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

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

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

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

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

About our region

All local Secular Franciscan fraternities in the United States are organized into one of 30 regions. The Saint Katharine Drexel Region includes parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. There are currently 28 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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What Part of the Message Did You Miss?

St. Francis rebuild my church

My dear Brothers and Sisters, may God’s peace and grace be with you! The month of June is upon us.  Last weekend we were wearing coats, this week, the AC is on full blast.  How did it happen so quickly? There was no easing into summer this year.

I have never been tied to my cell phone like it was my lifeline to the world. I’m not the President of the United States; so, no one needs to get in touch with me that urgently. Of course, when ‘life’ is urgent and I am ‘needed’, the cell phone is never far. But we don’t get to pick and choose when we are needed.  Life doesn’t work that way.

One late afternoon recently when I remembered I hadn’t looked at my cell phone all day, I picked it up and found it was out of ‘juice’.  I plugged in the charger and went about my business.  Around 10:00 p.m, I heard the sound for an incoming text message.  That had the hair on the back of my neck standing up.  When I do get text messages, they definitely don’t arrive at 10:00 p.m.  It was from my ‘baby’ sister and it stated “Just wanted to let you know that we are all OK and home again”.

What had I missed?  There was something that came before this message that I didn’t see or bother to check.  There were two texts that came in around 5:30 a.m. and I hadn’t checked my phone when I got up.  The first message was “PRAY! The police just called and said Bill was in a very bad accident and they were trying to get him out of his truck.”  The second message was “I’m at the accident scene.  A young lady had been on her cell phone – t-boned Bill’s pickup at such a high rate of speed, that his truck was catapulted through two lanes of north bound traffic, across the three lanes of southbound traffic, rolled down a hill and knocked over two trees.

I felt terrible that I had not responded to the early morning messages and at the very least been in touch with my sister to let her know I was available to come be with her and was praying.  Those messages had been a call to action and I missed it. God gave me an opportunity to serve and I wasn’t connected.

During the Profession ritual, there are three different times that we answer “Yes, this is what I want”. But how connected are we to the meaning of our “Yes”?

Rule 21  The ministers’ and councilors’ task to lead is temporary.  The brothers and sisters, rejecting all ambition, should show love for the fraternity with a spirit of service, prepared both to accept and to relinquish the office…….

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

…should show love for the fraternity with a spirit of service.  Is that the part of the message we have missed? When it comes time for the fraternity elections, so many are sitting on their hands and avoiding eye contact in order to not be asked to serve. There is no member of this Region that doesn’t have other things going on in their lives.  We all have family issues, health issues, financial issues, job issues.  If we wait until life is calm and without any obligations, we will have missed the opportunities that God has offered. Our vocation is one of service. We cannot rebuild the church (fraternity) if we aren’t willing to pick up a brick or two.
I am learning to keep my cell phone close….and charged.  My brother-in-law’s injuries were relatively minor compared to how that pickup looked; thank the dear Lord. But I failed my sister that day by not being ready to serve when I was needed.

If we have missed the first part of the message, the second part won’t make any sense. Check with God to see what message He is trying to send you.  Stay connected and be ready. God doesn’t dial wrong numbers. The message is for you!

Father Francis' Reflections for June

june_small
June 2016
All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,
Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth
we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will
and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit
You have created everything spiritual and corporal
… making us in Your own image and likeness,…
We thank You…
Following are excerpts taken from various Franciscan writings
Daily meditative phrases based from Saint Pope John Paul II
1
The truly clean of heart are those who look down upon earthly things, seek those of heaven, and, with a clean heart and spirit, never cease adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true – Let yourselves be charmed by Christ…attracted by his example…loved by the love of the Holy Spirit…fall in love with Jesus Christ.
2
We carry Him (Jesus) in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example. (Letter to Faithful) – Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!…Open to his saving power.
3
He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check the external senses, through which death enters the soul. – Human beings are called to become disciples of that Other One who infinitely transcends them, in order to enter at last into true life. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Reflections for June” »

