September 2019 Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap.

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

September 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

A young person graduates from college and is given a wonderful position in a profession about which he or she is excited and is overflowing with vision and creative ideas. A young man and young woman, deeply in love with each other, fulfill their life’s dream and are married with God’s blessings. Someone is called to enter religious life in a community that responds to all they believe God is calling them to live and do, and they happily surrender themselves totally to everything expected of them.  A young man responds to the call to be another Christ, one who lives and acts “in persona Christi”, and experiences a joy and fulfillment that enhances his prayer, the celebration of the Liturgy, and his relationship with God and the people entrusted to his care.

These examples are only a few of many that any of us could offer for reflection of people happy with their lives and the decisions they made.  The reflection is not so much on the wonderful blessings that these persons have experienced and for which they are grateful, but rather what happens to so many after a period of time.  Almost without noticing it, the wonder, excitement, enthusiasm, creativity, JOY begin to diminish.  Once happy about their lives and professions, some come to seriously question their decision. Was it really God’s will?!  They felt an inner joy and were truly happy.  There is no sin in that!  But, now, what happened?! Where is the wonderful life and future of which they dreamed, the life filled with joy, fulfillment, success, happiness?

At one time or another, we might possibly admit that there was a moment or period when we may have felt that matters were taking a less joyous and less fulfilling turn in our lives.  Moments like these are not as terrible as they initially can seem.  There is always something to learn from any situation. So much time is wasted fearing problems and lamenting mistakes. We should rather accept those moments as challenges to go beyond the limitations we see in our lives. Take time to reflect on how we have changed and why. What has brought us to this moment, this crossroad that seems so perplexing?

 

The finding of the body of our holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, that the Order recalls now on September 25, offers us an insight into the answer to the situations and questions posed.  The historical moment for the Poor Clares to have the body of our mother St. Clare once again at arm’s length for veneration after centuries of lying hidden is not a question of physical proximity.  It has nothing to do with the possibility of looking at the remains of someone who passed into eternity six centuries before; that might even be considered by some to be somewhat macabre rather than devotional.  It really goes far beyond the privilege of offering the relic of St. Clare’s body to the veneration and edification of the faithful, especially those of the Franciscan Family who revere her as mother, just as they revere St. Francis of Assisi our Seraphic Father, whose body rests in the crypt beneath the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

 

The excitement of knowing God called us to be Franciscans, regardless of the Order (I, II, III Regular, Secular), and knowing the joy of acceptance by God through the Fraternity, makes the initial years of religious life exciting.  Just like a couple in love, we enter a loving relationship with the Fraternity/Family.  We seek to learn all there is to learn about everyone with whom we desire to become more deeply one in mind and heart. We come to realize how our lives are so unique and valuable to the spreading of the Gospel and the life of the Church. We speak to others with an enthusiasm that could convert the world.  In our youthfulness – here I mean youthfulness in spirit and not necessarily in a chronological sense – we find it difficult to understand why so many others do not feel a call to be Franciscan as we, and we are grateful for having been called and having responded affirmatively to this wonderful gospel life. We bring our Franciscan ‘spirit and life’ to all the ministries and apostolic works entrusted to us. We make Franciscan values and principles the foundation of all we say and do.  Like a wonderful marriage, no one can separate our spirit of commitment from our daily life, duties and other activities. We are cautious never to allow the ‘spirit of the world’ to enter our relationships with the people we encounter and with and for whom we minister.  You get the idea.  It is a veritable paradise for the first months and possibly years, until, and possibly for a good while after, our definitive Profession or commitment.  Then what happens?! Boredom? Indifference? Doubt? Apathy? Any, all, and more! But, why?!

Between the dream and the vision, there is the plan.  You have heard and read this before.  The plan is the journey that helps the dream to become the vision of a real happening that goes beyond a heart that hopes.  To live in hope without ever attempting to achieve what as yet is not seen but attainable, is to journey to disappointment and even despair. This is not a journey but a lingering spiritual death that does not enliven, encourage, or attract. In fact, people like this repel others.  The journey itself is already the source of joy as long as we keep on the path and move forward.

The study that never ends because there is always so much more to know that will enhance the love that urges me on; the encounters with the same people, and new ones who seek to follow our life because of all they heard and have seen in us; the fraternal gathering of prayer, reflection and being together as ‘family’ whose goals are the same and achievable by people whose personalities are so different; diverse external expressions of service to those who will never become effective members of our fraternities but whose lives are touched with joy and made better because of us, and so many more examples, are all reminders of what the finding of the body of Saint Clare says to us.

Too many, and we Franciscans are no different, die at 20, 30, 40 years of age and are buried decades later.  This is not a physical death but a spiritual, psychological, affective death. We are alive physically but distant, and disinterested in spirit-mind-heart-availability-caring.

 

We are not called to don the attractive robes of some plastic image that appears holy but has no life.  We have not achieved the goal when we make perpetual profession.  Like so many other moments in life, secular as well as religious, one goal achieved becomes the first step of another journey that leads to another goal that continues to lead us forward until the perfection of which Scripture speaks is achieved.  Remember that ‘perfection’ in Scripture pertains to the fulfillment of the purpose of a life.  No one can ever justifiably say that their life is fulfilled when they have more time allotted them. Too many stop striving to become more in God’s sight.  They admire past failures overcome and gloat over successes achieved.  It is as though they were venerating the relic of a Saint without learning from the life of the saint. They are not encouraged nor strive to reach beyond, and thus become spiritually stagnant.

The external insignia we use for one reason or another: habit, tau cross, crucifix, cord, scapular, and the like, encourage us to participate more fully in the life of the Order.   What we wear reminds us of who we are called to be more fully each day. Until we hear the words ‘good and faithful servant, because you have been faithful in small matters, enter into the joy of your Master’ we are always moving, hopefully forward.  We must be aware of the dangers of self-seeking, self-aggrandizing, self-satisfying. We cannot allow ourselves to ‘become the object of our affections’ and forget all others. Self-centeredness is problematic in community, and spiritually dangerous for anyone. More often it leads to full blown pride that sees others as less than one self, and also to indifference to opportunities offered to grow in fraternal spirit and sharing of God’s gifts with and for the sake of others.

 

As spiritual children of Saint Francis of Assisi we have a wonderful gift left us to enflesh in our lives.  While the Incarnation took place only once in historical human form in Jesus the Christ through Mary, Christ and His Gospel must be enfleshed over and over again in the lives of those who seek to follow Him.  Our Seraphic Father sought not only to live the Gospel message but to live Jesus.  This is also the mission of the Franciscan.  The formalities we encounter that prepare us for full insertion in the Franciscan Family (Fraternity), are the preparatory stages that help us know if this is truly the life to which God is calling us.  Professing our life in the Franciscan Fraternity is an explicit acceptance of the daily challenge to grow every day of our life until we are called to the fullness of life in eternity.

Unlike the body of our Holy Mother Saint Clare placed on view for the faithful to venerate the woman with whom Saint Francis of Assisi inaugurated a Family that even today speaks volumes to a world grown cold in its love for God and desire for Eternal Life, we are not static images. Viewing the body of St. Clare most certainly reminded her daughters of the >little plant’ St. Clare called herself that produced a flourishing fragrant bouquet of holiness in the Church.  Thousands of women for eight centuries have accepted to live the form of exalted Poverty that St. Clare was granted by Pope Alexander IV only days before her death. She never ceased requesting this ‘privilege’ of poverty.  Her daughters, adapting themselves to the demands of the changing world, while not jeopardizing the centuries’ old and proven values that their Mother St. Clare of Assisi lived and sought to instill in all her daughters, in their fidelity to their vocation have continued to be a ‘bright light’ in the Franciscan Family and thus in the Universal Church. Each sister sought and seeks to grow in her vocation by living a committed life of constant growth, not >being conformed to this age but transformed’ in the ever-valid Gospel Life.

 

The process of Franciscan conversion expects a daily surrender to God that leads us to grow in all we profess. Profession is not the goal! Never!  The goal is heaven!  Our Franciscan Gospel Way is the road God has called us to follow to make the destination easier to reach.  We cannot sit back and let others do the walking. Not only must we talk the talk but we must walk the walk, otherwise we will never get there, the true goal of life, God. There are many opportunities offered our Secular Sisters and Brothers to grow in our charism and particular vocation.  Do not let someone else do ‘it’.  Whatever the ‘it’ is.  The one insect St. Francis disliked was the fly, not only because of the things it ate off of, but because it was a parasite, eating off the work of others.  Let us make sure we do not incur the ‘curse’ of St. Francis.  We must all realize that fraternal living involves active participation in fraternal life. The official nomenclature may differ, but the substance is still the same. We all have the Rule and Constitutions of the Order to give us a general guideline that all seem to accept.  Even the International and National Councils offer us ‘reflections’ we all are willing to consider and strive for.  But it is the Regional and Local challenges and decisions that so many seem to think can be put off, or not even considered.  Let us not forget the words of the Master Who tells us that if we cannot be faithful in small matters how can we expect to be entrusted with greater things.

 

The discovery of the body of St. Clare is celebrated by the Order on September 25th. Let us remember how this event, as strange as it may seem at first glance, is a reminder for us to rediscover our roots and the beauty of that original oblation and dedication we made of ourselves. Let us rediscover the initial enthusiasm and joy at being called and accepted to be a Franciscan.  With the passing of time and experience we have so much more to learn and offer one another.  Each bringing his/her gifts enhances the richness of the fraternity and strengthens the spirit of Franciscan Brother/Sisterhood.  May the reminder of the ‘discovery’ and exposition of the body of St. Clare encourage us to re-discover our roots, enthusiasm, and commitment so that we can be ‘on display’ for a world that seeks authenticity and integrity of life.

 

May God bless us; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and may Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi 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

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