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January, 2023, Thought for the Day by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

Holy and Happy New Year 2023!

January 2023

The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus 

Book 5, Chapter 3 

[The Virtues of Austerity, Humility, and Obedience] 

 

1

So now, let us return to the perfection of Francis, whose identification with the angel of the sixth seal is borne out not only by external witnesses but by the excellence of his own life. He did indeed come down from where the sun rises, as, ever rising from strength to strength, following the deeds of Christ as he grew in his humanity, he configured his holy way of living to the life of Christ. – As soon as we are in faith and in love, we are in prayer

2

And this reached the high point of his carrying the seal of the living God; he lived to become worthy to have on his body the imprints of the wounds of the Crucified. Now, as to Christ’s life itself, an attentive survey of the gospels will reveal its salient features, its most striking notes: the crucifixion, the profound humility, the extreme poverty, the fervor of charity shown by desiring our salvation in undergoing the torment of the cross, as well as by the sheer graciousness of His stooping to compassionate sinners and the afflicted. – He who does not praise God here on earth shall eternally be dumb.

3

Yet the crowning perfection of Christ’s life lay in His interior cultivation and consummation of divine charity. In one continuous act, on His own behalf and that of all His members, He duly paid the service of worship to the divinity, to which in His own person He was united. There, despite its rather moderate treatment, you have enough about his amazing austerities to weigh in your mind. The fact is that the Blessed Jesus, virginal Son born of virginity, saw fit to transfuse purity into him, since complete cleanness cannot live in tainted flesh without a continuous crucifixion of self. That is why the most pious Jesus, in order to help us come to an austere crucifixion of our corrupt flesh for the preservation of purity, afflicted His own sacred flesh with many a cross as long as He lived. Francis, his true son and imitator, taking this to heart, disciplined himself so rigidly in regard to food, clothing, lodgings, sleep, and other similar bodily demands, that he scarcely took the minimum required to sustain nature. – Begin the day with God and it is probable that you will end the day with Him and in goodness.

4

And although, after prolonged penance, his blameless body needed no chastising for any wrong, he continued to inflict hardships and burdens on it, keeping to harsher ways for the sake of others. So, he called his frail body an “ass,” gave it endless hard work to do, provided it with coarse coverings and a bed of straw, and fed it with small amounts of inferior fare. In order to achieve full purity of heart he completely abstained from all familiarities which might inwardly defile him and give bad example to others. – Pray that no crisis hour may find you unprepared.

5

This meant that he recognized the face of hardly any woman. He further ordered every effort made to avoid, as a plague to purity, intimate dealings with women. It was because he was aware of spending his days in a valley of tears, that he was habitually weeping. All of this meant that he had become so candid in mind, so clean in heart, that he seemed to have attained the state of innocence at that time. For, as we read in his Legend, he had practically all creatures, even the inanimate, at his command; a level of grace, indeed, in which he surpassed natural innocence. There were instances of fire tempering its heat, water changing taste, the night sky shining like day, and a dry rock yielding a delicious spring. Thus did the elements put themselves at the service of the unspoiled Francis. – To the one who waits all things reveal themselves. Patience.

6

In deep humility and in eradicating all mundane glamor, he so perfectly imitated Christ that his wish was to place himself and his Order at the feet of everybody. In order to be the least of all, he did not want to have any of the Church’s authority, except her authority for observing the holy Gospel. – When the Church (we) is different from the world, she (we) invariably attracts it.

7

He certainly wanted to promote the salvation of souls; but only through the virtue of humility, not with pompous power. And though it is very true that he had several Supreme Pontiffs at his beck and call—men who held him in the highest regard, sincerely convinced of his sanctity—even so, he would never ask for or accept any privilege that might diminish his being a humble subject. – Never be diffident and/or apologetic about the Gospel.

8

For he wished to be subject to all, and in this lowly subordination to be sacrificed for all in the charity of Christ. Well did he know humility to be pliant: it is like something soft yielding to something resistant while, in effect, enclosing it inside its own softness; unlike inflexibility confronting inflexibility and bringing to naught both itself and its rival. For this reason Francis, in his holy Testament, forbids all the brothers, prelates, and subjects, to ask for any letter from the Apostolic See either to facilitate the work of preaching or to avoid persecution. – The Christian must have the strength to see the good side of things.

9

The humble Francis used to say that when they meekly asked permission of bishops and priests, they were by their example edifying the very pastors of the Church. Then even if they refused permission, patience and humility will bring them to change their minds; meanwhile they themselves, by bearing the refusal patiently, will keep intact a virtuous and flawless way of acting. – If the Gospel really means “good news” then being a Christian means to be a happy person.

10

But if, on the strength of some privilege, the brothers presumptuously go against prelates’ wishes, they are not behaving humbly and they only tempt prelates of lofty heart to oppose and malign them. This results in a collision involving two tough courses of action, both of which cause scandal. And so, the word of truth is preached ineffectively, since no humility is shown by the one getting up to speak. – Gloomy faces are not made for the happy house of Paradise (St. Philip Neri)

11

If, on the other hand, prelates once or twice or even three times bar the brothers from preaching, and each time they react with humility and patience, then their conduct does the preaching to the people. Their holy example will soften the prelate’s heart, who will not only give them permission but will look for them, so eager will he be to hear the preaching of such saintly brothers. The preaching of one such sermon will have a more uplifting effect than a thousand preached in a mood of contention and diminished humility. – You cannot say anything is a failure until it has been tried. Christianity works. Try it!

12

The truth of this was shown by Francis himself in the incident, mentioned in the Legend, with the bishop of Imola. Oh, how abundantly plain it is that Francis’s approach was the more efficacious one! For there are so many around at the moment who are carried away with the “authority” they have and who brook no opposition; and yet one seldom is aware of any change of heart resulting from all their verbose sermons. – Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found hard and not tried.

13

To brothers who troubled him over their reluctance to be at this low level of submissiveness to everyone, he replied in deeply plaintive tones: “My brothers, my brothers, what you want of me is to give up overcoming the world. For Christ sent me to overcome the world by being really subject to everyone, so that by love I might draw souls to Him through the example of humility.” – Joy is the serious business of heaven.

14

And he went on: “My brothers, humble yourselves before others, and you will convert them all. Those who persecute you unjustly will turn to Christ, having seen your patience tried, and they will be anxious to kiss your footprints. But if I were to use the salvation of others as a pretext for wanting some prerogative, it would mean my forfeiting the humblest of positions which belongs to the condition I am in. And it is through this I advance in virtue, and the people advance in the mercy that saves them.” – Sour godliness is the devil’s religion.

15

Things like this he told his brothers, as he wanted to rule out for them all affectation of ecclesiastical dignity and maintain them in their lowly existence. For this reason he called them “lesser,” so that they would not presume to become “greater,” and in no way did he wish them to aspire to the rank of prelacy. – Happiness is a wonderful commodity, the more you give, the more you have.

16

He once said to his patron, the lord bishop of Ostia: “If your lordship wants them to be fruitful in the Church, keep them in the state to which they were called and give them no permission whatever to rise to ecclesiastical prelacy.” As to how productive those are who have risen to ecclesiastical state from this and other Orders dedicated to poverty, those that know of it tell how grieved they are at their extravagance. For everybody knows well enough that their ascent to rank spelled their descent from virtue. – Contentment consists not in great wealth, but in few wants.

17

Much of their behavior proves that what they sought in promotion was not so much an improvement of others’ conduct as a life of relaxation for themselves. For, self-denying once, they have turned into gluttons; poor men once, they have become grasping and greedy; thought nothing of once, they have ended up proud and arrogant. They left the world when they joined their Orders, and as soon as they got rank, they returned to it. – No one has the right to consume happiness without producing it.

18

While they grease the palms of the mighty, they give no thought to the poor. They used to be the preachers, zealous for the salvation of souls; now they are among the worst offenders in neglecting souls. With every breath they collect temporalities for themselves and the benefit of their families. From the time they were infants in their Orders, poverty left them with nothing; now they seem bent on compensating themselves for that. Oh, what a true prophet Francis was! – The most evident sign of wisdom is continued cheerfulness.

19

And what misfortunes this promotion business has brought on the Orders! For the intention of those striving seems to focus on this; in those that have some competence this ambition seems to boil up. So, they do the rounds of the curiae and make sure they lodge with dignitaries, on whom they fawn. Far from refusing favors, they procure them by all manner of contrivance, shrewdness, sham, and sophistry. – To get the full value of joy you must have somebody with whom to share it.

20

They have reached the point where the saying is verified in them, “Like people, like priest”; indeed, like cleric, like ambitious and wandering religious. Is it any wonder that those who enter into this have no morally uplifting effect on people, but only cause them distress? All this is to say but little; words fail me to describe the malice of the times we live in. – Those who bring sunshine to the lives others cannot keep it from themselves.

21

In contrast, the humble Francis, in order to keep himself on the lowest possible level and to confound the ambitions of the future, had no desire to be promoted to the priesthood. As he saw it, up to the manifestation of the Church’s sixth status, the guidance of souls was not to be conducted through prelacy, if it were to be beneficial, but rather to be committed to the spirit of poverty. It is then that those who are like new apostles will be described as the pillars of the future status, as Christ expressly promised the angel of Philadelphia, in which there is doubtless a figurative reference to this status. – Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.

22

Therefore it was said to him, that “he has little power,” that is to say, he has glorious humility. For the status of poverty first had to be tried in humility, so that afterward in a prelacy it might not be judged as a thing of high standing. Because there are many who cloak their pride and, unsupported by privileges, cannot put up with clerical harassment, we can give a twofold reply based on sayings of the blessed Francis. – The sweet mark of a Christian is not faith, or even love, but joy.

23

One is that to men of perfection, which these are supposed to be, nothing should be a source of bother except what would drive them to sin, to which, of course, no one is forced against his will. And if you speak of the many tribulations the clergy often inflict upon them and to which they are unequal, we must respond that such people simply should not embark on the way of perfection and, with their immaturity, wreck a state of perfection. – Joy is the awareness of God’s loving presence within you.

24

Another rejoinder might be that these are the people who from the outset stood up to the clergy, while commandeering revenue—even though in a less obviously greedy way—by means of questing for alms and devotional stipends for Masses. For these reasons the clergy came down even harder on them. But if they had kept their humility and poverty intact, harassment would have been sweetly borne; besides, they couldn’t have had much to suffer, since they wouldn’t have had anything to lose! – Every act formed by charity is a revelation of God.

25

Francis wanted them to flee to another place and do penance, if they were persecuted in one place instead of standing on privileges. He used to teach, according to the Gospel which we have promised to observe, that Jesus himself says: If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next. The most sacred Testament of the holy father Francis repeats this. But how will this sound to those who, in the style of magnates build splendid residences, can scarcely be pulled away from where they grew up, even by order of those over them, and cannot tolerate holy brothers of other regions living in the same place? – When we have learned to do the Father’s will, we shall have realized our vocation on earth.

26

Those types have nothing in common with Francis; their portion, it is to be feared, must be in the devil’s hands. But when they gladly hear that Francis and his state is the Church’s reformation and the nourishment of the world, if he wanted others to be subject, how will they reform in pride? What we just said is true; for it is a fact that, apart from the blessed Jesus, his most humble Mother, and the college of the Apostles, never should the world have in it such a profound expression of lowliness as that of this status of poor lesser ones, nor indeed such a gross deformation of it as that of those who fall away. – Our vocation is to live in the Spirit.

27

And because Francis crushed pride underfoot with his humility, he held off the proud demons with authority. Therefore he was showing that his status was blasting away pride from the world—something that will happen to these conceited corrupters of the status, much as they will dislike it. For whoever, like Francis, keeps the humility of Jesus continually before his eyes and is delighted to resemble Him in meekness of heart, will subject himself to everyone and loathe issuing commands and prohibitions. – The vocation of each person merges up to a certain point with his very being.

28

The blessed Francis did commend humble obedience in the strongest terms, and observed it to the extent of always wanting to obey his brother companion. Still, he foresaw that there were sure to be those unprincipled enough to make the road of obedience a difficult one, issuing orders that contravened the poverty of the Rule while imposing absolute obedience on those under them. That is why he put in place a restraining clause to protect subjects, as well as those over them, when he told ministers not to be commanding them anything that is against their souls and our Rule, and subjects to obey in all things which they have promised the Lord to observe and are not against their souls and our Rule. – Not the “job” but our faithfulness to God will ultimately be what leads us to the fullness of life.

29

This form of obedience, which the Rule contains, flows from the heart of him who said of himself, I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of Him who sent me; and to the Pharisees, who were imposing their traditions on the disciples: You have made God’s word ineffective by means of your tradition. For the obedience of Francis cannot contain a greater purity, integrity, or depth, since it obeys in all things and refuses to obey false traditions that destroy the Rule, for to obey them is to apostatize. Because it follows from the fact a prelate derives his authority from the Rule, that to command or obey something contrary to it is to apostatize from the Rule. But do we want to go on further with Francis’s idea of obedience? – The service that counts is the service that costs.

30

He himself, after all, was in everything the least of all the lesser ones. Well might we compare him to the tiniest of infants, Joash, who was rescued from the slaughter of Athalia; or to the smallest of all the seeds, the grain of mustard seed which grew into a great tree; or to the least of all the saints, as Paul calls himself in Ephesians, entrusted though he was with announcing hidden mysteries. “To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ: and to enlighten all people, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which has been hidden from eternity in God.” – God forces no one, for love cannot compel. God’s service is a thing of complete freedom. 

31

He might also be compared to Benjamin, the smallest of his brothers, who in many ways was a type of Francis: Benjamin, in his birth, killed his mother; Francis, born in the midst of the fifth age, in the fullness of his birth through his reformed Rule, killed its self-indulgence. Benjamin, in his sojourn, dwelt with his father in the land of Canaan, and his father’s life depended upon his life; Francis fully observed always, by the will of the eternal Father in heaven, a life of fervent Christ-like love, and what pleased the will of the Father was his adornment and repose. – We find freedom when we find God.

 

 

 

January, 2023, Reflection by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

January 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The prophet Isaiah, speaking in the name of God, says, My Word will not return without fulfilling the purpose for which It was sent (Isaiah 55: 11).  From the very beginning of time, when the Almighty Creator and Father of all life brought out of nothing all that is and all that ever will be, there has been a yearning in creation for something, or better “Someone”.  This “hope” that groans until now (Romans 8: 22) is our constant companion on life’s journey that urges us to move forward into God’s Providence.  We journey without knowing what the next moment will bring.  We journey, and we trust.  We trust because we believe.  We believe because our hearts have been touched at birth by the Spirit of God Who enables us to see signs of The One greater than all Who encourages us to know Him more deeply as we see Him in and through the many gifts of His Creation. We are the epitome of His creating love. And Jesus is the excellent and flawless example of His magnificent creation.

Jesus is the Word that the Father sent. He is also the One Who returned to the Father having fulfilled the purpose for His becoming one with humanity. We continue that ministry of fulfillment each time we re-present the Mystery and miracle of the Eucharist.  It is the same Holy Spirit of God that overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary giving flesh to the almighty-eternal God within her immaculate womb (cfr. Luke 1: 35) that overshadows the bread and wine at the celebration of the Eucharist. The “overshadowing” by the hands of the priest and power of the Holy Spirit and the words of Consecration make Jesus the Christ real for us, not just in His Word, but in His Sacrament. This “Real Presence”, through the power of the Holy Spirit, urges us to enter the mystery more deeply and personally. We are called to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation (cfr. Romans 10:9). We courageously and unconditionally accept the mission to be sent, as Jesus did, to be a living message of peace and blessings to all. (cfr. Isaiah 52: 7; Nahum 1: 15)

“In Persona Christi” the priest presiding celebrant of the Eucharist is both Jesus the Master Who celebrates by virtue of his ordination, but also a disciple and apostle – as are all the faithful. He also must listen to what he himself preaches and teaches. He also must live the message he conveys in harmony with God’s Word, Church teaching and Tradition. He is commissioned also to go among the People of God inviting all to receive the Good News in the Name of Jesus. The words in the ordination rite, preach what you believe, believe what you preach, and live what you believe, are a powerful reminder for all of us to be committed to what we profess. The Word must be alive in, with, and through us.

The Eucharist is not just a prayer but an experience of ‘at-one-ment’ with God through Jesus in the Spirit.  It is that Holy Action of the people – liturgy – into which we enter, often oblivious to the awesomeness of the moment and even to the Divine Presence before Whom we confect with the priest the Sacrifice and Sacrament of our Salvation in Jesus.  The Eucharist re-presents for us – subtly, succinctly, and soundly – all of Salvation History.  The Father’s Spirit and Word, present at the beginning of time and down through the millennia, are in the liturgy breathing life for all, but more  effectively for those who are participants, and not merely spectators.

In the Eucharist, celebrant and people acknowledge their personal and collective sinfulness and need for a Savior. Together they hear the words of ancient Israel in the Old Testament passages, the teachings of the Early Church in the New Testament readings, and the words and life of Jesus in the Gospels. All this preparation (Liturgy of the Word) takes time. This is valuable time needed to make us realize as we hear and witness the awesome experience that will draw us in to become active participants in the greatest moment on earth (Liturgy of the Eucharist). In this celebration the Spirit encourages us to consume the Victim – consummatum est (John 19: 30). We become intimately one with the One Who Is. When our union with God through Jesus is totally fulfilled in the worthy reception of the Eucharist we share in the fruits of the “mission accomplished” of the Lord.

Of His own free will and to its fullest extent the divine Word descended to our level. Jesus hid His divine nature in the substance of human flesh. In this way, says St. Paul, the Word of God humbled Himself to the point of emptying Himself: He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).  The well known words of our Seraphic Father tell us of his deep reverence and love for the mystery of Jesus’ physical (bodily) Incarnation and His sacramental “incarnation”: O sublime humility; O humble sublimity! As a human being, Jesus was pleased to hide His divine nature fully and take on the likeness of a man in everything, even exposing Himself to hunger, thirst and weariness and, to use the very words of the apostle of the nations: in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:1).

The climax of His humiliation was in His Passion and Death. He submitted His human will to the will of His Father, endured great moments and suffered the most infamous death, the death of the cross. (Although we are still celebrating His birth, we cannot separate the Crib from the Cross!) The Eternal Father bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians2:9). It is by virtue of that Name alone that we may hope to be saved. The most holy Name of Jesus that we venerate and repeat so often is a source of graces. As Jesus reminds us, we ask in His Name and the Father hears and answers. The Name of Jesus is terror to the demons, but salvation to those who invoke His Name with faith, hope, and loving trust. If His Name is so powerful, how much more must His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity be that we receive in the Eucharist?!

The Person of Jesus the Christ is present throughout the entire liturgy.  The priest leads, encourages, instructs, feeds, and commissions the People of God. The humility of forgiveness given and accepted, teachings offered and received, nourishment prepared and shared, communion extended and embraced, empowerment instilled and undertaken, are all beautifully expressed in the Eucharist. The Will of Christ is re-presented each time the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Jesus is the Eternal ‘Yes’ Who accepts for all humanity the office of Victim so that we can become victors with Him through the ‘at-one-ment’ that is reserved for all who journey with Him in Word, Sacrament and life.

The Power of the Name repeated and responded to with ‘Amen’ so often throughout the liturgy, gives all who call on the Name of Jesus power to live in His Name. In the Name we recognize His presence every moment. In the Name we become a powerhouse of grace and blessings for those whom we encounter. In the Name we trustingly advance in God’s Providence, His Holy Will, the innumerable graces, and the strength we receive from Jesus the Christ in the Eucharist we celebrate, share, and become.

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi we remember the power and promise of the One Whose Name brings peace and Whose words encourage us to trust. We cannot afford to begin a new year regretting the past or worrying about the future. We all look for opportunities to ‘clean the slate’ and ‘re-write’ our decisions to avoid past mistakes.  One thing we can do as we enter the New Year of Grace 2023 is to learn from the past that we might grow in all that is good, in all that is God. We re-evaluate and correct what is less than good by reconciling ourselves with God and one another, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In God’s Word and in His Name we are assured of the salvation offered all who follow the prompting of His Spirit!

Where the future is concerned, Jesus Himself reminds us that Jesus is Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation. All the worry in the world cannot add or subtract one moment of the life entrusted to each one of us. Thus, for a greater serenity and joy in 2023, it might benefit us to remember the words of a great Capuchin Franciscan saint of the twentieth century, St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  All this can so easily be accomplished by remembering that in Jesus the Christ we find the trust and courage to live in the Will of the Father and are empowered in His Name to be an instrument of God’s life-giving Love.  The Eucharist reminds us, renews us within, and repeats for us the wonderful outpouring of His Spirit that will guide us throughout the New Year and for all our life.

Be happy!  God loves you!  Let your face tell others what your words say! Tell the whole world of His Love!  Don’t be afraid to be Christian and a Catholic Christian! Help others see in the Eucharist the treasure that must still be discovered in all its richness by so many. May we all share in the priesthood – ministerial priesthood and that of the laity baptized in His Name – by “celebrating- our ‘extension of the Mass’ in our daily lives. Make the Jesus you receive in Holy Communion be the Jesus others see in you – the Person in your compassion and understanding, the Will in your humility and acceptance of others, and the Power of the Name in your living without compromise the Catholic-Christian values we profess in a society that seeks to challenge ‘Christ’ in us and in the Church.

The Word was so essential to the life of our Seraphic Father. St. Francis desired to be a man of the Gospel, that the Gospel be the guide of his life, and that the Gospel be the marrow of the Rule for those who sought to follow him. In the first Rule St. Francis writes: I want my friars to be ministers of the Gospel. Let us follow the words, life, teaching and the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Rule was the “Gospel Host”. A dream/vision of our Seraphic Father instructed him to gather the crumbs and form a host to share with the friars so that no crumbs would be lost: Francis make a host of all the crumbs and give this to eat to any who wish to eat it.  The dream was also explained when he was told again in a vision/dream: The crumbs of last night are the words of the Gospel and the host is the Rule. May the words of our Rule become our life that we become “hosts” alive in Christ who manifest the presence of the living Jesus to all.

Following the example of our Seraphic Father, let us disarm our hearts to one another. Like the leper that St. Francis embraced, the one we deem unworthy of love (though that is making a judgment that is only God’s right to make and not ours) or whom we fear because unapproachable or perhaps even worse, is the one who needs love the most.  When Jesus nourishes and nurtures us with Himself, we, like our Seraphic Father, are released from what has bound us and can move freely to embrace creation in the liturgy of life.  Every day thus becomes a day of rejoicing and growth.

May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy Mother St. Clare watch over all of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.   This is a wonderful year the Lord has granted us.   May the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and homes! May we be Heralds of the Great King!

As we greet others with the well-known Franciscan greeting “Peace and Blessings”, may we, the messengers, become the message. May the serenity of our belief that God lives within us, be manifest in our external actions and demeanor. Let us never forget that God Who made Himself a “Gift” to us at Bethlehem and in the Eucharist, created us as a gift to Himself and us to be a gift to one another. Let us remember the words of our Father St. Francis: And the Lord gave me brothers (Testament). We are given by the Lord to one another to live with and for one another in the Lord’s Name. May our Franciscan Fraternal vocation be strengthened to embrace all as sisters and brothers in the Name of Jesus.

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you. 

May the Lord show His face to you and be merciful to you. 

May the Lord look on you with kindness and grant you His peace. 

May the Lord live in you. 

And may you always live in Him. 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

JPIC News! A Guide to Green Shopping shared from jomashop.com

We have been contacted by Chloe Pedersen, a youth services librarian and educator.  The group has been using the information on our JPIC area of our website to study how to be kinder to our earth.  In return, one of the members of the group, a young woman named Amelia, came across this article on shopping green.  She and her father are ‘paying it forward’ and sharing the article with us.  The original article can be found at www.jomashop.com  There are some good tips on shopping green so invest the 5 minutes to read the article and learn something new!  Thanks Chloe, Amelia and Dad!!

https://www.jomashop.com/blog/articles/guide-to-green-shopping

What does shopping have to do with the environment? A lot, actually! When people shop, the choices that they make have a profound effect on the world around them. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the energy used to produce, transport, process, and even dispose of the things that people purchase makes up approximately 42 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Much of what people buy also ends up as trash. EPA statistics show that as much as 10 million tons of clothing end up in landfills annually. To help protect the environment, people have to make intelligent and thoughtful decisions about what they buy and how they go about shopping.

Buying Green

When a person buys green, they are thinking about how their purchases will affect the environment. This means making the choice to buy things that won’t lead to additional waste and are energy efficient. People should also consider things like materials and the amount of energy that goes into the actual manufacturing of things that they intend to buy. Green choices can be made about almost anything that one buys, even cars.

There are some companies or manufacturers that will make claims about what makes them eco-friendly. These claims must be truthful under the law. It’s important, however, that people understand exactly what these claims mean. A product, for example, may have a “Made with Recycled Content” label on its packaging. One shouldn’t assume that this is referring to the product itself, as it could mean that either the packaging is made of recycled materials or both the packaging and the product are. The key when reading any claim is to read the label carefully for clarification.

Sustainable Shopping

Sustainable shopping is shopping for goods that are made and distributed in a way that will not harm the environment or deplete natural resources. By buying sustainably, people are meeting their needs while ensuring future generations will be able to meet theirs.

When shopping, consider buying second-hand goods before purchasing something that’s new. Previously owned items can be almost anything, from clothing to gaming consoles and more. They can be found at thrift stores, garage sales, and online resale sites. By buying things that are second-hand, people can help save resources, prevent waste, and reduce carbon emissions. If buying new, try shopping at stores that sell things that have slight imperfections or defects, like fruit that’s irregular in shape.

Choosing things that are organic or made using sustainable materials is also important. When buying clothes, for example, look for items that are made from renewable natural fibers, such as cotton, bamboo, wool, or flax. Avoid clothing made of synthetic fabrics like spandex, nylon, and polyester as they are made using fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable.

Buying Local

Buying local does more than put money back into the community. It’s a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of food and other goods. Normally, food travels from the farm to packing houses to grocery stores. The number of miles that food travels is called food miles. It causes a significant amount of greenhouse gases that pollute the air and contributes to global warming. These foods also use up energy in other ways, such as refrigeration.

By buying from local farms and markets, people are skipping the middleman and vastly reducing food miles. Because they travel less, there is also less bruising or spoilage. Locally grown food also uses less packaging than shipped foods. Less plastic packaging means less discarded plastic ends up in landfills or the ocean waters.

Food isn’t the only thing that one can buy locally. Buying any item that’s made and sold in one’s city, town, or neighborhood will help reduce fuel consumption and waste in much the same way as food. Goods that are made locally often use locally sourced materials and don’t need to travel as far to get to the consumer. Because they don’t require extra packaging for shipping, there is also less waste.

Reducing and Reusing

A large part of being a responsible and sustainable shopper is knowing how to shop less. When a person shops less, they are ultimately reducing the amount of waste that they create and aren’t contributing to the depletion of natural resources. They make thoughtful decisions about what they buy, only buy what they need, and make less frequent shopping trips.

Reducing goes hand in hand with reusing. Often, one can easily reduce the amount of shopping that they do by reusing what they already own. For example, a person might reuse their umbrella instead of buying a new one. A single purchase, like buying a reusable water bottle, can also be a form of reducing and reusing. Besides buying quality goods that are reusable, one should also buy things that serve multiple purposes.

There are some items that a person can reuse, but in a way that differs from their original purpose. This is called repurposing. Sometimes thinking outside of the box and repurposing something that’s old can be an alternative to buying something that’s new.

Even if one can’t reuse or repurpose an item themselves, they can donate or give it away to someone who can. By reducing and reusing, people help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy, and create less waste.

Fair Trade

Fair Trade ensures that farmers and laborers from developing countries receive fair trade terms and that products are being produced under ethical conditions. They must provide safe working conditions, opportunities for disadvantaged people, gender equality, and fair wages. Fair Trade is also good for the environment as it requires the use of sustainable processes.

There are several third-party certifications that farmers and producers can apply for from organizations such as Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade America. These organizations have standards, including environmental guidelines, that farmers and producers must meet in order to become certified as Fair Trade.

When buying Fair Trade, it’s important to look for certification labels or symbols. When shopping online, a Fair Trade company should have an easy-to-locate certification label on their website, while goods sold in stores should have symbols that are displayed on the product itself. These labels show that items meet the environmental criteria set by the specific certifying organization. To know what these criteria are, people should research the standards set by the specific organization that the label or mark is from.

December 2022 Thoughts for the Day by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

December 2022 

O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! 

O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! 

That the Lord of the universe, 

God and the Son of God, 

so humbles Himself 

that for our salvation 

He hides Himself 

under the little form of bread! 

Look, brothers, at the humility of God 

and pour out your hearts before Him! 

Humble yourselves, as well, 

that you may be exalted by Him. 

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves 

so that He Who gives Himself totally to you 

may receive you totally. 

The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus 

Book Five 

Chapter Three 

JESUS WHO BRINGS FORTH FRANCIS 

 

At the close of the fifth status of the Church’s pilgrimage, the self-indulgent were teeming like oxen, the avaricious crawling like reptiles, the arrogant as fierce as beasts, bringing an all-out defiling influence upon her life and causing her to be gnawed by a deceptive, ungodly, and heretical horde. – Conscience is God’s presence within us. 

It was out of jealous love for His Bride that Jesus was angry at her maliciousness, for great numbers of her children had gone the way of adulterers. Nevertheless, His anger did not diminish His mercy, and to the Church of the fifth age He directed a final call.- When beauty overwhelms us we are close to worship

Within her He raised up men of the loftiest integrity to root out greed and drive away indulgence. These men hated duplicity and stood up for the truth; they lit the fires of charity and restored the meaning of honor. – Lay hold of the Bible until the Bible lays hold of you

They surpassed others in a remarkable imitation of Christ Himself, and by the example of their life showed up a Church that was blemished. The word they preached stirred the people to penance, while the subject of their discourses confounded the distortions of heresy, and their praying was the shield that appeased the divine anger.- Endurance is the ability to bear a hard thing and to turn it into glory. 

Among these, the ones that shone brightest were Francis and Dominic, whose prototypes were Elijah and Henoch. The one was touched by the purifying coal of the Seraph and aflame with a heaven-sent ardor, so that he seemed to set the whole world alight. –  God calls where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger

The other, like the Cherub with protecting wings outstretched, bright with the light of wisdom, prolific through his preaching, had a most radiant effect on a darkened world. Those are the features they initially transmitted to their sons; although the resplendence and ardor of both these individuals must be linked to an extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit. – Repentance is sorrow converted into action toward a new and better life

The evil of the fifth age as a whole, however, lay in a perverse and widespread vainglory; the kind that is fed by greed and temporal affluence. Therefore, the man who thoroughly ruled out temporal possessions for himself and his status may be regarded as the principal reformer of that age. – Lord, shine through me and be so in me.  

And since in him the Church’s sixth status begins, and the “life of Christ” was to take shape anew in him, we may say he is prefigured by that first man God created by His own deliberate counsel after the work of the five days in the image of his own likeness, that he might be master of all times.- Lord, may every soul I meet feel your presence in my spirit

Take note that this does not mean that the saints of the sixth age are greater than the Apostles. For the latter, by reason of their unique following of Christ, must be excepted from comparison with all others. – Reverence for life offers us a spiritual relationship with the world. 

10 

Yet from among these others Dominic takes his place in the spiritual reform, with his all-embracing, thorough, and complete spurning of earthly things. Each one of these saints fully and perfectly trampled mundane interests and commanded their descendants to do likewise.- People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them away! 

11 

We have decided, however, to treat here and now of that man whose status is singled out for attack at present by those who are spoiling the evangelical life, just as from the outset it was under attack, only more forcefully, from crafty masters who reviled the most exalted poverty. – Faith knows the way; Hope points the way; Love is the way

12 

So, let us turn our discussion directly on the man who, we can say, conspicuously represented the life of Christ, not only in the pattern of his behavior, but in the loftiness of his contemplation; not only by the extraordinary admiration he drew, but by that privilege that was his when marked with the wounds of the most holy passion of Jesus Christ. – Confession of evil works is the beginning of good works

 

[Imitator of Christ] 

13 

For if we are to talk of the way he lived, who is capable of telling in full how he sought to imitate the closest likeness to the life of Christ? His whole aim, in public and in private, was to reproduce in himself and in others those footprints of Christ which had been covered over and forgotten. – I do believe; help my unbelief

14 

And the unique privilege granted the blessed Francis was this: to be the first entitled to transmit to holy Church the life of Jesus, scrupulously in all its aspects, in a communal and durable state through his Order. – The greatest truths are the simplest, and so are the greatest people. 

15 

In point of fact the holy Apostles were the peerless foundations upon which this life was laid, that is, after the most important and principal cornerstone, Christ Jesus, in whom the whole ecclesial edifice is built up, grows, and is completed. – Imitating Mary, you will not go astray.  

16 

Nevertheless, as has been pointed out elsewhere, since the Synagogue was to be excluded for its sin of faithlessness and the Gentile world was not yet ready to take on such lofty standards, the Holy Spirit revealed to the Apostles that the actual status of Gospel perfection was not for passing on to all and sundry in those times. – Praying to Mary, you will not despair

17 

That is why they did not impose on the churches they governed the observance of that state of life which for themselves was prescribed by Christ and which they had adopted and observed to the full. – Thinking of Mary, you will not err

18 

For this was reserved for the third general status of the whole world’s history, when the Holy Spirit is manifested in a special manner, the time of the opening of the sixth seal, the sixth age of the Church, when she is to be presented with the life of Christ. – Supported by Mary, you will not fail. 

19 

Then is the life of Jesus returned to, as to the principle of perfection; it is as if a new circular journey were begun, a fresh beginning for the Church, as she returns to her first days. – Embraced by Mary, you will be saved

20 

And that is why I told you earlier that this sixth age refers especially to the time of Christ. John speaks of this symbolically as the opening of the sixth seal I saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God. – If you judge people, you have no time to love them. 

21 

Now, the abbot Joachim, in his commentary on the Apocalypse, has this to say: “This angel is the one whom Christ looks upon as His like who is to come at the beginning of the third status of the world’s history.” – Kindness is the music of life. 

22 

Therefore, from the insight granted to Joachim, it is plain that at the beginning of the sixth status the world would be given an “angelic man” whom Christ regards as resembling Himself, since he is to appear as the one great restorer of the life of Christ. – Seek always to discover the child asleep in the most severe and obstinate people

23 

I myself heard from a doctor of distinction belonging to this Order that he was present when Brother Bonaventure, general minister at the time and himself a distinguished teacher, solemnly declared at a Paris Chapter that he was fully convinced that the blessed Francis was the angel of the sixth seal. –  The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation

24 

He said that John the Evangelist actually had Francis, his form of life, and his Order in mind; that when he was writing, he saw Francis in spirit; that, in all the verses he was writing about the sixth opening in the Apocalypse, he beheld the fraternity of his sons, who were perfect imitators of Christ. – Christmas begins in God’s heart and is complete only when it enters my heart

25 

Also at that Paris Chapter the same Brother Bonaventure stated, with a good deal of passion, as I heard from my source, unless my memory fails me, that he was fully satisfied no doubts could be entertained about all this, on account of significant and unequivocal revelations made to persons of serious caliber. – Jesus is the condescension of divinity, and the exaltation of humanity

26 

I who write this am convinced, by the many testimonies of holy brothers of the past, that clear revelations were made to the blessed Francis and to many companions of his—whose apostolic life is beyond suspicion to the mind that is not dishonest, envious, or twisted—concerning the Order from its foundation, through its growth, dreadful decline and fall, to its glorious resurgence; rather like the sun’s course, which in turn portrays the life of Christ. – When the soul lays down its faults before God, it feels as though it had wings

27 

These things were revealed not to one person only but to many, and so explicitly that they recounted them with absolute assurance. – Whom shall I send? Here I am. Send me

[Witness of John of Parma] 

28 

Nor are we to omit the testimony of a holy man of God, one of the greatest men of perfection of our times, to judge by all visible proofs: I speak of that most holy brother, John of Parma. He was General of this Order, a teacher of the highest renown, an excellent preacher; there were no bounds to his austerity, humility and charity, nor to his attaining contemplative heights and his pursuit of solitude. – If you want an increase in Jesus there must be a decrease in self. 

29 

Distancing himself from all worldliness, he was devoured by a godly zeal over the debasement he saw in this institution and in the Church. Unflagging as he was in declaring the truth about this, he received the direst harassment and vilification, which he bore with the greatest patience. – The world is round, and the place which seems like the end may be the beginning

30 

This did not deter him from passionately adducing the same realities before several popes and many cardinals. He most certainly deserves to be numbered, by those who sincerely love and imitate Jesus, among the seraphic heroes and with the celestial Church’s great holy men.- Positive anything is better than negative nothing. 

31  

For the same man in fervor of spirit at an advanced age was bracing up his energies for activity, with the aid of grace, not nature; as though he were a disciple of John the Evangelist, he was willing to go and win back wayward Asia for Christ. He had obtained permission for this from the pope of the time, but while he was on his way and had reached Camerino, a town in the Marches, he was called to heavenly glory by Jesus, to whom he had been utterly devoted through observance of the Gospel and the Rule and Testament of the blessed father Francis. – You may not have been responsible for your heritage, but you are responsible for your future

Blessed and Happy New Year 2023 

 

December 2022 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap.

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

December 2022 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

May the Infant Jesus grant your heart the Peace you desire. 

May His Star enlighten your mind with the splendor of His Truth. 

May His Love consume your heart so that it beats solely for Him. 

The people of Israel, centuries before the birth of Jesus, heard the prophet Isaiah promise: Many peoples shall come. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again (Isaiah 2: 1-5). 

These wonderful words of hope and joy seem only empty promises and false illusions when we see what happens around us. Violence, war, collective anger, religious intolerance, and so much more bombard our eyes and ears from the media, and our lives with our own experiences. Where are the gifts of dialogue, compromise, tolerance, acceptance, patience, love among children of the same Life Giver, God?  This God was not ashamed of His creation, even though His creation easily forgets its Origin, without Whom we would never exist. The new liturgical year has begun. We celebrate the humility of God Who became a creature so that the creature could share eternal life with the Creator 

This “oneness” between God and humanity silently exploded into time when a young virgin, Mary, responded “yes” to an impossible offer, but not impossible for God! The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John1: 14) He was born an infant in a refuge for animals somewhere in Bethlehem of Judea. This “One Solitary Life” caused people to marvel from the very beginning. After Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds looked up from where they were and There was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests (Luke 2: 1-14). Non-Hebrew Wise Men followed a celestial sign, a brilliant star by night and day, and journeyed great distances to Judea to find and worship the new king of the Jews. Where is the new born King of the Jews. We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage (Matthew 2: 1-12). 

The Incarnation and Birth of Jesus filled our Seraphic Father with awe. His ecstatic love for Jesus urged him to cry out:   O humble sublimity! O sublime humility!  These words summarize what it means to have God become one with us. The simple profoundness of the Poverello reminds us that Jesus preached what he believed, believed what he preached and lived what he believed.  Those secure of their true greatness do not fear humbling themselves or being humbled for the sake of truth.  

(Saint Francis’) highest aim, foremost desire, and greatest intention was to pay heed to the holy gospel in all things and through all things, to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and to retrace His footsteps completely … We should note then … what he did … at the town of Greccio, on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ … There was a certain man … named John who had a good reputation but an even better manner of life.  Blessed Francis (said to him) ‘If you desire to celebrate the coming feast of the Lord together at Greccio, hurry before me and carefully make ready the things I tell you.  For I wish to re-enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with ox and ass standing by, he rested on hay’ … Finally, the holy man of God comes and, finding all things prepared, he saw them and was glad … There simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted, humility is commended, and out of Greccio is made a new Bethlehem … Over the manger the solemnities of the Mass are celebrated.  (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) 

St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families set up over the Christmas Season.  St. Francis was not seeking to be innovative, or create something curious that would attract people.  He sought to make the Birth of the Savior come alive once again.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful.  Through the senses, St. Francis sought to arrive more incisively at the soul. Our “incarnational approach” of our relationship with God as Franciscans, seeks understanding of the divine through the humanity the Divine One gifted us with to know, love, and serve Him.

We must not let our hearts be overwhelmed by actions of hatred and violence that often occur, or by the tragedies that affect our lives.  Where there is life there is hope. Where there is hope there is peace, even in the midst of confusion and pain. Life is still the journey worth living and it is beautiful. Why?… because God so loved the world that he sent us his only Son so that whoever believes in Him would have life and have it in abundance. (John 3: 16) Thus, What can separate us from the love of God. In Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8: 35-37). 

The world into which the God of creation chose to enflesh Himself is still the stage of the greatest act of His Eternal Love.  Life to be and become, freedom in responsibility, and redemption to eternal life in Jesus, are still God’s loving and impartial gifts to all.  Stewards of creation, we are invested with the awesome trust of that Father. We make His presence and providence a reality in our world grown cold and indifferent to what really matters – Love!  

Just as at Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, and re-enacted twelve hundred years later at Greccio by St. Francis of Assisi, we, like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, experience the promise fulfilled and our hope rekindled. We become His earthly messengers – angels (the word means messenger) – of the eternal love that not even human tragedy can destroy.  Goodness is still alive in the hearts of God’s children.  This love is celebrated each year at Christmas when Love made Himself visible by becoming one with us.  

For the spirit of this season of love, life and light to take hold of our lives we are asked to discover once again the child within us.  This “child”, hidden through years of compromising values, cautious acceptance rather than total trust in God’s will, confusion rather than faith in eternal truths, and all-around carelessness regarding the sacredness of every moment of life, seeks to break through to live in the wonder and joy of the light of God’s love.   

Christmas is a time for us to look with the eyes of wonder at the mystery fulfilled. The Birth of the Savior invites us to enjoy the love made present in the poverty of Bethlehem.  This is a time for all Christians to bask in the light of the Son, the Incarnate Son of God, a treasure greater than any we could imagine.  

We gaze upon the Infant Jesus and recognize the God of Creation, Savior of humanity, King of kings and Lord of lords.  Tepidity, and even the coldness of life’s demands and burdens, seems to be enlightened in faith rekindled in hope by the birth of the One Whom we celebrate. Life with all its uncertainties and challenges becomes a joyful expectation in time for His return in glory.  

We celebrate the Lord hidden in Word and Sacrament.  Jesus becomes almost physically tangible for those who open the eyes of their hearts. The Lord of mystery, hidden in Word and Sacrament, is revealed in so many ways in the sisters and brothers we encounter on our daily journey.  The Child Jesus challenges us to keep Him always alive in our hearts. His presence offers a newness and joy to life. Our Seraphic Father, celebrated this wonderful re-discovery and joy. The Eucharist was the prime manner for St. Francis to discover this hidden treasure. The Eucharist is a reminder of Bethlehem – House of Bread – where God humbles Himself for us that we may be sublimated in Him. 

Centuries, and probably eons, still lay before humanity. Each day is a new experience of the eternal unfolding love prepared for us by the prophets and made visible at Bethlehem and Calvary. This magnificent mystery, gift of the Father in Jesus through the Spirit, will continue until history’s time becomes God’s eternity.   

Each day we re-present the mysteries of salvation in the Eucharist. Each year we celebrate the unfolding of that One Solitary Life that is the focal point of human history – Jesus.  Our Faith is strengthened, our hope renewed, and our hearts filled with childlike wonder and joy in Christ. Nothing and no one, even death itself, cannot destroy this gift of the Christ Child. Let us never forget: (You) are from God and have overcome them (the false christs – the antichrists), because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4: 4)  

Each year, at Advent, we begin a renewed journey with Christ as we celebrate His birth.  Life is our journey. We set out in the zest and vigor of childhood and youth. We are tested through middle age. We lose our spring as time progresses. Nevertheless, our faith – like that of Mary and Joseph who believed the mystery and so experienced the miracle of his birth – allows us to see each moment as a wonderful endowment that makes the journey itself the gift, and the destination that much more desirable.  

The life of every person who ever lived and ever will live finds meaning even through, life’s anomalies and heartbreaks because of the One Who loves us.  His birth in Bethlehem led to a total surrender of Himself for us on the crowded solitude of Calvary. The wood of the manger was the prelude to the wood of the Cross to follow years later.  The wood of the manger that enveloped Him at His birth to protect His infant body from the elements, prepared Him for the rough wood of the Cross that held Him above others to reign from a throne misunderstood but necessary.  

Because of Jesus, we begin each new day confident that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are loved by Him.(Romans 8: 28)  

The Family of St. Francis of Assisi has blessed the Church and been blessed by the Church for over eight centuries. We are enriched by God’s love and blessings, and our own faith-filled response to God’s call to follow in the footsteps of the Poverello of Assisi.  

As spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, may we rejoice in the Peace, Joy, Love, and the Fulfillment of our heart’s desires in the Lord at this Christmas Season.  May the Child of Bethlehem help us all find the simplicity, wonder, and childlike trust of the soul present within each one of us.  Joyfully celebrate the birth of the One Who is our Light and Salvation. May we be Heralds of the Great King, born at Bethlehem, and bear His light, joy and hope to all whom we meet on our journey. 

Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas, and a New Year 2023 filled with Love, Life, Happiness, Good Humor, Health…and an ever-growing Longing for God. 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

Blessed and Merry Christmas 2022 

 

How will you feather His bed this Christmas? Kate Kleinert, OFS, Regional Minister December 2022

How will you feather His bed?

Here it is the first Sunday of Advent…already!  Although this day begins the Liturgical year and the start of Advent, it is also a reminder that Christmas is a scant 4 weeks away.  That thought always made me cringe BF  (before Francis!)  How would I get all the shopping done, write all the cards, bake, wrap presents, decorate the house after a thorough cleaning.  Whew!  Makes me tired even writing all those tasks.

AF (after Francis!)  I have an  entirely different perspective on Advent.  It is not the switch that starts the countdown to Christmas day, but a beautiful reminder that we are preparing for the birth of a precious Child.

This is a joyful time given to us to prepare for the birth.  Lent is so very different.  That time is sorrowful knowing that it will culminate in the death of Our Lord. But, of course, there is the glory of Easter that follows.  We spend Lent making sacrifices, giving up things that bring us pleasure, offering up whatever is difficult about the journey and feeling empty from 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday until we take part in an Easter Mass.

Advent is a much happier time. I believe instead of giving things up we should add things to our daily living.  Be nice to someone!  Hold the door for the person behind you.  Allow someone to pull in ahead of you in traffic.  Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Help an older person get their groceries into the car. Cut yourself a break trying to finish the long list of tasks.  Follow the reverse Advent Calendar that was sent out a few weeks ago.  Do something positive!! Each thing we do will add some comfort to the bed of the Baby Jesus.  How will you feather His bed this year?  I pray that you find a way that pleases you both!

Thoughts for the day – November 2022 – by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

November 2022 

 Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, 

Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing, 

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, 

and no human is worthy to mention Your name. 

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, 

especially Sir Brother Sun, …  Sister Moon and the stars, …Brother Wind, … 

Sister Water, … Brother Fire, … our Sister Mother Earth, … 

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, … 

Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, 

from whom no one living can escape. 

Woe to those who die in mortal sin. 

Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, 

for the second death shall do them no harm. 

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility. 

Amen. 

(Canticle of the Creatures [abbreviated] by Saint Francis of Assisi)  

November celebrates Life Everlasting of those in God=s Glory and those in God=s Mercy 

 THE SAYINGS 

Sayings of the Companions of Blessed Francis 

An Old Legend (Legenda Vetus) 

 ON THE FUTURE EVIL STATE OF THE BROTHERS, WHICH SAINT FRANCIS PREDICTED 

1  

Saint Francis predicted the following before the Lord of Ostia and many brothers, and often preached this to the people, as the companions who heard it, Brother Bernard, Brother Leo, and Brother Angelo, have testified. His brothers, by the working of evil spirits, would turn aside from the way of holy simplicity and highest poverty. They would receive money, legacies, and bequests. Abandoning poor little solitary places, they would build sumptuous places in towns and cities, which would not demonstrate poverty, but the luxury of the world of lords and princes. – When the Church is different from the world then it will attract it

And, with great craftiness and human prudence, they would seek and receive from the Church and the Supreme Pontiffs privileges that would not only mitigate but even destroy the purity of their promised rule and life, revealed to them by Christ. Equipped with these, in their pride they will start quarrels and inflict harm not only on people of the world but also on the clergy and religious. They will dig the pit into which they will finally fall, and sow the seed from which many scandals will be reaped. – Be humble and self-forgetting, but never apologize for the Gospel

And Christ will send them one worthy of their worth, not a shepherd but a destroyer, who will mete out retribution to them according to their conniving and striving, and will set in motion a great trial, as they deserve, so that once punished by God’s just judgment they may return, humbled, to the state of their vocation. – Believing and living the Gospel is the beginning of a social revolution

Thus they will be completely uprooted from the life-giving and salvific way of living that they promised in the Lord’s presence to observe until the end. The truth of the preachers will be silent in practice or trodden underfoot, and thus the holiness of those professing it will be held in contempt. And those who fervently cling to piety will endure countless persecutions. – Joy is the serious business of heaven

At that time, he used to say, there will be such great insults and upheaval of demons and wicked humans against those walking in this way that, abandoning all, they will seek to reach deserted and solitary places and cross over to be among the unbelievers. Scattered, they will take back secular clothing, leading a pilgrim’s wandering life, or hide in the homes of the faithful, amidst innumerable calumnies and insults, and will endure suffering and death. – Sour godliness is the devil’s religion

And, he would say, blessed is he who then will be able to find a faithful companion, since those persecuting them, driven by evil spirits, will say that it is a great service to God to wipe out such harmful people from the face of the earth. – Happiness is a wonderful commodity, the more you give, the more you have. 

 

  1. THE INTENTION OF SAINT FRANCIS ABOUT THE OBSERVANCE OF THE RULE, WHERE IT SAYS, “WHEREVER THERE ARE BROTHERS WHO KNOW AND REALIZE” 

When the brothers are certain and have learned from experience that in the places where they are staying they cannot observe the Rule according to a pure intention and true uprightness because of the bad habits practiced in the places, inevitably leading, for different reasons, to breaking the Rule, the brothers can and must have recourse to the ministers. As Brother Leo testifies, who was present, along with Brother Domini, when Saint Francis delivered the second Rule to the Lord Pope Honorius for confirmation at Christ’s command, the Supreme Pontiff carefully examined everything contained in the Rule. – Contentment consists not in great wealth, but in few wants

He said to Blessed Francis: “Blessed is he who, strengthened by the grace of God, will observe this Rule happily and devotedly, for all the things written in it are holy and Catholic and perfect. However there are problems with these words: “they can and should have recourse to their ministers. Let the ministers, moreover, be bound by obedience to permit them, kindly and generously, their request. If they refuse to do this, the brothers themselves have the permission and obedience to observe it literally, because all, both ministers and subjects, must be subject to the Rule.- The most evident sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.  

These could be the occasion of ruin and create the stain of division and scandal in the religion for brothers not fully grounded in the love of virtue. Therefore I want those words changed in such a way that every occasion of danger and division may be removed from the brothers and the religion.” – The full value of joy requires someone to share it with

10  

Blessed Francis answered, “It was not I but Christ who put these words in the Rule. He knows best what is useful and necessary for the salvation of souls and of the brothers, and for the good state and preservation of the religion. All that will happen in the future to the religion and to the Church is clear and present to Him. I must not and cannot change the words of Christ. – Bring sunshine to another and you cannot keep it from yourself. 

11 

It will happen that the ministers and others in authority in the religion will cause many bitter tribulations for those who wish to observe the Rule faithfully and literally. Therefore, since it is the will and obedience of Christ that this Rule and life be understood literally, so it must be your will and obedience that this be done and be written in the Rule.” – The sweet mark of a Christian is not faith or even love, but joy

12 

Then the Pope said to him, “I will do this in such a way that, keeping the full sense of the words, I will modify the letter of the Rule in this passage, in such a way that the ministers will understand they are obliged to do what Christ wills and the Rule commands, and the brothers will understand they have the freedom to observe the Rule purely and simply. – Joy is not the absence of pain, but the awareness of God’s loving presence within you

13 

This will provide no occasion, to those who frequently look for one, to transgress the Rule under the pretext of observing it.” Therefore the pope changed the words of that clause, as they now stand in the Rule. – A happy family is but an earlier heaven

 

III. AN EXAMPLE OF THE WILL OF SAINT FRANCIS MENTIONED ABOVE 

14  

This is proved by the answer he gave at Saint Mary of the Angels to that brother from Germany, a master of theology, who said to Brother Francis with great reverence: “I promised firmly to observe the Gospel and the Rule which Christ has spoken through you, until the end, simply and faithfully, with the help of His grace. But one favor I ask of you. If in my lifetime the brothers fall as far away from the pure observance of the Rule as you predict through the Holy Spirit, I ask by your obedience that I may withdraw from those who do not observe it, alone or with some brothers who wish to observe it purely.” – Every charitable act is a revelation of God. 

15 

Hearing these things, Blessed Francis was overjoyed and, blessing him, said, “Know that what you asked is granted to you, by Christ and by me.” – Learn to do the Father’s Will and you will have fully realized your vocation on earth. 

16 

And he placed his right hand on his head, saying to him: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek.” And Blessed Francis added that all the promises made to him by Christ would, in the end, be fulfilled in those who would strive to observe the Rule simply, to the letter, and without glosses and with joy. – Our vocation is to live in the Spirit. 

 

  1. HOW SAINT FRANCIS PREDICTED THAT A WIND WOULD OVERTURN THE HOUSE OF HIS FIRST-BORN OFFSPRING BECAUSE OF THE BROTHERS’ LOVE OF LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE 

 

17 

Saint Francis also predicted a very great trial of his brothers that was to come because of the love of learning, and that a violent wind from the desert would arise, and would strike the four corners and completely tear down the house of his first-born offspring, and destroy all his children and daughters. – The service that counts is the service that costs. 

18 

And, that he might avoid the danger of the ruin of souls, like another Rechab, he sent his own to lead a wandering life: not to build palaces; not to live in the midst of cities; not to plant the vineyards of various studies, nor drink the wine of secular knowledge and worldly philosophy but, enlivened by the warmth of the Holy Spirit, placed as a law for his sons the deeds of the most perfect life of Christ. – True freedom for people is what air is for the birds

19 

But those wise ones, mentioned above, put up, as he said, the tents of those great harlots, and brought their sons inside, living luxuriously from the pay of the harlots. And the simplicity they promised will be considered laughable, corruptible, and despised in their eyes. – God forces no one. Love cannot compel

20 

They will become bold and presumptuous, and will glory in human praise, and will trust in the name of learning and activity or prudence, and at that time constant conversion of heart will be very bitter and intolerable. – To serve God is a matter of perfect freedom. 

 

  1. TO THE SAME POINT, ABOUT AN AMAZING APPARITION OF AN ANGEL 

 

21  

One day, while Blessed Francis was praying in the place of Saint Mary of the Angels, an angel appeared to him in an amazing form and appearance: the head was gold, arms and chest silver, stomach bronze, feet of iron, and clay; the shoulders covered with vile and rough sackcloth, and it showed it was rather ashamed of that sackcloth covering. – We find freedom when we find God. 

22 

He was amazed at seeing this, and the angel said to him: “Why do you gawk and gaze? This form which you see signifies the beginning, development, and end which your religion will have, until the time it goes into labor, the time of the reform of the life of Christ and of the state of the Church. – Life is filled with meaning as soon as Jesus enters into it

23 

The golden head is you, with all your companions who are filled with the love of God and carry Christ and His death in your soul and body. – What is important is not what people think of me but what they think of Jesus because of me. 

24 

But those who will come after you, having put aside prayer, will turn to knowledge which inflates eagerness for lectures and a multitude of books under the pretext of their neighbor’s edification and the salvation of souls. – It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend

25 

And because they prefer verbs to virtues, and science to sanctity, they will remain cold within and devoid of charity, having changed gold into cold and heavy silver. – Spirituality really means the Holy Spirit is at work. 

26 

They will pant for praises and honors, wishing, not to be better than others, but to appear so. Thus, to great loss, like bad merchants, they will exchange the silver of eloquence and learning for a hypocritical simulation in bronze, producing their works in order to get human praise, and always for a good profit. – A brave person risks his life but not his conscience

27 

But their simulation and hypocrisy cannot be concealed for long; and they will lose their worth in the eyes of those who praised them, and when they sense this they will start to become angry and indignant against those they once tried so hard to please, eagerly seeking opportunities to persecute and afflict those who have stopped revering and complimenting them. – One of the worse things in the world is not sin, but the denial of sin by a false conscience. 

28 

In this way ringing bronze will be transformed into hard and harsh iron, and they will be fragile, and impatient like tile. “This cheap, rough and short sackcloth with which I cover my shoulders is the cheapness and austerity of poverty which the brothers promised the Lord they would wear proudly. – Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness 

29 

But abandoning it, they will cling to every kind of relaxation concerning tunics, books, and other things. And they will rejoice so inanely before people in the name and reputation of poverty, but in deeds and behavior will be ashamed of it, and will persecute it among themselves and in others; therefore I show that I wear this habit with deep shame.” – Mature people are made not out of good times but out of bad ones.  

30 

And this is one of the reasons why it is said pointedly in the Rule that all the brothers should wear cheap clothing, so that the brothers who refuse to do this and prohibit doing this may have no excuse in their consciences. – God is faithful, and if we serve him faithfully, he will provide for our needs. 

 

November 2022 Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

November 2022 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you peace! 

November is the month the Church dedicates to the remembrance of the Holy and Suffering Souls in Purgatory. We are reminded to reflect upon God’s loving mercy and providence that goes beyond time into the vestibule of eternity. We are encouraged to open our hearts to the hope-filled existence of those who were where we are, and are where we will be …in God’s mercy. 

Death is not an appealing thought for most people. Our materialistic and consumer-driven society conditions our view of this most solemn moment in life: the young discard the thought of death as non-existent in their life, and the teenager questions it theoretically but sees it too distant to be relevant; the middle-ager runs away from its reality through ‘busy-ness’; the elderly nostalgically hold on to the past in the hope that they can prolong life’s journey; and those who realize they stand before the reality of having to let go of this world, often live in confused apprehension, fear, and even anger. It may not be this way for all, but I believe that a sufficient number of God’s children fall into one of these categories. Why? Where am I? 

The response lies in what we believe of the Article of Faith in the Apostles Creed regarding ‘Everlasting Life’. We say, I believe in life everlasting, but we want to determine which life is going to be everlasting. What fools we can become when we allow the seductions of the world in which we live to make us their slaves rather than their masters! How foolish we are in trying to make eternally meaningful those things and aspects of this world that change, corrode and corrupt with time! Yet, how difficult it is for us to see beyond this world when our eyes are blinded by the everyday glitter of the creation that we have allowed to distract us from the eternal splendor of its and our Creator. Was it not St. Augustine in his Confessions who “apologizes” to God for having sought after the creature for comfort rather than the Creator for meaning and fulfillment? 

As strange as it may seem, even these attitudes are signs of our desire to know more about the reason and goal of life. Holding on to all we know is an expression of our yearning to live. The exhilaration and excitement that the young seek – isn’t that living life and the desire to fulfill a need to feel alive and be capable of anything?! The ladder-climbing of the corporate world and the go-get-it-ness of those in the middle years – isn’t that recognizing talents, dreams, gifts and a need to know one has achieved a successful level in life among and maybe even above his/her peers, thus being necessary for life to be meaningful to others as well as one’s self?! The constant recounting of personal achievements or offering ‘solutions’, even when not requested, by those in declining years – isn’t this the hope of leaving a legacy that will keep one’s name alive in the hearts of others long after that person no longer walks this earth?! Reaching the latter years, the memorabilia we keep of loved ones, the monuments we erect in honor of people, and so much more – isn’t this a way for us to try to keep alive today, now, those of yesterday whom we recall and honor?! We all believe in life and living, and just desire to make it “last forever”. 

It is rather easy to speak about life. People are usually interested in hearing what others have to say. But, when the thought of our passage from time to eternity is concerned, many would rather not be told or reminded. Like little children, we believe that closing our eyes, everything will be different when we open them.  

We are Christians! We believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life! We believe that Jesus redeemed us from the power of Satan’s infernal seductions. We believe Jesus opened the way for us to the Father’s eternal embrace through His total self-emptying death on the Cross.  

November, the month we dedicate to the remembrance of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, urges us to reconsider this most solemn moment in life. November urges us to see beyond the veil of our physical barrier, and with the eyes of faith to see the Life we have been created to share. An entire life – all experiences, successes, failures, disillusionments, confusions and the like – converges at the moment of death into a power-packed point of one’s total being. A life “concentrated” is ready to “burst” into true Life at the call of our Creator and Eternal Life-Giving God! 

The Paschal Mystery fulfills itself in the life of the person soon to enter eternity. The soul prepares for that moment, that instant, that twinkling of eye (1 Corinthians 15: 52) when it will explode with gratitude and joy into the loving embrace of the Eternal Father Who waits for one of His children summoned by love to come home. 

Saint Francis of Assisi was God’s Troubadour, the Herald of the Great King, as he called himself. He sang of God’s creation. He saw the majesty and beauty of God in all things and all people. Life was exhilarating and exciting for him. And, when he was informed of his terminal condition and the inevitability of his imminent death, he sang and added a stanza to the Canticle of the Creatures, that famous song he composed to praise God in all creation. He sang: Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death from whom no living being can escape. How dreadful for those who die in mortal sin! How blessed are those she finds in your most holy will for the second death can do them no harm. O praise and bless my Lord, thank him and serve him humbly but grandly! 

St. Francis joyfully invited Sister Bodily Death to come to him. The Poverello detached himself from society’s seductive enticements – whether persons, places, things, honors, and the like. Though his eyes were physically blinded from his infirmities, his heart saw far beyond the world in which he lived. He saw, unobstructed by “earthly debris”, the splendor of an Eternal Home that awaited him. And he was overjoyed! Our Seraphic Father, was a clear and evident sign of transcendency and of the supernatural. Seemingly bereft of all, even good health, one could desire in life, he possessed all because he had nothing, and could easily “let go” at any moment because such is the good that awaits me that all pain is a delight (St. Francis of Assisi). His heaven had already begun, but not yet. (reference of Vatican Council II regarding Kingdom of God) His stigmata ultimately signed him as an evident image of Jesus, the God-made-man, Whose love accepted death for the life of the world. His presence alone, the Universal Brother whose heart was literally opened for all, was a sign and a stimulus to reflection and conversion of heart. He was a challenge for others to “see beyond time” and yearn for holiness. True holiness, “other worldliness”,  that is achieved after time becomes eternity. 

St. Francis knew how to preach a message simply and effectively with words, but first and foremost by his life. His was a message of love. In a world and even a Church so torn and divided in many ways, his message is more valid than ever.  

The message of love is liberated and liberating when we recognize love not as we understand it in time, but as we understand love in the light of eternity. It is a total surrender that makes heaven real in the heart for life’s journey, until it is fulfilled in eternity. Then we too, as St. Francis, can joyfully await our fulfillment through Sister Death.  

It is a purified and purifying message. It is up to us to accept it. It is our job to put it into practice. It is our duty to bring it to others because we have all been called to pursue the same ideal and to conquer the same aims which were the ideals and goals Jesus Himself set for all who call Him, “Lord and Master”. 

The call to holiness is the Father’s reminder that we do not have a permanent dwelling in this world.(cfr. Hebrews)  Our Universal call to holiness is a call, as the word ‘holy’ in its basic meaning denotes, ‘to be other-worldly’. So, to be holy means to live in the light of the other world. Doesn’t this mean to live in expectation of that moment when we will finally enter the fullness of all that is “the Other”- even if we must pass through a place of God’s mercy that purifies us for heaven – Purgatory? 

Once a person surrenders him/herself to God, that person lives their entire life in light of the “moment of encounter”. For them, it was not a dark or ominous thought. It helps to place all things in perspective – the perspective of heaven, the perspective of God.  

We are Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father of Assisi. We are also human beings subject to all the fear, confusion, doubt, anger, apprehension, and all the other negative characteristics that are connected to facing an uncertain future. The future is uncertain for those who have no faith. For those who believe, life is accepted and celebrated every day as the gift that it is. We celebrate life with joy and gratitude, and we seek to be a support and encouragement to others as we strive to develop all the gifts and talents the Lord has entrusted to us. As we do this to fulfill our part to restore all things in Christ, (cfr. St. Paul letter to Ephesians, Motto of St. Pius X) we long for that day when the Father calls us to His loving embrace. As a great pontiff once said we do not place limits on Divine Providence, (Pope Leo XIII on the occasion of his birthday) but we do not fear the return home of a loving child to the embrace its Loving Eternal Father. 

St. Francis’ song at the time of approaching encounter with Sister Death, serves as a guide and encouragement.  We live out our years with Jesus and Mary in our hearts and on our lips. We look to the heavens each day to remember the heights to which we are called. We remember those who were where we are, and who are where we hope, in God’s mercy and providence, one day to be – the Holy Souls in Purgatory: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace

Before concluding this monthly reflexion, please allow me also to extend my sincerest blessings and best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Grateful Thanksgiving. Be grateful that God is God! Be grateful God created you to know, love, and serve Him. Be grateful for God’s love, mercy, and providence, without which we could never survive! Be grateful for the experiences of your own personal life! As a Franciscan, Be grateful! 

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

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

Great idea to tuck away for December!

From the Heart of the Regional Minister – October, 2022

Welcome glorious October! My favorite time of year!.  The earth is getting ready to rest for the winter months but before she lays down her head, there is a surge of beauty and comfort.   The hot weather has slipped into chilly nights and days that are bearable and cooler.

A great number of us are in the Autumn of our lives. Where is the surge of beauty and comfort for us?  Just because it is Autumn doesn’t mean it is time to stop functioning or even worse….stop caring.

You would think by this age we should be running on auto pilot. We have spent a lot of years learning our life lessons so now should be a time to lean back and ride on our past experiences. NOT! This is our time to shine, to be living examples to those who are at an earlier part of their journey.

What are we doing to make this happen?  Do we add color to our lives by adding something new to our prayer routine?  Yes, routine. It can be comforting to do things the same way all the time.  It can also be boring or stale or allow us not to pay attention.  Shake things up a bit. Change up your routine.

Light a candle before you say the Liturgy of the Hours.  Turn off all the background noise before you start. – (phone, TV, computer)  Don’t let the electronic world intervene in your prayer practices.  If I am going to be in church, I like to pray the Office before Mass.  There is a pew filled with older women who manage to sit behind me no matter which pew I land in.  They chatter and visit before Mass like long lost relatives.  More than once I have turned to them and said “I am trying to talk to God, but I can’t hear Him”.  Maybe not the most Franciscan way to handle it, but my usual M.O. is to keep quiet until I’m ready to explode.  I need to learn to deal with it before I get to that point!!

Is your prayer life broken or missing something?  I don’t know about you, but I have a magic drawer and a magic closet for just such things.  I put things that are broken or missing a part into either the drawer or closet and expect if I leave them there long enough, they will magically become whole again. These places are also known as the junk drawer and the bottom of the closet.  Every so often I go through the ‘stuff’ in these two places; pick up each item, look it over, say “hmmm” to myself…..and put it back hoping that somehow the magic will work this time.  Believe me, brothers and sisters, it doesn’t!

We need to fix the broken parts of our lives and find the missing pieces. It’s not that hard, really. But it is always easier to put something out of sight and then we don’t have to deal with it.  Saying a Crown Rosary?  Try using the 7 Sorrows and 7 Joys of St. Joseph that has been featured on our website.  (Can’t find it?  Let me know and I’ll send it to you)

Add a little color to your prayer life and to God be the glory! Sit in a different chair, go outside when the weather allows.  Any little change will shake you out of your routine.  God deserves our full attention.  Isn’t that what He gives to us?  How can we offer back anything less??  I’d love to hear your success stories!  Until next time….

Blessings and much love,

kate