March 2024-Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – Monthly Greetings

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:

March 2024

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord grant us the gift of His peace.

A prayer card honoring the Holy Family portrayed St. Joseph at his work bench, our Blessed Mother Mary preparing something in the background, and the Boy Jesus in the doorway of the house. Jesus was standing with His arms wide open and smiling at Joseph and Mary. Mary and Joseph looked at Jesus with subtle joy. There seemed also to be a meditative glance they both had as they looked at Jesus. The brightness of the sun caused a shadow to be formed in the house. The shadow was in the form of a cross that started at the feet of Jesus and extended toward Joseph and Mary. From the beginning of His earthly life the shadow of the cross followed Jesus, it was “fastened” to His Person. In fact it was at the very “root” of the Incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1: 14) with the mission to preach the Gospel of God’s love and mercy and to show the extent of His love even to death and death on a cross (Philippians 2: 8).

The fact is that the Word is one of us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4: 15). He began His public ministry preaching, teaching and openly preparing His disciples that the Son of Man must first suffer and be put to death, and then be raised on the third day (Luke 9: 22-27). People search for meaning and purpose to their lives: why am I here? Why was I born? What am I expected to do” Who am I? It sounds like psychotherapy. These questions come from the depths of a searching heart.

Our objective in life is to become one with the One in Whose image and likeness we are created. The Incarnation speaks to us of the humility of God willing to become an integral member of humanity as a human so that humanity, through-with-in Him might become one with God more intimately. Collaborating with God’s grace we are “conformed” to Christ – more deeply. As St. Paul states: It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2: 20). Some, more privileged are given a share in the life of grace through the “Mystical Union” we read so often about in the spiritual writings of many saints. The mystical union, a unique divine gift of God alone, transforms the person in various ways. For St. Francis of Assisi, the reception of the Stigmata of Jesus was the ultimate sign of his “one-ness” with Christ. The fullness of this union, begun years before, took a lifetime of willingly surrendering to God’s will.

The conformity of St. Francis with Jesus the Christ was made visible only two years before his death. What began in his heart at San Damiano (Go Francis rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is falling into ruin) was visibly imprinted on his body for the world to see and reflect upon years later on Mount La Verna.


The stages of this process/journey are traditionally referred to as the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways. Terminology may differ, but the gradual transformation follows the same order. St. Augustine reminds us, when speaking to God in his Confessions: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. The “restlessness” initiates a dialogue with God that leads to a more profound awareness of our relationship with Him.  God’s word penetrates more deeply than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4: 12). A difficulty often encountered is recognizing and understanding God Who speaks to our hearts. Our response is vital. It determines whether we continue along the road offered or seek another path. God breathed us into life and created us to the image and likeness (cfr.Genesis 1: 26) of Himself. The image remains alive and develops as we cooperate with grace.

Thus: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step. Immeasurably more than a thousand miles is life’s journey from time to eternity. We must set priorities, overcome obstacles, and trust enough to let go of fear.  Fear is useless. What is needed is faith (Mark 5: 36). Do we understand the gift of being alive as God’s gift to Himself and to us? Have we ever considered the fact that if we are that “gift”, we must share our gifts with others who themselves are “gifts”. Even the height of “conformity” to Jesus, is not solely for the gifted one, but intended to encourage others on the road to divine intimacy.

The Cross, always seen as a symbol of hatred and death, is also a sign of love, hope and challenging transformation. The cross indicates, embraces, determines, explains, challenges, nourishes, fills, fulfills, calls, distances, and much more.The cross elevates and presents to the whole world the depth of God’s love in Jesus, His Incarnate Son. Viewing and accepting the events and encounters of our lives, from the perspective of the cross of Christ, leads us to a greater conformity with Christ. The “one-ness” we desire, according to our collaboration with grace, conditions us to be prepared for God to enter a mystical union with us, should God so will. This is for anyone, but definitely for the one blessed with the charism (gift) to live as a witness for everyone.

The early years of St. Francis’ life journey spoke to him so candidly of the power riches wield over others. He experienced how easily we are possessed and controlled by our wealth and possessions. He saw how often society distances and rejects its own who have fallen into dire straits of any kind. He was paralyzed by his own fear of lepers, a fear that haunted him until he embraced the leper on the road and overcame the last hurdle he needed to overcome in order to let go and let God form him into the new man the old having passed away (cfr.  Corinthians, Romans, 1 John, and others). Realizing, understanding, accepting and responding to the challenge of “being Jesus” – being a “living Gospel” – St. Francis took the road of conformity to Christ more deliberately.

The Little Poor Man became the “Universal Brother”. He embodied the image of a Christ Whose cross as a symbol of total giving for the sake of the other, was the support of his life. The cross of the naked crucified Jesus was a vivid reminder to him of those “crucified” each day by the distorted values of society. Like the image of the Byzantine Christ of San Damiano the poor are nailed to their crosses yet they are fully alive to the demands of a world that fails to acknowledge their value as equals. It is the contradiction of the cross: image of hatred indicates love, image of death indicates life. It is a love that overcomes hatred and violence (Pope Francis).

Francis, whom is it better to serve the master or the servant? The Master, Lord. Then why do you run after the servant. Return home. The “dialogue” with the God within his very soul encouraged him to face humiliation, criticism, parental punishment and public ridicule of being a coward so that he might surrender to God rather than his dreams of a confused greatness. Until we break with what keeps us bound, we are still a slave. The Seraphic Mother, St. Theresa of Avila, tells us that whether it be with a cord or a thread as long as a bird does not break the bond that keeps it from flying away, the bird is still bound.

Unless we break with what keeps us from letting go, we are still a “prisoner”.  The “old self” is not necessarily evil. We often become prisoners of complacency, and that keeps us from becoming better or even the best we can be. That is what “perfection” is all about.  Faith reminds us that perfection is achieving the purpose for which we were created. You are who you are before God and nothing more (St. Francis), The acceptance of this truth is a most liberating awareness. Thus, with St. Clare, we can gratefully say: Thank you, God, for creating me.  

Grateful and available to God introduces us to a journey that accompanies us to total “Journey into God”. “Oneness” with God brightens our every moment: good, less good, challenging, and so on. Regardless of the external challenges, the heart is at peace. St. Francis’ early life and the individuals who opened his eyes and heart to the Christ within them – beggar, knight, leper, and others – encouraged detachment, selflessness, and unconditional love beyond his greatest fear. It is the agony of Gethsemane by participation: Father if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me. However, not my will but Yours be done.  (Matthew 26: 39) 

Running through the streets of Assisi with his friends Francis began feeling a tension to something else, something more, Someone better. The secret affection and love he was beginning to feel for the “love of his life” confused him and took hold of his heart. The struggle and confusion, the fear and final “plunge” into the baptism of a new life created the new man, the old having passed away, a new creation (2 Corinthians: 5: 17) The tension to “live” or “die”,  is the story of most sincere people. It is the challenge of the cross. The challenge of the cross directs our spiritual sights from bottom to top vertically and our horizontal awareness of what surrounds. The conjunction of the two beams is Christ. In Him we find balance in our lives. The Cross maintains everything in the perspective of eternity and accompanies us on our journey through time to eternity.

During prayer before the Byzantine Crucifix of San Damiano, St. Francis heard a voice addressed to him: Francis, go and repair my Church, which, as you can see, is falling into ruin. The message was clear enough. How was he to do this? There were still hurdles to overcome. Growing requires moving forward and leaving things of the past in the past. We break with the “way it was” and move forward to “the way it must be”. Now Francis’ vision of life was seen and decided in the light of the “voice of God” he heard.  He was beginning to understand the more intimate yearnings of his heart and soul.

St. Francis knew and believed God was leading him. Nonetheless, he needed strength and decisiveness to go beyond the “line of demarcation”. We could even call it the “red line”. It placed him at odds with so many, including his loved ones. The first move in the direction of conformity is a wrestling match, not with God but within ourselves. The first big step into the “wholeness of perfection” can be painful and confusing. The cross is vivid and true, and can be frightening.

On the feast of the Apostles, Mass was being celebrated in the Portiuncula Chapel. The celebrant read the Gospel. The words struck Francis so deeply that he requested the priest explain them to him.  On receiving the explanation Francis’ reply was This is what I want. This is what I desire with all my heart. The goal of his heart now empowered his desires to will with all his heart and strength to walk the walk of intimacy with God. The focus of his life would always be the Cross, sign of the sublimity and humility of God. These words expressed the condescension of compassion (St. Leo the Great) at the Incarnation, birth, ministry, Passion-Death-Resurrection, and the Eucharist. At each moment the greatest of all God’s children, loved by St. Francis and always in his heart, is present. She is there with Her “yes” to the impossible to the foot of Cross to Her “yes” to the unthinkable and horrific ingratitude, to the joy of new life at the Resurrection.

Focus on the Crucified. The love of Jesus enlightens us to see more clearly who we really are. We are impassioned to love Him more dearly, empowered to follow Him unconditionally, almost as His “other self” if that were possible.  We learn to Love that continues loving (Hymn Pescador). Surrendering ourselves to the One Who surrendered Himself for us on the Cross leads to a growth in the spirit and a conversion of heart thus making Easter a true Resurrection Day.

We fail so often to surrender ourselves to God Who speaks to us in and through His Word and His Church. Love is expressed fully in the total surrender of those who surrender to each other totally and unconditionally without counting the cost. Total surrender allows us to investigate and question, without doubting. Total surrender strengthens us when we are suffering or burdened, so that we persevere in trust. Total surrender gives us courage in the face of persecution of any kind and even death, with serenity, peace and joy. There is so much that we could enumerate, but the basic truth that makes the rest meaningful is as the Apostle John states in his letter: God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4: 16). Isn’t that what conformity and mystical union is? We become, as it were, the Other.

The first followers of our Seraphic Father were known as ‘The Penitents of Assisi’.  The true spirit of penance guides us during this season that seeks to help us be more conformed to Christ and the Paschal Mystery.  The moment of our Baptism begins the road of conformity to Christ, gradually, through life, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Penance is a gradual liberating experience that leads us to a “re-forming” in the person of Jesus, as we strive to live the Gospel – “Live Jesus” – each day more deeply. During Lent the Church us to take more time to reflect on God’s words and inspirations, to do the necessary to reform our doubtful, questionable, or even grace-less ways we may have acquired, so that we may renew our lives becoming more like Jesus. Thus, we may re-establish a deeper relationship with God and all creation. 

This is a season of joy-filled expectations. We live in the awareness of the reality of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  ‘Reconstruction’ and re-birth are for those who seriously take advantage of the spiritual opportunities available.

Lent can lead us, who seek to be conformed to Christ as best we can, to a renewal, of the ‘edifice of the Spirit’, ‘the Temple of God’ that we are ‘. We come alive’ in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus and our greater conformity to Him. Spiritually signed with the Sacred Marks of His Passion on our hearts and soul, the power of God’s loving grace allows us to truly become the “Alleluia People” we are called to be..

May God bless you; may Our Lady and  good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Mother St. Clare of Assisi look 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

Comments are closed.