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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.

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Fr. Francis Daily Reflections – October, 2017

October 2017

Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God,

grant to us wretches, by your will, to do what we know you wish,

and ever to wish what pleases you,

in order that, purified in soul, lighted up within,

and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit,

we may follow the footsteps of your Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ,

and reach you, Most High, by your grace alone.

For you live and reign and are glorified,

in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, Almighty God

for ever and ever.

Amen.

(Letter to the Chapter)

 

 

The daily Franciscan verses are taken from A letter on the Passing of Saint Francis attributed to Elias of Assisi.

Thoughts for each day are taken from various sources

 

1

To Gregory, his beloved brother in Christ, the minister of the brothers who are in France, together with all his brothers and ours, Brother Elias, a sinner, sends greetings. Before I begin to write, I sigh, and rightly so – Intelligence may drive machines, but it is the heart that beats with life!

2

My groans gush forth like waters in a flood.  For what I feared has overtaken me and has overtaken you.  And what I dreaded has happened to me and to you. – Allow God to enter your life: Then you will brighten with divine light.

3

Our consoler has gone away from us and he who carried us in his arms like lambs has gone on a journey to a far away country. – Without eternal life, temporal existence, however rich, however highly developed in all aspects, in the end brings man nothing other than the ineluctable necessity of death.

4

He who was beloved by God and of man, who taught Jacob the law of life and of discipline, and gave to Israel a covenant of peace has been received into the most resplendent dwellings. – Like Francis of Assisi, preach peace and repentance, promote justice, defend the rights of the human person, raise your voice against exploitation and violence, and attentively care for all the wounds that make humanity groan today.

5

We would rejoice on his account, yet for our own part we must mourn, since in his absence darkness surrounds us and the shadow of death covers us. – Especially through His lifestyle and through His actions, Jesus revealed that love is  present in the world in which we live.

6

It is a loss for all, yet it is a trial singularly my own, for he has left me in the midst of darkness, surrounded by many anxieties and pressed down by countless afflictions. – Love is endlessly inventive. These words of St. Vincent (de Paul) marvelously express this reality in the church.

7

For this reason I implore you.  Mourn with me, brothers, for I am in great sorrow and, with you, in pain.  For we are orphans without our father and bereaved of the light of our eyes.- The rosary brings us back again and again to the most important scenes of Christ’s life, almost as if to let us ‘breathe’ His mystery. The rosary is the privileged path to contemplation.  It is Mary’s way.

8

In truth, in very truth, the presence of our brother and father Francis was a light, not only for us who were near, but even for those who were far from us in calling and in life. – The sovereign divine initiative does not dispense man from the task of responding to it.

9

He was a light shed by the true light to give light to those who were in darkness and sitting in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. – Divine love surrounds and penetrates every human venture.

10

He did this because the true Daystar from on high shone upon his heart and enkindled his will with the fire of His love. – Let the angels guide you, so that you will faithfully put God’s commandments intro practice in your life.

11

By preaching the kingdom of God and turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the rebellious to the wisdom of the just, he prepared for the Lord a new people in the world.- The Eucharistic celebration reunites all Christians … It gathers them all in the equal dignity of brothers and sisters of Christ and children of the Father.

12

His name reached distant coasts and all lands were in awe at his marvelous deeds.  For this reason, sons and brothers, do not mourn beyond measure. – In Jesus’s cross all suffering acquires the possibility of meaning; sickness does not cease to be a trial, but it is illuminated by hope.

13

God, the father of orphans, will give us comfort by his holy consolation.  And, if you weep, brothers, weep for yourselves and not for him.- Only Jesus knows what is in your hearts and your deepest desires.

14

For ‘in the midst of life, we are caught in death’, while he has passed from death to life. – Only Jesus, who has loved you to the end, can fulfill your aspirations.

15

Rejoice, for, like Jacob, he blessed all his sons before he was taken from us and forgave them all the faults which any one of us might have committed, or even thought of committing, against him. – No one apart from Christ can give you true happiness.

16

And now, after telling you these things, I announce to you a great joy and the news of a miracle.  Such a sign that has never been heard of from the dawn of time except in the Son of God, who is Christ the Lord. – The life of grace which we carry within us, is the life of the risen Christ.

17

Not long before his death, our brother and father appeared crucified, bearing in his body the five wounds which are truly the marks of Christ. – The gospel of hope … offers confidence, serenity, and direction in place of the hopelessness which inevitably spawns fear, hostility, and violence in the hearts of individuals and in society as a whole.

18

His hands and feet had, as it were, the openings of the nails and were pierced front and back revealing the scars and showing the nails’ blackness. – The fervent prayer of Jesus in the Upper Room continues to remind Christian communities that unity is a gift to welcome and develop in an ever deeper way.

19

His side, moreover, seemed opened by a lance and often emitted blood. – Humanity will be more easily attracted by Christ and will choose Him if they are touched by the witness of Christian faith and charity.

20

As long as his spirit lived in the body, there was no beauty in him for his appearance was that of a man despised.  No part of his body was without suffering.- God has endowed human beings with the capacity to love.

21

By reason of the contraction of his sinews, his limbs were stiff, much like those of a dead man.  But after his death, his appearance was one of great beauty gleaming with a dazzling whiteness and giving joy to all who looked upon him.- It is through love that we fulfill our destiny to act in the likeness of God.

22

His limbs, which had been rigid, became marvelously soft and pliable, so that they would be turned this way and that, like those of a young child. – To believe in Jesus is to accept what He says, even when it runs contrary to what others are saying.

23

Therefore, brothers, bless the God of heaven and praise Him before all, for He has shown His mercy to us.  Hold fast the memory of our father and brother, Francis, to the praise and glory of Him Who made him so great among people and gave him glory in the sight of angels. – To believe in Jesus … means rejecting the lure of sin, however attractive it may be, in order to set out on the difficult path of the gospel virtues.

24

Pray for him as he begged us, and pray to him that God may make us share with him in his holy grace. Amen. – The family’s future is entrusted first of all to each person’s conscience and responsible commitment, and to the convictions and values that are alive within us.

25

On the fourth day before the nones of October, the Lord’s day, at the first hour of the preceding night, our father and brothers went to Christ. – We must always turn with trustful supplication to Him who can change human hearts and minds.

26

I am sure, dearest brothers, that when this letter reaches you, you will follow the footprints of the people of Israel as they mourned the loss of their great leaders, Moses and Aaron. – The splendor of Christ’s glory is reflected in the face of every human being.

27

Let us,  by all means, give way to tears for we are deprived of so great a father.  Indeed, it is in keeping with our love for him that we rejoice with Francis. Still, it is right to mourn him! – With courage and compassion, Christians must be ever attentive to the cry of the poor, serving the Lord who is present in their suffering.

28

It belongs to us to rejoice with Francis, for he has not died but gone to the fair in heaven, taking with him a bag of mercy and will not return until the full moon. At the same time it is right for us to weep for Francis. – True reconciliation between divided and hostile men is possible only when they allow themselves to be reconciled with God.

29

He who came and went among us, as did Aaron, who brought forth from his storehouse both the new and the old and comforted us in all our afflictions, has been taken from our midst.  Now we are like orphans without a father. – Authentic brotherly love is founded on love for God, who is the common Father of all.

30

Yet, because it is written, ‘the poor depend on you and you are the helper of orphans’ all of you, dearest brothers, must earnestly pray that, though this earthen jar has been broken in the valley of Adam’s children, the Most High Potter will deign to repair and restore another of similar honor, who will rule over the multitude of our race and go before us into battle like a true Maccabee. – Authentic religious experience is … a mature and noble attitude of acceptance of God, which in turn gives meaning to life and implies a responsibility to work for a better world.

31

And, because it is not useless to pray for the dead, pray to the Lord for his soul. – The degree of a people’s civilization is measured by the extent of their respect for… the value of life.

 

Fr. Francis Reflections for October, 2017

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

October 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

 

For centuries the Franciscan Family has praised the goodness of God for blessing the world with St. Francis of Assisi and for calling us to follow his example in living the Gospel life. The impact St. Francis continues to have on our world has continued for more than eight centuries.  Since the time of St. Francis himself, the I, II, III, and Secular Franciscan Orders strive to foster a spirit of peace and goodness, and universal brotherhood. The spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our holy Mother St. Clare have affected the universal Church, as well as societies and cultures in every corner of the world.  They have influenced governments and help transform the thoughts of multitudes over the years.  They have challenged people to open their hearts and minds to the world recognizing it as the theater of redemption, thus a place to love and in which to live the Gospel life that all things may be restored in Christ. There is an obvious question that arises, however, regarding St. Francis. One of his first followers, Brother Masseo, is recorded to have asked the question: Why after you? … Why does the whole world come after you?  It is an interesting and quite challenging question that certainly goes far beyond the expected response of a pious platitude.

 

Once Saint Francis was staying in the place of the Portiuncula with Brother Masseo of Marignano, a man of great holiness, discernment and grace in speaking of God, for which Saint Francis loved him very much. One day Saint Francis was returning from the woods and from prayer, and when he was at the edge of the woods, that same Brother Masseo, wanting to test how humble he was, went up to him and, as if joking, said, ‘Why after you, why after you, why after you?’  Saint Francis responded, ‘What do you mean?’ Brother Masseo said, ‘I am saying why does the whole world come after you, and everyone seems to desire to see you and hear you? You are not a handsome man in body, you are not someone of great learning, you are not noble; so why does the whole world come after you?’ (Little Flowers 10)

 

How might we have responded to such a situation if the question were asked of us?  It is an honest consideration posed by someone who gave up everything to follow St. Francis. And what about the multitudes that sought to follow Francis Bernardone either by living the Rule for friars, or by living a Rule for those in society who still wanted to be of Francis’ Family and Gospel life experience. Some undoubtedly would have been put off by the reason Bro. Masseo gave for asking the question had the reasons given concerned them.  When ‘ego’ gets in the way we suffer from nearsightedness.  We see, hear, accept, and I dare say love, only ourselves, so that when others make us aware of our ‘deficiencies’ or definite faults we either retreat or react.  The attributes (or lack thereof) that Brother Masseo presented were rather peripheral. Nonetheless, how would any of us like to have been told rather bluntly: ‘You are homely looking (aesthetically challenged), of an inadequate intellect (‘academically limited’), and come from an insignificant level of society’ (‘socially modest’)?  How might we have responded?  Masseo was thinking out loud.  He had seen, believed, and followed Francis.  Why?

 

At times, when people place their trust in another, there comes a moment when they want to know concretely what their heart tells them is true, good, and necessary for personal fulfillment concerning the other. Reassurance does not so much express a doubt as much as a desire to corroborate and reconfirm a decision made with firm conviction and total commitment. Brother Masseo loved and trusted St. Francis, but he wanted to hear the answer from St. Francis himself.  In the depths of his heart Brother Masseo knew God was with Francis.  He believed in the man he had chosen to follow in response to God’s call.  Life changing decisions, such as marriage, religious life, priesthood, becoming a Secular Franciscan,  committing ourselves to any life that ultimately aims to transform a person from within as well as without, require prudence, trust, prayerful discernment, and courage to decide wholeheartedly.  Courage urges us to take the step, and fidelity assists us to experience the value and fruitfulness of the ‘yes’ with which we surrender to the call.  A simple rule is ‘Live it and you will love it’. It is only in living our decision that we grow into loving it day-by-day.  The questions and explanations are valuable and valid, but ultimately when I believe God is in the midst of the call and my response, I must make the decision trustingly, regardless how others encourage or discourage me by their words or actions.  Remember, your vocation is yours, none other’s.  A community, fraternity, Order is made up of many individuals who have personally responded with the same affirmative reply. They share a life of mutual support, encouragement, familial love.  It is a personal individual choice rooted in the conviction that expects and urges one to keep on moving forward, even if all others opt to change course.

 

The immediate response of St. Francis to Brother Masseo continues from the little Flowers: Hearing this, Saint Francis was overjoyed in spirit and, turning his face to heaven, stood for a long time with his mind lifted up to God.  Then returning to himself, he knelt down and gave praise and thanks to God. (Little Flowers 10)

 

The key word is ‘immediate response’.  Francis, with all of his idiosyncracies, was centered on God.  God was the focus, center, and source of all Francis desired to live and do in this life.  Even a response to his brother was not made until his attitude of prayer lifted him in spirit so that it was not I who live but Christ who lives in me, as St. Paul writes.  To paraphrase, ‘It was not Francis who responded, but Christ who responded in Francis’. We read in Scripture how Jesus, before He did anything of importance, would often spend the night in prayer.  Before performing a miracle Jesus would groan from the depths of his soul and gratefully acknowledge the Father’s willingness to hear His request. When we take time to enter that vertical relationship of prayer with/in God, every response we make, whether in words, actions, or both, lead us to enter the horizontal relationship with our sisters and brothers.  Thus we communicate all we know and are, with simple loving kindness and truth, in profound humility.

 

Then with great fervor of spirit (St. Francis) returned to Brother Masseo and said, ‘Do you want to know why after me?  You want to know why after me? You want to know why the whole world comes after me? I have this from those eyes of the Most High God, which gaze in every place on the good and the guilty.  Since those most holy eyes have not seen among sinners anyone more vile, nor more incompetent, nor a greater sinner than me; to perform that marvelous work, which he intends to do, He has not found a more vile creature on the earth, and therefore He has chosen me to confound the nobility and the greatness and the strength and beauty and wisdom of the world, so that it may be known that every virtue and every good is from Him, and not from the creature, and no person may boast in His sight.  But whoever ‘boasts must boast in the Lord’, to whom is every honor and glory forever.  Brother Masseo was shocked at such a humble response, said with such fervor, and knew certainly that Saint Francis was truly grounded in humility. (Little Flowers 10)

 

Seeing himself before the awesome love and majesty of God, he recognized his lowliness and the greatness of God.  Thus he gave Brother Masseo the answer he sought.  Francis acknowledged he was insignificant before the immensity of God, and it was for this reason God could work through him. Filled with ourselves there is no room for God.  The humble soul is empty of itself and offers God all the space God wills. There can be no pride in one who recognizes at every moment the sovereignty of God and himself as nothing more than the ‘Herald of the Great King’.  The herald proclaim the message of the other, not their own message.  The herald must be a subject of integrity who can be trusted to communicate the message of the one who sent him, and not his own personal issues and agendas. It is here that St. Francis explained in his response the prayer he so often would say, Who are You (Lord).  Who am I, repeating the words of St. Augustine centuries before: That I may know You (Lord), that I may know myself.  There is a powerful nuance here I think should be mentioned.  Many translate the words of Augustine to mean: ‘Let me know you Lord and let me know myself’.  It seems more Augustine and even Francis to translate the phrase to mean; ‘Let me know You, Lord, so that I may know myself’.  Once Francis’ heart lifted up, saw himself in the mystery of the One Whom he sought to know, he understood more deeply the purpose and call of his own life and could rejoice in the transforming power of grace that had worked such wonders in him and, through him, in so many others.  Humility is truth.

 

The response St. Francis gave impressed Brother Masseo for its simplicity and truthfulness.  St. Francis had him understand the meaning of St. Paul’s words, It is when I am weak that I am strong.  It is when we recognize our nothingness without God that God can work in-with-through us and not only give glory to His Name but raise us up in Him.  True humility that does not seek applause nor put on airs of superiority, attracts and encourages.  Humility recognizes the Lordship of God over us, and therefore, all things are given besides.  We accept our dependency on God for all things, and his dependency on us to cooperate with Him in the re-creation of our fallen world and its restoration in Christ.  St. Francis told Brother Masseo that only in admitting the supremacy of God can we begin to fulfill our lives and call others to experience the same fulfillment in sharing the same gift.

 

Why you?  Why does the whole world go after you, Francis?  Because like the wind: lively, vibrant, plunging into the depths, darting after the marginalized and alienated, dashing into the seclusion of prayer with nothing but his soul enamored of God, tossing himself into the strange events that God allowed to come his way, hurling himself into the midst of danger for the sake of the Name with a courage surpassing even that of the Crusaders of his time, Francis was the image of the freedom all people desire in life.  Francis believed firmly God was with him, thus he had nothing to fear.  A frail body was the vessel of a magnificent heart and soul.  So great was his desire to be one with the Father-Son-Holy Spirit, that towards the end of his life he not only carried the dying of Christ in his soul but was privileged to carry the wounds of the Savior on his body for all the world to see.  Why you, Fancis?  He might reply, ‘Because through me the Lord has seen fit to make Himself known and seen, that others may be encouraged to trust in God, disarm their hearts to one another, and rebuild a world that is, as far as we can see, ‘is falling into ruin’.

 

As spiritual children of the Poverello of Assisi, reflect on your own response to that situation of St. Francis and Brother Masseo.  Why would you ask Francis the question in the first place?  What have you not understood about the one whom you have chosen to follow that he might help you live Jesus?  Why did you accept to follow the Little Poor Man of Assisi?  What does St. Francis say to you after eight centuries?  Is he still alive and well in your fraternity, in your own personal life?  Are the life and words of St. Francis, his free spirit, and total humility, his all-embracing disarmed heart towards all, a source of enthusiasm, encouragement, excitement, JOY?  Is there an awareness of being a son/daughter, brother/sister in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi?  Do you allow this awareness to affect your life and encounters with the world in which you live?  Does the vibrancy and relevancy of the Franciscan Charism help you to ‘come alive in the spirit’?

 

Remembering that Francis was so enamored of Our Lady that he called her the Virgin made Church, may we, the living Mystical Body of Christ, reflect upon the life of Jesus during this month of the Most Holy Rosary and look at Jesus with the eyes of Mary. Sharing the great gift of life and our Franciscan charism let us strive to ‘infect’ others with the spirit of the Poverello of Assisi.  May we all be instruments of God’s Peace and Blessings to our world.

 

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

 

Happy Saint Francis Day to all!  Let us remember one another at the altar of the Lord both during the celebration of the Transitus and during the Eucharistic celebration of the Solemnity.

 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

*************************

Returning Citizens - October 2017 JPIC Reflection

Returning Citizens 

Peace and All Good ! I have been asked to resume the position of Regional JPIC coordinator and am pleased to be able to continue to share some of the wealth of information my attendance at the National JPIC meetings gave me. One topic which we discussed and which was interesting was that of the Returning Citizen , people who had been incarcerated and who were then released. The wording of this was surprising to me and seemed to reflect the very graciousness of our Seraphic Father St. Francis. 

We learned about their efforts in the Mid West at the JPIC gathering , how they provided clothes suitable for going on a job interview, etc. , but my question to the Region is how will we address this topic here at home ? My initial essay was going to be built on what my research  had shown me, namely that there are almost 2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S. and we lead the world in number of people incarcerated per capita. One out of every 28 children in the U.S. has  an incarcerated parent.  Of those who are now on parole on released on probation, 43% will be re arrested within one year. This topic can spin  off in many areas and I will be exploring those over the next few months. 

But as I was initially going to fill this with facts about ” those people” a few things happened which knocked my socks off and made this topic very real to me. The first was when I was watching the news and saw that the boy down the street allegedly committed a murder. This was a boy who had graduated with my son less than three years ago. His parents were den leaders with us. He was a football star. His two brothers and his father are police men. These kids went to Catholic school. They live a block from me. This is my problem. 

Then I was still doing research and looking at a website about this kind of  work in New York with Returning Citizens and I saw my best friend’s niece in a picture carrying a banner at a rally in the City for Returning Citizens. I called my best friend who said that her sister would not say anything about Petra , actually for the last few years, other than to say that she was fine. But we now know that Petra had been in jail. My friend would not say anything to her sister about it but I thought “Wow, this was a girl that had stayed with me one summer. I know her and her whole family. We were close. ” This is no longer an abstraction. These issues now have names for me. Petra and Tommy. It is my problem.  

Isn’t it true that we always think it is someone else’s problem. I am reminded of John Donne’s poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls ” in the line “Do not send to know for whom the bell tolls , it tolls for thee. ” and again in the play Miss Saigon referencing the Ameri Asian children born in Viet Nam after the war : “They’re called BUI Doi, the dust of life conceived in hell and born in strife …They are the living reminder of all the good we failed to do … We can’t forget, Must not forget … 

Because we know deep in our hearts that they are all our children too. ” And my point is this : We often don’t care what happens in our world until it comes home to us. We forget that we all come from One Creator and all bleed red and are part of one family.  

In closing, I want to share the writing of a prominent Protestant Pastor , Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) who emerged as a critic of Adolf Hitler but whose words are still relevant: 

“First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Socialist. 

Then they came for the Trade Unionists , and I did not speak out-Because I was not a Trade Unionist. 

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – 

Because I was not a Jew . 

Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me. “ 

Certainly, there have been various different versions of this piece, but my point is we become complicit through our silence about social justice issues and we must begin to embrace all of the Poor Ones, the Anawim, (Hebrew word that means, “the poor who depend on the Lord for deliverance) starting now. Their issues must become our issues. If not, do we not commit collectively the sin of omission ? 

Kathleen Agosto, OFS 

JPIC Regional Coordinator 

 

 

 

Fr. Francis Reflections - September 2017

September 2017

Let us desire nothing else, let us wish for nothing else, let nothing else please us and cause us delight, except our Creator and redeemer and Savior, the one true God, Who is fullness of Good, all Good, every Good, the true and Supreme Good, Who alone is merciful and gentle, delectable and sweet, Who alone is holy, just and true, holy and right, Who alone is kind, innocent, pure, from Whom and through Whom and in Whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory … Therefore, let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us or come between us. Let us all, wherever we are … Glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the Most High and supreme eternal God ..

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

 

Following are excerpts taken from Considerations on the Stigmata,

Daily reflections are taken from Various writings of St. Francis

 

1

In the year of 1224, St. Francis went…from the Valley of Spoleto into Romagna, taking with him brother Leo… Francis herad that many gentlemen were gathered together…he said to brother Leo, Come, let us go up into this festival, for, by God’s help, we shall gather there rich spiritual fruit. – We can be sure someone is a true religious and has the spirit of God if his lower nature does not give way to pride when God accomplishes some good through him. (Admonitions, 12)

2

A certain gentlemen of Tuscany…Orlando of Chiusi … had heard concerning the holiness and miracles of St. Francis and bore him great devotion and had a desire to see him and hear him preach…Francis came to the castle…where the gentlemen were gathered…and spoke these words, So great is the joy which I expect. That all pain is joy to me. – Blessed the religious who treasures up for heaven the favors God has given him and does not want to show them off for what he can get out of them. (Admonitions, 28)

3

Orlando was touched in the heart by God…After dinner returning to St. Francis, he spoke with him at length, and in the end said, I have a mountain in Tuscany, a devout and solitary place, called Mount Alvernia, far from all discourse with people, well fitted for one who would do penance for his sins. If it please you, I will freely give it to you and your companions for the welfare of my soul. – Blessed the religious who keeps God’s marvelous doings to himself (Admonitions, 28) » Click to continue reading “Fr. Francis Reflections – September 2017” »

Fr. Francis' Greetings - September 2017

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
Wilmington, Delaware 19809

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website: skdregion.org

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

September 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

In September 1224, two years before death would usher him into eternity early in life, while at prayer at a solitary site on a mountaintop in Tuscany, our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, received the answer to his prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask You before I die: the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion;  the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a  Passion for us sinners.  A winged Seraph appeared to him and signed him with the visible marks of the wounds of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi, the Little Poor Man, the Universal Brother, had become a living image of the Crucified Christ. The marks gave witness to the integrity of the person who bore them and credibility to the message he had now become, so that when a spirit of indifference was taking over the world, (The Lord) renewed in the flesh of St. Francis the Sacred Stigmata of (His) Passion to rekindle in our hearts the fire of (His) love. (adapted Opening Prayer for the Feast of the Impression of the Stigmata).

St. Francis received a wonderful privilege that carried with it a great responsibility.  He was entrusted with a mission: to rekindle the fire of Divine Love in the hearts of God’s children.  The Stigmata he bore speak volumes for those willing to ‘read’ them in a spirit of faith.  To see him was to see the living image of the Crucified. To see him was a challenge to change. To encounter him was to recognize God speaking through him reminding all of God’s limitless love and calling everyone to cooperate with grace and become the persons we were all created to be: children of the Father, redeemed in the blood of the Son, bound together in the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those willing to understand and accept the message of the wounds and the person signed with them, knew they were ‘called to action’. The Stigmata call to action not apathy, loving not loathing, conviction not complacency, determination not doubt, commitment not compromise, life not lethargy. » Click to continue reading “Fr. Francis’ Greetings – September 2017” »

A JPIC Moment

At the recent National JPIC conference, Regional Executive Council member Ted Bienkowski, OFS met a fellow Secular Franciscan, Frank Scotto, OFS of the TAU Cross Region (NYC). Frank serves as the Regional Vice Minister, and Regional JPIC Animator, and is Fraternity Minister of the St. Helen local fraternity. Even with all this going on, Frank finds time to occasionally produce a JPIC-related newsletter called A JPIC Moment and he has been kind enough to let us share it with you. Here is the first issue entitled “Life in the Pressure Cooker.” We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

 

JPIC Statement from recent conference

Aug. 3, 2017

ST LOUIS, MO — The U.S. Secular Franciscan Order’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission (JPIC) is urging the world community “to use prayer, caution, wisdom, earnest discernment and patience” before responding to recent developments on the Korean peninsula. It called nuclear threat or use a “crime against humanity.”

Here is the full statement issued after its JPIC Animate Peace Gathering held July 27-30 in St. Louis, MO.

“We, the National Commission of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) of the U.S. Secular Franciscan Order met July 27-30, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri for a National Animate Peace Gathering. Twenty JPIC Animators from around the nation gathered for a weekend of sharing, learning and fellowship. During the gathering, North Korea launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which has heightened tensions in the world.

“In the Gospel Spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, we urge the world community to use prayer, caution, wisdom, earnest discernment and patience before responding to these recent developments on the Korean peninsula. Any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity and all creation. Our efforts towards mutual respect and understanding should be long-term.”

The Secular Franciscan Order (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis) is a world-wide order of single, married and clerical Catholics who strive to live the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis. There are more than 12,000 professed members in the U.S.

Father Francis’ Reflections – August, 2017

August 2017

 

I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

so that, through the prayers and merits of the

holy and glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother,

and of our most blessed father Francis and of all the saints,

the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning,

may give increase and may also give final perseverance.

Amen.

(The Testament of St. Clare of Assisi)

 

Daily excerpts are taken from the Papal Decree of Canonization of St. Clare of Assisi.

 

Daily reflections are taken from Words of Saint John Paul II

 

1

Clare, brilliant by her bright merits, by the brightness of her great glory in heaven, and by the brilliance of her sublime miracles on earth, shines brilliantly. – In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have His redemptive sacrifice, we have His resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience, and love of the Father.

2

Clare, her strict and lofty way of religious life glows here on earth, while the magnitude of her eternal rewards radiates from above and her virtue begins to dawn upon all mortal beings with magnificent signs.  –  Inwardly reconciled with God, the believer can become a true peacemaker among the brothers and sisters he meets on the path.

3

Clare, here below she was endowed with the privilege of the most exalted poverty; on high she is repaid by an inestimable source of treasure. – The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God.

4

Clare, she is shown full devotion and immense honor by all.- Division openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature.

5

Clare, here brilliant deeds distinguished her here on earth. – Do not hesitate to be apostles of the Risen One.

6

Clare, while on high the fullness of divine light shines on her. – It is each person’s duty, in his name, generously to promote spiritual values such as fidelity, the acceptance and defense of life in all its phases, love of neighbor, and perseverance in the faith even amid the inevitable difficulties of daily life.

7

Clare, her amazing works of wonder make her known to the Christian people. – It is in human hearts that war or reconciliation begins.

8

O Clare, endowed with so many brilliant titles!  Bright even before your conversion, brighter in your manner of living, brighter still in your enclosed life, and brilliant in splendor after the course of your mortal life! – A peaceful future is built on the basis of a ‘new heart’, a heart able to recognize in every individual person a brother or sister with equal dignity…

9

In this Clare, a clear mirror of example has been given to this world; by her, the sweet lily of virginity is offered among the heavenly delights; by her, obvious remedies are felt here on earth. – The face of Christ is the face of light that tears open the obscure mystery of death.

10

O the inestimable brilliance of blessed Clare!  The more eagerly she is sought for something, the more brilliant she is found in everything. – The face of Christ is the proclamation and pledge of our glory, because it is the face of the crucified and risen One.

11

This woman, I say, was resplendent in the world, shone brilliantly in her religious life; enlightened as a radiant beam in her home, dazzled as lightning in the enclosure. – St. Clare and countless other saints and martyrs were marked by the mystery of the cross.  (Her) secret was precisely this sign of the triumph of love over hatred, of forgiveness over retaliation, of good over evil.  We are called to go forward in their footsteps.

12

She shone forth in life; she is radiant after death.  Enlightening on earth, she dazzles in heaven! – Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world, is food for a new life – a life that is born of intimacy with God and which reaches humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus, who will be with us ‘always, to the close of the age, especially in the Eucharist.

13

O how great is the vibrancy of this light and how intense is the brilliance of its illumination! – The love of Christ and human freedom are intertwined, because love and truth have an intrinsic relationship.

14

While this light remained certainly in a hidden enclosure, it emitted sparkling rays outside.  Placed in the confined area of the monastery, yet she was spread throughout the wide world. – The recognition of the dignity of every human being is the foundation and support of the concept of universal human rights.

15

Hidden within, she extended herself abroad.  Yes, Clare hid, yet her life has come to light.  Clare was silent, yet her fame was proclaimed. She was hidden in a cell, but was known in the cities. – Human dignity and the rights that stem from it are solidly grounded on the truth of the human being’s creation in the image and likeness of God.

16

It should not be surprising that a light so enkindles, so illuminating could not be kept hidden without shining brilliantly and giving bright light in the house of the Lord… – Genuine religious belief is the chief antidote to violence and conflict.

17

Nor could a vessel filled with perfume be concealed so it would not give fragrance and suffuse the Lord’s house with a sweet fragrance. – It is particularly important to serve the very poor, those ‘little ones’ whom the Lord wants to put in the first place.

18

Moreover, since with her harshness she broke the alabaster jar of her body in the severity of her cloistered solitude, the whole aura of the Church was thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of her sanctity – Read the Scriptures daily, if possible. Meditate on them.

19

While still a young girl in the world, she was striving to pass rapidly along a clean path, past the fragile and unclean world.  Keeping the precious treasure of her virginity with an undiminished modesty, she carefully dedicated herself to works of kindness and brilliance. – Give the word of God a convincing and winning form in your lives.  You will experience the living presence of Christ in yourselves through his word.

20

…her reputation spread freely to those bear and far.  After hearing this praise, blessed Francis immediately began to encourage her and to lead her to the perfect service of Christ. – Death is not the last word.  It is the passage to eternal happiness in store for those who toil for truth and justice and do their utmost to follow Christ.

21

Quickly adhering to the sacred admonitions of this man (St. Francis) and desiring to reject entirely the world with everything earthly and to serve the Lord alone in voluntary poverty, she fulfilled this as quickly as she could. – God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.

22

At last she finally changed all her goods into alms and distributed them as resources for the poor, so that, one with him, whatever she had she too would consider for the service of Christ. – Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

23

Fleeing from the clamor of the world, she went down to the church in the field and, after receiving the sacred tonsure from blessed Francis himself, she proceeded to another. – The person who thinks that he can make his life secure by the possession of material goods alone is deluding himself.

24

When her relations endeavored to bring her back, she immediately took hold of the altar and its cloths, uncovered her shorn head and resisted her relatives strongly and firmly in this way. She could not permit herself to be separated from God’s service because she was already joined to Him with her whole mind. – Our Christian conscience should be deeply concerned about the way in which sins against love and against life are often presented as examples of progress and emancipation.

25

This woman, encouraged by blessed Francis himself, gave the beginning of following a new and holy observance.  This woman was the first and solid foundation of this great religion. – The Ten Commandments are the law of freedom: not the freedom to follow our blind passions, but the freedom to love, to choose what is good in every situation, even when to do so is a burden.

26

This woman stood as the cornerstone of this lofty work … noble by birth, but nobler by manner of life, eminently preserved the virginity she had already protected from the first under the rule of holiness. – The typically Christian way of contemplating God always passes through Christ.

27

Her mother, named Ortolana, intent upon pious deeds, followed her daughter’s footprints and afterwards accepted this religious way of life. … but after a few years, that blessed Clare, very much urged by the insistence of the same Saint Francis, accepted the government of the monastery of the sisters. – The experience of God can never be reduced to a general ‘sense of the divine’, nor can the mediation of Christ humanity be surpassed…

28

This woman was undoubtedly a very lofty and outstanding tree with far-reaching branches that brought forth the sweet fruit of religion in the meadow of the Church.  To its refreshing shade, under its delight, many students of the faith ran and still run from everywhere tasting fruit of every kind. – Genuine Christian joy cannot be reduced to a chance feeling: Its foundations lie in the love God manifested to us in the death and resurrection of his Son.

29

This woman was a clear spring of the Spoleto Valley that offered a new fountain of living water for the refreshment and comfort of souls, a fountain that has already irrigated the nursery of religion through the different rivulets in the precincts of the Church. – Mary’s glorious state brings about a continuous and caring closeness … She is a queen who gives all that she possesses, participating above all in then life and love of Christ.

30

this woman was a loft candelabra of sanctity, shimmering brightly in the tabernacle of the Lord, to whose remarkable splendor many have and are still hastening, lighting their lamps by its light. – To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.

31

This woman truly planted and cultivated a vineyard of poverty in the field of the faith, from which the abundant and rich fruits of salvation have been gathered. – Christ alone is the world’s salvation!

 

 

 

Father Francis' Greetings - August, 2017

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

August 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 

The Lord give you his peace!

 

During the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and with his approval, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church.  As could be expected, secular newspapers and reporters created a hype about things in which they are not qualified to speak.  They speak from a totally secular point of view and more often than not with a sensationalism that seeks adherents rather than with a professionalism that seeks to present the truth.  Often phrases out of context or poll results from the man-on-the-street are thrown out to the listening, viewing, or reading audience to prove their point.  Often they fail to quote in context the expressions they are reporting and ‘critiquing’, or better to say ‘criticizing’, and they fail to call qualified Church representatives to explain the issues in question. An operating method like this can only create an atmosphere of confusion.  Issue-oriented presentation of disconnected facts leads to ‘lopsided’ criticism and even open irreverent ridicule of Church teachings and practices. Discussion and dialogue are always healthy when those involved candidly speak what they truly believe and listen respectfully and attentively to what is said.

 

Through the Eucharist – the abiding presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as the Companion of our earthly pilgrimage – we unite ourselves to Jesus and are nourished with His Immaculate Flesh. Thus, it is through the Church, that guided and ruled by Him, we come alive by His grace and are nourished by His teaching.  We cannot become more one with Christ in this life than by uniting ourselves to Him in the Eucharist.  We can have no greater assurance of living according to His Spirit, of being directed and taught by Him, than by uniting ourselves to the Gospel, Tradition, and Magisterium of the Church.

 

Fidelity to Christ and His teachings is essential! Although the Church is made up of human beings, it is not a country club or parish association or philanthropic organization, or the like.  These are most often subject to the majority vote of adherents who seek a more profitable outcome of their agendas.  Lord, that I may be faultless in my way, by keeping to your words (Psalm 119, 9).  Today’s society prizes what is relative, situational, convenient, politically correct, and so on.  This is surely not the road Our Savior took!  He respected the dignity of every person, but would not back down on that-be’ nor would He lessen his expectations of others. As He with the Father, others also were expected to listen and obey the Will of the Father as that Will was made known in the life of each person.

 

What we need in our relationship with and within the Church is a spirit of wholesome humility, not ‘whimpishness’ but loving trust and obedience for those entrusted with the responsibility of feeding and tending the flock of Christ (cfr. John 21). Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18: 3)…We can be saved,…not without humility (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux). The greatest qualities and gifts, such as the spirit of penance or poverty, virginity, the call to the apostolate, a life consecrated to God, the priesthood, are sterile if they are not accompanied by sincere humility.  The higher the place we occupy in the Savior’s vineyard…the deeper we need to plant the roots of humility.

 

The Roman Catholic Church has a blessed and marvelous, although flawed, history and tradition.  Even from within the Church  (clergy as well as laity), we encounter “verbage” regarding the Church and our life within the Roman Catholic Faith, that criticizes the appropriateness, theology, philosophy, “updatedness”, intelligence, personal giftedness, and so much more, of those in leadership responsibilities. ‘Conservative’ or ‘traditional’ (and we cannot equate the two necessarily),  ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ (again here we cannot necessarily equate the two), inadequate, inept, ignorant, and the like are labels that have no real place in the vocabulary of those called to Gospel faithfulness and not to the world’s concept of success. Christ Jesus is always “relevant”.  Christ the Truth and the Way is One person Who leads to Life.  Though many feel they have the right and intelligence to interpret the Word, it is the Church, even though faulty and less- capable in Her leaders. These are the ultimate interpreters and proclaimers of Christ’s Truth as proclaimed by the Church.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Church is the People of God on journey through history responding to the Spirit of Lord and life’s experiences in the light of God’s Will.  The Church is the Custodian of Christ’s Truth received from the Lord through the teaching and witness of the Apostles.

 

Through those who have due authority to govern and the legitimate responsibility to teach and sanctify, the Church was entrusted with these charisms from the Apostles and Jesus Himself.  The Church has the right, duty, and responsibility to regulate the life of the People of God according to God’s Will expressed in His Word and the Traditions and Magisterium. Theologians may dissect, investigate, discuss statements pronounced by the Holy Father and/or some Church Dicastery such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  There are those who view the Church only as a social entity and not as the Mystical Body of Christ called to lead all people to holiness and salvation.  They may criticize and/or judge the acts or statements of the Holy Father, or the documents sent out to the faithful by the Church Universal with the approval of our Holy Father.  These often receive responses or are criticized by those whose criteria of evaluation is based on personal convenience, political correctness with the world or areas of church circles, timeliness, usefulness, and the like.  As Roman Catholics, and especially as Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, we are committed and expected to accept the teachings and pronouncements of the Church with gratitude and obedience. The Franciscan Family is called to follow the “totally-Catholic” example of our Father and Guide.  We listen and read that we might be informed on what pertains to our life.  We pray and reflect on the pronouncements made by the Church, that we might gratefully and humbly accept the gifts of faith offered us.

 

We are baptized in the Blood of Jesus, gifted with the Spirit of God, professed and committed to the Gospel Life and example of St. Francis of Assisi and all the holy ones who have gone before us.  We love and respect our traditions that have attracted millions through the centuries to take up the Franciscan challenge to joyfully live the Gospel “without gloss” in the world of today. As Penitents of Assisi ourselves we seek reconciliation with the children of the Church who have distanced themselves from the family of the Church for whatever reason. Was it not St. Paul himself who said that although he knew there was no sin in eating meat sacrificed to idols because the idols were nothing, still he would not eat meat at all if he thought that doing so would scandalize any of the believers? We must view things from the greater perspective – the perspective of God’s mercy, compassion and love. True loving reconciliation cannot however disregard humility and truth.

 

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi have we achieved a level of faith that is serene in the contradiction of life?  Can we accept that our will is second to that of others?  Are we ready to accept the decisions of the Church, either directly from our Holy Father, or indirectly from those official statements and declarations that our Holy Father approves?  Do we always think we have a better idea than the Church?  Do we humbly ‘critique’ the Church externally, while really ‘criticizing’ Her right to teach and govern Her children?  Are political correctness…or social relevance…or less emphasis on doctrine, dogma, tradition, Roman Catholic identity “our positions”?  Do we have “battle cries” to promote our wills, rather than humble cooperation and collaboration with those who may have a different approach to matters than we? Are we consistent with what we truly believe and have promoted, even when we are no longer “in the majority”? Are we “centered” in the Lord … is Jesus the reason we say and act as we do … or does the “limelight” determine our words and actions? Is authenticity and truth through humility and love what we truly seek as our Christ- centered goal … or are we the object of our affections? Responding honestly to these questions, and others that most assuredly can arise from these, we will be able to recognize the direction our life is taking in openness or not to the Spirit of the Lord that challenges us to go beyond ourselves.

 

Our Father St. Francis of Assisi teaches us in a simple and straightforward way.  He tells us to hear what the Church has to say…listen to the teaching offered…ponder the significance…and…gratefully accept and lovingly obey as a child of the Church.  We are called to witness our unity, catholicity, holiness and apostolicity of faith, through our humble and loving obedience. What greater witness can we offer our sisters and brothers of other faith expressions than the integrity of our commitment to all we are as Roman Catholics!?

 

Unity in humility and love are essential to the effectiveness of our Franciscan Spirit in society today. If we do not strive to be better than the spirit of the world, we are destined to become one with the world we are called to condition and, by our example, help to transform.  What is of the flesh is flesh, what is of the spirit is spirit (cfr. John 3:6).  Though the above reflection speaks about faithfulness to the Church, as Franciscans we can apply everything above also to our Franciscan life in whatever Order of the Franciscan Family we belong. Let’s remember that the highest sign of Franciscan Poverty is not necessarily in the relinquishment of material goods, though that is a fine and necessary witness, but ultimately in the “letting go” of our self-centered wills, and humble acceptance and collaboration with others.

 

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and 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

Message from the Regional Minister for July 2017

How is your Franciscanism doing these days?

Seems like a strange question.  I’m not asking how you are doing, what’s new or what’s going on.  How is your Franciscanism doing?  Is it gaining weight or is it on a diet, slowly being lost, shed or forgotten?

These are hard times to be a Franciscan.  Everything is disposable, replaceable, or of little value. Got a better one?  Throw the old one out.  Can’t use all of that…chuck the rest.

I recently read the newsletter from the Hospitalier Brothers of St. John of God.  There was a statement that caught my eye – and soul.  It read: These are difficult times to live a vocation in an authentic way; the operative word being authentic.

What is the authentic Franciscan way of life?  If people don’t notice something different about the way we live, we aren’t being Franciscan. Are we preaching the Gospel by our way of life…..the way we speak…..how we act? Are we being Franciscan in how we treat our secular Brothers and Sisters? If we can’t be kind to one another, how can we be kind to the rest of the world? Do we treat each other with respect? Do we return phone calls and answer e-mail? Everyone is busy; but, we all deserve the respect of having a message answered.

There are no vacation plans in my foreseeable future, but I plan to take my Franciscanism on holiday this summer.  My soul deserves some renewal and refreshment.  With gas prices so high it is now in vogue to take a Staycation. – a word coined to mean you are staying home.  In my day, we said we were going to Yardsville – and spent some happy hours in our own back yard.  This summer, why not say your morning office outside in the early hours before the heat and hustle begins.  Spend an hour with your Lord in a park or reflect on our brother Francis as you do some gardening.  Francis walked around with wild flower seeds in his pocket.  He is still planting seeds today.  What seeds have you planted lately?  We carry many in our hearts, but they are no good until they are planted and shared.

So..how is your Franciscanism doing???