Is God calling you to walk in the footsteps
of Saint Francis of Assisi?

Come and see how Secular Franciscans live joyfully In the world & celebrate God’s creation.

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

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

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

About our region

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

Updates, News & Announcements

Follow our updates, news & announcements via…
Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

X

or enter your email address and click subscribe to by notified by email:

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – December 2017

(A PDF version of this document can be downloaded here.)

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

I pray that the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and our spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi are with you and, in you, overflowing in life-giving abundance to others. “We must radiate” the love of God i.   It is by radiating that life giving Agape “LOVE”ii,iii that we will attract our brother and sister Catholics and help them hear the call to vocation increasing the “Helpmates” answering the call of Jesus to Saint Francis, go rebuild my Church.  As I discussed in my November letter, and spoke of at the recent regional gathering, we are called to be Jesus’ helpmates, building and rebuilding the church in love and fraternal perfection, to radiate the spirit of Francis and of Jesus!  This nuptial relationship with Jesus makes our profession sacred and our fraternity sacred. We need to protect both our profession and our fraternity, and the best way to do that is a healthy and strong formation process.

Thank God for those who have gone before us!  They have laid a very good foundation and given us the tools we need to do this important and noble task.  We have the FUN Manual, the Regional Formation Guide, and the Franciscan Journey.  We also have each other and sources on the SKD Region web site.  I want to start with a very simple one-page document that gives you an immense amount of aid:  the “Pathway to Profession” Chart (the chart can be also be found in the regional formation handbook, second section, page 43).  For this month, I will focus on the First Contacts.  The chart tells us to conduct initial interviews and Faith Inventory.  I cannot over emphasize how important this simple step is and, if done properly, can help you avoid problems in the future.  It can also help the individual going through the process to overcome any simple impediments in their faith.

The template for the initial interview is on page 53 of the regional formation guidebook.  The Holy Cross Fraternity took that template and made it a fraternity document so that it is easy to print and save to record.  (By the way, it is essential that all documents created or collected are saved.  I recommend digitizing them and saving to a file and a disk or other external drive.  That way, if something happens you have multiple file sources.)

A careful and slow read of the form will give you a very good idea of how detailed this interview is.  It gives you the opportunity to find out very specific information about the person.  And note that anyone who is not comfortable answering any of the questions should send up that RED FLAG.  Don’t be afraid to ask your own, additional questions.  For example, if you ask questions about sacramental development, and the person says that he does not have any record of being confirmed, ask some more questions concerning his family of origin and faith development.  If an irregularity is found, assist the person by directing him to a parish priest for resolution.  All irregularities or perceived impediments should be resolved before initial formation begins.

A question that comes up fairly regularly is “What about a person who is in the RCIA program?”  Can they start the initial formation process?  After all, most RCIA programs are one year and our formation can be three years.  The answer is simple, although it makes some people uncomfortable.  If a person is in RCIA, they are not yet Catholic.  To start the process a person has to be a catholic in good standing who has received all the sacraments of initiation.  Also, as a former RCIA director, I would not have wanted any of my Catechumens distracted in any way.  Their entire focus needs to be on their journey into full communion with the church!

Next month we will start discussing the importance of reference letters.  I use three at a minimum.  More on that next time.

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director


i Excerpts from Walbert Buhlmann OFM Cap – Address to European Capuchins, May 5, 2005
ii Agape (Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agápē) is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, “”the highest form of love,” “charity”” and “”the love of God for man and of man for God”””
iii H. G. Liddell; Robert Scott (October 2010). An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded Upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. Benediction Classics. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-84902-626-0.

Father Francis' Greetings for December 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
pppgusa@gmail.com

 

December 2017

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families set up over the Christmas Season.  St. Francis was not seeking to be innovative, or create something curious that would attract people.  He sought to make the Birth of the Savior come alive once again.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful.  Through the senses, St.Francis sought to arrive more incisively at the soul.

Grace builds on nature. The ability to allow the senses to take over and enliven the heart and soul makes our experience with God even more exciting.  Not just the intellect, but the whole person enters this intimate relationship with God. And God enters a relationship with humanity taking on every aspect of human life except sin.  In the story, as recounted by Celano, it is even stated: Moreover, burning with excessive love, (Francis) often calls Christ the ‘babe from Bethlehem’ whenever he means to call Him Jesus.  Saying the word ‘Bethlehem’ in the manner of a bleating sheep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) St. Francis was not one to be held in check by public opinion. Christmas is the birthday of the Christ Child and he was not concerned sounding like a child, or acting childlike, even if to some it seemed childish.  (When) people were bringing there little children to Jesus … (Jesus) said to (His disciples who were trying to stop them) Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.  It is to just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10: 13-16) Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child and remember the child that we once were and are called to become.  Our Seraphic Father let love let loose, just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and all the people of Israel.  David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2 Samuel: 7: 20) , could be placed on the lips of St. Francis: As the Lord lives, who preferred me … not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more … I will be lowly in your esteem … but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23)  » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Greetings for December 2017” »

Father Francis' Reflections for December 2017

All-powerful God, everlasting, just and good, of ourselves we are nothing but poverty; but grant, for your own sake, that we may do what we know is your will, and always desire what is pleasing to you…Amen. 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 daily excerpts taken from various Franciscan writings

Daily meditative phrases from various sources

 

1

His sermons were not vain and shallow but they were filled with them power of the holy Spirit (Major Legend,chpt.2) – God’s mercy, if we only let him take over, will take us much farther and higher than our own scant justice.

2

He began to preach all over with great commitment and assurance.  He did not have recourse to reasoning founded on human wisdom, but based his teachings on the doctrine and virtue of the Holy Spirit, faithfully proclaiming the kingdom of God (Three Companions,chpt.54) – God’s predilection for the humblest and lowest emphasizes the point that he likes to make of upsetting men’s calculations and betraying expectations based on rank, merit, age or tradition.

3

His style was not as one preaching but as one who is conversing…he spoke clearly and respectably (Thomas of Spalato) – Self-reliance will get us nowhere…the whole process is better looked after when placed in he hands of God than when held tight in our grip as though we were bent on seeing it through at all costs by ourselves. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Reflections for December 2017” »

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – November 2017

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

November 2017

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

I pray that the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and our spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi are with you and, in you, overflowing in life-giving abundance to others.  For it is this peace, joy and life-giving union that is truly the external sign of our Franciscan charism.  As Walbert Buhlmann, OFM Cap puts it.  “We must radiate!”  It is the love of God traveling in both directions that make us radiate.  When I say both directions I mean first and foremost from God to us, then, in response to his love for us, we love him back.  In this reciprocal love affair, we can become what Buhlmann said: “we can be a question mark, an exclamation mark…”[1].

It was in great humility and a bit of good old fashioned “Who, Me?” that I accepted appointment to the position as Regional Formation Director a few months ago.  I ask that you pray for me as I seek, with your help, the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Over the next year or so, I plan to attend your regular Fraternity gatherings in order to get to know you and you to know me.  I will also be listening to your Initial and Ongoing formation questions.

In the meantime, I do have some thoughts to share concerning Initial Formation.  These thoughts come from the study of what we have come to know as “The Cangelosi letter”.  Let’s take a look at one part of the letter, a part that I am sure we all have read before but may not have embraced it fully into our lives.

Father Cangelosi said, “Indeed, most people have foggy ideas on the value of Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order and because of this many Secular Franciscans do not live the “grace” of Profession for what it really is. A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Christ[2] aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love andthe realization of Saint Francis mission.[3]

I assume we have all heard this talk of Nuptial Alliance and realization of the mission, but have we really taken a deep look at it and grasped what the words are saying?  If we had, it would be life changing!  By virtue of our profession, we are in a nuptial relationship with Jesus.  What does that mean?  We are also called to the realization of Francis’s mission…  We are called to be Jesus’s helpmates, building and rebuilding the church in love and fraternal perfection, to radiate the spirit of Francis and of Jesus!

            This nuptial relationship with Jesus makes our profession sacred and our fraternity sacred.  We need to protect both our profession and our fraternity, always making sure that they remain sacred.  In my mind, the best way to do this is to secure our foundation and have the basics down.  And that means initial and ongoing formation!  I am asking each and every one of you to make sure that you are following the FUN manual, the Regional Formation Guidelines and the Pathway to Profession so that we may truly accomplish our mission to rebuild His church.

[1] Excerpts from Walbert Buhlmann OFM Cap – Address to European Capuchins, May 5, 2005

2 Emphasis mine

3 Emphasis mine

Peace and Good

Father Francis' Reflections for November 2017

November 2017

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,

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

To you alone, Most High, do they belong,

and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

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

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

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

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

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

from whom no one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

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

for the second death shall do them no harm.

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

Amen.

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

 

The month of November celebrates Life Everlasting of those in God’s Glory and those in God’s Mercy.

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

1

(St. Francis) did indeed come down from where the sun rises, as, ever rising from strength to strength, following the deeds of Christ as he grew in his humanity, he configured his holy way of living to the life of Christ. – We were made for heaven. The Christian life means journeying here below with our hearts turned upwards, toward our heavenly Father’s house.

2

This reached the high point of his carrying the seal of the living God; he lived to become worthy to have on his body the imprints of the wounds of the Crucified. – Pray fervently for the dead, for their family members, and for all our brothers and sisters who have died, that they may obtain the remission of the punishments due to their sins and may hear the Lord’s call.

3

Now, as to Christ’s life itself, an attentive survey of the gospels will reveal its salient features, its most striking notes: the crucifixion, the profound humility, the extreme poverty, the fervor of charity shown by desiring our salvation in undergoing the torment of the cross, as well as by the sheer graciousness of His stooping to compassionate sinners and the afflicted. – The ‘little ones’ according to the gospel are those who know they are God’s creatures and shun all presumption. They expect everything from the Lord and so are never disappointed.

4

Yet the crowning perfection of Christ’s life lay in His interior cultivation and consummation of divine charity.  In one continuous act, on His own behalf and that of all His members, He duly paid the service of worship to the divinity, to which in His own person He was united. – This is the basic attitude of the believer: Faith and humility are inseparable.

5

The fact is that the Blessed Jesus, virginal Son born of virginity, saw fit to transfuse purity into (Francis), since complete cleanness cannot live in tainted flesh without a continuous crucifixion of self. That is why the most pious Jesus…afflicted His own sacred flesh…Francis, his true son and imitator, taking this to heart, disciplined himself so rigidly… – Justice and peace are not abstract concepts or remote ideals. They are values that dwell in the heart of every individual.

6

So, he called his frail body an ‘ass’, gave it endless hard work to do, provided it with coarse coverings and a bed of straw, and fed it with small amounts of inferior fare. – Individuals, families, communities, and nations, all are called to live in justice and to work for peace. No one can claim exemption from this responsibility.

7

In order to achieve full purity of heart he completely abstained from all familiarity which might inwardly defile him and give bad example to others. – Freedom is not only the choice for one or another particular action; it is also, within that choice, a decision about oneself and a setting of one’s own life for or against the good, for or against the truth, and ultimately for or against God.

8

He had become so candid in mind, so clean in heart, that he seemed to have attained the state of innocence at that time … he had practically all creatures, even the inanimate, at his command; a level of grace, indeed, in which he surpassed natural innocence … Thus did the elements put themselves at the service of the unspoiled Francis – If we truly love with the love of God, we will also love our brothers or sisters as God loves them. This is the newness of Christianity: One cannot love God if one does not love one’s brethren.

9

He so perfectly imitated Christ that his wish was to place himself and his Order at the feet of everybody.  In order to be the least of all, he did not want to have any of the Church’s authority, except her authority for observing the holy Gospel. – The indispensable source of energy and renewal, when frailty and weakness increase, is the encounter with the living Christ, Lord of the covenant.

10

He certainly wanted to promote the salvation of souls, but only through the virtue of humility, not with pompous power. And though … he had several Supreme Pontiffs … who held him in the highest regard, sincerely convinced of his sanctity … he would never ask for or accept any privilege that might diminish his being a humble subject. – Develop an intense spiritual life and open your soul to the word of life.

11

For this reason, Francis, in his holy Testament, forbids all brothers, prelates, and subjects, to ask for any letter from the Apostolic See either to facilitate the work of preaching or to avoid persecution. The humble Francis used to say that when they meekly ask permission of bishops and priests, they were by their example edifying the very pastors of the Church – To pray is not to escape from history and the problems that it presents.  On the contrary, it is to choose to face reality not on our own, but with the strength that comes from on high, the strength of truth and love, which have their ultimate source in God.

12

Even if permission were refused, patience and humility will bring them to change their minds; meanwhile they themselves, by bearing refusal patiently, will keep intact a virtuous and flawless way of acting. – Human perfection consists not simply in acquiring an abstract knowledge of truth, but in a dynamic relationship of faithful self-giving with others.

13

To brothers who troubled him over their reluctance to be a this level of submissiveness to everyone, he replied in deeply plaintive terms: ‘My brothers, my brothers, what you want of me is to give up overcoming the world.  For Christ sent me top overcome the world by being subject to everyone, so that by love I might draw souls to Him through the example of humility’. – Let yourself be charmed by God, the Infinite, who appeared among you in visible and imitable form.

14

‘My brothers, humble yourselves before others, and you will convert them all.  Those who persecute you unjustly will turn to Christ, having seen your patience tried, and they will be anxious to kiss your footprints…’ – Fall in love with Jesus Christ, to live his very life, so that our world may have life in the light of the gospel.

15

‘But if I were to use the salvation of others as a pretext for wanting some prerogative, it would mean my forfeiting the humblest of positions which belongs to the condition I am in.  And it is through that  I advance in virtue, and the people advance in the mercy that save them’. – Love is the principle of divine life in the soul. Love is the law of our abiding in Christ.

16

He wanted to rule out for them all affectation to ecclesiastical dignity and maintain them in their lowly existence.  For this reason he called them ‘lesser’, so that they would not presume to become ‘greater’, and in no way did he wish them to aspire to the rank of prelacy. – Only genuine evangelical love will be strong enough to help communities pass from mere tolerance of others to real respect for their differences.

17

For everybody knows well enough that their ascent to rank spelled their descent from virtue…what they sought in promotion was not so much an improvement of other’s conduct as a life of relaxation for themselves. For, self-denying once, they have turned into gluttons; poor men once, they have become grasping and greedy; thought nothing of once, they have ended up proud and arrogant. – Only Christ’s redeeming grace can make us victorious in the daily challenge of turning from egoism to altruism, from fear to openness, from rejection to solidarity.

18

Oh, what a true prophet Francis was! …  The humble Francis, in order to keep himself on the lowest possible level and to confound the ambitions of the future, had no desire to be promoted to the priesthood.  As he saw it, … the guidance of souls was not to be conducted through prelacy, if it were to be beneficial, but rather to be committed to the spirit of poverty. – We need more heart.

19

To men of perfection…nothing should be a source of bother except what would drive them to sin, to which, of course, no one is forced against his will. – God’s love is love which is freely given … He loved us first.  He took the initiative.

20

Apart from Jesus, his most humble Mother, and the college of the Apostles, never should the world have in it such a profound expression of lowliness as that of this status of poor lesser ones, nor indeed such a gross deformation of it as that of those who fall away. – To heal the wounds of a recent bitter and painful past, one needs patience and wisdom, a spirit of initiative and honesty.

21

And because Francis crushed pride underfoot with his humility, he held off the proud demons with authority.  Therefore he was showing that his status was blasting away pride from the world. – The Christian vocation is walking with men and women as brothers or sisters, sharing their joys and hopes, difficulties and sufferings, offering them the road word which rekindles hope in their hearts.

22

For whoever, like Francis, keeps the humility of Jesus continually before his eyes and is delighted to resemble Him in meekness of heart, will subject himself to everyone and loathe issuing commands and prohibitions. The blessed Francis did commend humble obedience in the strongest terms, and observed it to the extent of always wanting to obey his brother companion. – Selfishness makes people deaf and dumb.

23

(Francis) put a restraining clause (in the Rule) to protect subjects, when he told ministers not to command them anything that is against their souls and our Rule, and subjects to obey in all things which they have promised the Lord to observe and are not against their souls and our Rule. – Love opens eyes and hearts, enabling people to make that original and irreplaceable contribution which … can change the tide of history.

24

The obedience of Francis cannot contain a greater purity, integrity, or depth, since it obeys in all things and refuses to obey false traditions that destroy the Rule, for to obey them is to apostatize.  Because it follows from the fact a prelate (superior) derives his authority from the Rule, that to command or obey something contrary to it is to apostatize from the Rule. – Ezekiel 21-22; Sirach 31.1-15; 1 John 3 – The future of evangelization depends in great part on the church of the home.

25

But, do we want to go further with Francis’s idea of obedience?  He himself, after all, was in everything the least of all the lesser ones. Well might we compare him to the tiniest of infants … or to the smallest of all seeds … or to the least of all the saints … or to Benjamin, the smallest of his brothers, who in many ways was a type of Francis… – Every authentically religious person is obliged to ask God for the gift of peace, with renewed determination to promote and build peace together with other believers.

26

O Francis, true Benjamin! The first-born Joseph had you seated at the table of evangelical life with your other holy brothers.  There your portion exceeds the others by the five portions of the sacred wounds … – It is not easy to proclaim the gospel in a world that claims not to need God.  Yet we are bound by the compelling words of St. Paul: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel’

27

He leads the whole Church of the people of Israel to the evangelical life and the full news of Christ … Humble and despised, the cup of your brothers’ evangelical wisdom and observance of the Rule and your most holy witness is contained, hidden, in the sack of observance of poverty. – The desire for unity is born and grows from the renewal of the mind, the love of truth, self-denial, and the free outpouring of love.

28

How Francis proved himself the friend of the bridegroom, by striving to conform himself to Jesus through the fervor of his charity and desire for the salvation of those to whom he was brother, is evinced by the fact that from the beginning of his conversion to the end he blazed continually like a fire with an ardent love for Jesus. – If you want peace, reach out to the poor!

29

Fanned by the breath of the Holy Spirit, he kept the furnace of his heart ever ignited, so that once he heard the love of God mentioned he was excited, moved, and animated as the beloved spouse … – God loves everyone, … wills the good of everyone, … and offers to everyone the gift of peace!

30

All things created were a means by which he fired this love of his.  Through looking on things of beauty he would contemplate the Beautiful; in frail creatures he would recognize the infirmities which Jesus in His goodness bore for our salvation.  He made a ladder of everything by which he could reach the One he loved. – Every day dedicate some time to conversing with God.  This is a sincere proof of your love for him, for love always seeks to be near the beloved.

 

Father Francis' Greetings for November 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.org

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 

November 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

Even the saints can not always have things as they think they should be. Desiring to live in the prompting of the Spirit, they seek direction from persons reputed for being people of knowledge, good sense and holiness. They accept their advice and direction so they can be more certain to follow God’s will and not just their own impulses or desires. The way to heaven is not paved with acts of our own will, camouflaged to look like God’s. God speaks in many ways. Often the response to our prayers seems totally contrary to the request. What we see as effective, God seems, at times, to consider unnecessary. The desired presence, encouragement, counsel we seek or want to offer is often shelved, and we are asked to be patient, to let things be, not to worry…to let go and let God do as He wills.

 

Whether it is in the lives of those we want to assist, or more intimately in our own life’s search for a deeper relationship with the Eternal One and a more meaningful life, God must be first! Your will and not mine be done! The words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before our redemption was secured for us on Calvary, are words that must take hold of our lives. We are called to die daily to our ego and self-centeredness, in order to come alive in the Spirit and be shining images of the Light Who came to lead us from spiritual darkness to the brilliance of a life-giving existence. How do we do this?

 

Dying is the answer and key word. It’s a question of death and dying. These two words stand out especially during the month of November dedicated to the memory of those who have gone before us into eternity. The Holy Souls in Purgatory are the myriads of people down through the millennia who await now the promise to be fulfilled for those who were faithful but must be purified in the ardor of God’s love, mercy and providence. They were where we are; they are where we hope to be, by God’s grace. Heaven is humanity’s goal. Since our nature, subject to the consequences of Original Sin, affects the purity of our intentions, it is only God’s love that can make us worthy of Eternal Life. The stages leading to the beginning of this Life are bodily and spiritual dying and death. But, as much as we articulate these words and recite them in prayers, most people feel an aversion to them. We often quickly find substitute expressions to camouflage these words so that they sound less final, less drastic. Everyone seeks to prolong and better his/her life, often through what seem to be or are in fact foolish and exaggerated means. People will pop pills, smear salves, perform tiring and sometimes even dangerous calisthenics, some even go so far as to have surgical procedures performed, some have themselves frozen until they can be “defrosted” at a later time, and so many other means are sought or employed in the hope of prolonging one’s life or retarding the aging process. But, ultimately, Sister Death does arrive to accompany us from time into eternity. Sister Death is sent by our Loving Father to lead us home to His loving embrace.

 

Our Christian Faith and Catholic tradition remind us of the Four Last Things that all people will eventually encounter: Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell. While the first two are inevitable for all, the last two, Heaven or Hell, are determined by the choices one knowingly and decidedly makes while on earth. Some things we accept easily: we accept life as the fact that it is. Other things we conveniently forget or avoid. We avoid thinking about death and try to avoid it at all costs, no matter how inevitable it is. We reason out of our lives and minds what might cause harm and assure ourselves of what we consider better things, thus eliminating personal responsibility and accountability. We make heaven not the ultimate goal to which we should aspire by a faith-filled life, but a right we have to possess. Following this process, we almost eliminate from our minds and reflections the reality of that place that Jesus Himself reminded us is reserved for those who knowingly and willfully opt to distance themselves from God and His Divine Will. Where your heart is there will your treasure be. If our heart is in heaven, our lives and actions will always be directed there.

 

At times, this reasoning process is usually the result of fear for sins and faults that were never totally corrected in life. We forget that God’s mercy knows no limits for those who trust in Him. Thus, the Church continually reminds us that God’s Word speaks in many places of praying for the deceased, and some of the parables of Jesus speak of places where debts are paid back after the normal course of a life is ended or interrupted. These reminders tell us that between eternal bliss and eternal damnation there is a place of hope that allows us to enter into the love, mercy and providence of God. This place – Purgatory – tells us that God’s love will never close His Heart to wayward children who truly repent, and that He, from all eternity, has provided a last resort to definitively bring us to Him.

 

Purgatory is a teaching that has been ridiculed by those not of our tradition, and even downplayed by some of our own Catholics. We hear so much about toxins, toxic waste, toxic gases that can cause innumerable deaths. We are concerned about the toxic matter that is in the earth and needs thousands of years to decompose and deactivate. The word “purgatory” refers to a place where we are cleansed of those spiritual toxins that still infect our soul after its departure from this life. God’s justice cannot allow such imperfection to invade heaven, but God’s mercy will not allow one who died still infected, but sincerely seeking spiritual healing, to suffer eternal separation from Him. Why are we so prone to believe the “miracles” that scientists promise to do for us, and yet doubt God’s all-providing and merciful love for his weak children who sincerely seek Him?!

 

While it is impossible to explain eternal truths clearly in human terms, it is interesting to read what the saints have to say about Purgatory. Saint Frances of Rome tells her spiritual daughters that Purgatory is nothing other than a section of Hell which is divided into various parts. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that the fires of Purgatory are similar to those of Hell. Even Padre Pio, in a letter to one of his spiritual daughters, states: My daughter, in certain spots (Purgatory) is like Hell. The greatest pain of Hell, and thus of Purgatory in this sense, is the separation from God through one’s own fault. There is, however, an essential difference: Hell is permanent; Purgatory is temporary.

 

Purgatory would thus seem to be a “hell with hope”. This contradiction in terms does make sense: The loss of God is hell, but the knowledge and assurance of the soul’s eventual entrance into eternal life is Joy. Thus, Purgatory is a place where the pains of despair are tempered by the refreshing breath of hope. This hope accompanies the souls throughout their sufferings as an encouragement and support. Throughout life’s journey the Church prays and supports her children who suffer in the “antechamber of Heaven”. The Church Triumphant glories in God’s presence and intercedes for all of us. The Church Militant continues life’s earthly journey and battles between the two forces that determine the spiritual valor and value of each combatant. The Church Suffering lives the pains of separation in hope-filled joy, confident in God’s mercy, in the prayers and sacrifices of their sisters and brothers still on pilgrimage in this world, and of their imminent release and entrance into the Father’s eternal and loving embrace. Purgatory is that place where God’s justice and mercy meet. Where God’s justice is His mercy. Where souls who struggled valiantly through life and were wounded in the daily battles they endured, bare their scars before God, and implore the compassion and mercy of the Father that Jesus manifested to others when He walked among us.

 

When we view life through the eternal perspective offered us in Jesus, we see death as the doorway that leads to a Life fulfilled in every way, there God is all in all. There we see God face to face as He is. There faith and hope no longer are needed, and Love reigns supreme. There we surrender ourselves totally to the One Who surrendered Himself for us to death and to death on a cross. There the One Who enfleshed Himself in our human history transforms time into an eternal intimacy of never ending joy for those washed in the blood of the Lamb. November, with its somber weather (at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere of the world), cold days, sleeping nature, is just God’s way through creation to remind us of the ongoing life-giving process of God’s grace. What seems like death is nothing less than the dormant period of hidden activity, the process that brings new life.

 

Everybody talks about heaven, but it seems as though few are in any hurry to get there. As Spiritual Children of of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us look to heaven and live in its light. St. Francis walked the roads of earth with his heart always in heaven. Remembering the words of Jesus to the Apostles in the Upper Room, let our hearts not be troubled at the fact that bodily death is necessary to enter eternity. Jesus tells the Apostles, and us as well: You have faith in God (the Father); have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwellings places. I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you also may be. With our sites clearly focused on eternity, our course is direct, our goal assured, and our journey is peaceful and joyful even in the midst of difficulties and burdens, through the support, concern, and encouragement of those with whom we share the same spiritual gifts.

 

Remember to pray for the Holy Souls of the Faithful Departed that they rest in peace and come quickly to the joys they so intensely desire. Many of these souls are undoubtedly our relatives, friends, and even some we may have considered not friends or even enemies.  In eternity all souls saved in heaven and saved but not yet fully purified, cannot have any other attitude but that of love for everyone. They see us from the perspective of God’s love and mercy and can only love us and pray for our salvation. Invoking our heavenly Mother’s intercession, we ask that she, Mother and Queen of the Holy Souls and of all God’s children, pray for them.

 

Before concluding this letter, please accept my sincere best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving. In the midst of our personal difficulties, or the problems and fears that we as a nation experience, there is a God who cares for us. Give thanks to God for being God. Give thanks to God for His love. Give thanks to God for having created you so that you could know, love, serve Him here and share eternity with Him. Give thanks to God for He is good, His love is everlasting. (Psalm 136: 1)

 

May the Father in His love shower His mercy upon us; may the Son “be Jesus” to us as Redeemer and Savior and not our judge; and may the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts with the gift of His grace-filled presence. May Our Lady guide, guard and protect us at all times; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, keep all of us, his Spiritual Children, in his loving care.

 

Be assured of a remembrance in my prayers everyday, and especially this month on Thanksgiving Day, as I personally thank God for all of you and for your love. As we praise God in thanksgiving for all His blessings to us, we thank God for calling us to be a blessing to others. We thank God for being God, creating us as his beloved children, and giving us in Jesus the grace to be sisters and brothers redeemed in the Blood of Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Peace and Blessings,

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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” »