July, 2020 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

 

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

                                                                                                   July 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord bless you with His peace!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

June 2020 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

June 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!

The future of the Church, as always, will be decisively influenced yet again by the saints. (The Church in the Year Two Thousand, 1970, Joseph Ratzinger)

These are powerful words the professor who was called to leave the ’comfort  zone’ of his academic environment, that he loved so much and in which he found fulfillment of his academic desires, to let go, to leave, and to enter the ’hub’ of Catholicism, Rome. The future he expected was definitely not the ’future’ he was thrust into by the Spirit of God.

Faith is not merely a noun but an exciting an active verb. Our Faith is not solely a matter of what we believe with our minds, but an active profession and constant ’development’ in life of what is proclaimed with the lips and explained so exhaustively at times in sermons and writings.  Faith leads us into a realm we could never enter were it not for this gift. Faith helps us to see with the heart what our senses cannot always perceive.  Faith helps us to know without seeing that Someone greater than ourselves is the life-giving Source that creates as an overflowing of His Eternal Love.

Coming from Love Who is The Other (God Father, Son, Holy Spirit) it follows that Eternal Love wills not to destroy anything created to His own image and likeness.  We are created as an overflowing of that Eternal Love. If then we are called to share the Life of God, it follows that we are created for and called to Holiness.  Holiness too is not a noun that indicates some very limited and at times erroneous explanations of what it means to be ’in the world but not of the world’.  Holiness is an action word (verb) indicating a decisive direction taken towards the fulfillment of our purpose for being created: to be one with God for all eternity; in other words to be saints!

Be holy because I am holy (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2).  As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect and conduct, for it is written, ’Be holy because I am holy’. Now, if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed …with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. (1 Peter 1: 15-19) You are not in the flesh, on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you … But if Christ is in you … the spirit is alive because of righteousness … if you live … by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body … For those led by the Spirit of God are children of God … and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him. (Romans 8: 9-17)

St. Peter and St. Paul, the great columns of our Faith, whose solemnity we celebrate in this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, speak so simply in their letters to the faithful. They remind them and us of who we are and how we are to let our lives enter the open door of the Father’s Love for us – the Sacred Heart of Jesus His Son.  The pierced Heart of Jesus is the Door to Life thrown wide open on Calvary for all by the lance of the centurion. That pierced Heart offers us access into the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. That is where we ’find’ holiness, and how we ’become’ holy. Nevertheless, there are a number of ways we imagine holiness and strive to ’be’ or ’become’ holy.

–   Holiness is a life lived in the Spirit, Who leads and transforms us according to His will.

–   Holiness is the exclusive characteristic of God, of His very essence that becomes, or better to say should become, ours as well from the moment that God gave Himself to us, took us to Himself, made us His own, transforms us, and raised us that we might be holy and unblemished before Him (Ephesians 1:4) … to equip the holy ones for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ … (Ephesians 4: 12)

–   Holiness is allowing oneself to be possessed by the Master within us and permit Him to transform our lives and our minds and hearts.  You are gods, all of you sons of the Most High. (Psalms 82:6) Jesus answered, ’Is it not written in your law, I said, ‘You are gods?’… Can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I have said, ’I am the Son of God?’ (John 10: 34 – 36)

–   Holiness is commitment, decisiveness, initiative, divine action that envelops us in love and introduces our minds and hearts to the true image of the world in which we live.

–   Holiness is a divine offer for us to enrich our relationship with God and be open to God’s transforming grace.

–   Holiness knowingly accepts the Mystery of the One Who calls.  It is a participation in the immensity of God’s gifts and love graciously placed at our disposal.

–   Holiness is being what we were created to be. Holiness is willingly allowing all to happen in our life, through the fruits of our works consecrated by our free will offering to God of all we are and have.

–    Holiness is actively accepting and fulfilling whatever leads us to live in the mystery of God … and so much more.

The saints have always been the fonts and origins of renewal during good times and during the difficult times of all history, and particularly that of the Church. Every age has dire need for saints to indicate the way for people today to live the Gospel values we profess.  For this grace we must never stop imploring God. As we implore the saints’ presence, prayers and protection, let us not forget that we are all called to be saints. Canonized saints are few compared to the myriad of holy people who have lived down through the centuries.  The holiness and ’sainthood’ of which we speak is our life of conformity to God’s will in all things, at all times, in all ways, because God wills it.

When we pray Thy will be done, most probably we do not really reflect on the impact the realization of those words would have on our life. Yet, that is what all God-loving people strive for an entire lifetime! To live in the will of ’The Other’ Who is God, is to live what God wills, to live in His love, and thus to be holy, different, not to conform to this world but to be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:1-2).  We can offer the age in which we live this most valid witness of the authenticity of our Faith and the ever present power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of those available to His prompting. Holiness does not necessarily change what a person does, but it most definitely changes or enhances why and how the person does it.

As Brothers and Sisters and Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we should all be intent on becoming saints.  ’Penitents of Assisi’, are called to witness the power of Eternal Love that makes us a ’leaven’ in the world to help people rise to full stature of the children of God, and a ’light’ to enlighten those who walk in the darkness of disorientation, difficulty, doubt and so much more that inhibits one from recognizing the presence of a good and loving God in their life.

Holiness is not relegated to a once-a-month gathering of a few hours.  Nor can we believe that reciting prayers will make us holy; they serve to help keep our hearts focused on God so that we can live holy lives and Be Holy! Holiness is a lifetime experience that reaches its fullness only when the Father calls us home to eternity.  Since life is the preparation for Life, we must strive to progress, even if ever so slowly, to grow in our relationship with God and live in His grace, or we will definitely backslide quickly beyond the point from which we had begun. The going gets more demanding each time we have to ’begin again’.

We must rid ourselves of mediocrity!  Mediocrity and lukewarmness are similar attributes of those who care less about things, and thus are careless about their spiritual growth. How we are within ourselves usually determines how we live our lives and interact with others. The spirit and the body form the one person.  How the spirit grows will influence how the body (person) acts.  When we are mediocre and tepid in our spiritual life and to those ’things’ that pertain to our eternal salvation, then the matter is serious. In the Book of Revelation, the Lord speaks to the Church of Laodicea saying: Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3: 16)

The Holy Spirit fills the person with spiritual fruits and gifts that flow from God’s loving and abundant grace, and the person’s cooperation and collaboration with the working of the Holy Spirit.  Once the Spirit is within a person,  how can anyone sit back and not allow the power of God and the Spirit to excite, encourage and enable the person to let go and let God?!  The word ’enthusiasm’ itself easily refers to the power of the Holy Spirit.  Two Greek words form the essence of the word: ’en’’ in, and ’theos’ ’ God. Thus enthusiasm deals with ’the God within’, the God within each one of us.  How can anyone remain spiritually lethargic when God and His graces are working within us! Although particular conditions and circumstances may impede certain physical actions, no one can hold back a heart enthused from being open to God in His Spirit!

Holiness is not unattainable.  Holiness is a ’universal call’ challenging everyone.  Holiness is not ’things to do’ or ’words to say’, though they are all helpful and necessary.  Holiness is a Person: GOD!  Jesus has shown us the loving face of the Father.  St. John reminds us: God so loved the world that He sent His Son … not to condemn the world but that the world should be saved through Him (John 3: 16)   Let us follow the example of the holy ones we honor and venerate. Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, our Holy Mother St. Clare and all the saints, St. Joseph, Our Blessed Mother and Jesus Himself, all tell us through word and example, that no matter what we do and say to help us keep on the road to holiness only one essential thing is required that is infallible and always successful, God’s Will.  The will of God is that we be holy, thus Holiness is to live in God’s will!

In the Universal Prayer attributed to  Pope Clement XI we read: Lord, I will whatever You will, I will it because You will it, I will it in the way you will it, I will it for as long as You will it.  There are no conditions, reservations, fine print clauses, or anything at all that might compromise the totality of the fulfillment of God’s Most Holy Will in our life. If that is our prayer, each day, and we are faithful to that prayer, then the obvious result must be that we are one with God’s will, thus one with God’s grace, and, it follows, we are becoming holy!  To be ’holy’ is to Live God’s Will without gloss, as Our Seraphic Father told his brothers who accepted to live the life of the friars as a response to God’s call. We are all ’saints in progress’, rough pieces of material in the hands of the Master Who will fashion us into the best work we can become, as long as we cooperate with His grace and designs for us.  Let our prayer always be as Jesus taught us: Father, Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

May God bless us; may Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and may Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be a constant reminder of God’s Extravagant Love for us, and through Jesus’ obedience even to death, may we live the Father’s Will to Life Eternal, always obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit within.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

 

May 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      website:  skdsfo     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 

 

May 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 

The following prayer of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi tells us so much of his love for Mary and his awareness of Her place in the mystery of our salvation.  His love for Her was undeniable. Francis saw the Mother of God and our Heavenly Mother always in relationship to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and, because of that, to the Church.

 

Holy Virgin Mary, among the women born into the world,

there is no one like you.

Daughter and servant of the most high and supreme

King and of the Father in heaven,

Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ,

Spouse of the Holy Spirit,

pray for us with Saint Michael the Archangel,

all the powers of heaven and all the saints,

at the side of your most beloved Son, our Lord and Teacher.

 The Easter Season calls to mind the great truths of our Faith celebrated in this most holy period. The Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary is the beginning of the fulfillment of the Father’s Promise to humanity. Human nature is redeemed on Calvary, assured of salvation for those who live in the light and truth of the Resurrection of Jesus, and is raised up with Jesus and glorified in His Ascension.  The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost heralds the birth of the Church and its coming of age to Proclaim the Gospel to every creature. (Mark 16: 15-16) The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates God in Himself – The Father Who creates; the Son, the Incarnate Word, Who redeems; and the Holy Spirit Who continues the action of sanctification down through the ages. And Mary is an integral participant in every moment from the beginning to the fulfillment of God’s Promises.

 Our Blessed Mother Mary, the mere mention of Whose name speaks of the “Yes” with which she responded to God’s offer to become His earthly Mother, is a powerful and gentle reminder of the eminent role She fulfills in the mystery and history of our salvation. Throughout the liturgical year Our Lady is always present as the Church celebrates the mysteries of Her Son. True devotion to Mary, our Mother and Queen, whose Immaculate Heart envelops all Her children with tender loving care, always leads us to Jesus, Her Son, and to a greater love and trust in God.

 With the passing of time, many “obvious”  remembrances are institutionalized as feasts or celebrations of some sort, so that we do not forget their significance in our journey of faith. The further away we move in time from the actual events and persons we habitually celebrate, the more they can become a mere memory of the past rather than a living experience for us today. When we celebrate God and His saving action in and for humanity, the relevance and experience are always actual and timely.  There can never be a time or occasion when God is not relevant or necessary. If God does not build the house, in vain do the laborers labor.  If God does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. (Psalm 127: 1)

 It is this active presence of God that demands we return to our origins to re-discover the relevance of God’s Word and the impact His Word must have on our daily life.  If we could see the events of our Faith with the heart of those who had seen and walked with Jesus, before and after His Passion-Death-Resurrection, things would be drastically different. If we could only allow the events of our lives and how God manifests Himself to us to penetrate our hearts as Mary did!  She kept all these things in Her heart. (Luke 2: 19)  If we could only remember that we as Franciscans are called to live the Gospel, and thus reflect – keep in our hearts – upon the words of the Word and take them to ourselves, how different our response would be to the challenges of openness, compassion, understanding, patience, acceptance, detachment, transparency, obedience, Franciscan fraternity … LOVE! 

 With the eyes of a Faith convinced and committed, we can experience the same zeal and enthusiasm of the first followers. We too can be excited, enthused and encouraging not only about our Catholic Faith in general, but also about our Franciscan vocation in particular, and all that envisions and expects of us who profess to be Franciscans.

 The Holy Spirit that descended on the first followers is the same Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism and Confirmation.  The distinction is seen in the effects of the Spirit’s presence based on the availability of the person “gifted” by the Holy Spirit. Our Faith, founded on the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, would be of no value had it not been for the empowering of the Spirit in those first followers whose availability to His prompting allowed themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit of God that they might lead others. We are called to lead others to know, love and serve God in the Gospel Life proclaimed by Jesus. In the Spirit, we remember, we celebrate, and we believe Jesus to be the Incarnate Son of God and Redeemer of humanity.  This Faith will bring us to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Jesus, and consequently with one another, just as it did for the first followers. Mary, once again, is the prime exemplar; She believed the unbelievable, was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, (Luke 1: 34-35) and the impossible happened!  The Creator became one with His creature; divinity and humanity became one … through the total surrender in Faith of Mary to the Father’s will. 

 The first and most excellent of all the faithful followers was Mary, our Blessed Mother. Faith accompanied Her into the divine plan that made Her Mother of the Christ, Mother of the Christian, Mother of the Church.  The depth of Faith of the Mother of God, expressed so powerfully at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, was enhanced with the added ministry entrusted to Her by Her dying Son. He called Her to become the Mother of all the Faithful: Woman, behold Your son; Son, behold Your Mother. (John 19: 26-27) Infinitely less than Jesus and eminently greater than all humanity, Mary makes the ultimate sacrifice in offering Her Son to the Father with the same availability to the Father’s Will with which She offered Her first “yes” to become the Mother of the Savior.  She manifests Herself to be, in the words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis, the Virgin made Church.  

 The Church maintains the living presence of the Savior, most especially in the great gift of the Eucharist – the living Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior. This same Church continues, with Mary, to offer Her Son – our Brother, Lord, Savior, Word Incarnate, GOD – to the Father, in that one perfect Sacrifice perpetuated through the ages in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are that Church! We, like Mary, offer ourselves each day in loving response to God’s tremendous love for us in Jesus. And we are spiritually transformed by the graces that flow to us from Jesus through Mary.  We are offered the challenge and opportunity to become the living image of the One whom we consume, as He consumes us, JESUS.

 Mother of the Redeemer, She excels in the example of total surrender to God’s Will. Her Faith is an active and essential element of Her very being.  Faith is not just a static acceptance of some theological truth. It is living life in the light of what we have come to believe.  “Believing is seeing”, not vice versa as we are accustomed to presume.  Believing God’s Word, we see God’s almighty power and providence at work in our lives, and thus we can confidently yield to all the Father requests of us. This same Faith places Mary in a position of total trust in God and profound love for all His children, now entrusted to Her motherly care by Jesus.  She stands as the Advocate for all Her children before the Majesty of the Blessed Trinity.  Truly She is, as St. Francis of Assisi acknowledged:   Daughter and Servant of the Most High and Supreme King and of the Father in heaven, Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, Spouse of the Holy Spirit. (Antiphon Office of the Passion) Her intimate relationship with the Triune God enables Her to be our most powerful Advocate in heaven.

 We can see how Our Blessed Mother is significantly and actively present throughout Salvation History.  Mary is the virgin who will conceive and bear a Son … who will be called Emmanuel – God is with us (Isaiah 7: 10-14).  Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, gave birth at Bethlehem, accompanied Jesus to the foot of the Cross, and is in the company of the Apostles and other women in the Cenacle (Acts 1: 14).  Mary is the woman about to give birth,… She gave birth to a son … destined to rule all the nations … the ancient serpent, … pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child…the (serpent) became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus  (cfr. Revelation 12: 1-18). A promise of God’s fulfilling Word in Isaiah and a warning of the struggles that will always ensue between good and evil should never leave us confused or fearful. It is Mary’s good counsel and advice, the last recorded words of Our Lady in Scripture that offer a way that cannot fail. These words reveal our Mother’s concern for Her children and Her own total trust in God: Do whatever He tells you. (cfr. John 2: 1-11).  How much easier could it be!?  Why do we make it so difficult!?

 Present in prophecy, present in history, and present in the expectations of all God’s People, Mary is a life-giving presence that speaks of the power of God working in human history. Mary is a sign of hope for a waiting world. She reverses the obstinacy of creation in Eden and accepts wholeheartedly to cooperate with all the Father asks of Her.  She becomes the Mother of all the Faithful Who enter into a New Covenant with the Father in the Blood of His Son, conceived in Her by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s loving response and daily re-commitment to that response encourages us to respond to the Father and to ask that Jesus come alive in our hearts through the same Holy Spirit working within us.

 Mary was the first to practice the Gospel in all its perfection before it was written. May Her example and prayers enable us and stimulate us to follow that example.  We must make every effort, like many elect souls, to follow invariably this Blessed Mother, to walk close to Her since there is no other sure path leading to Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life – except the path followed by our Mother.  We cannot afford to refuse to take this path, we who want to reach our journey’s end “successfully”. With Her, close to Jesus, we can proceed confidently through life in the midst of whatever we may encounter or we must bear.

 As Followers of the Poverello of Assisi, we strive to live the Faith we profess and to see in Our Heavenly Mother a sure Advocate Who pleads our cause. We open our hearts to the Spirit we have received and we listen to God Who speaks to us in the silence of our hearts.  Francis encourages us to foster an ever-growing love for our Mother Who stands to intercede for us at every moment.  Mary’s life was one continual “yes” to God.  Following Her example, let us gratefully accept sorrows, hardships, fortune, and all life offers and/or demands with the same “yes” Mary offered to God. Her response to God’s invitation allowed the Eternal One to be enfleshed in Her life. During these trying times we have been experiencing, we continue to entrust ourselves to our Mother’s “almighty intercession”. May Her Son Jesus hear the plea we make through Her, and bring an end to the terrible pandemic that affects the whole world.

 With every best wish for you during this season of new birth and new life, I pray we all live as the “People of the Resurrection”. In the midst of all the entire world is going through with the pandemic, let us pray earnestly that God bless our world with healing and freedom from this evil that has attacked all creation. May our lives be a song of praise to the God Who creates, redeems and sanctifies.  He gave us Mary, His daughter, His mother, and His spouse as our intimate companion to help us come closer to one another as Her children, as She leads us ever closer to Jesus Her Son. May we confidently respond, as our Blessed Mother Mary did with a determined “Yes” to all the Father asks of us, and thus become more like Jesus in Whose image Scripture tells us we are created. Let us all be open to the working of the Holy Spirit, first gift of the Resurrection, Whose descent upon the early Church gathered together with Mary in the Cenacle, we celebrate this year on the last day of May. May the Holy Spirit inflame our hearts as He filled Our Mother Mary and all the first followers.

 God bless and keep all of you safe; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may 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, O.F.M Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

Monthly Meditation for April 2020 by Father Francis Sariego OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

 April 2020

 Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

 The Lord give you His peace and lead you through the mystery of His Passion and Death

to the joy of His Resurrection and our renewed Life in Jesus!

 The ’Way of the Cross’ cannot end on Calvary; it must go beyond. It goes beyond into the garden that received the dead body of Christ and, on the morning following the Sabbath, saw the mysterious and joyful encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Lord Jesus, risen and alive. The ’way’ is precisely the road that leads, the journey that conveys, the direction to follow. The tragic and triumphant ’way’ of the Paschal Mystery takes us to a new life in, with, and through Jesus.  The ’way’ is a must for all who call Jesus ’Lord’ and ’Savior’. Our Seraphic Father not only loved the Crucified Jesus but was privileged to become a living image of the Crucified Savior and Redeemer.  The ’way’ was imprinted on his mortal flesh as an indication of what lay ahead for him who so lovingly sought to feel as far as possible in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion … 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. (Fioretti: 3rd Consideration of the Sacred Stigmata) To accept, and even seek, pain for love’s sake is not masochistic or insane, it is the total surrender a person offers to become one with the beloved.

 Our Father St. Francis knew well that the Cross was the sign of the sublime humility and love of God for all creation. He was well aware that the stigmata he bore indicated the future glory pledged to all who accept the standard of Christ and follow His Way, Who is the Truth, as He leads to the fullness of Life, through His Resurrection. The ’Way of the Cross’ finds its total significance, value, and effectiveness in the Resurrection.  If Jesus had not risen, in vain would have been our faith, and we would remain in our sins, says St. Paul to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 15).  If Jesus had not risen, His death would have been nothing more than the tragic defeat of just another deluded ’messiah’, and His memory would bear no other fruit than that of the nostalgic remembrance of a good person who helped others, was misunderstood, and was ultimately executed for political and religious subversion. Jesus Himself, the ’wonder-working rabbi’ would thus be nothing else than a good teacher overcome by history and conquered by evil forces that forever remain superior and invincible to what is good.

 In fact, there is no greater ’subversive’, no greater ’revolutionary’ than Jesus. His life, words, actions, and the witness of His Passion and Death hit at the very core of the human heart.  He aimed at challenging His hearers to change from the very depths of their hearts and to come back to what they were constituted to be when God took the initiative with Abraham promising that He would be the Father of many nations. The ’subversive’ attempts to reach and affect the very foundation, the core of the matter, and the ’revolutionary’ attempts to turn people back to the Father’s Will, are at the heart of the Gospel Message. Thus, true gospel subversive and revolutionary tactics are those that lead us into the depths of our hearts to regain our original ’childlike innocence’ through God’s mercy. Is that not what is expected of us as Franciscans?!  The Gospel life, if lived personally and preached well by example, is an effective witness and ’tool’ in changing the face of the earth.  What happened?!  Have we forgotten the power of the Gospel and the strength our fraternal life gifts us within each other to forge forward as sisters and brothers distinct yet one?! Perhaps we have stopped at the tomb, or remain closed in the Upper Room, as the disciples did immediately following the execution of Jesus.  Each was closed in his own fears and doubts.  We comfortably remain closed on and with ourselves, often for fear of being challenged to live what we profess.  Yet, that is where the significance, value and effectiveness of our professed lives as Franciscans is fulfilled.  When they saw the risen Lord, touched His wounds, and recognized their own brokenness, they became an encouragement and support for one another.

 The Way of the Cross cannot stop at the tomb, even if within that tomb there seems to be life. Life hidden behind the stone sealed and guarded speaks nothing to the world.  We must walk the entire road that Jesus traveled. It is the road that knows the pause and silence of that Sabbath after the excruciating sadness of Friday, but that explodes the next day into His glory. The glory of His Resurrection in our lives does not blind by its brilliance but brightens the darkness of difficulty and doubt.  The glory of the Resurrection does not traumatize with fear and foreboding, but liberates the soul from doubt, the heart from anguish, and the mind from uncertainty.  The glory of the Resurrection does not condemn the sinner with no place to turn, but rekindles hope and trust in the Father’s mercy and forgiveness.  The glory of the Resurrection does not sentence to death, but makes all who accept the mystery sharers in the Life of God Himself!  It enables them to be a life-giving presence for others.

 Jesus rose as He had promised, nevertheless His own could not believe. Even the women, who loved Him so dearly, were on their ’way’ to the tomb to anoint the body, not to encounter the Lord alive. What response was given Him by His closest friends? None of the first followers expected to see Him alive again, notwithstanding His promises and assurances, and not even when some had seen and Jesus gave them the ’appointment’ to meet Him in Galilee.

 –   Thomas…one of the Twelve…said to (the Apostles), ’Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’ (John 21:24-25)… Pessimism and Disbelief

–   The two disciples, speaking with Jesus whom they did not recognize as they journeyed  on the road back to Emmaus from Jerusalem, said:  We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel … Some women from our group … reported that indeed they had seen a vision of angels … but him they did not see (Luke 24: 13-25)… Disillusionment and Discouragement

–   When Mary of Magdala told the disciples she had seen the Risen Lord and that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:11)… Cynicism and Skepticism

–   Even when the disciples followed the command to go to Galilee where they would see Him before He ascended to the Father, When they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted (Matthew 28:16-17)… Hesitancy and Doubt

 Thomas, Cleophas and his traveling companion, the Apostles after hearing Mary Magdalene, and many of the followers who saw Jesus on the Mount in Galilee at the Ascension, all had difficulties and even understandable doubts concerning the ’impossibility’ of a person rising from the dead … on his own power!  What a motley crew!  Are we really any different?  The power of the Holy Spirit had to shake the disciples free of fear, doubt, complacency, so they could see and believe. They loved and believed Jesus, but it took an eternal power and a ’real presence’ to lead them into the light of a new Life, rooted in a Person Who overcame execution on a cross and was alive. The death of Jesus sealed the Covenant God made with humanity; and humanity, in Christ, consummated the covenant, fulfilled the prophecies, and set free all who accepted the Gospel Message: God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might … have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3: 16-17). 

 The Resurrection was and still is hard for many to accept, among these are also those who call themselves Christian!  The condemnation and death sentence of Jesus inflicted a mortal wound on the hearts of His followers, as well as on those who still seek to understand and believe today. Their hearts and minds cannot as yet make the ’quantum leap’ of faith into the certitude of the ways of God. Jesus sought to prepare the disciples for this momentous experience, and they still doubted. The material world, the ’here and now’, becomes the only security and ’certitude’ some know; it is a world so obviously frail and prone to ruin either through natural causes or self destruction. The death of Jesus is a fact for some with seemingly no hope, no way out; these persons admire, revere and love Jesus, but they remain standing before the stone that seals the tomb and cannot go beyond the coldness of death.  Their minds cannot understand, so their hearts refuse to believe, thus their lives wander through life without real direction and hope.  How sad! 

 Suffering and pain are real!  They cannot be rationalized away.  We experience them often in life. Consider what the greater part of the world is experiencing with the present pandemic, and the millions of lives in one way or another affected, and the thousands who have died as a result of the virus. The virus arouses a sense of uncertainty and fear in many. There are also those suffer from other infirmities, who live in constant pain and continual suffering, whether spiritual, physical, psychological.  Unless faith takes over and hope is kindled within their hearts, the love of God that conquers all things is the deepest desire of their heart but the furthest sensation they feel.  Serenity and inner peace become just pious words and deep desires.  They may hear words of encouragement, but they are overwhelmed by their own broken body and tired spirit. Even our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi went through moments like this, but he could pray Blessed are You Lord my God. His feet were well-planted in the realities of life and his own physical and spiritual burdens, but his heart was one with His Lord alive and well.   The human condition is common to all the children of God, saint and sinner alike.  How we deal with the circumstances of life, how we allow the Paschal Mystery to affect our life, will determine the ’way’ we will follow.

 The Passion and Death of Jesus speaks to us of the extravagant and limitless love of God for all humanity. The Resurrection of Jesus gives meaning and encouragement to life. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of the Glorified and Risen Lord Who journeys with us at every moment. It re-presents the whole Paschal Mystery and offers us the opportunity to be with the Risen Lord, Whose Sacrifice we enter, celebrate, and with Whom we seek to become one in Holy Communion.  The presence of Jesus transforms lives. His bodily presence on earth centuries ago gave Him the opportunity to raise people from the dead, to heal the sick, to give hope to the downtrodden and outcast, to reassure the marginalized, to care for the various needs of those whom He encountered.  His sacramental presence raises and heals souls dead and/or weak through sin, speaks to the depths of the heart of those who listen for/to Him in the silence of their hearts, and strengthens us with the grace of His Body and Blood to accept the demands of life. Faith in the living Lord helps us to realize we are not alone, but live and move and have our being with the Giver of all good gifts Who walks and works with and within us. His ’Presence’ is truly ’Real’.  His is a ’tangible presence’ that makes Himself felt according to our willingness to see with the eyes of the heart and not the head alone.  The living presence of the Lord in the Eucharist urges us to see and believe as John and Peter, to touch and acknowledge as Thomas, to go and proclaim that Jesus is Lord as the disciples who had gathered on the Mount of Olives.

 Without the ’Way of the Cross’ we can never arrive at the Resurrection.  Until we open our eyes and our hearts to see the brilliance and power of Jesus and hear and listen to the depth of His words, there is no way for us to enter the marvelous and mysterious reality of Christ Who lives today with us.  Ultimately, if Christ is risen and lives today for me and with me, He is here in my personal life and in that of the whole world, just as He promised. How then can we hesitate to cooperate and collaborate with Christ who calls us to follow Him where we will see Him?   Follow Him to encounter Him in His word, in His Sacrament, and in His sisters and brothers who have seen the Lord on ’the way’. As we meet Jesus on the way in the Word, the Church and Her sacramental life, in our sisters and brothers, even more intensely in the poor, marginalized, alienated, and also especially our sisters and brothers in our Franciscan Family, may we be able to say with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way? Thus, filled with the Easter grace and joy of the One Who was dead and now lives, we can recount to others what has taken place on ’the way’ we traveled, and deepen our unity and love for all in the breaking of the bread. (cfr. Luke 24: 32-35) in the midst of present virus devastating the world with sickness and death, the Risen Jesus tells us don’t be afraid, believe. (Mark 5: 36),  I have conquered the world. (John 16: 33) I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14: 6)

 May the light of Christ’s Resurrection shine in us that we might have life, and have it in abundance. (John 10: 10) May the Risen Lord Jesus shower the whole world with an end to this global pandemic, gift eternal rest to those who have succumbed to the virus, health to those still affected by it, strength, protection and blessings on the medical personnel and caregivers, blessings of trust and serenity of faith and hope in God’s love on the families and all affected by this terrible sickness. May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Health of the Sick, intercede for all Her children so much in need of Our Mother’s loving protection. And may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, who experienced severe infirmities in his own “converted” life, intercede for all of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

 With a promise to kep all of you affectionately in my Easter Masses and Liturgies, I wish you and your dear ones a very Blessed Easter in the light of the Resurrection.  The darkness of the night we are experiencing , will eventually give way to the light of the dawn of the Son, Who rises to promise a new day for us all.  You cannot hold back the dawn!  John Dawd) Christ is our Dawn and New Light! (cfr. Luke 1:78, 2 Peter 1:19, and others)

 Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

 Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

Monthly Meditation by Father Francis – March, 2020

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

March 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

In the his Letter to All the Faithful St. Francis of Assisi wrote: We ought indeed to confess all our sins to a priest and receive from him the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…Let us, moreover, ‘bring forth fruits worthy of penance’…Let those who have received the power of judging others, exercise judgment with mercy as they hope to obtain mercy from the Lord…We ought also to fast and abstain from vices and sins and from superfluity of food and drink, and to be Catholics…But all those who do not do penance and who do not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who give themselves to vice and sins and walk after evil concupiscence and bad desires and who do not observe what they have promised, corporally they serve  the world and its fleshly desires and cares and solicitudes for this life, but mentally they serve the devil deceived by him…they see not the light, our Lord Jesus Christ…Beware,…for its is sweet to the body to commit sin and bitter to serve God  because all vices and sins come forth and proceed from the heat of man…And all those who shall receive (these words) kindly and understand them…, if they persevere in them unto the end, may the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless them. Amen.

The better we are within ourselves, the better we are able to deal with what surrounds us.  We may not be able to change the situations (physical, moral, spiritual…) that afflict us, but when we are at peace within our hearts and souls, the forces around us cannot overcome us. There is an essential relationship between our minds and souls, and our bodies. The search for inner peace, calm, and serenity do not require us to go beyond the treasure of the patrimony of our Faith.  We have all been offered effective means to genuinely know and acknowledge ourselves, acquire true peace, and be transformed.   Jesus, the Church, the Church’s holy men and women down through the centuries have all indicated the way, method, and results that are far more effective and everlasting than the exotic expressions and systems that so many attach themselves to today. There are deeper, more effective, and lasting, results when we enter a Spirit-centered experience in Jesus, Who leads us to the Father.  We live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28) in God alone.  All we are comes from and must be directed to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.  We are destined to fail, even if we gain the whole world, when we deviate from this process.  Fulfillment is not a feeling but a way of being.  Only God and goodness in grace can lead us to this state of perfection.

Have we ever considered how much we can truly be changed by the power of grace working within those who trustingly and lovingly surrender themselves to the Eternal Source of Life and Love – God! What often obstructs the way is our inability to believe that God can love us beyond our frail and sinful habits.  God’s sentence over us is His mercy, and God’s vengeance is His love. We have heard the saying When God forgives, God forgets!  Our stumbling block to this marvelous reality is that we frequently willingly wallow in our weaknesses, even those forgiven sacramentally. We allow discouragement to enter our souls and to cloud our vision of God’s presence that forever welcomes us into His loving embrace.  God holds us tightly in His Love. We are the ones who wriggle ourselves out of that eternal grip and lose our way again and again.  But God is faithful.  The letter to the Hebrews states, He is the same yesterday, today and always. (Hebrews 13: 8)  God is forever God.  We are the ones who are fickle. In this Lenten Season, what are we doing to make this time spiritually fruitful, and our lives once again at one with our Loving God?

The words ‘At one with God’, express the effects of the saving act of Jesus – at-one-ment (atonement) with God. The atonement made for us is one that we must continue in our personal lives, until the end of time, making up in our bodies what is lacking in the passion of Christ. (Colossians 1: 24)  Christ’s Passion-Death-Resurrection redeemed all humanity.  It is up to each one of us to cooperate with that one great act of love.  Live Jesus!  This should be our motto and program.  To Live Jesus means never to deplete or lose the grace He acquired for us.

All of this necessitates trust and sincerity. We must trust in God’s love, mercy and providence. We must be sincere with God and ourselves about all that refers to us and our relationship with God, our sisters and brothers, and ourselves.  This entails a deep awareness of the state of our souls, an acknowledgment of personal responsibility for all our faults and sins, a sorrow for anything that keeps us away from a grace-filled life, an accountability for our transgressions of God’s love, a desire to be forgiven, and an active commitment to do all, with the help of God, to avoid what leads us into sin.

Nowadays, this procedure may seem difficult, because we are affected by a world that has lost the sense of sin. Everything has become relative.  Sin is no longer considered a personal disposition and act against the love of God.  Sin is now explained as a dysfunction of the psyche, not necessarily the soul. Sin is explained as the result of a psychological imbalance, an uncontrollable habit, a social-religious-economic and so on conditioning.

While these explanations may be a true diagnosis in some circumstances, we still must admit that most times it is plainly and simply SIN. We camouflage the word by calling it A “fault”, A “weakness”, An “attitude”, and the like, so that we do not have to accept the brunt of the reality nor our own responsibility and accountability for it.  But, sin is sin, as sin is sin!  To cure an illness one has to know and believe he/she is ill, otherwise no help is sought nor is anything done to recover and get better. Unfortunately, all too often, people either become scrupulous with their lives and see sin everywhere, or they become indifferent and accustomed to questionable or sinful practices and justify everything.  Both attitudes are blasphemous: one makes God a tyrant ready to condemn even the most natural of acts created by God Himself; the other makes God a fool who can be manipulated anytime for any convenient reason!

The Lenten Season offers us opportunities to grow in prayer and reflection, to be of service to one another, and to work at ridding ourselves of what keeps us from growing in grace.  There is a practice we Catholics were accustomed to accomplish regularly, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. We are encouraged and expected to clarify our vision, set our site, and strengthen our souls for the Lenten journey of Repentance, Renewal, and Reconciliation. A successful accomplishment of  this three-step program requires a daily examination of conscience – preferably before retiring at night, and possibly briefly in the course of the day – regarding our faithfulness to all we profess as Catholic Christians, and a regularity in the personal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through Confession and Penance.  The original title of the followers of St. Francis of Assisi was the Penitents of Assisi. We as his spiritual children acknowledge an ongoing conversion process our entire lives.

This ongoing process follows a definite format: examination of conscience, sincere confession of faults and sins, acceptance and execution of the remedy (penance) prescribed.  This leads to our reconciliation and “at-one-ment” with God.

In Lent we enter a more intense spiritual experience of growth and healing through our immersion into the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. In His wounds and through His death we are healed and brought to a wholeness of life.  We journey with our fellow Christians through this holy season. We encourage and support one another to enter the mystery of the Cross and to die to ourselves. It can be a painful process.  No pain, no gain!  We have to risk being honest with ourselves so that we can be transparent before God.  Why not?! He already knows us before we know ourselves. Be honest with God! This honesty leads to transparency of soul that ultimately permits God’s grace to envelop our lives and transform us.

Even hidden situations and circumstances that control people, often conditioning them to choose the road of least resistance that leads to brokenness and sin, begin to find resolution in the transparency of truth with God and ourselves. How many people suffer from hidden weights that overburden them: abuse issues; dependencies such as drugs, alcohol, sex; phobias and manias, just to mention a few?  They might be hidden to others but never to those who bear them.  These spiritual and moral marks in a personality and character are reminders of the vulnerability and mortality of human nature.  These hidden stigmas cause pain to the one who is overcome by the inability to control what is controlling him/her. These sisters and brothers are spiritual victims who cry out for strength, courage, and trust to overcome what is overwhelming them. The answer to their plea is found through trust and prayer, and the assistance of qualified persons of faith – both religious and medical – if needed.  These moments can be converted into occasions of growth in virtue and grace, as they are spiritually strengthened – as are we – for their daily battles with the world, the flesh, and Satan.  No fear when God is near!  In Him we are victors!

How could anyone not be transformed by the experience of grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! The Confessional and Sacrament is transformed into a grace-filled encounter where the guilty are absolved and released, totally free to resume with dignity their place among the children of God.  Every sincere celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation introduces us to the Tribunal of Mercy, where the penitent offers the deposition of his/her own miseries and crimes, hears the direct judgment of a compassionate brother, and receives the liberating Sentence of Divine Love. It baffles the soul why so many Catholics keep away from this wonderful Sacrament, or just ‘go to it’ rarely.  Do we, as Spiritual Children of the Penitent of Assisi understand the awesomeness of this Sacrament and appreciate the fact that we can celebrate this act of God’s love frequently? Yes, just like the Loving Father and the Prodigal Son, we celebrate our return home.  It is always a joyful happening when we are embraced by the Father and reinstated with dignity (robe), freedom (sandals), and authority (ring) into the Father’s Family.  This is what every Sacrament of Reconciliation, worthily celebrated, does.

This Lent, let us make every effort to rid ourselves of all that hinders our advancement on our journey to holiness.  We must not let our temptations and even our sins discourage us.  An attainable and effective Lenten program of ongoing conversion could be the following: Valiantly fight temptations with strong souls, and fight along with the Supreme Chief.  When you fall, do not stay there prostrated in body and spirit. Humble yourself greatly, but without being discouraged.  Lower yourself without degrading yourself.  Wash your imperfections and falls with sincere tears of contrition, without lacking trust in divine Goodness, which will always be greater than your ingratitude. Propose to make amends without being presumptuous, but your strength must be in God alone.  Finally, confess sincerely that if God were not your breast-plate and shield, you would be imprudently pierced with every kind of sin.  And it is for this reason that you must always keep yourself in the grace of God with perseverance in carrying out your spiritual exercises, and let this be your principal concern…always have courage…run to the foot of the cross…and you will undoubtedly be comforted and invigorated. These words, offered by a son of St. Francis of the twentieth century, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, encourage us to trust in Divine Mercy that redeems us as It washes us from our sins and failings in the Blood of Christ.

May God bless you; Our Heavenly Mother guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look on each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  May this Lent bring us all closer to Jesus in Whose Passion-Death-Resurrection our life is worth living at every moment and through every experience.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

January 2020 Meditation by Father Francis

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

Our Seraphic Father had left an indelible mark on most of Christian Europe before his death. Some in Assisi may have still remembered the excitement caused between Francis and his Father Pietro when Francis decided to return everything to him in the public square of Assisi before his father, the bishop of Assisi, and all the townspeople. He gave his father even the clothes on his back and from then would call 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 were proud of Francis, The Universal Brother.

God Himself had set His Seal of approval on Francis two years before he passed to eternity, imprinting on his body 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 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 our Holy Mother St. Clare would be captivated and enamored by this ’Herald of the Great King’, the messenger of God’s Peace and Blessings to all who heard and received the message!? Is it any wonder a young, spiritual, and enthusiastic girl would want to be part of something so exciting?! She would be the “other side” of the “Franciscan Coin”, the complement to the charism lived by the Lesser Brothers, for women living the consecration of the vowed Gospel life in obedience, with nothing of their own, and in chastity.

 

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.  While this traditionally is 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.  God speaks to us in varied ways.  The first official words of Jesus to the crowds was: 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 what God wants for you).  All who became our sisters and brothers in the Seraphic Family of the Gospel Life heard a call to repentance and conversion and were/are assisted in understanding and courageously responding to it by the example and words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi.

 

There comes a moment when all of us must decide whom we will follow and serve. Though we may not be “great sinners” in the common understanding of the words, we are still all called to Remember You are Dust and to Dust You will Return so that we encouraged to Repent and Believe the Gospel. The call to repentance and conversion is necessary in the life of everyone.

 

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. Understanding repentance in this way, we can easily see how all our ancestors in the Franciscan Family (I,II,III Regular and Secular … and possibly even our “IV Order” affiliates) were and are attracted to the ’Penitents of Assisi’.

 

St. 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.  St. Clare speaks of the vanities of the world from which she and the Poor Ladies of San Damiano were called.  St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare of Assisi and all our sisters and brothers in the Franciscan Fraternity were/are called to a life of detachment from whatever may impede ’taking flight’ into the arms of our loving God. Our lives are simple yet penetrating examples of the effective and fulfilling power of a life lived in-with-for-through Jesus. This is how we best lead others to take up the challenge of the Gospel Life. Some have a conversion journey from bad to good. Then for all we go from good to better, until we achieve the “best” we can be before time becomes eternity.

 

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. 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 a life lived in harmony with God’s 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.

 

–   Acquiring new vision to see beyond the limits that convenience, comfort, complacency often place before our eyes conditioning us to ’stay put’ rather than courageously and trustingly 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, since Christians are never satisfied with the ’ordinary’. We know we are called to be light and salt in the world. 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 in life and its responsibilities and our hearts awaiting life’s fulfillment with God 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 transformed by grace rather than conformed to the age in which he/she is called to be a pilgrim and stranger, is transformed (con-verted) and 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.

 

Jesus had more difficulties with the ’saints’ of His day, 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. 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-climb more difficult.

 

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, they deal with an ’un-fulfilled’ life.  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, have created in our lives. They are false securities and spiritual illusions that masquerade as the tranquility of God’s pleasure with us for having satisfied all required to do 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 our freedom.  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 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 God.  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 awry, 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 emptiness or 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 ride. 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 speaks to Heart, or Heart speaks to heart, 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.

 

Lent begins at the end of this month. Hopefully we can celebrate this holy Season of Penance as a joy-filled time of repentance-renewal-rebirth in the Spirit.  The Lenten road may have its pains and sacrifices. As we advance on the journey, we strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, Christ, the Church, all Humanity, and even all Creation.  Having responded wholeheartedly, we are now ready to accept the ’commission’ to be ’Apostles of God’s Love, Mercy, Providence’.

 

As Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare, we prepare to enter a yearly experience that is never the same each year, and 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. Jesus emptied Himself, though He is God, that we, through His poverty, could, poor in this world’s goods, be enriched by grace for eternal Life. What more could we ask?  Why do we hesitate to give our all?   With the example of the courage and total response of our heavenly patrons and parents to urge us on, let us, Penitents of Assisi, enter the Lenten journey with joyful hearts and ready wills.

 

May God bless you; may Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare, together with all the Holy Ones of our Seraphic Family of Penitents of Assisi, assist us on our Lenten journey from Ashes to Palms, From Calvary to the Empty Tomb and onto the Mount of Olives where the commission is given for us to be a living Gospel to others.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A, Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Monthly Meditation – January 2020 – 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 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

In this New Year of Grace

May the heavenly Child look benevolently on your soul.

May the light that flooded the minds of the devout shepherds at Bethlehem

enlighten your mind and heart.

Unless we listen to what we hear or read, words are just air vibrating and making meaningless sounds, or hollow signs and symbols. We hear the Word proclaimed at Mass; we may even have selected specific Scripture passages for some occurrence. However, reading all of Scripture meditatively – this is the key word – in a systematic manner offers the attentive reader a deeper insight into the history of salvation. 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 is evil so prevalent if everything comes 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! … whoever and wherever God is, He 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 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 It 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 what 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 to Him 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.  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 JESUSGod 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!  But, if we take time to evaluate the times in which we live, there is so much good that is happening as well: people who believe in peace and strive to live it as a witness for others; 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; 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; religious leaders who have stopped anathematizing each other because of differences but are searching for better ways to appreciate the goodness God instills in each; progress being made in curing debilitating and terminal diseases; love that brings young men and women to believe in the future in marriage; infants born as a trust in the value of tomorrow; and so much more!  What about the wonderful moments that happen to each one of us personally.

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 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 I! (John 6: 20)

We are called to be cheerful, to be at peace and to let God do as He pleases.  Most of the things we fear and worry about often never come to pass. Remember that rather amusing statement that says: What do you mean worry does not help!  Everything I worried about never happened!  Worry only destroys inner peace and clouds the vision of our hearts. Often we worry about matters over which we have no control or certain knowledge. We compromise our inner peace and serenity in useless fretting.  Be concerned and alert, Yes!  But worry is belief that failure is inevitable. This leads to discouragement, which is one of satan’s best tools.  Even the saints experienced sadness, pain, confusion, even fear. They too sought their ‘Simons of Cyrene’ to help them bear the ‘cross of unknowing’ 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 this with joy and thanksgiving.

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 must trust in God, trust in others God has placed with us, trust 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, 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. Accept the mystery, acknowledge the miracle, and marvel at the wonder of God’s extravagant love in Jesus.

Mary’s role in all this should open our hearts in such a love for Her that throughout 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 Spiritual Children of our Seraphic Father, let us live this new year in the peace and joy of those who know God is with us.  Let God’s Word be our guide and His Eucharist, the Incarnate Word in Sacrament, be our viaticum through life. 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 Fraternity. As we live in the Word and seek to live His words, may we witness a hope that the world seeks.

 

Some people wait for Friday to ‘get off 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!

 

As can be seen on some Church signs: No Christ, No Peace!  KNOW CHRIST, KNOW PEACE!  Let us know the Peace of Christ in our hearts, homes, and the world around us.  JESUS, OUR PEACE, DOES NOT DISAPPOINT ANYONE WHO PLACES THEIR TRUST IN HIM.  LORD, THIS YEAR AND ALWAYS, WE PLACE OUR TRUST IN YOU! May the Peace, Joy, Blessings … and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones.

My prayers are with all of you and your loved ones for a most blessed and peace-filled New Year 2020.  May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

Monthly Meditation December 2019 by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

 

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

December 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

At the beginning of the Liturgical Year for the First Sunday of Advent, the Church prays in the Liturgy of the Hours: Proclaim the good news among the nations: our God will come to save us … Come let us worship the Lord, the King Who is to come. The season is filled with expressions of joyful expectation. The whole world waits for an imminent arrival of one who is to fulfill the hopes and desires of all people.

Advent truly places us into that ’heart-set’ of anticipation that brings an inner joy to all who allow themselves to ’live’ the liturgy they celebrate each Sunday, and even weekdays for those who make the effort. Christmas and what follows throughout the Liturgical Year offer us the opportunity to enter the mystery of Christ among us. We listen, as the first disciples, to learn, and then we are sent, as the first apostles, to proclaim.  Learning and proclaiming, reflecting and sharing, entering and inviting … the first experience is for ’me’ and the result blossoms into an overflow of graces and gifts for others to share them as I have come to receive them.  They, in turn, learn-reflect-enter so that they also might proclaim-share-invite.  The journey, the ’process’, begins with the Advent-Christmas Season. We wait for the Master so that we might once again walk in His footsteps and experience the power of His love.  Jesus is the ’Great Expected One’ Who is forever the ’Real Presence’ among us.

The liturgical seasons help to enhance our spiritual and intellectual journey through life.  We deepen our faith and relationship with God as we enrich our knowledge of all He has revealed to us. The seasonal celebrations help us to focus on the mysteries of our Faith. Nevertheless, with all this, there is no need to wait for seasons and days to be with the Lord-Among-Us (Emmanuel).  The Eucharistic Presence – the Real Presence, the Presence of the Prisoner of the Tabernacle – offers us all we could ever desire. The Eucharist is our pledge of future glory.  We become one with Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and lives feel His love in the mystery of the Faith that believes and the Hope that anticipates with certitude, until we see Him face to face in the fullness of His Love and Glory.  The King Who is to come already lives among us and within us!  Give Him the little you have and are. Surrender to His transforming love that never offends our freedom. Let His loving-grace perform the transforming miracle that makes us more and more like Him.  All this in-with-through the Eucharist!  All we have to do is take the time to be with Him!

The Eucharist is a mystery and a miracle. Through the power of the Holy Spirit created ’things’ are transformed into the reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ. Jesus is ’enfleshed’ in our nature each time the Eucharist is celebrated and the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Participating in the Eucharist we accept and follow the example of our Mother Mary, to Whom we were given as children, and She to us as Mother, at the foot of the Cross of Jesus.  The ’yes’ with which She responded to the Angel Gabriel in accepting the Father’s Will to allow the Incarnation to happen, is the same ’yes’ we offer at each Mass.  Our ’yes’ allows an ’incarnation’ to take place that cannot be seen with the eyes of the body, but whose effects are made visible in those who live the Jesus they celebrate and receive. Through the hands of the priest we offer ourselves with the bread and wine.  We are spiritually ’consecrated’ in the One Who is the Eucharist and Who lives with us, and abides within us.

The town of Bethlehem we ’reconstruct’ with our creches, represent on our Christmas Cards, indicate as the birthplace of the Son of God, is a constant reminder of Jesus the Christ our True Eucharist.  The name of the town means ’House of Bread’. In this ’house’ the world was given the ’Bread of Life’. Each Tabernacle and the heart of each one who receives Him worthily are a Bethlehem where The Bread of Life dwells, nourishing us for life’s journey.

Our Seraphic Father writes in his Testament: I see nothing corporally of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood … I want to have these most holy mysteries honored and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places. The life of Saint Francis of Assisi, because he lived the Gospel ’without gloss’, was a life lived immersed in the reality of the presence of Jesus.  Thus, the Real Presence of the Sacramental Lord in the Eucharist was his strength and life.  The mystery of the Savior, Son of the Most High God, Who became one with humanity in time at Bethlehem and for all time in the Eucharist was a mystery St. Francis sought to live and proclaim throughout his life.  Greccio was but a visible sign of the deep love for the mystery of the Incarnation repeated mystically at each Eucharist.  The Christ he loved so much was the Christ Whose living image he became for all to see on Mount La Verna.

The night of Greccio was lighted with candles, embellished with hymns, studded with people from all walks of life who followed the Poverello to ’see’ the poverty of the One Who emptied Himself of His divinity that He might redeem our humanity and rekindle a world grown indifferent to His love.  He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.  But to those who did receive Him, He gave power to become the children of God ... (John 1:11-12) Those who experienced the wonderful simplicity and childlike representation of Bethlehem’s ’welcome’ into our world, were filled with emotions that made that night so memorable, that for centuries Christians of many religious denominations continue the practice St. Francis initiated at Greccio.   The historical Christ, the Bread of Angels and Bread of men, born in Bethlehem of Judah, born in ’the House of Bread’ centuries before, seemed to come alive in the arms of St. Francis as he re-confirmed the total emptying of himself together with all who accepted the challenge of the Gospel Life.  Greccio was but another expression of the Poverello’s response to the Cross of San Damiano.

The world seemed to stop that night.  Time was transported back twelve hundred years. Hearts were catapulted into thoughts of a loving God Who stopped at nothing to get our attention and to make us one with Him. The words St. Francis spoke and the Gospel he sang as Deacon at the Mass celebrated at Greccio came from a heart in love with God. That night, Love was contagious.  If only it could have remained that way forever!  To stay there would have been selfish. We must bring the joy we know and radiate it to others. With Mary, our Blessed Mother, Virgin Made Church, Francis offered his own ’yes’ that the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and the represented presence of the Incarnation-Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem in Greccio, would become ingrained in the hearts of all. Prayerfully praising the tremendous gift of the Eucharist, our Seraphic Father simply and magnificently offers a meditation on the wonderful exchange of the humanity and the divinity in Jesus, awesomely present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  The beauty of the prayer deserves to be read:

O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!

That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself

that for our salvation He hides Himself under the little form of bread!

Look, brothers, at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before Him!

Humble yourselves, as well, that you may be exalted by Him.

Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves

so that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.

We can see how intimately the Eucharist we possess today and everyday helps us reflect on the wonderful mysteries we celebrate at the beginning of the Church Year.  We talk about proclaiming God Who comes to save us.  The Eucharist is the God Who is already among us with the saving power of that Great Sacrifice offered once-for-all that those who look upon the one whom they pierced may be saved.  We invite everyone saying, Come, Let us adore the King Who is to come. We adore Him hidden in the humility of the small Host and behind the closed doors of the Tabernacle. What our senses cannot perceive, our hearts know undoubtedly that …

His eyes see the depths of the soul,

His ears hear the yearnings of the heart,

His feet approach all who seek Him in truth,

His hands embrace the sincerely penitent and those in need,

His lips speak in the silence of our being,

His heart is open to welcome all into the Father’s loving embrace.

 

The simplicity of the Child of Bethlehem; the trusting faith of Mary and Joseph regarding all they were told about the Child; the poverty of the half-heartedly lent dwelling because there was no place for them at the inn; the confusion of the shepherds who had to go see this thing that has taken place that the Lord has made known to us; the probing curiosity of the Magi who said Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do Him homage; the intrigue of Herod who was greatly troubled at the news and with him all of Jerusalem; the heavenly joy of the angels who came to proclaim good news of great joy that will be for all people as they sang Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace … speak to us of the One Who was born to die so that we could be born to live forever.

His earthly life is repeated over the centuries at many times in various ways in the awesome ’Gift’ of the Eucharist.  The angels proclaim His glory and adore His Presence. And, humanity responds as did the people at Jesus’ time! … joy, indifference, confusion, even open animosity. The history of Bethlehem and the continued ’Presence’ in the Eucharist speak to each one of us. We cannot separate the Crib from the Cross.  The wood of the manger that embraced the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem was only a foreshadowing of the wood of the Cross that would lift Him up on Calvary.  Hidden Glory! … to be revealed to humble searching hearts in the mystery of the sacraments until the fullness of His Glory is revealed at the end of time. Only searching humble hearts find and recognize Him.

St. Francis loved the feast of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem was a reality that St. Francis lived every moment of his grace-filled life. In the Eucharist he saw Jesus not born two thousand years ago, but vibrantly alive. He gazed upon the mystery of the Incarnation at each Eucharist.  The whole story of the Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, and the time that leads up to that moment, is an opportunity for us to follow the example of our Seraphic Father and enter into the song of creation once again as we become players in the great symphony of life that God has written.

As spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, have we allowed the precious Body and Blood of the Savior to flow through and take over every fiber of our being? Have we allowed the Lord to be ’enfleshed’ in our lives so that each Christmas we celebrate the Savior present and alive within and among us, and not just a memory of some past event in time? Do we say with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, and with Jesus, Your Will and not mine be done? Do we strive each day, as Franciscans, to grow into a fresh and vibrant presence of Jesus Who makes Himself seen and known through us? Do we recognize our own incompleteness, vulnerability, and susceptibility so that we can share, support and encourage one another? Are we as enthused about being Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi and Sisters and Brothers in the Franciscan Family and all that entails (fidelity to the Gospel Life, Church, Rule, Constitutions, one in mind and heart with the Fraternity, and so forth), as children are when Christmas comes around? Do we see the gift that we are to each other when we allow the spirit of our Seraphic Father to lead us closer to Jesus and Mary?

With these questions that are a frequent, if not daily, reminder for us all, be assured that you and your loved ones will be remembered in a special way in all the Masses I celebrate during this holy season. May God bless you; Our Lady and Good St. Joseph guide, guard and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and she whom we can feel to be our “Mother” St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

In the Name of Jesus I wish all of you a Spirit-filled Advent and a Holy and Happy Christmas Season. And as you enter the new calendar year with all its expectations and uncertainties, may your hopes be fulfilled in a world renewed in Jesus and filled with His Spirit. A Child is born to us! A Savior is given to us! Come, let us adore Him! Fear not!  It is I!  I have conquered the world!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

November Meditation – Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – November 2019

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

November 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace!

Is it possible to live the Gospel to the letter, with all of its divine demands, crucifying renunciations, and blessed certitudes?  Yes! … but with a condition!  We must allow ourselves, as St. Francis of Assisi did, to be seduced by the love of Christ. We faithfully embrace, learn, and live this love more deeply when we love the Church as Mother, Teacher, and Queen of our life.  The Gospel is not a dream.  The Gospel is a reality that can transfigure not only the individual but also history itself.

There are billions more non-Christians than Christians who do not accept the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Word of God. Nonetheless, when the Gospel is lived, when Christ, through the Church Universal and the individual Christian, proclaims and is proclaimed to others, His Word begins to achieve its goal. My word will not return without having fulfilled the purpose for which It was sent.  These prophetic words should be an encouragement for us all to enter God’s will and be available to the prompting of His Holy Spirit.

Franciscanism is a life experience as understood and lived by those who accept the challenging example and words of St. Francis of Assisi.  At the center of this experience is the Humanity (never minimizing the essential reality of His Divinity) of Christ, Son of God, Messenger-Message and Bearer of the Father’s Love.  The Humanity of Christ reflects the face of the Father, and speaks to men and women in the language of God’s creatures.

Francis picked up on this wonderful insight and ran with it.  It was a love that filled every fiber of his being. The love for Christ in St. Francis of Assisi was contagious.  He sought the Father’s will through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and allowed the  ’overshadowing’ power of the Holy Spirit to lead him into living a more personal relationship with Jesus. He built this relationship on the Gospel.  He was concrete and passionate. St. Francis did not limit this conformity to Christ as something purely interior. He felt the need to conform himself in all things to Christ, even in the reality of his daily activities. Our Seraphic Father lived this ’spiritual tension’ from the beginning of his conversion.

God gave His ’seal of approval’ when St. Francis was signed with the wounds of the Passion of Jesus on La Verna. What was imprinted in his heart at San Damiano eventually was made visible and imprinted on his body for all to see at La Verna. Thus he became a living image of the Christ he so ardently desired to know, love, and serve wholeheartedly in his life. This is where we encounter the radical evangelical life that is so characteristic of St. Francis of Assisi.  He accepted the Gospel as his concrete form of life in all things, without gloss, in it purity and integrity.

The key words to consider are ’without gloss’. They have challenged the Family of St. Francis for centuries.  During the life of our Seraphic Father the friars experienced strong tensions in how they were to live the Rule.  History recalls two basic directions the ’Conventuals’ and the ’Spirituals’. Though the ’dialogue’ could have been rather heated at times and even quite ’physically expressive’, friars on both sides of the discussion were basically good men seeking to live a life in emulation, if not imitation, of our Seraphic Father.

In the Church there are various types of ’religious’ life offered those who seek to deepen their personal relationship with God within the Church. The ’within’ does not necessarily exclude contact and interaction with others ‘outside’ the Catholic Church ‘jurisdiction’.  On the contrary, even the solitary life of the Carthusian, hermit, or even the recluse, demands an openness in charity to all creation if it is to be complete and fully express the mandate: Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. Like our Seraphic Father, we are called to disarm our hearts to all. We are called and have accepted the Gospel command to love. Our ’outreach’ brings the effects of the evangelical life beyond the boundaries of the community even to those outside the Church, outside the faith, and even to adversaries of the faith.

Our Franciscan vocation is a way of life, not a ministry. You live in the world but not of the world. You are truly a light put on a lampstand but even more yeast that is kneaded into the dough of everyday life. The Secular Franciscan lives the same spirit of commitment as that of their vowed sisters and brothers.  In both cases, vows or promises, a good motto to remember is: ’You are as good as your word’.  The First, Second, Third Regular, and Secular Franciscan Orders, and we might even add in acknowledgement the ‘fourth order’ of those who are not professed but journey with us and participate and assist in our charism in many ways, attract to the Franciscan life by example.

When we allow complacency to rule our hearts and indifference to control us, our Franciscan life and ideals suffer and may even ’die’. When we fail or refuse to accept our call as a true vocation, or we consider our profession as a formal affiliation in some ’monthly prayer group’ we permit those attitudes to gnaw away at the beauty of what our Seraphic Father believed and fought for in all its original dignity.

We are called to faithfulness.  The question is to what are we called to be faithful?  Profession in the Franciscan Order introduces us to a whole ’lifestyle’ that is not limited to pious devotions, particular activities, personal particular interpretation of the Rule of Life and Constitutions.  Jesus and His Gospel are our ’devotion’, living the life of Christ is our ’activity’, and Christ speaking to us through the Church and the Order indicate and challenge us how to live our life in fraternity, secular or otherwise.

Our Franciscan charism, so beloved by God and the Church, is a powerful instrument in God’s loving plan for the edification and salvation of millions down through the centuries.  Our life is to LIVE THE GOSPEL … LIVE JESUS!

Christ among us is the Center of our lives; we are Eucharistic.  The Word made flesh is our life; we are a Gospel People bound in the Holy Spirit’s love to be a fraternity, a family of hearts and souls; we are an evangelical community. Mary is the Virgin Made Church our Queen and Mother loved and proposed by St. Francis to all the Order; we are Marian. The Church is our Mother and Teacher on earth with the Holy Father as Vicar of Christ and Successor to Peter who presides over the family of God redeemed in the Blood of Christ; we are totally Catholic as was our Seraphic Father who admonished all to be faithful to the Church.  This list could go on and on to remind us of our unity with the Church of Christ founded on the Apostles, and of our profession to be a Gospel People whose life envelopes all that makes us one with Christ and His Church.

We Franciscans are simple in our lives of minority and transparent in our desire to be detached from all that could possess us, particularly our own will. Without the Eucharist there is no Church, without the Church there is no Eucharist. We are the Church and through the ministerial priesthood we continue the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ of whom we are the essential ’body parts’. With Mary as the Mother of the Christ she is the Mother of the Christian and thus of the Church for whom we have a particular love and to whom we are particularly devoted.  The Gospel and Apostolic writings of the New Covenant tell us the story of Jesus, Mary and the first Christian community, teaching us through the Apostles’ writings all that makes us Christian. These facts and many others have always been professed and practiced ’without gloss’ by the followers of our Seraphic Father.  To be Franciscan is to be totally Catholic with all that entails.

We are children of the Poverello of Assisi.  While our manner of affiliation may differ from the canonical perspective, our hearts and souls are one. We are centered and rooted in the Gospel Life following Jesus in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. Let us strive to be “true to our word”, for we are as good as our word. Let us remember always that God is faithful in His Word, Jesus the Christ. He called us to hear, listen and respond. May our response always be “Yes”, as was that of our Heavenly Mother who believed the humanly impossible and gave birth to God-made-man in Jesus. Jesus Who calls us and then sends us to be a living Gospel in today’s world.  May we be faithful and strive to fulfill well what we have promised.

God bless us; Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2019 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

October 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

For centuries, the Franciscan Family has praised the goodness of God for blessing the world with St. Francis of Assisi and for calling us to follow his example in living the Gospel life. The impact St. Francis continues to have on our world has continued for more than eight centuries.  Since the time of St. Francis himself, the I, II, III, and Secular Franciscan Orders strive to foster a spirit of peace and goodness, and universal brotherhood. The spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our holy Mother St. Clare have affected the universal Church, as well as societies and cultures in every corner of the world.  They have influenced governments and help transform the thoughts of multitudes over the years.  They have challenged people to open their hearts and minds to the world recognizing it as the theater of redemption, thus a place to love and in which to live the Gospel life that all things may be restored in Christ. There is an obvious question that arises, however, regarding St. Francis. One of his first followers, Brother Masseo, is recorded to have asked the question: Why after you? … Why does the whole world come after you?  It is an interesting and quite challenging question that certainly goes far beyond the expected response of a pious platitude.

Once Saint Francis was staying in the place of the Portiuncula with Brother Masseo of Marignano, a man of great holiness, discernment and grace in speaking of God, for which Saint Francis loved him very much. One day Saint Francis was returning from the woods and from prayer, and when he was at the edge of the woods, that same Brother Masseo, wanting to test how humble he was, went up to him and, as if joking, said, “Why after you, why after you, why after you?”  Saint Francis responded, “What do you mean?” Brother Masseo said, “I am saying why does the whole world come after you, and everyone seems to desire to see you and hear you? You are not a handsome man in body, you are not someone of great learning, you are not noble; so why does the whole world come after you?” (Little Flowers 10)

How might we have responded to such a situation if the question were asked of us?  It is an honest consideration posed by someone who gave up everything to follow St. Francis. And what about the multitudes that sought to follow Francis Bernardone either by living the Rule for friars, or by living a Rule for those in society who still wanted to be of Francis’ Family and Gospel life experience. Some undoubtedly would have been put off by the reason Bro. Masseo gave for asking the question had the reasons given concerned them.  When “ego” gets in the way we suffer from nearsightedness.  We see, hear, accept, and I dare say love, only ourselves, so that when others make us aware of our “deficiencies” or definite faults we either retreat or react.  The attributes (or lack thereof) that Brother Masseo presented were rather peripheral. Nonetheless, how would any of us like to have been told rather bluntly: “You are homely looking (aesthetically challenged), of an inadequate intellect (“academically limited”), and come from an insignificant level of society (“socially modest”)?  How might we have responded?  Masseo was thinking out loud.  He had seen, believed, and followed Francis.  Why?

At times, when people place their trust in another, there comes a moment when they want to know concretely what their heart tells them is true, good, and necessary for personal fulfillment concerning the other. Reassurance does not so much express a doubt as much as a desire to corroborate and reconfirm a decision made with firm conviction and total commitment. Brother Masseo loved and trusted St. Francis, but he wanted to hear the answer from St. Francis himself.  In the depths of his heart Brother Masseo knew God was with Francis.  He believed in the man he had chosen to follow in response to God’s call.  Life changing decisions, such as marriage, religious life, priesthood, becoming a Secular Franciscan, committing ourselves to any life that ultimately aims to transform a person from within as well as without, require prudence, trust, prayerful discernment, and courage to decide wholeheartedly.

Courage urges us to take the step, and fidelity assists us to experience the value and fruitfulness of the “yes” with which we surrender to the call.  A simple rule is “Live it and you will love it”. It is only in living our decision that we grow into loving it day-by-day.  The questions and explanations are valuable and valid, but ultimately when I believe God is in the midst of the call and my response, I must make the decision trustingly, regardless how others encourage or discourage me by their words or actions.  Remember, your vocation is yours, none other’s.  A community, fraternity, Order is made up of many individuals who have personally responded with the same affirmative reply and share a life of mutual support, encouragement, familial love.  It is a personal individual choice rooted in the conviction that expects and urges one to keep on moving forward, even if all others opt to change course.

The immediate response of St. Francis to Brother Masseo continues from the Little Flowers: Hearing this, Saint Francis was overjoyed in spirit and, turning his face to heaven, stood for a long time with his mind lifted up to God.  Then returning to himself, he knelt down and gave praise and thanks to God. (Little Flowers 10)

The key word is “immediate response”.  Francis, with all of his idiosyncrasies, was centered on God.  God was the focus, center, and source of all Francis desired to live and do in this life.  Even a response to his brother was not made until his attitude of prayer lifted him in spirit so that it was not I who live but Christ who lives in me, as St. Paul writes to the churches.  To paraphrase, ‘It was not Francis who responded, but Christ who responded in Francis’. We read in Scripture how Jesus, before He did anything of importance, would often spend the night in prayer.  Before performing a miracle Jesus would groan from the depths of his soul and gratefully acknowledge the Father’s willingness to hear His request. When we take time to enter that vertical relationship of prayer with/in God, every response we make, whether in words, actions, or both, lead us to enter the horizontal relationship with our sisters and brothers.  Thus humility.

Then with great fervor of spirit (St. Francis) returned to Brother Masseo and said, “Do you want to know why after me?  You want to know why after me? You want to know why the whole world comes after me? I have this from those eyes of the Most High God, which gaze in every place on the good and the guilty.  Since those most holy eyes have not seen among sinners anyone more vile, nor more incompetent, nor a greater sinner than me; to perform that marvelous work, which he intends to do, He has not found a more vile creature on the earth, and therefore He has chosen me to confound the nobility and the greatness and the strength and beauty and wisdom of the world, so that it may be known that every virtue and every good is from Him, and not from the creature, and no person may boast in His sight.  But whoever ‘boasts must boast in the Lord’, to whom is every honor and glory forever.  Brother Masseo was shocked at such a humble response, said with such fervor, and knew certainly that Saint Francis was truly grounded in humility. (Little Flowers 10)

 

Seeing himself before the awesome love and majesty of God, he recognizes his lowliness and the greatness of God, and thus can give Brother Masseo the answer he seeks.  Francis acknowledges how insignificant he is before the immensity of God, and it is for this reason that God can work through him. Filled with ourselves there is no room for God; the humble soul is empty of itself and offers God all the space God wills. There can be no pride in one who recognizes at every moment the sovereignty of God and himself as nothing more than the ‘Herald of the Great King’.

The herald proclaims the message of the other, not their own message.  The herald must be a subject of integrity who can be trusted to communicate the message of the one who sent him, and not his own personal issues and agendas. It is here that St. Francis explained in his response the prayer he so often would say, Who are You (Lord).  Who am I, repeating the words of St. Augustine centuries before: That I may know You (Lord), that I may know myself.  There is a powerful nuance here I think should be mentioned.  Many translate the words of Augustine to mean: ‘Let me know you Lord and let me know myself’.  It seems more Augustine and even Francis to translate the phrase to mean; ‘Let me know You, Lord, so that I may know myself’.  Once Francis’ heart lifted up, saw himself in the mystery of the One Whom he sought to know, he understood more deeply the purpose and call of his own life and could rejoice in the transforming power of grace that had worked such wonders in him and, through him, in so many others.  Humility is truth.

The response St. Francis gave impressed Brother Masseo for its simplicity and truthfulness.  St. Francis had him understand the meaning of St. Paul’s words, It is when I am weak that I am strong.  It is when we recognize our nothingness without God that God can work in-with-through us and not only give glory to His Name but raise us up in Him.  True humility that does not seek applause nor put on airs of superiority, attracts and encourages.  Humility recognizes the Lordship of God over us, and therefore, all things are given besides.  We accept our dependency on God for all things, and his dependency on us to cooperate with Him in the re-creation of our fallen world and its restoration in Christ.  St. Francis told Brother Masseo that only in admitting the supremacy of God can we begin to fulfill our lives and call others to experience the same fulfillment in sharing the same gift.

G.K.Chesterton offers a brief and interesting picture St. Francis:  Saint Francis was a lean and lively little man; thin as a thread and vibrant as a bowstring; and in his motions like an arrow from the bow.  All his life was a series of plunges and scampers; darting after the beggar, dashing naked into the woods, tossing himself into the strange ship, hurling himself into the Sultan’s tent and offering to hurl himself into the fire.  In appearance he must have been like a thin brown skeleton autumn leaf dancing eternally before the wind; but in truth it was he that was the wind.


Why you?  Why does the whole world go after you, Francis?  Because like the wind: lively, vibrant, plunging into the depths, darting after the marginalized and alienated, dashing into the seclusion of prayer with nothing but his soul enamored of God, tossing himself into the strange events that God allowed to come his way, hurling himself into the midst of danger for the sake of the Name with a courage surpassing even that of the Crusaders of his time, Francis was the image of the freedom all people desire in life.  Shackled, held down by no one and nothing.  Francis was and still is free.  He believed firmly God was with him, thus he had nothing to fear.  A frail body was the vessel of a magnificent heart and soul.  So great was his desire to be one with the Father-Son-Holy Spirit, that towards the end of his life he not only carried the dying of Christ in his soul but was privileged to carry the wounds of the Savior on his body for all the world to see.  Why you, Fancis?  He might reply, “Because through me the Lord has seen fit to make Himself known and seen, that others may be encouraged to trust in God, disarm their hearts to one another, and rebuild a falling world, for as we can see is falling into ruin”.

As spiritual children of the Poverello of Assisi, reflect on your own response to that situation of St. Francis and Brother Masseo.  Why would you ask Francis the question in the first place?  What have you not understood about the one whom you have chosen to follow that he might help you live Jesus?  Why did you accept to follow the Little Poor Man of Assisi?  What does St. Francis say to you after eight centuries?  Is he still alive and well in your fraternity, in your own personal life?  Are the life and words of St. Francis, his free spirit and total humility, his all-embracing disarmed heart towards all, a source of enthusiasm, encouragement, excitement, JOY?  Is there an awareness of being a son/daughter, brother/sister in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi?  Do you allow this awareness to affect your life and encounters with the world in which you live?  Does the vibrancy and relevancy of the Franciscan Charism help you to ‘come alive in the spirit’?

Remembering that Francis was so enamored of Our Lady that he called her the Virgin made Church, may we, the living Mystical Body of Christ, reflect upon the life of Jesus during this month of the Most Holy Rosary and look at Jesus with the eyes of Mary. Sharing the great gift of life and our Franciscan charism let us strive to “infect” others with the spirit of the Poverello of Assisi.  May we all be instruments of God’s Peace and Blessings to our world.

God bless us; Mary, Queen and Mother of our Seraphic Family, keep us in the depths of Her Immaculate Heart; and Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Happy Saint Francis Day to all!  Let us remember one another at the altar of the Lord both during the celebration of the Transitus and during the Eucharistic celebration of the Solemnity.  All of you and your loved ones and intentions will be in my prayers and Masses in a special way as we all celebrate St. Francis of Assisi, God’s ‘crazy one’ who has infected so many to follow that same lunacy of love that seeks to transform us all into Fools for the sake of Christ, living gospels in a world so in need of the “Good News” of God’s extravagant love.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant