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From the Regional Formation Director - January 2020

SKD Formation Monthly-January 2020

January 2020 Meditation by Father Francis

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

Our Seraphic Father had left an indelible mark on most of Christian Europe before his death. Some in Assisi may have still remembered the excitement caused between Francis and his Father Pietro when Francis decided to return everything to him in the public square of Assisi before his father, the bishop of Assisi, and all the townspeople. He gave his father even the clothes on his back and from then would call only God my Father.  The people remembered the gossip – perhaps they had even been participants in it – when the wealthy Bernard, the farmer Giles, the priest Peter, and the other first followers sought to follow the ’beggar-son’ of the wealthy merchant. After all the initial criticisms, cautious doubts, interested questioning, and patient observation to see ’how it would all work out’, the people of Assisi were proud of Francis, The Universal Brother.

God Himself had set His Seal of approval on Francis two years before he passed to eternity, imprinting on his body the five wounds of the Passion of our Savior. Before his death, thousands had accepted to follow the Gospel lifestyle he proposed.  His Lesser Brothers had reached the far corners of Europe, arriving at the Middle East and North Africa, joyfully proclaiming the time of fulfillment and the kingdom of God in our midst in Jesus Christ.  Francis had set in motion a tsunami of Gospel Life that did not devastate but ennobled those it engulfed. The waves of consecrated Brothers and Laity seeking the Poverello as their guide in this evangelical endeavor, gave witness to the excitement and beauty of lives dedicated to the Lord and His people in the Name of Jesus.  Is it any wonder that our Holy Mother St. Clare would be captivated and enamored by this ’Herald of the Great King’, the messenger of God’s Peace and Blessings to all who heard and received the message!? Is it any wonder a young, spiritual, and enthusiastic girl would want to be part of something so exciting?! She would be the “other side” of the “Franciscan Coin”, the complement to the charism lived by the Lesser Brothers, for women living the consecration of the vowed Gospel life in obedience, with nothing of their own, and in chastity.

 

The story of a soul is the story of a call, a response, and a commission.  Most people think of ’vocation’ as pertaining solely to service in the Church, usually as consecrated religious and/or priests.  While this traditionally is how most people view the word ’vocation’, truthfully, it pertains to everyone.  We are all called by God to hear, listen, respond and fulfill God’s Will.  God speaks to us in varied ways.  The first official words of Jesus to the crowds was: This is the time of fulfillment (God has kept the pledge He offered the world centuries before); The kingdom of God is at hand (His presence is now among all creation in His Incarnate Word made flesh, Jesus); Repent and believe the Good News (Listen to, reflect on, and live what you have come to know of what God wants for you).  All who became our sisters and brothers in the Seraphic Family of the Gospel Life heard a call to repentance and conversion and were/are assisted in understanding and courageously responding to it by the example and words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi.

 

There comes a moment when all of us must decide whom we will follow and serve. Though we may not be “great sinners” in the common understanding of the words, we are still all called to Remember You are Dust and to Dust You will Return so that we encouraged to Repent and Believe the Gospel. The call to repentance and conversion is necessary in the life of everyone.

 

Repentance is a positive experience.  Most think that ’repentance’ involves the return of a sinner to grace; that is part of it.  But, ’repentance’ also involves the awareness a ’saint’ has that he/she must always progress in the will of God. Understanding repentance in this way, we can easily see how all our ancestors in the Franciscan Family (I,II,III Regular and Secular … and possibly even our “IV Order” affiliates) were and are attracted to the ’Penitents of Assisi’.

 

St. Francis stated When I was in sin in his Testament, and continues to speak of his vocation and that of those who sought to follow their call with him.  St. Clare speaks of the vanities of the world from which she and the Poor Ladies of San Damiano were called.  St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare of Assisi and all our sisters and brothers in the Franciscan Fraternity were/are called to a life of detachment from whatever may impede ’taking flight’ into the arms of our loving God. Our lives are simple yet penetrating examples of the effective and fulfilling power of a life lived in-with-for-through Jesus. This is how we best lead others to take up the challenge of the Gospel Life. Some have a conversion journey from bad to good. Then for all we go from good to better, until we achieve the “best” we can be before time becomes eternity.

 

We are on the road that leads to Life. Whether we believe we must go from bad to good (as the sinful woman in the Gospels), or from good to better (as the young man in the Gospels seeking ’to be good’), we must listen to and accept the call to repentance. In both cases the process involves:

 

–   Discovering something wonderful about ourselves: We are God’s beloved children. We are redeemed in the Blood of Jesus in-with-through Whom we seek forgiveness of sin and a life lived in harmony with God’s grace.

 

–   Recognizing the spiritual and natural talents specifically ours which God has entrusted to us to be used well and with which to grow in age, wisdom, and grace before God and all people.

 

–   Acquiring new vision to see beyond the limits that convenience, comfort, complacency often place before our eyes conditioning us to ’stay put’ rather than courageously and trustingly forge forward where God leads us.

 

–   Taking a new direction, especially if it means having to make a one hundred eighty degree turn in values, principles, desires, character traits that lack propriety though not sinful, spiritual practices that lack heart and are only pious actions without substance, and so forth.

 

–   Setting more worthwhile goals, since Christians are never satisfied with the ’ordinary’. We know we are called to be light and salt in the world. We sincerely strive to achieve those goals that lead to a fuller grace-filled life that affects not only our relationship with God but with ourselves and others in all we do.

 

–   Ultimately, in living a more committed Gospel Life, with our feet well grounded in life and its responsibilities and our hearts awaiting life’s fulfillment with God in the heavens.  We live rejoicing as not rejoicing, buying as not owning, using the world as not using it fully (1 Corinthians 7: 29-31).

 

The road to conversion through repentance is always exciting and leads to joy.  Aspects of the journey may be difficult and even painful. Nevertheless, confident in the hope of acquiring the end result for those who persevere, we the ’Penitents of Assisi’ are urged to continue.  Let us never forget that the Christian life is a continuous process of conversion. The repentant person who is transformed by grace rather than conformed to the age in which he/she is called to be a pilgrim and stranger, is transformed (con-verted) and thus, called to discipleship. A response to repentance leads to conversion as it invites us to discipleship that we in turn might be sent as apostles to call others in the Lord’s name to repentance-conversion-commission.

 

Jesus had more difficulties with the ’saints’ of His day, than with the ’sinners’.  The sinners needed and wanted someone who would see, hear, understand and forgive them.  The ’saints’ forgot the adage: Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Thinking themselves secure on the correct road and in the favor of God for fulfilling all the ’laws’, they forgot that stopping on the climb to holiness means sliding down to levels that make the re-climb more difficult.

 

What were the problems then with those who held back from accepting the call to repentance-conversion?  They are the same today as then and anytime. More than dealing with a sinful life, they deal with an ’un-fulfilled’ life.  This sense of ’un-fulfillment’ often stems from our own faulty human nature and sinfulness. The ’call’ urges us to go forward even beyond the limits that fear, complacency, indifference, and so on, have created in our lives. They are false securities and spiritual illusions that masquerade as the tranquility of God’s pleasure with us for having satisfied all required to do to be ’holy’ and live in God’s Presence. Spiritual lethargy stifles any desire to move forward or even to consider the need to ’go beyond’.

 

God never abuses the gift of our freedom.  The invitation to intimacy with God here and for eternity begins with an acknowledgment of our need and deep desire to be what we could and should be.

 

–   ’Could’ because God never expects the impossible from us unless He is willing to offer us all that we need to achieve what He has planted in our hearts.  It can be done!

 

–   ’Should’, because whatever God asks is really an offer we would be foolish to refuse. If God asks, Who knows us better than we ourselves, how can any reasonable person refuse what ultimately will lead to the greatest fulfillment of his/her life?

 

Recognizing our unworthiness of such a ’divine’ gift, for which we have determined to live and work, other signs manifest themselves more strongly:

 

– a dissatisfaction with oneself …  Our hearts can find no rest until they rest in God.  This profound  yearning – for something better – can be found in all people, even those who as yet do not understand the working of God and His Spirit;

 

– a longing for something better … Complacency leads to spiritual sloth and keeps us from seeing an attainable goal that goes beyond the limits we set in our lives;

 

– a sense that something is awry, something is missing … Love desires and demands to be one with the beloved.  Until we know that we are one with God Who loves and calls us, we feel an emptiness or an incompleteness.

 

The whole process is really not as long-drawn-out or difficult as it can seem.  It is not a ’heady’ problem to solve, but a ’hearty’ relationship to strengthen.  Once we open our hearts and lives to God and His Loving Will, all we have to do is surrender and ’enjoy the ride’ even when it gets rough and demanding.  It is something like a spiritual roller coaster ride. God takes us on an ’exciting ride’ when we place ourselves totally and trustingly in His hands. Let go and let God.  To make it all happen be open, honest, humble, and courageous.

 

Courage is definitely necessary.  The word itself means to let the heart take over (cor’heart … age’do, act); when heart speaks to Heart, or Heart speaks to heart, how can we do anything but let go!  Our courage demands an end to self-deception, a confrontation with the sad realties of our lives, admission of guilt for those areas we have conveniently tried to ’cover up’ in our hearts, a sincere request for forgiveness, and a firm resolve to change, that leads to conversion through repentance to transformation in God’s grace.

 

Lent begins at the end of this month. Hopefully we can celebrate this holy Season of Penance as a joy-filled time of repentance-renewal-rebirth in the Spirit.  The Lenten road may have its pains and sacrifices. As we advance on the journey, we strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, Christ, the Church, all Humanity, and even all Creation.  Having responded wholeheartedly, we are now ready to accept the ’commission’ to be ’Apostles of God’s Love, Mercy, Providence’.

 

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare, we prepare to enter a yearly experience that is never the same each year, and that has eternal effects. Our Father Francis and Mother Clare responded to the invitation to follow in the footsteps of the Savior, poor and humble. Jesus emptied Himself, though He is God, that we, through His poverty, could, poor in this world’s goods, be enriched by grace for eternal Life. What more could we ask?  Why do we hesitate to give our all?   With the example of the courage and total response of our heavenly patrons and parents to urge us on, let us, Penitents of Assisi, enter the Lenten journey with joyful hearts and ready wills.

 

May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare, together with all the Holy Ones of our Seraphic Family of Penitents of Assisi, assist us on our Lenten journey from Ashes to Palms, From Calvary to the Empty Tomb and onto the Mount of Olives where the commission is given for us to be a living Gospel to others.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A, Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Intentions for January 2020

Pope’s Intentions:

JANUARY

Promotion of World Peace

We pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote peace and justice in the world.

CIOFS Intentions:

OFS: For the national fraternities of Chad, Ivory Coast and Albania (Chapters)

Thought for the Day – January 2020 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

January 2020

 

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)

1

When Saint Francis delivered the second Rule to the Lord Pope Honorius for confirmation at Christ’s command…he said to Blessed Francis: Blessed is he who, strengthened by the grace of God, will observe this Rule happily and devotedly, for all the things written in it are holy and Catholic and perfect.  – 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. Apollonius 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

HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2020!

Monthly Meditation – January 2020 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

January 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

In this New Year of Grace

May the heavenly Child look benevolently on your soul.

May the light that flooded the minds of the devout shepherds at Bethlehem

enlighten your mind and heart.

Unless we listen to what we hear or read, words are just air vibrating and making meaningless sounds, or hollow signs and symbols. We hear the Word proclaimed at Mass; we may even have selected specific Scripture passages for some occurrence. However, reading all of Scripture meditatively – this is the key word – in a systematic manner offers the attentive reader a deeper insight into the history of salvation. Reading meditatively God’s Word offers answers to some of the basic questions in life: Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is life all about?  Why sickness, violence, death?  Why is evil so prevalent if everything comes from the hands of an all-loving God? And many more questions that leave the non-believer perplexed.

Agnostics and Atheists (if there are any real and true atheists!) need to downplay or deny God, or discredit religious belief systems to quiet their own searching hearts.  Our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You, was St. Augustine’s Prayer.  How true that is for us all! … whoever and wherever God is, He remains the Mystery, for those who do not seek Him, and the Eternal Contemporary, for those recognizing His presence in all creation. The history, counsels, prayers, prophecies, of the People of Israel and the Early Church that we find in Sacred Scripture is our story.  We are the People of God who see themselves in the anticipation of a Savior, in our encounter with Him in time, as we forge ahead in faith, hoping to fulfill the purpose for our creation, that we may receive the gift of Life in full.

The drama of our redemption begins in the Book of Genesis and finds its fulfillment in the Book of Revelation. As chief characters in the drama of humanity’s redemption, Scripture speaks to us of God’s call to life and intimacy with Him, of humanity’s disobedient fall through pride because you will be like gods (Genesis 3:5), of humanity’s recall down the centuries through prophetic people who spoke in God’s Name, and of humanity’s redemption in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the One-Who-Is-To-Come Who is the Eternal Contemporary always with us – Emmanuel.  The writings of the New Covenant (New Testament),  through the teachings of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation,  guide us to live gratefully in this world, as pilgrims and strangers (Hebrews 11:13), until we reach the gift of Life pledged us when we entered our Covenant relationship with the Father, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. God’s Word helps us to reread our faith history from the perspective of God and eternity, rather than from our limited perspective of time alone. Throughout the inspired Word we seek to re-confirm the Covenant Love established with God in our Baptism, that we re-confirm each day as we enter trustingly and unconditionally into the Father’s Will.  We are called to stir into flame the gift God has given you (2 Timothy 1: 6) so that the excitement of being a people peculiarly His own (1 Peter 2:9) may never wane. Thus, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

God’s Word nourishes and nurtures all who receive It in truth and trust. The Word of God gives joy to His People. As long as God speaks with His People, His beloved children redeemed in the Blood of Christ, He is still “in touch” with them. Scripture reminds us of God’s relentless and extravagant love for those who so often do not respond lovingly. After their return from the Babylonian exile, the People of Israel wept for joy when they heard The First Five Books of Scripture –

‘The Torah’, ‘The Law’- read to them. Scripture says that the people stood the good part of a day listening with joy to what for many years they had been deprived (cfr. Nehemiah 9).  That word was a constant reminder of God’s Loving Covenant with them and they, accepting to listen to the Word, reconfirmed their Covenant with God (cfr. Nehemiah 9).  Through good times and bad their hearts were joyful. His Word was His presence. His Word was the sign that God had not abandoned them.  Even the most ‘tragic’ stories and prophecies of Scripture always end with hope in a God Who can never be vanquished.  We are reminded of our God Whose Word will not return to Him until it has fulfilled the purpose for its being sent. (Isaiah 55:11) All the Old Testament, read in the ‘Key of Christ’ prepares us to encounter God, the Almighty One, with whom we become victors with the Victor over sin and death, Jesus the Lord, the Word enfleshed in time that we might be ‘re-created’ by grace in His eternity.

The first day of the New Year celebrates the Motherhood of Mary and the Name of Jesus.  Mary, the highest honor of our race (Judith 15:9), looks down to heaven in Her arms.  The Infant in Her arms that She sees and loves is the fulfillment of Her People’s prayers and hopes.  She says His name JESUSGod is salvation, with a love only a mother can express.  All of Scripture is fulfilled in this Infant (cfr. Luke 1:26-35).  Mary saw and loved what St. John the Evangelist wrote of Him decades later: He was in the world … but the world did not know Him … to those who did accept Him He gave the power to become the children of God … The Word became flesh and dwelled among us … from His fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace … (1 John 1: 10-16) Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the living Covenant the Father makes with all creation. In His Name and redeeming Life-Death-Resurrection we enter into our Covenant with God through the Blood of the Lamb. (cfr. Revelation 7:14-17; 12:11)

Just as in the time of Jesus, our world is filled with so much that disturbs and distresses us: war, violence, natural disasters, social-economic-political-religious unrest, sickness and disease … Death!  But, if we take time to evaluate the times in which we live, there is so much good that is happening as well: people who believe in peace and strive to live it as a witness for others; women and men who come to the aid of their less fortunate sisters and brothers often at the cost of their own time-talents-personal treasures; young people who seek and truly desire a better world and are willing to work for it at the price of their own comfort and convenience; religious leaders who have stopped anathematizing each other because of differences but are searching for better ways to appreciate the goodness God instills in each; progress being made in curing debilitating and terminal diseases; love that brings young men and women to believe in the future in marriage; infants born as a trust in the value of tomorrow; and so much more!  What about the wonderful moments that happen to each one of us personally.

The God of prophecy is a God Who sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)  All this should encourage our hearts to peace and joy, even in the midst of the challenges and outright disasters of life.  Inner peace and inner joy, fruits of loving hearts who trustingly surrender to God, give us the harmony and balance for which we yearn in such a cacophonous and unstable world.  God’s inspired Word teaches us through the written experiences of our ancestors in the faith. The reassuring message that keeps recurring at all the momentous times of our journey of faith through the millennia is: Do not be afraid! It is I! (John 6: 20)

We are called to be cheerful, to be at peace and to let God do as He pleases.  Most of the things we fear and worry about often never come to pass. Remember that rather amusing statement that says: What do you mean worry does not help!  Everything I worried about never happened!  Worry only destroys inner peace and clouds the vision of our hearts. Often we worry about matters over which we have no control or certain knowledge. We compromise our inner peace and serenity in useless fretting.  Be concerned and alert, Yes!  But worry is belief that failure is inevitable. This leads to discouragement, which is one of satan’s best tools.  Even the saints experienced sadness, pain, confusion, even fear. They too sought their ‘Simons of Cyrene’ to help them bear the ‘cross of unknowing’ by opening their heart to them. Nevertheless, ultimately, they surrendered to the love and mercy of God, trusting in His divine providence, and accepted everything. Everything was part of God’s plan they were called to fulfill; they surrendered and accepted this with joy and thanksgiving.

We get so taken up with the past and the future that we fail to graciously accept the ‘gift’, the ‘present’, God gives us to live in the Real Presence of His Eucharist that nourishes and His Word that nurtures and guides.  It is now, in the present, today, that the future opens up for each one of us.  We learn from the successes and failures of the past. We confidently look forward to a future in God’s loving-care. We live our present with simplicity and trust. We know that we can be effective instruments in God’s plan capable of changing the world. We must dispel fear and learn to trust. We must trust in God, trust in others God has placed with us, trust ourselves endowed by God with gifts of time to work, talents to use, and the treasure of life and love.

 At His birth, Magi came from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). Their search for the Word made flesh is the search of everyone for the unseen God.  When they opened the eyes of their heart and saw God in an Infant, Heaven in a stable, Dignity in lowliness, Wisdom in external absurdity, Power in impotence, Providence in need, Love in rejection … then, and only then, could they, and we as well with them, acknowledge the wondrous exchange between eternity and time, the Creator and the creature: The Invisible becomes visible … The eternal enters time and is subject to it … the Almighty becomes fragile … The Unknowable is seen … The Spirit becomes a body to love and nurture, hands to caress, and a heart beating at one with His creation. Accept the mystery, acknowledge the miracle, and marvel at the wonder of God’s extravagant love in Jesus.

Mary’s role in all this should open our hearts in such a love for Her that throughout this new year we should each day say, with Pope St. John Paul II: Totus Tuus – All Yours!   All Yours, Mother!  All Yours, Jesus through our Mother! Yes! God’s Mother and ours too!  How could we be otherwise than All Hers? God is goodness, Mary is the Mother of goodness; God is Mercy, Mary is the Mother of Mercy; God is Grace Itself, Mary is the Mother of Grace and Mediatrix of all graces; God is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life; God is our Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope.

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father, let us live this new year in the peace and joy of those who know God is with us.  Let God’s Word be our guide and His Eucharist, the Incarnate Word in Sacrament, be our viaticum through life. Open to God’s Incarnate Word and His life-giving words let us be open to one another in a bond of love and truth that strengthens the unity of our Franciscan Fraternity. As we live in the Word and seek to live His words, may we witness a hope that the world seeks.

 

Some people wait for Friday to ‘get off the merry-go-round’ of their work-week. Others look forward to Mondays filled with new opportunities and challenges that help them discover the talents and strengths God gives to meet the ‘gifts’ of a new week.  May we all look forward to a New Year of Grace, in which God offers us the occasion to ‘unwrap’ the wonderful gifts He entrusts to us that we might grow in grace and be His instruments of Peace and Blessings to all throughout the year and throughout our lives. Having begun the New Year with Mary and in Jesus’ Name, let us let our Mother’s example of silent trust and anticipation of the ‘unraveling’ of God’s will, and the Most Holy Name of Jesus, before Whom heaven, and earth, and those under the earth bend the knee (Philippians 2:10), be our standard and strong support. In His Name is the Father’s Love and the Spirit’s power. In His Name we find peace. He Is Peace and Salvation!

 

As can be seen on some Church signs: No Christ, No Peace!  KNOW CHRIST, KNOW PEACE!  Let us know the Peace of Christ 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 of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones.

My prayers are with all of you and your loved ones for a most blessed and peace-filled New Year 2020.  May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Prayer Intentions for the Month of December 2019

For the Evangelization – The future of the young: That every country determine to take the necessary measures to make the future of the very young, especially those who suffer, a priority.

OFS: For all the national fraternities in difficulty and the national fraternity of Uruguay (Chapter). Our Father…

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

December 2019

Let every creature in heaven, on earth, in the sea and in the depths,

give praise, glory, honor, and blessing to Him Who suffered so much,

Who has given and will give in the future every good, for He is our power and strength,

Who alone is good, Who alone is almighty, Who alone is omnipotent, wonderful, glorious

and Who alone is holy, worthy of praise and blessing through endless ages.

Amen.

(From the Later Admonitions and Exhortation of Saint Francis of Assisi)

 

Daily excerpts from: The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus; The Words of Brother Conrad, other sources.

1

The holy man Francis, beloved of God, had already, in his holy way of living, portrayed the life of Jesus the Redeemer, which the world had consigned to oblivion, and had set it out in his evangelical Rule, so that it should be truly evident to all the world that what he was illustrating, both in the Rule and in the life he led, was the life of Jesus the Savior himself. – While we are pilgrims on earth, we look toward heaven, our definitive homeland.

2

Jesus in his exceeding goodness and mercy knew what the evangelical Rule of Francis and the perfect transformation he had brought about would have to endure from future generation’s persecutions, unfortunate expositions, and infringement … Within a short time after the Rule’s institution, He would furnish the seal of His high priesthood both the life of Francis and the established Rule, through a miracle unheard of in previous ages …  – Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate … there the grace of mercy is needed … to bring about peace.

3

Christ’s standard-bearer was Francis as he carried (the wounds of the Savior) on his sacred body for two years.  Defying nature, he lived with his side opened; blood flowed from it; a memorial of blood of the living God, shed for us.  Breathtaking are these signs … – For Christians, being the light of the world means spreading everywhere the light that comes from on high.

4

He Himself shaped Francis into the seal of His pleasing perfection … He said … ’I have chosen you, because by grace alone, I made you the angel of the sixth seal, which I have chosen from all the sons of grace for its purpose: for I choose the weak to confound the strong’. – The truth about God is not abolished because it is told in human language…because the one who speaks and acts is the Son of God made flesh.

5

He stamped the signs of His passion on the flesh of Francis, so that human negligence, seeking reasons to flee the footprints of Christ, may not say: As we did not see the signs, so this is no prophecy. … The sign on the flesh of Francis will be evidence that cannot be doubted. – If humanity loses the meaning of God, it will close itself to the future and inevitably lose the perspective of its pilgrim journey in time.

6

The Tau of divine protection was first signed on Francis.  But it is also his office to sign with the Tau, on the foreheads of the men who are grieving and mourning over the Rule as it is tread upon and transgressed, putting a sign on them that they may not perish … – Why birth, why death? Why sacrifice, why suffering? Christianity offers a satisfying answer … Christ … He is the true meaning of our present, because he is our sure future.

7

Thus they may not doubt that, just as the strength of Jesus maintained the natural life of Francis in that wounded body by supernatural power, so, despite the natural defects of our flesh, the strength of Jesus protects them in the literal observance of the most holy Rule’s rigor, upon which the vigor of the Blood of the Crucified so openly flowed. – The son of God embraced human time with his humanity to guide man through all measures of this time towards eternity.

8

I beg You Lord, let the glowing and honey-sweet force of Your love draw my mind away from all things that are under heaven, that I may die for love of the love of You, who thought it a worthy thing to die for love of the love of me. – The Immaculate Conception is a pledge of salvation for every human creature.

9

Therefore, the sons who have been fashioned in the likeness of their father, by the fire of his seraphic vision, must understand that their fashioning has to take place in there soul and be carried out by the glowing crucifixion of Jesus. – Let us remain alert, to be ready to meet the Savior who comes to reveal to us the face of the heavenly Father.

10

They will be living like A little Christ, smaller figures of Jesus, as it were, perceiving themselves in their mortal flesh transformed into Christ. – Contemplation of nature reveals not only the Creator, but also the human being’s role in the world that he created.

11

Jesus, the perfection of our whole created world, established in His own life, and in that of His Mother most amiable, the gospel life in all its fullness, as though upon the holy mountain and on the unshakable foundation. – By virtue of her unique position, Mary is our steadfast support in the arduous struggle. Faith reveals the greatness of our dignity as creatures created in God’s image.

12

Hence the Rule of gospel living is founded in Christ Jesus and in His most holy Mother and, by analogy, Christ passed this on, His own perfection, to the Apostles with the command that they observe it. – The door of life is undoubtedly demanding.  Those who want to pass through it must make themselves small so that Christ can grow.

13

It is not alone an evangelical Rule, having been established in and by Christ, but also an apostolic Rule, for it was laid down for the Apostles by Christ Jesus, and they kept it till their deaths. – Leave behind all that is superfluous and marginal to make more room for Christ.

14

Christ did not impose on the apostles anything except what he said to everyone, that they should take up the cross. Therefore Francis formed hi habit according to the teaching of the Crucified in the form of a cross, that a crucified mind might fight under a crucified tunic. – Let us…open our eyes to daily life, to its joys and worries, calling on God to be close to us to guide us with his words that ensure serenity and grace.

15

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Francis opened the book of the Gospel.  He opened it three times and came upon: perfect expropriation and the perfect abnegation of self, crucifixion of the life of the flesh, and the perfect following of Jesus. –  Watch this admonition that Jesus addresses to us is the basic message of the Advent season.

16

Francis was warned by a revelation from God.  In a vision he saw crumbs of bread, which he made into a host. And some received worthily, and some refused and were struck with leprosy. – Life is a long road on which each human being struggles to find a safe and stable dwelling place.

17

A voice from heaven (said): Francis, the crumbs of last night are the words of the Gospel: the host is the Rule and the leprosy is wickedness.  O how sadly we see the vision proven true! –  Our true and definitive home is heaven.

18

The rule and life of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  At the end, as it was confirmed for Saint Francis, it concludes: … so that we may observe poverty, humility, and the holy gospel of God, as we have firmly promised. – (Christ) visits us through the people and events of daily life.

19

It is clear that the blessed Francis intended to oblige himself and his whole Order to those same things to which he could understand that Christ obliged His apostles. – The loss of contact with God’s wise design is the deepest root of modern man’s confusion.

20

Jesus and the Holy Spirit made it clear by laying down spotless, purity, extreme poverty, complete obedience, and perfect denial of oneself, under firm and stable vow, as the foundation of all Gospel perfection. – By living as if God did not exist, man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of his own being.

21

Jesus who is all goodness (responded to Francis who had been confronted by the ministers of Italy to ’soften’ the Rule): Francis, I am Jesus and I am speaking to you from heaven.  The Rule is my doing, and you have put nothing of your own in it … – The promise of peace made at Bethlehem will become a reality when the dignity and the rights of human beings made in the image of God are acknowledged and respected.

22

(The voice continued): I am willing to give the help which I recognize is needed, as I recognize human frailty too.  And taking these into consideration, I know that the Rule can very well be kept, and therefore I want it to be observed exactly as it is written, without any gloss. Those who are not happy with it, let them be gone, for I have no wish to make any changes in it. – Advent is a season of rejoicing, to know that God is …close…compassionate…merciful…who follows us lovingly with respect for our freedom.

23

Through those he spoke to from heaven Jesus was speaking to all … for the Holy Spirit’s influence is poured out generously upon (the Rule) in a broad stream of charity, and it is only through that charity that a Gospel Rule can be resolutely adopted, fruitfully professed, and observed as sacrosanct. – Filling people’s hands is doing too little.  It is also a question of satisfying their hearts’ desires…

24

Christ Jesus is the eternal wisdom of the Father. He wanted His Spirit of Life renewed in the Church to lead in the exalted saint, the confessor Francis, through His paths. – The truth that Christ reveals tells us that we must support one another and work together with others…

25

He sat down among (his brothers) and set about encouraging them in compelling words to preserve their poverty and lower-class existence, and alerting them to the flood of back-sliding that would spring up at a future time. – Every day is Christmas in the hearts of Christians.  Every day we are called to proclaim the message of Bethlehem, to the world. The Eternal Word, God from God, Light from Light, has become flesh and has made his dwelling among us.

26

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. – Christ is at hand! He comes by virtue of the Holy Spirit to announce the Good News; he comes to cure and set free. Let us therefore rejoice and exult!

27

(Francis said to the brothers): 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 Christian people.  And so the Lord Jesus Christ was kind enough to appear to me … – Mere technological progress does not satisfy man’s inner yearning for truth and communion.

28

(Jesus said to Francis): Francis, I am pleased that you beg for the peace of my people, but do this for me: that your brothers remain in the state in which I have placed them.  And if in the whole world there remain no others, I promise you that for love of you and your brothers I will not allow another trial to come, except at the end of the world … – Deeper spiritual needs have to be met if individuals, families, and society itself are not to fall into a serious crisis of values.

29

The Lord forgave blessed Francis every debt down to the last penny at the beginning of his conversion, he was assured of eternal life at the time the stigmata were impressed in his hands and feet and side.  The remission of all his sins took place at Saint Mary of the Angels; the assurance of eternal life at San Damiano. – In this is love: not we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as an expiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)

30

Blessed Francis wanted the brothers to enter through the door of humility, and so both the wise and the uneducated should rise from strength to strength in humility, until the Lord inspired the prelates of the Order to exalt them with the grace of God and the virtue of humility, as long as they have first the grace of God and virtues, so they might teach others as much by right behavior as by teaching about the virtues and spiritual power, and produce a harvest of souls. – Look to God who in the mystery of Christmas show his graciousness to human beings , in order that appreciating divine goodness, they may continuously find their true dignity and salvation.

31

Blessed Francis was once at prayer at Saint Mary of the Angels saying: Lord, spare your people.  Christ appeared to him and said: I gladly grant you that, for it is of great value to me as well.  But please do this for me, that your Order stay with me … – As this year draws to a close let us invoke the Lord’s forgiveness for the shortcomings that have marked our personal and community life.  Only in this way can our thanksgiving for the many benefits we have received be true and sincere.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

GOD’S BLESSINGS ON EVERYONE!

MAY IT BE A YEAR FILLED WITH GOD’S

PEACE AND BLESSINGS

 

Monthly Meditation December 2019 by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

 

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

December 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

At the beginning of the Liturgical Year for the First Sunday of Advent, the Church prays in the Liturgy of the Hours: Proclaim the good news among the nations: our God will come to save us … Come let us worship the Lord, the King Who is to come. The season is filled with expressions of joyful expectation. The whole world waits for an imminent arrival of one who is to fulfill the hopes and desires of all people.

Advent truly places us into that ’heart-set’ of anticipation that brings an inner joy to all who allow themselves to ’live’ the liturgy they celebrate each Sunday, and even weekdays for those who make the effort. Christmas and what follows throughout the Liturgical Year offer us the opportunity to enter the mystery of Christ among us. We listen, as the first disciples, to learn, and then we are sent, as the first apostles, to proclaim.  Learning and proclaiming, reflecting and sharing, entering and inviting … the first experience is for ’me’ and the result blossoms into an overflow of graces and gifts for others to share them as I have come to receive them.  They, in turn, learn-reflect-enter so that they also might proclaim-share-invite.  The journey, the ’process’, begins with the Advent-Christmas Season. We wait for the Master so that we might once again walk in His footsteps and experience the power of His love.  Jesus is the ’Great Expected One’ Who is forever the ’Real Presence’ among us.

The liturgical seasons help to enhance our spiritual and intellectual journey through life.  We deepen our faith and relationship with God as we enrich our knowledge of all He has revealed to us. The seasonal celebrations help us to focus on the mysteries of our Faith. Nevertheless, with all this, there is no need to wait for seasons and days to be with the Lord-Among-Us (Emmanuel).  The Eucharistic Presence – the Real Presence, the Presence of the Prisoner of the Tabernacle – offers us all we could ever desire. The Eucharist is our pledge of future glory.  We become one with Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and lives feel His love in the mystery of the Faith that believes and the Hope that anticipates with certitude, until we see Him face to face in the fullness of His Love and Glory.  The King Who is to come already lives among us and within us!  Give Him the little you have and are. Surrender to His transforming love that never offends our freedom. Let His loving-grace perform the transforming miracle that makes us more and more like Him.  All this in-with-through the Eucharist!  All we have to do is take the time to be with Him!

The Eucharist is a mystery and a miracle. Through the power of the Holy Spirit created ’things’ are transformed into the reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ. Jesus is ’enfleshed’ in our nature each time the Eucharist is celebrated and the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Participating in the Eucharist we accept and follow the example of our Mother Mary, to Whom we were given as children, and She to us as Mother, at the foot of the Cross of Jesus.  The ’yes’ with which She responded to the Angel Gabriel in accepting the Father’s Will to allow the Incarnation to happen, is the same ’yes’ we offer at each Mass.  Our ’yes’ allows an ’incarnation’ to take place that cannot be seen with the eyes of the body, but whose effects are made visible in those who live the Jesus they celebrate and receive. Through the hands of the priest we offer ourselves with the bread and wine.  We are spiritually ’consecrated’ in the One Who is the Eucharist and Who lives with us, and abides within us.

The town of Bethlehem we ’reconstruct’ with our creches, represent on our Christmas Cards, indicate as the birthplace of the Son of God, is a constant reminder of Jesus the Christ our True Eucharist.  The name of the town means ’House of Bread’. In this ’house’ the world was given the ’Bread of Life’. Each Tabernacle and the heart of each one who receives Him worthily are a Bethlehem where The Bread of Life dwells, nourishing us for life’s journey.

Our Seraphic Father writes in his Testament: I see nothing corporally of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood … I want to have these most holy mysteries honored and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places. The life of Saint Francis of Assisi, because he lived the Gospel ’without gloss’, was a life lived immersed in the reality of the presence of Jesus.  Thus, the Real Presence of the Sacramental Lord in the Eucharist was his strength and life.  The mystery of the Savior, Son of the Most High God, Who became one with humanity in time at Bethlehem and for all time in the Eucharist was a mystery St. Francis sought to live and proclaim throughout his life.  Greccio was but a visible sign of the deep love for the mystery of the Incarnation repeated mystically at each Eucharist.  The Christ he loved so much was the Christ Whose living image he became for all to see on Mount La Verna.

The night of Greccio was lighted with candles, embellished with hymns, studded with people from all walks of life who followed the Poverello to ’see’ the poverty of the One Who emptied Himself of His divinity that He might redeem our humanity and rekindle a world grown indifferent to His love.  He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.  But to those who did receive Him, He gave power to become the children of God ... (John 1:11-12) Those who experienced the wonderful simplicity and childlike representation of Bethlehem’s ’welcome’ into our world, were filled with emotions that made that night so memorable, that for centuries Christians of many religious denominations continue the practice St. Francis initiated at Greccio.   The historical Christ, the Bread of Angels and Bread of men, born in Bethlehem of Judah, born in ’the House of Bread’ centuries before, seemed to come alive in the arms of St. Francis as he re-confirmed the total emptying of himself together with all who accepted the challenge of the Gospel Life.  Greccio was but another expression of the Poverello’s response to the Cross of San Damiano.

The world seemed to stop that night.  Time was transported back twelve hundred years. Hearts were catapulted into thoughts of a loving God Who stopped at nothing to get our attention and to make us one with Him. The words St. Francis spoke and the Gospel he sang as Deacon at the Mass celebrated at Greccio came from a heart in love with God. That night, Love was contagious.  If only it could have remained that way forever!  To stay there would have been selfish. We must bring the joy we know and radiate it to others. With Mary, our Blessed Mother, Virgin Made Church, Francis offered his own ’yes’ that the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and the represented presence of the Incarnation-Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem in Greccio, would become ingrained in the hearts of all. Prayerfully praising the tremendous gift of the Eucharist, our Seraphic Father simply and magnificently offers a meditation on the wonderful exchange of the humanity and the divinity in Jesus, awesomely present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  The beauty of the prayer deserves to be read:

O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!

That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself

that for our salvation He hides Himself under the little form of bread!

Look, brothers, at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before Him!

Humble yourselves, as well, that you may be exalted by Him.

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves

so that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.

We can see how intimately the Eucharist we possess today and everyday helps us reflect on the wonderful mysteries we celebrate at the beginning of the Church Year.  We talk about proclaiming God Who comes to save us.  The Eucharist is the God Who is already among us with the saving power of that Great Sacrifice offered once-for-all that those who look upon the one whom they pierced may be saved.  We invite everyone saying, Come, Let us adore the King Who is to come. We adore Him hidden in the humility of the small Host and behind the closed doors of the Tabernacle. What our senses cannot perceive, our hearts know undoubtedly that …

His eyes see the depths of the soul,

His ears hear the yearnings of the heart,

His feet approach all who seek Him in truth,

His hands embrace the sincerely penitent and those in need,

His lips speak in the silence of our being,

His heart is open to welcome all into the Father’s loving embrace.

 

The simplicity of the Child of Bethlehem; the trusting faith of Mary and Joseph regarding all they were told about the Child; the poverty of the half-heartedly lent dwelling because there was no place for them at the inn; the confusion of the shepherds who had to go see this thing that has taken place that the Lord has made known to us; the probing curiosity of the Magi who said Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do Him homage; the intrigue of Herod who was greatly troubled at the news and with him all of Jerusalem; the heavenly joy of the angels who came to proclaim good news of great joy that will be for all people as they sang Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace … speak to us of the One Who was born to die so that we could be born to live forever.

His earthly life is repeated over the centuries at many times in various ways in the awesome ’Gift’ of the Eucharist.  The angels proclaim His glory and adore His Presence. And, humanity responds as did the people at Jesus’ time! … joy, indifference, confusion, even open animosity. The history of Bethlehem and the continued ’Presence’ in the Eucharist speak to each one of us. We cannot separate the Crib from the Cross.  The wood of the manger that embraced the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem was only a foreshadowing of the wood of the Cross that would lift Him up on Calvary.  Hidden Glory! … to be revealed to humble searching hearts in the mystery of the sacraments until the fullness of His Glory is revealed at the end of time. Only searching humble hearts find and recognize Him.

St. Francis loved the feast of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem was a reality that St. Francis lived every moment of his grace-filled life. In the Eucharist he saw Jesus not born two thousand years ago, but vibrantly alive. He gazed upon the mystery of the Incarnation at each Eucharist.  The whole story of the Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, and the time that leads up to that moment, is an opportunity for us to follow the example of our Seraphic Father and enter into the song of creation once again as we become players in the great symphony of life that God has written.

As spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, have we allowed the precious Body and Blood of the Savior to flow through and take over every fiber of our being? Have we allowed the Lord to be ’enfleshed’ in our lives so that each Christmas we celebrate the Savior present and alive within and among us, and not just a memory of some past event in time? Do we say with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, and with Jesus, Your Will and not mine be done? Do we strive each day, as Franciscans, to grow into a fresh and vibrant presence of Jesus Who makes Himself seen and known through us? Do we recognize our own incompleteness, vulnerability, and susceptibility so that we can share, support and encourage one another? Are we as enthused about being Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi and Sisters and Brothers in the Franciscan Family and all that entails (fidelity to the Gospel Life, Church, Rule, Constitutions, one in mind and heart with the Fraternity, and so forth), as children are when Christmas comes around? Do we see the gift that we are to each other when we allow the spirit of our Seraphic Father to lead us closer to Jesus and Mary?

With these questions that are a frequent, if not daily, reminder for us all, be assured that you and your loved ones will be remembered in a special way in all the Masses I celebrate during this holy season. May God bless you; Our Lady and Good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and she whom we can feel to be our “Mother” St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

In the Name of Jesus I wish all of you a Spirit-filled Advent and a Holy and Happy Christmas Season. And as you enter the new calendar year with all its expectations and uncertainties, may your hopes be fulfilled in a world renewed in Jesus and filled with His Spirit. 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!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

From the Regional Formation Director – November, 2019

SKD Formation Monthly-November 2019

State of the Region – 2019

State of the Region – Annual Meeting 2019

It’s been a busy, busy year and there is a lot to report on.  First let’s talk about the changes at the Regional Level. Ted and Gretchen Bienkowski have resigned their positions on the Regional Council for personal reasons.   I am very, very saddened at this but I understand that life happens and we need to roll with it.  I would like to publicly thank Ted and Gretchen for everything they have done in the last 3 ½ years.  They traveled many miles with me for visitations, elections and special visits with fraternities.  You all know they live about 5 miles past God’s country and if we needed to be someplace early, they would come the night before and book a room at their own expense. We will certainly miss you and wish you well.

Cindy Louden who held the position of Councillor at Large has been appointed the Regional Vice Minister and there was a vote to accept by the Regional Council..  That leaves both positions of Coucillor at large open and the Regional Council will convene next week to discuss candidates for the positions.

The Venerable Matt Talbot Emerging Fraternity is as “emerged” as it needs to be.  The speed bump keeping them from Canonical Establishment is getting the altius moderamen secured.  When the group first came into being, they were sponsored by St. John the Evangelist fraternity who, at that time, was bonded to the TORs.  As you know, the TORs no longer have a presence in this area and the St. Augustine Capuchins, do.  In order to go forward with the Canonical Establishment of Matt Talbot, we are in negotiations with the St. Augustine Caps to take on their altius moderamen.  The St. Augustine Caps recently elected a new Provincial, Father Tom Betz, and he is getting up to speed on every aspect of that job, not just what we are asking.  In the meantime, I would like to congratulate Ken Johnston, minister of the Venerable Matt Talbot group for working so hard to get the group to where it is today.

Another great addition to the Region in the last year has been the Padre Pio Fraternity.  They did not have to go through being a forming group and then an emerging fraternity because they started with enough professed people to form a Council.  They are resurrecting the charter of the Cathedral fraternity which closed some years ago.  The charter remains active for 100 years after the last member dies.  The Padre Pio fraternity meets at the Padre Pio Prayer Center so we are working on getting them bonded to the St Augustine Caps who run the prayer center.  They fraternity welcomed 3 new members at a Profession last Monday night.  Carolyn Murray is the Minister at Padre Pio.

Queen of Peace fraternity has come to the conclusion that they must close.  There are not enough folks left to make a fraternity.  They certainly tried hard!  St. Peter fraternity in Beverly, NJ, is also closing.  Their numbers have dwindled as well and the remaining members are looking at local fraternities to transfer to.

That brings us to the difficulty of getting Spiritual Assistants when half of our fraternities are without one now. As I announced in May, the Lay Spiritual Assistant program concluded with 5 women being certified as Lay Spiritual Assistants.  So far, we have been able to temporarily assign Liz Bueding as Spiritual Assistant to the Venerable Matt Talbot fraternity.  However, it wouldn’t be Franciscan without miles of paperwork and that hurry up and wait M.O. we all know and love!  The Provincial of the Order to which the fraternity is bonded must agree to the assigning of a Lay Spiritual Assistant.  We are all but finished on this one.  We are hoping to utilize a few more of our Lay Spiritual Assistants in the near future.  We don’t have any plans at the moment to start another class.  However, if there is enough interest, we can certainly talk about it.  If anyone is interested in going through the program and becoming a Lay Spiritual Assistant, please let me know.  Just remember, we will not assign a Lay Spiritual Assistant to his or her own fraternity.

One of our new initiatives in this last year came as a suggestion from Vince Iezzi.  He suggested sending a card to members who are celebrating a significant anniversary of their profession.  That would be one that is divisible by 5.  Ted Bienkowski took on the task and has done a stellar job in sending the cards for anniversaries but also expanded it to sending cards for serious illnesses and a sympathy card to the families of a member who has passed and also sending a card to a member who has lost a family member.  We took it a step even further by sending cards to the Ordinaries i.e, the Bishops of the dioceses that are covered by our Region.  We celebrate the anniversary of their Ordination, their birthday and the date of their being named a Bishop.  To date, 120 cards have been sent. Thirteen of them have come back as undeliverable but several of those were resent with an updated address.  Three thank you notes have been received in response to the cards being sent at the death of a loved one.  All in all, this has been a hugely successful effort and Ted is the reason for its success.  I have also sent each of the Bishops a report of the fraternities within their diocese outlining where and when those fraternities meet and how to reach the minister.  I also have taken the list of apostolates from your annual reports and included them in the report to the Bishops so they know what good things you are doing!  Several bishops answered that they were happy to get this information.

In addition to the regular elections and visitations, I have made a concerted effort to get out to the fraternities to just spend time with them.  Some folks are suspicious of my motives………..Why is she here???………. but for the most part, these “friendly” visits are well received.  I have been to several Professions and anniversaries of Fraternities.  If you invite her….she will come.  Although it keeps me rocking and rolling most weekends, it’s good to get out and spend time with folks without an official reason.

I’d like to switch gears and talk about some of the things that have come out of the NAFRA Chapter that was just held in Corpus Christi.  There is a new Transfer form.  It’s now FOUR pages long.  I will mail a copy out to each minister.  We have lost people in the shuffle with using the old form and hopefully this will help keep better records for all of us.

One of the things that is discussed every year is the Duns Scotus Fund. Below are my notes from the NAFRA Chapter.

Duns Scotus Fund

  • John the Baptist Province sold property and they set up a trust fund for Seculars. The funds are to be used for formation and the Friars had “oversight” of the account. The oversight was to last 20 years.
  • The 20 years are over and we take over the account in its entirety.
  • The fund will be known as Duns Scotus Formation Fund
  • Local requests should be presented to Regional before going to National
  • Individuals can apply as well as fraternities
  • After the Regional Council has seen the proposal, the requester calls or contacts one of the people on the Duns Scotus board to see if the proposal has been done correctly and if the idea will pass
  • Proposal then goes to the Board and an answer is given within two weeks
  • One of the purposes listed for applying for these funds is Leadership Training. I am proposing that we apply for our Council Boot Camp workshops (copying expenses, stipends for church hall or meeting room etc)

 

The Fair Share, as you have heard, is not being increased this year.  We are the lowest Region in the Nation for Fair Share.  One of the Regions has a Fair Share of $75 per person!

And now to that dreaded subject………..the Annual Report.  I will be sending out this year’s report within the next week.  Please use the report that I send and not an older version that you might have on your computer.  There will be NO demographic information collected this year.  The drop dead deadline is February 1.  I must have all the information consolidated and to National by March 1.  This isn’t a “would you like to do an Annual Report request”.  This is we ALL must do one. No one out there considerers it more of a pain in the neck than I do.

What is coming in the next year………

We would like to take a look at the Districts and even them out some.  During the Memorial Service, you may have noticed that when I called PA Central, there were many more people coming up.  The locations and numbers of fraternities have changed since these borders were drawn.

We are also actively preparing for a “Boot Camp” for Councillors workshop.  Our March weekend in Easton is March 27 to 29 and we will be working on each of the positions of Council, what the duties are and putting together a small handbook of See Spot Run directions and resources.  It isn’t restricted to current Council members but is open to everyone especially those who think they might be willing to run for a position the next time their fraternity has elections.  Once we have the weekend workshop, we will pare it down to a one day version and take the show on the road for all those who were not able to attend the Easton weekend.  All Council members are being asked to attend one of the workshops which will be held at different locations throughout the Region.  Stay tuned for more details on that.

Now……..are there any questions that you would like to ask?

Before we end with our closing prayer, I would like to especially acknowledge the Carisios who were sitting here waiting for me yesterday morning to help me set up the room.  Most especially to Theresa who went through the room with the big mop, checked the bath rooms for toilet paper, and volunteered to bring water and a fruit tray.  God bless you both!

And most especially to Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap who so graciously allowed us to meet here!