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.

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Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director, August 2019 PDF version

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July 2019 Formation Article by Justin Carisio, OFS

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September 2019 Thoughts for the Day by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap.

September 2019

I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

so that, through the prayers and merits of the

holy and glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother,

and of our most blessed father Francis and of all the saints,

the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning,

may give increase and may also give final perseverance.

Amen.

(The Testament of St. Clare of Assisi)

The daily excerpts continue from the Papal Decree of Canonization

and Legend of our Holy Mother, St. Clare of Assisi

1

(St. Clare) established in the estate of the Church a garden of humility hedged in by need of a multiplicity of things in which a great abundance of virtue flourishes. – Christ alone is the world’s salvation!

2

This woman built in the area of religion a citadel of strict abstinence in which a vast abundance of spiritual food was administered. – Only (Christ’s) death and resurrection represent true liberation from evil and death.

3

This woman was the first of the poor, the leader of the humble, the teacher of the continent, the abbess of the penitents. – (Christ’s) cross is the force of reconciliation and peace; it forms the basis of hope for believers in every time and place.

4

This woman governed her monastery and within it the family entrusted to her with solicitude and prudence, in the fear and service of the Lord, and with the full observance of the Order: vigilant in caring, assiduous in ministering, attentive in exhorting, diligent in admonishing, moderate in correcting, measured in commanding, unwavering in compassion – … no one can consider himself the master of his brothers and sisters. The Creator is the only master of time and history.

5

This woman governed her monastery and within it the family entrusted to her with solicitude and prudence, in the fear and service of the Lord, and with the full observance of the Order: … discerning in silence, mature in speech, and experienced in everything pertaining to perfect government, wanting to serve more than to command, to honor than to be extolled. – Look with unyielding trust upon Christ, light in difficulty, support in time of trial, and guide in every moment of life.

6

Her life was an instruction and a lesson to others: in this book of life some learned the rule of living, in this mirror of life others learned to behold the paths of life. – God wants peace and mutual understanding among all human beings, who are called to be one great family.

7

She remained in the body on earth, yet she was dwelling in the spirit in heaven: a vessel of humility, an armoire of chastity, the fire of love, the fragrance of benevolence, the vigor of patience, the bond of peace, and the communion of familiarity; meek in word, gentle in deed, and lovable and accepting bin everything – It is in being people of integrity that we are pleasing to the Lord: ready to meet him in prayer and liturgical celebration.

8

Because each one is stronger after overcoming an enemy, she had only the bare ground and sometimes twigs for her bed, and a piece of hard wood as pillow for her head in order to grow stronger in spirit after her body was repressed. – We must tell the good news to all who are willing to listen.

9

Content with one tunic with a mantle of poor, discarded, coarse material, she used these lowly clothes to cover her body … – To build a future of serenity and solidarity, it is right to turn our gaze to the disciple of Christ … courageously presenting anew to the contemporary world the saving message of the gospel.

10

Strict as well in food and disciplined in drink, she restrained herself so much by abstinence from these things that for a long time she did not taste any food three days a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. – Love enables people to dwell spiritually in one another.

11

She spent day and night especially giving herself assiduously to vigils and prayers.  When she was finally laid up with long-term illness so she could not raise herself by physical exertion, she was lifted up with the help of her sisters. – Christian leaders are challenged to bear witness to the Christian truth, which inspires us to place all our talents, intellectual resources, persuasive abilities, experience, and skills at the service of God, our neighbor, and the common good of the human family.

12

With support for her back, she worked with her own hands not to be idle even in her sickness. – Men and women are on a journey which is humanly unstoppable – a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves.

13

Out of the linen made by her skill and labor, she made many corporals for the sacrifice of the altar and had them distributed throughout the plains and mountains of Assisi. – To avoid losing his way, contemporary many needs more than ever to rediscover God to rediscover himself in God.

14

She was above all, a lover and supporter of poverty.  She so rooted it in her spirit, so fixed it in her desires, that, firmer in love of it and more ardent in its embrace, she never departed from her stronger and delightful union with it for any necessity. – (To rediscover God and oneself) is possible only when the heart listens to the Lord in silence and in prolonged contemplation.

15

She could not be induced by any persuasion to consent to have any possessions in her monastery, even though Pope Gregory of happy memory, our predecessor…generously wanted to endow sufficient and appropriate possessions for the sustenance of her sisters. – May Mary help us to understand the great value of prayer. Let us ask (Her) to open our hearts to greater confidence in the Lord.

16

In truth, because a great and splendid light cannot be restrained from displaying the brilliance of its rays, the power of holiness shone in her life with many and various miracles. – Faith teaches us that man’s destiny is written in the heart and mind of God, who directs the course of history.

17

She restored the voice of one of the sisters of the monastery after it had been almost totally lost for a long time. She healed a certain brother of the Order of Lesser Ones from insanity. – Faith also teaches us that the Father puts in our hands the task of beginning to build here on earth the ‘kingdom of heaven’, which the Son came to announce.

18

Once when, by accident, the oil of the monastery was totally depleted, she called for the brother assigned to gather alms for the monastery.  She took a jar, washed it, and placed it empty by the door of the monastery so that the same brother would take it for acquiring oil.  When he went to pick it up, he found it filled with oil, a gift of divine generosity. –  Christ is the only Savior of humanity.  This proclamation is still as effective today as it was in the days of the early Christians.

19

One day only half a loaf of bread was available for feeding the sisters she commanded that half of it be distributed in pieces among the sisters.  He Who is the living bread and gives food to the hungry multiplied it in the hands of the one who broke it so that there were fifty sufficient portions made and distributed to the sisters seated at table. – Do not be afraid to welcome the cross of Christ into your life!

20

When she was about to die, a white-robed choir of blessed virgins crowned with glittering crowns was seen to enter the house where the servant of Christ lay ill  (and) seen to approach Claire’s bed to show, as it were, the duty of visitation and comforting the sick with a certain human zeal. – (The Cross of Christ) gives full value and meaning to life’s joys and sorrows, helping every person to make his own life a gift of love for God and neighbor.

21

The venerable virgin shines with glorious deeds and miracles.  What her mother heard when she was pregnant with her and was praying appears to be clearly fulfilled: that she would give birth to a light that would illumine the entire world. – A spirit of prayer and contemplation, vital to the Christian life, must be the hallmark of all we say and do.

22

Therefore, let Mother Church rejoice that she had begotten and reared such a daughter who as a parent fruitful with virtues has produced many daughters of religion by her example, and has trained them for the perfect service of Christ by her thorough teaching. – Those who believe in Jesus, crucified and risen, carry the cross in triumph as an indisputable proof that God is love.

23

Let the devout multitude of the faithful be glad that the King and Lord of heaven has chosen their sister and companion as His spouse and has introduced her with glory to his lofty and brilliant palace. – With the total gift of himself on the cross, our Savior decisively conquered sin and death.

24

Let the multitude of saints rejoice that the nuptials of a new royal bride are being celebrated in their heavenly midst. The universal Church venerate(s) on earth her whom the Lord exalted in heaven, because her sanctity of life and miracles are evident from the thorough and careful investigation … even though, both near and far, her deeds were widely known before this. – The vocation of a Christian is holiness.

