February 2022 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 2022 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis

May the Lord grant you peace! 

In the Spring of 1207, while in the woods of Monte Subasio, Saint Francis was accosted by several thieves. They asked Francis who he was, and he replied simply, I am the herald of the great King!  We know the story: they stripped him of his tunic, threw him into a ditch, and went away amused at the words of this ‘lunatic’. Untroubled at the harsh treatment given him, our Seraphic Father, truly an example for all his children-to-be, got up and cheerfully continued his way.  Eccentric to say the least! but truly in love with God and life that even harsh treatment could not destroy the inner peace and joy he was discovering more deeply every day.  

St. Francis’ immediate response to the brigands was based on a profound conviction that the Lord had spoken to him from the Cross of San Damiano, and charged him to rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is falling into ruin. St. Francis understood these words literally. He set out at once to begin his ‘job’ of rebuilding churches. He was the ‘divinely-appointed ecclesiastical architect and general contractor’ of some of the churches of Assisi. Actually, it is not far-fetched to give him these titles. The day came when he became the ‘architect’ of a whole new way of life. He built the Family of the Penitents of Assisi with the lives and love of ‘living stones’. The Providence of God took care of his needs and those of all who requested to follow his example. The good people of Assisi and so many others became the all-providing hand of God for this young ‘penitent’ who had embraced his fears, kissed the leper, and given all that ‘possessed him’ back to the world.  He threw himself with abandon into the loving arms of his Father in heaven, and nothing nor anyone was going to make him turn back. 

St. Francis considered himself a ‘man with a mission’, a mission yet to be defined, but one that St. Francis did not hesitate to begin, leaving all the “specifics” up to God and in God’s time.  How wonderful our lives would be if only we were that trusting of God!  We trust human beings, erratic as we can be, and yet we find difficulty trusting God, Whose love is everlasting! (cfr. Psalm 107) Go figure! The work of rebuilding churches with the sweat of his brow and strength of his own limbs would no doubt catch the attention of many, especially the elite of Assisi society who, as Francis, were accustomed to be catered to rather than exert themselves for others, especially those lower on the social ladder.  Some to ridicule, others to praise, and many to question and wait, but all were aware of Francis. The son of Peter Bernardone had caused excitement and consternation among the populace of Assisi. That is how it is with true leadership: yes or no, accept or reject, adhere or detach, follow or leave.  Anyone who encountered Francis Bernardone, and knew of his previous care-free and care-less attitude, spoiled as the fair-haired-son of the self-made wealthy merchant and how he had now become, could not remain indifferent to the facts before them.  

Except for the presence and support of an unknown friend. St. Francis was relatively alone in the first years of his new life.  No doubt there were many questions and personal difficulties he had to overcome.  He struggled with the ‘demons’ within and the difficulties without, as any of us contend with during life’s journey.  With the help of divine grace, he sought to become the new wine and new wineskins (Matthew 9:17).  He did not seek to establish a new Order in the Church. With God’s help, he was seeking to establish order in his life.  His cheerful character and determination, his acceptance of voluntary poverty to avoid the entanglements that our possessions so often cause us, his deep love and concern for the ‘refuse’ of society numbering himself among them, were only a few of the characteristics of this ‘new person’ Francis was ‘becoming’ more decisively each day. These all served as ‘magnets’ attracting many in those first few years to follow his example.  They too would eventually become ‘heralds of the great King’.  

Emphasizing the word ‘herald’ is important.  Heralds were trusted people charged with a given ‘mission’. They spoke in the name of another. They did not wield the authority. They spoke in the name of one whose words were to be repeated ‘verbatim’. Jesus Himself speaks of the attitude of His ‘heralds’.  He tells us not to worry when we are questioned regarding the ‘Good News’ we are commissioned to proclaim to the world.  Speaking in the name of Jesus and witnessing our allegiance to Him, Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid of what you are to say or how you are to say it, the Spirit of my Father will be speaking in you (Matthew 10: 19). Because the heralds were trusted people entrusted with the words of their master, an integrity and credibility were bestowed upon the herald by the mere fact of the office they fulfilled and the one whom they were delegated to represent, and in whose name they delivered their message.  A herald spoke from a source beyond himself. He spoke with certainty, and thus, with unquestionable authority. In this sense, St. Francis was a true herald, one who proclaimed the words of the Master, and was the first to live them.   

In the winter of 1209 – Many believe it was the feast of Saint Matthias, the apostle who took the place of Judas Iscariot, celebrated until the liturgical reform of Vatican II on February 24th – St. Francis was approaching the Chapel of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula. In the First Life of St. Francis written by Blessed Thomas of Celano, we read: Francis went to another place, which is called the Portiuncula. When on a certain day the Gospel was read in that church, how the Lord sent his disciples out to preach, the holy man of God, assisting there, understood somewhat the words of the Gospel. After Mass he humbly asked the priest to explain the Gospel to him more fully.  Francis, hearing that the disciples of Christ should not possess gold or silver or money; nor carry along the way scrip, or wallet, or bread, or a staff; that they should not have shoes, or two tunics; but that they should preach the kingdom of God and penance, immediately cried out exultingly: ‘This is what I wish, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do with all my heart’.  The holy father, overflowing with joy, hastened to implement the words of salvation, and did not delay before he devoutly began to put into effect what he heard, for he was no deaf hearer of the gospel. He then began to preach penance to all with a fervent spirit and joyful attitude. His word like a blazing fire, reached the deepest parts of the heart and filling the souls of all with wonder. In all his preaching, before he presented the word of God to the assembly, he prayed for peace saying, ‘May the Lord give you peace’. Many who hated peace, with the Lord’s help, wholeheartedly embraced peace. They became children of peace. (1Celano, 21-24) 

God’s word was no idle spiritual devotion for Francis. It was the guiding factor in his life. As God spoke, so Francis sought to do. When our Father Francis heard the words of the Gospel on that grace-filled day, his concerns and questions were answered. It seemed as though God Himself were saying to Francis: ‘Abandon worries and concern for tomorrow in the hands of the One Who provides for every moment and without Whom nothing can be. Trust. Do not be afraid’. This simple, yet profound message he preached to others more by actions than by words. His simplicity and childlike trust in the Providence of God attracted others to follow his example. Those who gave a powerful witness were not only the professed Friars and Sisters, but also the men and women, our brothers and sisters, who could not leave their families and/or responsibilities in society, yet who, nonetheless, deeply desired and sought to live this evangelical expression of life in their daily secular experiences. They became the yeast kneaded into the dough, the light placed on a candelabra (cfr. Matthew 5: 14-16). The Gospel was a call offered to everyone willing to listen and to follow. The more they faithfully listened to the Word within them, the better they were empowered to respond to a world around them. It was the beginning of a life fulfilled for those who give priority to God and trust in His all-providing and all-loving Presence. 

As spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us remember the power the Word of God exercised in his life and should exercise in our own.  As St. Francis, let us read the Word and listen to It with our heart. When necessary, ask clarifications, as St. Francis did, to better understand what the Lord is saying through His Word.  Following our Seraphic Father’s example, always have an open and disarmed heart to the challenges God’s Word may offer. Keep an open mind also to go beyond the stubborn barriers we place in our lives that impede our spiritual growth when God’s Word challenges us to change. Let the words of the Divine Word enter our heart as He speaks to each of us personally and directly. Our Franciscan charism is rooted in and nourished by the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ (cfr, chapter 1, Rule). Whether by the Vows of the First and Second Orders, or the Promises of the Secular Franciscan Order, we are called to heights of holiness with the help of God’s grace through the Word made Flesh and the Word that becomes enfleshed in us who take the Word/word to heart and live Him/It. Total openness to God’s Word, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, would be able to eradicate from our lives and fraternities all that does not speak of Franciscan humility and charity. These are not ‘pie-in-the-sky’ virtues, but the foundation of a life worth living and loving.  The Church in Her leadership has always praised our Franciscan spirit and encouraged the sisters and brothers to live it fully and, in the words of St. Francis, ‘without gloss’.  

Let the Word of God, take hold of your lives. Whatever God says to us in His Word, let us say with Saint Francisthat is what I want with all my heart.  Our Rules and Constitutions are confirmed by the Church because they are founded on God’s Word. Let us not be afraid to live the Gospel we accept and the Life we have professed.  May the spirit of Franciscan joy be an undeniable characteristic of each one of us.  We are a family of sisters and brothers, redeemed in the blood of Jesus on Calvary.  We are a fraternity/family, who follow united as sisters and brothers, in the footsteps of our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi.  Let the hope, trust and joyful optimism which has its source in the Lord Himself of our Franciscan Vocation, overflow into the lives of all whom we encounter and to whom we minister.  

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