February 2021 Reflections 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: pppgusa@gmail.com 

 February 2021 

 Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis 

 May the Lord grant you peace! 

 The three hours of redemptive suffering of Jesus on the cross were preceded by three years of ministry among God’s people in Israel and thirty years of silent preparation in Nazareth.  (Ven. Fulton J. Sheen)   

 Jesus lived thirty years in the anonymity of the humble town of Nazareth. He lived as a laborer, although qualified in His field as an exceptional wood worker, but manual laborer nonetheless. Scripture tells us that after his return from Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph at the age of twelve, he came down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them, and grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men. (Luke 2: 51) These words strike us somewhat strangely. Jesus, who is God, grew in wisdom, age and grace!? (Luke 2: 51)  As we are reminded in Scripture, He was like us in all things but sin. (Hebrews 4: 15)  Jesus had to experience all that it means to be human. He knew the often humdrum pace of everyday living. He knew what it means to experience enthusiasm about the possibilities available to His efforts, and yet He did not expect surprising and extraordinary events – miracles – to assure his choices and the positive outcome of his work. He lived in the uncertainty of the next moment, just as we do.   

 The deep-rooted faith of every Christian carries with it the wonderful truth that God became one with us. St. Leo the Great tells us that the Incarnation is the “Condescension of Compassion”. In other words, it is the fact that God came down to share the human experience with us in all things and every way, but sin. He showed us the mercy of God, the mercy of our Eternal Father and Creator of life. The word itself, “mercy”, is a translation of the Latin word “misericordia”. Loosely translated, the word indicates taking the misfortune (or misery or “miseria”) of another to one’s heart (“cor”, “cordis”). By sharing with us in all things but sin, Jesus showed us the mercy of God who came not to condemn but to redeem and save. This is what we seek for ourselves and thus must be ready and willing to offer others, whoever they may be. Remember: The measure you measure with will be the measure used to measure you. (Matthew 7: 2) 

 We have not yet learned to live and accept the wonderful gift of God’s providence when we expect to be titillated by special happenings, pats on the back for everything we do, or even expect God to step in with a minor miracle, just to make sure we are on the right track. The exciting experience is life itself! The hidden years of Jesus far surpass the years of ministry and hours of His redeeming Passion-Death that led to our Redemption. We have here a powerful reminder for those who anticipate affirmation from the miracles of God, rather than abandoning themselves to the God of miracles. Trusting in the God of miracles we are overwhelmed and with heartfelt gratitude and wonder at the many ways God makes His providence known rather than constantly seeking after His wonders. When you are able to see the invisible, you will be able to accomplish the impossible (Oral Roberts). To see the invisible is to live in faith. To see the invisible is to expect no outward show and still to know that God is with you. It is this hidden life of faith, without the “frills”, that has the power to transform us. 

 A “frill-less” surrender to God offers us the opportunity to surrender to one another in an expression of merciful awareness of our common bond in Jesus for Christians, and in God for all human beings. The image of Christ in Whom we are created impels us to go far beyond the act of forgiving, or a generous donation offered to a needy person. We are expected to “disarm our hearts” to all people. The common life we share with every human being is a reminder each moment of our own frailty, regardless of how we might attempt to camouflage it so as to seem to others what we are not.   

 You are who you are before God and nothing more (St. Francis of Assisi), and so is everyone else. The hidden life of Jesus was exciting from the fact that the awesomeness of His Divinity was totally hidden in the “batch of dough” of human nature. And, who He is became slowly apparent to others in the Father’s time. Obedience to the Will of the Father (His “time” and His “ways”) is the prime moving force in the whole mystery of the Incarnation. As we lift up the other for the sake of the other, God lifts us up so that we can continue to look at each other in the eyes and love each other with our hearts.  

 The hidden life of Jesus, is a wonderful example and an eloquent reminder of where we encounter God and how we are called to grow in holiness. We encounter God where we are, and we grow in holiness by doing what we know and believe to be God’s will, even if it is in fulfilling the normal responsibilities of everyday life.  In this hidden life – the common everyday life we live – we open our hearts to one another, as does God every moment of our lives for each one of us by name.  We are not an anonymous mass of human beings.  We are children of God whose names are written in God’s heart.  I see Jesus in the eyes of those whom I encounter. The person is not “just” another human being.  When we have experienced God’s love for us, and are honest about what we really deserve, that only God knows truly, how can we be otherwise with our “companions on the journey”? 

