Is God calling you to walk in the footsteps
of Saint Francis of Assisi?

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The Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) is a branch of the world-wide Franciscan Family. We are single and married. Some of us are diocesan clergy. We work, worship and play in the community where we live.

The SFO was established by St. Francis of Assisi more than 800 years ago. Our purpose is to bring the gospel to life where we live and where we work. We look for practical ways to embrace the gospel in our lives and try to help others to do likewise.

A local group of Secular Franciscans is probably meeting near you. Please use this map to locate your closest fraternity or feel free to contact one of the members of our Regional Executive Council who will be happy to put you in touch with a Fraternity near you.

About our region

All local Secular Franciscan fraternities in the United States are organized into one of 30 regions. The Saint Katharine Drexel Region includes parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. There are currently 27 local fraternities in the region. We are under the patronage of St. Katharine Drexel, who was a Secular Franciscan and whose feast we celebrate on March 3rd.

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Choose to be Grateful - From the heart of your Minister - October 2019

I was in the middle of a “man-about-the-house” job and loving every minute…..NOT….when I realized I needed longer zip lines.  The closest place is Walmart and it was dinner time – either the best or worst time to go to Walmart.  Was everyone home eating dinner or did they all decide to postpone dinner and get to Walmart right away.

It was the worst time to go. Figures.  I found what I needed and decided rather than make a U-turn in that aisle to go to the checkout counter, I would go down the next aisle which had Fall and Halloween decorations.  There was a flat wooden pumpkin with the words Choose to be Grateful painted on it.  Yes, that is it, pictured above because I did buy it along with the longer zip lines.  I was intrigued by the pumpkin because what has Autumn or Halloween have to do with being grateful and the bigger question….when did Walmart start selling inspirational items???

Choose to be Grateful?  You mean it’s an option??? YES!  Just like we choose to be upset and choose to be angry or hurt or wounded.

Yesterday, I drove my sister to an appointment.  She is going through something right now and was in no state to follow these complicated directions to get to the office she needed.  I was happy to help.  We arrived in enough time that we sat in the car and talked for a bit.  She went in for her appointment and I walked around the back of the building to deadhead the marigolds that were planted there.

A woman came out the door and said “Oh!  You are stealing the plants!”  Like a guilty kid with her hand in the cookie jar, I immediately held out my hand to show what I had and assured her I was only picking the dead ones.  She laughed and said she was only kidding but I still felt the need to explain.  “See, (holding up my Tau Cross) I’m a Franciscan and we are doing a project with these seeds.  I’m only picking the dead ones because that is where the seeds are.”  She thought it was a nice idea and started walking to her car.  Halfway across the parking lot, she stopped and turned back to me.  “Can you say a prayer for me?” she asked.  “You bet I can!  What’s your first name?” It turned out to be Marian and she was so grateful for the promise of a prayer.  She has been having severe pain in her back and that day the doctor decided she needed an injection at the Pain Intervention Center.  The first appointment is November 14; a long time to wait in pain.

I returned to the car to see my sister coming out of the building, visibly upset and shaking. While I was deadheading marigolds, she was going all over the building looking for the right office only to find out that they had moved.  We were at the wrong place.  Her cell phone rang and it was the person she was supposed to meet with and he was apologizing for not giving her the right address and directions.  The appointment was not an easy one to make and she was afraid she had missed her chance.  The man said he would see her as soon as we got to the right place.  Now she was feeling guilty that she was holding me up and that we would be going home in rush hour.

I chose to be grateful.  First, I told her it was never a waste of time to be with her which calmed her down some.  Then I told her about picking marigolds and having an opportunity to pray for someone. Both things to be grateful for.  If we had not been at the wrong place, I wouldn’t have more marigold seeds, or have met someone who needed to hear from God.  Make me an instrument….

 I could have been upset about losing more time when I have so much to do right now.  I could have been annoyed with my sister for not having the right address, and I could have been very angry being stuck in rush hour traffic on the Blue Route.  But I chose to be grateful…grateful for how God used me to reach out to a woman who is scared and in pain.  And grateful that God allowed me to spend time with my sister who I dearly love.  Yes, being grateful is a choice.  Not always an easy one. But something I want to continue to work on.  I feel a lot better choosing to be grateful than being tied up in knots on the Blue Route!  While you are trying to choose to be grateful, say a prayer for Marian.  She could use it!

St. Francis LBI 90th Anniversary

Today, October 6, 2019, St. Francis, LBI, fraternity celebrated their 90th anniversary and were kind enough to invite me to celebrate with them.  The Mass, celebrated by Father John Frambes, OFM, was beautiful.  A wonderful reflection on the fraternity was given by Carole Infante, OFS.  And then there was food………….lots and lots of food! The fourth picture is of the remaining living ministers with yours truly and Father John.  And the ocean…………I can’t remember the last time I was at the shore so on my way home, I stopped to hear the seagulls and breathe in that salt air.   Thank you, LBI, for a truly great afternoon.  May you have 90 more anniversaries!

From the Formation Director – October 2019

SKD Formation Monthly-October 2019  

 

Thought for the Day by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

October 2019

Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God,

grant to us wretches, by your will, to do what we know you wish,

and ever to wish what pleases you,

in order that, purified in soul, lighted up within,

and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit,

we may follow the footsteps of your Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ,

and reach you, Most High, by your grace alone.

For you live and reign and are glorified,

in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, Almighty God

forever and ever.

Amen.

(Letter to the Chapter)

Franciscan verses taken from A letter on the Passing of Saint Francis attributed to Elias of Assisi.

1

To Gregory, his beloved brother in Christ, the minister of the brothers who are in France, together with all his brothers and ours, Brother Elias, a sinner, sends greetings. Before I begin to write, I sigh, and rightly so. – Intelligence may drive machines, but it is the heart that beats with life!

2

My groans gush forth like waters in a flood.  For what I feared has overtaken me and has overtaken you.  And what I dreaded has happened to me and to you. – Allow God to enter your life: Then you will brighten with divine light.

3

Our consoler has gone away from us and he who carried us in his arms like lambs has gone on a journey to a far away country. – Without eternal life, temporal existence, however rich, however highly developed in all aspects, in the end brings man nothing other than the ineluctable necessity of death.

4

He who was beloved by God and of man, who taught Jacob the law of life and of discipline, and gave to Israel a covenant of peace has been received into the most resplendent dwellings. – Like Francis of Assisi, preach peace and repentance, promote justice, defend the rights of the human person, raise your voice against exploitation and violence, and attentively care for all the wounds that make humanity groan today.

5

We would rejoice on his account, yet for our own part we must mourn, since in his absence darkness surrounds us and the shadow of death covers us. – Especially through His lifestyle and through His actions, Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live.

6

It is a loss for all, yet it is a trial singularly my own, for he has left me in the midst of darkness, surrounded by many anxieties and pressed down by countless afflictions. – Love is endlessly inventive. These words of St. Vincent (de Paul) marvelously express this reality in the church.

7

For this reason I implore you.  Mourn with me, brothers, for I am in great sorrow and, with you, in pain.  For we are orphans without our father and bereaved of the light of our eyes.- The rosary brings us back again and again to the most important scenes of Christ’s life, almost as if to let us “breathe” His mystery. The rosary is the privileged path to contemplation.  It is Mary‘s way.

8

In truth, in very truth, the presence of our brother and father Francis was a light, not only for us, but even for those who were far from us in calling and in life. –  The sovereign divine initiative does not dispense man from the task of responding to it.

9

He was a light shed by the true light to give light to those who were in darkness and sitting in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. – Divine love surrounds and penetrates every human venture.

10

He did this because the true Daystar from on high shone upon his heart and enkindled his will with the fire of His love. – Let the angels guide you, so that you will faithfully put God’s commandments intro practice in your life.

11

By preaching the kingdom of God and turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the rebellious to the wisdom of the just, he prepared for the Lord a new people in the world. – The Eucharistic celebration reunites all Christians. It gathers them all in the equal dignity of brothers and sisters of Christ and children of the Father.

12

His name reached distant coasts and all lands were in awe at his marvelous deeds.  For this reason, sons and brothers, do not mourn beyond measure. – In Jesus’s cross all suffering acquires the possibility of meaning; sickness does not cease to be a trial, but it is illuminated by hope.

13

God, the father of orphans, will give us comfort by his holy consolation.  And, if you weep, brothers, weep for yourselves and not for him. – Only Jesus knows what is in your hearts and your deepest desires.

14

For ‘in the midst of life, we are caught in death’, while he has passed from death to life. – Only Jesus, who has loved you to the end, can fulfill your aspirations.

15

Rejoice, for, like Jacob, he blessed all his sons before he was taken from us and forgave them all the faults which any one of us might have committed, or even thought of committing, against him. – No one apart from Christ can give you true happiness.

16

And now, after telling you these things, I announce to you a great joy and the news of a miracle. Such a sign that has never been heard of from the dawn of time except in the Son of God, who is Christ the Lord. – The life of grace which we carry within us is the life of the risen Christ.

17

Not long before his death, our brother and father appeared crucified, bearing in his body the five wounds which are truly the marks of Christ. – The gospel of hope offers confidence, serenity, and direction in place of the hopelessness which inevitably spawns fear, hostility, and violence in the hearts of individuals and in society as a whole.

18

His hands and feet had, as it were, the openings of the nails and were pierced front and back revealing the scars and showing the nails’ blackness. – The fervent prayer of Jesus in the Upper Room continues to remind Christian communities that unity is a gift to welcome and develop in an ever deeper way.

19

His side, moreover, seemed opened by a lance and often emitted blood. – Humanity will be more easily attracted by Christ and will choose Him if they are touched by the witness of Christian faith and charity.

20

As long as his spirit lived in the body, there was no beauty in him for his appearance was that of a man despised.  No part of his body was without suffering– God has endowed human beings with the capacity to love.

21

By reason of the contraction of his sinews, his limbs were stiff, much like those of a dead man.  But after his death, his appearance was one of great beauty gleaming with a dazzling whiteness and giving joy to all who looked upon him. – It is through love that we fulfill our destiny to act in the likeness of God.

22

His limbs, which had been rigid, became marvelously soft and pliable, so that they would be turned this way and that, like those of a young child. – To believe in Jesus is to accept what He says, even when it runs contrary to what others are saying.

23

Therefore, brothers, bless the God of heaven and praise Him before all, for He has shown His mercy to us.  Hold fast the memory of our father and brother, Francis, to the praise and glory of Him Who made him so great among people and gave him glory in the sight of angels. – To believe in Jesus … means rejecting the lure of sin, however attractive it may be, in order to set out on the difficult path of the gospel virtues.

24

Pray for him as he begged us, and pray to him that God may make us share with him in his holy grace. Amen. – The family’s future is entrusted first of all to each person=s conscience and responsible commitment, and to the convictions and values that are alive within us.

25

On the fourth day before the nones of October, the Lord’s day, at the first hour of the preceding night, our father and brothers went to Christ. – We must always to turn with trustful supplication to Him who can change human hearts and minds.

26

I am sure, dearest brothers, that when this letter reaches you, you will follow the footprints of the people of Israel as they mourned the loss of their great leaders, Moses and Aaron. – The splendor of Christ’s glory is reflected in the face of every human being.

27

Let us, by all means, give way to tears for we are deprived of so great a father.  Indeed, it is in keeping with our love for him that we rejoice with Francis. Still, it is right to mourn him! – With courage and compassion, Christians must be ever attentive to the cry of the poor, serving the Lord who is present in their suffering.

28

It belongs to us to rejoice with Francis, for he has not died but gone to the fair in heaven, taking with him a bag of mercy and will not return until the full moon. At the same time it is right for us to weep for Francis. – True reconciliation between divided and hostile men is possible only when they allow themselves to be reconciled with God.

29

He who came and went among us, as did Aaron, who brought forth from his storehouse both the new and the old and comforted us in all our afflictions, has been taken from our midst.  Now we are like orphans without a father. – Authentic brotherly love is founded on love for God, who is the common Father of all.

30

Yet, because it is written, “the poor depend on you and you are the helper of orphans” all of you, dearest brothers, must earnestly pray that, though this earthen jar has been broken in the valley of Adam’s children, the Most High Potter will deign to repair and restore another of similar honor, who will rule over the multitude of our race and go before us into battle like a true Maccabee. – Authentic religious experience is a mature and noble attitude of acceptance of God, which in turn gives meaning to life and implies a responsibility to work for a better world.

31

And, because it is not useless to pray for the dead, pray to the Lord for his soul. – The degree of a people’s civilization is measured by the extent of their respect for the value of life.

***************

Brother Elias ends his letter announcing the death of St. Francis with the following directives and signature:

 

Let each priest say three Masses,

each cleric the Psalter,

and the lay brothers five Our Fathers.

Let the clerics also recite the common vigil office.

Amen. 

Brother Elias, Sinner.

 

 

October 2019 Meditation by Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

October 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Maximilian Kolbe fraternity hosts Healing Mass for Addicts and family

Healing Mass NJ page 1

Healing Mass NJ page 2

JPIC News – August, 2019 – Jeff Redder, OFS, JPIC Animator

Saint Katharine Drexel Region 
Secular Franciscan Order (USA)
Justice, Peace, & the Integrity of Creation 
September 2019

· Greetings

I am again looking at what has been on the news this past month and asking myself, what should I bring up as some subjects for this month, September 2019. To start off the month, I keep thinking about the some of the news stories that are making the news. It is sad to keep hearing another shooting taking place here in our country. The question that comes to mind is “What makes them do these things? Is there no other way to solve whatever the problem is.” I just went to the Annual JPIC Animator Conference and there were so many issues talked about. I still have to get my trip report done and sent out. But I would like to send an invitation out to all fraternities that I would be willing to come talk to you about what I learned about JPIC. One of the main themes is that we as Franciscans are doing JPIC in our daily lives as we live out our profession. It is part of who we are, being loving, kind, compassionate, and merciful. One of the other main themes, avoid violence in how we deal with others and respect others as human beings, as we are all born in the image and likeness of God. Love our neighbor as our selves. All sounds easy, but not so easy to put into daily practice. With being open to the power of the Holy Spirit and letting God guide us, we can do these things. Also, with the help from each other, being family.

As we look at some of the positive events that have happened. The Pope announcing 8 new Cardinals to the Council of Cardinals. Mostly from third would countries, giving more voice to these people. This is all part of Peace and Justice. Must have peace to have justice. Let us keep the Pope and all the leaders of the Church in our daily thoughts and prayers. They have a very hard and pressing job to deal with each day. It is sad to hear about people trying to attach and take down our leaders. Check weekly on the United States Bishops Conference website to see what is happening in our country. Also, check with what is going on at the local level both with the Church and local government. Lots of good being done. We as Franciscans should be helping with spreading that good news. Again, as I read my different magazines, I see and read about how many different people are working to save Mother Earth so she will be around for many years for our grandchildren to enjoy as we enjoy the earth today. I will be gone to Italy from 12 Sep. to Oct 7th. So when I get back, I will give a report on the Franciscan Pilgrim Study. Teresa and I am looking forward to the trip and all the learning about both SS Francis and Clare. My email is: jcredder@gmail.com

PEACE & ALL GOOD IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST!

JEFFREY C REDDER, OFS

SKD JPIC ANIMATOR

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director August 2019 Text version

“You are Beauty”
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever
is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think
about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
**********
In the fall of 1224, St. Francis of Assisi spent forty days on the cold and windy heights of Mount Laverna in Tuscany. It was at that time that he experienced the vision of a six-winged Seraph, after which the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion appeared on his body. In the aftermath of this extraordinary experience, Francis took a small piece of parchment and wrote, on one side of it “The Praises of God.”1 He begins by addressing God: “You are the holy Lord God Who does wonderful things.”2  In twenty lines or so he names attributes of his Heavenly Father and King, who is “the good, all good, the highest good.” On some points he repeats himself. For example, twice he says, “You are beauty, You are meekness.”

The inspiration to call God beauty is one of Francis’s insights. Francis had an innate appreciation
for true beauty. We know from his “Canticle of the Creatures” that he saw beauty in the natural
world, and he describes the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Fire as “beautiful.” His own taste for beautiful
music and poetry were plain for all to see. Working in his father’s cloth business, he would have
developed an appreciation for the beauty present in human design and craft. But it was his
spiritual insight—his gift and grace—to see true beauty as emanating from God’s divine beauty.
We live in a culture that often promotes the ugly and vulgar as trendy and stylish or uses the
unbeautiful to obscure and diminish true beauty. With St. Francis as our Seraphic Father, Secular
Franciscans should claim love for God who is beauty as a spiritual inheritance and use it to
evangelize our world.

In doing so we certainly are not alone. Bishop Robert Barron in his documentaries on
Catholicism has identified beauty in Catholic art, architecture, music and writing as a way to
reach people who hunger for truth and who seek meaning in their lives. In this he echoes Pope
Benedict XVI who sees the Church’s legacy of beauty and the lives of the saints as central to the
spread of Christianity in the 21st century. “The only really effective apologia for Christianity,”
Pope Benedict says, “comes down to two arguments, namely the saints the Church has produced
and the art which has grown in her womb.”3

In speaking to a group of clergy, he said, “All the great works of art, cathedrals—the Gothic cathedrals and the splendid Baroque churches—they are all a luminous sign of God.”4
And to a gathering of artists he added, “the experience of beauty…leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.”
5

How can we as Secular Franciscans respond to beauty to grow spiritually and to evangelize those
around us? Consider a few that are simple and obvious:
• In the splendor of nature. Clouds, sunsets, storms, mountain vistas, fireflies, birds, streams of
water, night skies—the manifestations of natural beauty are endless. St. Francis has given us
the perfect formula for responding to such beauty: “Be praised my Lord for
Brother/Sister….” Join with him often in that hymn of praise.

• In the beauty of liturgy, scripture and sacred art and architecture. There is a sublime beauty
in the Mass, in the parables of Jesus and in the Psalms and hymns of praise throughout
Scripture. Be attentive also to the beauty of sacred art and liturgical spaces, especially those
that have stood for a long time and which echo with the prayers and praise of generations.
• In the honest handiwork of men and women. A well-cultivated garden, food lovingly
prepared, a magnificent suspension bridge, light through a stained-glass window, a pitcher’s
curve ball. God may be glorified through the beauty of human works both humble and grand.
• In the lives of others. St. Francis said of his encounter with lepers that, “when I left them,
what had seen bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body.”6 The priest-poet
Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in one of his great sonnets: “Christ plays in ten thousand
places,/ Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.”

Finally, be open to the great effect of beauty, which is joy. Jesuit theologian John Navone wrote,
“Joy, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, always evidences the experience of God’s beauty.”
7 By living the gospel life, we participate in God’s beautification of the Church and the world. Let us join
with Francis and utter joyfully to our Lord with awe and deep gratitude, “You are beauty.”
**************************************************
From the OFS Rule and General Constitutions
• Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even
though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a
proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs.
Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for
the benefit of God’s children. [Rule, 11]
• They should love and practice purity of heart, the source of true fraternity. [GenConst., 15.4]

For discussion or reflection
• Read aloud St. Francis’s “Praises of God.” How does his impassioned prayer move you?
• Think of a moment in which you encountered beauty today. How might such an experience
inspire you to give praise and thanksgiving to God. What form would your praise take?

1 Regis J. Armstrong, OFM Cap., et al., editors, Francis of Assisi, Early Documents, Volume I, The Saint (New City Press, 1999), 108.
2 Armstrong, 109.
3 https://www.benedictinstitute.org/2018/01/the-splendor-of-holiness-and-art/, accessed August 12, 2019.
4 Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, Cathedral of Bressanone, August, 6, 2008.
5 Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Artists, Sistine Chapel, November 21, 2009.
6 Armstrong, 124.
7John Navone, SJ, Enjoying God’s Beauty (The Liturgical Press, 1999), 7.
Image: Crucifix in the Basilica of Santa Croce. https://travelpast50.com/basilica-santa-croce-florence-italy/

Copyright ©2019 by Justin Carisio, OFS

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director July 2019 Text version

“Look at the birds of the air”
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly
Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)
**********
Of all God’s creatures, perhaps those we most readily associate with St. Francis of Assisi are the birds.
Francis is forever linked to them because of an episode that occurred in 1213 when he was experiencing
something of a vocation crisis. Although the sources offer other moments of interaction between Francis
and birds, this one was seminal. Endeavoring to discern if he was being called to a contemplative life
or if he should pursue an evangelical life of prayer and itinerant preaching, he was encouraged by Brother Silvester and Sister Clare to continue the latter. Reassured, Francis set out joyfully, and encountering a field with birds, he began anew by preaching to them.

From the early biographers to present day commentators, much has been written about this
incident. Of central importance is what Francis actually said. His earliest biographer, Thomas of
Celano, writes that he exhorted the birds, saying, “My brother birds, you should greatly praise
your Creator, and love Him always. He gave you feathers to wear, wings to fly, and whatever
you need. God made you noble among his creatures and gave you a home in the purity of the air,
so that though you neither sow nor reap, He nevertheless protects and governs you without your
least care.”1 Celano recounts that he blessed them with the sign of the cross and gave them
permission to fly off.

As always, Francis had the gospel in mind—in this instance the words of the Sermon on the
Mount when Jesus’ urged the people to “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap.”2
However, Francis also employed an innovation: he addressed the birds as “my brothers.” This
became the paradigm he would employ throughout his ministry—all creatures would be seen as
brother or sister. The Franciscan concept that today we call “universal kinship” was present in
the saint’s outlook and view of nature. Roger Sorrell adds that Francis’ preaching to the birds
“reveals the new feelings of mutual love and respect between the saint and creatures.”3 Mutuality
implies the encounter went both ways, and Sorrell suggests that while Francis had a message for
the birds, he also saw the “creature as teacher.”4 Later he would bluntly remind the friars of the
powerful lesson the creatures teach: “All creatures under heaven serve, know, and obey their
Creator, each according to its own nature, better than you.”5

As Secular Franciscans, an immediate way to grow in universal kinship is by taking time to
“look at the birds of the air” and in so doing develop a relationship with them and increase our
love and understanding of God.

In an essay titled, “The Birds Preach Back,” Daniel Barica, OFM, a friar, birder and nature
photographer, writes that “Francis practiced and promoted a truly incarnational spirituality,
experiencing God in the entire created world.” Fr. Barica believes that taking time to observe
birds can teach us patience, acceptance and understanding, awe, and intimacy with God.6 Of
course, when we listen to Jesus and look at the birds of the air (and the lilies of the field) we are
also instructed in gospel poverty, total dependence on God, and authentic praise of our Creator.
The key is actually to look. Thinking about the natural world or watching nature shows on
television is not the same as physical interaction, as going to a window or stepping outside. To
sit motionless in a yard or park or garden and look at the birds is to know God’s grace and beauty
in a direct and joyful way. To rise at dawn on a summer morning and listen to what
ornithologists call the “morning chorus” is to hear a Gloria sung in voices not our own. As
Franciscans, we should stop, look, and pray. For St. Francis, universal kinship was not a
theological idea or mental construct. It was a physical, lived, spiritual reality. Let us follow his
example. There is no easier way to begin than to “look at the birds of the air.”
**************************************************
From the OFS Rule and General Constitutions
• Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the
imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of
exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship. [Rule, 18]
• Following the example of Francis, patron of ecologists, they should actively put forward
initiatives that care for creation and should work with others in efforts that both put a stop
to polluting and degrading nature and also establish circumstances of living and
environment which would not be a threat to the human person. [Constitutions, 18.4]

For discussion or reflection
• In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis says, “nature cannot be regarded as something
separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature,
included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” (139). Reflect on a time in your
life when the creature was teacher—when interaction with creation, animate or
inanimate, moved you to praise or to a deeper love, understanding, or knowledge of God.

1 Regis J. Armstrong, OFM Cap., et al., editors, Francis of Assisi, Early Documents, Volume I, The Saint (New City Press, 1999), 234.
2 Matthew 6:26, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, The New Testament (Ignatius Press, 2010).
3 Roger D. Sorrell, St. Francis of Assisi and Nature, Tradition and Innovation in Western Christian Attitudes toward the Environment (Oxford University Press, 1988), 68.
4 Sorrell, 46.
5 Armstrong, 131.
6 Daniel Barica, OFM, “The Birds Preach Back,” Franciscans for Justice, www.franciscansforjustice.org/2012/02/10/
the-birds-preach-back-by-fr-daniel-barica. Accessed July 6, 2019.
Image: Giotto, San Francesco predica agli uccelli, 1297-99. Wikiart.org, public domain.

Copyright ©2019 by Justin Carisio, OFS

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director, August 2019 PDF version

SKD Formation Monthly-August 2019.docx (1)