, translating the words literally, Go, it is sent (Ite, missa est), are an urgent commission entrusted to all who participated (and the key word is ‘participated’) in the Eucharist.  Christ sends us out, as He did His disciples when He ascended to the Father, to bring to others what we have seen with our own eyes, heard with our own ears, and touched   (1 John 1: 1) – Jesus. The commission is urgent; thus the dismissal is immediate.  We have celebrated the mysteries of our salvation.  We have re-presented the Passion-Death-Resurrection- Glorification of the Savior.  We have actively participated in the Mass – we are witnesses to all this (Acts 2: 32).  There is no time to waste. We must be out and about with the Lord and proclaim Him with our lives!
At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we read: (Jesus said to His disciples) you will be witnesses in Jerusalem … and to the ends of the earth … As (the disciples) were looking on, he was lifted up … from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky … suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? ( cfr. Acts 1: 1-12) The celebrant conveys the same command to us at the end of Mass.  It is as though he were saying: ‘You have celebrated the sacred mysteries of our salvation; you have entered the ‘inner circle’ of the Great King’; you have been privileged with His message and His Spirit to inform and remind you. The Victim is sacrificed, our offering is sent and received by the Father, the sacred communion that empowers those who receive worthily has been received and consumed … what are you waiting for? Don’t stand around!  It’s time to go and be the One we received. Drive out the demons of ill will, confusion, doubt, discouragement, despair by the spirit of goodness and compassion.  Speak the new language of Christ’s command of love that can be understood by anyone regardless of ethnic origin or even religious affiliation.  Deal with the deadly serpents of verbal and physical persecution for the sake of the Name.  Know that I am with you all days even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).   Don’t fear the deadly poison of a world that insidiously attempts to corrupt mind and heart from within with seductive enticements and glittering allurements. Lay hands of reassurance and sensitivity on those who have grown ill through lives that are weak, those who have possibly given up … Be their strength … Be the Jesus you have celebrated and received to them.
Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.  Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity (transparency of character and life) .  Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.  Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.  Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self- surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter but by the offering of your free will. (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 108)
Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi do not use prayer, personal sacrifice, and even charitable giving as an excuse to keep aloof from the realities of life.  Our Eucharist is celebrated sacramentally everyday at the altar, and then continued in the streets and our homes through our daily activities.  Once we’ve received the sacramental Jesus and allowed the grace of His Spirit to flow through our veins, we must ‘Go, the (liturgical) Mass is ended’ … ‘It is (or we are) sent’, to bring others, to lead the whole world, into the mystery of God’s love in the Sacrifice and Sacrament of Jesus the Christ.  The Eucharist is not just a goal to be reached but also a starting point that leads to greater heights in, with, and for God and His People.  The priest who acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) accompanies us as one of God’s People, and prays with and for us as one set aside to intercede as a ‘mediator’ between the divine and the human.  He too is called to be victim with the Victim that he too, with all those entrusted to his ministry, may share in the Victory of the Eucharist that fills the world with the Real Presence of an awesome God Who invites us to an intimate relationship with Him and then delegates us to be Eucharist, to be an act of thanksgiving in God, to all.
Continue to pray for all priests and those contemplating the priesthood. Pray that we priests live according to the Heart of the Savior in Whose person we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17: 28). Pray that we may be willing ‘victims’, if the Lord should ask that grace of us, that others with and through us may experience the victory promised all who listen to and live God’s Word: I have conquered the world  (John 16: 33).  Do not be afraid  (Matthew 14: 27; this verse and over 300 other verses in Scripture remind us that we need not fear for God is with us).  Greater is the one within you than the one in the world (1 John 4: 4) .  Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).
May the Eternal High Priest, Jesus, show us His Most Sacred Heart, pierced by the centurion’s lance that we may enter the door thrown open leading to the Father’s loving embrace; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart;  and may Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant
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The Whole-hearted Beauty of St. Anthony

St. Anthony of Padua tree

Saint of the Month

The Whole-hearted beauty of St. Anthony

Our beloved St. Anthony of Padua born Fernando Bulhones was the son of a distinguished Portuguese family who served the Church and king in the 13th century. His baptized name, Fernando, meant “seeker” or “peace combatant,” a moniker looking to a future leader’s pathways.

