Fr. Francis’ Greetings – June, 2015


June, 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, may you enter the loving embrace of the Eternal Father Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love!

The month dedicated to God’s Love for us in the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, offers us an opportunity to reflect on the words attributed to our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi: Love is not loved. Love is not loved! One of the main elements of our Franciscan Vocation is our call to be brother and sister to one another… To love one another. We are called to remember, as St. Francis reminds the Family in the First Rule: As a mother loves her child in the flesh, how much more must we love one another in the Spirit?  This kind of “love” is not some fuzzy feeling we look for, but a concrete expression that manifests itself in the way we live and treat one another, and all creation.   It is expressed in how we view our vocation. Thus it conditions how we understand our relationship with those who have committed themselves with us to the Franciscan charism.

We have promised to live the Gospel life concretely. Most religious communities have based their charism on either some aspect of apostolic life or some spiritual aspect of the life of the early church. As Franciscans we have promised to live the Gospel life. The Gospel life lived by Jesus and His disciples gathered with Him while He still walked among us as a human being. His disciples followed Jesus wherever He went, they listened to His words, they spoke in His name, they even performed miracles in His name. While it took some time, and Jesus’ trust in them and patience with them, they eventually worked at making their human differences not be a stumbling block but a stepping stone for them to strengthen the bond among them. This had become so obvious, that the early church would hear non-Christians say: See how they love one another (cfr. John 13: 35; Tertullian).

There is never a time when we can say that we have “done it all”, and that there is no more for us to learn or do. We are bombarded with information all our lives. How we understand and learn from our experiences will determine how we become and are bettered or worsened.   This is how information leads to formation. We process and often are assisted to build on our experiences and knowledge. For this reason the Regional Council, as all of the Councils of the Order at all levels of the various Obediences (I, II, III Regular, Secular) are constantly hammering away at the sisters and brothers of our Franciscan Family to deepen their Franciscan charism by deepening their relationship with God and their greater awareness, understanding, appreciation, and living out of our Franciscan vocation.

Our Regional Ministers together with the Councils that have ministered to our sisters and brothers in their various triennia of service to the O.F.S. Region of St. Katherine Drexel have continually urged all the fraternities to reflect upon our common vocation to the Gospel Life as Franciscans. Unfortunately, too many of our professed sisters and brothers often have a confused understanding of what it means to live our Franciscan life. Some view the Secular Order as a social club, parish society, “happy death” society. Many have acted as though the fraternity was a stepping stone for some sense of personal advancement rather than opportunity for greater service to others. Knowledge of our Franciscan charism is relegated to the obligatory formation period before profession, afterward, there is “no more need for formation”; there is nothing more distant from the truth!

The following are a few comments worthy of reflection, and there are many more that follow from these. These are not personal observations. These comments and/or observations have continually been vocalized because of some basic misconceptions some Franciscans (including to a greater degree our own Seculars) have regarding the sisters and brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order.

∙          The Secular Franciscans do belong to an “Order”.

∙          The Secular Franciscans are an effective branch of the worldwide Franciscan Family.

∙          The Secular Franciscans are expected to recognize all professed members as “family” and even those in process of acceptance as worthy of our love and support.

∙          The Secular Franciscans are not just encouraged but expected to continue their personal and collective formation through prayer, study, sharing, ministries to others, and so forth.

∙          The Secular Franciscans are called to a deeper relationship with God and one another…and so much more.


In view of the above statements and so many more we have heard concerning our Franciscan vocation, please consider the following paragraphs. They are taken from the Minister General of the Capuchin Franciscan Family (though other Ministers have written similar words to their respective obediences), and our Holy Father Pope Francis, and are offered for your reflection. Where necessary for the sake of adaptability and better understanding of their reference to our Franciscan Secular Family, some words or small phrases have been adapted. The essence of the two messages is the same; the words were adapted to our Secular Franciscan reflection.

I ask that the sisters and brothers of our Secular Franciscan Family take time out of each day to read and reflect upon the Rule and Constitutions of the Order, as well as the writings that speak of our life. The responsibility of this ongoing formation process is not left solely to the elected leaders of the Region and local ministers, but it is also the personal responsibility of each sister and brother. When you gather together for your monthly meeting, talk, dialogue, and discuss points of our Franciscan charism or teachings of the Magisterium. During the days between meetings, be excited about who we are and seek to deepen your awareness and love for the Order. Your identity and sense of belonging can be a valuable topic for discussion and dialogue in the ever present duty we have for continuing our formation, not necessarily as students in a classroom as much as sisters and brothers in a family whose roots, ancestors, hopes, fears, goals, visions are an exciting incentive that urges you to build on the information you receive and grow in the formation of your Franciscan Character.

  1. What, in your opinion, are the elements that make up our Franciscan identity that have the greatest priority in the current situation of our Order, in your personal life, and in the social and cultural environment in which you live? How does it affect you? How do you affect the world around you? What makes you say this?
  2. Regarding the sense of belonging, what are the greatest difficulties you experience in believing and feeling a sense of belonging to a “family”, the Franciscan Family? If you experience no difficulties, why? Does your biological family encourage and support you? Are family and friends a reason or an excuse for not fully living, every day, your commitment to our charism as seculars? Is there a spirit of transparency, based on trust, among the sisters and brothers? Are there other areas that affect a sense of belonging that you believe must be addressed in your own life and/or in that of your fraternity?
  3. What are the most important things that need to be done in your fraternity to reinforce your identity as Secular Franciscans and the sense of belonging to the Order?

Having read the above, take time, please, to reflect on the words that Pope Francis addressed to the Conference of Superiors on November 29, 2013. Let us challenge ourselves, without fear, to convert our attitudes, our mentality, and our affections to Him who, by letting us share in the charism of St. Francis, has prepared for us a path of holiness that if traveled, will bring our existence to its fulfillment.

“Wake up world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world. We are speaking of an eschatological gaze of values of the Kingdom incarnate here, on this earth. It is about leaving everything to follow the Lord. You must be true witnesses of a different way of behaving. But in life it is with difficulty that everything becomes clear, precise, and precisely drawn. Life is complex, made of grace and sin. We all err and must recognize our weakness. A religious (also a Secular Franciscan) that recognizes himself (or herself) as weak and a sinner does not contradict the witness he/she is called to give, but rather reinforces it, and this does good for all. What I expect then is witness, I want … this special witness” (Pope Francis with the Superiors General, 4 January 2014).

We speak of our Franciscan charism as being a call to the Gospel Life. The Gospel Life is one lived in proximity to others and with others and for others. Like any life, it is prone to change and challenges. The only way we can grow through the gifted experience of our Franciscan vocation is by loving it enough to live it each day with an open heart and mind.

In the spirit of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us take that first step on our daily pilgrim journey. As Saint Francis said to his first followers as he lay dying, I have done my part, now you must do yours . We are our St. Francis’ “backup plan”. He expects us to continue the mission to continue to make the Gospel come alive in the world. As we move forward on our pilgrim journey, we will touch the lives of many according to how we live our own. May our Heavenly Mother Mary accompany us on this journey. May She lead all people to Our Lord Jesus Christ Her Son. With Mary as “pilgrim mother” on the journey with us, let us live and accept the challenge to join the band of Gospel pilgrims who journey through life to Life.

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. In the Love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I pray that Jesus bestow on all of you and your loved ones…

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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