Meditation for September 2021 by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

September 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Feast Day to all!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

August 2021 Meditations from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

August 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings  

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant 

July Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

email: pppgusa@gmail.com 

July 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2021 Monthly Meditation – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

June 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you his peace! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Monthly Meditation – May 2021 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

May 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son

Fill our hearts with the joy of the Risen Christ.

May Mary, His Mother, redeemed ahead of time,

Lead us closer to Jesus, the only

Way, Truth, and Life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation – April 2021 – Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

 April 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia! 

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

March 2021 – Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

March 2021 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

May the Lord grant you peace! 

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

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

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

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

The first official words of Jesus to the crowds were:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy and grace-filled Lent to all! 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

 

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

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

St. Joseph – Sorrows and Joys 

(within the celebration of the Franciscan Crown) 

Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

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

First Joy of BVM – Annunciation/Incarnation 

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

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

Second Joy of BVM – Visit to Elizabeth 

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

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

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

Third Joy of BVM – Birth of Savior at Bethlehem 

3rd  Sorrow of St. Joseph:          

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

3rd Joy of St. Joseph:

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

Fourth Joy of BVM – Adoration of the Magi 

4th Sorrow of St. Joseph:

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

4th Joy of St. Joseph:

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

Fifth Joy of BVM – Finding Jesus in Jerusalem Temple 

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

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

Sixth Joy of BVM – Resurrection / Ascension of Jesus 

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

6th Joy of St. Joseph:

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

Seventh Joy of BVM – Assumption and Crowning of Mary 

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

 

January 2021 Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

January 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

In this New Year of Grace 

The Lord bless you and keep you. 

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

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October, 2020, Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

 

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

October 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant us His peace.

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

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

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

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

May 23, 2010 

Re: ‘Let them be Catholic’ 

 Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

The Lord give you His peace! 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings 

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant