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of Saint Francis of Assisi?

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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.

A local group of Secular Franciscans is probably meeting near you. Please use this map to locate your closest fraternity or feel free to contact one of the members of our Regional Executive Council who will be happy to put you in touch with a Fraternity near you.

About our region

All local Secular Franciscan fraternities in the United States are organized into one of 30 regions. The Saint Katharine Drexel Region includes parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. There are currently 27 local fraternities in the region. We are under the patronage of St. Katharine Drexel, who was a Secular Franciscan and whose feast we celebrate on March 3rd.

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Monthly Formation from the Regional Formation Director – June 2019

“You will be my witnesses”

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:8-9)

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The time between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost is quiet but thrilling. Quiet, because it is an in-between time of wonder and awe. Thrilling, because it anticipates Pentecost Sunday when we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. During this interlude, we recall how the Risen Lord, after a period of time in which he appeared to the apostles and others, departed from them. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.”1 Jesus commissions his followers: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole of creation.”2 And he assures them “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.”3

These events and mysteries have special meaning for Secular Franciscans. They present to us the origin of the Church’s mission of evangelization. In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), Pope St. Paul VI teaches that “the task of evangelizing constitutes the essential mission of the Church… Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”4

That task of evangelization is one that Secular Franciscans share, in a most definite way, by virtue of our profession. Our Rule says we “should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.”5 Furthermore, we “are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.”6 Franciscan scholar Andrea Boni, OFM, wrote that Franciscans “have been entrusted by God with the task of rebuilding his house. The Church is rebuilt with the same tools with which it was constructed: evangelization and witness of life.”7

For Secular Franciscans, both in fraternity and in our individual lives, the role of witness is fundamental. Again, to cite Pope St. Paul VI, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”8 What does that witness look like? He offers a very Franciscan description: “The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience, humility.”9 And he clearly intends this to be the action of individuals, adding poignantly, “In the long run, is there any other way of handing on the Gospel than by transmitting to another person one’s personal experience of faith?”10 Secular Franciscans know how to do this. We know how to go from “gospel to life and life to the gospel.”11

In our culture, evangelization is often associated with a particular form of proselytizing. However, to be truly evangelical is simply to embrace the gospel and proclaim it fearlessly. We evangelize by the example of our fraternities when we live as communities of love. We evangelize as individuals by following Jesus after the example of St. Francis. Our witness will look different depending on how we are graced and on our various situations in the world. But the Church’s mission of evangelization—to spread the gospel—is central to our vocation. The General Constitutions affirm this: “Secular Franciscans proclaim Christ by their life and words. Their preferred apostolate is personal witness in the environment in which they live.”12

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 From the OFS Rule and Constitutions

  • 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. [Rule, 6]
  • Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. [Rule, 14]
  • Called to work together in building up the Church as the sacrament of salvation for all and, through their baptism and profession made “witnesses and instruments of her mission,” Secular      Franciscans proclaim Christ by their life and words. Their preferred apostolate is personal          witness in the environment in which they live and service for building up the Kingdom of God       within the situation of this world. [Constitutions, 17,1]

For reflection and discussion

  • Pope St. Paul VI says that the “Church exists to evangelize.” How do you imagine an authentically Catholic evangelization? What form or modality might it take?
  • If the mission of the Church is to evangelize—to proclaim the gospel to all the world—what does it mean in your daily life to be a “witness and an instrument” of that mission?
  • Our Constitutions make the striking statement that for a Secular Franciscan the “preferred apostolate is personal witness in the environment in which they live and service for building up         the Kingdom of God within the situations of this world.” What are some of the ways you can develop such an apostolate in your own life as a Secular Franciscan?

Further study

Copyright © 2019 by Justin Carisio, OFS

 

From the Heart of our Minister – June 2019

We often pray – “Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace”.  We want to be the conduit to give Christ’s peace to another.  Yet, we don’t hold onto our own peace. Giving peace away is fine – as long as it isn’t yours!

 

I had one of those “Ah ha” moments last Sunday while watching the Mass on EWTN.  I must admit that I don’t know who the priest was saying the Mass.  Not a face I recognized.  But his message was powerful and part of it went like this…if you had a gold bar and someone came up to you and insulted you or made you feel badly (=angry, hurt, embarrassed, humiliated etc, etc) you wouldn’t then hand them the gold bar and say –here–, take it. Why in the world would we hand over our gold especially to someone who just hurt us.  Why then, do we so readily hand over our peace?

 

We all complain about the amount of stress we have while replaying a scenario in our minds of some incident where we were the victim. Guess what?!  You are keeping yourself a victim by having the conversations again in your head, And again each time you tell someone else what happened and how you felt. How hard would it be to allow yourself to be an instrument of peace….to you?

 

You can’t give away what you don’t have. You can’t drink from an empty cup. Believe me, I don’t win any awards at this stuff.  I declare to anyone listening that I can’t handle the situation and have handed it to God, telling Him (oh brother!) that He has to handle it for me.  And then I systematically tell Him how badly He is handling it and what needs to happen.  How many times do we give things to God to handle and snatch it back again before the words die out on our lips?  Proverbs 3:5 -“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely.”

 

The hardest prayer to pray is to ask God for the best solution…..and then leave it there. Not what I want, not what I think should happen but what the best solution is. Let me be an instrument of Your peace. And let it begin with me.  Maybe that line simply means that of all the channels of peace we try to set up, at least one of them needs to make a U-turn and come back to our own hearts. Isaiah 41:10 -“Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

 

As Franciscans, we are called to minister to God’s people.  Don’t forget that we are also one of them!

Thought for the Day by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. – June 2019

June 2019

O loving one

bear in mind your poor children for whom, without you, their one and only consolation,

there is little comfort… they still .. tearfully cry out to you:

O father,

place before Jesus Christ, son of the Most High Father, His sacred stigmata;

and show Him the signs of the cross on your hands, feet, and side,

that He may mercifully bare His own wounds to the Father,

and because of this the Father will ever show us in our anguish His tenderness.

Amen.

(Prayer to St. Francis from the End of the Second Book of the Life of St. Francis by Bl.Thomas of Celano)


1

(Francis=) opinion was that rarely should something be commanded under obedience, for the weapon of last resort should not be the first used. – Jesus=way of acting and his words, his deeds, and precepts constitute the moral rule of Christian life.

2

Saint Francis also said: A time will come when the religion loved by God will have such a bad reputation because of bad example that it will be embarrassing to go out in public. – Love and follow Christ!

3

Know that you are in truth my servant when you think, speak, and do all things that are holy. – If the path becomes difficult at times and you are overcome by fatigue, rest in the shade of prayer.

4

While he was staying in that palace (of the bishop), blessed Francis, realizing that he was getting sicker by the day, had himself carried on a litter to the church of St. Mary of the Portiuncula. – Have great love for Jesus Christ, try to know him well, remain united to him, have great faith and great trust in him.

5

Raising himself up slightly, he blessed the city of Assisi:  May (Assisi) always be mindful of the abundant mercies which You have shown it, that it always be an abode for those who acknowledge You, and glorify You name blessed and glorious throughout the ages.  Amen. – Be generous in giving your life to the Lord.

6

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. – You have nothing to fear, because God is the Lord of history and of the universe.

7

Although racked with sickness, blessed Francis praised God with great fervor of spirit and joy of body and soul, and told (one of the brothers): If I am to die soon, call Brother Angelo and Brother Leo that they may sing to me about Sister Death. – The more ready you are to give yourselves to God and to others, the more you will discover the authentic meaning of life.

8

(Lady Jacopa) That spiritual woman was a holy widow, devoted to God … Through the merits of blessed Francis she had obtained such grace from God that she seemed like another Magdalene, always full of tears and devotion for love of God. – God expects much of you!

9

From the beginning of his conversion blessed Francis, with God=s help, established himself and his house … upon a firm rock , the greatest humility and poverty of the Son of God, calling it the religion of >Lesser Brothers=. – Life is a gift from the Creator, to be spent in the service of one=s brothers and sisters.

10

The bishop of (Terni) … attended that sermon (of blessed Francis in Terni) … he said: … in this final hour, God has beautified his Church with this little poor man, lowly and unlettered … pointing all the while to blessed Francis. – (Life) is to be accepted, respected, and proposed with every means available, and defended from every threat.

11

To preserve greater humility, a few years after his conversion he resigned the office of prelate before all the brothers during a chapter held at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula.  From now on I am dead to you.  But here is Brother Peter di Catani: let us all, you and I obey him. – Recognizing Christ in our brethren, we are preparing to be recognized by him at his final return.

12

Considering the outstanding perfection of Brother Bernard, blessed Francis prophesied about him in the presence of some of the brothers: I tell you some of the greatest and most cunning devils have been sent to test Brother Bernard … The merciful Lord will deliver him … He will place his spirit and body in such peace, quiet, and consolation … and in this consolation of both body and soul, he will pass from this world to the Lord. – The Christian community prepares for the Lord’s second coming by focusing on those persons whom Jesus Himself favored, those who are often excluded and ignored by society.

13

During the week in which blessed Francis died, Lady Clare was seriously ill…She sent word of this to blessed Francis…To console her, he wrote his blessing in a letter and also absolved her from any failings, if she had any…He spoke to the brother she had sent. Go, and take this letter to Lady Clare…Let her be assured that before her death, both she and her sisters will see me and will receive the greatest consolation from me. – Let us lift our gaze from pettiness and sin, and let us contemplate in heaven the throne of the Lamb, where the eternal liturgy of praise is chanted by men and women of every people and race.

14

Saturday evening before nightfall, after vespers, when blessed Francis passed to the Lord, many birds called larks flew low above the roof of the house where blessed Francis lay, wheeling in a circle and singing. – Be an encouragement always to walk in accordance with the Spirit of the risen Jesus, a support in adhering to God=s will … be generous witnesses of Christ=s love.

15

Concerning larks, blessed Francis used to say: Our Sister Lark, has a capuche like a religious, and is a humble bird, who gladly goes along the road looking for some grain.  Even if she finds it in animal=s manure, she pecks it out and eats it.  While flying, she praises the Lord… – >Reparation= … is … returning to the Lord, touched by his love, and offering a more intense fidelity in the future, a life aflame with charity.

16

Blessed Francis often said these words to the brothers: I have never been a thief, 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. – To follow Jesus involves living as he lived, accepting his message, adopting his way of thinking, embracing his destiny, and sharing his project, which is the plan of the Father

17

The voice of Christ was 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 gloss, without gloss, without gloss … Those who refuse to observe it should leave the Order …– Without the spiritual nourishment that the body and blood of Christ gives us, human love is always tainted by selfishness.

18

(At the Chapter of Mats, in the presence of the Lord Cardinal who later became Pope Gregory, Francis said): My brothers! My brothers!  God has called me by the way of simplicity and showed me the way of simplicity. I do not want you to mention any other Rule … And the Lord told me … He wanted me to be a new fool in the world … – Christians must feel compelled to take the initiative and to reach out to their brothers and sisters where they live and work.

19

Know then, brothers, that the profit or good of souls is what pleases God the most, and this is more easily obtained through peace with the clergy than fighting with them … Be subject to prelates so that, as much as possible on your part no jealousy arises.  If you are children of peace, you will win over both the clergy and people for the Lord … – It is every believer=s duty to take part in building up society, putting himself at the service of his brothers and sisters through the search for the common good.

20

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 to the holy Rule, to convert everyone more by example than by word. – If we wish to welcome the Lord, we are called to conversion.

21

One night blessed Francis was so afflicted with the pains of his illness … he had all the brothers staying in that place called to him … he regarded them as representatives of all the brothers … he blessed them, placing his right hand on the head of each one, and he blessed all who were in the religion and all who were to come until the end of the world. – Constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions … serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice.

22

He did not want the brothers to live in any place unless it had a definite owner who held the property rights.  He always wanted to have the law of pilgrims for his sons. – The message of conversion and reconciliation as an indispensable demand of Christian love is more urgent than ever in present-day society, in which the very foundations of an ethical vision of human life often seem lost.

23

He hated pretense in houses … abhorred having many or fine furnishings … disliked anything … that recalled the ways of the world.  He wanted everything to sing of exile and pilgrimage. – Prepare the way for Christ by the testimony of his word and his life.

24

He taught that in books the testimony of the Lord, not value, should be sought, edification rather than elegance.  He wanted few books kept, and these should be available to the brothers who needed them. – Imitate (Christ) with docile and trusting generosity.

25

Finally, beds and coverings abounded in such plentiful poverty that if a brother had a ragged sheet over some straw he considered it a bridal cloth. – The glory of God is man fully alive (St.Irenaeus).  Here is the truth about the glory of God which the gospel offers us!

