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

Come and see how Secular Franciscans live joyfully In the world & celebrate God’s creation.

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.

Updates, News & Announcements

Follow our updates, news & announcements via…
Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

X

or enter your email address and click subscribe to by notified by email:

From the Heart of Our Minister

 Luke, Seth, John, Joe and Bro. Kip

Friday, February 23, 2018

It is a downright miserable morning!  It is very gray and cold and it’s not quite raining.  More like ‘spraining’ – something between a sprinkle and a rain.  Whatever it is, it is just chilly enough and damp enough to go right through you.

But on this very miserable morning, I am anything but!  I have just spent the last few hours with the postulants of the Padre Pio Friary in Philadelphia. Brother Kip Ledger, OFM Cap, is in charge of the Postulants.  Last year, I was stunned when Brother Kip invited me to speak to the class of Postulants and tell them about Secular Franciscans.  Not only was I honored; but ‘over-the-moon’ that he was reaching out to educate the guys early in their journey.

This year when the invitation was extended, I jumped at the chance to speak to the new class. Brother Kip also invited me to attend the 7:30 a.m. Mass and then have breakfast with them before the class at 9:00 o’clock. What a wonderful start to the day!

I received an e-mail from our brother, Patrick Martin, OFS, the Regional Minister for the St. Margaret of Cortona Region, who had heard I was speaking to the class.  Patrick had spoken to them on Servant Leadership and he thought I could use the piece from the OFM Caps’ constitutions where we are mentioned.  Although I know the Friars are supposed to work with us, I never saw these words before.  They are certainly beautifully written.

…the Secular Franciscan Order should be especially dear to us. Let us work with Secular Franciscans so that their fraternities may grow as communities of faith particularly equipped for effective evangelization.  Let us also work with them in the formation of their members, so that they may spread the Kingdom of God not only by the example of their lives but also by various kinds of apostolic activity.

The young men in the class are so young and holy and so ready to go out in the world and serve.  They were very impressed with the history of the OFS and want to be part of its future. Something very powerful happened this morning – this rainy, miserable morning. And it is filled with sunshine from the Lord and a smile or two from St. Francis. May we continue to reach out to each other and get to know our family better!

February 2018 - Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

February 2018

 

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you as we say farewell to January and move into February and the Lenten season.

As promised, we will start discussing how the fraternity council and formation team use the Interview Form, Letters of Reference and Sacramental documents, and how to organize formation files.  As mentioned in previous letters, all documents must be saved and properly stored.

I will start with what should be saved and filed as part of the fraternity’s permanent records:

  • Any letters received concerning the Candidate
    1. A letter from the Pastor (mandatory)
    2. A letter from the spiritual director if different than the pastor (optional)
    3. A letter from a third person “not Clergy or family” who knows them and their Catholic faith expression well (optional)
    4. And lastly, a letter from the spouse, if he/she is not in the process with them (optional)
    5. The Candidates’ own letters requesting Inquiry, Candidacy and Profession
  • Initial Formation records
    1. Attendance records
    2. All sacramental records
      1. Baptism
      2. First Holy Communion
      3. Confirmation
      4.  Marriages – All Marriages and Annulments
      5. Holy Orders
      6. If the individual was a member of another third order or religious order, a letter releasing them from their prior professions or vows is required
      7. If any of these records cannot be produced, the individual must not be professed until they can be found or resolved thru their local pastor and Bishop
      8. These documents should be produced before the individual starts Candidacy. Sometime during Orientation or Inquiry.
      9. Interview forms
  • Profession Record normally a journal, although I also record this information in the Initial formation attendance records, that includes
    • Date
    • Place
    • Minister Receiving the candidate
    • Ecclesial witness
    • I also include the Formation Directors name (Optional)
  • Other Documents such as transfers, correspondence concerning correction, withdrawal or dismissal from the order

So, what do you do with all this paper?  Great question, you have to keep it.  My fraternity invested in a fire proof safe.  About the size of a large micro wave.  We keep our original Member Register in there along with our ecclesial formation documents and so on.  As formation director for my local fraternity I keep all other records in a file.  But, I also digitize them (scan) and save to a computer file.  That file is also saved to a disk that two members of the fraternity keep.  The secretary and one other council member hold copies.  This helps preserve records in case of a fire or other disaster at my house.

I also have what I call a temporary file.  In this file I keep all the homework and special assignments the individual turn in over the course of the three years of initial formation.  We do return that file to the candidate after profession.

Next month we will talk about what the Council does with all this paper, including the homework!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

 

February 2018 Daily Reflections from Father Francis

February 2018

Let every creature in heaven, on earth, in the sea and in the depths,
give praise, glory, honor and blessing to Him Who suffered so much,
Who has given and will give in the future every good, for He is our power and strength,
Who alone is good, Who alone is almighty,
Who alone is omnipotent, wonderful, glorious and Who alone is holy,
worthy of praise and blessing through endless ages.

Amen.

(Prayer of Saint Francis in the Second Version of the Letter to the Faithful)
Excerpts and daily reflections are taken from various sources

1
Francis began to say: Even a perfect religious very often sins in ignorance. Consequently if he does not realize his sin, he is punished … so that he may see and carefully reflect internally and externally … how he may have offended.- Do not be afraid!  Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ!

2
In this life the Lord leaves nothing unpunished in those whom He loves tenderly … Indeed the Lord in His mercy granted me this gift.  He makes me understand through prayer any way in which I please or displease Him. – With humility and trust I beg and implore you, allow Christ to speak to the person in you.

3
I am bound always to give good example; because I was given to them (the brothers), especially for this. When they hear that I am carrying the same trials they endure they endure theirs with greater patience. – Everything within us urges us to transcend ourselves, to overcome the temptation of superficiality or despair.

4
Blessed Francis was always sickly … He nevertheless considered that he should show a good example to the brothers and always take away from them any occasion for complaining about him… – Left to ourselves we could never achieve the ends for which we have been created.

5
Whether he was healthy or sick, until the day of his death, he wanted to endure so much need, that if any of the brothers who knew this, as we did … they would bear them (their needs) with greater patience. – Within us there is a promise which we find are incapable of attaining.  But the Son of God who came among us has given us his personal assurance.

6
He was so devout and prayed with such reverence, that during times of prayer, he refused to lean against a wall or partition, but always stood erect, without capuche over his head, and sometimes on his knees, especially when he spent greater part of the day and night in prayer. – In the mysetry of his cross and resurrection, Christ has … bridged the infinite distance that separates all people from new life in him.

7
If the body wants to eat its food in peace and quiet, and both it and the body eventually will become food for worms, in what peace and quiet should the soul receive its food, which is God Himself! – Faith cannot be be only cold hard facts calculated and weighed by our intellect. No, faith must be quickened by love.

8
The devil is delighted when he can extinguish or prevent devotion and joy in the heart of a servant of God which spring from clean prayer and other good works. – Faith must come alive through the good works which reveal God’s truth in us.

9
If the devil can have something of his own in a servant of God, he will in a short time make a single hair into a beam, always making it bigger… – Being a Christian must mean being a witness for Christ.

10
(The devil will do as he wishes) unless the servant of God is wise, removing and destroying (whatever the devil has planted) as quickly as possible by means of contrition, confession, and works of satisfaction. – Love of neighbor springs from a loving heart.

11
Blessed Francis had this as his greatest and main goal: he was always careful to have and preserve in himself spiritual joy internally and externally… – Peace is our duty, our grave duty, our supreme responsibility.

12
If I am tempted and depressed and I look at the joy of my companion, because of that joy I turn from the temptation and depression and toward inner and outer joy. – If you want peace, reach out to the poor.

13
The first brothers and those who came after them for a long time mortified their bodies excessively, not only by abstinence in food and drink, but also in vigils, cold, and manual labor. – The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love.

14
The abbot of Saint Benedict of Monte Subasio granted blessed Francis and his brothers the Church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula as the poorest little church they had.  And he wanted that, if the Lord increased the brothers, it be the head of the whole religion.  And blessed Francis granted this. – Man cannot live without love.

15
And he (Francis) was overjoyed at the place granted the brothers … and because of the surname it had, for it was surnamed: ‘of the Portiuncula’… This name foreshadowed that it was to be the mother and head of the poor Lesser Brothers. – The one who wishes to understand him/herself thoroughly, must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ.

16
Francis said: For this church was a prophecy that has been fulfilled in the coming of the Lesser Brothers. And although it is poor and almost in ruins for a long time, the people of the city of Assisi and its neighborhood had always held it in great devotion. – We are called to become a temple for the Blessed Trinity.

17
He wanted the church to be under the ordinance of the general who would place a holy family there, cleric brothers and lay brothers who would serve them, and he wanted the place to be kept especially pure and holy in hymns and praises of the Lord. – The God of all wants to enter into communion with us.

18
I want this place to be a mirror and a good example for the entire religion, a candelabra before the throne of God and before the blessed Virgin.  Thus may the Lord have mercy on the faults and failings of the brothers and always preserve and protect this religion, His little plant. – Wherever people are praying in the world, there the Holy Spirit is, the living breath of prayer.

19
And so, through God’s example, he did not want to have a house or cell in this world, nor did he have one built for himself.  Moreover, if he happened to say to the brothers: Prepare this cell this way, he would refuse afterwards to stay in it, because of that saying of the holy Gospel: Do not be concerned. – Prayer is a revelation of that … depth which comes from God and which only God can fill, precisely with the Holy Spirit.

20
He used to say: From the beginning of my conversion, when I separated myself from the world and father in the flesh, the Lord put His word in the mouth of the bishop of Assisi so he could counsel me well in the service of Christ and comfort me.  Therefore, as well as the greater excellence that I consider in prelates and in clerics, not only in bishops, but in poor priests as well, I want to love them, revere them and regard them as my lords. – God calls me and sends me forth as a laborer in his vineyard.

21
After receiving the bishop’s blessing … they (the brothers) may have poor little houses built of mud and wood, and some little cells where the brothers can sometimes pray and where, for their own greater decency and also to avoid idle words, they can work. – Every one of us God called by name.

22
Brother Francis had Brother Benedict of Piratro, who celebrated for him, called, since, although he was sick, he always wanted gladly and devoutly, to hear Mass whenever he was able.  And when he had come, blessed Francis told him: Write that I bless all my brothers, those who are and who will be in the religion until the end of the world. – From eternity God has thought of us and has loved us as unique individuals.

23
(Francis) used to go through the villages and churches in the area around the city of Assisi, proclaiming and preaching to the people that they should do penance.  And he would carry a broom to sweep the churches.  For blessed Francis was very sad when he entered some church and saw that it was not clean. – The fundamental and continuous attitude of the disciple would be one of vigilance and a conscious attentiveness to the voice of God.

24
After preaching to the people, at the end of the sermon he would always have all the priests who were present assembled in some remote place so he could not be overheard by the people.  He would preach to them about the salvation of souls and, in particular, that they should exercise care and concern in keeping churches clean, as well as altars and everything that pertained to the celebration of the divine mysteries. – Human life is not limited to the time spent on earth but is wholly directed to perfect joy and fullness of joy in the hereafter.

25
(To a family saddened that their son and brother wanted to enter the Order, blessed Francis said): This son of yours wants to serve God and you should be glad and not sad about this.  This will be counted an honor and advantage to the world, because God will be honored by your own flesh and blood, and all our brothers will be your sons and brothers… – Earthly suffering, when accepted in love, is like a bitter kernel containing the seed of new life, the treasure of divine glory to be given man in eternity.

26
(Francis continued): Because he is a creature of God and wishes to serve his Creator, and to serve Him is to reign, I cannot and should not return him to you.  But in order that you may have some consolation from all this, I want him to expropriate himself of this ox by giving it to you, although, according to the counsel of the holy Gospel, it ought to be given to other poor people.- We are called to entrust our lives completely to our providential God.

27
When blessed Francis remained alone one night to pray in the Church of Saint Peter of Bovaria, near the leper hospital of Trebio, he felt a diabolical illusion.  He got up and signing himself said: On behalf of Almighty God, I tell you, demons, you may do in my body whatever God told you. – Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the cross.

28
Brother Peter, (Francis’) companion, saw in the church that throne that had been Lucifer’s, so that the response to him was that it was reserved for blessed Francis – Let us rejoice and give thanks for (in Baptism) we have become not only Christians, but Christ … Marvel and rejoice: We have become Christ!

February 2018 Greetings from Father Francis

St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity

Regional Spiritual Assistant

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809

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

email: pppgusa@gmail.com

February 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis

May the Lord grant you peace!

In 1263, a priest from the Italian town of Bolsena, while celebrating Mass, after having pronounced the words of Consecration, began to doubt that with those words the bread and wine had truly been transformed into the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus. The document of deposition at the time gives us the textual words the priest said to himself: I do not see anything here, nor do I feel anything, nor can I notice any change; it cannot be true that Jesus Christ is really here. This host is nothing more than a piece of bread.

From a moment of anxious doubt he entered a state of heresy; he went from difficulty to full-blown disbelief! The priest nevertheless continued celebrating Mass for the sake of the people attending, and arrived at the elevation of the Host.

As he did so, droplets of blood fell from the host onto the corporal (the cloth that is placed under the chalice and paten during Mass to catch any consecrated drops or particles that might accidentally fall on the altar). One can only imagine the fear that possessed the priest at such a sight. With hands raised high holding up the Sacred Host, in an act of adoration of the Sacred Body of Jesus, he remained for a rather lengthy period contemplating the mystery and miracle that had just occurred.

The people assisting at the Mass also saw the wonderful happening and burst forth into a cry of adoration and praise: O Precious Blood! O Divine Blood; who is responsible for this shedding of blood? Others exclaimed: O Divine Blood, flow over our souls, purify us of our sins! Most Blessed Blood, call down the Divine Mercy upon us!

The shouting of the crowd jolted the priest out of his contemplation of the Precious Body and Blood he held. He found a dry spot to rest the Precious Body upon the corporal that had been almost totally dampened with the droplets of the Precious Blood. His eyes and heart were opened. He saw the truth and recognized the answer to his doubt, and gratefully accepted this miraculous response of God’s merciful love to his own mistrust of Jesus’ promise to be with you always until the end of the age, in such a marvelous way.

Continuing the celebration of the Mass amidst tears and lengthy meditative pauses, he was able to conclude the Eucharistic celebration. At the end of the Mass, the celebrant attempted to fold the cloth as best he could, but the people came forward and wanted to see for themselves close-up in order to ascertain the truth of the occurrence. The priest showed the faithful the cloth bathed in blood and they, in turn, fell on their knees to adore the miracle and implore divine mercy upon themselves.

News of the event reached Pope Urban IV who at that time was in Orvieto, a city near to Bolsena. The priest brought the Corporal to the pope.  He told the story of his doubts and the manner in which the miracle had occurred. Pope Urban IV and those with him recognized the miracle and knelt in adoration of this Eucharistic Mystery made visible in the Miracle before them.  A local feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament was extended to the entire Church – the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). This is one of several Eucharistic Miracles that call for our attention when the evil one challenges our faith in Jesus’ words and His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

What happened many centuries ago in Bolsena happens in every Catholic Church around the world when the Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. There is no longer a visible shedding of blood. No longer is the ground bathed in blood or the heads of sinners sprinkled with the saving Blood of Jesus, as the early Israelites were sprinkled with the blood of the animals sacrificed to reconfirm their commitment to the Covenant.

What does happen is that hearts and souls are cleansed and renewed when the eyes of the faithful see the Lord in Sacrifice as He offers Himself in Sacrament to all. The re-presentation of the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus is perpetuated through the centuries in the Church. At the Consecration of the Bread and Wine the ‘Presence’ becomes ‘Real’ and our relationship with the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit achieves an always greater intensity.

The Presence of God among us is a Privilege. This privilege must be participated if we are to experience the power of grace available to us. The three key words here are: ‘presence’, privilege’, ‘participation’. They remind us that: God walks with His people.  His people have no right to His presence.  God offers us His presence freely.  It is a gift of God’s love.  To profit from the awesome experience, the people of God must enter the moment and participate by responding with and in their lives to God. This response is a sign and a determining factor of our friendship and intimacy with God.

The priest continues in the presence of our Sacramental Lord interceding for the unifying gift of the Spirit, blessings for the Church Suffering and Militant, and imploring the mediation of all those holy souls who now live in the Eternal Presence of God. The Eucharistic Prayer ends with a brief hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Father, through-with-in Jesus, in the unity of the Spirit.  And the People of God acclaim and confirm all that was said and done with ‘Amen!’ Priest and People of God have ‘celebrated’ together.  They entered the mystery that requires a depth of faith to experience the ‘miracle’ of a ‘presence’ that makes the Mystical Body of Christ – who are faithfully gathered in Liturgy – a visible reality for the world to see. Filled with Jesus, we become a sign of hope to a world so desperately in need of that gift.

Hope has always been a rather difficult virtue to comprehend. Hope is not a static, passive stance that we take. Hope is not dwelling on something we desire and wait for it to happen or to be given to us. Hope is a very proactive virtue that flows from faith and fosters love. Christian hope is not passive resignation. Our own Padre Pio teaches us to be active and to make God’s interests ours. In other words, he is telling us that we must seek first the kingdom of God and His justice over us, and God will make our interests His. God will come to our aid in our temporal needs as we journey to the fullness of time where nothing is needed because all we could ever hope for is there – GOD forever!

Our Seraphic Father St Francis of Assisi, in his ardent love for the Eucharist, admonishes us all to see the Eucharist as it is: The True Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist helps us to see the past in God’s mercy, the present in God’s grace, and the future in hope with confident and peaceful trust. We are anxious about the future.  We forget that the Lord is with us always.  Our enemy has no power over anyone who has resolved to belong entirely to Jesus? Moreover, isn’t God good and faithful to the point of not permitting anyone to be tested beyond their strength?… If we were left to ourselves we would always be falling and never remain on our feet. Let us humble ourselves, then, at the wonderful thought that we are in the divine arms of Jesus, the best of fathers, like a little infant in its mother’s arms, and sleep peacefully with the certainty that we are being guided towards the destination that will be to our greatest advantage. How can we be afraid to remain in such loving arms when our entire being is consecrated to God?  What greater way can this consecration to God be realized than through our entering the mystery of the Eucharist we ‘celebrate’ together, and experience the transforming ‘miracle’ that makes us a people of loving service?

It never fails to astound me how many of our Catholics, privileged to possess such a magnificent gift as the Eucharist, who assist at the re-presentation of Calvary, and participate personally in the act of their own redemption, should so often disregard the importance of the Eucharist in their lives. Often one can hear good Catholics say, “If I had only been there”… “If I had stood at the cross” … “If only I could have seen and spoken with Jesus”, and the like. My response is: “Go to the tabernacle, open your heart, your mind and your eyes. You will see Him. You will be there before Him. You will hear Him and speak with Him”.

As Spiritual Children of the Poverello of Assisi, we cannot minimize the importance of the Eucharist and the celebration of this great gift. As Franciscans, our lives must be centered around this Sacrament. The Eucharist we celebrate and receive must ultimately be a way of life for us. The priest is unique by sacramental ordination and ministry. However, all God’s people benefit with a ‘resurgence of renewed graces’ when they ‘consecrate’ their lives together with the bread and wine offered by the priest, and abandon themselves to the will of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

As Penitents of Assisi, what kind of Lent can we ‘do’? Personal sacrifices are fine and gain merit. However, I believe the greatest ‘sacrificial act’ we can do for Lent would be to assist more frequently at Mass with an active participation made up of preparation before and thanksgiving after Mass, and daily reflection on God’s Word heard at the Eucharistic Liturgy.  As we share in the common priesthood of the faithful through Baptism, let us pray for those who give us the Eucharist and serve God’s people in the ministerial priesthood.

Have a blessed and spiritually fruitful Lent. Let go of your hesitancy in disarming your heart to others, especially those you find difficult, or who may see you that way.  Do not set limits to love!  Take up the daily cross of your responsibilities, and perform them with peace and joy. Accept difficulties as challenges to grow in grace.  Trust the One Who allows them in every life so that we might achieve the perfection to which we are called.  Surrender yourself to the One Who gave Himself for us all … and … Do not be afraid to deepen your relationship with God (Prayer), detach yourself from all you allow to possess you (Penance), and open your heart and surrender to the Christ Who suffers in others and awaits your love (Almsgiving). Living these three elements especially will assure us of a very fruitful Lenten journey.  Do not be afraid to become ‘Eucharist’!

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.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

OFS Prayer Intentions for 2018

2018 MONTHLY INTENTIONS OF PRAYER – OFS and YOUFRA

 

To underline our communion with the Pope, we offer the intention of the Holy Father for the month and an intention for OFS according to the life and important events of the Order.

2018

January

For the Evangelization: That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian Countries, may be able to practice their faith in full freedom.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Togo, Mozambique, and Korea.

Our Father…

February

Universal: That those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption.

OFS: For the national fraternities of RD Congo (VP), and Cyprus (VFP).

Our Father…

Marzo

For the Evangelization: That the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Brazil (VFP), Switzerland, Russia and Japan.

Our Father…

April

Universal: That economists may have the courage to reject any economy of exclusion and know how to open new paths.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Mauritius, Cuba, Latvia, Taiwan and for the CIOFS Presidency.

Our Father…

May

For the Evangelization: That the lay faithful may fulfil their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Canada, Costa Rica and New Zealand (VFP).

Our Father…

June

Universal: That social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects others for their differences.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Haiti, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, El Salvador, Austria, Malawi and Puerto Rico.

Our Father…

July

For the Evangelization: That priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Rwanda and for the Pan-African Congress.

Our Father…

August

Universal: That any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Paraguay (VFP), Ireland, Brazil and the European Congress.

Our Father…

September

Universal: That young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Great Britain, Oceania Australia (VFP), Angola and Sweden.

Our Father…

October

For the Evangelization: That consecrated religious men and women may bestir themselves, and be present among the poor, the marginalized, and those who have no voice.

OFS: For the national fraternities of Croatia (VFP), Sri Lanka and India.

Our Father…

November

Universal: That the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.

OFS: For the national fraternities of the United States, Portugal, Vietnam (VFP), Nicaragua (VFP) and for the CIOFS Presidency.

Our Father…

Dicember

For the Evangelization: That people, who are involved in the service and transmission of faith, may find, in their dialogue with culture, a language suited to the conditions of the present time.

OFS: For all the national fraternities in difficulty.

Our Father…

 

 

Reflections from Father Sariego, OFM Cap – January, 2018

January 2018

 

Lord, just as I believe that at an earlier time

(I may have been sinful and not fully open to Your will)

so now I realize that, because of Your abundant mercy

and in Your own time, You have shown an abundance of Your mercies to (me)…

Give glory to Your name,

(may I) offer the fragrance of good life, doctrine, and good reputation

to the whole Christian people.

I ask you therefore, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies,

not to consider our ingratitude.

May (I) always be mindful of the abundant mercies which you have shown (me),

that (I) may always … glorify Your name blessed and glorious throughout the ages.

Amen.

(Paraphrase [in parenthesis] of the blessing of Saint Francis for the City of Assisi)

The month of January celebrates The Holy Childhood of Jesus.

Excerpts and Daily reflections are taken from various sources

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 moments, 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 the 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.

 

 

Reflections from Father Sariego, OFM Cap - January 2018

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 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you His peace and blessings now and throughout the New Year!

The prophet, speaking in the name of God, says, My Word will not return without fulfilling the purpose for which It was sent.  From the very beginning of time, when the Almighty Creator and Father of all life brought out of nothing all that is and all that ever will be, there has been a yearning in creation for something, or better ‘Someone’.  This ‘hope’ that groans until now is our constant companion on life’s journey that urges us to move forward into God’s Providence.  We journey without knowing what the next moment will bring.  We journey, and we trust.  We trust because we believe.  We believe because our hearts have been touched at birth by the Spirit of God Who enables us to see signs of The One greater than all Who encourages us to know Him more deeply as we see Him in and through the many gifts of His Creation. We are the epitome of His creating love; and Jesus is the excellent and flawless example of His magnificent creation.

Jesus is the Word that the Father sent Who returned to the Father having fulfilled the purpose for His becoming one with humanity. We continue that ministry of fulfillment each time we re-present the Mystery and “miracle” of the Eucharist.  It is the same Holy Spirit of God that overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary, giving flesh to the almighty-eternal God within her immaculate womb that overshadows the bread and wine at the celebration of the Eucharist.  The “overshadowing” by the hands of the priest and power of the Holy Spirit and words of Consecration make Jesus the Christ real for us, not just in His Word, but in His Sacrament. This “Real Presence”, through the power of the Holy Spirit, urges us to enter the mystery more deeply and personal. We are called to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in Whose Name there is salvation. We courageously and unconditionally accept the mission “to be sent”, as was He, to be a living message of peace and blessings to all.  In Persona Christi the priest celebrant of the Eucharist is both Jesus the Master Who celebrates by virtue of his ordination, but also a disciple and apostle – as are all the faithful – who must listen to what he himself preaches and teaches, live the message he conveys in harmony with God’s Word, Church teaching and Tradition, and go among the People of God inviting all to receive the Good News in the Name of Jesus.

The Eucharist is not just a prayer but an experience of ‘at-one-ment’ with God through Jesus in the Spirit.  It is that Holy Action of the people – liturgy – into which we enter, often oblivious to the awesomeness of the moment and even to the Divine Presence before Whom we confect with the priest the Sacrifice and Sacrament of our Salvation in Jesus.  The Eucharist re- presents for us – subtly, succinctly, and soundly – all of Salvation History.  The Father’s Spirit and Word, present at the beginning of time and down through the millennia, are in the liturgy breathing life for those who are  participants, not merely spectators.  In the Eucharist, celebrant and people acknowledge their personal and collective sinfulness and need for a Savior.  Together they hear the words of ancient Israel in the Old Testament passages, the teachings of the Early Church, and the words and life of Jesus in the Gospels. All this preparation (Liturgy of the Word) takes time, valuable time needed to make us realize the awesome experience we are soon to witness and become (Liturgy of the Eucharist) . In this celebration the Spirit encourages us to consume the Victim – consummatum est – so that all can be fulfilled and we might share in the fruits of the ‘mission accomplished’ of the Lord.

Of His own free will and to the fullest extent the divine Word to descend to our level. Jesus hid His divine nature beneath the veil of human flesh.  In this way, says St. Paul, the Word of God humbled Himself to the point of emptying Himself: He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7).  Jesus was pleased to hide His divine nature so fully as to take on the likeness of man in everything, even exposing Himself to hunger, thirst and weariness and, to use the very words of the apostle of the nations: in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:1).  The climax of His humiliation was in His Passion and Death. He submitted His human will to the will of His Father, endured great moments and suffered the most infamous death, the death of the cross. The eternal Father, bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians2:9). It is by virtue of that name alone that we may hope to be saved. The most holy Name of Jesus that we venerate and repeat so often is a source of graces. As Jesus reminds us, we ask in His Name and the Father hears and answers. The Name of Jesus is terror to the demons. If His Name is so powerful, how much more must this very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity be that we receive in the Eucharist?!

The Person of Jesus the Christ is present throughout the entire liturgy.  The priest, ‘in persona Christi’, leads, encourages, instructs, feeds, and commissions the People of God.  The humility of forgiveness given and accepted, teachings offered and received, nourishment prepared and shared, communion extended and embraced, empowerment instilled and undertaken, are all beautifully expressed in the Eucharist.  The Will of Christ is re-presented each time the words of Consecration are pronounced.  Jesus is the Eternal ‘Yes’ Who accepts for all humanity the office of Victim so that we can become victors with Him through the ‘at-one-ment’ that is reserved for all who journey with Him in Word, Sacrament and life.  The Power of the Name repeated and responded to with ‘Amen’ so often throughout the liturgy, gives all who call on the Name of Jesus power to live in His Name, to recognize His presence every moment, to be a powerhouse of grace and blessings for those whom we encounter, and to trustingly move forward in God’s Providence, His Holy Will, the innumerable graces, and the strength we receive from Jesus the Christ in the Eucharist we celebrate, share, and become.

As Spiritual of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi we cannot afford to begin a new year regretting the past or worrying about the future. We all look for opportunities to ‘clean the slate’ and ‘re-write’ our decisions to avoid past mistakes.  One thing we can do as we enter the New Year of Grace 2018 to learn from the past to grow in the good, and to correct what is not good by reconciling ourselves with God and one another, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Where the future is concerned, since Jesus Himself reminds us that every hair on our head is counted and all the worry in the world cannot add or subtract one moment of the life entrusted to each one of us. For greater serenity and joy in 2018 we might remember the words of a great Capuchin Franciscan saint of the twentieth century, St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.  All this can so easily be accomplished by remembering that in the Person of Christ we find the trust and courage to live in the Will of the Father and are Empowered in His Name to be an instrument of God’s life-giving Love.  The Eucharist reminds us, renews us within, and repeats for us the wonderful outpouring of His Spirit that will guide us throughout the New Year and for all our life.

Be happy!  God loves you!  Tell the whole world of His Love!  Don’t be afraid to be Catholic!   Help others see in the Eucharist the treasure that must still be discovered in all its richness by so many. Let us all share in the priesthood – ministerial priesthood and that of the laity – by ‘celebrating’ our ‘extension of the Mass’ in our daily lives. Make the Jesus you receive in Holy Communion be the Jesus others see in you – the Person in your compassion and understanding, the Will in your humility and acceptance of others, and the Power of the Name in your living without compromise the Catholic-Christian values we profess in a society that seeks to challenge ‘Christ’ in us and in the Church. Following the example of our Seraphic Father, let us disarm our hearts to all. Like the leper that St. Francis embraced, the one we deem unworthy of love (though that is making a judgment that is only God’s right) or whom we fear because unapproachable or worse, is the one who needs it the most.  When Jesus nourishes and nurtures us with Himself, like our Seraphic Father, we are released from the what has bound us and can move freely to embrace creation in the liturgy of life.  Every day thus becomes a day of rejoicing and growth.

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over all of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.   This is a wonderful year the Lord has granted us.   May the Prince of Peace reign in our hearts and homes! May we be Heralds of the Great King!

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord show His face to you and be merciful to you.

May the Lord look on you with kindness and grant you His peace.

May the Lord live in you.

And may you always live in Him.

 

Holy and Happy New Year 2018!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director - January, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director
January 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. I hope that this past Christmas Season was a blessing for you and your families. And I pray that the coming year, 2018, be filled with God’s abundant blessings for you, your families and for your fraternities!

As we discussed last time, those who have gone before us have laid a very good foundation and given us the tools we need to have strong Initial and Ongoing formation programs. We have the FUN Manual, the Regional Formation Handbook, the Franciscan Journey, each other and various sources on the SKD Region web site. We started with a very simple one-page document that gives you an immense amount of direction: the “Pathway to Profession” chart. The chart can be found in the Regional Formation Handbook, second section, page 43, or at the link belowi.

As I said in December, this month’s letter we will be discussing the use of letters of reference. In the SKD Regional Formation Handbook it recommends two letters:
References: Please give us the name and addresses of your pastor or spiritual director and another person who support your desire to enter initial formation in the OFS, and can attest that there are no canonical impediments to your profession in the OFS. Please have them write a letter confirming their support of your decision in a sealed envelope. Letters of reference should be sealed and mailed. Sample to Priest from Fraternity is in Part IV.ii

I recommend the following:
1) A letter from the Pastor (mandatory).
2) A letter from the spiritual director if different than the pastor (optional). This occurs on occasion and both individuals will have different opinions.
3) A letter from a third person “not Clergy or family” who knows them and their Catholic faith expression well (mandatory).
4) And lastly, a letter from the spouse, if he/she is not in the process with them. (Recommended) You need to know that they have the whole-hearted support of the person to whom they are married. We do not want marital discord!

In all cases, you will need to get the proper name, address and title of the persons. Write a letter to them asking them to write a return letter to the fraternity and provide them with a self-addressed stamped envelope. If the individual in initial formation is reluctant to provide this information it should be discussed, but in the end it is mandatory. The person in initial formation should let those individuals know that they will receive a letter from the fraternity’s Formation Director. A good sample of a letter to
a pastor is in the SKD Regional Formation Handbookiii. All the other letters can be adapted from that one. Anyone interested in samples can contact me and I will send PDF files.

Next month we will start discussing how the fraternity council and formation team use the Interview Form, Letters of Reference and Sacramental documents, and how to organize formation files. As mentioned in previous letters, all documents must be saved and properly stored.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

i http://www.skdregion.org/wp‐content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg ii SKD Regional Formation Handbook, page 54
iii SKD Regional Formation Handbook, page 151

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – December 2017

(A PDF version of this document can be downloaded here.)

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

I pray that the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and our spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi are with you and, in you, overflowing in life-giving abundance to others. “We must radiate” the love of God i.   It is by radiating that life giving Agape “LOVE”ii,iii that we will attract our brother and sister Catholics and help them hear the call to vocation increasing the “Helpmates” answering the call of Jesus to Saint Francis, go rebuild my Church.  As I discussed in my November letter, and spoke of at the recent regional gathering, we are called to be Jesus’ helpmates, building and rebuilding the church in love and fraternal perfection, to radiate the spirit of Francis and of Jesus!  This nuptial relationship with Jesus makes our profession sacred and our fraternity sacred. We need to protect both our profession and our fraternity, and the best way to do that is a healthy and strong formation process.

Thank God for those who have gone before us!  They have laid a very good foundation and given us the tools we need to do this important and noble task.  We have the FUN Manual, the Regional Formation Guide, and the Franciscan Journey.  We also have each other and sources on the SKD Region web site.  I want to start with a very simple one-page document that gives you an immense amount of aid:  the “Pathway to Profession” Chart (the chart can be also be found in the regional formation handbook, second section, page 43).  For this month, I will focus on the First Contacts.  The chart tells us to conduct initial interviews and Faith Inventory.  I cannot over emphasize how important this simple step is and, if done properly, can help you avoid problems in the future.  It can also help the individual going through the process to overcome any simple impediments in their faith.

The template for the initial interview is on page 53 of the regional formation guidebook.  The Holy Cross Fraternity took that template and made it a fraternity document so that it is easy to print and save to record.  (By the way, it is essential that all documents created or collected are saved.  I recommend digitizing them and saving to a file and a disk or other external drive.  That way, if something happens you have multiple file sources.)

A careful and slow read of the form will give you a very good idea of how detailed this interview is.  It gives you the opportunity to find out very specific information about the person.  And note that anyone who is not comfortable answering any of the questions should send up that RED FLAG.  Don’t be afraid to ask your own, additional questions.  For example, if you ask questions about sacramental development, and the person says that he does not have any record of being confirmed, ask some more questions concerning his family of origin and faith development.  If an irregularity is found, assist the person by directing him to a parish priest for resolution.  All irregularities or perceived impediments should be resolved before initial formation begins.

A question that comes up fairly regularly is “What about a person who is in the RCIA program?”  Can they start the initial formation process?  After all, most RCIA programs are one year and our formation can be three years.  The answer is simple, although it makes some people uncomfortable.  If a person is in RCIA, they are not yet Catholic.  To start the process a person has to be a catholic in good standing who has received all the sacraments of initiation.  Also, as a former RCIA director, I would not have wanted any of my Catechumens distracted in any way.  Their entire focus needs to be on their journey into full communion with the church!

Next month we will start discussing the importance of reference letters.  I use three at a minimum.  More on that next time.

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director


i Excerpts from Walbert Buhlmann OFM Cap – Address to European Capuchins, May 5, 2005
ii Agape (Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agápē) is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, “”the highest form of love,” “charity”” and “”the love of God for man and of man for God”””
iii H. G. Liddell; Robert Scott (October 2010). An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded Upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. Benediction Classics. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-84902-626-0.

Father Francis' Greetings for December 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
pppgusa@gmail.com

 

December 2017

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

St. Francis’ simplicity and desire for ‘concreteness’ in touching with his senses the great Mystery of the Incarnation gave rise to the tradition of the Nativity Scenes most Christian Families set up over the Christmas Season.  St. Francis was not seeking to be innovative, or create something curious that would attract people.  He sought to make the Birth of the Savior come alive once again.  He sought to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful.  Through the senses, St.Francis sought to arrive more incisively at the soul.

Grace builds on nature. The ability to allow the senses to take over and enliven the heart and soul makes our experience with God even more exciting.  Not just the intellect, but the whole person enters this intimate relationship with God. And God enters a relationship with humanity taking on every aspect of human life except sin.  In the story, as recounted by Celano, it is even stated: Moreover, burning with excessive love, (Francis) often calls Christ the ‘babe from Bethlehem’ whenever he means to call Him Jesus.  Saying the word ‘Bethlehem’ in the manner of a bleating sheep. (1Celano, bk.1, chpt. 30) St. Francis was not one to be held in check by public opinion. Christmas is the birthday of the Christ Child and he was not concerned sounding like a child, or acting childlike, even if to some it seemed childish.  (When) people were bringing there little children to Jesus … (Jesus) said to (His disciples who were trying to stop them) Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.  It is to just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10: 13-16) Christmas is a time for us to think of the Christ Child and remember the child that we once were and are called to become.  Our Seraphic Father let love let loose, just as David did when he danced with abandon before the Ark and all the people of Israel.  David’s response to a rebuke he received for being so exposed as a commoner (2 Samuel: 7: 20) , could be placed on the lips of St. Francis: As the Lord lives, who preferred me … not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more … I will be lowly in your esteem … but I will be honored. (2 Samuel 7: 21-23)  » Click to continue reading “Father Francis’ Greetings for December 2017” »