October 2021 Meditation 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      email:  skdsfo    

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

October 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi is undoubtedly one of the most revered saints. Catholics, non-Catholics and non-Christians value the authenticity of his life and spirit, and the message he offers the world of peace and universal brother/sisterhood. The spirit of the Poverello of Assisi has left and still leaves its mark on the hearts of millions of people.

History, legend, poetic romanticism, aspirations of those searching for the meaning of their lives as well as life itself (i.e. what’s it all about?)and many other reasons point out Francis to be among the unique individuals of history to have made a deep impression on so many people. His sons and daughters of any Roman Catholic Franciscan “obedience” (religious groups of men and women living a structured form of life officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church) continue his legacy in varied ways. They do not deviate from the essentials of his rule and testament, while they adapt to the times, without adopting the worldly spirit into which even our religious world seems to have fallen.

We cannot forget also the men and women of other non-Catholic Christian religious traditions.  They admire and seek to live the spirit of the values St. Francis sought to instill in the hearts of seekers of the truth of God’s Paternity over all creatures. These are those whose faith only God knows, and found mercy in God’s sight, as we are reminded in the Eucharist Prayer for all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life.(Third Eucharistic Prayer), and all who seek You with a sincere heart (4th Eucharistic Prayer).  He is an incentive for them to live their beliefs for a better world as they sincerely continue their search for the fullness of Truth. They strive to better themselves by accepting those values that help raise a fallen nature to a higher and greater realm of integrity and wholeness of life. As the Universal Brother, St. Francis of Assisi appeals to all people of good will.

Truly Catholic in his spirit and desire, there were those who requested that he accept them under his guidance. To assure himself and the followers he had now acquired that their desire was of God, St. Francis sought the guidance and approval of Pope Innocent III. This pope was considered one of the most powerful men of the Church and of society at that time. He had a powerful influence on the religious, social, political, and even militaristic actions throughout the Church and known world.

The famous story, written by Saint Bonaventure (cf. St. Bonaventure’s Major Legend of St. Francis, III:10) speaks of the encounter of St. Francis and Pope Innocent III:  The servant of Almighty God, giving himself totally to prayer, obtained through his devout prayers both what he should say outwardly and what the pope should hear inwardly. For when he told a parable, as he had accepted it from God, about a rich king who gladly betrothed a poor but lovely woman who bore him children with the king’s likeness … he added his own interpretation. “The sons and heirs of the eternal King should not fear that they will die of hunger. They have been born of a poor mother by the power of the Holy Spirit in the image of Christ the King, and they will be begotten by the spirit of poverty in our poor little religion. For if the King of heaven promises his followers an eternal kingdom, he will certainly supply them with those things that he gives to the good and the bad alike.” While the Vicar of Christ listened attentively to this parable and its interpretation, he was quite amazed and recognized without a doubt that Christ had spoken in this man. But he also confirmed a vision he had recently received from heaven … He saw in a dream, as he recounted, the Lateran basilica almost ready to fall down. A little poor man, small and scorned, was propping it up with his own back bent so that it would not fall. “I’m sure,” he said “he is the one who will hold up Christ’s Church by what he does and what he teaches.”… Then he granted what was asked and promised even more. He approved the rule, gave them a mandate to preach. 

St. Francis did not preach new Church dogma, or secular ideologies in vogue at the time. He may have been influenced by groups seeking to live a more basic expression of Christianity in the Church, but he always remained faithful to the Church and the Magisterium. What was not permitted, he would not do. He also demanded this as part of the Rule of life that the brothers (and St Clare and her sisters) were expected to live without gloss.  The universal brother, the man with a disarmed heart, permitted no excuse or deviation from this road of total Gospel and Roman Catholic life.

His purpose was to live God’s will, as it had been impressed upon his heart when the Crucifix spoke to him at San Damiano: Francis, go rebuild my Church. As you see, it is falling into ruin. In the best way he knew how at the time, he fulfilled the “command” by rebuilding the three churches of San Damiano, St.Peter, and the Portiuncula. Not much later, he realized that the “church” about whom the voice spoke was the established Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. An earlier liturgical prayer for the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis states: when the world was growing cold, in order that our hearts might burn anew with the fire of Your (God’s) love… Francis’ mission was to rekindle love in the Church and the hearts of allHis enthusiasm, energy, excitement about life, personal immersion into the reality of God Whom he experienced in everything and everyone made him weep so often saying: Love is not loved. Love is not loved.  Eccentric maybe, but totally engaged in the awesome majesty and magnificence of the Divine. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as can be noted in his writings, were an ever-present, affective, and effective reality in his life and works.

Saint Francis was recognized as a Saint by his contemporaries even while he lived.  His orthodoxy, his dedication to poverty, his burning desire to spread the faith, and the miracles of grace that sprang up about him all represented to medieval Catholics what a saint should be.  Pope Innocent III likewise represented to medieval Catholics what a pope should be:  an unrelenting champion of orthodoxy, a vigilant guardian of the Church ever willing to call men to arms for the sake and honor of the Cross to protect the Faith. Pope Innocent III’s life was a personal life marked by piety and charity, with a “confusing” and often “forceful” means to attain a goal. (Let us remember that we must not judge one era by the values of another. Grace builds on nature. God assists us through experiences in time to understand His Will and grow in grace.)  Nevertheless, though different in office and personality, Pope Innocent III was always an admirer and protector of Saint Francis and his new order.  He saw in St. Francis and his Friars Minor an ardent attempt to live out the perfect way of life called for by Christ, and yearned for by so many. For many of them “life gets in the way”, but not for the son of Pietro Bernardone. Innocent knew that Francis “had it together”.

The lives and funds of the Church employed in all the Crusades against the Moors and Albigensians, cost nothing for the Poverello of Assisi. He revolutionized those who encountered him. His disarming demeanor invited people and even animals into a friendship of dialogue and understanding. Remember Francis and the Sultan, Francis and the Thieves, Francis and the Wolf, and more.  St. Francis was poor in the wealth of the world but enriched those who knew him. He became the champion of the Church. His sermon was the simple word of down-to-earth faith. He took no money, nor expected any recompense for his labors. He lived on the alms given him and his brothers for services rendered in spiritual or manual labors. All was accepted in the name and for the good of the poor.

St. Francis of Assisi was no pushover. He dealt with the friars, sisters, and all who sought his assistance in living the Gospel Life he sought to live in response to God’s call. He got terribly annoyed when the friars, while he was in the Holy Land, sought to “mitigate” the life by even changing what Francis knew was what he had been given by God to live. He demanded that the words of Scripture and the Rule not be “glossed” according to personal desires and whims. It is God who must be proposed and not our personal egos.

We are living in challenging times for the Church. The Church is being criticized, ridiculed. The Holy Father is being opposed by the very ones who should be working with him and assisting him. The faithful and even those outside the Church are taking sides and campaigning in one way or another. Nothing really changes though. The Mystical Body of Christ (the Church), like the Christ of history, will always be a Sign of Contradiction for those who seek to “mitigate” His Way. The Church and our Order as well have gone through these moments regularly throughout history. We are called to challenge others by our way of life and to be challenged by our personal call to be Franciscans. The uniqueness of our characters, personalities, quirks and what have you, find our unity in the bond of our “yes” to God’s invitation. There is always room for various expressions of ministry within the family. They must, however, be in accord with Church Laws regulating the work of any group acting in the name of the Catholic Church, and the Rule and Constitutions of the religious Orders approved by the Church. Let us pray that we always recognize our unity in pluriformity, and that our pluriformity always be faithful to what makes us Catholic Christians and committed Franciscans.

As Mary journeyed Her life with that of Jesus, may the mysteries of the Rosary we celebrate this month and hopefully pray everyday be our strength in walking with Jesus in the loving company of His and our Mother. May the Rosary (or the Franciscan Crown) be a daily reminder of our lives immersed in the reality of Jesus ever with us through all the moments of our lives, and of Mary’s intimate presence encouraging us. We are Her children, whom she accepted as her own at the foot of the Cross. It is in the mystery of the Incarnation of the God Who became one with us through Mary, that we can recognize and hopefully understand in the integrity of our faith the wholeness of conviction in our commitment to live “without gloss” the beautiful gift of the Franciscan vocation we have been offered.  As we reflect upon the Word Who gave the pledge of His faithfulness to the Father’s Will even to the Cross, let us remember the word we gave to be truly faithful.

The adage holds true and essentially so:  Your only as good as your word. How true are we to the Word Who asks faithfulness to our word to always be “yes” to the call we received as Christians, Catholics, and Franciscans? Our sincere answer will reveal much, maybe more than we would like.

May God bless us. May Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart. May 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, encouraging all of us to the faithful fulfillment of our “yes” to the Gospel Life as Franciscans.


Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant





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