Fr. Francis' Greetings - October 2014

October 2014


Dear Brothers and Sisters in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

The children of St. Francis of Assisi have always regarded Mary, the Mother of the Savior and Mother of God, as our Mother and Heavenly Queen. Her role in the History of our Salvation leaves no room to doubt why we Franciscans would consider her in such an exceptional and eminent way. In the spirit and filial love of our Seraphic Father for Mary we, his children, place our trust in Her prayers and almighty intercession before God as Mother of His Son and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

The month of October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary of our Blessed Mother and also Respect for Human Life at all stages from conception to natural death. This is a yearly reminder and daily celebration of life throughout the whole the month. We celebrate Christ’s human life and the life of each one of us and of those who are yet to be. As the Church, God’s Family, we are asked to reflect upon human life as the God-given gift it is, and to accept the imperative for all human beings to value each life as a reflection of the One Who called that life into being and was not ashamed to celebrate it with us by becoming one of His own creation.

Human life was shared with us by God Himself in Jesus the Christ. Because of His immersion into our human nature and its experiences, we become so intimately connected with the eternal that at times we can almost “feel” the supernatural around us and within us. We can never hope to meaningfully enter the reality of what life is all about, unless we are willing to view it from the perspective of God. Because of Her intimate union with God through grace, Mary was able to do this at every moment and stage of her life, no matter how banal the moment could have seemed. When God is the source, goal, and “means” of all we seek, nothing is “banal”. We are the children of Mary. Thus we share, according to our cooperation with God’s graces, in that “sacredness of the moment”. In our Mother Mary we are sisters and brothers of the Christ; and in Him we are daughters and sons of God. We know that Mary’s place in the divine scheme of things is infinitely less than that of God, but so eminently greater than ours, that we can look to Mary, our Blessed Mother, and see the type of Christian we are called to be. The journey of Mary with Jesus, celebrated in the prayerful recitation of the Rosary Mysteries, leads us into a dimension of the Spirit that makes our life more peaceful and meaningful. All we have to do is meditate, reflect, apply … PRAY… the mysteries with love! If we look at Jesus with the eyes of our heart through the eyes and heart of His Mother, we will see ourselves there with Him in each mystery of His life. We will better understand the message proposed for our consideration and the virtue we are called to live.

Pope St. John Paul II enhanced the praying of the mysteries of the Rosary by offering the Luminous Mysteries as an addition to our meditations. Through the four sets of five decades, we make a spiritual journey through the life of the Savior with Mary. The mysteries help us reflect upon our beginnings, our responsibilities, our challenges or even defeats, and our ultimate triumph through cooperation and collaboration with God’s grace. In this “Rosary Pilgrimage” we travel in the spirit with Jesus and Mary. The words we “pray” – not just “say” – bring calm and serenity to the body and soul, when prayed calmly and attentively. We see the mystery in our mind’s eye and allow the spirit of the words to help us “let go and let God” bring us closer to Him through Mary. Unfortunately, the journey of the Rosary that many take each day is often rushed. The words are repeated and the mystery enunciated, but the beautiful prayer has become so much a “habit” that we often do not “pray” the words as much as just “say” them. God accepts the best we can offer at the time, and our Mother, who loves us dearly, lovingly accepts even this distracted expression of our affection for Her. We must strive to do better and be at our best when we pray. Love never wants to rush the experience of the encounter with a loved one. Why would we want to rush our dialogue with the Mother to whom we were entrusted by God Himself?! Let us not forget that Her almighty intercession can open even Heaven’s Gates, we are told by the mystics.

We live in an uncertain world. Nations around the world are at war. Epidemics kill hundreds and thousands. Persecutions are decimating political and religious minorities. Religious and political fanatics terrorize and aim at eliminating whole peoples and cultures. Militant groups vow to destroy our Catholic Christian brothers and sisters and the Church itself. Need we go on with what we already know from some reliable sources, while the media often camouflages events or is silent about the facts? Our hearts beat rapidly when we hear what is happening around the world. Many of our own neighborhoods also have become hotbeds of violence: thefts, muggings, rapes, murders, and so on. Even good, trusting, prayerful souls become discouraged and fearful. We begin to ask: Where are you God? Why aren’t You doing something to stop this mayhem? Often the response is silence – silence from without but not from within! At times the response is similar to that given to Job: God poses the question and waits for us to realize the answer we always knew but were hesitant to admit. Our misuse of the great gift of free will has led us into situations that now frighten us. God’s creation is good. We must learn how to live as his beloved children, whatever our religious background may be.

There is an answer! The answer is Jesus! His life speaks volumes, as Saint John reminds us at the conclusion of the Gospel he wrote: Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25) It does not take a theologian or philosopher to understand what the crowds of simple people easily understood when Jesus spoke. It does not take clever politicians or powerful corporate magnates to understand what the influential and powerful of Jesus’ times were able to understand, so much so that they had to eliminate Him to continue, as they erroneously thought, to stay in power. It does not take the exaggerated bartering with God through His saints in a rambling repetition and recital of words that does not allow us to reflect on them as we ought. The Rosary is a simple means that helps us discover the answer we need. It may seem to be a repetitive recital of words and theological truths promoted by the Church. What makes it so different is that it is a song of love from the depths of a heart that cannot stop recognizing and acclaiming the beauty, power, majesty, glory and LOVE of God made manifest through the highest honor of our race – Mary – whose “yes” allows us to be collaborators with Jesus in the mystery and history of our salvation.

This prayer has its remote origins in those people of God who could not read but wanted to share in the prayer of the Church celebrated by the clergy and religious. The people gathered stones or knotted cords to number the psalms the religious recited each day in the monasteries. The people recited the basic prayers they had learned:

– the Creed that summarized their Catholic faith;

– the Our Father that followed the instruction of Jesus given in Scripture, expressing praise for and trust in God;

– the Doxology (Glory be) that praised God in Himself for all they received and sought in prayer; and …

– the Hail Mary – initially only the first half of the prayer we know was recited, as a reflection on the Incarnation and Mary’s role in our salvation – to remember and praise the Highest Honor of our race, through Whom God chose, because of her total availability to His Will, to enter our world and fulfill His Promise of Redemption.

For our prayer not to fall into a meaningless repetition of words, we must take time to think and reflect. The mysteries are so beautiful. And, with the extra five mysteries suggested by Pope St. John Paul II, we have a complete cycle of contemplative images of Jesus through Mary’s eyes and heart. They offer us encouragement and hope. To achieve this we must take time to reflect on each mystery and repeat calmly the words we pray. In this way our inner self – our soul – encounters the harmony and balance in praying the words that lead us to enter the mystery and savor its Spirit and Life.

Prayer is being in the presence of and relating to God from the heart. Prayers, when recited/offered as the instruments they are intended to be, achieve this goal. This is especially true for all of us whose minds are often cluttered with everyday responsibilities and duties. Reflective, repetitive, rhythmic prayer can help us “de-clutter” our minds and hearts for a while. This form of prayer thus enables us to view the world and concerns we have from the perspective of a people redeemed in the Blood of Jesus, who travel on the road to Salvation through the mediacy of Mary. What greater safeguard and certitude could we ask!? We see in the four sets of Mysteries our entire life set before us.

– The Joyful Mysteries lead us to reflect on the mystery of life that comes from God through the cooperation of his children, the parents, thus forming the nucleus of society – The Family. Mary’s acceptance of the challenge of Divine Motherhood sets the tone for the sacredness of all life. The journey of caring to Elizabeth, the magnificence of birth even in the barrenness of a hovel, the fulfillment of one’s duties toward God and the Law, as well as the family difficulties that cause anxiety and pain until they are resolved, as in the finding of Jesus in the Temple and the gentle reprimand of His Mother, all speak of the beauty and mystery of life at its beginning and discovery stages.

The Luminous Mysteries enlighten our hearts to understand our mid-life experiences. We assert ourselves and take our place in society. We become one with God’s people through our family and friends. We share in their joys and sorrows. We offer our support and advice, and transparently allowing others to see us as we are. We fulfill our purpose in life by accepting to be what God wants of us and offer our very best in everything.

The Sorrowful Mysteries remind us of life’s decline. There comes a time when we must “let go”. The difficulty is precisely in allowing ourselves that vulnerability. The fear and the anguish are only human. We make the experience divine when we entrust ourselves to the Will of the Father. We accept the burdens we cannot alleviate. We seek to be humble. We walk the journey set out for us. Ultimately we recognize that we too are called to be signs of God’s Plan for humanity as we “let go to let God” do as He wills, and trust in what lies beyond the barrier of physical death.

The Glorious Mysteries are those hope-filled reminders of a life without end. We look forward to be with the One Who has gone before us. We anticipate the day we will be with God in a nature transformed and glorified. Blessed on earth by the graces of the Holy Spirit, Whose Temple our bodies are, we look for the moment when, like Mary, we will share in the fullness of life, body and soul, and behold the glory of God with all His angels and saints.

Our Seraphic Father had a profound, childlike, and confident relationship with Mary. The Antiphon of Our Lady from the Office of the Passion expresses Francis’ belief regarding Mary’s true role and intimacy with the Blessed Trinity: Hail Virgin Mary, there is no one like you among the women in the world! You are the daughter and handmaid of the most high and supreme King and Father of heaven; you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ; you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit. He never doubted in her powerful intercession. The strength of Satan who fights against us is something terrible, but God has placed the cause of our salvation in the hands of our heavenly Mother. Protected and guided by so tender a Mother, we are enabled to continue the combat as long as God wills, full of confidence in this Mother’s protection, support, encouragement, intercession … Love, thus certain that we will never succumb. The Rosary is a beautiful, powerful, and efficacious weapon, accessible to all, and a sure means of strength to overcome the power of Satan.

As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, let our love for Mary be in the depths of our hearts and on our lips. May we take up the Rosary as the “weapon” that can conquer evil when it is brandished against the enemies of our souls. Let us pray the Rosary prayerfully and reflectively. Five decades prayed well is worth more than fifteen decades “fitted into” or “squeezed into” a list of “more important things to do”. Prayer is not a matter of quantity, but of quality and intensity. The deeper we allow our souls to enter the mystery of Jesus, the greater our experience of His presence in our life will be. Through the Rosary, with the heart and eyes of Mary, we strive to see Jesus and His life, as it is, the life of our Redeemer, Savior, and God’s Son. Jesus became our “Blood Brother” at the moment he entrusted Mary to us from His Cross. In him we have redemption through his blood … (Ephesians 1:7) How could we ever be discouraged when God is for us so intimately and lovingly … through Mary, His Daughter, Mother, Spouse!?

In this month of the Most Holy Rosary, journey with Jesus and Mary each day. Let this “Blessed Chain” of love-drenched prayers, like a garland of roses we bear in honor of Mary, be a source of strength and blessings for us all. May Almighty God bless you and your loved ones; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.


Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant


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