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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.

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Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – May 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

May 2018

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

All peace and good be with you! It finally looks like spring has arrived. NEPA, north of the tunnel, hasn’t had snow or ice for several weeks and our flowers and trees are blooming praise God.

On April 22, 2018 Holy Cross Fraternity had the privilege to profess two candidates1. It was a wonderful experience and a joy filled time for all! But it got me thinking, along with some other events, about profession and the deeper meaning. It got me thinking it is time to remember what profession means and what we all actually did during that priceless Mass.

I want to start with something I know you all are familiar with but is always worth repeating. That is Father Cangelosi words, “Indeed, most people have foggy ideas2 on the value of Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order and because of this many Secular Franciscans do not live the “grace” of Profession for what it really is. A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Christ3 aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.4”

We must work hard to not let our Fraternities be “Foggy” places or not fully embrace all that profession is; “A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Chris aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.” As Father Cangelosi said, we have been professed into a nuptial relationship for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God and by that relationship firmly bound to each other, the Church and all that the church is! We are not alone, nor are our fraternities. We are all bound together and journeying together.

As a reminder to what we actually say during our profession is important, all of it is important, but here I will focus on the actual “words of profession”.

“I, (Name), by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state, I promise to live all the days of my life the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Order of Franciscan Seculars, by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our holy father Saint Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.5”

Those words are powerful and full of significance. What does it mean to consecrate oneself?

{Verb (used with object), consecrated, consecrating6. 1 – to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: to consecrate a new church building. 2 – To make (something) an object of honor or veneration; hallow: a custom consecrated by time. 3 – To devote or dedicate to some purpose: a life consecrated to ministry. 4 – To admit or ordain to a sacred office, especially to the episcopate. 5 – To change (bread and wine) into the Eucharist.}

In our case number 3 is the definition to use. We promised to dedicate ourselves to the church, the order and the rule. We made that promise to each other, to the Church thru the ecclesial witness and to those participating other than our sisters and brothers. We should never forget we are family and an ecclesial order bound to each other and our higher fraternities by our promise!

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

1 Media presentation available on the HCF web site: www.holycrossfraternity.wordpress.com or on the HCF You-Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/74KqWOZfDB8

2 Emphasis mine

3 Emphasis mine

4 Emphasis mine

5 Taken directly from the “Ritual of the SFO”

6 Modified from the New Catholic Dictionary (On Line) Emphasis mine

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. May 2018

May 2018

Hail, O Lady, holy Queen, you are the virgin made church

and the one chosen by the most holy Father in heaven

whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son

and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, 

in whom there was and is all the fullness of grace and every good.

Hail, His Palace! Hail, His, Tabernacle! Hail, His Home!

Hail, His Robe! Hail, His Servant!  Hail, His Mother!

And hail all you holy virtues which through the grace and light of the Holy Spirit

are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from

their faithless state you may make them faithful to God.

(Salutation of the Blessed Virgin)

1

It was not that he was a man who prayed, than he himself was a living prayer. – Abraham hoped everything would stay put, but he left everything and everyone on God’s word and traveled into the unknown.

2

His sure harbor was prayer not for a moment, … but profoundly devout, humble and prolonged as much as possible.  If he began at night, with difficulty he ended his prayer in the morning. – Like Abraham, we are sustained by not simply a promise, but by the Promise of God which was fleshed out in Jesus.

3

Often, almost daily, he withdrew secretly to pray.  He was inclined to do so by that same tenderness he had tasted  earlier, which now visited him ever more frequently, driving him to prayer in the piazza and in other public places. – Moses longed to see his dreams completed and stopped short of the land he was allowed to see but not enter.

4

Francis … totally unaware of earthly desires through love of Christ, and strove to keep his spirit present to God by praying without ceasing lest he be without them consolation of the Beloved. – It was enough for Moses to be given evidence of the future to die fulfilled and in peace.

5

The man of God gathered with his companions … they spent their time praying incessantly, directing their efforts mentally rather than vocally to devoted prayers, because they did have liturgical books from which to chant the canonical hours. – Joseph, in spite of the rough breaks he had experienced since being sold by his brothers, refused to quit.

6

Let all the brothers always strive to exert themselves in doing good works … Servants of God, therefore, must always apply themselves to prayer or some good work. – God intends you to be the person on whom He has conferred a unique ‘personhood’. God has committed Himself to you…agree to do the same to Him.

7

Let us always make a home and a dwelling place for Him Who is the Lord God Almighty, father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who says: Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent … When you stand to pray say: Our Father in heaven. – David wanted to build a monument to God but had to prepare the material for another to build.

8

Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working may work faithfully and devotedly so that, while avoiding idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all temporal things must contribute. – You who are meant to be part of God’s family, are one of the community of the Crucified One; you too must crucify self and forget ego trips…Trust Him!

9

I admonish and exhort the brothers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to … pay attention to what they must desire above all else: to have the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity, to pray always to Him with a pure heart, to have humility and patience in persecution and infirmity. – Elijah was so demoralized he wanted to give up, but God knew the inner strength of Elijah and gave him a firm ‘no’.

10

I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers providing that, as is contained in the Rule, you do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion, during study of this kind. – There is no permanent retirement for a Christian, only temporary respites from time to time to rest and reequip.

11

Francis used to say that, because of the office of prelacy or of zeal for preaching, they should not abandon holy and devout prayer, going for alms. Working at times with their hands, and performing other humble tasks like the other brothers, for good example and for the benefit of their souls, as well as others. – Jonah tried to run away from God’s Will and acceptance of his responsibilities, but he couldn’t run from God.

12

He said that (ministers of the word of God) were heralds chosen by a great king…For he used to say: The preacher must first secretly draw in by prayer what he later pours out in sacred preaching; he must first of all grow warm on the inside, or he will speak frozen words on the outside.  – God still replies in the negative to those who claim a special relationship, but try to escape from responsibilities, or fall into a narrow, self-centered outlook.

13

(Description of General Minister) … He must be a committed friend of holy prayer, who can distribute some hours for his soul and others for the flock entrusted to him … – Job questioned God and demanded answers, but God gave him no answers; His questions were more profound and penetrating.

14

They never or hardly ever stopped praying and praising God…They gave thanks to God for the good done…They would have thought themselves abandoned by God if they did not experience in their ordinary prayers that they were constantly visited by the spirit of devotion. – We present-day Jobs also are promised God’s sufficiency. He gives more than answers … He shares His life with us.

15

They were so devoted to prayer that there was no hour of the night that someone could not be found at prayer in the oratory. – The God who has committed Himself to us insists on a like-minded commitment.

16

The brothers at that time begged him to teach them how to pray, because, walking in simplicity of spirit, up to that time they did not know … – The ‘covenanting’ God has given His word to us that He will not desert us.  That promise has been sealed in blood – literally!

17

He implored divine clemency to show him what he had to do. – The cross has been so sentimentalized by so many generations of songwriters and preachers that it no longer has any sting.

18

He had recourse to prayer that he might insistently implore what the will of God was regarding some specific matter. – You have been given the gift of living and dying just one death. You may lay down your energies, your time, and your goods for others, or you may stockpile self until it crushes you.

19

Fasting and weeping, he earnestly prayed for the savior’s mercy, and lacking confidence in his own efforts, he cast his care upon the Lord. – Time does not necessarily heal all wounds; sometimes it merely covers them with scar tissue.

20

Foreseeing the great things that God would do through him and his Order … he was calling and praying to God that, by his mercy and omnipotence, without which human frailty can do nothing, he should supply, help, and fulfill that which he could not do by himself. – Jesus has called ‘friend’ the one we would label ‘enemy’; He pronounces themm subjects of concern rather than objects of contempt.

21

Francis said: Wait for me a bit, because I first want to pray to God that He make our journey fruitful, that Christ, by virtue of His most holy passion, be pleased to give us poor and weak men this noble prey that we’re planning to take from the world. – Peter tried to bury his guilt of denial and grief of lose in work; he couldn’t forget or conceal in activity his ‘failure’.

22

He saw St. Francis devoutly at prayer before Christ, who had appeared to him during that prayer and was in front of him … he saw Francis lifted up bodily from the earth.  Because of this he was touched by God and inspired to leave the world … – The Resurrection is God’s mighty ‘no’ to depression and death.

23

He never ceased crying out to God with humble prayers and fervent affection, that God would protect the Order and grant salvation to all the friars, present and future. – A beggar pleaded for a handout and was given a hand up. God gives us His gifts that we may learn to help ourselves.

24

As blessed Francis got up, he joined his hands and, lifting his eyes to heaven, said: Lord, I give back to You the family which until now you have entrusted to me… – We carry the name ‘Christian’ and stand strong in its meaning.

25

Once while his vicar was holding a chapter, he was praying in his cell, as the go-between and mediator between his brothers and God. – Paul begged for healing and was given a thorn in the flesh, and an reminder that ‘my strength is sufficient’.

26

After I resigned my office among the brothers because of my illnesses … I am not bound at all except to pray for the religion and to show good example… the greatest help I can render to the religion is to spend time everyday in prayer to the Lord for it.  – St.Teresa: Lord when you will cease to strew our path with obstacles? And the Lord: Don’t complain, this is how I treat my friends.  St.Teresa: Dear Lord, that is why You have so few.

27

The abbot of the monastery of San Giustino…happened to meet Saint Francis…he humbly asked him to pray for him, and Saint Francis replied: My Lord, I will willingly pray… when the abbot had ridden away, he said to the brother with him: Wait for me a little while, brother, for I want to pay the debt I promised. – There is a certain enjoyment of unpleasant places when the challenges they offer help us to grow.

28

A pilgrim while in the body, away from the Lord, Francis, man of God, strove to keep himself present in spirit to heaven…With all his soul he thirsted for his Christ…We will tell…about the wonders of his prayer, things that we have seen with our own eyes. – The all-powerful Lord turns even the causes of our curses into good.

29

He found (Greccio) rich in poverty and there, in a remote little cell on a cliff, he could give himself freely yo heavenly things.  – Jesus is not a ‘departed hero’, a ‘deceased leader’, but the living Lord, Who does not leave us to fend for ourselves.

30

Brother Body should be cared for with discernment…so it won’t get weary keeping vigil and staying fervently at prayer. – At the time when the outlook seems most bleak and pessimistic, God frequently opens new doors.  Sometimes, God seemingly allows roadblocks because He has bigger plans for us.

31

When he returned from his private prayers, in which he was changed almost into a different man, he tried his best to resemble the others, lest, if he appeared glowing, the breeze of favor might cancel what he had gained. – ‘Help’ signals often are hard to pick up. God, however, patiently waits for us to be sensitive enough to detect those signs and signals from others.

 

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. May 2018

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360

website: skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

May 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

The Middle Ages was a time of wonderful monuments built to the glory of God.  Many of them were dedicated to the Great Mother of God, our Blessed Mother. The devotion of the people and the great saints of the Church saw Mary as the Virgin Mother who gave birth not only to the Christ, but as the Mother of the Christian and thus the Church as well.  Saint Francis of Assisi was among these great ‘lovers of Mary’.   His own Salutation of the Blessed Virgin gives proof of the depth of his awareness of Mary’s place in our Salvation History and the honor with which he personally held Her in his life. She is the virgin made church whose faith and openness to the will of the Father encourage us to abandon ourselves to so great a God and His most holy will.

Just as our Seraphic Father sought to honor Mary in his life, how could we allow this most sacred time of our Christian calendar to go by without thinking of that simple Virgin of Nazareth. Mary’s cooperation with the Father’s Will accepted the work of the Holy Spirit to ‘overshadow’ Her and thus gave us Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior and Redeemer.  Infinitely less than God but eminently greater than all humanity, Mary stands above us, yet always journeys with us. We are Her children entrusted to Her by Jesus as She stood at the foot of the Cross.  The ‘Woman’, praised in the first Book of Sacred Scripture, who gave birth to the Christ, is the same ‘Woman’ who gave birth to the Christian as the Church was born from the open side of Her Son as He hung on the Cross for all humankind.  From that moment, Mary, the virgin made church,  watches us with a mother’s eye, intercedes for us with a mother’s concern, and embraces us with a mother’s love. All humanity appeals to Mary as the ‘highest honor of our race’.  Saint Francis saw Mary always in this light. Mary is Mother of the Church, because Mother of the Christ, since She is Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Her life was an intimate relationship immersed in the reality of the Most Holy Trinity.  Totally human, Mary was privileged to reach the heights of holiness ahead of time, through the merits of Her Son’s redeeming Passion-Death-Resurrection, that She might be forever a sign of the greatness and holiness to which all God’s children are called.

Mary’s presence, prominence, and popularity, even among those not of the Catholic/Orthodox expressions of Christianity, are indicative of the yearning of the human heart to be loved. After the Marriage Feast at Cana, our Heavenly Mother takes a silent place in the Gospels.  We meet Her again at the foot of the Cross and then in the Upper Room awaiting the Promised Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Early Church. Not until St. John writes of the ‘Woman about to give birth’ assailed by the ‘dragon’ in the Book of Revelation do we meet ‘the Woman’ again in Scripture, and for the last time.  The Church has always seen the image of the ‘Woman’ of Sacred Scripture as the image of Mary. Our love and devotion for Mary has kept Her always alive in our hearts.  She is the one to whom so many of us run with our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, hopes and fears.  She is the one most Catholics will defend when Her name and honor are being attacked. We speak of Her as we do of Her Son.  The Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament is equaled by no one and nothing in this world, yet often we speak of Mary as another ‘real presence’ that accompanies us in such a way that with Her in our hearts and minds we move forward confidently. Saint Francis praised Her as Palace, Tabernacle, Home, Mother, in his Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary offers Jesus the space and place through which He makes Himself present among us and for us.  Saint Francis is so simple, yet so profound!

What was celebrated in sign, Mary bore in Her heart and mind with a depth and reality that no one ever could or ever will be able to equal. She not only received Her Lord in the Eucharist – Her Son, Savior (yes, ‘Savior’, because She was sanctified and freed of Original Sin ahead of time in Her Immaculate Conception, but had to be redeemed nonetheless), and God – but also maintained such an intimacy with Jesus by grace upon grace, that we can lovingly and devotedly say that heaven walked with Her wherever She went. To see Mary was to see a glimpse of heaven upon earth. Isn’t that what happens to us – or at least should – when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist?  When we allow the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior to enter our humanity and become one with us in an intimate and sacramental manner, aren’t we doing just as Our Blessed Mother did so many centuries ago?  We ‘give birth in faith to Christ’ as St. Augustine reminds us.  This faith and its challenges, at Communion time, must be embraced, energized, and empowered to manifest itself in the life of the one who receives the Eucharistic Lord.

In his Admonitions, our Seraphic Father writes: All those who see the sacrament sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine…believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Spirit of the Lord, therefore, That lives in Its faithful, That receives the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Behold, each day He humbles Himself as when He came from His royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day He comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest.  As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us now in sacred bread. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: ‘I am with you until the end of the age.

How powerful and profound is this intimate love between the human and the Divine!  When we encounter individuals who are deeply in love, that love can be seen in their demeanor.  Ask them about their love, though, and they seem embarrassed to respond.  The intimacy true love reaches in hearts and souls ‘in love’ can only be experienced, never exhaustively explained. It can be seen in its effects but not really ‘dissected’ in explanations. Love is of God, and true love is a mystery to which all are called. Love must be lived to be experienced, and once experienced it must be loved to be lived fully. The ‘virtuous circle’ of love consists in this: the more we love, the more we know love and are capable of loving. The Eucharist we receive at the moment of Holy Communion – our ‘sacred bonding’ with Jesus – offers us the opportunity to enter the Love of God in Jesus. We allow His Holy Spirit to ‘overshadow’ our lives with grace. Just as Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit and became the Mother of God, so we have the possibility to be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to our cooperation with grace, and thus we ‘give birth to Christ in our hearts’.  Even the ‘eccentricity’ of Saint Francis of Assisi can most often be attributed to his relationship with the Christ Who was so real to him in prayer and particularly in the Eucharist, that his very behavior became uninhibited. The joy of that one-ness with Christ let him forget all human respect, just as King David danced with abandon before the Arc being brought into the City of David.

The millennial continuation of the Real Presence of Our Savior among us around the world depends upon the consecration of the sacramental signs of bread and wine. This is accomplished through the ministry of those men called and ordained to the ministerial priesthood. The faithful share in this priesthood through Baptism. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice they accept to participate actively in the mystery of the Life-Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus.  They acknowledge their belief in the Sacrifice offered and strengthen the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ in their Holy Communion worthily received.  They, like the priest, are called to let the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Savior enter their lives and flow through every fibre of their being, thus enlivening their faith and filling their hearts with inexpressible inner joy and peace – the effects of the Eternal Love that possesses them.  How many of us can really say we allow that to happen?  How many of us ‘feel’ the effects of their Holy Communion, and like Saint Francis, feel a real change in attitude that even affects our demeanor? Some may even consider the expressions used above exaggerated, unreal, poetic, or of another era!  We find difficulty expressing the depth of the love we experience in the Eucharist, often because we do not give ourselves the time and silence to allow the Sacred Guest to speak to our hearts, that we might ‘feel’ it.  We are always in such a hurry.  How many good Catholics run out of Church as soon as they have ‘devoutly’ received Communion?!  The brief period after Communion, before the Last Prayer-Blessing-Dismissal, is an awesome moment, and a necessary one for us to allow the Truth Whom we have received, to lead us on the One Who is the Way, as He nourishes us with Himself and strengthens us on our journey to Eternal Life.

One of our Third Order brothers, Don Bosco, great saint of the nineteenth century, was known for his ‘dreams’.  His dreams, visions, and prophecies concerning the Church are quite revealing.  Among them he speaks of seeing the Church as a ship, with the Holy Father at the helm, steering it through severe weather on rough and stormy seas.  The ship moves to a safe harbor as it is directed between two columns. The Eucharist is atop of one and Our Lady is atop of the other.  The Eucharist and Mary are the strengths (the ‘columns’) of our Catholic Christian faith.  Mary leads us to Jesus.  Mother of the Most Blessed Sacrament, First ‘True’ Tabernacle, First Monstrance, She indicates the way. Let us follow Her example and invoke Her prayers and protection in the ancient Easter Marian Anthem that reminds us of the severe plague that subsided at Her intercession.  The Church and the world need the intercession of the Mother of all Humanity to abate the plague of anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-God campaigns that afflict the world today. May we witness Her almighty intercession with the Eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We rejoice and are glad for the Lord is truly risen, and we sing our ‘Alleluia’, ahead of time, for a God Who renews the joy of our youth, as we acclaim Our Mother, the virgin made church.

Queen of heaven rejoice, Alleluia,

For the Son Whom you merited to bear, Alleluia.

Has risen as He said, Alleluia.

Pray to God for us, Alleuia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleuia,

For the Lord is truly risen, Alleuia.

May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a continued Happy Easter time. May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers each one of us. May our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings in the Risen Lord Jesus

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Fr. Francis Reflections for April 2018

April 2018

 

Our Father most holy: Our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler, and Savior…

You, Lord, are Supreme Good, the eternal Good, from Whom all good comes…

Holy be your Name…That You may rule in us through Your grace…

Your will be done…that we may love You…with our whole heart…soul…and mind…

Give us this day…Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Forgive us…through Your ineffable mercy…and make us, Lord, forgive completely.

And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.

Amen

(Prayer Inspired  by the Our Father – abbreviated)

Daily excerpts from life of St. Francis and Thought for the Day from various sources

1

Once there was a great war between the citizens of Perugia and Assisi. Francis was captured … and …endured the squalor of prison.  His fellow captives were overcome with sadness … but Francis rejoiced in the Lord – Anyone can stand up to an opponent: give me someone who can stand up to a friend.

2

Though staying in a pit and in darkness, he was imbued with an indescribable happiness never before experienced. – I may have all the faith needed to move mountains, but if I have no love, I am nothing.

3

He rose therefore swift, energetic and joyful, carrying the shield of faith for the Lord, and strengthened with the armor of great confidence, he set out for the city. – We get no deeper into Christ than we allow him to get in us.

4

Though delighting for the most part (in his dream), he silently wondered to himself about its meaning…With a happy spirit he awoke the next morning…Considering his vision a prediction of great success… – The Gospels do not explain Easter; Easter explains the Gospels.

5

When morning came, then, he returned in haste to Assisi, free of care and filled with joy, and, already made an exemplar of obedience, he awaited the Lord’s will. – The lives of Jesus’ followers changed the course of human history. No reasonable explanation has ever been given for their transformed lives except their own: they had see Jesus alive.

6

Saint Francis with his brothers rejoiced greatly at the task and the favor given by so great a father and lord.  They gave thanks to Almighty God, who places the lowly on high and raises up mourners to health. – That which you cannot let go of, you do not possess.  It possesses you.

7

They had great joy, because they saw nothing and had nothing that could give them empty or carnal delight…Only divine consolation delighted them, having put aside all their cares about earthly things. – One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.

8

This holy man insisted that spiritual joy was an infallible remedy against a thousand  snares and tricks of the enemy.  He used to say: ‘The devil is most delighted when he can steal the joy of spirit from a servant of God’- We can live forty days without food, eight minutes without air, but about one second without hope.

9

‘But if spiritual joy fills the heart, the serpent casts its poison in vain. The devils cannot harm a servant of Christ when they see him, filled with holy cheerfulness. – Our job is not to do something for the Church, but to do something with it.

10

The saint therefore always strove to keep a joyful heart, to preserve the anointing of the spirit and the oil of gladness. He avoided very carefully the dangerous disease of melancholy, so that when he felt even a little of it slipping into his heart, he quickly rushed to prayer- No one ever made more trouble than the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

11

O martyr, laughing and rejoicing, who endured so gladly what was bitter and painful for others to see! – Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.

12

I see that (the devils) cannot harm me through myself.  Indeed whenever I feel tempted and depressed and I look at the joy of my companion, because of that joy I immediately turn away from temptation and melancholy toward inner and outer joy – The person who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.

13

By a joyful face he understood the fervor and solicitude, the disposition and readiness of a mind and body to willingly undertake every good work;  because through this kind of fervor and disposition others are motivated than through the good deed itself – We can’t understand the Holy Spirit, but we can understand the Spirit’s impact on our lives.

14

He did not want to see a gloomy face, which more often shows laziness, a closed mind, and a body listless for every good work. – I cannot change the whole world, but I can change a small part if it…myself.

15

It is not right for a servant of God to show himself  to others sad and upset, but always pleasant.  Deal with your offenses in your room, and weep and moan before your God. – God is already in our lives.  Our business is to recognize this.

16

Wherever the brothers may be and in whatever place they meet they should respect spiritually and attentively one another, and honor one another without complaining.  Let them be careful not to appear outwardly as sad and gloomy but show themselves joyful, cheerful and consistently gracious in the Lord. –Blessed are they who place themselves in the hands of Jesus.  He will place himself in their hands.

17

They (the brothers) walked with joy wherever they went, speaking among themselves about the words of the Lord, and saying nothing among themselves which did not serve the glory and praise of God, and the good of the soul. – What we usually pray to God is not that his will be done, but that he approve ours.

18

When they laughed, they were filled with happiness and spiritual joy, so that they no longer remembered the adversities they experienced- How else but through a broken heart may the Lord Christ enter in?

19

Whether  ill or in good health they (the brothers) were always joyful and patient. – Only when we learn to see the invisible, will we learn to do the impossible.

20

They were always joyful in the Lord, having nothing within them or among them that could in some way bring them sadness – The effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive.

21

Blessed is that religious who has no pleasure and joy except in the most holy words and deeds of the Lord and, with these, leads people to the love of God with gladness and joy. – Nature does not know extinction.  All it knows is transformation.

22

He himself felt great joy in the Lord when he heard the words of Sacred Scripture. – Often the “god” that people reject is not the true God, but a mistaken notion of God that exists only in their minds.

23

If a servant of God always strives to have and preserve internally and externally the spiritual joy that proceeds from purity of heart and is acquired through the devotion of prayer, the evils could do him no harm. – Lord, help us to deal with ugly situations in a beautiful way.

24

Because spiritual joy springs from integrity of heart and the purity of constant prayer, it must be your primary concern to acquire and preserve these two virtues, to possess internal, as well as external joy. – To be ignorant of the scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ.

25

Whenever he used to say your name, O holy Lord, he was moved in a way beyond human understanding.  He was so wholly taken up in joy, filled with pure delight, that he truly seemed a new person of another age. – Jesus came not to eradicate suffering, but to fill it with his presence.

26

Sometimes he used to do this: a sweet melody of the spirit bubbling up inside him would become a French tune on the outside; the thread of a divine whisper which his ears heard secretly would break out in French song of joy. – The old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind.

27

(The thieves) beat him and threw him into a ditch filled with snow, saying, ‘Lie there, you stupid herald of God!’… He jumped out of the ditch, and exhilarated with a great joy, he began in an even  louder voice to make the woods resound with praises to the Creator of all. – The living Christ still has two hands, one to point the way, and the other held out to help us along the way.

28

Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. – If Christ were standing before me now, what would I feel, not about him, but about myself?

29

(Saint Francis dying, said to Brother Elias) ‘Allow me to rejoice in the Lord, Brother, and to sing His praises in my infirmities, because, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I am so closely united and joined with my Lord, that, through His mercy, I can well rejoice in the Most High Himself.’ – The goal of religion is not to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us.

30

(As Saint Francis lay dying the guardian) took the tunic with a cord and underwear, and offered them to the little poor man of Christ, saying: ‘I am lending these to you as to a poor man, and you are to keep them with the command of holy obedience. At this the holy man rejoiced and was delighted in the gladness of his heart, because he saw that he had kept faith until the end with Lady Poverty. – You cannot have God for your Father, if you don’t have the Church for your mother.

 

 

Fr. Francis Greetings for April 2018

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

April 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’.  When He had said this He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you’. As the Father sent me, so I send you…(John 20: 19-21) It was on that same first day of the week that two disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus…Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them…but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him… While he was with them…their eyes were opened and they recognized Him and He vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures for us’…So they set out at once to return to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven…The two recounted what had taken place on the way and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (cfr. Luke 24: 13-35) A week later His disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’ (John 20: 26)

The season of Easter is saturated with Peace.  It is a time for us to enter the Joy of the Risen Jesus and realize that our  God is alive and well. We see in the few chapters that end the Gospel accounts a transforming experience for all the first followers of the Lord.  It was an inner transformation, for as yet they were fearful of the Jews, but joy-filled at the sight of the Savior.  No doubt some may have thought that ‘now He will re-establish Israel’, ‘now He will manifest Himself to the world and conquer our dominators’, ‘now the sinners and sinful nations will be put down and Israel will reign as the righteous nation’.  As childish as this manner of thinking may seem, I do not doubt that some, if not all the disciples, may have had similar thoughts or feelings. All we need do is remember what the concern was on the road to Jerusalem as Jesus spoke of His pending capture-torture-death…and resurrection; the apostles were talking about who would be first and powerful in the kingdom, and who would reign on the right and left with Jesus.

The disciples saw Jesus captured and tortured; they knew He died and was sealed in a guarded tomb.  Things were not as the disciples expected.  Things were not as the first followers had hoped.  Things seemed to be moving in a direction totally different than expected and desired.  The disciples stayed together in the upper room with Mary the mother of Jesus. They were afraid and confused, but found inner strength in their common bond in Jesus’ name and all He taught them.  They were at peace within themselves, while still frightened of the world around them. Calm demeanor, conscious awareness, and cautious outlook, were now the elements that helped them slowly regain a hope they had lost on Calvary. They began to bond as the ‘Apostolic Community’ that would fearlessly proclaim the Messiah-ship and Divinity of Jesus the Christ throughout the world.

Calvary was a tragic day for he first followers of Jesus.  The hopes and dreams of the disciples hung with Jesus on the cross.  Until He gave up His last breath, Jesus could have made everything happen as they had hoped.  When He said, ‘It is finished’, ‘Father into Your hands I commend My spirit’, the Master seemed to go the way of all other Messianic pretenders who, as good, patriotic, and even faithful Jews as they could have been, still ended their hopeful enterprise of re-establishing the independent nation of Israel with their own deaths.  Could Jesus be any different!?  In this case, the answer was ‘Yes’!  These followers could not let go, could not forget.  They were a hodgepodge crew, yet the diversity and diametrically opposed personalities among them, seemed to find a consolation and strength now with each other.  There was a ‘troubled peace’: ‘troubled’ because of human uncertainty regarding the future…’peace’ because the spirit of the three years of His life they had shared with Jesus and His teachings made them believe that the dream of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ was attainable…and for some reason, they knew they were the messengers who had to become the message…Jesus’ acceptance of Calvary told them it was ‘the hard way’ they had to follow to give a more effective witness.

At Mass, just before we receive the Body and Blood of our Savior in Holy Communion, the priest celebrant prays ‘in  Persona Christi’ for all the community as well as for himself; he too needs the graces and blessings as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. The priest prays: Lord Jesus Christ, You said to Your   apostles, I leave you peace. My peace I give you.  Look not on our sins but on the faith of Your Church (people) Again we hear the Lord in the Liturgy, after His death and resurrection sacramentally  re-presented, gifting us with His peace.  This peace can only be felt if it is given away, if we become peacemakers with others because we are at peace with God and ourselves.  We can be at peace and be peacemakers only if and when we disarm our hearts to one another.  If the sign of peace we extend at Mass is not sincere or is even refused, the reception of the Eucharist (the Real Presence of the Living Lord) will have little or no effect in the one receiving Him.  We are integral members of the Mystical Body of Christ. No member of the body acts on its own without affecting the whole body. No member can refuse to support, encourage, forgive  the whole body without affecting his/her own spiritual health.  (cfr.  1 Corinthians 12: 12-26) Let us never forget that Franciscans have always been considered the women and men with ‘disarmed hearts’.  Our Secular Franciscan family has always been singled out as those people of God who truly make peace a characteristic and a challenge for them to live.

Behold each day He humbles Himself as when He came from the royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day He Himself comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest. As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us in the sacred bread.  And as they saw only His flesh by the insight of their flesh, yet believed that He was God as they contemplated Him with their spiritual eyes, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says… (Admonitions, #1)

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis reminds all the faithful that only in the living presence of Jesus among us can we ever hope to find inner peace and external serenity. The Eucharist is that awesome and most wonderful gift of the Spirit that re-presents the whole mystery of our salvation – the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. As the early followers were strengthened and empowered to become the message of “Peace and Blessings” to the world, so are we, the spiritual children of Saint Francis, called to live the joyful peace of the Resurrection and offer the experience of new life in Jesus to all whom we encounter.

Our God is a ‘hidden God’ … hidden in the hearts of everyone, for some as a Real Presence, and for others as a nostalgic memory. St. Augustine expresses the longing of the human heart when he writes: O Lord, we are made for  You, and our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You.  Repeating this expression, the Church also prays: O God, You have placed in our hearts such a deep yearning   for You, that only those who find You can find peace!  It is this hidden God that the yearning of all human beings for ‘Someone’ seeks out.  This is the God we are called to encounter in our individual lives and help others find and live in theirs. This is the God with Whom we seek a deeper relationship during the Lenten Season.  This is the God of Life in Whose Spirit we have come to recognize Jesus as the Christ, incarnate Son of God, in Whose Death and Resurrection heaven is once more made accessible to us.