25

Truly dead to the flesh she was thoroughly a stranger to the world continually occupying her soul with sacred prayers and divine praises. – The vocation of Christian holiness has its roots in baptism and is proposed anew by the other sacraments, and principally by the Eucharist.

26

The usual signs prove how much strength she received in her furnace of ardent prayer, how sweet the divine goodness was to her in that enjoyment. For when she returned from holy prayer, she brought from the altar of the Lord burning words that also inflamed the hearts of her sisters. – God wishes to save all his children, especially those who have gone away from him and are looking for the way back.

27

In fact, (the sisters) marveled that such sweetness came from her mouth and that her face shone more brilliantly than usual.  Surely, in His sweetness, God has waited upon the poor, and the True Light which was already revealed outwardly in her body, had filled her soul in prayer. – Christ is the true answer, the most complete answer to all the questions which concern the human person and his destiny.

28

In a fleeting world, united unfleetingly to her noble spouse, she delighted continuously in the things above. – Do not be afraid of presenting Christ to someone who does not yet know him.

29

On the wheel of an ever-changing world, sustained by never-changing virtue, and hiding a treasure of glory in a vessel of clay, her mind remained in the heights, her body in the depths. – Without Christ, the human person remains an unsolvable riddle.  Therefore, have the courage to present Christ!

30

(In St. Clare) There was no place for tepidity, no place for idleness, where a sharp reproof prodded laziness to prayer and service of the Lord. – The fullness of our human vocation: to be like God, filled with love, since it is he who ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’.

 

September 2019 Meditation by Fr. 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      email:  pppgusa@gmail.com

September 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

A young person graduates from college and is given a wonderful position in a profession about which he or she is excited and is overflowing with vision and creative ideas. A young man and young woman, deeply in love with each other, fulfill their life’s dream and are married with God’s blessings. Someone is called to enter religious life in a community that responds to all they believe God is calling them to live and do, and they happily surrender themselves totally to everything expected of them.  A young man responds to the call to be another Christ, one who lives and acts “in persona Christi”, and experiences a joy and fulfillment that enhances his prayer, the celebration of the Liturgy, and his relationship with God and the people entrusted to his care.

These examples are only a few of many that any of us could offer for reflection of people happy with their lives and the decisions they made.  The reflection is not so much on the wonderful blessings that these persons have experienced and for which they are grateful, but rather what happens to so many after a period of time.  Almost without noticing it, the wonder, excitement, enthusiasm, creativity, JOY begin to diminish.  Once happy about their lives and professions, some come to seriously question their decision. Was it really God’s will?!  They felt an inner joy and were truly happy.  There is no sin in that!  But, now, what happened?! Where is the wonderful life and future of which they dreamed, the life filled with joy, fulfillment, success, happiness?

At one time or another, we might possibly admit that there was a moment or period when we may have felt that matters were taking a less joyous and less fulfilling turn in our lives.  Moments like these are not as terrible as they initially can seem.  There is always something to learn from any situation. So much time is wasted fearing problems and lamenting mistakes. We should rather accept those moments as challenges to go beyond the limitations we see in our lives. Take time to reflect on how we have changed and why. What has brought us to this moment, this crossroad that seems so perplexing?

 

The finding of the body of our holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, that the Order recalls now on September 25, offers us an insight into the answer to the situations and questions posed.  The historical moment for the Poor Clares to have the body of our mother St. Clare once again at arm’s length for veneration after centuries of lying hidden is not a question of physical proximity.  It has nothing to do with the possibility of looking at the remains of someone who passed into eternity six centuries before; that might even be considered by some to be somewhat macabre rather than devotional.  It really goes far beyond the privilege of offering the relic of St. Clare’s body to the veneration and edification of the faithful, especially those of the Franciscan Family who revere her as mother, just as they revere St. Francis of Assisi our Seraphic Father, whose body rests in the crypt beneath the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

 

The excitement of knowing God called us to be Franciscans, regardless of the Order (I, II, III Regular, Secular), and knowing the joy of acceptance by God through the Fraternity, makes the initial years of religious life exciting.  Just like a couple in love, we enter a loving relationship with the Fraternity/Family.  We seek to learn all there is to learn about everyone with whom we desire to become more deeply one in mind and heart. We come to realize how our lives are so unique and valuable to the spreading of the Gospel and the life of the Church. We speak to others with an enthusiasm that could convert the world.  In our youthfulness – here I mean youthfulness in spirit and not necessarily in a chronological sense – we find it difficult to understand why so many others do not feel a call to be Franciscan as we, and we are grateful for having been called and having responded affirmatively to this wonderful gospel life. We bring our Franciscan ‘spirit and life’ to all the ministries and apostolic works entrusted to us. We make Franciscan values and principles the foundation of all we say and do.  Like a wonderful marriage, no one can separate our spirit of commitment from our daily life, duties and other activities. We are cautious never to allow the ‘spirit of the world’ to enter our relationships with the people we encounter and with and for whom we minister.  You get the idea.  It is a veritable paradise for the first months and possibly years, until, and possibly for a good while after, our definitive Profession or commitment.  Then what happens?! Boredom? Indifference? Doubt? Apathy? Any, all, and more! But, why?!

Between the dream and the vision, there is the plan.  You have heard and read this before.  The plan is the journey that helps the dream to become the vision of a real happening that goes beyond a heart that hopes.  To live in hope without ever attempting to achieve what as yet is not seen but attainable, is to journey to disappointment and even despair. This is not a journey but a lingering spiritual death that does not enliven, encourage, or attract. In fact, people like this repel others.  The journey itself is already the source of joy as long as we keep on the path and move forward.

The study that never ends because there is always so much more to know that will enhance the love that urges me on; the encounters with the same people, and new ones who seek to follow our life because of all they heard and have seen in us; the fraternal gathering of prayer, reflection and being together as ‘family’ whose goals are the same and achievable by people whose personalities are so different; diverse external expressions of service to those who will never become effective members of our fraternities but whose lives are touched with joy and made better because of us, and so many more examples, are all reminders of what the finding of the body of Saint Clare says to us.

Too many, and we Franciscans are no different, die at 20, 30, 40 years of age and are buried decades later.  This is not a physical death but a spiritual, psychological, affective death. We are alive physically but distant, and disinterested in spirit-mind-heart-availability-caring.

 

We are not called to don the attractive robes of some plastic image that appears holy but has no life.  We have not achieved the goal when we make perpetual profession.  Like so many other moments in life, secular as well as religious, one goal achieved becomes the first step of another journey that leads to another goal that continues to lead us forward until the perfection of which Scripture speaks is achieved.  Remember that ‘perfection’ in Scripture pertains to the fulfillment of the purpose of a life.  No one can ever justifiably say that their life is fulfilled when they have more time allotted them. Too many stop striving to become more in God’s sight.  They admire past failures overcome and gloat over successes achieved.  It is as though they were venerating the relic of a Saint without learning from the life of the saint. They are not encouraged nor strive to reach beyond, and thus become spiritually stagnant.

The external insignia we use for one reason or another: habit, tau cross, crucifix, cord, scapular, and the like, encourage us to participate more fully in the life of the Order.   What we wear reminds us of who we are called to be more fully each day. Until we hear the words ‘good and faithful servant, because you have been faithful in small matters, enter into the joy of your Master’ we are always moving, hopefully forward.  We must be aware of the dangers of self-seeking, self-aggrandizing, self-satisfying. We cannot allow ourselves to ‘become the object of our affections’ and forget all others. Self-centeredness is problematic in community, and spiritually dangerous for anyone. More often it leads to full blown pride that sees others as less than one self, and also to indifference to opportunities offered to grow in fraternal spirit and sharing of God’s gifts with and for the sake of others.

 

As spiritual children of Saint Francis of Assisi we have a wonderful gift left us to enflesh in our lives.  While the Incarnation took place only once in historical human form in Jesus the Christ through Mary, Christ and His Gospel must be enfleshed over and over again in the lives of those who seek to follow Him.  Our Seraphic Father sought not only to live the Gospel message but to live Jesus.  This is also the mission of the Franciscan.  The formalities we encounter that prepare us for full insertion in the Franciscan Family (Fraternity), are the preparatory stages that help us know if this is truly the life to which God is calling us.  Professing our life in the Franciscan Fraternity is an explicit acceptance of the daily challenge to grow every day of our life until we are called to the fullness of life in eternity.

Unlike the body of our Holy Mother Saint Clare placed on view for the faithful to venerate the woman with whom Saint Francis of Assisi inaugurated a Family that even today speaks volumes to a world grown cold in its love for God and desire for Eternal Life, we are not static images. Viewing the body of St. Clare most certainly reminded her daughters of the >little plant’ St. Clare called herself that produced a flourishing fragrant bouquet of holiness in the Church.  Thousands of women for eight centuries have accepted to live the form of exalted Poverty that St. Clare was granted by Pope Alexander IV only days before her death. She never ceased requesting this ‘privilege’ of poverty.  Her daughters, adapting themselves to the demands of the changing world, while not jeopardizing the centuries’ old and proven values that their Mother St. Clare of Assisi lived and sought to instill in all her daughters, in their fidelity to their vocation have continued to be a ‘bright light’ in the Franciscan Family and thus in the Universal Church. Each sister sought and seeks to grow in her vocation by living a committed life of constant growth, not >being conformed to this age but transformed’ in the ever-valid Gospel Life.

 

The process of Franciscan conversion expects a daily surrender to God that leads us to grow in all we profess. Profession is not the goal! Never!  The goal is heaven!  Our Franciscan Gospel Way is the road God has called us to follow to make the destination easier to reach.  We cannot sit back and let others do the walking. Not only must we talk the talk but we must walk the walk, otherwise we will never get there, the true goal of life, God. There are many opportunities offered our Secular Sisters and Brothers to grow in our charism and particular vocation.  Do not let someone else do ‘it’.  Whatever the ‘it’ is.  The one insect St. Francis disliked was the fly, not only because of the things it ate off of, but because it was a parasite, eating off the work of others.  Let us make sure we do not incur the ‘curse’ of St. Francis.  We must all realize that fraternal living involves active participation in fraternal life. The official nomenclature may differ, but the substance is still the same. We all have the Rule and Constitutions of the Order to give us a general guideline that all seem to accept.  Even the International and National Councils offer us ‘reflections’ we all are willing to consider and strive for.  But it is the Regional and Local challenges and decisions that so many seem to think can be put off, or not even considered.  Let us not forget the words of the Master Who tells us that if we cannot be faithful in small matters how can we expect to be entrusted with greater things.

 

The discovery of the body of St. Clare is celebrated by the Order on September 25th. Let us remember how this event, as strange as it may seem at first glance, is a reminder for us to rediscover our roots and the beauty of that original oblation and dedication we made of ourselves. Let us rediscover the initial enthusiasm and joy at being called and accepted to be a Franciscan.  With the passing of time and experience we have so much more to learn and offer one another.  Each bringing his/her gifts enhances the richness of the fraternity and strengthens the spirit of Franciscan Brother/Sisterhood.  May the reminder of the ‘discovery’ and exposition of the body of St. Clare encourage us to re-discover our roots, enthusiasm, and commitment so that we can be ‘on display’ for a world that seeks authenticity and integrity of life.

 

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

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

August 2019 JPIC Article - Jeff Redder, OFS

August 2019-SKD JPIC Animator (1)

August 2019 Thought for the Day by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

August 2019

I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

so that, through the prayers and merits of the

holy and glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother,

and of our most blessed father Francis and of all the saints,

the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning,

may give increase and may also give final perseverance.

Amen.

(The Testament of St. Clare of Assisi) 

In the month that remembers and celebrates our Holy Mother, St. Clare of Assisi,

the daily excerpts are taken from the Papal Decree of Canonization.

1

Clare, brilliant by her bright merits, by the brightness of her great glory in heaven, and by the brilliance of her sublime miracles on earth, shines brilliantly. – In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have His redemptive sacrifice, we have His resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience, and love of the Father.

2

Clare, her strict and lofty way of religious life glows here on earth, while the magnitude of her eternal rewards radiates from above and her virtue begins to dawn upon all mortal beings with magnificent signs. – Inwardly reconciled with God, the believer can become a true peacemaker among the brothers and sisters he meets on the path.

3

Clare, here below she was endowed with the privilege of the most exalted poverty; on high she is repaid by an inestimable source of treasure. – The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God.

4

Clare, she is shown full devotion and immense honor by all. – Division openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news to every creature.

5

Clare, here brilliant deeds distinguished her here on earth. – Do not hesitate to be apostles of the Risen One.

6

Clare, while on high the fullness of divine light shines on her. – It is each person’s duty, in his name, generously to promote spiritual values such as fidelity, the acceptance and defense of life in all its phases, love of neighbor, and perseverance in the faith even amid the inevitable difficulties of daily life.

7

Clare, her amazing works of wonder make her known to the Christian people. – It is in human hearts that war or reconciliation begins.

8

O Clare, endowed with so many brilliant titles!  Bright even before your conversion, brighter in your manner of living, brighter still in your enclosed life, and brilliant in splendor after the course of your mortal life! – A peaceful future is built on the basis of a “new heart”, a heart able to recognize in every individual person a brother or sister with equal dignity…

9

In this Clare, a clear mirror of example has been given to this world; by her, the sweet lily of virginity is offered among the heavenly delights; by her, obvious remedies are felt here on earth. – The face of Christ is the face of light that tears open the obscure mystery of death.

10

O the inestimable brilliance of blessed Clare!  The more eagerly she is sought for something, the more brilliant she is found in everything. – The face of Christ is the proclamation and pledge of our glory, because it is the face of the crucified and risen One.

11

This woman, I say, was resplendent in the world, shone brilliantly in her religious life; enlightened as a radiant beam in her home, dazzled as lightning in the enclosure. – St. Clare and countless other saints and martyrs were marked by the mystery of the cross.  (Her) secret was precisely this sign of the triumph of love over hatred, of forgiveness over retaliation, of good over evil.  We are called to go forward in their footsteps.

12

She shone forth in life; she is radiant after death.  Enlightening on earth, she dazzles in heaven! – Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world, is food for a new life – a life that is born of intimacy with God and which reaches humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus, who will be with us “always, to the close of the age, especially in the Eucharist.”

13

O how great is the vibrancy of this light and how intense is the brilliance of its illumination! – The love of Christ and human freedom are intertwined, because love and truth have an intrinsic relationship.

14

While this light remained certainly in a hidden enclosure, it emitted sparkling rays outside.  Placed in the confined area of the monastery, yet she was spread throughout the wide world. – The recognition of the dignity of every human being is the foundation and support of the concept of universal human rights.

15

Hidden within, she extended herself abroad.  Yes, Clare hid, yet her life has come to light.  Clare was silent, yet her fame was proclaimed. She was hidden in a cell, but was known in the cities. – Human dignity and the rights that stem from it are solidly grounded on the truth of the human being’s creation in the image and likeness of God.

16

It should not be surprising that a light so enkindles, so illuminating could not be kept hidden without shining brilliantly and giving bright light in the house of the Lord. – Genuine religious belief is the chief antidote to violence and conflict.

17

Nor could a vessel filled with perfume be concealed so it would not give fragrance and suffuse the Lord’s house with a sweet fragrance. – It is particularly important to serve the very poor, those “little ones” whom the Lord wants to put in the first place.

18

Moreover, since with her harshness she broke the alabaster jar of her body in the severity of her cloistered solitude, the whole aura of the Church was thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of her sanctity – Read the Scriptures daily, if possible. Meditate on them.

19

While still a young girl in the world, she was striving to pass rapidly along a clean path, past the fragile and unclean world.  Keeping the precious treasure of her virginity with an undiminished modesty, she carefully dedicated herself to works of kindness and brilliance. – Give the word of God a convincing and winning form in your lives.  You will experience the living presence of Christ in yourselves through his word.

20

Her reputation spread freely to those near and far.  After hearing this praise, blessed Francis immediately began to encourage her and to lead her to the perfect service of Christ. – Death is not the last word.  It is the passage to eternal happiness in store for those who toil for truth and justice and do their utmost to follow Christ.

21

Quickly adhering to the sacred admonitions of this man (St. Francis) and desiring to reject entirely the world with everything earthly and to serve the Lord alone in voluntary poverty, she fulfilled this as quickly as she could. – God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.

22

At last she finally changed all her goods into alms and distributed them as resources for the poor, so that, one with him, whatever she had she too would consider for the service of Christ. – Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

23

Fleeing from the clamor of the world, she went down to the church in the field and, after receiving the sacred tonsure from blessed Francis himself, she proceeded to another. – The person who thinks that he can make his life secure by the possession of material goods alone is deluding himself.

24

When her relations endeavored to bring her back, she immediately took hold of the altar and its cloths, uncovered her shorn head and resisted her relatives strongly and firmly in this way. She could not permit herself to be separated from God’s service because she was already joined to Him with her whole mind. – Our Christian conscience should be deeply concerned about the way in which sins against love and against life are often presented as examples of progress and emancipation.

25

This woman, encouraged by blessed Francis himself, gave the beginning of following a new and holy observance.  This woman was the first and solid foundation of this great religion. – The Ten Commandments are the law of freedom: not the freedom to follow our blind passions, but the freedom to love, to choose what is good in every situation, even when to do so is a burden.

26

This woman stood as the cornerstone of this lofty work … noble by birth, but nobler by manner of life, eminently preserved the virginity she had already protected from the first under the rule of holiness. – The typically Christian way of contemplating God always passes through Christ.

27

Her mother, named Ortolana, intent upon pious deeds, followed her daughter’s footprints and afterwards accepted this religious way of life. … but after a few years, that blessed Clare, very much urged by the insistence of the same Saint Francis, accepted the government of the monastery of the sisters. –The experience of God can never be reduced to a general “sense of the divine”, nor can the mediation of Christ humanity be surpassed…

28

This woman was undoubtedly a very lofty and outstanding tree with far-reaching branches that brought forth the sweet fruit of religion in the meadow of the Church.  To its refreshing shade, under its delight, many students of the faith ran and still run from everywhere tasting fruit of every kind. –Genuine Christian joy cannot be reduced to a chance feeling: Its foundations lie in the love God manifested to us in the death and resurrection of his Son.

29

This woman was a clear spring of the Spoleto Valley that offered a new fountain of living water for the refreshment and comfort of souls, a fountain that has already irrigated the nursery of religion through the different rivulets in the precincts of the Church. – Mary’s glorious state brings about a continuous and caring closeness … She is a queen who gives all that she possesses, participating above all in the life and love of Christ.

30

This woman was a loft candelabra of sanctity, shimmering brightly in the tabernacle of the Lord, to whose remarkable splendor many have and are still hastening, lighting their lamps by its light. – To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.

31

This woman truly planted and cultivated a vineyard of poverty in the field of the faith, from which the abundant and rich fruits of salvation have been gathered. – Christ alone is the world’s salvation.

“mother” of the Family.  First Order Friars, Third Order Regular Religious, Secular Franciscans living in the world, would all be less than complete had St. Clare not left her home the night of 28 March 1212.  St. Clare is not just another follower; she is the mother of the Family.  As St. Francis, St. Clare recognized the uniqueness of her new life and would not accept any rule but the simple Rule St. Francis gave her, and then the Rule she would write.  Her strength of purpose and character, and the undaunted insistence with the Holy See that the Privilege of Poverty be granted to her religious family, filled her with joy when it was eventually granted.  It is the distinctive mark of “Poor Ladies of San Damiano” and all who accepted her Rule.

 

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, how could we ever not consider ourselves children of St. Clare of Assisi as well?  Her life of prayer, penance, and exalted poverty call us to reflect upon our Franciscan vocation.  She was “in love” with the Lord Who called her to a life of total surrender and trust in Divine Providence.  Though we live in society, we can still live the spirit of total surrender and dedication that our Mother learned from our Seraphic Father and lived in the uniqueness of her own vocation. The heroic expression of the gospel life she chose to live with her daughters/sisters at San Damiano, and the life all who followed her lived, challenge us who call her our Mother in the Franciscan Family, to follow her example and seek to simplify our lives and detach ourselves from unnecessary attachments to all that we allow to control.

 

The poverty she sought was expressed not only in the material goods of life but also in her humility.  What greater poverty can we express, and one that all professed men and women can live if they will to, than the willing expression of a humble life. The self-emptying of Jesus, even to death on a cross, is the ultimate expression of poverty any one could hope to live.  Our Mother St. Clare teaches us that the privilege of poverty, and living it according to our state in life, empties us of all that controls us, enables us to be more receptive to grace, and makes us available to open our hearts to everyone. Let us strive to learn from the example of our mother.  Let us learn to be detached from what we allow to control us, humbly be at the service of one another, and sincerely love our sisters and brothers.  Unless we accept the giftedness of our vocation and the fact that each one of us is a gift that God offers the other, we will never strengthen the bond of charity among us.  As we honor the poverty and humility of St. Clare, let us not forget that the “ego” is the greatest and often last “treasure” we are willing to let go of.  May the example and holiness of St. Clare of Assisi help us to live as faithful children of our Seraphic Family, who see poverty as freedom, chastity as love, and obedience as victory.

 

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

Peace and Blessings

 

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

 

August 2019 Monthly Meditation by Fr. 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

August 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

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

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

The call to holiness, offered to all God’s children indiscriminately, awaits a response.  God does not force the issue, but will do all that is possible to make it accessible.  The wonderful gift of free will, greatest gift the Creator gave us after His love and life, is the gift we can offer back in thanksgiving by allowing ourselves to live in light of God’s will.  This is where holiness is!  The saints show us with their lives how they had come to know God’s will for them and how they responded.  Each saint is unique.  The uniqueness only enhances the vastness of God’s goodness manifested to every single person who recognizes the working of the Spirit in God’s holy ones. If we are willing to listen rather than just hear, we discover a vast horizon open before us that welcomes us into the myriad signs of a God Whose love is just waiting, or better anticipating, our entering His loving embrace in mystery during our time on earth as we advance towards the fullness of its reality in eternity.

In calling herself “the little plant of the holy Father”,  St. Clare tells us of her love for St. Francis and how deeply she recognizes his influence in her life.  The free spirit of St. Francis of Assisi and the joy that emanated from his life were an attraction that encouraged Clare to be free from all that held her back from fulfilling the desire of her heart to be consecrated to the service of the Lord.  The unique expressiveness of the Poverello’s actions, caring less about human respect and opinion, but only concerned with calling others to praise the Lord of creation, urged St. Clare to recognize the uniqueness of her own desires and how God was speaking to her. The humility of St. Francis in remaining in Assisi where many knew him before and ridiculed him after his conversion expressed to Clare a conviction and commitment in him that strengthened her own resolve. The wealthy and poor who followed Francis and lovingly accepted one another without distinction as brothers undoubtedly enhanced and filled St. Clare’s heart with a yearning no human affection could fill. The community she entered when she passed the doorway of the Portiuncula introduced her to a family she would love and protect until her death.

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

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

One of the qualities spoken of much by political groups and religious organizations is transparency.  To be “clear” about matters can determine the outcome of many discussions, especially when sides involved are very distinct in their opinions and opposed in their reasoning.  How truly transparent are people willing to be?  The clarity with which we live our lives often is determined by the situations and people we encounter and with whom we must interact.  You are what you are before God and nothing more is a saying attributed to our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi. The fact itself cannot be denied, but the way we live out who we are and how muddled or clear our character and actions come across depends on us and what we permit to affect us.  St. Clare, daughter of Favarone and Ortolana, truly lived the name she was given at birth.  The light of God’s love and goodness that emanated from her life still encourages and enlightens thousands who accept to follow her example and Rule of life. Everything serves a purpose and indicates, for those willing to see and hear, the will and work of God. The following brief paragraph, taken from the Legenda, briefly tells the interesting story of the naming of the child who became the Mother of the Franciscan Family.

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

Who could have known this child would one day be the mother, sister and servant of a multitude of women, and the beloved spiritual mother, sister, confident and counselor of so many men. The women to whom she would give birth spiritually by the transparency of her life and actions continue to be in our twenty-first century world a beacon of clarity of faith, brighter hope, and brilliant love for God and all creation.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  A light is not put under a bushel basket but set on a candle stand so that its light shines for all to see and from which all may benefit.

The process of the “conversion” story of St. Clare is not complicated. Twelve years younger than the “eccentric” son of Peter Bernardone, Clare probably heard and saw the rich spoiled Francis Bernardone turned poor itinerant preacher when he walked through the streets of Assisi.  She sought understanding and was able to speak with St. Francis. Her heart was assured and determined to be the “mother-sister-servant} of a multitude whose prayerful penitential life is even today the strength of the Franciscan Family. Although she had been promised to a young suitor for marriage, Clare carefully prepares an “escape” from her family home. After the famous “kenosis” of St. Francis, ridding himself of his past even to the stripping off of the clothes he wore, affected and attracted both elite and commoners to follow his gospel lifestyle. The love and sincere support for each other that she saw in them, was no doubt an example St. Clare could not deny or disregard.  As she sought clarity and direction for her own life, St. Francis offered her the loving encouragement, strength, and support she needed to take the final step that would introduce her to a life that would fulfill her prayerful desires.

The Family of St. Francis would be less than incomplete if St. Clare had not responded to the call to follow St. Francis in the gospel life.  She followed, yes, but St. Clare is her own person.  St. Clare makes the Family complete.  Just as one parent can care for a child but the child’s family life is incomplete, we Franciscans can see ourselves in the same way had St. Clare not accepted to become the “mother” of the Family.  First Order Friars, Third Order Regular Religious, Secular Franciscans living in the world, would all be less than complete had St. Clare not left her home the night of 28 March 1212.  St. Clare is not just another follower; she is the mother of the Family.  As St. Francis, St. Clare recognized the uniqueness of her new life and would not accept any rule but the simple Rule St. Francis gave her, and then the Rule she would write.  Her strength of purpose and character, and the undaunted insistence with the Holy See that the Privilege of Poverty be granted to her religious family, filled her with joy when it was eventually granted.  It is the distinctive mark of “Poor Ladies of San Damiano” and all who accepted her Rule.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, how could we ever not consider ourselves children of St. Clare of Assisi as well?  Her life of prayer, penance, and exalted poverty call us to reflect upon our Franciscan vocation.  She was “in love” with the Lord Who called her to a life of total surrender and trust in Divine Providence.  Though we live in society, we can still live the spirit of total surrender and dedication that our Mother learned from our Seraphic Father and lived in the uniqueness of her own vocation. The heroic expression of the gospel life she chose to live with her daughters/sisters at San Damiano, and the life all who followed her lived, challenge us who call her our Mother in the Franciscan Family, to follow her example and seek to simplify our lives and detach ourselves from unnecessary attachments to all that we allow to control.

The poverty she sought was expressed not only in the material goods of life but also in her humility.  What greater poverty can we express, and one that all professed men and women can live if they will to, than the willing expression of a humble life. The self-emptying of Jesus, even to death on a cross, is the ultimate expression of poverty any one could hope to live.  Our Mother St. Clare teaches us that the privilege of poverty, and living it according to our state in life, empties us of all that controls us, enables us to be more receptive to grace, and makes us available to open our hearts to everyone. Let us strive to learn from the example of our mother.  Let us learn to be detached from what we allow to control us, humbly be at the service of one another, and sincerely love our sisters and brothers.  Unless we accept the giftedness of our vocation and the fact that each one of us is a gift that God offers the other, we will never strengthen the bond of charity among us.  As we honor the poverty and humility of St. Clare, let us not forget that the “ego” is the greatest and often last “treasure” we are willing to let go of.  May the example and holiness of St. Clare of Assisi help us to live as faithful children of our Seraphic Family, who see poverty as freedom, chastity as love, and obedience as victory.

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

Peace and Blessings

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Monthly Meditation by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – July 2019

July 2019


O loving one bear in mind your poor children for whom, without you,

their one and only consolation, there is little comfort…

they still .. tearfully cry out to you:

O father,

place before Jesus Christ, son of the Most High Father,

His sacred stigmata;

and show Him the signs of the cross on your hands, feet, and side,

that He may mercifully bare His own wounds to the Father,

and because of this the Father will ever show us in our anguish His tenderness.