 As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we promise (Remember that one is only as good as his/her word.) a unique expression of unity in diversity.  We are “fraternity”. There is a big difference between the “community” of goods, and the “fraternity” of hearts. There are so many factors that distinguish us one from another, and even one fraternity from another. Yet, our common bond in Jesus, Mary, and our Seraphic Father St. Francis brings us together on our journey to the Father through a God-centered and holy life. We are sent as “living Gospels” and in such a joy-filled relationship with Jesus, and one another through Him in His Holy Spirit, that we are also powerhouses of prayer and true instruments of “Peace and All Good”.   

 The power of prayer is felt by praying. When we raise our minds and hearts to God, He envelopes us with His loving grace. The Secular Franciscan lives in the hidden reality of daily life, and impacts acutely on the life of the Church and the world, through the society in which they live. God cannot be contained and who lives in God always goes beyond the parameters set by circumstance. The daily “agenda” of a Franciscan, secular or otherwise, is not written in stone; it is written indelibly in the heart of the true Franciscan. The true Franciscan prays in, with, for, through the Church, in obedience – as Christ to the Father – to our Catholic Faith and all that signifies, and to the Order in its Rule, Constitutions, and Statutes approved by the Church and Order. This express life “in obedience” strengthens our sisters and brothers to live the hidden life, not seeking applause, accolades, and the like. Just as the fraternity unique in its individuals, so also the region in its fraternities, the National Fraternity in its Regions, and the International Fraternity in its National Fraternities form a wonderful mosaic of the vitality of our charism of prayer and service totally faithful to our Catholic expression of Christianity as committed Franciscan sisters and brothers. 

 We minister to one another bound by a common goal, to be holy as your heavenly Father is holy (cfr. 1 Peter 1: 16). Our sanctification must be the motivating goal of our life. Everything else is peripheral. Yet, becoming a “saint” is never an isolated experience. Even cloistered nuns and monks who live enclosed apart from society, hermits and recluses who live their lives alone, saints from all areas of life whether secular, married, single, old, young, have the common bond that no one is an island  (John Donne). We become saints acknowledging the presence of others and opening our hearts to them, as we seek the will of God in all things and everyone.   

 This month we begin the solemn period of Lent that leads us to Calvary and the celebration of our redemption in Jesus.  The manger-Crib is never too distant from the murderous-Cross. One is the humble prelude to the magnificent act of love of the other. Let us take the opportunity this month, which quickly introduces us to the Lenten Journey on Ash Wednesday, to reflect upon our own response to God’s will. Let us examine more deeply our commitment to our Franciscan Profession. This involves the entirety of life. May we feel a deeper sense of being one family in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.  

 Because of the virus, we have had and continue to be distanced from one another. Hopefully that distance will serve to bring us closer together!  Though the doors of our homes may be closed to most, the doors of our hearts can be open to all everywhere, anytime. As Pope St. John Paul II cried out so often: Open the Doors to Christ! and  Do not Be Afraid!  

 Have a Happy Lent!  Yes, a “Happy Lent”!  Lent is a Season intended to lead us closer to God through the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus Who redeems us in His Blood.  Though sad at how it had to be, it is wonderful and joy-filled at what the Paschal Mystery accomplished.  We are called to enter the mystery and live its reality every day.  Father God loves us into life. In Jesus God we are loved us by His death. Holy Spirit God invites us every moment to bring all that we really own to His Divine Heart. Everything we received is God’s gift to us; all we really own as ours are the sins that misuse or abuse the gifts we have received. Lent offers us the possibility to walk with one another using our gifts. We are all “mendicants” (beggars) who share with one another the gifts of grace and goodness we have been given to share.  We surrender ourselves to God’s Love, and thus bask in the light of God’s Son, Who is the Love, Mercy, and Providence of the Father Incarnate. All Three are One forever present to those willing to see the hidden Presence in creation with Faith, live the promise of the Good News in Hope, and travel through life with open hearts and hands with Love.  What better “penance” (metanoia = change of heart) to strive for or to deepen in Lent!?

 May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each of 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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