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 

 

December 2020 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap.

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

 

tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website:  skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

December 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

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

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

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

Greccio revisited – Bethlehem revisited.

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

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

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

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

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

O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! 

O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! 

That the Lord of the universe, 

God and the Son of God, 

so humbles Himself 

that for our salvation 

He hides Himself 

under the little form of bread! 

Look, brothers, at the humility of God 

and pour out your hearts before Him! 

Humble yourselves, as well, 

that you may be exalted by Him. 

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves 

so that He Who gives Himself totally to you 

may receive you totally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings!

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Father Francis Reflections for November, 2020

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

 tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website: skdsfo   email: pppgusa@gmail.com

November 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you. May Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you. May our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

 

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

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

December 2018

Most High, Glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of our minds.

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

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

Amen.

(Saint Francis of Assisi)

Following excerpts are from various sources

1

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

2

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

3

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

4

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

5

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

6

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

7

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

8

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

9

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

10

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

11

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

12

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

13

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

14

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

15

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

16

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

17

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

18

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

19

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

20

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

21

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

22

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

23

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

24

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

25

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

26

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

27

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

28

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

29

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

30

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

31

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

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