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of Saint Francis of Assisi?

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

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

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

About our region

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

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Pope Francis & CIOFS Prayer Intentions for 2024

This link contains the Holy Father’s and CIOFS prayer intentions for 2024 for fraternity use in newsletters and gatherings:

EN-Monthly-Intentions-2024

February 2024 – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, Monthly Spiritual Reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel Regional Fraternity Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2024

 

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

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

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

Who alone is good, Who alone is almighty,

Who alone is omnipotent, wonderful, glorious and Who alone is holy,

worthy of praise and blessing through endless ages.

Amen.

(Prayer of Saint Francis in the Second Version of the Letter to the Faithful)

 

In the year we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Francis receiving the Stigmata, our daily excerpts from Franciscan Sources will be taken from those concerning the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. The daily excerpts for the next five months will be taken from the five considerations concerning the Stigmata of St. Francis as found in the Little Flower of St. Francis.

OF THE FIRST CONSIDERATION OF THE MOST HOLY STIGMATA

1 – As to the first consideration, it must be known that, in 1224, St. Francis, being then forty-three years old, was inspired by God to depart from the Val di Spoleto and to go into Romagna, with Friar Leo his companion. As he went, he passed at the foot of the Castello di Montefeltro; where a great banquet and festival was then being held for the knighting of one of those Counts of Montefeltro; and St. Francis, hearing of this festival, and that many gentlefolk were gathered there from divers lands, said to Friar Leo: “Let us go up to this feast, since by God’s help we shall gather some good spiritual fruit” – When we try to make an impression, that’s the impression we make.

2 – Now among the other gentlemen, who had come there from that district to that ceremonial, was a great and rich gentleman of Tuscany, by name Messer Orlando of Chiusi in Casentino. By reason of the marvelous things he had heard concerning the sanctity and miracles of St. Francis, with great devotion and very great desire he went to the festival to see him and to hear him preach.- The great thing in this world is not so much where we are but in what direction we are moving.

3 – St. Francis having arrived at this town, entered in and went to the piazza, where were assembled a multitude of those gentlemen; and, in fervor of spirit, he climbed upon a little wall and began to preach, taking as the text of his sermon these words in the vulgar tongue: So great the bliss I hope to see, That every pain delights me.The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.

4 – And from this text, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, he preached so devoutly and so profoundly, proving the truth of the saying by divers sufferings and torments of holy apostles and of holy martyrs, by the severe penances of holy confessors, and by the many tribulations and temptations of holy virgins and of other saints, that every man stood with eyes and mind fixed upon him, and listened to him as if it were an angel of God that spoke. Among these men, the said Messer Orlando, being touched in the heart by God, through the marvelous preaching of St. Francis, was minded to consult and speak with him after the sermon concerning the affairs of his soul. – Hatred does more damage to the one in whom it is stored than the one on whom it is poured.

5 – Wherefore, when the preaching was done, he drew St. Francis aside and said unto him: “O father, I would take counsel with thee touching the salvation of my soul”. St. Francis made answer: “Well content am I; but go this morning and do honor your friends who have invited you to this festival, and dine with them. After you have dined, we will talk together as long as you please”. Messer Orlando, therefore, went to dinner. After dinner, he returned to St. Francis and laid before him fully all the affairs of his soul and took counsel with him concerning the same. – God’s grace within me and God’s strength behind me can overcaome any hurdle ahead of me.

6 – And finally this Messer Orlando said to St. Francis: “I have in Tuscany a mountain most apt for devotion, which is called the mountain of Alvernia, exceeding solitary, and passing well fitted for any who wish to do penance in a place remote from people, and desire a life of solitude. If it pleases you, gladly would I give it to you and to your companions for the salvation of my soul.” – If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

7 – St. Francis, hearing so liberal an offer of a thing which he desired so much, was very happy. Praising and thanking first God, and then Messer Orlando, he spoke to him saying: “Messer Orlando, when you return to your home, I will send you some of my companions, and you shall show them that mountain. If it seems to them fitted for prayer and for the doing of penance, even from this moment do I accept your charitable offer”. – A simple judge of my character is how I treat a person who can do absolutely nothing for me.

8 – And, when he had thus spoken, St. Francis departed; and after he had finished his journey he returned to Santa Maria degli Angeli. Messer Orlando likewise, when the festivities for the making of that knight ended, returned to his castle, which was called Chiusi, and which was distant a mile from Alvernia. – Reason led me to the mountain’s base and faith lifted me to the mountain’s top.

9 – St. Francis, then, having returned to Santa Maria degli Angeli, sent two of his companions to the said Messer Orlando, who, when they arrived, were welcomed with very great joy and charity: and, desiring to show them the mountain of Alvernia, he sent with them fifty armed men, to defend them from the wild beasts. Thus accompanied, those friars went up into the mountain and explored it diligently. At last they came unto a part of the mountain well suited for devotion and for contemplation. There was also some level ground. It was there they chose for their habitation and for that of St. Francis. With the aid of those armed men who accompanied and defended them on the journey, they made a little cell with the boughs of trees, and, in the name of God, they accepted and took possession of the mountain of Alvernia and of the Place of the friars in that mountain, and departed and returned to St. Francis. – Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

10 – When they arrived, they told him how and in what manner they had taken the Place on the mountain of Alverna, well fitted for prayer and contemplation. Now, when St. Francis heard this news, he rejoiced greatly, and, giving praise and thanks to God, spoke to those friars with a joyful face, and said: – Feed your faith, and your doubts will starve to death.

11 – “My sons, we are drawing close to our forty days’ fast of St. Michael the Archangel; and I firmly believe that it is the will of God that we keep this fast in the mountain of Alverna, which by Divine dispensation hath been made ready for us, so that we may, through penance, merit from Christ the consolation of consecrating that blessed mountain to the honor and glory of God and of His glorious mother, the Virgin Mary, and of the holy angels”.- We become what we think.

12 – And then, having said these words, St. Francis took with him Friar Masseo da Marignano of Assisi, who was a man of great wisdom and eloquence, and Friar Angelo Tancredi da Rieti, who was a man of very noble birth, and who in the world had been a knight, and Friar Leo, who was a man of very great simplicity and purity; for the which St. Francis loved him very much. And with these three friars St. Francis betook himself to prayer, and commended himself and his companions just mentioned to the prayers of the friars who remained behind, and he set out with those three in the name of Jesus Christ the Crucified, to go to the mountain of Alvernia; – Who stops being better stops being good.

13 – and, as he went, St. Francis called one of those three companions, Friar Masseo, and said to him thus: “You, Friar Masseo, shall be our Guardian and Superior on this journey. While we are going and abiding together, and we will observe our custom: that either we will say the office, or we will speak of God, or we will keep silence; and we will take no thought beforehand, neither of eating, nor of drinking, nor of sleeping; – One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of te shore.

14 – but when the time to rest for the night arrives, we will beg a little bread, and will lodge and repose ourselves in that place which God shall make ready for us.” Then those three companions bowed their heads, and, signing themselves with the sign of the cross, went forward; and the first evening they came to a Place of friars, and there they lodged. – What we usually pray to God is not that his will be done, but that he approve ours.

15 – The second evening, by reason of the bad weather and because they were weary, they were not able to reach any Place of friars, or any walled town, nor any hamlet; and when night and the bad weather overtook them, they sought shelter in an abandoned and disused church, and there they laid down to rest, and, while his companions slept, St. Francis gave himself to prayer; – Jesus Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all.

16 – and lo! in the first watch of the night, there came a great multitude of most ferocious demons with very great noise and tumult, and began vehemently to give him battle and annoyance; for one plucked him on this side and another on that; one pulled him down and another up; one menaced him with one thing and another accused him of another; and thus in divers manners did they seek to disturb him in his prayer; but they were not able, because God was with him. – People who falI love with themselves do not need to fear rivals.

17 – Wherefore, when St. Francis had borne these assaults of the demons for some time, he began to cry with a loud voice: “O damned spirits, you can do nothing save that which the hand of God permits you to do; and therefore, in the name of God Omnipotent I tell you that you may do to my body whatever is permitted to you by God, and I will bear it willingly; for I have no greater enemy than this body of mine. Wherefore, if you take vengeance for me upon mine enemy, you do me a very great service.” Thereupon the demons, with very great impetus and fury, laid hold of him and began to hale him about the church and to do him much greater injury and annoyance than at first.- Humanity must put an end to war or war will put an end to  humanity.

18 – And then St. Francis commenced to cry aloud and said: “My Lord Jesus Christ, I thank Thee for the great honor and charity which Thou show me; for it is a token of much love when the Lord thoroughly punishes His servant for all his faults in this world, to the end that he may not be punished in the next. – Only when we learn to see the invisible will we learn to do the impossible.

19 – And I am ready to endure joyfully every pain and every adversity which Thou, my God, may desire to send me for my sins.” Then the demons, being put to confusion and conquered by his constancy and patience, left him, – Be careful how you live, you may be the only Bible some persons ever read.

20 – and St. Francis, in fervor of spirit, went forth from the church into a wood which was nearby, and there he gave himself to prayer; and, with supplications and tears and beatings of his breast, sought to find Jesus Christ, the Spouse and delight of his soul. And when, at last, he found Him in the secret places of his soul, he now spoke reverently to Him as his Lord; now answered Him as his Judge; now sought Him as his Father; and now talked with Him as to a Friend. – Faith is like love, it cannot be forced.

21 – On that night and in that wood, his companions, after they were awakened and had come there to hear and consider what he was doing, they saw and heard him, with tears and cries, devoutly beseeching the Divine mercy for sinners. Then too he was heard and seen to bewail the Passion of Christ with a loud voice as if he saw the same with his bodily eyes. On that same night they saw him praying, with his arms held in the form of a cross, uplifted for a great space and raised from the ground, surrounded by a resplendent cloud. – Evangelization is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.

22 – And on this wise, in these holy exercises, he passed the whole of that night without sleeping; and thereafter, in the morning, because they knew that, by reason of the fatigues of the night which he had passed without sleep, St. Francis was very weak in body and could ill have travelled on foot, his companions went to a poor laborer of that district, and besought him for the love of God to lend his little ass to St. Francis, their father, who could not go on foot. – One of the greatest necessities is to discover creative solitude.

23 – Now, when this man heard them make mention of Friar Francis, he asked them: “Are you some of the friars of that friar of Assisi about whom so much good is spoken?” The friars answered: “Yes”; and that it was in truth for him that they asked the beast of burden. Then that good man made ready the little ass, with great devotion and diligence, and led it to St. Francis with great reverence and made him mount it; and they continued their journey; and he with them, behind his little ass. – People who live solely for themselves are eventually corrupted by their own company.

24 – And, when they had gone some distance, that villain said to St. Francis: “Tell me, are you Friar Francis of Assisi?” And St. Francis answered him, “Yes.” “Strive, then (said the villain), to be as good as all folk hold you to be, for there are many which have great faith in you; and therefore I admonish you, that thou fall not short of that which men hope to find you.” – God doesn’t want our deeds; God wants the love that prompts them.

25 – Hearing these words, St. Francis did not disdain to be admonished by a villain, and said: “What beast is this that admonishes me?” as many many proud fellows who wear the friar’s habit would say to-day; but immediately St. Francis cast himself to earth from off the ass, and kneeled down before that villain and kissed his feet, and thanked him humbly, because he had deigned to admonish him so charitably. Then the villain, together with the companions of St. Francis, raised him up from off the ground with great devotion, and set him upon the ass again, and continued their journey. – Life must be dedicated to a destiny in oder to have a meaning.

26 – And when they had gone perhaps half way up the mountain; because the heat was very great and the ascent difficult, this villain became exceeding thirsty, so that he began to cry aloud behind St. Francis, saying: “Alas! I am dying of thirst; if I have nothing to drink I shall presently faint.” Because of this St. Francis dismounted from his ass and betook himself to prayer; and he remained upon his knees with his hands raised to heaven until he knew by revelation that God had heard him. – Tell me whom you love and I will tell you who you are.

27 – And then St. Francis said to the villain: “Run, go quickly to that rock, and there thou shall find living water, which Jesus Christ, in this hour, has of His mercy made to issue from that rock”. So he went to the place which St. Francis had shown him, and found there a fair spring which had come forth from the hard rock at the prayer of St. Francis, and he drank copiously thereof, and was comforted. And it was clearly seen that that fountain was miraculously produced by God through the prayers of St. Francis, because neither before nor after was there ever found, in that place, a spring of water, nor any living water near that place for a great distance round about. – The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear God.

28 – St. Francis, with his companions and with the villain, gave thanks to God for the miracle and continued their journey. When they drew near to the foot of the peak of Alvernia itself, it pleased St. Francis to rest himself a little beneath an oak which was in that place and which is there yet; and, as he sat beneath it, St. Francis began to consider the situation of the place and of the country thereabout; and, while he was thus considering, lo! a great multitude of birds came there from divers parts, with singing and beating of wings, all showed very great joy and gladness; and they surrounded St. Francis so that some alighted upon his head, and some upon his shoulders, and some upon his arms, and some in his bosom, and some about his feet. – Saints are persons who make it easier for others to believe in God.

29 – Now when his companions and the villain saw this they marveled greatly; whereupon St. Francis, all joyful in spirit, spoke to them saying: “I believe, most dear brothers, that it is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that we dwell in this solitary mountain, because our sisters and brothers the birds show such joy of our coming”. And when he had said these words, they rose up and continued their journey; and finally came unto the place which his companions had chosen at the first. And this suffices for the first consideration, on how St. Francis came to the holy mountain of Alverna. – God does not ask for our ability or our inability, but our availability.

Have a Fruitful and Happy Lent

February 2024-Monthly Spiritual Asst Reflection

February 2024 – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, Monthly Greetings

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2024

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi,

May the Most high, glorious Lord, enlighten the darkness of your hearts and give you a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense, and knowledge, so that you may carry out His holy and true command and may the Lord grant you His peace, as we enter the Mystery of the Cross of Christ that our Father St. Francis bore in his heart and on his body.

The Universality of the Cross cannot be denied. Besides the Cross of Jesus, there is the cross each one of us has to bear. Seen in the light of Jesus’ words, the Mystery of the Cross, accepted in faith, can help us have a perspective on life that encourages us to confidently accept the challenge to change. Unless we die to ourselves, we can never hope to really live. We want to live, and live fully, but there is something that holds us back from making strides that forge ahead.

An expression often used by Jesus in the Gospels, repeated by Pope St. John Paul II innumerable times, and taken up by his successor Pope Benedict XVI is: Do not be afraid. We need to remember these words and take them to heart. Fear seems to be the universal common denominator that seeks to control the lives of so many.

The ultimate fear for most people is the fear of death. There are also the ‘minor-yet-no-less crippling’ fears: fear of uselessness, fear of failure, fear of being forgotten, fear of being a ‘no one’. These, and many others, are all valid for those who have not yet been able to believe fully and take Jesus at His word. Among these are many Catholic Christians whose faith has been reduced to mere practices that no longer help them find a deeper meaning to life. Even the wonderful gift of the Eucharist becomes for many just ‘another pious devotional tool’ rather than the Real empowering Presence of the God-among-and-within-us. How tragic it would be had there not been a way out of this devastating situation that many camouflage so well.

The Church offers us a wonderful opportunity each year to review, reflect and renew our lives: Lent. We are called to deepen our relationship with God, Who in turn strengthens and enables us to live our lives more fully.  Lent is a time for us to look at ourselves and the world in a powerful light – the Light of the Cross. This is not just any cross, but the Cross of Christ. The Drama of the Cross of Jesus is the Greatest Act of Love humanity could ever imagine. This Act of Love  begun in the silence of the womb of Mary was made visible with the wooden Manger/Crib at Bethlehem. St Francis of Assisi immortalized for the eyes of the faithful the event of Bethlehem at Greccio in Italy. The Franciscan Family celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Greccio Nativity scene setup by St. Francis of Assisi.

From the simplicity of  Bethlehem, the “Drama of the Cross” reached its climax on the wooden Cross of Calvary. The Crib embraced the Infant for all to see in wonder and joy, and the Cross on Golgotha lifted up the Man for all to approach with adoring reverence and gratitude. The Crib offered the Infant for all to embrace; the Cross extended the arms of the Man and opened His heart for all to be embraced and enter into the Love of the Father. Do not be afraid. This loving reminder, “Do Not Be Afraid”, is repeated over 300 times in Sacred Scripture. Why be afraid, what do we fear, if He shares life with each one of us at every moment?

Since it was first hoisted into place on the Hill of the Skull, the Cross has accentuated the Sign of Contradiction first seen at Bethlehem in the Infant and then throughout Judah/Israel two thousand years ago, during the ministry of the Man. Myriads of peoples have heard of and responded to the Cross of Christ. Some have accepted and proclaimed the message. Others have rejected and sought to eliminate its impact on the world in a variety of ways. There are the open acts of physical violence that have given the Church Her holy martyrs, outstanding witnesses of uncompromising faith and love. There are the subtle allurements and enticements that seek to mislead souls from the values and principles of our faith, thus jeopardizing the very core of the person and the strength of the believing community. This is the more devious and devastating of the two. Do not be afraid. Jesus has conquered the world.

The Cross is the Truth to our questions. The Cross offers balance to our confusion. The Cross indicates the sure Way to follow. The Cross reminds us that the One Solitary Life that accepted and surrendered to the Cross in death, is the greatest image of the only Life that really matters, no matter the cost. The Universality of the Cross makes it the determining Instrument of Success and Fulfillment for all who lovingly and confidently accept the challenge to take up your cross and follow in My footsteps (cfr. Matthew 16: 24-26).

Following Greccio’s celebration, we prepare to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the reception of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi on Mount La Verna. At the mount of Greccio and the Crib of Jesus we celebrate the humility of God’s birth as a human. In this Year of the 800th anniversary of the Stigmata of St. Francis, we are transported in the spirit to the “sublimity” of God’s exaltation in His sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary, and the gift imprinted on the body of our Seraphic Father. The journey of the Christian is always From the Crib to the Cross…and beyond!  Jesus is born to die that we may be re-born to live. Jesus becomes mortal and shares time with humanity so that we may become immortal and co-eternal with Christ in His eternity.

What do we see and hear from the Cross? From the Cross of Jesus we see the anguish of the sick, the tears of the frustrated. We hear the laments of those struggling as they climb the winding road of their Golgotha. From the Cross of Jesus we see the nations of the ‘fourth’ world condemned to die of hunger, as a large crowd carries its insignia of concern for the fundamental rights of all human beings, but keeps silent when faced with the ultimate challenge to act. From the Cross of Jesus can be seen nations considered marginal and destined for extinction by the great powers of the world whose only concern is their own economic growth at the expense of others nations, most of whom are either patronized or considered ‘expendable’. From the heights of the Cross of Jesus, can be seen the newly-forming nations still struggling to be ‘free’, those massacred in the various hot-beds of war throughout the world. From the Cross of Christ we recognize the stranger in search of a homeland, those longing to make a difference in a troubled world, the segregated and oppressed of society. Do not be afraid, for I am with you (Isaiah 41: 10), in this sign (of the Cross) you will conquer (These are words of the vision to the Emperor Constantine at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, a battle that led to the end of the persecution of Christians and freedom for the Christian Church.)

Please don’t think that I am talking politics. Some may even comment that I should ‘stick to spiritual things’. Our Faith must be concretized. Unless we make our faith visible in our lives, we are nothing more than plastic images, not to say ‘hypocrites’. Our faith is not a Policy, it is a Person. Faith must be concretized if it is to go beyond mere ‘lip service’. Until our faith can be translated into an awareness of those ‘crucified’ around us and in the world, we are walking with our eyes closed and are in danger of falling ourselves into the very ditches we refuse to acknowledge.

It is true that every Christian must accept his/her own cross, but it is also true that each one of us must seek to unfasten those who have been hung on the cross. One cross is our challenge in life; another is the cross that is placed upon us by others. In both cases, however, the cross becomes the challenge that says: Do not be afraid. Now is the time for us to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own (Isaiah 58: 6).

We have a tendency to speak about “spirituality” and we are enthused when we hear of extraordinary mystical experiences. Nevertheless, we hesitate or even refuse to come to the aide of our brother or sister who groans under the weight of their personal cross. Even Jesus was given a Simon of Cyrene. It is Christ Who suffers in them! Not only must we seek to alleviate their burdens, but we must also begin to identify those who construct the crosses for others to bear, and attempt to eradicate their hurtful influence in the life of others. We don’t have to go far. The opportunities to be Christ to others are all around us. Open your eyes and your heart! Do not be afraid at what you see and whom you invite into your love. It might just be the Lord knocking who waits for us to Open the Door to Christ. What a tragedy if just that one time we were busy, tired, annoyed, and we failed to let Him into our “disarmed heart”. The Cross disarmed Jesus totally And we?

Faithfulness to the Cross of Jesus demands much from us. It expects us to see in the Cross the instrument of our salvation. It presumes we recognize the Cross as a sign that redemption is near. It urges us to lift our hands and not just our hearts to help make a burden bearable if we cannot eliminate it. It is the only way – the Way of the Cross – that leads us with and through Jesus, to a more complete life. Why?  Because the Way of the Cross does not lead to death, but to a total commitment and surrender to the One Who Alone is the Source of New Life for ourselves and all with whom we share the journey to the Hill of Redemption. In so many areas of the world new hope begins to dawn because of those who have met Christ on the way and have heeded His words: Do not be afraid. For the Franciscan it could sound “do not be afraid to embrace the leper”, “do not be afraid to accept the Cross”, “do not be afraid to die…to yourself”

The certitude of a soul filled with a faith that lets go of itself to trust in the Lord, can be seen in the following words. The words are taken from correspondence between a spiritual director and the directee. I only know one thing for certain, that the Lord will never fall short of his promises. ‘Do not fear, I will make you suffer, but I will also give you the strength to suffer’, Jesus tells me continually. ‘I want your soul to be purified and tried by a daily hidden martyrdom; do not be frightened if I allow the devil to torment you, the world to disgust you and your nearest and dearest to afflict you, for nothing will prevail against those who groan beneath the Cross for love of me and whom I have taken care to protect.  Beneath the Cross one learns to love and I do not grant this to everyone, but only to those souls who are dearest to me’. May the same Cross always be our bed of rest, our school of perfection, our beloved heritage. The surest sign of love is the capacity to suffer for the beloved. We must keep our eyes fixed on the noble, majestic and holy company of those who follow Jesus to Golgotha. Each one of them without exception bears the profession of the true faith on his countenance, self-denial in his heart, and the cross on his shoulders.

The Cross is our insignia, our sign of victory, our pledge of unity with the Master, our remedy for the ills of humanity, our hope for eternity, our certitude of God’s inimitable and eternal Love for us in Jesus.

When St. Francis had disrobed of his earthly clothes and was given the poor tunic to wear, the first thing he did, we are told, was trace a cross on it. He was to bear the cross as his daily garment. The cross he wore was the dignity he shared with Jesus Himself. The cross he wore on his tunic, the cross who spoke to him at San Damiano, was the cross imprinted spiritually on his heart until it was emblazoned on his body for all to see on Mount La Verna.

Mindful of the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel telling the angel to sign the elect with the sign of the “tau,” Francis made the “tau” his signature. It became the “Franciscan Cross”. Just as the “tau” is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, so the Franciscans signed with the “tau” of the elect, herald the end of an age that introduces the Cross, the “new tau”, as the sign of the beginning of a new age. The sign of the cross and the body of the one who would be physically imprinted with its marks heralded a new age when hearts grown cold were once again enkindled with the fire of God’s love (loose translation of the old prayer for the Mass of the Stigmata) to proclaim a world of peace and blessings for all.

The holy season of Lent is upon us. We search for more ways to make the Cross of Jesus a more present and reflective reminder of the meaning of the Mystery of the Cross of Christ in our life, not just in our liturgical and devotional practices, but also more deeply in our own personal lives. The Cross must be a sign of encouragement as we seek ways of assisting others who are burdened with their crosses.

We envision and even invent devotional practices each Lent to “deepen our prayer life”. The desire is to celebrate more intensely the penitential spirit of Lent. There is however a practice many pray about sincerely with their lips, but not so much with the full affirmation of their hearts. Why? because The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It may seem simplistic. Do we ever realize that what God wants is us, our hearts, our wills? God asks and waits for one thing, and we beat around the bush without getting to the heart of it all. How many have prayed and maybe still pray the famous prayer of St.Alphonsus Liguori after each station of the Cross:  Grant that I may love you always, then do with me as you will. We mean the words “devotionally and sincerely”. Nevertheless, in the concrete, we hesitate to desire to be convinced and determined to accept whatever Cross God may permit. Yet, that would be the perfect prayer and devotion since it is not the one I want but the one the Father Himself is offering to me. Even Jesus prayed: Father if it is possible let this cross pass from me. (So we can feel hesitant) Yet not my will but Yours be done (Yet realizing it’s God Who wills, isn’t acceptance a “sure thing”?). Jesus understood the Father’s answer. His anguish of what awaited Him made Him sweat blood. Nonetheless, trusting in the Father’s Will, He faced the Cross with loving surrender. And we are redeemed.

The Father never asks His children to do anything beyond their strength. The greatest penitential practice for Lent is living each moment with loving surrender to the Father’s Will. Thus, we open our hearts to others, assisting them in their needs. Prayers and devotional practices are necessary to keep our hearts and minds focused. We remember our dignity as Christians and the spiritual treasury of our Catholic Faith. In a simpler and more serene manner we are enabled to advance swiftly and effectively on our Lenten journey. We need not try to figure out what to do.  All we have to do is be willingly, trustingly, and cheerfully available at all times in every way to God’s Will. The Cross is always a sure thing for a Christian. When more than during Lent?

Have a blessed and spiritually fruitful beginning to Lent. Let go of your hesitancy. Go beyond yourself to others. Take up the daily challenge of your cross. Look beyond the difficulties of the moment. Trust in the One Who gave Himself for us all. Do not be afraid to deepen your relationship with God (Prayer), to distance yourself from all you allow to possess you (Penance), and to open your heart and surrender to the Christ Who suffers in others and awaits your love (Almsgiving). These three elements help make for a fruitful Lent. Have confidence and courage. Do not be afraid!

In this Year of the Stigmata of St. Francis, let us keep alive in our hearts the message God offers us through the writings of St. Paul as we celebrate the Stigmata of Christ imprinted on the body of our Seraphic Father: It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. Therefore let no one trouble me for I bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body.

May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of you and your loved ones with loving care.

Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

February 2024-Monthly Spiritual Asst Greetings

 

 

 

Prayer for the Servant Leader

Brothers and sisters,

Jen Drees, OFS (Regional Formation Director) has started monthly “office hours” with local fraternity formation directors.  During their Zoom meetings, they have used a prayer resource from the National Fraternity USA website under “Pray with Us/Prayers for Fraternal Life.”

PRAYER-FOR-THE-SERVANT-LEADER

As many fraternities in our region prepare for their Chapters of Election, let us consider making this a part of our personal and communal prayer patterns.  The very opening of this prayer is a testament to someone seeking out and desiring to do God’s will:

“Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Your own.”

Let us always be open to the Holy Spirit to guide and animate us at every level of fraternity!

Peace and all good,

Teresa S. Redder, OFS

St. Katharine Drexel Regional Minister

November 2023-Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, Monthly Reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel Regional Fraternity 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

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Be grateful God is God and that there is no Other

and for God’s abundant Blessings.

November 2023

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 Book of The Tribulations ends with the daily passages for this month taken from the last chapter The Testament.  The daily sayings are taken from various sources.


[The Testament]

1 – But so that he might remove every scruple of doubt from the hearts of all the brothers, Blessed Francis toward the end of his life clearly declared in his Testament the truth of his intention, as he had it in the Rule, just as he had received it from Christ. He strictly commanded all his cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or the Testament: – Afflictions are but the shadows of God’s wings.

2 – “They should be understood in this way,” but as the Lord gave him to write the Rule and Testament purely and simply, they should understand them purely and simply and observe them purely and simply until the end, blessing all who observe them in this way and firmly blocking the way toward asking letters or privileges from the Roman Curia, either personally or through an intermediary, against the pure and literal observance of the Rule handed over to him by Christ. – Sorrow is a fruit: God does not make it grow on limbs too weak to bear it.

3 – The commands and words of the saint himself, therefore, make it clear that he received the Rule and Testament by revelation from Christ, and that the correct, true, pure, faithful, and spiritual understanding and observance of the Rule is the literal observance. The other “declarations” are pious concessions made by pious doctors for those who are ill, useful and necessary dispensations for the salvation of souls of those who are unable or unwilling to be obliged to that difficult and perfect observance of the Rule which the founder taught and fulfilled and received from Christ directly. – Light griefs can speak, but deeper ones are dumb.

4 – But a reform of the Rule revealed to Saint Francis, to be carried out after the mystery marked by his cross, will be the pure, simple, and literal observance of the Rule and Testament, as the Holy Spirit fills those whom He chooses and calls to preach the life of Christ in word and deed like seraphim, cherubim, and thrones. Like the seraphim, confident that He dwells in them, they will carry Christ in body and soul in the form of the cross. – Those who have known grief seldom seem sad.

5 – As a sign of this, Francis appeared as nailed, first in soul and afterwards in the flesh, prefiguring an opposing reality in adversities. Like the cherubim, because the uncreated intelligence, begotten of the Father from eternity, he will penetrate, enlighten, and confirm the understanding of the humble lesser brothers through feeling and virtue. He will make them wise in the light, communicating to them like another Elijah appeared to six brothers in a fiery chariot, and their consciences were laid bare, one to the other. – There are times when sorrow seems to be the only truth.

6 – Like the thrones, the strength of the all-powerful Father, the brightness of the faith and its living action will help them mightily. Their prayers will be answered, their vows fulfilled, their threats and curses feared, and their blessings will be loved and revered. – One who has grieved can feel the beauty of music.

7 – Without Christ Jesus dwelling in them like the seraphim, enlightening them like cherubim, and resting and sitting in them like the thrones, the chosen ones would not be strong enough to sustain the burden of the last tribulation. In it the power of the dragon, set loose in the man of perdition, will be lifted up and extolled to such an extent that seated in the temple of God, he will display himself, above all that is called “God” or is worshipped as such. – Often it is required to leave God for God.

8 – For just as the life of Christ, His preaching, passion, death, wounds, burial, resurrection, ascension, and all the rest of His deeds and teachings, present, past, and future, singly and all together, humanly and divinely, begin and complete, grant and announce, seal and open, so too the dignity and majesty of His grace and glory are revealed and appear in the saints, and the secrets of His counsel are communicated in an orderly plan, so that all things which are of Christ may shine forth in each of Christ’s members and each may glow more gloriously in all by effect and virtue. – Often we are invited to leave God’s sweetness to serve Him in sorrows and travails.

9 – Christ Jesus is the truth—Eternal Wisdom, uncreated, begotten and creating all things, containing all things, and completing all things—and communicates himself wholly in many and varied ways, human and divine, to each one and to all as He wills according to the capacity of each, for the completion of His mystical body, renewing signs and working wonders through His Spirit for His glorification. – Only life which deliberately picks up and starts again is victorious.

10 – He wished to give to all in Francis a unique memorial of Himself and His wonders: therefore, after He had given through Francis the Rule and teaching of His life, He clothed him with the sign of His flesh and cross, so that the newest members would realize that they ought to be conformed to their head. – Sorrow makes us all children again.

11 – And just as the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God and His inscrutable judgments, which are sealed, are closed and openly revealed by the Father through the Holy Spirit in Christ, so now in this last hour Christ placed the sign of the Cross in the heaven of the Church, and willed it to appear in Francis, so that those who look at him put on Christ and follow him and flee in front of the plundering sword of the hellish man, and are not caught in the trap of his errors, nor cling to falsehood through the work of lies, and thus fall away from the truth. – Prejudice is the reasoning of the stupid.

12 – Finally, as someone says, how was it far from Francis to glory except in the cross of the Lord? Who can express it? Who can understand? It was given to him alone to experience it. For this reason perhaps it had to appear in the flesh, since it could not be explained in words. This alone intimates to human ears what is not yet entirely clear: why that sacrament appeared in the saint, as what is revealed by him to him, and draws understanding from the future: at the end it will be true and worthy of faith, to which nature, law, and grace will be witnesses; for the sign cries out the signified; let silence speak where words fall short. – Christianity is asceticism without rigorism, and love without sentimentality.

13 – For now that all these things have happened, there is the beginning of clarity about those secrets, revealed through the seraph to Francis himself, and closed within the signs of the wounds. Christ Jesus, true God and man, the beginning and the end of created nature, law, grace, and glory, circumscribed and enclosed in the cross the immensity of His omnipotence, the infinity of His wisdom, the bounty of His mercy, and the ineffable goodness of His charity. He destroyed death by death and enlightened life and incorruptibility through the Gospel; and Francis, professing it, was made, in word and action, its herald in the Church by Christ. – Nothing is more depressing and more illogical than aggressive Christianity.

14 – Christ crucified, rising from the dead, and giving the apostles the Holy Spirit, from the death of the letter poured forth the Spirit of life. Rising from the dead, Christ gave this revelation, received from the Father through death, to His servants the apostles. – The world around us will recognize us as disciples of Jesus when they see our prayers are being answered.

15 – And they knew that they had received, through the death of the flesh, the life of the life-giving Christ; and being made saints among the saints by the power of sanctification through His Spirit, they preached life-giving faith against deadly and death-dealing unbelief. – The main business of a Christian is to go through the world turning its water into wine.

16 – And their tongue was made the key of heaven, opening the ways of life to God’s worthy and faithful ones, demonstrating by signs, words, and deeds the destruction of the world and the demise and eternal perdition of those who love it. They separated the precious from the vile, truth from lies, goodness from malice, and they were made the mouth of God and the chariot of His omnipotence against the world and the prince of the world. – If we were willing to learn the meaning of true discipleship and actually to become disciples, the Church in the west would become transformed and the impact on society would be staggering.

17 – They preached the Gospel to the crucifiers of Christ, those who despised His humility. The apostles tried, through the love of heavenly things and the acknowledgment and imitation of Christ, to draw them away from infidelity and disobedience to God, which they incurred through the sin of envy against Christ, and from the enmity of God, which they incurred under the pretext of preserving divine worship … but God broke them and dispersed them and made His name great among the nations. – It takes two to make peace.

18 – Those who were his brothers in name only denied and opposed by their words and deeds the evangelical life and perfection, which was solemnly introduced and renewed by Christ in the Church through Francis in opposition to the cunning of demons and the errors and fallacies of the precursors of Antichrist. Then the sign of his wounds will cry out and proclaim the malice of the persecutors signified in the wounds and silence, and speaking, will declare that innocence and perfection truly exists in those who will endure persecution. – Peace is not made at the council tables or by treaties, but in the hearts of men.

19 – For faith, as it is sure knowledge of God, not having demonstrable first principles, since it is one of those things above the mind and understanding, is an existing substance, and works beyond nature in those who are truly faithful. Those dependent upon the reasonings of human philosophy will attempt, with the devil agitating them, to overturn and revoke those who are grounded, rooted in it, demonstrating by sophistry that they live contrary to Scripture and the example and teachings of the early fathers; and that they act foolishly, rashly and irrationally, presuming to live and observe things impossible for human nature, out of harmony with common custom and tradition of the early fathers, derived from the saints and by the saints up to the present time. Accordingly, Christians will consider that they are doing a service to God when they kill those Christians striving for true perfection with all their might. – Yes, we love peace, yet we are not willing to take wounds for it, as we are for war.

20 – For this reason, the one who wrote the first legend says that it will be true and worthy of faith, to which nature, law, and grace will be witnesses, since the innocence of Abel, the meekness and humility of Moses, and the kindness and charity of Christ will bear witness for these latest poor men, humble in mind and heart. They are truly blessed, much like the saints before them, who once served the Lord under the law of nature, the law of Moses, and the law of the grace, and they will suffer in the end of the time of the Church of the nations. – My religion is based on truth and non-violence.

21 – At last the ancient serpent, who by his own pride was cast down from his high state, seduced the first man, attacked Moses, tempted Christ, and had Him crucified, at the beginning of the fullness of the end will be let loose to tempt the Church of the nations. In his release wickedness will overflow, or abound, and charity will grow cold, so that the humility, faith, poverty, purity, and charity of Christ will be considered pride, perfidy, heresy, sterility, and foolishness. – A bad peace is better than a good war.

22 – For Brother Pacificus, who in ecstasy of mind saw and heard that the seat of Lucifer was reserved for the humble Francis. And Brother Salvo saw that Francis was chosen by God from all the saints to have a particular battle with Lucifer. And another brother saw that Lucifer had entered into the religion of the Lesser Brothers, and assumed the habit, so that he could vanquish Francis more easily. – Who is narrow of vision cannot be big of heart.

23 – Brothers in appearance and name will attack and persecute the Brothers who are Lesser in fact and deed, and will hate them in a fanatical and insane way, and boldly follow a leader of foolishness, error, and disbelief, the enemy of Francis, the most humble and poorest man, namely, Lucifer, and, having drawn the sons of his flesh away from him, in irreverence, incredulity, and disobedience they will have provoked and exasperated him as long as he lived. – Compassion is the root of religion; pride the root of sin.

24 – This was, therefore, the first conflict of incredulity and irreverence and disobedience against Francis, the founder under Christ, and his true and heartfelt followers, against which Christ, in Francis and his companions, stood and went out conquering, so that he might vanquish through true poverty and humility, and rule triumphantly in peace and charity. So be it. Amen – God does not wish us to remember what He is willing to forget.

25 – Near the time of the passing of the humble, poor servant of God, Francis, he had all the brothers of the place called to him, and spoke consoling words to them about his death. With fatherly affection and powerful words he exhorted them to observance of the life and Rule they had promised, to divine mutual love, and to reverence and obedience to the holy mother Roman Church and all clerics. With the most powerful and reliable words he inflamed them to possess poverty, humility, peace, and mutual love, leaving and bequeathing these as inheritance rights; and to ardent following of the footprints of Jesus Christ and contempt and hatred of the world. – Unless you are deliberately kind to every creature, you will often be cruel to many.

26 – As they were sitting around him he ordered a brief testament written, in which he wrote down all the truth of his first and last intention, revealed to him by Christ, purely and clearly, both for those present as well as for those absent and those to come to the religion until the end of the age. And he ordered with all possible strictness that it be faithfully and reverently observed and preserved under the protection of the Most High heavenly Father and His blessed Son Jesus Christ and His blessing. – Compassion will cure more sins that condemnation.

27 – He blessed all the brothers, present and absent in the power and name of Jesus Christ Crucified, his arms crossed, extending over them in the form of a cross, his hands marked with the wounds of Jesus Christ. He also had Brother Bernard of Quintavalle, the first brother, called to him. Placing his right hand on the head of this brother in front of all the brothers, he blessed him with particular, heartfelt affection. – Justice seeks out the merits of the case, but pity only regards the needs.

28 – After the blessing, Blessed Francis ordered one of his companions: “Write what I tell you: the first brother the Lord gave me was Brother Bernard, and he first began and perfectly fulfilled the perfection of the Holy Gospel, distributing all he had to the poor. Because of this, and many other prerogatives given to him by God, I am held to love him more than any other brother of the whole religion. Therefore, it is my will and my command, as much as I am able, that the general minister of the religion, whoever he may be, should love him and honor him as myself, and also all the Provincial ministers and the brothers of the whole religion should hold him in my place.” – Friendship-one soul in two bodies.

29 – And Saint Francis also prophesied about Brother Bernard that toward the end of his life he would be supplied with many graces and gifts from Christ Jesus, and would pass from this life to Christ, in assurance and filled with the anointing of the Holy Spirit in admirable peace and rest of body and soul, as clearly appeared later to all the brothers who were present at his passing. Then, as the brothers observed his confidence in Christ at death, and his overwhelming devotion to his last breath, they could not restrain themselves from crying, but out of gladness and wonder said: “This man was truly an unrecognized saint!” – A man may have authority over others, but he can never have their heart but by giving his own.

30 – After his death they looked upon him as a saint of God, spreading gladness and joy with a marvelous fragrance and singular beauty which he did not have before when he was living. And they were delighted by his appearance, because a certain power came forth from him, cheering those standing by and looking at him, and it filled them with both sweetness and spiritual consolation. – I do not want merely to possess a faith; I want a faith that possesses me.

Peace and Blessings,

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

November 2023-Monthly Spiritual Asst Reflection

November 2023-

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

November, 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

We have been elevated to the supernatural state, redeemed and saved, and we are destined for Eternity with God, “co-eternity”. We need to consider death not as the end of everything. It is not the end. It is not ruin. It is not the fatal conclusion. It is the transition to co-eternity.  If we consider ourselves to be passing through this world, if we act as though we are temporary, if we aspire to what is Up Above, if we set our lives up based on the Beyond, if we base our existence on the afterlife, then everything comes into order, everything becomes balanced, everything is oriented, everything is fed in hope.  If we think of tomorrow as the next future to prepare for, then one of the most important virtues of spirituality comes into play: that of Hope. Hope, not as poetic rhetoric, not as a change of mood and also not as an evasion that allows for non-commitment, but as what it is: the second theological virtue which is infused like a seed during Baptism. These are words of Bl. Carlo Acutis, a 15 yr. old adolescent, a “millennial”, who died of leukemia in the prime of life. A theologian could not have spoken more eloquently considering life’s journey and the ultimate instant in life to Life: Death!

Pain and suffering have always been ‘problems’ for human beings.  They are facts of life from whom no one can escape (cfr Canticle of the Creatures of St. Francis of Assisi).  Experience helps us to think we know about suffering and pain.  However, what many are convinced “beyond a doubt” regarding death and dying eclipses when the moment approaches.  Death is the mystery we will understand only when we experience it. When we do experience it, we will not be able to tell anyone else about it.  How we view “tomorrow” determines who or what we prepare our hearts for at that moment.  Even a fifteen year old adolescent, filled with faith, hope, and love for life, can look forward to “Up Above” and “Co-Eternity” with God. What happens is that as time passes we begin to forget, or try to.  Have we really tried to remember that we are created by and for God, to live with Him forever, to be a part of “co-eternity”?

Today me, tomorrow you. This is a loose translation of the Latin inscription: Hodie mihi, cras tibi. This famous saying can often be seen sculpted or painted at the entrances of many cemeteries in Europe. It is a rather stark and macabre reminder that earthly life, as chronologically long or deeply intense as it may be, will eventually have its transforming moment from time to eternity. The point of convergence of all life’s experiences – good, bad, and indifferent – will come together awaiting our call to timelessness. Death calls and eternity awaits. It is not the end of everything, as too many people feel and believe. It is the moment of the ultimate transformation of who we are into who we were created to be.

The journey of life is so wonderful because of the many challenges God offers us along the way.  All is aimed at encouraging us to grow in His love and to achieve the full stature of Christ.(Ephesians 4:13) Why?  Because the glory of God is man come to full stature (St. Irenaeus). It can also be very dangerous because of the many allurements and seductions that can entice us to deviate from the path marked out for us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.(John 14: 6)  If we follow His Way, listen to His Word of Truth, we can expect ultimately to share in the fullness of His Life. He Himself says: I came that they may have Life and have it in abundance.(John 10: 10)

Jesus gained that Life for us, once for all, on the Cross of Calvary. Life and the Cross! There it is again, the Paradox of the Cross! the Paradox of Christianity! We are always facing these choices, these opposites: positive-negative, good-bad, light-darkness, grace-sin, heaven-hell. We always have that responsible and awesome option placed before us. In the Old Testament, before the People of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua read the Law of the Covenant God made with His People and told them to choose between life and death…I for my part will serve the Lord.(Joshua 24: 15) The people responded in unison that they would serve the Lord. History tells us how fickle their and our promises and commitments can be. Perhaps this is why we have difficulty in reflecting on that most solemn moment in life when we are called to encounter the Source of all Life and see ourselves in His Light.

Our Christian Faith, and spiritual life that conditions our actions, is nourished by the Sacramental Life of the Church. Redeemed in the Blood of Christ, we are constantly challenged to come follow me. In this life of faith we speak of positive values while focusing in on what at first glance seems ‘negative’. We speak about Life, but refer to it through the Death of Jesus. We speak about Love, but recognize it through the symbol of hatred, torture, and death, The Cross. We hope in Heaven, but experience its beginnings through the challenges and pitfalls of life’s earthly journey. Our humanity, so prone to the changing attitudes of nature, has learned how to ‘see’ beyond the barriers that daily seek to impede our forward steps. It is with a faith-filled heart and a hope-filled life that we can securely live life to the fullest, seeing every moment and experience as another opportunity to Live Life and Love It.

Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a unique and inspired prophet for all times. His approach to life and all creation has earned for him the title of Universal Brother and Man with a Disarmed Heart. He instilled in the hearts of his spiritual children an attitude of joy and gratitude for every facet of life. He was a man imbued with a spirit of wonder that made him rejoice even during the most challenging times of his own life. Several years before his brief life ended – he died at 44 years of age – his body began to succumb to all the effects of the penances he had imposed upon himself. He even apologized to ‘Brother Ass’, as he called his body, for treating one who was so faithful to him in such an unappreciative manner.

St. Francis of Assisi was aware his physical condition was terminal. The pains of the Stigmata of Jesus he had received two years before at La Verna caused him constant pain. He accepted this “gift” with love and gratitude. When he was informed that he was soon to pass from this life to the next, Francis asked that a new stanza be added to the Canticle of the Creatures, and that it be sung for him: Praise be You, my Lord, for 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. Not much time was left. When he was informed that Death was imminent, he called out Welcome, Sister Death!

St. Francis saw life as the “cherished gift” it is. Determined to live it as the sign of the Father’s Love, then we must love it. Live and you’ll love it!  Then even death cannot disturb our inner joy and serenity. When we wait to love it before we live it fully, life becomes an uphill climb that gets ever more burdensome. An active Faith, a trusting Hope, makes each moment an anticipated enjoyment of what awaits. We live each moment as a precious grace and know how to ‘let go’ and “let God” receive us into our “co-eternity” with Him.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit through grace in those who live in God’s Will opens the heart to see God in all things and to recognize the reality of heaven as the Father’s gift to His children. Yet, the process to achieve ‘perfection’ travels through many and varied experiences. The experiences of life teach us many things about God, ourselves, others, the world in which we live, the universe around us … and the Life that awaits us all. The decisions we make during our journey are indicators of the direction taken and road followed to achieve the ultimate goal of the “time traveler”. Yes, each of us is a “time traveler” always moving on the road from time to timelessness. Our quest for happiness finds its revelation when the moment of “co-eternal” transition happens.

Everyone wants to be happy. Fulfillment takes on various forms for people. Believers seek to be with God. They seek to be saints. The requisites for a saint “in process” are to be a human made to the image and likeness of God, and to live in God’s will. Simple, huh?! Not so! If it were, why are so many people neurotics, psychotics, discouraged, depressed, even terrified when they know “time is flying” them to their goal?

The more time you have behind you and the less you believe you have before you makes life seem to pick up speed. The truth is we are still moving at the same rate since we were born. What games people play(!) causing themselves anxiety, worry, and worse.

Death is a terrible word for most people. They avoid even saying it for fear it might ‘catch up with them’ sooner than expected. It always seems unexpected when Sister Death finally arrives to call us home. Notice how, when we hear of the death of someone, often people will ask How old were they? As though age had anything to do with it! Death is the natural conclusion of time so that someone can enter eternity. Fear of it is the result of humanity’s disobedience in Eden. The passage from time to eternity – in whatever way God would have accomplished it had not Original Sin happened – would still have occurred, but, I believe, in loving anticipation and yearning, rather than fear and sadness.

Sin causes the fear and the uncertainty of our moral strengths. To this, all I say is: Trust God’s Word! God loves you! Believe in God’s love, and love Him back by living in God’s Most Holy Will!  Sincerely ask forgiveness and assistance when you trip or fall along the way.

Our millennial blessed adolescent, Carlo Acutis knew how to live and so was always serenely and joyfully ready to let go to enter “co-eternity” with God. Again he offers words for our reflection: We often talk about here, there, up, down. This way of thinking and speaking relativizes everything. Since we are immersed in the here, we relate everything in time and space which enslaves us, which conditions us. If we free ourselves from these chains, if we become accustomed to that which is Up Above, if we gain confidence with the Beyond, if we consider life to be a trampoline towards Eternity, then death becomes a transition. It becomes a door. It becomes an in-between. It loses its drama. It loses its fatality. It loses its definitiveness. Exorcise death. Spiritualize death. Sanctify death. This is the secret. Then we will not think about, and we will not speak about, and we will not measure it in absolute terms, in terms of no return, of total destruction, but we will see death in the light, in the warmth and in the victory of the Risen Christ. (Bl. Carlo Acutis)

We question, “negotiate” with, blame God for the ‘bad’ things that happen to others as well as to us.  Nevertheless, the Christian is enlightened by the assurance of the Faith that proclaims Jesus lived, was sacrificed to death for all humanity, and arose to Life.  St. Paul himself reminds the community of Rome: And hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly … While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … We have been justified by His blood … We even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (Romans 5: 5-11) This is the great God to Whom we entrust ourselves and all those who have gone before us.  With unselfish love we offer ourselves to God Who is for us, for me, for every child of His Creation. It is this God Who has given us the most excellent means to enter His loving embrace with joyful anticipation – Jesus.  And Jesus establishes a perpetual means to keep that promise and pledge alive – the Eucharist.

Jesus said: I am the living bread come down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6: 51) When we gather around the Eucharist, sacrifice and sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, we reaffirm our faith in Life. We encounter death and dying with serenity and even joy. We let go of a lifetime of false securities. We remember that We have here no lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. (Hebrews 13: 14). We speak of ourselves to be strangers and pilgrims on earth … seeking a homeland (Hebrews 11: 13). We accept everything as a gift that we may offer each moment of life as a ‘gift’ for others to share with us. We see, as did Saint Francis of Assisi, everything in creation as intimately related to us because of God and so can even call on Sister Bodily Death from whom no human can escape with the trust and acceptance of Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures, where St. Francis added these words praising God in ‘Sister Bodily Death’ shortly before his own death.

In the Eucharist we discover the source and pledge of Life. The Eucharist is our defiance of death.  In the Eucharist our concerns and confusions are clarified, our discouragements and despair are dispelled, our faults are forgiven, self-centeredness becomes love that welcomes all into a disarmed heart. How much more can we say about the Eucharist, ‘heaven on earth’, that we are privileged to possess, celebrate, and ‘become’ when our hearts and souls prepare for the encounter!

The Eucharist is ‘communion’. Isn’t that what we call It – Holy Communion?  Death is separation and detachment, but the Death-Resurrection of Jesus in the Eucharist re-presented at every Liturgy, binds us to Christ and one another, and fills us with the graces of God’s Love and Life. The Eucharist is Communion and Life!   The Eucharist introduces us to acknowledge death as the mystery of Life it really is.  The Eucharistic Lord embraces all who celebrate the Lamb Sacrificed and shared in the Paschal Mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. Thus, Eternal Life becomes the destination of all who ‘Live Jesus’ in time, and pass through the doorway of death into a “co-eternity” of “timelessness”.

The Eucharist is ‘sacrifice’. The word ‘sacrifice’ means to ‘make sacred’. When we unite ourselves and our lives to that of Jesus, we become one with the One we offer.  The more we enter the ‘sacrifice’ with Jesus, the more we are assured of a share in His everlasting Life. Thus life is not ended but transformed (Preface I for the Dead).

The Eucharist is a ‘pledge of future glory’.  Each time we celebrate the Eucharist and receive the Body and Blood of Christ we share, according to our cooperation with God’s grace, in the mystery of ‘heaven on earth’. We live in mystery the Life we are called to share in the fullness of its reality. In faith, we live in hope – the pledge – of sharing in God’s eternal Love. For who hopes for what one sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance (Romans 8:24).

How do we live our lives? What is our attitude to the challenges God permits that remind us of our vulnerability and mortality? Do we live in the spirit of the letter to the Hebrews that states: ‘We do not have here a permanent dwelling, but we await another? (Hebrews 13: 14) Do we take time to reflect on death as one more step, the ultimate, in getting us to God? Do we avoid even thinking of the Paschal Mystery that each one will be called to celebrate in his or her personal life? Are we joy-filled in life and encourage others to be so, even in the midst of difficulties? Remember St. Francis who wanted the Canticle sung for him at his death. Are we one of those who fall into that amusing, but true saying: ‘Everyone talks about heaven, but no one seems to be in a hurry to get there’?

St. Francis of Assisi had a tremendous love for the Eucharist and Mary.  These two columns of our Faith sustained him and encouraged him in the fulfillment of God’s mission for him Go rebuild my Church for as you can see it is falling into ruin.(words of Cross of San Damiano at beginning of Francis’ conversion pilgrimage) God is “Presence” among us in the Eucharist. God is Love for us in the Cross and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God is Providence for us in the love and concern of our sisters and brothers. If we live the spirit of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, the Poverello, life will be the wonderful experience God intended it to be for us all. Death will truly be that ‘Welcome Sister’ that leads us to the fullness of Life.

The soul will not enter into its eternal rest until it is lost forever in that vast ocean of goodness where it will know what God knows, love what He loves and will only enjoy what is a joy to him. O my Jesus, I will live and hope and silence will be my strength as long as this life lasts. (St. Pio of Pietrelcina letter September 18, 1915)

Let’s pray for the Holy Souls this month, as they await the loving call to heaven. “They were where we are, and we will be – hopefully – where they are”. The Church Militant and the Church Suffering assist each other that together one day, we may celebrate God’s Eternal Life in the Love of the Church Triumphant.

May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, and our loved ones, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings,

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

November 2023-Monthly Spiritual Asst Greetings

 

 

October 2023 – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, Monthly Reflection

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 2023

 

Let me cry out therefore:

“O what a glorious saint he is!

His disciple saw his soul ascending into heaven:

beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun,

glowing brilliantly as it ascended upon a white cloud!

O true lamp of the world, shining more brilliantly than the sun in the Church of Christ!

Now, you have withdrawn the rays of your light, as you withdraw into that luminous homeland

You have exchanged our poor company for that of the angels and saints!

In your glorious goodness and great renown, do not put aside care for your sons,

though you have put aside flesh like theirs.

You know, you truly know, the danger in which you have left them;

for it was your blessed presence alone

that always mercifully relieved their countless labors and frequent troubles!

O truly merciful and most holy father,

you were always kind and ready to show mercy and forgive your sinful sons!

We bless you therefore, worthy father, as you have been blessed by the Most High,

Who is God over all things blessed forever. Amen.”

(First Life, bk.2, chpt 9 of Bl. Thomas of Celano)

 

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.

  Daily excerpts from the Tribulations, Franciscan Sources

 

1 – Knowing the future through the Holy Spirit, he would say: “With the pretext of preaching and edifying others, the brothers shall abandon their vocation, that is, pure and holy simplicity, prayer, humility, and our Lady Poverty. It will happen that, because they believe themselves inflamed with the devotion and love of God, they will remain cold, empty of charity. – God does not pay weekly, He pays at the end.

2 – And so, they will be unable to return to their vocation, as they have wasted the time for living according to their calling; and it is to be feared that what they seemed to have will be taken away from them and they will find their hands empty on the day of tribulation. The people they think they converted to the Lord through their preaching were actually converted to the Lord by the prayers of the holy brothers in deserted places who weep over their own sins and those of others. – The Beatitudes are a call to us to see ourselves.

3 – It has been given by Christ to true Lesser Brothers to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest to know only in parables. There are so many who willingly climb up toward knowledge that anyone who renders himself sterile of it for the love of God will be blessed.” – Perhaps with charity one should not think.

4 – Some brothers came from France and reported to him that the brothers had recently received an important man, a master of sacred theology in Paris. Both the people and the clergy were greatly edified by this. Blessed Francis listened, then sighed and responded: “I am afraid, my sons, that in the end such masters will destroy my plant. – Every person is their own chief enemy

5 – The true masters are those who show their way of life to their neighbors through good works with gentle wisdom. A person has only as much learning as his actions show; and is wise only as much as he loves God and neighbor; and a religious is only as good a preacher as much as he humbly and faithfully does the good that he understands.” – Charity like love should be blind.

6 – A holy brother, a master of theology, came from Germany at that time to see Saint Francis, to be sure about his understanding and intention regarding the Rule. As he learned and listened to his intention about life according to the Rule, his spirit became as tranquil and consoled as if Christ Jesus Himself, not a man, had spoken. – None but myself ever did me any harm.

7 – After the interview the brother knelt humbly before Saint Francis and said: “I now promise again, into your hands, to observe, faithfully and purely, this evangelical life and Rule according to the pure and faithful intention which the Holy Spirit has spoken clearly through your mouth, until the end of my life, as much as Christ’s grace will allow me. – There is more to be feared from unspoken and concealed, than from open and declared hostility.

8 – But one favor I ask of you. If in my lifetime it happens that the brothers fall away from the pure observance of the Rule as you foretell through the Spirit, so much that, because of their opposition, I cannot observe it freely among them, I ask by your obedience that I may withdraw to observe the Rule perfectly, alone or with some brothers who also wish to observe it purely.” – An open foe may prove a curse, but a pretended friend is worse.

9 – Hearing these things, Blessed Francis was overjoyed, and blessed him, placing his right hand on his head, saying: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek. Know that what you asked is granted, by Christ and by me.” – Doing an injury puts you below your enemy.

10 – He showed in this way that all the promises made to him by Christ about his religion would, in the end, be fulfilled in those who would strive to observe the Rule simply, to the letter, and without glosses. – Revenge makes you even with your foe but forgiveness sets you above him.

11 – Those who bear the easy yoke of Christ’s life and Rule with bitterness are sons of the flesh, always twisting the holy and pious understanding of the Rule toward their own fleshly way of thinking. They are like Ishmael, born according to the flesh, who was hostile to Isaac who was born according to the promise of the Holy Spirit and lived a spiritual and holy life. – I owe much to my friends, but owe even more to my enemies.

12 – So it will be in this life and religion: the sons of the flesh will persecute the sons of the spirit. But God, who divided the sons of Israel from the Egyptians with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, will separate the true sons of the Rule from the sons of the prudence of the flesh. He will abandon the latter in the shadows of error and the coldness of greed and self-love. – There is so much good in the worst of us.

13 – The former He will lead into the light of divine brilliance and the cross-like perfection of seraphic charity, and make them conformed to the body of His brilliance by the power with which He subjects all things to himself. – There is so much bad even in the best of us.

 [The Beginning of Division]

14 – There was in the time of Saint Francis apparent unity outwardly among the brothers regarding the habit, living together, and obedience. But there was a hidden schism and great diversity in regard to the purity of the Rule, observing and loving it, and obedience and sincere following of the intention of the founder. – Love makes all hard hearts gentle.

15 – Lacking among them were the following: to be of one mind; to have the same charity; to have the same mind among all; to do nothing out of rivalry or for empty glory, each considering others superior; not seeking their own interest but, with the founder, those of Christ, for the consolation of others, what is useful to them, and serves mutual edification. –  From a slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never recover.

16 – Brother Elias, having given himself to the subtleties of philosophy, secretly drew after himself a gang of rebels in a spirit of greed and vanity. He opened up and dug a pit for himself and, deceived, he fell into it and died. – One may often regret their speech, but never their silence.

17 – He failed to recognize the stratagems, tricks, and inventions of Satan, and so, unaware, he prepared the ways for them, improved the route, and made their paths straight, opposing, in the founder, Christ Himself. – If you desire people to speak well of you, hold your tongue.

18 – Christ Himself kindly revealed this to a holy and venerable priest, the rector of a parish in Massa Trabaria, named Don Bartolo, whom Saint Francis designated to act in his place in all things and for all things because of his outstanding holiness. – Slander kills three: the slandered, the slanderer, and the one who listens to the slander.

19 – He was a very discerning man, a consoler of the sorrowful, full of mercy, piety, and charity. The brothers approached him confidently as the kindest of fathers and the instructor of their souls. – Conversation is telling people a little less than what they want to know

20 – He used to receive brothers into the religion and reconciled those who had been expelled and had left. With divine and clear reasoning and living example he demonstrated to them that the counsels of human wisdom that disagree with the way of perfection and the intention of the founder were more than useless: they were infected with deadly poison. – If only people would only stop talking where they stopped knowing, have the evils in the world would come to an end.

21 – This man, pleasing to God, at Christ’s command, in ecstasy of mind while praying, was led to the lower reaches of hell. There he saw Lucifer in his place of punishments, surrounded by the chief spirits of the lower regions. The prince of darkness posed an angry question to them as he asked for advice. – The best conversation is that in which the heart has a greater share than the head.

22 – “We have received unpleasant and troubling news from the desert of the world, through men we hold in our power. Some men have appeared unexpectedly in the world. They despise and trample underfoot the world with the flesh and its vices. They threaten the rights and the places of our domain. – The genius in conversation is in the art of being totally honest and totally kind at the same time.

23 – Unless we offer them some resistance, they will inflict damage and great loss on us. So think carefully what we should do to oppose them. You can hear more fully about their circumstances from those who have just come from there.” – We seldom repent talking too little, but very often talking too much.

24 – At Lucifer’s command they began to report, describing the life and perfection of these men. One huge demon stood up. He and some of the evil spirits under him were engaged in an extraordinary struggle with Saint Francis and his religion. He said: “Even though, as our prince said, many are rising against us recently in various ways, there is one man in particular, a man of lowly condition, unschooled and simple, who has a small society of others like himself. – Whoever gossips to you will gossip of you.

25 – He is the one who has risen up against us in such strength of spirit, that it seems not a man but Jesus of Nazareth in person battling against us in him. No trick of ours, however subtle, no deception, however strong, can deceive or overthrow him or his followers. No matter how many traps we lay, left and right, we cannot capture or overcome him. – The tongue has no bones, but it can break your back.

26 – What is even more painful, any of our faithful followers who go near become our adversaries and deadly enemies. There was a period of silence among them. Then the individual captains began to propose wicked plans as to how victory over their adversaries might be won quickly. – God gave us two ears and one mouth. Why don’t we listen twice as much as we talk?

27 – The details I omit for the sake of brevity. They discussed various vices in many different ways, and proposed examples of how they gained unexpected victories over very great and—as they thought—unassailable saints. Then another demon, Lucifer’s second in command, spoke after all the rest: “You have described numerous sly and workable plans; yet no one, believe me, has thought of the one way to win an overwhelming victory over them.” 286All the demons were interested in hearing his plan and proposal, so he went on: – Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God.

28 – “We cannot defeat these men unless we turn all our commitment, effort, cunning and activity, to the following. We must inspire those who are proud, boasting, curious, deceitful and dishonest, greedy, envious, presumptuous and false, whom we know are ours. By every means we must suggest to them and foster in them the desire to do penance and join them to serve the Lord. Once we have our faction among them, we will seek to increase it every day. By it we will upset them, infect their religion; we will undermine their vows, their words, habits and works. We will make their reputation rot so badly that they, because of the deadly stench, all who approach them will smell the odor of death, and will not smell the enlivening fragrance that leads to life.” – Afflictions are but the shadows of God’s wings.

29 – That plan of subversion pleased Lucifer and all his princes. From then on their policy was to pursue that last proposal with all their strength. God permitted, by His secret and hidden judgment, that the demons move men in tune with their aims and in sympathy with their spite to enter that religion, whose basic principles they hated as most opposed to theirs. 298At the beginning when Francis alone received the brothers, the demons were unable to carry out their evil plans for trickery, because he, enlightened like the cherubim by the Holy Spirit, had eyes front and back, inside and out. – Sorrow is a fruit. God does not make it grow on limbs too weak to bear it.

30 – But then the number of ministers increased throughout the world, who lacked even a modicum of the spiritual perfection essential to forestall the hidden plots of the demons. And the spirit of every one of the ministers was carried away by the desire to increase the number of brothers, under the pretext of the salvation of souls and the expansion of the religion. They multiplied the people but not capture even one of their members.” These arrogant ministers, relying on their own prudence, wanted to rule, not to be ruled; to make a rule, for themselves and others, based on their own opinion and will, rather than observe the Rule humbly, mortifying their own will. – God does not wish us to remember what He is willing to forget.

[Reunification of Office]

31 – Consequently, for the founder, and for the brothers who walked in simplicity, labor, sorrow, and affliction of spirit increased. For the tepid, danger grew; for the dissatisfied, glee; and for the malicious, confidence in evil-doing. These evils grew so much even before the death of Saint Francis that he, who was the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, was unable to remedy them by his words, his example, or signs and miracles of healing. Instead he chose, after praying, as the better role for himself, to spend time with God and renounce his office among the brothers. – I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

October 2023-Monthly Spiritual Asst Reflection

October 2023 – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, Monthly Greetings

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 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

Two years before his death, already very sick and suffering especially from his eyes, (St. Francis) was living in a cell made of mats near San Damiano.  During his stay blessed Francis could not bear the light of the sun during the day or the light of the fire at night.  He constantly remained in darkness in his cell. One night, as he was thinking of all the tribulations he was enduring, he felt sorry for himself and prayed interiorly: Lord help me in my infirmities so that I may have the strength to bear them patiently (A voice spoke to him and said): be glad and joyful in the midst of your infirmities and tribulations; as of now, live in peace as if you were already sharing my kingdom. The next morning on rising, he said to his companions: I should be full of joy in my infirmities and tribulations, seek my consolations in the Lord, and give thanks to God the Father, to His Only Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. Therefore, for His glory, for my consolation, and the edification of my neighbor, I wish to compose a new ‘Praises of the Lord’, for His creatures. He called these ‘Praises of the Lord’ which opened with the words: Most high all-powerful, and good Lord, the ‘Canticle of the Sun’.  He often intoned this canticle and had his companions take it up; in that way he forgot the intensity of his sufferings and pains by considering the glory of the Lord.  He did this until the day of his death.  (Legend of Perugia, 42-43)

The Poverello of Assisi was one of the wealthiest persons to ever live. His wealth went far beyond the treasures that human beings consider desirable.  The power he wielded over thousands of his day and millions over the centuries make him also one of the most influential and effective individuals to ever live. He was simple, surely not what the authoritative and commanding seek.  He was poorly dressed, surely not what attracts the people of this world. He was not much to look at, surely not a figure that imposed himself by physical stature. He had a basic education for his times, surely not an intellectual ‘giant’ to dialogue with the ‘learned’ and prominent of his day. He had no bands of armed guards and militant forces, surely not what the dominant forces sought out. What he had was a ‘treasure’ that far surpasses all others: He was a man in love with God, and God’s presence in all creation. He was passionately in love with life. His spirit was contagious.  Many originally considered him out of his mind. Most believed him to be eccentric. But all eventually recognized the uniqueness of a soul in love with God, life, and all people. St. Francis of Assisi is a constant reminder and image of a life in love with Life.

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 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, to recognize it as the Theater of Redemption.  Creation is a place to love and in which to live the Gospel Life of Jesus that all things may be restored in Christ (Ephesians 1: 10).  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?

Men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable – a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves.  Christian faith comes to meet them, offering the concrete possibility of reaching the goal which they seek. (Pope John Paul II – Relationship Between Faith and Reason, Encyclical of September 14, 1998). Life is that period of time we have been allotted to fulfill the “Quest for the Other”. Those who persist in the active hope their quest will be successful, will ultimately come to know, love, and serve God in Himself and in each other. The Incarnate God, Jesus the Christ, invites us to follow Him and walk the journey of faith as pilgrims (in time) and strangers (in a world that is a bridge and not a fixed abode).

When people place their trust in another, there comes a moment when they want to know with certitude and 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 one’s self 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 and 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 idiosyncrasies, 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 the churches.  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)

  1. K. Chesterton offers a brief and interesting picture St. Francis: Saint Francis was a lean and lively little man; thin as a thread and vibrant as a bowstring; and in his motions like an arrow from the bow. All his life was a series of plunges and scampers; darting after the beggar, dashing naked into the woods, tossing himself into the strange ship, hurling himself into the Sultans tent and offering to hurl himself into the fire.  In appearance he must have been like a thin brown skeleton autumn leaf dancing eternally before the wind; but in truth it was he that was the wind.

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.  Shackled, held down by no one and nothing.  Francis was and still is free.  He 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, Francis?  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 falling world, for as we can see is falling into ruin (words of the Crucifix of San Damiano to Francis).

The expression Jesus used, so often repeated in the Gospel according to Matthew, But I say to you, is an emphatic reminder that some things are not negotiable. God who created us without us cannot save us without us. (St. Augustine)

We cannot just believe and not do.  We can “grandstand” our Faith to be seen. We can create great slogans and wonderful programs without personally believing in anything we are doing. Faith not backed up with a life that verifies the ‘principles’ and ‘values’ preached by that Faith, is nothing more than an intellectual exercise of themes and slogans that fluctuates with the political, social, and so forth tides of the times. Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. (James 2: 17-18) The greatest “demonstration” we can offer is to live what we profess without gloss (St. Francis words to those who wanted to mitigate the words of his Rule for the friars).

Seeing himself before the awesome love and majesty of God, St. Francis recognizes his lowliness and the greatness of God, and thus can give Brother Masseo the answer he seeks.  Francis acknowledges how insignificant he is before the immensity of God, and it is for this reason that God can 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 proclaims 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 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 like more. Augustine and even Francis would 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 test is not for us to show God how much we believe. The test is for us to realize how far we are willing to go to believe with our entire being. Totus Tuus (All Yours – papal motto of Pope St. John Paul II). Faith believes and gives one’s self to God unconditionally.

Francis’ challenge to the world was to follow the Gospel and not let one’s possessions possess them. His own example of this was when he stripped himself of his worldly belongings, gave them back to his father in public before the bishop and people of Assisi, and said From now on I will no longer say, My Father Peter Bernardone, but Our Father who art in heaven.  He had nothing left but he possessed everything. Even when God seems to be ‘absent’ from us, in faith we sense an unexplainable presence and strength. Conviction of faith leads us through and beyond the obstacles, difficulties, and doubts. Faith is the power working and welling up within us. It is the very root of our daily life. Our life becomes an act of faith that sees the invisible and can achieve what seems the impossible. Remember the mustard seed (cfr Luke 17: 5).

Faith is not an intellectual game played with abstract facts. Faith is unconditional acceptance of a person, God, as we have come to know Him in the Person of Jesus the Christ. Faith is an affirmative response and selfless acceptance of God’s Will. Through an extended and painful journey of discovery, the faith of St. Francis of Assisi opened his eyes to see life from the perspective of eternity and God’s love.  And we?!

Francis resigned his office as leader of the group of friars that had grown quite numerous in a few years. The presence of “the Brother” was always a challenging presence to the brothers. They loved him, but many desired that his Rule be softened somewhat. Francis was confronted by these friars. They compared themselves to other religious of the times and requested/demanded “concessions” or outright changes to the Rule Francis had written. The verbal battle ensued and at a point Francis with others who were present heard words from an unseen source (Francis to whom does the Order belong, you or Me?) reminding Francis that the Order was God’s. And, since it was an Order inspired by God to be instituted by Francis for those who sought to live an authentic Gospel Life, they were to follow the plan God set down through Francis, without gloss, without gloss, without gloss. Needless to say, it was a decisive moment – for the moment! Authenticity of expression in living the Rule of our Seraphic Father has been a conversation among the brothers for centuries, with the brothers presenting their idea of greater “authenticity” and “credibility” for changing times.  This “conversation piece” will probably never end. It’s a “healthy tension” that still seeks to know, understand, and live authentically the mind and heart of the Universal Brother. Healthy tensions open minds and hearts to accept rather than reject. One Rule for three branches is still very much alive and challenging not only the friars but the world.

Like St. Francis, we are “Heralds of the Great King” who go into the highways and hedgerows to invite all to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the greatest Gospel witnesses we can give others as sisters and brothers in St. Francis of Assisi flows from living in the Presence of God. Jesus take over! should be our daily prayer and aspiration. Gaze upon the Lord, gaze upon His face. (words of St. Clare of Assisi to St. Agnes of Prague). The face of God recognized in our hearts and in the events of our daily lives makes everyone a gift inviting us to let God, let go, and thus let loose the graces that flow from the open heart of the Savior embraced in the other. Even the leper embraced by St. Francis destroying all Francis’ fears invites us to embrace our lepers to “let loose the power of grace”.

The Poverello truly was the wealthiest person of his times. Stripped of all worldly wealth, he could be filled with what no one could give him but One, God.  Father St. Francis prayed that He might experience the depth of Jesus’ love for us so that he too could be one who sought to restore all things in Christ (Ephesians 1: 10). The joy of the journey can truly become a living “Canticle of Praise” to the Lord for every moment and encounter of life. Each step we take is a step forward surrendering ourselves unconditionally to the ever-loving providence of God, Who never leaves His children unaided.

Pope John Paul II tells us that men and women are on a journey of discovery in search for the truth and a person. Saint Francis encountered that ‘Person’, Jesus, on the Cross at San Damiano who impressed His words on Francis’ heart, until Francis met that ‘Person’ again at La Verna, Who impressed His ‘Word Incarnate’ on his body.  The living image of the Crucified spoke to the world of an emptying love that accepted to be human even to death (Philippians 2: 8) that we might share in the Divine Life to truly live and for an eternity (cfr John 17: 23). The Word Incarnate spoke most powerfully and clearly the day Love was crucified. St. Francis sought and prayed to feel and live that love. St. Francis was “sealed” for all to see with the marks of the Sacred Stigmata of Christ’s loving Passion and Death. He was a sign to rekindle hearts that had grown lukewarm and cold to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All Franciscans seek to follow Francis that they too might live that Love and continue a presence and living message that so much of today’s world seems to have forgotten.

Every life has its disconcerting events and fears.  Our Father Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II, and many others went through periods of spiritual darkness and dryness. Nevertheless, they continued to believe and hope in God. They were an encouragement and empowering presence for others. Faith and life walk hand-in-hand.  It is our Faith that strengthens our spirit and nourishes our life. Jesus reminds us: It is the spirit that gives life. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63) Allow the Spirit of Faith to fill your minds and hearts. We accept the words of Jesus in truth.  Franciscan peace, joy, and serenity are a reality that becomes ‘contagious’ when we share them with others.

Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi live every moment of life fully!  The spirit of prayer that enveloped our Seraphic Father who ‘became prayer’ encourages us to trust at every moment and whatever challenging crossroad we encounter. It was how we were to go among all people: All the brothers, however, should preach by their deeds. (The Earlier Rule: Chap XVII, 3) Thus, his words to the brothers gathered around him as he prepared to enter eternity, I have done what was mine to do, may Christ now teach you what you are to do, be ever present in our hearts as well. We too are called to be messenger and message as we herald the Great King in and with our lives.

May God bless you; my Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi and holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, look upon each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

BLESSED TRANSITUS and HAPPY FEAST DAY

OF OUR SERAPHIC FATHER SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

October 2023-Monthly Spiritual Asst Greetings

September 2023-Fr. Francis Sariego Monthly Greetings

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary Center

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

September 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

St. Francis observed the Lent of St. Michael every year. This “lent” begins with the Assumption of our Blessed Mother and end with the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. This devotional period of a “milder form of penance” was and still is celebrated by those who seek St. Michael’s protection and intercession for them and the Church against the evil one. St. Francis’ love and devotion for the Church and the Holy Father are well-noted in his Rule, Testament, and other writings.   St. Michael, defender of the Church and God’s People against the allurements and deception of Satan and his minions, was and still is an essential intercessor for whom Francis had a particular devotion.

(The Great Lents the whole Church celebrates are Advent in preparation for the Nativity of the Savior and Lent in preparation for the Sacred Triduum of the Resurrection of the Lord. These the whole Church and also most other Christian denominations celebrate each in their specific ways. Other “lents” are devotional and not obliged by the Church)

Just two years before the Poverello was accompanied home to the Father by Sister Death, in September 1224, Francis was at prayer on Mount La Verna, a solitary mountaintop site in Tuscany. He was celebrating the lent of St. Michael. Sometime around the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), he received the answer to an ardent prayer regarding the love of Jesus and His Passion: 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 Passionthe 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.

The documents record that a winged Seraph appeared to St. Francis and signed him with the visible marks of the wounds of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi, the Little Poor Man, the Universal Brother, had now become a living image of the Crucified Jesus. The marks gave witness to the integrity of the person who bore them. They also gave credibility to the message he had now become.  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). The Seraphic one received an answer to his ardent prayer in a way he had never imagined.

Together with this privileged gift from God came an awesome responsibility.  He was entrusted with a mission: to rekindle the fire of Divine Love in the hearts of God’s children.  To rekindle hearts that had grown cold in their sincere love for God. They were Christians and Catholics or some other form of Christian expression, even then, that had established their own “spiritual and moral opinion for life”.  The attitude, though not exactly the same, can be compared with the common expression heard so often, even by “faithful” people: “Oh, I’m not religious, but I am very spiritual”. When you say you believe but do not live what you say you believe, eventually you believe only yourself. It’s a like the adage that says: The one who has him/herself as counselor has a fool for counselor. Being blind to the truth how can you lead anyone, much less yourself?

Unity and “peace” (or better truce) in many areas was determined by the politics of the moment or the tolerance of fatigue awaiting another opportunity to overwhelm the “enemy”. How many wars! How many lives destroyed! How much sorrow and destruction! All in the name of “some” God Who differentiated among His own creation instigating division rather than unity and acceptance. All in the Name of the One (Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is One! – Deuteronomy 6: 4). What blasphemy! Nothing ever seems to change!

Nature does not stand still.  It is always developing. It is always going through the “growing pains” of change. So many holy souls and prophets of every time, on many sides of the spectrum of human history, were encouraging people to dialogue, accept one another. God was the common denominator, but whose God (!?). God creates and does not desire destruction and death. Nevertheless, in God’s Name (!?), the beauty of the Gospel was so marred and distorted by the very ones called to live it for the world to see in everyone the image of a loving God.. When hatred turns to love and death turns into life, then people can observe with astonishment and recognize the work of Grace, the work of God.  The world of the thirteenth century was forgetting and at times losing the ardor of conviction and commitment. They needed “to see God in Christ” once again. St. Francis became the “come and see”, the “show and tell”, for God’s children to see clearly and understand unquestionably the Father’s message to all His children.

The Stigmata St. Francis bore spoke and continue to speak volumes for those willing to ‘read’ the Wounds of Jesus on the Seraphic one, in a spirit of faith.  To see Francis 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. People were reminded of God’s limitless love. God was “pleading” with His children, calling everyone to cooperate with grace and to be the persons they – and we – were created to be. We are 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, love not loathing, conviction not complacency, determination not doubt, commitment not compromise, life not lethargy.

Like the great priest-prophet of the Old Testament, Ezekiel, St. Francis received a mission to be a living prophecy to a lethargic world suffering from spiritual dryness. Ezekiel’s prophetic words speak of numberless dry, lifeless, disjointed bones, lying on a vast field, (see Ezekiel 37: 1-14). The words Ezekiel prophesies over them at God’s command can be compared to many periods in human history, to St. Francis’ time, and even to our own, when war and its after-effects on society – violence, economic difficulties, contagious illnesses, social restlessness, immorality and amorality – take their toll on the spiritual life of God’s people.  Even those of deep faith can experience a dryness and spiritual fatigue. Many just get caught up in the “mechanism” of a modern, technologically advanced, seemingly self-sufficient world that seems to be forgetting or already has forgotten its Creator. They look for understanding and direction.  They seek someone who will journey with them and nourish them with God’s Word and healing grace. The compromises they have made with the world for peace and happiness, no longer hold. Once we encounter the Crucified and gaze upon His face (cfr. St. Clare’s letter to St. Agnes of Prague) how can anyone not respond with surrender?

To see St. Francis, signed with the sign of the Crucified, made Jesus come alive in the hearts of those he met and with whom he spoke. The Stigmata was a sign to all of a presence that was reassuring, encouraging, life-giving.  Isaiah also spoke of the wounds of Christ centuries before His Passion and Death – Through His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53: 4-5).  St. Francis of Assisi accepted to let those wounds come alive once again in his own body. Francis was a reminder and a sign of hope. He became a tangible image of the self-sacrificing love of Jesus the Redeemer. The wounds of Jesus imprinted on the body the Poverello kept the reality of that one great sacrifice vividly alive before the eyes of all.

The field of dry disjointed bones about which the priest-prophet Ezekiel writes is also a reminder of what we are without God. When we allow God to fulfill His work in/with/through and for us, His Living Word overshadows our lives. The brilliance of that “shadow of the Father” possesses and fills us with God’s breath of love, the “overshadowing of the Spirit of God”. We come alive more fully than before. No longer dryness and death, but freshness, fulfillment, freedom and life-giving love! God Himself intervenes by doing in-with-for us what is otherwise humanly impossible.  When we feel like ‘dry bones’ – tired, discouraged, disillusioned, even despairing – that is the moment for us to hope against all hope (Romans 4: 18).  God Himself brings about our spiritual ‘resurrection’ in this life. The Resurrection of Jesus and the Eucharist offer us the opportunity to participate in His Passion-Death-Resurrection, our pledge of future life and glory. Love for the cross is the distinctive sign of chosen souls. Jesus’ wounds remind us how He loved us to His death that we might live with Him in Life’s fullness.

The Seraphic Father shares in the Paschal Mystery of Christ in the Stigmata he received. Our accepting “yes” to the truth of this unheard-of event (cfr. Brother Elias letter on the death of St. Francis) opens our heart to a gradual and effective restoration, renewal, rebirth, and re-creation in each one of us. Francis becomes the ambassador leading us to a deeper awareness of Jesus in our life. As we accept and “Live Jesus” transforming grace takes over. The feeling is inexplicable but the results are obvious.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we continue to let Jesus come alive in a world grown cold to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The ‘Good News’ that we preach with our lives is that God so loved the world He sent His only Son so that all who believe in Him might have life. He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3: 16-17).   We ‘climb Calvary’ with Christ and accept ‘our own stigmata’. We bear joyfully the responsibilities and burdens that come with life. We rekindle the flame of faith in the hearts of others, and we see it grow stronger by God’s grace in ourselves.

The signing of our Seraphic Father with the Sacred Stigmata of Jesus calls us to action.  It must however begin with each one of us first, before we attempt to reach out to others.  Ultimately, we reach a point where everything is in perspective and even the world is put under our feet. The world once again is recognized as it always is, but not always accepted as being. The world once again is seen as the Theater of Redemption. It is no longer seen solely as a stumbling-block of distractions and seductions that destroy fervor and lead to tepidity, indifference. It no longer leads to separation from all that is good and all that is God. All that is human finds it journey to be holy. St. Francis’ Prayer asking to experience the love that Jesus had in dying for us and St. Francis’ reception of the Stigmata of Christ on La Verna both offer us help to reflect upon a simple and powerful way to strengthen and deepen our spiritual lives.

1)      Imitate Love – Ask God for the ability to surrender totally in trust to God’s will.  Love is total surrender to the One Who surrenders Himself for us on the Cross and to us in the Eucharist.

2)      Meditate on the Sufferings and Love of Jesus – Keep the image of the Passion-Death of Jesus alive in your heart.  We Franciscans are noted for our affective prayer.  It touches the heart and makes the reality of what we consider more vivid and impressive.

3)      Love the Cross Do not fear the image of suffering and death.  The Cross without Christ is a lie.  With Christ, the Cross becomes not a sign of death but Life, not a sign of hatred but Love. Keep the image always alive in your heart and your life, especially in the midst of the heavy burdens that might come.

4)      Grow in Christian PerfectionThe spiritual life is not static.  Once Christ and the Cross become ‘real’ and present to the heart, we must proceed forward by ‘living Jesus’ and His Gospel more intensely.

5)      Climb Calvary When we grow in our Christian life, we cannot help but desire to ‘climb Calvary’ to be one with the mystery of our redemption.

6)      Embrace with Cheerful Soul EverythingHaving embraced the Cross and stood with Jesus, all else becomes a gift we can easily embrace with gratitude, trust, and cheerfulness. Yes, ‘cheerfulness’. To embrace one thing is not to embrace something else. God loves a cheerful giver. When we embrace cheerfully what God’s permits, we let go of our false securities and comfort zones, and just trust because we love.

7)     Be Faithful Nothing can be taken for granted.  We must be ever on the watch to remain faithful.  Never become complacent thinking that everything will now happen automatically.  The Spirit’s work is kept alive by faith-filled lives that never slacken, that renew the ‘process’ everyday with greater commitment and intensity.

8)     Place the World Under Your Feet – Seek to live the spirit of the famous image of St. Francis embracing the Crucified with the world at his feet.  Use the world as the theater of redemption it is.  Make good use of all creation as the gifts that can lead us to the fullness of life. Thus, the world will not control, condition, and ultimately condemn us, but it will be as it was created to be our “source of resources” to help us on our journey to God.

The impression of the Stigmata of Jesus on Saint Francis of Assisi, celebrated this month, challenges us to remember and live the words Per Crucem ad LucemThrough the Cross to the Light (Pope St. Paul VI). The wounds of the Passion speak of a world that challenge and often refuse and reject the Incarnate God. Jesus took on human nature that humanity might rise above what was leading it astray. Treachery, betrayal, capture, torture, and death were the ‘thanks’ He was offered by those whom he benefitted in many ways. The wounds we celebrate in Our Seraphic Father call us to be spiritually impressed with the same ‘signs’ and respond to the gift as did St. Francis.

–     The nails in the hands remind us to use our hands to bless and not offend, to give not seek to receive, to embrace rather than push away, to raise up rather than put down, help rather than hinder.

–     The nails in the feet remind us of the Scriptural phrase: blessed are the feet of the bearer of peace (Isaiah 52: 7). They encourage us to approach all as sisters and brothers, move towards those in need rather than remain stationary in our own comfort and security, take the first step and seek out those estranged rather than wait for the other to make a move first.

–     The heart pierced reminds us that we must disarm our hearts to one another. Allow all to enter our hearts as well that we may discover the limitless and unconditional love of God through us. We enter the open heart of Jesus to encounter the open arms of God waiting to give us His warm loving embrace. It’s a “heart-to-heart experience” that cannot be duplicated nor substituted.

Let the Impression of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus on the body of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi speak profoundly to all of us. Franciscans see themselves in our Seraphic Father. He is the image we seek to follow so that through him we may be faithful in “living Jesus”. Thus, we become a Living Gospel to the world. We cannot be Gospel without being Christ. We cannot be Christ without the imprint of the Wounds on our heart and soul. We cannot bear the imprint of the wounds unless we can say: It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2: 20). When I am weak then it is that I am strong (2Corinthians 12: 10). Such a “gift” requires we offer an unconditional “yes” to God and surrender in all things to God’s Will. We become victors with the Victim, Whose Wounds our Seraphic Father bore, reminding us I have done what was mine to do, now may Christ teach you what you must do (St. Francis’ words to those surrounding his deathbed)

May God bless you; my Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi look upon each one of us, their Spiritual Children and your loved ones, with loving care.

Happy Feast Day of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi to our entire Franciscan Family!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

September 2023-Monthly Spiritual Asst Greetings

September 2023-Fr. Francis Sariego Monthly Reflection

Saint Katharine Drexel Region

Monthly Regional Spiritual Assistant Reflections

September 2023

Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap.

 

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)

 

Monthly daily excerpts are from the Franciscan Sources and the thought for the day from various writers.

Excerpts continue from the Tribulations

1 – In his presence then, Blessed Francis said to the brothers: “Christ called me, an unlearned and simple man, to follow the foolishness of His cross. He said to me: ‘I want you to be a new fool in the world and in word and deed to preach the foolishness of my cross; to look to me, both you and all your brothers, and to be joined to me, without any examples from the Rules of Augustine or Benedict or Bernard.’ But you! You wish to follow your own ideas and your learning and drag me along: in the end your learning will put you to shame.” – Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.

2 – And turning to the Lord Cardinal he said: “These wise brothers of mine, whom you praise, think that with their human prudence they can deceive God, you, and me as they deceive and mislead themselves. They invalidate and trample under foot what Christ is saying and has said to them through me for the salvation of their souls and the good of the whole religion. I do not say and have never said anything of myself, but only what I have received from Him, with conviction of spirit, through His grace and goodness alone. – We are all strings in the concert of God’s joy.

3 – But they, to the great peril of their souls, prefer their own mind to the mind of Christ and their own will to the will of God. They govern themselves badly and they govern the others who believe them badly as well. They do not build: they try to overturn and destroy what Christ out of sheer goodness and charity has determined to plant and to build in me and in them for the sure salvation of our souls and the building up of the whole Church.” – Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

4 – The force and power of his words changed the mind of the Lord Cardinal, and he recognized that what he was saying was absolutely true. He called together the brothers who had persuaded him to present their proposals to Saint Francis. He said to them: “Brothers, listen to me. Watch yourselves. Do not deceive yourselves. Do not be ungrateful for the gift of God. God really is in this man, and Christ and His Spirit speak in him. Whoever hears him does not hear a man, but God. Whoever rejects him rejects God, not man. Humble your hearts and obey him if you wish to please God. If you offend him, thinking and acting contrary to his commands and counsels, you will deprive yourselves of the fruit of salvation and of your vocation. – Following after God is the desire of happiness.

5 – You will lessen the state of your religion. You will darken your hearts, wrapped in darkness in your many offenses and faults. The living word of God comes from his mouth and, as the Apostle says, it is more penetrating than a two-edged sword. He is not ignorant of the cunning of Satan. No, he reaches even the secret intentions and thoughts, satanic and human. He cannot be deceived by human tricks because he has in him the Spirit of God who searches minds and hearts and even the depths of God.” – To reach God is happiness itself.

6 – Before leaving, the Lord Cardinal preached the word of God to all there, both the brothers who had gathered in a great multitude for the chapter, to the devout persons there, and the people of the city of Assisi. He was a wise man and led a good and upright life. After wisely, eloquently, and effectively preaching for the edification of souls and the correction of conduct, at the end of his sermon he turned to complimenting, commending, and praising the brothers. – Joy is prayer. Joy is strength. Joy is love.

7 – He extolled their life and perfection with repeated praise, in an effort to attract and inflame all the people present to reverence and respect for the brothers and their holy religion. When the sermon was finished, Francis knelt before the Lord Cardinal and asked both for his blessing and his permission to say a few words to the brothers and the people in his presence. – Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.

8 – Having received the blessing, he spoke to all of them: “Out of the great good will and charity he shows to everyone, especially toward my brothers and religion, our revered Father the Lord Cardinal has been greatly deceived. He supposes and believes that there is great holiness in us, unique virtue, and love of perfection. But it would not be right for us to provide the occasion for falsehood and lies. – Religion can be defined as the power which makes us joyful about the things that matter.

9 – Both you and he would be deceived if you believed in that perfection and excellence that he preached to you about us: it would be an occasion of harm and great danger, both to you and to us. We are ungrateful to God for our vocation; we do not have the works and accomplishments of real poor and humble men, or real lesser Brothers, and we are not striving to have them as we promised. I have only one wish: that the Lord Cardinal and all of you may know the works, words, and desires which Lesser Brothers ought to have and demonstrate, so that you are not deceived about them, and they may not deceive and mislead themselves and you as well. – God never ruffles the joy of his children, except to prepare them for a certain, far greater joy.

[Future Failings]

10 – “You will see that the Lesser Brothers do not persuade the novices whom they receive to give all they have to the poor according to form of the Gospel as they promised, but rather suggest to them that they save something for books, for the church, or some reason or other, for themselves, or for the needs of the brothers. You will see brothers acquiring material goods beyond their daily bodily needs. – One of Satan’s biggest lies is that sin adds to human happiness.

11 – You will see them begging money or coins for themselves and their places or for building churches, and accepting legacies and inheritances from you for whatever reason or pretense. Then you will know they are deceived and misled, because the Lesser Brothers have been sent by Christ to demonstrate His poverty and humility more by their deeds than by words. – When we commit ourselves, easily and readily, to God’s way, and live in His will, we will find our peace.

12 – “You will see them abandon poor little places, worthless and small, located far from the world, and exchange them and buy beautiful and luxurious places inside villages and towns, under the pretext that these are for preaching and for your benefit. You will see them dismiss holy prayer and devotion to apply themselves to study and the acquisition of books, the gaining of burial rights, wishing for and getting abundantly the use of all things. To get and hold onto all these things they will seek privileges from the Roman Curia and bring lawsuits based on the rights of such privileges. – The greatest honor you can give to God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.

13 – At that time, open your eyes and watch yourselves. Do not follow them or listen to them. Such men will be Lesser Brothers in name only. By word and deed they attack and destroy, in themselves and others, the poverty and humility which they promised to the Lord. Through them much evil will happen in the religion and in the Church. – If our joy gives honor to God, then it is our duty to be joyful.

14 – “I tell you these things before they happen so that both you and they may be on guard against the snares of demons and the wickedness of evil men and may avoid future evils, for times of many tribulations and deceptions are approaching. The first sign of all these things, which will soon appear, is that the brothers will turn from love and observance of the life and Gospel of Christ. For neither learning nor wisdom nor eloquence will draw the world to Christ, but only a pure and holy way of living and perfect observance of the commands and counsels of Christ.” – Those who have much are often greedy while those who have little usually share.

15 – Then the Lord Cardinal said to him: “Brother Francis! Why have you nullified my sermon? Why are you predicting such great imperfections about your brothers, in your religion?” Saint Francis said to him: “I have honored your preaching by telling the truth about me and my brothers with restraint. I have also spared myself and them, by setting the word of truth as an obstacle against ruin and wishing, on this occasion, to contrast your public praise with a healthy and necessary admonition to my brothers who are not yet fully formed in humility.” – Let temporal things serve you, but the eternal ones be the object of your desire.

16 – Those words that Saint Francis proclaimed to the brothers, words given to him by Christ, seemed generally heavy and unbearable to those who were wise according to the flesh. And the ministers had that chapter of the first rule removed, the one about the prohibitions of the Holy Gospel, as Brother Leo writes. – It is easier to renounce worldly possessions than it is to renounce the love of them.

17 – Although Saint Francis was fervently proclaiming to the brothers what the Lord revealed to him, and perfectly demonstrated in himself by the example of his deeds the things that he preached, the brothers closed their ears to his holy words and turned their eyes away from his deeds. Rather they wanted to draw him to their own way against his will, instead of submitting to his health-giving divine counsels and commands, and being conformed in a healthy way to the examples of perfection in his deeds. – Give all you can; heaven rejects the nicely calculated great or less giving.

18 – For when he had returned from regions overseas, a minister was speaking with him, as Brother Leo reports, about the chapter on poverty, to understand fully the will of Blessed Francis and his understanding of it. Blessed Francis said to him: “I understand the chapter on poverty just as the words of the Holy Gospel and the Rule sound literally. The brothers may have nothing and ought to have nothing except a garment with a cord, trousers, and shoes, if forced by necessity.” – God takes life’s pieces and gives us unbroken peace.

19 – And the minister said to him: “What am I to do, father? I have so many books worth fifty pounds.” He said this because he wished to keep them as well as his conscience, since he was keeping all those books with remorse of conscience, as he knew that Francis understood literally the chapter on poverty strictly in that way. – Only still waters give back an undistorted image of the sky.

20 – Blessed Francis said to him: “Brother, I cannot and must not act against my conscience and the profession of the Holy Gospel we have promised because of your books.” On hearing this, the minister became sad. Blessed Francis, seeing that he was upset, spoke to him in great fervor of spirit as standing for all his brothers: “You, Lesser Brothers, wish to seem and to be called observers of the Holy Gospel, but in fact you want to hold the purse.” – That person is happiest, be they king or peasant, who finds peace in their home.

21 – I myself saw a brother who heard him preaching at Bologna—those who saw this reported it—when he entered the town he wanted to head toward the place of his brothers. There he saw a house had been built that exceeded the limits of poverty. He turned back and went instead to the house of the Preachers, and they received him with great joy. – If the basis of peace is God, the secret of peace is trust.

22 – There was a Brother Preacher of extraordinary holiness and learning who listened devoutly and humbly to the words of Saint Francis. He knew why Saint Francis refused to stay with his own brothers, and felt compassion for the brothers’ desolation. He tried to persuade him to go to them and pardon them if they had offended him in any way. Blessed Francis said to him: “It would not be kind indulgence to them for me to approve by my action such a notorious transgression against the poverty they promised, and an offense to God if I were to accept their hospitality while they remain in sin.” – The world rests upon these three things: upon truth, upon justice, and upon peace.

23 – Seeing that he could not convince Blessed Francis to do this, he said: “For the sake of your other brothers, so that they not incur dishonor from the way you turned back, let us go to these brothers: you will rebuke them with charity for their offense, and so you will fulfill your duty. If because of conscience you do not wish to remain in such a house, we will come back. In this way the reputation of the brothers will be preserved and they will make amends for their offense.” – The enemies of peace are: avarice, ambition, envy, anger and pride.

24 – Blessed Francis agreed to follow the brother’s advice. He found the brothers ready to accept whatever penance he wished to impose on them and he pardoned them. But then he learned of the firm, or rather stubborn attitude of one of his brothers, Brother Pietro Stacia by name, who had been a doctor of law in the world. Through the Spirit he knew that the brother’s conscience, his ways of acting, and his teachings were all contrary to the purity of the Rule, so he cursed him. – Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

25 – He had been a great man in the world and was much loved by the ministers because of his learning. The brothers therefore, near the end of Saint Francis’ life, asked him to pardon and to bestow the favor of his blessing on such a great man he had cursed, but he answered: “My sons, I cannot bless anyone whom the Lord has cursed, and he is cursed.” – One of the great similarities between Christianity and marriage is that, for Christians, they both get better as we get older.

26 – What more can be said? After a short time, that brother grew ill and was close to death. Whether he blessed or cursed anyone, he was moved not by any human emotion or opinion. Rather, having been made Christ-like, he revealed the secrets of divine judgments and the divine will, and perceived in the Word the future as if it were the past. – Christianity, if false, is of no importance and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

27 – As Brother Thomas of Celano writes of him, when he once heard of the boundless excesses of some brothers and of the bad example they gave to lay people, he was overcome by grief and turned himself completely to Christ. Then some others arrived unexpectedly and told him about the holy way of living of some other brothers, the edification of lay people, and their conversion to the state of penance. – The happiest wife (husband) is not the one who marries the best man (woman), but the one who makes the best of the man (woman) she (he) marries.

28 – The lover of the good and of the salvation of souls rejoiced on hearing this. Enlightened by a heavenly revelation he understood the rightness of divine justice which embraces and blesses good people and rejects and curses the evil. – God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.

29 – In great force and strength of spirit, he cursed those who apostatized from the profession of the life they promised and defamed the religion by their perverse deeds. He blessed the ones who kept their promises and edified their neighbors by the example of a holy life and caused the religion to spread the fragrance of a good reputation. – Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.

30 – All who heard him realized that a blessing or a curse pronounced by Saint Francis on earth came from God and was ratified in heaven. The brothers who were really wise, and truly loved Christ, realized that his words and deeds came from Christ and His Spirit. Those who welcomed him and listened to him, welcomed and listened to Christ speaking in him. The upright and pure of heart listened to him and followed him without hesitation. – Christ did not die a martyr. He died, infinitely more humbly, a common criminal.

September 2023-Monthly Spiritual Asst Reflection