In his childhood, the young Fernando would make it clear that he aimed to serve Jesus.  By the year 1221, he had been two years an Augustinian priest, devout and brilliant but with a profound love of the Gospel and the poor.

By the grace of God, Fr. Fernando transferred and became a Franciscan taking the name Anthony. He was led to a life of radical poverty and hermit life…taking the example of the 4th Century Egyptian hermit, Anthony, the father of Christian monasticism.

By learning to surrender his own will to serve God, knowing that is the heart of Christian living. He became a great teacher, confessor, preacher and father to the poorest of the poor. His homilies still speak to us today. As a great preacher and priest he always spoke of putting God first in our lives using the First Commandment You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart… His sermons drew thousands. Hold back no corner of your heart, he said, when praying especially in asking pardon for our sins. He cited that the dear Lord’s Sacred Heart opened for us to show a love, which brought Him to the Cross, so much was his love for us and he forgave our sins to welcome us to our eternal home.

It was understood by Anthony in giving our all even to his Body and Blood he will take our “all” and will give it back to us. With a new heart cleansed and purified by God one that will never break or wear out the Eternal Life God waits for us.

The moral of his sermon: When we have to make choices, it is easier with a heart full of love, a love-filled heart burning with the image of God’s own heart.

Did you know?

That St. Anthony did not live in Padua for an extended period until 1230, the year before he died.

In the spring of 1231 he withdrew with Brothers Luke and Roger to nearby Camposampiero, where he had a treehouse hermitage. He worked on sermon notes for the major feasts of the saints and had already completed notes for the Sunday Gospels. On June 13, he died at the friary in Arcella, having received the Anointing of the Sick and holy Communion.(resources used FMA focus and St. Anthony’s Messenger.)

For further Research

The symbolism of the Walnut Tree. Christ as the Tree of Life.

Friar Jack’s E-Spirations  2007

 

 

Apostolate of the Ear

At my fraternity gathering last month, our Formation Director, Justin Carisio, OFS, spoke about a book by Pope Francis – The Name of God is Mercy. The title alone could take an entire evening to discuss.

 

Justin focused on just a few points from the book;  one of which was Apostolate of the Ear.  I must say, when I saw that topic, I was a little skeptical of how that would tie in. Basically, what it means is to give the gift of listening to someone who needs to be heard. And we all need to be heard.

 

Being called a good listener is a compliment, but one that is seldom heard any more.  We have all learned to tune each other out.  People walk by briskly on the street with their ear buds firmly in place.  Whether they are listening to music or not, having those ear buds on is an excuse not to talk to anyone and especially not to listen to anyone.

 

We live in a very noisy world. The TV is on while three people in the room are having conversations on three different cell phones. A man I used to work for would call me every morning to talk about what was going on in the office and what was going on with me.  And he would be checking e-mail at the same time.  He never heard what I was trying to tell him.  And it hurt.  I wasn’t worth his time or full attention.

 

Isn’t really listening to someone a true act of humility?  We have to shut down our own ego and problems of the moment and really concentrate on the words coming from the other person.  We give the gift of ourselves to the person who needs to be heard. How Franciscan!

 

Most times, people are not looking for solutions to their problems or an opinion about what has them upset. They just want someone to validate them, let them know they are valuable to us.  In our Rule, Chapter 2, #5, the first sentence is: Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters,

 

If Christ came to you after a bad day, would you check e-mail while He spoke to you? During the month of May, let all of us work on this small but powerful gift to give to the Christ we meet every single day.  May God bless and direct our steps as we strive to follow in the footsteps of our Seraphic Father.

Much love and many blessings,

kate