Father Francis' Reflections for November 2017

November 2017

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,

Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing,

To you alone, Most High, do they belong,

and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,

especially Sir Brother Sun, …  Sister Moon and the stars, …Brother Wind, …

Sister Water, … Brother Fire, … our Sister Mother Earth, …

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, …

Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,

from whom no one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,

for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.

Amen.

(Canticle of the Creatures [abbreviated] by Saint Francis of Assisi)

 

The month of November celebrates Life Everlasting of those in God’s Glory and those in God’s Mercy.

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

1

(St. Francis) did indeed come down from where the sun rises, as, ever rising from strength to strength, following the deeds of Christ as he grew in his humanity, he configured his holy way of living to the life of Christ. – We were made for heaven. The Christian life means journeying here below with our hearts turned upwards, toward our heavenly Father’s house.

2

This reached the high point of his carrying the seal of the living God; he lived to become worthy to have on his body the imprints of the wounds of the Crucified. – Pray fervently for the dead, for their family members, and for all our brothers and sisters who have died, that they may obtain the remission of the punishments due to their sins and may hear the Lord’s call.

3

Now, as to Christ’s life itself, an attentive survey of the gospels will reveal its salient features, its most striking notes: the crucifixion, the profound humility, the extreme poverty, the fervor of charity shown by desiring our salvation in undergoing the torment of the cross, as well as by the sheer graciousness of His stooping to compassionate sinners and the afflicted. – The ‘little ones’ according to the gospel are those who know they are God’s creatures and shun all presumption. They expect everything from the Lord and so are never disappointed.

4

Yet the crowning perfection of Christ’s life lay in His interior cultivation and consummation of divine charity.  In one continuous act, on His own behalf and that of all His members, He duly paid the service of worship to the divinity, to which in His own person He was united. – This is the basic attitude of the believer: Faith and humility are inseparable.

5

The fact is that the Blessed Jesus, virginal Son born of virginity, saw fit to transfuse purity into (Francis), since complete cleanness cannot live in tainted flesh without a continuous crucifixion of self. That is why the most pious Jesus…afflicted His own sacred flesh…Francis, his true son and imitator, taking this to heart, disciplined himself so rigidly… – Justice and peace are not abstract concepts or remote ideals. They are values that dwell in the heart of every individual.

6

So, he called his frail body an ‘ass’, gave it endless hard work to do, provided it with coarse coverings and a bed of straw, and fed it with small amounts of inferior fare. – Individuals, families, communities, and nations, all are called to live in justice and to work for peace. No one can claim exemption from this responsibility.

7

In order to achieve full purity of heart he completely abstained from all familiarity which might inwardly defile him and give bad example to others. – Freedom is not only the choice for one or another particular action; it is also, within that choice, a decision about oneself and a setting of one’s own life for or against the good, for or against the truth, and ultimately for or against God.

8

He had become so candid in mind, so clean in heart, that he seemed to have attained the state of innocence at that time … he had practically all creatures, even the inanimate, at his command; a level of grace, indeed, in which he surpassed natural innocence … Thus did the elements put themselves at the service of the unspoiled Francis – If we truly love with the love of God, we will also love our brothers or sisters as God loves them. This is the newness of Christianity: One cannot love God if one does not love one’s brethren.

9

He so perfectly imitated Christ that his wish was to place himself and his Order at the feet of everybody.  In order to be the least of all, he did not want to have any of the Church’s authority, except her authority for observing the holy Gospel. – The indispensable source of energy and renewal, when frailty and weakness increase, is the encounter with the living Christ, Lord of the covenant.

10

He certainly wanted to promote the salvation of souls, but only through the virtue of humility, not with pompous power. And though … he had several Supreme Pontiffs … who held him in the highest regard, sincerely convinced of his sanctity … he would never ask for or accept any privilege that might diminish his being a humble subject. – Develop an intense spiritual life and open your soul to the word of life.

11

For this reason, Francis, in his holy Testament, forbids all brothers, prelates, and subjects, to ask for any letter from the Apostolic See either to facilitate the work of preaching or to avoid persecution. The humble Francis used to say that when they meekly ask permission of bishops and priests, they were by their example edifying the very pastors of the Church – To pray is not to escape from history and the problems that it presents.  On the contrary, it is to choose to face reality not on our own, but with the strength that comes from on high, the strength of truth and love, which have their ultimate source in God.

12

Even if permission were refused, patience and humility will bring them to change their minds; meanwhile they themselves, by bearing refusal patiently, will keep intact a virtuous and flawless way of acting. – Human perfection consists not simply in acquiring an abstract knowledge of truth, but in a dynamic relationship of faithful self-giving with others.

13

To brothers who troubled him over their reluctance to be a this level of submissiveness to everyone, he replied in deeply plaintive terms: ‘My brothers, my brothers, what you want of me is to give up overcoming the world.  For Christ sent me top overcome the world by being subject to everyone, so that by love I might draw souls to Him through the example of humility’. – Let yourself be charmed by God, the Infinite, who appeared among you in visible and imitable form.

14

‘My brothers, humble yourselves before others, and you will convert them all.  Those who persecute you unjustly will turn to Christ, having seen your patience tried, and they will be anxious to kiss your footprints…’ – Fall in love with Jesus Christ, to live his very life, so that our world may have life in the light of the gospel.

15

‘But if I were to use the salvation of others as a pretext for wanting some prerogative, it would mean my forfeiting the humblest of positions which belongs to the condition I am in.  And it is through that  I advance in virtue, and the people advance in the mercy that save them’. – Love is the principle of divine life in the soul. Love is the law of our abiding in Christ.

16

He wanted to rule out for them all affectation to ecclesiastical dignity and maintain them in their lowly existence.  For this reason he called them ‘lesser’, so that they would not presume to become ‘greater’, and in no way did he wish them to aspire to the rank of prelacy. – Only genuine evangelical love will be strong enough to help communities pass from mere tolerance of others to real respect for their differences.

17

For everybody knows well enough that their ascent to rank spelled their descent from virtue…what they sought in promotion was not so much an improvement of other’s conduct as a life of relaxation for themselves. For, self-denying once, they have turned into gluttons; poor men once, they have become grasping and greedy; thought nothing of once, they have ended up proud and arrogant. – Only Christ’s redeeming grace can make us victorious in the daily challenge of turning from egoism to altruism, from fear to openness, from rejection to solidarity.

18

Oh, what a true prophet Francis was! …  The humble Francis, in order to keep himself on the lowest possible level and to confound the ambitions of the future, had no desire to be promoted to the priesthood.  As he saw it, … the guidance of souls was not to be conducted through prelacy, if it were to be beneficial, but rather to be committed to the spirit of poverty. – We need more heart.

19

To men of perfection…nothing should be a source of bother except what would drive them to sin, to which, of course, no one is forced against his will. – God’s love is love which is freely given … He loved us first.  He took the initiative.

20

Apart from Jesus, his most humble Mother, and the college of the Apostles, never should the world have in it such a profound expression of lowliness as that of this status of poor lesser ones, nor indeed such a gross deformation of it as that of those who fall away. – To heal the wounds of a recent bitter and painful past, one needs patience and wisdom, a spirit of initiative and honesty.

21

And because Francis crushed pride underfoot with his humility, he held off the proud demons with authority.  Therefore he was showing that his status was blasting away pride from the world. – The Christian vocation is walking with men and women as brothers or sisters, sharing their joys and hopes, difficulties and sufferings, offering them the road word which rekindles hope in their hearts.

22

For whoever, like Francis, keeps the humility of Jesus continually before his eyes and is delighted to resemble Him in meekness of heart, will subject himself to everyone and loathe issuing commands and prohibitions. The blessed Francis did commend humble obedience in the strongest terms, and observed it to the extent of always wanting to obey his brother companion. – Selfishness makes people deaf and dumb.

23

(Francis) put a restraining clause (in the Rule) to protect subjects, when he told ministers not to command them anything that is against their souls and our Rule, and subjects to obey in all things which they have promised the Lord to observe and are not against their souls and our Rule. – Love opens eyes and hearts, enabling people to make that original and irreplaceable contribution which … can change the tide of history.

24

The obedience of Francis cannot contain a greater purity, integrity, or depth, since it obeys in all things and refuses to obey false traditions that destroy the Rule, for to obey them is to apostatize.  Because it follows from the fact a prelate (superior) derives his authority from the Rule, that to command or obey something contrary to it is to apostatize from the Rule. – Ezekiel 21-22; Sirach 31.1-15; 1 John 3 – The future of evangelization depends in great part on the church of the home.

25

But, do we want to go further with Francis’s idea of obedience?  He himself, after all, was in everything the least of all the lesser ones. Well might we compare him to the tiniest of infants … or to the smallest of all seeds … or to the least of all the saints … or to Benjamin, the smallest of his brothers, who in many ways was a type of Francis… – Every authentically religious person is obliged to ask God for the gift of peace, with renewed determination to promote and build peace together with other believers.

26

O Francis, true Benjamin! The first-born Joseph had you seated at the table of evangelical life with your other holy brothers.  There your portion exceeds the others by the five portions of the sacred wounds … – It is not easy to proclaim the gospel in a world that claims not to need God.  Yet we are bound by the compelling words of St. Paul: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel’

27

He leads the whole Church of the people of Israel to the evangelical life and the full news of Christ … Humble and despised, the cup of your brothers’ evangelical wisdom and observance of the Rule and your most holy witness is contained, hidden, in the sack of observance of poverty. – The desire for unity is born and grows from the renewal of the mind, the love of truth, self-denial, and the free outpouring of love.

28

How Francis proved himself the friend of the bridegroom, by striving to conform himself to Jesus through the fervor of his charity and desire for the salvation of those to whom he was brother, is evinced by the fact that from the beginning of his conversion to the end he blazed continually like a fire with an ardent love for Jesus. – If you want peace, reach out to the poor!

29

Fanned by the breath of the Holy Spirit, he kept the furnace of his heart ever ignited, so that once he heard the love of God mentioned he was excited, moved, and animated as the beloved spouse … – God loves everyone, … wills the good of everyone, … and offers to everyone the gift of peace!

30

All things created were a means by which he fired this love of his.  Through looking on things of beauty he would contemplate the Beautiful; in frail creatures he would recognize the infirmities which Jesus in His goodness bore for our salvation.  He made a ladder of everything by which he could reach the One he loved. – Every day dedicate some time to conversing with God.  This is a sincere proof of your love for him, for love always seeks to be near the beloved.

 

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