26

He detested money above all … and encouraged his followers to flee from it always as from the devil himself. He gave his followers this observation: money and manure are equally worthy of love. – The mysterious route of faith and love … is a model of the journey that every Christian is called to accomplish to witness Christ in the world.

27

Clothed with power this man was warmed more by divine fire on the inside than by what covered his body on the outside. – In order to love as Jesus loves, we must offer others the gift of ourselves.

28

(Blessed Francis) said: A time will come when strictness will be relaxed and tepidity will hold such sway, that sons of a poor father will not be the least ashamed to wear even velvet cloth, just changing the color. – It is in the giving of ourselves through charity, service, and compassion that we can experience true joy.

29

(St. Francis said to a man who was cursing his lord for taking what was his) Brother, forgive your lord for the love of God, so you may set your soul free, and it may be that he will return to you what he has taken.  Otherwise you will lose not only your property, but also your soul.  Blessed Francis gave him the mantle on his back, and said, Here, I will give you this cloak, and beg you to forgive your lord for love of God.  The man=s mood sweetened and moved by his kindness, he took the gift and forgave the wrongs. –  Suffering is transformed and elevated when, in those moments, we become aware of God=s closeness and solidarity.

30

(Speaking with a learned Dominican about warning the wicked of their wickedness, blessed Francis said): … a servant of God should be burning with life and holiness so brightly, that by the light of example and the tongue of his conduct, he will rebuke all the wicked … the brightness of his life and the fragrance of his reputation will proclaim their wickedness to all of them. – Each one is tempted by unbelief.  We have to open our eyes and our heart to the light of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – June 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

 

June 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi had a deep love and reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament, and concern for the proper respectful reservation and handling of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Writing his Testament, he made it a point to speak of the reverence and adoring posture he had when he passed any church: And the Lord gave me such  faith in churches that I would pray with simplicity in this way and say: >We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the whole world and we bless You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world= (Testament).  He encouraged the clergy  – of whose group he was as an ordained deacon – to consider the Body and Blood of Christ that they handle and offer.  His concern was that the Eucharist be celebrated and received worthily, and be kept with dignity in appropriate places: Let us all, clergymen, consider the great sin and the ignorance some have toward the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy names and written words that consecrate His Body.  We know it cannot be His Body without first being consecrated by word.  For we have seen nothing bodily of the Most High in this world except His Body and Blood, His names and words through which we have been made and redeemed from death to life.(Exhortation to the Clergy).  Admonishing the friars responsible for the various fraternities of the brethren Francis wrote: I beg you, when it is fitting and you judge it expedient, you humbly beg the clergy to revere above all else the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy names and the written words that sanctify His Body. They should hold as precious the chalices, corporals, appointments of the altar, and everything that pertains to the sacrifice…Let it be carried about with great reverence and administered to others with discernment (Letter to the Custodians).  We must, of course, confess all our sins to a priest and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from him…But let him eat and drink worthily because anyone who receives unworthily, not distinguishing, that is, not discerning, the Body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment on himself (Letter to all the Faithful, 2nd Version).

St. Francis was a truly Eucharistic person whose example encouraged others to revere above all else the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (First Letter to the Custodians) because Jesus wishes all of us to be saved through Him and receive Him with our hearts pure and our body chaste(Later Admonitions), thus, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true (Undated Writings).  The words and example of our Seraphic Father indicate beyond a doubt that our Franciscan Family is a Eucharistic Family. Our strength and nourishment comes from God=s Word and the Sacrament that offers us the Bread of Life, our viaticum, to sustain us on our journey until time becomes eternity.   This Bread of Life sustains us as we share life with one another in Franciscan Brotherhood, and with all the people of God whom we serve in the Universal Brotherhood of humanity. For a Franciscan the Eucharist should be the center of life and devotion!

Two expressions that indicate the central role of the Eucharist for our Catholic Faith are: The Eucharist makes the Church; the Church makes the Eucharist (Henri de Lubac, S.J.), and  The Church of the Eucharist (Encyclical, Bl. John Paul, II).  There is an intimate relationship between the Eucharist and the Church.  Without the Eucharist there is no Church.  Without the Church there is no Eucharist.  We celebrate the Eucharist from the rising of the sun unto its setting (Psalm 113,3). The words of the Psalmist are re-echoed in the words of the Prophet Malachi, My name will be great among the nations from the rising to the setting of the sun; in every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name (Malachi 1:11).  The Eucharist, celebrated throughout the world, is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Entering the mystery of the Eucharist, we acknowledge the limitless love of God for all His children, and our redemption in the blood of Christ.

The supreme act of worship, established by God with Moses and the People of Israel in the slaughter of animals sacrificed to God and the sprinkling of their blood, was a continual reminder for Israel of the presence of the Eternal One in their midst and his care for them, for His mercy endures forever(Psalm 136). The sacrifices Israel offered continually re-affirmed the Covenant between God and His People.  They acknowledged the supremacy of the God of Abraham over them, and they believed that the >People of the Covenant= would always have the protection of God. They did not fear destruction by their adversaries because who is there like the Lord our God (Psalm 113,5), Who promised that  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Genesis 12,2).  The faithful Jews could never have imagined the far greater meaning of Malachi=s prophecy later on, and how it would be fulfilled for all ages.

Those who heard, followed, and accepted the words of Jesus would understand more deeply, and realize that the Old Covenant was now perfected and transformed by the New Covenant in the Blood of Christ.  Their faith, our faith, is the Faith of the Church, the Faith of the People of God, the New Israel, redeemed in the Blood of the One Great Lamb of God, sacrificed on the altar of the Cross.  By his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (Gaudium et Spes 22). The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus confirms His life and redeeming death, and raises our frail nature to the dignity it had before humanity disobeyed in Eden.  In this pledge of future glory, we raise our hearts with joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Embolism, Prayer at Mass after the Our Father). Each day he comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest (Undated Writings of St. Francis). He is with us in the Eucharist, and will come again in all His glory.

Christ is still a Sign of Contradiction, and the Church, Mystical Body of Christ, is a >sign contradicted=, as will the Secular Franciscan who lives authentically his/her profession.  We Franciscans are all one with the Church.  The Eucharist is our strength. The presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar is the Lord Who journeys with us, among us, and within us.  The Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order state: The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church.  Christ unites us to himself and to one another as a single body in it.  Therefore, the Eucharist should be the center of the life of the fraternity.  The brothers and sisters should participate in the Eucharist as frequently as possible, being mindful of the respect and love shown by Francis, who, in the Eucharist, lived all the mysteries of the life of Christ. (Constitutions, Article 14, 2).

The Paschal Mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist is that expression of the Faith of the Church that will always be challenged by the world. Contrary ideologies outside the Church have always affected but never really weakened Her resolve. To the contrary, aggressive, offensive, and oppressive tactics from outside have challenged the Church to reflect, renew, and reform itself.  The transforming power of grace, experienced through the Church=s many trials, have been its strength.  Contrary positions and negative criticisms to Gospel values, centuries-old and well-proven Traditions, and the official teaching of the Magisterium of the Church demand an examination of conscience in truth and humility.  Reform is from within; revolt is from without. Reform demands a constant re-examination and honest acknowledgment of failures and faults, as well as successes and virtues. Focusing only on the negatives, without any concrete response to correct them, can weaken the image of the Church in the modern world and thus affect the personal strength of conviction of the faithful.  Our confidence comes from the words of Scripture, Greater is the One within you than the one who is in world (1 John 4:4), and,  I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).

A great early Christian writer, Tertullian, wrote, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.   Trials and tribulations affect lives, property, and human rights. Christians in many areas of the world are tragically attacked; many have lost everything, even their lives, rather than compromise their faith.  Their >martyrdom= encourages us to accept our own martyrdom; ours is different than theirs, but no less profitable and effective. The>martyrdom= most of us will face is the martyrdom of being confronted by a society that often, with belligerence or subtle sophistries, challenges the very root of our faith in Christ and the values we hold as God-given. Family, friends, government, work place, school, media, and so many other sectors of our life, can be the subtle or flagrant opponent to all we believe. The Holy Spirit is the gift of Easter Jesus breathed on the Apostles that first Resurrection Sunday. This Holy Spirit strengthens us to maintain: a simple and unshakable faith in all Jesus taught and all that Jesus is; trust in the promise of Jesus, I am with you all days even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20)an availability to respond with wholehearted commitment to the Gospel Message, you are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:14); an apostolic heart that preaches with our life rather than our words the Christ Whom we have come to know and believe; remember the words of St. Peter: To whom shall we go, Lord, you have the words of eternal life (John 6:68); and thus, trust!

Those who see the Church solely as a human institution professing and promoting noble values will always criticize and judge the Church using the values of the world as the measure. The sensus fidelium (>sense of the faithful=) or sensus fidei fidelium (>sense of the faith of the faithful=) is a reality recognized and joyfully celebrated by the Church since its beginning.    The sense of faith must be our guide during the more challenging moments we encounter. Unless we believe with the Church, we will never be able to raise our hearts and  set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3: 2), and rise above the merely human. The personal profession of faith each one proclaims – >I believe=, not >we believe= – manifests the integrity of our religion and thus the credibility of all we preach in the name of Jesus the Christ. Believe in the Church! Believe with the Church! Believe the Church! … who is the Mystical Body of Christ and always speaks the Truth that comes from God through the work of the Holy Spirit, when in union with the Holy Father, its Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

In the Eucharist we believe and >see= what non-believers cannot even imagine.  Our faith in the Eucharist is itself a gift that permits the eyes of the heart to penetrate material appearances and see-believe-receive the divine.  The liturgy is the Church=s way of fulfilling the command of Jesus, Do this in memory of Me.  The >action of the people= (>liturgy=), is the Church=s way of maintaining the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for the sake of His Mystical Body the Church who need and desire His Presence, and as >viaticum= for the Christian=s journey through life to Life.  The Eucharist is the greatest sign of faith in Christ: >my= faith and >our= faith.   My personal profession of faith united with that of my sisters and brothers in Christ=s redeeming Sacrifice, allows the >I= of a personal commitment to be a >we= of communal profession made visible by the intermingling of our lives – All the believers were one in heart and mind (Acts 4:32) . Those who see us will speak of the Christian as the early non-Christian community spoke of our ancestors in the Faith: See how they love one another (Tertullian Apology 39.6).  Their concrete tangible love was rooted in an unshakable faith in God=s Word and trust in the Eucharist they celebrated. It empowered them to become an effective presence of the Christ they offered and received.

I/We believe that the Eucharist is the real and effective re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.  I/We believe that Jesus is truly present after the Consecration of the Mass under the appearances of bread and wine.  I/We believe that the Eucharist re-presents the Mystery of Faith that nourishes our souls for life=s journey. I/We believe that a day without the Eucharist is like a day without the Sun – a day without the Eucharist is like a day without the Son of God who seeks an ever-greater relationship and intimacy with us. I/We believe that the Eucharist, Mystery of Faith, is a more understandable reality than the meaningless actions of a world gone awry seeking fulfillment in itself.  I/We believe the Eucharist offers the opportunity to live heaven on earth really and not solely metaphorically.  I/We believe the Eucharist to be the center of all life because it is God-with-us, the focal point of all creation. I/We believe that the Eucharist irradiates power and blessings so that even non-believers sense an unexplainable presence when they are before the Eucharist. The Church draws Her life from the Eucharist (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia), a life we, the Church, communicate to others.

The Eucharist poses the question and expects a personal response to the question Jesus made to his followers when some of them left because He spoke of eating His Body and drinking His blood; do you also want to leave? (John 6:67).  The gift of our >will= says with the man whose boy the apostles could not heal, I believe, Lord, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).  The humility of Christ in the Eucharist urges us to respond, to whom shall we go, Lord, You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68). O sublime humility, O humble sublimity! (St. Francis of Assisi).

As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi let us re-confirm our love for the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus; participate more deeply at Mass. Let us prepare well for Mass; and spend some time in thanksgiving after we have received the Lord in the Eucharist.  Let us never forget the value of silence so that we might hear God Who speaks to our hearts, especially after we have received Him in the Sacrament of His Love. Make frequent acts of Spiritual Communion, especially on days that you cannot assist at Mass. Preaching with our lives, let us bring the Christ we receive into the world of the occupations and duties for which we are responsible. Let the Eucharist so shine in your life that whoever sees you sees an image of Jesus. In the Eucharist, Who is Christ, be faithful to Christ and His Church!  Be what you see and receive what you are! (Saint Augustine)

May God bless us; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and may Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Special Profession Anniversaries in 2019

January Years Professed
Candace Bakasy, OFS 10 years
Paul Beisel, OFS 10 years
Mary DiSanto, OFS 40 years
Nick Kotchision, OFS 20 years
Theresa A. Leone, OFS 50 Years
February
Dr. William Dennis, OFS 15 years
Mary Filipponi, OFS 65 years
Ms. Maria Innocenti, OFS 15 years
Mrs. Helen Jeral, OFS 15 years
Rita Pacheco, OFS 25 years
Ann Pirro, OFS 15 years
John Pirro, OFS 15 years
March
Bill Doyle, OFS 15 years
Tibor Pavlanzsky, OFS 15 years
Anita Vilagossy, OFS 15 years
April
Madeline Anderson, OFS 20 years
Brett Frieze, OFS 10 Years
Cynthia Louden, OFS 55 years
Sally Staats, OFS 10 Years
May
Frances Bossard, OFS 25 years
Susan Buttner, OFS 25 years
Theresa Cassata, OFS 15 years
Diane Fleishinger, OFS 15 years
Mary M. Jacques, OFS 15 years
Amanda Jamnicky, OFS 5 years
Margaret Kolbe, OFS 15 years
Anne Leis, OFS 10 Years
Anne Marie Madrigale, OFS 10 Years
Elizabeth Marczak, OFS 60 Years
Jacob Marquart III, OFS 5 years
Patricia Meisner, OFS 20 years
Angel M Mottola, OFS 55 years
Adela Ortiz-Esposito, OFS 15 years
Marie L. Oscar, OFS 15 years
John A. Oscar, Sr., OFS 15 years
Steve Parris, OFS 5 years
Gloria Prokap, OFS 25 years
Grace Schumann, OFS 30 years
Loretta Shields, OFS 15 years
Patricia Simmons, OFS 20 years
Anne Sullivan, OFS 15 years
Elizabeth Thiel, OFS 10 Years
Kathleen Yurkevicz, OFS 25 years
Maureen Wuelfing, OFS 20 years
June
Donna Benner, OFS 10 Years
Rose Benner, OFS 40 years
Mary Connaire, OFS 15 years
Rose Marie Gantz, OFS 25 years
Mrs. Miriam L Gomez-Bracety, OFS 15 years
Kathleen Hornung, OFS 35 years
Diane Passerin, OFS 15 years
Rita Perry, OFS 20 years
James D. Tynan, OFS 65 years
Patricia M Tynan, OFS 65 years
William Welsh, OFS 40 years
Jerry Yanchek, OFS 20 years
August
Sandra Barto, OFS 10 Years
Emilio Cardona, OFS 10 Years
Patricia Mickey LeRoy, OFS 10 Years
Ann Marie Schramm, OFS 25 years
September
Barbara Bennes, OFS 20 years
Gretchen Bienkowski, OFS 15 years
Mr Ted Bienkowski, OFS 15 years
Joseph Campos, OFS 10 Years
Philomena Fischer, OFS 10 Years
Arline Mazzella, OFS 20 years
Bernadette Ruggiero, OFS 5 years
October
Henry Agosto, OFS 15 years
Carol Davidson, OFS 30 years
Mr. Peter Davidson, OFS 30 years
Pat Ferko, OFS 20 years
Kathleen Fletcher, OFS 20 years
Cristen J Gregory, OFS 15 years
John Guba, OFS 45 years
Joan Guenther, OFS 15 years
Joseph Guenther, OFS 15 years
Anna Gurgel, OFS 20 years
Adele Leder, OFS 15 years
Dolores Lydon, OFS 30 years
Dorothy Maleski, OFS 10 Years
Barbara Meehan, OFS 20 years
Rev. Mr. Daniel Meehan, OFS 20 years
John Perate, OFS 15 years
Joan Pesta, OFS 10 Years
Rosalie Scurio, OFS 20 years
Kathy Serafin, OFS 20 years
Betsy Lou Willets, OFS 30 years
Stephen Williams, OFS 20 years
November
Florence Ammirata, OFS 20 years
Theresa Aponte, OFS 20 years
Marie Bonagura, OFS 20 years
Karen Borgia, OFS 20 years
John P Breslin, OFS 20 years
Eleineo S Choi, OFS 10 Years
Brian Courtney, OFS 5 years
Lynn DeFreitas, OFS 5 years
Marlene Dennis, OFS 20 years
Josephine Fuoco, OFS 40 years
Mrs. Maria Greco, OFS 25 years
Hugh Grier, OFS 35 years
Mari-Michaella Han, OFS 10 Years
James C. Helmlich, OFS 5 years
Mary Hinds, OFS 10 Years
Lucia K Hong, OFS 10 Years
Kate Kleinert, OFS 15 years
Deborah Lewis, OFS 5 years
Theresa Lisiewski, OFS 35 years
Mr. Carmen Lombertino, OFS 15 years
Mary Markowski, OFS 5 years
Lucy Mashura, OFS 20 years
Eileen Mason, OFS 25 years
Warren McGee , OFS 5 years
Geraldine Miller, OFS 20 years
Carol Roberts, OFS 10 Years
Jean Roberts, OFS 10 Years
Elizabeth E Shelly, OFS 20 years
Georgette Wells, OFS 40 years
Bill Wendt, OFS 5 years
Kathryn Yalch, OFS 35 years
Frank Zoltowski, OFS 60 years
December
John Flynn, OFS 5 years
Bernadette Ganiel, OFS 55 years
Marie Ganiel, OFS 55 years
Carla McElven, OFS 35 years
David Misilewich, OFS 40 years
William Ridge, OFS 10 Years
Raymond Vetrini, Jr., OFS 60 years

Glorious Day for the Region!

Brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you peace!  It is not often enough that there is joyful news to share but today is certainly one of those days.  After studying for 20 months, the first Lay Spiritual Assistants’ Class has finished and produced 5 newly certified Lay Spiritual Assistants.  They are: Kathy Agosto, OFS, Liz Bueding, OFS, Imelda Cruz, OFS, Edith Kurzweil, OFS, and Jean Peziak, OFS,
These ladies have worked hard and are to be congratulated!  Many, many thanks to the Lay Spiritual Assistants’ Team:  Justin Carisio, OFS, Marie Clardy, OFS and Cindy Louden, OFS.  Although the ‘students’ worked hard, the team worked harder!  A great effort by all involved has certainly produced fruit!

Congratulations, Mary Filipponi, OFS

Congratulations and Best Wishes to our own Mary Filipponi, OFS, of Holy Assumption fraternity on reaching her 65th anniversary of profession on February 21 and her 93rd birthday on May 1!  There is nothing holding Mary back! She’s even still driving!!

