November Meditation – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website: skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

November 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!

Is it possible to live the Gospel to the letter, with all of its divine demands, crucifying renunciations, and blessed certitudes?  Yes! … but with a condition!  We must allow ourselves, as St. Francis of Assisi did, to be seduced by the love of Christ. We faithfully embrace, learn, and live this love more deeply when we love the Church as Mother, Teacher, and Queen of our life.  The Gospel is not a dream.  The Gospel is a reality that can transfigure not only the individual but also history itself.

There are billions more non-Christians than Christians who do not accept the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Word of God. Nonetheless, when the Gospel is lived, when Christ, through the Church Universal and the individual Christian, proclaims and is proclaimed to others, His Word begins to achieve its goal. My word will not return without having fulfilled the purpose for which It was sent.  These prophetic words should be an encouragement for us all to enter God’s will and be available to the prompting of His Holy Spirit.

Franciscanism is a life experience as understood and lived by those who accept the challenging example and words of St. Francis of Assisi.  At the center of this experience is the Humanity (never minimizing the essential reality of His Divinity) of Christ, Son of God, Messenger-Message and Bearer of the Father’s Love.  The Humanity of Christ reflects the face of the Father, and speaks to men and women in the language of God’s creatures.

Francis picked up on this wonderful insight and ran with it.  It was a love that filled every fiber of his being. The love for Christ in St. Francis of Assisi was contagious.  He sought the Father’s will through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and allowed the  ’overshadowing’ power of the Holy Spirit to lead him into living a more personal relationship with Jesus. He built this relationship on the Gospel.  He was concrete and passionate. St. Francis did not limit this conformity to Christ as something purely interior. He felt the need to conform himself in all things to Christ, even in the reality of his daily activities. Our Seraphic Father lived this ’spiritual tension’ from the beginning of his conversion.

God gave His ’seal of approval’ when St. Francis was signed with the wounds of the Passion of Jesus on La Verna. What was imprinted in his heart at San Damiano eventually was made visible and imprinted on his body for all to see at La Verna. Thus he became a living image of the Christ he so ardently desired to know, love, and serve wholeheartedly in his life. This is where we encounter the radical evangelical life that is so characteristic of St. Francis of Assisi.  He accepted the Gospel as his concrete form of life in all things, without gloss, in it purity and integrity.

The key words to consider are ’without gloss’. They have challenged the Family of St. Francis for centuries.  During the life of our Seraphic Father the friars experienced strong tensions in how they were to live the Rule.  History recalls two basic directions the ’Conventuals’ and the ’Spirituals’. Though the ’dialogue’ could have been rather heated at times and even quite ’physically expressive’, friars on both sides of the discussion were basically good men seeking to live a life in emulation, if not imitation, of our Seraphic Father.

In the Church there are various types of ’religious’ life offered those who seek to deepen their personal relationship with God within the Church. The ’within’ does not necessarily exclude contact and interaction with others ‘outside’ the Catholic Church ‘jurisdiction’.  On the contrary, even the solitary life of the Carthusian, hermit, or even the recluse, demands an openness in charity to all creation if it is to be complete and fully express the mandate: Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. Like our Seraphic Father, we are called to disarm our hearts to all. We are called and have accepted the Gospel command to love. Our ’outreach’ brings the effects of the evangelical life beyond the boundaries of the community even to those outside the Church, outside the faith, and even to adversaries of the faith.

Our Franciscan vocation is a way of life, not a ministry. You live in the world but not of the world. You are truly a light put on a lampstand but even more yeast that is kneaded into the dough of everyday life. The Secular Franciscan lives the same spirit of commitment as that of their vowed sisters and brothers.  In both cases, vows or promises, a good motto to remember is: ’You are as good as your word’.  The First, Second, Third Regular, and Secular Franciscan Orders, and we might even add in acknowledgement the ‘fourth order’ of those who are not professed but journey with us and participate and assist in our charism in many ways, attract to the Franciscan life by example.

When we allow complacency to rule our hearts and indifference to control us, our Franciscan life and ideals suffer and may even ’die’. When we fail or refuse to accept our call as a true vocation, or we consider our profession as a formal affiliation in some ’monthly prayer group’ we permit those attitudes to gnaw away at the beauty of what our Seraphic Father believed and fought for in all its original dignity.

We are called to faithfulness.  The question is to what are we called to be faithful?  Profession in the Franciscan Order introduces us to a whole ’lifestyle’ that is not limited to pious devotions, particular activities, personal particular interpretation of the Rule of Life and Constitutions.  Jesus and His Gospel are our ’devotion’, living the life of Christ is our ’activity’, and Christ speaking to us through the Church and the Order indicate and challenge us how to live our life in fraternity, secular or otherwise.

Our Franciscan charism, so beloved by God and the Church, is a powerful instrument in God’s loving plan for the edification and salvation of millions down through the centuries.  Our life is to LIVE THE GOSPEL … LIVE JESUS!

Christ among us is the Center of our lives; we are Eucharistic.  The Word made flesh is our life; we are a Gospel People bound in the Holy Spirit’s love to be a fraternity, a family of hearts and souls; we are an evangelical community. Mary is the Virgin Made Church our Queen and Mother loved and proposed by St. Francis to all the Order; we are Marian. The Church is our Mother and Teacher on earth with the Holy Father as Vicar of Christ and Successor to Peter who presides over the family of God redeemed in the Blood of Christ; we are totally Catholic as was our Seraphic Father who admonished all to be faithful to the Church.  This list could go on and on to remind us of our unity with the Church of Christ founded on the Apostles, and of our profession to be a Gospel People whose life envelopes all that makes us one with Christ and His Church.

We Franciscans are simple in our lives of minority and transparent in our desire to be detached from all that could possess us, particularly our own will. Without the Eucharist there is no Church, without the Church there is no Eucharist. We are the Church and through the ministerial priesthood we continue the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ of whom we are the essential ’body parts’. With Mary as the Mother of the Christ she is the Mother of the Christian and thus of the Church for whom we have a particular love and to whom we are particularly devoted.  The Gospel and Apostolic writings of the New Covenant tell us the story of Jesus, Mary and the first Christian community, teaching us through the Apostles’ writings all that makes us Christian. These facts and many others have always been professed and practiced ’without gloss’ by the followers of our Seraphic Father.  To be Franciscan is to be totally Catholic with all that entails.

We are children of the Poverello of Assisi.  While our manner of affiliation may differ from the canonical perspective, our hearts and souls are one. We are centered and rooted in the Gospel Life following Jesus in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. Let us strive to be “true to our word”, for we are as good as our word. Let us remember always that God is faithful in His Word, Jesus the Christ. He called us to hear, listen and respond. May our response always be “Yes”, as was that of our Heavenly Mother who believed the humanly impossible and gave birth to God-made-man in Jesus. Jesus Who calls us and then sends us to be a living Gospel in today’s world.  May we be faithful and strive to fulfill well what we have promised.

God bless us; Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and 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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