People of science tell us how difficult it is today to speak about God when the immensity of the galaxies and the materialism of an entrenched secularism in today’s world question anything that cannot be tangibly experienced.  Even those involved in pastoral ministry realize the difficulty there is to speak about God today. Talking about God has become always more problematic, both because of the new ‘verbage’ required, as well as the difficulties created by a world that has ‘to see to believe’ and anything other than what can be ‘touched’ with the senses is just a ‘figment of the imagination’, ‘a relic of times past’, ‘pious people’s inability to move with the times’, and the like. The spirit of the Apostle St. Thomas lives on! Our society wants instant gratification and concrete answers.  No sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights so shall, the Son of man be …  It is precisely this ‘sign’ we Christians throughout the world remember, celebrate, and believe during the Easter Season, and every time we enter the Mystery of the Eucharist. As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi are we making every effort to be this ‘sign’? Can people hear in our words and see in our actions that Jesus’ Resurrection has filled us with confidence as it did the early disciples to fearlessly confront our world in the power of God’s Word? Has the experience of Calvary helped us see the cross as a crowning moment in life rather than a collapse of our hopes and dreams?  We are spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi; the cross was the unique gift he ‘wore’ visibly before he died; do we wear ours with dignity and joy, and carry it with confident hope in its fruits?

God’s presence envelops us, even those who have not met or even know Him.  When we build on the positives of life, the beauty of creation, the diversity-power-wonder of nature at all its levels, the complexity of the human person and our ability to reach horizons that other creatures cannot, we encounter a God of Love and Life.  All too often we seek God in the drastic, disastrous, difficult, dilemmas of life; global fears, economic instability, incurable diseases, natural disasters all ‘make us think’ of God.  At those moments we perhaps see a distorted image of the One Great God of the Covenant who entered an agreement with Humanity and seeks to fulfill it each day.  The Death and Resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus, speaks to us of this God of Life.  St. Francis sang the praises of this God Who is alive and well in all creation, in those who forgive … and even in Sister Death who accompanies us to Life. Do we accept the challenge our Holy Father Francis offers us to do likewise? Have we learned what it means to be an ‘Easter People’ and how to live the ‘Alleluia’ we so often recite in our liturgies and prayers?

When we accept our moment in life and believe in the Lord’s Resurrection, ignorance gives way to knowledge, fear to courage and strength, prejudice to impartiality and tolerance, pride to humility, indifference to concern, over-indulgence to self-control, hypocrisy to sincerity, discouragement to hope, doubt to faith, and hatred to love, because…You can’t hold back the dawn! And the Resurrection of Jesus is the New Dawn bringing the Light of Christ to all willing to accept Him.

May  the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in your life that we might have life, and have it in abundance. May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter  season.  May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers each one of us.  And may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of   us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. With a promise to keep all of you affectionately in my Masses and prayers, I wish you and your dear ones a very Happy and Joyous Easter season.

Peace and Blessings in the Risen Lord

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director 
April 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.
All peace and good be with you! In my March letter I was optimistic and said as
we say “goodbye to winter and hello to spring”, well here we are on April 2, 2018, the
day after Easter and old man winter just dumped at least six inches of snow north of the
tunnel! Praise God it wasn’t on Easter Sunday.

Last month we started talking about what we do with all the paper we collect!
And we discussed the chart “Pathway to Profession(i)” as your road map to proper Initial
formation. At the risk of repeating myself, we will continually return to that document as
a guide! And as we said last month the reason we gather all this documentation is to
assist in the discernment process for the council and the individual. It is the local
council’s responsibility to decide to accept or not accept the individual into profession(ii)
and they need all the help they can get!

This month we will focus more on the start of formal initial formation with Inquiry.
I have been asked why we say initial formation doesn’t formally start until Inquiry, I like
to say that orientation is just that. We are helping a person to get to know the
“Franciscan” language and some of our customs. The real meat of the matter starts in
Inquiry and never ends! By this time, the individuals should have made their written
request to enter formation, and that request should have been discussed among the
formation team and then with the council. If no issues arise that would prevent
continuing the person is invited into Inquiry starting with the “Ceremony of Introduction
and Welcoming(iii)” this simple ceremony marks the beginning of a life’s journey and
should not be overlooked or thought of as unimportant.

During Inquiry, it is essential that all of the “Admission Documents” be collected
and reviewed with the formation team and council. The documents are listed in the
February 2018 letter. If there appears to be any anomalies, these should be discussed
privately with the individual with recommendations for overcoming the anomaly. At
times this will require clerical intervention. If the anomaly appears to be a true
impediment such as unresolved Divorces and remarriages, lacking evidence of full
initiation into the Catholic Church (sacramental records), belonging to unapproved
organizations like the Free Masons or just plain not being Catholic (even if they are in
the RCIA[iv] program), they should be asked to resolve those issues with their Parish
Priest before starting Candidacy. Although, I usually don’t wait that long.

I have mentioned several times that the “Formation Team should discuss” I
understand that not all fraternities have an actual team. The Formation Director is it. If
that is the case the process is the same just discussing with the council. I do highly
recommend that all fraternities work towards building teams.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Directo

i Regional Formation handbook, second section, page 43; or
http://www.skdregion.org/wp‐content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg  ii Pathway to Profession chart
iii The {Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order} St Anthony Messenger Press, 1985, Page 9  iv Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Holy Week 2018

It’s Palm Sunday and I went to church today.  Nothing earth shattering about that! I dawdled the morning away and missed my chance to go to the 9:00.  When I pulled into the lot for the noon Mass, I was a little surprised that I got such a good parking space.  Palm Sunday is another one of those days when people make a bigger effort to get to church. But it was only quarter of, still plenty of time for people to arrive.

When I walked into church, I saw a number of pews had those big white bows on the ends.  About 6 pews or so on both sides.  “Oh no!”  I walk into church on a beautiful and sad occasion, when the Lord’s glory is shouted from the crowds and all I can think is “Oh no!” My second thought was “That’s why there isn’t a crowd here.  Everyone else must know there is something special going on and went to the earlier Mass.  It’s already a long Mass with the Passion being read but we have to have something else going on, too!”

Shame on me! Had I left my Franciscanism at home? Why wasn’t I open to whatever was scheduled and embrace the opportunity to spend a little more time with Jesus? Because I was too all fired worried about my schedule after Mass and how it would be impacted. Shame on me again.

Mass began; Father kissed the altar and then spoke a few words.  “Today we celebrate the Lord’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem and we have not one, but two very special groups of people celebrating with us.”  Did that groan come from me?  Two groups??? Oh, brother!

Father continued, saying “On my right are the boys and girls who will be fully admitted to the church at the Easter Vigil. Some will be baptized.  All will receive their First Holy Communion and Confirmation.”  These angels sitting in front of me were scrubbed clean inside and out and are so ready to join themselves with me and every other member of the church. The shame was starting to get a bit heavy.

And Father went on to say, “On my left are my good friends from the Coffee Club”.  The “Coffee Club” is Father’s name for the group of homeless folks he has befriended.  He goes to Chester every week and treats this group to coffee and doughnuts, some kind words and enough dignity to get them through the next few days.  Father often brings the group to church on special holidays and feasts.  They attend Mass and then are invited to the church hall for breakfast that some volunteers provide.  As I looked at this group, I could see that they were not scrubbed as clean as the little boys across the aisle. They had been picked up right from the streets and brought to church.  I wonder who God was happier to see visiting His house…..the angels on the brink of joining the church, the homeless folks who came “as I am” or me, the Secular Franciscan with a Tau Cross around her neck and enough shame piling up on her head to want to crawl out the side door?

How many Rules was I breaking?   Article 5 of our Rule: Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

I was sitting in the house of God with all these other people who had chosen to be there, too, and I was too blind to see that.

Article 13: As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

I have much to work on and although Lent is down to Holy Week, I still have the opportunity to make good on the Rule I professed to follow.  That’s what makes our God such a wonderful Father.  He provides a new opportunity each and every day for us to return to Him, step closer to Him, take His hand.

At the Sign of Peace, I wondered if the young boys in front of me would be embarrassed to shake hands with a woman.  There were no parents in the pews with them to nudge them into doing what they should.  One young man turned around and extended his hand to me.  And then all the boys in the two pews ahead of me all turned around and held out their hands.  I’m sure they had no idea why there were tears in my eyes.  But I do. And most especially, God does, too.

May you walk closely with Jesus during this Holy Week. And on Easter morning, may your soul be bursting with the joy of the Risen Lord!  Happy Easter, my dear brothers and sisters!

 

 

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – March 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

March 2018

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

All peace and good be with you as we say goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring, at least that is what I am hoping for!  But for those of us that live in North Eastern PA, old man Winter can linger well into late March.

In my last letter to you I said we would start talking about what we do with all this paper we collect!  So here we go. To start with, several letters ago I directed you to the chart “Pathway to Profession[i]”; you will find we end up there a lot.  It is a great resource and lays out what has to happen. The reason we gather all this documentation is to assist the potential candidate and the local council in determining if an individual has a vocation to the Franciscan Secular life and rule.  In smaller fraternities it is easier in most cases for everyone to get close to each other, in larger fraternities this becomes difficult at times.  The letters, homework, sacramental records and interviews all help the individual express their thoughts and feelings but also help the local council and formation team to truly get to know them.  It is ultimately the council, including the Spiritual Assistant if you have one, that will decide to accept or not accept the individual into profession[ii].

This can be a daunting task, but if done a little at a time will make it much easier.  In addition, no individual in the process should be surprised at the outcome.  What do I mean by that?  No one should get thru candidacy and then the council questions their vocation.  The Formation Team or Director should be reporting progress, issues or concerns to the council right from the start.  According to the Pathways Chart that would be the first interview.  The first interview is very telling; is the individual forth coming or reluctant to share information?  How do they respond to very personnel questions about marriages, clubs and other organizations they belong to?   This interview becomes a part of their permanent record.

Once invited to participate in orientation, the home work starts and is also collected.  Depending on the dynamics of the individuals and as I get to know them, I will either assign homework questions from the Franciscan Journey Book or I will let them chose.  If I see they are selecting the easier questions I then start to assign them.  They are told to review all the questions, but to give a written response to at least two questions and always the last question concerning the scriptures.  Then the entire chapter and supporting documents are discussed.

During the various stages of initial formation, this homework is presented to the council for them to review if they chose to do so. Once an individual is either professed or withdraws, the home work is returned to them so that they can look back and reflect on what they experienced.  Something like Mystagogia[iii] in the RCIA.

As Orientation comes to an end, the formation team discuss their impression of the individual, and then invites the individual to apply for Inquiry.  I ask them to write a formal letter to the council sharing some of their experience and why they feel lead to Inquiry and the start of formal formation.  I do have to share with you that our council has had to make the hard decision at times not to invite a person to continue although it is normally a mutual agreement.

Next month we will discuss some of the documents and process for Inquiry and beyond.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

[i] Regional Formation handbook, second section, page 43; or

http://www.skdregion.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg

[ii] Pathway to Profession chart

[iii] Greek word that means to reflect upon the mysteries

March 2018 – Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

 tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360     website: skdsfo

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

March 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

Because St. Francis was in certain things like another Christ given to the world for the salvation of people, God the Father willed to make him in many acts conformed and similar to His Son Jesus Christ … Once, when St. Francis was near the Lake Trasimeno on Carnival Day, he was inspired by God to go and spend Lent on an island in that lake. St. Francis asked his friend, for the love of Christ, to take him in his little boat to an island in the lake where no one lived, and to do this on the night of Ash Wednesday, so that nobody would perceive it … St. Francis earnestly asked him not to reveal to anyone that he was there, and not to come for him before Holy Thursday … and St. Francis remained there alone … There was no building there where he could take shelter. He went into a very dense thicket … and he began to pray and contemplate heavenly things in that place … He stayed there all through Lent without eating and without drinking, except for half of one of those little loaves of bread .. It is believed that St. Francis ate the half of one loaf out of reverence for the fast of the Blessed Christ, who fasted forty days and forty night without taking any material food … And so with that half loaf he drove from himself the poison of pride … (The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Fioretti 7)

 

Throughout his life, St. Francis regularly sought the solitude of forests, mountains, islands. His Canticle of the Creatures gives us an insight into his love and reverence for all creation as gift from the One Great Creator and Father.  Nonetheless, often he would retire for weeks on end from this wonderful Theater of Redemption, away from the ‘world’ , the people, and the circumstances that enveloped him each day.  Why?  If all is a gift and everything is so wonderful, why leave?  If God is everywhere, why go as far away from ‘civilization’ as possible to be able to ‘touch God’?

 

Good, legitimate, enjoyable, and even necessary persons, places, and things – even religious things! – can ‘possess’ us so much that we can risk losing our God-centered perspective, and confuse our priorities.  They become the end rather than the means to deepen a relationship with God Who is ‘the Other’ and though He is not His creation, yet God can be seen in all things, because He is My God and My All as St. Francis prayed.  God’s providence and love cannot be felt unless they are seen in those who proclaim them by their actions.  The spirit, immersed in God, can often become distracted and even depleted of its inner strength by the constant barrages, cacophony, seductions, allurements of our society, and also from just frenetic running around ‘in four directions at once’ without taking time for healthy rest in the Lord.  The various ‘lents’ that St. Francis practiced during the year all responded to the canons of the Church for all Christians.  They were part of his own particular devotional life and spiritual needs, and they afforded him the silence and solitude to ‘recharge’ his spirit, deepen his relationship with God for Whom St. Francis was the ‘Herald of the Great King’, and clarify his view of the world that surrounded him.

 

In solitude and silence our Seraphic Father sought to hear more clearly the voice of God Who spoke to him from the Cross of San Damiano that had entrusted him with a mission to rebuild My Church for as you can see it is falling into ruin.  To fulfill this commission St. Francis understood he had to begin by ‘rebuilding’ himself.  Like any edifice that needs revamping, remodeling, restoring, in order to be ultimately renewed, he had to check the structure, clean out the rubble, prop up and strengthen the tottering and fragile, fix the broken, discard the corroding that was affecting and infecting the rest of the healthy structure. Once this was done he could begin the ‘job’ of rebuilding with quality updated strong material to make the structure solid and welcoming.  It is not always necessary to tear down to renew, particularly when the treasures of time and the human spirit are intimately involved and vital components .  When our faith foundation is solid and deep, the visible ‘structure’ of our lives will be strong and solid once revisions and repairs are effected.  Thus, what others see after we have worked at ‘rebuilding’ the inner spiritual structure and ‘refinished and renewed’ the outer appearance will attract, welcome, and challenge others to do the same.

 

Initially, our Seraphic Father understood the voice from the Cross of San Damiano literally. He began rebuilding the physical structures of several of the churches of Assisi with stones and mortor; and no doubt his merchant’s skills were able to eventually even get some of the townsfolk to help this affable eccentric in his ‘pro bono’ enterprise. Following this image, we too can speak of rebuilding  the moral and spiritual structure of the Church, beginning with an evaluation and restructuring of our own personal church, the Temple of God each one of us has become through Baptism. St. Paul tells the Corinthians: Are you not aware that you are the Temple of God, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you?… For the Temple of God is holy, and you are that Temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-23) The voice from the Cross of San Damiano and the forty days St. Francis spent on the island on Lake Trasimeno offer us some points of reflection as we enter the most solemn season of the Church Year, the Paschal Season (Lent-Easter-Pentecost).  The ‘Penitents of Assisi’ as the first followers were called, were a prophetic presence within the Church calling the People of God to re-discover and uncover within themselves a new energy in God’s Spirit, and recognize a Presence that would transform their lives and restore harmony between them and all creation.

 

Ash Wednesday heralds the beginning of this sacred season. Lent encourages us through the imposition of ashes to remember that:  You are dust and to dust you will return (look at everything in life from the perspective of eternity), and Repent and believe in the Gospel (give yourself over to God’s Will and live Jesus and His words). During these forty days we enter a Christian pilgrimage of faith and walk in the way of true conversion. We renew our commitment to rebuild and strengthen the Temple of God we are, making use of the ‘weapons’ our faith affords us.

 

In the Opening Prayer of the Eucharist for Ash Wednesday we read these words: O God our Father, grant that your Christian people may begin this fast as a journey of true conversion, that the weapons of penance may make them victorious in the battle against the spirit of evil. (free translation) This prayer introduces the beginning of the Season of Lent, springtime of the Church Year.  It offers us a simple and effective process to follow on the forty-day itinerary. The prayer mentions: conversion, journey, battle, weapons, victory … and a constant ‘accusing’ presence on this journey through life, ‘the evil one’.  The words are powerful and forceful.  They speak of decisiveness and determination. Reflecting on them and acting on them can make Lent a spiritually beneficial time for all who acknowledge their value and seek to implement them.

 

The process applies to a person of reasonably good faith, who truly wants to do what is good and right, even when the human spirit seems to be weak, tired or even contrary. Sincere awareness of our weaknesses leads to a desire and spirit of conversion, a ‘turning back’, to the intention of God in creating us and how we became when we were baptized – filled with sanctifying grace in God’s love.  Acceptance of this basic need urges us to take the first step of a journey that lasts a lifetime.  The journey is filled with pitfalls, detours, u-turns, and ‘full-steam-aheads’.  On this spiritual journey, just as in the experiences of everyday life, we encounter friend and foe, success and failure, joy and sorrow, virtue and vice, grace and sin.  We are called to wage ‘war’ and do ‘battle’ against the enemies of our soul by being prepared to recognize them, and to be energized by the gifts and assistance God affords us through Sacred Scripture, the Church and Sacraments, Tradition, the Magisterium, the holy people we follow as our spiritual guides, and one another.  The weapons of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving keep our souls centered on the ultimate purpose of our existence – God! … and thus enliven us to confront the ‘evil one’ and the effects of his subtle and flagrant instigation in our daily lives:

Prayer keeps our relationship with God strong, and makes us always aware that God is truly with us …

Fasting places all things in right order so that our possessions, even the spiritual ones, do not possess us …

Almsgiving opens and disarms our heart to others … thus, the space within is cleared for the Presence of God.

 

St. Francis often experienced his bouts with the ‘evil one’, sometimes directly, and more often, as with most of us, intensely through the temptations and allurements of the world around him or the ‘demons’ that lurk even in the recesses of saintly people. It is a given fact that the holier a person seeks to become, the more he/she will be assailed by the ‘spirit of evil’.  When we feel assailed and worried that we cannot overcome, remember that there is only one God, and no one and nothing can equal God in any way, no matter how strong.  The Evangelist St. John encourages us on our journey, especially when the going gets rough, when he reminded the early Church and us today: Greater is the One within you, than the one who is in the world. Lent is the time for us to re-confirm our Covenant with God in the Passion-Death- Resurrection of Jesus.

 

Our desire for personal conversion compels us to take the first of many steps of a journey on which we encounter friends and foes of our spiritual lives who must be embraced in love or  fought in a spiritual battle with the weapons of faith (prayer), hope (letting go and trusting in providence to fulfill our needs), and charity/love (disarming our hearts to others as we seek to assist them however possible).  Once we have embarked on this journey, guided by the Spirit of God, following in the footsteps of Jesus, there is nothing less to expect than Victory!

 

Yes! We are victors in the Victim!  We walk the road of the Cross.  Though there are many difficulties we must overcome, our victory is basically a victory over ourselves; that part of ourselves that hesitates or refuses to let the Holy Spirit work in and through us.  The journey of Lent leads to a victory so often misunderstood.  It is a victory whose trophy is a blood-stained Cross and a mangled, tortured, derided Person, executed as a common criminal Whose crime was truth, compassion, and love. The paradox of the Cross is the glory of the Christian.  The sign of contradiction becomes our sign of commitment, commitment to Life through death to ourselves, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me. Jesus Himself said, when I am lifted up I will call all people to myself.  Eventually, at the end of our Lenten journey we come to the foot of the Cross, not as vanquished victims, but as conquering victors who bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body, therefore let no one bother me.

 

Let us strive to do good and become better as we continue the Season of Renewal. To do what is good is to do what is of God.  To do what is good is to strive to be good.  To be good is to live in God’s grace. To live in God’s grace is to have begun our heaven on earth.  Lent is the beginning of our journey from Ashes to Palms, leading us from Palms to Calvary, that we might move from Calvary to the Empty Tomb, and ultimately rejoice in the Empty Tomb that introduces us to the fullness of Life.  Lent is not a time for slackers.  In the words of one of our Capuchin saints: You don’t go to heaven in a taxi! Let us be serious about our ‘return to the future’, a phrase taken from the title of a movie that reminds us we are called not to be someone else in the future but to be who we were created to be from all eternity. Thus, we must recapture and grow in the image of God and Christ in whom we were created, that the future prepared for us may be assured.

 

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us not forget that in the beginning we were called the ‘Penitents of Assisi’.  Let the true spirit of penance take hold of us this Lent.  We are called to reflect, reform, renew our lives that we may re-establish a deeper relationship with God and all creation.  Like Advent, Lent is a Season of joy- filled expectations. We live in the reality of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Lent is not a sad time of regrets, and penitential practices for the past.  It is a joyful season of ‘reconstruction’ and rebirth for all who seriously take advantage of the spiritual opportunities available. At the end of this brief yearly journey of renewal,  the ‘edifice of the Spirit’, ‘the Temple of God’ we are ‘comes alive’ in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

 

May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look over each one of you, his spiritual children, with loving care.

 

We began Lent with ashes on the feast of Lovers (St. Valentine Day – February 14). We end Lent on the Feast of Fools (April Fool Day – April 1). May we love enough to be “fools for the sake of Christ” and the New Life His glorious Resurrection offers us.  Happy Lent!

 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

March 2018 – Daily Reflections by Father Francis

March 2018

Wherever we are, in every place, at every hour, at every time of the day, every day and continually, let all of us truly and humbly believe, hold in our heart and love, honor, adore, serve, praise and bless, glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the Most High and Supreme Eternal God, Trinity and Unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator of all, Savior of all who believe and hope in Him, and love Him, Who, without beginning and end, is unchangeable, invisible, indescribable, ineffable, incomprehensible,  unfathomable, blessed, praiseworthy, glorious, exalted, sublime, most high, gentle, lovable, delightful, and totally desirable above all else for ever. Amen.

(Prayer of Saint Francis taken from the Earlier Rule, chapter 23)

Month of Saint Joseph completes Holy Season of Lent.

Excerpts and Daily Reflections are taken from various sources

 

1

Blessed Francis had such reverence and devotion for the Body of Christ, that he wanted it written in the Rule that the brothers in the regions where they stay have care and concern, and should preach to the people, and admonish the clerics and priests to place the Body of Christ in a good and fitting place. – Christianity is not an opinion. Christianity is Christ!

2

(Blessed Francis) wanted to send some brothers with pyxes through every region and wherever they found the Body of Christ placed illicitly, they were to place It honorably in them. – Christianity is a person, a living person!  To meet Jesus, to love him and make him loved: This is the Christian vocation.

3

Blessed Francis had such reverence and devotion for the Body of Christ … that he wanted to send (other brothers) with beautiful wafer irons for making hosts at all times. – We have greater need for the Gospel if we are to walk in the ways of truth, freedom, justice, and peace. (adapted)

4

Blessed Francis sent brothers through the regions to preach penance … – We need the Gospel to know God and ourselves, and to nurture a sense of dignity and respect for the value of life, redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice.  (adapted)

5

Go, in the name of the Lord, two by two along the way, decently, in the greatest silence from dawn until after terce, praying to the Lord in your hearts. And let no idle or useless words be mentioned among you … – The law of Christian life is to be found not in a written code, but in the personal action of the Holy Spirit, who inspires and guides the Christian.

6

Although you are traveling, nevertheless, let your behavior be as decent as if you were staying in a hermitage or a cell because wherever we are or wherever we travel, we have a cell with us. – To pray means to be spiritually immersed in God, in an attitude of humble cohesion to his will.

7

Brother Body is our cell, and the soul is the hermit who remains inside the cell to pray to God and meditate. – As Christians, we live by faith and in hope.

8

So if the soul does not remain in quiet and solitude in its cell, a cell made by hands does little good to a religious. – God has given us a moral law to guide and protect us from falling back into the slavery of sin and falsehood. The Ten Commandments are the charter of true freedom for individuals as well as for society as a whole.

9

I must be a model and example to all the brothers… so that the brothers may be able to bear their trials more patiently when they hear that I am also undergoing the same thing. – We are called to live the Gospel with total fidelity.

10

In the name of the Lord and His Mother and all the saints, I choose the region of France, especially among the Catholics of the holy Church, they show great reverence to the Body of Christ, which pleases me very much.- We cannot forgive if we do not let God forgive us first.

11

I tell you in truth that the Lord chose and sent the brothers for the benefit and salvation of the souls of all people in the whole world and they should be received not only in the land of believers, but also in that of non-believers. – We are the object of God’s mercy.

12

As long as (the brothers) observe what they promised the Lord, the Lord will minister to them in the land of non-believers as well as in the countries of believers. – We will be ready to forgive the debts of others only if we become aware of the enormous debt that we ourselves have been forgiven.

13

The Lord Bishop (of Florence) marveled at his words and admitted that he spoke the truth.  But the Lord Bishop did not allow (blessed Francis) to go to France.  Instead blessed Francis sent Brother Pacifico there with other brothers, and he returned to the Spoleto Valley. – Life is more than material development; it needs a soul and the wisdom and courage to overcome moral ills and spiritual temptations.  (adapted)

14

Blessed Francis said to his companions … It seems to me that I am not a Lesser Brother unless I am just as happy when they insult me, as when they honor me, if in both cases the benefit to them is equal.- To return to dust is common to humans and animals alike, however, humans are not just flesh but also spirit, thus humans are destined for immortality.  (adapted)

15

If I am happy about their benefit and devotion when they praise and honor me, which can be a danger to the soul, it is even more fitting that I should rejoice and be happy at my benefit and the salvation of my soul when they revile me as they throw me out in shame, which is profit for the soul and for salvation. – Our Father! Let us repeat this pray often during Lent; let us repeat it with deep emotion.

16

One day, when blessed Francis was returning from prayer, he said with great joy to his companions: I must be the form and example of all the brothers; so, although it is necessary for my body to have a tunic with patches, nevertheless I must take into consideration my brothers who have the same need, but perhaps do not and cannot have this. – By calling God ‘our Father’, we will better realize that we are his children and feel that we are brothers and sisters of one another.

17

Therefore, I must stay down with them to suffer those same necessities they suffer so that in seeing this, they may be able to bear them more patiently. – Do not be afraid to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern ‘metropolis’.

18

At all times, especially after the brothers began to multiply and he resigned the office of prelate, blessed Francis had as his highest and principle goal to teach the brothers more by actions than by words, what they ought to do and what they ought to avoid. – It is you who must ‘go out into the byroads and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people.

19

Noticing and hearing at one time that some brothers were giving a bad example in religion and that the brothers were turning aside from the highest summit of their profession, moved inwardly with sorrow, one time he said to the Lord in praeyer: Lord I give back to you the family you gave me. – To St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, God entrusted the safekeeping of the Eternal Word, made man by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  For all believers he is a model of life in faith.

20

And the Lord said to him in spirit: Tell me, why are you upset when one of the brothers leaves the religion and when others do not walk the way I showed you?  Also tell me: Who planted the religion of the brothers? Who makes a man convert and to do penance in it?  Who gives the strength to persevere in it?  Is it not I? – Number 22-23; Psalm 80; Acts 15: 22-41- As never before man’s gaze is open to the wonders of the universe. And the marvel of it all is a constant call to ponder ever more seriously the greatess of man’s own destiny and his dependence upon the Creator.

21

And it was said to him in spirit: I did not choose you as a learned or eloquent man to be over my family, but I chose you, a simple man, so that you and the others may know that I will watch over my flock. – Be rooted in faith and feel strong in the Lord and in the strengthn of his might.  (adapted)

22

I have placed you as a sign to them, so that the works that I work in you, they should see in you, emulate and do them. – Jesus’ victory over the evil one assures us that we will not succumb at the moment of trial as long as we remain united to the Lord.

23

Those who walk in my way have and will then have more abundantly; while those who refuse to walk in my way, that which they seem to have will be taken away from them. – Lent invites us to make a special commitment to the process of spiritual growth.

24

Therefore, I tell you, don’t be sad; do what you do, work as you work, for I have planted the religion of the brothers in everlasting love. Know that I love it so much that if any brother…dies outside religion I will replace him with another in religion who will have his crown in his place … – Responding to God’s voice resounding in the depths of our conscience and choosing good is the most sublime use of human freedom.  (adapted)

25

Blessed Francis often said to the brothers in chapters and also in his words of instruction: I have sworn and declared to observe the Rule of the brothers and all the brothers also pledged the same.  For this reason, after I resigned office among the brothers from now on, because of illnesses and for the greater good of my soul and those of all the brothers, I am bound in regard to the brothers only to show good example. – The Annunciation celebrates Eternal Love made flesh, so that the creature might share Life with its Creator.

26

The greatest help I can render to the religion of the brothers is to spend time in prayer to the Lord for it everyday, that He govern, preserve, protect, and defend it… – God is not just mercy, but above all love.  (adapted)

27

I have pledged myself to this, to the Lord and to the brothers, that if any one of the brothers persihes because of my bad example, I be held to render an account to the Lord. – To follow Christ in doing the will of the Father is the key to the fullness of life which he promises.  (adapted)

28

The brothers have their Rule, and furthermore have sworn to it. And so they have no excuse … So, since the brothers already know what they should do and what to avoid, the only thing left for me to do is to teach them by actions, because this is why I have been given to them during my life and after my death. – After having drawn the light of the word and the strength of the sacraments, the faithful must announce and testify Christ, the only Redeemer of humanity, in the society to which the belong.

29

One day when blessed Francis met a poor man, he said: I am greatly ashamed when I find someone poorer than myself.  I chose holy poverty as my Lady, my delight, and my riches of spirit and body.  And the whole world has heard this news, that I professed poverty before God and people.  Therefore I ought to be ashamed when I come upon someone poorer than myself. – The Ten Commandments are not an arbitrary imposition of a tyrannical Lord.  They were written first on the human heart as the universal moral law, valid in every time and place, before they were written in stone.

30

Blessed Francis said: For my part, I want only this privilege from the Lord: not to have any privilge from any human being, except to show reverence to all, and, by the obedience of the holy Rule, to convert everyone more by example than by word. – Every genuine human love is a reflection of the love that is God himself, to the point where : ‘The man without love has known nothing of God’.

31

Blessed Francis used to say: Nothing should displease a servant of God except sin … The servant of God who does not become angry or disturbed at anyone lives correctly without anything of his own … Woe to that religious who does not hold in his heart the good things the Lord reveals to him and does not reveal them by his behavior, but, under the guise of a reward, wishes to reveal them with his words. – The people of God cannot hope to live the life of their Master if they do not assimilate the very words which have been passed on to them.