February 2021 Reflections by Father Francis 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 

 February 2021 

 Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis 

 May the Lord grant you peace! 

 The three hours of redemptive suffering of Jesus on the cross were preceded by three years of ministry among God’s people in Israel and thirty years of silent preparation in Nazareth.  (Ven. Fulton J. Sheen)   

 Jesus lived thirty years in the anonymity of the humble town of Nazareth. He lived as a laborer, although qualified in His field as an exceptional wood worker, but manual laborer nonetheless. Scripture tells us that after his return from Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph at the age of twelve, he came down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them, and grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men. (Luke 2: 51) These words strike us somewhat strangely. Jesus, who is God, grew in wisdom, age and grace!? (Luke 2: 51)  As we are reminded in Scripture, He was like us in all things but sin. (Hebrews 4: 15)  Jesus had to experience all that it means to be human. He knew the often humdrum pace of everyday living. He knew what it means to experience enthusiasm about the possibilities available to His efforts, and yet He did not expect surprising and extraordinary events – miracles – to assure his choices and the positive outcome of his work. He lived in the uncertainty of the next moment, just as we do.   

 The deep-rooted faith of every Christian carries with it the wonderful truth that God became one with us. St. Leo the Great tells us that the Incarnation is the “Condescension of Compassion”. In other words, it is the fact that God came down to share the human experience with us in all things and every way, but sin. He showed us the mercy of God, the mercy of our Eternal Father and Creator of life. The word itself, “mercy”, is a translation of the Latin word “misericordia”. Loosely translated, the word indicates taking the misfortune (or misery or “miseria”) of another to one’s heart (“cor”, “cordis”). By sharing with us in all things but sin, Jesus showed us the mercy of God who came not to condemn but to redeem and save. This is what we seek for ourselves and thus must be ready and willing to offer others, whoever they may be. Remember: The measure you measure with will be the measure used to measure you. (Matthew 7: 2) 

 We have not yet learned to live and accept the wonderful gift of God’s providence when we expect to be titillated by special happenings, pats on the back for everything we do, or even expect God to step in with a minor miracle, just to make sure we are on the right track. The exciting experience is life itself! The hidden years of Jesus far surpass the years of ministry and hours of His redeeming Passion-Death that led to our Redemption. We have here a powerful reminder for those who anticipate affirmation from the miracles of God, rather than abandoning themselves to the God of miracles. Trusting in the God of miracles we are overwhelmed and with heartfelt gratitude and wonder at the many ways God makes His providence known rather than constantly seeking after His wonders. When you are able to see the invisible, you will be able to accomplish the impossible (Oral Roberts). To see the invisible is to live in faith. To see the invisible is to expect no outward show and still to know that God is with you. It is this hidden life of faith, without the “frills”, that has the power to transform us. 

 A “frill-less” surrender to God offers us the opportunity to surrender to one another in an expression of merciful awareness of our common bond in Jesus for Christians, and in God for all human beings. The image of Christ in Whom we are created impels us to go far beyond the act of forgiving, or a generous donation offered to a needy person. We are expected to “disarm our hearts” to all people. The common life we share with every human being is a reminder each moment of our own frailty, regardless of how we might attempt to camouflage it so as to seem to others what we are not.   

 You are who you are before God and nothing more (St. Francis of Assisi), and so is everyone else. The hidden life of Jesus was exciting from the fact that the awesomeness of His Divinity was totally hidden in the “batch of dough” of human nature. And, who He is became slowly apparent to others in the Father’s time. Obedience to the Will of the Father (His “time” and His “ways”) is the prime moving force in the whole mystery of the Incarnation. As we lift up the other for the sake of the other, God lifts us up so that we can continue to look at each other in the eyes and love each other with our hearts.  

 The hidden life of Jesus, is a wonderful example and an eloquent reminder of where we encounter God and how we are called to grow in holiness. We encounter God where we are, and we grow in holiness by doing what we know and believe to be God’s will, even if it is in fulfilling the normal responsibilities of everyday life.  In this hidden life – the common everyday life we live – we open our hearts to one another, as does God every moment of our lives for each one of us by name.  We are not an anonymous mass of human beings.  We are children of God whose names are written in God’s heart.  I see Jesus in the eyes of those whom I encounter. The person is not “just” another human being.  When we have experienced God’s love for us, and are honest about what we really deserve, that only God knows truly, how can we be otherwise with our “companions on the journey”? 

 As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we promise (Remember that one is only as good as his/her word.) a unique expression of unity in diversity.  We are “fraternity”. There is a big difference between the “community” of goods, and the “fraternity” of hearts. There are so many factors that distinguish us one from another, and even one fraternity from another. Yet, our common bond in Jesus, Mary, and our Seraphic Father St. Francis brings us together on our journey to the Father through a God-centered and holy life. We are sent as “living Gospels” and in such a joy-filled relationship with Jesus, and one another through Him in His Holy Spirit, that we are also powerhouses of prayer and true instruments of “Peace and All Good”.   

 The power of prayer is felt by praying. When we raise our minds and hearts to God, He envelopes us with His loving grace. The Secular Franciscan lives in the hidden reality of daily life, and impacts acutely on the life of the Church and the world, through the society in which they live. God cannot be contained and who lives in God always goes beyond the parameters set by circumstance. The daily “agenda” of a Franciscan, secular or otherwise, is not written in stone; it is written indelibly in the heart of the true Franciscan. The true Franciscan prays in, with, for, through the Church, in obedience – as Christ to the Father – to our Catholic Faith and all that signifies, and to the Order in its Rule, Constitutions, and Statutes approved by the Church and Order. This express life “in obedience” strengthens our sisters and brothers to live the hidden life, not seeking applause, accolades, and the like. Just as the fraternity unique in its individuals, so also the region in its fraternities, the National Fraternity in its Regions, and the International Fraternity in its National Fraternities form a wonderful mosaic of the vitality of our charism of prayer and service totally faithful to our Catholic expression of Christianity as committed Franciscan sisters and brothers. 

 We minister to one another bound by a common goal, to be holy as your heavenly Father is holy (cfr. 1 Peter 1: 16). Our sanctification must be the motivating goal of our life. Everything else is peripheral. Yet, becoming a “saint” is never an isolated experience. Even cloistered nuns and monks who live enclosed apart from society, hermits and recluses who live their lives alone, saints from all areas of life whether secular, married, single, old, young, have the common bond that no one is an island  (John Donne). We become saints acknowledging the presence of others and opening our hearts to them, as we seek the will of God in all things and everyone.   

 This month we begin the solemn period of Lent that leads us to Calvary and the celebration of our redemption in Jesus.  The manger-Crib is never too distant from the murderous-Cross. One is the humble prelude to the magnificent act of love of the other. Let us take the opportunity this month, which quickly introduces us to the Lenten Journey on Ash Wednesday, to reflect upon our own response to God’s will. Let us examine more deeply our commitment to our Franciscan Profession. This involves the entirety of life. May we feel a deeper sense of being one family in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.  

 Because of the virus, we have had and continue to be distanced from one another. Hopefully that distance will serve to bring us closer together!  Though the doors of our homes may be closed to most, the doors of our hearts can be open to all everywhere, anytime. As Pope St. John Paul II cried out so often: Open the Doors to Christ! and  Do not Be Afraid!  

 Have a Happy Lent!  Yes, a “Happy Lent”!  Lent is a Season intended to lead us closer to God through the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus Who redeems us in His Blood.  Though sad at how it had to be, it is wonderful and joy-filled at what the Paschal Mystery accomplished.  We are called to enter the mystery and live its reality every day.  Father God loves us into life. In Jesus God we are loved us by His death. Holy Spirit God invites us every moment to bring all that we really own to His Divine Heart. Everything we received is God’s gift to us; all we really own as ours are the sins that misuse or abuse the gifts we have received. Lent offers us the possibility to walk with one another using our gifts. We are all “mendicants” (beggars) who share with one another the gifts of grace and goodness we have been given to share.  We surrender ourselves to God’s Love, and thus bask in the light of God’s Son, Who is the Love, Mercy, and Providence of the Father Incarnate. All Three are One forever present to those willing to see the hidden Presence in creation with Faith, live the promise of the Good News in Hope, and travel through life with open hearts and hands with Love.  What better “penance” (metanoia = change of heart) to strive for or to deepen in Lent!?

 May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each of you, his spiritual children, with loving care.  

 Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

Daily Meditations – December 2020 – by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap.

December 2020 

 

Let us desire nothing else, let us wish for nothing else, 

let nothing else please us and cause us delight, except our Creator and redeemer and Savior, 

the one true God, Who is fullness of Good, all Good, every Good, the true and Supreme Good, 

Who alone is merciful and gentle, delectable and sweet, Who alone is holy, just and true, holy and right, 

Who alone is kind, innocent, pure, from Whom and through Whom and in Whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory …  

Therefore, let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us or come between us. Let us all, wherever we are … 

Glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the Most High and supreme eternal God .. 

Amen. 

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

 

Following are excerpts taken from The Legend of the Three Companions 

 

Chapter XI 

THE RECEPTION OF FOUR OTHER BROTHERS 

AND THE MOST BURNING CHARITY THEY HAD FOR EACH OF THE FIRST BROTHERS, 

OF THEIR EAGERNESS IN WORKING AND PRAYING AND THEIR PERFECT OBEDIENCE 

 1

People then saw that the brothers rejoiced in their tribulations, persisted in prayer with eagerness and devotion, neither accepted nor carried money, and possessed a great love for one another; and through this they were known to be really the Lord’s disciples. – Don’t lose heart. Jesus is always at your side.

2

Many came to them with heartfelt sorrow, asking pardon for the offenses they had committed against them. They forgave them from their hearts, saying: “May the Lord forgive you,” and encouraged them soundly about their eternal salvation. –Jesus is with you, and where He is, the kingdom of God is found. 

3

Some asked those brothers to receive them into their company. And because of the small number of the brothers—all six of them possessed authority from blessed Francis to receive others into the Order—they accepted some of them into their company. – Our faith will avail us nothing if our actions do not bear it out.

4

After they were received, they all returned at a predetermined time to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula. When they saw one another again, however, they were filled with such delight and joy, as if they didn’t remember anything of what they had endured at the hands of the wicked. May God’s will be done!  – The Lord arranges all for His greater glory. I fix my gaze on the One who moves me and who is the source of wisdom. 

5

Each day they were conscientious in prayer and working with their hands to avoid all idleness, the enemy of the soul. The soul’s cooperation with divine grace is all that is required to enable it to develop. – God in His infinite wisdom has placed in our hands all the necessary means for the embellishment of our souls. 

6

They rose conscientiously in the middle of the night, and prayed most devoutly with copious tears and sighs. They loved each other deeply, served one another, and took care of each other as a mother for an only and beloved child. – It is the duty of each Christian to seek the things of heaven and not to care about the things of this earth.

7

Charity burned so ardently in them that it seemed easy for them to give their bodies to death, not only for the love of Christ, but also for the salvation of the soul or the body of their confreres. – Aspire continually to the home of the blessed and consider (yourself) as a pilgrim in this land of exile. 

8

Each day they were conscientious in prayer and working with their hands to avoid all idleness, the enemy of the soul. They rose conscientiously in the middle of the night, and prayed most devoutly with copious tears and sighs. – The true Christian who follows his vocation directs all his attention to securing eternal possession.

9

One day, when two of the brothers were walking along, they came across a simpleton who began to throw rocks at them. One of them, noticing that stones were being thrown at the other, ran directly in front of him, preferring that the stones strike him rather than his brother. – Be like children. They are only strong enough when they are with their parents. Do the same and you will be at peace. 

10

Because of the mutual charity with which they burned, they were prepared to lay down their life in this way, one for the other. – Look on the things of this world as to esteem and appreciate only those which help to obtain eternal things.

11

They were so rooted and grounded in humility and love, that one respected the other as father and master, while those who excelled by way of the office of prelate or some grace, seemed humble and more self-effacing than the others. – Despise all things which do not help to obtain what is eternal. 

12

They all dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to obedience, ever prepared for the will of the one giving orders. – Those who live according to the spirit of Jesus will not always remain hidden and unknown. 

13

They did not distinguish between a just and an unjust command because they considered whatever they were ordered to be the Lord’s will. – The good Christian must beware of those vices which offend our neighbor by interior acts or by his speech. 

14

Fulfilling commands, therefore, was pleasant and easy for them. They abstained from carnal desires, judging themselves carefully and taking care that in no way would one offend the other. – We Christians are therefore images of God twice over, by nature and by grace. 

15

If it ever happened that one uttered an annoying word to another, his conscience troubled him, so much so that he could not rest until he admitted his fault. – Sanctifying grace impresses the image of God that we ourselves become divine by participation. 

16

He would humbly prostrate himself on the ground, so that his brother would place his foot over his mouth. – Christian perfection consists in this alone: love which binds all together in perfect harmony 

17

If the brother who was offended refused to do this, then the brother who offended him, if he were a prelate, would order him to. – Charity is the virtue that makes us all children of the one Father who is in heaven.

18

If he were a subject, he would have a prelate give the order. In this way, with the grace of Jesus Christ anticipating and helping them, they strove to banish all ill will and malice from their midst, to preserve among them always perfect love, and, to combat, as far as possible, each vice by practicing a corresponding virtue. – Let us love and practice charity, as this is our divine Master’s precept In our love for charity, we must flee from even the shadow of anything that might dim its splendor. 

19

Moreover, they did not appropriate anything as their own, but used books or other items in common according to the pattern handed down and observed by the apostles. – We are all members of Jesus Christ who is the head of us all, the members of the body. 

20

Although there was real poverty in and among them, they were generous and openhanded with everything given them for God’s sake. The alms freely given to them out of His love, they gave to all those who begged from them, especially to the poor.

21

In fact, if they were traveling along the road and found the poor begging from them for the love of God, when they had nothing to offer them, they would give them some of their clothing even though it was shabby. – If we keep our love for one another, the beautiful peace of Jesus will invariably triumph in our hearts 

22

Sometimes they gave their capuche, tearing it from the tunic; at other times they gave a sleeve, or tore off a part of their habit, that they might fulfill that Gospel passage “Give to all who beg from you.” – If the Christian is full of God’s law he will never fail, no matter what adversities may befall him. 

23

One day, however, a poor man begging alms came to the church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, near where the brothers sometimes stayed. There was a cloak there that a brother wore while in the world. – The Christian who is striving for perfection will understand how very necessary meditation is.

24

When blessed Francis told him to give it to that poor man, he gave it to him freely and quickly. – Place the outcome of your desires in the hands of divine providence, and abandon yourself in God’s arms like a child. 

25

And immediately, because of the reverence and devotion which that brother had in giving the cloak to the poor man, it seemed to him that the alms rose up into heaven and he felt himself inundated by a new happiness. – Get rid of all doubt and anxiety.

26

When, in fact, the rich of this world would go out of their way for them, they received them quickly and kindly, striving to call them from evil and prompting them to do penance. – If the Christian is full of God’s law which warns and teaches him, he will never fail no matter what adversities may befall him.

27

They also eagerly sought not to be sent to the lands where they had been raised, that they might avoid association and dealings with their relatives and could observe the prophetic word: “I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons.” – Readily forgive offenses and give thanks to God for all things.

28

They rejoiced most in poverty, because they did not desire riches, but spurned everything transitory that can be desired by those enamored of this world. – Do not fail to turn to God’s goodness with every confidence.

29

Above all, they trampled upon money as if it were dirt under their feet, and, as they had been taught by the saint, considered it as equal in worth and weight to the dung of an ass. – The purpose of God taking on the condition of a child is to provoke our loving Him with confidence, and to lovingly confide in Him.

30

They constantly rejoiced in the Lord, not having within themselves nor among themselves anything that could make them sad. – Stay very close to the crib of this most beautiful child. Have a great love for this heavenly child.

31

The more they were separated from the world, the more they were united to God. As they advanced on the way of the cross and the paths of justice, they cleared all hindrances from the narrow path of penance and of the observance of the Gospel, that they might make a smooth and safe path for the future.- May Jesus comfort and bless you!

 

Blessed and Joyous Christmas to All 

May the Infant Jesus, with Our Blessed Mother and Good St. Joseph 

Bless your Families and Homes. 

Peace in serenity, Joy in gratitude, 

Love in God Who became and remains One with Us 

At all times and  

Throughout the New Year 2021 

 

December 2020 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis 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

December 2020

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.

Greccio revisited – Bethlehem revisited.

The various Nativity Scenes that can be seen at this time is a “show and tell” for the childlike. Like children we see the images and try to imagine what it must have been like the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Human beings have intellects to understand and the senses to enhance and personalize the experience. St. Francis was quite aware of this and his innovative, creative, and definitely quite expressive personality put all these qualities of his nature to excellent use, the effects of which have lasted over eight centuries.

St. Francis of Assisi was a good “businessman”. His father Pietro was a good teacher for the son he hoped would take over the cloth business.  Pietro was a self-made man who had risen to the heights of a comfortable and wealthy middle class. His cloth business flourished and Francis was his right hand person to continue the business. Francis Bernardone’s passionate character and captivating personality knew how to lead others to look at things with their  eyes and see with their heart. This ability to see into the depths made Greccio, because of Francis’ unique manner, an experience that has been repeated in large and small ways for over eight centuries.

At Greccio, St. Francis presented an image to the eyes that would penetrate the depth of people’s hearts. He not only believed but felt the truth of the birth of Christ and Who He is.  He wanted others to experience as much as possible all that Jesus accepted when he became a human being. St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise eventually to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families display during the Christmas Season.  The son of Pietro was not presenting a “product” to be bought but a truth to be remembered and lived. The Poverello was not trying to be innovative. He was not attempting to present something strange that would attract the curiosity of people. Francis was “revisiting” Bethlehem by creating an image of it at Greccio so that the Birth of Jesus might come alive once again in the hearts and lives of the people.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the faithful. Through the senses, St. Francis sought to arrive more incisively to the very soul of each person.

The Holy Father accepted the idea to have a living manger scene set up there on the mountain. Permission was even granted for an outdoor midnight Mass at the site with St. Francis officiating as deacon. (Francis sure knew how to get his point across! What a businessman, even as a friar!  He even got the Pope to “see it his way”!)  At Greccio that Christmas Night people went back in mind and heart to Bethlehem. They were there! That night was unforgettable. They felt like children filled with joy, wonder, excitement, happiness. Afterward, they shared their joy with all they met. Why? They experienced in their hearts the reality of the prophecy made centuries before: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9: 6).

That night the world seemed to stop for them.  Time was transported back twelve hundred years, and hearts were catapulted into thoughts of a loving God Who stopped at nothing to capture the attention of His children. The words St. Francis spoke and the Gospel he sang as Deacon at the Mass celebrated at Greccio came from a heart in love with God. That night, Love was contagious.  If only it could have remained that way forever!  To stay there would have been selfish. We must bring the joy we know and radiate it to others. With Mary, our Blessed Mother, Virgin Made Church, Francis offered his own ‘yes’ that the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and the represented presence of the Incarnation-Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem in Greccio, would become ingrained in the hearts of all. Prayerfully praising the tremendous gift of the Eucharist, our Seraphic Father simply and magnificently offers a meditation on the wonderful exchange of the humanity and the divinity in Jesus, awesomely present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  The “sacramental Incarnation of Jesus” is a re-presentation of what began at Bethlehem. Francis’ prayer merits to be repeated this year as well as other times:

O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! 

O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! 

That the Lord of the universe, 

God and the Son of God, 

so humbles Himself 

that for our salvation 

He hides Himself 

under the little form of bread! 

Look, brothers, at the humility of God 

and pour out your hearts before Him! 

Humble yourselves, as well, 

that you may be exalted by Him. 

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves 

so that He Who gives Himself totally to you 

may receive you totally.

Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child, God’s Gift of Himself to us as gift, and remember the child that we once were and are called to become in the spirit. What we become then is our response and gift to God. Our Seraphic Father “let love let loose”,  just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and before all the people of Israel. David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2 Samuel: 7: 20)could be placed on the lips of St. Francis: As the Lord lives, who preferred me, not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more. I will be lowly in your esteem, but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23)

Centuries before the birth of Jesus the people of Israel heard the prophet Isaiah promise: Many peoples shall come…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again (Isaiah 2: 1-5). This is the dream God placed in the hearts of Israel through the words of His prophet. The wait was centuries-long. When the long-expected One finally arrived, tepidity and indifference ruled over what should have been excitement and joy. Few knew about this greatest event connected to the creation of the world and leading to the restoration of all things through the “Almighty Humble” One Born in the poverty of Bethlehem. Born in the town of Beth-lehem (house of bread), Jesus came to be the Living Bread come down from heaven (John 6: 51) So that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have everlasting life (John 3: 15). He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Himto them He gave the right to become children of God(John 1: 11-12).

Life begins as the quest of the child for the man, and ends as the quest of the man for the child (Sam Ewing).  This child is hidden within each one of us crying out to be set free. We search for the Child who alone can help us find what we ‘mislaid along the road’:  harmony with God, ourselves, and all creation; serenity before the challenges we face in the certitude that all works out for those who trust in God; peace of heart and love, that see the image of the Child we seek in all people.  Serenity (peace), integrity (transparency) and love (acceptance/surrender) ultimately lead to Joy – the Joy of Christmas, the Joy of the new-born Child – Jesus.

Our journey with and through the pandemic that is devastating the entire world may affect the way we hear the wonderful words the angels spoke to the shepherds, I bring you good news of great joy, today is born for you a Savior  (Luke 2: 10-11). These words of hope may have lost their joyful and encouraging effect these past months. They may seem like hopeful illusions offered to clear the darkness of uncertainty and fear. We cannot let our hearts be overwhelmed by all this. Where there is life there is hope, and where there is hope there is peace, even in the midst of confusion and pain. Life is still the journey worth living and it is beautiful because…God so loved the world that he sent us his only Son so that whoever believes in Him would have life and have it in abundance (John 3: 16). Who (or what) can separate us from the love of God…In Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8: 35-39).

The world into which the God of creation chose to enflesh Himself is still the stage of the greatest act of His Eternal Love.  Life to be, Freedom in responsibility, and Redemption to eternal life in Jesus are still God’s loving and impartial gifts to all.  Stewards of creation, we are invested with the awesome trust of that Father. Jesus, incarnate in our human nature, reminds us that God is not ashamed of us. He was willing to be like us in all things but sin (cfr. Hebrews 4: 15).

We make God’s presence and providence a reality in our world grown cold and indifferent to what really matters – Love! Just as at Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, we, like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, experience the promise fulfilled and our hope rekindled. We become his earthly messengers – angels (the word means messenger) – of the Eternal Love that not even the worst human tragedy can destroy.  Goodness is still alive in the hearts of God’s children.  This love is celebrated each year at Christmas when Love Eternal made Himself visible by becoming one with us. He shared the journey of life from His wooden Crib to the wood of the Cross to manifest the depths of His Love. The Crib and the Cross are inseparable!

For the spirit of this season of love, life, and light to take hold of us we are asked to discover once again the child within us.  That inner child, covered and hidden over the years by compromising values, cautious in acceptance rather than trusting in God’s will, confused rather than believing in eternal truths, and all around careless regarding the sacredness of every moment of life, seeks to be reborn into the wonder and joy of living in the light of God’s extravagant love.

Christmas is a time for us to look with the childlike eyes of wonder, curiosity, excitement, enthusiasm, anticipation, inquisitiveness, joy, in a word, “love”. We represent each year – and everyday if we so desire – the mystery fulfilled for us to celebrate the love made present in the poverty of Bethlehem.  It is a time to bask in the light of a treasure greater than any we could imagine.

To see the Infant Jesus and recognize the God of Creation, the Savior of humanity, the King of kings and Lord of lords is to allow the tepidity and even the coldness of life’s demands and burdens to be rekindled and lightened by the One Whose birth we celebrate in time as we await His return in glory. The Lord hidden in His Word and Sacrament is made visible in so many ways in the sisters and brothers we encounter on our journey. The child within comes forth and we experience the newness and joy of life.

Centuries, and probably eons, lay before humanity. Each day is a new experience of that eternal unfolding of God’s plan for creation. This “plan” was prepared for by the prophets, made visible at Bethlehem and Calvary, and will continue until time becomes eternal truth and life.  Each day we re-present the mysteries of salvation in the Eucharist and each year we celebrate the unfolding of that One Solitary Life that is the focal point of human history – Jesus.  Our Faith is strengthened, our hope renewed, and our hearts filled with childlike wonder and joy in Christ, that not even the present global pandemic and its manifold consequences on the world can destroy because: Greater is the One with and within us, than what surrounds us (cfr.1 John 1: 5).   

We begin a renewed journey with Christ as we celebrate his birth.  Life is our journey. We set out in the zest and vigor of childhood and youth. We are challenged and make our mark in life through middle age. We lose our spring as time progresses, but, our faith – as was that of Mary and Joseph who believed the mystery and so experienced the miracle of his birth – allows us to see each moment as a wonderful endowment that makes the journey itself the gift, and the destination that much more desirable. Our journey finds meaning even through the anomalies and heartbreaks because of the One Who loves us.  His birth in the wooden stable at Bethlehem that led to his total surrender for us on the rough wood of the Cross on Calvary made His life the reason for our being. Because of Him and His journey with us, we start each new day confident that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are loved by Him. We begin to understand the simplicity of the reason and the means that prompted (to use human expressions) God to be born a human being

My prayer for all of you is for Peace, Joy, Love and the Fulfillment of your heart’s desires in the Lord at this Christmas Season.  May the Child of Bethlehem help us all find the child within, that we may joyfully celebrate the birth of the One Who is our Light and Salvation. Let us bring light, joy and hope to all whom we meet on our journey. Let us be and bring Jesus to others.

Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas, and a New Year 2021 filled with Love, Life, Happiness, Good Humor, Health and an ever-growing Longing for God

Peace and Blessings!

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Father Francis Reflections for November, 2020

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

November 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

Today me, tomorrow you. (This is a loose translation of the Latin inscription: Hodie mihi, cras tibi). The saying can often be seen sculpted or painted at the entrances of many cemeteries in Europe. It is a rather stark and macabre reminder that earthly life, as long as it might be, will eventually experience its transforming moment. The point of convergence of all life’s experiences – good, bad, and indifferent – will come together awaiting our call to timelessness. Death calls and eternity awaits. It is not the end of everything, as too many people feel and believe. It is the moment of the ultimate transformation into the eternal destiny we have worked all our lives in becoming, hopefully in God’s grace and will.

Every year the Church celebrates November as the month dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. These souls await  transformation by God’s love and mercy. The Church asks us to pray for those who have gone before us into eternity and who still await the fullness of Life. The Church also reminds us that we ought to pray for ourselves who, still on journey, are subject to many challenges that can either threaten or strengthen our resolve to be faithful to the Gospel and live in the light of Eternal Life. The journey of life is so wonderful because of the many challenges God offers us to grow in His love. Nevertheless, it is also very dangerous because of the many allurements and seductions that can entice us to deviate from the path marked out for us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If we follow His Way, listen to His Word of Truth, we can expect ultimately to share in the fullness of His Life. He Himself says: I came that they may have Life and have it in abundance (John 10: 10).

Jesus gained that Life for us, once for all, on the Cross of Calvary. Life and the Cross! There it is again! The Paradox of the Cross! The Paradox of Christianity! We are always facing these choices, these opposites: positive-negative, good-bad, light-darkness, grace-sin, heaven-hell. We always have that responsible and awesome option placed before us. Adam and Eve were offered a choice as a requisite to continue living in Eden. In the Old Testament, before the People of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua read the Law of the Covenant God made with His People and told them to choose between life and death…I for my part will serve the Lord  (Deuteronomy 30: 19). The people responded in unison that they would serve the Lord.  However, history for them, and also for us who have opted to follow Jesus, tells us how fickle our word and commitments can be. Perhaps this is why we have difficulty in reflecting on that most solemn moment in life when we are called to encounter the Source of all Life and see ourselves in His Light.

Our Christian Faith as Catholics is nourished by the Sacramental Life of the Church, redeemed in the Blood of Christ, Who constantly challenges us to follow me (Matthew 16: 24, and other verses). In this life of faith we are always speaking of positive values while focusing in on what at first glance seems ‘negative’. We speak about Life, but refer to it through the Death of Jesus. We speak about Love, but recognize it through the symbol of hatred, torture, and death, The Cross. We hope in Heaven, but experience its beginnings through the challenges and pitfalls of life’s earthly journey. Our humanity, so prone to the changing attitudes of nature, has learned how to ‘see’ beyond the barriers that daily seek to impede our forward steps. It is with a faith-filled heart and a hope-filled life that we can securely live life to the fullest, seeing every moment and experience as another opportunity to Live Life and Love It.

Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a unique and inspired prophet for all times. His approach to life and all creation has earned for him the title of Universal Brother. He instilled in the hearts of his spiritual children an attitude of joy and gratitude for every facet of life. He was a man imbued with a spirit of childlike wonder that made him rejoice even during the most challenging times of his own life. Several years before his brief life ended – he died at 44 years of age – his body began to succumb to all the effects of the penances he had imposed upon himself. He even apologized to ‘Brother Ass’, as he called his body, for treating one who was so faithful to him in such an unappreciative manner. With the knowledge of his terminal condition and the pains of the Stigmata of Jesus he had received two years before, informed that he was soon to pass from this life to the next, he asked that a new stanza be added to the Canticle of the Creatures, and that it be sung for him. Praise be You, my Lord, for Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility. When he was told that Death was imminent, he called out Welcome, Sister Death! When we see life as the gift it is, and live life and love it, then even death cannot disturb our inner joy and serenity. Only then are we able to live each moment as a gift and know how to ‘let go’.

Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the faith of Israel was severely tested. Conquering armies and foreign rule were the fate of the Children of Abraham. Among the many restrictions, the most difficult was that of the prohibition for Israel to practice the faith of their ancestors. All the people were required, under penalty of death, to practice the religion of the conquering government. The Law of Moses was proscribed. Needless to say, many faithful Jews refused and were savagely tortured and executed. Among these was a mother and her seven sons. The testimony she gives, immortalized by the sacred writer, merits our reflection. All her sons were brought before the king and required to apostatize. Each refused, and, one by one, each son was cruelly tortured and killed before the eyes of the remaining brothers and their mother. Finally, the last son, young and full of life, with a promising future before him and gifts promised by the king should he accept the new religion, came forth. The mother leaned over and spoke to her son: Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months … look to the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things; and in the same way the human race came into existence. Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them (2 Maccabees 7: 1-31).  The young boy refused the king’s offers and rebuked him for his arrogance toward the God of Israel. In the course of the comment the young boy made before being more cruelly treated than the others, he said: My brothers, after enduring brief pain, have drunk of never-failing life, under God’s covenan (cfr. 2 Maccabees, 7).  He loved life so much that he would not compromise its fullness offered him by his Creator. Again we see how living life fully, at whatever stage and age we are, makes death not the frightening ‘reaper of doom’, but the ‘Doorway to Life’. Two questions for us to pose to ourselves could be: For Whom (or what) do I live? and For Whom (or what) am I willing to die?

The words of the mother of the seven brothers to the youngest are quite revealing. Already several centuries before the birth of the Messiah, the Spirit of God had instilled in the hearts of many of His People the awareness that all life is destined to live forever. Because of God’s Eternal Love, and our encounter with the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus, we have come to know and believe that we share in His very Life. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit through grace in those who live in God’s Will opens the heart to see God in all things and to recognize the reality of heaven as the Father’s gift to His children. Yet, the process to achieve ‘perfection’ travels through many and varied experiences. The experiences of life teach us many things. They speak to us about God, ourselves, others, the world in which we live, the universe around us … and the Life that awaits us all. How we will enter that Life is determined by the decisions we make during our journey on earth. Death ushers us into eternity.

Death is a terrible word for many people. They avoid even saying it for fear it might ‘catch up to them’ sooner than expected. In fact some people lead a non-stop life of “things to do” just to “outrun” the inevitable, when “it’s time”. It always seems unexpected when Death finally does come to call us home. Notice how, when we hear of the death of someone, often people will ask How old were they? As though age had anything to do with it! Death is the natural conclusion of time as a definitive entrance into the marvelous immensity of eternity. Fear of it is the result of humanity’s disobedience in Eden. The passage from time to eternity – in whatever way God would have accomplished it had not Original Sin happened – would still have occurred, but in loving anticipation and yearning, rather than fear and trembling, or at the least, sadness. Sin causes fear and uncertainty regarding our moral strengths. To this, all I say is: Trust God’s Word! God loves you! Believe in God’s love! Love Him back by living in God’s Most Holy Will!

As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, how do we live our lives? What is our attitude to the challenges God permits that remind us of our vulnerability and mortality? Do we live in the spirit of the letter to the Hebrews that states: ‘We do not have here a permanent dwelling, but we await another (Hebrews 3: 14)? Do we take time to reflect on death as one more step, the ultimate, in getting us to God? Do we avoid even thinking of the Paschal Mystery that each one will be called to celebrate in his or her personal life? Are we joy-filled in life and encourage others to be so, even in the midst of difficulties?  Do we see Christ in the other or are we willfully “blind” to His presence? Do we consider that when we are able yet refuse to see Christ in the time we share with all humanity, we risk not seeing Him for eternity! Are we one of those who fall into that amusing, but true saying: ‘Everyone talks about heaven, but no one seems to be in a hurry to get there’?  We each have questions specifically our own that we can add to this brief list. Ask them of yourself, reflect upon the question, and answer honestly to yourself. The answers might be a pleasant or shocking eye-opener. May we all “ace the test!”

Our Seraphic Father found direction in Jesus’ words in Scripture, strength in the Presence and grace of the Eucharist that accompanied and nourished his life’s journey, inspiration from the inner working of the Holy Spirit Whom he called the true Minister General of the Order, gentle yet powerful mother’s love from the Blessed Mother’s presence in his heart, reassurance and assistance from the Church in Her leadership, support and presence from the brotherhood, challenges to re-evaluate his motives and actions from those whom he encountered and to whom he ministered, and more.  All these, and so much more because he knew what he believed and lived what he believed. Faith is the foundation of hope. The two work together making life worth living because everything, accepted and lived with gratitude, will lead to the fullness of all human hope – to live forever…in God.

If we live the spirit of our Spiritual Guide and Founder, life will be the wonderful experience God intended it to be for us all, and death will truly be that ‘Welcome Sister’ that leads us to the fullness of Life. Let’s pray for the Holy Souls this month, as they await the loving call to God’s eternal Presence in the fullness of Life in heaven. They were where we are, and we hope to be where they are. The Church Militant and the Church Suffering assist each other, so that together, in God’s Will and time, we may celebrate God’s Eternal Life in the Love of the Church Triumphant.

This month we also celebrate our national Day of Thanksgiving for all the blessings God bestows on us, regardless of religious affiliation. Let us be grateful to the Giver of all good gifts, for the gift of life. Let us be grateful for the Life we are being called to each day of our journey through time. As we celebrate the blessings of God to each one of us, let us strive to be a sign of God’s blessings to any and all whom we encounter.  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your loved ones! 

May God bless you. May Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you. 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, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Daily Reflections for December, 2018 by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

December 2018

Most High, Glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of our minds.

Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,

so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

Following excerpts are from various sources

1

When Saint Francis delivered the second Rule to the Lord Pope Honorius for confirmation at Christ’s command…he said to Blessed FrancisBlessed is he who, strengthened by the grace of God, will observe this Rule happily and devotedly, for all the things written in it are holy and Catholic and perfect. – Many find plenty of time to gossip about and/or criticize others, but so little time to spend and speak with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

2

(When asked to modify certain aspects of the Rule) Blessed Francis answered: It was not I but Christ who put these words in the Rule.  He knows best what is useful and necessary for the salvation of souls and of the brothers, and for the good state and preservation of  the religion … –  Separation from earthly things, ambitions, and even friendships at times, often is the mysterious material that cements a soul closer to God.

3

(St. Francis continued): All that will happen in the future to the religion and to the Church is clear and present to Him (Christ).  I must not and cannot change the words of Christ … – Do not be concerned what place you hold but how you hold that place. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

4

(Francis continued): It will happen that the ministers and others in authority in the religion will cause many bitter tribulations for those who wish to observe the Rule faithfully and literally … – Do what you have to do, work what you have to work. (Words of Jesus to St. Francis)

5

(St. Francis concluded): Since it is the will and obedience of Christ that this Rule and life be understood literally, so it must be your will and obedience that this be done and written in the Rule. – Fear can make matters worse and can heighten pain; trust in God’s presence and providence.

6

(A Master of Theology said to St. Francis): I promise firmly to observe the Gospel and the Rule which Christ has spoken through you, until the end, simply and faithfully, with the help of His grace… – Though abstinence and prayer are of great merit, yet illness and pain suffered with patience is much greater. (St. Pachomius of Egypt)

7

(He continued): But one thing I ask of you.  If  in my lifetime the brothers fall as far away from their pure observance of the Rule as you predicted through the Holy Spirit, I ask by your obedience that I may withdraw from those who do not observe it, alone or with some brothers who wish to observe it purely. – The cross is the gift God gives His friends (Cure` of Ars)

8

Blessed Francis added that all the promises made to him by Christ would, in the end, be fulfilled in those who would strive to observe the Rule simply, to the letter, and without glosses and with joy. – – No true child of Mary will ever be lost. Love Mary and obey Her last words in Scripture: Do whatever He tells you.

9

Saint Francis also predicted a very great trial of his brothers that was to come because of the love of learning, and that a violent wind from the desert would arise (and severely shake the Order) … – I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, for He rules everything (St. Patrick)

10

This cheap, rough and short sackcloth with which I cover my shoulders is the cheapness and austerity of poverty which the brothers promised the Lord they would wear proudly.  But abandoning it, they will cling to every kind of relaxation … – We can never become saints until we place all our trust in God.

11

He believed that the highest obedience…was by divine inspiration going among the Saracens and non-believers … He considered requesting this very pleasing to God (and said) … The brothers who go can live among them in a two-fold way … One way is not to engage in arguments and disputes … and to acknowledge that they are Christians.  The other way is to announce the word of God when they see it pleases the Lord … – Love the disagreeable.

12

Blessed Francis was overjoyed at the place granted to the brothers, especially because of the name of this church of the Mother of Christ, and because it was such a poor little church, and because it was surnamed: ‘of the Portiuncula’… – It is not the inner irritation, often spontaneous, that is wrong; it is the outward display of this interior annoyance that is wrong. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

13

Soon after the brothers went to stay (at the Portiuncula), almost daily the Lord increased their food, and news of them and their fame flew throughout the whole valley of Spoleto … Although the abbot and monks had freely granted it to blessed Francis and his brothers without payment, every year (blessed Francis) used to send a basket full of small fish as a sign of greater humility and poverty. – Happiness consists in forgetfulness of self (St. Therese of Lisieux)

14

(The monks in turn) because of the humility of blessed Francis, who had done this of his own free will, gave him and his brothers a jar filled with oil. – Humility is the hinge upon which hangs the virtue of patience.

15

It had been revealed to (blessed Francis) in that place (of the Portiuncula) that, of all the churches of the world that she has, the blessed Virgin loved that church. Therefore, during his whole lifetime he always had the greatest reverence and devotion toward it. – The beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and its fulfillment is the perfection of all joy.

16

About the time of his death … (blessed Francis) said: I want to leave and bequeath to the brothers the place of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula as a testament, that it may always be held in the greatest reverence and devotion by the brothers. – In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and the soul no longer lives for itself or in itself but for God. (Thomas Merton)

17

For although  the place itself is holy, (the brothers) preserved its holiness with constant prayer day and night and by constant silence. And if, at times, anyone spoke after the established time for silence, they discussed with greatest devotion and decorum matters pertaining to the praise of God and the salvation of souls. – Humility is truth.

18

Blessed Francis often said these words to the brothers; I  have never been a thief, that is, in regard to alms, which are the inheritance of the poor.  I always took less than I needed, so that other poor people would not be cheated of their share.  To act otherwise would be theft. – Whenever you are frightened or lonesome…visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and enter in spirit into His Sacred Heart. (St.Elzear to his wife Delphine)

19

When urged to allow the brothers to have something at least in common, Saint Francis called upon Christ in prayer and consulted Him about this.  Christ immediately responded that He would take away everything held individually or in common, saying that this is His family for whom He was always ready to provide … as long as it would put its hope in Him. – Don’t worry, if uncomplimentary things are said about you.  Worse things were said about Christ. (St. Elzear to his household)

20

(When the ministers of the Order wanted Francis to mitigate the Rule) The voice of Christ was then heard in the air, saying: Francis, nothing of yours is in the Rule: whatever is there is all  mine.  And I want the Rule observed in this way: to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, and without a gloss, without a gloss, without a gloss. – Remove humility and all virtue will vanish. (Cure` of Ars)

21

(And the voice of Christ added): I know how much human weakness is capable of, and how much I want to help them.  Those who refuse to observe it should leave the Order. – For anyone striving to become virtuous there is always the danger that we may fall victim of spiritual pride.

22

(At the Chapter of Mats, when prelates of the Church suggested that he adopt one of the existing Rules, blessed Francis said): God has called me by the way of simplicity, and showed me the way of simplicity. I do not want you to mention to me any rule … and the Lord told me what He wanted.  He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. – Virtue cannot thrive in a soul filled with worry, tension or fear. Sanctity grows best in serenity.

23

The Lord Jesus Christ said to brother Leo, the companion of blessed Francis: I have a complaint about the brothers …They do not recognize My gifts which, as you know, I  generously bestow on them daily … All day long they are idle and complain.  And they often provoke one another to anger, and do not return to love, and do not pardon the injury they receive.  I enjoy life even more than you do; but love of life does not make me afraid to die. (St. Appollonius to his judge)

24

Blessed Francis said that he had obtained from the Lord four things. Namely, the religion and the profession of the Lesser Brothers will last until the day of judgment… no one who deliberately persecutes the Order will live long … no evil person, intending to live an evil life in it, will be able to remain in it for long … whosoever loves the Order wholeheartedly, however great a sinner, will obtain mercy in the end. – Have a sense of humor. The essence of real humor is a heart at peace with God and the world.

25

(Blessed Francis said) For my part, I want only this privilege from the Lord: not to have any privilege from any  human being, except to show reverence to all, and, by the obedience of the holy Rule, to convert everyone more by example than word – Real joy comes from a heart in harmony with God.

26

When Saint Francis went before the Lord Pope by whom the Rule was confirmed and sealed, Francis placed his hand upon it, swore and said that this was the will of God and no other.  And he did this a second and a third time – By the sheer weight of good example we can lead others to Christ.

27

Blessed Francis re-entered the cave and spoke with God, like Moses in the tent on Mount Sinai, face to face, and God said: Francis, build me a wall between temporal affairs and your brothers. – Holiness comes not by talking about it, or studying it, but by living it.

28

Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.  As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty … – Whoever wishes to save his soul must have three souls in one; toward God the heart of a son; toward one’s neighbor the heart of a mother; and toward himself the heart of a judge. (Thomas a` Kempis)

29

Saint Francis command(ed): I strictly command all my cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or upon these words … but as the Lord has given me … – Live like one about to die. (Murillo)

30

As Moses with God and God with him, so Saint Francis spoke with the Lord, and the Lord fully related to him future events, concerning not only the Order but also the whole Church until the end of the world. – One virtue that shines more brightly in the lives of the saints is the virtue of charity, i.e. unfeigned compassion for others in need.

31

(Saint Francis came from prayer upset and said to the brother): While I was at prayer, I begged the Lord for peace for the Christian people, because it was revealed to me that many trials would come upon the Christian people.  And so the Lord Jesus was kind enough to appear to me… – If you are honestly looking for Christ, you will find Him quickest and most often in His poor.

BLESSED AND MERRY CHRISTMAS
PEACE-FILLED and HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2019!

 

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. Reflections for September – 2018

September 2018

Let us desire nothing else, let us wish for nothing else,

let nothing else please us and cause us delight, except our Creator and redeemer and Savior,

the one true God, Who is fullness of Good, all Good, every Good, the true and Supreme Good,

Who alone is merciful and gentle, delectable and sweet, Who alone is holy, just and true, holy and right,

Who alone is kind, innocent, pure, from Whom and through Whom and in Whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory …

Therefore, let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us or come between us. Let us all, wherever we are …

Glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the Most High and supreme eternal God ..

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

The month of September celebrates the

Impression of the Sacred Stigmata on the Body of our Seraphic father St. Francis of Assisi

Following are excerpts taken from Considerations on the StigmataThe Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi.

Daily reflections are taken from Various writings of St. Francis

1

In the year 0f 1224, St. Francis went…from the Valley of Spoleto into Romagna, taking with him Brother Leo… Francis heard that many gentlemen were gathered together…he said to Brother Leo, Come, let us go up into this festival, for, by God’s help, we shall gather there rich spiritual fruit. – We can be sure someone is a true religious and has the spirit of God if his lower nature does not give way to pride when God accomplishes some good through him. (Admonitions, 12)

2

A certain gentlemen of Tuscany…Orlando of Chiusi … had heard concerning the holiness and miracles of St. Francis and bore him great devotion and had a desire to see him and hear him preach…Francis came to the castle…where the gentlemen were gathered…and spoke these words, So great is the joy which I expect. That all pain is joy to me. – Blessed the religious who treasures up for heaven the favors God has given him and does not want to show them off for what he can get out of them. (Admonitions, 28)

3

Orlando was touched in the heart by God…After dinner returning to St. Francis, he spoke with him at length, and in the end said, I have a mountain in Tuscany, a devout and solitary place, called Mount Alvernia, far from all discourse with people, well fitted for one who would do penance for his sins. If it please you, I will freely give it to you and your companions for the welfare of my soul. – Blessed the religious who keeps God’s marvelous doings to himself (Admonitions, 28)

4

(Francis) replied: Orlando…I will send some of our brethren to you, to whom you shall show this place.  If it shall seem fit to them for prayer and penance, I will accept your charitable offer. Having thus spoken, St. Francis departed, returning to St Mary of the Angels…Francis sent two of his companions…They accepted Mount Alvernia, taking possession of it in the name of God…St. Francis rejoiced greatly at what they told him. –  In as far as the brothers (and sisters) depart from poverty, in so much will the world depart from them, and they will seek and not find. (2 Celano, chpt.40,#70)

5

(Francis) thanking God, spoke with a joyful countenance to these friars saying, My children, we draw near to our Lent of St. Michael the Archangel.  I firmly believe it to be the will of God that we keep this Lent upon Mount Alvernia  which, by divine dispensation, has been prepared for us, that we by penance may merit from the Lord the consolation of consecrating this blessed mount to the honor and glory of God, of his glorious Mother the Virgin Mary, and of the holy angels. – There is a contract between the world and the brothers (and sisters): the brothers (and sisters) must give the world good example, the world must provide for their needs.      (2 Celano, chpt.40,#70)

6

St. Francis went to pray … with three companions (bros. Masseo, Angelo, and Leo)… In the first watch of the night a multitude of fierce demons…came to attack him on all sides, in order to disturb him in his prayer, but this could not do…Francis prayed: O m y Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for your great love and charity…I am ready to gladly endure every pain and suffering which You, my God, are pleased to send me for my sins. – When we break faith and withdraw our good example, the world will withdraw its hand in just censure. (2 Celano, chpt.40,#70, adapted)

7

The peasant said to St. Francis: Tell me. Are you the Brother Francis of Assisi? Francis responded, Yes.  The peasant replied said: Take heed, then, that you be in truth as good as all people say you are, and therefore I admonish you to be none other than what the people say you are… Francis dismounted, knelt down and kissed the (peasant’s) feet… – Go and bring to all a message of peace and penance, that their sins may be forgiven. (Major Life, chpt.3,#7)

8

When Orlando heard that Francis and his companions was at Mount Alvernia, he was filled with joy and came with many others from his castle to visit St. Francis…he found them (Francis and friars) at prayer, and drawing near he saluted them…After they had spoken together for some time, St. Francis thanked him for the devout solitude which he had bestowed upin them and for having come to visit them there. – Be patient in trials, watchful in prayer, and never cease working. (Major Life, chpt.3,#7)

9

Orlando called St. Francis and his companions aside and said to them: My dearest brothers, never was it my intention that you would be exposed on this savage mountain to any corporal necessity, which might hinder you from attending perfectly to spiritual matters; therefore it is my desire that you send freely to my house for everything you want, and if you fail to do so I shall take it very ill at your hands. – Be considerate in your speech, well-ordered in your actions, and grateful to your benefactors. (Major Life,chpt.3,#7)

10

Then St. Francis (said to his companions): Let not Orlando’s charitable offer cause you in any way to offend against our lady and mistress, holy poverty…if we closely embrace holy poverty, the world will come after us…Let us persevere in holy poverty, for it is the way of perfection, and the pledge of eternal riches… – A man has as much patience and humility as he has (when things go against him) and no more. (Admonitions, #13)

11

He was sometimes so absorbed in God that he was seen by his companions to be raised corporally above the ground and rapt in prayer.  In these raptures were revealed to St. Francis not only things present and future, but even the secret thoughts and desires of the brethren. – Blessed is that brother who loves and respects his brother when he is absent as when as when he is present and who would not say anything behind his back that he could not say charitably to his face. (Admonitions,#25)

12

Brother Leo, being beset by a strong spiritual temptation, felt a great longing to have some devout thing written by the hand of St. Francis … he dared not speak of his desire to St. Francis to whom nevertheless it was revealed by the Holy Spirit … – Nothing must keep us back, nothing separate us from Him, nothing come between us and Him. (Rule 1221,chpt.23)

13

(St. Francis) wrote a verse in honor of Christ, drawing at the foot thereof  the sign of the cross Tau…he gave  it to (Brother Leo), saying, Take this writing, dearest brother, and keep from all temptation! But if temptation come to you, do not be afraid, for I hold you to be truly the servant of God, and more worthy of love, the harder you are oppressed by temptation… – At all times … we must have a true and humble faith, and keep Him in our hearts… (Rule 1221,chpt.23)

14

And I tell you in all sincerity that no person should account himself to be a perfect friend of God until he has passed through manifold temptations and tribulations. – We must love, honor, adore, serve, praise and bless, glorify and acclaim, magnify and thank, the most high supreme and eternal God, Three and One, Father, Son and holy Spirit … (Rule 1221,chpt.23)

15

St. Francis was not only absorbed in God…but was also comforted often by angelic visitations. One day…he said: O lord God, when I am dead, what will become of this Your poor family, which in Your goodness You have committed to me, a sinner?  Who will comfort, who will correct, who will pray to You for it? – We must all keep close watch over ourselves or we will be lost and turn our minds and hearts from God. (Rule 1221,chpt.22)

16

An angel of God appeared to him and comforted him with these words: I declare to you on behalf of God, that your Order shall never fail until the day of judgment, and no sinner, be he ever so great, who shall bear a hearty love to your Order, shall find mercy with God. No man shall live long who shall maliciously persecute it.  Nor shall any evildoer, who shall refuse to amend his lifelong persevere in your Order… – Guard with jealous watchfulness the times of private prayer. (The Principles, SSF)

17

Do not be grieved if you notice some brothers who are not good and do not observe the Rule as they ought…for they shall always be many who will observe with great perfection the life of Christ’s Gospel and the purity of the Rule.  And all these, after their bodily life is ended, shall enter into life eternal without passing through Purgatory… – Corporate worship is not a substitute for the quiet communion of the individual soul with God. (The Principles, SSF)

18

The feast of our Lady’s assumption drew near, and St. Francis sought for a more secret and solitary place in which he might spend alone the Lent of St. Michael the Archangel … Thus on the Feast of the assumption St. Francis began the holy Lent with great abstinence and austerity, macerating his body and invigorating his soul with fervent prayers, vigils, and disciplines … going from virtue to virtue… – Do not condemn or look down on people … each one should rather condemn and despise himself. (Rule 1223,chpt.2)

19

As the Feast of the Holy Cross drew near, in the month of September, Brother Leo went one night…he heard (St. Francis’) voice in fervor of spirit (saying): Who are You, Lord? And who am I, a most vile worm and Your most unprofitable servant? And these words he repeated over and over again … – Humility is the recognition of the truth about God and ourselves, the recognition of our own insufficiency and dependence, seeing that we have nothing which we have not received. (The Principles, SSF)

20

It was given to me to understand that these three offerings signified holy obedience, most entire poverty, and most pure chastity, which God by His grace has enabled me so perfectly to observe… God has infused such virtue into my soul, that for all the gifts and graces which His sovereign bounty He has bestowed upon me, I should always with heart and voice praise and magnify Him… – I entreat all … to put away every attachment, all care and solicitude, and serve, love, honor, and adore our Lord and God with a pure heart and mind … (Rule 1221,chpt.22)

21

The day before the Feast of the holy Cross…and angel of God…spoke thus from God: I am come to admonish and encourage you, that you prepare yourself to receive in all patience and humility what God will give you. St. Francis replied: I am ready to bear patiently whatsoever my Lord shall be pleased to send me. – Make a dwelling place within yourself where God can stay. (Rule 1221,chpt.22 adapted)

22

The Feast of the Holy Cross St. Francis was praying before daybreak…and turning his face to the east, prayed in these words: O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask You before I die: the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion… – Blessed is the one who obeys quietly when he is corrected, confesses his fault humbly and makes atonement cheerfully. (Admonitions, 23)

23

…the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.  And continuing a long time in that prayer, he understood that God had heard him, and that, so far as possible for a mere creature, he should be permitted to feel these things. – Blessed the one who is in no hurry to make excuses … (Admonitions, 23)

24

St. Francis began to contemplate most devoutly the Passion of Jesus Christ and His infinite charity…And being thus inflamed in that contemplation, on that same morning he beheld a seraph descending from heaven with six fiery and resplendent wings, and this seraph with rapid flight drew near to St. Francis, so that he could plainly discern him and perceive that he bore the image of one crucified… – What are God’s servants but His minstrels, who must inspire the hearts of men and stir them to spiritual joy. (Mirror of Perfection, 100)

25

It was revealed to him by Him who appeared that by divine providence his vision had been thus shown to him that he might understand that, not by martyrdom of the body, but by a consuming fire of the soul, he was to be transformed into the express image of Christ crucified in that wonderful apparition. – One is truly clean of heart when he has no time for the things of this world but is always searching for the things of heaven, never failing to keep God before his eyes … (Admonitions, 16)

26

Then did all Mount Alvernia appear wrapped in intense fire, which illumined all the mountains and valleys around…In this seraphic apparition, Christ, Who appeared under that form to St. Francis, spoke to him certain high and secret things, which in his lifetime he would never reveal to any person…After his death he made them known to one of the brothers… – It is wrong for anyone to be anxious to receive more from his neighbor than he himself is willing to give to God. (Admonitions, 17)

27

(St. Francis spoke to the brother in vision): Christ said: Do you know what I have done to you?  I have given you the stigmata which are the insignia of My Passion, that you may be My standard-bearer, and as on the day of My death I descended into limbo and by virtue of these My stigmata delivered all the souls whom I found there, so do I grant to you that every year on the anniversary of your death you may go to Purgatory, and take with you to the glory of paradise all the souls of your three Orders…and all others especially devout to you, that so you may be conformed to Me in death, and you have been like Me in life. – Blessed that person who takes no more pride in the good that God says and does through him, than in that which he says and does through someone else. (Admonitions, 17)

28

After long and secret conference together, that marvelous vision disappeared, leaving in the heart of St. Francis an excessive fire and ardor of divine love, and on his flesh a wonderful trace and image of the Passion of Christ.  For upon his hands and feet began immediately to appear the figures of the nails…the hands and feet appeared pierced through the midst by nails…In like manner, on the right side appeared the image of an unsealed wound, as if made by a lance, and still red and bleeding, from which drops of blood often flowed from the holy breast of St. Francis… – True knowledge is the knowledge of God. (The Principles, SSF)

29

Know, Brother Francis, that not for yourself alone, but for others, does God reveal His secrets to you, and therefore you have cause for fear lest you be worthy of censure if you conceal that which, for the good of others, has been made known to you. – The highest wisdom is that holy wisdom whereby the soul is made one with God. (The Principles, SSF)

30

During the time from Thursday evening until Saturday morning, he would not by any human remedy mitigate the pain of Christ’s Passion which he bore in his body, because at that time our Savior Jesus Christ was taken and crucified, died and was buried for us…St. Francis, having concluded the Lent of St. Michael the Archangel, prepared himself…to return…to St. Mary of the Angels – One really loves his enemy when he is not offended by the injury done to himself … and proves his love in a practical way. (Admonitions, 9)

 

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. – August 2018

August 2018

I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

so that, through the prayers and merits of the

holy and glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother,

and of our most blessed father Francis and of all the saints,

the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning,

may give increase and may also give final perseverance.

Amen.

(The Testament of St. Clare of Assisi)

 

Following are excerpts taken from early documents that speak of  St. Clare of Assisi.

In the month that celebrates the glory of our Holy Mother, we read testimonies

from  the Acts of the Process of Canonization (1st and 2nd Witnesses).

 

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

 

1

Saint Clare, while that holy woman was in the world…was considered by all who knew her to be a person of great honesty and of very good life; and she was intent upon and occupied with works of piety. (1st Witness) – The danger of indifference demands we do battle with triteness, shallowness, and dullness, and that we have to resist and begin to go in the other direction.

2

Saint Clare began the Order that is now at San Damiano through the admonition of Saint Francis.  She entered it as a virgin, and always remained such a virgin. (1st Witness) – Truly good people are always unconscious of their goodness.

3

Lady Clare very much loved the poor, and all the citizens held her in great veneration because of her good manner of life. (1st Witness) – When we compare ourselves with other people, we seem good; when we compare ourselves with God, we are nothing.

4

After Saint Clare had been in the Order, at the prayers and insistence of Saint Francis, who almost forced her, she accepted the direction and government of the sisters. (1st Witness) – Love quickly decays.  Has our love grown cold?

5

The blessed mother (Saint Clare) kept vigil so much of the night in prayer, and kept so many abstinences, that the sisters lamented and were alarmed. (1st Witness) – The closer we get to Christ, the less certain we are of any merit of our own.

6

Lady Clare lay on the ground and had a rock from the river for her head…She was so very strict in her food that the sisters marveled at how her body survived. (1st Witness) – The older we get, the better we see ourselves.

7

Blessed Clare fasted much of the time.  Three days of the week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she did not eat anything…Saint Francis together with the bishop of Assisi commanded her to eat on those days at least a half a roll of bread… (1st Witness) – The psychology of mediocrity seeks rather to ease the problem than cure it.

8

When she came from prayer, she admonished and comforted her sisters always speaking the words of God Who was always in her mouth, so much so that she did not want to speak or hear of vanities. (1st Witness) – Life had to be forfeited for our sins, and no life is more precious than that of God who became man. His blood … paid the infinite price.

9

When she (Saint Clare) commanded her sisters to do something, she did so with great fear and humility and more often than not she wished to do what she had commanded the others. (1st Witness) – Even if we claim not to believe, we still experience the moral effects of guilt.

10

When she was sick that she could not get up from bed, she had herself raised to sit up and be supported with some cushions…She spun thread so that, from her work, she made corporals and altar linens for almost all the churches of the plains and hills of Assisi. (1st Witness) – The great sin of the human race is rebellion.  We are rebels against God.

11

The blessed mother was humble, kind, and loving to her sisters, and had compassion for the sick. (1st Witness) – We need to resolve to change, because when we fall into a pattern of ordinariness, we are loath to change.

12

While she was healthy, she (Saint Clare) served them and washed their feet and gave them water with her own hands.  Sometime she washed the mattresses of the sick. (1st Witness) – You will always know the dark days of the Church (and our own) when there is a walking away from the cross of Christ.

13

She particularly loved poverty, but she could never be persuaded to desire anything for herself, or to receive any possession for herself or the monastery. (1st Witness) – There is no such thing as capturing the passing glory. You have to go down the hill and climb the hill of Calvary to come to perfect glory.

14

Lady Clare was as careful about the regular observance of her Order and the government of the sisters as someone might be in safeguarding his temporal treasure. (1st Witness) – The modern world is very fond of denying responsibility; it began in Eden.  The denial of responsibility stops at the cross of Christ.

15

When five sisters were sick in the monastery, Saint Clare made the sign of the cross with her own hand over them and all of them were immediately cured. (1st Witness) – The Cross without Christ is tyranny; Christ without the Cross is a lie.

16

Lady Clare, former abbess of the monastery of San Damiano, had marvelous humility and so looked down on herself … that those tasks which she knew were more degrading she herself performed. (2nd Witness) – Like vines, we must be pruned by the gardener, that we might be more fruitful.

17

She (St. Clare) was eighteen years old or so (when she entered religious life)…She was a virgin in spirit and in body and held in great veneration by all who knew her even before she entered religion…because of her great honesty, kindness, and humility. (2ndWitness) – Galatians 5&6 – After we have embraced discipline, then we will be prepared to change others.

18

She was also so severe toward her body that she was content with only one tunic of ‘lazzo’ (i.e. home-spun cloth made of inferior wool and used by the country folk) and one mantle. (2nd Witness) – Softness of character comes about when we desire to accommodate ourselves to the world, shrinking away from sacrifice, self-denial.

19

If she (St. Clare) ever saw that the tunic of another of the sisters was worse than what she was wearing, she took it from her for herself and gave the better one to that  sisters. (2nd Witness) – The Lord heals, but not always.  There will not be a complete healing until the whole cosmos is renewed.

20

Clare at one time had a certain shirt made of boar’s hide.  She wore it secretly under her woolen tunic with the skin and its bristles close to her skin. (2nd Witness) – Christ solved pain by making it a condition of life. He conquered pain by using it as a means of attaining glory.

21

She used such rough haircloths and shirts for herself, but was very merciful to the sisters who could not endure such harshness, and willingly gave them consolation. (2nd Witness) – God chooses us not for what we are, but for what God knows we can become.

22

Blessed Clare, before she was sick, practiced great abstinence: the greater Lent, of Saint Martin, she always fasted on bread and water, except on Sundays when she drank a little wine when there was some. (2nd Witness) – Love knows no limits.

23

At about midnight she woke the sisters with certain signs in silence to praise God.  She lit the lamps in the church and frequently rang the bells for Matins.  Those sisters who did not rise at the sound of the bell she called with her signs. (2nd Witness) – Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.

24

Her speech was always about the things of God.  She did not wish to talk about worldly things or for the sisters to remember these things. (2ndWitness)  – The crucifix is my autobiography.  The blood is the ink.  The  nails the pen.  The  skin the parchment. On every line of that body I can trace my life.

25

If it happened at times that some worldly person did something contrary to God, astonishingly she wept, reproached such a person, and exhorted that one anxiously to turn to penance. (2nd Witness) – Instead of a question of superiority or inferiority (in the Church and in fraternity) it is a question of the different roles we fulfill.

26

Lady Clare frequently confessed, and, with great devotion and fear, frequently received the holy sacrament of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, trembling all over as she did so. (2nd Witness) – We are all thieves. We cheat God in our lives; we cheat Him in our worship; we cheat Him in our relationships with others.  In us Jesus is reputed among the wicked.

27

Concerning the corporals made from her spinning…she had paper boxes lined with silk made to hold them and had them blessed by the bishop. (2nd Witness) – Scripture never speaks of reconciliation except through the death of Christ.  We are saved by the cross and resurrection.

28

(One sister) had lost her voice so that she was barely able to speak even softly. She had a vision on the night of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in which Lady Clare, while making the sign of the cross with her hand over her, cured her.  It was done in such a way that on the same day she was cured since she did make the sign of the cross over her. (2nd Witness) – Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus and both repented.  One repented to the Lord and the other repented to himself.  One lived in hope and the other died in despair.

29

A certain brother of the Order of Friars Minor, Stephen, was mentally ill.  Saint Francis sent him to the monastery of San Damiano, so Saint Clare would make the sign of the cross over him. After she had done this, the brother went to sleep…Upon waking, he ate a little and then departed cured. (2nd Witness) – In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord suffered not so much from pain, as from evil.

30

When certain Saracens scaled the wall and climbed down into the part within the cloister of San Damiano, holy mother Saint Clare, then seriously ill, got up from her bed, called her sisters, comforting them not to be afraid.  After she prayed, the Lord delivered the monastery and the sisters from the enemy.  Those Saracens, who had already  entered, departed. (2nd Witness) – The sufferings of our blessed Lord were finished in Him as the head of the church, but they are not finished in his body (the Church, us).

31

Through the virtues and grace that God had placed in her, all who knew her considered her a saint. She especially had a great love of poverty.  Neither Pope Gregory nor the Bishop of Ostia could make her consent to receive any possessions. (2nd Witness) – Nothing gives us so much understanding of the love of God, the sacrificial love, as God coming down to this world from heavenly headquarters and saying: ‘I will take the pain as my own’…This is the agape love of Christianity.

 

 

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018

July 2018

All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,
Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth,
we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will
and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit,
You have created everything spiritual and corporal
… making us in Your own image and likeness,…

We thank You…

Following are excerpts taken from various sources

1

Servants of the Lord should not be ignorant of the lives and teachings of saints through which they can come to God. (Prologue) – When you come to Christ, Christianity demands the personal, intimate bond.  We have to be one with him, and reflect the person, mind, will, heart and humanity of Christ.

2

On the 16th of April, after 1207 years completed since the Incarnation of the Lord … God saw that His people … had forgotten His commandments … desiring not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live… God willed to send workers into His vineyard. (chpt.1) – Faith is not the will to believe; it is the acceptance of truth based on the authority of God’ revelation.

3

Preoccupied with thoughts of wealth … Francis sent (a beggar away) without giving him alms … touched by divine grace, he began to accuse himself. (chpt.1) –Reconciliation is inseparable from the death of Christ. We never have reconciliation without the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord. » Click to continue reading “Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018” »

Daily Reflections from Father Francis – June 2018

June 2018

All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,

Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth

we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will

and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit

You have created everything spiritual and corporal

… making us in Your own image and likeness …

We thank You …

Following are excerpts taken from various Franciscan and other sources.

1

The truly clean of heart are those who look down upon earthly things, seek those of heaven, and, with a clean heart and spirit, never cease adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true (Admonitions,#16) – Let yourselves be charmed by Christ…attracted by his example…loved by the love of the Holy Spirit…fall in love with Jesus Christ.

2

We carry Him (Jesus) in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example. (Letter to Faithful) – Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!…Open to his saving power.

3

He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check the external senses, through which death enters the soul. (1Celano,chpt.16) – Human beings are called to become disciples of that Other One who infinitely transcends them, in order to enter at last into true life.

4

Unbending in discipline he stood upon his guard, taking the greatest care to preserve purity of both soul and body (Major Legend,chpt.5) – In the mystery of his cross and resurrection, Christ…has bridged the infinite distance that separates all people from new life in him.

5

He used to say that it should be incomparably more tolerable for a spiritual man to endure great cold in his flesh rather than to feel even slightly the heat of carnal lust in his heart. (Major Legend,chpt.5) — Faith must be quickened by love.  It must come alive through the good works which reveal God’s truth in us.

6

If, at the instigation of the devil, any brother commits fornication, let him be deprived of the habit he has lost by his wickedness, put it aside completely, and be altogether expelled from our Order.  Afterwards he may do penance. (Earlier Rule,chpt.13) – Being a Christian must mean being a witness for Christ.

7

The Rule of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the holy Gospel of Pour Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of one’s own, and in chastity. (Later Rule,chpt.1) – The commandments must … be understood … as a path involving a moral and spiritual journey toward perfection, at the heart of which is love.

8

He was naturally courteous in manner and speech, and following his heart’s intent, never uttered a rude or offensive word to anyone … His reputation, because of this, became so widespread…that many who knew him said that, in the future, he would be something great. ( Three Companions,chpt.1) – Through the Spirit, (Jesus) gives the grace to share his own life and love and provides the strength to bear witness to that love in personal choices and actions.

9

He taught not only that the vices of the flesh must be mortified and its prompting checked, but also that the exterior senses, through which death enters the soul, should be guarded with the greatest care. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – God who is always merciful even when he punishes … preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide (murder of Abel by Cain) be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide.

10

To carry in his own body the armor of the cross, he held in check his sensual appetites with such a rigid discipline that he scarcely too what was necessary for the sustenance of nature. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – Peace … must become the goal of all men and women of good will.

11

At that time the brothers dedicated themselves to the practices of fasts, of vigils, of work, in order to dominate the incentives of the flesh. (Anonymous of Perugia) – Peace is our duty: our grave duty, our supreme responsibility.

12

The brothers were sometimes surprised that he did not often visit such holy handmaids (St.Clare and Sisters) of Christ…but he would say: ’Don’t imagine, dear brothers, that I don’t love them fully…But I am giving you an example, that as I do, so should you also do’. (2Celano,chpt.155) – t the last judgment we shall all be judged without distinction on our practical love of our brothers and sisters.

13

When he spoke with her (St. Clare) or about her, he never mentioned her by name, but he called her the Christian. (Bro. Stephen) – It will be in the practical love they have shown that many will discover that they have in fact met Christ, although without having known him before in an explicit way.

14

Father Francis exhorted her (St. Clare) to despise the world…and instilled in her ears the sweetness of being wed to Christ, persuading her to preserve the precious gem of her virginal chastity for her blessed Spouse. (Legend of St. Clare,chpt.5) – If you want peace, reach out to the poor!

15

(St. Clare) entrusted herself totally to Francis, choosing him as her guide, after God…and she accepted with an ardent heart all that he taught her about the good Jesus. (Legend of St. Clare,chpt.6) – (The church is a ‘pilgrim church’); her pilgrimage is interior: it is a question of a pilgrimage in the Holy Spirit … strengthened by the power of God’s grace promised her by the Lord …

16

The week that Francis passed from the this life, Clare … informed Francis of her desire to see him.  The saint, informed of this, was deeply moved, because he loved Clare and her sisters with a father’s love. (Legend of Perugia) -(There is) a need for a profound transformation of hearts through the rediscovery of the father’s mercy and through victory over misunderstanding and over hostility among brothers and sisters.

17

(As the body of Francis is brought to Assisi passing San Damiano, Clare and sisters weep saying):Father, what shall we do…Why are you abandoning us poor women?… all consolation ebbs away along with you …who will comfort us in so great a poverty, poverty of merit as much as of goods? Who will help us in temptations? (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.10) – Refusal of God’s fatherly love and of his loving gifts is always at the root of humanity’s divisions.

18

(Clare and Sisters continue): You, who experienced so many temptations!  Who will comfort us in the midst of distress? You, who were so often our help in times of distress!  What bitter separation!, what painful absence! (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.10) – God, ‘rich in mercy’, … does not close his heart to any of his children.

19

Among the virtues Francis loved and desired the brothers preserve after holy humility he loved the beautiful and immaculate virtue of chastity.(Mirror, 86) – (God) waits for (his children), looks for them, goes to meet them at the place where the refusal of communion imprisons them in isolation and division.

20

Unbending in discipline, he kept an exceedingly attentive watch over himself.  He took particular care in guarding the priceless treasure in a vessel of clay, that is, chastity, which he strove to possess in holiness and honor through the virtuous purity of both body and soul. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The initiative on God’s part is made concrete and manifest in the redemptive act of Christ, which radiates through the world by means of the ministry of the church.

21

His mastery over the flesh was now so complete that he seemed to have made a covenant with his eyes; he would not only flee far away from carnal sights, but also totally avoid even the curious glance at anything vain. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love.

22

Even though he had attained purity of heart and body, and in some manner was approaching the height of sanctification, he did not cease to cleanse the eyes of his soul with a continuous flood of tears. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the church his bride.

23

We prohibit anyone of you to wander outside of obedience with the habit of your holy religion and thus corrupt the purity of your poverty. (‘Cum Secundum’ of Pope Honorius III) – Man cannot live without love … His life is senseless if love is not revealed to him – if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.

24

Encompassed by the weakness of the flesh, a human cannot follow the spotless crucified Lamb so perfectly as to avoid contacting any filth.  Therefore he taught those who strive after the perfect life to cleanse themselves daily…(Major Legend,chpt.5) -(We are) to become a temple of the Blessed Trinity.  What greater degree of communion with God could (we) ever aspire to?

25

Although he had already attained extraordinary purity of heart and body, he did not cease to cleanse the eyes of his soul with a continuous flood of tears, unconcerned about the loss of his bodily sight. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – The hectic pace of daily activity, combined with the noisy and often frivolous invasiveness of the means of communication, is certainly not something conducive to the interior recollection required for prayer.

26

(The Dominican theologian after visiting with Francis said to the friars) My brothers, the theology of this man, held aloft by purity and contemplation, is a soaring eagle, while our learning crawls on its belly on the ground. (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.69) – You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. (St. Augustine)

27

I beg in the Lord all my brothers who are priests, or who will be, or who wish to be priests of the Most High that whenever they wish to celebrate Mass, being pure, they offer the true Sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with purity and reverence, with a holy and unblemished intention…(Letter to the Order) – The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes into man’s heart together with prayer. In prayer he manifests himself first of all as the gift that ‘helps us in our weakness’.

28

Seeing the Foe was carrying the day, the most high Lord sent in the cavalry with a well-trained commander.  St. Francis was chosen as standard-bearer…He wanted no one to ride with him who did not accept the reins of three bridles: poverty, obedience, and chastity. (Jacopone of Todi) – Evangelization will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force when it is carried out through the gift not only of the word proclaimed but also of the word lived. In particular the life of holiness …

29

Wherever they may be or may go, let all the brothers avoid evil glances and association with women…Let us all keep close watch over ourselves and keep all our members clean…(Earlier Rule,chpt.12) – The life of holiness … constitutes the simplest and most attractive way to perceive at once the beauty of truth, the liberating force of God’s love, and the value of unconditional fidelity to all the demands of the Lord’s law…

30

Saint Francis used to engage carefully in a daily, or rather, constant examination of himself and his followers.  Allowing nothing dangerous to remain in them, he drove from their hearts any negligence…he was on his guard at every hour…He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check external senses, through which death enters the soul. (1Celano,chpt.16) – The Mother of God is a type of the church in the matter of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ … the church brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God. (Vatican II)

 

 

 

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. May 2018

May 2018

Hail, O Lady, holy Queen, you are the virgin made church

and the one chosen by the most holy Father in heaven

whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son

and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, 

in whom there was and is all the fullness of grace and every good.

Hail, His Palace! Hail, His, Tabernacle! Hail, His Home!

Hail, His Robe! Hail, His Servant!  Hail, His Mother!

And hail all you holy virtues which through the grace and light of the Holy Spirit

are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from

their faithless state you may make them faithful to God.

(Salutation of the Blessed Virgin)

1

It was not that he was a man who prayed, than he himself was a living prayer. – Abraham hoped everything would stay put, but he left everything and everyone on God’s word and traveled into the unknown.

2

His sure harbor was prayer not for a moment, … but profoundly devout, humble and prolonged as much as possible.  If he began at night, with difficulty he ended his prayer in the morning. – Like Abraham, we are sustained by not simply a promise, but by the Promise of God which was fleshed out in Jesus.

3

Often, almost daily, he withdrew secretly to pray.  He was inclined to do so by that same tenderness he had tasted  earlier, which now visited him ever more frequently, driving him to prayer in the piazza and in other public places. – Moses longed to see his dreams completed and stopped short of the land he was allowed to see but not enter.

4

Francis … totally unaware of earthly desires through love of Christ, and strove to keep his spirit present to God by praying without ceasing lest he be without them consolation of the Beloved. – It was enough for Moses to be given evidence of the future to die fulfilled and in peace.

5

The man of God gathered with his companions … they spent their time praying incessantly, directing their efforts mentally rather than vocally to devoted prayers, because they did have liturgical books from which to chant the canonical hours. – Joseph, in spite of the rough breaks he had experienced since being sold by his brothers, refused to quit.

6

Let all the brothers always strive to exert themselves in doing good works … Servants of God, therefore, must always apply themselves to prayer or some good work. – God intends you to be the person on whom He has conferred a unique ‘personhood’. God has committed Himself to you…agree to do the same to Him.

7

Let us always make a home and a dwelling place for Him Who is the Lord God Almighty, father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who says: Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent … When you stand to pray say: Our Father in heaven. – David wanted to build a monument to God but had to prepare the material for another to build.

8

Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working may work faithfully and devotedly so that, while avoiding idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all temporal things must contribute. – You who are meant to be part of God’s family, are one of the community of the Crucified One; you too must crucify self and forget ego trips…Trust Him!

9

I admonish and exhort the brothers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to … pay attention to what they must desire above all else: to have the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity, to pray always to Him with a pure heart, to have humility and patience in persecution and infirmity. – Elijah was so demoralized he wanted to give up, but God knew the inner strength of Elijah and gave him a firm ‘no’.

10

I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers providing that, as is contained in the Rule, you do not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion, during study of this kind. – There is no permanent retirement for a Christian, only temporary respites from time to time to rest and reequip.

11

Francis used to say that, because of the office of prelacy or of zeal for preaching, they should not abandon holy and devout prayer, going for alms. Working at times with their hands, and performing other humble tasks like the other brothers, for good example and for the benefit of their souls, as well as others. – Jonah tried to run away from God’s Will and acceptance of his responsibilities, but he couldn’t run from God.

12

He said that (ministers of the word of God) were heralds chosen by a great king…For he used to say: The preacher must first secretly draw in by prayer what he later pours out in sacred preaching; he must first of all grow warm on the inside, or he will speak frozen words on the outside.  – God still replies in the negative to those who claim a special relationship, but try to escape from responsibilities, or fall into a narrow, self-centered outlook.

13

(Description of General Minister) … He must be a committed friend of holy prayer, who can distribute some hours for his soul and others for the flock entrusted to him … – Job questioned God and demanded answers, but God gave him no answers; His questions were more profound and penetrating.

14

They never or hardly ever stopped praying and praising God…They gave thanks to God for the good done…They would have thought themselves abandoned by God if they did not experience in their ordinary prayers that they were constantly visited by the spirit of devotion. – We present-day Jobs also are promised God’s sufficiency. He gives more than answers … He shares His life with us.

15

They were so devoted to prayer that there was no hour of the night that someone could not be found at prayer in the oratory. – The God who has committed Himself to us insists on a like-minded commitment.

16

The brothers at that time begged him to teach them how to pray, because, walking in simplicity of spirit, up to that time they did not know … – The ‘covenanting’ God has given His word to us that He will not desert us.  That promise has been sealed in blood – literally!

17

He implored divine clemency to show him what he had to do. – The cross has been so sentimentalized by so many generations of songwriters and preachers that it no longer has any sting.

18

He had recourse to prayer that he might insistently implore what the will of God was regarding some specific matter. – You have been given the gift of living and dying just one death. You may lay down your energies, your time, and your goods for others, or you may stockpile self until it crushes you.

19

Fasting and weeping, he earnestly prayed for the savior’s mercy, and lacking confidence in his own efforts, he cast his care upon the Lord. – Time does not necessarily heal all wounds; sometimes it merely covers them with scar tissue.

20

Foreseeing the great things that God would do through him and his Order … he was calling and praying to God that, by his mercy and omnipotence, without which human frailty can do nothing, he should supply, help, and fulfill that which he could not do by himself. – Jesus has called ‘friend’ the one we would label ‘enemy’; He pronounces themm subjects of concern rather than objects of contempt.

21

Francis said: Wait for me a bit, because I first want to pray to God that He make our journey fruitful, that Christ, by virtue of His most holy passion, be pleased to give us poor and weak men this noble prey that we’re planning to take from the world. – Peter tried to bury his guilt of denial and grief of lose in work; he couldn’t forget or conceal in activity his ‘failure’.

22

He saw St. Francis devoutly at prayer before Christ, who had appeared to him during that prayer and was in front of him … he saw Francis lifted up bodily from the earth.  Because of this he was touched by God and inspired to leave the world … – The Resurrection is God’s mighty ‘no’ to depression and death.

23

He never ceased crying out to God with humble prayers and fervent affection, that God would protect the Order and grant salvation to all the friars, present and future. – A beggar pleaded for a handout and was given a hand up. God gives us His gifts that we may learn to help ourselves.

24

As blessed Francis got up, he joined his hands and, lifting his eyes to heaven, said: Lord, I give back to You the family which until now you have entrusted to me… – We carry the name ‘Christian’ and stand strong in its meaning.

25

Once while his vicar was holding a chapter, he was praying in his cell, as the go-between and mediator between his brothers and God. – Paul begged for healing and was given a thorn in the flesh, and an reminder that ‘my strength is sufficient’.

26

After I resigned my office among the brothers because of my illnesses … I am not bound at all except to pray for the religion and to show good example… the greatest help I can render to the religion is to spend time everyday in prayer to the Lord for it.  – St.Teresa: Lord when you will cease to strew our path with obstacles? And the Lord: Don’t complain, this is how I treat my friends.  St.Teresa: Dear Lord, that is why You have so few.

27

The abbot of the monastery of San Giustino…happened to meet Saint Francis…he humbly asked him to pray for him, and Saint Francis replied: My Lord, I will willingly pray… when the abbot had ridden away, he said to the brother with him: Wait for me a little while, brother, for I want to pay the debt I promised. – There is a certain enjoyment of unpleasant places when the challenges they offer help us to grow.

28

A pilgrim while in the body, away from the Lord, Francis, man of God, strove to keep himself present in spirit to heaven…With all his soul he thirsted for his Christ…We will tell…about the wonders of his prayer, things that we have seen with our own eyes. – The all-powerful Lord turns even the causes of our curses into good.

29

He found (Greccio) rich in poverty and there, in a remote little cell on a cliff, he could give himself freely yo heavenly things.  – Jesus is not a ‘departed hero’, a ‘deceased leader’, but the living Lord, Who does not leave us to fend for ourselves.

30

Brother Body should be cared for with discernment…so it won’t get weary keeping vigil and staying fervently at prayer. – At the time when the outlook seems most bleak and pessimistic, God frequently opens new doors.  Sometimes, God seemingly allows roadblocks because He has bigger plans for us.

31

When he returned from his private prayers, in which he was changed almost into a different man, he tried his best to resemble the others, lest, if he appeared glowing, the breeze of favor might cancel what he had gained. – ‘Help’ signals often are hard to pick up. God, however, patiently waits for us to be sensitive enough to detect those signs and signals from others.