A JPIC Moment

At the recent National JPIC conference, Regional Executive Council member Ted Bienkowski, OFS met a fellow Secular Franciscan, Frank Scotto, OFS of the TAU Cross Region (NYC). Frank serves as the Regional Vice Minister, and Regional JPIC Animator, and is Fraternity Minister of the St. Helen local fraternity. Even with all this going on, Frank finds time to occasionally produce a JPIC-related newsletter called A JPIC Moment and he has been kind enough to let us share it with you. Here is the first issue entitled “Life in the Pressure Cooker.” We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

 

JPIC Statement from recent conference

Aug. 3, 2017

ST LOUIS, MO — The U.S. Secular Franciscan Order’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission (JPIC) is urging the world community “to use prayer, caution, wisdom, earnest discernment and patience” before responding to recent developments on the Korean peninsula. It called nuclear threat or use a “crime against humanity.”

Here is the full statement issued after its JPIC Animate Peace Gathering held July 27-30 in St. Louis, MO.

“We, the National Commission of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) of the U.S. Secular Franciscan Order met July 27-30, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri for a National Animate Peace Gathering. Twenty JPIC Animators from around the nation gathered for a weekend of sharing, learning and fellowship. During the gathering, North Korea launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which has heightened tensions in the world.

“In the Gospel Spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, we urge the world community to use prayer, caution, wisdom, earnest discernment and patience before responding to these recent developments on the Korean peninsula. Any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity and all creation. Our efforts towards mutual respect and understanding should be long-term.”

The Secular Franciscan Order (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis) is a world-wide order of single, married and clerical Catholics who strive to live the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis. There are more than 12,000 professed members in the U.S.

Formation materials from the 2017 Annual Regional Meeting

As promised, here are the materials from the four presentation given at our regional gathering in March:

Letters of St. Francis to the Persons He Loved (Justin Carisio, OFS)

The Bardi Dossal (Lee Potts, OFS)

The Wolf of Gubbio: Francis Teaches Conflict Resolution (Frank Urso, OFS)

Prayer Before the Cross: Meditation on the San Damiano Cross (Kathy Agosto)

SKD Region Weekend in Easton - March 24 - 26

Hello everyone –  just a quick reminder about our weekend in Easton which takes place March 24 – 26. As always, all are welcome! Come spend some time with the Lord; catch up with your brothers and sisters from around the Region and enjoy the presentations on “Getting St. Francis Out of The Birdbath”.

Please fill out the registration form (available here — Word file, PDF) and send it in by February 28. Please share the details with those in your fraternity who are not on the internet. We all hope to see you in there!

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From the Heart of Our Minister January 2017

holy-family-sleeping

A very happy, healthy and blessed New Year! May God’s choicest blessings be ours in 2017.

I recently saw the above picture on the internet and loved the rendition of Joseph, Mary and their newborn son and God. Their love is holding them together. Joseph is protecting Jesus and Mary, even in sleep.

This morning at Mass, the Recessional Hymn was God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. A few minutes before Mass started, Sister Linda, our Music Director, gave some background on this Christmas Carol.  She wondered why there is a comma after the word Merry. So she traveled through Google until she found an answer.  This Carol has been used in church back to the 15th century.  The original Old English title meant something different than what we think of today. The word ‘rest’  meant surround or hold close.  ‘Merry’ came across as joyful / peaceful. God, surround us with joy and peace;  how Franciscan does that sound?? And how needed in today’s world! A phrase from Rule 19 reads:  they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.  We can’t give it to others if we don’t have it to offer.

Lord, may we surround ourselves in Your mantle of joy and peace in the coming year. Help us to nurture it and when we feel low, help us to come back to You for a refill – an abundant refill with enough to give a share to every child of Your’s that we encounter. Keep us near, Lord; it’s where we want to be!

Blessings,

kate

Father Francis’ Reflections January 2017

1
Blessed Francis held that to beg for alms for the love of the lord God was of the greatest nobility, dignity, and courtesy before God and before this world … blessed Francis would say that a servant of God must beg alms for the love of God with greater freedom and joy … –  In order to love Jesus, we must offer to others the gift of ourselves.
2
I must be a model to your poor.  Especially because I know that in the life and religion of the brothers there are and will be Lesser Brothers, in name and in deed, humble in all things, obedient and of service to their brothers. –  It is only in the giving of ourselves through charity, service and compassion that we can experience true joy.
3
At…Rivo Torto, there was a brother…who prayed little, did not work, and did not want to go for alms…blessed Francis…told him:  Go on your way, Brother Fly, because you want to feed on the labor of your brothers, but wish to be idle in the work of God…he went away…and did not ask for mercy. –  Suffering is transformed and elevated when, in those moents, we become aware of God’s closeness and solidarity.
4
When blessed Francis lay gravely ill…he often asked his companions during the day to sing the Praises of the Lord which he had composed a long time before his illness. –  There is something of the apostle Thomas in every human being.  Each one is tempted by unbelief.
5
(Blessed Francis said to Brother Elias) Allow me to rejoice in the Lord, Brother, and to sing His praises in my infirmities, because, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I am closely united and joined with my Lord, through His mercy, I can well rejoice in the Most High Himself. –  We have to open our eyes and our heart to the light of the Holy Spirit.
6
Blessed Francis did not want to address anyone called ‘Good’ by their name, out of reverence for the Lord, who said: No one is good but God alone.  –  May every family truly rediscover its own vocation to love!
7
(Blessed Francis) did not want to call anyone ‘father’ or ‘master’, nor write them in letters, out of reverence for the Lord who said:  Call no one on earth your father nor be called masters, etc. –  Do not separate your faith from your daily life and your daily life from your faith, as so many people do today.
8
(Blessed Francis said to the doctor): Tell me the truth. How does it look to you?  Do not be afraid,  for, by the grace of God, I am not a coward who fears death… –  The life and the whole being of each Christian must be unified around a central axis: fidelity to Jesus Christ.
9
With the Lord’s help, by His mercy and grace, I am so united and joined with my Lord that I am equally as happy to die as I am to live –  In every circumstance, the starting point is to intensify prayer (in order) to increase one’s faith and make it more vigorous.
10
At the beginning of the religion, when blessed Francis would go with a brother who was one of the first twelve brothers, that brother would greet men and women along the way as well as those in their field, saying: May the Lord give you peace. –  God alone is our true and unfailing support.
11
Blessed Francis instructed all the brothers … that they should not abandon holy and devout prayer. Going for alms, and working with hands like the other brothers, for good example and for the benefit of their souls as well as others –  Love and prayer are the only sure spiritual levers with which it is possible to lift up the world.
12
(Blessed Francis said): The brothers who are subjects are very edified when their ministers and preachers devote themselves freely to prayer; and the subjects are inclined to humility, when they see the prelates and the greater ones co-operating in their enterprises and labors. –  We are all called to live a life of holiness.
13
That faithful disciple and imitator of Christ (Blessed Francis), while he was in good health, practiced what he taught the brothers. –  In baptism God has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence’.
14
From the time of his conversion till the day of his death, blessed Francis, whether healthy or sick, was always concerned to know and follow the will of the Lord. – The Holy Spirit makes man realize his own evil and at the same time directs him toward what is good.
15
Blessed Francis praised God with great fervor of spirit and joy of body and soul, and told (the brother who informed him of his terminal condition): If I am to die soon, call Brother Angelo and Brother Leo that they may sing to me about Sister death. – Thanks to the multiplicity of the Spirit’s gifts, every kind of human sin can be reached by God’s saving power.
16
From the beginning of his conversion blessed Francis, with God’s help, like a wise man, established himself and his house, that is, the religion, on a firm rock, the greatest humility and poverty of the Son of God, calling it the religion of ‘Lesser Brothers’ –  Love nothing more than Christ who reveals to the world the mystery of divine love and true human dignity.
17
After the brothers grew in number, he wanted the brothers to stay in hospitals of lepers to serve them…whenever nobles and commoners came to the religion, they were told, among other things, that they had to serve the lepers and stay in their houses. – True relationships are rich in inner depth, gratuitousness, and self-sacrifice.
18
Let the brothers remain as strangers and pilgrims in the houses in which they stay.  Let them not seek to have anything under heaven, except holy poverty, by which, in this world, they are nourished by God with bodily food and virtue, and, in the next, will attain a heavenly inheritance. – Love Christ present in those burdened by illness.
19
The bishop (of Terni) said: …God has beautified his Church with this little poor man, lowly, unlettered…And because of this you should live and honor the Lord and avoid sin for He has done thus for every nation. – Call with faith on the name of Jesus (and experience the power that flows from that Name).
20
Blessed Francis bowed down before the Lord Bishop and fell down at his feet, saying to him … (People) attribute glory and holiness to the creature, not to the Creator.  You, however, like a discerning man, have separated what is precious from what is vile. – Provided that we approach the word of God and listen to it as it really is, it brings us into contact with God himself.
21
If at any moment the Lord wanted to take back the treasure He has loaned to me, what would I have left except just body and soul, which even non-believers have? – The word of God brings us into contact with Christ, the Word of God, the Truth, who is at the same time both the Way and the Life.
22
I must believe, rather, that if the Lord had granted a thief and even a non-believer as many gifts as He has given me, they would be more faithful to the Lord than I. – The Holy Spirit is the author of our sanctification.
23
… a servant of God … must not attribute anything to himself, but give all honor and glory to God.  He should not attribute anything to himself while he is alive except shame and trouble, because, while he is alive, the flesh is always opposed to God’s gifts. – The Holy Spirit transforms us deep down, divinizes us, makes us participants in divine nature, just as fire makes metal incandescent, just as spring water quenches thirst.
24
A few years after his conversion he resigned the office of prelate (superior) before all the brothers during a chapter held at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula.  From now on, he said, I am dead to you.  But here is Brother Peter di Catanio: let us all, you and I, obey him. –  Christians need reconciliation with one another; we need mutual forgiveness.
25
I want you to put one of my companions in your place regarding me, so that I may obey him as I would obey you.  For the sake of good example and the virtue of obedience, in life and in death I always want you to be with me. –  – (We should not be afraid) of openly and courageously expressing our faith in Christ in our daily lives, especially in works of charity and solidarity with those who are in need.
26
Among other favors, the Most High has given me this grace: I would obey a novice who entered our religion today, if he were appointed my guardian, just as readily as I would obey him who is the first and the eldest in the life and religion of the brothers. –  Be men and women of integrity and sound moral character worthy of the respect and trust we seek from others.
27
A subject should not consider his prelate, a human being, but God, for love of Whom he is subject to him… But the Most High gave me this grace: that I want to be content with all, as one who is lesser in the religion. – We must enrich the world not only by the gifts God has entrusted to us, but also by our goodness.
28
Frequently, when some of he brothers did not provide for his needs, or said something to him that would ordinarily offend a person, he would immediately go to prayer.  On returning, he did not want to remember it … – The first step in evangelization is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God.
29
The closer he approached death, the more careful in complete perfection he became in considering how he might live and die in complete humility and poverty. – Our relationship with God demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of who we are.
30
A few years after he began to have brothers, (Clare) was converted to the Lord through his advice…Her conversion not only greatly edified the religion of the brothers, but also the entire Church of God. – O Lord of life, when the moment of our definitive ‘passage’ comes,  grant that we may face it with serenity, without regret for what we shall leave behind.
31
Saturday evening before nightfall, after vespers, when blessed Francis passed to the Lord, many birds called larks flew low above then roof of the house where blessed Francis lay, wheeling in a circle and singing.  We, who were with blessed Francis, have written about this … – Jesus asks us to follow him and to imitate him along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren out of love for God.

Father Francis’ Greetings January, 2017

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
tel: (302) 798-1454      fax: (302) 798-3360      website: skdsfo      email: pppgusa@gmail.com
January,  2017
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
May the Lord grant you peace!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … He came to what was his own, but his own did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave the power to become children of God … And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son full of grace and truth. (John 1: 1-14)
The society in which we live is filled with words.  Everyone seems to have something to say.  Those who speak these ‘words’ often remind us that we are ‘entitled to their opinions’.  In fact, we are more often than not expected to take their words to heart and do whatever is proposed.  Commercials expect us to buy the product advertised.  Millions of dollars are spent to ‘push’ some medical ‘breakthrough’ or pharmaceutical remedy as a miracle drug for what ails you; even when the counter warnings that must legally be presented are quite disconcerting not to say frightening; still these products are bought to the billions of dollars, regardless of the possible dangerous, harmful or even fatal effects. Newspapers and news broadcasts saturate us with information, often about less important, insignificant matters or even opinionated editorials, when we would rather want to be made aware of more significant events and objective comments of pressing  local, national and worldwide interest that in fact do or most possibly will affect our lives.  Friends may offer suggestions or ideas, solicited or not, and will be easily offended if we opt to follow another opinion or, maybe even our own.  Sermons and homilies are delivered in a manner that captivates the listeners’ attention and opens their hearts to remember what was presented to them, but the words many times are knowledgeably and beautifully delivered but do not challenge the listener; no one wants to ‘make waves’, so something good, correct and ‘nice’ is spoken, but often a word that will not set the soul afire with enthusiasm to be a ‘living gospel message’.
There is nothing essentially wrong or sinful with speaking with one another, having an opinion that one believes firmly, marketing products, researching and ‘experimenting’ medicines intended to help better our human condition, informing people of current events, suggesting solutions to problems and difficulties, following one’s own informed and formed conscience, speaking with people of faith in an encouraging and uplifting manner … or even writing monthly circular letters intended to inform, instruct and, God willing, inspire others to accept the challenge each day to improve our relationship with God and others.  All these, and many other examples you are undoubtedly able to list, are intended for good.  How we cooperate with what we hear or read will determine the good or not so good, or even the bad effect our response will have on our lives.  The Word is necessary to communicate, and it seeks a response; even silence can be a very powerful response.
Scripture class in Seminary was always an interesting event.  One of the basic facts conveyed to us was that We are People of the Word. We may not have heard this specific title given us Catholics and Franciscans, but it truly expresses who we are. The faith we share was first spoken to both the simple as well as educated people.  They listened to a message, reflected upon it, and ultimately committed themselves to accept it.  Once the words spoken were accepted, the next step was to concretize them in everyday life. As time passes, if we are not careful to safeguard the authenticity of what we hear and read, we fall into the danger of losing the integrity of the message.  We no longer are who we say we are, nor live what makes us stand out as a People of God, founded on His Words, followers of the Word Who became one with us that we might one day share Life with Him.
There was an amusing game I remember seeing on TV a good number of years ago; TV programs were few and still in black and white. A group of ten or more people stood shoulder to shoulder.  The first person in the line was told a joke to be whispered in the ear of the person next to them so that no one else present could hear what was being said.  Then that person was to whisper the same joke, exactly as told them, into the ear of the person next to him/her.  Well, by the time the last person heard what was being ‘whispered down’, the joke was totally different than the original.  This is what happens when we are not attentive to what we hear and read.  We are called to be faithful in proclaiming and spreading God’s Word and His words.  We must not use or manipulate the Word to foster and/or promote our own personal issues and agendas. It was amusing to hear the final ‘joke’, now totally different, that emerged from the line of people who had ‘faithfully repeated’ what they had heard. When a distortion of this magnitude happens to the truth in real life, when misunderstandings and exaggerations are passed on as truth, and this ‘truth’ directs lives, the consequences can be quite serious.
Often, even innocently, individuals hear what they are ‘tuned’ to hear. This happens in religious organizations, political gatherings, social groupings, churches, and even in The Church.  In the Church it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit that gives the grace of infallibility in matters of faith and morals to the Holy Father, Successor to St. Peter and Vicar of Christ for the sake of Christ’s Body, the Church. Our Seraphic Father placed such trust and confidence in the presence of the Holy Spirit and His holy operation that St. Francis told the brothers that the Holy Spirit was the true Minister General of the Order (cfr. 2 Celano, chpt. CXLV).  Notwithstanding, the words proclaimed in their original form, when ‘translated’ to meet the ‘needs of the times, persons, places, or things,  can easily undergo an alteration that affects their integrity.  There are many safeguards in the Church to avoid error and ‘misunderstandings’. What happens when we read but do not perceive? What happens when we hear but do not listen? What happens when we proclaim and promote but do not live?  What happens when we, like sounding gongs and clashing cymbals, repeat correctly all the proper words that indicate what we have been taught, but then live as though we have heard nothing, nor have allowed our lives to be transformed by the power of the Word, Whose words are spirit and life?
St. Francis was an advocate of respect for the Word.  Let the names and written words of the Lord, whenever they are found in inconvenient places, be also gathered up and kept in a becoming place (Letter to the Custodians, 1220). This respect for Sacred Scripture of St. Francis was rooted in his awareness that all he had become, and all he had offered thousands of others to become in response to God’s call, had its beginning in the words he read, heard and had explained to him by one who represented for him the official teaching of the Church (the Magisterium) … and he accepted without gloss, and gave himself wholeheartedly to a life that would change the world as it changed millions of people down through the centuries.  Our Seraphic Father listened to the words of Sacred Scripture so intently that he remembered them,  pondered them, and assimilated them into his life.  They were the true Form of Life he accepted to follow.  To follow Jesus is to follow the Gospel; and to follow the Gospel is to be a living image of Jesus. Living the Word without gloss, as St. Francis expected  his spiritual children to do, allows the Word to come alive in, with, and through us who believe It and believe in It.
The Rule, Constitutions, Regulations and even simple organizational suggestions offered by the legitimate leadership of any jurisdiction of our Franciscan Fraternity are all based on the life and teachings of the one Great Word Who is Jesus, and His words in Scripture, and how our Seraphic Father accepted them in his life. Franciscans, true to their Seraphic Father, have always considered Sacred Scripture their first and basic rule of life and guide. In a letter to the whole Order, Our Seraphic Father wrote: Because whoever belongs to God hears the words of God, we who are more especially charged with divine responsibilities must not only listen to and do what the Lord says but also care for the vessels and other liturgical objects that contain His holy words in order to impress on ourselves the sublimity of our Creator and our subjection to Him.  I, therefore, admonish my brothers and encourage them in Christ to venerate, as best they can, the divine written words wherever they find them … For many things are made holy by the words of God and the sacrament of the altar is celebrated in the power of the words of Christ (Letter to the Entire Order).
As spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi we have accepted the call to live the Gospel, according to our state in life, following Jesus Christ after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.  As People of the Word, if we have not already done so, we must let the Word of God written for us to read and meditate, and the Word of God, Jesus the Christ, enfleshed in human nature in all things but sin for us to follow, be the guiding force of our lives.  The Rule and Constitutions studied and approved by Holy Mother Church are Spirit and Life for us all. To disregard them for convenience or human respect, is to betray our Franciscan vocation.  The pondered and promoted decisions of the leadership of our regional and even the single fraternities in union with our national and international councils are expected to be reflected upon and then followed with fraternal trust in those elected to leadership.  Often our ‘human nature gets in the way’, and can keep the person and even the fraternity from moving forward.
What makes us Franciscans is our ability to be sisters and brothers not intimidated nor intimidating, ready and trusting enough to be able to express our feelings – happy, sad, annoyed, contrary, and so forth. However, a true Franciscan is also expected to live the essence of Franciscan Poverty, manifested in true Obedience.  Self-centered negative criticism of others, refusal to accept in humility what is asked of us in the spirit of Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, the Rule and Constitutions, devious behavior, antagonistic ‘feelings’ towards another, and much more are not only contrary to our Franciscan charism but also contrary to our Catholic Christian calling.
By ‘Catholic’, I do not refer to the Catholic ‘card holder, baptized in the Roman Catholic Church’.  By ‘ Catholic’ I refer to the person baptized into the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity who seeks to be faithful to Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and willingly strives to be an affirming presence in the world, wherever and however God has asked that person to be.
We have begun the New Year.  What lies ahead of us is in the hands of God.  May we take on the commitment because of our faith-filled conviction and Franciscan profession to read Scripture more often and intently. To do so daily is not an exaggerated expectation for People of the Word, who we Franciscans are. Just as His own did not receive Him, as St. John tells us, there are those who do not accept the challenge of their profession to live the Franciscan-Gospel life with joy and surrender to the Word of God and heart of St. Francis of Assisi.  The Word was made flesh and must be enfleshed in each one of us.  As He came and dwelled among us, so that others might be able to see Him through us. So that to those who come to believe in Him through the example of our Franciscan Gospel Life, may receive from Christ the power to become the children of God.  These children of God will see His glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth, alive in their hearts and transforming the lives of others.
May that Word, who entered time with us that we might enter eternity with Him, be our guiding force each day. And may the Eucharist, great gift of the Word through the Spirit, allow the Mystery of the Incarnation we celebrate and receive to fill us with the graces of the Holy Spirit and always give us peace in the Father’s love, mercy and providence.
My prayers are with all of you and your loved ones for a most blessed and peace-filled New Year 2017.  May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ (St. Jerome),  No Christ, No Peace!  KNOW CHRIST, KNOW PEACE!  May we make this a Year of the Word for us to get to Know Christ that we may Know His Peace in our hearts, homes, and the world around us. May the Peace, Joy, Blessings … and Love of this Season fill your hearts and those of your loved ones.  Happy New Year to all!
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director January 2017

francis-and-blesssed-mother

Brothers and Sisters Joy and Peace to you!

We remember the words which Elizabeth spoke to the Virgin Mary “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of you womb, and why has this happened to me”…Luke 1:42-43

As Franciscans being guided by our Rule, we realize that Mary was a humble servant of the Lord. Francis embracing the Virgin Mary with great love declared her protectress and advocate of his family. We should express our love for her by imitating her complete self-giving by praying confidently.

Our Blessed Virgin Mary was open to every word and call of the Lord. May we especially implore her intercession that the Lord may grant peace in hearts, peace in families, peace among nations and in particular peace in our Franciscan family.

This January our Holy Father’s prayer intention is for Christian Unity, being faithful to the Lord’s teaching by striving with prayer and fraternal charity to restore ecclesial communion and by collaborating to meet the challenges facing humanity.

Let me close with an inspired Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis – Poor Clares of Chesterfield

Prayer for Creation

Lord, make me a steward of creation. Where there is violence, let me bring peace; Where there are scars, let me bring beauty. Where there is destruction, let me plant Seeds; Where there is waste let me reuse; Where there is domination, let me nurture; Where there is want, let me give away; Where there is pollution, let me be a healer; Where there is exploitation, let me be reverent;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to control as to let go and let God; To be powerful as to protect; To be rich as to be poor in spirit; To be indifferent as to love deeply. For it is in giving away that we receive, it is pardoning that we are pardoned.

And it is in dying to self that we are reborn to eternal life.

Did you know?

That in the Old Testament Hannah, Anna, Deborah and few others all prayed a similar Magnificat as Our Blessed Mother?

 

The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge

A very useful document has been added to our digital library — The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge. It is available as both a Word Document and a PDF. Some Fraternities make reading this pledge part of their monthly gathering. My own fraternity includes it as part of our monthly benediction service. We think you will find it to be a beautiful summary our responsibilities as Secular Franciscans:

The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge

We realize the importance of giving glory to God, of striving for holiness and of working for the spiritual and temporal welfare of others.  We see the great value of the Secular Franciscan Way of Life to achieve these all important goals in life.  Therefore, we resolve to observe the teaching and footsteps of Jesus Christ according to the spirit and rule of St. Francis.

With God’s grace, we will participate as fully and as often as possible in the Mass, the Sacraments (especially Reconciliation), and the official prayer of the Church.  We will spend a portion of time each day in personal prayer.  And we will be involved in the monthly meeting as an act of worship and a building of community.

We will contribute according to our means and time and talent and possessions for the charities of our Franciscan Family. And we will uphold the dignity of every person and the worth of all creation.

We will always be loyal to the Commandments of God and to the Church.  We will continually try to turn closer to the Lord.  And we will use what we have in a spirit of justice, moderation, and generosity.

We will be proud to display the emblem of our membership in the Secular Franciscan Order.  By our actions and our speech, we will set a good example and will strive to be peacemakers in our society, especially within our families and toward those who are poor, sick or disadvantaged.

This we resolve through the help of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

From the Desk of Fr. Francis

claresimpleAugust 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis and St. Clare,

The Lord give you his peace!

As Franciscans we are called by God to love. This love is a total surrender to God, manifested in how we serve God in one another, even those who are not one of us (cfr. Mark 9: 38). Our availability to respond “yes” whenever we are called by God’s will depends on how much, little, or not we are attached, subject, and ultimately controlled by persons, places, things in our life. They become the “center” and the “focus” of what we do and at times who we believe we are. Our “Center” must always be God, the Lord, Jesus!

The Franciscan Rule exhorts us to live the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus. Jesus reminds us I have come that they may have life more abundantly. (John 10: 10) Thus, to have this life we must “Live Jesus”. This cannot be accomplished if we have other “masters” who attract, seduce, direct, control us … and diminish or even destroy our ability to know, love, and serve the Lord. St. Francis’ radical detachment from things, made him a living example of the joy and freedom of one who is no longer “slave” to his/her wants and even to legitimate needs that he/she has allowed themselves to control their lives.

No one wants to be controlled. Not even God wants to “control” us. God seeks to condition us with His loving grace so that we freely accept God’s Will. When our freedom is used for license, and we fail to be responsible and accountable, then we have created another “center” that misleads away from God. This is exactly what we do when we create “idols” in our lives. We become slaves to those persons, places, things, attitudes, and the like that keep us from being “free”. The freedom of the children of God can be lived only when we break loose from those areas of our lives that hold us down from soaring to the heights in the Spirit and God’s grace.

Everyone wants a fulfilling and good life, but too many people fail to find it because they’re looking for it in the wrong places. They look around at the world or below in themselves alone, and fail to look up at the only One Who should be our Master and Treasure. Society often promises that we can find a rewarding life by pursuing goals that seem good, such as earning more money, gaining more friends, becoming more physically attractive, and the like. Those are just empty promises that cannot really fulfill anyone, since they all succumb to the effects of the passing of time. What is based on material goods is destined to fall apart and be no more. It may take more time to realize this than we would expect. Even our Seraphic Father, who lived only forty plus years, realized this and made his life decision at the mid-point of his life. However, once he knew God’s Will, nothing was going to stop his response to “let go and let God”.

When we enter and strengthen our relationship with Jesus everyday, we can expect our lives to be fulfilled and become what God has designed for us from the beginning, and wills that we crave. Placing hope in anything less – even if it’s something good that God has created – turns into an “idolatry” that interferes with our relationship with Jesus and actually leads us away from the life that God wants us to enjoy.

Remember the words of St. John: My children, beware of idols. (1 John 5:21) The “idols” of life are the stumbling blocks to a truly good and grace-filled journey through time. There are various types of idols that are all extensions in one way or another of the main idol – the “I – doll”. This “I-doll” eventually begins to believe and create its own illusion of grandeur. The idols that control us – achievement, approval, power, money, even practices of religion, and so on – when used wrongly, can destroy the freedom, fulfillment, and joy of living as a child of God. We live an illusion that only God can release us from. What might we do to avoid this “idolatry” ? The following are reflections on how we might possibly see, acknowledge, and ultimately eliminate these “idols”, and begin to live a Christ-centered and joy-filled life…

Even when you love God, idolatry can creep into your life. Idolatry happens whenever you look to something that is not centered in/on God. Only God has the power to give you what you truly need. Reflect on your life, and honestly consider whether or not you’re hoping to derive fulfillment from things like material possessions, a successful career, an exciting relationship, or close relationships with family and friends. None of those things – or any other good things except for a relationship with God through Jesus – can deliver true and lasting fulfillment. At times, everyone struggles with idolatry in some way or other, when we have substituted things and/or persons for Jesus in your life. A revealing insight for each one of us would be to consider whom/what we spend the most time thinking about, and whom/what we invest the most of ourselves in pursuing. Anyone/thing that we devote ourselves to more than to Jesus can dangerously be an “idol” in our life.

You may struggle with the idol of achievement if you want to achieve regardless of what it does to the people around you, depend on your success getting people to like you, confuse who you are with what you accomplish, feel the need to constantly climb higher on the ladder of success, or compare yourself with others and struggle when they succeed and you don’t. Realize that you are much more than your list of accomplishments. You have great intrinsic value simply because God made you in His image and loves you no matter what. Choose to base your identity not on what you have accomplished, but on what Jesus has accomplished in/with/for you, thus connecting you to God for eternity, to the degree that you cooperate with grace in your daily life.

You may struggle with the idol of approval if you expect someone else to: complete you, take your pain away, understand you completely, heal you, make you feel good about yourself, or always be with you. No human being can truly completely do any of those things for you … but God alone. So stop relying on the approval of others to fulfill you (it will lead you to mediocrity, exhaustion, disappointment, and rejection instead). Decide to look to God alone for approval. God’s opinion of you is the only one that truly matters. Embrace the complete and unconditional love that God offers you. Remember the words of our Seraphic St. Francis: You are what You are before God. That and nothing more. Have an attitude of gratitude for what God sees good in you, and live up to it.

You may struggle with the idol of power if you have a hard time taking correction from your spouse, a friend, a teacher, a boss, anyone, because you want to be in charge. Realize that the control you think you may have in life is actually an illusion. God is in ultimate control of every situation. Since God will take care of everything you need when you trust Him, give up trying to be in charge and surrender to God’s plans for every situation that concerns you. Surrender yourself to God! Say “Yes!” When you do, God’s unlimited power will overflow into your life and transform it for the better.

You may struggle with the idol of money if you look to money to give you security, peace, or happiness; or if you’re often anxious about getting more money or holding onto the money you already have rather than being content and generous as God wants you to be. Jesus said: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24) Attempting to serve both will divide your mind and lead to confusion, anxiety, discouragement, and the like … or even to total indifference to both. While we need this means of exchange in our daily lives, we cannot allow it to control us. Be devoted to God with a single-minded focus. Whatever you may have and gain in life use gratefully as tools to accomplish God’s purposes for your life.

What about the idol of religion? This is rather interesting, but does not mean what it initially seems to indicate. Religion is an essential part of our faith lives. It is the external expression of how we live what we profess with our hearts and minds and souls … the witness of our Faith. It is an essential in life that becomes also an “evangelizing” means of leading people to Christ. Nonetheless, you may struggle with this strange but often real idolatry if you try to earn God’s love by quantity or quality of actions, rather than by intensity of love and trust in God Who knows the heart. God’s love for you is unlimited and unconditional, and the completed sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has made it possible for you to connect with God, so you do not have to “use religion” to try to gain or keep God’s love, but “be religious” so that your life actions are in harmony with the beliefs of your heart and the God Who is its Center. Embrace the love that God freely offers you. Make your top priority spending time with God often, just to communicate in love and build a closer relationship with Him. Let the Drama of Calvary in the Mass and the Eucharist be your “hub” and Our Blessed Mother Mary your “Advocate-Intercessor-Refuge…Mother, Who leads you closer to Her Son and thus to the Father and the Spirit. Remember that what you do with God is more important than what you think you do for Him. Let your religious practices be a sincere manifestation of the inner conviction you have. Let the Mass manifest your belief in the saving grace of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus and your reception and adoration of the Eucharist manifest your belief in the Real Presence of Jesus, and so on.

You may struggle with the idol of appearance if you rely on being physically attractive to help you get what you want or if you think that how you look is who you are. Realize that even if people consider you to be physically beautiful or handsome now, your appearance will change when you are “chronologically enhanced”. If people do not think you attractive, God does. God made you to be distinctively the way you are, and made you His own. You can be truly beautiful – no matter what you look like externally – when you are a person of integrity of faith and life who lives in God’s grace and strives to fulfill His Will. Father let this chalice pass from me, but not my will but yours be done. (Luke 22: 41)

You may struggle with the idol of “my” dream if you’re constantly frustrated with God because He has not made your dreams come true, or your goals achieved. Pray for the wisdom to discern which of your dreams align with the purposes of God for your life, and which do not. Then let go of whatever dreams do not help you accomplish God’s purposes for you. Trust God to help you see what is right and true, and wait for them to be accomplished in His way and in His time. Do not just sit around and wait. Give God your best, and God will do the rest!

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi realized the danger material goods and money were. In themselves they were not evil: goods serve the needs of human beings, and money is a means of exchange and commerce. St. Francis saw how an inordinate desire for these things could so easily control the life of a person. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21) He sought to detach himself from them, and with him all who sought to follow his way of life. His example of radical poverty reminds us of the “idols” we easily create in life. Most times we do so without ever realizing how attached we are allowing ourselves to become.

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. Their focus and strength was God. 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. The “idols” are destroyed. We are set free to be and become! Peace, joy, and serenity become a reality. And, they become ‘contagious’ for those whom we encounter.

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

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

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant