I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
so that, through the prayers and merits of the
holy and glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother,
and of our most blessed father Francis and of all the saints,
the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning,
may give increase and may also give final perseverance.
(The Testament of St. Clare of Assisi)
The following are excerpts taken from early documents that speak of St. Clare of Assisi.
from the Acts of the Process of Canonization (1st and 2nd Witnesses).
Daily reflections are taken from various sources
Saint Clare, while that holy woman was in the world…was considered by all who knew her to be a person of great honesty and of very good life; and she was intent upon and occupied with works of piety. (1st Witness) – The danger of indifference demands we do battle with triteness, shallowness, and dullness, and that we have to resist and begin to go in the other direction.
Saint Clare began the Order that is now at San Damiano through the admonition of Saint Francis. She entered it as a virgin, and always remained such a virgin. (1st Witness) – Truly good people are always unconscious of their goodness.
Lady Clare very much loved the poor, and all the citizens held her in great veneration because of her good manner of life. (1stWitness) – When we compare ourselves with other people, we seem good; when we compare ourselves with God, we are nothing.
After Saint Clare had been in the Order, at the prayers and insistence of Saint Francis, who almost forced her, she accepted the direction and government of the sisters. (1st Witness) – Love quickly decays. Has our love grown cold?
The blessed mother (Saint Clare) kept vigil so much of the night in prayer, and kept so many abstinences, that the sisters lamented and were alarmed. (1st Witness) – The closer we get to Christ, the less certain we are of any merit of our own.
Lady Clare lay on the ground and had a rock from the river for her head…She was so very strict in her food that the sisters marveled at how her body survived. (1st Witness) – The older we get, the better we see ourselves.
Blessed Clare fasted much of the time. Three days of the week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she did not eat anything…Saint Francis together with the bishop of Assisi commanded her to eat on those days at least a half a roll of bread… (1st Witness) – The psychology of mediocrity seeks rather to ease the problem than cure it.
When she came from prayer, she admonished and comforted her sisters always speaking the words of God Who was always in her mouth, so much so that she did not want to speak or hear of vanities. (1st Witness) – Life had to be forfeited for our sins, and no life is more precious than that of God who became man. His blood … paid the infinite price.
When she (Saint Clare) commanded her sisters to do something, she did so with great fear and humility and more often than not she wished to do what she had commanded the others. (1st Witness) – Even if we claim not to believe, we still experience the moral effects of guilt.
When she was sick that she could not get up from bed, she had herself raised to sit up and be supported with some cushions…She spun thread so that, from her work, she made corporals and altar linens for almost all the churches of the plains and hills of Assisi. (1st Witness) – The great sin of the human race is rebellion. We are rebels against God.
The blessed mother was humble, kind, and loving to her sisters, and had compassion for the sick. (1st Witness) – We need to resolve to change, because when we fall into a pattern of ordinariness, we are loath to change.
While she was healthy, she (Saint Clare) served them and washed their feet and gave them water with her own hands. Sometime she washed the mattresses of the sick. (1st Witness) – You will always know the dark days of the Church (and our own) when there is a walking away from the cross of Christ.
She particularly loved poverty, but she could never be persuaded to desire anything for herself, or to receive any possession for herself or the monastery. (1st Witness) – There is no such thing as capturing the passing glory. You have to go down the hill and climb the hill of Calvary to come to perfect glory.
Lady Clare was as careful about the regular observance of her Order and the government of the sisters as someone might be in safeguarding his temporal treasure. (1st Witness) – The modern world is very fond of denying responsibility; it began in Eden. The denial of responsibility stops at the cross of Christ.
When five sisters were sick in the monastery, Saint Clare made the sign of the cross with her own hand over them and all of them were immediately cured. (1st Witness) – The Cross without Christ is tyranny; Christ without the Cross is a lie.
Lady Clare, former abbess of the monastery of San Damiano, had marvelous humility and so looked down on herself … that those tasks which she knew were more degrading she herself performed. (2nd Witness) – Like vines, we must be pruned by the gardener, that we might be more fruitful.
She (St. Clare) was eighteen years old or so (when she entered religious life)…She was a virgin in spirit and in body and held in great veneration by all who knew her even before she entered religion…because of her great honesty, kindness, and humility. (2ndWitness) – After we have embraced discipline, then we will be prepared to change others.
She was also so severe toward her body that she was content with only one tunic of ‘lazzo’ (i.e. home-spun cloth made of inferior wool and used by the country folk) and one mantle. (2nd Witness) – Softness of character comes about when we desire to accommodate ourselves to the world, shrinking away from sacrifice, self-denial.
If she (St. Clare) ever saw that the tunic of another of the sisters was worse than what she was wearing, she took it from her for herself and gave the better one to that sisters. (2nd Witness) – The Lord heals, but not always. There will not be a complete healing until the whole cosmos is renewed.
Clare at one time had a certain shirt made of boar’s hide. She wore it secretly under her woolen tunic with the skin and its bristles close to her skin. (2nd Witness) – Christ solved pain by making it a condition of life. He conquered pain by using it as a means of attaining glory.
She used such rough haircloths and shirts for herself, but was very merciful to the sisters who could not endure such harshness, and willingly gave them consolation. (2nd Witness) – God chooses us not for what we are, but for what God knows we can become.
Blessed Clare, before she was sick, practiced great abstinence: the greater Lent, of Saint Martin, she always fasted on bread and water, except on Sundays when she drank a little wine when there was some. (2nd Witness) – Love knows no limits.
At about midnight she woke the sisters with certain signs in silence to praise God. She lit the lamps in the church and frequently rang the bells for Matins. Those sisters who did not rise at the sound of the bell she called with her signs. (2nd Witness) – Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.
Her speech was always about the things of God. She did not wish to talk about worldly things or for the sisters to remember these things. (2nd Witness) – The crucifix is my autobiography. The blood is the ink. The nails the pen. The skin the parchment. On every line of that body I can trace my life.
If it happened at times that some worldly person did something contrary to God, astonishingly she wept, reproached such a person, and exhorted that one anxiously to turn to penance. (2nd Witness) – Instead of a question of superiority or inferiority (in the Church and in fraternity) it is a question of the different roles we fulfill.
Lady Clare frequently confessed, and, with great devotion and fear, frequently received the holy sacrament of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, trembling all over as she did so. (2nd Witness) – We are all thieves. We cheat God in our lives; we cheat Him in our worship; we cheat Him in our relationships with others. In us Jesus is reputed among the wicked.
Concerning the corporals made from her spinning…she had paper boxes lined with silk made to hold them and had them blessed by the bishop. (2nd Witness) – Scripture never speaks of reconciliation except through the death of Christ. We are saved by the cross and resurrection.
(One sister) had lost her voice so that she was barely able to speak even softly. She had a vision on the night of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in which Lady Clare, while making the sign of the cross with her hand over her, cured her. It was done in such a way that on the same day she was cured since she did make the sign of the cross over her. (2nd Witness) – Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus and both repented. One repented to the Lord and the other repented to himself. One lived in hope and the other died in despair.
A certain brother of the Order of Friars Minor, Stephen, was mentally ill. Saint Francis sent him to the monastery of San Damiano, so Saint Clare would make the sign of the cross over him. After she had done this, the brother went to sleep…Upon waking, he ate a little and then departed cured. (2nd Witness) – In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord suffered not so much from pain, as from evil.
When certain Saracens scaled the wall and climbed down into the part within the cloister of San Damiano, holy mother Saint Clare, then seriously ill, got up from her bed, called her sisters, comforting them not to be afraid. After she prayed, the Lord delivered the monastery and the sisters from the enemy. Those Saracens, who had already entered, departed. (2nd Witness) – The sufferings of our blessed Lord were finished in Him as the head of the church, but they are not finished in his body (the Church – us).
Through the virtues and grace that God had placed in her, all who knew her considered her a saint. She especially had a great love of poverty. Neither Pope Gregory nor the Bishop of Ostia could make her consent to receive any possessions. (2nd Witness) – Nothing gives us so much understanding of the love of God, the sacrificial love, as God coming down to this world from heavenly headquarters and saying: ‘I will take the pain as my own’…This is the agape love of Christianity.
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: email@example.com
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you his peace!
For centuries the Catholic Christian world has celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven. This crowning moment in Her life was never really disputed by most Christians before the rise of Protestantism. As time moves on, the world and its values often clouds the vision of our minds and hearts. As the modern world places humanity at the center rather than God, society takes a different view of life and basic human values. Technology has become the ‘god’ for many, a practical atheism if not a theoretical one. Materialism, commercialism, hedonism, just to mention a few ‘isms’ of our day, have sunk their roots deep into the human experience and often seduce the heart and soul urging us to confide in the passing things of time rather than in the lasting gifts of eternity. The cult of the body has dominated our society for years. Sixty years ago, recognizing these serious dangers, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven, November 1st, 1950, amidst a gathering of thousands in St. Peter’s Basilica. This proclamation was the crowning recognition of the simple Maiden of Nazareth, Whose unconditional faith opened Her life to God’s will, and the world to salvation.
The story of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is beautifully told in the Apocrypha (texts not inserted among the books of Sacred Scripture). The story lets us see how the early Church truly loved Mary as the highest honor of our race. It is no wonder that so many saints have had a particular and deep love and filial devotion for Our Lady. Our Seraphic Father St. Francis and Holy Mother St. Clare were devoted children of this Most Holy of Mothers, Whose love envelopes us with Her protective mantle. Close to Her Immaculate Heart, Her children feel secure from harm and assured of an Advocate almighty by intercession with God.
Saint Francis loved Christ and was deeply struck by the humility of the Incarnation and the love of His Passion. He wanted to conform himself totally to Christ, so that Christ would be the true foundation of his life. This love for Christ inevitably led him to a profound love for Mary, the Mother of the Lord. In fact, as Celano states: He embraced the Mother of Jesus with inexpressible love, since She made the Lord of Majesty a brother to us. He honored Her with his own Praises, poured out prayers to Her, and offered Her his love in a way that no human tongue can express. But what gives us greatest joy is that he appointed Her the Advocate of the Order, and placed under Her wings the sons to be left behind, that She might protect and cherish them to the end. (2 Celano, chpt.150) Love for Our Lady moved him to imitate Her virtues. He told his friars that it is the example of Christ and His Most Holy Mother that we follow in choosing the way of true poverty. (Legend of Perugia, #3)
St. Francis wanted this basic element of his spirituality to be the same basis for the spirituality of St. Clare and her religious family. Thus an essential element of the life of St. Clare and her sisters is the love and devotion they have for the Mother of Jesus, whom St. Clare considers their true Mother. The love of St. Clare for Mary is apparent from the first moment of her consecration to God. Once she abandoned her home, city and family, she fled to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula (Our Lady of the Angels), where the brothers, who were waiting for her in prayer before the little altar in that chapel, received St. Clare with lighted torches. (Life, #8). It was here that St. Francis cut her hair before the altar, in the Church of the Virgin Mary (Process, #12), and it was here that the humble handmaid was wed to Christ (Life, #8) Saint Mary of the Portiuncula is that famous place where the new throng of the poor began, guided by Francis: thus it appears clearly that the Mother of mercy gave birth to both Orders in Her own dwelling place. (Life, #8)
St. Clare began her new life at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She had a particular love and devotion for Her and wanted her sisters, although they received the precious Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion only seven times a year, to receive communion on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. (Rule, #3) St. Clare even desired that any form of fasting be dispensed on the feasts of Mary. As much in love as St. Clare was with Christ Crucified, so also was she with His Mother, reflecting upon Her sorrows. She wrote to Sister Ermentrude: Meditate constantly on the mysteries of the cross and the agonies of His Mother standing at the foot of the Cross. (Letter to Ermentrude)
St. Clare was deeply convinced that perseverance in her vocation gave honor to Mary. She prayed for the gift of perseverance, and in her Testament she writes: Let us be very careful that, if we have set out on the path of the Lord, we do not at any time turn away from it through our own fault and ignorance, or that we do a great wrong to so great a Lord and His Virgin Mother, and our blessed father Francis, the Church Triumphant and even the Church Militant…For this reason, I bend the knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ so that, through the prayers and merits of the glorious and holy Virgin Mary, His Mother, and our most blessed father Francis and all the saints, the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning, may give the increase and may give final perseverance. Amen. (Testament)
St. Clare’s love for Mary was a transforming element for her, that she expressed in the imitation of Mary’s virtues. Even Cardinal Rainaldo in the letter of Approval of the Rule, recognizes that the community of St. Clare follows in the footsteps of Christ and His Most Holy Mother, and have chosen to live a cloistered life. Of all the aspects of the life of Jesus and Mary, St. Clare is particularly concerned with imitating the poverty of Mary that she might be also faithful to the example of St. Francis, who sought to follow the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother. It was this deep love for Mary that merited for St. Clare the assistance of Our Blessed Mother during her illness. One biographer writes that when Clare seemed close to death, surrounded by her sisters who were weeping, a Benedictine nun had a vision and saw a beautiful lady at the head of the bed who addressed the weeping sisters saying: Daughters, do not cry for one who still must live on until the Lord with His disciples comes to her. (Life, #40)
Mary is the Mother of all the living (Lumen Gentium, #56) Mary gives birth to God, by giving Him our human nature. And Her Son, receiving from Her all that is human, gives Her, as much as possible, all that is of God. Jesus was like Mary in Her human form, and Mary was like Jesus in His spiritual form. There was never a creature so much ‘like God’ than Mary. Between Mother and Son there was a full and perfect union and correspondence, even in that insurmountable distance that separates the divine Son from Her, a pure creature. (Free translation from St. Lawrence of Brindisi) It is this relationship between the human and the divine that St. Clare learned and deepened through her love for Jesus and Mary.
St. Clare’s love for Jesus and Mary led her to an active contemplation of Jesus and Mary that culminated at the foot of the Cross in the ultimate sign of the depth of God’s love for humanity, and humanity’s participation with God in Mary. Her love for the Crucified Christ led to Mary, the Virgin Made Church, Whose ‘yes’ to God made our redemption possible. Before the image of the Crucified, St. Clare opened herself to the mystery of God’s limitless love for all humanity, and there she found the Mother of the Redeemer Who guided her to contemplate the role Mary was called to fulfill in our salvation history. From the first moment of Her Conception until Her glorious Assumption to the right hand of Her Son Jesus, Mary is an intimate collaborator in the mystery of salvation. She offers Jesus to others, disregarding the disadvantages to Herself, so that Jesus in turn could offer Himself for us all. Mary’s collaboration from the first moment of the Lord’s conception in Her womb is remembered by the Evangelists. Mary carries Jesus, still within Her womb, to Elizabeth and the Baptist; She presents Him to the Magi; She offers Him to Simeon and Anna; She encourages Him to perform His first miracle to save a young couple from embarrassment; She accompanies Him to Calvary and death where, at the foot of the Cross, She offers Him and Herself with Him. In the sufferings of Calvary Mary became our Mother in the life of grace. Her spiritual itinerary is the life of one who accepted and lived God’s Will. When Mary and her relatives went to see Jesus at Capharnaum, Jesus said to the one who told Him His Mother and relatives were looking for Him: My Mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and live It. Jesus did not distance Himself from His Mother Mary but, on the contrary, extolled Her greatness because She believed and accepted the Father’s Will, as He Himself was doing even in His own journey to the Cross.
St. Clare, in imitation of Mary, opened her heart and life to live God’s Will as it was proclaimed by the Magisterium and counseled by St. Francis. Yet, with all her simple, humble obedience, St. Clare is a woman radical in her approach to the life she was called to live, flexible towards her sisters and the human weaknesses she encountered, and truly free to be detached from all that could keep her from focusing on the eternal gifts and striving for them. St. Clare is an image of that strong Woman who stood at the foot of the Cross with the dignity of an empress and a heart pierced with the sorrow of a loving Mother. St. Clare stood her ground firmly convinced for years with the officials of the Church for the Privilege of Poverty that eventually she was granted shortly before her death; yet she would be aware of and respond with the love, concern, and the flexibility of a caring mother to the needs of her sisters and any who came seeking her assistance. She lived the words she wrote to her spiritual daughter, St. Agnes of Prague: Embrace the poor Christ. Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him…gaze, consider, contemplate desiring to imitate your Spouse. (2nd Letter to St. Agnes of Prague)
St. Clare of Assisi ‘gazed upon the Lord’ in the depths of her heart and in the faces of her sisters and others. With the love of a mother, she responded to their needs, and even placed her own life in jeopardy for their sakes. Remember the two times we are told she saved the monastery from invasion and the sisters from harm by standing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament between the sisters and the invaders. Jesus was the center of her life. He filled her with courage and strength. And Mary was the valiant woman of Scripture whose example helped St. Clare instill serenity and peace in others.
As spiritual children of our seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy Mother St. Clare, let us follow their example. Let Christ be our center so that we too may irradiate goodness and peace to all; let Mary be our Mother whose life, from Her Immaculate Conception to Her Assumption body and soul into heaven, be a constant reminder of our origins in God’s love and His pledge to us in Jesus that we, one day, will have the opportunity to share the eternal joys of heaven in the body with which we were known on earth and through which we sought to give glory and praise to God. O Christian, remember your dignity (St. Leo the Great) and live as redeemed children of God.
May God bless you; may Our Lady, guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and Holy Mother St. Clare watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Most recently I have had the privilege of attending a talk given by Father Michael O.F.M. Conv. Parochial Vicar of St. Peter Church in Point Pleasant. It was held in Neptune at the Upper Room.
The talk was entitled “ A Pilgrimage with Francis and Clare”. It was so refreshing to hear those events which took place which lead up to the sainthood of Francis and Clare. There was so much I didn’t know about the history of Assisi at the time of Francis and Clare or could I humbly say I forgot.
The vision for Francis and Clare was to embrace Christ with their all, humbly with faith. Beginning with The Prayer before the Crucifix and then The Canticle of the Creatures made this evident and with the excerpt from the Third letter to Agnes of Prague, Place your mind in the mirror of eternity; Place your soul in the splendor of glory; Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance; and, through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Divine One himself, so that you, yourself, may also experience what his friends experience when they taste the hidden sweetness that God alone has kept from the beginning for those who love Him. This signifies that in the Eucharist we are transformed into the Image of Christ.
The part of the talk I enjoyed hearing the most was that Clare was the first woman to write a rule, and in 1215 the Lateran Council IV Pope Clement approved her rule August the 9th. She died two days after.
In 1253 in spite of rules being written for other communities this is when the Pope said there were enough rules written and so they got rid of Clare’s rule. They were given the rule of Saint Benedict to follow.
In the 1900th century they interred her body she was found incorrupt and holding a copy of her rule in her hands and so therefore we have her rule.
Let me close with an intention for the novena prayer of Saint Clare.
Pope Francis has asked us to live as evangelizers within our families and in the world. May we open our hearts to the world’s pain, in a desire to be identified with
the Passion of Jesus that is being lived out in our world. We are to care for our Earth with reverence for all forms of life. We entrust to the healing power of St. Clare that we may faithfully follow the Light of the Gospel and become instruments of Peace in our World.
Peace be with you all,
The words are brutal; the attitude – ugly. Accusations are made, stories true, half true or completely untrue are repeated and repeated and repeated.
It must be a Presidential election year! What a great time to be Franciscan!!
This is not a political blog. I am not here to foist my political views on anyone. I don’t care who you are voting for – that’s your right and privilege. What I do care about is how easy it is to get caught up with the crowd. And that’s not Franciscan. Don’t we naturally tend to swim upstream? …against the tide of what everyone else is doing?
Both conventions are over and now the real mud slinging begins! There are far, far too many people who believe every word that crosses their screen. It’s no different than all the people who believe every word that is written in the Star or the National Enquirer. If it’s in print, it must be gospel!
We really need to be vigilant in what we do…and how we do it. There are some beautiful religious e-mails that come around – beautiful prayers, inspiring thoughts. And at the end, it reads……make a wish and pass this on to all the people in your address book. Make a wish?? That’s not how I approach my God. Can you see St. Francis proclaiming one of his passionate canticles and then turning to the Brothers and saying…Make a wish and go tell everyone you know. Making a wish has nothing to do with who we are. Taking part in slander is very wrong. Even passing on true information can be wrong if we have no business passing it on. Lies and even hurtful truths take on a life of their own. My heart aches for the parents of the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide because of what her classmates had posted on the web about her.
I am not saying Franciscans shouldn’t forward any messages on the Internet. But before you do, stop and think WWFD…What would Francis do?
Our reading from Morning Prayer on Friday, Week I comes form Ephesians, 4:29 – 32: Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. 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.
This Presidential race will be more lively than most. The closer we get to election day, the more tightly wound everyone will be. In this election year, wouldn’t it be better…more Franciscan …to pray for the right outcome? Ask God to guide us in getting the person in office that He wants to be there.
It’s going to be a long, hot summer and that has nothing to do with the weather! Wouldn’t it be nicer to stand back, hold onto our Franciscan serenity, and stay out of the sensationalism?
Here is a prayer put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Prayer Before An Election
Lord God, as the election approaches, we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty. We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
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:
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!
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
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?
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.
St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
tel: (302) 798-1454 fax: (302) 798-3360 website: skdsfo email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
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
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.
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!
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