Monthly Reflections February 2023, 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:

February 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

At the beginning of the month dedicated to the Hidden Life of Jesus we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus and the Purification of Mary in the Temple. The spirit of this occurrence is capsulated in the words of Simeon to Mary and Joseph: This Child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed; and to Mary he says, and your soul also a sword shall pierce, so that the hearts of many may be laid bare (cfr. Luke 2: 22-40). Simeon “sees” the faith of Israel fulfilled in this infant. His words of prayerful praise and gratitude envelop the Mother and Child in a prophecy that has begun its course to involve all creation. His personal experience of God’s goodness to him urges Simeon to touch the lives of others in prophecy and praise. Anna also cannot contain within herself the joy she experienced when she beheld the Infant Jesus. She too shared her encounter with God with all whom she met.


The adoring parents are reminded that the humility of the Incarnation and Birth must eventually lead to the selfless Love of the Cross if this Child is to fulfill His purpose for entering our human history. The life of Jesus, from the hovel of Bethlehem to the hill of Calvary, always has the Cross as a constant and faithful companion. The wood of the Crib that enfolds Him securely foreshadows the wood of the Cross that will hold him up securely for the world to behold. So that when I am lifted up, then I will draw all people to Myself  (John 12:32). The intimacy of the moment between the elderly “watchers” and the young parents inevitably leads Simeon and Anna to prophesy, Mary and Joseph to reflect and respond, and the Infant Jesus to continue to be the humble sublimity and the sublime humility (words of St. Francis of Assisi) of the God of Israel. He has already begun to change the course of time and fulfill the hopes of the faith-filled “watchers”.


Scripture says that He grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke, 2: 40). Jesus lived in eager anticipation of the fulfillment of the Father’s Will. Jesus’ ever-present intimacy and oneness with the immensity of God, His Father, did not keep Him in an ecstasy of a “glorious-do-nothing”. The years, months, weeks and days had begun to lead to that most solemn moment of His life, acceptance of the Cross. The instrument of our salvation, was also the altar of that profound and most Solemn Eucharist where Christ was and still is Priest and Victim. We are victors with the Victim when we accept to live in the revealing light of the shadow of His Cross.


We share in the saving effects of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, and accept the “gift” of the Cross with gratitude and availability. The Cross thus becomes a symbol of our life immersed in God, and in God with all humanity. The vertical beam reminds us of our relationship through faith and prayer with God. We raise our hearts and minds to the One from Whom all creation comes, and with Whom we are called to live eternally – Faith. The horizontal beam reminds us of our common bond with all who share life with us and with whom we have a particular relationship as children of the One great God and All-providing Creator – Hope. The point where the two meet and find balance forms the Cross on which Christ hung – Love. There He calls us to Himself and reminds us that There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Thus, unless our relationship with God spreads to encourage us to touch others with the love we have received from God, through Christ in the Spirit, our prayer is only partially effective, and bears little fruit.


God’s goodness bestowed on us encourages us to offer this gift to others. Here is where the balance of the two beams is found and there, in the middle, is Jesus. Gratitude and availability of this type do not come quickly or easily. Human nature seeks to evade and/or avoid anything that challenges us to go beyond the natural tendencies for survival and pleasure. Just think how people seek to beautify their bodies for a short span of years, and will undergo dangerous surgery, questionable drugs, or painful, lengthy, stressful aerobic programs, oftentimes engaging costly “qualified trainers”. The timeless competition between time and eternity are ever challenging us for undivided attention.


On the other hand, when it comes to our spiritual life, the health of our souls, and our growth in grace, we look for ways to cut corners. We even call the traditional centuries-old proven practices “old-fashioned”, “outdated”, “no longer of relevance to a modern and intellectually advanced society”, such as we deem ourselves to be. For a Christian, there seems to be something intrinsically wrong with this kind of reasoning. Since every person coming into this world is a totally new creation of God’s infinite love. No two persons are ever exactly alike. What a wonderful interchange and exchange of God-given gifts life could be! The Canticle of the Creatures of our Seraphic Father could be a wonderful prayer to reflect upon as it speaks of the beauty and harmony found in all creation. Special mention is the praise to God for those who forgive, and for Sister Death from whom no one can escape (from the Canticle of the Creatures of St. Francis of Assisi). Both forgiveness and relinquishment humbly offer the gift of oneself in loving acknowledgment of personal fault towards another and loving acceptance in all things “to let go and let God”. Everything and everyone tells of the wonders of God. We find the “message and messenger” at the juncture of the two beams of the Cross with the Crucified.


Life is full of experiences and encounters that ultimately are determining factors in a person’s disposition, character, direction in life, and, more often than not, the ultimate choice for eternity the person has decided to take. Every child born has: eyes to see, ears to hear, mouth to speak, hands to touch, feet to walk, mind to think, and heart to extend itself. What determines the course of that life is: On what do those eyes gaze? To what do those ears listen? What words emanate from the mouth as an expression of what the mind thinks and the heart desires? How and to whom do those hands reach out? Where do those feet go? What thoughts are harbored and fostered in the mind? And, whom, what and how does the heart love?


Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we continue to strive to grow into a holiness and integrity that only God’s grace can produce. How can we accomplish this task? It is a lifelong daily journey. We are similar to a piece of marble in the hands of the sculptor, or cloth in the hands of a tailor, or plant in the hands of the gardener. We allow ourselves to be chiseled into a work of art, cut, shaped and put together into the proper garment suited to us, and nurtured and nourished in order to grow into the new life we were created to be. It is through our senses that our life becomes truly a continual act of adoration. We adore the Source and Ultimate Goal of life, God! The experience transforms as it challenges. The Apostle Saint John tells us: This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched … What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you so that you may share this life with us (1 John 1:1-3).  You can note the excitement in his words, reliving, after many years, the freshness of his encounter with Jesus. Jesus was always here and now with John!  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). What about us?


Through nature we “feel” God as we adore Him in all we do.  We concretize our experience in our response to one another. Sharing with others we are always being “tweaked”, transformed. Here is the reason we must daily live our Franciscan lives, not just at meetings and special gatherings. We are a leaven! Our lives must be guided by the Gospel, the  Magisterium of the Church, and the Rule and Constitutions we have promised to live. Be true apostles! We cannot be closed in on ourselves. The Franciscan fraternity is not a small closed orchard. It is not a little garden to be jealously protected. Give! Share the fruits the Lord has given you! Be generous with everybody. Extend the “vehemence” of love to all with the spiritual gifts and their fruits concretized in our corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. Love can never be diminished of itself. Spread it everywhere you go.


Prayer is the unique strength of all good souls, it moves the world, renews consciences, sustains the (sick and infirm), comforts the suffering, heals the sick, sanctifies labor, raises up, gives moral strength and Christian resignation to human suffering, it overflows with the smile and blessing of God on all sluggishness and weakness (Padre Pio 5 May 1966).  Pray! But more, as was said of St. Francis, “become prayer” in all you are and do. Prayer is an action that can change the world itself!


Prayer is a strength and leaven that transforms those who pray with their heart and life. True prayer is never a personal static experience but one that of its very nature throws open the heart of the one who prays to allow all to enter into an embrace of universal brother/sisterhood. Pray with God’s Holy Word, particularly the Gospels where Jesus speaks to us with His life. Let the Word enflesh Himself, as it were, in your lives ever more deeply, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Let the Word be the strength and source of your prayer and God’s transforming grace within you.


We will enter the holy and joyful season of Lent the end of this month. Prayer, penance and almsgiving are the recommended essential elements that make for a fruitful Lenten experience. When prayer is true, sincere, and complete, the other elements are never missing. Our Father’s love redeems us in Jesus through the Spirit. God’s love encourages us to work daily towards an ongoing change of mind and urges us to open our heart to others: prayer (God relationship), penance (metanoia ongoing change of heart), almsgiving (sharing God’s gifts received with others). Here is a workable and actually quite simple program for celebrating the forty day pilgrimage from ashes to the empty tomb.


May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy mother St. Clare intercede for you and your loved ones, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant


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