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

 

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