February 2018 Greetings from Father Francis

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 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis

May the Lord grant you peace!

In 1263, a priest from the Italian town of Bolsena, while celebrating Mass, after having pronounced the words of Consecration, began to doubt that with those words the bread and wine had truly been transformed into the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus. The document of deposition at the time gives us the textual words the priest said to himself: I do not see anything here, nor do I feel anything, nor can I notice any change; it cannot be true that Jesus Christ is really here. This host is nothing more than a piece of bread.

From a moment of anxious doubt he entered a state of heresy; he went from difficulty to full-blown disbelief! The priest nevertheless continued celebrating Mass for the sake of the people attending, and arrived at the elevation of the Host.

As he did so, droplets of blood fell from the host onto the corporal (the cloth that is placed under the chalice and paten during Mass to catch any consecrated drops or particles that might accidentally fall on the altar). One can only imagine the fear that possessed the priest at such a sight. With hands raised high holding up the Sacred Host, in an act of adoration of the Sacred Body of Jesus, he remained for a rather lengthy period contemplating the mystery and miracle that had just occurred.

The people assisting at the Mass also saw the wonderful happening and burst forth into a cry of adoration and praise: O Precious Blood! O Divine Blood; who is responsible for this shedding of blood? Others exclaimed: O Divine Blood, flow over our souls, purify us of our sins! Most Blessed Blood, call down the Divine Mercy upon us!

The shouting of the crowd jolted the priest out of his contemplation of the Precious Body and Blood he held. He found a dry spot to rest the Precious Body upon the corporal that had been almost totally dampened with the droplets of the Precious Blood. His eyes and heart were opened. He saw the truth and recognized the answer to his doubt, and gratefully accepted this miraculous response of God’s merciful love to his own mistrust of Jesus’ promise to be with you always until the end of the age, in such a marvelous way.

Continuing the celebration of the Mass amidst tears and lengthy meditative pauses, he was able to conclude the Eucharistic celebration. At the end of the Mass, the celebrant attempted to fold the cloth as best he could, but the people came forward and wanted to see for themselves close-up in order to ascertain the truth of the occurrence. The priest showed the faithful the cloth bathed in blood and they, in turn, fell on their knees to adore the miracle and implore divine mercy upon themselves.

News of the event reached Pope Urban IV who at that time was in Orvieto, a city near to Bolsena. The priest brought the Corporal to the pope.  He told the story of his doubts and the manner in which the miracle had occurred. Pope Urban IV and those with him recognized the miracle and knelt in adoration of this Eucharistic Mystery made visible in the Miracle before them.  A local feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament was extended to the entire Church – the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). This is one of several Eucharistic Miracles that call for our attention when the evil one challenges our faith in Jesus’ words and His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

What happened many centuries ago in Bolsena happens in every Catholic Church around the world when the Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. There is no longer a visible shedding of blood. No longer is the ground bathed in blood or the heads of sinners sprinkled with the saving Blood of Jesus, as the early Israelites were sprinkled with the blood of the animals sacrificed to reconfirm their commitment to the Covenant.

What does happen is that hearts and souls are cleansed and renewed when the eyes of the faithful see the Lord in Sacrifice as He offers Himself in Sacrament to all. The re-presentation of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus is perpetuated through the centuries in the Church. At the Consecration of the Bread and Wine the ‘Presence’ becomes ‘Real’ and our relationship with the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit achieves an always greater intensity.

The Presence of God among us is a Privilege. This privilege must be participated if we are to experience the power of grace available to us. The three key words here are: ‘presence’, privilege’, ‘participation’. They remind us that: God walks with His people.  His people have no right to His presence.  God offers us His presence freely.  It is a gift of God’s love.  To profit from the awesome experience, the people of God must enter the moment and participate by responding with and in their lives to God. This response is a sign and a determining factor of our friendship and intimacy with God.

The priest continues in the presence of our Sacramental Lord interceding for the unifying gift of the Spirit, blessings for the Church Suffering and Militant, and imploring the mediation of all those holy souls who now live in the Eternal Presence of God. The Eucharistic Prayer ends with a brief hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Father, through-with-in Jesus, in the unity of the Spirit.  And the People of God acclaim and confirm all that was said and done with ‘Amen!’ Priest and People of God have ‘celebrated’ together.  They entered the mystery that requires a depth of faith to experience the ‘miracle’ of a ‘presence’ that makes the Mystical Body of Christ – who are faithfully gathered in Liturgy – a visible reality for the world to see. Filled with Jesus, we become a sign of hope to a world so desperately in need of that gift.

Hope has always been a rather difficult virtue to comprehend. Hope is not a static, passive stance that we take. Hope is not dwelling on something we desire and wait for it to happen or to be given to us. Hope is a very proactive virtue that flows from faith and fosters love. Christian hope is not passive resignation. Our own Padre Pio teaches us to be active and to make God’s interests ours. In other words, he is telling us that we must seek first the kingdom of God and His justice over us, and God will make our interests His. God will come to our aid in our temporal needs as we journey to the fullness of time where nothing is needed because all we could ever hope for is there – GOD forever!

Our Seraphic Father St Francis of Assisi, in his ardent love for the Eucharist, admonishes us all to see the Eucharist as it is: The True Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist helps us to see the past in God’s mercy, the present in God’s grace, and the future in hope with confident and peaceful trust. We are anxious about the future.  We forget that the Lord is with us always.  Our enemy has no power over anyone who has resolved to belong entirely to Jesus? Moreover, isn’t God good and faithful to the point of not permitting anyone to be tested beyond their strength?… If we were left to ourselves we would always be falling and never remain on our feet. Let us humble ourselves, then, at the wonderful thought that we are in the divine arms of Jesus, the best of fathers, like a little infant in its mother’s arms, and sleep peacefully with the certainty that we are being guided towards the destination that will be to our greatest advantage. How can we be afraid to remain in such loving arms when our entire being is consecrated to God?  What greater way can this consecration to God be realized than through our entering the mystery of the Eucharist we ‘celebrate’ together, and experience the transforming ‘miracle’ that makes us a people of loving service?

It never fails to astound me how many of our Catholics, privileged to possess such a magnificent gift as the Eucharist, who assist at the re-presentation of Calvary, and participate personally in the act of their own redemption, should so often disregard the importance of the Eucharist in their lives. Often one can hear good Catholics say, “If I had only been there”… “If I had stood at the cross” … “If only I could have seen and spoken with Jesus”, and the like. My response is: “Go to the tabernacle, open your heart, your mind and your eyes. You will see Him. You will be there before Him. You will hear Him and speak with Him”.

As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we cannot minimize the importance of the Eucharist and the celebration of this great gift. As Franciscans, our lives must be centered around this Sacrament. The Eucharist we celebrate and receive must ultimately be a way of life for us. The priest is unique by sacramental ordination and ministry. However, all God’s people benefit with a ‘resurgence of renewed graces’ when they ‘consecrate’ their lives together with the bread and wine offered by the priest, and abandon themselves to the will of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

As Penitents of Assisi, what kind of Lent can we ‘do’? Personal sacrifices are fine and gain merit. However, I believe the greatest ‘sacrificial act’ we can do for Lent would be to assist more frequently at Mass with an active participation made up of preparation before and thanksgiving after Mass, and daily reflection on God’s Word heard at the Eucharistic Liturgy.  As we share in the common priesthood of the faithful through Baptism, let us pray for those who give us the Eucharist and serve God’s people in the ministerial priesthood.

Have a blessed and spiritually fruitful Lent. Let go of your hesitancy in disarming your heart to others, especially those you find difficult, or who may see you that way.  Do not set limits to love!  Take up the daily cross of your responsibilities, and perform them with peace and joy. Accept difficulties as challenges to grow in grace.  Trust the One Who allows them in every life so that we might achieve the perfection to which we are called.  Surrender yourself to the One Who gave Himself for us all … and … Do not be afraid to deepen your relationship with God (Prayer), detach yourself from all you allow to possess you (Penance), and open your heart and surrender to the Christ Who suffers in others and awaits your love (Almsgiving). Living these three elements especially will assure us of a very fruitful Lenten journey.  Do not be afraid to become ‘Eucharist’!

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch 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

 

Reflections from Father Sariego, OFM Cap - January 2018

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

January 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace and blessings now and throughout the New Year!

The prophet, speaking in the name of God, says, My Word will not return without fulfilling the purpose for which It was sent.  From the very beginning of time, when the Almighty Creator and Father of all life brought out of nothing all that is and all that ever will be, there has been a yearning in creation for something, or better ‘Someone’.  This ‘hope’ that groans until now is our constant companion on life’s journey that urges us to move forward into God’s Providence.  We journey without knowing what the next moment will bring.  We journey, and we trust.  We trust because we believe.  We believe because our hearts have been touched at birth by the Spirit of God Who enables us to see signs of The One greater than all Who encourages us to know Him more deeply as we see Him in and through the many gifts of His Creation. We are the epitome of His creating love; and Jesus is the excellent and flawless example of His magnificent creation.

Jesus is the Word that the Father sent Who returned to the Father having fulfilled the purpose for His becoming one with humanity. We continue that ministry of fulfillment each time we re-present the Mystery and “miracle” of the Eucharist.  It is the same Holy Spirit of God that overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary, giving flesh to the almighty-eternal God within her immaculate womb that overshadows the bread and wine at the celebration of the Eucharist.  The “overshadowing” by the hands of the priest and power of the Holy Spirit and words of Consecration make Jesus the Christ real for us, not just in His Word, but in His Sacrament. This “Real Presence”, through the power of the Holy Spirit, urges us to enter the mystery more deeply and personal. We are called to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation. We courageously and unconditionally accept the mission “to be sent”, as was He, to be a living message of peace and blessings to all.  In Persona Christi the priest celebrant of the Eucharist is both Jesus the Master Who celebrates by virtue of his ordination, but also a disciple and apostle – as are all the faithful – who must listen to what he himself preaches and teaches, live the message he conveys in harmony with God’s Word, Church teaching and Tradition, and go among the People of God inviting all to receive the Good News in the Name of Jesus.

The Eucharist is not just a prayer but an experience of ‘at-one-ment’ with God through Jesus in the Spirit.  It is that Holy Action of the people – liturgy – into which we enter, often oblivious to the awesomeness of the moment and even to the Divine Presence before Whom we confect with the priest the Sacrifice and Sacrament of our Salvation in Jesus.  The Eucharist re- presents for us – subtly, succinctly, and soundly – all of Salvation History.  The Father’s Spirit and Word, present at the beginning of time and down through the millennia, are in the liturgy breathing life for those who are  participants, not merely spectators.  In the Eucharist, celebrant and people acknowledge their personal and collective sinfulness and need for a Savior.  Together they hear the words of ancient Israel in the Old Testament passages, the teachings of the Early Church, and the words and life of Jesus in the Gospels. All this preparation (Liturgy of the Word) takes time, valuable time needed to make us realize the awesome experience we are soon to witness and become (Liturgy of the Eucharist) . In this celebration the Spirit encourages us to consume the Victim – consummatum est – so that all can be fulfilled and we might share in the fruits of the ‘mission accomplished’ of the Lord.

Of His own free will and to the fullest extent the divine Word to descend to our level. Jesus hid His divine nature beneath the veil of human flesh.  In this way, says St. Paul, the Word of God humbled Himself to the point of emptying Himself: He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).  Jesus was pleased to hide His divine nature so fully as to take on the likeness of man in everything, even exposing Himself to hunger, thirst and weariness and, to use the very words of the apostle of the nations: in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:1).  The climax of His humiliation was in His Passion and Death. He submitted His human will to the will of His Father, endured great moments and suffered the most infamous death, the death of the cross. The eternal Father, bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians2:9). It is by virtue of that name alone that we may hope to be saved. The most holy Name of Jesus that we venerate and repeat so often is a source of graces. As Jesus reminds us, we ask in His Name and the Father hears and answers. The Name of Jesus is terror to the demons. If His Name is so powerful, how much more must this very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity be that we receive in the Eucharist?!

The Person of Jesus the Christ is present throughout the entire liturgy.  The priest, ‘in persona Christi’, leads, encourages, instructs, feeds, and commissions the People of God.  The humility of forgiveness given and accepted, teachings offered and received, nourishment prepared and shared, communion extended and embraced, empowerment instilled and undertaken, are all beautifully expressed in the Eucharist.  The Will of Christ is re-presented each time the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Jesus is the Eternal ‘Yes’ Who accepts for all humanity the office of Victim so that we can become victors with Him through the ‘at-one-ment’ that is reserved for all who journey with Him in Word, Sacrament and life.  The Power of the Name repeated and responded to with ‘Amen’ so often throughout the liturgy, gives all who call on the Name of Jesus power to live in His Name, to recognize His presence every moment, to be a powerhouse of grace and blessings for those whom we encounter, and to trustingly move forward in God’s Providence, His Holy Will, the innumerable graces, and the strength we receive from Jesus the Christ in the Eucharist we celebrate, share, and become.

As Spiritual of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi we cannot afford to begin a new year regretting the past or worrying about the future. We all look for opportunities to ‘clean the slate’ and ‘re-write’ our decisions to avoid past mistakes.  One thing we can do as we enter the New Year of Grace 2018 to learn from the past to grow in the good, and to correct what is not good by reconciling ourselves with God and one another, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Where the future is concerned, since Jesus Himself reminds us that every hair on our head is counted and all the worry in the world cannot add or subtract one moment of the life entrusted to each one of us. For greater serenity and joy in 2018 we might remember the words of a great Capuchin Franciscan saint of the twentieth century, St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  All this can so easily be accomplished by remembering that in the Person of Christ we find the trust and courage to live in the Will of the Father and are Empowered in His Name to be an instrument of God’s life-giving Love.  The Eucharist reminds us, renews us within, and repeats for us the wonderful outpouring of His Spirit that will guide us throughout the New Year and for all our life.

Be happy!  God loves you!  Tell the whole world of His Love!  Don’t be afraid to be Catholic!   Help others see in the Eucharist the treasure that must still be discovered in all its richness by so many. Let us all share in the priesthood – ministerial priesthood and that of the laity – by ‘celebrating’ our ‘extension of the Mass’ in our daily lives. Make the Jesus you receive in Holy Communion be the Jesus others see in you – the Person in your compassion and understanding, the Will in your humility and acceptance of others, and the Power of the Name in your living without compromise the Catholic-Christian values we profess in a society that seeks to challenge ‘Christ’ in us and in the Church. Following the example of our Seraphic Father, let us disarm our hearts to all. Like the leper that St. Francis embraced, the one we deem unworthy of love (though that is making a judgment that is only God’s right) or whom we fear because unapproachable or worse, is the one who needs it the most.  When Jesus nourishes and nurtures us with Himself, like our Seraphic Father, we are released from the what has bound us and can move freely to embrace creation in the liturgy of life.  Every day thus becomes a day of rejoicing and growth.

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over all of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.   This is a wonderful year the Lord has granted us.   May the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and homes! May we be Heralds of the Great King!

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord show His face to you and be merciful to you.

May the Lord look on you with kindness and grant you His peace.

May the Lord live in you.

And may you always live in Him.

 

Holy and Happy New Year 2018!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Father Francis' Greetings for December 2017

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
pppgusa@gmail.com

 

December 2017

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

(Saint Francis)  highest aim, foremost desire, and greatest intention was to pay heed to the holy gospel in all things and through all things, to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus christ and to retrace His footstepos completely … We should note then … what he did … at the town of Greccio, on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ … There was a certain man … named John who had a good reputation but an even better manner of life.  Blessed Francis (said to him) ‘If you desire to celebrate the coming feast of the Lord together at Greccio, hurry before me and carefully make ready the things I tell you.  For I wish to re-enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with ox and ass standing by, he rested on hay’ … Finally, the holy man of God comes and, finding all things prepared, he saw them and was glad … There simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted, humility is commended, and out of Grecciio is made a new Bethlehem … Over the manger the solemnities of the Mass are celebrated.  (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30)

St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families set up over the Christmas Season.  St. Francis was not seeking to be innovative, or create something curious that would attract people.  He sought to make the Birth of the Savior come alive once again.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful.  Through the senses, St.Francis sought to arrive more incisively at the soul.

Grace builds on nature. The ability to allow the senses to take over and enliven the heart and soul makes our experience with God even more exciting.  Not just the intellect, but the whole person enters this intimate relationship with God. And God enters a relationship with humanity taking on every aspect of human life except sin.  In the story, as recounted by Celano, it is even stated: Moreover, burning with excessive love, (Francis) often calls Christ the ‘babe from Bethlehem’ whenever he means to call Him Jesus.  Saying the word ‘Bethlehem’ in the manner of a bleating sheep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) St. Francis was not one to be held in check by public opinion. Christmas is the birthday of the Christ Child and he was not concerned sounding like a child, or acting childlike, even if to some it seemed childish.  (When) people were bringing there little children to Jesus … (Jesus) said to (His disciples who were trying to stop them) Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.  It is to just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10: 13-16) Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child and remember the child that we once were and are called to become.  Our Seraphic Father let love let loose, just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and all the people of Israel.  David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2 Samuel: 7: 20) , could be placed on the lips of St. Francis: As the Lord lives, who preferred me … not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more … I will be lowly in your esteem … but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23)  » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Greetings for December 2017” »

Father Francis' Greetings for November 2017

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.org

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 

November 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

Even the saints can not always have things as they think they should be. Desiring to live in the prompting of the Spirit, they seek direction from persons reputed for being people of knowledge, good sense and holiness. They accept their advice and direction so they can be more certain to follow God’s will and not just their own impulses or desires. The way to heaven is not paved with acts of our own will, camouflaged to look like God’s. God speaks in many ways. Often the response to our prayers seems totally contrary to the request. What we see as effective, God seems, at times, to consider unnecessary. The desired presence, encouragement, counsel we seek or want to offer is often shelved, and we are asked to be patient, to let things be, not to worry…to let go and let God do as He wills.

 

Whether it is in the lives of those we want to assist, or more intimately in our own life’s search for a deeper relationship with the Eternal One and a more meaningful life, God must be first! Your will and not mine be done! The words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before our redemption was secured for us on Calvary, are words that must take hold of our lives. We are called to die daily to our ego and self-centeredness, in order to come alive in the Spirit and be shining images of the Light Who came to lead us from spiritual darkness to the brilliance of a life-giving existence. How do we do this?

 

Dying is the answer and key word. It’s a question of death and dying. These two words stand out especially during the month of November dedicated to the memory of those who have gone before us into eternity. The Holy Souls in Purgatory are the myriads of people down through the millennia who await now the promise to be fulfilled for those who were faithful but must be purified in the ardor of God’s love, mercy and providence. They were where we are; they are where we hope to be, by God’s grace. Heaven is humanity’s goal. Since our nature, subject to the consequences of Original Sin, affects the purity of our intentions, it is only God’s love that can make us worthy of Eternal Life. The stages leading to the beginning of this Life are bodily and spiritual dying and death. But, as much as we articulate these words and recite them in prayers, most people feel an aversion to them. We often quickly find substitute expressions to camouflage these words so that they sound less final, less drastic. Everyone seeks to prolong and better his/her life, often through what seem to be or are in fact foolish and exaggerated means. People will pop pills, smear salves, perform tiring and sometimes even dangerous calisthenics, some even go so far as to have surgical procedures performed, some have themselves frozen until they can be “defrosted” at a later time, and so many other means are sought or employed in the hope of prolonging one’s life or retarding the aging process. But, ultimately, Sister Death does arrive to accompany us from time into eternity. Sister Death is sent by our Loving Father to lead us home to His loving embrace.

 

Our Christian Faith and Catholic tradition remind us of the Four Last Things that all people will eventually encounter: Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell. While the first two are inevitable for all, the last two, Heaven or Hell, are determined by the choices one knowingly and decidedly makes while on earth. Some things we accept easily: we accept life as the fact that it is. Other things we conveniently forget or avoid. We avoid thinking about death and try to avoid it at all costs, no matter how inevitable it is. We reason out of our lives and minds what might cause harm and assure ourselves of what we consider better things, thus eliminating personal responsibility and accountability. We make heaven not the ultimate goal to which we should aspire by a faith-filled life, but a right we have to possess. Following this process, we almost eliminate from our minds and reflections the reality of that place that Jesus Himself reminded us is reserved for those who knowingly and willfully opt to distance themselves from God and His Divine Will. Where your heart is there will your treasure be. If our heart is in heaven, our lives and actions will always be directed there.

 

At times, this reasoning process is usually the result of fear for sins and faults that were never totally corrected in life. We forget that God’s mercy knows no limits for those who trust in Him. Thus, the Church continually reminds us that God’s Word speaks in many places of praying for the deceased, and some of the parables of Jesus speak of places where debts are paid back after the normal course of a life is ended or interrupted. These reminders tell us that between eternal bliss and eternal damnation there is a place of hope that allows us to enter into the love, mercy and providence of God. This place – Purgatory – tells us that God’s love will never close His Heart to wayward children who truly repent, and that He, from all eternity, has provided a last resort to definitively bring us to Him.

 

Purgatory is a teaching that has been ridiculed by those not of our tradition, and even downplayed by some of our own Catholics. We hear so much about toxins, toxic waste, toxic gases that can cause innumerable deaths. We are concerned about the toxic matter that is in the earth and needs thousands of years to decompose and deactivate. The word “purgatory” refers to a place where we are cleansed of those spiritual toxins that still infect our soul after its departure from this life. God’s justice cannot allow such imperfection to invade heaven, but God’s mercy will not allow one who died still infected, but sincerely seeking spiritual healing, to suffer eternal separation from Him. Why are we so prone to believe the “miracles” that scientists promise to do for us, and yet doubt God’s all-providing and merciful love for his weak children who sincerely seek Him?!

 

While it is impossible to explain eternal truths clearly in human terms, it is interesting to read what the saints have to say about Purgatory. Saint Frances of Rome tells her spiritual daughters that Purgatory is nothing other than a section of Hell which is divided into various parts. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that the fires of Purgatory are similar to those of Hell. Even Padre Pio, in a letter to one of his spiritual daughters, states: My daughter, in certain spots (Purgatory) is like Hell. The greatest pain of Hell, and thus of Purgatory in this sense, is the separation from God through one’s own fault. There is, however, an essential difference: Hell is permanent; Purgatory is temporary.

 

Purgatory would thus seem to be a “hell with hope”. This contradiction in terms does make sense: The loss of God is hell, but the knowledge and assurance of the soul’s eventual entrance into eternal life is Joy. Thus, Purgatory is a place where the pains of despair are tempered by the refreshing breath of hope. This hope accompanies the souls throughout their sufferings as an encouragement and support. Throughout life’s journey the Church prays and supports her children who suffer in the “antechamber of Heaven”. The Church Triumphant glories in God’s presence and intercedes for all of us. The Church Militant continues life’s earthly journey and battles between the two forces that determine the spiritual valor and value of each combatant. The Church Suffering lives the pains of separation in hope-filled joy, confident in God’s mercy, in the prayers and sacrifices of their sisters and brothers still on pilgrimage in this world, and of their imminent release and entrance into the Father’s eternal and loving embrace. Purgatory is that place where God’s justice and mercy meet. Where God’s justice is His mercy. Where souls who struggled valiantly through life and were wounded in the daily battles they endured, bare their scars before God, and implore the compassion and mercy of the Father that Jesus manifested to others when He walked among us.

 

When we view life through the eternal perspective offered us in Jesus, we see death as the doorway that leads to a Life fulfilled in every way, there God is all in all. There we see God face to face as He is. There faith and hope no longer are needed, and Love reigns supreme. There we surrender ourselves totally to the One Who surrendered Himself for us to death and to death on a cross. There the One Who enfleshed Himself in our human history transforms time into an eternal intimacy of never ending joy for those washed in the blood of the Lamb. November, with its somber weather (at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere of the world), cold days, sleeping nature, is just God’s way through creation to remind us of the ongoing life-giving process of God’s grace. What seems like death is nothing less than the dormant period of hidden activity, the process that brings new life.

 

Everybody talks about heaven, but it seems as though few are in any hurry to get there. As Spiritual Children of of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us look to heaven and live in its light. St. Francis walked the roads of earth with his heart always in heaven. Remembering the words of Jesus to the Apostles in the Upper Room, let our hearts not be troubled at the fact that bodily death is necessary to enter eternity. Jesus tells the Apostles, and us as well: You have faith in God (the Father); have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwellings places. I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you also may be. With our sites clearly focused on eternity, our course is direct, our goal assured, and our journey is peaceful and joyful even in the midst of difficulties and burdens, through the support, concern, and encouragement of those with whom we share the same spiritual gifts.

 

Remember to pray for the Holy Souls of the Faithful Departed that they rest in peace and come quickly to the joys they so intensely desire. Many of these souls are undoubtedly our relatives, friends, and even some we may have considered not friends or even enemies.  In eternity all souls saved in heaven and saved but not yet fully purified, cannot have any other attitude but that of love for everyone. They see us from the perspective of God’s love and mercy and can only love us and pray for our salvation. Invoking our heavenly Mother’s intercession, we ask that she, Mother and Queen of the Holy Souls and of all God’s children, pray for them.

 

Before concluding this letter, please accept my sincere best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving. In the midst of our personal difficulties, or the problems and fears that we as a nation experience, there is a God who cares for us. Give thanks to God for being God. Give thanks to God for His love. Give thanks to God for having created you so that you could know, love, serve Him here and share eternity with Him. Give thanks to God for He is good, His love is everlasting. (Psalm 136: 1)

 

May the Father in His love shower His mercy upon us; may the Son “be Jesus” to us as Redeemer and Savior and not our judge; and may the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts with the gift of His grace-filled presence. May Our Lady guide, guard and protect us at all times; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, keep all of us, his Spiritual Children, in his loving care.

 

Be assured of a remembrance in my prayers everyday, and especially this month on Thanksgiving Day, as I personally thank God for all of you and for your love. As we praise God in thanksgiving for all His blessings to us, we thank God for calling us to be a blessing to others. We thank God for being God, creating us as his beloved children, and giving us in Jesus the grace to be sisters and brothers redeemed in the Blood of Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Peace and Blessings,

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Fr. Francis Reflections for October, 2017

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

October 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

 

For centuries the Franciscan Family has praised the goodness of God for blessing the world with St. Francis of Assisi and for calling us to follow his example in living the Gospel life. The impact St. Francis continues to have on our world has continued for more than eight centuries.  Since the time of St. Francis himself, the I, II, III, and Secular Franciscan Orders strive to foster a spirit of peace and goodness, and universal brotherhood. The spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our holy Mother St. Clare have affected the universal Church, as well as societies and cultures in every corner of the world.  They have influenced governments and help transform the thoughts of multitudes over the years.  They have challenged people to open their hearts and minds to the world recognizing it as the theater of redemption, thus a place to love and in which to live the Gospel life that all things may be restored in Christ. There is an obvious question that arises, however, regarding St. Francis. One of his first followers, Brother Masseo, is recorded to have asked the question: Why after you? … Why does the whole world come after you?  It is an interesting and quite challenging question that certainly goes far beyond the expected response of a pious platitude.

 

Once Saint Francis was staying in the place of the Portiuncula with Brother Masseo of Marignano, a man of great holiness, discernment and grace in speaking of God, for which Saint Francis loved him very much. One day Saint Francis was returning from the woods and from prayer, and when he was at the edge of the woods, that same Brother Masseo, wanting to test how humble he was, went up to him and, as if joking, said, ‘Why after you, why after you, why after you?’  Saint Francis responded, ‘What do you mean?’ Brother Masseo said, ‘I am saying why does the whole world come after you, and everyone seems to desire to see you and hear you? You are not a handsome man in body, you are not someone of great learning, you are not noble; so why does the whole world come after you?’ (Little Flowers 10)

 

How might we have responded to such a situation if the question were asked of us?  It is an honest consideration posed by someone who gave up everything to follow St. Francis. And what about the multitudes that sought to follow Francis Bernardone either by living the Rule for friars, or by living a Rule for those in society who still wanted to be of Francis’ Family and Gospel life experience. Some undoubtedly would have been put off by the reason Bro. Masseo gave for asking the question had the reasons given concerned them.  When ‘ego’ gets in the way we suffer from nearsightedness.  We see, hear, accept, and I dare say love, only ourselves, so that when others make us aware of our ‘deficiencies’ or definite faults we either retreat or react.  The attributes (or lack thereof) that Brother Masseo presented were rather peripheral. Nonetheless, how would any of us like to have been told rather bluntly: ‘You are homely looking (aesthetically challenged), of an inadequate intellect (‘academically limited’), and come from an insignificant level of society’ (‘socially modest’)?  How might we have responded?  Masseo was thinking out loud.  He had seen, believed, and followed Francis.  Why?

 

At times, when people place their trust in another, there comes a moment when they want to know concretely what their heart tells them is true, good, and necessary for personal fulfillment concerning the other. Reassurance does not so much express a doubt as much as a desire to corroborate and reconfirm a decision made with firm conviction and total commitment. Brother Masseo loved and trusted St. Francis, but he wanted to hear the answer from St. Francis himself.  In the depths of his heart Brother Masseo knew God was with Francis.  He believed in the man he had chosen to follow in response to God’s call.  Life changing decisions, such as marriage, religious life, priesthood, becoming a Secular Franciscan,  committing ourselves to any life that ultimately aims to transform a person from within as well as without, require prudence, trust, prayerful discernment, and courage to decide wholeheartedly.  Courage urges us to take the step, and fidelity assists us to experience the value and fruitfulness of the ‘yes’ with which we surrender to the call.  A simple rule is ‘Live it and you will love it’. It is only in living our decision that we grow into loving it day-by-day.  The questions and explanations are valuable and valid, but ultimately when I believe God is in the midst of the call and my response, I must make the decision trustingly, regardless how others encourage or discourage me by their words or actions.  Remember, your vocation is yours, none other’s.  A community, fraternity, Order is made up of many individuals who have personally responded with the same affirmative reply. They share a life of mutual support, encouragement, familial love.  It is a personal individual choice rooted in the conviction that expects and urges one to keep on moving forward, even if all others opt to change course.

 

The immediate response of St. Francis to Brother Masseo continues from the little Flowers: Hearing this, Saint Francis was overjoyed in spirit and, turning his face to heaven, stood for a long time with his mind lifted up to God.  Then returning to himself, he knelt down and gave praise and thanks to God. (Little Flowers 10)

 

The key word is ‘immediate response’.  Francis, with all of his idiosyncracies, was centered on God.  God was the focus, center, and source of all Francis desired to live and do in this life.  Even a response to his brother was not made until his attitude of prayer lifted him in spirit so that it was not I who live but Christ who lives in me, as St. Paul writes.  To paraphrase, ‘It was not Francis who responded, but Christ who responded in Francis’. We read in Scripture how Jesus, before He did anything of importance, would often spend the night in prayer.  Before performing a miracle Jesus would groan from the depths of his soul and gratefully acknowledge the Father’s willingness to hear His request. When we take time to enter that vertical relationship of prayer with/in God, every response we make, whether in words, actions, or both, lead us to enter the horizontal relationship with our sisters and brothers.  Thus we communicate all we know and are, with simple loving kindness and truth, in profound humility.

 

Then with great fervor of spirit (St. Francis) returned to Brother Masseo and said, ‘Do you want to know why after me?  You want to know why after me? You want to know why the whole world comes after me? I have this from those eyes of the Most High God, which gaze in every place on the good and the guilty.  Since those most holy eyes have not seen among sinners anyone more vile, nor more incompetent, nor a greater sinner than me; to perform that marvelous work, which he intends to do, He has not found a more vile creature on the earth, and therefore He has chosen me to confound the nobility and the greatness and the strength and beauty and wisdom of the world, so that it may be known that every virtue and every good is from Him, and not from the creature, and no person may boast in His sight.  But whoever ‘boasts must boast in the Lord’, to whom is every honor and glory forever.  Brother Masseo was shocked at such a humble response, said with such fervor, and knew certainly that Saint Francis was truly grounded in humility. (Little Flowers 10)

 

Seeing himself before the awesome love and majesty of God, he recognized his lowliness and the greatness of God.  Thus he gave Brother Masseo the answer he sought.  Francis acknowledged he was insignificant before the immensity of God, and it was for this reason God could work through him. Filled with ourselves there is no room for God.  The humble soul is empty of itself and offers God all the space God wills. There can be no pride in one who recognizes at every moment the sovereignty of God and himself as nothing more than the ‘Herald of the Great King’.  The herald proclaim the message of the other, not their own message.  The herald must be a subject of integrity who can be trusted to communicate the message of the one who sent him, and not his own personal issues and agendas. It is here that St. Francis explained in his response the prayer he so often would say, Who are You (Lord).  Who am I, repeating the words of St. Augustine centuries before: That I may know You (Lord), that I may know myself.  There is a powerful nuance here I think should be mentioned.  Many translate the words of Augustine to mean: ‘Let me know you Lord and let me know myself’.  It seems more Augustine and even Francis to translate the phrase to mean; ‘Let me know You, Lord, so that I may know myself’.  Once Francis’ heart lifted up, saw himself in the mystery of the One Whom he sought to know, he understood more deeply the purpose and call of his own life and could rejoice in the transforming power of grace that had worked such wonders in him and, through him, in so many others.  Humility is truth.

 

The response St. Francis gave impressed Brother Masseo for its simplicity and truthfulness.  St. Francis had him understand the meaning of St. Paul’s words, It is when I am weak that I am strong.  It is when we recognize our nothingness without God that God can work in-with-through us and not only give glory to His Name but raise us up in Him.  True humility that does not seek applause nor put on airs of superiority, attracts and encourages.  Humility recognizes the Lordship of God over us, and therefore, all things are given besides.  We accept our dependency on God for all things, and his dependency on us to cooperate with Him in the re-creation of our fallen world and its restoration in Christ.  St. Francis told Brother Masseo that only in admitting the supremacy of God can we begin to fulfill our lives and call others to experience the same fulfillment in sharing the same gift.

 

Why you?  Why does the whole world go after you, Francis?  Because like the wind: lively, vibrant, plunging into the depths, darting after the marginalized and alienated, dashing into the seclusion of prayer with nothing but his soul enamored of God, tossing himself into the strange events that God allowed to come his way, hurling himself into the midst of danger for the sake of the Name with a courage surpassing even that of the Crusaders of his time, Francis was the image of the freedom all people desire in life.  Francis believed firmly God was with him, thus he had nothing to fear.  A frail body was the vessel of a magnificent heart and soul.  So great was his desire to be one with the Father-Son-Holy Spirit, that towards the end of his life he not only carried the dying of Christ in his soul but was privileged to carry the wounds of the Savior on his body for all the world to see.  Why you, Fancis?  He might reply, ‘Because through me the Lord has seen fit to make Himself known and seen, that others may be encouraged to trust in God, disarm their hearts to one another, and rebuild a world that is, as far as we can see, ‘is falling into ruin’.

 

As spiritual children of the Poverello of Assisi, reflect on your own response to that situation of St. Francis and Brother Masseo.  Why would you ask Francis the question in the first place?  What have you not understood about the one whom you have chosen to follow that he might help you live Jesus?  Why did you accept to follow the Little Poor Man of Assisi?  What does St. Francis say to you after eight centuries?  Is he still alive and well in your fraternity, in your own personal life?  Are the life and words of St. Francis, his free spirit, and total humility, his all-embracing disarmed heart towards all, a source of enthusiasm, encouragement, excitement, JOY?  Is there an awareness of being a son/daughter, brother/sister in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi?  Do you allow this awareness to affect your life and encounters with the world in which you live?  Does the vibrancy and relevancy of the Franciscan Charism help you to ‘come alive in the spirit’?

 

Remembering that Francis was so enamored of Our Lady that he called her the Virgin made Church, may we, the living Mystical Body of Christ, reflect upon the life of Jesus during this month of the Most Holy Rosary and look at Jesus with the eyes of Mary. Sharing the great gift of life and our Franciscan charism let us strive to ‘infect’ others with the spirit of the Poverello of Assisi.  May we all be instruments of God’s Peace and Blessings to our world.

 

God bless us; Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and 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.

 

Happy Saint Francis Day to all!  Let us remember one another at the altar of the Lord both during the celebration of the Transitus and during the Eucharistic celebration of the Solemnity.

 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

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Fr. Francis' Greetings - September 2017

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
Wilmington, Delaware 19809

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website: skdregion.org

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

September 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

In September 1224, two years before death would usher him into eternity early in life, while at prayer at a solitary site on a mountaintop in Tuscany, our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, received the answer to his prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask You before I die: the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion;  the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a  Passion for us sinners.  A winged Seraph appeared to him and signed him with the visible marks of the wounds of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi, the Little Poor Man, the Universal Brother, had become a living image of the Crucified Christ. The marks gave witness to the integrity of the person who bore them and credibility to the message he had now become, so that when a spirit of indifference was taking over the world, (The Lord) renewed in the flesh of St. Francis the Sacred Stigmata of (His) Passion to rekindle in our hearts the fire of (His) love. (adapted Opening Prayer for the Feast of the Impression of the Stigmata).

St. Francis received a wonderful privilege that carried with it a great responsibility.  He was entrusted with a mission: to rekindle the fire of Divine Love in the hearts of God’s children.  The Stigmata he bore speak volumes for those willing to ‘read’ them in a spirit of faith.  To see him was to see the living image of the Crucified. To see him was a challenge to change. To encounter him was to recognize God speaking through him reminding all of God’s limitless love and calling everyone to cooperate with grace and become the persons we were all created to be: children of the Father, redeemed in the blood of the Son, bound together in the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those willing to understand and accept the message of the wounds and the person signed with them, knew they were ‘called to action’. The Stigmata call to action not apathy, loving not loathing, conviction not complacency, determination not doubt, commitment not compromise, life not lethargy. » Click to continue reading “Fr. Francis’ Greetings – September 2017” »

Father Francis' Greetings - August, 2017

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

August 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 

The Lord give you his peace!

 

During the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and with his approval, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church.  As could be expected, secular newspapers and reporters created a hype about things in which they are not qualified to speak.  They speak from a totally secular point of view and more often than not with a sensationalism that seeks adherents rather than with a professionalism that seeks to present the truth.  Often phrases out of context or poll results from the man-on-the-street are thrown out to the listening, viewing, or reading audience to prove their point.  Often they fail to quote in context the expressions they are reporting and ‘critiquing’, or better to say ‘criticizing’, and they fail to call qualified Church representatives to explain the issues in question. An operating method like this can only create an atmosphere of confusion.  Issue-oriented presentation of disconnected facts leads to ‘lopsided’ criticism and even open irreverent ridicule of Church teachings and practices. Discussion and dialogue are always healthy when those involved candidly speak what they truly believe and listen respectfully and attentively to what is said.

 

Through the Eucharist – the abiding presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as the Companion of our earthly pilgrimage – we unite ourselves to Jesus and are nourished with His Immaculate Flesh. Thus, it is through the Church, that guided and ruled by Him, we come alive by His grace and are nourished by His teaching.  We cannot become more one with Christ in this life than by uniting ourselves to Him in the Eucharist.  We can have no greater assurance of living according to His Spirit, of being directed and taught by Him, than by uniting ourselves to the Gospel, Tradition, and Magisterium of the Church.

 

Fidelity to Christ and His teachings is essential! Although the Church is made up of human beings, it is not a country club or parish association or philanthropic organization, or the like.  These are most often subject to the majority vote of adherents who seek a more profitable outcome of their agendas.  Lord, that I may be faultless in my way, by keeping to your words (Psalm 119, 9).  Today’s society prizes what is relative, situational, convenient, politically correct, and so on.  This is surely not the road Our Savior took!  He respected the dignity of every person, but would not back down on that-be’ nor would He lessen his expectations of others. As He with the Father, others also were expected to listen and obey the Will of the Father as that Will was made known in the life of each person.

 

What we need in our relationship with and within the Church is a spirit of wholesome humility, not ‘whimpishness’ but loving trust and obedience for those entrusted with the responsibility of feeding and tending the flock of Christ (cfr. John 21). Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18: 3)…We can be saved,…not without humility (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux). The greatest qualities and gifts, such as the spirit of penance or poverty, virginity, the call to the apostolate, a life consecrated to God, the priesthood, are sterile if they are not accompanied by sincere humility.  The higher the place we occupy in the Savior’s vineyard…the deeper we need to plant the roots of humility.

 

The Roman Catholic Church has a blessed and marvelous, although flawed, history and tradition.  Even from within the Church  (clergy as well as laity), we encounter “verbage” regarding the Church and our life within the Roman Catholic Faith, that criticizes the appropriateness, theology, philosophy, “updatedness”, intelligence, personal giftedness, and so much more, of those in leadership responsibilities. ‘Conservative’ or ‘traditional’ (and we cannot equate the two necessarily),  ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ (again here we cannot necessarily equate the two), inadequate, inept, ignorant, and the like are labels that have no real place in the vocabulary of those called to Gospel faithfulness and not to the world’s concept of success. Christ Jesus is always “relevant”.  Christ the Truth and the Way is One person Who leads to Life.  Though many feel they have the right and intelligence to interpret the Word, it is the Church, even though faulty and less- capable in Her leaders. These are the ultimate interpreters and proclaimers of Christ’s Truth as proclaimed by the Church.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Church is the People of God on journey through history responding to the Spirit of Lord and life’s experiences in the light of God’s Will.  The Church is the Custodian of Christ’s Truth received from the Lord through the teaching and witness of the Apostles.

 

Through those who have due authority to govern and the legitimate responsibility to teach and sanctify, the Church was entrusted with these charisms from the Apostles and Jesus Himself.  The Church has the right, duty, and responsibility to regulate the life of the People of God according to God’s Will expressed in His Word and the Traditions and Magisterium. Theologians may dissect, investigate, discuss statements pronounced by the Holy Father and/or some Church Dicastery such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  There are those who view the Church only as a social entity and not as the Mystical Body of Christ called to lead all people to holiness and salvation.  They may criticize and/or judge the acts or statements of the Holy Father, or the documents sent out to the faithful by the Church Universal with the approval of our Holy Father.  These often receive responses or are criticized by those whose criteria of evaluation is based on personal convenience, political correctness with the world or areas of church circles, timeliness, usefulness, and the like.  As Roman Catholics, and especially as Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, we are committed and expected to accept the teachings and pronouncements of the Church with gratitude and obedience. The Franciscan Family is called to follow the “totally-Catholic” example of our Father and Guide.  We listen and read that we might be informed on what pertains to our life.  We pray and reflect on the pronouncements made by the Church, that we might gratefully and humbly accept the gifts of faith offered us.

 

We are baptized in the Blood of Jesus, gifted with the Spirit of God, professed and committed to the Gospel Life and example of St. Francis of Assisi and all the holy ones who have gone before us.  We love and respect our traditions that have attracted millions through the centuries to take up the Franciscan challenge to joyfully live the Gospel “without gloss” in the world of today. As Penitents of Assisi ourselves we seek reconciliation with the children of the Church who have distanced themselves from the family of the Church for whatever reason. Was it not St. Paul himself who said that although he knew there was no sin in eating meat sacrificed to idols because the idols were nothing, still he would not eat meat at all if he thought that doing so would scandalize any of the believers? We must view things from the greater perspective – the perspective of God’s mercy, compassion and love. True loving reconciliation cannot however disregard humility and truth.

 

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi have we achieved a level of faith that is serene in the contradiction of life?  Can we accept that our will is second to that of others?  Are we ready to accept the decisions of the Church, either directly from our Holy Father, or indirectly from those official statements and declarations that our Holy Father approves?  Do we always think we have a better idea than the Church?  Do we humbly ‘critique’ the Church externally, while really ‘criticizing’ Her right to teach and govern Her children?  Are political correctness…or social relevance…or less emphasis on doctrine, dogma, tradition, Roman Catholic identity “our positions”?  Do we have “battle cries” to promote our wills, rather than humble cooperation and collaboration with those who may have a different approach to matters than we? Are we consistent with what we truly believe and have promoted, even when we are no longer “in the majority”? Are we “centered” in the Lord … is Jesus the reason we say and act as we do … or does the “limelight” determine our words and actions? Is authenticity and truth through humility and love what we truly seek as our Christ- centered goal … or are we the object of our affections? Responding honestly to these questions, and others that most assuredly can arise from these, we will be able to recognize the direction our life is taking in openness or not to the Spirit of the Lord that challenges us to go beyond ourselves.

 

Our Father St. Francis of Assisi teaches us in a simple and straightforward way.  He tells us to hear what the Church has to say…listen to the teaching offered…ponder the significance…and…gratefully accept and lovingly obey as a child of the Church.  We are called to witness our unity, catholicity, holiness and apostolicity of faith, through our humble and loving obedience. What greater witness can we offer our sisters and brothers of other faith expressions than the integrity of our commitment to all we are as Roman Catholics!?

 

Unity in humility and love are essential to the effectiveness of our Franciscan Spirit in society today. If we do not strive to be better than the spirit of the world, we are destined to become one with the world we are called to condition and, by our example, help to transform.  What is of the flesh is flesh, what is of the spirit is spirit (cfr. John 3:6).  Though the above reflection speaks about faithfulness to the Church, as Franciscans we can apply everything above also to our Franciscan life in whatever Order of the Franciscan Family we belong. Let’s remember that the highest sign of Franciscan Poverty is not necessarily in the relinquishment of material goods, though that is a fine and necessary witness, but ultimately in the “letting go” of our self-centered wills, and humble acceptance and collaboration with others.

 

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch 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

Greetings from Father Francis - July, 2017

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

 

July 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord bless you with His peace!

Before the Vatican II revision of the Liturgical Year Calendar, the Franciscan Family commemorated the canonization of our Seraphic Father on July 16. It was a simple celebration that consisted of a commemorative prayer added to the prayers for the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  The following excerpts from our Franciscan Sources speak of the Pontiffs who knew and loved St. Francis (Julian of Speyer), and the process leading to the canonization of our Seraphic Father by his friend who had become Pope Gregory IX (Saint Bonaventure):

A span of twenty years had passed since the glorious confessor and Levite of Christ had first embraced the counsels of evangelical perfection … Now, this same venerable father left the shipwreck of this world in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 1226, on Sunday, the fourth day of the nones of October, and was buried, as has been said, in the city of Assisi … This blessed man had begun his course under the illustrious Lord Pope Innocent III, and he happily completed it under his successor, Honorius … They were happily succeeded by the Lord Pope Gregory (IX) … (Life of St. Francis by Julian of Speyer, chpt. 13) Immediately, the holy man began to reflect the light radiating from the face of God and to glitter with many great miracles…The wonderful things which God was working through his servant Francis – acclaimed by word of mouth and testified to by facts – came to the ears of the Supreme Pontiff, Gregory IX.  That shepherd of the Church was fully convinced of Francis’ remarkable holiness, but also from his own experience during his life…  Having seen with his own eyes and touched with his own hands, he had no doubt that Francis was glorified in heaven by the Lord. He decreed with unanimous advice and assent … that he should be canonized.  He came personally to the city of Assisi in the 1228th  year of the Incarnation of the Lord … and enrolled the blessed father in the catalog of the saints, …(The Major Legend, chpt. 15, 6-7)

The Family of St. Francis, both brothers and sisters, had grown tremendously since Francis heard the words from the Crucifix of San Damiano. St. Francis of Assisi has been immortalized through the centuries not only because of the gifts the Lord bestowed upon him personally – among them the sacred Stigmata that rendered him a living image of the Suffering Christ – but also through the spirit he instilled in his followers, his spiritual children, and the joy and selflessness with which they surrendered themselves to the will of God, the Church, and the charism of the ‘Poverello’ of Assisi.  During the life of our Seraphic Father, Brother Berard and his companions became the first of a long line of Franciscans would give their lives for the faith. St. Francis praised their faith, obedience, and courage, and said of them: Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor.  A true Franciscan doesn’t count the cost! A true Franciscan seeks to be detached enough to be able To let go and let God.  The “job” of a lifetime that we must strive to live each day. » Click to continue reading “Greetings from Father Francis – July, 2017” »

Greetings from Father Francis - June 2017

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: pppgusa@gmail.com      website: skdsfo.org

June 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!

The future of the Church can and will come, even today, only from the strength of those who have deep roots and who live on the basis of the sheer fullness of their faith.  It will not come from those who just offer formulas.  It will not come from those who always choose only the comfortable path – those who avoid the passion of faith, and declare everything that makes demands on man, everything that is painful, and forces him to sacrifice himself, to be wrong and obsolete, mere tyranny and legalism.  Let us put it positively: The future of the Church, as always, will be decisively influenced yet again by the saints. That is, by the people who perceive more than rhetoric that is just ‘modern’.  (‘The Church in the Year Two Thousand’, 1970, Joseph Ratzinger)

These are powerful words the professor who was called to leave the ‘comfort  zone’ of his academic environment, that he loved so much and in which he found fulfillment of his academic desires, to let go, to leave, and to enter the ‘hub’ of Catholicism, Rome. The future he expected was definitely not the ‘future’ he was thrust into by the Spirit of God. Accepting to leave Germany and to assume the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Joseph Ratzinger let himself become the target of those, within and outside the Church, who frequently reduce faith and its external witness to a matter of  issues and agendas. Then, once again, responding to the Church’s call through the Spirit to assume the office of Vicar of Christ, our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, willingly accepted to be not only teacher  but also ‘victim’ for the sake of the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church. Faith often leads where we least expect … or desire! » Click to continue reading “Greetings from Father Francis – June 2017” »

Greetings from Father Francis, May 2017

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

May 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

The Middle Ages was a time of wonderful monuments built to the glory of God.  Many of them were dedicated to the Great Mother of God, our Blessed Mother. The devotion of the people and the great saints of the Church saw Mary as the Virgin Mother who gave birth not only to the Christ, but as the Mother of the Christian and thus the Church as well.  St. Francis of Assisi was among these great ‘lovers of Mary’.   His own Salutation of the Blessed Virgin gives proof of the depth of his awareness of Mary’s place in our Salvation History and the honor with which he personally held Her in his life. She is the virgin made church whose faith and openness to the will of the Father encourage us to abandon ourselves to so great a God and His most holy will.

 

One of the most joyous anthems of the Church is the Regina Coeli. Too few of us know it as a prayer in the home, but many of us recall it as the Eastertime noonday prayer of our Catholic school days. There is a story about this anthem that gives it greater meaning. In a fearful pestilence Our Lady’s portrait reputedly painted by St. Luke was being carried in a procession which included Pope St. Gregory the Great. As they approached St. Peter’s Basilica, the air became pure and free of pestilence. At the bridge which joins Rome to the Vatican, angels were heard singing above the picture: “O Queen of heaven, rejoice, Alleluia! for He whom you deserved to bear, Alleluia! has risen as He said, Alleluia.” When the heavenly music had ceased, St. Gregory added, “O pray to God for us, Alleluia,” and raising his eyes to heaven, saw the destroying angel sheathing his sword where he stood atop the monument of Hadrian’s Tomb. On the top of the building the Pope later erected an immense statue of the angel, his sword in the scabbard. And to this day the structure considered Hadrian’s Tomb is called the Castle of Sant’ Angelo.

 

Just as our Seraphic Father sought to honor Mary in his life, how could we allow this most sacred time of our Christian calendar to go by without thinking of that simple Virgin of Nazareth. Mary’s cooperation with the Father’s Will accepted the work of the Holy Spirit to ‘overshadow’ Her and thus gave us Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior and Redeemer.  Infinitely less than God but eminently greater than all humanity, Mary stands above us, yet always journeys with us. We are Her children entrusted to Her by Jesus as She stood at the foot of the Cross.  The ‘Woman’, praised in the first Book of Sacred Scripture, who gave birth to the Christ, is the same ‘Woman’ who gave birth to the Christian as the Church was born from the open side of Her Son as He hung on the Cross for all humankind.  From that moment, Mary, the virgin made church,  watches us with a mother’s eye, intercedes for us with a mother’s concern, and embraces us with a mother’s love. All humanity appeals to Mary as the ‘highest honor of our race’.  Saint Francis saw Mary always in this light. Mary is Mother of the Church, because Mother of the Christ, since She is Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Her life was an intimate relationship immersed in the reality of the Most Holy Trinity.  Totally human, Mary was privileged to reach the heights of holiness ahead of time, through the merits of Her Son’s redeeming Passion-Death-Resurrection.  Thus, She might be forever a sign of the greatness and holiness to which all God’s children are called.

 

Mary’s presence, prominence, and popularity, even among those not of the Catholic/Orthodox expressions of Christianity, are indicative of the yearning of the human heart to be loved. After the Marriage Feast at Cana, our Heavenly Mother takes a silent place in the Gospels.  We meet Her again at the foot of the Cross and then in the Upper Room awaiting the Promised Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Early Church. Not until St. John writes of the ‘Woman about to give birth’ assailed by the ‘dragon’ in the Book of Revelation do we meet ‘the Woman’ again in Scripture, and for the last time.  The Church has always seen the image of the ‘Woman’ of Sacred Scripture as the image of Mary. Our love and devotion for Mary has kept Her always alive in our hearts.  She is the one to whom so many of us run with our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, hopes and fears.  She is the one most Catholics will defend when Her name and honor are being attacked. We speak of Her as we do of Her Son.  The Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament is equaled by no one and nothing in this world.  Nonetheless, we often speak of Mary as another ‘presence’ that accompanies us in such a way that with Her in our hearts and minds we move forward confidently, trusting Her to be ‘really’ with us with Her love and motherly intercession. Saint Francis praised Her as Palace, Tabernacle, Home, Mother, in his Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary offers Jesus the space and place through which He makes Himself present among us and for us.  Saint Francis is so simple, yet so profound!

 

What was celebrated in sign, Mary bore in Her heart and mind with a depth and reality that no one ever could or ever will be able to equal. She not only received Her Lord in the Eucharist – Her Son, Savior (yes, ‘Savior’, because She was sanctified and freed of Original Sin ahead of time in Her Immaculate Conception, but had to be redeemed nonetheless), and God – but also maintained such an intimacy with Jesus by grace upon grace, that we can lovingly and devotedly say that heaven walked with Her wherever She went. To see Mary was to see a glimpse of heaven upon earth. Isn’t that what happens to us – or at least should – when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist?  When we allow the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior to enter our humanity and become one with us in an intimate and sacramental manner, aren’t we doing just as Our Blessed Mother did so many centuries ago?  We ‘give birth in faith to Christ’ as St. Augustine reminds us.  This faith and its challenges, at Communion time, must be embraced, energized, and empowered to manifest itself in the life of the one who receives the Eucharistic Lord.

 

In his Admonitions, our Seraphic Father writes: All those who see the sacrament sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine…believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Spirit of the Lord, therefore, That lives in Its faithful, That receives the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Behold, each day He humbles Himself as when He came from His royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day He comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest.  As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us now in sacred bread. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: ‘I am with you until the end of the age’.

 

How powerful and profound is this intimate love between the human and the Divine!  When we encounter individuals who are deeply in love, that love can be seen in their demeanor.  Ask them about their love, though, and they seem embarrassed to respond.  The intimacy true love reaches in hearts and souls ‘in love’ can only be experienced, never exhaustively explained. It can be seen in its effects but not really ‘dissected’ in explanations. Love is of God, and true love is a mystery to which all are called. Love must be lived to be experienced, and once experienced it must be loved to be lived fully. The ‘virtuous circle’ of love consists in this: the more we love, the more we know love and are capable of loving. The Eucharist we receive at the moment of Holy Communion – our ‘sacred bonding’ with Jesus – offers us the opportunity to enter the Love of God in Jesus. We allow His Holy Spirit to ‘overshadow’ our lives with grace. Just as Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit and became the Mother of God, so we have the possibility to be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to our cooperation with grace, and thus we ‘give birth to Christ in our hearts’.  Even the ‘eccentricity’ of Saint Francis of Assisi can most often be attributed to his relationship with the Christ Who was so real to him in prayer and particularly in the Eucharist, that his very behavior became uninhibited. The joy of that one-ness with Christ let him forget all human respect, just as King David danced with abandon before the Ark being brought into the City of David.

 

The millennial continuation of the Real Presence of Our Savior among us around the world depends upon the consecration of the sacramental signs of bread and wine. This is accomplished through the ministry of those men called and ordained to the priesthood. The faithful share in this priesthood through Baptism. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice they accept to participate actively in the mystery of the Life-Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus.  They acknowledge their belief in the Sacrifice offered and strengthen the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ in their Holy Communion worthily received.  They, like the priest, are called to let the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Savior enter their lives and flow through every fibre of their being, thus enlivening their faith and filling their hearts with inexpressible inner joy and peace – the effects of the Eternal Love that possesses them.  How many of us can really say we allow that to happen?  How many of us ‘feel’ the effects of their Holy Communion, and like Saint Francis, feel a real change in attitude that even affects our demeanor? Some may even consider the expressions used above exaggerated, unreal, poetic, or of another era!  We find difficulty expressing the depth of the love we experience in the Eucharist, often because we do not give ourselves the time and silence to allow the Sacred Guest to speak to our hearts, that we might ‘feel’ it.  We are always in such a hurry.  How many good Catholics run out of Church as soon as they have ‘devoutly’ received Communion?!  The brief period after Communion, before the Last Prayer-Blessing-Dismissal, is an awesome moment, and a necessary one for us to allow the Truth Whom we have received, to lead us on the One Who is the Way, as He nourishes us with Himself and strengthens us on our journey to Eternal Life.

 

One of our Third Order brothers, Don Bosco, great saint of the nineteenth century, was known for his ‘dreams’.  His dreams, visions, and prophecies concerning the Church are quite revealing.  Among them he speaks of seeing the Church as a ship, with the Holy Father at the helm, steering it through severe weather on rough and stormy seas.  The ship moves to a safe harbor as it is directed between two columns. The Eucharist is atop of one and Our Lady is atop of the other.  The Eucharist and Mary are the strengths (the ‘columns’) of our Catholic Christian faith.  Mary leads us to Jesus.  Mother of the Most Blessed Sacrament, First ‘True’ Tabernacle, First Monstrance, She indicates the way. Let us follow Her example and invoke Her prayers and protection in the ancient Easter Marian Anthem that reminds us of the severe plague that subsided at Her intercession.  The Church and the world need the intercession of the Mother of all Humanity to abate the plague of anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-God campaigns that afflict the world today. May we witness Her almighty intercession with the Eternal Father.  We rejoice and are glad for the Lord is truly risen, and we sing our ‘Alleluia’, ahead of time, for a God Who renews the joy of our youth, as we acclaim Our Mother, the virgin made church.

Queen of heaven rejoice, Alleluia,
For the Son Whom you merited to bear, Alleluia.
Has risen as He said, Alleluia.
Pray to God for us, Alleuia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleuia,
For the Lord is truly risen, Alleuia.

May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a continued Happy Easter time; may Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers each one of us; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch 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