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

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

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

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

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

About our region

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

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Regional Minister – September 2018

It was a perfectly perfect day!  The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, but just enough breeze to keep it comfortable. And, it was the day of the First Annual Secular Franciscan Family Picnic for the fraternities bonded to the OFM Caps of the Province of St. Augustine.  God was smiling on the Friars efforts!

Stepping through the archway that connects the Friary with the chapel and church was like stepping into a beautiful, prayerful oasis. There were lovingly tended flower beds everywhere and a thriving vegetable garden that rumor has it are the handy work of Brother Andrew with the help of those new Postulants who have recently arrived.  I have never seen Elephant Ears grow so large and even asked Brother Andrew if he watered them with holy water.  That twinkle in his eyes and sly smile told me more than his words! 

Before the grill was fired up and all the side dishes brought out, Brother Kip, shepherded us into the chapel where he delivered a talk on our Rule. What a beautifully rich presentation that covered a number of pieces of our Rule but with one common theme….that we need to draw together, be a community with each other and all the branches of the family and most especially with the marginalized.  Brother Kip reminded us that to achieve this oneness with God, each other and creation, we must start with prayer.  Our prayer leads to love and our love leads to action. Such beautiful words to reflect on!

The food was fabulous but the ‘company’ was even better.  Sitting with these Friars and their friends and sharing a lot of laughs was certainly refreshing to body and soul.  The fun continued with a very serious egg toss that had those of us on the sidelines cheering for both sides as each egg was caught….or not.  How Franciscan is that!

The day was beautiful on many levels, none more than the fact  that it was a family gathering…..Friars and Seculars…..brothers and sisters……..no us and them, but we.  We had a great time  being together and isn’t that our future in a nutshell.  “We” have  great work to do but it won’t happen unless we are helping one another, taking each other’s hand and going forward. Help us Lord to be aware of these great opportunities to not only work as a family but act as a family. Give us the nudge we need to step out of our comfort zone and take advantage of these invitations to allow our vocation to grow and flourish – as big  as Brother Andrew’s Elephant Ears!!

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director
September 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. All peace and good be with you! As summer comes to a close, and school starts again we enter into another cycle of change! Soon we will see the leaves change color and the air start to get cool and crisp. And so as the seasons change so do we. We grow and learn all our lives. It should never stop.

As we said in August’s “Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director” we were going to continue the discussion concerning the Inquires and the interview process. We had said that there should be no doubt in the minds and hearts of any of the council and formation team before a person is moved on into candidacy. That does not mean that the discernment process is over by any means. All it means is that there are no obvious concerns that the person is not ready or does not have a possible vocation!

When there is some objection by one of the council and or formation team this must be resolved before any action is taken. So, now that we have an individual or several individuals voicing some concern, what do you do? A lot of talking and even more listening. The council and formation team must explore the objections or concerns in a loving and charitable way but also focus on truth. A very good tool to use are the two lists in the resource “The Franciscan Journey i called “Signs that may indicate the presence of a vocation to the SFOii” and the invers, “Signs that may indicate that a vocation to the SFO is not present”. The council and the formation team should prayerfully go thru those lists and ask if any of the signs of vocation are there and if any of the signs that a vocation is NOT present are there.

Now, any one of us could read the lists and look at the signs that a vocation is not present and apply some of them to our own lives. After all we are all human and in need of grace ourselves. The question should be, does an individual live in those signs or perpetually act them out, not occasionally fall into one or two of them. After a  thorough discussion and evaluation another vote should be taken. By the way, only the council votes, that is the Minister, Vice Minister, Formation Director, Treasurer, Secretary, Spiritual Assistant and any elected Councilors at Large. If any members of the formation team are not elected, they do not vote.

In all cases, if there is still any doubt, the person should not move to candidacy. The next thing to do is ask “What Now?” Should the individual be asked to continue some other form of initial formation? If the individual lacks basic Catholic understanding, maybe they should be asked to attend a local RCIA program, then come back. It may be a simple although hard, as to honestly discuss with them why the council voted the way they did and give them the opportunity to correct their behavior. But do not leave it to chance thinking that they will “get it” in candidacy. That only hurts them and the fraternity.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Candidacy, the Rite of Admission and tips on progressing thru the process.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

iPages 15 ‐ 18
ii SFO is now referred to as OFS “Order of Franciscan Seculars”

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. Reflections for September – 2018

September 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)

The month of September celebrates the

Impression of the Sacred Stigmata on the Body of our Seraphic father St. Francis of Assisi

Following are excerpts taken from Considerations on the StigmataThe Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi.

Daily reflections are taken from Various writings of St. Francis

1

In the year 0f 1224, St. Francis went…from the Valley of Spoleto into Romagna, taking with him Brother Leo… Francis heard that many gentlemen were gathered together…he said to Brother Leo, Come, let us go up into this festival, for, by God’s help, we shall gather there rich spiritual fruit. – We can be sure someone is a true religious and has the spirit of God if his lower nature does not give way to pride when God accomplishes some good through him. (Admonitions, 12)

2

A certain gentlemen of Tuscany…Orlando of Chiusi … had heard concerning the holiness and miracles of St. Francis and bore him great devotion and had a desire to see him and hear him preach…Francis came to the castle…where the gentlemen were gathered…and spoke these words, So great is the joy which I expect. That all pain is joy to me. – Blessed the religious who treasures up for heaven the favors God has given him and does not want to show them off for what he can get out of them. (Admonitions, 28)

3

Orlando was touched in the heart by God…After dinner returning to St. Francis, he spoke with him at length, and in the end said, I have a mountain in Tuscany, a devout and solitary place, called Mount Alvernia, far from all discourse with people, well fitted for one who would do penance for his sins. If it please you, I will freely give it to you and your companions for the welfare of my soul. – Blessed the religious who keeps God’s marvelous doings to himself (Admonitions, 28)

4

(Francis) replied: Orlando…I will send some of our brethren to you, to whom you shall show this place.  If it shall seem fit to them for prayer and penance, I will accept your charitable offer. Having thus spoken, St. Francis departed, returning to St Mary of the Angels…Francis sent two of his companions…They accepted Mount Alvernia, taking possession of it in the name of God…St. Francis rejoiced greatly at what they told him. –  In as far as the brothers (and sisters) depart from poverty, in so much will the world depart from them, and they will seek and not find. (2 Celano, chpt.40,#70)

5

(Francis) thanking God, spoke with a joyful countenance to these friars saying, My children, we draw near to our Lent of St. Michael the Archangel.  I firmly believe it to be the will of God that we keep this Lent upon Mount Alvernia  which, by divine dispensation, has been prepared for us, that we by penance may merit from the Lord the consolation of consecrating this blessed mount to the honor and glory of God, of his glorious Mother the Virgin Mary, and of the holy angels. – There is a contract between the world and the brothers (and sisters): the brothers (and sisters) must give the world good example, the world must provide for their needs.      (2 Celano, chpt.40,#70)

6

St. Francis went to pray … with three companions (bros. Masseo, Angelo, and Leo)… In the first watch of the night a multitude of fierce demons…came to attack him on all sides, in order to disturb him in his prayer, but this could not do…Francis prayed: O m y Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for your great love and charity…I am ready to gladly endure every pain and suffering which You, my God, are pleased to send me for my sins. – When we break faith and withdraw our good example, the world will withdraw its hand in just censure. (2 Celano, chpt.40,#70, adapted)

7

The peasant said to St. Francis: Tell me. Are you the Brother Francis of Assisi? Francis responded, Yes.  The peasant replied said: Take heed, then, that you be in truth as good as all people say you are, and therefore I admonish you to be none other than what the people say you are… Francis dismounted, knelt down and kissed the (peasant’s) feet… – Go and bring to all a message of peace and penance, that their sins may be forgiven. (Major Life, chpt.3,#7)

8

When Orlando heard that Francis and his companions was at Mount Alvernia, he was filled with joy and came with many others from his castle to visit St. Francis…he found them (Francis and friars) at prayer, and drawing near he saluted them…After they had spoken together for some time, St. Francis thanked him for the devout solitude which he had bestowed upin them and for having come to visit them there. – Be patient in trials, watchful in prayer, and never cease working. (Major Life, chpt.3,#7)

9

Orlando called St. Francis and his companions aside and said to them: My dearest brothers, never was it my intention that you would be exposed on this savage mountain to any corporal necessity, which might hinder you from attending perfectly to spiritual matters; therefore it is my desire that you send freely to my house for everything you want, and if you fail to do so I shall take it very ill at your hands. – Be considerate in your speech, well-ordered in your actions, and grateful to your benefactors. (Major Life,chpt.3,#7)

10

Then St. Francis (said to his companions): Let not Orlando’s charitable offer cause you in any way to offend against our lady and mistress, holy poverty…if we closely embrace holy poverty, the world will come after us…Let us persevere in holy poverty, for it is the way of perfection, and the pledge of eternal riches… – A man has as much patience and humility as he has (when things go against him) and no more. (Admonitions, #13)

11

He was sometimes so absorbed in God that he was seen by his companions to be raised corporally above the ground and rapt in prayer.  In these raptures were revealed to St. Francis not only things present and future, but even the secret thoughts and desires of the brethren. – Blessed is that brother who loves and respects his brother when he is absent as when as when he is present and who would not say anything behind his back that he could not say charitably to his face. (Admonitions,#25)

12

Brother Leo, being beset by a strong spiritual temptation, felt a great longing to have some devout thing written by the hand of St. Francis … he dared not speak of his desire to St. Francis to whom nevertheless it was revealed by the Holy Spirit … – Nothing must keep us back, nothing separate us from Him, nothing come between us and Him. (Rule 1221,chpt.23)

13

(St. Francis) wrote a verse in honor of Christ, drawing at the foot thereof  the sign of the cross Tau…he gave  it to (Brother Leo), saying, Take this writing, dearest brother, and keep from all temptation! But if temptation come to you, do not be afraid, for I hold you to be truly the servant of God, and more worthy of love, the harder you are oppressed by temptation… – At all times … we must have a true and humble faith, and keep Him in our hearts… (Rule 1221,chpt.23)

14

And I tell you in all sincerity that no person should account himself to be a perfect friend of God until he has passed through manifold temptations and tribulations. – We must love, honor, adore, serve, praise and bless, glorify and acclaim, magnify and thank, the most high supreme and eternal God, Three and One, Father, Son and holy Spirit … (Rule 1221,chpt.23)

15

St. Francis was not only absorbed in God…but was also comforted often by angelic visitations. One day…he said: O lord God, when I am dead, what will become of this Your poor family, which in Your goodness You have committed to me, a sinner?  Who will comfort, who will correct, who will pray to You for it? – We must all keep close watch over ourselves or we will be lost and turn our minds and hearts from God. (Rule 1221,chpt.22)

16

An angel of God appeared to him and comforted him with these words: I declare to you on behalf of God, that your Order shall never fail until the day of judgment, and no sinner, be he ever so great, who shall bear a hearty love to your Order, shall find mercy with God. No man shall live long who shall maliciously persecute it.  Nor shall any evildoer, who shall refuse to amend his lifelong persevere in your Order… – Guard with jealous watchfulness the times of private prayer. (The Principles, SSF)

17

Do not be grieved if you notice some brothers who are not good and do not observe the Rule as they ought…for they shall always be many who will observe with great perfection the life of Christ’s Gospel and the purity of the Rule.  And all these, after their bodily life is ended, shall enter into life eternal without passing through Purgatory… – Corporate worship is not a substitute for the quiet communion of the individual soul with God. (The Principles, SSF)

18

The feast of our Lady’s assumption drew near, and St. Francis sought for a more secret and solitary place in which he might spend alone the Lent of St. Michael the Archangel … Thus on the Feast of the assumption St. Francis began the holy Lent with great abstinence and austerity, macerating his body and invigorating his soul with fervent prayers, vigils, and disciplines … going from virtue to virtue… – Do not condemn or look down on people … each one should rather condemn and despise himself. (Rule 1223,chpt.2)

19

As the Feast of the Holy Cross drew near, in the month of September, Brother Leo went one night…he heard (St. Francis’) voice in fervor of spirit (saying): Who are You, Lord? And who am I, a most vile worm and Your most unprofitable servant? And these words he repeated over and over again … – Humility is the recognition of the truth about God and ourselves, the recognition of our own insufficiency and dependence, seeing that we have nothing which we have not received. (The Principles, SSF)

20

It was given to me to understand that these three offerings signified holy obedience, most entire poverty, and most pure chastity, which God by His grace has enabled me so perfectly to observe… God has infused such virtue into my soul, that for all the gifts and graces which His sovereign bounty He has bestowed upon me, I should always with heart and voice praise and magnify Him… – I entreat all … to put away every attachment, all care and solicitude, and serve, love, honor, and adore our Lord and God with a pure heart and mind … (Rule 1221,chpt.22)

21

The day before the Feast of the holy Cross…and angel of God…spoke thus from God: I am come to admonish and encourage you, that you prepare yourself to receive in all patience and humility what God will give you. St. Francis replied: I am ready to bear patiently whatsoever my Lord shall be pleased to send me. – Make a dwelling place within yourself where God can stay. (Rule 1221,chpt.22 adapted)

22

The Feast of the Holy Cross St. Francis was praying before daybreak…and turning his face to the east, prayed in these words: O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask You before I die: the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion… – Blessed is the one who obeys quietly when he is corrected, confesses his fault humbly and makes atonement cheerfully. (Admonitions, 23)

23

…the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.  And continuing a long time in that prayer, he understood that God had heard him, and that, so far as possible for a mere creature, he should be permitted to feel these things. – Blessed the one who is in no hurry to make excuses … (Admonitions, 23)

24

St. Francis began to contemplate most devoutly the Passion of Jesus Christ and His infinite charity…And being thus inflamed in that contemplation, on that same morning he beheld a seraph descending from heaven with six fiery and resplendent wings, and this seraph with rapid flight drew near to St. Francis, so that he could plainly discern him and perceive that he bore the image of one crucified… – What are God’s servants but His minstrels, who must inspire the hearts of men and stir them to spiritual joy. (Mirror of Perfection, 100)

25

It was revealed to him by Him who appeared that by divine providence his vision had been thus shown to him that he might understand that, not by martyrdom of the body, but by a consuming fire of the soul, he was to be transformed into the express image of Christ crucified in that wonderful apparition. – One is truly clean of heart when he has no time for the things of this world but is always searching for the things of heaven, never failing to keep God before his eyes … (Admonitions, 16)

26

Then did all Mount Alvernia appear wrapped in intense fire, which illumined all the mountains and valleys around…In this seraphic apparition, Christ, Who appeared under that form to St. Francis, spoke to him certain high and secret things, which in his lifetime he would never reveal to any person…After his death he made them known to one of the brothers… – It is wrong for anyone to be anxious to receive more from his neighbor than he himself is willing to give to God. (Admonitions, 17)

27

(St. Francis spoke to the brother in vision): Christ said: Do you know what I have done to you?  I have given you the stigmata which are the insignia of My Passion, that you may be My standard-bearer, and as on the day of My death I descended into limbo and by virtue of these My stigmata delivered all the souls whom I found there, so do I grant to you that every year on the anniversary of your death you may go to Purgatory, and take with you to the glory of paradise all the souls of your three Orders…and all others especially devout to you, that so you may be conformed to Me in death, and you have been like Me in life. – Blessed that person who takes no more pride in the good that God says and does through him, than in that which he says and does through someone else. (Admonitions, 17)

28

After long and secret conference together, that marvelous vision disappeared, leaving in the heart of St. Francis an excessive fire and ardor of divine love, and on his flesh a wonderful trace and image of the Passion of Christ.  For upon his hands and feet began immediately to appear the figures of the nails…the hands and feet appeared pierced through the midst by nails…In like manner, on the right side appeared the image of an unsealed wound, as if made by a lance, and still red and bleeding, from which drops of blood often flowed from the holy breast of St. Francis… – True knowledge is the knowledge of God. (The Principles, SSF)

29

Know, Brother Francis, that not for yourself alone, but for others, does God reveal His secrets to you, and therefore you have cause for fear lest you be worthy of censure if you conceal that which, for the good of others, has been made known to you. – The highest wisdom is that holy wisdom whereby the soul is made one with God. (The Principles, SSF)

30

During the time from Thursday evening until Saturday morning, he would not by any human remedy mitigate the pain of Christ’s Passion which he bore in his body, because at that time our Savior Jesus Christ was taken and crucified, died and was buried for us…St. Francis, having concluded the Lent of St. Michael the Archangel, prepared himself…to return…to St. Mary of the Angels – One really loves his enemy when he is not offended by the injury done to himself … and proves his love in a practical way. (Admonitions, 9)

 

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. Greetings for September – 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

September 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

In September 1224, two years before death would usher him into eternity early in life, while at prayer at a solitary site on a mountaintop in Tuscany, our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, received the answer to his prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask You before I die: the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion;  the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.  A winged Seraph appeared to him and signed him with the visible marks of the wounds of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi, the Little Poor Man, the Universal Brother, had become a living image of the Crucified Christ. The marks gave witness to the integrity of the person who bore them and credibility to the message he had now become, so that when a spirit of indifference was taking over the world, (The Lord) renewed in the flesh of St. Francis the Sacred Stigmata of (His) Passion to rekindle in our hearts the fire of (His)love. (adapted Opening Prayer for the Feast of the Impression of the Stigmata).

St. Francis received a wonderful privilege that carried with it a great responsibility.  He was entrusted with a mission: to rekindle the fire of Divine Love in the hearts of God’s children.  The Stigmata he bore speak volumes for those willing to ‘read’ them in a spirit of faith.  To see him was to see the living image of the Crucified. To see him was a challenge to change. To encounter him was to recognize God speaking through him reminding all of God’s limitless love and calling everyone to cooperate with grace and become the persons we were all created to be: children of the Father, redeemed in the blood of the Son, bound together in the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those willing to understand and accept the message of the wounds and the person signed with them, knew they were ‘called to action’. The Stigmata call to action not apathy, loving not loathing, conviction not complacency, determination not doubt, commitment not compromise, life not lethargy.

Like the great priest-prophet of the Old Testament, Ezekiel, St. Francis was called to be a living prophecy to a lethargic world suffering from spiritual dryness. Ezekiel’s prophetic words speak of numberless dry, lifeless, disjointed bones, lying on a vast field, (see Ezekiel 37: 1-14); they could be compared to many periods in human history, to St. Francis’ time, and even to our own, when war and its after-effects on society, violence, economic difficulties, contagious illnesses, social restlessness, immorality and amorality take their toll on the spiritual life of God’s people.  Even those of deep faith can experience a dryness and spiritual fatigue. They look for understanding and direction.  They seek someone who will journey with them and nourish them with God’s Word and healing grace.  To see St. Francis, signed with the sign of the Crucified, made Jesus come alive in the hearts of those he met and with whom he spoke. The Stigmata he bore were a visible sign to all of a presence that was reassuring, encouraging, life-giving.  Isaiah spoke of the wounds of Christ centuries before His Passion and Death – Through His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53: 4-5).  St. Francis of Assisi accepted to let those wounds come alive once again in his own body, and thus be a reminder and a sign of hope through Jesus’ self-sacrificing love in His Eucharistic Presence that re-presents His redemptive Passion-Death-Resurrection; those wounds kept the reality of that one great sacrifice vividly alive before the eyes of all.

The great scene of that field of bones in Ezekiel is also a reminder of what we are without God, and what we become once we allow His Word to enter our lives and His Spirit-breath to enter our hearts. There is a gradual and effective rebirth, a new creation, a re-creation in each one of us. God Himself intervenes by doing in-with-for us what is otherwise humanly impossible.  When we feel like ‘dry bones’ – tired, discouraged, disillusioned, even despairing – that is the moment for us to hope against all hope (Romans 4: 18).  God Himself will bring about our spiritual ‘resurrection’ in this life.  The sign of our faith is the Resurrection of Christ and the Eucharist offers us the opportunity to participate in His Passion-Death-Resurrection, our pledge of future life and glory. Love for the cross is the distinctive sign of chosen souls. Jesus’ wounds remind us how He loved us to His death that we might live with Him.

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

The signing of our Seraphic Father with the Sacred Stigmata of Jesus calls us to action.  It must however begin with each one of us first, then reach out to others. Ultimately we reach a point where everything is in perspective and even the world is put under our feet; it becomes the theater of salvation, rather than a stumbling-block of distractions and seductions that destroy fervor and lead to tepidity, indifference, and finally separation from all that is good and all that is God. St. Francis’ Prayer asking to experience the love that Jesus had in dying for us and the reception of the Stigmata on La Verna help us to reflect upon a simple and powerful way to strengthen and deepen our spiritual lives.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8)     Place the World Under Your Feet – Like the famous image of St. Francis embracing the Crucified with the world at his feet, now we are able to use the world as the theater of redemption it is and make use of all creation as the gifts that can lead us to the fullness of life, rather than allow the world to control, condition, and ultimately condemn us.

The impression of the Stigmata of Jesus on Saint Francis of Assisi, celebrated this month, challenges us to remember and live the words Per Crucem ad Lucem –Through the Cross to the Light. The wounds of the Passion speak of a world that refused and rejected that incarnate God, Who took on human nature that humanity might rise above what was leading it astray.  Treachery, betrayal, capture, torture, and death were the ‘thanks’ offered all the blessings bestowed and received.  The wounds we celebrate in Our Seraphic Father call us to be spiritually impressed with the same ‘signs’ and respond to the gift as did St. Francis.

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

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

–     The heart pierced reminds us that we must disarm our hearts to one another and allow all to enter our loving embrace that they too, as we, may discover the limitless and unconditional love of God through us.

Let the Impression of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus on the body of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi speak to you. 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.  Happy Feast Day to all!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Message from NEC Concerning Scandal in Churches in Pennsylvania

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Lord give you peace!
 
The National Executive Council is publishing the following statement regarding the recent scandal in the Churches of Pennsylvania.   It will soon be posted on our website and social media.
This message is addressed to all Secular Franciscans.  Please share it widely.  Thank you!
 
With you in prayer,
Jan and the NEC
 
Jan Parker OFS
Minister, Secular Franciscan Order USA
 
Renewed and Confirmed: Live the Treasure!
Celebrating 40 Years of our OFS Rule

A Message to Secular Franciscans

Regarding the Recent Scandal in the Churches of Pennsylvania

Sisters and Brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, United States:

The release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania is a cause of sorrow, pain and agonizing self-scrutiny for the Catholic Church in the United States.  We are again face to face with the tragic reality of sinful abuse perpetrated on the most vulnerable of our faith family.  How, we ask, can we trust those shepherds with our lives, our children and our faith?  Can the victims find peace and healing in the Church that betrayed their innocence?  Can we, as professed Secular Franciscans, stand as mere bystanders watching this tragic play unfold before us?  What are we to do?  What can we do?

 It saddens all of us that a small minority of men who made a cmmitment to serve the Church betrayed the promises they made to serve, and used their positions of being an authority figure to aid predatory behavior; truly we have wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Mt 7:15)  If it were only a case of a few parish priests, the trust of Church leaders may more easily be re-established; but when it is demonstrated that our chief shepherds, the bishops, were involved in secrecy, cover ups and pay outs, the trust, respect and moral authority of the Church as an institution suffers great damage.  We must all face the truth and make no excuse for those who are guilty of these crimes against the living stones of the Church, the mystical body of Christ; those who have been unfaithful spouses to the Church as the Bride of Christ!

St John Chrysostom, a fourth century bishop, described pastors as the “salt of the earth”.

(Mt 5:13) He said of pastors, “If others lose their savor, then your ministry will help them regain it.  But if you yourselves suffer that loss, you will drag others down with you.”  Sisters and brothers, we have witnessed many being dragged down by those shepherds who have lost their savor as salt of the earth.

As a Secular Order, we are in a unique position to help those who feel abandoned, threatened and fearful of the clerical hierarchy that betrayed their trust.  We are an order of people in the pew.  As people in the pew we can listen to our broken sisters and brothers.  We can listen without judging, without trying to immediately heal them of their pain. We can listen to them and acknowledge their pain without defending or making excuses for the institution that betrayed them.  We can “with a gentle and courteous spirit accept them all as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ” (OFS Rule, Art.13). We can make contributions to support the counselors who will help heal the wounds of those suffering souls.

We were founded as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.  All of us in our individual life, in our fraternities, in our regions and our national fraternity must do penance for this great sin.  Some demons can only be cast out through prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29) This is our call to action! Our Lord asked St. Francis to rebuild the Church which was falling into ruin.  Are we called to do anything less as followers of Francis?  Francis lived his vocation authentically as a living example of Gospel Life.  We must do the same.  Only by living an authentic Gospel life will our light shine and the Church be rebuilt.

We must also stand with our brothers and sisters who have and are serving the Church as good and faithful servants.  These men and women who are faithful to their call are now called to be suffering servants.  They are guilty by association with the Church institution that has betrayed their trust.  How difficult it will be for them to preach the Gospel as representatives of a Church that has lost its moral authority in the public square and in the pew.  We must stand by those faithful servants and help them continue to look after the well-being of others.

Sisters and Brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, we stand in support of the victims and in favor of holding those responsible for these crimes accountable for their actions.  We pray for healing, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation and a Church that will be rebuilt and with God’s grace, and the movement of Holy Spirit, one day, will once again be a beacon of light, hope and refuge.  Let us go forth and witness to the light of Christ and rebuild the Church so that it may once again be full of grace and truth.

The National Executive Council of the Secular Franciscan Order USA (OFS-USA)

August 26, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – August 2018

August 2018 

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

 All peace and good be with you!  It is hard to believe summer is half over!  I was in the car with one of my granddaughters yesterday and as we passed her school she said how much she missed school and wanted summer to end.  Music to a grandpa’s heart… I said it is wonderful that you love to learn.  She said in her adorable way “Grandpa, I don’t like learning, I miss my friends!” as it should be.  The same is true with our fraternities, we are friends, we are family we should love to gather and be together.  Including just having fun!   

As you know we took a short break from Initial Formation in July’s letter to discuss ongoing formation.  Well, it is time to get back to initial formation.  As you know we were discussing Inquiry and using the Pathways to Profession Chart1 to bring order and constancy to our journey and the exploration of Secular Franciscan spirituality.  Everything we do and teach should be based on this concept and founded in the FUN Manual and the Regional Guidelines.  If we do this we will know we are on the correct path.   

So, when we left off in June, we were discussing Inquiry.  Inquiry is the first true step in initial formation for the Secular Francians.  Orientation is important but is just that, it is meant to give a person some terms and a basic understanding of what will be happening.  But by now your “Inquirer” should have had time to get familiar with some of the language we use (in orientation) and you, the formation team and the members of the fraternity should be getting to know the Inquirer.  And please note I called them an “Inquirer” not Postulate or Novice.  Since regionalization and the adoption of the new rule (forty years ago) the correct terms are Inquirery and Candidacy or Inquirer or Candidate.  While we are on that subject, the Minister or president of a fraternity (at any level) is no longer referred to as a Prefect, it is either minister or president, more places use minister.  But I digress, I apologize. 

Back to the Inquirer, by now you should have collected all of the Spiritual Inventory, sacramental records and other important documents.  There should have been at least one formal interview and possibly two.  In my fraternity we frequently have a BBQ or Picnic with the inquirers and the council instead.  This make the situation much less threatening.  As your Inquirer nears the end of the inquiry phase, they should be invited to request Candidacy (in writing) including why they feel called to a Franciscan vocation.   

Once that is done, the formation team and the fraternity council should review all the documents including the home work where appropriate and have a discussion as to whether they see a vocation in the individual.  Once discussed a council vote should occur and there should be no doubt the individual should continue.  If there is any doubt, a further discussion needs to happen.  What do we do now? 

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.   

Pax et Bonum 

Peace and all Good 

 Ted Bienkowski, OFS 

SKD Region Formation Director 

 

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. – August 2018

August 2018

I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

so that, through the prayers and merits of the

holy and glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother,

and of our most blessed father Francis and of all the saints,

the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning,

may give increase and may also give final perseverance.

Amen.

(The Testament of St. Clare of Assisi)

 

Following are excerpts taken from early documents that speak of  St. Clare of Assisi.

In the month that celebrates the glory of our Holy Mother, we read testimonies

from  the Acts of the Process of Canonization (1st and 2nd Witnesses).

 

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

 

1

Saint Clare, while that holy woman was in the world…was considered by all who knew her to be a person of great honesty and of very good life; and she was intent upon and occupied with works of piety. (1st Witness) – The danger of indifference demands we do battle with triteness, shallowness, and dullness, and that we have to resist and begin to go in the other direction.

2

Saint Clare began the Order that is now at San Damiano through the admonition of Saint Francis.  She entered it as a virgin, and always remained such a virgin. (1st Witness) – Truly good people are always unconscious of their goodness.

3

Lady Clare very much loved the poor, and all the citizens held her in great veneration because of her good manner of life. (1st Witness) – When we compare ourselves with other people, we seem good; when we compare ourselves with God, we are nothing.

4

After Saint Clare had been in the Order, at the prayers and insistence of Saint Francis, who almost forced her, she accepted the direction and government of the sisters. (1st Witness) – Love quickly decays.  Has our love grown cold?

5

The blessed mother (Saint Clare) kept vigil so much of the night in prayer, and kept so many abstinences, that the sisters lamented and were alarmed. (1st Witness) – The closer we get to Christ, the less certain we are of any merit of our own.

6

Lady Clare lay on the ground and had a rock from the river for her head…She was so very strict in her food that the sisters marveled at how her body survived. (1st Witness) – The older we get, the better we see ourselves.

7

Blessed Clare fasted much of the time.  Three days of the week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she did not eat anything…Saint Francis together with the bishop of Assisi commanded her to eat on those days at least a half a roll of bread… (1st Witness) – The psychology of mediocrity seeks rather to ease the problem than cure it.

8

When she came from prayer, she admonished and comforted her sisters always speaking the words of God Who was always in her mouth, so much so that she did not want to speak or hear of vanities. (1st Witness) – Life had to be forfeited for our sins, and no life is more precious than that of God who became man. His blood … paid the infinite price.

9

When she (Saint Clare) commanded her sisters to do something, she did so with great fear and humility and more often than not she wished to do what she had commanded the others. (1st Witness) – Even if we claim not to believe, we still experience the moral effects of guilt.

10

When she was sick that she could not get up from bed, she had herself raised to sit up and be supported with some cushions…She spun thread so that, from her work, she made corporals and altar linens for almost all the churches of the plains and hills of Assisi. (1st Witness) – The great sin of the human race is rebellion.  We are rebels against God.

11

The blessed mother was humble, kind, and loving to her sisters, and had compassion for the sick. (1st Witness) – We need to resolve to change, because when we fall into a pattern of ordinariness, we are loath to change.

12

While she was healthy, she (Saint Clare) served them and washed their feet and gave them water with her own hands.  Sometime she washed the mattresses of the sick. (1st Witness) – You will always know the dark days of the Church (and our own) when there is a walking away from the cross of Christ.

13

She particularly loved poverty, but she could never be persuaded to desire anything for herself, or to receive any possession for herself or the monastery. (1st Witness) – There is no such thing as capturing the passing glory. You have to go down the hill and climb the hill of Calvary to come to perfect glory.

14

Lady Clare was as careful about the regular observance of her Order and the government of the sisters as someone might be in safeguarding his temporal treasure. (1st Witness) – The modern world is very fond of denying responsibility; it began in Eden.  The denial of responsibility stops at the cross of Christ.

15

When five sisters were sick in the monastery, Saint Clare made the sign of the cross with her own hand over them and all of them were immediately cured. (1st Witness) – The Cross without Christ is tyranny; Christ without the Cross is a lie.

16

Lady Clare, former abbess of the monastery of San Damiano, had marvelous humility and so looked down on herself … that those tasks which she knew were more degrading she herself performed. (2nd Witness) – Like vines, we must be pruned by the gardener, that we might be more fruitful.

17

She (St. Clare) was eighteen years old or so (when she entered religious life)…She was a virgin in spirit and in body and held in great veneration by all who knew her even before she entered religion…because of her great honesty, kindness, and humility. (2ndWitness) – Galatians 5&6 – After we have embraced discipline, then we will be prepared to change others.

18

She was also so severe toward her body that she was content with only one tunic of ‘lazzo’ (i.e. home-spun cloth made of inferior wool and used by the country folk) and one mantle. (2nd Witness) – Softness of character comes about when we desire to accommodate ourselves to the world, shrinking away from sacrifice, self-denial.

19

If she (St. Clare) ever saw that the tunic of another of the sisters was worse than what she was wearing, she took it from her for herself and gave the better one to that  sisters. (2nd Witness) – The Lord heals, but not always.  There will not be a complete healing until the whole cosmos is renewed.

20

Clare at one time had a certain shirt made of boar’s hide.  She wore it secretly under her woolen tunic with the skin and its bristles close to her skin. (2nd Witness) – Christ solved pain by making it a condition of life. He conquered pain by using it as a means of attaining glory.

21

She used such rough haircloths and shirts for herself, but was very merciful to the sisters who could not endure such harshness, and willingly gave them consolation. (2nd Witness) – God chooses us not for what we are, but for what God knows we can become.

22

Blessed Clare, before she was sick, practiced great abstinence: the greater Lent, of Saint Martin, she always fasted on bread and water, except on Sundays when she drank a little wine when there was some. (2nd Witness) – Love knows no limits.

23

At about midnight she woke the sisters with certain signs in silence to praise God.  She lit the lamps in the church and frequently rang the bells for Matins.  Those sisters who did not rise at the sound of the bell she called with her signs. (2nd Witness) – Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.

24

Her speech was always about the things of God.  She did not wish to talk about worldly things or for the sisters to remember these things. (2ndWitness)  – The crucifix is my autobiography.  The blood is the ink.  The  nails the pen.  The  skin the parchment. On every line of that body I can trace my life.

25

If it happened at times that some worldly person did something contrary to God, astonishingly she wept, reproached such a person, and exhorted that one anxiously to turn to penance. (2nd Witness) – Instead of a question of superiority or inferiority (in the Church and in fraternity) it is a question of the different roles we fulfill.

26

Lady Clare frequently confessed, and, with great devotion and fear, frequently received the holy sacrament of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, trembling all over as she did so. (2nd Witness) – We are all thieves. We cheat God in our lives; we cheat Him in our worship; we cheat Him in our relationships with others.  In us Jesus is reputed among the wicked.

27

Concerning the corporals made from her spinning…she had paper boxes lined with silk made to hold them and had them blessed by the bishop. (2nd Witness) – Scripture never speaks of reconciliation except through the death of Christ.  We are saved by the cross and resurrection.

28

(One sister) had lost her voice so that she was barely able to speak even softly. She had a vision on the night of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in which Lady Clare, while making the sign of the cross with her hand over her, cured her.  It was done in such a way that on the same day she was cured since she did make the sign of the cross over her. (2nd Witness) – Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus and both repented.  One repented to the Lord and the other repented to himself.  One lived in hope and the other died in despair.

29

A certain brother of the Order of Friars Minor, Stephen, was mentally ill.  Saint Francis sent him to the monastery of San Damiano, so Saint Clare would make the sign of the cross over him. After she had done this, the brother went to sleep…Upon waking, he ate a little and then departed cured. (2nd Witness) – In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord suffered not so much from pain, as from evil.

30

When certain Saracens scaled the wall and climbed down into the part within the cloister of San Damiano, holy mother Saint Clare, then seriously ill, got up from her bed, called her sisters, comforting them not to be afraid.  After she prayed, the Lord delivered the monastery and the sisters from the enemy.  Those Saracens, who had already  entered, departed. (2nd Witness) – The sufferings of our blessed Lord were finished in Him as the head of the church, but they are not finished in his body (the Church, us).

31

Through the virtues and grace that God had placed in her, all who knew her considered her a saint. She especially had a great love of poverty.  Neither Pope Gregory nor the Bishop of Ostia could make her consent to receive any possessions. (2nd Witness) – Nothing gives us so much understanding of the love of God, the sacrificial love, as God coming down to this world from heavenly headquarters and saying: ‘I will take the pain as my own’…This is the agape love of Christianity.

 

 

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – August, 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

August 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

For centuries the Christian world has celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven.  This crowning moment in Her life was never really disputed by most Christians before the rise of Protestantism. As time moves on, the world and its values often clouds the vision of our minds and hearts.  As the modern world places humanity at the center rather than God, society takes a different view of life and basic human values.   Technology has become the ‘god’ for many, a practical atheism if not a theoretical one.  Materialism, commercialism, hedonism, just to mention a few ‘isms’ of our day, have sunk their roots deep into the human experience and often seduce the heart and soul urging us to confide in the passing things of time rather than in the lasting gifts of eternity.  The cult of the body has dominated our society for years.  Sixty years ago, recognizing these serious dangers, Pope Pius XII   proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven, November 1st, 1950, amidst a gathering of thousands in St. Peter’s Basilica. This proclamation was the crowning recognition of the simple Maiden of Nazareth, Whose unconditional faith opened Her life to God’s will, and the world to salvation.

The story of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is beautifully told in the Apocrypha (texts not inserted among the books of Sacred Scripture by the Bishops gathered at the Council of Nicea in the fourth century).  The story lets us see how the early Church truly loved Mary as the highest honor of our race. It is no wonder that so many saints have had a particular and deep love and filial devotion for Our Lady.  Our own Seraphic Father St. Francis and Holy Mother St. Clare were devoted children of this Most Holy of Mothers, Whose love envelopes us with Her protective mantle. Close to Her Immaculate Heart, Her children feel secure from harm and assured of an Advocate almighty by intercession with God.

Saint Francis loved Christ and was deeply struck by the humility of the Incarnation and the love of His Passion.  He wanted to conform himself totally to Christ, so that Christ would be the true foundation of his life.  This love for Christ inevitably led him to a profound love for Mary, the Mother of the Lord.  In fact, as Celano states: He embraced the Mother of Jesus with inexpressible love, since She made the Lord of Majesty a brother to us.  He honored Her with his own Praises, poured out prayers to Her, and offered Her his love in a way that no human tongue can express.  But what gives us greatest joy is that he appointed Her the Advocate of the Order, and placed under Her wings the sons to be left behind, that She might protect and cherish them to the end. (2 Celano, chpt.150) Love for Our Lady moved him to imitate Her virtues.  He would tell his friars that it is the example of Christ and His Most Holy Mother that we follow in choosing the way of true poverty. (Legend of Perugia, #3)

St. Francis wanted this basic element of his spirituality to be the same basis for the spirituality of St. Clare and her religious family. Thus an essential element of the life of Clare and her sisters is the love and devotion they have for the Mother of Jesus, whom St. Clare considers their true Mother. The love of Clare for Mary is apparent from the first moment of her consecration to God.  Once she abandoned her home, city and family, she fled to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula (Our Lady of the Angels), where the brothers, who were waiting for her in prayer before the little altar in that chapel, received Clare with lighted torches. (Life, #8).  It was here that St. Francis cut her hair before the altar, in the Church of the Virgin Mary (Process, #12), and it was here that the humble handmaid was wed to Christ (Life, #8) Saint Mary of the Portiuncula is that famous place where the new throng of the poor began, guided by Francis: thus it appears clearly that the Mother of mercy gave birth to both Orders in Her own dwelling place. (Life, #8)

St. Clare began her new life at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She had a particular love and devotion for Her and wanted her sisters, although they received the precious Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion only seven times a year, to receive communion on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. (Rule, #3) Clare even desired that any form of fasting be dispensed on the feasts of Mary.  As much in love as Clare was with Christ Crucified, so also was she with the His Mother, reflecting upon Her sorrows.  She wrote to Sister Ermentrude: Meditate constantly on the mysteries of the cross and the agonies of His Mother standing at the foot of the Cross. (Letter to Ermentrude)

Clare was deeply convinced that perseverance in her vocation gave honor to Mary.  She prayed for the gift of perseverance, and in her Testament she writes: Let us be very careful that, if we have set out on the path of the Lord, we do not at any time turn away from it through our own fault and ignorance, or that we do a great wrong to so great a Lord and His Virgin Mother, and our blessed father Francis, the Church Triumphant and even the Church Militant…For this reason, I bend the knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ so that, through the prayers and merits of the glorious and holy Virgin Mary, His Mother, and our most blessed father Francis and all the saints, the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning, may give the increase and may give final perseverance. Amen. (Testament)

Clare’s love for Mary was a transforming element for her,   that she expressed in the imitation of Mary’s virtues.  Even Cardinal Rainaldo in the letter of  Approval of the Rule, recognizes that the community of St. Clare follows in the footsteps of Christ and His Most Holy Mother, and have chosen to live a cloistered life. Of all the aspects of the life of Jesus and Mary, Clare is particularly concerned with imitating the poverty of Mary that she might be also faithful to the example of Francis, who sought to follow the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother.  It was this deep love for Mary that merited for Clare the assistance of Our Blessed Mother during her illness.  One biographer writes that when Clare seemed close to death, surrounded by her sisters who were weeping, a Benedictine nun had a vision and saw a beautiful lady at the head of the bed who addressed the weeping sisters saying: Daughters, do not cry for one who still must live on until the Lord with His disciples comes to her. (Life, #40)

Mary is the Mother of all the living (Lumen Gentium, #56)   Mary gives birth to God, by giving Him our human nature.  And Her Son, receiving from Her all that is human, gives Her, as much as possible, all that is of God.  Jesus was like Mary in Her human form, and Mary was like Jesus in His spiritual form.  There was never a creature so much ‘like God’ than Mary.  Between Mother and Son there was a full and perfect union and correspondence, even in that insurmountable distance that separates the divine Son from Her, a pure creature. (Free translation from St. Lawrence of Brindisi) It is this relationship between the human and the divine that Clare will learn and deepen through her love for Jesus and Mary.

Clare’s love for Jesus and Mary leads her to an active contemplation of Jesus and Mary that culminates at the foot of the Cross in the ultimate sign of the depth of God’s love for humanity, and humanity’s participation with God in Mary. Her love for the Crucified Christ leads to Mary, the Virgin Made Church, Whose ‘yes’ to God made our redemption possible. Before the image of the Crucified, Clare opens herself to the mystery of God’s limitless love for all humanity, and there she finds the Mother of the Redeemer Who leads her to contemplate the role Mary was called to fulfill in our salvation history. From the first moment of Her Conception until Her glorious Assumption to the right hand of Her Son Jesus, Mary is an intimate collaborator in the mystery of salvation.  She offers Jesus to others, disregarding the disadvantages to Herself, so that Jesus in turn could offer Himself for us all. Mary’s collaboration from the first moment of the Lord’s conception in Her womb is remembered by the Evangelists. Mary carries Jesus, still within Her womb, to Elizabeth and the Baptist; She presents Him to the Magi; She offers Him to Simeon and Anna; She encourages Him to perform His first miracle to save a young couple from embarrassment; She accompanies Him to Calvary and death where, at the foot of the Cross, She offers Him and Herself with Him.  In the sufferings of Calvary Mary became our Mother in the life of grace. Her spiritual itinerary is the life of one who accepted and lived God’s Will. When Mary and her relatives went to see Jesus at Capharnum, Jesus said to the one who told Him His Mother and relatives were looking for Him: My Mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and live It. Jesus does not distance Himself from His Mother Mary but, on the contrary, extols Her greatness because She believed and accepted the Father’s Will, as He Himself was doing even in His own journey to the Cross.

Clare, in imitation of Mary, opened her heart and life to live God’s Will as it was proclaimed by the Magisterium and counseled by St. Francis.  Yet, with all her simple, humble obedience, Clare is a woman radical in her approach to the life she has been called to live, flexible towards her sisters and the human weaknesses she encounters, and truly free to be detached from all that could keep her from focusing on the eternal gifts and striving for them.  Clare is an image of that strong Woman who stood at the foot of the Cross with the dignity of an empress and a heart pierced with the sorrow of a loving Mother.  Clare could stand her ground firmly convinced for years with the officials of the Church for the Privilege of Poverty that eventually she was granted shortly before her death; yet she would be aware of and respond with the love, concern, and the flexibility of a caring mother to the needs of her sisters and any who came seeking her assistance. She lived the words she wrote to her spiritual daughter, St. Agnes of Prague:  Embrace the poor Christ.  Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him…gaze, consider, contemplate desiring to imitate your Spouse. (2nd Letter to St. Agnes of Prague)

Saint Clare of Assisi ‘gazed upon the Lord’ in the depths of her heart and in the faces of her sisters and others. With the love of a mother, she responded to their needs, and even placed her own life in jeopardy for their sake. Remember the two times we are told she saved the monastery from invasion and the sisters from harm by standing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament between the sisters and the invaders. Jesus was the center of her life.  He filled her with courage and strength; Mary was the valiant woman of Scripture whose example helped her instill serenity and peace in others.

As spiritual children of our seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy Mother St. Clare, let us follow their example. Let Christ be our center so that we too may irradiate goodness and peace to all. Let Mary be our Mother whose life, from Her Immaculate Conception to Her Assumption body and soul into heaven, be a constant reminder of our origins in God’s love. God’s love for us is His pledge to us in Jesus that we, one day, will have the opportunity to share the eternal joys of heaven in the body with which we were known on earth and through which we sought to give glory and praise to God. O Christian, remember your dignity (St. Leo the Great) and live as redeemed children of God.

We have considered the marvelous privilege of our Heavenly Mother’s Assumption into heaven, the great love of our Seraphic Father St. Francis for “the Virgin made Church”, and the life of our Mother St. Clare, truly filled with the same spirit and love of St. Francis for Mary. May we follow the examples of our “Assisian Parents”.

My God bless you; may Our Lady, guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our Holy Mother St. Clare watch over each one of  us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018

July 2018

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 sources

1

Servants of the Lord should not be ignorant of the lives and teachings of saints through which they can come to God. (Prologue) – When you come to Christ, Christianity demands the personal, intimate bond.  We have to be one with him, and reflect the person, mind, will, heart and humanity of Christ.

2

On the 16th of April, after 1207 years completed since the Incarnation of the Lord … God saw that His people … had forgotten His commandments … desiring not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live… God willed to send workers into His vineyard. (chpt.1) – Faith is not the will to believe; it is the acceptance of truth based on the authority of God’ revelation.

3

Preoccupied with thoughts of wealth … Francis sent (a beggar away) without giving him alms … touched by divine grace, he began to accuse himself. (chpt.1) –Reconciliation is inseparable from the death of Christ. We never have reconciliation without the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord. » Click to continue reading “Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018” »

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 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     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 

July 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

St. Francis of Assisi has a powerful hold over the hearts of many Catholics, non-Catholics, and even non-Christians.  The ‘Poverello’ of Assisi, whose death occurred over eight centuries ago, lives on in his spiritual children and all those who have come to understand the importance of his all-embracing ministry.  God offers us extraordinary signs to remind us that God is with us.  The miracles that suspend or enhance the laws of nature are only messages reminding us that what seems permanent is only passing.  The famous ‘bookmark’ of Saint Teresa of Avila states: Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you.  All things are passing. God alone remains.  Who possesses God possesses all things.

Holiness is being possessed by God. If we seek only the extraordinary, we may fail to recognize the wonderful gifts found in the ‘ordinary’ experiences of life. God is always at work fulfilling His will in both the ordinary and the extraordinary.  Focusing on ‘the wonder of the miraculous’ in the life of any holy person, we may lose sight of the ever-present gifts of grace in him/her, that we too share with the saint according to our cooperation with God’s grace. » Click to continue reading “Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018” »