A Totally Eucharistic Soul

St. Francis & The EucharistSt. 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
June 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
may you enter the loving embrace of the Eternal Father
Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love!
The Lord give you his peace!
Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a totally Eucharistic soul whose love for the Eucharist led him to revere all priests, even those whose lives were not as exemplary as they should have been. They give us spirit and life through the sacraments they offer and the Word they proclaim. All the faithful have a share in this marvelous gift of the  priesthood through their baptism and attentive participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.  The immediacy with which the celebration of the Eucharist ends after the faithful have received the Eucharist and shared in their Holy Communion seems as though the faithful are given a quick ‘good-bye’ with no ‘follow up’ or ‘follow through’. Nothing of the sort!  The Dismissal is a capsulized and intensely packed moment that carries with it an extraordinary responsibility and an awesome power.
When (Jesus) had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…Then He appeared to the (disciples) … He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not be believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover…  (Mark 16: 9-19)  And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 20)  (The disciples) went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16: 20)
From the moment  we sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we begin an extraordinary spiritual journey through a mystical experience of our salvation history, and more intimately, throughout the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus. As the early followers of Jesus did, we also listen to and reflect on the words of our ancestors in faith.  As the first disciples did, we listen to and learn from the words of Jesus;  in the power of the Holy Spirit Who will remind you of all that I said (John 14: 26), we grow in the strength that will empower us to go forth and be ‘heralds of the Great King’.
Our Seraphic Father proclaimed himself as the ‘Herald of the Great King’ when confronted by a band of robbers. The robbers beat, stripped, and threw St. Francis into a ditch, considering him a mentally challenged person of little worth. They could not and would not accept or understand the freedom and joy that Francis had encountered when he allowed Jesus to ‘take over’ his life.  The Eucharist, celebrated well and received with the appropriate spiritual dispositions empowers us in the same way to be free to ‘be Christ’ and proclaim Him to all the world. We become ‘heralds of the Great King’. We are asked not only to bear a message to others in words, but to become the message in action, fearless of any opposition we might receive  for the sake of the Name (3 John 1: 7).   Human nature influences that reception.  Today we sense a growing aversion in many areas of our world to Christ and His message.  There are those who seek to follow Him with a sincere heart; there are those who follow the image they have created in their own likeness that responds to their personal situations rather than His Word; and then there are those who stand in opposition to Him, even going so far as to proclaim they are acting in His name.
Often those who seek to foster a love for the Gospel, the Church, and our Catholic Christian values and traditions face the same problems the first followers of Jesus, and all sincere seekers of Truth, faced down through the centuries.  If they are not physically attacked, those who seek to do God’s will and live in His Truth are beaten with barrages of negativity and harsh words; they are stripped of integrity by slander, false accusations, or even by an embellishment of the truth for the sake of destroying the reputation of the innocent, who are left on the ‘road of indifference’ or in the ‘ditch of discouragement’ alone to fend for themselves with their physical, and sometimes spiritual, strength depleted.  There is no stifling the power of God and His Spirit in those who seek His will.  We find strength in our weaknesses, as St. Paul reminds us when speaking of his own vulnerabilities and defects.  One of the great Fathers of the early Church, Tertullian, stated: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.   What greater ‘martyrdom’ is there than the ‘witness’ of bearing with patience, trust, and forgiveness, an ‘ongoing death’ that seeks to destroy the soul over the course of days, weeks, months and perhaps years!  What greater amount of ‘blood’ can we shed than the ‘lifeblood’ of our time, talents and even treasures spent in the daily practice of our faith and its defense against the power of the one who is in the world’ (cfr. 1 John 4: 4).  The one who is in the world is always at work insidiously in the minds and hearts of those who proclaim a ‘heaven on earth’ and a god created to their own image!
The Eucharist offers us a bit of heaven on earth.  We bask in the light of the Son, and find strength and peace in Him. Once we have received the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass, it seems as though everything precipitates so quickly that we have little time to spend with the Lord in the protected solace of the church, chapel or other ‘sacred space’.  The brief words and quick dismissal, Go, the Mass is ended or perhaps, translating the words literally, Go, it is sent (Ite, missa est), are an urgent commission entrusted to all who participated (and the key word is ‘participated’) in the Eucharist.  Christ sends us out, as He did His disciples when He ascended to the Father, to bring to others what we have seen with our own eyes, heard with our own ears, and touched   (1 John 1: 1) – Jesus. The commission is urgent; thus the dismissal is immediate.  We have celebrated the mysteries of our salvation.  We have re-presented the Passion-Death-Resurrection- Glorification of the Savior.  We have actively participated in the Mass – we are witnesses to all this (Acts 2: 32).  There is no time to waste. We must be out and about with the Lord and proclaim Him with our lives!
At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we read: (Jesus said to His disciples) you will be witnesses in Jerusalem … and to the ends of the earth … As (the disciples) were looking on, he was lifted up … from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky … suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? ( cfr. Acts 1: 1-12) The celebrant conveys the same command to us at the end of Mass.  It is as though he were saying: ‘You have celebrated the sacred mysteries of our salvation; you have entered the ‘inner circle’ of the Great King’; you have been privileged with His message and His Spirit to inform and remind you. The Victim is sacrificed, our offering is sent and received by the Father, the sacred communion that empowers those who receive worthily has been received and consumed … what are you waiting for? Don’t stand around!  It’s time to go and be the One we received. Drive out the demons of ill will, confusion, doubt, discouragement, despair by the spirit of goodness and compassion.  Speak the new language of Christ’s command of love that can be understood by anyone regardless of ethnic origin or even religious affiliation.  Deal with the deadly serpents of verbal and physical persecution for the sake of the Name.  Know that I am with you all days even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).   Don’t fear the deadly poison of a world that insidiously attempts to corrupt mind and heart from within with seductive enticements and glittering allurements. Lay hands of reassurance and sensitivity on those who have grown ill through lives that are weak, those who have possibly given up … Be their strength … Be the Jesus you have celebrated and received to them.
Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.  Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity (transparency of character and life) .  Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.  Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.  Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self- surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter but by the offering of your free will. (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 108)
Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi do not use prayer, personal sacrifice, and even charitable giving as an excuse to keep aloof from the realities of life.  Our Eucharist is celebrated sacramentally everyday at the altar, and then continued in the streets and our homes through our daily activities.  Once we’ve received the sacramental Jesus and allowed the grace of His Spirit to flow through our veins, we must ‘Go, the (liturgical) Mass is ended’ … ‘It is (or we are) sent’, to bring others, to lead the whole world, into the mystery of God’s love in the Sacrifice and Sacrament of Jesus the Christ.  The Eucharist is not just a goal to be reached but also a starting point that leads to greater heights in, with, and for God and His People.  The priest who acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) accompanies us as one of God’s People, and prays with and for us as one set aside to intercede as a ‘mediator’ between the divine and the human.  He too is called to be victim with the Victim that he too, with all those entrusted to his ministry, may share in the Victory of the Eucharist that fills the world with the Real Presence of an awesome God Who invites us to an intimate relationship with Him and then delegates us to be Eucharist, to be an act of thanksgiving in God, to all.
Continue to pray for all priests and those contemplating the priesthood. Pray that we priests live according to the Heart of the Savior in Whose person we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17: 28). Pray that we may be willing ‘victims’, if the Lord should ask that grace of us, that others with and through us may experience the victory promised all who listen to and live God’s Word: I have conquered the world  (John 16: 33).  Do not be afraid  (Matthew 14: 27; this verse and over 300 other verses in Scripture remind us that we need not fear for God is with us).  Greater is the one within you than the one in the world (1 John 4: 4) .  Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).
May the Eternal High Priest, Jesus, show us His Most Sacred Heart, pierced by the centurion’s lance that we may enter the door thrown open leading to the Father’s loving embrace; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart;  and may Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant
**************************

The Whole-hearted Beauty of St. Anthony

St. Anthony of Padua tree

Saint of the Month

The Whole-hearted beauty of St. Anthony

Our beloved St. Anthony of Padua born Fernando Bulhones was the son of a distinguished Portuguese family who served the Church and king in the 13th century. His baptized name, Fernando, meant “seeker” or “peace combatant,” a moniker looking to a future leader’s pathways.

In his childhood, the young Fernando would make it clear that he aimed to serve Jesus.  By the year 1221, he had been two years an Augustinian priest, devout and brilliant but with a profound love of the Gospel and the poor.

By the grace of God, Fr. Fernando transferred and became a Franciscan taking the name Anthony. He was led to a life of radical poverty and hermit life…taking the example of the 4th Century Egyptian hermit, Anthony, the father of Christian monasticism.

By learning to surrender his own will to serve God, knowing that is the heart of Christian living. He became a great teacher, confessor, preacher and father to the poorest of the poor. His homilies still speak to us today. As a great preacher and priest he always spoke of putting God first in our lives using the First Commandment You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart… His sermons drew thousands. Hold back no corner of your heart, he said, when praying especially in asking pardon for our sins. He cited that the dear Lord’s Sacred Heart opened for us to show a love, which brought Him to the Cross, so much was his love for us and he forgave our sins to welcome us to our eternal home.

It was understood by Anthony in giving our all even to his Body and Blood he will take our “all” and will give it back to us. With a new heart cleansed and purified by God one that will never break or wear out the Eternal Life God waits for us.

The moral of his sermon: When we have to make choices, it is easier with a heart full of love, a love-filled heart burning with the image of God’s own heart.

Did you know?

That St. Anthony did not live in Padua for an extended period until 1230, the year before he died.

In the spring of 1231 he withdrew with Brothers Luke and Roger to nearby Camposampiero, where he had a treehouse hermitage. He worked on sermon notes for the major feasts of the saints and had already completed notes for the Sunday Gospels. On June 13, he died at the friary in Arcella, having received the Anointing of the Sick and holy Communion.(resources used FMA focus and St. Anthony’s Messenger.)

For further Research

The symbolism of the Walnut Tree. Christ as the Tree of Life.

Friar Jack’s E-Spirations  2007

 

 

Apostolate of the Ear

At my fraternity gathering last month, our Formation Director, Justin Carisio, OFS, spoke about a book by Pope Francis – The Name of God is Mercy. The title alone could take an entire evening to discuss.

 

Justin focused on just a few points from the book;  one of which was Apostolate of the Ear.  I must say, when I saw that topic, I was a little skeptical of how that would tie in. Basically, what it means is to give the gift of listening to someone who needs to be heard. And we all need to be heard.

 

Being called a good listener is a compliment, but one that is seldom heard any more.  We have all learned to tune each other out.  People walk by briskly on the street with their ear buds firmly in place.  Whether they are listening to music or not, having those ear buds on is an excuse not to talk to anyone and especially not to listen to anyone.

 

We live in a very noisy world. The TV is on while three people in the room are having conversations on three different cell phones. A man I used to work for would call me every morning to talk about what was going on in the office and what was going on with me.  And he would be checking e-mail at the same time.  He never heard what I was trying to tell him.  And it hurt.  I wasn’t worth his time or full attention.

 

Isn’t really listening to someone a true act of humility?  We have to shut down our own ego and problems of the moment and really concentrate on the words coming from the other person.  We give the gift of ourselves to the person who needs to be heard. How Franciscan!

 

Most times, people are not looking for solutions to their problems or an opinion about what has them upset. They just want someone to validate them, let them know they are valuable to us.  In our Rule, Chapter 2, #5, the first sentence is: Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters,

 

If Christ came to you after a bad day, would you check e-mail while He spoke to you? During the month of May, let all of us work on this small but powerful gift to give to the Christ we meet every single day.  May God bless and direct our steps as we strive to follow in the footsteps of our Seraphic Father.

Much love and many blessings,

kate

 

From Our Regional Formation Director

Peace be with you! Brothers and sisters,

Well here we are coming close to the end of the Easter Season which hopefully leads us to a new a joyous beginning.

This month is filled with many feasts and celebrations and so what do I choose for the topic of this month’s formation topic??

Although we are rich in our resources for topics to choose, I decided that I would find something different which would correlate Our Lady and Pentecost which are a part of this month’s feasts and celebrations.

It so happened while researching I came up with the Post Vatican ll Magesterial documents about 15 in all.

I will list three of them with the paragraph number and the rest is for your research should you chose to do so. I found it very interesting and a cause for giving a talk and research. The theme: Mary’s Life Pentecost.

LUMEN GENTIUM 1964 * before the day of Pentecost “persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:14) 59

*and we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation 59

BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER (USA) 1973 * there are striking likenesses between the Annunciation & Pentecost. Mary the great mother figure for the Church, is present not only at the Annunciation, but praying with her Son’s disciples before Pentecost 79

*After Christ’s resurrection, surrounded by His disciples, Mary prayed for the coming of that same Spirit, in order that the church, the Body of her Son, might be born in Pentecost. 115

CATEHESI TRANDENDATE 1979 * Virgin of Pentecost (title invoking her intercession) 73

These documents also lead to subtitles as well.

Resource: The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute

Blessings, Rose

Reflections for May

May 2016

 

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)

 

Following are excerpts taken from various Franciscan Sources

Daily meditative phrases based on: Words of Pope John Paul II

1

Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart…Whether on the lips of Christ or St. Francis, they are a short and succinct saying, which in concise and plain terms expresses the sum total of gospel perfection. – Nourish within yourself the sense of God’s presence by listening to his word, by prayer, by the celebration of the sacraments, by service to your brothers and sisters.

2

To encourage us he says: Learn from me, and to inspire us he adds: For I am meek and humble of heart…The words…can give encouragement: Take me as our model of discipleship and embrace my teaching. – Become heralds and witnesses to the loving and saving presence of God in today’s world.

3

The essence of true discipleship of Jesus Christ, which was singularly realized and shone in Saint Francis, consists first of all in separating oneself from the company of evil people…from evil and divisive company. – To forgive is the only way, because all revenge and all violence give rise to further revenge and violence.

4

Second, it is essential for true discipleship to free oneself from useless cares in the affairs of life.  Anyone who is anxious about useless things cannot give attention to those that are profitable. – It is certainly less difficult to forgive when one is aware that God never tires of loving and forgiving us.

5

It is impossible, or at least very difficult, to have great possessions without being preoccupied with them…Taking this to heart, Saint Francis on hearing God’s voice at once gave everything away to the extent that he did not keep back a stitch to cover his nakedness. –  Who does not need God’s forgiveness?

6

This is what anyone must do who desires to be a perfect disciple of Christ…If one does not have the will to do that, one must at least keep oneself from the cares, anxieties and vanities that go with possessions; otherwise one will be a disciple not of Christ but of the devil. – Without God we cannot understand ourselves, and cannot even fulfill ourselves.

7

Third, the true disciple must rid himself of inordinate attachment to his loved ones…The Lord does not forbid us to love our father and mother…; what he does forbid is to be inordinately attached to our parents, because inordinate attachment rejects the teaching of Christ. – The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary.  In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary.

8

Fourth, the true disciple of Christ must purify his heart of all that militates against the practice of virtue. – When one goes through difficult times…nothing can replace an ardent, personal, and confident faith that is open to the Lord.

9

You will not be able to learn holiness from Christ unless you have resolved to eradicate its opposite, sinfulness, just as knowledge cannot be acquires unless satisfaction with its opposite, ignorance, has been uprooted.- In every person we meet, even in those who openly profess not to be interested in the things of the Spirit, the need of God is real.

10

Saint Francis strove with constant signs of sorrow to root out vice and sin totally from the field of his heart. Nor did he cease to lament up to the moment when he was found worthy to hear from God: Your sins are forgiven. – It is the task of believers to bear witness to the liberating truth of the gospel, offering the light of Christ to everyone.

11

Saint Francis, then, can rightly say, Learn from me, that is, take me as our model of discipleship, for I am a true disciple of Christ…Likewise he can say to us…embrace my teaching, because by being a true disciple, he became an authentic teacher.- A sign of the power of God is the witness borne by missionaries…shining with the glory of those who sacrificed themselves to save the lives of others.

12

(St. Francis) taught what he himself had learned without error because of the truth of God’s revelation…The teaching which anyone receives from revelation cannot be other than true. – If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is…because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.

13

To arrive at knowledge without a human teacher is not for everyone, but the privilege of a few.  Though the Lord himself chose to teach Saint Paul and Saint Francis, it is his will that disciples be taught by human teachers. – In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came to Fatima to ask men and women to ‘stop offending God, our Lord, who is already very offended’.  It is a mother’s sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake.

14

He taught what he had learned without guile…That is to say, as ardent love brought me to learn without guile, so it moves me to share without jealousy or grudging envy what I have learned. – The Holy Spirit…takes from Christ and transmits to all, unceasingly entering into the history of the world through the heart of man.

15

He learned with such diligence that he became teacher of many disciples whom he taught to think of the Lord with uprightness and seek him with sincerity of heart, because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him. – Justice will never be fully attained unless people see in the poor person … not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment.

16

He taught what he learned without forgetting it, because he put it into practice…and because of that he was an excellent teacher … He did not acquire his knowledge by reflecting in general terms on a limited number of truths, but by individual experience over a wide range of life – The true Christian can nurture a trustful optimism, because he is certain of not walking alone.

17

Saint Francis learned…by experiencing sufferings not joys…At the outset of his conversion Saint Francis experienced derision, beatings, fetters, imprisonment, destitution, nakedness, and adversity. – In sending us Jesus, the eternal Son made man, God has drawn near to each of us.

18

He taught what he had learned without doubting because of the trustworthy signs he was given…and so like the Apostle (Paul) he went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with him and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. – In Christ (God) has become our traveling companion.

19

It pleased the Lord to endorse and confirm the teaching and Rule of St. Francis, not only by miraculous signs, but also by the marks of his own stigmata, so that no true believer could possibly call them into question on external or internal evidence. – Wherever people are praying in the world, there the Holy Spirit is, the living breath of prayer.

20

It pleased God in his goodness to affix his own seal to the Rule and teaching of Saint Francis…God revealed to him the entire Rule…Christ, having recognized the teaching of Saint Francis as his own, affixed the seal of his stigmata to his body, and thereby irrevocably confirmed his teaching. – Man cannot live without hope.

21

His teaching could not have had its lasting character, in the eyes of others, from Saint Francis himself, for he was an uneducated merchant and no learned doctor. Therefore, it was the Lord’s good pleasure to confirm it…so that none of the learned could dare despise his teaching and Rule as only the efforts of an uneducated man. – Christian hope ‘does not disappoint’, because it is based on the solid foundation of faith in the love of God revealed in Christ.

22

Anyone who doubts that the doctrine and Rule of Saint Francis are a more perfect way to reach eternal life, when these have been confirmed by such signs, must be exceedingly hard of heart. – Is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic Communion?

23

The whole world ought to give thanks to the Most High Creator for his sublime gift, that by the stigmata imprinted on Saint Francis, he deigned not only to reveal the way of truth, but to establish it in a wondrous way and for readily intelligible reasons. – Believers testify by their deeds that the good news is not limited to the proclamation of abstract truths, but becomes concrete in a charity that can take the form of struggling against the injustices found in the world.

24

If we raise our minds a little and consider the stigmata in terms of supernatural causes, we discover…This miracle was made necessary under the law of divine providence, for the needs of the church in this final age and because of Saint Francis’ eminent holiness. – May dialogue, solidarity, and love prevail over the many forms of pride and deceit.

25

The law of divine providence required it because God willed to make this cloth merchant a fisher of men, and the leader of those who imitate Christ perfectly.  Therefore, he handed over to him his own ensign, namely, the marks of the Crucified Lord. –  Put the defense of the basic rights of the human person above every other consideration.

26

At the beginning of the Church unbelief held sway…in these latter times, he bestowed the signs of goodness and mercy on Saint Francis to enkindle love, and what are the signs of consummate love except the marks of the passion which God chose to endure for us out of measureless love? – Friendship lived with the sensitivity of the gospel is an effective way of being Christian in the world.

27

This miracle was made necessary because of Saint Francis’ eminent holiness which found expression in his most fervent love of the Crucified Lord.  For the sake of that love he so weakened his eyes by tears of compassion that he lost his sight. – Friendship becomes a reconciling force…needed in our time.

28

Such is the power of love, that it transforms the lover into the Beloved. Love of the Crucified Lord was supremely and gloriously aflame in his heart, and so the Crucified himself, in the form of the Seraph, and angelic spirit burning with the fire of love, appeared before his saintly eyes and imprinted the sacred stigmata on his body. – A productive and sure program of formation for joy is nourished and rests on assiduous prayer, frequent Communion, rediscovery of the use of the Sacraments of Reconciliation, daily and familiar contact with the word of God, the fruitful exercise of fraternal charity and service; and then devotion to Our Lady, the model and true cause of our joy.

29

Because Saint Francis set Christ crucified as a seal upon his arm, the precious gems of the stigmata of Jesus Christ appeared visibly on his body. – Christ…became man to reveal the eternal love of the Creator and Father and to make known the dignity of each one of us.

30

Let no one begrudge God’s generosity, but let everyone listen to and learn the teaching of Christ, indeed, of Saint Francis, that good teacher who taught others what he had learned without error, without guile, without forgetfulness, and without doubting. – Whenever violence is done in the name of religion…make it clear…we are not dealing with true religion. For the Almighty cannot tolerate the destruction of his own image in his children.

31

Saint Francis, therefore, can rightly say: Learn from me, to encourage others, and equally, for I am meek and humble of heart, to impress them. –  Remembering that the Son of God became man, we must become conscious of how great each one of us has become because of this mystery!  (Give thanks to Mary for saying ‘Yes’ to the Father)

 

 

Father Francis Greetings for May

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assis Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

May 2016

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 

The Lord grant you His Peace, the Life-giving Gift of the Holy Spirit

 

Holy Virgin Mary, among the women born into the world,

there is no one like you.

Daughter and servant of the most high and supreme

King and of the Father in heaven,

Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ,

Spouse of the Holy Spirit,

pray for us with Saint Michael the Archangel,

all the powers of heaven and all the saints,

at the side of your most beloved Son, our Lord and Teacher.

 

This prayer of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi tells us so much of St. Francis’ love for Mary and his awareness of Her place in the mystery of our salvation.  His love for Her was undeniable. Francis saw our Heavenly Mother Mary and Her greatness always in relationship to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and, because of that, to the Church.

 

This year, the month of May is saturated with celebrations of basic beliefs of our faith: Incarnation brought to fulfillment and glorification in the Ascension, Trinity, Eucharist, Holy Spirit and the Church.

–   The Incarnation of the Word is the beginning of the crowning point of our human nature raised up by Jesus and glorified in His Ascension.

–   The Coming of the Holy Spirit heralds the beginning of the Church and the Proclamation of the Gospel to all the world.

–   The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates God – The Father creates; the Son, Incarnate Word, redeems; and the Holy Spirit continues the action of sanctification down through the ages.

–   The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ acclaims the wonderful mystery of the continued presence and re- presentation of the Mystery of our Redemption when we were saved in the Blood of Christ  (Hebrews 10: 19).  A happy coincidence this year has all these occurrences during the month dedicated to Our Blessed Mother Mary, a gentle reminder of the eminent role that She plays in the mystery and history of our salvation.  True devotion to Mary, our Mother and Queen, whose Immaculate Heart envelops all Her children with tender loving care, always leads to a greater love and trust in God.

 

When we celebrate God and His saving action in and for humanity, the relevance and experience are always actual and timely.  There can never be a time or occasion when God is not relevant or necessary. If God does not build the house, in vain do the laborers labor.  If God does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil (Psalm 127: 1). It is this active presence of God that demands we return to our origins to re-discover the relevance of God’s Word and the impact His Word has on our daily life.  If we could see the events of our Faith with the heart of those who had seen and walked with Jesus, things would be drastically different. If we would only allow the events of our lives and how God manifests Himself to us to penetrate our hearts as Mary did!  She kept all these things in Her heart (Luke 2: 19).

 

Obviously, we cannot do this physically, but, with the eyes of a Faith convinced and committed, we can experience the same zeal and enthusiasm of the first followers. The Holy Spirit that descended on them is the same Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism and Confirmation.  The distinction is seen in the effects of the Spirit’s presence based on the availability of the person ‘gifted’ by the Holy Spirit. Our Faith, founded on the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, would be of no value had it not been for the empowering of the Spirit in those first followers whose availability to His prompting allowed themselves to be led by the Spirit of God that they might lead others.  We are called to lead others to know, love and serve God in the Gospel Life proclaimed by Jesus. In the Spirit, we remember, we celebrate, and we believe Jesus to be the Incarnate Son of God and Redeemer of humanity.  This Faith will bring us to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Jesus, and consequently with one another, just as it did for the first followers.

 

The first and most excellent of all the faithful followers was Mary, our Blessed Mother. Faith accompanied Her into the divine plan that made Her Mother of the Christ, Mother of the Christian, Mother of the Church.  The depth of Faith of the Mother of God, expressed so powerfully at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, was enhanced with the added ministry entrusted to Her by Her dying  Son; He called Her to become the Mother of all the Faithful: Woman, behold Your son; Son, behold Your Mother (John 19: 26-27). Infinitely less than Jesus and eminently greater than all of humanity, Mary makes the ultimate sacrifice in offering Her Son to the Father with the same availability to the Father’s Will with which She offered Her first ‘yes’ to become the Mother of the Savior.  She becomes, in the words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis, the Virgin made Church.  It is the Church that perpetuates the living presence of the Savior, especially in the great gift of the Eucharist, the living Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior. The Church continues, with Mary, to offer Her Son – our Brother, Lord, Savior, Word Incarnate – to the Father, in that one perfect Sacrifice perpetuated through the ages in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are that Church! We, like Mary, offer ourselves each day in loving response to God’s tremendous love for us in Jesus.

 

We are that Mystical Body of Christ of Whom Mary is the Channel of Graces.  Her ‘yes’ acceded to the Father’s Will and She became Mother of the Word Incarnate, Whose redeeming Passion-Death-Resurrection  offers the limitless gifts of God’s graces to Humanity. Thus, through Mary we have easier access to Christ, and through Her we are facilitated in receiving immense graces and gifts from the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit.  She truly is an Avenue of Graces, Whose almighty intercession pleads to the Father on behalf of Her children born from the open side of Her Son.

 

Mother of the Redeemer, She excels in the example of total surrender to God’s Will. Her Faith is an active and essential element of Her very being.   Faith is not just a static acceptance of some theological truth; it is living life in the light of what we have come to believe.  ‘Believing is seeing’, not vice versa as we are accustomed to presume.  Believing God’s Word, we see God’s almighty power and providence at work in our lives. Thus we can confidently yield to all the Father requests of us. This same Faith places Mary in a position of total trust in God and profound love for all His children, now entrusted to Her motherly care by Jesus.  She stands as the Advocate for all Her children before the Majesty of the Blessed Trinity.  Truly She is, as St. Francis of Assisi acknowledged:   Daughter and Servant of the Most High and Supreme King and of the Father in heaven, Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, Spouse of the Holy Spirit (Office of the Passion by St. Francis of Assisi).  Her intimate relationship with the Triune God enables Her to be our most powerful Advocate in heaven.

 

Mary stands out as first among the followers of Jesus and one who precedes all others in Faith.

–   The Marriage Feast at Cana signals the moment when the first followers of Jesus recognized His works and believed in Him.  Mary precedes the Faith of those first disciples when She presents the embarrassing situation of the young newly- weds to Jesus.  She knows in Faith that He can and will resolve the dilemma …

–   Mary goes with the disciples to Capernaum and becomes an integral part of the newly-forming Faith community of disciples. She becomes the living link between Jesus and the disciples …

–   Mary stands at the foot of the Cross offering Her Son to the Father. She consents with a mother’s love to all the Father is asking of Her Son, and also of Her. Mary believes beyond the torture and death of Her Son in the New Covenant He came to establish in His Blood for all humanity with the Father. Mary’s compassion of a Mother’s love sharing in the suffering of Her Son is the ultimate sign of the depth of Her love for all humanity.

–   Mary is with the first followers awaiting with surety the promised Paraclete. Her presence strengthens and urges them in confident faith-filled expectation.

In these pivotal moments when challenges are presented to the followers and responses are made, it is interesting to note that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is present offering Her response rooted in a convinced and committed Faith – Lord, In all things ‘Yes’!  Here I am, I come to do Your Will! (Hebrews 10: 19)

 

We can see how Our Blessed Mother is significantly and actively present throughout Salvation History.

–   Mary is the virgin who will conceive and bear a Son … who will be called Emmanuel – God is with us (Isaiah 7: 10-14).  –   Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, gave birth at Bethlehem, accompanied Jesus to the foot of the Cross, and is in the company of the Apostles and other women in the Cenacle (Acts 1: 14).

–   Mary is the woman about to give birth,… She gave birth to a son … destined to rule all the nations … the ancient serpent, … pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child…the (serpent) became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus (cfr. Revelation 12: 1-18).

A promise of God’s fulfilling Word in Isaiah and a warning of the struggles that will always ensue between good and evil should never leave us confused or fearful. It is Mary’s good counsel and advice, last recorded words of Our Lady in Scripture, that offer a way that cannot fail. These words reveal our Mother’s concern for Her children and Her own total trust in God: Do whatever He tells you. (cfr. John 2: 1-11).  How much easier could it be!?  Why do we make it so difficult!?

 

Present in prophecy, present in history, and present in the expectations of all God’s People, Mary is a life-giving presence that speaks of the power of God working in human history. Mary is a sign of hope for a waiting world. She reverses the obstinacy of creation in Eden and accepts wholeheartedly to cooperate with all the Father asks of Her.  She becomes the Mother of all the Faithful Who enter into a New Covenant with the Father in the Blood of His Son, conceived in Her by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s loving response and daily re-commitment to that response encourages us  to respond to the Father and to ask that Jesus come alive in our hearts through the same Holy Spirit working within us.

 

Mary was the first to practice the Gospel in all its perfection before it was written. May Her example and prayers enable us and stimulate us to follow her example.  We must make every effort, like many elect souls, to follow this Blessed Mother, to walk close to Her since there is no other path leading to life except the path followed by Her.  We cannot afford to refuse to take this path that undeniably leads to Life.  We must unite with this dear Mother of ours.  With Her, close to Jesus, we can proceed confidently through life in the midst of whatever we must bear, to its fullness in heaven.

 

As Followers of the Poverello of Assisi, we strive to live the Faith we profess and to see in Our Heavenly Mother a sure Advocate Who pleads our cause. We open our hearts to the Spirit we have received and we listen to God Who speaks to us in the silence of our hearts.  Francis encourages us to foster an ever-growing love for our Blessed Mother Who stands to intercede for us at every moment.  Mary’s life was one continual ‘yes’ to God.  The joys, sorrows, hardships, and whatever else life dispensed to Her, were always gratefully received with the same ‘yes’ that allowed God to be enfleshed in our life that we mighty share His eternal Life.  With Mary, close to Jesus, let us go … Let us do the same as our Mother Mary!

 

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

 

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

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

Reflections for April 2016

April 2016

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

Following are daily excerpts taken from various Franciscan writings

Daily meditative phrases from  Praying  Scripture  in  a  Contemporary  Way

 

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. (2Celano,bk.1,chpt.1) – 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. (1 Celano,bk.1,chpt.5) – 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. (1Celano,bk.1,chpt.5) – 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… (1Celano,bk.1,chpt.2) – 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. (Major Legend,chpt.1,#3) – 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. (1Celano,bk.1,chpt.14) – 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. (1Celano,bk.1,chpt.14) – 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’…(2Celano,bk.2,chpt.88) – 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.’ (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.88) – 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.  (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.88) –  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! (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.7) – 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. (Mirror Perfection, #96) – 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. (Mirror Perfection, #96) – 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. (Mirror of Perfection,#96) – 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. (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.91) – 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. (Earlier Rule,#7) – 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. (Three Companions,chpt.12) – 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. (Anonymous of Perugia,chpt.6) – 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. (Anonymous of Perugia,chpt.6) – 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. (Three Companions,chpt.11) – 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. (Admonitions,#20) – 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. (Legend of Perugia,#38) – 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. (Mirror of Perfection,#95) – 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. (Mirror of Perfection,#95) – 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. (1Celano,chpt.29) – 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. (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.89) – 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. (Major Legend,.chpt.2)  – 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. (Admonitions,#27) – 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.’ (Mirror of Perfection,#121) – 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. (Major Legend,chpt.14) – You cannot have God for your Father, if you don’t have the Church for your mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections for April 2016

April 2016

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace and lead you through the mystery of His Passion and Death to the joy of His Resurrection and our renewed Life in Jesus!

 

Our world has become more confusing than ever. Things we held dear are disrespected, contradicted, and at times even abused.  Values that were the foundation of our lives are challenged, or totally disregarded.  Faith and belief in a God Who is the source and destiny of all human beings is criticized as old-fashioned or ridiculous to ‘enlightened people’.  We sense a subtle persecution of all that we spiritually value and that makes our lives meaningful.  Sometimes the subtlety gives way to outright contradictory and derogatory statements by individuals seeking to denigrate and render foolish what has been the foundation of the lives of all believers, even those not of the Catholic tradition.  Times never change!  The Resurrection and what flows from that historical event and truth has always been a target of those who understand what belief in that great Mystery involves, and what belief in the Paschal Mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Christ can effect in our world through those who accept the mystery and surrender wholeheartedly to it!

 

Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus is itself a gift of Faith.  The Resurrection confirms our belief in the Lord Jesus and all He said and did, and all He is able to continue to be and do for us.  The Resurrection is also the moment that challenges us to believe the Lord Jesus, Who is the Christ and Incarnate Son of God, by living without hesitation as He told His disciples to live.  One Who rises from the dead merits – to say the extreme least – our undivided attention and unconditional surrender through life. Why would anyone, who has heard of and accepted the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus, refuse to allow the Holy Spirit of God, first Gift of the Resurrection, to lead them to believe the Good News and live accordingly?!

 

We should not be harsh, however, on those who are still searching  nor on those who want to believe but are still cautious because reason is still blocking where faith would go beyond.  How did our sisters and brothers in the Faith, the original followers, act on the day of the Resurrection, some even after their companions spoke to them of having seen the Risen Lord and Savior?

 

–   Thomas … one of the Twelve … said to (the Apostles), ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’ (John 21:24-25) … Pessimism and Disbelief

–   The two disciples, speaking with Jesus whom they did not recognize as they journeyed  on the road back to Emmaus from Jerusalem, said:  We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel … Some women from our group … reported that indeed they had seen a vision of angels … but him they did not see (Luke 24: 13-25) … Disillusionment and Discouragement

 

–   When Mary of Magdala told the disciples she had seen the Risen Lord and that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:11) … Cynicism and Skepticism

 

–   Even when the disciples followed the command to go to Galilee where they would see Him before He ascended to the Father, When they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted (Matthew 28:16-17) … Hesitancy and Doubt

Thomas, Cleophas and his traveling companion, the Apostles after hearing Mary Magdalene, and many of the followers who saw Him on the Mount in Galilee at the Ascension, all had difficulties and even understandable doubts concerning the ‘impossibility’ of a person rising from the dead … on his own power!  We believe today after the two thousand-year-old event, and after centuries of witnessing the truth by those who believed before us, and some who even gave their lives rather than deny the Risen Lord. The power of the Holy Spirit had to shake them free to see and believe. They loved and believed Jesus, but it took an eternal power and a ‘real presence’ to lead them into the light of a new Life, rooted in a Person Who overcame execution on a cross and was alive. The death of Jesus sealed the Covenant God made with humanity; and humanity, in Christ, consumated the covenant, fulfilled the prophecies, and set free all who accepted the Gospel Message: God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might … have eternal life. For God did not send his Son … to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him   (John 3: 16-17).  The Resurrection was, and is for many, hard to accept.  The condemnation and death sentence of Jesus inflicted a mortal wound on the hearts of His followers, and on those still seeking to understand and believe today. Their hearts and minds cannot as yet make the ‘quantum leap’ of faith into the certitude of the ways of God. Jesus had prepared the disciples for this momentous experience, and many today have heard the story but they could not and cannot fully understand and accept. Why?… because His ways are not (our) ways, Whose thoughts are not (our) thoughts.

 

Suffering and pain are real!  We experience them often in life. The lives of some persons are in continual suffering and deep in pain, whether spiritual, physical, psychological.  Unless faith takes over and hope is kindled within our hearts, the love of God that conquers all things is the deepest desire of the heart but the furthest sensation we feel.  Serenity and inner peace become just pious words and deep desires.  We hear words of encouragement, but are overwhelmed by our own broken body and tired spirit. Even our Seraphic Father through moments like this, and so did/do his spiritual children. The human condition is common to all the children of God, saint and sinner alike.

 

The Passion and Death of Jesus speaks to us of the extravagant and limitless love and mercy of God for all humanity. The Resurrection of Jesus gives meaning and encouragement to life. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of the Glorified and Risen Lord Who journeys with us at every moment. It re-presents the whole Paschal Mystery and offers us the opportunity to be with the Risen Lord, Whose Sacrifice we enter, celebrate, and with Whom we seek to become one in Holy Communion.  The presence of Jesus transforms lives. His bodily presence on earth centuries ago gave Him the opportunity to raise people from the dead, to heal the sick, to give hope to the downtrodden and outcast, to reassure the marginalized, to care for the various needs of those whom He encountered.  His sacramental presence raises and heals souls dead and/or weak through sin, speaks to the depths of the heart of those who spend silent time with Him, and strengthens us with the grace of His Body and Blood to accept the demands that life places upon us with the realization that we are not alone but live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28) with the Giver of all good gifts Who walks and works with and within us. His ‘Presence’ is truly ‘Real’.  His is a ‘tangible presence’ that makes Himself felt according to our willingness to see with the eyes of the heart and not the eyes of the head alone.

 

The sacred event of Christ’s Passion-Death-Resurrection we celebrate at this season encourages us always to believe that Jesus loves us, is with us, and will always be with us, particularly in the great Mystery of the Eucharist and the celebration of the Mass. Jesus, the Victim-once-again has placed himself quietly on the altar, just as Isaac was placed on the wood by Abraham.  The priest, like Abraham our Father in faith, prepares to immolate the Victim … but where is the fire ready to consume the sacrifice? The fire is the love we bring, the love we carry within us.  Jesus enkindled this fire long ago in our hearts.  It is a “fire” that consumes us so that nothing remains but Him in-with-through us. We place our souls on the altar of sacrifice with the Paschal Mystery of Christ Jesus and become one with Him.  All we have to do is say “yes” and allow the Spirit of God to take over.  The open wound in the side of Christ invites us to enter in and experience the loving embrace of the Father and the gift of His Holy Spirit. The first Gift of Easter is the continued participating presence in our life with His that fulfills each moment.  We enter gradually and more deeply the reality of a Presence that can transform the world as it transforms and consumes us with Love and Mercy.

 

At times our Seraphic Father’s transports of sentiment may have made him seem like a person overwhelmed.  He endured this experience of God being “so real” to him that the mere thought of Him made Francis weep, sing, go into ecstatic states.  St. Francis of Assisi was a Eucharistic soul who found the power to rekindle his strength continually offering himself with Jesus – ‘victim with the Victim’.  The Eucharist for Francis is the Living Christ, so powerfully imaged as such on the Crucifix of San Damiano, that challenged him at the beginning of his conversion.  The Poverello was in love with Jesus, Who was so real to him in the Eucharist.  The joy of the Mystery re-presented at Mass or re-kindled in the heart at prayer made Jesus always come alive for St. Francis. As he saw Christ present in mystery in the Eucharist, and received Him in Holy Communion, our Seraphic Father was able to recognize and serve Him in people, especially the marginalized, alienated, ostracized, and so on, of society.  No one can emphasize enough how essential the Eucharist was to St. Francis and all he was able to allow God to accomplish through him … and how essential it is to all of us .. or should be for those who seek to live the Gospel after the example of St. Francis of Assisi!

 

Before He entered His Passion, Jesus, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end: and while they were at supper, He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take this all of you and eat of it, For this is My Body’ … In a similar way, taking the chalice filled with the fruit of the vine, He gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is the chalice of My Blood’ … (Fourth Eucharistic Prayer) The Eucharist was a decisive moment in His relationship with the disciples, and it was the last gift before His redeeming death that He left His disciples to continue,  Do this in memory of Me (Luke 22: 19; 1 Corinthians 11: 24). The Eucharist is the Easter Gift as well as the Easter Mystery.  The Mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Our Lord is the heart of the Church and the “Heavenly Manna”, Who nourishes and nurtures the Holy People of God – His Church – on journey through time toward eternity.

 

As Spiritual Children of the Seraphic St. Father of Assisi, we pray to him, speak about him, want to know more about him.  The greatest form of admiration is imitation.  Do we imitate the love of our Father Francis for the Eucharist? Do we acknowledge the Eucharist not just as the re-presentation of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, but that His glorified person is truly present among us and thus should be a source of peace, joy, and love?!   Most of us are not called to the unique external signs of those particularly called by God as St. Francis and the Sacred Stigmata, nevertheless, when the Eucharist is truly the center of our hearts and lives, we share, in our ordinary lives, the graces of the saints themselves. Among all the other prayerful devotions, the Eucharist is not so much a ‘prayer’ as a ‘participation’ in the intimate life of God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit.  The Eucharist is the goal to which we arrive each day, as well as the starting point from which we all find strength and direction to live the will of God at every moment.  The mystery of the Resurrection is a pledge of the glory we are called to share one day.  When we cannot participate at Mass, at the very least, take time to reflect on the readings for the day and sincerely and lovingly make an act of Spiritual Communion. Strive to lovingly enter a living relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.  This awe-filled Sacrament binds us together in the great family of the Catholic Church and in our own particular Franciscan Family.  Thus we proclaim the Resurrection and the power of its grace not by what we necessarily say, but by how we live the Eucharist and allow it(Him) to affect our lives.

 

May  the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in us that we might have life, and have it in abundance (John 10: 10).  May the Risen Lord Jesus shower us and our loved ones with peace, joy, and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter;  may Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help us to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers us; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  Blessed and Joyous Easter to you and your loved ones.

 

Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant