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

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

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

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

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From the Regional Minister - December 2018

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord fill you with peace!

It is that time of year when I should be writing about peace on earth and good will to men. Come to think of it, I am going to write about good will to men…or the lack of it.  The last few things I have written have been on this topic but I am not getting through to the ones who need to embrace it.  Frankly, I’m at a loss as to what to say now that will make a difference.  I might be at a loss, so I’m turning this over to the Holy Spirit.

Our Franciscan charism includes following the footsteps of St. Francis as they lead to Christ.  St. Francis never made snide remarks about people not learning English or started a sentence with the words “those people”. Our Lord chose to be born poor, to live a humble life. At a very tender age, he fled death threats and took refuge in a foreign land with his parents.  Imagine how frightened they were!  How could you face God Himself if you weren’t able to keep His son safe?  Would Joseph stand at the gates of Heaven and say, “I’m sorry, the Egyptians wouldn’t let us cross the border. After traveling in the dark of night with the demons of hell at our heels, we got to safety only to be turned back.” If that had happened, our salvation story would have a decidedly different ending.

The world’s attitude has taken a giant step backward in the last few years.  Being prejudiced, a bigot, or condemning someone else’s beliefs has become a treasured virtue to wear proudly and to be taken out and used at every and all opportunities. But, do you remember that little phrase we live by….we are in this world but not of this world. That is what sets us apart. Our eyes, our hearts, our feet and our actions should all point to Our Lord.

There is a beautiful prayer called the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) which ends with “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…”  A beautiful sentiment to embrace and make our own.

In February of 2015, in Pope Francis’ address to the Cardinals, he wrote “The Gospel of the Marginalized is Where our Credibility is Found and Revealed.”  There is a lot to chew on just in that title!  The pope highlighted the fact that “for Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!”  In fact, “Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal!  He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp “.“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy”, Francis stated. “Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law.”

I sat in awe yesterday as three new souls made their profession to our way of life.  This is what I want.  This is what I want.  Those words ringing out in the church brought joy and smiles to the Franciscan brothers and sisters who were witnessing their commitment. There is hope for all of us in each new Profession. May all those coming into our Order keep us on the path we subscribed to on our day of Profession. I’m also seeing a slow turn to embracing JPIC and actively stretching out God’s hand to those who need it.  Praise God, may it continue! God cannot be present to those He holds dear if we are not willing to be His instrument.  However we cannot be employed by God while harboring hatred and prejudice in our hearts.

As a Christmas gift to yourself and those around you, take a long hard look at your own behavior.  Who is your leper?  You might just find out it is you.

May you take a step closer to the manger this Christmas and embrace the family gathered there who are not your race, speak your language and have virtually no place to call home.

Praying for your Blessed Christmas Season,

kate

Thoughts from our Regional Formation Director – December 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

December 2018

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

All peace and good be with you!  May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary.

It is hard to believe but after looking through my files, this will be a full year that I have been sending you my thoughts and it has caused me to reflect on mile-stones and anniversaries which in turn has caused me to contemplate a very special anniversary we all share!  The fortieth anniversary of the approval of our rule of life.  I can almost laugh to myself some times when I hear a sister and brother say “Our New Rule” or “the New Rule”.  Almost all the Secular Franciscans I know have known no other rule!

This rule of ours is a precious and most loved gift from our Order and from the Church.  It has brought us back to the foundations of our origins, brothers and sisters of penance and ongoing conversion.  It truly reflects the spirit of the Second Vatican Council in  LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) where our Holy Mother Church redirects our thoughts to the original intent of “Church”  and mission.

THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH

“Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk. 16:15), it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church. Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament–a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men–she here purposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission. The condition of the modern world lends greater urgency to this duty of the Church; for, while men of the present day are drawn ever more closely together by social, technical and cultural bonds, it still remains for them to achieve full unity in Christ.”[1]

I encourage all of you to re-read the Second Vatican Documents, but especial Lumen Gentium.  And as you do you should see a striking commonality in tone and form with the Rule approved in 1978, and like the rule the constitutions and statutes.  It is intended to bring us back to our roots and original mission.

In my discussion with many of you I hear a frequent question.  What do we do for ongoing formation?  I can understand the question.  Our materials and guidelines for Initial Formation are very clear and abundant.  But at first glance not so much for ongoing formation.  Just like our rule is a return to our roots, I would suggest the same thing for formation.  Take the rule one paragraph at a time along with the reference material like the constitution and the “Franciscan Journey” and spend your ongoing formation time reflecting and discussing or “Re-Discovering” the most precious gift of our Rule of Life!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

[1] LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), The mystery of the Church, par 1

Welcome Newly Professed at Immaculate Conception

All smiles!

Pictured here are Stephanie Russo, OFS, Formation Director, newly professed John Maynes, OFS, newly professed Lisa Bechtel, OFS, Amanda Jamnicky, OFS, Minister and newly professed Jeremy Cherelli, OFS. Please keep Mike Stanek in your prayers.  Mike was scheduled to be professed also, but was hospitalized last night.

 

Daily Reflections for December, 2018 by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

December 2018

Most High, Glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of our minds.

Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,

so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

Following excerpts are from various sources

1

When Saint Francis delivered the second Rule to the Lord Pope Honorius for confirmation at Christ’s command…he said to Blessed FrancisBlessed is he who, strengthened by the grace of God, will observe this Rule happily and devotedly, for all the things written in it are holy and Catholic and perfect. – Many find plenty of time to gossip about and/or criticize others, but so little time to spend and speak with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

2

(When asked to modify certain aspects of the Rule) Blessed Francis answered: It was not I but Christ who put these words in the Rule.  He knows best what is useful and necessary for the salvation of souls and of the brothers, and for the good state and preservation of  the religion … –  Separation from earthly things, ambitions, and even friendships at times, often is the mysterious material that cements a soul closer to God.

3

(St. Francis continued): All that will happen in the future to the religion and to the Church is clear and present to Him (Christ).  I must not and cannot change the words of Christ … – Do not be concerned what place you hold but how you hold that place. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

4

(Francis continued): It will happen that the ministers and others in authority in the religion will cause many bitter tribulations for those who wish to observe the Rule faithfully and literally … – Do what you have to do, work what you have to work. (Words of Jesus to St. Francis)

5

(St. Francis concluded): Since it is the will and obedience of Christ that this Rule and life be understood literally, so it must be your will and obedience that this be done and written in the Rule. – Fear can make matters worse and can heighten pain; trust in God’s presence and providence.

6

(A Master of Theology said to St. Francis): I promise firmly to observe the Gospel and the Rule which Christ has spoken through you, until the end, simply and faithfully, with the help of His grace… – Though abstinence and prayer are of great merit, yet illness and pain suffered with patience is much greater. (St. Pachomius of Egypt)

7

(He continued): But one thing I ask of you.  If  in my lifetime the brothers fall as far away from their pure observance of the Rule as you predicted through the Holy Spirit, I ask by your obedience that I may withdraw from those who do not observe it, alone or with some brothers who wish to observe it purely. – The cross is the gift God gives His friends (Cure` of Ars)

8

Blessed Francis added that all the promises made to him by Christ would, in the end, be fulfilled in those who would strive to observe the Rule simply, to the letter, and without glosses and with joy. – – No true child of Mary will ever be lost. Love Mary and obey Her last words in Scripture: Do whatever He tells you.

9

Saint Francis also predicted a very great trial of his brothers that was to come because of the love of learning, and that a violent wind from the desert would arise (and severely shake the Order) … – I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, for He rules everything (St. Patrick)

10

This cheap, rough and short sackcloth with which I cover my shoulders is the cheapness and austerity of poverty which the brothers promised the Lord they would wear proudly.  But abandoning it, they will cling to every kind of relaxation … – We can never become saints until we place all our trust in God.

11

He believed that the highest obedience…was by divine inspiration going among the Saracens and non-believers … He considered requesting this very pleasing to God (and said) … The brothers who go can live among them in a two-fold way … One way is not to engage in arguments and disputes … and to acknowledge that they are Christians.  The other way is to announce the word of God when they see it pleases the Lord … – Love the disagreeable.

12

Blessed Francis was overjoyed at the place granted to the brothers, especially because of the name of this church of the Mother of Christ, and because it was such a poor little church, and because it was surnamed: ‘of the Portiuncula’… – It is not the inner irritation, often spontaneous, that is wrong; it is the outward display of this interior annoyance that is wrong. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

13

Soon after the brothers went to stay (at the Portiuncula), almost daily the Lord increased their food, and news of them and their fame flew throughout the whole valley of Spoleto … Although the abbot and monks had freely granted it to blessed Francis and his brothers without payment, every year (blessed Francis) used to send a basket full of small fish as a sign of greater humility and poverty. – Happiness consists in forgetfulness of self (St. Therese of Lisieux)

14

(The monks in turn) because of the humility of blessed Francis, who had done this of his own free will, gave him and his brothers a jar filled with oil. – Humility is the hinge upon which hangs the virtue of patience.

15

It had been revealed to (blessed Francis) in that place (of the Portiuncula) that, of all the churches of the world that she has, the blessed Virgin loved that church. Therefore, during his whole lifetime he always had the greatest reverence and devotion toward it. – The beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and its fulfillment is the perfection of all joy.

16

About the time of his death … (blessed Francis) said: I want to leave and bequeath to the brothers the place of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula as a testament, that it may always be held in the greatest reverence and devotion by the brothers. – In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and the soul no longer lives for itself or in itself but for God. (Thomas Merton)

17

For although  the place itself is holy, (the brothers) preserved its holiness with constant prayer day and night and by constant silence. And if, at times, anyone spoke after the established time for silence, they discussed with greatest devotion and decorum matters pertaining to the praise of God and the salvation of souls. – Humility is truth.

18

Blessed Francis often said these words to the brothers; I  have never been a thief, that is, in regard to alms, which are the inheritance of the poor.  I always took less than I needed, so that other poor people would not be cheated of their share.  To act otherwise would be theft. – Whenever you are frightened or lonesome…visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and enter in spirit into His Sacred Heart. (St.Elzear to his wife Delphine)

19

When urged to allow the brothers to have something at least in common, Saint Francis called upon Christ in prayer and consulted Him about this.  Christ immediately responded that He would take away everything held individually or in common, saying that this is His family for whom He was always ready to provide … as long as it would put its hope in Him. – Don’t worry, if uncomplimentary things are said about you.  Worse things were said about Christ. (St. Elzear to his household)

20

(When the ministers of the Order wanted Francis to mitigate the Rule) The voice of Christ was then heard in the air, saying: Francis, nothing of yours is in the Rule: whatever is there is all  mine.  And I want the Rule observed in this way: to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, and without a gloss, without a gloss, without a gloss. – Remove humility and all virtue will vanish. (Cure` of Ars)

21

(And the voice of Christ added): I know how much human weakness is capable of, and how much I want to help them.  Those who refuse to observe it should leave the Order. – For anyone striving to become virtuous there is always the danger that we may fall victim of spiritual pride.

22

(At the Chapter of Mats, when prelates of the Church suggested that he adopt one of the existing Rules, blessed Francis said): God has called me by the way of simplicity, and showed me the way of simplicity. I do not want you to mention to me any rule … and the Lord told me what He wanted.  He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. – Virtue cannot thrive in a soul filled with worry, tension or fear. Sanctity grows best in serenity.

23

The Lord Jesus Christ said to brother Leo, the companion of blessed Francis: I have a complaint about the brothers …They do not recognize My gifts which, as you know, I  generously bestow on them daily … All day long they are idle and complain.  And they often provoke one another to anger, and do not return to love, and do not pardon the injury they receive.  I enjoy life even more than you do; but love of life does not make me afraid to die. (St. Appollonius to his judge)

24

Blessed Francis said that he had obtained from the Lord four things. Namely, the religion and the profession of the Lesser Brothers will last until the day of judgment… no one who deliberately persecutes the Order will live long … no evil person, intending to live an evil life in it, will be able to remain in it for long … whosoever loves the Order wholeheartedly, however great a sinner, will obtain mercy in the end. – Have a sense of humor. The essence of real humor is a heart at peace with God and the world.

25

(Blessed Francis said) For my part, I want only this privilege from the Lord: not to have any privilege 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 word – Real joy comes from a heart in harmony with God.

26

When Saint Francis went before the Lord Pope by whom the Rule was confirmed and sealed, Francis placed his hand upon it, swore and said that this was the will of God and no other.  And he did this a second and a third time – By the sheer weight of good example we can lead others to Christ.

27

Blessed Francis re-entered the cave and spoke with God, like Moses in the tent on Mount Sinai, face to face, and God said: Francis, build me a wall between temporal affairs and your brothers. – Holiness comes not by talking about it, or studying it, but by living it.

28

Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.  As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty … – Whoever wishes to save his soul must have three souls in one; toward God the heart of a son; toward one’s neighbor the heart of a mother; and toward himself the heart of a judge. (Thomas a` Kempis)

29

Saint Francis command(ed): I strictly command all my cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or upon these words … but as the Lord has given me … – Live like one about to die. (Murillo)

30

As Moses with God and God with him, so Saint Francis spoke with the Lord, and the Lord fully related to him future events, concerning not only the Order but also the whole Church until the end of the world. – One virtue that shines more brightly in the lives of the saints is the virtue of charity, i.e. unfeigned compassion for others in need.

31

(Saint Francis came from prayer upset and said to the brother): While I was at prayer, I begged the Lord for peace for the Christian people, because it was revealed to me that many trials would come upon the Christian people.  And so the Lord Jesus was kind enough to appear to me… – If you are honestly looking for Christ, you will find Him quickest and most often in His poor.

BLESSED AND MERRY CHRISTMAS
PEACE-FILLED and HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2019!

 

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap - December 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

December 2018

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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


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


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


Pride seduced freedom at the very beginning of human history when our first parents opted to seek self interests rather than the will of their Father Creator. From that moment human history became a quest to regain what was lost: harmony, serenity, peace.  Harmony became enmeshed in the mechanism of compromise, connivance, convenience, and all that cloud our vision of the road traced out for us by the One Who calls us to Himself. Serenity was shaken by the inner struggles of insecurity, indifference, indolence and all that keep our hopes from encouraging us to move forward to grow in the gifts bestowed on us by our Creator.  Peace became the unfulfilled dream of those who were challenged daily by fearful anxiety, dominant arrogance, blind ambition. The world has not been the same ever since that fateful moment. And thus began the quest to regain what was lost!  Pride is overcome by humility.  Humility lives in the truth.  Truth offers us the liberating experience of being transparent. Transparency allows us to trust and also to see others as pilgrims with us on the same journey.  Thus, opening our heart to the other, we have found the eternal Other in our life as well.


We are reminded that: Life begins as the quest of the child for the man, and ends as  the quest of the man for the child  (Sam Ewing) that childlike person hidden within each one of us crying out to be set free.   We search for the Child Who alone can help us find what we ‘mislaid along the road’:  harmony with God, ourselves and all creation; serenity before the challenges we face in the certitude that all works out for those who trust in God;  and  peace of heart and love, that see the image of the Child we seek in all people.  Serenity (peace), integrity (transparency) and love (acceptance/surrender) ultimately lead to Joy – the Joy of Christmas, the Joy of the new-born Child.  

  

Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the people of Israel heard the prophet Isaiah promise: Many peoples shall come…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again (Isaiah 2: 1-5). How can our Christmas Message be happy and uplifting when all around us we hear of scandals in religious and political arenas, job downsizing, economic insecurity, division in families, violence in the streets, terrorism around the world, international  instability with threats of conflicts that could have devastating effects for the whole world, and much more?    We cannot let our hearts be overwhelmed by actions of hatred and violence that often occur, or by the tragedies that affect our lives.  Where there is life there is hope, and where there is hope there is peace, even in the midst of confusion and pain. Life is still the journey worth living and it is beautiful because…God so loved the world that he sent us his only Son so that whoever believes in Him would have life and have it in abundance. Who (or what) can separate us from the love of God…In Him we are more than conquerors. We must search for the answer in the responses given at Jesus Birth to heaven’s call: the shepherds went in haste to see what had been told them   (Luke 2: 1); the Magi followed the star (see Matthew 2: 1-12). As spiritual children of the Poverello of Assisi, we are entrusted by our Seraphic Father to live the legacy of joyful trust at all times in the Father Who loves His children passionately, and has manifest that love in the Birth, by the power of the Holy Spirit, of Jesus, the Son of Mary.


God’s ‘Star of Truth”, His inspired Word, enlightens and indicates the way to follow that we might fulfill our basic desire to rediscover the child within us.   In that Word we recognize and accept the Child Who alone can restore us to our initial innocence, regardless of how deep we may have fallen.  With the simplicity of the shepherds we hurry in faith that blossoms into Hope.  This hope enables us to see Love Incarnate and believe in a Presence that can and will envelop us all with His eternal Love.  Now that we have seen and touched the Holy One of God, we know that no matter what happens around us, greater is the One within than he who is in the world. (1 John 4: 4)  The man (the one whom St. Francis had asked to setup the Nativity Scene at Greccio) saw a little child lying lifeless in the manger and he saw the holy man of God approach the Child and waken him from a deep sleep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30)   The newborn King Whose birth we prepare for and celebrate in faith, can be found alive in the hearts of everyone of us.  He is there waiting for us to rediscover and awaken His Presence within us, as our Father did for the people of Greccio.  


During the Advent Season, in the silence of faith, we journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.  In the joy of great expectations we hurry to the stable with the Shepherds.  In undaunted hope we follow the heavenly guide with the Wise Men bearing the gift of ourselves. Let all fears be dispelled, all hope rekindled, all love blossom  new in our hearts.  The Child of Bethlehem blessed our history becoming one with us that we might again be one with Him. It was at that birth that heaven sang  Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests (Luke 2: 1-14)  


The world into which the God of creation chose to enflesh Himself is still the stage of the greatest act of His Eternal Love.  Life to be, Freedom in responsibility, and Redemption to eternal life in Jesus are still God’s loving and impartial gifts to all.  Stewards of creation, we are invested with the awesome trust of the Father. We make His presence and providence a reality in our world grown cold and indifferent to what really matters – Love! Just as at Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, we, like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, experience the promise fulfilled and our hope rekindled. We become his earthly messengers of the eternal love that not even human tragedy can destroy.  Goodness is still alive in the hearts of God’s children, and this love is celebrated each year at Christmas. 


Christmas is a time for us to look with childlike wonder at the mystery fulfilled and to enjoy the love made present in the poverty of Bethlehem.  It is a time to bask in the light of a treasure greater than any we could imagine.  To see the Infant Jesus and recognize the God of Creation, the Savior of humanity, the King of kings and Lord of lords is to allow the tepidity and even the coldness of life’s demands and burdens to be dispelled and warmed by the Child of Bethlehem.  The Lord hidden in His Word and Sacrament is made visible in so many ways.  The child within is reborn and we experience the newness and joy of life. At Christmas we celebrate this wonderful re-discovery and joy. 


Each day is a new experience of that eternal unfolding love prepared for by the prophets, made visible at Bethlehem and Calvary.  All this will continue until history’s time becomes eternal life.  Each day we re-present the mysteries of salvation in the Eucharist, and each year we celebrate the unfolding of that One Solitary Life that is the focal point of human history – Jesus. Life is our journey. We set out in the zest and vigor of childhood and youth.  We are tested through middle age. We lose our spring as time progresses…but, our faith – as was that of Mary and Joseph who believed the mystery and so experienced the miracle of His birth – allows us to see each moment as a wonderful endowment that makes the journey itself the gift, and the destination that much more desirable. His wooden manger for a cradle at Bethlehem began the journey that led to his total surrender for us on the rough wood of the Cross on Calvary. The Crib and the Cross can never be separated.   His total emptying as God at Bethlehem and total emptying as Man on Calvary is the whole story of a birth to die that we who are born to die may encounter the fullness of Life.

   

May the Child of Bethlehem help us celebrate His birth, Light and Salvation. As brothers and sisters in St. Francis of Assisi let us bring that light, joy and hope to all whom we encounter on life’s journey. Warmed by the love and humility of the Christ Child, may we find that child within who helps us to see the beauty of this world in all its wonder and majesty, and the love of its Creator in all His humility. Come, let us adore Him in His Eucharistic presence. With Mary and Joseph let us bask in the light of his splendor and trust in Him.


In the Name of Jesus I wish all of you a Spirit-filled Advent and a Holy and Happy Christmas Season. As you enter the new calendar year with all its expectations and uncertainties, hopes and fears, may your dreams be fulfilled in a world renewed in Jesus and filled with His Spirit. Let us never forget: A Child is born to us! A Savior is given to us! Come, let us adore Him!  Fear not!  It is I!  I have conquered the world!

 

Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019!

Peace and Blessings in the Christ Child

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

From the Heart of Our Minister – November 2018

This truly comes directly from my troubled heart………

Several months ago I started one of these posts with that famous quote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Right now all I can say is “It is the worst of times”.

The entire world is in such turmoil and the news has to be followed not day by day, but hour by hour. Who has been shot, what has been said, who is supporting whom in the mid-term elections, how close is the caravan today? All of these scenarios can set off sparks between any two given people (or more) and set brother against brother and sister against sister.  And it has been hitting me in the face for several weeks.  And by that, I mean the actions and behaviors of some has cause a great deal of heartache.  Certainly only a small number. but as usually happens, that small number of folks bang the gong loudly. And the din has risen to the top, obliterating the peaceful voices of most of us.

“Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God” (Romans 15:7).

Why is this so hard? Why do we feel so righteous and superior to any other group of God-created people? And how, being a professed Secular Franciscan do we allow the hate to grow and fester?  We are called to be better than that but that means better than the other’s bad behavior not ever superior. We who remain silent when comments are made and bigoted e-mail messages are forwarded are just as guilty

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

It is always easier to let someone else step up.  Being peacemakers doesn’t mean keeping it peaceful for ourselves. No ripple in the water here!  I’m not going to aggravate either side! We are called to make that ripple and on the day of our profession, we said “This is what I want”. Going from Gospel to life and life to Gospel has no room for ‘I’ll live the Gospel as long as I can still hate all Muslims’…..or make snide remarks about those who don’t speak English…..or decide who I want in my fraternity.

We are all human, I get that.  And at some point in our lives we have harbored ill feelings or thoughts against another group of people.   But those who have matured in their faith and vocation have seen the error of that thinking and done something about it. Those who haven’t are holding onto their misconceptions like a badge of honor;  not only wearing it proudly but advertising it whenever and wherever they can.

“If you hate someone, you are defeated by them” – Confucius

Our faith is our anchor in these terrible times. But we upend that anchor with every hate-filled work and action.  These actions damage not only our relationship with each other, but greatly damage our relationship with Jesus, His Holy Mother and Saints Francis and Clare.  Who are we if we have thrown them away?

I saw this poem and felt it ties in with what I am trying to get across:

Always be kind,

If you see someone falling behind, walk beside them.

If someone is being ignored, find a way to include them.

If someone has been knocked down, lift them up.

Always remind people of their worth.

Be who you needed when you were going through hard times.

Just one small act of kindness could mean the world to someone.

That next to the last line: Be who you needed when you were going through hard times, speaks volumes to me. We have all been in some tough situations where some small act of kindness changed everything.  When I was in that bad car accident in July, a man opened the driver’s door and reached in and took my hand.  I never did see his face because all the airbags had deployed and I was inside that cocoon of plastic sheets, wires and broken glass.  He calmly talked to me until the ambulance arrived and then slipped away when the EMT’s were trying to get me out of the car.  I don’t know if he lived in the neighborhood and came out when he heard the crash or if he was driving by and stopped to help.  When he reached into the car for my hand, he had no idea if I were black, white, Muslim or Jew. I don’t know his name, but I can tell you this, I still pray for him. And I pray that someday I might give that gift to someone else in need.  That’s how it works, brothers and sisters.  God shows us how and then helps us accomplish it.   He is not present when we are spewing hurtful remarks or belittling a group of folks who are different than us……not better or worse………just different.

We have tremendous opportunities these days to be the peacemakers, to light the darkness in someone’s life. We have asked to be instruments of peace.  Can we allow God to play His healing melody through us?  Take some time to ask Him.  Both of you will be glad you took the time to visit.

 

 

 

Thought for the Day by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 2018

November 2018

 

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,

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

To you alone, Most High, do they belong,

and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

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

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

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

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

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

from whom no one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

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

for the second death shall do them no harm.

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

Amen.

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

 

Following are excerpts taken from: A Book of the Praises of Saint Francis

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

 

1

Blessed Francis, like the rising sun, brightened the world by his life, his teaching and his miracles.  He had a father intent on worldly affairs, but a very upright mother. – Our objective in life is to become a saint.

2

Like another Elizabeth, at the sacred font she called him John, and, in spirit, she predicted that, by the grace of his merits, he would become a son of God. – On the first rung of the ladder to holiness are written the words: ‘Who does not carry his cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple’.

3

The boy grew up … until he was twenty-five years old.  Then he left all things and followed in the footsteps of Christ.  He renewed the old life of the Apostles… –Stubbornness is one quality incompatible with sanctity; purpose and persistence are necessary.

4

We have heard that of Francis’ first twelve disciples, for whom he also wrote a rule … and all were holy men except for one … (so that) even in his disciples the similarity of Francis to Christ might not be wanting. – Live the Gospel without compromise; live like Christ.

5

After blessed Francis returned from the Supreme Pontiff from whom he received the authority to preach, gathered his brothers around him near the city of Assisi in an abandoned hut that was so confined that (they) … were hardly able to sit or rest in it. – To progress in virtue, we need a plan and to stick to it.

6

There was no complaining…no grumbling, but with peaceful heart, the soul filled with joy, preserved patience. Under the tutelage of the holy father, the increased number of brothers later grew in perfection. – Be a creature of character, for character means reliability, dependability, self-discipline.

7

They were truly lesser, in name as in humility of mind, who…always sought a place and position of humility…they loved one another in a remarkable way… –Without humility all others virtues are either impossible, or tarnished and vitiated.

8

They poured out all their affection in common, hiring themselves out to provide for the other’s need, seeking not their own interests but those of Christ and of their neighbors. – The greater a person is esteemed in the eyes of people, the less he/she should be esteemed in his/her own.

9

But truly obedient soldiers, they never dared to place anything before holy obedience, knowing nothing about distinguishing precepts.  They almost ran headlong, to carry out what they were asked with no thought of contradicting it. – A humble person is not disturbed by praise, for it all belongs to God.

10

Wherever they met people on the roads or in the piazzas, the brothers would encourage them to love and to fear their Creator. – The humble receives praise the way a clean window takes the light; the truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass.

11

All their senses were so subdued that … there was a simple appearance, a modest bearing, and, with their eyes fixed on the ground, there minds were set on heaven. – Scripture reminds us that God resists the proud.

12

The brothers strove diligently to fulfill not only what he told them as by brotherly advice or by fatherly command, but also what by some sign they recognized he wanted. – We are not merely to prize our Faith but profess it with our life.

13

They were totally ignorant of duplicity of heart.  For just as there was in them one faith, so there was one spirit, one will, one charity, continual unity of spirit, harmony in living, cultivation of virtues, agreement of minds, and piety in action. – Just what are we doing today with the Faith God has given us?

14

At one time, when a tempted brother asked Francis to pray for him, the holy man said: ‘ Believe me, son, I believe you are more a servant of God because of this. No one should consider himself a servant of God until he has passed through temptations and tribulations.’ – Never forget a kindness, and never remember an injury.

15

To his brothers, he would speak compassionately, not as a judge, but as a father to his children and as a doctor to the sick … He was truly endowed with outstanding discernment and the grace of simplicity, so that with a true dove-like simplicity, he possessed the prudence of a serpent,. – The most powerful remedy against sudden movements of impatience is a gentle and friendly silence.

16

Francis’ zeal to observe poverty and humility and to be continually engaged with virtuous things was unusual. He rejoiced in poor little dwellings…As for ‘necessity’ not based on reason but on pleasure, he declared that it was a sign of a spirit that was extinguished … He wanted few books … He did not want the brothers to have money or handle it … – Today, right now, this very moment, is the time to start being what God wants me to be.

17

…he spoke to the Lord Pope who argued that it was difficult to live without possessions. ‘My Lord, I trust in my Lord Jesus Christ.  Since he has promised to give us life and glory in heaven, He will not deprive us of our bodily necessities when we need them on earth’. – The strength of the saints lies in their weakness through which God manifests Himself.

18

(Francis) would frequently say: As far as the brothers will withdraw from poverty, that far will the world withdraw from them.  They owe the world an example, and the world owes the food they need.  When the brothers withdraw good example, the world withdraws from them its support’. – Love incites imitation.

19

With the greatest zeal he cultivated poverty’s companion, the virtue of humility. – Sometimes love is too superficial and non an inner, all-consuming love, the kind of true love that makes one a captive, ready to serve, willing to forego, prepared to sacrifice.

20

(Francis) used to say: ‘We have been sent to help clerics for the salvation of souls so that they may make up whatever may be lacking in them … Be subject to prelates so that as much as possible on your part no jealousy arises’… – Cultivate resignation to God’s Will in all things.

21

He was, in his own eyes, a great sinner, while actually he was in every way a mirror of holiness, and also a virgin in the flesh, as he revealed to that very holy man, Brother Leo, his confessor … – Pray humbly each day for divine guidance to reflect rather than rush into something we may later have to regret.

22

The holy man always insisted on progress in doing good, … No idler could appear in his presence without feeling the sharp bite of his criticism … He rejoiced upon hearing that the brothers in a hermitage in Spain had divided their time, that one part of the week was dedicated to household chores, and the other to contemplation. – What benefits a garden or orchard is not a sudden storm but the gentle, steady force of a lingering all-day and all-night rain.

23

(The first Order established by Francis) is the Order of Lesser Brothers whose purpose is to serve the Lord according to the Gospel in poverty and humility, and to preach penitence. Innumerable signs in the professed testify that this is acceptable to God… – Real charity is warm, spontaneous, quickly responsive, never letting then left hand know what the right hand is doing.

24

Some religious are said to have been shown under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin.  Thus the Mother of God herself showed brothers to be under the protection of the wings of the Son of God … – The more we love God, the more we will want to love His creatures, especially those less favored and fortunate than we.

25

The Second Order…is that of virgins and continent married women, whose proposal is serve God in the enclosure, in perpetual silence, and in mortifying the flesh.  The first member of his Order was the blessed Clare … living …under the profession of the mot exalted poverty … – If you desire that God should hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor.

26

The Third Order is of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, shared by clerics, laity, virgins, widows, and married couples.  Their purpose is to live uprightly in their own homes, to devote their attention to works of piety, and to flee the world’s allurements. – Humility is a sincere distrust of self, on the one hand, and a firmly clinging reliance upon God, on the other.

27

The Lord made his servant, Francis, grow into a great nation, thus He gave him the blessing of all nations. – It is not a question of who you are or where you are, but of what you do with what you have!

28

When the time of Francis’ warfare in this life finally came to an end, the holy father departed happily to Christ in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1226 … A most illustrious Roman matron, Lady Jacoba dei Settesoli, very devoted to the man of God, came to visit him… She administered whatever seemed necessary for his funeral … – When you can’t pray on your knees (in church), pray on your feet (in fulfilling your daily duties).

29

(Francis) named her Brother Jacoba because of the vigor of her virtues, (and) wished to see her before he died … when the saint saw her, he rejoiced that, as he had hoped, she had been sent by God … It was thought the saint would live longer … The saint (said): ‘I will depart on Saturday evening.  You can leave with your retinue on the following day’. – Prayer is being on terms of friendship with God, often raising our minds to Him.

30

On the day and at the hour which he predicted, the saint was gathered to the Lord to live with Him … His most holy body was buried at Assisi in the Church of Saint George … After a few years a church was built in the saint’s honor … The site is called the Hill of Paradise… So great a multitude of people had come together for the celebration that the city was not able to contain them… – All for you, my God, because I love you.

 

Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 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

 November, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

November, dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, reminds us that God loves us into life, and calls to the fullness of life. The journey of life is so wonderful.  The many challenges we encounter help us grow in God’s love.  This gift is also dangerous because of the many allurements and seductions that can entice us to deviate from the path marked out for us.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  If we follow His Way, listen to His Word of Truth, we can expect ultimately to share in the fullness of His Life. He Himself says: I came that they may have Life and have it abundantly  (John 10: 10).  Jesus gained Life for us, once for all, on the Cross of Calvary … Life and the Cross!

There it is again, the Paradox of the Cross!  The Paradox of Christianity! We are always facing these choices, these opposites: positive-negative, good-bad, light-darkness, grace-sin, heaven-hell.  We always have that responsible and awesome option placed before us.  Adam and Eve were offered a test as a requisite to continue living in Eden. In the Old Testament, before the People of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua read the Law of the Covenant God made with His People and told them to choose between life and death … I for my part will serve the Lord  (cfr. Joshua 24: 2, 15).  The people responded in unison that they would serve the Lord, but history for them, and also for us who have opted to follow Jesus, tells us how fickle our commitments can be. Perhaps this is why we have difficulty in reflecting on that most solemn moment in life when we are called to encounter the Source of all Life and see ourselves in His Light.

Our Christian Faith is nourished by the Sacramental Life of the Church. We are redeemed in the Blood of Christ. He constantly encourages and invites us to follow me. In this life of faith we are always speaking of positive values while focusing in on what at first glance seems ‘negative’.  We speak about Life, but refer to it through the Death of Jesus.  We speak about Love, but recognize it through the symbol of hatred, torture, and death, The Cross.  We hope in Heaven, but experience its beginnings through the challenges and pitfalls of life’s earthly journey.  Our humanity is constantly affected by the changing attitudes of nature. We learn how to ‘see’ beyond the barriers that daily seek to impede our forward steps. A faith-filled heart and hope-filled life help us to live life to the fullest.  In this faith and hope we cannot help but recognize how grace offers us the opportunity to “live life and love it”.

Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a unique and inspired prophet for all times.  His approach to life and all creation has earned for him the title ofUniversal Brother. His example instills in the hearts of his spiritual children an attitude of joy and gratitude for every moment of life.  He was a man imbued with a spirit of wonder that made him rejoice even during the most challenging times for him. Several years before his brief life ended – he died at 44 years of age – his body began to succumb to all the effects of the penances he had imposed upon himself.  He even apologized to ‘Brother Ass’, as he called his body, for treating one who was so faithful to him in such an unappreciative manner.  With the knowledge of his terminal condition and the pains of the Stigmata of Jesus he had received two years before, informed that he was soon to pass from this life to the next, he asked that a new stanza be added to the Canticle of the Creatures. The brothers sang:  Praise be You, my Lord, for Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.  Woe to those who die in mortal sin.  Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.  Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.  When he was told that Death was imminent, he called out Welcome, Sister Death!

When we see life as the gift it is, and live life and love it, then even death cannot disturb our inner joy and serenity.  We live each moment as the gift it is. Thus we learn how to ‘let go’ of what we have for what is greater…or better Who is Greatest.

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

We have grown accustomed to the amenities of life, the privileges we often see as ‘rights’.  Discomfort is something we seek to avoid.  Criticisms and rejection disturb our calm. Self-centeredness, greed, vengeance become survival tactics that control relationships. In the face of problems we cannot control, we question, barter with, blame God for the ‘bad’ things that happen to us.  Our sainted brothers and sisters teach us that the Christian is enlightened by the assurance of Faith in the Incarnation and Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. St. Paul was convinced that to live is Christ, and to die is so much gain (Philippians 1: 21).  We are challenged to be a ‘People of Hope’, as St. Paul writes to the community of Rome: And hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly … While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … We have been justified by His blood … We even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (Romans 5: 5-11) We entrust ourselves totally to God.  If God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8: 31)  God has promised us Life with Him forever and He has given us the most excellent means to live in hope as we journey through life in joyful anticipation of His loving embrace – Jesus.  And Jesus established a perpetual means to keep the promise and pledge alive – the Eucharist.

Jesus said: I am the living bread come down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6: 51) When we gather around the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, we reaffirm our faith in Life.  We encounter our daily ‘death and dying’ with serenity.   We anticipate the prospect of heaven through bodily death with joy.  We let go of a lifetime of false securities.  We strive to bepoor in the things of this world but rich in those of heaven (cfr. James 2).   We break the shackles of the responsibilities and affairs that seemed so important in this life, and we do so with the freedom of the children of God who remember that we have here no lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. (Hebrews 13: 14).  We speak of ourselves as strangers and pilgrims on earth … seeking a homeland. (Hebrews 11: 13)  Everything is a gift.  We can offer each moment of our life as a ‘gift’ to others.  We even call on Sister Bodily Death from whom no human can escape with the trust and acceptance of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures. In the Eucharist we discover the source and pledge of Life. The Eucharist is our strength in life and our defiance of death.  We become, mystically, a Eucharistic presence. Thus, our life is an act of thanksgiving.

Jesus is our Life! In the Eucharist our concerns and confusions are clarified, our discouragements and despair are dispelled, our faults are forgiven, our self-centeredness is embraced and transformed into a love that opens our hearts to all. How much more can we say about this ‘heaven on earth’ we are privileged to possess, celebrate, and ‘become’ when our hearts and souls prepare for the encounter!  The Eucharist is ‘communion’ that binds us to Christ in His Redemptive Passion-Death-Resurrection and to all who celebrate and partake of the sacrificial Lamb of God offered for us. The Eucharist is ‘sacrifice’ that ‘makes us ‘holy’. The Eucharist transforms us into the One Whom we receive, thus fulfilling God’s words to Israel: Be holy, because I, your God, am holy (Leviticus 20: 26; 1 Peter 1: 16).   The Eucharist is a ‘pledge of future glory’ as we share in this sacrament of ‘heaven on earth’ (St. Lawrence of Brindisi).  We are offered the opportunity to live in hope, the pledge God offers us: For who hopes for what one sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance (Romans 8:24).

We ‘get lost’ forever in that vast ocean of goodness Who is Jesus in His Word and in the Eucharist.  Consuming the Victim, we are consumed by Him and are ‘lost’ to this world, that we might be found in Him, living already the ‘pledge of future glory’.  The effect of this union fills our hearts and our minds with the assurance of God’s presence. The inner peace and serenity strengthen us. We are empowered to confront challenges, bear burdens, eliminate enemies through Christian love, entrust ourselves totally and unreservedly to God Who has been and is everything.  My God and My All!  is a Franciscan expression of the total surrender our Seraphic Father lived. We spiritual children of St. Francis gratefully and willingly forfeit everything this world holds dear. Eternity is not a pious reflection but a reality we live in mystery until we are called to share it with the angels and saints in glory.

With unwavering hope in God’s mercy and the Life He promises we will share with Him,  we anticipate with joyful expectation the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ(Prayer after the Our Father at Mass) We Franciscans are the Pilgrim People of God – pilgrims and strangers.  We are committed to a deeper relationship with God through prayer-sacrifice-acts of charity.  We profess by the mere fact of these elements to live in hope – a hope that does not betray.  It is a ‘vision’ of fulfillment yet to be possessed, but already available.  Allow nothing to disturb your daily journey to God.  For those who seek to live in God’s presence nothing will succeed in disrupting their inner peace, even if storms rage around them.  As we celebrate the Eucharist that makes us one in His Name, may the ‘Holy Communion’ we share strengthen our fraternity. May the ‘Sacrifice’ we offer open our lives to respond to the responsibilities we have promised to fulfill. This ‘Pledge of Future Glory’ animates us to be enthused and encouraged to accept every moment as an opportunity to grow in and use well the gifts God has entrusted to us.  Let us take to heart the words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi: So great is the good which I expect that all pain is to me a delight.

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

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

From the Heart of the Minister – October, 2018

October 1.  Wasn’t it just September 1?………..August 1?  The days are going by at warp speed any more. If you don’t like the season, wait a minute and it will change. But not everything changes that quickly.  Think back to when we were growing up.  Women in the work force? Laughable!  Men changing diapers??? Not on your life!  Here’s a confession I’ve never made before…………when I was 17, a girlfriend and I having just gotten off a long flight from Europe, went into a bar at JFK International Airport.  (We had several hours to wait for our connection back to Philly.)  She and I were “asked” to leave in a voice that demanded no argument.  Not because we were underage, but because we were not accompanied by a man. What makes it ironic is that I didn’t drink as a teenager and still don’t to this day.  Now if you had to have a man accompany you to buy fine chocolates, my life would have been so much different!

It is NOT my intention to get into a political conversation.  It has been difficult enough to watch the hearings and/or news this past week.  There is no gray area in this situation.  You are decidedly one side or the other. Sometimes vehemently one side or the other.  I haven’t heard one person say “Oh, I don’t care how it turns out”. Or “It’s none of my business what he/she did.”  We have all made it our business. Because to some degree, we all have a story to tell.  There is no six degrees of separation here.  We are only one degree away from being involved.  Our daughters, granddaughters, our neighbors,…….ourselves.  The $64,000 question is how do we deal with all this as a Franciscan??

We are supposed to be peacemakers. We have promised to follow St. Francis’ footsteps to Christ.  If we take a closer look, those footsteps are not leading into one camp or the other. They are leading directly to God. And that’s where we should head in these types of situations.  It’s hard to be a peacemaker when you are angry and riled up. But here’s a thought,……how many times have you sung Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace?  No, I can’t count the number of times either.  Just the title takes us right where we need to be.  Just what we need to ask for.  Make me a channel of your peace.  We aren’t asking for peace, we ask to be a channel.  And before anybody says it…………I know there is no proof St. Francis wrote the hymn!!  There is a huge difference between asking for peace and asking to be a channel.  That is where the Franciscan meets the road.  Even though I am angry, even though I don’t know what to do with all the feelings that have been stirred up, let me be the channel.  Let that conduit go right through my anger and even though it is still there, don’t let me hand it on to someone else. Or fire up their feelings with more hatred and hostile words. Let me only hand the other person God’s perfect peace.  Not easy! Here are some words written by St. Francis, from The Later Rule:  I counsel, admonish, and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world; but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle, and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming.

We even have the wisdom of our beloved Pope Francis who said: The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.

~Pope Francis, VISITA PASTORALE DEL SANTO PADRE FRANCESCO AD ASSISI

In my own case, I can still feel that “BUT” sitting on the tip of my tongue, wanting to justify why I feel the way I do.  We have no business being right (= righteous).  Our job, our mission, our request from God Himself is to be a peacemaker.  In our humanness, the only way we can be a peacemaker in the middle of this explosive topic is to be a channel.

While you are spending a little extra time in church this week for the Transitus and the very special feast day of our Seraphic Father, ask to be the channel.  Visualize that channel plowing right through your anger and serving up God’s peace.  Just how much do you think Jesus felt like extending peace to his Apostles at the last supper?  Surely, if Jesus was able to do it on that night in particular, we can give it try now. God is not extending our hand to our fellow man, we are extending His hand, but only if we can be a channel. Amen?

Thanks, Lee, for the help with the references!

Peace, much love, and happy feast day,

kate

Thought for the Day by Fr. Francis – October, 2018

October 2018

Let us desire nothing else, let us wish for nothing else,

let nothing else please us and cause us delight, except our Creator and redeemer and Savior,

the one true God, Who is fullness of Good, all Good, every Good, the true and Supreme Good,

Who alone is merciful and gentle, delectable and sweet, Who alone is holy, just and true, holy and right,

Who alone is kind, innocent, pure, from Whom and through Whom and in Whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory … 

Therefore, let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us or come between us. Let us all, wherever we are …

Glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the Most High and supreme eternal God ..

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

Following are excerpts taken from: A Letter on the Passing of Saint Francis (attributed to Elias of Assisi)

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

 1

Before I begin to speak, I sign, and rightly so… For what I reared has overtaken me and has overtaken you. What I dreaded has happened to me and to you. Our consoler has gone away from us and he who carried him in his arms like lambs has gone on a journey to a far off country. – God is with you, God is within you, dwell for a moment in God’s presence.

2

He who was beloved of God and of man, who taught Jacob the law of life and of discipline, and gave to Israel a covenant of peace has been received into the most resplendent of dwellings. We would rejoice exceedingly on his account, yet for our own part we must mourn, since in his absence darkness surrounds us and the shadow of death covers us. – Holiness is where we are.

3

It is a loss for all, yet it is a trial singularly my own, for he has left me in the midst of darkness, surrounded by many anxieties and pressed me down by countless afflictions. For this reason mourn with me, brothers…For we are orphans without our father and bereaved of the light of our eyes. – If you have the virtue of obedience you have all the other virtues.

4

(Taken from the later part of the Letter of Elias) On the fourth day before the nones of October, the Lord’s day, at the first hour of the preceding light, our father and brother went to Christ.  I am sure dearest brothers, that when this letter reaches you, you will follow the footprints of the people of Israel as they mourned the loss of their great leaders, Moses and Aaron. Let us, by all means, give way to tears for we are deprived of so great a father. – From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, may the good Lord deliver us!

5

The presence of our brother and father Francis was a light …  He was a light shed by the true light to give light to those who were in darkness and sitting in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace… The true Daystar from on high shone upon his heart and enkindles his will with the fire of His love. – Union with God is perfect when our will has become free of all things and clings to God alone.

6

By preaching the kingdom of God and turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the rebellious to then wisdom of the just, he prepared for the Lord a new people in this world. His name reached distant coasts and all lands were in awe at his marvelous deeds. – – The best way of praying is the way in which you can pray the most fervently.

7

Do not mourn beyond measure.  God, the father of orphans, will give us comfort by his holy consolation.  If you weep, brothers, weep for yourselves and not for him. In the midst of life we are caught in death, while he has passed from death to life. – Do not allow aridity in prayer to trouble you, for perfection does not consist in having delights but in possessing virtue.

8

Rejoice, for like another Jacob, he blessed all his sons before he was taken from us and forgave them all the faults which any one of us might have committed, or even thought of committing, against him. – Devotion is devotedness: lifting our thoughts to God, loving Him, living with Him.

9

And now, after telling you these things, I announce to you a great joy and the news of a miracle.  Such a sign that has

never been heard of from the dawn of time except in the Son of God, who is Christ the Lord. – No heart can ever be empty when God is in it. And He will always be in the heart when we pray!

10

Not long before his death, our brother and father appeared crucified, bearing in his body the five wounds which are truly the marks of Christ.  His hands and his feet had as it were the openings of the nails and were pierced front and back revealing the scars and showing the nails’ blackness.  His side, moreover, seemed opened by a lance and often emitted blood. – If there has been any good in me, and if any fruit has grown from my littleness, it was due entirely to the help of the grace of God.

11

As long as his spirit lived in the body, there was no beauty in him for his appearance was that of a man despised.  No part of his body was without great suffering. – To do good without God’s help is as impossible as to make the sun shine at night.

12

His limbs were stiff, much like those of a dead man.  But after his death, his appearance was one of great beauty gleaming with dazzling whiteness and giving joy to all who looked upon him. – God is a generous spender, tossing the coins of His grace everywhere with Divine abandon.

13

His limbs, which had been rigid, became marvelously soft and pliable, so that they would be turned this way and that, like those of a child. Therefore, brothers, bless the God of heaven and earth and praise Him before all, for He has shown His mercy to us. – Grace ignored ultimately means grace withheld, grace repudiated, grace denied.

14

Hold fast the memory of our father and brothers, Francis, to the praise and glory of Him Who made him so great among people and gave him glory in the sight of angels. – Self-reform is impossible, at least difficult and disheartening, without self-knowledge.

15

Pray for him, as he begged us, and pray to him that God may make us share with him in his holy grace. Amen. – Knowledge of self is a life-long study. It embraces all that is ours…enlightened by faith.

16

Indeed, it is in keeping with our love for him that we rejoice with Francis.  Still, it is right to mourn him! It belongs to us to rejoice with Francis, for he has not died but gone to the fair in heaven… – Lord, grant that I may know You, grant that I may know myself.

17

At the same time, it is right for us to weep for Francis.  He who came and went among us, as did Aaron, who brought forth from his storehouse both the new and the old and comforted us in all our afflictions, has been taken from our midst.  Now we are like orphans without a father. – A saint is person like us who gets what he wants by working for it…a life-time.

18

Because it is written, the poor depend on you and you are the helper of orphans, all of you dearest brothers, must earnestly pray that, though this earthen jar has been broken in the valley of Adam’s children, the Most High Potter will deign to repair and restore another of similar honor, who will rule over the multitude of our race and go before us in battle like a true Maccabee. – We must speak to those in need with our hands before we speak to them with our lips.

19

Francis the servant and friend of the Most High, founder and leader of the Order of Lesser Brothers, the practitioner of poverty, the model of penance, the herald of truth, the mirror of holiness, and exemplar of all Gospel perfection, foreordained by grace from heaven, in ordered progression, from the lowest level arrived at the very heights. – The shortest road to heaven is the way of the cross.

20

The Lord made incomparably more brilliant in death this marvelous man, whom he had made marvelously bright in life… – To persevere bravely in spite of the lack of sweetness and relish in prayer – this is the sign of the spirit of God.

21

(He made him) rich in poverty, exalted in humility, vigorous in mortification, ,prudent in simplicity, distinguished in the integrity of life. – Holiness is a process of slow steady and growth: of trying, failing, trying, failing, and still undaunted, trying again.

22

After this blessed man left the world, that sacred spirit … left certain signs of future glory imprinted on his body; so that his holy flesh … bore the likeness of Christ’s passion by a singular privilege and would offer by the newness of a miracle a glimpse of the resurrection. – We cannot become good by wishing for it but by working for it.

23

In his blessed hands and feet could be seen the nails that had been marvelously fashioned by divine power of his flesh, and thus embedded in the flesh – If we are to reach heaven by a devout life, sky-gazing and daydreaming will not help.  We must come down to earth, plant our feet firmly on the ground, and take one step at a time, like a child learning how to walk.

24

The wound in his side could be clearly seen, which was not inflicted on his body nor produced by human means; it was like the wound in the Savior’s side… – The most crippling obstacle to holiness is our expecting too much too soon…A great saint said: I shall be very happy if I am free of all imperfections only fifteen minutes before I die.

25

His sons were weeping at the loss of so lovable a father but were filled with no little joy while they kissed the seal marks of the Supreme King in him. – God who has promised pardon to the penitent sinner, has nowhere promised him who delays his conversion a tomorrow to do penance in.

26

So unique and so remarkable was the sight to all who observed it that it confirmed their faith and incited their love. – If we are determined to do good and become holy, if tomorrow, why not now!

27

When the people heard of the passing of our blessed father and news of the miracle had spread, they hurried to the place to see with their own eyes so that they could dispel all doubt and add joy to their love. – Too late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new, too late have I loved You.

28

A great number of the citizens of Assisi were admitted to contemplate the sacred marks with their own eyes and to kiss them with their lips. – Without penance we shall never advance beyond mediocrity.

29

The venerable father left the shipwreck of this world in the 1226th year of the Incarnation of the Lord, on the fourth day of the nones of October, a Saturday evening, and was buried on Sunday. Immediately, the holy man began to reflect the light radiating from the face of God … – Too many people are curious to know the lives of others, but careless to amend their own.

30

in different parts of the world, his glorious miracles and the abundant benefits obtained through him, inflamed many to devotion to Christ and incited them to reverence for his saint. –Without repentance there will be no reform of self; without reform of self there will be no progress in virtue; and without progress in virtue we shall never come closer to God.

31

The wonderful things which God was working through his servant Francis – acclaimed by word of mouth and testified to by facts – came to the ears of the Supreme Pontiff, Gregory IX…(who) was fully convinced of Francis’ remarkable holiness: not only from hearing of the miracles after his death, but also from his own experience during his life…He had no doubt that Francis was glorified in heaven by the Lord … – Live the Gospel without compromise, live like Christ…