Monthly Meditation – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, April 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

      website:  skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

April 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Risen Christ bless you with His peace!

 In his ‘Letter to All the Faithful’, St. Francis writes: And as His Passion was near, … He prayed to His Father, saying: Father, if it can be done, let this cup pass from me.  And his sweat became as drops of blood falling on the ground.  Nevertheless He placed His will in the will of His Father, saying: Father, let Your will be done; not as I will, but as you will.  His Father’s will was such that His blessed and glorious Son, Whom He gave to us and Who was born for us, should offer Himself  through His own blood as a sacrifice and oblation on the altar of the cross: not for Himself  through Whom all things were made, but for our sins, leaving us an example that we might follow His footprints … We are brothers (and sisters) when we do the will of the Father Who is in heaven… (Letter to the Faithful, Second Version).


Our Seraphic Father reminds us of ‘spiritual indifference’ that is the foundation of a peaceful and serene life. The indifference is not a matter of ‘not caring about anything’.  It is a matter of doing and acting as though all depends on us and trusting in God as though all depends on God.  Everything does depend on God: My word does not return without having fulfilled the purpose for which it was sent. However, God has entrusted us with the awesome privilege and responsibility for our own salvation by the gift of free will which can or not correspond with the will of our Creator.  Thus, a word that stands out for us to consider as we read the words of St. Francis to the Faithful and celebrate our Redemption in the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus the Christ is Surrender.  


‘Surrender’ is a powerful word.  It can also be disconcerting and even frightening when one considers ‘surrender’ as a way of life.  Jesus ‘surrendered’ to the Father’s Will from the first moment of His existence as a human being.  From all eternity, Jesus surrenders to the Will of the Father. Though He was in the form of God … He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave … He humbled Himself becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross(Philippians 2: 6-11). ‘Surrendering’ to the Father’s will made Jesus resolute, even to death and death on a cross.  This kind of ‘surrender’ leads to victory and glory, not defeat and infamy. Because of this God greatly exalted Him…(Philippians 2: 6-11).


The intensity of the resolute character of Jesus is vividly portrayed in a brief phrase from the Gospel according to St. Luke: When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he steadfastly set his face to Jerusalem … (Luke 9:51).  How often we correctly focus on the heart of a Scripture passage, but miss a detail that can offer deeper insights for a better understanding and appreciation of what we have read. This brief passage tells us so much about Jesus and how He ‘approached’ the fulfillment of His mission among us. It merits a deeper reflection as we approach Easter, the great celebration of our Redemption and New Life of grace in the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus.  There is nothing more essential for us than to consider our life and our active participation in the Paschal Mystery. We unite ourselves with Christ in His obedience to the Father’s Will, to His personal surrender, and to all His obedience implies. In so doing we encounter a more profound value to our earthly life, and thus can live in the hope of an assurance of Eternal Life. The reason I say that there is nothing more essential for us is because once we recognize, understand, and accept God’s Plan for all creation and particularly for ourselves, our life takes on a whole new meaning and expression. 


The Lenten season invites us to ‘set our face toward Jerusalem’, just as our Savior did. Though the words from the Greek and Latin Vulgate texts can be translated in several ways, the original more faithful expression to the ancient text – He resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem – offers us a powerful image of Jesus ‘eyeing’ His opponent and moving in for the encounter and confrontation.  The text speaks volumes of the character of Jesus and His personal compliance with the mission entrusted Him by the Father. Jerusalem is not another town on the itinerant schedule of Jesus the preacher. Jerusalem is not just another platform for his preaching/teaching and healing ministry to attract the crowds at Passover. Jerusalem is an anticipated and desired destination. Jesus has actively been moving both psychologically to this decisive moment and physically to this ‘center of the world’ for the Jews and ‘Seat of God’s Presence’ for those who believed in the God of Abraham. Everything must be in place: The prophets and their prophecies must be fulfilled and the ‘backup plan’ must be ready, before ‘setting his face to Jerusalem’. It is time for Jesus ‘to allow’ his life to be taken for the sake of all humanity.  Let us never forget that no one takes His life from Him: I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  I have the power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father (John 10:17-18). Determining episodes in Jesus’ life and ministry had led to this climactic moment. Each experience tested His obedience and resolve to fulfill the Father’s Plan as willed.  His trust in the Father and determination to obey whatever the cost to Him were put to the test, and ultimately triumphed for the sake of us all. 


–     He ‘plunged’ into the River Jordan to be baptized by John.  His plunge was an acceptance of the ministry entrusted to Him by the Father. His ministry, as Simeon had prophesied so many years before in the Temple, was to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory of (the) people Israel(Luke2:32)and at the same time He was destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that (would) be contradicted (Luke 2:32). Jesus ‘plunged’ into the realities of our world. This world accepted Him, but also confronted, contradicted, and condemned Him, and all this was done by recipients of His love and gifts!  And He set His face toward them!


–     He contended with the ‘demon’ of comfort, compromise, convenience in the desert, and withstood the easy road of complacency with the power of conviction in the Word of God.  God’s Word is God’s Will and God’s Will overcomes all things for those who place their trust in Him. Jesus did not run from the ‘demon’ but confronted the adversary face-to-face. Jesus was opposed by spiritual beings, who as yet were not sure if their Vanquisher was He. The word ‘if’ used by the tempter is so revealing!  ‘If’ is never to be used when speaking with Jesus. No hesitancy! Let go! … as Jesus did when he set his face towards Jerusalem.


–     At Cana He changed water into wine, thus giving evidence of His power and uniqueness. This miracle attracted many to Him.  The immediate fulfillment of His mission now begins when His followers ‘believe in Him’. The extraordinary character of His actions captivate and mesmerize the wonder-seekers, as well as the vast numbers seeking hope for their confused lives.  The subtle challenges of the desert test return; miracles are signs but do not make for solid faith. True Faith seeks to enter the mystery and never demands to see miracles. Only in the mystery can the miracle be an effective sign and make sense.  Jesus would be opposed by those who needed ‘to be entertained’, or whose ‘hopes’ were not met according to their desires. And He set His face toward them!


In three years, an entire life would come full circle.  The purpose for His birth would finally reach its climax, not with joyful acclamations of a people’s fulfilled hopes, but with the shouts and jeers of a rabble crying out ‘Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!  Beneficiaries of only goodness and compassion were instigated to cry for execution by some of the leaders of the people who could and should have known better, had not ambition and jealousy clouded their vision and hardened their hearts. None of this was hidden from Jesus’ knowledge. He knew. He had told His disciples that He would be betrayed, captured, tortured, killed, and on the third day rise.  When Peter would not have Jesus accept this fate, what to Peter sounded like total failure and defeat, Jesus turned to Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do (Matthew 16: 23). Jesus knew quite well what lay in store for Him! And He set his face toward it all.


At the Last Supper, in the Upper Room, we can almost enter the mind and heart of Jesus. It is a powerful moment, filled with human sentiments. An inner sadness, a last hope and attempt for conversion are so evident when Jesus  appeals to his betrayer: Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me (John13:21).  Failing to change the heart of Judas, Jesus seeks support and strength from the others. Going with them to the Garden in Gethsemane He falls to the ground in prayer.  He was in such agony and He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke22:44).  He prayed the same prayer three times: Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but Yours be done (Luke 22:42). Jesus was that One Solitary Life Who knew what His life entailed and what awaited him, and still, from the very beginning, He set His face toward Jerusalem, and everything He was born to accomplish. 


Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you (Luke 13:34), was the city of Prophets and Kings. Jesus entered to the acclaim of the crowds who had so often heard His preaching and had benefited from His awesome power over both the spiritual and material worlds. In the course of one week, the crowds praised Him on Sunday strewing the road for Him to walk on their cloaks and palm branches, and jeered at Him as the Great Sabbath approached calling for His death.  The people yelled, His blood be upon us and upon our children (Matthew 27: 25)And Jesus set His face to Jerusalem and Mount Calvary; He was like a trusting lamb led to slaughter (Jeremiah 12: 19) without uttering anything in his own defense or denouncing those who condemned Him. His greatest sermon would be preached from the throne of a Cross were his prophetic words would resound in the hearts of the faithful down through the centuries.

For most, ‘surrender’ is synonymous with weakness, failure, ineptness, shame, maybe even cowardice, and so much more.  The spirit of the world is always urging us to ‘look out for yourself’, ‘be the first’, ‘be the best and don’t be concerned about the rest’, ‘do what you have to do, but never give up’!  How many children grow up to be psychologically wounded adults because they cannot get beyond the perfectionism expected of them in childhood.  Sometimes it is necessary to ‘surrender’ to another for help if we are to go beyond our limitations.  This ‘surrender’ can be necessary and healthy, and can bear with it positive and lasting results. 


Spiritually, there is another ‘surrendering’ that is absolutely necessary for victory and success; without this ‘surrender’ our lives ultimately are total failures.  Another word for it is ‘abandonment’- abandonment to the Will of God and total trust in the power and presence of a God Who calls, challenges and completes in those surrendered to His Will what is for their good. When our spiritual life is surrendered to the Father’s Will, we never lose sight of our duties and our goal. Jesus fulfilled His duty as Messiah and Victim, and achieved the goal for humanity as Redeemer and Victor. We share in that same Life by Baptism and Grace, and share more profoundly in the same victory every time we enter and receive the Eucharist worthily. Thus we allow the graces of redemption to strengthen and guide our life’s journey.  


Of the three great ‘tests’ Jesus experienced from others, the last was the most difficult.  The first came in the desert from satan who challenged the method Jesus would use to achieve our redemption.  The second came from the people who sought Him out with keen hopes of being ‘filled’ rather than ‘fulfilled’.  The third, and most difficult and subtle test, came from a dear friend and His Vicar, Peter, who sought to dissuade Jesus from setting his face to Jerusalem to be captured, tortured, and killed.  Unknowingly, Peter’s loving concern was most insidious and dangerous.  It challenged Jesus to ‘not surrender’ as He had done till then. Jesus’ followers loved Him and He loved them for loving Him.  And it was an awful thing to go up to Jerusalem to die.  But He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.  This was the only way. This was the Divine Plan. This was the Father’s Will. This was Jesus’ Will!


Calvary was most certainly a frightening thought that loomed always in the heart and life of Jesus.  His humanity did not seek pain and death.  But His heart knew that there was only one way to fulfill His Father’s Plan, and that is all that mattered.  The empty tomb was the visible sign of the Father’s acceptance of Jesus’ total emptying of Himself in deference to the Father’s Will. It was the Father’s response to the Son’s love. Our own Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi simply and confidently sought out God’s will through His inspired Word.  God’s Word was the Rule of life he set down for himself and those who asked to follow his way of life. He submitted always to another that he might follow the example of the obedient Son of the Father. Love is a total surrender.  The love for the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit kept Jesus in total harmony with the Father’s Will.  


As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi let us love enough to surrender ourselves to God.  We never lose when we give everything over to the One Who gives everything, especially Himself, to us.  There is always such fear in saying ‘I surrender’.  When we say it to God, why be afraid?  God knows what we are capable of and where we are headed, long before we do.  Abandoning ourselves to His Will, truly trusting in Him, and living every moment as a deliberate act of surrender to the Divine Will, we cannot help but experience an inner peace, serenity and joy.  We will discover and live a more balanced and cheerful life, even in the midst of difficulties.  When God is in control, we are always headed in the right direction. Just as a husband and wife surrender themselves in love and the two become one, let us become one with God as we surrender to His Divine Will.  Emptying ourselves of our own material and earthly desires, false ambitions, self-centeredness, pride, will allow the joy of new life and rebirth to be so palpable that our Easter celebration will be as though it were that first Easter Sunday.  Jesus is alive! He is Risen! He precedes us on the way! Let Jesus come alive in your hearts and lives so powerfully that, like the first followers, we will be, as Saint Augustine calls the People of God redeemed in the Blood of the Lamb, ‘an Alleluia People’.  May we praise Him with our lives!


May the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in us that we might have life, and have it in abundance. May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter; may Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers us; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. With a promise to keep all of you affectionately in my Easter Masses and Liturgies, I wish you and your dear ones a very Happy and Joyous Easter.  


Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation for March 2019 by Father Francis OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

March 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!


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


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


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


In solitude and silence our Seraphic Father sought to hear more clearly the voice of God Who spoke to him from the Cross of San Damiano that had entrusted him with a mission to rebuild My Church for as you can see it is falling into ruin.  To fulfill this commission St. Francis understood he had to begin by ‘rebuilding’ himself.  Like any edifice that needs revamping, remodeling, restoring, in order to be ultimately renewed, he had to check the structure, clean out the rubble, prop up and strengthen the tottering and fragile, fix the broken, discard the corroding that was affecting and infecting the rest of the healthy structure. Once this was done he could begin the ‘job’ of  rebuilding with quality updated strong material to make the structure solid and welcoming.  It is not always necessary to tear down to renew, particularly when the treasures of time and the human spirit are intimately involved and vital components.  When our faith foundation is solid and deep, the visible ‘structure’ of our lives will be strong and solid once revisions and repairs are effected.  Thus, what others see after we have worked at ‘rebuilding’ the inner spiritual structure and ‘refinished and renewed’ the outer appearance will attract, welcome, and challenge others to do the same.


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


Yes! We are victors in the Victim!  We walk the road of the Cross.  Though there are many difficulties we must overcome, our victory is basically a victory over ourselves; that part of ourselves that hesitates or refuses to let the Holy Spirit work in and through us.  The journey of Lent leads to a victory so often misunderstood.  It is a victory whose trophy is a blood-stained Cross and a mangled, tortured, derided Person, executed as a common criminal Whose crime was truth, compassion, and love. The paradox of the Cross is the glory of the Christian.  The sign of contradiction becomes our sign of commitment, commitment to Life through death to ourselves, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me. Jesus Himself said, when I am lifted up I will call all people to myself.  Eventually, at the end of our Lenten journey we come to the foot of the Cross, not as vanquished victims, but as conquering victors who bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body, therefore let no one bother me.


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


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


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


Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap - February, 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

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


St. Francis’ immediate response to the brigands was based on a profound conviction: the Lord had spoken to him from the Cross of San Damiano, and charged him to rebuild my Church, for as you can see it is falling into ruin.  St. Francis understood these words literally and set out at once to begin his divinely appointed commission, his ‘job’, rebuilding churches.  He was the divinely-appointed ecclesiastical architect and general contractor. Actually, it is not far-fetched to give him these titles.  The day would come when he would be the ‘architect’ of a whole new way of life.  The Family of the Penitents of Assisi who would follow his example eventually would begin to rebuild the Church and society. The Providence of God would take care of his needs. The good people of Assisi and so many others would be the all-providing hand of God for this young ‘penitent’ who had embraced his fears, kissed the leper, and given all that ‘possessed him’ back to the world.  He threw himself with abandon into the loving arms of his Father in heaven.


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


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


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


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


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


As spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, let us remember the power the Word of God exercised in his life and should exercise in our own.  As St. Francis, let us read the Word and listen to It with our heart. When necessary, ask clarifications, as St. Francis did. Seek enlightenment that you may better understand what the Lord is saying to you through His Word.  Following our Seraphic Father’s example, let us always have an open and disarmed heart to the challenges God’s Word may offer us.  Let the words of the Divine Word enter our heart as He speaks to each of us personally and directly. If only we realized the beauty of our Franciscan Vocation and the heights of holiness we could achieve with the help of God’s grace by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi!  We would be able to eradicate from our lives and fraternities all that does not speak of Franciscan humility and charity.  These are not ‘pie-in-the-sky’ virtues, but the foundation of a life worth living and loving.  The Church in Her leadership has always praised our Franciscan spirit and encouraged the sisters and brothers to live it fully and, in the words of St. Francis, ‘without gloss’. 


While on his visit to Assisi, Pope St. John Paul II offered the following prayer to our Seraphic Father:  Help us, St. Francis of Assisi, to bring Christ closer to the Church and to the world of today.  You, who bore in your heart the vicissitudes of our contemporaries, help us, with our heart close to the Redeemer’s heart, to embrace the events of men and women of our time.  The difficult social, economic and political problems, the problems of culture and contemporary civilization, all the sufferings of the man of today, his doubts, his denials, his disorders, his tensions, his complexes, his worries. Help us to express all this in the simple and fruitful language of the Gospel.  Help us to solve everything in an evangelical key, in order that Christ himself may be ‘the Way – the Truth – the Life’ for modern man…You have always been kind and you have always hastened to bring help to all those who appealed to you. Then he reminded all Franciscans to: Serve the Lord joyfully. Be servants of his people gladly, because St. Francis wished you to be joyful servants of mankind, capable of lighting everywhere the lamp of hope, trust, and optimism which has its source in the Lord himself.  May your, our, common Patron Saint, St. Francis of Assisi, be an example to you today and always! (November 5, 1978)


What better encouragement and confirmation can we have than that offered by the Vicar of Christ Himself!  Let us let the Word take hold of our lives. Whatever God says to us in His most holy Word, let us say with Saint Francisthat is what I want with all my heart.  Let us remember that our Rule and Constitutions are confirmed by the Church because they are founded on God’s Word. Let us not be afraid to live the Gospel we accept and the Life we have professed.  Let the spirit of Franciscan joy be an undeniable characteristic of each one of us.  Let us remember that we are a family of sisters and brothers, redeemed in the blood of Jesus on Calvary, and one family following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.  Let the hope, trust and optimism which has its source in the Lord Himself, of our Franciscan Vocation, overflow into the lives of all whom we encounter and to whom we minister. 


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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – January 2019

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 2019

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!

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


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be …  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son full of grace and truth. (John 1: 1-14)


Words, words, words!   Everyone seems to have something to say.  How often are we reminded by our interlocutors that we are all ‘entitled to their opinions’.  More often than not we are expected to take their words to heart – which is fine for pondering – and then do whatever is proposed – under the guise of friendship, or fear of some unpleasant reaction, and so on.  Commercials expect us to buy the product advertised.  Millions of dollars are spent to ‘push’ some medical ‘breakthrough’ or pharmaceutical remedy as a miracle drug for what ails you.  Even when the counter warnings that must legally be presented are disconcerting not to say frightening; these products are bought to the billions of dollars, regardless of the possible dangerous, harmful or even fatal effects.  Newspapers and news broadcasts saturate us with information, often about less important, insignificant matters or even opinionated editorials, when we would rather want to be made aware of more significant events and objective comments of pressing local, national and worldwide interest that in fact may or do affect our lives.  Sermons and homilies are delivered in a manner that captivates the listeners’ attention and opens their hearts to remember what was presented to them, but the words many times are knowledgeably and beautifully delivered but do not challenge the listener. In this case, no one wants to ‘make waves’.  Something good, correct and ‘nice’ is spoken, but it is often a word that will not set the soul afire with enthusiasm to be a ‘living gospel message’.  


There is wrong or sinful speaking with one another, having an opinion in which one believes firmly, marketing products, researching and ‘experimenting’ medicines intended to help better our human condition, informing people of current events, following one’s own conscience, speaking with people of faith matters in an encouraging and uplifting manner … or even writing monthly circular letters intended to inform, instruct and, God willing, inspire people to accept the challenge every day to improve our relationship with God and others.  All these, and many other examples you are undoubtedly able to list, are intended for good…and are composed of many words.  How we cooperate with the words we hear or read will determine the good or not so good, or even the bad effect we allow them to have on our lives. The word is necessary to communicate.  The Incarnate Word communicates truth and seeks a response.  Let us remember that even silence can be a very powerful response.


We are People of the Word.  It is a fact. Whether we have heard it or not, this is what we areThe faith we share was first spoken to both the simple as well as the educated people.  They listened to the message (the Good News), reflected upon it, and ultimately decided to accept or reject what was proclaimed to them.  Once the words spoken were accepted, the next step was to concretize them in life. Until we read and allow the Lord Jesus to be ‘enfleshed’ in our lives by following His teachings and example, we can never truly be fully a ‘People of the Word’.


We who are ordained and/or commissioned ministers of the Word must also be very cautious we proclaim and spread God’s Word, and not our own! We cannot be honest to our ministry to God’s People when the Word we proclaim is intended to foster and promote personal issues and agendas. All of us, regardless of our place in the Mystical Body of Christ, are consecrated by Baptism to be attentive and faithful to the integrity of the Good News – the message of Jesus. 


Individuals are, by human nature, more ‘intuned’ to hear what they expect or want. This happens in religious organizations, political gatherings, social groupings, churches, and even in The Church.  In the Church it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit that gives the grace of infallibility in matters of faith and morals to the Holy Father, Successor to St. Peter and Vicar of Christ for the sake of Christ’s Body, the Church. Our Seraphic Father placed such trust and confidence in the presence of the Holy Spirit and His holy operation that St. Francis told the brothers that the Holy Spirit was the true Minister General of the Order (cfr. 2 Celano, chpt. CXLV). 


We must be cautious how we interpret words. Much can be lost in the translation.  Sacred Scripture translated in a language to be understood by people of every time and nation, risks alterations that can affect the original meaning.  There are many safeguards in the Church to avoid ‘misunderstandings’. Nevertheless: What happens when we read but do not perceive? What happens when we hear but do not listen? What happens when we proclaim but do not live?  What happens when we, like sounding gongs and clanging cymbals, repeat correctly all the proper words that indicate what we have been taught and have said we will accept, but then live as though we have heard nothing new, nor allowed our lives to be transformed by the power of the Word, Whose words are spirit and life


St. Francis was an advocate of respect for the Word.  Let the names and written words of the Lord, whenever they are found in inconvenient places, be also gathered up and kept in a becoming place (Letter to the Custodians, 1220). This respect for Sacred Scripture of St. Francis was rooted in his awareness that all he had become, and all he had offered thousands of others to become in response to God’s call, had its beginning in the words he read, heard and asked be explained to him by one who represented for him the official teaching of the Church (the Magisterium) … and he accepted without gloss, and gave himself wholeheartedly to a life that would change the world as it changed millions of people down through the centuries Our Seraphic Father listened to the words of Sacred Scripture so intently that he remembered them, pondered them, and assimilated them into his life.  They were the true Form of Life he accepted to follow.  To follow Jesus is to follow the Gospel.  To follow the Gospel is to be a living image of Jesus. Living the Word without gloss, as St. Francis expected his spiritual children to do, allows the Word to come alive in, with, and through us who believe It and believe in It.


The Rule, Constitutions, Regulations and even simple organizational suggestions offered by the legitimate leadership of any jurisdiction of our Franciscan Fraternity are all based on the life and teachings of the one Great Word Who is Jesus, and His words in Scripture, and how our Seraphic Father accepted them in his life. Franciscans, true to their Seraphic Father, have always considered Sacred Scripture their first and basic rule of life and guide. In a letter to the whole Order, Our Seraphic Father wrote: Because whoever belongs to God hears the words of God, we who are more especially charged with divine responsibilities must not only listen to and do what the Lord says but also care for the vessels and other liturgical objects that contain His holy words in order to impress on ourselves the sublimity of our Creator and our subjection to Him.  I, therefore, admonish my brothers and encourage them in Christ to venerate, as best they can, the divine written words wherever they find them … For many things are made holy by the words of God and the sacrament of the altar is celebrated in the power of the words of Christ (Letter to the Entire Order).


As spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi we have accepted the call to live the Gospel, according to our state in life, following Jesus Christ after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.  As People of the Word, if we have not already done so, we must let the Word of God written for us to read and meditate, and the Word of God, Jesus the Christ, enfleshed in human nature in all things but sin for us to follow, be the guiding force of our lives.  The Rule and Constitutions studied and approved by Holy Mother Church are Spirit and Life for us all, for they are rooted in the Word of God, our Seraphic Father, and the Magisterium of the Church. To disregard them for convenience or human respect, is to betray our Franciscan vocation.  The pondered and promoted decisions of the leadership of our regional and even the single fraternities in union with our national and international councils are expected to be reflected upon and then followed with fraternal trust in those elected to leadership.  Often our ‘human nature gets in the way’, and can keep the person and even the fraternity from moving forward.  


What makes us Franciscans is our ability to be sisters and brothers not intimidated nor intimidating, ready and trusting enough to be able to express our feelings – happy, sad, annoyed, contrary, and the like. However, a true Franciscan is also expected to live the essence of Franciscan Poverty, manifested in true Obedience.  Self-centered negative criticism of others, refusal to accept in humility what is asked of us in the spirit of Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, the Rule and Constitutions, devious behavior, antagonistic ‘feelings’ towards another, and much more are not only contrary to our Franciscan charism but also contrary to our Catholic Christian calling. Baptized Catholics seek always to be faithful to Sacred Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium.  They willingly strive to be an affirming presence in the world, wherever and however God has made known directly or indirectly.


We have begun the New Year.  The Christ of history walked among us two thousand years ago.  The Christ of glory will come in the Father’s time and eternal Will. The Christ of mystery is with us always in His Word revealed to us and transmitted by the sacred writers and in His Divine Presence in the Eucharist. What lies ahead of us is in the hands of God.  May we take on the commitment because of our faith-filled conviction and Franciscan profession to read Scripture more often and intently. To do so daily is not an exaggerated expectation for People of the Word. This is who we Franciscans are. St. John tells us His own did not receive Him.  There are still sisters and brothers among us have difficulty accepting the challenge of their profession to live the Franciscan-Gospel life with joy and surrender to the Word of God and heart of St. Francis of Assisi.  The Word was made flesh and must be enfleshed in each one of us. He came and dwelled among us, that others might be able to see Him through us. Those who come to believe in Him through the example of our Franciscan Gospel Life, are offered the opportunity and privilege to receive from Christ the power to become the children of God. These children of God will see His glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth, alive in their hearts and transforming the lives of others.


As you can see, there is power in a word, a power that not even hell can destroy or shake.  There is infinite might and transforming power in the Word. May that Word, who entered time with us that we might enter eternity with Him, be our guiding force each day. And may the Eucharist, great gift of the Word through the Spirit, allow the Mystery of the Incarnation we celebrate and receive to fill us with the graces of the Holy Spirit and always give us peace in the Father’s love, mercy and providence.


My prayers are with all of you and your loved ones for a most blessed and peace-filled New Year 2019.  May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi  and our holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  


Remembering the words of St. Jerome: Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, we can take that further saying, as can be seen on some Church signs: No Christ, No Peace!  KNOW CHRIST, KNOW PEACE!  May we make this a Year of the Word for us to get to Know Christ that we may Know His Peace in our hearts, homes, and the world around us.  JESUS, OUR PEACE, DOES NOT DISAPPOINT ANYONE WHO PLACES THEIR TRUST IN HIM.  LORD, THIS YEAR AND ALWAYS WE PLACE OUR TRUST IN YOU! May the Peace, Joy, Blessings … and Love fill your hearts and those of your loved ones.  Happy New Year to all!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 2018

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

 

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

 November, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

November, dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, reminds us that God loves us into life, and calls to the fullness of life. The journey of life is so wonderful.  The many challenges we encounter help us grow in God’s love.  This gift is also dangerous because of the many allurements and seductions that can entice us to deviate from the path marked out for us.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  If we follow His Way, listen to His Word of Truth, we can expect ultimately to share in the fullness of His Life. He Himself says: I came that they may have Life and have it abundantly  (John 10: 10).  Jesus gained Life for us, once for all, on the Cross of Calvary … Life and the Cross!

There it is again, the Paradox of the Cross!  The Paradox of Christianity! We are always facing these choices, these opposites: positive-negative, good-bad, light-darkness, grace-sin, heaven-hell.  We always have that responsible and awesome option placed before us.  Adam and Eve were offered a test as a requisite to continue living in Eden. In the Old Testament, before the People of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua read the Law of the Covenant God made with His People and told them to choose between life and death … I for my part will serve the Lord  (cfr. Joshua 24: 2, 15).  The people responded in unison that they would serve the Lord, but history for them, and also for us who have opted to follow Jesus, tells us how fickle our commitments can be. Perhaps this is why we have difficulty in reflecting on that most solemn moment in life when we are called to encounter the Source of all Life and see ourselves in His Light.

Our Christian Faith is nourished by the Sacramental Life of the Church. We are redeemed in the Blood of Christ. He constantly encourages and invites us to follow me. In this life of faith we are always speaking of positive values while focusing in on what at first glance seems ‘negative’.  We speak about Life, but refer to it through the Death of Jesus.  We speak about Love, but recognize it through the symbol of hatred, torture, and death, The Cross.  We hope in Heaven, but experience its beginnings through the challenges and pitfalls of life’s earthly journey.  Our humanity is constantly affected by the changing attitudes of nature. We learn how to ‘see’ beyond the barriers that daily seek to impede our forward steps. A faith-filled heart and hope-filled life help us to live life to the fullest.  In this faith and hope we cannot help but recognize how grace offers us the opportunity to “live life and love it”.

Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi was a unique and inspired prophet for all times.  His approach to life and all creation has earned for him the title ofUniversal Brother. His example instills in the hearts of his spiritual children an attitude of joy and gratitude for every moment of life.  He was a man imbued with a spirit of wonder that made him rejoice even during the most challenging times for him. Several years before his brief life ended – he died at 44 years of age – his body began to succumb to all the effects of the penances he had imposed upon himself.  He even apologized to ‘Brother Ass’, as he called his body, for treating one who was so faithful to him in such an unappreciative manner.  With the knowledge of his terminal condition and the pains of the Stigmata of Jesus he had received two years before, informed that he was soon to pass from this life to the next, he asked that a new stanza be added to the Canticle of the Creatures. The brothers sang:  Praise be You, my Lord, for Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.  Woe to those who die in mortal sin.  Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.  Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.  When he was told that Death was imminent, he called out Welcome, Sister Death!

When we see life as the gift it is, and live life and love it, then even death cannot disturb our inner joy and serenity.  We live each moment as the gift it is. Thus we learn how to ‘let go’ of what we have for what is greater…or better Who is Greatest.

As Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father, how do we live our lives?  What is our attitude to the challenges God permits that remind us of our vulnerability and mortality?  Do we live in the spirit of the letter to the Hebrews that states: We do not have here a permanent dwelling, but we await another (Hebrews 13: 14)? Do we take time to reflect on death as one more step, the ultimate, in getting us to God?  Do we avoid even thinking of the Paschal Mystery that each one will be called to celebrate in his or her personal life?  Are we joy-filled in life?  Do we encourage others to be at peace even in the midst of difficulties?  Are we one of those who fall into that amusing, but true saying: ‘Everyone talks about heaven, but no one seems to be in a hurry to get there’ ?

We have grown accustomed to the amenities of life, the privileges we often see as ‘rights’.  Discomfort is something we seek to avoid.  Criticisms and rejection disturb our calm. Self-centeredness, greed, vengeance become survival tactics that control relationships. In the face of problems we cannot control, we question, barter with, blame God for the ‘bad’ things that happen to us.  Our sainted brothers and sisters teach us that the Christian is enlightened by the assurance of Faith in the Incarnation and Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. St. Paul was convinced that to live is Christ, and to die is so much gain (Philippians 1: 21).  We are challenged to be a ‘People of Hope’, as St. Paul writes to the community of Rome: And hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly … While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … We have been justified by His blood … We even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (Romans 5: 5-11) We entrust ourselves totally to God.  If God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8: 31)  God has promised us Life with Him forever and He has given us the most excellent means to live in hope as we journey through life in joyful anticipation of His loving embrace – Jesus.  And Jesus established a perpetual means to keep the promise and pledge alive – the Eucharist.

Jesus said: I am the living bread come down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6: 51) When we gather around the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, we reaffirm our faith in Life.  We encounter our daily ‘death and dying’ with serenity.   We anticipate the prospect of heaven through bodily death with joy.  We let go of a lifetime of false securities.  We strive to bepoor in the things of this world but rich in those of heaven (cfr. James 2).   We break the shackles of the responsibilities and affairs that seemed so important in this life, and we do so with the freedom of the children of God who remember that we have here no lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. (Hebrews 13: 14).  We speak of ourselves as strangers and pilgrims on earth … seeking a homeland. (Hebrews 11: 13)  Everything is a gift.  We can offer each moment of our life as a ‘gift’ to others.  We even call on Sister Bodily Death from whom no human can escape with the trust and acceptance of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures. In the Eucharist we discover the source and pledge of Life. The Eucharist is our strength in life and our defiance of death.  We become, mystically, a Eucharistic presence. Thus, our life is an act of thanksgiving.

Jesus is our Life! In the Eucharist our concerns and confusions are clarified, our discouragements and despair are dispelled, our faults are forgiven, our self-centeredness is embraced and transformed into a love that opens our hearts to all. How much more can we say about this ‘heaven on earth’ we are privileged to possess, celebrate, and ‘become’ when our hearts and souls prepare for the encounter!  The Eucharist is ‘communion’ that binds us to Christ in His Redemptive Passion-Death-Resurrection and to all who celebrate and partake of the sacrificial Lamb of God offered for us. The Eucharist is ‘sacrifice’ that ‘makes us ‘holy’. The Eucharist transforms us into the One Whom we receive, thus fulfilling God’s words to Israel: Be holy, because I, your God, am holy (Leviticus 20: 26; 1 Peter 1: 16).   The Eucharist is a ‘pledge of future glory’ as we share in this sacrament of ‘heaven on earth’ (St. Lawrence of Brindisi).  We are offered the opportunity to live in hope, the pledge God offers us: For who hopes for what one sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance (Romans 8:24).

We ‘get lost’ forever in that vast ocean of goodness Who is Jesus in His Word and in the Eucharist.  Consuming the Victim, we are consumed by Him and are ‘lost’ to this world, that we might be found in Him, living already the ‘pledge of future glory’.  The effect of this union fills our hearts and our minds with the assurance of God’s presence. The inner peace and serenity strengthen us. We are empowered to confront challenges, bear burdens, eliminate enemies through Christian love, entrust ourselves totally and unreservedly to God Who has been and is everything.  My God and My All!  is a Franciscan expression of the total surrender our Seraphic Father lived. We spiritual children of St. Francis gratefully and willingly forfeit everything this world holds dear. Eternity is not a pious reflection but a reality we live in mystery until we are called to share it with the angels and saints in glory.

With unwavering hope in God’s mercy and the Life He promises we will share with Him,  we anticipate with joyful expectation the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ(Prayer after the Our Father at Mass) We Franciscans are the Pilgrim People of God – pilgrims and strangers.  We are committed to a deeper relationship with God through prayer-sacrifice-acts of charity.  We profess by the mere fact of these elements to live in hope – a hope that does not betray.  It is a ‘vision’ of fulfillment yet to be possessed, but already available.  Allow nothing to disturb your daily journey to God.  For those who seek to live in God’s presence nothing will succeed in disrupting their inner peace, even if storms rage around them.  As we celebrate the Eucharist that makes us one in His Name, may the ‘Holy Communion’ we share strengthen our fraternity. May the ‘Sacrifice’ we offer open our lives to respond to the responsibilities we have promised to fulfill. This ‘Pledge of Future Glory’ animates us to be enthused and encouraged to accept every moment as an opportunity to grow in and use well the gifts God has entrusted to us.  Let us take to heart the words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi: So great is the good which I expect that all pain is to me a delight.

May God bless you; my Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, look upon each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation from Fr. Francis – October, 2018

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

October 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

Two years before his death, already very sick and suffering especially from his eyes, (St. Francis ) was living in a cell made of mats near San Damiano. … During his stay … blessed Francis could not bear the light of the sun during the day or the light of the fire at night.  He constantly remained in darkness in his cell … One night, as he was thinking of all the tribulations he was enduring, he felt sorry for himself and prayed interiorly: ‘ Lord help me in my infirmities so that I may have the strength to bear them patiently”… (A voice spoke to him and said): …be glad and joyful in the midst of your infirmities and tribulations; as of now, live in peace as if you were already sharing my kingdom”… The next morning on rising, he said to his companions: … I should be full of joy in my infirmities and tribulations, seek my consolations in the Lord, and give thanks to God the Father, to His Only Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit … Therefore, for His glory, for my consolation, and the edification of my neighbor, I wish to compose a new “Praises of the Lord,” for His creatures … He called these “Praises of the Lord” which opened with the words: “Most high all-powerful, and good Lord, the “Canticle of the Sun”… He often intoned this canticle and had his companions take it up; in that way he forgot the intensity of his sufferings and pains by considering the glory of the Lord.  He did this until the day of his death.  (Legend of Perugia, 42-43)

The Poverello of Assisi was one of the wealthiest persons to ever live. His wealth went far beyond the treasures that human beings consider desirable.  The power he wielded over thousands of his day and millions over the centuries make him also one of the most influential and effective individuals to ever live. He was simple, surely not what the authoritative and commanding seek.  He was poorly dressed, surely not what attracts the people of this world. He was not much to look at, surely not a figure that imposed himself by physical stature.  He had a basic education for his times, surely not an intellectual ‘giant’ to dialogue with the ‘learned’ and prominent of his day.  He had no bands of armed guards and militant forces, surely not what the dominant forces sought out. What he had was a ‘treasure’ that far surpasses all others: He was a man in love with God, and God’s presence in all creation. He was passionately in love with life.  His spirit was contagious.  Many originally considered him out of his mind, most believed him to be eccentric, but all eventually recognized the uniqueness of a soul in love with God, life, and all people. Our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, is a constant reminder and image of a life in love with Life.

In the beginning … God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good. (Genesis 1: 1-30) The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7) Life is the first gift of God’s Eternal Love. Goodness, of its very nature, cannot be contained. Goodness overflows limits set and reaches out in all directions.  Eternal Goodness offers the greatest gift of Himself: the gift of being. During a lifetime conditioned and limited by time, we who share the ‘breath of God’, His Holy Spirit, enter a journey that leads us from living in the mystery on earth to living its fulfillment in eternity.  In Christ Jesus we recognize Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What seemingly begins as a merely natural process is now transformed into a ‘Journey of Faith’ that places us in a relationship with our Creator and eternal Life-giving Father, Who continues to ‘breathe’ His Holy Spirit into our hearts, because of the Redemptive Life-Death-Resurrection of His Incarnate Son, Jesus, Who made the Father ‘real’ for us.

Men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable – a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves.  Christian faith comes to meet them, offering the concrete possibility of reaching the goal which they seek. (Pope John Paul II – Relationship Between Faith and Reason, Encyclical of September 14, 1998). Life is that period of time we have been allotted to know, love, and serve our God both in Himself and in each other.  We follow Jesus Who invites us to walk this journey of faith as ‘pilgrims and strangers’.  St. Francis of Assisi’s ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ is his prayer of praise to God Who can be seen in all creation, and at every moment of life’s journey. Many ‘cradle Catholics’ often take their Christianity too much for granted. There is a tendency to forget that external religious practices, to be authentic, must be an expression of the greater gift of  Faith in fused at Baptism and to which they are called to be convinced and committed.  Faith is not a list of dogmas to believe, but a Person to accept and follow.  Faith, strengthened through Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church, accompanies and encourages life,  in the midst of a world that hears the words of Jesus but often closes its heart to the message that must be personally accepted and lived to be effective and fruitful. Although we are all called to be saved, there is no such thing as ‘global salvation’.  Jesus died for all humanity and His redemption is once-for-all; it is ‘global’ in that sense.  However, it is the personal responsibility of each individual to cooperate with the graces he/she receives from the Redemptive Sacrificial Blood of Jesus poured out for us all, if that person hopes to be ‘saved’ and share in Eternal Life.

St. Francis’ desire to live the Gospel ‘without gloss’ is his way of reminding us that Jesus’ words must be taken to heart and lived.  We cannot just believe and not do.  Faith that stands, and is not backed up with a life that verifies the ‘principles’ and ‘values’ preached, is nothing more than an intellectual exercise of themes and slogans. Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. (James 2: 17-18)

Our journey of faith begins in the accounts of the Old Testament Scriptures with the call of Abraham, when he responded in faith to God’s urging to leave Ur of the Chaldeans. Abraham may not have completely understood his unique relationship with God and the role he was called to fulfill, nonetheless he had all the necessary elements for faith.  He promptly responded ‘yes’ to God’s call, a divine call that more often than not turned Abraham’s own plans upside down.   Abraham was even ready to offer his only son to God, against all human logic and expectations for the future. Faith believes and gives one’s self to God unconditionally.  Even when God seems to be ‘absent’ from us, in faith we sense an unexplainable presence and strength leading us through and beyond the limits that our difficulties and doubts place in the way.  It is this faith that becomes a power house working and welling up within us.  It is this faith that becomes the very root of our daily life. Our life becomes an act of faith.

Faith reaches its fulfillment in the New Testament in the Son of God Who manifested Himself and proclaimed the kingdom of God. This proclamation of God’s will and invitation to believe requires the same response as that of Abraham, our ‘Father in Faith’.  This acceptance is a decisive act of a loving will that moves our human minds to look beyond the expected human calculations and to trust totally in God.  Faith is not an intellectual acceptance of a number of abstract facts; it is an unconditional acceptance of a person, God, as we have come to know Him in the Person of Jesus the Christ. Faith accepts God Who proposes His love for Christ Who died and was raised from the dead. Faith is obedience to God, communion with Him, openness to all God reveals because He can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Faith opens our eyes to see life from the perspective of eternity and God’s love.  Our own Seraphic Father, when confronted with friars who had decided to mitigate his expectations for the Order, heard God asking and reminding him that the Order was God’s; he was not to worry if matters seemed not what he expected, as long as they followed God’s plans.

Faith becomes victory over the isolation we create in our lives when we close ourselves to the ‘Other’. Faith helps us to gratefully accept life as a marvelous experience. Filled with challenges that may try us to the limit of our strength, life is supported, nourished, and ennobled by a faith that trusts in an ever-loving and all-providing God. From the very beginning of our existence, God calls each one of us from the nothingness of ‘not being’ to an existence that bursts into time and is ultimately transformed into the immortal gift of unending Life for all.

We learn to live tranquilly, always, as regards our spirit, because God reigns supreme.  Life is given to us in order for us to acquire the eternal. Due to a lack of reflection, we often base our affections on what pertains to the world  through which we are passing, so that when we have to leave it, we are frightened and agitated.  In order to live happily while on pilgrimage we must keep before our eyes the hope of arriving at our Homeland where we will stay for eternity.  It is God who calls us to Himself, He watches how we make our way to Him, and will never permit anything to happen to us that is not  for a greater good.  He knows what we are. He offers His loving providence to us especially while we are going through rough stretches. Nothing will prevent us from running quickly to Him, but in order to receive this grace we must have total confidence in Him.  Life is also a journey of trust.

One of the greatest Gospel witness we can give others as sisters and brothers in St. Francis of Assisi flows from living in the Presence of God. Truly convinced of this, we must be tranquil and at peace within ourselves because God is in control. We journey together, focused on the Lord Who calls us to share Life in our Eternal Homeland after having sought to restore all things in Christ during our earthly pilgrimage that should be a “Canticle of Praise” to the Lord for every facet of life. Each step we take is a step forward surrendering ourselves unconditionally to the ever-loving providence of God, Who never leaves His children unaided.

Pope John Paul II tells us that men and women are on a journey of discovery in search for the truth and a person. Words like these sound like some philosophical theme until we examine our hearts and realize how true and meaningful they are for our lives.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis encountered that ‘Person’, Jesus, on the Cross at San Damiano who impressed His words on his heart, then he met that ‘Person’ again at La Verna, Who impressed His ‘Word’ on his body.  The living image of the Crucified spoke to the world of an emptying love that accepted life to die that me might enter Life.

Every life has its disconcerting events and fears.  Even the greatest of saints had their difficulties.  Many went through moments of spiritual darkness and dryness. They continued to believe and hope in God, encouraging and empowering others to be joy-filled in the midst of their challenges as well as their successes, while they themselves cried out to their ‘absent’ and Loving God who asked that they pass through the desolation of the Cross.  Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II, and many others whose lives we have come to know more intimately now that they have entered eternity, went through these moments. Faith and life walk hand-in-hand.  It is our Faith that strengthens our spirit and nourishes our life. Jesus reminds us: It is the spirit that gives life … The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63) When we allow the Spirit of Faith to fill our minds and hearts, when we accept the words of Jesus in truth, when we live today where God and we encounter one another … we live in hope, free from fear, trusting in divine providence that clears all intimidating imaginings from our minds and hearts.  Peace, joy, and serenity become a reality. And, they become ‘contagious’ for those whom we encounter.

Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi live every moment of life fully!  The spirit of prayer that enveloped our Seraphic Father who ‘became prayer’ encourages us to pass through whatever crucible of life we encounter.  Thus we become one with the Suffering Servant Who became One with us. Let us be grateful to God for the life He has called us to live, and make our prayer You are my God…I trust in You…be my refuge…I fear nothing…(for I seek to be in You as You are within me).

May God bless you; my Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, look upon each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant