Father Francis' Greetings - April 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 skdregion.org
email: pppgusa@gmail.com

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

The season of Easter is saturated with Peace.  It is a time for us to enter the Joy of the Risen Jesus and realize that our God is alive and well. We see in the few chapters that end the Gospel accounts a transforming experience for all the first followers of the Lord.  It was an inner transformation, for as yet they were fearful of the Jews, but joy-filled at the sight of the Savior.  No doubt some may have thought that ‘now He will re-establish Israel’, ‘now He will manifest Himself to the world and conquer our dominators’, ‘now the sinners and sinful nations will be put down and Israel will reign as the righteous nation’.  As childish as this manner of thinking may seem, I do not doubt that some, if not all the disciples, may have had similar thoughts or feelings. All we need do is remember what the concern was on the road to Jerusalem as Jesus spoke of His pending capture- torture-death…and resurrection; the apostles were talking about who would be first and powerful in the kingdom, and who would reign on the right and left with Jesus. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Greetings – April 2017” »

Father Francis' Greetings - March 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

 

 

March 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

Throughout his life, St. Francis regularly sought the solitude of forests, mountains, islands. His Canticle of the Creatures gives us an insight into his love and reverence for all creation as gift from the One Great Creator and Father.  Nonetheless, often he would retire for weeks on end from this wonderful Theater of Redemption, away from the ‘world’ , the people, and the circumstances that enveloped him each day. Why? If all is a gift and everything is so wonderful, why leave?  If God is everywhere, why go as far away from ‘civilization’ as possible to be able to ‘touch God’?

Good, legitimate, enjoyable, and even necessary persons, places, and things – even religious things! – can ‘possess’ us so much that we can risk losing our God-centered perspective, and confuse our priorities.  They become the end rather than the means to deepen a relationship with God Who is ‘the Other’ and though He is not His creation, yet God can be seen in all things, because He is My God and My All as St. Francis prayed. An old saying states: A growling stomach cannot hear God speaking to us. God’s providence and love cannot be felt unless they are seen in those who proclaim them by their actions.  The spirit, immersed in God, can often become distracted and even depleted of its inner strength by the constant barrages, cacophony, seductions, allurements of our society, and also from just frenetic running around ‘in four directions at once’ without taking time for healthy rest in the Lord.  The various ‘lents’ that St. Francis practiced during the year all responded to the canons of the Church for all Christians.  They were part of his own particular devotional life and spiritual needs, and they afforded him the silence and solitude to ‘recharge’ his spirit, deepen his relationship with God for Whom St. Francis was the ‘Herald of the Great King’, and clarify his view of the world that surrounded him. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Greetings – March 2017” »

Father Francis' Greetings for February 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

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

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

St. Francis’ immediate response to the brigands was based on a profound conviction: the Lord had spoken to him from the Cross of San Damiano, and charged him to rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is falling into ruin. St. Francis understood these words literally and set out at once to begin his divinely appointed commission, his ‘job’, rebuilding churches; he was the divinely-appointed ecclesiastical architect and general contractor. Actually, it is not far-fetched to give him these titles. The day would come when he would be the ‘architect’ of a whole new way of life and build the Family of the Penitents of Assisi with the lives and love of the ‘living stones’ who eventually joined him and followed his example. The Providence of God took care of his needs. The good people of Assisi and so many others were the all- providing hand of God for this young ‘penitent’ who had embraced his fears, kissed the leper, and given all that ‘possessed him’ back to the world. He threw himself with abandon into the loving arms of his Father in heaven. » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Greetings for February 2017” »

Greetings from Father Francis - December 2016

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Infant Jesus grant your heart the Peace you desire.

May His Star enlighten your mind with the splendor of His Truth.

May His Love consume your heart so that it beats solely for Him.

The Magi came in search of the ‘newborn King’. Arriving in Jerusalem they inquired: Where is the newborn King? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. Having left the palace of the king, the star preceded them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star. They saw the child and his mother…and did him homage. (Matthew 2: 1-12).

Thus began the quest of the Magi from the East, not of the Children of Abraham, for the Child who was the fulfillment of the lives of those truly Wise Men. They accepted the challenge to go beyond the boundaries of their secure and comfortable world in search of Wisdom Itself. The Wisdom of God, incarnate in Jesus, born at Bethlehem, came to lead all humanity back to a deeper relationship with God. He would accomplish His mission by His Love and Truth.

In the Book of Genesis, the sacred writer reminds us that pride seduced freedom at the very beginning of human history when our first parents opted to seek their own interests rather than the Will of their Father and Creator. From that moment, human history, life itself, became a quest to regain what was lost: harmony, serenity, peace. Harmony became enmeshed in the mechanism of compromise, connivance, convenience, and all that cloud our vision of the road traced out for us by the One Who calls us to Himself. Serenity was shaken by the inner struggles of insecurity, indifference, indolence and all that keep our hopes from encouraging us to move forward to grow in the gifts bestowed on us by our Creator. Peace became the unfulfilled dream of those who were challenged daily by fearful anxiety, dominant arrogance, blind ambition. The world has not been the same ever since that fateful moment. And thus began the quest to regain what was lost! » Click to continue reading “Greetings from Father Francis – December 2016” »

Greetings from Father Francis - November 2016

November 2016

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace! The Cemetery of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception on Via Veneto in the City of Rome is not the only one of its kind in Italy nor in the world. What makes the place rather “unique” is the display made of human bones and the number of full skeletal remains, still clothed, hanging for all to see. Thousands of people down the centuries have passed through this rather strange and macabre reminder of the vulnerability of human nature and the limited time allotted each one of us. What seemed to appeal (?!) to the spirituality of a post-renaissance time, has now been, by national legislation, turned into a tourist attraction and curiosity site. At the time it was constructed, this site was considered an effective aid in longing for Eternal Life, in recognizing our call to holiness through personal conversion, and in acknowledging the transitoriness of human nature and worldly things. How times change! Living in Rome one can visit the “Church of the Bones”, as many call it, just to say a prayer for those once vibrant human beings whose mortal remains were turned into a macabre “side show” for a world always eager to dabble in and play with the exotic, the strange, the weird, and sometimes even the evil.

Death is not an appealing thought for most people. Our materialistic and consumer-driven society conditions our view of this most solemn moment in life: the young discard the thought of death as non-existent in their life, the teenager questions it theoretically but sees it too distant to be relevant; the middle-ager runs away from its reality through “busy-ness”; the elderly nostalgically hold on to the past in the hope that they can prolong life’s journey; and those who realize they stand before the reality of having to let go of this world often live in confused apprehension, fear, and even anger. It may not be this way for all, but I believe that a sufficient number of God’s children fall into one of these categories. Why? Where am I?

The response lies in what we believe of the Article of Faith in the Apostles Creed regarding “Everlasting Life”. We say that we believe in everlasting life, but we want to determine which life is going to be everlasting. What fools we can become when we allow the seductions of the world in which we live to make us their slaves rather than their masters! How foolish we are in trying to make eternally meaningful those things and aspects of this world that change, corrode and corrupt with time! Yet, how difficult it is for us to see beyond this world when our eyes are blinded by the everyday glitter of the creation that we have allowed to distract us from the eternal splendor of its and our Creator.

As strange as it may seem, even these attitudes are signs of our desire to know more about the reason and goal of life. Holding on to all we know is an expression of our yearning to live. The exhilaration and excitement that the young seek – isn’t that a desire to fulfill a need to feel alive and be capable of anything?! The ladder-climbing of the corporate world and the go-get-it-ness of those in the middle years – isn’t that a need to know one has achieved a successful level in life among and maybe even above his/her peers, thus being necessary for life to be meaningful to others as well as one’s self?! The constant recounting of personal achievements or offering “solutions”, even when not requested, by those in declining years – isn’t this the hope of leaving a legacy that will keep one’s name alive in the hearts of others long after that person no longer walks this earth?! The memorabilia we keep of loved ones, the monuments we erect in honor of people, and so much more – isn’t this a way for us to try to keep alive today, now, those whom we recall and honor?!

It is rather easy to speak about life. People are usually interested in hearing what others have to say. But, when the thought of our passage from time to eternity is concerned, many would rather not be told or reminded. We are Christians! We believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life! We believe that Jesus redeemed us from the clutches of Satan and opened the way to the Father’s embrace through His total self-emptying death on the Cross. November, the month we dedicate to the remembrance of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, urges us to reconsider this most solemn moment in life. November urges us to see beyond the veil of our physical barrier and with the eyes of faith to see the Life we have been created to share. An entire life – all experiences, successes, failures, and so on – converges at the moment of death into a power-packed point of one’s total being. As the Paschal Mystery fulfills itself in the life of the person soon to enter eternity, the soul prepares for that moment, that instant, that “twinkling of an eye” when it will explode with gratitude and joy into the loving embrace of the Eternal Father Who waits for one of His children to come home.

Saint Francis of Assisi was God’s Troubadour, the Herald of the Great King, as he called himself. He sang of God’s creation. He saw the majesty and beauty of God in all things and all people. Life was exhilarating and exciting for him. And, when he was informed of his terminal condition and the inevitability of his imminent death, he sang and added a stanza to the Canticle of the Creatures, that famous song he composed to praise God in all creation. He joyfully invited Sister Bodily Death to come to him. Francis detached himself from society’s seductive enticements – whether persons, places, things, honors, and the like. Though his eyes were physically blinded from his infirmities, his heart saw far beyond the world in which he lived. He saw, unobstructed by worldly debris, the splendor of an Eternal Home that awaited him. And he was overjoyed!

St. Francis of Assisi was a clear and obvious sign of transcendency and of the supernatural. He was an evident manifestation of God. His presence alone was a sign, a stimulus to reflection and conversion; a stimulus to sanctity. He preached the Gospel Message undoubtedly with words, but firstly and primarily by his life. It was a message of love that continues in the hearts of millions today. And perhaps this message is more valid today than it was yesterday, because it is a message which has been liberated; it is a purified message. It is up to us to accept it; it is our job to put it into practice; it is our duty to bring it to others because we have all been called to pursue the same ideal and to conquer the same aims and ideals of our Seraphic Father. The vocation to sanctity is not a privilege of the few. It is a calling for all. It leads us to view and live life as the bridge over which we are to cross to enter Life. Thus death is the open doorway that leads to the fulfillment and realization of all we could hope.

The vow of poverty for St. Francis of Assisi and the ‘privilege of poverty’ that St. Clare of Assisi awaited before she would ‘allow herself to pass to eternity’ remind us that we do not have a permanent dwelling in this world. Our Universal call to holiness is a call to be, as the word “holy” in its basic meaning denotes, “to be other-worldly”. So, to be holy means to live in the light of the other world. Doesn’t this mean to live in expectation of that moment when we will finally enter the fullness of holiness – even if we must pass through a place of God’s mercy that purifies us for heaven – Purgatory?

St. Francis of Assisi lived his entire life in light of this moment of encounter, that he lived in mystery. It was not a dark or ominous thought for him; it helped him place all things in perspective – the perspective of heaven, the perspective of God. When he received the Sacred Stigmata on La Verna, our Seraphic Father knew the Lord had completed on his body what he had initiated at San Damiano in his heart some twenty years before.

We are Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, the Poverello. We are also human beings subject to all the fear, confusion, doubt, anger, apprehension, and all the other negative characteristics that are connected to facing an uncertain future. The future is uncertain for those who have no faith. For those who believe, life is accepted and celebrated every day as the gift that it is. We celebrate life with joy and gratitude, and we seek to be a support and encouragement to others as we strive to develop all the gifts and talents the Lord has entrusted to us. BUT, as we do this to fulfill our part to restore all things in Christ, we long for that day when the Father calls us to His loving embrace. As a great pontiff once said we do not place limits on Divine Providence, but we do not fear the return home of a loving child to its Loving Eternal Father.

That Cemetery on Via Veneto is rather macabre, and it may have served its purpose. With the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, whose life and words we seek as a guide and encouragement, let us live out our years with Jesus our Savior and Mary our Holy Mother in our hearts and on our lips. Let us look to the heavens each day to remember the heights to which we are called. Let us also remember those who were where we are, and who are where we hope, in God’s mercy and providence, one day to be – the Holy Souls in Purgatory: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; 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

October Greetings from Father Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website: skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com
October 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you his peace!
Two years before his death, already very sick and suffering especially from his eyes, (St. Francis ) was living in a cell made of mats near San Damiano. … During his stay, for fifty days and more, blessed Francis could not bear the light of the sun during the day or the light of the fire at night.  He constantly remained in darkness in his cell … One night, as he was thinking of all the tribulations he was enduring, he felt sorry for himself and prayed interiorly: ‘ Lord help me in my infirmities so that I may have the strength to bear them patiently”… (A voice spoke to him and said): …be glad and joyful in the midst of your infirmities and tribulations; as of now, live in peace as if you were already sharing my kingdom”… The next morning on rising, he said to his companions: … I should be full of joy in my infirmities and tribulations, seek my consolations in the Lord, and give thanks to God the Father, to His Only Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit … Therefore, for His glory, for my consolation, and the edification of my neighbor, I wish to compose a new “Praises of the Lord,” for His creatures … He called these “Praises of the Lord” which opened with the words: “Most high all-powerful, and good Lord, the “Canticle of the Sun”… He often intoned this canticle and had his companions take it up; in that way he forgot the intensity of his sufferings and pains by considering the glory of the Lord.  He did this until the day of his death.  (Legend of Perugia, 42-43)
The Poverello of Assisi was one of the wealthiest persons to ever live. His wealth went far beyond the treasures that human beings consider desirable.  The power he wielded over thousands of his day and millions over the centuries make him also one of the most influential and effective individuals to ever live. He was simple, surely not what the authoritative and commanding seek.  He was poorly dressed, surely not what attracts the people of this world. He was not much to look at, surely not a figure that imposed himself by physical stature.  He had a basic education for his times, surely not an intellectual ‘giant’ to dialogue with the ‘learned’ and prominent of his day.  He had not bands of armed guards and militant forces, surely not what the dominant forces sought out. What he had was a ‘treasure’ that far surpasses all others: He was a man in love with God, and God’s image and presence in all creation; he was passionately in love with life.  His spirit was contagious.  Many originally considered him out of his mind, most believed him to be eccentric, but all eventually recognized the uniqueness of a soul in love with God, life and all people. Our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, is a constant reminder and image of a life in love with Life.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … God said, ‘Let there be…’And so it happened.  God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good. (Genesis 1: 1-30) The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7) Life is the first gift of God’s Eternal Love. Goodness, of its very nature, cannot be contained; it must overflow limits set and reach out in all directions.  Eternal Goodness offers the greatest gift of Himself: the gift of being. During a lifetime conditioned and limited by time, we who share the ‘breath of God’, His Holy Spirit, enter a journey that leads us from living in the mystery on earth to living its fulfilment in eternity.  In Christ Jesus we recognize Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What seemingly begins as a merely natural process is now transformed into a ‘Journey of Faith’ that places us in a relationship with our Creator and eternal Life-giving Father, Who continues to ‘breathe’ His Holy Spirit into our hearts, because of the Redemptive Life-Death-Resurrection of His Incarnate Son, Jesus, Who made the Father ‘real’ for us.
Men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable – a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves.  Christian faith comes to meet them, offering the concrete possibility of reaching the goal which they seek. (Pope St. John Paul II – Relationship Between Faith and Reason, Encyclical of September 14, 1998). Life is that period of time we have been allotted to know, love, and serve our God both in Himself and in each other.  We follow Jesus Who invites us to walk this journey of faith as ‘pilgrims and strangers’.  St. Francis of Assisi’s ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ is his prayer of praise to God Who can be seen in all creation, and at every moment of life’s journey. Many ‘cradle Catholics’ often take their Christianity too much for granted.  There is a tendency to forget that external religious practices, to be authentic, must be an expression of the greater gift of  Faith in fused at Baptism and to which they are called to be convinced and committed.  Faith is not a list of dogmas to believe, but a Person to accept and follow.  Faith, strengthened through Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church, accompanies and encourages life,  in the midst of a world that hears the words of Jesus but often closes its heart to the message that must be personally accepted and lived to be effective and fruitful. Although we are all called to be saved, there is no such thing as ‘global salvation’.  Jesus died for all humanity and His redemption is once-for-all; it is ‘global’ in that sense.  However, it is the personal responsibility of each individual to cooperate with the graces he/she receives from the Redemptive Sacrificial Blood of Jesus poured out for us all, if that person hopes to be ‘saved’ and share in Eternal Life.
St. Francis’ desire to live the Gospel ‘without gloss’ is his way of reminding us that Jesus’ words must be taken to heart and lived.  We cannot just believe and not do.  Faith that stands, and is not backed up with a life that verifies the ‘principles’ and ‘values’ preached, is nothing more than an intellectual exercise of themes and slogans. Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. (James 2: 17-18)
Our journey of faith begins in the accounts of the Old Testament Scriptures with the call of Abraham, when he responded in faith to God’s urging to leave Ur of the Chaldeans. Abraham may not have completely understood his unique relationship with God and the role he was called to fulfill, nonetheless he had all the necessary elements for faith.  He promptly responded ‘yes’ to God’s call, a divine call that more often than not turned Abraham’s own plans upside down.    Abraham was even ready to offer his only son to God, against all human logic and expectations for the future. Faith believes and gives one’s self to God unconditionally.  Even when God seems to be ‘absent’ from us, in faith we sense an unexplainable presence and strength leading us through and beyond the limits that our difficulties and doubts place in the way.  It is this faith that becomes a power house working and welling up within us.  It is this faith that becomes the very root of our daily life. Our life becomes an act of faith.
Faith reaches its fulfillment in the New Testament in the Son of God Who manifested Himself and proclaimed the kingdom of God. This proclamation of God’s will and invitation to believe requires the same response as that of Abraham, our ‘Father in Faith’.  This acceptance is a decisive act of a loving will that moves our human minds to look beyond the expected human calculations and to trust totally in God.  Faith is not an intellectual acceptance of a number of abstract facts; it is an unconditional acceptance of a person, God, as we have come to know Him in the Person of Jesus the Christ. Faith accepts God Who proposes His love for Christ Who died and was raised from the dead. Faith is obedience to God, communion with Him, openness to all God reveals because He can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Faith opens our eyes to see life from the perspective of eternity and God’s love.  Our own Seraphic Father, when confronted with friars who had decided to mitigate his expectations for the Order, heard God asking and reminding him that the Order was God’s; he was not to worry if matters seemed not what he expected, as long as they followed God’s plans.
Faith becomes victory over the isolation we create in our lives when we close ourselves to the ‘Other’. Faith helps us to gratefully accept life as a marvelous experience. Filled with challenges that may try us to the limit of our strength, life is supported, nourished, and ennobled by a faith that trusts in an ever-loving and all-providing God. From the very beginning of our existence, God calls each one of us from the nothingness of ‘not being’ to an existence that bursts into time and is ultimately transformed into the immortal gift of unending Life for all.
We learn to live tranquilly, always, as regards our spirit, because God reigns supreme.  Life is given to us in order for us to acquire the eternal. Due to a lack of reflection, we often base our affections on what pertains to the world  through which we are passing, so that when we have to leave it, we are frightened and agitated.  In order to live happily while on pilgrimage we must keep before our eyes the hope of arriving at our Homeland where we will stay for eternity.  It is God who calls us to Himself, He watches how we make our way to Him, and will never permit anything to happen to us that is not  for a greater good.  He knows what we are. He offers His loving providence to us especially while we are going through rough stretches. Nothing will prevent us from running quickly to Him, but in order to receive this grace we must have total confidence in Him.  Life is also a journey of trust.
One of the greatest Gospel witness  we can give others as sisters and brothers in St. Francis of Assisi flows from living in the Presence of God. Truly convinced of this, we must be tranquil and at peace within ourselves because God is in control. We journey together, focused on the Lord Who calls us to share Life in our Eternal Homeland after having sought to restore all things in Christ during our earthly pilgrimage that should be a “Canticle of Praise” to the Lord for every facet of life. Each step we take is a step forward surrendering ourselves unconditionally to the ever-loving providence of God, Who never leaves His children unaided.
Pope John Paul II tells us that men and women are on a journey of discovery in search for the truth and a person. Words like these sound like some philosophical theme until we examine our hearts and realize how true and meaningful they are for our lives.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis encountered that ‘Person’, Jesus, on the Cross at San Damiano who impressed His words on his heart, then he met that ‘Person’ again at La Verna, Who impressed His ‘Word’ on his body.  The living image of the Crucified spoke to the world of an emptying love that accepted life to die that me might enter Life.
Every life has its disconcerting events and fears.  Even the greatest of saints had their difficulties.  Many went through moments of spiritual darkness and dryness. They continued to believe and hope in God, encouraging and empowering others to be joy-filled in the midst of their challenges as well as their successes, while they themselves cried out to their ‘absent’ and Loving God who asked that they pass through the desolation of the Cross.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, Mother St. Teresa of Calcutta, Pope St. John Paul II, and many others whose lives we have come to know more intimately now that they have entered eternity, went through these moments. Faith and life walk hand-in-hand.  It is our Faith that strengthens our spirit and nourishes our life. Jesus reminds us: It is the spirit that gives life … The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63) When we allow the Spirit of Faith to fill our minds and hearts, when we accept the words of Jesus in truth, when we live today where God and we encounter one another … we live in hope, free from fear, trusting in divine providence that clears all intimidating imaginings from our minds and hearts.  Peace, joy, and serenity become a reality. And, they become ‘contagious’ for those whom we encounter.
Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi live every moment of life fully!  The spirit of prayer that enveloped our Seraphic Father who ‘became prayer’ encourages us to pass through whatever crucible of life we encounter.  Thus we become one with the Suffering Servant Who became One with us. Let us be grateful to God for the life He has called us to live, and make our prayer You are my God…I trust in You…be my refuge…I fear nothing…(for I seek to be in You as You are within me).
May God bless you; my Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, look upon each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant

September 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
September 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you His peace!
We recognize ourselves in the Church’s prayers for God’s People who journey in time towards eternal life. We pray for ourselves and especially for the one whom the Eternal Father has appointed Father and Shepherd of Christ’s Family, Vicar of Christ Jesus, and voice of the Spirit’s prompting for God’s People.  Many, down through the ages, like our Holy Father today, stand in the waters of life’s calm as well as turbulent currents, and actively participate in all our experiences encouraging, supporting, interceding for us.  They share in the ministry of Jesus – Jeshua of Nazareth, God’s Son and our Savior.
Moses, the great leader of Israel, a nation in formation,  was called to eternity before Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land. He saw the Land from a distance.  He appointed Joshua, his faithful assistant, as his successor and leader of the People of God.  Joshua’s name means the Lord is salvation, and he truly was a saving presence that directed by his example as well as by his words. God worked wonders through Joshua, and the People were reaffirmed in their faith and encouraged in confronting the continued challenges they had to face to achieve the ultimate goal set for them by God.  In the Church, we too have “Joshuas” whom the Lord calls to continue a work of re-affirmation and encouragement for all God’s People in the universal call and mission to holiness.
Our Seraphic Father was a living example of the mission and ministry of Jesus. Like Joshua, he entered the calm and turbulent waters of the Church and society of his century.  He stood in those waters like the levites in Moses’ time. He was bearer of the Ark of the New Covenant, the Gospel of Jesus the Lord, bearing within himself and eventually on his body, the image of the One Whose voice he heard and Whose life he sought to live. He served as Deacon of the Church and founding Father and Brother of those who took up the challenge he accepted that they might follow in his steps and stand in the turbulent waters of their times for all to pass through them securely. In the overwhelming waters of his day – religious and philosophical ideologies, seductive allurements of a newly-forming consumer society, moral relativism lacking basic values or principles that flow from God’s law, and so much more – St. Francis stood out as a catalyst and transforming presence.  He was a “Gospel Activist”.  His presence, prayer, and power of God working through him and his brothers and sisters who accepted the Gospel challenge he was called to live, stemmed the tide that would have otherwise destroyed so many souls.  The “Gospel activism” of love and mercy were a hallmark of the Franciscan fraternity then, just as it is still expected of us today, we who are the spiritual descendants of the Poverello.
The first obstacle the freed slaves of Egypt had to face was the Red Sea. Moses split the Sea and the Israelites passed on dry land. But, having passed through the Red Sea, the People wandered in the desert for forty years. Finally, as they approached the Promised Land, another barrier lay before them. It had to be overcome before they could enter their new and definitive home as free children of the One Great God.  The success of their endeavor depended on overcoming this obstacle. Knowledge of the great wonders God worked so His People could achieve their goal would reach the neighboring towns and cities. All would know that Israel was back in Canaan after more than four centuries of exile and slavery.  Israel was there to stay in fulfillment of God’s Promise.  But the obstacle had to be overcome first.
The second obstacle was the Jordan River. Like the Red Sea of forty years before, the River was the line of demarcation between hopeful dreams and fulfillment.  They had to face the present challenge and meet it head on.  Following the command of the Lord God of Israel, Joshua commanded the priests of the People who were walking before Israel to come to a halt at the edge of the Jordan River.  Then, he said: The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth will precede you into the Jordan.  When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Lord…touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow… No sooner had the priestly bearers of the Ark waded into the waters,…then the waters flowing from upstream halted…while those flowing downstream…disappeared entirely.  Thus the people crossed … the priests carrying the Ark remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan …(and) remained in the bed of the Jordan until everything had been done that the Lord had commanded Joshua to tell the People. (Cfr. Joshua 3; 4: 1-10).  Their mission was to stand firm until all the people had crossed over.
God took the initiative to save His People and it was God Who promised to get them to its fulfillment. God keeps His word, but, since God gives us life without our help but will not save us without our cooperation, we must do our part as well.  The People were assembled with the Promised Land just within their reach, across the Jordan.  Thousands of people ready, after forty years of hope-filled wandering through the desert, to settle down.  Many experienced and hardened warriors, defenders of Israel from the enemy nations that assailed them during their desert trek, dreamt of enjoying a quiet and productive home and family life without having to put their lives on the line every day to protect Israel from unfriendly peoples seeking their destruction.  There were the families dreaming of stability for their children and for a plot of land they could cultivate to make the desert flourish.  Then there were the youth – young men and women – who had known only a nomadic life of uncertainty and looked forward to all the opportunities that the young hope for in a more structured life: security, family, friendship, love, and all the rest.  Nothing happened!  There was one thing that had to be done!  They had to cross the Jordan!  How often in life do we stand and look ahead of us desiring what is within our reach, but are always hesitant or afraid to take the step and pass through the obstacle to the other side.
It was not until the priests carrying the Ark got their feet wet that the Jordan stopped in its course.  Until those who were the shepherds and leaders of Israel, carrying the sign of the very presence of God with them, entered the waters first, nothing happened.  They had to get their feet wet!  This act showed Israel that they believed with their lives that God was with them, and their faith in His Promise would make the miracle happen. And it did!  Our lives have so many Jordan Rivers that we have to wade through at low tide with difficulty, or maybe, because we cannot fight the strong currents of a raging river, need someone who can help us cross over on dry ground in the more demanding and challenging times.  Each experience requires an act of faith and trust that God will again work His miracle for us. All we have to do is trust and “get our feet wet”.  And, there is always a Joshua present to encourage us and indicate the way.
Human beings have conquered the sky and probed the depths of space.  Nevertheless, there are many problems which endanger our existence: pollution, natural disasters, tragedies caused by human error, attempts on human life and freedom, attacks against the family, social injustice, intolerance due to prejudice of any kind (race, color, religious belief, culture, ideology, and the like).  Like the waters of the Red Sea or the Jordan River, they threaten to overwhelm us and even destroy us, unless someone continues to hold back the waters.  Jesus came to give meaning to life and strength to all who would accept to “Live Jesus” and be a counter-cultural prophetic presence in the world of today. Living the Gospel, they live the example of Jesus and they stand in the river bed for us all to pass safely.  We Franciscans are called to be that “counter-cultural presence”.
St. Francis of Assisi was a living example of Gospel love.  As Joshua continued the mission of Moses as leader and protector of Israel, the Poverello was imprinted with the marks of Jesus and commissioned with His Spirit to stand with and for the People. St. Francis was a leader and protector in our troubled world.  Chosen from among them, he instilled hope in those who accepted his message of “Pax et Bonum” (Peace and Good) and encouraged all to wade into the waters of everyday demands, and to trust in God’s powerful Providence and his loving care and protection. He ardently loved everyone.  He often wept, we are told, because “Love was not loved”.  Whether with the lepers, Assisians, Turks, or any of God’s children and creatures, the greatest anguish and burning desire was to “Restore all things in Christ” (motto of St. Pius X).
We are the Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi. He was a man of action as well as of prayer. His prayer made him aware of the needs of his sisters and brothers in the world, and he brought their needs back to his prayer. He lived a “virtuous circle” that continually went from earth to heaven and back. His prayer was concrete and effective. Whether it transformed interiorly or produced results exteriorly, St. Francis was a man always “in the thick of things”.
As Franciscans we consider it an honor to associate ourselves with his memory. We speak of him and can even speak and teach about him. We pray to him. We call on his powerful intercession in our needs.  How many “things” do we try to do as fraternities or individuals to make the name and spirit of St. Francis of Assisi known and loved!  But do we follow his example?  Are we willing to take the step that enters the waters of uncertainty each day and trust in Divine Providence?  Are we willing to forget ourselves for the sake of another and give some of our time, talents or even treasure to make someone in need realize that they are not alone?
The priests in the Jordan River not only got their feet wet so the waters would separate for Israel to pass through, but they also stayed in the river bed until everyone had passed over safely.  Are we willing to witness our faith and trust in God to encourage others to do the same, especially those whose faith may be uncertain?   The Poverello was even willing to risk death at the hands of the Turks for the sake of God’s glory and the good of souls.  Are we willing to accept anything from God for the sake of His glory and the salvation of even one soul?  Do we remember that St. Francis shared in the suffering of Christ in a concrete way his entire religious life?!  Just remember that the Cross was imprinted on his heart when the Crucifix spoke to him at San Damiano years before it was visibly imprinted on his body at La Verna two years before his passage into eternity. As sons and daughters of St. Francis, have we allowed that spirit to take over our lives?
As we celebrate the Feast of the Impression of the Sacred Stigmata of the Wounds of Jesus on the body of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi this month, September 17, let us remember that “words come cheap”, but a true sign of admiration and veneration is imitation. Let us imitate our Father’s love and open our hearts and lives to one another.  We must not forget that the person who seems not to deserve to be loved is precisely the one who needs to be loved. Often that love is shown when we are willing to enter the rough waters that endanger them so they might pass safely.
May God bless you. May Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you.  And may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant

August Greetings by 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
August 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you his peace!
For centuries the Catholic Christian world has celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven.  This crowning moment in Her life was never really disputed by most Christians before the rise of Protestantism. As time moves on, the world and its values often clouds the vision of our minds and hearts.  As the modern world places humanity at the center rather than God, society takes a different view of life and basic human values.   Technology has become the ‘god’ for many, a practical atheism if not a theoretical one.  Materialism, commercialism, hedonism, just to mention a few ‘isms’ of our day, have sunk their roots deep into the human experience and often seduce the heart and soul urging us to confide in the passing things of time rather than in the lasting gifts of eternity.  The cult of the body has dominated our society for years.  Sixty years ago, recognizing these serious dangers, Pope Pius XII  proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven, November 1st, 1950, amidst a gathering of thousands in St. Peter’s Basilica. This proclamation was the crowning recognition of the simple Maiden of Nazareth, Whose unconditional faith opened Her life to God’s will, and the world to salvation.
The story of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is beautifully told in the Apocrypha (texts not inserted among the books of Sacred Scripture).  The story lets us see how the early Church truly loved Mary as the highest honor of our race. It is no wonder that so many saints have had a particular and deep love and filial devotion for Our Lady.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis and Holy Mother St. Clare were devoted children of this Most Holy of Mothers, Whose love envelopes us with Her protective mantle. Close to Her Immaculate Heart, Her children feel secure from harm and assured of an Advocate almighty by intercession with God.
Saint Francis loved Christ and was deeply struck by the humility of the Incarnation and the love of His Passion.  He wanted to conform himself totally to Christ, so that Christ would be the true foundation of his life.  This love for Christ inevitably led him to a profound love for Mary, the Mother of the Lord.  In fact, as Celano states: He embraced the Mother of Jesus with inexpressible love, since She made the Lord of Majesty a brother to us.  He honored Her with his own Praises, poured out prayers to Her, and offered Her his love in a way that no human tongue can express.  But what gives us greatest joy is that he appointed Her the Advocate of the Order, and placed under Her wings the sons to be left behind, that She might protect and cherish them to the end. (2 Celano, chpt.150) Love for Our Lady moved him to imitate Her virtues.  He told his friars that it is the example of Christ and His Most Holy Mother that we follow in choosing the way of true poverty. (Legend of Perugia, #3)
St. Francis wanted this basic element of his spirituality to be the same basis for the spirituality of St. Clare and her religious family. Thus an essential element of the life of St. Clare and her sisters is the love and devotion they have for the Mother of Jesus, whom St. Clare considers their true Mother. The love of St. Clare for Mary is apparent from the first moment of her consecration to God.  Once she abandoned her home, city and family, she fled to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula (Our Lady of the Angels), where the brothers, who were waiting for her in prayer before the little altar in that chapel, received St. Clare with lighted torches. (Life, #8).  It was here that St. Francis cut her hair before the altar, in the Church of the Virgin Mary (Process, #12), and it was here that the humble handmaid was wed to Christ (Life, #8) Saint Mary of the Portiuncula is that famous place where the new throng of the poor began, guided by Francis: thus it appears clearly that the Mother of mercy gave birth to both Orders in Her own dwelling place. (Life, #8)
St. Clare began her new life at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She had a particular love and devotion for Her and wanted her sisters, although they received the precious Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion only seven times a year, to receive communion on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.  (Rule, #3) St. Clare even desired that any form of fasting be dispensed on the feasts of Mary.  As much in love as St. Clare was with Christ Crucified, so also was she with His Mother, reflecting upon Her sorrows.  She wrote to Sister Ermentrude: Meditate constantly on the mysteries of the cross and the agonies of His Mother standing at the foot of the Cross. (Letter to Ermentrude)
St. Clare was deeply convinced that perseverance in her vocation gave honor to Mary.  She prayed for the gift of perseverance, and in her Testament she writes: Let us be very careful that, if we have set out on the path of the Lord, we do not at any time turn away from it through our own fault and ignorance, or that we do a great wrong to so great a Lord and His Virgin Mother, and our blessed father Francis, the Church Triumphant and even the Church Militant…For this reason, I bend the knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ so that, through the prayers and merits of the glorious and holy Virgin Mary, His Mother, and our most blessed father Francis and all the saints, the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning, may give the increase and may give final perseverance. Amen. (Testament)
St. Clare’s love for Mary was a transforming element for her, that she expressed in the imitation of Mary’s virtues.  Even Cardinal Rainaldo in the letter of  Approval of the Rule, recognizes that the community of St. Clare follows in the footsteps of Christ and His Most Holy Mother, and have chosen to live a cloistered life. Of all the aspects of the life of Jesus and Mary, St. Clare is particularly concerned with imitating the poverty of Mary that she might be also faithful to the example of St. Francis, who sought to follow the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother.  It was this deep love for Mary that merited for St. Clare the assistance of Our Blessed Mother during her illness.  One biographer writes that when Clare seemed close to death, surrounded by her sisters who were weeping, a Benedictine nun had a vision and saw a beautiful lady at the head of the bed who addressed the weeping sisters saying: Daughters, do not cry for one who still must live on until the Lord with His disciples comes to her. (Life, #40)
Mary is the Mother of all the living (Lumen Gentium, #56)  Mary gives birth to God, by giving Him our human nature.  And Her Son, receiving from Her all that is human, gives Her, as much as possible, all that is of God.  Jesus was like Mary in Her human form, and Mary was like Jesus in His spiritual form.  There was never a creature so much ‘like God’ than Mary.  Between Mother and Son there was a full and perfect union and correspondence, even in that insurmountable distance that separates the divine Son from Her, a pure creature. (Free translation from St. Lawrence of Brindisi) It is this relationship between the human and the divine that St. Clare learned and deepened through her love for Jesus and Mary.
St. Clare’s love for Jesus and Mary led her to an active contemplation of Jesus and Mary that culminated at the foot of the Cross in the ultimate sign of the depth of God’s love for humanity, and humanity’s participation with God in Mary. Her love for the Crucified Christ led to Mary, the Virgin Made Church, Whose ‘yes’ to God made our redemption possible. Before the image of the Crucified, St. Clare opened herself to the mystery of God’s limitless love for all humanity, and there she found the Mother of the Redeemer Who guided her to contemplate the role Mary was called to fulfill in our salvation history. From the first moment of Her Conception until Her glorious Assumption to the right hand of Her Son Jesus, Mary is an intimate collaborator in the mystery of salvation.  She offers Jesus to others, disregarding the disadvantages to Herself, so that Jesus in turn could offer Himself for us all. Mary’s collaboration from the first moment of the Lord’s conception in Her womb is remembered by the Evangelists. Mary carries Jesus, still within Her womb, to Elizabeth and the Baptist; She presents Him to the Magi; She offers Him to Simeon and Anna; She encourages Him to perform His first miracle to save a young couple from embarrassment; She accompanies Him to Calvary and death where, at the foot of the Cross, She offers Him and Herself with Him.  In the sufferings of Calvary Mary became our Mother in the life of grace.  Her spiritual itinerary is the life of one who accepted and lived God’s Will. When Mary and her relatives went to see Jesus at Capharnaum, Jesus said to the one who told Him His Mother and relatives were looking for Him: My Mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and live It. Jesus did not distance Himself from His Mother Mary but, on the contrary, extolled Her greatness because She believed and accepted the Father’s Will, as He Himself was doing even in His own journey to the Cross.
St. Clare, in imitation of Mary, opened her heart and life to live God’s Will as it was proclaimed by the Magisterium and counseled by St. Francis.  Yet, with all her simple, humble obedience, St. Clare is a woman radical in her approach to the life she was called to live, flexible towards her sisters and the human weaknesses she encountered, and truly free to be detached from all that could keep her from focusing on the eternal gifts and striving for them.  St. Clare is an image of that strong Woman who stood at the foot of the Cross with the dignity of an empress and a heart pierced with the sorrow of a loving Mother.  St. Clare stood her ground firmly convinced for years with the officials of the Church for the Privilege of Poverty that eventually she was granted shortly before her death; yet she would be aware of and respond with the love, concern, and the flexibility of a caring mother to the needs of her sisters and any who came seeking her assistance. She lived the words she wrote to her spiritual daughter, St. Agnes of Prague:  Embrace the poor Christ.  Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him…gaze, consider, contemplate desiring to imitate your Spouse. (2nd Letter to St. Agnes of Prague)
St. Clare of Assisi ‘gazed upon the Lord’ in the depths of her heart and in the faces of her sisters and others. With the love of a mother, she responded to their needs, and even placed her own life in jeopardy for their sakes. Remember the two times we are told she saved the monastery from invasion and the sisters from harm by standing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament between the sisters and the invaders. Jesus was the center of her life.  He filled her with courage and strength. And Mary was the valiant woman of Scripture whose example helped St. Clare instill serenity and peace in others.
As spiritual children of our seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy Mother St. Clare, let us follow their example. Let Christ be our center so that we too may irradiate goodness and peace to all; let Mary be our Mother whose life, from Her Immaculate Conception to Her Assumption body and soul into heaven, be a constant reminder of our origins in God’s love and His pledge to us in Jesus that we, one day, will have the opportunity to share the eternal joys of heaven in the body with which we were known on earth and through which we sought to give glory and praise to God. O Christian, remember your dignity (St. Leo the Great) and live as redeemed children of God.
May God bless you;  may Our Lady, guide, guard, and protect you;  and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and Holy Mother St. Clare watch 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

July 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
July 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you his peace!
St. Francis of Assisi has a powerful hold over the hearts of many Catholics, non-Catholics, and even non-Christians.  The ‘Poverello’ of Assisi, whose death occurred over eight centuries ago, lives on in his spiritual children and all those who have come to understand the importance of his all-embracing ministry.  God offers us extraordinary signs to remind us that God is with us.  The miracles that suspend or enhance the laws of nature are only messages reminding us that what seems permanent is only passing.  The famous ‘bookmark’ of Saint Teresa of Avila states: Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you.  All things are passing. God alone remains.  Who possesses God possesses all things. Holiness is being possessed by God. If we seek only the extraordinary, we may fail to recognize the wonderful gifts found in the ‘ordinary’ experiences of life. God is always at work fulfilling His will in both ordinary and extraordinary.  Focusing on ‘the wonder of the miraculous’ in the life of any holy person, we may lose sight of the ever-present gifts of grace in him/her, that we too share with the saint according to our cooperation with God’s grace.   The gift of grace we receive at Baptism awaits to be developed in our own unique way so that our lives be God-centered, following Jesus and the Gospel, in a word, Holy!
Holiness is not a static quality; it is exciting and ‘ever-new’, to paraphrase Saint Augustine, O (Holiness), ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You. True holiness is a reflection of the One Source of all Life, Whose Love is eternal, and Who is always at work in creation. Like the moon, a ‘holy’ person reflects the light of the Son of God, Jesus, in Whose Name we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 18:28). Holiness reflects the goodness of God in our human nature. St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures is a reminder of how he was able to see the attributes of God reflected in all creation. Though we are weak and infinitely less perfect than God, grace urges us to be active agents of God to others.
As the adage goes, saints, like the prophets of old, are called into service for others in the name of God, in order to give comfort to the troubled and to trouble the comfortable.  They are women and men who have turned their lives over to the Lord, and who must confidently struggle like all human beings to fulfill the purpose for their existence. Scripture tells us that this purpose is: Be holy because I your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2)  … Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  The Spirit Jesus gave as the Gift of Easter to His Church is the same Holy Spirit we receive at Baptism and Who strengthens us at Confirmation. The Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son is the ‘God within’ (In Greek the words are ‘en-theos’ from which we get the word ‘enthusiasm’) encouraging us to be excited about life and our role in fulfilling God’s eternal plan for all creation. ‘Holy’ people are not secluded from the world.  They live aware of their responsibility ‘to be Jesus’, to assume the image of Christ to others.  Secular Franciscans live in the world, but not of it, so they can be the yeast in the dough, the salt in the food. Like yeast and salt they must be as though lost or dissolved that they might truly affect a change in others as they allow themselves to be spent for the Lord’s greater glory. Like Jesus, they too must endure the consequences of rejection, as well as the joys of acceptance. Do not be afraid!  What we lose is the ‘extra baggage’ we have allowed to clutter our lives.  In allowing the clutter to be eliminated from our lives, we offer Jesus and His Spirit the opportunity to enter our lives more deeply. If only we could make our sincere prayer that of an elderly Franciscan sister who said her prayer each day was: “Jesus take over”. And she mean it with all her heart!
The various words taken from Hebrew and Greek originally used to express the word ‘holy’ actually indicate a ‘separate-ness’,  an ‘other-liness’,  an ‘un-earthliness’.  The world and our lives seen from that perspective make the challenge more interesting.  Holiness is not a question just of not doing bad things. It is a life grounded in the reality of the world of which we are intimately a part by nature, but lived in a way that allows the ‘super-nature’ to be the root and goal of every moment. It takes a lifetime to fulfill and that’s what makes it interesting and exciting. Every moment till the end of our earthly journey is an act of faith in God, of trust in His providence for the future, and of love for the One Who journeys with us through time to eternity. Isn’t this what our Seraphic Father taught all his children by his total trust in Divine Providence?  Two ‘gifts’ accompany our journey and enhance and feed our desire to be holy: the Eucharist, source of holiness, and our brothers and sisters given by God to us as ‘gift’ (cfr. Testament). The Eucharist is the constant pledge and strength of the One Who said: I am with you always (Matthew 28: 20). It is the Eucharist that gives meaning and purpose to all we do, since in this wonderful Sacrament we are one with the Lord in everything, and are strengthened in our bond of charity with each other and all creation. Our brothers and sisters challenge us each day to be ‘Eucharist’ in thanksgiving and to always see the image of Jesus in others.
The more we strive to ‘do holy things’ in order to ‘be holy’ the more we realize we do not always achieve what we proposed; it only reminds us that what matters is what God disposes for us in life.  Father … not my will but Yours be done (Luke 22:42). Holiness is a question of seeing all things in the light of God’s Eternal Will. We must be able to say with Jesus: It is accomplished (John 19: 30); or with Saint Paul: I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).
Goodness surrounds us in many ways.  Often we fail to recognize the depth of it because it is so ‘normal’.  Holiness takes on many faces.  Character, circumstance, challenges, and the like, influence how holiness is perceived and/or expressed. Much has to do with how holiness is portrayed and perceived. There are varied ways in which sanctity is portrayed, presented ad even promoted in this world.  The image is so often distorted, exaggerated, and sometimes even rendered ridiculous because of fanaticism and misguided ‘religiosity’.  The Orders and Congregations in the Church all have their Rules and Constitutions, and Statutes and Regulations.  These are spiritual and/or organizational documents that strive to keep everyone focused on how that religious family seeks to grow in holiness for God, Church, humanity and obviously for the person who has professed that particular life.
–   Self-styled saints make it difficult for anyone to live with them, since they see themselves as the ‘code of holiness’. Holiness without humility is just pride with a mask!
–   There are good people who struggle each day to live God’s will; they pray and desire others to do the same. They forget that holiness is like love.  A fruit of love, holiness is an ongoing act of the will that strives to cooperate with God’s will at every moment.  No one can be forced to be ‘holy’ but anyone in proximity to many ‘well-meaning holy ones’ are often ‘bulldozed’ into one practice or another. ‘Live with a saint and become a martyr’ is an adage that may have its foundation in these two examples. They forget that the kingdom of God is not a matter of  food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and  joy in the Holy Spirit  (Romans 14:17).
–   Then there are the ‘saints’ who strive to live in God’s will, to ‘live Jesus’ and His Gospel, and who offer others by their words and example the opportunity to understand God’s love. As they grow cooperating with grace at their own pace, they become an encouraging example for others.  Nevertheless, the more they affect the lives of others by their good example, the more they often become the object of scrutiny and personal demands to ascertain their authenticity. What better vocation promotion than an authentic life: integrity leads to credibility!
Secular Franciscans, Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, have  ‘things’ that they ‘do’.  Nevertheless, the basic objective of being a spiritual child of St. Francis of Assisi is to be a saint! We believe God has called us to this life that we might give God glory and save our souls, to become saints.  This is not exaggerated or proud.  All of us are called to holiness.  Life and the things we do are intended to help us to fulfill this challenge. In the Poverello of Assisi we find a privileged soul who speaks to our heart.  His example and words help us to see God and evaluate our response to God’s will.  Like the great leader he has remained, our Seraphic Father helps us to have confidence in God and in the gifts God has given us.  These ‘gifts’ are  reflections of the attributes of God we are called to share with others. No one can make us holy but God and our own free will totally available to God’s Will.  As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi let us all make a committed promise to the Lord each day to be holy.  Let us offer each day and all it contains to the Lord.  Let us recommit ourselves daily to the ‘Covenant’ the Eternal Father made with us in the Blood of Jesus that is renewed every time the Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass is offered.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit will strengthen us to become the holy people we were called to be, and have sought to become through the intercession and charism of our Seraphic Father.
We all have an invitation to eventually to meet in heaven. Thousands of spiritual children of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi have gone before us and await our arrival. July 16th commemorates the canonization of Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis eight centuries ago. That day the Church officially declared Francis Bernardone of Assisi  a saint to be revered as a friend of God and pattern for God’s People who seek an example in word and lifestyle to enter a deeper relationship with God.  Let us be true children of our spiritual ‘parents’, our Father Francis and Mother Clare. The holiness to which we are called is not a pious reflection but a vital call that will determine our eternal destiny.  To paraphrase our Seraphic Father: There is so much good that is in store for us, that even pain and difficulty are tolerable and even pleasing.
May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look over each one of us, his spiritual children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant

A Totally Eucharistic Soul

St. Francis & The EucharistSt. 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
June 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
may you enter the loving embrace of the Eternal Father
Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love!
The Lord give you his peace!
Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a totally Eucharistic soul whose love for the Eucharist led him to revere all priests, even those whose lives were not as exemplary as they should have been. They give us spirit and life through the sacraments they offer and the Word they proclaim. All the faithful have a share in this marvelous gift of the  priesthood through their baptism and attentive participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.  The immediacy with which the celebration of the Eucharist ends after the faithful have received the Eucharist and shared in their Holy Communion seems as though the faithful are given a quick ‘good-bye’ with no ‘follow up’ or ‘follow through’. Nothing of the sort!  The Dismissal is a capsulized and intensely packed moment that carries with it an extraordinary responsibility and an awesome power.
When (Jesus) had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…Then He appeared to the (disciples) … He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not be believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover…  (Mark 16: 9-19)  And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 20)  (The disciples) went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16: 20)
From the moment  we sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we begin an extraordinary spiritual journey through a mystical experience of our salvation history, and more intimately, throughout the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus. As the early followers of Jesus did, we also listen to and reflect on the words of our ancestors in faith.  As the first disciples did, we listen to and learn from the words of Jesus;  in the power of the Holy Spirit Who will remind you of all that I said (John 14: 26), we grow in the strength that will empower us to go forth and be ‘heralds of the Great King’.
Our Seraphic Father proclaimed himself as the ‘Herald of the Great King’ when confronted by a band of robbers. The robbers beat, stripped, and threw St. Francis into a ditch, considering him a mentally challenged person of little worth. They could not and would not accept or understand the freedom and joy that Francis had encountered when he allowed Jesus to ‘take over’ his life.  The Eucharist, celebrated well and received with the appropriate spiritual dispositions empowers us in the same way to be free to ‘be Christ’ and proclaim Him to all the world. We become ‘heralds of the Great King’. We are asked not only to bear a message to others in words, but to become the message in action, fearless of any opposition we might receive  for the sake of the Name (3 John 1: 7).   Human nature influences that reception.  Today we sense a growing aversion in many areas of our world to Christ and His message.  There are those who seek to follow Him with a sincere heart; there are those who follow the image they have created in their own likeness that responds to their personal situations rather than His Word; and then there are those who stand in opposition to Him, even going so far as to proclaim they are acting in His name.
Often those who seek to foster a love for the Gospel, the Church, and our Catholic Christian values and traditions face the same problems the first followers of Jesus, and all sincere seekers of Truth, faced down through the centuries.  If they are not physically attacked, those who seek to do God’s will and live in His Truth are beaten with barrages of negativity and harsh words; they are stripped of integrity by slander, false accusations, or even by an embellishment of the truth for the sake of destroying the reputation of the innocent, who are left on the ‘road of indifference’ or in the ‘ditch of discouragement’ alone to fend for themselves with their physical, and sometimes spiritual, strength depleted.  There is no stifling the power of God and His Spirit in those who seek His will.  We find strength in our weaknesses, as St. Paul reminds us when speaking of his own vulnerabilities and defects.  One of the great Fathers of the early Church, Tertullian, stated: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.   What greater ‘martyrdom’ is there than the ‘witness’ of bearing with patience, trust, and forgiveness, an ‘ongoing death’ that seeks to destroy the soul over the course of days, weeks, months and perhaps years!  What greater amount of ‘blood’ can we shed than the ‘lifeblood’ of our time, talents and even treasures spent in the daily practice of our faith and its defense against the power of the one who is in the world’ (cfr. 1 John 4: 4).  The one who is in the world is always at work insidiously in the minds and hearts of those who proclaim a ‘heaven on earth’ and a god created to their own image!
The Eucharist offers us a bit of heaven on earth.  We bask in the light of the Son, and find strength and peace in Him. Once we have received the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass, it seems as though everything precipitates so quickly that we have little time to spend with the Lord in the protected solace of the church, chapel or other ‘sacred space’.  The brief words and quick dismissal, Go, the Mass is ended or perhaps, translating the words literally, Go, it is sent (Ite, missa est), are an urgent commission entrusted to all who participated (and the key word is ‘participated’) in the Eucharist.  Christ sends us out, as He did His disciples when He ascended to the Father, to bring to others what we have seen with our own eyes, heard with our own ears, and touched   (1 John 1: 1) – Jesus. The commission is urgent; thus the dismissal is immediate.  We have celebrated the mysteries of our salvation.  We have re-presented the Passion-Death-Resurrection- Glorification of the Savior.  We have actively participated in the Mass – we are witnesses to all this (Acts 2: 32).  There is no time to waste. We must be out and about with the Lord and proclaim Him with our lives!
At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we read: (Jesus said to His disciples) you will be witnesses in Jerusalem … and to the ends of the earth … As (the disciples) were looking on, he was lifted up … from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky … suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? ( cfr. Acts 1: 1-12) The celebrant conveys the same command to us at the end of Mass.  It is as though he were saying: ‘You have celebrated the sacred mysteries of our salvation; you have entered the ‘inner circle’ of the Great King’; you have been privileged with His message and His Spirit to inform and remind you. The Victim is sacrificed, our offering is sent and received by the Father, the sacred communion that empowers those who receive worthily has been received and consumed … what are you waiting for? Don’t stand around!  It’s time to go and be the One we received. Drive out the demons of ill will, confusion, doubt, discouragement, despair by the spirit of goodness and compassion.  Speak the new language of Christ’s command of love that can be understood by anyone regardless of ethnic origin or even religious affiliation.  Deal with the deadly serpents of verbal and physical persecution for the sake of the Name.  Know that I am with you all days even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).   Don’t fear the deadly poison of a world that insidiously attempts to corrupt mind and heart from within with seductive enticements and glittering allurements. Lay hands of reassurance and sensitivity on those who have grown ill through lives that are weak, those who have possibly given up … Be their strength … Be the Jesus you have celebrated and received to them.
Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.  Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity (transparency of character and life) .  Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.  Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.  Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self- surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter but by the offering of your free will. (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 108)
Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi do not use prayer, personal sacrifice, and even charitable giving as an excuse to keep aloof from the realities of life.  Our Eucharist is celebrated sacramentally everyday at the altar, and then continued in the streets and our homes through our daily activities.  Once we’ve received the sacramental Jesus and allowed the grace of His Spirit to flow through our veins, we must ‘Go, the (liturgical) Mass is ended’ … ‘It is (or we are) sent’, to bring others, to lead the whole world, into the mystery of God’s love in the Sacrifice and Sacrament of Jesus the Christ.  The Eucharist is not just a goal to be reached but also a starting point that leads to greater heights in, with, and for God and His People.  The priest who acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) accompanies us as one of God’s People, and prays with and for us as one set aside to intercede as a ‘mediator’ between the divine and the human.  He too is called to be victim with the Victim that he too, with all those entrusted to his ministry, may share in the Victory of the Eucharist that fills the world with the Real Presence of an awesome God Who invites us to an intimate relationship with Him and then delegates us to be Eucharist, to be an act of thanksgiving in God, to all.
Continue to pray for all priests and those contemplating the priesthood. Pray that we priests live according to the Heart of the Savior in Whose person we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17: 28). Pray that we may be willing ‘victims’, if the Lord should ask that grace of us, that others with and through us may experience the victory promised all who listen to and live God’s Word: I have conquered the world  (John 16: 33).  Do not be afraid  (Matthew 14: 27; this verse and over 300 other verses in Scripture remind us that we need not fear for God is with us).  Greater is the one within you than the one in the world (1 John 4: 4) .  Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).
May the Eternal High Priest, Jesus, show us His Most Sacred Heart, pierced by the centurion’s lance that we may enter the door thrown open leading to the Father’s loving embrace; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart;  and may Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant
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