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