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

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

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

January 2019


Lord, just as I believe that at an earlier time

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

so now I realize that, because of Your abundant mercy

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

Give glory to Your name,

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

to the whole Christian people.

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

not to consider (my) ingratitude.

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

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

Amen.

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

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

1

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

2

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

3

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

4

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

5

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

6

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

7

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

8

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

9

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

10

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

11

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

12

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

13

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

14

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

15

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

16

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

17

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

18

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

19

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

20

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

21

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

22

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

23

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

24

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

25

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

26

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

27

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

28

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

29

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

30

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

31

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

 

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

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

January 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord bless you and keep you!

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

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – January 2019

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

January 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lastly, we have the wedding feast of Cana:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

[1] Taken from CCC-528

[2] Emphasis mine

[3] Isaiah 60:1-3

[4] Emphasis mine

[5] Mathew 3:16-17

[6] Emphasis mine

[7] John 1:29-32

[8] Emphasis mine

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

[10] John 2:9-11

[11] Emphasis mine

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

[13] OFS Rule, Chapter 6

[14] Emphasis mine

From the Regional Minister - December 2018

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord fill you with peace!

It is that time of year when I should be writing about peace on earth and good will to men. Come to think of it, I am going to write about good will to men…or the lack of it.  The last few things I have written have been on this topic but I am not getting through to the ones who need to embrace it.  Frankly, I’m at a loss as to what to say now that will make a difference.  I might be at a loss, so I’m turning this over to the Holy Spirit.

Our Franciscan charism includes following the footsteps of St. Francis as they lead to Christ.  St. Francis never made snide remarks about people not learning English or started a sentence with the words “those people”. Our Lord chose to be born poor, to live a humble life. At a very tender age, he fled death threats and took refuge in a foreign land with his parents.  Imagine how frightened they were!  How could you face God Himself if you weren’t able to keep His son safe?  Would Joseph stand at the gates of Heaven and say, “I’m sorry, the Egyptians wouldn’t let us cross the border. After traveling in the dark of night with the demons of hell at our heels, we got to safety only to be turned back.” If that had happened, our salvation story would have a decidedly different ending.

The world’s attitude has taken a giant step backward in the last few years.  Being prejudiced, a bigot, or condemning someone else’s beliefs has become a treasured virtue to wear proudly and to be taken out and used at every and all opportunities. But, do you remember that little phrase we live by….we are in this world but not of this world. That is what sets us apart. Our eyes, our hearts, our feet and our actions should all point to Our Lord.

There is a beautiful prayer called the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) which ends with “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…”  A beautiful sentiment to embrace and make our own.

In February of 2015, in Pope Francis’ address to the Cardinals, he wrote “The Gospel of the Marginalized is Where our Credibility is Found and Revealed.”  There is a lot to chew on just in that title!  The pope highlighted the fact that “for Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!”  In fact, “Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal!  He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp “.“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy”, Francis stated. “Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law.”

I sat in awe yesterday as three new souls made their profession to our way of life.  This is what I want.  This is what I want.  Those words ringing out in the church brought joy and smiles to the Franciscan brothers and sisters who were witnessing their commitment. There is hope for all of us in each new Profession. May all those coming into our Order keep us on the path we subscribed to on our day of Profession. I’m also seeing a slow turn to embracing JPIC and actively stretching out God’s hand to those who need it.  Praise God, may it continue! God cannot be present to those He holds dear if we are not willing to be His instrument.  However we cannot be employed by God while harboring hatred and prejudice in our hearts.

As a Christmas gift to yourself and those around you, take a long hard look at your own behavior.  Who is your leper?  You might just find out it is you.

May you take a step closer to the manger this Christmas and embrace the family gathered there who are not your race, speak your language and have virtually no place to call home.

Praying for your Blessed Christmas Season,

kate

Thoughts from our Regional Formation Director – December 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

December 2018

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

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

It is hard to believe but after looking through my files, this will be a full year that I have been sending you my thoughts and it has caused me to reflect on mile-stones and anniversaries which in turn has caused me to contemplate a very special anniversary we all share!  The fortieth anniversary of the approval of our rule of life.  I can almost laugh to myself some times when I hear a sister and brother say “Our New Rule” or “the New Rule”.  Almost all the Secular Franciscans I know have known no other rule!

This rule of ours is a precious and most loved gift from our Order and from the Church.  It has brought us back to the foundations of our origins, brothers and sisters of penance and ongoing conversion.  It truly reflects the spirit of the Second Vatican Council in  LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) where our Holy Mother Church redirects our thoughts to the original intent of “Church”  and mission.

THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH

“Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk. 16:15), it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church. Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament–a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men–she here purposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission. The condition of the modern world lends greater urgency to this duty of the Church; for, while men of the present day are drawn ever more closely together by social, technical and cultural bonds, it still remains for them to achieve full unity in Christ.”[1]

I encourage all of you to re-read the Second Vatican Documents, but especial Lumen Gentium.  And as you do you should see a striking commonality in tone and form with the Rule approved in 1978, and like the rule the constitutions and statutes.  It is intended to bring us back to our roots and original mission.

In my discussion with many of you I hear a frequent question.  What do we do for ongoing formation?  I can understand the question.  Our materials and guidelines for Initial Formation are very clear and abundant.  But at first glance not so much for ongoing formation.  Just like our rule is a return to our roots, I would suggest the same thing for formation.  Take the rule one paragraph at a time along with the reference material like the constitution and the “Franciscan Journey” and spend your ongoing formation time reflecting and discussing or “Re-Discovering” the most precious gift of our Rule of Life!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

[1] LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), The mystery of the Church, par 1

Welcome Newly Professed at Immaculate Conception

All smiles!

Pictured here are Stephanie Russo, OFS, Formation Director, newly professed John Maynes, OFS, newly professed Lisa Bechtel, OFS, Amanda Jamnicky, OFS, Minister and newly professed Jeremy Cherelli, OFS. Please keep Mike Stanek in your prayers.  Mike was scheduled to be professed also, but was hospitalized last night.

 

Daily Reflections for December, 2018 by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

December 2018

Most High, Glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of our minds.

Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,

so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

Following excerpts are from various sources

1

When Saint Francis delivered the second Rule to the Lord Pope Honorius for confirmation at Christ’s command…he said to Blessed FrancisBlessed 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. – Many find plenty of time to gossip about and/or criticize others, but so little time to spend and speak with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

2

(When asked to modify certain aspects of the Rule) 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 … –  Separation from earthly things, ambitions, and even friendships at times, often is the mysterious material that cements a soul closer to God.

3

(St. Francis continued): All that will happen in the future to the religion and to the Church is clear and present to Him (Christ).  I must not and cannot change the words of Christ … – Do not be concerned what place you hold but how you hold that place. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

4

(Francis continued): 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 … – Do what you have to do, work what you have to work. (Words of Jesus to St. Francis)

5

(St. Francis concluded): 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 written in the Rule. – Fear can make matters worse and can heighten pain; trust in God’s presence and providence.

6

(A Master of Theology said to St. Francis): I promise 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… – Though abstinence and prayer are of great merit, yet illness and pain suffered with patience is much greater. (St. Pachomius of Egypt)

7

(He continued): But one thing I ask of you.  If  in my lifetime the brothers fall as far away from their pure observance of the Rule as you predicted 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. – The cross is the gift God gives His friends (Cure` of Ars)

8

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. – – No true child of Mary will ever be lost. Love Mary and obey Her last words in Scripture: Do whatever He tells you.

9

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 severely shake the Order) … – I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, for He rules everything (St. Patrick)

10

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.  But abandoning it, they will cling to every kind of relaxation … – We can never become saints until we place all our trust in God.

11

He believed that the highest obedience…was by divine inspiration going among the Saracens and non-believers … He considered requesting this very pleasing to God (and said) … The brothers who go can live among them in a two-fold way … One way is not to engage in arguments and disputes … and to acknowledge that they are Christians.  The other way is to announce the word of God when they see it pleases the Lord … – Love the disagreeable.

12

Blessed Francis was overjoyed at the place granted to the brothers, especially because of the name of this church of the Mother of Christ, and because it was such a poor little church, and because it was surnamed: ‘of the Portiuncula’… – It is not the inner irritation, often spontaneous, that is wrong; it is the outward display of this interior annoyance that is wrong. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

13

Soon after the brothers went to stay (at the Portiuncula), almost daily the Lord increased their food, and news of them and their fame flew throughout the whole valley of Spoleto … Although the abbot and monks had freely granted it to blessed Francis and his brothers without payment, every year (blessed Francis) used to send a basket full of small fish as a sign of greater humility and poverty. – Happiness consists in forgetfulness of self (St. Therese of Lisieux)

14

(The monks in turn) because of the humility of blessed Francis, who had done this of his own free will, gave him and his brothers a jar filled with oil. – Humility is the hinge upon which hangs the virtue of patience.

15

It had been revealed to (blessed Francis) in that place (of the Portiuncula) that, of all the churches of the world that she has, the blessed Virgin loved that church. Therefore, during his whole lifetime he always had the greatest reverence and devotion toward it. – The beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and its fulfillment is the perfection of all joy.

16

About the time of his death … (blessed Francis) said: I want to leave and bequeath to the brothers the place of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula as a testament, that it may always be held in the greatest reverence and devotion by the brothers. – In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and the soul no longer lives for itself or in itself but for God. (Thomas Merton)

17

For although  the place itself is holy, (the brothers) preserved its holiness with constant prayer day and night and by constant silence. And if, at times, anyone spoke after the established time for silence, they discussed with greatest devotion and decorum matters pertaining to the praise of God and the salvation of souls. – Humility is truth.

18

Blessed Francis often said these words to the brothers; I  have never been a thief, that is, in regard to alms, which are the inheritance of the poor.  I always took less than I needed, so that other poor people would not be cheated of their share.  To act otherwise would be theft. – Whenever you are frightened or lonesome…visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and enter in spirit into His Sacred Heart. (St.Elzear to his wife Delphine)

19

When urged to allow the brothers to have something at least in common, Saint Francis called upon Christ in prayer and consulted Him about this.  Christ immediately responded that He would take away everything held individually or in common, saying that this is His family for whom He was always ready to provide … as long as it would put its hope in Him. – Don’t worry, if uncomplimentary things are said about you.  Worse things were said about Christ. (St. Elzear to his household)

20

(When the ministers of the Order wanted Francis to mitigate the Rule) The voice of Christ was then heard in the air, saying: Francis, nothing of yours is in the Rule: whatever is there is all  mine.  And I want the Rule observed in this way: to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, and without a gloss, without a gloss, without a gloss. – Remove humility and all virtue will vanish. (Cure` of Ars)

21

(And the voice of Christ added): I know how much human weakness is capable of, and how much I want to help them.  Those who refuse to observe it should leave the Order. – For anyone striving to become virtuous there is always the danger that we may fall victim of spiritual pride.

22

(At the Chapter of Mats, when prelates of the Church suggested that he adopt one of the existing Rules, blessed Francis said): God has called me by the way of simplicity, and showed me the way of simplicity. I do not want you to mention to me any rule … and the Lord told me what He wanted.  He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. – Virtue cannot thrive in a soul filled with worry, tension or fear. Sanctity grows best in serenity.

23

The Lord Jesus Christ said to brother Leo, the companion of blessed Francis: I have a complaint about the brothers …They do not recognize My gifts which, as you know, I  generously bestow on them daily … All day long they are idle and complain.  And they often provoke one another to anger, and do not return to love, and do not pardon the injury they receive.  I enjoy life even more than you do; but love of life does not make me afraid to die. (St. Appollonius to his judge)

24

Blessed Francis said that he had obtained from the Lord four things. Namely, the religion and the profession of the Lesser Brothers will last until the day of judgment… no one who deliberately persecutes the Order will live long … no evil person, intending to live an evil life in it, will be able to remain in it for long … whosoever loves the Order wholeheartedly, however great a sinner, will obtain mercy in the end. – Have a sense of humor. The essence of real humor is a heart at peace with God and the world.

25

(Blessed Francis said) For my part, I want only this privilege from the Lord: not to have any privilege from any  human being, except to show reverence to all, and, by the obedience of the holy Rule, to convert everyone more by example than word – Real joy comes from a heart in harmony with God.

26

When Saint Francis went before the Lord Pope by whom the Rule was confirmed and sealed, Francis placed his hand upon it, swore and said that this was the will of God and no other.  And he did this a second and a third time – By the sheer weight of good example we can lead others to Christ.

27

Blessed Francis re-entered the cave and spoke with God, like Moses in the tent on Mount Sinai, face to face, and God said: Francis, build me a wall between temporal affairs and your brothers. – Holiness comes not by talking about it, or studying it, but by living it.

28

Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.  As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty … – Whoever wishes to save his soul must have three souls in one; toward God the heart of a son; toward one’s neighbor the heart of a mother; and toward himself the heart of a judge. (Thomas a` Kempis)

29

Saint Francis command(ed): I strictly command all my cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or upon these words … but as the Lord has given me … – Live like one about to die. (Murillo)

30

As Moses with God and God with him, so Saint Francis spoke with the Lord, and the Lord fully related to him future events, concerning not only the Order but also the whole Church until the end of the world. – One virtue that shines more brightly in the lives of the saints is the virtue of charity, i.e. unfeigned compassion for others in need.

31

(Saint Francis came from prayer upset and said to the brother): While I was at prayer, I begged the Lord for peace for the Christian people, because it was revealed to me that many trials would come upon the Christian people.  And so the Lord Jesus was kind enough to appear to me… – If you are honestly looking for Christ, you will find Him quickest and most often in His poor.

BLESSED AND MERRY CHRISTMAS
PEACE-FILLED and HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2019!

 

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap - December 2018

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 2018

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

(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.


Grace builds on nature. The ability to allow the senses to take over and enliven the heart and soul makes our experience with God even more exciting. Not just the intellect, but the whole person enters this intimate relationship with God. And God enters a relationship with humanity taking on every aspect of human life except sin.  In the story, as recounted by Celano, it is even stated: Moreover, burning with excessive love, (Francisoften calls Christ the ‘babe from Bethlehem’ whenever he means to call Him Jesus.  Saying the word ‘Bethlehem’ in the manner of a bleating sheep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) St. Francis was not one to be held in check by public opinion. Christmas is the birthday of the Christ Child and he was not concerned sounding like a child, or acting childlike, even if to some it seemed childish.  (When) people were bringing their little children to Jesus … (Jesus) said to (His disciples who were trying to stop them) Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.  It is to just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10: 13-16) Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child and remember the child that we once were and are called to become.  Our Seraphic Father let love let loose, just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and all the people of Israel.  David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2 Samuel: 7: 20)could be placed on the lips of St. FrancisAs the Lord lives, who preferred me … not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more … I will be lowly in your esteem … but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23) 


Pride seduced freedom at the very beginning of human history when our first parents opted to seek self interests rather than the will of their Father Creator. From that moment human history became a quest to regain what was lost: harmony, serenity, peace.  Harmony became enmeshed in the mechanism of compromise, connivance, convenience, and all that cloud our vision of the road traced out for us by the One Who calls us to Himself. Serenity was shaken by the inner struggles of insecurity, indifference, indolence and all that keep our hopes from encouraging us to move forward to grow in the gifts bestowed on us by our Creator.  Peace became the unfulfilled dream of those who were challenged daily by fearful anxiety, dominant arrogance, blind ambition. The world has not been the same ever since that fateful moment. And thus began the quest to regain what was lost!  Pride is overcome by humility.  Humility lives in the truth.  Truth offers us the liberating experience of being transparent. Transparency allows us to trust and also to see others as pilgrims with us on the same journey.  Thus, opening our heart to the other, we have found the eternal Other in our life as well.


We are reminded that: Life begins as the quest of the child for the man, and ends as  the quest of the man for the child  (Sam Ewing) that childlike person hidden within each one of us crying out to be set free.   We search for the Child Who alone can help us find what we ‘mislaid along the road’:  harmony with God, ourselves and all creation; serenity before the challenges we face in the certitude that all works out for those who trust in God;  and  peace of heart and love, that see the image of the Child we seek in all people.  Serenity (peace), integrity (transparency) and love (acceptance/surrender) ultimately lead to Joy – the Joy of Christmas, the Joy of the new-born Child.  

  

Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the people of Israel 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). How can our Christmas Message be happy and uplifting when all around us we hear of scandals in religious and political arenas, job downsizing, economic insecurity, division in families, violence in the streets, terrorism around the world, international  instability with threats of conflicts that could have devastating effects for the whole world, and much more?    We cannot 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, and 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 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. Who (or what) can separate us from the love of God…In Him we are more than conquerors. We must search for the answer in the responses given at Jesus Birth to heaven’s call: the shepherds went in haste to see what had been told them   (Luke 2: 1); the Magi followed the star (see Matthew 2: 1-12). As spiritual children of the Poverello of Assisi, we are entrusted by our Seraphic Father to live the legacy of joyful trust at all times in the Father Who loves His children passionately, and has manifest that love in the Birth, by the power of the Holy Spirit, of Jesus, the Son of Mary.


God’s ‘Star of Truth”, His inspired Word, enlightens and indicates the way to follow that we might fulfill our basic desire to rediscover the child within us.   In that Word we recognize and accept the Child Who alone can restore us to our initial innocence, regardless of how deep we may have fallen.  With the simplicity of the shepherds we hurry in faith that blossoms into Hope.  This hope enables us to see Love Incarnate and believe in a Presence that can and will envelop us all with His eternal Love.  Now that we have seen and touched the Holy One of God, we know that no matter what happens around us, greater is the One within than he who is in the world. (1 John 4: 4)  The man (the one whom St. Francis had asked to setup the Nativity Scene at Greccio) saw a little child lying lifeless in the manger and he saw the holy man of God approach the Child and waken him from a deep sleep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30)   The newborn King Whose birth we prepare for and celebrate in faith, can be found alive in the hearts of everyone of us.  He is there waiting for us to rediscover and awaken His Presence within us, as our Father did for the people of Greccio.  


During the Advent Season, in the silence of faith, we journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.  In the joy of great expectations we hurry to the stable with the Shepherds.  In undaunted hope we follow the heavenly guide with the Wise Men bearing the gift of ourselves. Let all fears be dispelled, all hope rekindled, all love blossom  new in our hearts.  The Child of Bethlehem blessed our history becoming one with us that we might again be one with Him. It was at that birth that heaven sang  Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests (Luke 2: 1-14)  


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, 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 the 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, we, like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, experience the promise fulfilled and our hope rekindled. We become his earthly messengers of the eternal love that not even human tragedy can destroy.  Goodness is still alive in the hearts of God’s children, and this love is celebrated each year at Christmas. 


Christmas is a time for us to look with childlike wonder at the mystery fulfilled and to enjoy the love made present in the poverty of Bethlehem.  It is a time to bask in the light of a treasure greater than any we could imagine.  To see the Infant Jesus and recognize the God of Creation, the Savior of humanity, the King of kings and Lord of lords is to allow the tepidity and even the coldness of life’s demands and burdens to be dispelled and warmed by the Child of Bethlehem.  The Lord hidden in His Word and Sacrament is made visible in so many ways.  The child within is reborn and we experience the newness and joy of life. At Christmas we celebrate this wonderful re-discovery and joy. 


Each day is a new experience of that eternal unfolding love prepared for by the prophets, made visible at Bethlehem and Calvary.  All this will continue until history’s time becomes eternal life.  Each day we re-present the mysteries of salvation in the Eucharist, and each year we celebrate the unfolding of that One Solitary Life that is the focal point of human history – Jesus. 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…but, our faith – as was 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. His wooden manger for a cradle at Bethlehem began the journey that led to his total surrender for us on the rough wood of the Cross on Calvary. The Crib and the Cross can never be separated.   His total emptying as God at Bethlehem and total emptying as Man on Calvary is the whole story of a birth to die that we who are born to die may encounter the fullness of Life.

   

May the Child of Bethlehem help us celebrate His birth, Light and Salvation. As brothers and sisters in St. Francis of Assisi let us bring that light, joy and hope to all whom we encounter on life’s journey. Warmed by the love and humility of the Christ Child, may we find that child within who helps us to see the beauty of this world in all its wonder and majesty, and the love of its Creator in all His humility. Come, let us adore Him in His Eucharistic presence. With Mary and Joseph let us bask in the light of his splendor and trust in Him.


In the Name of Jesus I wish all of you a Spirit-filled Advent and a Holy and Happy Christmas Season. As you enter the new calendar year with all its expectations and uncertainties, hopes and fears, may your dreams be fulfilled in a world renewed in Jesus and filled with His Spirit. Let us never forget: A Child is born to us! A Savior is given to us! Come, let us adore Him!  Fear not!  It is I!  I have conquered the world!

 

Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019!

Peace and Blessings in the Christ Child

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

From the Heart of Our Minister – November 2018

This truly comes directly from my troubled heart………

Several months ago I started one of these posts with that famous quote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Right now all I can say is “It is the worst of times”.

The entire world is in such turmoil and the news has to be followed not day by day, but hour by hour. Who has been shot, what has been said, who is supporting whom in the mid-term elections, how close is the caravan today? All of these scenarios can set off sparks between any two given people (or more) and set brother against brother and sister against sister.  And it has been hitting me in the face for several weeks.  And by that, I mean the actions and behaviors of some has cause a great deal of heartache.  Certainly only a small number. but as usually happens, that small number of folks bang the gong loudly. And the din has risen to the top, obliterating the peaceful voices of most of us.

“Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God” (Romans 15:7).

Why is this so hard? Why do we feel so righteous and superior to any other group of God-created people? And how, being a professed Secular Franciscan do we allow the hate to grow and fester?  We are called to be better than that but that means better than the other’s bad behavior not ever superior. We who remain silent when comments are made and bigoted e-mail messages are forwarded are just as guilty

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

It is always easier to let someone else step up.  Being peacemakers doesn’t mean keeping it peaceful for ourselves. No ripple in the water here!  I’m not going to aggravate either side! We are called to make that ripple and on the day of our profession, we said “This is what I want”. Going from Gospel to life and life to Gospel has no room for ‘I’ll live the Gospel as long as I can still hate all Muslims’…..or make snide remarks about those who don’t speak English…..or decide who I want in my fraternity.

We are all human, I get that.  And at some point in our lives we have harbored ill feelings or thoughts against another group of people.   But those who have matured in their faith and vocation have seen the error of that thinking and done something about it. Those who haven’t are holding onto their misconceptions like a badge of honor;  not only wearing it proudly but advertising it whenever and wherever they can.

“If you hate someone, you are defeated by them” – Confucius

Our faith is our anchor in these terrible times. But we upend that anchor with every hate-filled work and action.  These actions damage not only our relationship with each other, but greatly damage our relationship with Jesus, His Holy Mother and Saints Francis and Clare.  Who are we if we have thrown them away?

I saw this poem and felt it ties in with what I am trying to get across:

Always be kind,

If you see someone falling behind, walk beside them.

If someone is being ignored, find a way to include them.

If someone has been knocked down, lift them up.

Always remind people of their worth.

Be who you needed when you were going through hard times.

Just one small act of kindness could mean the world to someone.

That next to the last line: Be who you needed when you were going through hard times, speaks volumes to me. We have all been in some tough situations where some small act of kindness changed everything.  When I was in that bad car accident in July, a man opened the driver’s door and reached in and took my hand.  I never did see his face because all the airbags had deployed and I was inside that cocoon of plastic sheets, wires and broken glass.  He calmly talked to me until the ambulance arrived and then slipped away when the EMT’s were trying to get me out of the car.  I don’t know if he lived in the neighborhood and came out when he heard the crash or if he was driving by and stopped to help.  When he reached into the car for my hand, he had no idea if I were black, white, Muslim or Jew. I don’t know his name, but I can tell you this, I still pray for him. And I pray that someday I might give that gift to someone else in need.  That’s how it works, brothers and sisters.  God shows us how and then helps us accomplish it.   He is not present when we are spewing hurtful remarks or belittling a group of folks who are different than us……not better or worse………just different.

We have tremendous opportunities these days to be the peacemakers, to light the darkness in someone’s life. We have asked to be instruments of peace.  Can we allow God to play His healing melody through us?  Take some time to ask Him.  Both of you will be glad you took the time to visit.

 

 

 

Thought for the Day by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 2018

November 2018

 

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)

 

Following are excerpts taken from: A Book of the Praises of Saint Francis

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

 

1

Blessed Francis, like the rising sun, brightened the world by his life, his teaching and his miracles.  He had a father intent on worldly affairs, but a very upright mother. – Our objective in life is to become a saint.

2

Like another Elizabeth, at the sacred font she called him John, and, in spirit, she predicted that, by the grace of his merits, he would become a son of God. – On the first rung of the ladder to holiness are written the words: ‘Who does not carry his cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple’.

3

The boy grew up … until he was twenty-five years old.  Then he left all things and followed in the footsteps of Christ.  He renewed the old life of the Apostles… –Stubbornness is one quality incompatible with sanctity; purpose and persistence are necessary.

4

We have heard that of Francis’ first twelve disciples, for whom he also wrote a rule … and all were holy men except for one … (so that) even in his disciples the similarity of Francis to Christ might not be wanting. – Live the Gospel without compromise; live like Christ.

5

After blessed Francis returned from the Supreme Pontiff from whom he received the authority to preach, gathered his brothers around him near the city of Assisi in an abandoned hut that was so confined that (they) … were hardly able to sit or rest in it. – To progress in virtue, we need a plan and to stick to it.

6

There was no complaining…no grumbling, but with peaceful heart, the soul filled with joy, preserved patience. Under the tutelage of the holy father, the increased number of brothers later grew in perfection. – Be a creature of character, for character means reliability, dependability, self-discipline.

7

They were truly lesser, in name as in humility of mind, who…always sought a place and position of humility…they loved one another in a remarkable way… –Without humility all others virtues are either impossible, or tarnished and vitiated.

8

They poured out all their affection in common, hiring themselves out to provide for the other’s need, seeking not their own interests but those of Christ and of their neighbors. – The greater a person is esteemed in the eyes of people, the less he/she should be esteemed in his/her own.

9

But truly obedient soldiers, they never dared to place anything before holy obedience, knowing nothing about distinguishing precepts.  They almost ran headlong, to carry out what they were asked with no thought of contradicting it. – A humble person is not disturbed by praise, for it all belongs to God.

10

Wherever they met people on the roads or in the piazzas, the brothers would encourage them to love and to fear their Creator. – The humble receives praise the way a clean window takes the light; the truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass.

11

All their senses were so subdued that … there was a simple appearance, a modest bearing, and, with their eyes fixed on the ground, there minds were set on heaven. – Scripture reminds us that God resists the proud.

12

The brothers strove diligently to fulfill not only what he told them as by brotherly advice or by fatherly command, but also what by some sign they recognized he wanted. – We are not merely to prize our Faith but profess it with our life.

13

They were totally ignorant of duplicity of heart.  For just as there was in them one faith, so there was one spirit, one will, one charity, continual unity of spirit, harmony in living, cultivation of virtues, agreement of minds, and piety in action. – Just what are we doing today with the Faith God has given us?

14

At one time, when a tempted brother asked Francis to pray for him, the holy man said: ‘ Believe me, son, I believe you are more a servant of God because of this. No one should consider himself a servant of God until he has passed through temptations and tribulations.’ – Never forget a kindness, and never remember an injury.

15

To his brothers, he would speak compassionately, not as a judge, but as a father to his children and as a doctor to the sick … He was truly endowed with outstanding discernment and the grace of simplicity, so that with a true dove-like simplicity, he possessed the prudence of a serpent,. – The most powerful remedy against sudden movements of impatience is a gentle and friendly silence.

16

Francis’ zeal to observe poverty and humility and to be continually engaged with virtuous things was unusual. He rejoiced in poor little dwellings…As for ‘necessity’ not based on reason but on pleasure, he declared that it was a sign of a spirit that was extinguished … He wanted few books … He did not want the brothers to have money or handle it … – Today, right now, this very moment, is the time to start being what God wants me to be.

17

…he spoke to the Lord Pope who argued that it was difficult to live without possessions. ‘My Lord, I trust in my Lord Jesus Christ.  Since he has promised to give us life and glory in heaven, He will not deprive us of our bodily necessities when we need them on earth’. – The strength of the saints lies in their weakness through which God manifests Himself.

18

(Francis) would frequently say: As far as the brothers will withdraw from poverty, that far will the world withdraw from them.  They owe the world an example, and the world owes the food they need.  When the brothers withdraw good example, the world withdraws from them its support’. – Love incites imitation.

19

With the greatest zeal he cultivated poverty’s companion, the virtue of humility. – Sometimes love is too superficial and non an inner, all-consuming love, the kind of true love that makes one a captive, ready to serve, willing to forego, prepared to sacrifice.

20

(Francis) used to say: ‘We have been sent to help clerics for the salvation of souls so that they may make up whatever may be lacking in them … Be subject to prelates so that as much as possible on your part no jealousy arises’… – Cultivate resignation to God’s Will in all things.

21

He was, in his own eyes, a great sinner, while actually he was in every way a mirror of holiness, and also a virgin in the flesh, as he revealed to that very holy man, Brother Leo, his confessor … – Pray humbly each day for divine guidance to reflect rather than rush into something we may later have to regret.

22

The holy man always insisted on progress in doing good, … No idler could appear in his presence without feeling the sharp bite of his criticism … He rejoiced upon hearing that the brothers in a hermitage in Spain had divided their time, that one part of the week was dedicated to household chores, and the other to contemplation. – What benefits a garden or orchard is not a sudden storm but the gentle, steady force of a lingering all-day and all-night rain.

23

(The first Order established by Francis) is the Order of Lesser Brothers whose purpose is to serve the Lord according to the Gospel in poverty and humility, and to preach penitence. Innumerable signs in the professed testify that this is acceptable to God… – Real charity is warm, spontaneous, quickly responsive, never letting then left hand know what the right hand is doing.

24

Some religious are said to have been shown under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin.  Thus the Mother of God herself showed brothers to be under the protection of the wings of the Son of God … – The more we love God, the more we will want to love His creatures, especially those less favored and fortunate than we.

25

The Second Order…is that of virgins and continent married women, whose proposal is serve God in the enclosure, in perpetual silence, and in mortifying the flesh.  The first member of his Order was the blessed Clare … living …under the profession of the mot exalted poverty … – If you desire that God should hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor.

26

The Third Order is of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, shared by clerics, laity, virgins, widows, and married couples.  Their purpose is to live uprightly in their own homes, to devote their attention to works of piety, and to flee the world’s allurements. – Humility is a sincere distrust of self, on the one hand, and a firmly clinging reliance upon God, on the other.

27

The Lord made his servant, Francis, grow into a great nation, thus He gave him the blessing of all nations. – It is not a question of who you are or where you are, but of what you do with what you have!

28

When the time of Francis’ warfare in this life finally came to an end, the holy father departed happily to Christ in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1226 … A most illustrious Roman matron, Lady Jacoba dei Settesoli, very devoted to the man of God, came to visit him… She administered whatever seemed necessary for his funeral … – When you can’t pray on your knees (in church), pray on your feet (in fulfilling your daily duties).

29

(Francis) named her Brother Jacoba because of the vigor of her virtues, (and) wished to see her before he died … when the saint saw her, he rejoiced that, as he had hoped, she had been sent by God … It was thought the saint would live longer … The saint (said): ‘I will depart on Saturday evening.  You can leave with your retinue on the following day’. – Prayer is being on terms of friendship with God, often raising our minds to Him.

30

On the day and at the hour which he predicted, the saint was gathered to the Lord to live with Him … His most holy body was buried at Assisi in the Church of Saint George … After a few years a church was built in the saint’s honor … The site is called the Hill of Paradise… So great a multitude of people had come together for the celebration that the city was not able to contain them… – All for you, my God, because I love you.