June 2021 Monthly Meditation – 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 

June 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

St. Francis of Assisi had a deep love and reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament, and concern for the proper respectful reservation and handling of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Writing his Testament, he made it a point to speak of the reverence and adoring posture he had when he passed any church: And the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would pray with simplicity in this way and say: > We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the whole world and we bless You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world – (Testament).   

He encouraged the clergy – of whose group he was as an ordained deacon – to consider the Body and Blood of Christ that they handle and offer.  His concern was that the Eucharist be celebrated and received worthily, and be kept with dignity in appropriate places: Let us all, clergymen, consider the great sin and the ignorance some have toward the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy names and written words that consecrate His Body.  We know it cannot be His Body without first being consecrated by word.  For we have seen nothing bodily of the Most High in this world except His Body and Blood, His names and words through which we have been made and redeemed from death to life. (Exhortation to the Clergy).   

Admonishing the friars responsible for the various fraternities of the brethren Francis wrote: I beg you, when it is fitting and you judge it expedient, you humbly beg the clergy to revere above all else the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy names and the written words that sanctify His Body. They should hold as precious the chalices, corporals, appointments of the altar, and everything that pertains to the sacrifice … Let it be carried about with great reverence and administered to others with discernment (Letter to the Custodians).  We must, of course, confess all our sins to a priest and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from him … But let him eat and drink worthily because anyone who receives unworthily, not distinguishing, that is, not discerning, the Body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment on himself (Letter to all the Faithful, 2nd Version).  

Saint Francis of Assisi was a totally Eucharistic soul whose love for the Eucharist led him to revere all priests, even those whose lives were not as exemplary as they should have been. They give us spirit and life (John 6: 63) through the sacraments they offer and the Word they proclaim. All the faithful have a share in this marvelous gift of the priesthood through their baptism and attentive participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.   

The immediacy with which the celebration of the Eucharist ends after the faithful have received the Body and Blood of Christ and shared in their Holy Communion seems as though the faithful are given a quick ‘good-bye’ with no ‘follow up’ or ‘follow through’. Nothing of the sort!  The Dismissal is a capsulized and intensely packed moment that carries with it an extraordinary responsibility and an awesome power.  

From the moment we sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation at the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration, In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, until we receive the Final Blessing in the same words, we are participants in an extraordinary spiritual journey through a mystical experience of our salvation history. We are intimately immersed and active participants in the mystical and real re-presentation of  the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus. As the early followers of Jesus did, we listen to and reflect on the words of our ancestors in the Faith.  As the first disciples did, we listen to and learn from the words of Jesus. In the power of the Holy Spirit Who will remind you of all that I said, (John 14: 26) we grow in the strength that will empower us to go forth and be ‘heralds of the Great King’. The Eucharist is our “viaticum”, that is “food for the journey”. 

St. Francis proclaimed himself the ‘Herald of the Great King’ when confronted by a band of robbers. The robbers beat, stripped, and threw St. Francis into a ditch, considering him a mentally challenged person of little worth. They could not and would not accept or understand the freedom and joy that Francis had encountered when he allowed Jesus to ‘take over’ his life.  The Eucharist, celebrated well and received with the appropriate spiritual dispositions empowers us in the same way to be free to ‘be Christ’ and proclaim Him to the world. We become ‘heralds of the Great King’. We are asked not only to bear a message to others in words, but to become the message in our actions, fearless of any opposition we might receive for the sake of the Name.(3 John 1: 7)  

Human nature definitely influences the way we receive the mission and how we are received in the ministry. Today we sense a growing aversion in many areas of our world to Christ and His message.  There are those who seek to follow Him with a sincere heart. There are those who follow the image they have created in their own likeness that responds to their personal situations rather than His Word. Then there are those who stand in opposition to Him, even going so far as to proclaim they are acting in His name.  

Often those who seek to foster a love for the Gospel, the Church, and our Catholic Christian values and traditions face the same problems the first followers of Jesus, and all sincere seekers of Truth, faced down through the centuries.  If they are not physically attacked, those who seek to do God’s will and live in His Truth are beaten with barrages of negativity and harsh words; they are stripped of integrity by slander, false accusations, or even by an embellishment of the truth for the sake of destroying the reputation of the innocent, who are left on the ‘road of indifference’ or in the ‘ditch of discouragement’ alone to fend for themselves with their physical and sometimes spiritual strength depleted.  There is no stifling the power of God and His Spirit in those who seek His will.  We find strength in our weaknesses (cfr.2Corinthians 12: 19) as St. Paul reminds us when speaking of his own vulnerabilities and defects.   

One of the great Fathers of the early Church, Tertullian, stated: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. What greater ‘martyrdom’ is there than the ‘witness’ of bearing with patience, trust, and forgiveness, an ‘ongoing death’ that seeks to destroy the soul over the course of days, weeks, months and perhaps years!  What greater amount of ‘blood’ can we shed than the ‘lifeblood’ of our time, talents and even treasures spent in the daily practice of our faith and its defense against the power of the one who is in the world (1 John 4: 4) This ‘one in the world’ is always at work insidiously in the minds and hearts of those who proclaim a ‘heaven on earth’ and a god created to their own image! 

The Eucharist offers us a bit of heaven on earth.  We bask in the light of the Son, and find strength and peace in Him. Once we have received the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass, it seems as though everything precipitates so quickly that we have little time to spend with the Lord in the protected solace of the church, chapel or other ‘sacred space’.  The brief words and quick dismissal, Go, the Mass is ended or perhaps, translating the words literally, Go, it is sent, are an urgent commission entrusted to all who participated (and the key word is ‘participated’) in the Eucharist.  Christ sends us out, as He did His disciples when He ascended to the Father, to bring to others what we have seen with our own eyes, heard with our own ears, and touched (1 John 1: 1) – Jesus. The commission is urgent; thus the dismissal is immediate.  We have celebrated the mysteries of our salvation. We have re-presented the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of the Savior. We have actively participated in the Mass. We are witnesses to all this. (Acts 10: 39)  There is no time to waste. We must be out and about with the Lord and proclaim Him with our lives!  

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we read: (Jesus said to His disciples) you will be witnesses in Jerusalem … and to the ends of the earth … As (the disciples) were looking on, he was lifted up … from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky … suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? ( cfr. Acts 1: 1-12)  

The celebrant at the Eucharist conveys the same command to us at the end of Mass.  It is as though he were saying: ‘You have celebrated the sacred mysteries of our salvation. You have entered the ‘inner circle’ of the Great King’. You have been privileged with His message and His Spirit to inform and remind you. The Victim is sacrificed. Our offering is sent and received by the Father. The sacred communion that empowers those who receive worthily has been received and consumed.  What are you waiting for? Don’t stand around!  It’s time to go and be the One we received. Drive out the demons of ill will, confusion, doubt, discouragement, despair by the spirit of goodness and compassion. Speak the new language of Christ’s command of love that can be understood by anyone regardless of ethnic origin or even religious affiliation. Deal with the deadly serpents of verbal and physical persecution for the sake of the Name. Know that I am with you all days even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20). Do not be afraid (Isaiah 41: 10; Matthew 10: 26-28; Mark 6: 50) of the deadly poison of a world that insidiously attempts to corrupt mind and heart from within with seductive enticements and glittering allurements. Lay hands of reassurance and sensitivity on those who have grown ill through lives that are weak, those who have possibly given up … Be their strength … BE THE JESUS you have celebrated and received to them’.   

Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.  Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity (transparency of character and life).  Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.  Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.  Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter but by the offering of your free will. (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 108) 

Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi do not use prayer, personal sacrifice, and even charitable giving as an excuse to keep aloof from the realities of life.  Our Eucharist is celebrated sacramentally everyday at the altar, and then continued in the streets and our homes through our daily activities.  Once we’ve received the sacramental Jesus and allowed the grace of His Spirit to flow through our veins, we must ‘Go, the (liturgical) Mass is ended’ … ‘It is (or we are) sent’, to bring others, to lead the whole world into the mystery of God’s love in the Sacrifice and Sacrament of Jesus the Christ.  

The Eucharist is not just a goal to be reached but also a starting point that leads to greater heights in, with, and for God and His People.  The priest who acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) accompanies us as one of God’s People, and prays with and for us as one set aside to intercede as a ‘mediator’ between the divine and the human. (adapted St. Augustine)  He too is called to be victim with the Victim that he too, with all those entrusted to his ministry, may share in the Victory of the Eucharist that fills the world with the Real Presence of an awesome God Who invites us to an intimate relationship with Him and then delegates us to be Eucharist, to be an act of thanksgiving in God, to all. 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reminder of the eternal extravagant love of God for us in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Franciscan Family is called to live in that Love.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a powerful reminder of the totality of the Savior’s Love. In Him we we live, and move, and have our being. (Acts 17: 28)  Pray that we may be willing ‘victims’, if the Lord should ask that grace of us, that others with and through us may experience the victory promised by the One Who said: I have conquered the world.  Do not be afraid. (cfr. John 16: 30-33)  Greater is the one within you that the one in the world.  Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age I have conquered the world.  Do not be afraid.  Greater is the one within you that the one in the world. (1 John 4: 4)   Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 20) 

May the Eternal High Priest, Jesus, show us His Most Sacred Heart, pierced by the centurion’s lance, that we may enter the door thrown open leading to the Father’s loving embrace. May Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family and Her beloved Husband St. Joseph, keep us in the depths of their Immaculate and Pure Hearts.  May Our Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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