June 2021 Monthly Meditation – 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 

June 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

St. Francis of Assisi had a deep love and reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament, and concern for the proper respectful reservation and handling of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Writing his Testament, he made it a point to speak of the reverence and adoring posture he had when he passed any church: And the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would pray with simplicity in this way and say: > We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the whole world and we bless You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world – (Testament).   

He encouraged the clergy – of whose group he was as an ordained deacon – to consider the Body and Blood of Christ that they handle and offer.  His concern was that the Eucharist be celebrated and received worthily, and be kept with dignity in appropriate places: Let us all, clergymen, consider the great sin and the ignorance some have toward the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy names and written words that consecrate His Body.  We know it cannot be His Body without first being consecrated by word.  For we have seen nothing bodily of the Most High in this world except His Body and Blood, His names and words through which we have been made and redeemed from death to life. (Exhortation to the Clergy).   

Admonishing the friars responsible for the various fraternities of the brethren Francis wrote: I beg you, when it is fitting and you judge it expedient, you humbly beg the clergy to revere above all else the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy names and the written words that sanctify His Body. They should hold as precious the chalices, corporals, appointments of the altar, and everything that pertains to the sacrifice … Let it be carried about with great reverence and administered to others with discernment (Letter to the Custodians).  We must, of course, confess all our sins to a priest and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from him … But let him eat and drink worthily because anyone who receives unworthily, not distinguishing, that is, not discerning, the Body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment on himself (Letter to all the Faithful, 2nd Version).  

Saint Francis of Assisi was a totally Eucharistic soul whose love for the Eucharist led him to revere all priests, even those whose lives were not as exemplary as they should have been. They give us spirit and life (John 6: 63) through the sacraments they offer and the Word they proclaim. All the faithful have a share in this marvelous gift of the priesthood through their baptism and attentive participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.   

The immediacy with which the celebration of the Eucharist ends after the faithful have received the Body and Blood of Christ and shared in their Holy Communion seems as though the faithful are given a quick ‘good-bye’ with no ‘follow up’ or ‘follow through’. Nothing of the sort!  The Dismissal is a capsulized and intensely packed moment that carries with it an extraordinary responsibility and an awesome power.  

From the moment we sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation at the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration, In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, until we receive the Final Blessing in the same words, we are participants in an extraordinary spiritual journey through a mystical experience of our salvation history. We are intimately immersed and active participants in the mystical and real re-presentation of  the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of Jesus. As the early followers of Jesus did, we listen to and reflect on the words of our ancestors in the Faith.  As the first disciples did, we listen to and learn from the words of Jesus. In the power of the Holy Spirit Who will remind you of all that I said, (John 14: 26) we grow in the strength that will empower us to go forth and be ‘heralds of the Great King’. The Eucharist is our “viaticum”, that is “food for the journey”. 

St. Francis proclaimed himself the ‘Herald of the Great King’ when confronted by a band of robbers. The robbers beat, stripped, and threw St. Francis into a ditch, considering him a mentally challenged person of little worth. They could not and would not accept or understand the freedom and joy that Francis had encountered when he allowed Jesus to ‘take over’ his life.  The Eucharist, celebrated well and received with the appropriate spiritual dispositions empowers us in the same way to be free to ‘be Christ’ and proclaim Him to the world. We become ‘heralds of the Great King’. We are asked not only to bear a message to others in words, but to become the message in our actions, fearless of any opposition we might receive for the sake of the Name.(3 John 1: 7)  

Human nature definitely influences the way we receive the mission and how we are received in the ministry. Today we sense a growing aversion in many areas of our world to Christ and His message.  There are those who seek to follow Him with a sincere heart. There are those who follow the image they have created in their own likeness that responds to their personal situations rather than His Word. Then there are those who stand in opposition to Him, even going so far as to proclaim they are acting in His name.  

Often those who seek to foster a love for the Gospel, the Church, and our Catholic Christian values and traditions face the same problems the first followers of Jesus, and all sincere seekers of Truth, faced down through the centuries.  If they are not physically attacked, those who seek to do God’s will and live in His Truth are beaten with barrages of negativity and harsh words; they are stripped of integrity by slander, false accusations, or even by an embellishment of the truth for the sake of destroying the reputation of the innocent, who are left on the ‘road of indifference’ or in the ‘ditch of discouragement’ alone to fend for themselves with their physical and sometimes spiritual strength depleted.  There is no stifling the power of God and His Spirit in those who seek His will.  We find strength in our weaknesses (cfr.2Corinthians 12: 19) as St. Paul reminds us when speaking of his own vulnerabilities and defects.   

One of the great Fathers of the early Church, Tertullian, stated: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. What greater ‘martyrdom’ is there than the ‘witness’ of bearing with patience, trust, and forgiveness, an ‘ongoing death’ that seeks to destroy the soul over the course of days, weeks, months and perhaps years!  What greater amount of ‘blood’ can we shed than the ‘lifeblood’ of our time, talents and even treasures spent in the daily practice of our faith and its defense against the power of the one who is in the world (1 John 4: 4) This ‘one in the world’ is always at work insidiously in the minds and hearts of those who proclaim a ‘heaven on earth’ and a god created to their own image! 

The Eucharist offers us a bit of heaven on earth.  We bask in the light of the Son, and find strength and peace in Him. Once we have received the Lord in the Eucharist at Mass, it seems as though everything precipitates so quickly that we have little time to spend with the Lord in the protected solace of the church, chapel or other ‘sacred space’.  The brief words and quick dismissal, Go, the Mass is ended or perhaps, translating the words literally, Go, it is sent, are an urgent commission entrusted to all who participated (and the key word is ‘participated’) in the Eucharist.  Christ sends us out, as He did His disciples when He ascended to the Father, to bring to others what we have seen with our own eyes, heard with our own ears, and touched (1 John 1: 1) – Jesus. The commission is urgent; thus the dismissal is immediate.  We have celebrated the mysteries of our salvation. We have re-presented the Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification of the Savior. We have actively participated in the Mass. We are witnesses to all this. (Acts 10: 39)  There is no time to waste. We must be out and about with the Lord and proclaim Him with our lives!  

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we read: (Jesus said to His disciples) you will be witnesses in Jerusalem … and to the ends of the earth … As (the disciples) were looking on, he was lifted up … from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky … suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? ( cfr. Acts 1: 1-12)  

The celebrant at the Eucharist conveys the same command to us at the end of Mass.  It is as though he were saying: ‘You have celebrated the sacred mysteries of our salvation. You have entered the ‘inner circle’ of the Great King’. You have been privileged with His message and His Spirit to inform and remind you. The Victim is sacrificed. Our offering is sent and received by the Father. The sacred communion that empowers those who receive worthily has been received and consumed.  What are you waiting for? Don’t stand around!  It’s time to go and be the One we received. Drive out the demons of ill will, confusion, doubt, discouragement, despair by the spirit of goodness and compassion. Speak the new language of Christ’s command of love that can be understood by anyone regardless of ethnic origin or even religious affiliation. Deal with the deadly serpents of verbal and physical persecution for the sake of the Name. Know that I am with you all days even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20). Do not be afraid (Isaiah 41: 10; Matthew 10: 26-28; Mark 6: 50) of the deadly poison of a world that insidiously attempts to corrupt mind and heart from within with seductive enticements and glittering allurements. Lay hands of reassurance and sensitivity on those who have grown ill through lives that are weak, those who have possibly given up … Be their strength … BE THE JESUS you have celebrated and received to them’.   

Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.  Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity (transparency of character and life).  Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.  Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.  Take up the sword of the Spirit.  Let your heart be an altar.  Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.  God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter but by the offering of your free will. (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 108) 

Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi do not use prayer, personal sacrifice, and even charitable giving as an excuse to keep aloof from the realities of life.  Our Eucharist is celebrated sacramentally everyday at the altar, and then continued in the streets and our homes through our daily activities.  Once we’ve received the sacramental Jesus and allowed the grace of His Spirit to flow through our veins, we must ‘Go, the (liturgical) Mass is ended’ … ‘It is (or we are) sent’, to bring others, to lead the whole world into the mystery of God’s love in the Sacrifice and Sacrament of Jesus the Christ.  

The Eucharist is not just a goal to be reached but also a starting point that leads to greater heights in, with, and for God and His People.  The priest who acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) accompanies us as one of God’s People, and prays with and for us as one set aside to intercede as a ‘mediator’ between the divine and the human. (adapted St. Augustine)  He too is called to be victim with the Victim that he too, with all those entrusted to his ministry, may share in the Victory of the Eucharist that fills the world with the Real Presence of an awesome God Who invites us to an intimate relationship with Him and then delegates us to be Eucharist, to be an act of thanksgiving in God, to all. 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reminder of the eternal extravagant love of God for us in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Franciscan Family is called to live in that Love.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a powerful reminder of the totality of the Savior’s Love. In Him we we live, and move, and have our being. (Acts 17: 28)  Pray that we may be willing ‘victims’, if the Lord should ask that grace of us, that others with and through us may experience the victory promised by the One Who said: I have conquered the world.  Do not be afraid. (cfr. John 16: 30-33)  Greater is the one within you that the one in the world.  Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age I have conquered the world.  Do not be afraid.  Greater is the one within you that the one in the world. (1 John 4: 4)   Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 20) 

May the Eternal High Priest, Jesus, show us His Most Sacred Heart, pierced by the centurion’s lance, that we may enter the door thrown open leading to the Father’s loving embrace. May Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family and Her beloved Husband St. Joseph, keep us in the depths of their Immaculate and Pure Hearts.  May Our Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Monthly Meditation – May 2021 – 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

May 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son

Fill our hearts with the joy of the Risen Christ.

May Mary, His Mother, redeemed ahead of time,

Lead us closer to Jesus, the only

Way, Truth, and Life.

Throughout Salvation History there is one person, after that of the Messiah, whose presence was prophesied and awaited as a sign of fulfillment of God’s Promise to all creation – the Woman.  Second only to Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, this Woman is the greatest human being who every walked the earth. Her presence was prophesied and taught in the sacred texts and oral tradition of the People of Israel. Her historical presence is recorded in the Gospels and writings of the early Christian community. Mary is that Woman veiled in mystery for so many, but clothed in glory for all who call Jesus Lord and Savior. It is Mary, the Mother of the Savior, who facilitates the journey with God in Jesus and to God in Jesus through the Spirit.

The figure of Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, Mother of Jesus the Christ, is almost as controversial a figure for many people as is that of her Son, Jesus.  The controversies concern her intimate connection with the person of Jesus, her Son, our Lord and Redeemer, in the whole mystery of Jesus’ saving Life-Passion-Death-Resurrection-Glorification.  She experiences, in an eminently greater way than all other human beings, the effects of living the Gospel. If living the Gospel is living with Jesus and all that He taught, who more than She lived the Gospel!?  Her very lifeblood flowed in the human veins of Jesus; even her physical features to a certain degree were no doubt those of Jesus.  To see Jesus was to see Mary, His Mother; to see Mary was to see Jesus, Her Son.  Throughout all of Scripture, Mary’s presence speaks eloquently and reminds us that all things can more easily be directed To Jesus through Mary! … and From Jesus through Mary!

Mary is the Hoped-for-Woman offered by the Father to all creation when humanity opted to defy God’s Will in the Garden of Eden: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel (Genesis 3: 15).

Mary is the Humble Cloud of Refreshing Rain that satisfied the thirst of a wayward nation parched by its unfaithfulness and relieved through the Prophet Elijah’s intercession before God on their behalf, Whose heavenly sign brought the life-giving rain: Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel … and the youth returned (to Elijah) and reported, There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea … and a heavy rain fell (1 Kings 18: 42-45).

Mary is the Virgin Mother, who overturned humanity’s defiance in Eden by her availability to God’s will, and allowed, in the name of all humanity, for the Creator to become one of His creatures, and thus begin the fulfillment of the Plan of Salvation for all Creation: Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you … Do not be afraid, Mary …  You will conceive and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus … The Holy Spirit will overshadow you … (and Mary said) May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1: 26-38).

Mary is the Ever-Vigilant and Self-Sacrificing Mother whose last words recorded in the Gospels at the marriage Feast of Cana, are typical of a loving mother’s concern for the happiness of her children.  She sees, before others seem to notice, that the wine has run out. To save the newly-wed couple from embarrassment She informs Jesus: They have no more wine (John 2: 3). This simple phrase offered for the sake of a young man and woman beginning their new life together set off a sequence of events leading to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for us on the Cross and her acceptance as no longer the Mother of Jesus the carpenter, but Jesus the Rabbi, Master, Lord and Savior, and Sacrificial Lamb of God.  This role meant that she could no longer have Jesus for Herself alone but she would have to offer Him for the sake of everyone. Her vigilant awareness of the needs of humanity – manifested at Cana – and her self-sacrificing encouragement hastening the start of the ministry of Jesus – Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come. (John 2: 4) – are all for the sake of a mother’s love for her children.

Mary is the First Disciple whose words, again at Cana, offer us the secret to achieving eternal life:  Do whatever He tells you (John 2: 5). These words were a prelude to the words of the Eternal Father on Tabor, Who would emphasize at the moment of the Transfiguration, the fact that Jesus was not only the Son of Man (truly human) but the also the Son of God (truly divine – truly God): This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him. (Matthew 17: 1-8).  Mary truly lived the Word of God as a faithful Daughter of Zion, as Mother of the Christ, as Temple of the indwelling of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Her life was always and in all ways tuned into God’s Word, and Her heart was always and in all ways available to God’s Will, without exception, without gloss. (Remember that our own Seraphic Father wanted us to live the Gospel and Rule without gloss)

Mary is the Co-Redemptrix whose courage and strength were manifest at the foot of the Cross of Jesus. There Mary consoled her Son Who in turn entrusted Her to us as our Mother, thus making us His sisters and brothers, redeemed children of the Father: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son.  Then he said to the disciple, Behold, your mother.  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (John 19: 26-27). As our Mother, She gave us an example of strength, courage, and fearlessness in expressing openly all that we believe and are as Her children, the Mystical Body of Christ entrusted to Her as She to us, on the Day of our Redemption – the Day of Atonement (at-one-ment) with God. (It is undeniably true that we have only One Redeemer, Jesus the Christ. But, spiritually, “biologically”, in her heart, a mother shares in the events of her child’s life. In this sense the title is not “theological” – that I leave to the wisdom of the Church and the Holy Spirit’s timing – but a filial and loving acknowledgement of the closeness of our Mother Mary to Christ Her Son and the Christian, Her Son’s image continued in time in each one of us.)

Mary is the Virgin-Made-Church, whose silent-strong-prayerful-loving-motherly presence among the followers of her Son who had locked themselves in the Cenacle for fear of retaliation from those who had executed Jesus, prepares her children, the Infant Church, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’s power promised them by Jesus: When they went to the city they went to the upper room where they were staying … together with some women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus … When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled … there came a driving wind … then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit … and began to speak … as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (cfr. Acts 1: 13-14; 2: 1-4).  Mary eminently received and profoundly lived the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son. She truly was the dwelling place of God. (cfr. John 1: 14; Corinthians 6: 19)

Mary is the Sign of Hope Fulfilled as She brings the Prophecies to full circle, as Mother of the Christ, Mother of the Christian, Mother of the Church, Whose life so clearly shares in the Passion and Glory of Her Son and Her children redeemed in His Blood: A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was with child…then another sign appeared, a huge dragon…about to devour Her Child…She gave birth to a Son…destined to rule the nations…Her child was caught up to God…The woman herself fled to a place…prepared by God (Revelation 12: 1-6).

Mary is the one Redeemed “Ahead of Time”. Mary is the image of humanity as it journeys to God. She, as we, is a child of creation. She, as we, experienced the difficulties, sorrows and joys of life.  She, as we, had to ponder the events of life to understand God’s Will for Her. And, She, as we, had the awesome gift of free will that could choose other than the Will of God. Unlike us, however, in virtue of Her Son’s redeeming death, she is Conceived Confirmed in Grace.

To immortalize Mary in our hearts and express our deep love for Her, we often allow our emotions to run away from reason. We may even create an image of Mary which is totally foreign to all She truly is.  As we consider Her particular privileges that we celebrate every year, we can see how, though far beyond anything we could ever hope to achieve in the spiritual realm, Mary is still attentive to our needs, accessible to our loving advances, and an advocate before the Almighty God in favor of His creation whom She accepted as her children in Christ at the Foot of the Cross on the Day of Redemption. Her Immaculate Conception signals the power of God’s redeeming love whenever, wherever and however He so desires. Her Divine Motherhood reminds us of the intimacy God has entered with humanity through one of His own creation. Her Assumption encourages us on life’s journey to travel confidently through life with our hearts steadfastly set on heaven while our feet are still firmly treading the roads of earth and all that entails – joys and sorrows, successes and failures, grace-filled moments and sinful moments.  Mary is so eminently greater than all of us, yet She is still infinitely less than God, Her Father, Her Son and Her Spouse. In that “in between state” She is the channel of God’s graces for all the Mystical Body of Her Son – She is the Mediatrix of Graces.  Life’s journey is made easier through Her presence, enlightened through Her encouraging example and words, and we are empowered through Her almighty intercession to achieve more easily the graces that flow from God and that lead us to His Everlasting and Loving Embrace.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, let us follow his example. The prayers and example of St. Francis of Assisi speak of gratitude, strength, trust, indebtedness, protection, intercession, praise, victory, following, union, imitation, and LOVE for the greatest Daughter of the Church, the First Disciple, and Mother of us all – Mary. She was entrusted to us as Mother and we to Her as children. She is Mary, Mother of the Christ, Mother of the Christian, Mother of the Church. She is Mother, whose mere title speaks of life and love. Our Father’s love for the Eucharist reminds us of the greatest Gift left for us to celebrate and seek to become more deeply everyday. Mary is the first Tabernacle and the First Monstrance Whose example we seek as we receive Christ in the secret of our heart and then present Him to the world in our daily lives. The Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, united in the common bond of prayer as sisters and brothers professed in the Franciscan Family around the world, remember, honor and love as the Woman prophesied in Scripture, the Virgin-Mother of the Lord, the Queen of the Universe. Mary keeps us in her Immaculate Heart and intercedes for us as our advocate whose almighty intercession before the Divine Majesty pleads for Mercy and Pardon for her children. How could we ever not honor Her with the same simplicity, devotion, and love as the Seraphic One of Assisi?! Let us always keep Her, our Mother Mary, Queen and Mother of the Seraphic Family, in your hearts and on your lips!

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation – April 2021 – 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 

 April 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!
Through the mystery of the Passion and Death of Jesus
May the Joy of His Resurrection and Renewed Life fill your hearts and lives!

Lent has run its course. We journeyed through the season by prayer, fasting, acts of charity. Now we enter the joy of the Resurrection through our spiritual immersion into the mystery of the Passion and Death of Jesus. Every day of the week we call “Holy” is another moment in that wonderful drama of our salvation. In the Father’s Plan, Jesus is the Victor, only after passing through the crucible of His Passion-Death. His Victory over suffering and death is for all humanity.

The week began with the “Hosannas” of the populace. In a brief time, “Hosannas” are followed by the intrigue and betrayal of Jesus by His nearest and dearest friends “hand-picked” by Himself. What ensues is choreographed by the religious leaders of His own nation and the foreign occupational forces. The protagonists play out their roles in the Governor’s palace, in the streets of Jerusalem, and on Golgotha. “Hosannas” turned to “Crucify Him” leading Him to crucifixion and death. Jeering remarks ridiculing a dying man are directed at Him as He hung dying on the Cross. The drama still must peak in a tragic-bloody-humiliating manner when Jesus, nailed as a criminal to the cross, is mockingly hailed as Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, (John 19: 19) and lead to a moment of desolation when He exclaims My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?!  (Psalm 22: 1; Matthew 26: 46) His death makes the bystanders return to their homes beating their breasts (Luke 23: 48), and compels a Roman centurion to say Truly this was the Son of God (Matthew 27: 54).  Everything climaxes with the death of Jesus. His death continues to proclaim love, compassion and forgiveness for all. As His spirit ebbed from His body, conflicting sentiments were felt by all present.

If everything ended there, what a tragedy it would be for us all! But, the story does not finish there! It cannot! Our story does not end on the Cross. Our story finds its true beginning there, at the Cross, and its “confirmation” only hours later on Sunday morning. When Jesus cries: Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit, (Luke 23: 46) our life-blood is renewed and we again are offered the opportunity to be one with the God who became one with us.

We are a people who profess and proclaim not death but life! Saint Paul tells the community of Corinth: If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain…But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…for in Christ, all shall be brought to life…so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15: 13-28).

Each year all Christians throughout the world gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. The denomination does not matter. Every Christian is a true Christian only if he/she believes that Jesus was nailed to a cross and died, and on the third day rose from the dead. If one does not believe in the physical Resurrection of Jesus, he/she cannot really call him/herself a true Christian. Many non-Christian people admire all that Jesus said and did; they even seek to emulate His life. But, if one does not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, as Saint Paul says, life for that individual really has no personal meaning beyond the here and now moment of philanthropic or self-centered survival. As socially, economically, or otherwise materially fulfilling as it might all seem, what way is this to live one’s life! What kind of life can it be? Is it really living?! Is it not just a co-existence (albeit good, respectful, moral…) with the world and all the world proclaims? Why would anyone invest so much of him/herself in the world if all their endeavors and accomplishments ended with the soul’s exit from the body? Unless our passage from life to Life is a reality we truly believe, and by which we live, as St. Paul says, We are the deadest of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15: 17)

We are children of the Resurrection. Our song is “Alleluia”. The theater of Redemption is the world in which we live. St. Francis in the Canticle of the Creatures and Pope Francis in the Encyclical Laudato Si’ both remind us, with so many other holy men and women, of this wonderful truth of God’s gift of Creation. And Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer, is the Victim of humanity’s ingratitude to Love Incarnate. Our hope, founded on faith in an impossible event, proclaims that the finality of death was conquered by the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus. He is alive and well! Life is worth living! Death has lost its sting! Death is no longer the “grim reaper” that destroys and reduces us to nothingness. In the Resurrection of Jesus, Death is the point of convergence of one’s life, and the threshold of eternity. Life is merely changed, not ended. And, when the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting place in heaven (Preface for Masses for the Deceased).

Why do we Catholics, like the Corinthians who were reprimanded by St. Paul, fail so often to live as the redeemed people we are? Who more than we Franciscans should be the joyful troubadours of Resurrection Joy of the “enfleshed” Son of God, Jesus the Christ?! This joy we share because the Almighty One, Who could have done all alone, sought the collaboration of a creature, our Mother Mary, to believe and accept the impossible. In our Immaculate Virgin Mother, humanity becomes an essential participant in the whole Eternal Plan of the Redemption (or Restoration in Grace) of Creation! What grace! What gift! What trust! WHAT LOVE!!!

Our world and our own immediate society is impregnated with hatred, violence, terrorism, war, terminal illnesses, tragic lifestyles, deadly addictions, pandemics, and more. This is a reality we cannot deny. But the world is, as stated above, the theater of Redemption. It is an enormous setting where all are protagonists of a marvelous story that has God Incarnate in the lead role, and the rest of us as understudies who seek to image God by the way we live. In this theater roles are exchanged often: sometimes we are among the central figures, other times we watch with hope-filled anticipation as the whole story of our salvation unravels before our eyes. What do our eyes see? Hopefully, we all recognize the Risen Lord Jesus, alive and well in our midst, as we seek to share in His Life following His words and example.

How often are we like the Israelites who kept the wounds of their years of slavery in Egypt open, even though their Passage through the Red Sea was an undeniable proof of the power and the credibility of their God. They continued to complain and expect God to do for them what they had the ability, in God’s grace, to do for themselves. We have not let the wonderful effects of Jesus’ Resurrection – our Passage from Death to Life – on that first Easter Sunday penetrate our hearts. We still have not lived our Exodus experience as profoundly as we ought. God leads and strengthens those who recognize and acknowledge their vulnerability, and who admit to their needy state without Him. Is not that what being a “penitent” means; are we not originally the “Penitents of Assisi”? God accompanies us from the mentality of self-centered individualism, to an open-hearted availability and acceptance of others. Like the Israelites of old, we would rather have the onions and garlic of a bondage we have learned to accept/tolerate, rather than the challenge to be free and go beyond the barriers we set in our lives. The Resurrection of Jesus encourages us to look beyond our failures, to move courageously forward beyond our fears, to trust confidently and use well our God-given gifts, to believe in the Life Jesus came to give us.

To go beyond is eventually to enter the Land of Promise. We cannot continue to mix the straw of complacency and indifference with the mud of confusion and earthliness. This only fabricates bricks of slavery that erect walls that hinder our journey to God. We complacently build the cities of man, rather than struggle to build the City of God. A culture of death still pervades our society. Children of the Resurrection, freed in the Blood of Jesus, imbued with the gift of the Holy Spirit, Loved by the Father, we are called to freedom – a freedom the world does not understand and yet still attempts to create through power, prestige, possessions, and the like. The motto seems to be “leave me alone and in peace, and I’ll accept anything”. No risk, no gain! (Mother Francis Bachmann, foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia). In Jesus there is no risk of loss, only gain. Yet, often we opt for the slavery that stunts our spiritual growth and blinds us to the wonder and glory of the Resurrection that speaks to us of our dignity and freedom as redeemed children of God in Jesus through the Spirit.

Like the first followers who experienced the Savior’s Passion and Death, we can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the difficulties and delusions of life. Or, we can fix our gaze on the Risen Lord. Like the women who went to the tomb, we may love Jesus deeply, but feel and act as though He is still in the tomb. Their love could not separate them from Him, even in death. It was that loyalty, that fidelity, that offered them the gift of being the first to see the Resurrected Lord… and they kissed His feet and ran to tell the others. (Matthew 28: 9) Eventually His love wins the hearts of those who sincerely seek Him, even through difficulty and failure.

The Cross was a fixed moment in time, whose effects would last eternally. There is a powerful phrase in the Passion account that many read and pass over: from noon until three in the afternoon, there was darkness over all the earth. (Matthew 27: 45) The evangelist reduces this horrific moment of humanity’s ingratitude to its Creator to a determined amount of time. Thus, we are reminded that the powers of darkness can rule only for a time, but will never prevail forever. His Life and His Light will always have the advantage over death and darkness. He is risen, go tell His brethren that He precedes them! (Matthew 28: 7)

Spiritual children of the Seraphic One of Assisi, whose body was visibly “stigmatized” with the signs of God’s love for us in Jesus, do we preach without words our belief in a living faith that leads to eternal life? Or, are we “stigmatized” not with Jesus’ selfless love for us, but with our self-centered love for survival and acclaim?  Does the Resurrection remind us of Jesus’ words, Unless the grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat ? (John 12: 24)

Fear not!  He has conquered death … Have courage! His Spirit within you can withstand all that surrounds you … He is Risen! We never stand alone before the world because we are victors in the Victim in Whose death we come alive. Easter proclaims a message of liberation and long-lasting-Life. Easter is the day and the Season that continually reminds us that the Son will always cast His Light on us. The darkness of sin, cynicism, skepticism cannot keep the light of the Son of God from enlightening our lives and our world. The question is whether we will accept to bask in the Light of the Son, or remain in darkness. When we create room in our hearts for the Lord to enter, then the power of Easter can take us to heights never imagined.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we too are reminded that only through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we fathom something of the mystery of Christ’s love for us. It is the Risen Jesus who teaches us the value of the Cross – you cannot separate the Victor from the Victim. The Cross without Christ is tyranny; Christ without the Cross is a lie (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen). In the midst of all this is the silent, dignified, and loving figure of Mary; she is always with us on our journey, leading us, who love her as our Heavenly Mother, closer to one another and to Jesus her Son. May our Easter Season help us to value all that God asks of us, so that through Mary to Jesus, in Whose Passion-Death-Glorious Resurrection we enter the Father’s loving embrace, we may live virtuously, die piously, and achieve the fullness of the rewards of Eternal Life.

May God bless you; Our Lady and her beloved husband St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may Padre Pio watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. May the Risen Lord inflame your hearts with love, and bless you and your loved ones with the gift of His Easter Peace and Joy.

Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia! 

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

March 2021 – 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 

March 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

May the Lord grant you peace! 

Our Seraphic Father left an indelible mark on most of Christian Europe before his death. Some in Assisi remembered the excitement caused by the verbal altercation between Francis and his Father Pietro Bernardone. In the public square of Assisi, before the bishop of Assisi and the townspeople Francis returned everything he owned to his father. He gave his father even the clothes on his back. From then on, Francis called only God my Father.   

The people remembered the gossip – perhaps they had even been participants in it – when the wealthy Bernard, the farmer Giles, the priest Peter, and the other first followers sought to follow the ‘beggar-son’ of the wealthy merchant. After all the initial criticisms, cautious doubts, interested questioning, and patient observation to see ‘how it would all work out’, the people of Assisi began to admire, respect, and became proud of their native son, Francis.  

God Himself set His Seal of approval on Francis two years before he passed to eternity. While on Mount La Verna, a Seraph imprinted visibly on the body of Francis the five wounds of the Passion of our Savior. Before his death, thousands had accepted to follow the Gospel lifestyle he proposed.  His Lesser Brothers had reached the far corners of Europe, arriving at the Middle East and North Africa, joyfully proclaiming the time of fulfillment and the kingdom of God in our midst (Mark 1: 15) in Jesus Christ.  Francis had set in motion a tsunami of Gospel Life that did not devastate but ennobled those it engulfed. The waves of consecrated Brothers and Laity, seeking the Poverello as their guide in this evangelical endeavor, gave witness to the excitement and beauty of lives dedicated to the Lord and His people in the Name of Jesus.  Is it any wonder that so many were captivated and enamored by this ‘Herald of the Great King’?  He was called to be the messenger of God’s Peace and Blessings to all who were willing to hear and accept the message! His vocation was to “rekindle the hearts of a world grown cold” to God’s limitless love.  

The story of a soul is the story of a call, a response and a commission.  Most people think of ‘vocation’ as pertaining solely to service in the Church, usually as consecrated religious and/or priests. This is traditionally how most people view the word ‘vocation’. Truthfully, it pertains to everyone.  We are all called by God to hear, listen, respond and fulfill God’s Will.  Remember the words of God through the prophet Isaiah: So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it (Isaiah 55: 11). God is always communicating with us. Are we listening?  Are we part of the “word that goes from my mouth” fulfilled, or are we waiting for a “better offer”?! 

The first official words of Jesus to the crowds were:  

This is the time of fulfillment.  (God has kept the pledge He offered the world centuries before);  

The kingdom of God is at hand.  (His presence is now among all creation in His Incarnate Word made flesh, Jesus);   

Repent and believe the Good News.  (Listen to, reflect on, and live what you have come to know of God’s love who enters time to save and not condemn creation).   

Repentance is a positive experience.  Most think that ‘repentance’ involves the return of a sinner to grace; that is part of it.  But, ‘repentance’ also involves the awareness a ‘saint’ has that he/she must always progress in the will of God. Francis stated When I was in sin… in his Testament, and continues to speak of his vocation and that of those who sought to follow their call with him. The more we approach God, the more we become aware of what is still necessary for perfection.  

We are on the road that leads to Life. Whether we believe we must go from bad to good (as the sinful woman in the Gospels), or from good to better (as the young man in the Gospels seeking ‘to be good’), we must listen to and accept the call to repentance (metanoia – change of heart/mind). We know that as long as there is life, there is need for growth and improvement, especially in the spirit. In both cases the process involves: 

–   Discovering something wonderful about ourselves: We are God’s beloved children. We are redeemed in the Blood of Jesus in-with-through Whom we seek forgiveness of sin and coherence to grace. 

–   Recognizing the spiritual and natural talents specifically ours which God has entrusted to us to be used well and with which to grow in age, wisdom, and grace before God and all people (Luke 2: 52). 

–   Acquiring new vision to see beyond the limits that convenience, comfort, complacency often place before our eyes conditioning us to ‘stay put’ rather than forge forward where God leads us. 

–   Taking a new direction, especially if it means having to make a one hundred eighty degree turn in values, principles, desires, character traits that lack propriety though not sinful, spiritual practices that lack heart and are only pious actions without substance, and so forth. 

–   Setting more worthwhile goals.  Christians are never satisfied with the ‘ordinary’, knowing they are called to be light and salt in the world (cfr. Matthew 5: 13-16). We sincerely strive to achieve those goals that lead to a fuller grace-filled life that affects not only our relationship with God but with ourselves and others in all we do. 

–   Ultimately, in living a more committed Gospel Life, with our feet well-grounded and our hearts in the heavens.  We live rejoicing as not rejoicing, buying as not owning, using the world as not using it fully (1 Corinthians 7: 29-31).  

The road to conversion through repentance is always exciting and leads to joy.  Aspects of the journey may be difficult and even painful. Nevertheless, confident in the hope of acquiring the end result for those who persevere, we the ‘Penitents of Assisi’, are urged to continue.  Let us never forget that the Christian life is a continuous process of conversion. The repentant person who is rather transformed by grace than conformed to the age  (cfr. Romans 12: 2-3)  in which he/she is called to be a pilgrim and stranger (cfr. 1 Peter 2: 11), is thus called to discipleship. A response to repentance leads to conversion as it invites us to discipleship that we in turn might be sent as apostles to call others in the Lord’s name to repentance-conversion-commission (cfr. Mark 16: 15 and Matthew 28: 19). 

Jesus had more difficulties with the ‘saints’ of His day, rather than with the ‘sinners’.  The sinners needed and wanted someone who would see, hear, understand and forgive them.  The ‘saints’ forgot the adage: Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future (St. Augustine / Oscar Wilde). Thinking themselves secure on the correct road and in the favor of God for fulfilling all the ‘laws’, they forgot that stopping on the climb to holiness means sliding down to levels that make the re-ascent more difficult.  The journey lasts a lifetime and there can be no stopping and standing until journey’s end. 

What were the problems then with those who held back from accepting the call to repentance-conversion?  They are the same today as then and anytime. More than dealing with a sinful life, the majority of difficulties deal with ‘un-fulfilled’ lives.  This sense of ‘un-fulfillment’ often stems from our own faulty human nature and sinfulness.  The ‘call’ urges us to go forward even beyond the limits that fear, complacency, indifference, and so on, create in our lives. They are false securities and spiritual illusions that masquerade as the tranquility of God’s pleasure with us for having satisfied what was required to do in order to be ‘holy’ and live in God’s Presence. Spiritual lethargy stifles any desire to move forward or even to consider the need to ‘go beyond’.  

God never abuses the gift of freedom with which His Love has endowed each of us.  The invitation to intimacy with God here and for eternity begins with an acknowledgment of our need and deep desire to be what we could and should be.   

–   ‘Could’ because God never expects the impossible from us unless He is willing to offer us all that we need to achieve what He has planted in our hearts.  It can be done! 

–   ‘Should’, because whatever God asks is really an offer we would be foolish to refuse. If God asks, Who knows us better than we know ourselves, how can any reasonable person refuse what ultimately will lead to the greatest fulfillment of his/her life? 

Recognizing our unworthiness of such a ‘divine’ gift, for which we have determined to live and work, other signs manifest themselves more strongly: 

– a dissatisfaction with oneself – Our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You (Confessions of St. Augustine).  This profound yearning – for something better – can be found in all people, even those who as yet do not understand the working of God and His Spirit;               

– a longing for something better – Complacency leads to spiritual sloth and keeps us from seeing an attainable goal that goes beyond the limits we set in our lives;             

– a sense that something is missing – Love desires and demands to be one with the beloved.  Until we know that we are one with God Who loves and calls us, we feel an incompleteness.            

The whole process is really not as long-drawn-out or difficult as it can seem.  It is not a ‘heady’ problem to solve, but a ‘hearty’ relationship to strengthen.  Once we open our hearts and lives to God and His Loving Will, all we have to do is surrender and ‘enjoy the ride’ even when it gets rough and demanding.  It is something like a spiritual roller coaster. God takes us on an ‘exciting ride’ when we place ourselves totally and trustingly in His hands. Let go and let God.  To make it all happen be open, honest, humble, and courageous.  

Courage is definitely necessary.  The word itself means to let the heart take over (cor-heart … age-do, act). When heart (we) speaks to Heart (Jesus), or Heart (Jesus) speaks to heart (we), – who initiates the dialogue? –  how can we do anything but let go!  Our courage demands an end to self-deception, a confrontation with the sad realties of our lives, admission of guilt for those areas we have conveniently tried to ‘cover up’ in our hearts, a sincere request for forgiveness, and a firm resolve to change, that leads to conversion through repentance to transformation in God’s grace. 

Hopefully we can celebrate this joy-filled Lenten Season anticipating the joy of growth in grace through repentance-renewal-rebirth in the Spirit.  The Lenten road may have its pains and sacrifices. Advancing on the journey, we strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, Christ, the Church, all Humanity, and even all Creation (cfr. Encyclicals of Pope Francis: Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti) .   

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, we have entered our yearly experience that has eternal effects. Our Father Francis and Mother Clare responded to the invitation to follow in the footsteps of the Savior, poor and humble. He emptied Himself, though He is God, that we, through His poverty, could be poor in this world’s goods, but rich in those of eternal Life (cfr. 2 Corinthians 8: 9). What more could we ask?  Why do we hesitate to give all?  The example, courage, and total response of St. Francis and St. Clare, urge us on.  We Penitents of Assisi continue the Lenten journey with joyful hearts and ready wills, with hearts fixed on the ultimate goal, Who is Jesus brought to full stature (cfr. Ephesians 4: 13) in each of us. 

May God bless you; may Our Lady and Her husband St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare look over each one of you, their spiritual children, with loving care.   

Happy and grace-filled Lent to all! 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

To Reflect on the 7 Sorrows & Joys of St. Joseph while praying the Crown Rosary

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. has generously shared how he incorporates the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph while praying the Crown Rosary. In this year of St. Joseph, we are invited to use Father’s own way of keeping St. Joseph involved and remembered.

St. Joseph – Sorrows and Joys 

(within the celebration of the Franciscan Crown) 

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

In the year of St. Joseph, we Franciscans are offered an opportunity to celebrate the sorrows and joys of St Joseph as we recall, with our Franciscan Crown, the 7 Joys of our Heavenly Mother.

First Joy of BVM – Annunciation/Incarnation 

1st   Sorrow of St. Joseph: Confusion concerning Mary’s Pregnancy 

1st  Joy of St. Joseph: Angelic assurance of pregnancy by work of the Holy Spirit 

Second Joy of BVM – Visit to Elizabeth 

2nd Sorrow of St. Joseph: Distance from Mary for three months. 

2nd Joy of St. Joseph: News of work of Holy Spirit in life of Elizabeth and Zachary

(Not a traditional joy or sorrow of St. Joseph)

Third Joy of BVM – Birth of Savior at Bethlehem 

3rd  Sorrow of St. Joseph:          

  • Poverty of an Animal Refuge for Mary to give birth to Jesus
  • Pain imposed on Child – first bloodshed at circumcision 8 days after birth 
  • Simeon’s prophecy of future sufferings of Jesus and Mary 

3rd Joy of St. Joseph:

  • Angel announcement to Shepherds and their adoration of the Child 
  • Father’s right imposing name Jesus (“God is salvation”) 
  • Jesus would be light of revelation to gentiles and glory of Israel 

Fourth Joy of BVM – Adoration of the Magi 

4th Sorrow of St. Joseph:

  • Flight into Egypt (massacre of the Innocents) 
  • Confusion of place to dwell on return to Israel

4th Joy of St. Joseph:

  • Safety for Family and power of God manifest in Egypt 
  • Nazareth home

Fifth Joy of BVM – Finding Jesus in Jerusalem Temple 

5th Sorrow of St. Joseph: Loss of Jesus for three days 

5th Joy of St. Joseph: Finding Jesus and His obedient return to Nazareth 

Sixth Joy of BVM – Resurrection / Ascension of Jesus 

6th  Sorrow of St. Joseph: Leaving Jesus and Mary on earth in death 

6th Joy of St. Joseph:

  • Dying in the embrace of Jesus and Mary
  • Accompanied to heaven by His Messianic Son, Jesus, sharing in the Resurrection and Glory of Jesus even before His Beloved spouse. 

Seventh Joy of BVM – Assumption and Crowning of Mary 

7th Joy of St. JosephReunited to his spouse and sharing in the glory of God with His angels and saints as intercessor after Jesus the Only Mediator and Mary, His spouse, the “almighty by intercession” for all God’s creation. 

 

January 2021 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

January 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

In this New Year of Grace 

The Lord bless you and keep you. 

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! 

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

May He live in you. May you always live in Him 

Reading meditatively God’s Word offers answers to some of the basic questions in life: Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is life all about?  Why sickness, violence, death?  Why worldwide pandemic? Why political and economic unrest? Why is evil so prevalent if everything came from the hands of an all-loving God? And many more questions that leave the non-believer perplexed. Agnostics and Atheists (if there are any real and true atheists!) need to downplay or deny God, or discredit religious belief systems to quiet their own searching hearts.  Our hearts can find no rest until they rest in You, was St. Augustine’s Prayer.  How true that is for us all! God remains the Mystery, for those who do not seek Him, and the Eternal Contemporary, for those recognizing His presence in all creation. The history, counsels, prayers, prophecies, of the People of Israel and the Early Church that we find in Sacred Scripture is our story.  We are the People of God, the “People of the Book”, who see themselves in the anticipation of a Savior, in our encounter with Him in time, as we forge ahead in faith, hoping to fulfill the purpose for our creation that we may receive the gift of Life in full.

The drama of our redemption begins in the Book of Genesis and finds its fulfillment in the Book of Revelation. As chief characters in the drama of humanity’s redemption, Scripture speaks to us of God’s call to life and intimacy with Him, of humanity’s disobedient fall through pride because you will be like gods (Genesis 3:5), of humanity’s recall down the centuries through prophetic people who spoke in God’s Name, and of humanity’s redemption in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the One-Who-Is-To-Come, Who is the Eternal Contemporary always with us – Emmanuel.  The writings of the New Covenant (New Testament),  through the teachings of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation,  guide us to live gratefully in this world, as pilgrims and strangers (Hebrews 11:13), until we reach the gift of Life pledged us when we entered our Covenant relationship with the Father, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. God’s Word helps us to reread our faith history from the perspective of God and eternity, rather than from our limited perspective of time alone. Throughout the inspired Word we seek to re-confirm the Covenant Love established with God in our Baptism, that we re-confirm each day as we enter trustingly and unconditionally into the Father’s Will.  We are called to stir into flame the gift God has given you (2 Timothy 1: 6) so that the excitement of being a people peculiarly His own (1 Peter 2:9) may never wane. Thus, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

God’s Word nourishes and nurtures all who receive His Word in truth and trust. The Word of God gives joy to His People. As long as God speaks with His People, His beloved children redeemed in the Blood of Christ, He is still ‘in touch’ with them. Scripture reminds us of God’s relentless and extravagant love for those who so often do not respond lovingly. After their return from the Babylonian exile, the People of Israel wept for joy when they heard The First Five Books of Scripture – ‘The Torah’, ‘The Law’- read to them. Scripture says that the people stood the good part of a day listening with joy to that of which for many years they had been deprived (cfr. Nehemiah 9). That Word was a constant reminder of God’s Loving Covenant with them and they, accepting to listen to the Word, reconfirmed their Covenant with God (cfr. Nehemiah 9). Through good times and bad their hearts were joyful. His Word was His presence. His Word was the sign that God had not abandoned them.  Even the most ‘tragic’ stories and prophecies of Scripture always end with hope in a God Who can never be vanquished.  We are reminded of our God Whose Word will not return until it has fulfilled the purpose for its being sent. (Isaiah 55:11)  All the Old Testament, read in the ‘Key of Christ’, prepares us to encounter God, the Almighty One, with whom we become victors with the Victor over sin and death, Jesus the Lord, the Word enfleshed in time that we might be ‘re-created’ by grace in His eternity.

The first day of the New Year celebrates the Motherhood of Mary and the Name of Jesus, the Word enfleshed.  Mary, the highest honor of our race (Judith 15:9), looks down to heaven in Her arms. The Infant in Her arms that She sees and loves is the fulfillment of Her People’s prayers and hopes.  She says His name JESUS, God is salvation, with a love only a mother can express.  All of Scripture is fulfilled in this Infant (cfr. Luke 1:26-35).  Mary saw and loved what St. John the Evangelist wrote of Him decades later: He was in the world … but the world did not know Him … to those who did accept Him He gave the power to become the children of God … The Word became flesh and dwelled among us … from His fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace … (1 John 1: 10-16) Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the living Covenant the Father makes with all creation. In His Name and redeeming Life-Death-Resurrection we enter into our Covenant with God through the Blood of the Lamb. (cfr. Revelation 7:14-17; 12:11)

Just as in the time of Jesus, our world is filled with so much that disturbs and distresses us: war, violence, natural disasters, social-economic-political-religious unrest, sickness and disease … Death!  If we take time to evaluate the times in which we live, there is so much good that is happening as well. There are people who believe in peace and strive to live it as a witness for others. There are women and men who come to the aid of their less fortunate sisters and brothers often at the cost of their own time-talents-personal treasures, and often even their lives. And what about the young people who seek and truly desire a better world and are willing to work for it at the price of their own comfort and convenience? Then there are the religious leaders who have stopped anathematizing each other because of differences, who are sincerely searching for better ways to appreciate the goodness God instills in every one of God’s children. How about the progress being made in curing debilitating and terminal diseases, and even the rapidity with which a vaccine was found to attempt to arrest the continued spread of the devastating and deadly global pandemic of our age.  Then there is love that brings young men and women to believe in the future and a sacramental commitment before God and the community in marriage. Then there are the infants born of love as a sign of trust in the hope and value of tomorrow. Oh! and there is so much more!  What about the wonderful moments that happen to each one of us personally (These we seem to fail to remember when something undesired occurs)?

The God of prophecy is a God Who sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17) All this should encourage our hearts to peace and joy, even in the midst of the challenges and outright disasters of life.  Inner peace and inner joy, fruits of loving hearts who trustingly surrender to God, give us the harmony and balance for which we yearn in such a cacophonous and unstable world. God’s inspired Word – the Word made flesh – teaches us through the written experiences of our ancestors in the faith. The reassuring message that keeps recurring at all the momentous times of our journey of faith through the millennia is: Do not be afraid! … It is!  (John 6: 20) Keep cheerful. Be at peace. Let God do as He pleases. None of the things you fear will come to pass. These re-assuring words of consolation were offered to set a troubled conscience at rest. It is as though someone was repeating a rather amusing statement that says: “What do you mean worry doesn’t help!  Everything I worried about never happened!”

Worry only destroys inner peace and clouds the vision of our hearts. Often we worry about matters we have no control over or of which we have no certain knowledge. Thus we compromise our inner peace and serenity in useless fretting.  Be concerned and alert, Yes! But worry is belief that failure is inevitable. Fear (or worry) is useless. What is needed is faith (Mark 5: 36). Fear (worry) leads to discouragement, which is one of satan’s best tools. While encouraging others, we must trust in God Who assists us in dealing with all that the He has allowed to occur in our life. We suffer and rejoice, are glad and fearful. These are very human responses to what surrounds us. Even the saints experienced sadness, pain, confusion, even fear. They too, even as our own seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, sought their ‘Simon of Cyrenes’ to help them bear the ‘cross of unknowing, confusion, pain, death’ by opening their heart to them. Nevertheless, ultimately, they surrendered to the love and mercy of God, trusting in His divine providence, and accepted everything. Everything was part of God’s plan they were called to fulfill. They surrendered and accepted with unimaginable joy and sincere gratitude.

The Poverello knew and recognized that his trials and pains were permitted by the One Who is perfectly knowing of all that happens to each one of us. Past, present, and future are all in His all-providing hands and divine Will. So why do we fear and tremble so much? When we accept the truth that the Lord created us with a depth of feelings that respond or react with so much seeming simultaneous delight and suffering, how can we not pause and just marvel?! Marvel? Yes, marvel at a God Who journeys with us at every moment and with everyone. One cannot help but be filled with a sense of inner serenity and joy. We should be immensely satisfied and happy. At the bad things we have experienced, NO! But at the challenges that lie ahead  that will show us at every turn the presence of the Eternal One guiding, guarding, protecting, and strengthening us to grow in His grace and our faith, trust and love for Him in His love for us.  May God be blessed forever!

As we enter a new calendar year no doubt our hearts and minds are filled with mixed emotions.  So much is happening in the world, our nation, and even in our neighborhoods and families, that often we look to the future with a sense of foreboding.  The new calendar creates an illusion of being able to be unaffected by the past that no longer exists, while at the same time it leaves us apprehensive about the future in a world in confusion and upheaval in so many places.  We get so taken up with the past and the future that we fail to graciously accept the ‘gift’, the ‘present’, God gives us to live in the Real Presence of His Eucharist that nourishes and His Word that nurtures and guides.  It is now, in the present, today, that the future opens up for each one of us.  We learn from the successes and failures of the past. We confidently look forward to a future in God’s loving-care. We live our present with simplicity and trust.  We know that we can be effective instruments in God’s plan capable of changing the world.  We must dispel fear and learn to trust. We trust in God, trust in others God has placed with us, trust in ourselves endowed by God with gifts of time to work, talents to use, and the treasure of life and love.

At His birth, Magi came from the east (Matthew 2:1-12). Their search for the Word made flesh is the search of everyone for the unseen God. When they opened the eyes of their heart and saw God in an Infant, Heaven in a stable, Magnificent Dignity in lowliness, Wisdom in external absurdity, Power in impotence, Providence in need, Love in rejection … then, and only then, could they, and we as well with them, acknowledge the wondrous exchange between eternity and time, the Creator and the creature. The Invisible becomes visible. The eternal enters time and is subject to it. The Almighty becomes fragile. The Unknowable is seen. The Spirit becomes a body to love and nurture, hands to caress, and a heart beating at one with His creation.

Mary’s role in all this should open our hearts in such a love for Her that all this new year we should each day say, with Pope St.John Paul II: Totus Tuus – All Yours!   All Yours Mother!  All Yours Jesus through our Mother! … Yes! God’s Mother and ours too!  How could we be otherwise than all Hers? God is goodness, Mary is the Mother of goodness. God is Mercy, Mary is the Mother of Mercy. God is Grace Itself, Mary is the Mother of Grace and Mediatrix of all graces. God is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life. God is our Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope.

As the Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father of Assisi let us live this new year in the peace and joy of those who know God is with us.  Our Father St. Francis and our Holy Mother St.Clare  abandoned themselves unreservedly to God’s Will and Word, in an overwhelming peace and joy. Let God’s Word be our guide and His Eucharist, the Incarnate Word in Sacrament, be our Viaticum through life. Jesus, born in the “House of Bread” is our “Bread for the journey” (“viaticum”). Open to God’s Incarnate Word and His life-giving words let us be open to one another in a bond of love and truth that strengthens the unity of our Franciscan Family throughout our region, nation and throughout the world. As we live in the Word and seek to live His words, may we witness a hope that the world seems to be losing.

Some people wait for Friday to ‘step down from the merry-go-round’ of their work-week. Others look forward to Mondays filled with new opportunities and challenges that help them discover the talents and strengths God gives to meet the ‘gifts’ of a new week.  May we all look forward to a New Year of Grace, in which God offers us the occasion to ’unwrap’ the wonderful gifts He entrusts to us that we might grow in grace and be His instruments of Peace and Blessings to all throughout the year and throughout our lives. Having begun the New Year with Mary and in Jesus’ Name, let us let our Mother’s example of silent trust and anticipation of the ‘unraveling’ of God’s will, and the Most Holy Name of Jesus, before Whom heaven, and earth, and those under the earth bend the knee (Philippians 2:10), be our standard and strong support. In His Name is the Father’s Love and the Spirit’s power. In His Name we find peace. He is Peace and Salvation!

JESUS, OUR PEACE, DOES NOT DISAPPOINT ANYONE WHO PLACES THEIR TRUST IN HIM.  LORD, THIS YEAR AND ALWAYS, WE PLACE OUR TRUST IN YOU! May the Peace, Joy, Blessings … and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones. May God bless you; Our Lady Whose Divine Motherhood begins the new calendar year, and her beloved spouse St. Joseph, whose special Holy Year we celebrate, guide, guard, and protect you and your families.

 

October, 2020, 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      webiste:  skdsfo      email: pppgusa@gmail.com

October 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant us His peace.

Among the various celebrations during the month of October, the month dedicated to the most holy Rosary of our Blessed Mother, Right to Life, awareness of the Mission Activity of the Church, just to name a few, is the Feast/Solemnity of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis of Assisi has inspired what has become a mosaic of expressions of Franciscanism through the centuries. The Orders he was instrumental in founding and the religious congregations, societies, and groups that have come from his spirit and the influence they have in the lives of people are numerous. We read his documents or those about him in the Sources. Often however we fail to really listen to the words we read and the underlying deeper message therein. Thus, when “push comes to shove” in spiritual and practical matters, confusion or outright opposition seems to ensue.

Among the powerful words of our father “idiota”, as Francis called himself – which meant he was not advanced in the intellectual programs and advancement of his times, but he surely was an educated person – are the words: “obedience” and “Catholic”, and “Catholic” is with a capital “C”.  It is regarding these two words,  that you are asked to please re-read a letter approved by the Regional Council of the time (2010) regarding matters within the Order and Region which required a re-reading and consideration of our free and willing profession as Franciscans in general.

The letter was formulated and signed by the Regional Spiritual Assistants at that time, one of whom, Br. Larry Hilferty TOR, of happy memory, is now in the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. This could be a wonderful way for all of us to re-consider our acceptance of a vocation to the Franciscan Gospel Life that actually does demand our “obedience” to everything expected of us, not just by our Seraphic Father himself, but also by the “Catholic” Church who approves and promulgates what makes us Franciscans. As St. Francis reminded his spiritual children, we are called to read and live “without gloss” the Gospel Life we accepted.

May 23, 2010 

Re: ‘Let them be Catholic’ 

 Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you His peace! 

There has been something on our minds that we believe must be addressed for the sake of truth and the integrity of our Franciscan Family.  We have hesitated writing this letter because we believe that some will be offended and others, for the sake of friendships, will criticize and maybe even give ultimatums to their Fraternity or Regional councils. 

 

One of the strong characteristics of the spirit of St. Francis himself, was his undisputed obedience and fidelity to the Roman Catholic Church and its legitimately elected Pontiffs.  St. Francis makes it quite clear, without equivocation, that his followers must be Catholic.

 There are many Christians and non-Christians around the world who have a respect for and even devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, among these specifically are our Anglican and Lutheran sisters and brothers. The life and words of St. Francis of Assisi have touched their lives and encouraged many to follow his Rule of life in a more formal and segregated manner from the lay members of their churches. God undoubtedly blesses them and all who seek the truth and strive to live it. 

 Participation in the Secular Franciscan Order, as envisioned by its Founder our Seraphic Father and confirmed by the Roman Catholic Church and its Pontiff, professes to obey the Church and Holy Father in all things, impacts life in the spirit, flows from centuries of tradition and history, follows  specific organizational requisites, and encounters definite social and psychological consequences. Unless one is a baptized Catholic Christian in full communion with the Church of Rome, one cannot profess faithfulness to one way of life while believing in another form, thus creating inner tension or a spirit of indifference which inevitably will affect the lives and faith expression of others. Consequently, that person cannot be a professed member of the I, II, III Regular, and Secular Orders of the Franciscan Family within the Roman Catholic Church.  Each independent group is an autonomous Order within the Church.  They are not loosely knit social associations, but are bound by canonical legislation (i.e. Church Law) that guides the spirit and life of the group within the parameters of the same Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore, only baptized Catholics in union with Rome can be accepted into profession as Secular Franciscans after the established preparatory period of formation has been fulfilled. 

 These brief, and we hope clear and straightforward remarks, are in response to a number of questions and requests regarding the possibility of permitting those not in union with Rome or non-Christians who admire St. Francis of Assisi to be permitted to be admitted to the Secular Franciscans of the Roman Catholic Church.  The requisites for full and valid admission into any branch of the Franciscan Order do not depend on an arbitrary decision made by one individual or group (e.g. Regional, National, or even International Councils); admission, formation and ultimate formation is a matter of Church Law.  This is also the will of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi that he conveyed and enforced numerous times in his writings and also in his actions. 

With every best wish for all of you, we pray this letter may dispel some confusion regarding the matter of valid admission to the Order in the Catholic Church.  The integrity of our charism is founded on our fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church into which we are baptized.  Never forget your dignity.  For over eight hundred years we have been a bulwark of the Catholic Faith and Church; to seek only common denominators to make others comfortable, is to destroy the basic roots of the Order and our ministry within the Church and world. 

Peace and Blessings 

Brother Lawrence J. Hilferty, T.O.R.
Fr. Francis A. 
Sariego, OFM Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistants 

 St. Francis of Assisi was no pushover. He dealt with the friars, sisters, and all who sought his assistance in living the Gospel Life he sought in response to God’s call. He got terribly annoyed when the friars, while he was in the Holy Land, sought to “mitigate” the life by even changing what Francis knew was what he had been given by God to live. He demanded that the words of Scripture and the Rule not be “glossed” according to personal desires and whims. It is God who must be proposed and not the egos of the individual friars.

We are living in challenging times for the Church. The Church is being criticized, ridiculed; the Holy Father is being opposed by the very ones who should be working with him and assisting him. The faithful and even those outside the Church are taking sides and campaigning in one way or another. Nothing really changes. Is has gone through these moments regularly throughout history. We are called to challenge others by our way of life and to be challenged by our personal call to be Franciscans. The uniqueness of our characters, personalities, quirks and what have, you find our unity in the bond of our “yes” to God’s invitation. There is always room for various expressions of ministry within the family. They must, however, be in accord with Church Laws regulating the work of any group acting in the name of the Catholic Church, and the Rule and Constitutions of the religious Orders approved by the Church. Let us pray that we always recognize our unity in pluriformity, and that our pluriformity always be faithful to what makes us Catholic Christians and committed Franciscans.

As Mary journeyed Her life with that of Jesus, may the mysteries of the Rosary we celebrate this month and hopefully pray everyday. May the Rosary be a daily reminder of our lives immersed in the reality of Jesus’ ever with us through all the moments of our lives, and of Mary’s intimate presence encouraging us, Her children whom she accepted as her own at the foot of the Cross. It is in the mystery of the Incarnation that we can see that we can understand true faithful and integrity in the word we gave as our pledge, as we reflect upon the Word Who gave the pledge of His faithfulness to the Father’s Will even to the Cross.

God bless all of you.  May our Blessed Mother intercede for you.  May our Seraphic Father be a bright presence in our lives encouraging all of us to the faithful fulfillment of our “yes” to the Gospel Life as Franciscans.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – September 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      regional website: skdsfo       email: pppgusa@gmail.com

September 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord bless you with His peace!

The Fathers of the Church maintained that human beings stand at the point of intersection between two gravitational fields. First, there is the force of gravity which pulls us down – towards selfishness, falsehood and evil; the gravity which diminishes us and distances us from the heights of God.  On the other hand there is the gravitational force of Gods love: the fact that we are loved by God and respond in love attracts us upwards.  (We find ourselves) between this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God … (Pope Benedict XVI)

The more we respond to this force that attracts upward to God, the more we are encouraged to look up and beyond the things that so often easily attract and even seduce us here on earth.  We are human beings, created to live in and love God’s creation.  However, life here is a journey and not the end of all our desires.  When we build on the bridge, rather than cross over it, life becomes precarious and the thought of the future can be disconcerting and frightening. When we allow ourselves to be ‘grasped by God’, life changes immensely, though the circumstances we encounter may remain the same.  The more intimate and personal the experience we have, the less capable we are of expressing in words all that we feel.

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis not only had a profound relationship with God, but also received signs of God’s unbounded love and trust. The Poverello of Assisi emptied himself of all that could possess him. His response from the Eternal Love would be the image of the Crucified Lord he would bear the last two year of his life. He became a living image of the Crucified Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. What can anyone say about such a powerful and awesome experience!  Not only to be in God’s presence, but to be physically signed as God’s Incarnate Son for all the world to see! What can we say? What embarrassment and humiliation he must have suffered in wanting to be devoid of everything, even human respect and recognition, and now becoming a spectacle for all the world to see this ’new and wonderful thing that has happened’.

We know that it was as he was celebrating the Lent of Saint Michael, that St. Francis was invaded by an absolute silence. It surrounded and enveloped him in this ‘Divine Presence’. Filled with wonder but peace at the same time, in a moment of total abandonment, he saw before him a mysterious person, adorned with the wings of the seraphs of whom the Prophet speaks in Scripture, whose hands and feet and side were dripping blood.  What Francis must have felt at that moment is indescribable for those of us who have not experienced this gift of God’s love. Such a sight, as the powerful presence of the Almighty in the Scriptures, would surely have taken the life of Francis, had he not been signed for a purpose requiring he remain for a short while longer among us. As the old prayer for the Feast of the Stigmata states: … when the world was growing cold you signed your servant Francis with the holy stigmata to re-kindle the fire of your love …  No doubt, as the vision disappeared, he became aware that his hands and feet and side were pierced and bleeding. Can we imagine the pain and agony that he must have felt every day bearing these wounds?  Yet, there was still a joy in his heart at the powerful confirmation of God’s love for him and all that he had been ready and willing to do in response to God’s original call at San Damiano. What was impressed in his heart at San Damiano was now impressed on his body for all to see at La Verna.

It would not be long before Our Seraphic Father would sing his own song of praise and thanksgiving for all the Lord had done for him and through his lowly servant.  Just as Jesus on the cross, St. Francis would offer his prayer of ’consummatum est’ to the Father and all the brothers.  He would let them know that he had done his part and now they must continue and do their part.  I have done what was mine to do.   Powerful words of acknowledgment and gratitude for a life fully lived for God and others.  Then he continues telling the brothers that you must do your part. Prophetic words that remind us all that we who have accepted the call to be Franciscans must continue to live the Spirit and Life we have professed.  It is not enough to know the life of St. Francis of Assisi, or be aware of his writings and the Spirit of the Order of which we are all gratefully brothers and sisters.

There is a story, that loses in the translation, that speaks of some rather cute but insignificant looking donkeys  who, to attract attention to them by the gypsies who use them because they are so small, are adorned with bells, colored ribbons, and so on. Some who profess our lives are like those donkeys, they need the frills to attract attention to themselves but refuse to let their lives be the attraction.  We pride ourselves on having a Founder who was stigmatized, but we are hesitant to bear the ’stigmata’ of our responsibilities and fidelity to the Word of God, the Church, the Rule, the Constitutions, our own local ministers in harmony with the Church and Order.  Some are running after everything that makes them ’feel’ good, rather than pray, reflect on, and live what they have professed to make them be good and become better, all the way to ’sainthood’.  We are all called to be saints.

 

It is not often that we are privileged to enter the heart of a saint.  It is not often that we are privileged to peer into the depths of a soul “inebriated” with the eternal.  We emulate the life we revere.  We are privileged to be made sharers in the gifts of that life ‑ gifts bestowed because of the love and willingness of that privileged soul to be a person for all people. Through Baptism, St. Francis, as well as we, became one with Jesus in the Spirit through the life of grace.  In his emptying of himself and discarding all that pertained to his former life in society before the Bishop and people of Assisi, the Poverello of Assisi became one with Christ in his detachment from the world and its “ego”, from its exclusive relationships and their confining demands, and from the material things and their possessive nature that keep one a slave to wants unfulfilled rather than encourage gratitude for gifts received. In his service to the poor and the brothers and sisters, St. Francis became one with the Mediator between God and Humanity. His love for Christ, His Mother, and the Church overflowed into an evangelical ministry that touched the hearts and lives of many.

We too are offered similar privileges and responsibilities. Their effectiveness is determined by our conviction and commitment to surrender to the One Who calls us to such a privileged position.  We too share in the Baptismal character of all the faithful called to live the Gospel. We too are encouraged to live the spiritual detachment from the inflated ego, the unbridled passions of the senses and the slavery to material things.  We too are expected to share in the priesthood of the faithful when, together with those ordained to the ministerial priesthood, we offer the perfect sacrifice that re‑presents the one sacrifice of Jesus.  We experience the effects of this sacrifice according to the intensity with which we surrender ourselves to the urging of the Spirit and the work of grace in our life.

The impression of the Stigmata on the body of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi is a personal, intimate and uniting experience.  The “mysterious person” took St. Francis through the mystical-mysterious experiences of his life of prayer and contemplation, and impressed on his body an image, enfleshed for the world to see, of the Savior’s eternal love for all humanity.  The outward signs of Jesus Crucified that St. Francis bore were a renewed reminder of God’s love for His creation, a creation that had grown cold in its love and trust in God.  The life of our “crucified” father, whose mere presence served as a sign of contradiction to the world, was a call for everyone to look beyond the self‑centeredness, violence, and materialism of those who so quickly relegate God to an outpost of the mind or who forget God altogether.  Humanity all too soon forgets its past experiences of infidelity and the consequences they have on a world that lives without God as its guiding presence.

The Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi was accepted and recognized by the Church and by those lives transformed by God’s grace, God’s love and wonders did not cease to emanate from his very presence. He was like the bronze serpent Moses raised for the Israelites to look on ‑ lest they die ‑ and be healed of the venom of the serpents that had bitten them.  The venom of the Serpent that has bitten and poisoned so many of God’s elect down through the centuries continues its murderous mission as it seeks to infect the lives of good people who sincerely search for and desire the Lord in their lives.  When we look to the Crucified of Calvary we are saved. When we look to the Crucified of Assisi we are encouraged to look upon and believe in a God Who walks with us and works within us leading us beyond any poisonous seduction, allurement, or even compromise that would severely affect or even destroy our relationship with God. But, we must look upon him and believe.  We must look upon the Lord Crucified and believe in His power and presence to save.  We must look upon our Seraphic Father and remember the love he had for God and the love God had for him, and remember the love we had when we heard and accepted the call to be the sons and daughters of the Crucified of Assisi. We were called to follow his example of openness and faithfulness to God, God’s Word, His Church and our Franciscan Family; when any of these lack, we cannot call ourselves true Franciscans, and in some cases possibly not even true Catholics.

We talk about St.  Francis of Assisi, we reflect on his life and words at our meetings and Masses.  Do we emulate his life and teachings so that others see the values we preach lived in our own lives?  There is often a real lack of substance in our devotion to St. Francis, in fact, there are some who know the great mystics of other religious traditions and have not even opened a book to read St. Francis, St. Clare and the great mystics of our own Seraphic Family.  Often those in formation will not read the books offered for their knowledge, but are ready and willing to read other spiritual writers. Nevertheless, the question arises: if you want to be a Franciscan, but do not want to read or study our life as the Family of Francis and Clare, how much do you really want to be a Franciscan?  Oh, and by the way, we are a family. St. Francis tells the brothers in the Rule, and all his spiritual children: For if mother loves her child according to the flesh, how much more must we love one another according to the Spirit!  

 The highest praise is imitation!  Let us begin to recognize the holiness in our Franciscan Family and strive to live the Spirit and Life offered us.   Let us be authentic!  

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we carry on the Christian’s mission to be Heralds of the Lord’s goodness to the world.  Our appreciation and devotion for the Poverello must inevitably lead us to emulate his virtues and to live the counsels he offered in his role as guide and father of our Franciscan Family.  He proclaimed God’s love to the world, and his lasting example challenges those who seek him out to live the values of prayer, sacrifice, reconciliation, reparation, charity and love that he expounded.  The Cross of Jesus made us one again in the Blood of the Savior; the wounds of our Seraphic Father challenge us to remember the Cross, our banner of salvation, and to live our life more deeply in the Father’s Will as did our Savior.

The month of September is imbued with the mystery of the Cross. May we, as Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, treasure the example and words of our Seraphic Father and Founder. May the image of the Crucified Savior become more alive and meaningful to us through the image of  his privileged servant, our Father, and not just at our official meetings or special gatherings.  May the Feast of the Sacred Stigmata Impressed on our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi that we celebrate this month be a calming and reassuring reality for us to consider as we continue our earthly journey. May his words and example be indicators that help us find our way through the crossroads of life, especially when the choices offered are enticing, alluring, seductive, but we know them in faith to be deceiving and dangerous. May we rejoice in the Lord for the gift He gave the Church and the world in our Father St. Francis.

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

Peace and Blessings,

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation for August, 2020 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

August 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

The Brothers and Sisters of Penance, Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, are called to live as the “Penitents of Assisi” in a world who “seeks a sign”. Just as in the days of Noah (cfr. Luke)…just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale (cfr. Matthew), as Jesus responded to those who sought a sign from Him, today’s society and world are looking for “a sign”. They forget or are unaware that the sign they seek is a person. Our Secular Franciscans have found that person in Jesus Christ. The life with which we Franciscans are entrusted to learn and live is found in the Gospels. The manner of life in the world and not of the world ( cfr. John 15 / John 17 et al.) we seek through the example and words of the Seraphic Patriarch of Assisi. This life can be effectively and joyfully lived by an enormous variety of personalities as we see in the lives of the multitude of Franciscan Saints and Blesseds officially recognized by the Church. Love for the Franciscan charism and a commitment to live in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi has also endeared thousands of others not “officially” recognized as “heroic” examples of virtue by the Church. Nevertheless, their hidden lives have impacted and helped men and women for eight centuries to make vital life-changing decisions in God’s way and will.

St. Francis of Assisi may be an attractive poetic character to some, but the man who accepted the challenge of the Gospel life has been a transforming influence for millions. Francis was simple in his approach, loving in his manner with the poor and suffering, unrelenting in his determination that God’s call to him and those who wished to follow must be lived “without gloss”. St. Francis was no ‘pushover’. He knew and believed in the original voice that said Francis, go rebuild my Church for as you see it is falling into ruin (voice from the Crucifix in San Damiano Church, Assisi).  He would not change what he knew and believed to be the will of God for him and for those who sought to follow his way of Gospel living.

The first members of the Secular Franciscan Order were practical people who continued living in the world with a commitment to the Gospel life in a spirit of simplicity, prayer, peace (disarmed hearts), fulfillment of their daily responsibilities, greater awareness-respect-commitment to God’s Word and Sacraments, love for the Church even at historically questionable times of schism, heresy, moral decadence. The brothers and sisters of Penance were challenged to grow in holiness. This was a holiness that did not strive to encourage them to be proud of their humble demeanor and/or self-righteous holy practices. Our brethren of the penitential life sought solely to become saints.  They knew as we know that holiness is not a question of the ‘popular thing to do’. It is not a question of being with the ‘in crowd’ of some church society.  Holiness does not call attention to us but to the Christ that shines through us. Sanctity is the consequence of a personal decision one makes to be fully directed by the Spirit of God through a process of daily conversion.

Unless our prayer is enfleshed in our lives, and our lives resound in our prayer, our spiritual life is stunted, if not altogether dead or in agony.  True holiness can never be achieved fully until we enter the everlasting embrace of the Eternal Father, through the blood of his Son Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through our earthly journey we strive to grow each day in holiness and move forward toward the ultimate goal: God-Everlasting Life in His Love. The almighty intercession of Our Heavenly Mother, Mediatrix of All Graces, is the channel through which prayers and graces flow, as She accompanies Her children on this journey. The intercession of the saints, angels and souls in Purgatory to whom we pray also fulfill their role in the wholeness of our journey. The process is not impossible, nor is it difficult. Remember that the hand will never reach for what the heart does not desire. What we truly desire, we will seek to move heaven and the netherworld to obtain. But, it is demanding!  It demands that we desire this holiness, seeking spiritual wholeness, holistically. Following the prompting of the Holy Spirit and using the graces God entrusts to us, every bit of creation serves to strengthen the inner being that drives us to be in this world but not of this world ( cfr. John 15 / John 17 et al.) .

This month we celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus (August 6) and the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into heaven (August 15).  It is interesting to note that both deal with the divine and the human, the soul and the body, the invisible and the visible, the immortal and the mortal, the perfect and the flawed. One is seen as the fruit of the process of the other.  The Transfiguration that dazzles the apostles is the transformation of the body that the Apostles walked and talked with during their years with Jesus.  The Assumption of Mary’s physical body into the realm of the spirit is the celebration of the transformation of the material body of Mary that grew old and was subjected to life’s many changes into a fully glorified spiritual being.  No person can be truly holy without being truly human – human as God intended at the beginning of time and not as we have become through the abuse and misuse of our free will. These two feasts should be an encouragement for us to continue our endeavors to grow in the spirit, regardless of our weaknesses, faults, and even sins.  They should encourage us to strive more intensely to live the spirit of our Franciscan vocation every day of our lives. The monthly fraternity meeting is the fraternal gathering where family meets in love to be “energized” to live the family values with joy even beyond the formality of a meeting.

Vigilance over one’s self at all times, without scrupulosity or undue exaggeration, is essential. Nourished by the Eucharist as much as possible, we see ourselves and others with the eyes of Jesus. He speaks to our heart with compassion. He helps us to see the world with the practicality of one who lives, as mentioned before, in the world but not of the world. Our faith is simple and robust.  Yes, Lord, I do believe, therefore I give myself over to your Good News made flesh – Jesus – and seek to live and be the image of Jesus for others as well.

Our Franciscan brothers and sisters are men and women in love with Jesus and His Good News of God’s extravagant love for all of creation. St. Francis of Assisi gives us an example of what it means to be excited about every facet of life.  Through prayer, reflection, service, all Franciscans are assisted in experiencing God’s loving presence in their lives, and God’s loving presence in all creation as well as in all created human beings. Created things consecrated and transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Jesus in the world, love and devotion for Mary the Mother of Jesus overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to be the highest honor of our race and “almighty” intercessor for all before God, the faith of the Church of Christ subsisting in the Catholic Church, make us one family in God. Every gathering of the fraternity, formally or informally, should be an experience that fosters and enhances our love for one another and desire to bring that to others. The strength of our commitment to our particular expression of Franciscan life is rendered powerfully present wherever we are by the example of our love for one another, deep devotion in the practice of daily living our Catholic faith in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.  Secular Franciscans are an example of what the everyday Catholic can become. Find time each day to pray and reflect. Allow the experience of God to flow over from your personal lives into acts of charity and service for all. Let the hand of Christ reach out to fulfill the heart’s desire to be Christ to the other and to touch Christ in the other.

We Franciscans should glow like beacons of light in a world that has grown dim in its spiritual fervor!  We must not compromise our Baptismal promises or our Franciscan profession.  We are called to be examples and guides for others!  By living the evangelical life of a Penitent of Assisi we touch the lives of others and lead them closer to Jesus and Mary!  We are expected to take up the challenge to be Christ to the world!  This is our mission. As the “Penitents of Assisi” we know that “penance” is a change of heart that ultimately changes one’s life. This is the road of daily conversion, the road of holiness.

All of this may seem like much.  It may seem impossible.  It may seem unattainable.  If that were the case, then we would have to say that the Gospel is impossible to live. St Francis faced this predicament himself when he presented his original Rule of Life for the first followers to the Pope.  He was told it was impossible to live the Gospel as literally as he stated. A Cardinal of the Papal Court who was present at the event counseled the Pope that to say such a thing was to say living the Gospel is impossible. That would be blasphemy and heresy. Needless to say, Francis was given the permission he asked. All things are possible when we believe in God and trust in his grace that can transform those who place their lives in His hands. The God of surprises, is a God Who supports and provides for those who say “yes” even to the “impossible”. Our Heavenly Mother said “yes” to the impossible and just look at what happened!  Was it ever heard that God was so near to His people as our God is to us? (Exodus 33: 1-16 34: 8-10)   

We are called to continue the vocation St. Francis first received at San Damiano. All Franciscans enter the unique vocation, not of sacramental priesthood but of the priesthood of the faithful baptized in Christ. We are encouraged by the examples of an immense throng before us to become victims with the Victor. Christian Victimhood is a concretizing of the baptismal priesthood in Christ we have all received. When we consider the implications, “victimhood” is a word difficult to accept. It is even more difficult to want to accept this state as a vocation. Actually, it is the call of every baptized Christian to be Jesus in this world.  Jesus became a victim on the cross. We accept to be baptized in His baptism and drink the chalice He drank (cfr. Mark 10: 37-40). We accomplish this chiefly by living fully the responsibilities of our Christian Catholic Franciscan life. We even accept, if that be God’s will, the extraordinary “crucial” (cross-shaped) moments with serenity and trust. We need not create “our cross”, the one we would like. That would be a “cheap shot”, and rather cowardly. Believe that God in His love knows our strengths and will never give us anything that we cannot bear or will not be beneficial to us … and His glory?!  Accepting a share in the sufferings of Christ, we are given what God wills, and we have it made for eternity, forever!

We are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ. We share in the priesthood of the faithful. While the priest offers the bread that becomes the Body of the Savior, all can offer the daily responsibilities of life.  Our work, our relationships, our hopes, our dreams, all we are, created in God’s image, we offer each day.  While the priest offers the wine in the chalice that becomes the Blood of Christ, we can offer our sufferings, our fears, our hardships.  With the priest we offer not only the gifts he consecrates but the very gift of ourselves together with the Victim of Calvary re-presented at the altar of Sacrifice and the Table of the Lord.

At Baptism, in Christ we are anointed priest, prophet and king.  We too offer sacrifice; we too become a sacrifice; and we too share the benefits of that One Great Sacrifice offered once and forever. The Eucharist re-presents the mystery we share and seek to become. Sacrifice means to make sacred or to make holy. We are consecrated (made sacred with) in Jesus, as He Himself prayed the night before He died: Father, I pray for them…consecrate them in truth…who would be my disciple must follow in my footsteps. In the Eucharist we receive, we become a living sign of thanksgiving to God ever present among and within us. He is our Emmanuel (God with us).  It is a reminder of the Communion we share with all God’s children, beginning with our family in Christ and extending our disarmed hands and hearts out to the whole world.

As Mary called our Seraphic Father to the chapel of the Portiuincula (Feast August 2nd) to extend a special blessing and privilege to those who honor Her as our Lady of Angels, may Her love and blessings continue to flow to each one of us, Her Franciscan children. Like our most Blessed Mother, let us allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us with His presence.  May that Holy Spirit enter the recesses of our hearts. Thus, the image of Christ can be born within us so that we can offer Him in and with our lives, as Mary did at Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum,…CALVARY, to the whole world.  Like Mary, we are called to be Tabernacles and Monstrances of the one Saving Lord, Whose Holy Spirit has anointed us to continue the wonderful mystery of our salvation together with our priests in, with, and for the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. We form that Body! The Mass is Christ; the Church is Christ; we are the Church, therefore, we must become the Mass we celebrate and offer our lives each day in union with the Sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ. This is the holistic means of human wholeness that leads to holiness in God’s loving grace.

May the Lord bless you and your loved ones; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi with St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of you and your loved ones, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

July, 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      regional website: skdsfo       email: pppgusa@gmail.com

                                                                                                   July 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord bless you with His peace!

The source of all holiness is the One Who is not only Source and Means but also the Ultimate Goal for all who seek to be holy. God in Himself is the most essential means to achieve this ‘eternal challenge’ offered humanity.  We are flawed because of Original Sin, but capable of overcoming the influence of satan.  Our strength to overcome the limitations of nature and the discouragement caused by our sins, and the nourishment that satisfies the spiritual needs of our soul that hungers for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life, for life, and through the experiences of earthly life until it enters eternity, come from one great and essential source, Who is God-among-us – the Eucharist.

 

Both the Heart pierced for us and the Blood poured out for us are all vivid reminders not only of the extravagant love God has for all His creation, but also of His Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar.  God in His love and immensity remains in heaven, yet through His Incarnation in our time, through the ‘yes’ of our Blessed Mother Mary, continues to journey with us.  We encounter God in various ways: on the road to Damascus, as Paul, when God’s call is unique, distinct, and unequivocal; on Calvary, when He encounters us in our sufferings of any kind, and especially in that ultimate moment when He leads us from time to eternity; and on the Road to Emmaus, when Jesus, Word of God made flesh, and Sacrament of the Father’s Covenant with humanity teaches, enlightens, and strengthens us to help others meet Jesus on the way and to hear and to follow His voice through us.

 

We cannot reflect enough upon the great hidden Mystery and Real Living Presence we celebrate, receive, and become in the Eucharistic Lord Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit Whom we invoke, the simple elements of bread and wine become the Divine Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The more we become like the One Whom we consume, the more we are consumed by Him.  Our intimate encounter should be lovingly anticipated through prayer and reflection.  We totally surrender ourselves to each other when we two, – Jesus and I – become one in Holy Communion. Thus, this experience in time transforms the moment we celebrate into an experience of heaven, an experience of eternity, that we carry with us.

 

The Eucharist was the Center of the life of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi.  The prayer so many have come to know and pray often speaks of this centrality. Passing a church, St. Francis would pray: We adore You most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here, and in all Your churches throughout the world, and we praise You, because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.  The Mystery of the Passion‑Death‑Resurrection of Jesus was ever-present before the eyes of his heart. Transformed in his heart by his love for Christ, he was transformed in the body, called to be a living image of the Crucified Savior for others to be reminded of God’s love for them to death, even death on a Cross (Philippians 2:8)… The Eucharist was the center of the life of our holy Mother St. Clare. How great was St. Clare’s affection and devotion to the Sacrament of the Altar is shown by their effect … When receiving the Body of the Lord, she at first shed burning tears and, approaching with trembling, she feared Him Who was hidden in the Sacrament no less than Him who was ruling heaven and earth. (Legend of St. Clare, chpt. XVIII)  Maybe we, spiritual children of the holy Assisians, might learn and live what our ‘parents’ teach us by their love and example!

 

The Eucharist is the continuation of the journey of Jesus with His ‘companions’ (‘sharers with/in the bread’). The first disciples of Jesus listened, were strengthened and nourished by the Sacred Food of His Body and Blood. These first followers were sent to be Apostles who preached His Real Presence with their lives.  Nothing has changed.  We too are expected to do the same.  At the Eucharist we come to listen, receive, and be sent.  The effectiveness of our ‘Eucharistic ministry’ depends on the depth of our conviction in Who the Eucharist is (and not ‘what’). The totality of our commitment to continue the life of the One we have received will be seen in how we live our lives.

 

While still with His disciples, Jesus taught them to communicate with God as He did.  He encouraged them (and us today) to pray with childlike confidence and familiarity to God, as Father (“Abba” = “Daddy”).  He instructed those who believed in Him to ask in their prayer for daily bread. And to insure that what they (and we) asked, once received, would bear fruit for themselves and all whom they encountered. He became their daily Viaticum, that is “bread for the journey”.

 

Shortly before His death and departure from this world, Jesus took bread, blessed it, and broke it and gave it to His disciples with the assurance that in their sharing they were receiving His very Body and Blood.  When the body of Jesus was broken and His blood poured out in sacrificial atonement on the cross, He remained with his own, hidden but powerfully present in the sacred signs of the consecrated and broken bread and shared wine (his Body and Blood broken and poured out for us).  After the Resurrection of Jesus, his followers gathered again and again to take, bless, break, give, share and be fed upon the bread of His Body and the wine of his Blood.  In that action, they knew and experienced their Lord and Savior; in that action, they signified and strengthened their union with Christ and with one another (the Church) in Him. No longer bread and wine, though seen as such, but the Divine Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Himself.

 

Twenty centuries after Jesus, the Church continues to confirm its unity, communion and life in Christ through the Eucharist.  To affirm the vital importance of these sacred moments of encounter with Christ and His sisters and brothers, the Church, in the Second Vatican Council, declared: The celebration of the Eucharist, as an action of Christ and the people of God … is the center of the whole Christian life, for the universal Church, the local church, and for each and everyone of the faithful … The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all its power flows … All who are made children of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of the Church, to take part in the sacrifice and to eat the supper of the Lord. (Const. On the Sacred Liturgy, #2, 10, 41)

 

For many of those who believe, however, this declaration of the importance and centrality of the Eucharist is less than what they experience, and the original significance of the gifts of the Body and Blood of Jesus seems to have been allowed to be clouded over by a veil of monotony and boredom. A well‑known theologian of the last century, Karl Rahner, offered the following statement regarding this: Alas, we Christians. In this sacrament, we receive the pure blessedness from Heaven in the hard shell of custom, but nonetheless in all truth.  And we receive it as though nothing were happening.  How many of our ‘devout’ and ‘practicing’ Catholics truly believe in the Real and Divine Presence? This is not a rhetorical question! What do you believe of the Real Presence?  And, if you truly believe Jesus is present, Body‑Blood‑Soul‑Divinity in the Sacrament of the Altar, how do you express that belief in your composure and actions when you are in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament of the Divine Prisoner Who remains in the Tabernacle?!  It is very easy to speak of matters vaguely, but integrity demands we look at ourselves first, before we seek to convince others! Weary and lazy we take the same heart back home from the table of God into the narrow room of our lives where we are more at home than in the upper room of God.  We offer the Son in sacrifice and want to refuse our hearts.  We play the divine game of the liturgy, but we are not earnest about it. (The Great Church Year).

 

How is it that our celebrations of the Eucharist seem to be so unlike that of the early Church or the ideals expressed at Vatican II?  This is not a question of Novus Ordo or Extraordinary Form.  It is a matter of belief! Perhaps it is because we have not retained and maintained a spirituality of hunger for the Bread of Life.  Perhaps other hungers have caused us to seek our source, center and sustenance in activities that excite and thrill and cater to our whims but fail to nourish and satisfy our true needs.  Perhaps too many of us approach the weekly encounter with the Body and Blood of the Lord as an obligation rather than as an opportunity, or as a chore rather than as a celebration.

Far from being a “pit stop” for fast food and/or entertainment on the journey of life, the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ is the necessary sustenance for the spiritual survival of each member of the community and for the community as a whole. Perhaps some of us fail to ‘get something out’ of the celebration of the Eucharist because we bring nothing to it.  Each week, all that we are, and all that we have been and done, must necessarily come with us to the Eucharist we celebrate as the People of God. There we consciously acknowledge and celebrate the good that God has done through us and within us over the past week. Likewise, we consciously admit our sins and humbly submit them to the healing and forgiveness of God.  At each sharing of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are also expected to consciously remember and affirm our belief that we, who have gathered in the name of the Lord, are also the Body of Christ – His Mystical Body, the Church – taken and blessed by God, broken and given in love and in service for others.

 

His immense love that induced Him to leave the bosom of His eternal Father in order to come and take upon Himself our human frailty, found an admirable means in which He showed us His exceedingly great love. In His own name and in ours He asked the Father: Give us this day, Father, our daily bread. (Matthew 6: 11) The bread Jesus was speaking of is the Eucharist.  The immense humility of Jesus, God-made-man, is beyond our comprehension.  In His awesome humility He asks the Father to allow Him to remain with us until the end of the world! And what love of the Father for us in allowing this marvelous Presence to be perpetuated through the millennia, though the Father knows and sees His Eucharistic Son subjected to such dreadful treatment, ingratitude, indifference.  And still the Father permits and the Son desires to remain among us, to be the target of fresh insults every day!

 

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi and our holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, the Eucharist should be the Center of our lives.  There should be no compromise in our hearts that dares to equate the awesome Sacrament of the Extravagant Love of God in the Eucharist to some pious devotion or practice to which we have become accustomed.  We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Eucharist in the life of all Catholics, and especially in the life of the spiritual children of the Poverello of Assisi.  A commendable and even essential goal for all the sisters and brothers of our Franciscan Families, not just our Seculars, would be to spend at least an hour of ‘quality time’ with Jesus, whether solemnly exposed in the monstrance or hidden behind the door of the Tabernacle.  It is from the Divine Radiance that emanates from the Eucharist that hearts are transformed and/or strengthened and lives live more deeply the life of God in grace, and thus become holy.  Everything else will necessarily and more easily flow from the grace‑filled gifts God will bestow upon us. Our prayers, reflections, charitable personal or communal acts, relationships among ourselves as a Franciscan Fraternity (local, regional, national, international) as with anyone we meet on the way, will all be a radiant expression of the One Great Love we have possessed by being possessed by Him.

 

O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!  Take time to repeat this simple aspiration, as well as the brief prayer of St. Francis above (We adore You most holy Lord …) often, even when you are not near a Church. Make where you are at the moment a sacred place by making Jesus present in your mind and heart. Place yourself mentally/spiritually before the Tabernacle of some church or chapel. Recognize the Lord Who waits for you. Adore Him in your heart. Thank Him for His love. Receive Him spiritually until you can receive Him sacramentally. Be grateful for Himself in the Eucharist. And, be at peace and in joy because of a Love the world cannot give that you possess and of Whom no one can deprive you, except you yourself.

 

As Mary became a living Tabernacle when the Word was made flesh within Her womb, may you be living tabernacles when you receive the Lord into your hearts in Holy Communion. As Mary was the first Monstrance who gave Jesus for all the world to see and adore, may you be living monstrances who, carrying Jesus within you, show Him to the world by what you say and do.  They will know you by your fruits.  With Jesus everything we do is fruitful and holy.

 

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy mother St. Clare of Assisi look over each one of us, their spiritual children, with loving care.

 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant