August 2022 Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFMCap

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 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

Among all the other gifts which we have received and continue to receive from our benefactor, the Father of mercies, and for which we must express the deepest thanks to our glorious God, our vocation is a great gift … Therefore, beloved…. we must consider the immense gifts which God has bestowed on us, especially those which he has seen fit to work in us through his beloved servant, our blessed Father Francis …Therefore, if we have lives according to the form of life given us, we shall, by very little effort, leave others a noble example and gain the prize of eternal life … Therefore, I, – although unworthy – (am bound) to our Lady, most holy Poverty, so that, after my death, (all) present and to come would never abandon her … which we have promised the Lord and our holy Father Francis … (Testament of St. Clare – adaptation in parenthesis) 

Powerful words and beautiful!  They were written by a woman whose life and example have helped transform the lives of veritably millions of women and men through the centuries.  Yes, men as well!  The patrimony of the saints is for all who are ready and willing to learn from God Who speaks through them. The whole question of holiness is one that is dis-cussed so much that at times it can become dis-gusting.  Not because the matter is irrelevant or noisome, but because we dissect the issue so much that we turn holiness into a scholastic theory to be studied rather than a goal to be achieved with the help of God’s grace and our collaboration.  In fact, as we have heard in other matters, it is the journey to holiness itself that is the goal already achieved but not yet fully.

The call to holiness, offered to all God’s children indiscriminately, awaits a response.  God does not force the issue, but will do all that is possible to make it accessible. The wonderful gift of free will, greatest gift of the Creator after His love and life, is something we can offer back in thanksgiving by allowing ourselves to live in light of God’s will. This is where holiness is! Let us remember the words of one of our Third Order brothers, St. John Vianney: We have nothing of our own but our will. It is the one thing that God has so placed in our power that we can make an offering of it. The saints show us with their lives how they had come to know God’s will for them and how they responded.

Each saint is unique. This uniqueness only enhances our awareness of the vastness of God’s goodness manifested to every single person who recognizes the working of the Spirit in God’s holy ones. We must be willing to listen rather than just hear.  We will discover a vast horizon open before us. It welcomes us into the myriad signs of a God Whose love is just waiting, or better, anticipating, our entrance into His loving embrace. We become part of the mystery of God’s love during our time on earth as we advance towards the fullness of its reality in eternity.

In calling herself the little plant of the holy Father, St. Clare tells us of her love for St. Francis and how deeply she recognizes his influence in her life. The free spirit of St. Francis and the joy that emanated from his life were an attraction that encouraged Clare, and many others during Francis’ lifetime, to be free from all that held her back from fulfilling the desire of her heart to be consecrated to the service of the Lord. The unique expressiveness of the Poverello’s actions made clear his lack of concern for human respect and the opinions of others regarding his new way of life. His desire was to invite others to praise the Lord of creation.

The humility of St. Francis in remaining in Assisi where many knew him before and ridiculed him after his conversion expressed to Clare a conviction and commitment in him that strengthened her own resolve. The wealthy and poor who followed Francis and lovingly accepted one another without distinction as brothers undoubtedly enhanced and filled St. Clare’s heart with a yearning no human affection could fill. The community who received her when she passed the doorway of the Portiuncula that March night of 1212, introduced her to a family she would love and protect until her death.

Once she entered the doorway of the Portiuncula, Mother-Sister-Confidant/Counselor Clare, became the first sister of all the brothers. Her presence and words were revered both by St. Francis as well as by all the brothers. Her prayers were a consoling and reassuring promise that encouraged the brothers in their life and daily trials. Her counsels were sought by St. Francis and the friars. Her sharing in the Gospel Life filled out the Franciscan Family. She is not only a follower of the spirit of the Poverello, she too is an innovator and founder. Like St. Francis, St. Clare will forcefully, yet respectfully and patiently, refuse to accept the Rule of any other religious community. Exalted poverty was the ‘gift’ she wanted above all else that the Church grant her. Only shortly before the end of her earthly journey did St. Clare receive the desired Privilege of Exalted Poverty. She rejoiced and could die in peace.

In speaking of St. Clare in his decree for her canonization the Holy Father said: O Clare, endowed with so many titles of clarity!  Clear (clara) even before your conversion, clearer (clarior) in your manner of living, exceedingly clear (praeclarior) in your enclosed life, and brilliant (clarissima) in splendor after the course of your mortal life.  In Clare, a clear mirror is given to the entire world. (Alexander IV). The Holy Father understood and proclaimed the beauty of the woman who really lived her name. The transparency of her life and total surrender to God’s will made her an example to be praised and raised up for all to admire, emulate, and imitate.

One of the qualities spoken of much by political groups and religious organizations is transparency. To be ‘clear’ about matters can determine the outcome of many discussions, especially when sides involved are very distinct in their opinions and opposed in their reasoning.  How truly transparent are people willing to be?  The clarity with which we live our lives often is determined by the situations and people we encounter and with whom we must interact.  You are what you are before God and nothing more is a saying attributed to our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi. The fact itself cannot be denied. However, the way we live out who we are and how muddled or clear our character and actions come across depends on us and what we permit to affect us. A poet once stated Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. It is the same with transparency. Only the person can be so, if they so desire. Transparency cannot be coerced.

St. Clare, daughter of Favarone and Ortolana, truly lived the name she was given at birth. The light of God’s love and goodness that emanated from her life still encourages and enlightens thousands who accept to follow her example and Rule of life. Everyone and everything have a purpose in God’s eternal plan. We see the signs in our lives, and listen to the inner voice inviting. Then, the decision is ours to accept, postpone, or reject.  

The following brief paragraph, taken from the Legenda, briefly tells the interesting story of the naming of the child who became the first sister of the Franciscan Family. While the pregnant woman (Ortolana, the mother of St. Clare), already near delivery, was attentively praying to the Crucified before the cross in a church to bring her safely through the danger of childbirth, she heard a voice saying to her: ‘Do not be afraid, woman, for you will give birth in safety to a light which will give light more clearly than light itself.  Taught by this oracle, when the child was born and then reborn in sacred Baptism, she ordered that she be called Clare, hoping that the brightness of the promised light would in some way be fulfilled according to the divine pleasure (Legend of St. Clare, Part 1, chpt.1,2).

Who could have known this child would one day be the spiritual mother, sister and servant of a multitude of women, and the beloved spiritual mother, sister and confident/counselor of so many men. The women to whom she would give birth spiritually by the transparency of her life and actions continue to be in our twenty-first century world a beacon of clarity of faith, brighter hope, and brilliant love for God and all creation.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. A light is not put under a bushel basket but set on a candle stand so that its light shines for all to see (Matthew 5: 15-16) and from which all may benefit. We Franciscans also are called to a transparency of life that offers the Lord the means to shine through us and enlighten others on their journey.

The process of the ‘conversion’ story of St. Clare is not complicated. She was twelve years younger than the ‘eccentric’ son of Peter Bernardone. Clare probably heard and saw the rich spoiled Francis Bernardone turned poor itinerant preacher when he walked through the streets of Assisi.  She sought understanding all that was transpiring in Assisi through this merchant turned “preacher-vagabond-beggar”.  Her heart was set to share this wonderful gift of Poverty with Francis and his brothers. She has become the mother of a multitude whose prayerful penitential life is even today the strength of the Franciscan Family.

Although she had been promised to a young suitor for marriage, Clare carefully prepares an ‘escape’ from her family home. After the famous ‘kenosis’ of St. Francis ridding himself of his past even to the stripping off of the clothes he wore, many were affected and attracted, both elite and commoners, to follow his gospel lifestyle. The love and sincere support for each other that she saw in them, was no doubt an example St. Clare could not deny or disregard.  As she sought clarity and direction for her own life, St. Francis offered her the loving encouragement, strength, and support she needed to take the final step that introduced her to a life that would fulfill her prayerful desires.

The Family of the Poverello of Assisi would be incomplete if St. Clare had not responded to the call to follow St. Francis in the gospel life. She followed, yes, but St. Clare is her own person.  St. Clare makes the Family complete.  Just as one parent can care for a child but the child’s family life is incomplete without the other parent, we Franciscans can see ourselves in the same way had St. Clare not accepted to become the ‘mother’ of the family. In the entire Franciscan family there would be a true emptiness had St. Clare not left her home the night of March 1212.

St. Clare is not just another follower. St. Clare recognized the uniqueness of her new life and would not accept any rule but the simple Rule St. Francis gave her. Later she would write her own Rule for the Poor Ladies of San Damiano.  Her strength of purpose and character, and the undaunted insistence with the Holy See that the Privilege of Poverty be granted her religious family, filled her with joy when it was eventually granted.  It is the distinctive mark of the ‘Poor Ladies of San Damiano’ and all who accept her Rule.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we should consider ourselves spiritual children of St. Clare of Assisi as well.  Her life of prayer, penance, and exalted poverty call us to reflect upon our Franciscan vocation.  She was ‘in love’ with the Lord Who called her to a life of total surrender and trust in Divine Providence. We live in a materialistic, hedonistic, capitalistic, and so often deceptive society, where life’s values and life itself often are in the balance. Religion had once been the proper “thing to do”. Who knows how many now do not even consider it a personal issue?  Faith that makes our religion and its acts meaningful often can seem or even be a part time expression. Our faith leads to our words that lead to our actions that form our character. The deeper and more convinced we believe in what we profess, the more authentic we will be. Yet even Jesus lamented: When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

Total surrender means just that, “total”. Our own professions mean we give our word to live without gloss (words of St. Francis) what we promised. You are only as good as your word! St. Francis and St Clare were “total”. The moment they accepted the challenge of their vocation there was never a turning back, a mitigation of sincerity. We are all capable of living the spirit of total surrender and dedication.  The heroic expression of the gospel life St. Francis and St. Clare chose to live with their daughters/sisters and sons/brothers, and the life all who followed them lived, challenge us who call them our Seraphic Father and Holy Mother in the Franciscan Family, to follow their example and seek to simplify our lives. We strive to live in the freedom of the children of God. The Franciscan expression of poverty challenges us to do what is necessary so that our possessions (material, psychological, intellectual, spiritual, and more) do not possess us and thus enslave us.

The poverty Francis and Clare sought was expressed not only in the material goods of life but also in their humility.  What greater poverty can we express, and one that all professed men and women can live if they will to, than the willing expression of a humble life. The self-emptying of Jesus, even to death on a cross, is the ultimate expression of poverty any one could hope to live.  St. Clare teaches us that the privilege of poverty, and living it according to our state in life, empties us of all that controls us.  It enables us to be more receptive to grace. It makes us available to open our hearts to everyone.

Let us strive to learn from the example Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi.  Let us sincerely attempt to be detached from what we allow to control us, humbly at the service of one another, sincerely loving our sisters and brothers. Unless we accept the giftedness of our vocation and the fact that each one of us is a gift that God offers the other, we will never strengthen the bond of charity among us.  As we honor the poverty and humility of St. Clare and St. Francis, let us not forget that the ‘ego’ is the greatest and often last ‘treasure’ of which we are willing to let go.  When we recognize the real smallness of our greatness, then we will more clearly see poverty as freedom, chastity as love, and obedience as victory. Living our profession becomes a joyful total surrender to the One Who calls. The secret to remember is: Live it and you will love it! 

May God bless us; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family and good St. Joseph, our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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