From the Heart of Your Minister – May 2019

What is perfect joy?  Hhhhmmmmmm………where have we heard that before? My dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you peace and help you find perfect joy!  I just watched what is the personification of perfect joy.  When I wake up in the mornings, I usually check my cell phone first thing to make sure I catch any messages that came during the night.  And I’ll admit, I usually take a peek at ‘what’s happenin’’ on Facebook.

I was drawn to a video from one of those “_______________’s Got Talent” shows. (Fill in the country – there are quite a few countries with their own version of this show.)  The video opened with a young man walking on stage and approaching the mic.  His face radiated such joy that I found it impossible to click on the next post without watching.  When I say this young man walked on stage, believe me, it was excruciating to watch.  He was very physically handicapped.  He was able to walk, but his legs were obviously crippled and he did not have complete hands and arms.  I’m sure that isn’t the politically correct way to say that but I’m not sure what is the right thing to call his condition.

After the moderator asked his name (Emmanuel) he also asked this young man who was with him backstage.  If there could be more joy radiating from him, it happened when he said his Mom and brother were with him.  The camera panned over to the Mom and another young man standing with her.  He was equally as handsome as his brother and equally crippled by not having complete limbs.

The moderator then asked Emmanuel how old he is and the answer was “Well, sir, I don’t rightly know”.  There was complete silence in the audience and lots of looks of confusion.  How could you not know how old you are?  Emmanuel went on to explain that he and his brother were found in war torn Iraq and taken to an orphanage.  There were no papers and certainly no birth certificates in the box with the two babies.

There wasn’t a lot of explanation on how it came about that his Mom visited the  orphanage and adopted the brothers, but that is what happened.  She is Australian and perhaps was in Iraq serving in her country’s military as a soldier or maybe a nurse.  However she arrived at the orphanage was undoubtedly orchestrated by God Himself and she chose to be the mother of these two exceptional boys.  They adore her and she couldn’t love them any more if she tried.  She has raised two wonderful boys and guided them to be beautiful (inside and out) young men.

Now, here stood Emmanuel on the stage barely able to contain his joy.  The moderator asked what Emmanuel was going to sing and he simply said “Imagine”.  The moderator put his head down and uttered ‘Oh man!’ knowing it would be very emotional watching this young man, who was thrown away at birth, singing these lyrics.

What a magnificent voice!  And of course, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. How poignant to see this person standing there singing the words:

You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one  

A woman who chose to be a mother to sons who would have a difficult life at best. Two sons who chose to squeeze every ounce of joy out of every day.  What a lesson, what an example. So the next time you think you have had a bad day, think of Emmanuel and his brother and the joy they found in just being.  And then reflect on the last line of Imagine…….I hope some day you’ll join us.  And the world will be as one.

 Asking God to bless this month of May for you,

kate

Thoughts for the Day – May 2019 by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

May 2019

O virgin mother, daughter of your Son, humble beyond all creatures and more exalted;

Predestined turning point of God’s intention;

Your merit so ennobled human nature that its divine Creator did not scorn

To make Himself the creature of His creature.

The Love that was rekindled in Your womb sends for the warmth of the eternal peace

Within whose ray this flower has come to bloom.

Here to us you are the noon and scope of Love revealed;

And among mortal men, the living fountain of eternal hope.

Lady, you are so near God’s reckonings that who seeks  grace and does not first seek you

Would have his wish fly upward without wings.

Not only does your sweet benignity flow out to all who beg,

But oftentimes your charity arrives before the pleas.

In you is pity, in you is munificence, in you the tenderest heart,

In you unites all that creation knows of excellence!

(Dante Alighieri – Paradiso – Canto XXXIII)

1

Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart…Whether on the lips of Christ or St. Francis, they are a short and succinct saying, which in concise and plain terms expresses the sum total of gospel perfection. – Nourish within yourself the sense of God=s presence by listening to his word, by prayer, by the celebration of the sacraments, by service to your brothers and sisters.

2

To encourage us he says: Learn from me, and to inspire us he adds: For I am meek and humble of heart…The words…can give encouragement: Take me as our model of discipleship and embrace my teaching. – Become heralds and witnesses to the loving and saving presence of God in today=s world.

3

The essence of true discipleship of Jesus Christ, which was singularly realized and shone in Saint Francis, consists first of all in separating oneself from the company of evil people…from evil and divisive company. – To forgive is the only way, because all revenge and all violence give rise to further revenge and violence.

4

Second, it is essential for true discipleship to free oneself from useless cares in the affairs of life.  Anyone who is anxious about useless things cannot give attention to those that are profitable. – It is certainly less difficult to forgive when one is aware that God never tires of loving and forgiving us.

5

It is impossible, or at least very difficult, to have great possessions without being preoccupied with them…Taking this to heart, Saint Francis on hearing God=s voice at once gave everything away to the extent that he did not keep back a stitch to cover his nakedness. – Who does not need God=s forgiveness?

6

This is what anyone must do who desires to be a perfect disciple of Christ…If one does not have the will to do that, one must at least keep oneself from the cares, anxieties and vanities that go with possessions; otherwise one will be a disciple not of Christ but of the devil. – Without God we cannot understand ourselves, and cannot even fulfill ourselves.

7

Third, the true disciple must rid himself of inordinate attachment to his loved ones…The Lord does not forbid us to love our father and mother…; what he does forbid is to be inordinately attached to our parents, because inordinate attachment rejects the teaching of Christ. – The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary.  In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary.

8

Fourth, the true disciple of Christ must purify his heart of all that militates against the practice of virtue. – When one goes through difficult times…nothing can replace an ardent, personal, and confident faith that is open to the Lord.

9

You will not be able to learn holiness from Christ unless you have resolved to eradicate its opposite, sinfulness, just as knowledge cannot be acquires unless satisfaction with its opposite, ignorance, has been uprooted. – – In every person we meet, even in those who openly profess not to be interested in the things of the Spirit, the need of God is real.

10

Saint Francis strove with constant signs of sorrow to root out vice and sin totally from the field of his heart. Nor did he cease to lament up to the moment when he was found worthy to hear from God: Your sins are forgiven. – It is the task of believers to bear witness to the liberating truth of the gospel, offering the light of Christ to everyone.

11

Saint Francis, then, can rightly say, Learn from me, that is, take me s our model of discipleship, for I am a true disciple of Christ…Likewise he can say to us…embrace my teaching, because by being a true disciple, he became an authentic teacher. – A sign of the power of God is the witness borne by missionaries…shining with the glory of those who sacrificed themselves to save the lives of others.

