August 2021 Meditations from 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: 

August 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

In a letter, dated January 1985, entitled, The Bread of Life is still in the Dust, a bishop writes to a pastor of his diocese in Italy. The parish priest has just had his church vandalized, precious vessels stolen, and the Blessed Sacrament thrown all over the pavement of the church. This was not the first instance of profanation of the Eucharist and a church building in that diocese. The people and their priests were deeply saddened. They were sorry for the building having been vandalized and various gold and silver vessels and reliquaries taken, which can never be replaced because of their ancient historical value (the diocese goes back to the early middle ages in Italy), but they were devastated over the heinous disregard for the precious gift of the Eucharist. This people, steeped in their ancient and popular traditions yet fully modern in their immersion in the realities of the twentieth century, gathered around their priest and bishop to lament their violation, to support their shepherds, to pray for the perpetrators, and to implore God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. ‘Eucharistic People’ are capable of so much!   

Saddened, hurt, offended, angry, the people were immediately ready to pick up the ‘pieces’. The first of the ‘pieces’ were those of the ‘strewn’ Body of Christ, the Gift of Jesus Himself, blasphemously discarded for the sake of a few baubles the thieves could possibly gain from the sale of the vessels to other unscrupulous individuals such as they. How we allow ourselves to get sidetracked by the glitz and glitter of things around us! We fail to recognize so often the true treasures that God is making available to us! It is quite easy for us to enter a Church building and forget that this is none other than the House of God and the Gate of Heaven! (Genesis 28: 17) Familiarity can condition us to the point that we assist at liturgies for their social, artistic, educational, ‘entertaining’, traditional value, and fail to realize that the ‘frame’ only indicates but is not the ‘masterpiece’. The ‘masterpiece’ is the very Presence of God calling us to a greater relationship with Him so that we may continue to achieve that full stature of Christ  (Ephesians 4: 13) we were created to reach. We are gifted with life that we might become, according to our cooperation with God’s grace, more the image of Christ in our world. We live in a world that has ears to hear but does not listen, and eyes to see but refuses to recognize (cfr Matthew 13: 14-38) God in our midst.   

Once the Eucharist is the center of our worship, then the family of the Church – local, diocesan, universal – can begin to strengthen its unity with the shepherds of the Church. It is the Eucharist that makes the Church as the Church makes the Eucharist (Vatican II). Some have relegated the Eucharist to a pious devotion rather than a reality to be lived. The Eucharist is a miracle that cannot be seen, thus it is a deeper mystery that must be lived to recognize the reality and experience the transforming effects for those who are illumined by faith. 

Some do not see the relevance of the Eucharist as the Center of “Catholic” (universal) life because it tends to separate us from other Christian denominations. The Eucharist is the Center of Catholic Christian life inviting others into a deeper awareness of eternal truth. The people of that devastated church mentioned above, because of their faith, were shaken into a reality that some may have forgotten. The sight of the Eucharist thrown on the floor in a predominantly Catholic country and very Catholic area was a stark reminder to all of how delicate our faith is and how easily it can be abused. The vandalism actually brought the people of the city and the parish closer together. It is the story of Calvary all over again. Jesus had to be abused and disregarded once again, so that those who loved Him, even lukewarmly, could be rekindled in their love for Him and for one another because of Him. The Eucharist is Calvary re-lived for all to look upon Him Whom they have thrust (cfr. Zechariah 12: 10), so that when I am lifted up I will call all people to myself  (John 12: 32). And those who look may, with John and the centurion on Calvary say: The one who speaks knows that it is true (John 19: 35) for truly this man was the Son of God. (Matthew 27: 54) 

The sacrilegious incident which took place several decades ago in Italy, continues to speak to the heart. We are quite aware, or perhaps not, that sadly incidents like the one mentioned above have been taking place more frequently around the world. What makes it worse is that they happen not only in non-Christian countries, but in Christian and even so-called Catholic countries. The Eucharist, a Sign of Contradiction (cfr Luke 2:34; Acts 28:22) for those who refuse or are unable because of their personal religious traditions, to acknowledge the Divine Presence, becomes a beacon of light that attracts all people in one way or another to listen to the words of Christ and respond. The response is as varied as those who approach it. The Eucharist is either a ‘mystery’ to be accepted and lived or just a ‘Catholic practice and/or superstition’ for others. Even those who do not believe as we regarding the Real Presence, still admire those who believe the impossible and live that belief. Those who consume the Lord in the Eucharist allow themselves to be consumed by Him so the two become one. It is this ‘oneness’ with Christ that manifests itself to others. Without necessarily understanding fully, they observe the effects the Eucharist produces in those who celebrate and receive with loving and living faith. 

Our pastors and all priests – priests and bishops – are called to make the Eucharist come alive by their life of dedication and commitment. The priest is called to be a Eucharist who nourishes his people with the very Lord with whom he nourishes himself. The priest, in persona Christ, celebrates the mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Christ. He offers the Christ he celebrates in the Eucharist to the faithful. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, both priest and faithful strive to grow into the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4: 13) every day. The people are a source of spiritual nourishment for their priests. The holiness and sinfulness, joys and sorrows, successes and failures, faith and doubts, offer countless opportunities for the priests to offer the faithful the compassion and love of the Savior. Thus, the Eucharist that priest and faithful both share becomes an effective sign of Jesus’ Presence in their lives calling them to greater intimacy with their Lord and God (cfr John 20: 28). 

If the priest is not ‘Eucharistic’, how can we expect our people to become more than just traditionally and devotionally ‘aware’ of what (Who) they have been told the Blessed Sacrament is? If our priests do not show adoring love and reverence for the Mystery they have the responsibility and privilege of celebrating and offering, how can we expect the faithful to see beyond the signs of bread and wine? When we priests see ourselves in each celebration of the Eucharist as Christ re-presenting His Passion-Death-Resurrection and redeeming grace, the People of God participating in the celebration are taken up in and with the mystery. They too experience more clearly and profoundly their priestly role in the Sacrifice we offer and the Table we share. When the priest lives the Eucharist he celebrates, the people to whom he ministers notice the grace of the sacrament working in, with, and through him, and in, with, and through them. The people thus are enveloped by the effects of God’s love that comes to us through the Eucharist that makes all of us not simply bystanders but participants in this great and awesome Mystery of Redemption. 

Because of today’s society, the priest is often bogged down with administrative responsibilities and other ministerial duties over and above what would normally be asked and expected. It is in the Eucharist celebrated with attention and devotion that he once again can find the perspective from which to view all he is asked to do, as well as who he is asked to be. It is from the perspective of the Lamb of God Whose compassion is selfless, Whose giving is total even to death and death on a cross (Philippians 2: 8), Whose love is infinite in time and all-embracing, that every facet of priestly life, even the seemingly banal, makes sense and is eternally rewarding. Once the priest sees himself, with all his faults and sins, loved by Jesus, the Victim offered once for all on Calvary and repeatedly re-presented for all in the Eucharist in every Mass, his life is changed and so are the lives of those whom he serves. The Priest is Not His Own is the title of one of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s books of many years ago. No truer words could ever be written! Until the priest lives for the other, he can never be the Other who sacrifices and offers “Life, the Living One” so that others may live. 

The priest becomes the Eucharist. He is weak, flawed, faulty, yet can be a most effective instrument of a life-giving flow of graces for those who participate in the “mysteries” of Word and Sacrament. They grow in the gifts of God according to their own cooperation with grace. They are empowered by the Sacrament to live the Jesus they receive. The light of Jesus thus shines through them, according to their collaboration with grace, in a world filled with so many shadows and dangerously blinding and alluring ‘lights’. 

Our Seraphic Father speaking to all says:  All those who saw the Lord Jesus Christ according to the humanity and did not see and believe…that He was the Son of God, were condemned. In like manner, all those who behold the Sacrament of the Body of Christ which is sanctified by the word of the Lord upon the altar by the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and Divinity that it is really the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. This is affirmed by the Most High Himself Who says: This is My Body, and the Blood of the New Testament, and he that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has everlasting life.  Therefore, children, how long will you be hard of heart? (The Admonitions, 1) 

The Poverello of Assisi, whose deep love for the Sacred Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was a driving force in his life, reminds not only those who call him their spiritual father, but all Catholics, to revere this extraordinary gift of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist. He had a personal and deep respect for the priest who confected the Eucharist at Mass and gave Christ to others.  Though he was never ordained a priest, God made St. Francis a sign of one called to be another Christ by imprinting the visible marks of the wounds of Christ on his body. He became an undeniable image to others of the mystery we are all called to celebrate, share, and become spiritually in our “Holy Communion” with Christ and one another in the Eucharist.   

Following St. Francis’ deep respect and love for the priest, we pray for all priests, that the Eucharist may be the Center of their lives, and the center of ours as well. We pray that Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, may be a strength and support for all priests and all God’s children as Jesus asked of Her on Calvary when He presented John to Her saying Woman behold your son! and to John Behold your mother! (John 19: 26).  Mary is not only Mother of the ministerial priests, but also of the priestly people we become by Baptism.  Embracing Mary as Mother we are facilitated in seeing Jesus in the Eucharist and recognizing the True “Viaticum” (food for the journey) of life to Life. Let us pray for all the faithful, especially ourselves, that we may grow in our love for the Great Prisoner of the Tabernacle and find comfort and solace in the quiet moments we spend before Him, and in the community moments when we celebrate His love with the Eucharistic community-the Church. 

As we celebrate a month filled with reminders of our Heavenly Mother’s powerful and loving presence in our lives (Aug.2, Our Lady of the Angels; Aug.15, Our Lady’s Assumption; Aug.27, The Seven Joys of Mary-suppressed as a liturgical feast but very much alive in the hearts and devotions of most Franciscans), may God bless you; Our Lady, Virgin Made Church and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and Holy Mother St. Clare 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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