January, 2023, Reflection 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  

January 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The prophet Isaiah, speaking in the name of God, says, My Word will not return without fulfilling the purpose for which It was sent (Isaiah 55: 11).  From the very beginning of time, when the Almighty Creator and Father of all life brought out of nothing all that is and all that ever will be, there has been a yearning in creation for something, or better “Someone”.  This “hope” that groans until now (Romans 8: 22) is our constant companion on life’s journey that urges us to move forward into God’s Providence.  We journey without knowing what the next moment will bring.  We journey, and we trust.  We trust because we believe.  We believe because our hearts have been touched at birth by the Spirit of God Who enables us to see signs of The One greater than all Who encourages us to know Him more deeply as we see Him in and through the many gifts of His Creation. We are the epitome of His creating love. And Jesus is the excellent and flawless example of His magnificent creation.

Jesus is the Word that the Father sent. He is also the One Who returned to the Father having fulfilled the purpose for His becoming one with humanity. We continue that ministry of fulfillment each time we re-present the Mystery and miracle of the Eucharist.  It is the same Holy Spirit of God that overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary giving flesh to the almighty-eternal God within her immaculate womb (cfr. Luke 1: 35) that overshadows the bread and wine at the celebration of the Eucharist. The “overshadowing” by the hands of the priest and power of the Holy Spirit and the words of Consecration make Jesus the Christ real for us, not just in His Word, but in His Sacrament. This “Real Presence”, through the power of the Holy Spirit, urges us to enter the mystery more deeply and personally. We are called to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation (cfr. Romans 10:9). We courageously and unconditionally accept the mission to be sent, as Jesus did, to be a living message of peace and blessings to all. (cfr. Isaiah 52: 7; Nahum 1: 15)

“In Persona Christi” the priest presiding celebrant of the Eucharist is both Jesus the Master Who celebrates by virtue of his ordination, but also a disciple and apostle – as are all the faithful. He also must listen to what he himself preaches and teaches. He also must live the message he conveys in harmony with God’s Word, Church teaching and Tradition. He is commissioned also to go among the People of God inviting all to receive the Good News in the Name of Jesus. The words in the ordination rite, preach what you believe, believe what you preach, and live what you believe, are a powerful reminder for all of us to be committed to what we profess. The Word must be alive in, with, and through us.

The Eucharist is not just a prayer but an experience of ‘at-one-ment’ with God through Jesus in the Spirit.  It is that Holy Action of the people – liturgy – into which we enter, often oblivious to the awesomeness of the moment and even to the Divine Presence before Whom we confect with the priest the Sacrifice and Sacrament of our Salvation in Jesus.  The Eucharist re-presents for us – subtly, succinctly, and soundly – all of Salvation History.  The Father’s Spirit and Word, present at the beginning of time and down through the millennia, are in the liturgy breathing life for all, but more  effectively for those who are participants, and not merely spectators.

In the Eucharist, celebrant and people acknowledge their personal and collective sinfulness and need for a Savior. Together they hear the words of ancient Israel in the Old Testament passages, the teachings of the Early Church in the New Testament readings, and the words and life of Jesus in the Gospels. All this preparation (Liturgy of the Word) takes time. This is valuable time needed to make us realize as we hear and witness the awesome experience that will draw us in to become active participants in the greatest moment on earth (Liturgy of the Eucharist). In this celebration the Spirit encourages us to consume the Victim – consummatum est (John 19: 30). We become intimately one with the One Who Is. When our union with God through Jesus is totally fulfilled in the worthy reception of the Eucharist we share in the fruits of the “mission accomplished” of the Lord.

Of His own free will and to its fullest extent the divine Word descended to our level. Jesus hid His divine nature in the substance of human flesh. In this way, says St. Paul, the Word of God humbled Himself to the point of emptying Himself: He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).  The well known words of our Seraphic Father tell us of his deep reverence and love for the mystery of Jesus’ physical (bodily) Incarnation and His sacramental “incarnation”: O sublime humility; O humble sublimity! As a human being, Jesus was pleased to hide His divine nature fully and take on the likeness of a man in everything, even exposing Himself to hunger, thirst and weariness and, to use the very words of the apostle of the nations: in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:1).

The climax of His humiliation was in His Passion and Death. He submitted His human will to the will of His Father, endured great moments and suffered the most infamous death, the death of the cross. (Although we are still celebrating His birth, we cannot separate the Crib from the Cross!) The Eternal Father bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians2:9). It is by virtue of that Name alone that we may hope to be saved. The most holy Name of Jesus that we venerate and repeat so often is a source of graces. As Jesus reminds us, we ask in His Name and the Father hears and answers. The Name of Jesus is terror to the demons, but salvation to those who invoke His Name with faith, hope, and loving trust. If His Name is so powerful, how much more must His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity be that we receive in the Eucharist?!

The Person of Jesus the Christ is present throughout the entire liturgy.  The priest leads, encourages, instructs, feeds, and commissions the People of God. The humility of forgiveness given and accepted, teachings offered and received, nourishment prepared and shared, communion extended and embraced, empowerment instilled and undertaken, are all beautifully expressed in the Eucharist. The Will of Christ is re-presented each time the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Jesus is the Eternal ‘Yes’ Who accepts for all humanity the office of Victim so that we can become victors with Him through the ‘at-one-ment’ that is reserved for all who journey with Him in Word, Sacrament and life.

The Power of the Name repeated and responded to with ‘Amen’ so often throughout the liturgy, gives all who call on the Name of Jesus power to live in His Name. In the Name we recognize His presence every moment. In the Name we become a powerhouse of grace and blessings for those whom we encounter. In the Name we trustingly advance in God’s Providence, His Holy Will, the innumerable graces, and the strength we receive from Jesus the Christ in the Eucharist we celebrate, share, and become.

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi we remember the power and promise of the One Whose Name brings peace and Whose words encourage us to trust. We cannot afford to begin a new year regretting the past or worrying about the future. We all look for opportunities to ‘clean the slate’ and ‘re-write’ our decisions to avoid past mistakes.  One thing we can do as we enter the New Year of Grace 2023 is to learn from the past that we might grow in all that is good, in all that is God. We re-evaluate and correct what is less than good by reconciling ourselves with God and one another, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In God’s Word and in His Name we are assured of the salvation offered all who follow the prompting of His Spirit!

Where the future is concerned, Jesus Himself reminds us that Jesus is Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation. All the worry in the world cannot add or subtract one moment of the life entrusted to each one of us. Thus, for a greater serenity and joy in 2023, it might benefit us to remember the words of a great Capuchin Franciscan saint of the twentieth century, St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  All this can so easily be accomplished by remembering that in Jesus the Christ we find the trust and courage to live in the Will of the Father and are empowered in His Name to be an instrument of God’s life-giving Love.  The Eucharist reminds us, renews us within, and repeats for us the wonderful outpouring of His Spirit that will guide us throughout the New Year and for all our life.

Be happy!  God loves you!  Let your face tell others what your words say! Tell the whole world of His Love!  Don’t be afraid to be Christian and a Catholic Christian! Help others see in the Eucharist the treasure that must still be discovered in all its richness by so many. May we all share in the priesthood – ministerial priesthood and that of the laity baptized in His Name – by “celebrating- our ‘extension of the Mass’ in our daily lives. Make the Jesus you receive in Holy Communion be the Jesus others see in you – the Person in your compassion and understanding, the Will in your humility and acceptance of others, and the Power of the Name in your living without compromise the Catholic-Christian values we profess in a society that seeks to challenge ‘Christ’ in us and in the Church.

The Word was so essential to the life of our Seraphic Father. St. Francis desired to be a man of the Gospel, that the Gospel be the guide of his life, and that the Gospel be the marrow of the Rule for those who sought to follow him. In the first Rule St. Francis writes: I want my friars to be ministers of the Gospel. Let us follow the words, life, teaching and the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Rule was the “Gospel Host”. A dream/vision of our Seraphic Father instructed him to gather the crumbs and form a host to share with the friars so that no crumbs would be lost: Francis make a host of all the crumbs and give this to eat to any who wish to eat it.  The dream was also explained when he was told again in a vision/dream: The crumbs of last night are the words of the Gospel and the host is the Rule. May the words of our Rule become our life that we become “hosts” alive in Christ who manifest the presence of the living Jesus to all.

Following the example of our Seraphic Father, let us disarm our hearts to one another. Like the leper that St. Francis embraced, the one we deem unworthy of love (though that is making a judgment that is only God’s right to make and not ours) or whom we fear because unapproachable or perhaps even worse, is the one who needs love the most.  When Jesus nourishes and nurtures us with Himself, we, like our Seraphic Father, are released from what has bound us and can move freely to embrace creation in the liturgy of life.  Every day thus becomes a day of rejoicing and growth.

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

As we greet others with the well-known Franciscan greeting “Peace and Blessings”, may we, the messengers, become the message. May the serenity of our belief that God lives within us, be manifest in our external actions and demeanor. Let us never forget that God Who made Himself a “Gift” to us at Bethlehem and in the Eucharist, created us as a gift to Himself and us to be a gift to one another. Let us remember the words of our Father St. Francis: And the Lord gave me brothers (Testament). We are given by the Lord to one another to live with and for one another in the Lord’s Name. May our Franciscan Fraternal vocation be strengthened to embrace all as sisters and brothers in the Name of Jesus.

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you. 

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

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

May the Lord live in you. 

And may you always live in Him. 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

November 2022 Reflections from 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 

November 2022 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you peace! 

November is the month the Church dedicates to the remembrance of the Holy and Suffering Souls in Purgatory. We are reminded to reflect upon God’s loving mercy and providence that goes beyond time into the vestibule of eternity. We are encouraged to open our hearts to the hope-filled existence of those who were where we are, and are where we will be …in God’s mercy. 

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

The response lies in what we believe of the Article of Faith in the Apostles Creed regarding ‘Everlasting Life’. We say, I believe in life everlasting, but we want to determine which life is going to be everlasting. What fools we can become when we allow the seductions of the world in which we live to make us their slaves rather than their masters! How foolish we are in trying to make eternally meaningful those things and aspects of this world that change, corrode and corrupt with time! Yet, how difficult it is for us to see beyond this world when our eyes are blinded by the everyday glitter of the creation that we have allowed to distract us from the eternal splendor of its and our Creator. Was it not St. Augustine in his Confessions who “apologizes” to God for having sought after the creature for comfort rather than the Creator for meaning and fulfillment? 

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

It is rather easy to speak about life. People are usually interested in hearing what others have to say. But, when the thought of our passage from time to eternity is concerned, many would rather not be told or reminded. Like little children, we believe that closing our eyes, everything will be different when we open them.  

We are Christians! We believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life! We believe that Jesus redeemed us from the power of Satan’s infernal seductions. We believe Jesus opened the way for us to the Father’s eternal embrace through His total self-emptying death on the Cross.  

November, the month we dedicate to the remembrance of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, urges us to reconsider this most solemn moment in life. November urges us to see beyond the veil of our physical barrier, and with the eyes of faith to see the Life we have been created to share. An entire life – all experiences, successes, failures, disillusionments, confusions and the like – converges at the moment of death into a power-packed point of one’s total being. A life “concentrated” is ready to “burst” into true Life at the call of our Creator and Eternal Life-Giving God! 

The Paschal Mystery fulfills itself in the life of the person soon to enter eternity. The soul prepares for that moment, that instant, that twinkling of eye (1 Corinthians 15: 52) when it will explode with gratitude and joy into the loving embrace of the Eternal Father Who waits for one of His children summoned by love to come home. 

Saint Francis of Assisi was God’s Troubadour, the Herald of the Great King, as he called himself. He sang of God’s creation. He saw the majesty and beauty of God in all things and all people. Life was exhilarating and exciting for him. And, when he was informed of his terminal condition and the inevitability of his imminent death, he sang and added a stanza to the Canticle of the Creatures, that famous song he composed to praise God in all creation. He sang: Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death from whom no living being can escape. How dreadful for those who die in mortal sin! How blessed are those she finds in your most holy will for the second death can do them no harm. O praise and bless my Lord, thank him and serve him humbly but grandly! 

St. Francis joyfully invited Sister Bodily Death to come to him. The Poverello detached himself from society’s seductive enticements – whether persons, places, things, honors, and the like. Though his eyes were physically blinded from his infirmities, his heart saw far beyond the world in which he lived. He saw, unobstructed by “earthly debris”, the splendor of an Eternal Home that awaited him. And he was overjoyed! Our Seraphic Father, was a clear and evident sign of transcendency and of the supernatural. Seemingly bereft of all, even good health, one could desire in life, he possessed all because he had nothing, and could easily “let go” at any moment because such is the good that awaits me that all pain is a delight (St. Francis of Assisi). His heaven had already begun, but not yet. (reference of Vatican Council II regarding Kingdom of God) His stigmata ultimately signed him as an evident image of Jesus, the God-made-man, Whose love accepted death for the life of the world. His presence alone, the Universal Brother whose heart was literally opened for all, was a sign and a stimulus to reflection and conversion of heart. He was a challenge for others to “see beyond time” and yearn for holiness. True holiness, “other worldliness”,  that is achieved after time becomes eternity. 

St. Francis knew how to preach a message simply and effectively with words, but first and foremost by his life. His was a message of love. In a world and even a Church so torn and divided in many ways, his message is more valid than ever.  

The message of love is liberated and liberating when we recognize love not as we understand it in time, but as we understand love in the light of eternity. It is a total surrender that makes heaven real in the heart for life’s journey, until it is fulfilled in eternity. Then we too, as St. Francis, can joyfully await our fulfillment through Sister Death.  

It is a purified and purifying message. It is up to us to accept it. It is our job to put it into practice. It is our duty to bring it to others because we have all been called to pursue the same ideal and to conquer the same aims which were the ideals and goals Jesus Himself set for all who call Him, “Lord and Master”. 

The call to holiness is the Father’s reminder that we do not have a permanent dwelling in this world.(cfr. Hebrews)  Our Universal call to holiness is a call, as the word ‘holy’ in its basic meaning denotes, ‘to be other-worldly’. So, to be holy means to live in the light of the other world. Doesn’t this mean to live in expectation of that moment when we will finally enter the fullness of all that is “the Other”- even if we must pass through a place of God’s mercy that purifies us for heaven – Purgatory? 

Once a person surrenders him/herself to God, that person lives their entire life in light of the “moment of encounter”. For them, it was not a dark or ominous thought. It helps to place all things in perspective – the perspective of heaven, the perspective of God.  

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

St. Francis’ song at the time of approaching encounter with Sister Death, serves as a guide and encouragement.  We live out our years with Jesus and Mary in our hearts and on our lips. We look to the heavens each day to remember the heights to which we are called. We remember those who were where we are, and who are where we hope, in God’s mercy and providence, one day to be – the Holy Souls in Purgatory: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace

Before concluding this monthly reflexion, please allow me also to extend my sincerest blessings and best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Grateful Thanksgiving. Be grateful that God is God! Be grateful God created you to know, love, and serve Him. Be grateful for God’s love, mercy, and providence, without which we could never survive! Be grateful for the experiences of your own personal life! As a Franciscan, Be grateful! 

May God bless you. May Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you. May our Seraphic Father St. Francis and Holy Mother St. Clare watch over each one of you and your loved ones with loving care. 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

July – 2022 Monthly Meditations 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

July 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

The courage and strength of conviction of the founders of our nation is celebrated each year this month on July 4th, Independence Day. Our national joy is expressed in concerts, games, elaborate firework displays, political talks on the qualities of our nation and the benefits of being an American, and more. As a nation we face many challenges from outside our nation and many from within. Nevertheless, we still seem to be able to go beyond the barriers we encounter more often than not. Unfortunately, many of the stumbling-blocks that clutter and impede the way, have been placed there by ourselves. St. Augustine tells us that our hearts are restless until they rest in You (God). He also offers us a reason why we fail to find the correct answer to our needs: You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone. Until we seek the answers to our needs as Church, as nation, as individuals with a God-given life and mission, we will always be stumbling, grumbling, fightingEven religious associations, such as our Order, are no exception to this rule! 

Independence usually comes at a price, often at a great price. Independence brought and still brings with it the joy of freedom and liberty, but with them also responsibility and accountability. Independence often challenges our resolve not just from elements outside of ourselves but even from within. Independence leads us, believers in One Greater than us, to a deeper awareness and dependence on God, and to a trusting and loving interdependence on one another. Oh! if only it were always so!

Our nation was formed by people of various religious backgrounds. The common bond of our founders was their belief in a Supreme Being, Source of all life. They each revered their God and sought to live as they believed God was directing them. They were of various religious and/or theistic expressions, including Catholic. As Christians as well as Franciscans we can understand their reasons for seceding from a control that did not respect the fundamental yearnings of the human heart. They placed their lives and their future on the line for the basic values they sought for themselves and their compatriots. We see these values in the desire of every human being to be free. We also have the inspired Word of God that so powerfully expresses these desires for life, liberty, and happiness.

How can any people continue to turn their backs on God’s millennial dialogue with humanity that encourages them to trust in Him and live in the light of His will? How can elected leaders of the people often be so blind to the core values on which our nation was founded? They deliberate and decide issues so often for the sake of pleasing the electorate and/or for political gains and/or political correctness. How can the voice of the many keep silent while the voice of the noisy few overpowers reason and truth, sometimes to the point of absurdity, often obscenity, and even violence? How can we as Christians allow what is ours by our baptismal character to be covered over by the screams, slogans, lobbying, political and economic maneuvering – just to mention a few – of those who would reduce moral value and right reason to a majority vote rather than a decision based on principles that are found in the heart of every human being?  The basic values are “basic” not just religious or “Catholic”. They are however “catholic”, meaning “universal” values, because they pertain to the core dignity of every human being.

We reduce liberty to license, freedom to unbridled pleasure, truth to a majority opinion, values and principles to social convenience and politically correct responses. The louder the scream the more attention it receives. It is no longer reason and principle founded on one’s heart-felt beliefs based on the dignity of each human being. What seems to rule at times is the cacophonous noise of those who would honor a nation with their lips but not live the values on which it was founded. The same can be said even for religious communities, who forget or disregard the original purpose of their foundation and the fundamental values and elements that constitute their authenticity and credibility.

The God-given principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, found in our Declaration of Independence, can be found throughout Sacred Scripture and particularly in the Gospel we profess as Christians, and promise to follow as part of our Rule of Life as Franciscans. The sanctity of life is promised in a world that often preaches the “death of God”, not necessarily in words but definitely in actions,  and proposes death (abortion, euthanasia, executions, war, and much more) as a way to a better life (?!), when Jesus says: I have come that they may have Life and have it in abundance (John10: 10).  The liberty of the children of God, promised to God’s Chosen People and offered to us in abundance through the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, is only available when we are willing to see life and our relationship with God, others, and ourselves in truth: And the truth will set you free (John 8: 32). The pursuit of happiness, a fundamental desire for all people everywhere, can only be achieved when our hearts are in harmony with what we believe and live, and not necessarily when everything seems to be going well and easy. Jesus Himself, the night before he died, sang and prayed: I pray that my joy may be theirs and that their joy may be complete (John 15: 11).

What we revere as a founding document is a conviction, commitment, and personal challenge. What happens when this is reduced to nothing more than an old relic of history written on a sheet of parchment? Unless we take the words of our founders, civil or religious, to heart, we doom ourselves to ridicule, sympathy, and possibly even extinction. Our challenge, whether civil or religious, is to be salt and light to others. The Catholic Christian faith enhances the social and political message of our nation. It sustains and encourages all who recognize the basic values for all people of good will (cfr. Luke 2: 14).  Catholics have much to offer our nation, regardless of the response of those who wish to muffle our voice or silence us altogether.

Even within our religious families our Catholic values and principles at times are treated as elements to be fundamentally changed, disregarded, or perhaps even destroyed. Human respect, personal desire, convenience,  are only some of the excuses given as reasons that can destroy the fabric of a nation or even groups that profess religious objectives. Our values and principles as a people of God in Christ are targeted by politicians and special interest groups throughout the country as elements alien to our national interest and/or detrimental to basic freedoms all “have a right to”. There could be nothing more erroneous! Our Catholic faith, if it is lived with conviction, commitment and courage, can bring balance, meaning, fulfillment and happiness to a society and its individual members. This is just as valid for us as religious groups.  We can adapt to the times, but must never adopt whatever disregards or destroys what makes us who we are.

Our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, guided by the voice of Jesus at San Damiano sought more definite “details” on God’s will for him. When the Lord sent him brothers (and sisters) he eventually knew that some general guidelines and specific characteristics of the “Penitents of Assisi” had to be written down as a unified and uniting document. The Gospel, three vows of obedience-chastity-poverty, faithfulness to Roman Catholic Magisterium, loyalty to the Holy Father and legitimately elected successors, obedience to Francis and his legitimate successors were all basic to the Franciscan Family and to each individual brother or sister of whatever branch of the Order. These directives, rules, and regulations were not intended to stifle freedom.  They indicated the elements by which others could recognize the penitents from Assisi, who knew what they were about and were happy to proclaim it by their life.

Francis realized that a soul in harmony with God and others exudes and inspires harmony and peace, necessary for order and growth. Faith in words is merely lip-service. To preach what we believe, and to believe what we preach, and to live what we believe are all essential to authenticity. There is no self-centeredness in true Franciscan life. There is no silent cowering behind prayerful words and beautiful but empty platitudes. There is no “passing the buck” in Catholicism. We are called to be a people who live with their feet well-grounded in the realities of life, and with their hearts and souls centered in God. The Lord calls and leads us to live without gloss the spiritual and moral values that single us out as Christians.

St Francis sought the blessing of Pope Innocent III to begin his unique lifestyle in obedience. The Franciscan Family had begun albeit without officially sealed documents but with the word and blessing of the Holy Father. Innocent was as good as his word. St. Francis expected all who sought to follow him in this new way, to be true to their word also in answer to the call to Gospel living.

Only those who are centered on God and God’s will truly make a difference to the society in which they live. Our Franciscan fraternity is not an association whose members get lost in pious practices that “make people feel good”. We are men and women who accept the challenge to live in the freedom and the joy of the children of God. We live and minister our vocation in a world hungering to see God. Jesus is our real “founder” and the Holy Spirit our “Minister General” and guide. The Gospel is our foundation paper. The Rule guides us in the basics that make us the Order of St. Francis of Assisi. The Constitutions specify how we accept to live these core values in our world today. We adapt to the world without adopting the spirit of the world. When we adopt the spirit of the world, we betray ourselves, our vocation, and those with whom we promised to share the common bond of our Franciscan charism, and whom we are called to serve.

Life is God’s gift in creation. We Franciscans proclaim the Life of grace that is offered us in Jesus. This Life makes life worth living. Ours is a call to stand up as a liberated people. We are liberated in Christ from those things that have kept us prisoners of our own egos and made us unable to live out the potential God’s grace has instilled in each one of us. We are liberated from the fears that make us look for safety, social ambiguity, popularity, rather than truth. As spiritual children of the Poverello, we cannot compromise values that we know and believe as God-given and inspired. They come to us through His Word in Scripture, our Tradition, and the teaching of the Magisterium, as well as a spirit-filled common sense – that is not always so common. Freed from our own shackles of security, comfort, indifference, compromise, fear, convenience, relativism, and the like, we are called to be a liberating force for others, without retreating from the front lines.

Pleasure is confused with joy. The joy-filled St. Francis and his Stigmata, teach us that the joy of new Life comes through the pains and challenges of each one’s Calvary. Easter Sunday came only after Good Friday. The joy we experience is fruit of an inner peace and serenity that flows from within those whose lives are in harmony with God.

The Franciscan charism was inspired by the Holy Spirit in St. Francis of Assisi to set in motion a revolution. This “revolution”  of “rebuild my Church” affected political systems and social values, often led back to the Church those who had strayed, helped transform lifestyles, and so much more as history attests, by the power of disarmed hearts, prayer, and good example. This may sound like Utopia in our modern world. People are still looking, hungering for something more than what they have. They hunger for something that can fill them with life, liberty and happiness. We can be God’s instruments of peace and transformation if we take our role seriously as Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi – as Roman Catholic Christians! My sisters and brothers, let us begin, for up to now we have done so little (Words of St. Francis to his friars).

Wishing everyone a great summer, a Happy Independence Day for the Fourth of July, and a greater commitment to interdependence among the sisters and brothers of the Franciscan brother/sisterhood, let us all invoke the blessings of God and the particular protection of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of our nation, on our beloved country, people, leaders, and our Franciscan Family.

May the Lord bless you, Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you, and Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi watch over each one of you with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

May 2022 Meditations by Father Francis Sariego, OFMCap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360   website: skdsfo    

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

May 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi speaks so lovingly of Mary.  He places Her in that privileged position She holds as Mother of the Savior and “Virgin made Church”.  St. Francis never forgets to refer to Mary in Her role as Mother of Christ and example for all the children of God.  Without being a formal theologian, St. Francis always places Mary in Her proper position within the mystery and history of salvation.  Her eminence and his love are beyond question.  She is the Heavenly Mother, greatest of all mothers, whose love and protection he had always been able to see images of in his own mother, Donna Pica.  St. Francis saw in Mary the highest example of humanity after that of Christ.  She embodied the image of the first disciple who followed the Christ faithfully, as well as the mother who gave birth to the Master.   She is the first among all the faithful of the Church.  The following praises says so much of the love the Poverello had for Mary:

 Hail, O Lady, 

Holy Queen, 

Mary, holy Mother of God, 

Who are the Virgin made Church, 

Chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven 

Whom he consecrated with His most holy beloved Son 

And with the Holy Spirit and Paraclete, 

In whom there was and is 

All fullness of grace and every good. 

Hail His Palace! 

Hail His Tabernacle! 

Hail His Dwelling! 

Hail His Robe! 

Hail His Servant! 

Hail His Mother! 

 What beautiful words! They are the fruit of a heart enamored of Our Lady. In these words we are reminded of the love and devotion that people of all times and at all levels of society and learning fostered for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the great Mother of God. In a few words, St. Francis reminds us of the great dignity of Mary and Her intimate relationship with the Most Holy Trinity.  We are reminded of humanity’s dignity and the depth of God’s love for what might seem to others to be a “lesser level” of creation.  Human beings are a “lesser level”, yes, because we are not God. Nonetheless, humanity bears the greatest of dignities because God deigned to become one of His own creatures through the collaboration and consent of one of His creatures, Mary.  Accepting and believing the impossible, the Divine became human through a human being, so that humanity could share in the Divine who became one with us. What a mystery! What a marvelous gift! And all this because Mary, one of God’s own creation, said YES!

 Love for Mary has been a source of strength for so many, from the time the early Church gathered with Her at prayer in the Upper Room.  Her love for the first followers gave them strength. Though they had abandoned Her Son, their Lord and Master, in the time of His most need, She loved them and understood as a mother understands her children’s inadequacies and fears. Mary’s loving acceptance of humanity at the foot of cross as Her own children, began a love story so near to us, especially in our present era, of Mary’s constant presence, counsels, and encouragement for all Her children to do whatever He tells you (John 2: 5).  The Motherhood of Mary for the Son of God, Jesus the Christ, began at the moment Her “yes” allowed eternity and time to become one in Her womb. Francis’ love for the mystery of the Incarnation filled his life. Mary, because of her prominent place in this great mystery, was always the love of his heart and life.

Love for Mary goes to the very heart of who we are as children of God redeemed in the Blood of Christ. A wonderful example of this is the person of one of the most visible and renowned men of the last century and beginning of this one, Pope St. John Paul II.  When asked what motto he would assume for his pontificate, he gave the simple and deeply meaningful motto: Totus Tuus!  (Totally Yours!)   There was no need for explanations. It was quite clear. Those two words said it all: Everything is yours! It’s all yours! I dedicate myself and all that I do and am to your loving care, that you may present me and everything to God”.  How simple, trusting, and full of love.  Our own present Holy Father, Pope Francis, expresses a similar loving devotion and entrustment to Mary in all his major endeavors. We can note this on his immediate visits in thanksgiving to Mary on his return from His pastoral visits.

Tradition has held that one of the reasons for Lucifer’s fall from grace and Heaven was his refusal to accept the Mystery of the Incarnation because it demanded reverence for a “lesser” creature. Yet, in the words of Psalm 8, the Psalmist praises the magnificence of God and prays:  O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is Your Name over all the earth!  What is man that you should be mindful of him?  You have made him a little less than the angels (some translations understand the ancient word, ‘elohim’ as ‘god’) and crowned him with glory and honor. Creation is the theater of redemption. Creation is the overflowing of God’s eternal love in time that offers all the “work of God’s hands” the privilege to know, love, and serve God in this world so that all who are created in His image and likeness, can be happy with God forever in Heaven (cfr. Old Baltimore Catechism). When God looked at all He had created, He saw it as “very good” (cfr. Genesis).  When humanity lost that grace-filled beauty because of Original Sin, the Creator promised to intervene personally and intimately. God became His own creation as a human being that the beauty of the original image of God in creation might be restored. The Blood of Jesus and our collaboration with God’s grace allow our redemption in Jesus to bring about our eternal salvation.  And Mary, Virgin made Church, Virgin image of the Mystical Body of Her own Son, becomes the one whose acceptance allowed God to begin the fulfillment of His Divine Plan of restoration. He who created us without our permission, wanted our collaboration in our salvation. (cfr. St. Augustine, Sermo 169, 13)

Human beings are called to fulfill key roles in the work of redemption. In the fullness of time, a young woman from Nazareth, Mary, heard a greeting that challenged her understanding and faith. She was offered a privileged gift that She could have refused. She didn’t though. The greeting informed Her of the unique gift She had received from God Himself: Hail, full of grace. She was told: You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son.  He will be called Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore, the child to be born of you will be called holy, the Son of God (cfr. Luke 1: 26-38). Mary accepts totally with unconditional trust not only in Her own name, but in the name of all humanity.  Our Mother’s willingness to become Mother of the Christ, led Her to the foot of the Cross on Calvary. It is here where Mary becomes Mother of the Christian and Mother of the Church.  The love that was kindled in Mary’s womb begins a process that will last until the end of time.  In Mary’s motherly Immaculate Heart we feel the warmth of God’s peace on all who follow Her example and accept Her Motherhood in/with/through Christ over them.

Our hope is renewed in Mary. She stands between the Majesty of Her Son and all humanity.  She is not the source but the channel of graces. In other words, She is the Mediatrix (channel) of all Grace. Through Her we more easily approach God.  Jesus is the Incarnation of Almighty God in time, so that humanity, in, with, and through Jesus might know God’s love and mercy. The humanity of Jesus comes to us through Mary, and our adoption as children of God comes through the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, only-begotten Son of the Father.  It follows, therefore, that through Mary we receive Jesus, through Whom we are once again restored in grace to our original image and likeness of the Creator. Mary’s powerful example and almighty intercession, assists us in remaining faithful to this grace helps us quickly to have it restored if and when we might lose it.  As the first and greatest among the created children of God, Mary continues Her “yes” to the Father as She carries each one of us, created in the image of Her Son, in Her Immaculate Heart.

We are children of this age.  We cannot extricate ourselves from the time in which we live.  The hectic pace, technological advances, social demands, financial difficulties, international concerns, scandals in the Church, and so much more, can easily fill our minds and hearts so that there is no longer room for the spiritual child within each one of us to thrive.  Though we must be involved in life, we must not lose that inner peace and simplicity that help us to place everything in perspective.  Love for Mary and a heart open to Her can help us keep focused.  We have our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, and so many other holy women and men, even of our own age, as wonderful examples. They encourage us to love Mary and discover in Her a vital presence in the Church and our daily life.  A simple loving relationship with our Blessed Mother Mary brings calm and serenity to the heart.  We surrender more easily to Her love.  In that total surrender (Totus Tuus), we experience openness to God and His most Holy Will.  Our life becomes full, fulfilling, and worth living. Mary leads us to Jesus the Christ and Christ to the Father in His Spirit. With God within us, we recognize the truth and power of the words of the Apostle John: Greater is the One within you, than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Is there any wonder why our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi was so enamored of Mary?! Should there be any question about our unconditional love and surrender to so loving and powerful a Mother?! Peace and Joy is facilitated in this crazy and often frightening world: never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided (Memorare of St. Bernard of Clairvaux). All to Jesus through Mary; all from Jesus through Mary (Remember John 19: 26-27). What more could we desire?

With every best wish for you during this season of rebirth and new life, I pray we all be open to the working of the Holy Spirit, First Gift, with Pardon and Peace, of the Resurrection.  May the Spirit inflame our hearts as He filled that of our Mother Mary. Animated by this Holy Spirit, may we follow the Spirit’s inspiration and confidently respond, as Mary did, with a determined “Yes” to everything the Father asks of us, so that we may be more like Jesus.

God bless you and your loved ones. Our Heavenly Mother and her beloved husband St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of you, their spiritual children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

April 2022 – Reflections by Father Francis Sariego, OFMCap

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 

April 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace

and lead you through the mystery of His Passion and Death

to the joy of His Resurrection and our renewed Life in Jesus!

The ‘Way of the Cross’ cannot end on Calvary; it must go beyond. It goes beyond into the garden that received the dead body of Christ and, on the morning following the Sabbath, saw the mysterious and joyful encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Lord Jesus, risen and alive. The ‘way’ is precisely the road that leads, the journey that conveys, the direction to follow. The tragic and triumphant ‘way’ of the Paschal Mystery takes us to a new life in, with, and through Jesus.  The ‘way’ is a must for all who call Jesus ‘Lord’ and ‘Savior’. Our Seraphic Father not only loved the Crucified Jesus but was privileged to become a living image of the Crucified Savior and Redeemer.  The ‘way’ was imprinted on his mortal flesh as an indication of what lay ahead for him who so lovingly sought to feel as far as possible in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion … 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. (Fioretti: 3rd Consideration of the Sacred Stigmata) To accept, and even seek, pain for love’s sake is not masochistic or insane, it is the total surrender a person offers to become one with the beloved.

Our Father Francis knew well that the Cross was the sign of the sublime humility and love of God for all creation. He was well aware that the stigmata he bore indicated the future glory pledged to all who accept the standard of Christ and follow His Way, Who is the Truth, as He leads to the fullness of Life, through His Resurrection. The ‘Way of the Cross’ finds its total significance, value, and effectiveness in the Resurrection.  If Jesus had not risen, in vain would have been our faith, and we would remain in our sins, says St. Paul to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 15).  If Jesus had not risen, His death would have been nothing more than the tragic defeat of just another deluded ‘messiah’, and His memory would bear no other fruit than that of the nostalgic remembrance of a good person who helped others, was misunderstood, and was ultimately executed for political and religious subversion. Jesus Himself, the ‘wonder-working rabbi’, would thus be nothing else than a good teacher overcome by history and conquered by evil forces that forever remain superior and invincible to what is good.

In fact, there is no greater ‘subversive’, no greater ‘revolutionary’ than Jesus. His life, words, actions, and the witness of His Passion and Death hit at the very core of the human heart.  He aimed at challenging His hearers to change from the very depths of their hearts and to come back to what they were constituted to be when God took the initiative with Abraham promising that He would be the Father of many nations. The ‘subversive’ attempts to reach and affect the very foundation, the core of the matter, and the ‘revolutionary’ attempts to turn people back to the Father’s Will, are at the heart of the Gospel Message. Thus, true gospel subversive and revolutionary tactics are those that lead us into the depths of our hearts to regain our original ‘childlike innocence’ through God’s mercy. Is that not what is expected of us as Franciscans?!  The Gospel life, if lived personally and preached well by example, is an effective witness and ‘tool’ in changing the face of the earth.  What happened?!  Have we forgotten the power of the Gospel and the strength our

before the stone that seals the tomb and cannot go beyond the coldness of death.  Their minds cannot understand, so their hearts refuse to believe, thus their lives wander through life without real direction and hope.  How sad!

Suffering and pain are real!  They cannot be rationalized away.  We experience them often in life. The lives of some are in constant pain and continual suffering, whether spiritual, physical, psychological.  Unless faith takes over and hope is kindled within their hearts, the love of God that conquers all things is the deepest desire of their heart but the furthest sensation they feel.  Serenity and inner peace become just pious words and deep desires.  They may hear words of encouragement, but they are overwhelmed by their own broken body and tired spirit. Even our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi went through moments like this, but he could pray Blessed are You Lord my God. His feet were well-planted in the realities of life and his own physical and spiritual burdens, but his heart was one with His Lord alive and well.   The human condition is common to all the children of God, saint and sinner alike.  How we deal with the circumstances of life, how we allow the Paschal Mystery to affect our life, will determine the ‘way’ we will follow.

The Passion and Death of Jesus speaks to us of the extravagant and limitless love of God for all humanity. The Resurrection of Jesus gives meaning and encouragement to life. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of the Glorified and Risen Lord Who journeys with us at every moment. The Eucharist re-presents the whole Paschal Mystery and offers us the opportunity to be with the Risen Lord, Whose Sacrifice we enter, celebrate, and with Whom we seek to become one in Holy Communion.  The presence of Jesus transforms lives. His bodily presence on earth centuries ago gave Him the opportunity to raise people from the dead, to heal the sick, to give hope to the downtrodden and outcast, to reassure the marginalized, to care for the various needs of those whom He encountered.  His sacramental presence raises and heals souls dead and/or weak through sin, speaks to the depths of the heart of those who listen for/to Him in the silence of their hearts, and strengthens us with the grace of His Body and Blood to accept the demands of life. Faith in the living Lord helps us to realize we are not alone, but live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28) with the Giver of all good gifts Who walks and works with and within us. His ‘Presence’ is truly ‘Real’.  His is a ‘tangible presence’ that makes Himself felt according to our willingness to see with the eyes of the heart and not with the head alone.  The living presence of the Lord in the Eucharist urges us to see and believe as John and Peter, to touch and acknowledge as Thomas, to go and proclaim that Jesus is Lord as the disciples who had gathered on the Mount of Olives.

Without the ‘Way of the Cross’ we can never arrive at the Resurrection.  Until we open our eyes and our hearts to see the brilliance and power of Jesus and hear and listen to the depth of His words, there is no way for us to enter the marvelous and mysterious reality of Christ Who lives today with us.  Ultimately, if Christ is risen and lives today for me and with me, He is here in my personal life and in that of the whole world, just as He promised. How then can we hesitate to cooperate and collaborate with Christ who calls us to follow Him where we will see Him?   Follow Him to encounter Him in His word, in His Sacrament, and in His sisters and brothers who have seen the Lord on ‘the way’. As we meet Jesus on the way in the Word, the Church and Her sacramental life, in our sisters and brothers, even more intensely in the poor, marginalized, alienated, and also especially our sisters and brothers in our Franciscan Family, may we be able to say with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way? (Luke 24: 32) Thus, filled with the Easter grace and joy of the One Who was dead and now lives, we can recount to others what has taken place on ‘the way’ we traveled, and deepen our unity and love for all in the breaking of the bread. (cfr. Luke 24: 32-35)

May the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in us that we might have life, and have it in abundance (John 10: 10). May the profession we made to God and one another be a true expression of our fraternal love that has its source in the Resurrection. May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter; may Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother and good St. Joseph, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers us; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

With a promise to keep all of you affectionately in my Easter Masses and Liturgies, I wish you and your dear ones a very Happy and Joyous Easter.

 

Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia! 

 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

March 2022 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

March 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

Because St. Francis was in certain things like another Christ given to the world for the salvation of people, God the Father willed to make him in many acts conformed and similar to His Son Jesus Christ … Once, when St. Francis was near the Lake Trasimeno on Carnival Day, he was inspired by God to go and spend Lent on an island in that lake. St. Francis asked his friend, for the love of Christ, to take him in his little boat to an island in the lake where no one lived, and to do this on the night of Ash Wednesday, so that nobody would perceive it … St. Francis earnestly asked him not to reveal to anyone that he was there, and not to come for him before Holy Thursday … and St. Francis remained there alone … There was no building there where he could take shelter. He went into a very dense thicket … and he began to pray and contemplate heavenly things in that place … He stayed there all through Lent without eating and without drinking, except for half of one of those little loaves of bread .. It is believed that St. Francis ate the half of one loaf out of reverence for the fast of the Blessed Christ, who fasted forty days and forty nights without taking any material food … And so with that half loaf he drove from himself the poison of pride … (The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Fioretti 7)

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

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

In solitude and silence our Seraphic Father sought to hear more clearly the voice of God Who spoke to him. He still heard the voice that came from the Cross of San Damiano. That voice had entrusted him with a mission to rebuild My Church for as you can see it is falling into ruin. To fulfill this commission St. Francis understood he had to begin by ‘rebuilding’ himself.  Like any edifice that needs revamping, remodeling, restoring, in order to be ultimately renewed, he had to check the structure, clean out the rubble, prop up and strengthen the tottering and fragile, fix the broken, discard the corroding that was affecting and infecting the rest of the healthy structure. Once this was done, he could begin the ‘job’ of rebuilding with quality updated strong material to make the structure solid and welcoming.

It is not always necessary to tear down to renew, particularly when the treasures of time and the human spirit are intimately involved and vital components. When our faith foundation is solid and deep, the visible ‘structure’ of our lives will be strong and solid once revisions and repairs are effected. Thus, what others see after we have worked at ‘rebuilding’ the inner spiritual structure and ‘refinished and renewed’ the outer appearance will attract, welcome, and challenge others to do the same.

Initially, our Seraphic Father understood the voice from the Cross of San Damiano literally. He began rebuilding the physical structures of several of the churches of Assisi with stones and mortar. No doubt his merchant’s skills were able to eventually even get some of the townsfolk to help this affable eccentric in his ‘pro bono’ enterprise. Following this image, we too can speak of rebuilding the moral and spiritual structure of the Church, beginning with an evaluation and restructuring of our own personal church, the Temple of God each one of us has become through Baptism. St. Paul tells the Corinthians: Are you not aware that you are the Temple of God, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you? For the Temple of God is holy, and you are that Temple. (1Corinthians 3:16-23) The voice from the Cross of San Damiano and the forty days St. Francis spent on the island on Lake Trasimeno offer us some points of reflection as we enter the most solemn season of the Church Year, the Paschal Season (Lent-Easter-Pentecost).  The ‘Penitents of Assisi’ as the first followers were called, were a prophetic presence among the people and within the Church calling the People of God to re-discover and uncover within themselves a new energy in God’s Spirit, and recognize a Presence that would transform their lives and restore harmony between them and all creation.

Ash Wednesday heralds the beginning of this sacred season. Lent encourages us through the imposition of ashes to remember that:  You are dust and to dust you will return (look at everything in life from the perspective of eternity), and Repent and believe in the Gospel (give yourself over to God’s Will and live Jesus and His words). During these forty days we enter the Christian pilgrimage of faith and walk in the way of true conversion. We renew our commitment to rebuild and strengthen the Temple of God we are, making use of the ‘weapons’ our faith affords us.

A prayer for Ash Wednesday reads as follows: O God our Father, grant that your Christian people may begin this fast as a journey of true conversion, that the weapons of penance may make them victorious in the battle against the spirit of evil. (free translation from a Latin Sacramentary) This prayer introduces the beginning of the Season of Lent, springtime of the Church Year.  It offers us a simple and effective process we can follow on the forty-day itinerary ahead of us. The prayer mentions: conversion, journey, battle, weapons, victory … and a constant ‘accusing’ presence on this journey through life, ‘the evil one’.  The words are powerful and forceful.  They speak of decisiveness and determination. Reflecting on them and acting on them can make Lent a spiritually beneficial time for all who acknowledge their value and seek to implement them.

The process applies to a person of reasonably good faith, who truly wants to do what is good and right, even when the human spirit seems to be weak, tired or even contrary. Sincere awareness of our weaknesses leads to a desire and spirit of conversion, a ‘turning back’, to the intention of God in creating us and how we became when we were baptized – filled with sanctifying grace in God’s love.  Acceptance of this basic need urges us to take the first step of a journey that lasts a lifetime.  The journey is filled with pitfalls, detours, u-turns, and ‘full-steam-aheads’. On this spiritual journey, just as in the experiences of everyday life, we encounter friend and foe, success and failure, joy and sorrow, virtue and vice, grace and sin.  We are called to wage ‘war’ and do ‘battle’ against the enemies of our soul by being prepared to recognize them, and to be energized by the gifts and assistance God affords us through Sacred Scripture, the Church and Sacraments, Tradition, the Magisterium, the holy people we follow as our spiritual guides, and one another.  The weapons of prayer, fasting, and alsmgiving keep our souls centered on the ultimate purpose of our existence – God!.  Thus they enliven us to confront the ‘evil one’ and the effects of his subtle and flagrant instigations in our daily lives:

Prayer keeps our relationship with God strong, and makes us always aware that God is truly with us;

Fasting places all things in right order that our possessions, even the spiritual ones, do not possess us;

Almsgiving opens and disarms our heart to others; thus, the space within is cleared for the Presence of God.

St. Francis often experienced his bouts with the ‘evil one’, sometimes directly, and more often, as with most of us, intensely through the temptations and allurements of the world around him or the ‘demons’ that lurk even in the recesses of saintly people. It is a given fact that the holier a person seeks to become, the more he/she will be assailed by the ‘spirit of evil’. We may feel assailed and worried that we cannot overcome the evil one and his cohorts who tempt us through life. Hold firmly in your mind and heart that there is only one God, and no one and nothing can equal God in any way, no matter how strong.  The Evangelist St. John encourages us on our journey, especially when the going gets rough, when he reminded the early Church and us today: Greater is the One within you, than the one who is in the world (1 John 4: 4).

Blow the trumpet in Zion!  Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber.  Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep, and say, ‘Spare, O Lord, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach…!  Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is there God?’ (Joel 2:16-17) To avoid the devastation that an infestation of locusts was causing Israel, Joel calls the people to prayer and penance.  From the terrible reality of the devastation of Israel to the great promise of the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, the people experience the blessings God offers them.  I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind.  Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions … I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth … Then everyone will be rescued who calls on the name of the Lord… (Joel 3:1-5) God is shown as both vindicator of His people and the source of all their blessings.  Lent is the time for us to re-confirm our Covenant with God in the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus.

Our desire for personal conversion compels us to take the first of many steps on a journey on which we encounter friends and foes of our spiritual lives who must be embraced in love or fought in a spiritual battle with the weapons of faith (prayer), hope (letting go and trusting in providence to fulfill our needs), and charity/love (disarming our hearts to others as we seek to assist them however possible).  Once we have embarked on this journey, guided by the Spirit of God, following in the footsteps of Jesus, there is nothing less to expect than Victory!

Yes! We are victors in the Victim!  We walk the road of the Cross. Though there are many difficulties we must overcome. Our victory is basically a victory over ourselves. We seek to conquer our hesitation or even refusal to let the Holy Spirit work in and through us.  The journey of Lent leads to a victory so often misunderstood.  The trophy we receive is a blood-stained Cross and a mangled, tortured, derided Person, executed as a common criminal Whose crime was truth, compassion, and love. The paradox of the Cross is the glory of the Christian.  The sign of contradiction becomes our sign of commitment. We are committed to Life through death to ourselves. It is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me (Galatians 2: 20). Jesus Himself said, when I am lifted up I will call all people to myself (John 12: 32).  At the end of our Lenten journey we come to the foot of the Cross, not as vanquished victims, but as conquering victors who bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body, therefore let no one bother me (Galatians 6: 17).

Let us strive to do good and become better as we enter the Season of Renewal. To do what is good is to do what is of God.  To do what is good is to strive to be good.  To be good is to live in God’s grace. To live in God’s grace is to have begun our heaven on earth.  Lent is the beginning of our journey from Ashes to Palms. We journey from Palms to Calvary. We move from Calvary to the Empty Tomb. Ultimately, we rejoice in the Empty Tomb that introduces us to the fullness of Life. Lent is not a time for slackers. In the words of one of our Capuchin saints: You don’t go to heaven in a taxi! Let us be serious about our ‘return to the future’, a phrase taken from the title of a movie that reminds us that we are called not to be someone else in the future but to be who we were created to be from all eternity. Thus, we must recapture and grow in the image of God and Christ in whom we were created, that the future prepared for us may be assured.

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us not forget that in the beginning we were called the ‘Penitents of Assisi’.  Let the true spirit of penance take hold of us this Lent.  Let us strive to reflect, reform, renew our lives and thus re-establish a deeper relationship with God and all creation.  Like Advent, Lent is a Season of joy-filled expectations. We live in the reality of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Lent is not a sad time of regrets, and penitential practices for the past.  It is a joyful season of ‘reconstruction’ and rebirth for all who seriously take advantage of the spiritual opportunities available. At the end of this brief yearly journey of renewal, the ‘edifice of the Spirit’, ‘the Temple of God’ we are ‘comes alive’ in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

May God bless you; may Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look over each one of you, his spiritual children, with loving care. Happy and Blessed Lent!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

February 2022 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 2022 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis

May the Lord grant you peace! 

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

St. Francis’ immediate response to the brigands was based on a profound conviction that the Lord had spoken to him from the Cross of San Damiano, and charged him to rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is falling into ruin. St. Francis understood these words literally. He set out at once to begin his ‘job’ of rebuilding churches. He was the ‘divinely-appointed ecclesiastical architect and general contractor’ of some of the churches of Assisi. Actually, it is not far-fetched to give him these titles. The day came when he became the ‘architect’ of a whole new way of life. He built the Family of the Penitents of Assisi with the lives and love of ‘living stones’. The Providence of God took care of his needs and those of all who requested to follow his example. The good people of Assisi and so many others became the all-providing hand of God for this young ‘penitent’ who had embraced his fears, kissed the leper, and given all that ‘possessed him’ back to the world.  He threw himself with abandon into the loving arms of his Father in heaven, and nothing nor anyone was going to make him turn back. 

St. Francis considered himself a ‘man with a mission’, a mission yet to be defined, but one that St. Francis did not hesitate to begin, leaving all the “specifics” up to God and in God’s time.  How wonderful our lives would be if only we were that trusting of God!  We trust human beings, erratic as we can be, and yet we find difficulty trusting God, Whose love is everlasting! (cfr. Psalm 107) Go figure! The work of rebuilding churches with the sweat of his brow and strength of his own limbs would no doubt catch the attention of many, especially the elite of Assisi society who, as Francis, were accustomed to be catered to rather than exert themselves for others, especially those lower on the social ladder.  Some to ridicule, others to praise, and many to question and wait, but all were aware of Francis. The son of Peter Bernardone had caused excitement and consternation among the populace of Assisi. That is how it is with true leadership: yes or no, accept or reject, adhere or detach, follow or leave.  Anyone who encountered Francis Bernardone, and knew of his previous care-free and care-less attitude, spoiled as the fair-haired-son of the self-made wealthy merchant and how he had now become, could not remain indifferent to the facts before them.  

Except for the presence and support of an unknown friend. St. Francis was relatively alone in the first years of his new life.  No doubt there were many questions and personal difficulties he had to overcome.  He struggled with the ‘demons’ within and the difficulties without, as any of us contend with during life’s journey.  With the help of divine grace, he sought to become the new wine and new wineskins (Matthew 9:17).  He did not seek to establish a new Order in the Church. With God’s help, he was seeking to establish order in his life.  His cheerful character and determination, his acceptance of voluntary poverty to avoid the entanglements that our possessions so often cause us, his deep love and concern for the ‘refuse’ of society numbering himself among them, were only a few of the characteristics of this ‘new person’ Francis was ‘becoming’ more decisively each day. These all served as ‘magnets’ attracting many in those first few years to follow his example.  They too would eventually become ‘heralds of the great King’.  

Emphasizing the word ‘herald’ is important.  Heralds were trusted people charged with a given ‘mission’. They spoke in the name of another. They did not wield the authority. They spoke in the name of one whose words were to be repeated ‘verbatim’. Jesus Himself speaks of the attitude of His ‘heralds’.  He tells us not to worry when we are questioned regarding the ‘Good News’ we are commissioned to proclaim to the world.  Speaking in the name of Jesus and witnessing our allegiance to Him, Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid of what you are to say or how you are to say it, the Spirit of my Father will be speaking in you (Matthew 10: 19). Because the heralds were trusted people entrusted with the words of their master, an integrity and credibility were bestowed upon the herald by the mere fact of the office they fulfilled and the one whom they were delegated to represent, and in whose name they delivered their message.  A herald spoke from a source beyond himself. He spoke with certainty, and thus, with unquestionable authority. In this sense, St. Francis was a true herald, one who proclaimed the words of the Master, and was the first to live them.   

In the winter of 1209 – Many believe it was the feast of Saint Matthias, the apostle who took the place of Judas Iscariot, celebrated until the liturgical reform of Vatican II on February 24th – St. Francis was approaching the Chapel of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula. In the First Life of St. Francis written by Blessed Thomas of Celano, we read: Francis went to another place, which is called the Portiuncula. When on a certain day the Gospel was read in that church, how the Lord sent his disciples out to preach, the holy man of God, assisting there, understood somewhat the words of the Gospel. After Mass he humbly asked the priest to explain the Gospel to him more fully.  Francis, hearing that the disciples of Christ should not possess gold or silver or money; nor carry along the way scrip, or wallet, or bread, or a staff; that they should not have shoes, or two tunics; but that they should preach the kingdom of God and penance, immediately cried out exultingly: ‘This is what I wish, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do with all my heart’.  The holy father, overflowing with joy, hastened to implement the words of salvation, and did not delay before he devoutly began to put into effect what he heard, for he was no deaf hearer of the gospel. He then began to preach penance to all with a fervent spirit and joyful attitude. His word like a blazing fire, reached the deepest parts of the heart and filling the souls of all with wonder. In all his preaching, before he presented the word of God to the assembly, he prayed for peace saying, ‘May the Lord give you peace’. Many who hated peace, with the Lord’s help, wholeheartedly embraced peace. They became children of peace. (1Celano, 21-24) 

God’s word was no idle spiritual devotion for Francis. It was the guiding factor in his life. As God spoke, so Francis sought to do. When our Father Francis heard the words of the Gospel on that grace-filled day, his concerns and questions were answered. It seemed as though God Himself were saying to Francis: ‘Abandon worries and concern for tomorrow in the hands of the One Who provides for every moment and without Whom nothing can be. Trust. Do not be afraid’. This simple, yet profound message he preached to others more by actions than by words. His simplicity and childlike trust in the Providence of God attracted others to follow his example. Those who gave a powerful witness were not only the professed Friars and Sisters, but also the men and women, our brothers and sisters, who could not leave their families and/or responsibilities in society, yet who, nonetheless, deeply desired and sought to live this evangelical expression of life in their daily secular experiences. They became the yeast kneaded into the dough, the light placed on a candelabra (cfr. Matthew 5: 14-16). The Gospel was a call offered to everyone willing to listen and to follow. The more they faithfully listened to the Word within them, the better they were empowered to respond to a world around them. It was the beginning of a life fulfilled for those who give priority to God and trust in His all-providing and all-loving Presence. 

As spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us remember the power the Word of God exercised in his life and should exercise in our own.  As St. Francis, let us read the Word and listen to It with our heart. When necessary, ask clarifications, as St. Francis did, to better understand what the Lord is saying through His Word.  Following our Seraphic Father’s example, always have an open and disarmed heart to the challenges God’s Word may offer. Keep an open mind also to go beyond the stubborn barriers we place in our lives that impede our spiritual growth when God’s Word challenges us to change. Let the words of the Divine Word enter our heart as He speaks to each of us personally and directly. Our Franciscan charism is rooted in and nourished by the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ (cfr, chapter 1, Rule). Whether by the Vows of the First and Second Orders, or the Promises of the Secular Franciscan Order, we are called to heights of holiness with the help of God’s grace through the Word made Flesh and the Word that becomes enfleshed in us who take the Word/word to heart and live Him/It. Total openness to God’s Word, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, would be able to eradicate from our lives and fraternities all that does not speak of Franciscan humility and charity. These are not ‘pie-in-the-sky’ virtues, but the foundation of a life worth living and loving.  The Church in Her leadership has always praised our Franciscan spirit and encouraged the sisters and brothers to live it fully and, in the words of St. Francis, ‘without gloss’.  

Let the Word of God, take hold of your lives. Whatever God says to us in His Word, let us say with Saint Francisthat is what I want with all my heart.  Our Rules and Constitutions are confirmed by the Church because they are founded on God’s Word. Let us not be afraid to live the Gospel we accept and the Life we have professed.  May the spirit of Franciscan joy be an undeniable characteristic of each one of us.  We are a family of sisters and brothers, redeemed in the blood of Jesus on Calvary.  We are a fraternity/family, who follow united as sisters and brothers, in the footsteps of our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi.  Let the hope, trust and joyful optimism which has its source in the Lord Himself of our Franciscan Vocation, overflow into the lives of all whom we encounter and to whom we minister.  

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

 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant

December 2021 Reflections by Fr. 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 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

Our Seraphic Father writes in his Testament: I see nothing corporally of the Most High Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood. I want to have these most holy mysteries honored and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places. The life of Saint Francis of Assisi, because he lived the Gospel ‘without gloss’, was a life lived immersed in the reality of the presence of Jesus.  Thus, the Real Presence of the Sacramental Lord in the Eucharist was his strength and life.  The mystery of the Savior, Son of the Most High God, Who became one with humanity in time at Bethlehem and for all time in the Eucharist was a mystery St. Francis sought to live and proclaim throughout his life. Greccio was but a visible sign of the deep love for the mystery of the Incarnation re-presented mystically at each Eucharist.  The Christ he loved so much was the Christ Whose living image he would become for all to see on Mount La Verna.   

The night of Greccio was lighted with candles, embellished with hymns, studded with people from all walks of life who followed the Poverello to ‘see’ the poverty of the One Who emptied Himself of His divinity that He might redeem our humanity and rekindle a world grown indifferent to His love.  He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.  But to those who did receive Him, He gave power to become the children of God ... (John 1:11-12)  Those who experienced the wonderful simplicity and childlike representation of Bethlehem’s ‘welcome’ into our world, were filled with emotions that made that night so memorable, that for centuries Christians of many religious denominations continue the practice St. Francis initiated at Greccio. The historical Christ, the Bread of Angels and Bread of God’s children, born in Bethlehem of Judah, born in ‘the House of Bread’ centuries before, seemed to come alive in the arms of St. Francis. St Francis that night at Greccio re-confirmed the total emptying of himself together with all who accepted the challenge of the Gospel Life.  Greccio was but another expression of the Poverello’s response to the Cross of San Damiano: Francis, rebuild My Church. For, as you can see, it is falling into ruin. The restoration of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ made of living stones, God’s people, once again experienced the warmth of God’s love as God’s people sought to relive with St. Francis the Sublime Humility and the Humble Sublimity of Bethlehem. 

The world seemed to stop that night.  Time was transported back twelve hundred years, and hearts were catapulted into thoughts of a loving God Who stopped at nothing to get our attention and to make us one with Him. 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 beautiful, but also selfish(?). We must not keep a moment so wonderful for ourselves alone! 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, might be 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 beauty of the prayer deserves to be read:   

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. 

We can see how intimately the Eucharist we possess today and everyday helps us reflect on the wonderful mysteries we celebrate at the beginning of the Church Year. We talk about proclaiming God Who comes to save us.  The Eucharist is the God Who is already among us with the saving power of that Great Sacrifice offered once-for-all that those who look upon the one whom they pierced  (cfr John 19: 37-42) may be saved.  We invite everyone saying, Come, Let us adore the King Who is to come (antiphon liturgy of hours advent)We adore Him hidden in the humility of the small Host and behind the closed doors of the Tabernacle. What our senses cannot perceive, our hearts know undoubtedly that:  His eyes see the depths of the soul, His ears hear the yearnings of the heartHis feet approach all who seek Him in truth, His hands embrace the sincerely penitent and those in need, His lips speak in the silence of our being, His heart is open to welcome all into the Father’s loving embrace. 

The simplicity of the Child of Bethlehem; the trusting faith of Mary and Joseph regarding all they were told about the Child; the poverty of the half-heartedly lent dwelling because there was no place for them at the inn (Luke 2: 7) ; the confusion of the shepherds who had to go see this thing that has taken place that the Lord has made known to us  (Luke 2: 15); the probing curiosity of the Magi who said Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do Him homage (Matthew 2: 2) ; the intrigue of Herod who was greatly troubled at the news and with him all of Jerusalem (Matthew 2: 3); the heavenly joy of the angels who came to proclaim good news of great joy that will be for all people as they sang Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace (Luke 2: 10)  speak to us of the One Who was born to die so that we could be born to live forever. His earthly life is re-presented over the centuries at many times in various ways in the awesome ‘Gift’ of the Eucharist.  The angels proclaim His glory and adore His Presence. Humanity responds as did the people at Jesus’ time! … joy, indifference, confusion, even open animosity. The history of Bethlehem and the continued ‘Presence’ in the Eucharist speak to each one of us. We cannot separate the Crib from the Cross. The wood of the manger that embraced the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem was only a foreshadowing of the wood of the Cross on which He would be fastened by nails and lifted up on Calvary.  Hidden Glory! … to be revealed to humble searching hearts in the mystery of the sacraments until the fullness of His Glory is revealed at the end of time. Only searching humble hearts find and recognize Him. 

St. Francis loved the feast of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem was a reality that St. Francis lived every moment of his grace-filled life. In the Eucharist he saw Jesus not born two thousands years ago, but vibrantly alive. He gazed upon the mystery of the Incarnation at each Eucharist.  The whole story of the Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, and the time that leads up to that moment, is an opportunity for us to follow the example of our Seraphic Father and enter into the song of creation once again as we become players in the great symphony of life that God has written. 

As spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, have we allowed the precious Body and Blood of the Savior to flow through and take over every fiber of our being? Have we allowed the Lord to be ‘enfleshed’ in our lives so that each Christmas we celebrate the Savior present and alive within and among us, and not just a memory of some past event in time? Do we say with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, and with Jesus, Your Will and not mine be done (Mark 14: 36)? Do we strive each day, as Franciscans, to grow into a fresh and vibrant presence of Jesus Who makes Himself seen and known through us? Do we recognize our own incompleteness, vulnerability, and susceptibility so that we can share, support and encourage one another? With the spirit of the childlike, are we as enthused about being Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi and Sisters and Brothers in the Franciscan Family and all that entails (faithfulness to the Gospel Life, Church, Rule, Constitutions, one in mind and heart with the Fraternity, and so forth)? Do we see the gift that we are to each other when we allow the spirit of our Seraphic Father to lead us closer to Jesus and Mary? Rhetorical questions that, when answered honestly in the depths of our hearts, can teach us much about ourselves and our commitment to the Gospel Life in the Franciscan Family.  

Be assured that you and your loved ones will be remembered in a special way in all the Masses I celebrate during this holy season. May God bless you; Our Lady and Good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care. 

In the Name of Jesus I wish all of you a Spirit-filled Advent and a Holy and Happy Christmas Season. As we enter the new calendar year with all its expectations and uncertainties, may our hopes be fulfilled in a world renewed in Jesus and filled with His Spirit. 

A Child is born to us! A Savior is given to us! 

Come, let us adore Him! Fear not! 

It is I!  I have conquered the world! 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

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