12

(St. Francis) taught what he himself had learned without error because of the truth of God=s revelation…The teaching which anyone receives from revelation cannot be other than true. – If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is…because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.

13

To arrive at knowledge without a human teacher is not for everyone, but the privilege of a few.  Though the Lord himself chose to teach Saint Paul and Saint Francis, it is his will that disciples be taught by human teachers. – In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came to Fatima to ask men and women to >stop offending God, our Lord, who is already very offended=.  It is a mother=s sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake.

14

He taught what he had learned without guile…That is to say, as ardent love brought me to learn without guile, so it moves me to share without jealousy or grudging envy what I have learned. – The Holy Spirit…takes from Christ and transmits to all, unceasingly entering into the history of the world through the heart of man.

15

He learned with such diligence that he became teacher of many disciples whom he taught to think of the Lord with uprightness and seek him with sincerity of heart, because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him. – Justice will never be fully attained unless people see in the poor person … not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment.

16

He taught what he learned without forgetting it, because he put it into practice…and because of that he was an excellent teacher … He did not acquire his knowledge by reflecting in general terms on a limited number of truths , but by individual experience over a wide range of life – The true Christian can nurture a trustful optimism, because he is certain of not walking alone.

17

Saint Francis learned…by experiencing sufferings not joys…At the outset of his conversion Saint Francis experienced derision, beatings, fetters, imprisonment, destitution, nakedness, and adversity. – In sending us Jesus, the eternal Son made man, God has drawn near to each of us.

18

He taught what he had learned without doubting because of the trustworthy signs he was given…and so like the Apostle (Paul) he went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with him and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. – In Christ (God) has become our traveling companion.

19

It pleased the Lord to endorse and confirm the teaching and Rule of St. Francis, not only by miraculous signs, but also by the marks of his own stigmata, so that no true believer could possibly call them into question on external or internal evidence. – Wherever people are praying in the world, there the Holy Spirit is, the living breath of prayer.

20

It pleased God in his goodness to affix his own seal to the Rule and teaching of Saint Francis…God revealed to him the entire Rule…Christ, having recognized the teaching of Saint Francis as his own, affixed the seal of his stigmata to his body, and thereby irrevocably confirmed his teaching. – Man cannot live without hope.

21

His teaching could not have had its lasting character, in the eyes of others, from Saint Francis himself, for he was an uneducated merchant and no learned doctor. Therefore, it was the Lord=s good pleasure to confirm it…so that none of the learned could dare despise his teaching and Rule as only the efforts of an uneducated man. –Christian hope >does not disappoint=, because it is based on the solid foundation of faith in the love of God revealed in Christ.

22

Anyone who doubts that the doctrine and Rule of Saint Francis are a more perfect way to reach eternal life, when these have been confirmed by such signs, must be exceedingly hard of heart. – Is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic Communion?

23

The whole world ought to give thanks to the Most High Creator for his sublime gift, that by the stigmata imprinted on Saint Francis, he deigned not only to reveal the way of truth, but to establish it in a wondrous way and for readily intelligible reasons. – Believers testify by their deeds that the good news is not limited to the proclamation of abstract truths, but becomes concrete in a charity that can take the form of struggling against the injustices found in the world.

24

If we raise our minds a little and consider the stigmata in terms of supernatural causes, we discover…This miracle was made necessary  under the law of divine providence, for the needs of the church in this final age and because of Saint Francis= eminent holiness. – May dialogue, solidarity, and love prevail over the many forms of pride and deceit.

25

The law of divine providence required it because God willed to make this cloth merchant a fisher of men, and the leader of those who imitate Christ perfectly. Therefore, he handed over to him his own ensign, namely, the marks of the Crucified Lord. –  Put the defense of the basic rights of the human person above every other consideration.

26

At the beginning of the Church unbelief held sway…in these latter times, he bestowed the signs of goodness and mercy on Saint Francis to enkindle love, and what are the signs of consummate love except the marks of the passion which God chose to endure for us out of measureless love? – Friendship lived with the sensitivity of the gospel is an effective way of being Christian in the world.

27

This miracle was made necessary because of Saint Francis= eminent holiness which found expression in his most fervent love f the Crucified Lord.  For the sake of that love he so weakened his eyes by tears of compassion that he lost his sight. – Friendship becomes a reconciling force…needed in our time.

28

Such is the power of love, that it transforms the lover into the Beloved.  Love of the Crucified Lord was supremely and gloriously aflame in his heart, and so the Crucified Himself, in the form of a Seraph, and angelic spirit burning with the fire of love, speared before his saintly eyes and imprinted the sacred stigmata on his body.– A productive and sure program of formation  for joy is nourished and rests on assiduous prayer, frequent Communion, rediscovery of the use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, daily and familiar contact with the Word of God, the fruitful exercise of fraternal charity and service; and then devotion to Our Lady, the model and true cause of our joy.

29

Because Saint Francis set Christ crucified as a seal upon his arm, the precious gems of the stigmata of Jesus Christ appeared visibly on his body.-  Christ…became man to reveal the eternal love of the Creator and Father and to make known the dignity of each one of us.

30

Let no one begrudge God=s generosity, but let everyone listen to and learn the teaching of Christ, indeed, of Saint Francis, that good teacher who taught others what he had learned without error, without guile, without forgetfulness, and without doubting.  –  Whenever violence is done in the name of religion…make it clear…we are not dealing with true religion. For the Almighty cannot tolerate the destruction of his own image in his children.

31

Saint Francis, therefore, can rightly say: Learn from me, to encourage others, and equally, for I am meek and humble of heart, to impress them. –  Remembering that the Son of God became man, we must become conscious of how great each one of us has become because of this mystery!  (Give thanks to Mary for saying >Yes=to the Father)

 

Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – May 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

May 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi speaks so lovingly of Mary.  He places her in that privileged position she holds as Mother of the Savior and “Virgin made Church”.  St. Francis never forgets to refer to Mary in her role as Mother of Christ and example for all the children of God.  Without being a formal theologian, St. Francis always places Mary in her proper position within the mystery and history of salvation.  Her eminence and his love are beyond question.  She is the Heavenly Mother, greatest of all mothers, whose love and protection he had always been able to see in his own mother, Donna Pica.  St. Francis saw in Mary the highest example of humanity after that of Christ.  She embodied the image of the first disciple who followed the Christ faithfully, as well as the mother who gave birth to the Master.   She is the first among all the faithful of the Church as well as the “Virgin Made Church”.  The following praise of Mary says so much of the love the Poverello had for Mary:

Hail, O Lady,

Holy Queen,

Mary, holy Mother of God,

Who are the Virgin made Church,

Chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven

Whom he consecrated with His most holy beloved Son

And with the Holy Spirit and Paraclete,

In whom there was and is

All fullness of grace and every good.

Hail His Palace!

Hail His Tabernacle!

Hail His Dwelling!

Hail His Robe!

Hail His Servant!

Hail His Mother!


What beautiful words! They are the fruit of a heart enamored of Our Lady. In these words we are reminded of the love and devotion that people of all times and at all levels of society and learning fostered for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the great Mother of God. In a few words, St. Francis reminds us of the great dignity of Mary and Her intimate relationship with the Most Holy Trinity.  We are reminded of humanity’s dignity and the depth of God’s love for what might seem to others to be a “lesser level” of creation.  Human beings are a “lesser level”, yes, because we are not God. But, humanity bears the greatest of dignities because God deigned to become one of His own creatures through the collaboration and consent of one of His creatures, Mary. Accepting and believing the impossible, the Divine became human through a human being, so that humanity could share in the Divine who became one with us. What a mystery! What a marvelous gift! And all this because Mary, one of God’s own creation, said YES!


Love for Mary has been a source of strength for so many.  Francis’ love for the mystery of the Incarnation filled his life. Mary, because of her prominent place in this great mystery, was always the love of his heart.  Love for Mary goes to the very heart of who we are as children of God redeemed in the Blood of Christ. A wonderful example of this is the person of one of the most visible and renowned men of the last century and beginning of this, Pope St. John Paul II.  When asked what motto he would assume for his pontificate, he gave the simple and deeply meaningful motto: Totus Tuus!  (Totally Yours!)   There was no need for explanations. It was quite clear. Those two words said it all: “Everything is yours! It’s all yours! I dedicate myself and all that I do and am to your loving care, that you may present me and in everything to God”.  How simple, trusting, and full of love.  Our own present Holy Father, Pope Francis, expresses a similar loving devotion and entrustment to Mary in all his major endeavors. We can note this on his immediate visits in thanksgiving to Mary after all of His pastoral visits.


Tradition has held that one of the reasons for Lucifer’s fall from grace and Heaven was his refusal to accept the Mystery of the Incarnation because it demanded reverence for a “lesser” creature. Yet, in the words of Psalm 8, the Psalmist praises the magnificence of God and prays:  O lord, our Lord, how glorious is Your Name over all the earth!  What is man that you should be mindful of him?  You have made him a little less than the angels (some translations understand the ancient word, ‘elohim’ as ‘god’) and crowned him with glory and honor. Creation is the theater of redemption.  Creation is the overflowing of God’s eternal love in time that offers all the “work of God’s hands” the privilege to know, love, and serve God in this world so that all those, created in His image and likeness, could be happy with God forever in Heaven (cfr. Old Baltimore Catechism). When God looked at all He had created, He saw it as “very good” (cfr. Genesis).  When humanity lost that beauty because of Original Sin, the Creator promised to become a creature that the beauty of the original image of God in creation might be restored. The Blood of Jesus and our collaboration with God’s grace allow our redemption in Jesus to bring about our eternal salvation.  And, Mary, Virgin made Church, Virgin image of the Mystical Body of Her own Son, becomes the one whose acceptance allowed God to begin the fulfillment of His Divine Plan of restoration. He who created us without our permission, wanted our collaboration in our salvation. 


Human beings are called to fulfill  key roles in the work of redemption. In the fullness of time, a young woman from Nazareth, Mary, heard a greeting that challenged her understanding and faith. She was offered a privileged gift that she could have refused. She didn’t though. The greeting informed her of the unique gift she had received from God Himself: Hail, full of grace. She was told: You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son.  He will be called Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore, the child to be born of you will be called holy, the Son of God. Mary accepts totally with unconditional trust not only in her own name, but in the name of all humanity.  Our Mother’s willingness to become Mother of the Christ, led her to the foot of the Cross on Calvary. It is here where Mary becomes Mother of the Christian and Mother of the Church.  The love that was rekindled in Mary’s womb begins a process that will last until the end of time.  In Mary’s motherly immaculate heart we feel the warmth of God’s peace on all who follow her example and accept her Motherhood in Christ over them.  We can see how she becomes the scope of love revealed, among all of us humans, and the living fountain of eternal hope..


Our hope is renewed in Mary. She stands before us between the Majesty of Her Son and all humanity.  She is not the source but the channel of graces.  In other words, she is the Mediatrix (channel) of all Grace. Through her we more easily approach God.  Jesus is the incarnation of almighty God in time, so that humanity, in, with, and through Jesus might know God’s love and mercy. The humanity of Jesus comes to us through Mary, and our adoption as children of God comes through the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, only-begotten Son of the Father.  It follows, therefore, that through Mary we receive Jesus, through Whom we are once again restored to our original image and likeness of the Creator. Mary’s powerful example and almighty intercession, as the first and greatest among the created children of God, continues her “yes” to the Father as she carries each one of us, created in the image of her Son, in her Immaculate Heart.


We are children of this age.  We cannot extricate ourselves from the time in which we live.  The hectic pace, technological advances, social demands, financial difficulties, international concerns, scandals in the Church, and so much more, can easily fill our minds and hearts so that there is no longer room for the spiritual child within each one of us to thrive.  Though we must be involved in life, we must not lose that inner peace and simplicity that help us to place everything in perspective.  Love for Mary and a heart open to her can help us keep focused.  We have our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, and so many other holy women and men, even of our own age, as wonderful examples. They encourage us to love Mary and discover in her a vital presence in the Church and our daily life.  A simple loving relationship with our Blessed Mother Mary brings a calm and serenity to the heart.  Thus we surrender more easily to her love and find in that total surrender an openness to God and His most Holy Will. Thus our life is full, fulfilling, and worth living. 

With every best wish for you during this season of new birth and new life, I pray we all be open to the working of the Holy Spirit, gift of the Resurrection.  May the Spirit inflame our hearts as He filled that of our Mother Mary.  Animated by this Holy Spirit, may we follow the Spirit’s inspiration and confidently respond, as Mary did, with a determined “Yes” to all the Father asks, that we may be more like Jesus.  

May God bless you, may our Heavenly Mother guide, guard, and protect you.  May our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his spiritual children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant