August 2022 Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFMCap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

August 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

Among all the other gifts which we have received and continue to receive from our benefactor, the Father of mercies, and for which we must express the deepest thanks to our glorious God, our vocation is a great gift … Therefore, beloved…. we must consider the immense gifts which God has bestowed on us, especially those which he has seen fit to work in us through his beloved servant, our blessed Father Francis …Therefore, if we have lives according to the form of life given us, we shall, by very little effort, leave others a noble example and gain the prize of eternal life … Therefore, I, – although unworthy – (am bound) to our Lady, most holy Poverty, so that, after my death, (all) present and to come would never abandon her … which we have promised the Lord and our holy Father Francis … (Testament of St. Clare – adaptation in parenthesis) 

Powerful words and beautiful!  They were written by a woman whose life and example have helped transform the lives of veritably millions of women and men through the centuries.  Yes, men as well!  The patrimony of the saints is for all who are ready and willing to learn from God Who speaks through them. The whole question of holiness is one that is dis-cussed so much that at times it can become dis-gusting.  Not because the matter is irrelevant or noisome, but because we dissect the issue so much that we turn holiness into a scholastic theory to be studied rather than a goal to be achieved with the help of God’s grace and our collaboration.  In fact, as we have heard in other matters, it is the journey to holiness itself that is the goal already achieved but not yet fully.

The call to holiness, offered to all God’s children indiscriminately, awaits a response.  God does not force the issue, but will do all that is possible to make it accessible. The wonderful gift of free will, greatest gift of the Creator after His love and life, is something we can offer back in thanksgiving by allowing ourselves to live in light of God’s will. This is where holiness is! Let us remember the words of one of our Third Order brothers, St. John Vianney: We have nothing of our own but our will. It is the one thing that God has so placed in our power that we can make an offering of it. The saints show us with their lives how they had come to know God’s will for them and how they responded.

Each saint is unique. This uniqueness only enhances our awareness of the vastness of God’s goodness manifested to every single person who recognizes the working of the Spirit in God’s holy ones. We must be willing to listen rather than just hear.  We will discover a vast horizon open before us. It welcomes us into the myriad signs of a God Whose love is just waiting, or better, anticipating, our entrance into His loving embrace. We become part of the mystery of God’s love during our time on earth as we advance towards the fullness of its reality in eternity.

In calling herself the little plant of the holy Father, St. Clare tells us of her love for St. Francis and how deeply she recognizes his influence in her life. The free spirit of St. Francis and the joy that emanated from his life were an attraction that encouraged Clare, and many others during Francis’ lifetime, to be free from all that held her back from fulfilling the desire of her heart to be consecrated to the service of the Lord. The unique expressiveness of the Poverello’s actions made clear his lack of concern for human respect and the opinions of others regarding his new way of life. His desire was to invite others to praise the Lord of creation.

The humility of St. Francis in remaining in Assisi where many knew him before and ridiculed him after his conversion expressed to Clare a conviction and commitment in him that strengthened her own resolve. The wealthy and poor who followed Francis and lovingly accepted one another without distinction as brothers undoubtedly enhanced and filled St. Clare’s heart with a yearning no human affection could fill. The community who received her when she passed the doorway of the Portiuncula that March night of 1212, introduced her to a family she would love and protect until her death.

Once she entered the doorway of the Portiuncula, Mother-Sister-Confidant/Counselor Clare, became the first sister of all the brothers. Her presence and words were revered both by St. Francis as well as by all the brothers. Her prayers were a consoling and reassuring promise that encouraged the brothers in their life and daily trials. Her counsels were sought by St. Francis and the friars. Her sharing in the Gospel Life filled out the Franciscan Family. She is not only a follower of the spirit of the Poverello, she too is an innovator and founder. Like St. Francis, St. Clare will forcefully, yet respectfully and patiently, refuse to accept the Rule of any other religious community. Exalted poverty was the ‘gift’ she wanted above all else that the Church grant her. Only shortly before the end of her earthly journey did St. Clare receive the desired Privilege of Exalted Poverty. She rejoiced and could die in peace.

In speaking of St. Clare in his decree for her canonization the Holy Father said: O Clare, endowed with so many titles of clarity!  Clear (clara) even before your conversion, clearer (clarior) in your manner of living, exceedingly clear (praeclarior) in your enclosed life, and brilliant (clarissima) in splendor after the course of your mortal life.  In Clare, a clear mirror is given to the entire world. (Alexander IV). The Holy Father understood and proclaimed the beauty of the woman who really lived her name. The transparency of her life and total surrender to God’s will made her an example to be praised and raised up for all to admire, emulate, and imitate.

One of the qualities spoken of much by political groups and religious organizations is transparency. To be ‘clear’ about matters can determine the outcome of many discussions, especially when sides involved are very distinct in their opinions and opposed in their reasoning.  How truly transparent are people willing to be?  The clarity with which we live our lives often is determined by the situations and people we encounter and with whom we must interact.  You are what you are before God and nothing more is a saying attributed to our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi. The fact itself cannot be denied. However, the way we live out who we are and how muddled or clear our character and actions come across depends on us and what we permit to affect us. A poet once stated Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. It is the same with transparency. Only the person can be so, if they so desire. Transparency cannot be coerced.

St. Clare, daughter of Favarone and Ortolana, truly lived the name she was given at birth. The light of God’s love and goodness that emanated from her life still encourages and enlightens thousands who accept to follow her example and Rule of life. Everyone and everything have a purpose in God’s eternal plan. We see the signs in our lives, and listen to the inner voice inviting. Then, the decision is ours to accept, postpone, or reject.  

The following brief paragraph, taken from the Legenda, briefly tells the interesting story of the naming of the child who became the first sister of the Franciscan Family. While the pregnant woman (Ortolana, the mother of St. Clare), already near delivery, was attentively praying to the Crucified before the cross in a church to bring her safely through the danger of childbirth, she heard a voice saying to her: ‘Do not be afraid, woman, for you will give birth in safety to a light which will give light more clearly than light itself.  Taught by this oracle, when the child was born and then reborn in sacred Baptism, she ordered that she be called Clare, hoping that the brightness of the promised light would in some way be fulfilled according to the divine pleasure (Legend of St. Clare, Part 1, chpt.1,2).

Who could have known this child would one day be the spiritual mother, sister and servant of a multitude of women, and the beloved spiritual mother, sister and confident/counselor of so many men. The women to whom she would give birth spiritually by the transparency of her life and actions continue to be in our twenty-first century world a beacon of clarity of faith, brighter hope, and brilliant love for God and all creation.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. A light is not put under a bushel basket but set on a candle stand so that its light shines for all to see (Matthew 5: 15-16) and from which all may benefit. We Franciscans also are called to a transparency of life that offers the Lord the means to shine through us and enlighten others on their journey.

The process of the ‘conversion’ story of St. Clare is not complicated. She was twelve years younger than the ‘eccentric’ son of Peter Bernardone. Clare probably heard and saw the rich spoiled Francis Bernardone turned poor itinerant preacher when he walked through the streets of Assisi.  She sought understanding all that was transpiring in Assisi through this merchant turned “preacher-vagabond-beggar”.  Her heart was set to share this wonderful gift of Poverty with Francis and his brothers. She has become the mother of a multitude whose prayerful penitential life is even today the strength of the Franciscan Family.

Although she had been promised to a young suitor for marriage, Clare carefully prepares an ‘escape’ from her family home. After the famous ‘kenosis’ of St. Francis ridding himself of his past even to the stripping off of the clothes he wore, many were affected and attracted, both elite and commoners, to follow his gospel lifestyle. The love and sincere support for each other that she saw in them, was no doubt an example St. Clare could not deny or disregard.  As she sought clarity and direction for her own life, St. Francis offered her the loving encouragement, strength, and support she needed to take the final step that introduced her to a life that would fulfill her prayerful desires.

The Family of the Poverello of Assisi would be incomplete if St. Clare had not responded to the call to follow St. Francis in the gospel life. She followed, yes, but St. Clare is her own person.  St. Clare makes the Family complete.  Just as one parent can care for a child but the child’s family life is incomplete without the other parent, we Franciscans can see ourselves in the same way had St. Clare not accepted to become the ‘mother’ of the family. In the entire Franciscan family there would be a true emptiness had St. Clare not left her home the night of March 1212.

St. Clare is not just another follower. St. Clare recognized the uniqueness of her new life and would not accept any rule but the simple Rule St. Francis gave her. Later she would write her own Rule for the Poor Ladies of San Damiano.  Her strength of purpose and character, and the undaunted insistence with the Holy See that the Privilege of Poverty be granted her religious family, filled her with joy when it was eventually granted.  It is the distinctive mark of the ‘Poor Ladies of San Damiano’ and all who accept her Rule.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we should consider ourselves spiritual children of St. Clare of Assisi as well.  Her life of prayer, penance, and exalted poverty call us to reflect upon our Franciscan vocation.  She was ‘in love’ with the Lord Who called her to a life of total surrender and trust in Divine Providence. We live in a materialistic, hedonistic, capitalistic, and so often deceptive society, where life’s values and life itself often are in the balance. Religion had once been the proper “thing to do”. Who knows how many now do not even consider it a personal issue?  Faith that makes our religion and its acts meaningful often can seem or even be a part time expression. Our faith leads to our words that lead to our actions that form our character. The deeper and more convinced we believe in what we profess, the more authentic we will be. Yet even Jesus lamented: When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

Total surrender means just that, “total”. Our own professions mean we give our word to live without gloss (words of St. Francis) what we promised. You are only as good as your word! St. Francis and St Clare were “total”. The moment they accepted the challenge of their vocation there was never a turning back, a mitigation of sincerity. We are all capable of living the spirit of total surrender and dedication.  The heroic expression of the gospel life St. Francis and St. Clare chose to live with their daughters/sisters and sons/brothers, and the life all who followed them lived, challenge us who call them our Seraphic Father and Holy Mother in the Franciscan Family, to follow their example and seek to simplify our lives. We strive to live in the freedom of the children of God. The Franciscan expression of poverty challenges us to do what is necessary so that our possessions (material, psychological, intellectual, spiritual, and more) do not possess us and thus enslave us.

The poverty Francis and Clare sought was expressed not only in the material goods of life but also in their humility.  What greater poverty can we express, and one that all professed men and women can live if they will to, than the willing expression of a humble life. The self-emptying of Jesus, even to death on a cross, is the ultimate expression of poverty any one could hope to live.  St. Clare teaches us that the privilege of poverty, and living it according to our state in life, empties us of all that controls us.  It enables us to be more receptive to grace. It makes us available to open our hearts to everyone.

Let us strive to learn from the example Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi.  Let us sincerely attempt to be detached from what we allow to control us, humbly at the service of one another, sincerely loving our sisters and brothers. Unless we accept the giftedness of our vocation and the fact that each one of us is a gift that God offers the other, we will never strengthen the bond of charity among us.  As we honor the poverty and humility of St. Clare and St. Francis, let us not forget that the ‘ego’ is the greatest and often last ‘treasure’ of which we are willing to let go.  When we recognize the real smallness of our greatness, then we will more clearly see poverty as freedom, chastity as love, and obedience as victory. Living our profession becomes a joyful total surrender to the One Who calls. The secret to remember is: Live it and you will love it! 

May God bless us; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family and good St. Joseph, our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

July – 2022 Monthly Meditations by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

July 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

June 2022, Monthly Reflection by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

June 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in St. Francis,

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

may you enter the loving embrace of the Eternal Father

Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love

and gives us His peace!

God’s loving reply to humanity’s response to the Incarnation is perpetuated in and through the Church down the centuries in the celebration of the Mass.  The Eucharistic Liturgy re-presents the Mystery of our Redemption. The Holy Spirit is invoked.  Jesus’ words are repeated over the bread and wine. Simple elements are transformed into the Real Presence of the most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus. With the priest we offer, confect and receive the Divine Viaticum for the journey of life to Life. In the Liturgy we enter the saving grace of Christ’s redeeming act offered once for always and for all. The personal effects of that one moment in time that prepares us for eternity, hinges on how the mystery of Divine Love is seen, believed, and accepted.

In the Liturgy we see our Savior stripped with indignation, crowned with humiliation, nailed with weakness, humanly powerless. By the soldier’s lance the encounter of heaven and earth reaches the epitome.  The thrust of the centurion’s lance was the people’s last response to Love. That lance thrust into the Side and Heart of Jesus was the last attempt to destroy a Love that will reign eternal.  In the Heart of Jesus, thrust open for us, we enter the Father’s loving embrace and are reborn to Eternal Life.

If only those who crucified Jesus had come to truly know Him!  They saw, heard, touched, and witnessed His many works. Opportunities were always available for the people to recognize, acknowledge and accept Jesus. But they were restrained from recognizing Him (Luke 24: 16).  They were restrained by their inability to go beyond their self centered desire for the Promised One to be as they desired and not as He was prophesied to be. The disciples did not recognize the Risen Lord because of their sadness at hopes destroyed by Jesus’ death (cfr. Luke 24: 18-24). Why would people blessed and assisted by Jesus not have opened their hearts in love to Him?  Why do so many of us persist in not surrendering to Love?  Why is it so difficult for us to take Jesus, Whom we acknowledge with Thomas, My Lord and My God  (John 20: 28), at His word?

We too, as the Jews of Jesus’ time, often cry out Crucify Him (Matthew 27: 22-23) when knowingly and often for fear of reprisals we fail to defend the faith itself and/or the essential values of our Catholic expression of faith when  they are being criticized, ridiculed, or openly defiled or persecuted.  We have no King but Caesar (John 19:15), at times is implied by our actions or lack of them when human respect, fear of losing friendships, or so called “political correctness” challenge the very object of our faith either God or mammon (cfr. Matthew 6: 19-24). When the mob instigated and seduced by Jewish leaders and peer pressure cried out Let His blood be on us and on our children (Matthew 27: 25), they could never have realized how prophetic those words were. How often do we join indirectly in that self-condemnation of those who just want to be part of the crowd and sell themselves out?

The Blood of Jesus was poured out on all humanity, not in condemnation, but in a loving shower of saving grace.  When water and blood flowed from His wounded side, the full act of loving acceptance of the Father’s Will was accomplished.  Centuries of anticipation and preparation were now fulfilled. Confirming His “mission accomplished”, before Jesus commended His spirit into the hands of the Father (cfr. Luke 23: 46) from the Cross, He said: Now, it is finished  (John 19:30).

It is finished! Older translations render these words: It is consummated.  The term is so much more beautiful when we understand it not only as the accomplishment of the mission lovingly accepted by Jesus, but also as the total surrender of Jesus to humanity in a loving relationship, to the death, so that “New Life” would be born from this loving union of hearts.  The Heart of the Creator united with the hearts of His creatures in an intimate spiritual espousal that brought to life the image of Christ, through grace, in all who accepted redemption and reconciliation in His Blood.  The Church, born from the side of Christ, lives in the Christian, to continue through the ages the restoration of all humanity in Christ (cfr. Colossians 1: 15-20).

As a side note to the “total surrender” referred to above, our Franciscan “fraternity” is a type of expression of this selfless surrender to the other for the sake of the other. It is this oneness of hearts (“fraternity”),  rather than solely commonness of founder-means-goal-leadership (“community”) that offers the Church a powerful image and reality of what true and full Gospel life is called to be and can be, when it is sincerely lived.

When will true reconciliation with God, and the restoration and perfection of the Covenant, in the Blood of Jesus, be completed by God’s children? How can we ever hope to be reinstated in the grace humanity had before the Fall?  What can we do to become victorious in and with the Victim of Calvary?  Where can we go to find these answers?  Why do we hesitate to respond accordingly once we have found the answers we seek?

We hesitate because we fear letting go of our false securities. We raise them like walls to keep difficulties out of our lives, while we forget that those same walls that keep bad things out often keep good things from entering our lives.  We can go into the abyss of our hearts to rediscover the deepest desires that lie there waiting to be acknowledged.  We must accept Jesus totally – not only “believe in Him” but “believe Him”, and “Live Jesus”.  We must begin in the “Now”, so that the Kingdom of God may be revealed in our lives, and thus be extended by us to others.  Once we willingly do all this, we will recognize God at work around, within, and through us. God is always at work fulfilling His Will. He invites us to share in this wonderful experience.  Participation in the restoration and re-creation of all things in, with, and through Jesus is a magnificent gift of the Father’s Love for us, and a sign of God’s trust in our ability to cooperate with His grace.

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi saw a wonderful way for this to happen. He understood his call to live in the Church as a restoring ministry by an evangelical life style. Thus, he sought to live as most closely as possible as Jesus and His disciples lived. Francis entered a relationship with all creation. He was becoming “the universal brother”. Thus, as others sought to follow him, we begin to understand why Francis placed importance on “fraternity”, and not just “community”.

Francis’ first followers were “brothers” in a very real way.  They all were called and willingly accepted to live the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in obedience, without anything of our own and in chastity, mindful that Brother Francis promises obedience to our Lord Pope Honorius and his successors canonically elected, and to the Roman Church and the other brothers be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors (cfr. Rule 1223).  The brotherhood found its stability in its faithfulness to Francis and his to the Holy Father, who, representing the body of church, was the “link” to God, whose legitimately elected spokesman he was till death.

The binding force among them all, after faith and a knowing and committed response to God’s call, was the responsibility to “be brother” to one another, to the fraternal life. We are not merely a community of goods, even though these “goods” can be ideals, plans, hopes, and the like, as well as common periods of prayer, work, ministry, and more. These are values and “things” any organized group, however so loosely organized, needs and expresses for a good exercising of its purpose. What makes the Franciscan fraternity a very particular and unique expression is the emphasis, even in legislation (Rule), on fraternity.  We are called to live as brothers and sisters. Love, as an act of the will if not necessarily of the emotions, is the root of the effectiveness of our Gospel consecrated life in obedience, without anything of our own, and in chastity. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is the one who sets the Scripture-Tradition-Magisterial based values our Baptism expects of us to fully and, at times, validly and effectively participate in the life of the Church.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, do we understand the depth and implications of our profession as Franciscans, whether with the canonical vows or the secular profession?  The love we profess to live as Franciscans transforms a community of beings into a family of sisters and brothers. Though members of a family have unique personalities and characteristics, their common family bond is the specifying sign of who they are to those outside their specific family. Our Seraphic Father required his spiritual brothers and sisters to live the words he wrote down for them “without gloss”. Living this challenge, the Poverello of Assisi not only expected but mandated his religious family to live. Accepting the challenge of fraternity lives change for the better. Fraternity is so real that it affects the body as well as the soul.  Love is real! It is not a figment of our pious imagination!  Love is possible and even necessary to be lived before our life can be said to be fulfilled.

In the Blessed Sacrament, central element of all we are as Roman Catholics, we encounter the Mystery and Miracle of selfless and transforming love.  Jesus’ love leads us, enlivens our spirits, enlightens our minds, encourages and enthuses our hearts, entrusts us with His mission, envelops us with His Spirit, and consumes us in a purifying Love that introduces us into the fullness of Life.  Franciscans entering the open Heart of Jesus, pierced for love of humanity, encounter an overwhelming font of grace and transformation. In “fraternity” with Jesus, each one individually, who surrenders to Him, are all enveloped as one in, with, and through Him, and thus with one another. The power of fraternity with Christ forms each member into the one Mystical Body of Christ.

This is the foundation of true and lasting “fraternity” among us. It is not pious devotional sentimentality but total faith, hope, and trust in Love Incarnate.  Nothing is ever accomplished in fact without it first being in the heart and/or mind.  If we are to be faithful to the Spirit of God and also to the spirit of our Franciscan fraternal life, we must love one another in fact and stop just speaking about it (cfr. James 2; 14-26 when he speaks of faith and works; and 1 John 3: 18-19). Jesus Himself gave this all-embracing commandment to us the night before He died, the night He left us the Sacrament of His Love, the Eucharist: This is my commandment, That you love one another (John 15: 17). All else profits us nothing: Love is man’s origin, love is his constant calling, love is his fulfillment in heaven (Marriage III Preface).

My brothers and sisters in our common bond in the Franciscan Family, may we grow in our awareness and love for one another as the family we were called to be. This unspoken vow/promise is what makes the others real and effective.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the pure Heart of Joseph, remind us that we are called to be “all heart”. We know with the head but desire with the heart. May we desire with all our heart what we have come to know and thus grow in the marvelous gift God has called us to share with each other. May we be true instruments of peace and blessings to one another and all whom we encounter on our pilgrim journey through time.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

May 2022 Meditations by Father Francis Sariego, OFMCap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

May 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

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

 Hail, O Lady, 

Holy Queen, 

Mary, holy Mother of God, 

Who are the Virgin made Church, 

Chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven 

Whom he consecrated with His most holy beloved Son 

And with the Holy Spirit and Paraclete, 

In whom there was and is 

All fullness of grace and every good. 

Hail His Palace! 

Hail His Tabernacle! 

Hail His Dwelling! 

Hail His Robe! 

Hail His Servant! 

Hail His Mother! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

January 2022 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

My apologies for the lateness in posting the January writings of Father Francis.  Some lovely person took over my debit card and my email account more than a week ago and it  has been difficult regaining control.  The devil herself has been after me!

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 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

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! 

(St. Francis of Assisi)

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

(St. Clare of Assisi adapted)

The image of our Blessed Mother introduces us into an experience of faith-filled events during the New Year 2022. The events presented throughout Sacred Scripture that we will hear during our Sunday or daily liturgies will speak to us profoundly about ourselves and our relationship with God and one another. Our Mother Mary is the highest honor of our race (cfr. Judith 13). Like the great Judith of the Old Testament who fearlessly led and liberated her people and of whom these words were first spoken, Mary is afforded the highest honor. Our Blessed Mother precedes and far surpasses us in faith. Her availability and courage make her the eminent model for all Christians.  Through her divine maternity, she gives humanity our Redeemer, in Whose Death and Resurrection we are liberated from sin and fear. We are offered the challenge that promises success to those ready to live in the freedom of God’s grace, and in the light of God’s love and will.

The last day of the calendar year reminds us that every end is a new beginning. In the Gospel for that day, the Apostle John reminds us:  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…He came to His own and His own did not receive Him…To as many as did receive Him, He empowered to become the children of God…those begotten not by human means, but by God (John 1). The Eternal Word entered a profound relationship with humanity at His Conception in the virginal womb of Mary.

The people of Israel continued to pray in hope. They expected the God of vindication to reveal His power and subdue their enemies. The Word, however, entered the scene of this world as a simple human being. He was subject to all the experiences of time and human nature, except sin. His identity remained so concealed that He was rejected by many of His own. He eventually received an untimely death by execution as a common criminal and instigator of the people against Mosaic Law and Roman rule!

St. John tells us that those who accepted Him would become the children of God (John 1: 12). This adoption in the Spirit allows us to say Abba, Father (cfr. Romans 8: 15; Mark 14: 36; Galatians 4: 6). The Father sees in us an image of His Son. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, accepted the mission entrusted to Him by the Father to enter creation and lead all humanity back to the original grace-filled relationship with God in which humanity was created. We are created to be an overflowing extension of God’s eternal love and life. Goodness of its very nature seeks ever to extend itself. God is the essence of goodness. Thus the extension of His goodness is found in creation. The glory of God is Man come to full stature (St. Irenaeus adapted). We are the highest form of creation. We are the epitome in this world of the kaleidoscope of God’s unique yet varied image. If we only recognized and appreciated the dignity in which we were created and the majesty to which we are called!  O Christian, recognize your dignity (St. Leo the Great – sermon on the Incarnation). The more we exemplify the life of Jesus in our own lives, the more we recognize and begin to restore that dignity and wonder to creation.

It is interesting how brief the liturgical season of Advent/Christmas is. Advent preparation lasts no more than four weeks, and the Christmas celebration of the infancy and childhood of Jesus may last no more than two weeks.  No sooner do the Wise Men leave the house where they offer their gifts – symbolizing love, prayer and sacrifice – to the Child Jesus, than the liturgy introduces us to the wilderness of the Baptist’s desert where in the Jordan River Jesus begins His journey to Jerusalem and the cross. From the Crib to the Cross is the life of Jesus:  Bethlehem to Calvary! Life to Death and New Life! All for us!

Jerusalem is the City of the Most High, where God’s Temple speaks of a mysterious presence among the People, the People God chose to be His own. Jerusalem is where Jesus makes His Father’s Presence known and seen in Himself, the Word-made-flesh. Jerusalem is the City of Peace where the Prince of Peace enters, is proclaimed, rejected, and crucified…and rises! As the journey to Jerusalem begins for Jesus, we too journey with the Infant and the Man: the Child of hope and the Man of Fulfillment, the Infant who flees in exile to safety and the Man Who confounds his enemies, the Infant who needs protection and the Man Whose miracles marvel those who benefit from them confounded those who opposed Him. We become one in prayer and reflection – one in the Spirit – with our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Jesus is the Promised One of God (cfr. Genesis 3) offered to our first parents in the Garden of Eden. He is The One Anticipated for centuries in the words of the prophets and the hearts of the people. He is The One Who bursts into time from eternity (cfr. Wisdom 18: 14-15) when Mary says Yes (cfr. Luke 1:26-38) to the Father’s invitation for her to be humanity’s spokesperson and Mother of His and thus her Son. The fulfillment of the Father’s promise and Jesus’ mission reached its climax during those few years that lead to the wood of the Cross at Calvary. From the beginning of His earthly journey the wood of the Cross is prefigured in the wood of the manger at Bethlehem. One wood embraces the Infant, the other receives the Man. One wood protects the Infant, the other wood raises the Man in ignominy and glory. One wood makes people wonder in joy at the Infant, the other wood makes people responsible for their lives before the Man.  One wood speaks of the beginning of a life, the other wood proclaims the beginning of Life. One wood reminds us of the doors of Bethlehem closed to that young life, the other wood reminds us of the Doors of Eternity opened for all to enter Life. Again, as St. Francis, exclaimed: O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!`

We have celebrated a brief yet powerful season. Like the introduction or preface to a good story, we have been introduced into a life that we must not only read, but live. It would be consoling and pleasant to remain in the nostalgia of the intimacy of the Infancy of Jesus. The intimacy of the Family of Nazareth speaks of the normal challenges of daily life. Everyone encounters these challenges in one way or another. When we accept the invitation of the Master, who summons us to Follow Me, our life begins to have purpose and fulfillment. Leaving the comfort and security of the past, we begin to notice new horizons and achieve greater goals than we had ever imagined. One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore. (Andre Gide)  We must leave the security of sight to travel in the light of a trusting faith that leads where God wills, and to all we could ever imagine or desire.

The beginning of the calendar year is always surrounded by the thought of new beginnings. Many see the New Year as an opportunity to clean the slate and begin all over again. We could attempt this, but it is really impossible to do.  No matter how much we may try to put past things out of our minds, they are still with us. Past events and decisions are either in our thoughts, or their consequences in one way or another seem to affect the circumstances of life. Who we are depends greatly on where we have come from and the decisions we make.  And where we go depends on how we build and learn from past experiences. We cannot remain in the past. We cannot allow ourselves to be walled into a nostalgic reminiscence of historical facts.  We must forge forward in God’s will. The Will of God provides for those who trust in Him. Acceptance of His Will leads to and guides through ways often never imagined, but always fruitful for those who let God be their Forerunner, Scout and Guide.

We die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of wonder, the source of which is beyond reason (former Secretary General of the U.N., Dag Hammarskjold). The “source” is the Father Who illumines us through His Spirit as we wonder at the magnificence of the mystery revealed in Jesus His Son. We no longer wander through life aimlessly.  We are led by faith in that same Spirit. How can anyone just sit back and not be excited about the numerous possibilities God offers us each day! God calls us to proclaim His goodness with our lives and to be His heralds of hope. We are instruments of God entrusted with the mission of enkindling hope in a world that often lives in shallowness. The world is always being seduced by the ancient serpent. This “spirit of division and confusion” even had the audacity to contend with Jesus His entire earthly life. The same “serpent” continues to contend with the Mystical Body of Christ till the end of the ages.

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi loved the mystery of the Incarnation. The gentleness and love of the Savior’s Birth in the poverty of Bethlehem filled him with a tenderness and love for so gentle and humble a sublime and supreme God. The Infant Jesus, for St. Francis, was the little playful lamb at Bethlehem prepared by the Father to be the sacrificial lamb on Calvary. The Poverello’s simplicity, humility, innocence, love were all images of the Jesus Whose visible image he became at La Verna. This Divine Intimacy St. Francis experienced enveloped his life.  What an example of Seraphic Father offers us to emulate! What a challenge for us this New Year!

St. Francis entered the peace of God in his early years and was led quite soon to the God of peace.  God asks that we seek not the feeling of God but the God Who excels all feeling. God asks that we enter the mystery of His hidden yet uniquely obvious presence. How can we seem to always wait to see the miracles of God before accepting the truth of His Presence! Our Seraphic Father lived in the mystery that enfolds and protects with love and truth, but does not always caress with feeling.  St. Francis offered those who asked to follow in his footsteps the possibility of sharing in becoming Christ to the world. The example and words of St. Francis of Assisi led others to disarm their hearts day-by-day to everyone and everything.

A we enter the New Year of Grace 2022 the following could be a simple prayer as well as a reflection of gratitude and trust in the goodness and graciousness of God throughout life:

For all the Yesterdays, THANK YOU, GOD! 

For Today, THANK YOU, GOD! 

For all the Tomorrows, YES! YES! And AGAIN YES! ABBA! 

May God bless us, and Our Heavenly Mother and good Saint Joseph, with our beloved parents, Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, guide, guard, and protect us and our loved ones now and throughout the New Year 2022 in God’s Grace and Providence.

Blessed and Happy New Year 2022 

Peace and Blessings 

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

November, 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      email:  skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

November 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!

Creation speaks to us of God.  The human mind, through experience, can come to know there is a God, but it is faith that opens our hearts, souls, and minds to deepen our knowledge and awareness of the magnificence of our Creator, our Redeemer, and the ever-present Advocate-Guide-Sanctifier.   Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are known to us and we enter an intimate relationship with this sublime Trinity through God’s revelation of Himself through Jesus in the Spirit. Thus, Faith responds to Revelation.

Once we have read God’s Word in Scripture and recognize His work and attributes in Creation, faith leads us to accept and live the message God speaks to us through these. Sacred Scripture requires faith as a response to revelation.  God calls us to faith, and this call of God is through creation. It is a response in time directed toward eternity. Believing is accepting God as creator, liberator, protector, savior. Belief is recognizing Jesus through His death and resurrection: This Jesus, God raised from the dead. And we are all witnesses to this … therefore, let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus Whom you crucified.  (Acts 2: 32, 36)

In books we search for God, in prayer we find Him.  The love of God the Father sacrificed His only begotten Son for the salvation of all humanity.  Christ Jesus, totally one with the Father and Holy Spirit always, even when journeying in time as a man, lived in a harmonious acceptance of the Father’s Will, for it is His Will as well!  Thus, through Christ and in Christ Crucified there is salvation.  This was also the depth of awareness and total surrender to Christ of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi. His faith in Christ Crucified urged him to seek more deeply what was imprinted on his heart at San Damiano, and even before in the restlessness of his search. The challenges of life, especially those presented so often by the brotherhood that had grown far beyond all expectations so quickly, kept St. Francis always aware of his need to surrender to the Will of God.

During November we celebrate the month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. We celebrate, for they are saved, but not yet in the fullness of eternal life. They have finally passed the crucible of life.  What about those who live daily emotional, physical, spiritual deaths that challenge the faith to believe beyond oneself alone, and who are still on life’s journey?   The daily demands and challenges influence the decisions we all make and will ultimately be the determining factor on how we pass from time to eternity. These little crucial challenges or “deaths” to any disordered expression of our “ego” have a great deal to do with achieving the purpose for our creation. “What’s it all about?” We should never be totally pleased with ourselves. Grateful for all we have done cooperating with God and His direct or indirect will, we know that the challenges end when time does, not before. Joy and gratitude in the Lord at the good we have been able to accomplish is wonderful, but we must never grow complacent.

Francis blessed the hands that guided him. He saw in those moments God’s Love offering, not imposing, opportunities to live in “perfect joy”.  The sole purpose was to sanctify him, to render Francis similar to Jesus, the Father’s only begotten Son.  Trials are not a sign of God’s “irritation” with us. Faithfully accepting those crucial moments and also the persons who may be involved in them, our faithfulness and trust are increased. Like our Father St. Francis, we feel “the love you felt in your crucifixion” (These are the words of the prayer of St. Francis seeking a greater experience of Christ’s love in His ultimate act of redeeming grace on Calvary) The marks are not visible on our body, but when the Cross of Jesus is firmly imprinted on the heart and lived with the joy of a unifying love, the serenity and joy of the blessed are ours already here on earth.  Calvary is the hill of the saints. The purifying process leads us to the cross of dying to ourselves.  This leads to a transformation of mind, heart and soul. Thus, we enter a participated inner glory in time as we continue, transformed inwardly, to the fullness of glory in God for eternity. “World without end”, as we were and are accustomed to conclude many prayers, is a firm reminder that the world, “Theater of Redemption”, would not end but be forever transformed. And we are the protagonists of that world God calls to restored beauty and holiness in Him.

In Christ. we are transfigured by death to ourselves and thus ascend to eternal glory.  Per Crucem ad Lucem (Through the Cross to the Light!)

We often encounter difficult “mountains” to overcome. Face them with determination and trust in God first and in the gifts God has bestowed on you to be used gratefully and wisely. Confidently and cheerfully move on and do not be discouraged.  The more violently the enemy attacks the more we must abandon ourselves to the Lord. St. Paul reminds us: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted (tested) beyond your strength, but with the temptation (challenge) will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it’. (1 Corinthians 10: 13)  The goodness of our God is beyond all our imaginings?  It seems more often than not that God is more concerned than we are for our salvation. Think of God’s love for you and his zeal for your well-being. Remain calm and never doubt that He will always protect you with Fatherly care against all your enemies.

Serenity in the midst of trouble is a wonderful witness of a faith that continues to trust in the love of an eternally-loving, ever-present and all-providing God.  Reason may help us to know that God exists, but it is our faith that leads us into a relationship with life-giving Love. It is this Love that fills the hearts of those who search for Him.  It is this Love that is mysterious in His nature but accessible through His works.  It is this Love that we seek to know and understand more during life’s journey so that when time meets eternity in death we can joyfully, trustingly, and lovingly ‘let go’ and let this Eternal Love embrace us with a fullness we could never have imagined.  This Love, Who is God, the Father-Creator, the Only-Begotten-Son-Redeemer, the Holy Spirit-Advocate-Sanctifier, can be studied about in books, discussed with others to deepen our human knowledge, but can be personally known, loved and lived only when we surrender ourselves to that Love and His Infinite Will.

We have to go beyond trying to merely learn about spiritual things. We are expected to listen to the Holy Spirit and live in the spirit of God.  We are not part of a “spiritual movement” of the year or age. Spirituality is not reading and knowing the writings of all the mystics, or knowing the prophecies of all the visionaries. They may be interesting, helpful or even necessary for us to know.  Nevertheless, we are directed to live holy lives in the present, to trust God in all things, and to resign ourselves to His most Holy Will.  Facts only accumulate with other facts whether theological, spiritual, or what have you.  The ‘book’ that makes all others more understandable is the ‘book’ of Christ Crucified. Reading that ‘book’ and learning its message well increases faith, rekindles hope, and leads us into a transforming intimacy with Eternal Love and the Source of Life.

Trust God unconditionally.  Believe God is Who God is.  Submit to God’s loving providence. Receive all that God permits to come your way.  The saints encourage our need to recognize, in any distress, whether spiritual or physical, God’s purifying presence.  We are thus led to a more transparent relationship with God and neighbor, because in God we have become transparent to ourselves. We have come to know ourselves better because we see ourselves in the knowledge we have of God.

We have come to live in a world, a society, of masks and mirrors. The mask seeks to hide our true identity.  The mirrors seek to deflect clear and true vision from any who seek to know us, or perhaps even “target” us. No matter. Trust in God and who you are created to be. The need will be supplied by the Eternal Provider. St. Francis of Assisi says: You are who you are before God and nothing more.  Knowing God more deeply through prayer, meditation, God’s Word, and celebrating and receiving the Eucharist often and worthily, strengthens faith, focuses vision, clarifies reason, confirms trust in God’s will – direct or indirect – calms fears, establishes inner peace and serenity, generates inner joy…LOVES!

The ‘process’ intensifies as we seek to respond to God’s will without reserve. God invites us to go beyond the limitations caused by our fears, hesitation, caution, or perhaps even our indifference or spiritual lethargy.  What God asks of us is based on what God knows about us, not the other way around.  Let us remember that God sees the ‘whole picture’. We see only the ‘now’.  True faith enkindles our hope in the One in Whom we responsibly commit ourselves to risk all the world holds dear – power, prestige, possessions. Let go of fearful caution. Ride the wave of God’s will. Experience the exciting fulfillment of recognizing and achieving your purpose in life.  Then we can say with St. Clare of Assisi: Thank you Lord for creating me.

The Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi know from the example of St. Francis how necessary it is to enter the mystery of Christ Crucified before we can recognize the miracles of grace that surround us.  All too often people go in search of extraordinary expressions of God’s Love yet fail to see and acknowledge the magnificence of God’s presence at work every moment, especially in the daily responsibilities, where, with God’s grace, we go beyond our limitations and fears. Human reason and logic tell us to be careful, think things out, take time.  Do not be overcome by fear of failure. Do not accept the mediocrity of  tepidity. Believe, trust, and act without hesitation in the Name of God Who strengthens and assists all who surrender to His will.  

 Prayer acknowledges God as the source of all good. Believe God is Who He says He is. We cannot help but hope in the One Who loves us. We thus know that God makes all things work for the good of those who love Him. If God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8: 31)  The thought of death and dying that are the focus of so many Catholics in this month, can be such a disheartening thought. When life is lived in God’s Will, then death is the point of encounter between time and eternity. It is the moment when a life leaps joyfully and gratefully into the arms of God. Praise be You my Lord God for Sister Bodily Death (Canticle of Brother Sun-St. Francis). Such good awaits me that every pain is a delight.  (St. Francis of Assisi)  These brief sentences speak volumes.  

 My God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph, guide, guard, and protect you; and St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care. May all the Holy Ones of our Seraphic Family living in eternity intercede for us. May their lives teach and inspire us, their sisters and brothers still journeying. They were where we are; we will be where they are! … saying, as our Mother Mary, “yes” at all times to the Loving and all-Merciful Will of God!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

October 2021 Meditation from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

October 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi is undoubtedly one of the most revered saints. Catholics, non-Catholics and non-Christians value the authenticity of his life and spirit, and the message he offers the world of peace and universal brother/sisterhood. The spirit of the Poverello of Assisi has left and still leaves its mark on the hearts of millions of people.

History, legend, poetic romanticism, aspirations of those searching for the meaning of their lives as well as life itself (i.e. what’s it all about?)and many other reasons point out Francis to be among the unique individuals of history to have made a deep impression on so many people. His sons and daughters of any Roman Catholic Franciscan “obedience” (religious groups of men and women living a structured form of life officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church) continue his legacy in varied ways. They do not deviate from the essentials of his rule and testament, while they adapt to the times, without adopting the worldly spirit into which even our religious world seems to have fallen.

We cannot forget also the men and women of other non-Catholic Christian religious traditions.  They admire and seek to live the spirit of the values St. Francis sought to instill in the hearts of seekers of the truth of God’s Paternity over all creatures. These are those whose faith only God knows, and found mercy in God’s sight, as we are reminded in the Eucharist Prayer for all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life.(Third Eucharistic Prayer), and all who seek You with a sincere heart (4th Eucharistic Prayer).  He is an incentive for them to live their beliefs for a better world as they sincerely continue their search for the fullness of Truth. They strive to better themselves by accepting those values that help raise a fallen nature to a higher and greater realm of integrity and wholeness of life. As the Universal Brother, St. Francis of Assisi appeals to all people of good will.

Truly Catholic in his spirit and desire, there were those who requested that he accept them under his guidance. To assure himself and the followers he had now acquired that their desire was of God, St. Francis sought the guidance and approval of Pope Innocent III. This pope was considered one of the most powerful men of the Church and of society at that time. He had a powerful influence on the religious, social, political, and even militaristic actions throughout the Church and known world.

The famous story, written by Saint Bonaventure (cf. St. Bonaventure’s Major Legend of St. Francis, III:10) speaks of the encounter of St. Francis and Pope Innocent III:  The servant of Almighty God, giving himself totally to prayer, obtained through his devout prayers both what he should say outwardly and what the pope should hear inwardly. For when he told a parable, as he had accepted it from God, about a rich king who gladly betrothed a poor but lovely woman who bore him children with the king’s likeness … he added his own interpretation. “The sons and heirs of the eternal King should not fear that they will die of hunger. They have been born of a poor mother by the power of the Holy Spirit in the image of Christ the King, and they will be begotten by the spirit of poverty in our poor little religion. For if the King of heaven promises his followers an eternal kingdom, he will certainly supply them with those things that he gives to the good and the bad alike.” While the Vicar of Christ listened attentively to this parable and its interpretation, he was quite amazed and recognized without a doubt that Christ had spoken in this man. But he also confirmed a vision he had recently received from heaven … He saw in a dream, as he recounted, the Lateran basilica almost ready to fall down. A little poor man, small and scorned, was propping it up with his own back bent so that it would not fall. “I’m sure,” he said “he is the one who will hold up Christ’s Church by what he does and what he teaches.”… Then he granted what was asked and promised even more. He approved the rule, gave them a mandate to preach. 

St. Francis did not preach new Church dogma, or secular ideologies in vogue at the time. He may have been influenced by groups seeking to live a more basic expression of Christianity in the Church, but he always remained faithful to the Church and the Magisterium. What was not permitted, he would not do. He also demanded this as part of the Rule of life that the brothers (and St Clare and her sisters) were expected to live without gloss.  The universal brother, the man with a disarmed heart, permitted no excuse or deviation from this road of total Gospel and Roman Catholic life.

His purpose was to live God’s will, as it had been impressed upon his heart when the Crucifix spoke to him at San Damiano: Francis, go rebuild my Church. As you see, it is falling into ruin. In the best way he knew how at the time, he fulfilled the “command” by rebuilding the three churches of San Damiano, St.Peter, and the Portiuncula. Not much later, he realized that the “church” about whom the voice spoke was the established Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. An earlier liturgical prayer for the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis states: when the world was growing cold, in order that our hearts might burn anew with the fire of Your (God’s) love… Francis’ mission was to rekindle love in the Church and the hearts of allHis enthusiasm, energy, excitement about life, personal immersion into the reality of God Whom he experienced in everything and everyone made him weep so often saying: Love is not loved. Love is not loved.  Eccentric maybe, but totally engaged in the awesome majesty and magnificence of the Divine. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as can be noted in his writings, were an ever-present, affective, and effective reality in his life and works.

Saint Francis was recognized as a Saint by his contemporaries even while he lived.  His orthodoxy, his dedication to poverty, his burning desire to spread the faith, and the miracles of grace that sprang up about him all represented to medieval Catholics what a saint should be.  Pope Innocent III likewise represented to medieval Catholics what a pope should be:  an unrelenting champion of orthodoxy, a vigilant guardian of the Church ever willing to call men to arms for the sake and honor of the Cross to protect the Faith. Pope Innocent III’s life was a personal life marked by piety and charity, with a “confusing” and often “forceful” means to attain a goal. (Let us remember that we must not judge one era by the values of another. Grace builds on nature. God assists us through experiences in time to understand His Will and grow in grace.)  Nevertheless, though different in office and personality, Pope Innocent III was always an admirer and protector of Saint Francis and his new order.  He saw in St. Francis and his Friars Minor an ardent attempt to live out the perfect way of life called for by Christ, and yearned for by so many. For many of them “life gets in the way”, but not for the son of Pietro Bernardone. Innocent knew that Francis “had it together”.

The lives and funds of the Church employed in all the Crusades against the Moors and Albigensians, cost nothing for the Poverello of Assisi. He revolutionized those who encountered him. His disarming demeanor invited people and even animals into a friendship of dialogue and understanding. Remember Francis and the Sultan, Francis and the Thieves, Francis and the Wolf, and more.  St. Francis was poor in the wealth of the world but enriched those who knew him. He became the champion of the Church. His sermon was the simple word of down-to-earth faith. He took no money, nor expected any recompense for his labors. He lived on the alms given him and his brothers for services rendered in spiritual or manual labors. All was accepted in the name and for the good of the poor.

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 to live 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 our personal egos.

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 though. The Mystical Body of Christ (the Church), like the Christ of history, will always be a Sign of Contradiction for those who seek to “mitigate” His Way. The Church and our Order as well have 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 be our strength in walking with Jesus in the loving company of His and our Mother. May the Rosary (or the Franciscan Crown) 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. We are Her children, whom she accepted as her own at the foot of the Cross. It is in the mystery of the Incarnation of the God Who became one with us through Mary, that we can recognize and hopefully understand in the integrity of our faith the wholeness of conviction in our commitment to live “without gloss” the beautiful gift of the Franciscan vocation we have been offered.  As we reflect upon the Word Who gave the pledge of His faithfulness to the Father’s Will even to the Cross, let us remember the word we gave to be truly faithful.

The adage holds true and essentially so:  Your only as good as your word. How true are we to the Word Who asks faithfulness to our word to always be “yes” to the call we received as Christians, Catholics, and Franciscans? Our sincere answer will reveal much, maybe more than we would like.

May God bless us. May Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart. May Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care, encouraging all of us to the faithful fulfillment of our “yes” to the Gospel Life as Franciscans.

 

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

 

 

Meditation for September 2021 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

September 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

In September 1224, two years before death would usher him into eternity early in life, while at prayer at a solitary site on a mountaintop in Tuscany, our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, received the answer to his prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask You before I die: the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion;  the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.  A winged Seraph appeared to him and signed him with the visible marks of the wounds of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi, the Little Poor Man, the Universal Brother, had become a living image of the Crucified Christ. The marks gave witness to the integrity of the person who bore them and credibility to the message he had now become, so that when a spirit of indifference was taking over the world, (The Lord) renewed in the flesh of St. Francis the Sacred Stigmata of (His) Passion to rekindle in our hearts the fire of (His) love. (adapted Opening Prayer for the Feast of the Impression of the Stigmata).

St. Francis received a wonderful privilege that carried with it a great responsibility.  He was entrusted with a mission: to rekindle the fire of Divine Love in the hearts of God’s children.  The Stigmata he bore speak volumes for those willing to ‘read’ them in a spirit of faith.  To see him was to see the living image of the Crucified. To see him was a challenge to change. To encounter him was to recognize God speaking through him reminding all of God’s limitless love and calling everyone to cooperate with grace and become the persons we were all created to be: children of the Father, redeemed in the blood of the Son, bound together in the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those willing to understand and accept the message of the wounds and the person signed with them, knew they were ‘called to action’. The Stigmata call to action not apathy, loving not loathing, conviction not complacency, determination not doubt, commitment not compromise, life not lethargy.

Like the great priest-prophet of the Old Testament, Ezekiel, St. Francis was called to be a living prophecy to a lethargic world suffering from spiritual dryness. Ezekiel’s prophetic words speak of numberless dry, lifeless, disjointed bones, lying on a vast field, (see Ezekiel 37: 1-14); they could be compared to many periods in human history, to St. Francis’ time, and even to our own, when war and its after-effects on society, violence, economic difficulties, contagious illnesses, social restlessness, immorality and amorality take their toll on the spiritual life of God’s people.  Even those of deep faith can experience a dryness and spiritual fatigue. They look for understanding and direction.  They seek someone who will journey with them and nourish them with God’s Word and healing grace.

To see St. Francis, signed with the sign of the Crucified, made Jesus come alive in the hearts of those he met and with whom he spoke. The Stigmata he bore were a visible sign to all of a presence that was reassuring, encouraging, life-giving.  Isaiah spoke of the wounds of Christ centuries before His Passion and Death – Through His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53: 4-5).  St. Francis of Assisi accepted to let those wounds come alive once again in his own body, and thus be a reminder and a sign of hope through Jesus’ self-sacrificing love in His Eucharistic Presence that re-presents His redemptive Passion-Death-Resurrection; those wounds kept the reality of that one great sacrifice vividly alive before the eyes of all.

The great scene of that field of bones in Ezekiel is also a reminder of what we are without God, and what we become once we allow His Word to enter our lives and His Spirit-breath to enter our hearts. There is a gradual and effective rebirth, a new creation, a re-creation in each one of us. God Himself intervenes by doing in-with-for us what is otherwise humanly impossible.  When we feel like ‘dry bones’ – tired, discouraged, disillusioned, even despairing – that is the moment for us to hope against all hope (Romans 4: 18).  God Himself will bring about our spiritual ‘resurrection’ in this life.  The sign of our faith is the Resurrection of Christ and the Eucharist offers us the opportunity to participate in His Passion-Death-Resurrection, our pledge of future life and glory. Love for the cross is the distinctive sign of chosen souls. Jesus’ wounds remind us how He loved us to His death that we might live with Him.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we continue to let Jesus come alive in a world grown cold to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The ‘Good News’ that we preach with our lives is that God so loved the world He sent His only Son so that all who believe in Him might have life … He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3: 16) When we ‘climb Calvary’ with Christ and accept to receive ‘our own stigmata’ and bear joyfully the responsibilities and burdens that come with life, we begin to rekindle the flame of faith in the hearts of others, as it grows stronger by God’s grace in ourselves.

The signing of our Seraphic Father with the Sacred Stigmata of Jesus calls us to action.  It must however begin with each one of us first, then reach out to others.  Ultimately we reach a point where everything is in perspective and even the world is put under our feet; it becomes the theater of salvation, rather than a stumbling-block of distractions and seductions that destroy fervor and lead to tepidity, indifference, and finally separation from all that is good and all that is God. St. Francis’ Prayer asking to experience the love that Jesus had in dying for us and the reception of the Stigmata on La Verna help us to reflect upon a simple and powerful way to strengthen and deepen our spiritual lives.

1)      Imitate Love – Ask God for the ability to surrender totally in trust to God’s will.

2)      Meditate on the Sufferings and Love of Jesus – Keep the image of the Passion-Death of Jesus alive in your heart.   

3)      Love the Cross – The Cross without Christ is a lie.  With Christ, the Cross becomes not a sign of Life and Love.  

4)      Grow in Christian Perfection – The spiritual life is not static.   

5)      CLIMB CALVARY – To grow in our Christian life is to be one with the mystery of our redemption

6)      Embrace Everything with a Cheerful Soul – God loves a cheerful giver. Let go of false securities, and trust. 

7)     Be Faithful – The Spirit’s work is kept alive by faith-filled lives that never slacken. Faith is a verb, not a noun.

8)     Place the World Under Your Feet – The world is the “Theater of Redemption” to use gratefully not serve slavishly.

The impression of the Stigmata of Jesus on Saint Francis of Assisi, celebrated this month, challenges us to remember and live the words Per Crucem ad Lucem – Through the Cross to the Light. The wounds of the Passion speak of a world that refused and rejected that Incarnate God, Who took on human nature that humanity might rise above what was leading it astray.  Treachery, betrayal, capture, torture, and death were the ‘thanks’ offered all the blessings bestowed and received.  The wounds we celebrate in Our Seraphic Father call us to be spiritually impressed with the same ‘signs’ and respond to the gift as did St. Francis.

–     The nails in the hands remind us to use our hands to bless and not offend, to give not seek to receive, to embrace rather than push away, to raise up rather than put down, help rather than hinder …

–     The nails in the feet remind us of the Scriptural phrase: blessed are the feet of the bearer of peace. They lead us to approach all as sisters and brothers, move towards those in need rather than remain stationary in our own comfort and security, take the first step and seek out those estranged rather than wait for the other to take the first step …

–     The heart pierced reminds us that we must disarm our hearts to one another and allow all to enter our loving embrace that they too, as we, may discover the limitless and unconditional love of God through us.

May the Impression of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus on the body of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi speak to our hearts as a challenge to grow ever more Christlike. May God bless us; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect us; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look upon each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Happy Feast Day to all!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

August 2021 Meditations from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

August 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

In a letter, dated January 1985, entitled, The Bread of Life is still in the Dust, a bishop writes to a pastor of his diocese in Italy. The parish priest has just had his church vandalized, precious vessels stolen, and the Blessed Sacrament thrown all over the pavement of the church. This was not the first instance of profanation of the Eucharist and a church building in that diocese. The people and their priests were deeply saddened. They were sorry for the building having been vandalized and various gold and silver vessels and reliquaries taken, which can never be replaced because of their ancient historical value (the diocese goes back to the early middle ages in Italy), but they were devastated over the heinous disregard for the precious gift of the Eucharist. This people, steeped in their ancient and popular traditions yet fully modern in their immersion in the realities of the twentieth century, gathered around their priest and bishop to lament their violation, to support their shepherds, to pray for the perpetrators, and to implore God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. ‘Eucharistic People’ are capable of so much!   

Saddened, hurt, offended, angry, the people were immediately ready to pick up the ‘pieces’. The first of the ‘pieces’ were those of the ‘strewn’ Body of Christ, the Gift of Jesus Himself, blasphemously discarded for the sake of a few baubles the thieves could possibly gain from the sale of the vessels to other unscrupulous individuals such as they. How we allow ourselves to get sidetracked by the glitz and glitter of things around us! We fail to recognize so often the true treasures that God is making available to us! It is quite easy for us to enter a Church building and forget that this is none other than the House of God and the Gate of Heaven! (Genesis 28: 17) Familiarity can condition us to the point that we assist at liturgies for their social, artistic, educational, ‘entertaining’, traditional value, and fail to realize that the ‘frame’ only indicates but is not the ‘masterpiece’. The ‘masterpiece’ is the very Presence of God calling us to a greater relationship with Him so that we may continue to achieve that full stature of Christ  (Ephesians 4: 13) we were created to reach. We are gifted with life that we might become, according to our cooperation with God’s grace, more the image of Christ in our world. We live in a world that has ears to hear but does not listen, and eyes to see but refuses to recognize (cfr Matthew 13: 14-38) God in our midst.   

Once the Eucharist is the center of our worship, then the family of the Church – local, diocesan, universal – can begin to strengthen its unity with the shepherds of the Church. It is the Eucharist that makes the Church as the Church makes the Eucharist (Vatican II). Some have relegated the Eucharist to a pious devotion rather than a reality to be lived. The Eucharist is a miracle that cannot be seen, thus it is a deeper mystery that must be lived to recognize the reality and experience the transforming effects for those who are illumined by faith. 

Some do not see the relevance of the Eucharist as the Center of “Catholic” (universal) life because it tends to separate us from other Christian denominations. The Eucharist is the Center of Catholic Christian life inviting others into a deeper awareness of eternal truth. The people of that devastated church mentioned above, because of their faith, were shaken into a reality that some may have forgotten. The sight of the Eucharist thrown on the floor in a predominantly Catholic country and very Catholic area was a stark reminder to all of how delicate our faith is and how easily it can be abused. The vandalism actually brought the people of the city and the parish closer together. It is the story of Calvary all over again. Jesus had to be abused and disregarded once again, so that those who loved Him, even lukewarmly, could be rekindled in their love for Him and for one another because of Him. The Eucharist is Calvary re-lived for all to look upon Him Whom they have thrust (cfr. Zechariah 12: 10), so that when I am lifted up I will call all people to myself  (John 12: 32). And those who look may, with John and the centurion on Calvary say: The one who speaks knows that it is true (John 19: 35) for truly this man was the Son of God. (Matthew 27: 54) 

The sacrilegious incident which took place several decades ago in Italy, continues to speak to the heart. We are quite aware, or perhaps not, that sadly incidents like the one mentioned above have been taking place more frequently around the world. What makes it worse is that they happen not only in non-Christian countries, but in Christian and even so-called Catholic countries. The Eucharist, a Sign of Contradiction (cfr Luke 2:34; Acts 28:22) for those who refuse or are unable because of their personal religious traditions, to acknowledge the Divine Presence, becomes a beacon of light that attracts all people in one way or another to listen to the words of Christ and respond. The response is as varied as those who approach it. The Eucharist is either a ‘mystery’ to be accepted and lived or just a ‘Catholic practice and/or superstition’ for others. Even those who do not believe as we regarding the Real Presence, still admire those who believe the impossible and live that belief. Those who consume the Lord in the Eucharist allow themselves to be consumed by Him so the two become one. It is this ‘oneness’ with Christ that manifests itself to others. Without necessarily understanding fully, they observe the effects the Eucharist produces in those who celebrate and receive with loving and living faith. 

Our pastors and all priests – priests and bishops – are called to make the Eucharist come alive by their life of dedication and commitment. The priest is called to be a Eucharist who nourishes his people with the very Lord with whom he nourishes himself. The priest, in persona Christ, celebrates the mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Christ. He offers the Christ he celebrates in the Eucharist to the faithful. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, both priest and faithful strive to grow into the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4: 13) every day. The people are a source of spiritual nourishment for their priests. The holiness and sinfulness, joys and sorrows, successes and failures, faith and doubts, offer countless opportunities for the priests to offer the faithful the compassion and love of the Savior. Thus, the Eucharist that priest and faithful both share becomes an effective sign of Jesus’ Presence in their lives calling them to greater intimacy with their Lord and God (cfr John 20: 28). 

If the priest is not ‘Eucharistic’, how can we expect our people to become more than just traditionally and devotionally ‘aware’ of what (Who) they have been told the Blessed Sacrament is? If our priests do not show adoring love and reverence for the Mystery they have the responsibility and privilege of celebrating and offering, how can we expect the faithful to see beyond the signs of bread and wine? When we priests see ourselves in each celebration of the Eucharist as Christ re-presenting His Passion-Death-Resurrection and redeeming grace, the People of God participating in the celebration are taken up in and with the mystery. They too experience more clearly and profoundly their priestly role in the Sacrifice we offer and the Table we share. When the priest lives the Eucharist he celebrates, the people to whom he ministers notice the grace of the sacrament working in, with, and through him, and in, with, and through them. The people thus are enveloped by the effects of God’s love that comes to us through the Eucharist that makes all of us not simply bystanders but participants in this great and awesome Mystery of Redemption. 

Because of today’s society, the priest is often bogged down with administrative responsibilities and other ministerial duties over and above what would normally be asked and expected. It is in the Eucharist celebrated with attention and devotion that he once again can find the perspective from which to view all he is asked to do, as well as who he is asked to be. It is from the perspective of the Lamb of God Whose compassion is selfless, Whose giving is total even to death and death on a cross (Philippians 2: 8), Whose love is infinite in time and all-embracing, that every facet of priestly life, even the seemingly banal, makes sense and is eternally rewarding. Once the priest sees himself, with all his faults and sins, loved by Jesus, the Victim offered once for all on Calvary and repeatedly re-presented for all in the Eucharist in every Mass, his life is changed and so are the lives of those whom he serves. The Priest is Not His Own is the title of one of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s books of many years ago. No truer words could ever be written! Until the priest lives for the other, he can never be the Other who sacrifices and offers “Life, the Living One” so that others may live. 

The priest becomes the Eucharist. He is weak, flawed, faulty, yet can be a most effective instrument of a life-giving flow of graces for those who participate in the “mysteries” of Word and Sacrament. They grow in the gifts of God according to their own cooperation with grace. They are empowered by the Sacrament to live the Jesus they receive. The light of Jesus thus shines through them, according to their collaboration with grace, in a world filled with so many shadows and dangerously blinding and alluring ‘lights’. 

Our Seraphic Father speaking to all says:  All those who saw the Lord Jesus Christ according to the humanity and did not see and believe…that He was the Son of God, were condemned. In like manner, all those who behold the Sacrament of the Body of Christ which is sanctified by the word of the Lord upon the altar by the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and Divinity that it is really the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. This is affirmed by the Most High Himself Who says: This is My Body, and the Blood of the New Testament, and he that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has everlasting life.  Therefore, children, how long will you be hard of heart? (The Admonitions, 1) 

The Poverello of Assisi, whose deep love for the Sacred Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was a driving force in his life, reminds not only those who call him their spiritual father, but all Catholics, to revere this extraordinary gift of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist. He had a personal and deep respect for the priest who confected the Eucharist at Mass and gave Christ to others.  Though he was never ordained a priest, God made St. Francis a sign of one called to be another Christ by imprinting the visible marks of the wounds of Christ on his body. He became an undeniable image to others of the mystery we are all called to celebrate, share, and become spiritually in our “Holy Communion” with Christ and one another in the Eucharist.   

Following St. Francis’ deep respect and love for the priest, we pray for all priests, that the Eucharist may be the Center of their lives, and the center of ours as well. We pray that Mary, Mother of the Eternal High Priest, may be a strength and support for all priests and all God’s children as Jesus asked of Her on Calvary when He presented John to Her saying Woman behold your son! and to John Behold your mother! (John 19: 26).  Mary is not only Mother of the ministerial priests, but also of the priestly people we become by Baptism.  Embracing Mary as Mother we are facilitated in seeing Jesus in the Eucharist and recognizing the True “Viaticum” (food for the journey) of life to Life. Let us pray for all the faithful, especially ourselves, that we may grow in our love for the Great Prisoner of the Tabernacle and find comfort and solace in the quiet moments we spend before Him, and in the community moments when we celebrate His love with the Eucharistic community-the Church. 

As we celebrate a month filled with reminders of our Heavenly Mother’s powerful and loving presence in our lives (Aug.2, Our Lady of the Angels; Aug.15, Our Lady’s Assumption; Aug.27, The Seven Joys of Mary-suppressed as a liturgical feast but very much alive in the hearts and devotions of most Franciscans), may God bless you; Our Lady, Virgin Made Church and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and Holy Mother St. Clare watch 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 

July 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 

July 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

There is a practice which seems to have originated at the beginning of the first centuries of Christianity.  When a bishop who desired to express communion and solidarity with another bishop, he would break a particle of the Eucharist consecrated at the celebration over which he presided and send (“missa est” that is “it is sent”) that particle of the Eucharist to the other bishop.  The precious Consecrated Bread was placed together with the Consecrated Wine.  The Sacramental Signs of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus, sharing in the common bond of faith in the Eucharistic re-presentation of the Paschal Mystery celebrated by the Church, was shared as the real and lasting intimacy of all the People of God forming the Mystical Body of Christ, in His Body and Blood. What a beautiful and powerful practice! 

It was called the gift of the “fermentum”. The word “fermentum” probably referred to the Eucharist as the “leaven” of the Christian life, and as the instrument by which Christians spread throughout the world were united in the one Body and Blood of Christ as a “leaven” in the world. The receiving bishop would then consume the particle sent to him during the next celebration of the Eucharist of which he presided, as a sign of the communion between the churches.  

It has been many centuries since this practice has unfortunately fallen out of practice. The sign of our unity is the Eucharist. The Divine Presence always among us encourages us, especially in the trying times, to share the “fermentum”. We believe in Jesus and His Promise fulfilled to remain with you always until the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20) in the Eucharist. We are bonded in His Body and Blood as a family in God. We are redeemed in the saving Body and Blood of Jesus offered once on Calvary and re-presented through the centuries in the celebration of the “Fractio Panis” (“Breaking of  Bread”). Through the Eucharist we become a “leaven” in the world. We become the living Mystical Body of Jesus. In the Eucharist we accept to be the bread broken and shared among ourselves as a communion in the Blood of Christ. 

In the common bond of our celebration, participation, and consumption of the Eucharist, we share the “fermentum” and become the “fermentum” of unity, peace, and concord with one another and all creation. The sharing, begun among ourselves, must inevitably prepare us to be kneaded into the daily Body of Christ among ourselves and in our world. We begin the process and slowly add the elements outside ourselves that they too may become the daily bread “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit to become the mystical Bread of Life.  

The love and extreme devotion our Seraphic Father had for the Eucharist is undeniable. He emphasized the essential importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Lesser Brothers, the Penitents of Assisi. He wanted the friars to reserve, revere, and preserve anything that is part of or can be used for the Eucharistic Sacrament. This may seem at first sight to be an exaggerated eccentricity. No way! Our Seraphic Father had a profound awareness and love and devotion for the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as well as for those who “confected” the sacrament by their priestly ordination. Even the possible personal sinfulness of the priest did not keep St. Francis from kissing their hands in thanksgiving for their Eucharistic ministry. 

The Mystery of Christ’s Passion-Death-Resurrection is once again presented for our reflection during the month of July, traditionally dedicated to the honor of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. That Blood, poured once for all to redeem humanity as was the blood of the spotless lambs poured out over and over again in ancient times for the People of Israel, urges our hearts to remember, celebrate and believe the Paschal Mystery that every person who bears the name of Christ is called to enter and live. 

The whole person of Jesus, as the Christ, Incarnate Son of God, is pledged to the mission of redemption entrusted to Him by the Father. His total surrender to the Father’s Will transforms the cross of hatred, into a sign of love, and the body of Christ dying in agony, into a sign of life. We live in times that seek the easy way out. We want to sidetrack the Cross, and still have life make sense and be fulfilling. It just does not happen that way for people of faith! 

World events alone, as well as events in our own neighborhoods and cities, all too often remind us of humanity’s inhumanity to its own kind. Our lives tell us that no one is totally free from difficulties, sufferings, tragedies, death. We encounter Christ and see His glorified wounds with the eyes of our hearts. We touch the wounds of His hands, feet and side, the immortal signs of His selfless love for us, in the daily experiences of life. It is becoming that “fermentum” we share as an effective remembrance of our unity in the Blood of Christ, that the secret of the Paschal Mystery’s life-giving grace becomes evident and effective in/with/for us.

The Savior’s Blood that flowed from the Cross is a sign of the totality of His selfless Sacrifice. Our Seraphic Father entered ever more deeply into this profound mystery so that what he prayed and reflected upon became impressed indelibly on his body. His “fermentum” in sharing physically as well as mystically in the Blood of Jesus reminded others of the totality of the selfless surrender he had made in response to the Father’s invitation to share in the Mystery of His Son. He invited others to share in this “leaven” of the Body and Blood of Christ. Sharing, others could become with him a united presence of Christ in the world. We Franciscans are invited, in fact called, to follow the example and share our hearts as “fermentum” with the uniting strength of our Gospel Fraternity.  

The world searches for meaning, direction and true fulfillment of its deepest desires. Like the belligerent adolescent who finally becomes a conscientious young adult, today’s society seems to be searching for those spiritual values that for so long were forgotten or ignored by many. Franciscans, by vocation to Gospel fraternity, are called to eliminate all that separates us from each other. We are called to heal the brokenness around and within us by becoming, one for the other, “wounded healers”. 

Life finds meaning in the Cross of Jesus. We realize that in the Father’s eyes we are worth the death of His own Son. Through His death, we are offered unending Life. The Blood of Jesus indicates the direction our lives should take. It points the way to the One Who calls us from the earth in which we live to the Life on high we have been promised, a life worth any sacrifice. There is an unimaginable sense of fulfillment for those who take on the challenge to die to themselves and their distorted egos each day. We “allow” God to be alive in us making life worth living and heaven a promise fulfilled progressively each day. 

The Precious Blood of Our Savior is a reminder of that life-giving element that flows mystically in the veins of all God’s children through the Eucharist. Sharing the gift of the Eucharist we, like the bishops mentioned above, offer one another the gift of ourselves in Christ. We are the living “fermentum” called to unity in the peace of Christ. The Savior takes on a nature that will eventually betray His Love (the symbol of His Sacred Heart) and destroy His life (the symbol of His Precious Blood). To some these spiritual images may seem somewhat macabre reminders of death. For the Christian, they are signs of the Infinite Love expressed in the life of Jesus.   

Are you willing to share the Eucharist you receive with others? Are you willing to share the Eucharist you are supposed to become with each Communion received as a united act of love for any and all of God’s children, with special regard for our own sisters and brothers without exception, in other words “without gloss”? Is the Blood of Christ shed in His Passion and Death just a ritualistic celebration with no lasting transforming effect in you?  Have we, who pride ourselves on being called Franciscans and that is spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi, truly sought to follow the example of the Poverello by sharing the Eucharist we become, that is ourselves, with all, or only the select few?  As a Eucharistic fraternity – and we are! – do we strive to live the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in one mind and heart as the “fermentum” we are called to be in this divided and violent world? The response will determine how true we are to the Spirit Who calls us to Life as a ”fermentum” that leavens the dough of our life to become a “real presence” of the Mystical Christ in our midst. Our honest response will indicate the direction and integrity of our Catholic Faith and Franciscan Profession.  

May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, intercede for us, Her children, and encourage us not to fear but to embrace the Cross of Her Son. The Cross is our Anchor of Salvation. The Cross-anchor gives stability to lives often caught up in the troublesome waters of the sea of life.  

In your fraternal charity let us keep each other in prayer. May God bless all of you, Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect you, and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look upon all of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap 

Regional Spiritual Assistant