June 2023 Meditation from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809


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


June 2023



Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,


In the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary

May you enter the loving embrace of the Father

Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love.


The Cross, earth’s greatest pulpit, raised our King for all to see in the glory and majesty of his infamy and humiliation. The Heart of Jesus unloved by those loved by Him must have felt such deep sorrow and pain that words cannot fathom, much less explain. His words cut deeply into the hearts of those who stood by. The words of the bystanders to the Cross were filled with anger, ridicule, blasphemy. Jesus responded with words from the Cross filled with understanding,

compassion, forgiveness, surrender, and LOVE.


The Cross-Road of Calvary offers a challenge to all who look upon the Crucified. It indicates a needed directional change “upward” and beyond. Jesus, exhausted and weak, musters up the strength to say It is finished (John 19: 30). If we only would reflect and understand the powerful meaning and impact of these few words, how our lives might change! While the English translation is good, it is the Latin expression that so powerfully expresses the deeper significance of the words. They speak of the completion of a mission, the fulfillment of the Promise God made to our first parents, as well as of all the prophecies up to that time regarding the Messiah. Nevertheless, they also speak of the intimacy and fruitfulness of the greatest act of God’s love: consummatum est! – It is consummated! (John 19: 30) When an agreement is consummated, when a love is consummated, the total surrender of one to the other is made without reserve, and from the two a new way of being emerges, unique in its own personality, but similar to those whose agreement and love have allowed it to be. Jesus totally surrendered His Will and existence to the Father and thus also to all humanity.


We are the children of that consummated act of love that introduced humanity once again to the loving embrace of the Eternal Father. In the Blood of the Savior, and His love for us, we are re-born into a new creation and receive our status as children of God, (cfr.1 John 3: 1) in the blood of Christ. We are unique in our individual personalities but are one with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through the Blood of Christ. The Easter Proclamation of Light Service chants: What good would life have been had Christ not come to us as our Redeemer! Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son. It is this same Incarnate Son Who completed His mission on earth by being “consumed” upon the cross. It was this consummation that brought an end to the earthly life of Jesus and began a new Life for us.


The completion of His mission from the Father was the beginning of our being sent forth as His “backup plan” as His Mystical Body in time. This awesome responsibility and trusting mandate of Jesus continues for the sisters and brothers of the Poverello of Assisi who responded with their “yes” to live the life of the Gospel. The Gospel is the “Good News” and the Good News is the person of Jesus the Christ, Son of God, Word Incarnate. He continues His life-giving ministry of presence and power through us, a compassionate presence of powerful love.


The Divine Heart of Jesus burned with love for everyone. The crown of thorns was a sign to mock Him as Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. (John 19: 19)  His majesty was marked by the throne of the cross, the crown of thorns, nails for jewels, and a beaten body covered in blood for a royal robe. The image of the Crucified Savior and His pierced Heart is a constant reminder that Love is not loved. St. Francis of Assisi weeping profusely often repeated this phrase so that others might consider the Love of Christ that is so often taken for granted, or “not taken” at all.


Many great Saints have promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is not some emotional expression of pious prayers intended to excite our feelings, as some seem to believe. All true prayer should be able to arouse within us a sense of the Divine Presence. Prayers help us feel good and trusting in what we believe God will respond to our needs according to His Will. However, when we speak Cor ad Cor  (heart to Heart) to the Lord, the relationship deepens and we move from feeling to becoming. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a symbol for us to focus upon that reminds us of a love unequaled and always desired. Prayer keeps the loving relationship alive and, hopefully well, with the Source of all we are and are called to be.


Devotion to the Sacred Heart offers us the image that society uses to express the transparency of truth (cross my heart and hope to die – used by children), unquestionable integrity (put my whole heart and soul into it), and the depth of limitless love (I love you with all my heart). We use the heart to confirm and seal many a relationship we desire to establish with others. The heart is mentioned not just as an emotional symbol but as a verifying reality of the depth of a person’s desires and availability. The heart conditions the thoughts and actions that people often express. The following of one’s heart reveals a great deal about who a person is, or desires to be.


The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, following The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), is the crowning celebration of the liturgical year. All the other liturgical celebrations originate and revolve around the great Paschal Mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. More often than not they concern some truth of our Catholic Faith that we accept and believe as “Catholics”. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus may not be a dogma of faith, but it summarizes in this image the love of Jesus for humanity. In a sense it explains everything we believe as God’s continued act of Eternal Love. It becomes the ultimate explanation for all the events celebrated during the year by reminding us of their origin in God’s Love, their development and progression in God’s Love, and their ultimate fulfillment in God’s eternal Loving Embrace.


Reflection and meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our Lord and God, Crucified Savior, Pierced Redeemer, invites all to come to the Throne on which hung the Savior of the world (cfr. Veneraton of the Cross Liturgy of Good Friday). Ascending to the right hand of the Father He bears with Him the “engraved” signs of His love for His family redeemed in His sacrificial offering on the Cross. The nail prints and open side are eternal reminders for us of the love of God Who became one of His own creatures, the condescension of compassion as St. Leo the Great refers to the Incarnation. For all eternity He bears the marks of His indelible unity with creation and the length He was willing to go as one of us to seal an unbreakable bond with the Father. In Jesus, the bond between time and eternity is made sure and we are offered the undeniable road that leads to the fullness of Life. God devised the way in Jesus, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us of the solid connection that leads to Life.


The human Heart of Jesus is one with the Eternal Love of God and the two who are one call us to seek first the kingdom of God and His holy operation (Scripture and St. Francis of Assisi) Come, let us adore Him! As we do, our eyes are open to see, our minds to understand, and our hearts to receive the message of love and compassion we are called to continue. Unless we can open our hearts to envelop others in love, our love remains stale and life-less, or better, love-less. As our Mother St. Clare of Assisi wrote to a spiritual daughter St. Agnes of Prague: Gaze upon the Lord. Gaze upon His Face. Allow the image of the Crucified and His pierced Heart to enter your soul through the windows of your eyes and experience the love that emanates from that image.


The Love of Christ forgets our sins and remembers only His mercy. Jesus makes his voice more clearly audible in our hearts when we focus in prayer and gaze upon the Lord. St. Francis knew that love is recognized in the daily crosses of our lives. It is as though Jesus is saying Courage! Do not be afraid! (Mark 6: 50) I have conquered the world! (John 16: 33) The love of Jesus and the images of that Love in the Crucified and the Sacred Heart empower us to be courageous in proclaiming, faithful in living, and thus at peace in our trust in the One Whose Love can never fail.  The moment of His greatest defeat, was the moment of His victory.


Franciscans of any obedience strive to embody for deeply the charism of our Seraphic Father. We are called to disarm our hearts as Jesus disarmed His Most Sacred Heart. Through His ultimate sacrifice to death we are able to rejoice in our restored nature to grace and new life. Faith in Jesus empowers us with courage rooted in an active hope that conquers hearts and the world. After the battles of life comes the serenity, peace and joy that can only be lived and not even imagined. We are consumed by love for God and love for neighbor. God is continually fixed in our mind and imprinted in our heart. We can never lose sight of Him. We feel nothing except the desire to have and want what God wants. How overpowering it is to live by the heart! It means living at every moment a death to our egos that never kills the body, but energizes and enlivens our spirit, our soul. Who will set me free from this consuming fire! (cfr Hebrews 12: 29)


St. Francis of Assisi lived in the presence of God and was consumed by God’s love. The more he lived in God, the more he was aware of the concerns and needs of his sisters and brothers. How can we speak of love of God in our hearts, when we have no love for our sisters and brothers?! Love is not always materially fruitful. In fact, some may think us foolish, others may think us exhibitionists, others may call us hypocrites. We may be ridiculed by those who cannot understand a forgiving heart. Some may think us weak because we have disarmed our heart towards those who may oppose or offend us. Others may fail to recognize us now that we have unmasked our fears and are willing to stand courageously and trustingly before one another in the Name of Jesus.


True devotion for the Love of Jesus in His Sacred Heart is found in its epitome in our love for the Hidden Prisoner in the Tabernacle. This love is a transforming antidote to all that affects us in spirit and often even in the body. Jesus, I trust in You! (Prayer of Divine Mercy) We trust in Jesus, because Jesus has shown us the depth of his trust in us, to the point of being pierced that we might be healed. Through His wounds you are healed (1 Peter 2: 24).


It is most obvious how the Poverello of Assisi lived the image of the Crucified. A few years before he died his body received the visible stigmata of the wounds of Jesus. Hearts were rekindled in their awareness and love for the Passion-Death of our Savior. It was in the wound of the heart however, seen by only a privileged few, that Francis could say I have died, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me (Galatians 2: 20). The holy heart of St. Francis, empowered by the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Whose image he was gifted to be, could now say with St. Paul: rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s sufferings, for the sake of his body, the church (Colossians 1: 24). Now he understood, the words of the Cross of San Damiano: Francis rebuild my Church for as you see it is falling in to ruin. The consuming love that filled the heart of our Seraphic Father was one with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the spirit until the mystery became fullness of reality for eternity.


As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, the Crucified of La Verna, how much we still have to learn about Love! The Sacred Heart that pulsated from the womb of Mary until it was pierced by the soldier’s lance as Jesus hung upon the Cross keeps reminding us that Love is not loved. Can we ever learn to love God for God’s Love’s sake without looking for return?! When we can love without fear, though we recognize our sins and failures that never seem to leave us, then it is that we can truly say Jesus I trust in you.(Divine Mercy prayer)  Redemption was sealed with the last drop of blood and water from the Sacred Heart of Jesus spilled on the cross at Golgotha by the soldier’s lance. This gift of redeeming and forgiving love is repeated whenever we celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation with sincere loving repentance. The Love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus knows no limits, His love is everlasting (Psalm 136). Do not let human inconstancy, foolish fear, and senseless shame keep you from the well of Jesus’ Love that is overflowing for all to drink from the richness of His Most Sacred Heart. And may that forgiving Love lead us to the uniting and empowering Love of the Eucharist that allows us to be one with Him as He is in the Father.


May the Good Lord bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph, guide, guard and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis and holy Mother St. Clare watch over you, their Spiritual Children and all your loved ones, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant



Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, April 2023

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 2023

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 direction to follow, the road that leads, the journey that carries to our ultimate goal. 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 of Assisi 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 (cfr 1 Corinthians 15).  If Jesus had not risen, His death would have been nothing more than the tragic defeat of just another ‘deluded messiah’. 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 created human beings at the beginning of time, and Who took the initiative with Abraham promising that he would be the Father of many nations. God’s ‘subversive’ attempts aimed to reach and affect the very foundation, the core (let us remember that “core” means “heart”) of the matter.  All aimed to turn people back to the Father’s Will. This is at the heart of the Gospel Message. 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?!  Penitents recognize what impedes achieving the goal and do all possible with the help of God to correct and redirect life to God.

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 with which our fraternal life gifts us, so that together we may 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 in 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 the disciples 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 … of 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 in 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, so they could believe Him in all things, even His resurrection! 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 that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life. 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 whom 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. The lives of some are 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 (Canticles of the Creatures).  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. We live and move and have our being with the Giver of all good gifts. He 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?  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? (Luke 24: 32)  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)

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 profession we made to God and one another be a true expression of our fraternal love that has its source in the Resurrection. May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter. Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the New Life His Resurrection offers us. 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.

With a promise to keep all of you affectionately in my Easter Masses and Liturgies, I wish you and your dear ones a very Happy and Joyous Easter.

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant



March 2023 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, O.F.M. Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis Renewal Center

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809


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

March 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord grant you peace!

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


Good, legitimate, enjoyable, and even necessary persons, places, and things – even religious things! – can ‘possess’ us so much that we can risk losing our God-centered perspective, and confuse our priorities.  They become the end rather than the means to deepen a relationship with God Who is ‘the Other’. God is not His creation, yet God can be seen in all things, because He is My God and My All as St. Francis prayed.


The spirit immersed in God can often become distracted and even depleted of its inner strength by the constant barrages, cacophony, seductions, allurements of our society, and also from just frenetic running around ‘in four directions at once’ without taking time for healthy rest in the Lord.  The various ‘lents’ that St. Francis practiced during the year responded to the canons of the Church for all Christians, or were devotional “Lents”, such “la Benedetta” from Epiphany for 40 days, and the “lent of St. Michael from the Assumption until the feast of St. Michael and all the angels.  They were part of his own particular devotional life and spiritual needs. They afforded him the silence and solitude to ‘recharge’ his spirit, deepen his relationship with God, for Whom St. Francis believed himself to be the ‘Herald of the Great King’. They also helped to clarify his view of the world that surrounded him by viewing life from the perspective of God.


In solitude and silence our Seraphic Father sought to hear the voice of God Who spoke to him from the Cross of San Damiano more clearly. The voice from the Crucifix had entrusted him with a mission to rebuild My Church for as you can see it is falling into ruin.  To fulfill this commission St. Francis understood he had to begin by ‘rebuilding’ himself.  Like any edifice that needs revamping, remodeling, restoring, in order to be ultimately renewed, he had to check the structure, clean out the rubble, prop up and strengthen the tottering and fragile, fix the broken, discard the corroding that was affecting and infecting the rest of the healthy structure. Once this was done, he could begin the ‘job’ of rebuilding with quality updated strong material to make the structure solid and welcoming.


It is not always necessary to tear down to renew, particularly when the treasures of time and the human spirit are intimately involved and are vital components.  When our faith foundation is solid and deep, the visible ‘structure’ of our lives will be strong and solid once revisions and repairs are completed. Thus, what others see after we have worked at ‘rebuilding’ the inner spiritual structure and ‘refinished and renewed’, the outer appearance will attract, welcome, and challenge others to do the same.


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


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


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


The process applies to a person of reasonably good faith, who truly wants to do what is good and right, even when the human spirit seems to be weak, tired or even full of faults. Sincere awareness of our weaknesses leads to a desire and spirit of conversion, a ‘turning back’, to the intention of God in creating us and how we became when we were baptized – filled with sanctifying grace in God’s love.  Acceptance of this basic need urges us to take the first step of a journey that lasts a lifetime.  The journey is filled with pitfalls, detours, U-turns, and ‘full-steam-ahead’.


On this spiritual journey, just as in the experiences of everyday life, we encounter friend and foe, success and failure, joy and sorrow, virtue and vice, grace and sin.  We are called to wage ‘war’ and do ‘battle’ against the enemies of our soul. We must first acknowledge and recognize them.  Then we seek the “energy” of grace from God and the basic assistance God offers us through Sacred Scripture, the Church and Sacraments, Tradition, the Magisterium, the good and holy people we follow as our spiritual friends and guides, and one another. The weapons of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving keep our souls centered on the ultimate purpose of our existence – God! Thus, we are enlivened to confront the ‘evil one’ and the effects of his subtle and flagrant instigations in our daily lives


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

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

Almsgiving helps us to discern our wants from our needs, and helps us to be more aware of others and their gifts and needs. Thus, we realize our common bond as children of God.


The three suggestions help us to live the command: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart – (Prayer), with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind – (Fasting), and your neighbor as yourself – (Almsgiving) (Luke 10: 27).


St. Francis often experienced his bouts with the ‘evil one’, sometimes directly, and more often, as with most of us, intensely through the temptations and allurements of the world around him or the ‘demons’ that lurk in the recesses of the innermost part of even saintly people. It is a given fact that the holier a person seeks to become, the more he/she will be assailed by the ‘spirit of evil’.  When we feel assailed and worried that we are unable overcome the enemy, remember that there is only one God, and no one and nothing can equal God in any way, no matter how strong.  Let us not forget the great Defender of God’s People, St. Michael whose name means Who like God? Who is like God?! No one but God Alone! It is the Evangelist St. John who encourages us on our journey. When the early Church was experiencing so many persecutions and, St. John reminded our sisters and brothers, and us today: Greater is the One within you, than the one who is in the world (1 John 4: 4). If He is within me (us), why fear what surrounds us?!


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


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


Yes! We are victors in the Victim! We walk the road of the Cross. Though there are many difficulties we must overcome, our victory is basically a victory over ourselves. We overcome that part of ourselves that hesitates or refuses to let the Holy Spirit work in and through us.  The journey of Lent leads to a victory so often misunderstood.  It is a victory whose trophy is a blood-stained Cross and a mangled, tortured, derided Person, executed as a common criminal Whose crime was truth, compassion, and love. The paradox of the Cross is the glory of the Christian. The sign of contradiction becomes our sign of commitment. We commit to Life through death to ourselves, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me (Galatians 2: 20). Jesus Himself said, when I am lifted up, I will call all people to myself (John 12: 32). Eventually, at the end of our Lenten journey we come to the foot of the Cross, not as vanquished victims, but as conquering victors who bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body, therefore let no one bother me  (Galatians 6:17).


Let us strive to do good and become better as we enter the Season of Renewal. To do what is good is to do what is of God.  To do what is good is to strive to be good.  To be good is to live in God’s grace. To live in God’s grace is to have begun our heaven on earth.  Lent is the beginning of our journey from Ashes to Palms, leading us from Palms to Calvary. From Calvary we move on to the empty tomb. The empty tomb, reminds us that St. John arrived at the empty tomb and bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body, therefore let no one bother me and ultimately rejoice in the Empty Tomb that introduces us to the fullness of Life.  Lent is not a time for slackers.  In the words of one of our Capuchin saints: You don’t go to heaven in a taxi! Let us be serious about our ‘return to the future’, a phrase taken from the title of a movie that reminds us we are called not to be someone else in the future but to be who we were created to be from all eternity. Thus, we must recapture and grow in the image of God and Christ in whom we were created, that the future prepared for us may be assured.


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


May God bless you; may Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare, watch over each one of you with loving care.

Happy Lent!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant


Monthly Reflections February 2023, Father Francis Sariego, OFMCap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

February 2023

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you peace!

At the beginning of the month dedicated to the Hidden Life of Jesus we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus and the Purification of Mary in the Temple. The spirit of this occurrence is capsulated in the words of Simeon to Mary and Joseph: This Child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed; and to Mary he says, and your soul also a sword shall pierce, so that the hearts of many may be laid bare (cfr. Luke 2: 22-40). Simeon “sees” the faith of Israel fulfilled in this infant. His words of prayerful praise and gratitude envelop the Mother and Child in a prophecy that has begun its course to involve all creation. His personal experience of God’s goodness to him urges Simeon to touch the lives of others in prophecy and praise. Anna also cannot contain within herself the joy she experienced when she beheld the Infant Jesus. She too shared her encounter with God with all whom she met.


The adoring parents are reminded that the humility of the Incarnation and Birth must eventually lead to the selfless Love of the Cross if this Child is to fulfill His purpose for entering our human history. The life of Jesus, from the hovel of Bethlehem to the hill of Calvary, always has the Cross as a constant and faithful companion. The wood of the Crib that enfolds Him securely foreshadows the wood of the Cross that will hold him up securely for the world to behold. So that when I am lifted up, then I will draw all people to Myself  (John 12:32). The intimacy of the moment between the elderly “watchers” and the young parents inevitably leads Simeon and Anna to prophesy, Mary and Joseph to reflect and respond, and the Infant Jesus to continue to be the humble sublimity and the sublime humility (words of St. Francis of Assisi) of the God of Israel. He has already begun to change the course of time and fulfill the hopes of the faith-filled “watchers”.


Scripture says that He grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke, 2: 40). Jesus lived in eager anticipation of the fulfillment of the Father’s Will. Jesus’ ever-present intimacy and oneness with the immensity of God, His Father, did not keep Him in an ecstasy of a “glorious-do-nothing”. The years, months, weeks and days had begun to lead to that most solemn moment of His life, acceptance of the Cross. The instrument of our salvation, was also the altar of that profound and most Solemn Eucharist where Christ was and still is Priest and Victim. We are victors with the Victim when we accept to live in the revealing light of the shadow of His Cross.


We share in the saving effects of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus, and accept the “gift” of the Cross with gratitude and availability. The Cross thus becomes a symbol of our life immersed in God, and in God with all humanity. The vertical beam reminds us of our relationship through faith and prayer with God. We raise our hearts and minds to the One from Whom all creation comes, and with Whom we are called to live eternally – Faith. The horizontal beam reminds us of our common bond with all who share life with us and with whom we have a particular relationship as children of the One great God and All-providing Creator – Hope. The point where the two meet and find balance forms the Cross on which Christ hung – Love. There He calls us to Himself and reminds us that There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Thus, unless our relationship with God spreads to encourage us to touch others with the love we have received from God, through Christ in the Spirit, our prayer is only partially effective, and bears little fruit.


God’s goodness bestowed on us encourages us to offer this gift to others. Here is where the balance of the two beams is found and there, in the middle, is Jesus. Gratitude and availability of this type do not come quickly or easily. Human nature seeks to evade and/or avoid anything that challenges us to go beyond the natural tendencies for survival and pleasure. Just think how people seek to beautify their bodies for a short span of years, and will undergo dangerous surgery, questionable drugs, or painful, lengthy, stressful aerobic programs, oftentimes engaging costly “qualified trainers”. The timeless competition between time and eternity are ever challenging us for undivided attention.


On the other hand, when it comes to our spiritual life, the health of our souls, and our growth in grace, we look for ways to cut corners. We even call the traditional centuries-old proven practices “old-fashioned”, “outdated”, “no longer of relevance to a modern and intellectually advanced society”, such as we deem ourselves to be. For a Christian, there seems to be something intrinsically wrong with this kind of reasoning. Since every person coming into this world is a totally new creation of God’s infinite love. No two persons are ever exactly alike. What a wonderful interchange and exchange of God-given gifts life could be! The Canticle of the Creatures of our Seraphic Father could be a wonderful prayer to reflect upon as it speaks of the beauty and harmony found in all creation. Special mention is the praise to God for those who forgive, and for Sister Death from whom no one can escape (from the Canticle of the Creatures of St. Francis of Assisi). Both forgiveness and relinquishment humbly offer the gift of oneself in loving acknowledgment of personal fault towards another and loving acceptance in all things “to let go and let God”. Everything and everyone tells of the wonders of God. We find the “message and messenger” at the juncture of the two beams of the Cross with the Crucified.


Life is full of experiences and encounters that ultimately are determining factors in a person’s disposition, character, direction in life, and, more often than not, the ultimate choice for eternity the person has decided to take. Every child born has: eyes to see, ears to hear, mouth to speak, hands to touch, feet to walk, mind to think, and heart to extend itself. What determines the course of that life is: On what do those eyes gaze? To what do those ears listen? What words emanate from the mouth as an expression of what the mind thinks and the heart desires? How and to whom do those hands reach out? Where do those feet go? What thoughts are harbored and fostered in the mind? And, whom, what and how does the heart love?


Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we continue to strive to grow into a holiness and integrity that only God’s grace can produce. How can we accomplish this task? It is a lifelong daily journey. We are similar to a piece of marble in the hands of the sculptor, or cloth in the hands of a tailor, or plant in the hands of the gardener. We allow ourselves to be chiseled into a work of art, cut, shaped and put together into the proper garment suited to us, and nurtured and nourished in order to grow into the new life we were created to be. It is through our senses that our life becomes truly a continual act of adoration. We adore the Source and Ultimate Goal of life, God! The experience transforms as it challenges. The Apostle Saint John tells us: This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched … What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you so that you may share this life with us (1 John 1:1-3).  You can note the excitement in his words, reliving, after many years, the freshness of his encounter with Jesus. Jesus was always here and now with John!  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). What about us?


Through nature we “feel” God as we adore Him in all we do.  We concretize our experience in our response to one another. Sharing with others we are always being “tweaked”, transformed. Here is the reason we must daily live our Franciscan lives, not just at meetings and special gatherings. We are a leaven! Our lives must be guided by the Gospel, the  Magisterium of the Church, and the Rule and Constitutions we have promised to live. Be true apostles! We cannot be closed in on ourselves. The Franciscan fraternity is not a small closed orchard. It is not a little garden to be jealously protected. Give! Share the fruits the Lord has given you! Be generous with everybody. Extend the “vehemence” of love to all with the spiritual gifts and their fruits concretized in our corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. Love can never be diminished of itself. Spread it everywhere you go.


Prayer is the unique strength of all good souls, it moves the world, renews consciences, sustains the (sick and infirm), comforts the suffering, heals the sick, sanctifies labor, raises up, gives moral strength and Christian resignation to human suffering, it overflows with the smile and blessing of God on all sluggishness and weakness (Padre Pio 5 May 1966).  Pray! But more, as was said of St. Francis, “become prayer” in all you are and do. Prayer is an action that can change the world itself!


Prayer is a strength and leaven that transforms those who pray with their heart and life. True prayer is never a personal static experience but one that of its very nature throws open the heart of the one who prays to allow all to enter into an embrace of universal brother/sisterhood. Pray with God’s Holy Word, particularly the Gospels where Jesus speaks to us with His life. Let the Word enflesh Himself, as it were, in your lives ever more deeply, so that it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Let the Word be the strength and source of your prayer and God’s transforming grace within you.


We will enter the holy and joyful season of Lent the end of this month. Prayer, penance and almsgiving are the recommended essential elements that make for a fruitful Lenten experience. When prayer is true, sincere, and complete, the other elements are never missing. Our Father’s love redeems us in Jesus through the Spirit. God’s love encourages us to work daily towards an ongoing change of mind and urges us to open our heart to others: prayer (God relationship), penance (metanoia ongoing change of heart), almsgiving (sharing God’s gifts received with others). Here is a workable and actually quite simple program for celebrating the forty day pilgrimage from ashes to the empty tomb.


May God bless you; Our Lady and good St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy mother St. Clare intercede for you and your loved ones, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant


December 2022 Monthly Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap.

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

December 2022 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis, 

May the Infant Jesus grant your heart the Peace you desire. 

May His Star enlighten your mind with the splendor of His Truth. 

May His Love consume your heart so that it beats solely for Him. 

The people of Israel, centuries before the birth of Jesus, heard the prophet Isaiah promise: Many peoples shall come. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again (Isaiah 2: 1-5). 

These wonderful words of hope and joy seem only empty promises and false illusions when we see what happens around us. Violence, war, collective anger, religious intolerance, and so much more bombard our eyes and ears from the media, and our lives with our own experiences. Where are the gifts of dialogue, compromise, tolerance, acceptance, patience, love among children of the same Life Giver, God?  This God was not ashamed of His creation, even though His creation easily forgets its Origin, without Whom we would never exist. The new liturgical year has begun. We celebrate the humility of God Who became a creature so that the creature could share eternal life with the Creator 

This “oneness” between God and humanity silently exploded into time when a young virgin, Mary, responded “yes” to an impossible offer, but not impossible for God! The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John1: 14) He was born an infant in a refuge for animals somewhere in Bethlehem of Judea. This “One Solitary Life” caused people to marvel from the very beginning. After Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds looked up from where they were and There was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests (Luke 2: 1-14). Non-Hebrew Wise Men followed a celestial sign, a brilliant star by night and day, and journeyed great distances to Judea to find and worship the new king of the Jews. Where is the new born King of the Jews. We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage (Matthew 2: 1-12). 

The Incarnation and Birth of Jesus filled our Seraphic Father with awe. His ecstatic love for Jesus urged him to cry out:   O humble sublimity! O sublime humility!  These words summarize what it means to have God become one with us. The simple profoundness of the Poverello reminds us that Jesus preached what he believed, believed what he preached and lived what he believed.  Those secure of their true greatness do not fear humbling themselves or being humbled for the sake of truth.  

(Saint Francis’) highest aim, foremost desire, and greatest intention was to pay heed to the holy gospel in all things and through all things, to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and to retrace His footsteps completely … We should note then … what he did … at the town of Greccio, on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ … There was a certain man … named John who had a good reputation but an even better manner of life.  Blessed Francis (said to him) ‘If you desire to celebrate the coming feast of the Lord together at Greccio, hurry before me and carefully make ready the things I tell you.  For I wish to re-enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with ox and ass standing by, he rested on hay’ … Finally, the holy man of God comes and, finding all things prepared, he saw them and was glad … There simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted, humility is commended, and out of Greccio is made a new Bethlehem … Over the manger the solemnities of the Mass are celebrated.  (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) 

St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families set up over the Christmas Season.  St. Francis was not seeking to be innovative, or create something curious that would attract people.  He sought to make the Birth of the Savior come alive once again.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful.  Through the senses, St. Francis sought to arrive more incisively at the soul. Our “incarnational approach” of our relationship with God as Franciscans, seeks understanding of the divine through the humanity the Divine One gifted us with to know, love, and serve Him.

We must not let our hearts be overwhelmed by actions of hatred and violence that often occur, or by the tragedies that affect our lives.  Where there is life there is hope. Where there is hope there is peace, even in the midst of confusion and pain. Life is still the journey worth living and it is beautiful. Why?… because God so loved the world that he sent us his only Son so that whoever believes in Him would have life and have it in abundance. (John 3: 16) Thus, What can separate us from the love of God. In Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8: 35-37). 

The world into which the God of creation chose to enflesh Himself is still the stage of the greatest act of His Eternal Love.  Life to be and become, freedom in responsibility, and redemption to eternal life in Jesus, are still God’s loving and impartial gifts to all.  Stewards of creation, we are invested with the awesome trust of that Father. We make His presence and providence a reality in our world grown cold and indifferent to what really matters – Love!  

Just as at Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, and re-enacted twelve hundred years later at Greccio by St. Francis of Assisi, we, like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, experience the promise fulfilled and our hope rekindled. We become His earthly messengers – angels (the word means messenger) – of the eternal love that not even human tragedy can destroy.  Goodness is still alive in the hearts of God’s children.  This love is celebrated each year at Christmas when Love made Himself visible by becoming one with us.  

For the spirit of this season of love, life and light to take hold of our lives we are asked to discover once again the child within us.  This “child”, hidden through years of compromising values, cautious acceptance rather than total trust in God’s will, confusion rather than faith in eternal truths, and all-around carelessness regarding the sacredness of every moment of life, seeks to break through to live in the wonder and joy of the light of God’s love.   

Christmas is a time for us to look with the eyes of wonder at the mystery fulfilled. The Birth of the Savior invites us to enjoy the love made present in the poverty of Bethlehem.  This is a time for all Christians to bask in the light of the Son, the Incarnate Son of God, a treasure greater than any we could imagine.  

We gaze upon the Infant Jesus and recognize the God of Creation, Savior of humanity, King of kings and Lord of lords.  Tepidity, and even the coldness of life’s demands and burdens, seems to be enlightened in faith rekindled in hope by the birth of the One Whom we celebrate. Life with all its uncertainties and challenges becomes a joyful expectation in time for His return in glory.  

We celebrate the Lord hidden in Word and Sacrament.  Jesus becomes almost physically tangible for those who open the eyes of their hearts. The Lord of mystery, hidden in Word and Sacrament, is revealed in so many ways in the sisters and brothers we encounter on our daily journey.  The Child Jesus challenges us to keep Him always alive in our hearts. His presence offers a newness and joy to life. Our Seraphic Father, celebrated this wonderful re-discovery and joy. The Eucharist was the prime manner for St. Francis to discover this hidden treasure. The Eucharist is a reminder of Bethlehem – House of Bread – where God humbles Himself for us that we may be sublimated in Him. 

Centuries, and probably eons, still lay before humanity. Each day is a new experience of the eternal unfolding love prepared for us by the prophets and made visible at Bethlehem and Calvary. This magnificent mystery, gift of the Father in Jesus through the Spirit, will continue until history’s time becomes God’s eternity.   

Each day we re-present the mysteries of salvation in the Eucharist. Each year we celebrate the unfolding of that One Solitary Life that is the focal point of human history – Jesus.  Our Faith is strengthened, our hope renewed, and our hearts filled with childlike wonder and joy in Christ. Nothing and no one, even death itself, cannot destroy this gift of the Christ Child. Let us never forget: (You) are from God and have overcome them (the false christs – the antichrists), because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4: 4)  

Each year, at Advent, we begin a renewed journey with Christ as we celebrate His birth.  Life is our journey. We set out in the zest and vigor of childhood and youth. We are tested through middle age. We lose our spring as time progresses. Nevertheless, our faith – like that of Mary and Joseph who believed the mystery and so experienced the miracle of his birth – allows us to see each moment as a wonderful endowment that makes the journey itself the gift, and the destination that much more desirable.  

The life of every person who ever lived and ever will live finds meaning even through, life’s anomalies and heartbreaks because of the One Who loves us.  His birth in Bethlehem led to a total surrender of Himself for us on the crowded solitude of Calvary. The wood of the manger was the prelude to the wood of the Cross to follow years later.  The wood of the manger that enveloped Him at His birth to protect His infant body from the elements, prepared Him for the rough wood of the Cross that held Him above others to reign from a throne misunderstood but necessary.  

Because of Jesus, we begin each new day confident that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are loved by Him.(Romans 8: 28)  

The Family of St. Francis of Assisi has blessed the Church and been blessed by the Church for over eight centuries. We are enriched by God’s love and blessings, and our own faith-filled response to God’s call to follow in the footsteps of the Poverello of Assisi.  

As spiritual children of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, may we rejoice in the Peace, Joy, Love, and the Fulfillment of our heart’s desires in the Lord at this Christmas Season.  May the Child of Bethlehem help us all find the simplicity, wonder, and childlike trust of the soul present within each one of us.  Joyfully celebrate the birth of the One Who is our Light and Salvation. May we be Heralds of the Great King, born at Bethlehem, and bear His light, joy and hope to all whom we meet on our journey. 

Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas, and a New Year 2023 filled with Love, Life, Happiness, Good Humor, Health…and an ever-growing Longing for God. 

Peace and Blessings 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap. 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

Blessed and Merry Christmas 2022 


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

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

October 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant





September 2022 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


September 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

May the Lord give you His peace!

The civil authorities of the city of Bologna customarily travel to Assisi to make their traditional offering of oil for the lamp that burns before the tomb of Saint Francis. On one of these pilgrimages the cardinal of Bologna who accompanied them reminded all present of a phrase of the Seraphic Father: If the men involved in government are not just, they will go to hell. Obviously, this touched a chord in the minds and hearts of the government officials who had come to Assisi with His Eminence. After the ceremonies had concluded, the Mayor and his councilors expressed their sadness that the cardinal had made such a pointed and unnecessary political comment, and in public no less. The cardinal defended himself by saying that the words were the words of Saint Francis and that they referred to all people who were not just, both politicians as well as others. One of those among the group of politicians present replied: The words were those of Saint Francis, but the finger that pointed them out to us was the finger of Your Eminence!

It is not easy to be a prophet, to be one who fearlessly reminds others of their responsibilities before God and the consequences for knowingly neglecting them. “Speaking the truth to power” often is fruitless and sometimes even dangerous for the prophet who speaks in the name of God. The prophet points the way to God, speaks in the name of God, acts in the Name of God. Sometime, the prophet is misunderstood and may be targeted by those who dislike what they hear. Most times, the prophet is understood quite well, and is persecuted because of the message and challenge he offers others in the name of God. We are called to be prophets or, to use an expression of St. Francis, ‘Heralds of the Great King’. We must believe what we preach, preach what we believe, and live what we believe. The credibility of our lives enforces our words.

Sometimes, God directly enters the picture and causes wonderful things to happen. They may also be confusing to the recipient of the gift. Nevertheless, those “things” that take place cannot be doubted as being the “finger of God” pointing out the prophet who then points the way to God.

St. Francis of Assisi, our Seraphic Father, lived a wonderfully unique mystical experience. The mystery of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus transformed St. Francis not only internally but also externally for all to see. He not only contemplated the Crucified Jesus but was gifted with living the Image of the Crucified in a most emphatic manner for the world to see. What was imprinted on his heart at San Damiano at the beginning of his “conversion journey”, years later was imprinted on his body at La Verna. The gifts God entrusts to His privileged children are not for them alone, but for all the world to “listen” to the message conveyed by what they see.

St. Francis was born into a rather well-to-do family. The attractions of his native Umbrian society and the amenities of the self-made upper middle-class family into which he was born conditioned and captivated his early life. He took advantage of the love and material gifts his father and mother gave him to the point of being considered the ‘king of revelers’ during his teen years entering his twenties. The heart knows what the head often refuses to acknowledge. Thus, in his early twenties, Francis acknowledged and sought to fill a profound void in his life. He knew he had to rid himself of his ‘wants’ that for many so often seem or become ‘needs’. He discovered the treasure that moth cannot destroy nor rust corrode. The Living Word, the Gospel, Who is Jesus, became his life. His spirit of living the Gospel life attracted thousands in the first few years to follow his ideal. Totally free from all things, he sought his only wealth in the poverty of Christ.

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

The Stigmata he bore spoke volumes for those willing to ‘read’ them (the stigmata) in a spirit of faith. To see Francis was to see the living image of the Crucified. To see what Francis became was a reminder of the presence of God through his “new” prophets. The prophets of every age’s “today” offer people the challenge to change from tepidity to the Gospel Message to an enthusiastic fervor that could rekindle the fire of the Spirit of God’s Love in a world grown cold. To encounter Francis was to recognize God speaking through him reminding all of God’s limitless love and calling everyone to cooperate with grace and become the persons they and we were all created to be.

Who are we? We are children of the Father, redeemed in the blood of the Son, bound together in the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those willing to understand and accept the message of the wounds, and the persons signed with them, knew they were ‘called to action’. The Stigmata calls to action not apathy, to loving not loathing, to conviction not complacency, to determination not doubt, to commitment not compromise, to living not lethargy.

The Stigmata of St. Francis, were accepted and recognized by the Church from the very beginning of the mystical moment when our Seraphic Father was imprinted with them. Though he lived only a few years after he received the Stigmata, Francis was like the bronze serpent Moses raised for the Israelites to look on – lest they die – and be healed of the venom of the serpents that had bitten them. The venom of the Serpent that has bitten and poisoned so many of God’s elect down through the centuries continues its murderous mission as it seeks to infect the lives of good people who sincerely search for and desire the Lord in their lives. Tepidity, indifference, arrogance, rejection, denial, persecution and the like turn people away from the face of the One Who from the Cross calls all people to Himself. The Stigmata in St. Francis as in all those privileged with this awesome gift are visible signs for all to Gaze upon the Lord, Gaze upon His face (St. Clare in letter to St. Agnes of Prague). We gaze so that the image is emblazoned in our memory and hearts that we might be rekindled in fervor for and love of Christ Jesus.

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

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

1)      Imitate Love – Ask God for the ability to surrender totally in trust to God’s will.  Love is total surrender to the One Who surrenders Himself for us on the Cross and to us in the Eucharist. 

2)      Meditate on the Sufferings and Love of Jesus – Keep the image of the Passion-Death of Jesus alive in your heart.  We Franciscans are noted for our affective prayer.  It touches the heart and makes the reality of what we consider more vivid and impressive

3)      Love the Cross – Do not fear the image of suffering and death.  The Cross without Christ is a lie.  With Christ, the Cross becomes not a sign of death but Life, not a sign of hatred but Love. Keep the image always alive in your heart and your life, especially in the midst of the heavy burdens that might come. 

4)      Grow in Christian Perfection – The spiritual life is not static.  Once Christ and the Cross become ‘real’ and present to the heart, we must proceed forward by ‘living Jesus’ and His Gospel more intensely. 

5)      Climb Calvary – Once we grow in our Christian life, we cannot help but desire to ‘climb Calvary’ to be one with the mystery of our redemption

6)      Embrace with Cheerful Soul Everything – Having embraced the Cross and stood with Jesus, all else becomes a gift we can easily embrace with gratitude, trust, and cheerfulness. Yes, ‘cheerfulness’. To embrace one thing is not to embrace something else.  God loves a cheerful giver. When we embrace cheerfully what God’s permits, we let go of our false securities and comfort zones, and just trust. 

7)     Be Faithful – Nothing can be taken for granted.  We must be ever on the watch to remain faithful.  Never become complacent thinking that everything happens now automatically.  The Spirit’s work is kept alive by faith-filled lives that never slacken, that renew the ‘process’ everyday with greater commitment and intensity.  

8)     Place the World Under Your Feet – Like the famous image of St. Francis embracing the Crucified with the world at his feet, now we are able to use the world as the theater of redemption it is and make use of all creation as the gifts that can lead us to the fullness of life, rather than allow the world to control, condition, and ultimately condemn us.

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

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

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant






August 2022 Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFMCap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

August 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

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

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

July 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant



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

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity 

Regional Spiritual Assistant 

St. Francis of Assisi Friary 

1901 Prior Road 

Wilmington, Delaware 19809 

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

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

June 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in St. Francis,

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

may you enter the loving embrace of the Eternal Father

Whose Holy Spirit fills us with Life and Love

and gives us His peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, OFM Cap

Regional Spiritual Assistant