December 2020 Monthly Meditation by Father 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      website:  skdsfo     email:

December 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Infant Jesus grant your heart the Peace you desire.

May His Star enlighten your mind with the splendor of His Truth.

May His Love consume your heart so that it beats solely for Him.

Greccio revisited – Bethlehem revisited.

The various Nativity Scenes that can be seen at this time is a “show and tell” for the childlike. Like children we see the images and try to imagine what it must have been like the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Human beings have intellects to understand and the senses to enhance and personalize the experience. St. Francis was quite aware of this and his innovative, creative, and definitely quite expressive personality put all these qualities of his nature to excellent use, the effects of which have lasted over eight centuries.

St. Francis of Assisi was a good “businessman”. His father Pietro was a good teacher for the son he hoped would take over the cloth business.  Pietro was a self-made man who had risen to the heights of a comfortable and wealthy middle class. His cloth business flourished and Francis was his right hand person to continue the business. Francis Bernardone’s passionate character and captivating personality knew how to lead others to look at things with their  eyes and see with their heart. This ability to see into the depths made Greccio, because of Francis’ unique manner, an experience that has been repeated in large and small ways for over eight centuries.

At Greccio, St. Francis presented an image to the eyes that would penetrate the depth of people’s hearts. He not only believed but felt the truth of the birth of Christ and Who He is.  He wanted others to experience as much as possible all that Jesus accepted when he became a human being. St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise eventually to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families display during the Christmas Season.  The son of Pietro was not presenting a “product” to be bought but a truth to be remembered and lived. The Poverello was not trying to be innovative. He was not attempting to present something strange that would attract the curiosity of people. Francis was “revisiting” Bethlehem by creating an image of it at Greccio so that the Birth of Jesus might come alive once again in the hearts and lives of the people.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the faithful. Through the senses, St. Francis sought to arrive more incisively to the very soul of each person.

The Holy Father accepted the idea to have a living manger scene set up there on the mountain. Permission was even granted for an outdoor midnight Mass at the site with St. Francis officiating as deacon. (Francis sure knew how to get his point across! What a businessman, even as a friar!  He even got the Pope to “see it his way”!)  At Greccio that Christmas Night people went back in mind and heart to Bethlehem. They were there! That night was unforgettable. They felt like children filled with joy, wonder, excitement, happiness. Afterward, they shared their joy with all they met. Why? They experienced in their hearts the reality of the prophecy made centuries before: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9: 6).

That night the world seemed to stop for them.  Time was transported back twelve hundred years, and hearts were catapulted into thoughts of a loving God Who stopped at nothing to capture the attention of His children. The words St. Francis spoke and the Gospel he sang as Deacon at the Mass celebrated at Greccio came from a heart in love with God. That night, Love was contagious.  If only it could have remained that way forever!  To stay there would have been selfish. We must bring the joy we know and radiate it to others. With Mary, our Blessed Mother, Virgin Made Church, Francis offered his own ‘yes’ that the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and the represented presence of the Incarnation-Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem in Greccio, would become ingrained in the hearts of all. Prayerfully praising the tremendous gift of the Eucharist, our Seraphic Father simply and magnificently offers a meditation on the wonderful exchange of the humanity and the divinity in Jesus, awesomely present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  The “sacramental Incarnation of Jesus” is a re-presentation of what began at Bethlehem. Francis’ prayer merits to be repeated this year as well as other times:

O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! 

O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! 

That the Lord of the universe, 

God and the Son of God, 

so humbles Himself 

that for our salvation 

He hides Himself 

under the little form of bread! 

Look, brothers, at the humility of God 

and pour out your hearts before Him! 

Humble yourselves, as well, 

that you may be exalted by Him. 

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves 

so that He Who gives Himself totally to you 

may receive you totally.

Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child, God’s Gift of Himself to us as gift, and remember the child that we once were and are called to become in the spirit. What we become then is our response and gift to God. Our Seraphic Father “let love let loose”,  just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and before all the people of Israel. David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2 Samuel: 7: 20)could be placed on the lips of St. Francis: As the Lord lives, who preferred me, not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more. I will be lowly in your esteem, but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23)

Centuries before the birth of Jesus the people of Israel heard the prophet Isaiah promise: Many peoples shall come…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again (Isaiah 2: 1-5). This is the dream God placed in the hearts of Israel through the words of His prophet. The wait was centuries-long. When the long-expected One finally arrived, tepidity and indifference ruled over what should have been excitement and joy. Few knew about this greatest event connected to the creation of the world and leading to the restoration of all things through the “Almighty Humble” One Born in the poverty of Bethlehem. Born in the town of Beth-lehem (house of bread), Jesus came to be the Living Bread come down from heaven (John 6: 51) So that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have everlasting life (John 3: 15). He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Himto them He gave the right to become children of God(John 1: 11-12).

Life begins as the quest of the child for the man, and ends as the quest of the man for the child (Sam Ewing).  This child is hidden within each one of us crying out to be set free. We search for the Child who alone can help us find what we ‘mislaid along the road’:  harmony with God, ourselves, and all creation; serenity before the challenges we face in the certitude that all works out for those who trust in God; peace of heart and love, that see the image of the Child we seek in all people.  Serenity (peace), integrity (transparency) and love (acceptance/surrender) ultimately lead to Joy – the Joy of Christmas, the Joy of the new-born Child – Jesus.

Our journey with and through the pandemic that is devastating the entire world may affect the way we hear the wonderful words the angels spoke to the shepherds, I bring you good news of great joy, today is born for you a Savior  (Luke 2: 10-11). These words of hope may have lost their joyful and encouraging effect these past months. They may seem like hopeful illusions offered to clear the darkness of uncertainty and fear. We cannot let our hearts be overwhelmed by all this. Where there is life there is hope, and where there is hope there is peace, even in the midst of confusion and pain. Life is still the journey worth living and it is beautiful because…God so loved the world that he sent us his only Son so that whoever believes in Him would have life and have it in abundance (John 3: 16). Who (or what) can separate us from the love of God…In Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8: 35-39).

The world into which the God of creation chose to enflesh Himself is still the stage of the greatest act of His Eternal Love.  Life to be, Freedom in responsibility, and Redemption to eternal life in Jesus are still God’s loving and impartial gifts to all.  Stewards of creation, we are invested with the awesome trust of that Father. Jesus, incarnate in our human nature, reminds us that God is not ashamed of us. He was willing to be like us in all things but sin (cfr. Hebrews 4: 15).

We make God’s presence and providence a reality in our world grown cold and indifferent to what really matters – Love! Just as at Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, we, like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, experience the promise fulfilled and our hope rekindled. We become his earthly messengers – angels (the word means messenger) – of the Eternal Love that not even the worst human tragedy can destroy.  Goodness is still alive in the hearts of God’s children.  This love is celebrated each year at Christmas when Love Eternal made Himself visible by becoming one with us. He shared the journey of life from His wooden Crib to the wood of the Cross to manifest the depths of His Love. The Crib and the Cross are inseparable!

For the spirit of this season of love, life, and light to take hold of us we are asked to discover once again the child within us.  That inner child, covered and hidden over the years by compromising values, cautious in acceptance rather than trusting in God’s will, confused rather than believing in eternal truths, and all around careless regarding the sacredness of every moment of life, seeks to be reborn into the wonder and joy of living in the light of God’s extravagant love.

Christmas is a time for us to look with the childlike eyes of wonder, curiosity, excitement, enthusiasm, anticipation, inquisitiveness, joy, in a word, “love”. We represent each year – and everyday if we so desire – the mystery fulfilled for us to celebrate the love made present in the poverty of Bethlehem.  It is a time to bask in the light of a treasure greater than any we could imagine.

To see the Infant Jesus and recognize the God of Creation, the Savior of humanity, the King of kings and Lord of lords is to allow the tepidity and even the coldness of life’s demands and burdens to be rekindled and lightened by the One Whose birth we celebrate in time as we await His return in glory. The Lord hidden in His Word and Sacrament is made visible in so many ways in the sisters and brothers we encounter on our journey. The child within comes forth and we experience the newness and joy of life.

Centuries, and probably eons, lay before humanity. Each day is a new experience of that eternal unfolding of God’s plan for creation. This “plan” was prepared for by the prophets, made visible at Bethlehem and Calvary, and will continue until time becomes eternal truth and life.  Each day we re-present the mysteries of salvation in the Eucharist and each year we celebrate the unfolding of that One Solitary Life that is the focal point of human history – Jesus.  Our Faith is strengthened, our hope renewed, and our hearts filled with childlike wonder and joy in Christ, that not even the present global pandemic and its manifold consequences on the world can destroy because: Greater is the One with and within us, than what surrounds us (cfr.1 John 1: 5).   

We begin a renewed journey with Christ as we celebrate his birth.  Life is our journey. We set out in the zest and vigor of childhood and youth. We are challenged and make our mark in life through middle age. We lose our spring as time progresses, but, our faith – as was that of Mary and Joseph who believed the mystery and so experienced the miracle of his birth – allows us to see each moment as a wonderful endowment that makes the journey itself the gift, and the destination that much more desirable. Our journey finds meaning even through the anomalies and heartbreaks because of the One Who loves us.  His birth in the wooden stable at Bethlehem that led to his total surrender for us on the rough wood of the Cross on Calvary made His life the reason for our being. Because of Him and His journey with us, we start each new day confident that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are loved by Him. We begin to understand the simplicity of the reason and the means that prompted (to use human expressions) God to be born a human being

My prayer for all of you is for Peace, Joy, Love and the Fulfillment of your heart’s desires in the Lord at this Christmas Season.  May the Child of Bethlehem help us all find the child within, that we may joyfully celebrate the birth of the One Who is our Light and Salvation. Let us bring light, joy and hope to all whom we meet on our journey. Let us be and bring Jesus to others.

Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas, and a New Year 2021 filled with Love, Life, Happiness, Good Humor, Health and an ever-growing Longing for God

Peace and Blessings!

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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