Amen.


(Prayer to St. Francis from the End of the Second Book of the Life of St. Francis by Bl. Thomas of Celano)

1

Blessed Francis felt more pity for the man’s soul, rooted in mortal hatred, than for his body.  He said to him: Brother, forgive your lord for the love of God, so that you may set your soul free, and it may be that he will return to you what he has taken. Otherwise you will lose not only your property but also your soul. – When man becomes ’bereft of God’, he loses the meaning of his own life and in some way becomes ’bereft’ of himself.

2

So blessed Francis said (to the Dominican who asked his explanation of a passage from Ezekiel): … a servant of God should be burning with life and holiness so brightly, that by the light of example and the tongue of his conduct, he will rebuke all the wicked. – The family is the great workshop of love … where people are taught to love … with the incisive power of experience.

3

In order to preserve the virtue of holy humility,  a few years after his conversion, at a chapter, he resigned the office of prelate before all the brothers of his religion, saying: From now on, I am dead to you. But here you have Brother Peter of Catanio; let us all, you and I, obey him. – Do not separate your faith from your daily life and your daily life from your faith, as so many people do today.

4

He used to affirm that the Lesser Brothers had been sent from the Lord in these last times to show forth examples of light to those wrapped in the darkness of sins. – The life and the whole being of each Christian must be identified around one central axis: fidelity to Jesus Christ.

5

(When asked by a brother to designate one worthy to be general minister, Francis said): He must be a person of very dignified life, of great discernment and of praiseworthy reputation…without personal favorites…be a committed friend of prayer…must put the sacrament of the Mass first … and commend himself and his flock to divine protection. – The only path worthy of the human family is the path of peace, of mutual respect, understanding, and love, and solidarity with those in need.

6

(Francis continued the requisites of a general minister saying): After prayer, he must make himself available for all to pick at him, and should respond to all and provide for all with meekness. He is someone who … will take as much care of the lesser and simple brother as of the learned and greater ones. – We begin to pray, believing it is our own initiative that compels us to do so.  Instead , we learn that it is always God’s initiative within us.

7

(Continuing the image of the general minister, Francis said) He should bear in his behavior the image of holy simplicity and nourish this virtue … he must loathe money … to be imitated, he must never engage in the abuse of using any money pouch. – God alone is our true and lasting support.

8

(The general minister should be) someone who comforts the afflicted, and the final refuge of the distressed, so that the sickness of despair does not overcome the sick … let him let go of some of his rights that he may gain a soul for Christ … let him not close the heart of mercy to (those who are runaways) – Love and prayer are the only sure spiritual levers with which it is possible to lift up the world. And this applies to all areas of life.

9

I want all to honor (the general minister) as standing in the place of Christ, and to be provided for everything with all the kindness of Christ  – In a world thirsting for peace, it is indeed urgent that Christian communities proclaim the gospel unanimously.

10

Blessed Francis was not embarrassed to go through the city’s public places to find some meat for a sick brother.  However, he also advised the sick to be patient when things were lacking and not stir up a scandal if everything was not to their satisfaction. – It is indispensable that (Christian communities) witness to divine love, which unites them, and make themselves messengers of joy, hope, and peace.

11

He burned with great zeal for the common  profession and Rule, and endowed those who were zealous about it with a special blessing.  He called it their Book of Life, the hope of salvation, the marrow of the Gospel, the way of perfection, the key of Paradise, the pact of an eternal covenant. – The Holy Spirit makes man realize his own evil and at the same time directs him toward what is good.

12

It grieved the blessed Father when brothers sought learning while neglecting virtue, especially is they did not remain in that calling in which they were first called. –Thanks to the multiplicity of the Spirit’s gifts, every kind of human sin can be reached by God’s saving power.

13

He used to say that the lukewarm who do not apply themselves constantly to some work, would quickly be vomited out of the Lord’s mouth.  No idler could appear in his presence without feeling the sharp bite of criticism. – Whoever calls with faith on the name of Jesus can have the experience similar to the one mentioned by Luke: for power came forth from him and healed all.

14

So that the brother (who was in pain because he was hungry and could not sleep) would not be ashamed to eat alone, blessed Francis, a man of great charity and discernment, immediately had the table set and they all ate together with him. – Only a higher moral vision can motivate the choice for life.

15

After the meal, blessed Francis said to the other brothers: My brothers, each of you must consider his own constitution … Just as we must beware of overindulging in eating, which harms body and soul, so we must beware of excessive abstinence even more, because the Lord desires mercy and not sacrifice. – Provided that we approach the word of God and listen to it as it really is, it brings us into contact with God Himself, God speaking to us.

16

Let each one provide for his body what it needs as our poverty will allow.  This is what I wish and command you. – May Mary help us love nothing more than Christ, who reveals to the world the mystery of divine love and true human dignity.

17

When Francis began to have brothers, he was so happy about their conversion and that the Lord had given him good company, that he loved and revered them so much that he did not tell them to go for alms … rather, sparing them shame, he himself would go for alms every day …  – (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.

18

(Seeing Francis’ fatigue, the brothers said): We want to go for alms.  So (Francis) talked to them.  My dearest brothers and sons, don’t be ashamed to go for alms, because the Lord for our sake made Himself poor in this world … This is our inheritance, which the Lord Jesus Christ acquired and bequeathed to us and all who want to live in holy poverty according to His example. – It is decisive for each one of us to meet Christ personally.

19

So that the brothers would observe the words of the holy Gospel: Do not be concerned about tomorrow … for a long time many brothers … did not want to collect or receive more alms than were enough for them for one day. – It is Christ who understands the human heart, who can satisfy its hopes and longings and give answers to the concerns and the difficulties that humanity today faces.

20

From the very moment blessed Francis spoke (to the brother suffering from severe depression), he was immediately freed both in spirit and body from that great trial … through the grace of God and the merits of blessed Francis, he remained in great serenity and peace of soul and body. – The Holy Spirit is the author of our sanctification.

21

And he would say: When the Lord stayed in solitude where he prayed and fasted for forty days and forty nights, He did not have a cell or a house built there, but He sheltered Himself under the rocks of the mountain.  And so, after His example, he did not want to have a house or cell in this world, nor did he have one built for him. –The Holy Spirit transforms man deep down, divinizes him, makes him participant in divine nature, just as fire makes metal incandescent, just as spring water quenches thirst.

22

The holy father … did not want the brothers for any reason to go beyond the norm of poverty either in houses or churches, in gardens or in other things they used.  And he did not want them to possess the right of ownership to these places, but always to stay in them as pilgrims and strangers. – The need of Christians for reconciliation with one another, for mutual forgiveness, is great.

23

The Lord, he used to say, has called us to help His faith and the prelates and clerics of holy Mother Church.  This is why we are always bound to love, honor, and revere them as much as we can. For this reason let them (the brothers) be called Lesser Brothers ... – (Do) 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.

24

Since I cannot speak much because of weakness and the pain of my illness, I am showing my will to my brothers briefly in these three words: as a sign of remembrance of my blessing and my testament, may they always love each other; may they always love and observe our Lady Holy Poverty; and may they always remain faithful and subject to the prelates and all the clerics of holy Mother Church. – It is important for media personalities (and all people) to be men and women of integrity and of sound character worthy of the respect which is paid them and of the trust which is given them. (we can apply this to all Christians)

25

Blessed Francis was very sad when he entered some church and saw that it was not clean.  Therefore, 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.  The world should be enriched by … (our) goodness.

26

Brother Pacifico was taken up into ecstasy … and he saw many thrones in heaven, one of them higher than the others, glorious, resplendent adorned with every precious stone … All at once he heard a voice telling him: This was Lucifer’s throne and blessed Francis will sit on it in his place. – The first step of evangelization is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God.

27

Brother Pacifico was told this in his heart: In this you can know that the vision you saw is true.  For as Lucifer was cast down because of his pride, so blessed Francis will merit to be exalted and sit on it because of his humility. – We must first experience God’s gracious mercy, the love of Christ which has reconciled us to himself and given us the work of handing on this reconciliation.

28

During his illness, blessed Francis composed some Praises of the Lord which he had his companions recite sometimes for the praise of God, the consolation of his spirit, and also for the edification of his neighbor. – Man’s relationship with God demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person.

29

When he came in and stood before the table of the brothers … he sat down on the floor beside the fire, facing the brothers … sighing he said … When I saw the table finely and elaborately prepared, I considered that this was not a table of poor religious … for more than other religious, we should follow the example of poverty and humility in all things, because we have been called to this and have professed this before God and people … – 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.

30

It was customary for blessed Francis, whenever anyone out of devotion requested him to pray to the Lord for his soul, to offer a prayer as soon as possible, so that he would not forget afterwards. – In meeting You (Lord), after having sought you for so long, we shall find once more every authentic good which we have known on earth, in the company of all who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and hope.

31

What was bitter to his body he accepted and considered sweet on account of the sweetness and compassion that he drew daily from, the humility and footprints of the Son of God.  Because of the sufferings and bitter experiences of Christ, which He endured  for us, he grieved and afflicted himself daily in body and soul … – 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

 

Thoughts for the Day – July 2019 – by Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM Cap

St. Francis of Assisi Friary

1901 Prior Road

Wilmington, Delaware 19809


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

July 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord bless you with His peace!

Before the Vatican II revision of the Liturgical Year Calendar, the Franciscan Family commemorated the canonization of our Seraphic Father on July 16. It was a simple celebration that consisted of a commemorative prayer added to the prayers for the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that day. The following, taken from our sources, speak of the event.

A span of twenty years had passed since the glorious confessor and Levite of Christ had first embraced the counsels of evangelical perfection … Now, this same venerable father left the shipwreck of this world in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 1226, on Sunday, the fourth day of the nones of October, and was buried, as has been said, in the city of Assisi … This blessed man had begun his course under the illustrious Lord Pope Innocent III, and he happily completed it under his successor, Honorius … They were happily succeeded by the Lord Pope Gregory (IX) … (Life of St. Francis by Julian of Speyer, chpt. 13)

Immediately, the holy man began to reflect the light radiating from the face of God and to glitter with many great miracles.  Thus the sublimity of his holiness which, while he was still in the flesh, had been familiar to the world as a guide for conduct through examples of perfect justice, was approved from heaven while he is now reigning with Christ as a confirmation of faith through the miracles performed by the divine power.  In different parts of the world, his glorious miracles and the abundant benefits obtained through him, inflame many to devotion to Christ and incited them to devotion to Christ and incited them to reverence for his saint.  The wonderful things which God was working through his servant Francis – acclaimed by word of mouth and testified to by facts – came to the ears of the Supreme Pontiff, Gregory IX.  That shepherd of the Church was fully convinced of Francis’ remarkable holiness, but also from his own experience during his life.  Having seen with his own eyes and touched with his own hands, he had no doubt that Francis was glorified in heaven by the Lord.  In order to act in conformity with Christ, whose vicar he was, after prayerful consideration he decided to glorify him on earth by proclaiming him worthy of all veneration. … He decreed with unanimous advice and assent … that he should be canonized.  He came personally to the city of Assisi in the 1228th year of the Incarnation of the Lord … and enrolled the blessed father in the catalog of the saints. (The Major Legend, chpt. 15, 6-7)

The Family of St. Francis, both brothers and sisters, had grown tremendously since Francis heard the words from the Crucifix of San Damiano. St. Francis of Assisi has been immortalized through the centuries not only because of the gifts the Lord bestowed upon him personally – among them the sacred Stigmata that rendered him a living image of the Suffering Christ – but also through the spirit he instilled in his followers, his spiritual children, and the joy and selflessness with which they surrendered themselves to the will of God, the Church, and the charism of the Poverello of Assisi. During the life of our Seraphic Father, Brother Berard and his companions, who were the first of a long line of Franciscans to do so, gave their lives for the faith in Morocco. St. Francis praised their faith, obedience, and courage, and said of them: Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor.  A true Franciscan doesn’t count the cost! We are supposed to be detached, so it should not be difficult To let go and let God.

St. Francis, saint of the Disarmed Heart and Universal Brother, continued to disarm his heart through the humility and openness of his sons and daughters. St. Francis and the Franciscan Family continue to have an incisive effect on the lives of both Christians and non-Christians.  The disarmed heart of St. Francis is the same disarmed heart that should be a recognizable sign of a true daughter or son of the Poverello. We destroy our opponents or those who think they are ‘enemies’ by making them our friends.  We are the peacemakers by profession! … with God, ourselves and one another!

The lives of our Franciscan Saints and Blesseds are a kaleidoscope of spiritual beauty.  Rather than overwhelm us with heights of unattainable holiness, their stories invite us to enter our vocation more deeply.  The diversity of characters, personalities, ministries, prayer forms, penitential practices, age groups, levels on the social ladder, roles fulfilled in Church and/or in society, intellectual capacity, and so much more, make it obvious that the Franciscan Family is open and welcoming to all who seek to live the Gospel life in the spirit of the Poverello of Assisi. Still, when the question is asked, What do I have to do to be a Franciscan? The question is so simple that it is difficult to answer.

We always put the word ‘do’ together with the word ‘be’.  It makes sense!  Once we know who we are, then we know or begin searching for the way to live out our lives fully. How many begin difficult penitential practices, long prayer forms, and the like, before they even get to understand how God is calling them to achieve the sanctity that we are all called to achieve gradually through living.  St. Paul reminds us: The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others(Romans 14: 17).  All the various practices are in themselves most profitable spiritually, as long as they are in accord with God’s will.  Remember, however, that before we run, we must learn how to walk, and before we walk, we crawl, and before that we are held in the arms of our parents.  Allow God to hold you in His arms. Entrusted by vocation to our fraternity we must learn to walk as a Franciscan, before we attempt to run as a ‘mystic’.

Enthusiasm is a wonderful gift.  The enthusiasm that initiates one into the spiritual life, especially when it is a ‘discovery’ in the adult years, can at times confuse a person who tries to apply all the actions of the saints and blesseds he/she has heard about.  It might even be the particular saint that attracts them, such as St. Francis or St. Clare, to the Franciscan Family.  But what happens next is that these well-intentioned ‘aspirants to sainthood’ think that doing as others did they will attain their goal.  To a certain extent it might be true, but each of us is a ‘saint’ in his/her own way.  Just remember Brother John the Simple.  St. Francis had to convince the family of John to let him become a brother. Once in the Brotherhood, John, who believed Francis a saint, thought that by imitating St. Francis in every action, he would surely become a saint.  It took some loving persuasion and encouragement for Francis to convince Br. John that he did not have to walk as he walked, cough when he coughed; you get the idea. That’s what John was doing. Simplicity of mind as well as life, but a holiness of life that accepted the correction and became the ‘unique’ saint he was. Like Br. John, we strive to be the ’unique’ saints we are called to be. We are ’children of the saints’.  We are brothers and sisters of the saints of our Franciscan Family.  We have a legacy that we leave to others after we have lived it ourselves.  Let us offer those who encounter us an image they can not only admire but follow with simplicity and dedication, if they choose to become ’one of the family’.

What do we have to do?  It is really quite simple!  The Rule and Constitutions are the main documents, together with Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium of the Church and the Sacred Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and our Franciscan Family are the basic guidelines and safeguards for a basically good and holy Franciscan life.  Then we come to the practices that help us ’keep focused’ and ’on track’.  These can be many or just a few, depending on how we read and understand the ’basic guidelines’ of the Rule, Constitutions, Scripture, and so forth.

The following list offers some of the basic spiritual and religious practices most Catholics and religious have followed in the past. These are just a simple reminder of what most people seeking a deeper spiritual life have done before attempting the ’greater’ practices and experiences:

–   Daily Morning and Evening Prayers with the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours or other prescribed prayers proper to the Fraternity, as well as our own personal prayers, especially the Morning Offering and Consecration of our every action, are a way for us to begin and end the gift of each day with the Lord, trusting in His love, mercy, and providence.

–   Daily Mass and Communion assist us to enter that unique and intimate relationship with God Who offers us the opportunity to share in the Paschal Mystery each time we assist at or celebrate the Eucharist. One of our own saints said: A day without the Eucharist is like a day without the sun. Franciscans are a ’Eucharistic People’.  The Paschal Mystery was such an integral part of the spirituality and life of St. Francis of Assisi.

–   Daily Meditation on God’s Word opens the mind to receive a word that enlightens, strengthens, warns, encourages, and so forth.  It is the act by which we make our very being receptive to the Lord Who speaks to us.

–   Daily quiet time with the Lord, even if for only a half hour, lets the world in which we are necessarily involved, be seen from a different perspective when we ’re-enter’ after spending quality time with God. Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46)

–   Daily Spiritual Reading of lives of saints and other holy people faithful to the Church and/or readings concerning our Franciscan charism should be among our daily reading list.  A good biography of holy people shows us how a life is to be lived in God. Though each person about whom we read is different, the commitment, deep faith, trust, and unique way they encountered God and grew in His grace, serve as an encouragement for our spiritual journey.

–   Weekly, if not more often, Eucharistic Adoration does not have to be the formal adoration with the monstrance; sometimes that cannot be. However, time spent before the Blessed Sacrament in total surrender to the Divine Presence changes our view on many things we would otherwise allow to overwhelm us.

–   Sacramental Reconciliation once every two weeks was the norm for a while. We are Penitents of Assisi.  We should be the first among all the formal religious groups to recognize, promote and utilize this Sacrament as a means of keeping us always in the divine life of grace. Unfortunately, even we Franciscans think that this Sacrament is only needed for serious or mortal sins.  While that is true, the Sacrament is also a gift that keeps us spiritually healthy by giving us the graces to rid us not only of sin but assist us in weeding out the occasions we allow to entice us. Until we “own” what is “hurting” us, we will never really seek and receive the necessary healing.

–   The Monthly Fraternity Meeting that brings the ’family’ together to pray, learn, share and plan is an essential part of our life that everyone should be part of, unless legitimately excused.

–   The Yearly Retreat helps us to focus totally, if only for a few days, on the preeminence of God and our vocation to this life.

–   The Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy can be fulfilled in a variety of ways that are already being done by a number of our brothers and sisters.  These ’externals’ form an integral part of our ministry as Franciscans.

These may seem like so much to expect or ask.  In reality everything mentioned above is all easily doable, when priorities are set.  No responsibilities will suffer in doing any of the above, and there are marvelous effects that flow from these.  As we center on God, we begin to understand more of our Franciscan vocation.  Spiritual as well as more material activities are accomplished with greater ease.  They take precedence over the ’time wasters’ that we so often allow to take up our attention for hours, days, and sometimes a ’wasted lifetime’.  We must also relax, recreate, have fun, laugh, enjoy life. The spiritual activities mentioned above, when done with a sense of commitment to strengthen our relationship with God and our sisters and brothers in the Franciscan Fraternity, only enhance the joy. They do not detract from it.

My dear sisters and brothers, we are all children of the Seraphic Father.  Just as it is not enough to cry Lord, Lord, to enter the kingdom of God, so it is not enough to say that one is a Franciscan solely because he/she recited the words of profession. Profession demands conviction, commitment, and living as a Franciscan.  What we say with our lips becomes truth when we live it with our life.  A Franciscan lives the spirit of the Seraphic Father, the Poverello of Assisi. Before we expect the marvelous and extraordinary in our lives to happen, let us strive to live what is expected of us.  Live the ordinary, the expected, in an extraordinary and maybe even ’unexpected’ way. St. Francis tells the first followers and us as well Let us begin (to be who we are called to be) because up to now we have done so little. Make use of the various opportunities and gatherings planned and offered for you to grow in your knowledge of our charism and to become more closely one in fraternity through our common prayer and sharing. As children of St. Francis of Assisi, we form a magnificent family that has been a blessing to the Church for over eight centuries.  Let us continue to be a blessing to all, as we bless one another with our love and lives.

Our Seraphic Father offers us the example how to allow the above to be an effective part of our lives. We must be humble! Not be so filled with ourselves that we become a “legend unto ourselves”… and an annoyance to others. True humility lets go of self and lets God take over. True humility learns how to appreciate the gifts of others. True fraternal humility rejoices with the sister or brother and does not seek to stifle the working of the Holy Spirit present in everyone.

During these warm summer months, remember God’s warm love for all of us. Let the love of His Son warm our hearts that we may be His image to one another and to the world we encounter each day. May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look over each one of us, his spiritual children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

 

What’s In A Name? From the Heart of the Minister – July, 2019

The practice of taking a religious name at Profession stopped in the 70’s.  We stopped at the same time that the religious Orders stopped.  We don’t become a Secular Franciscan in order to become a new person with a new identity.

Just so I would have something to back up what I am writing here, I put the question out on the Regional Ministers’ list serve so that all Regional Ministers across the country would see it and respond. Some of the Ministers asked what century I am living in and others said they never heard of taking a religious name.  And here is the wonderful answer I received:

If we take a look at the past, a name change at Baptism was originally meant to give a person a Christian identity and name as opposed to a pagan name.

As Secular Franciscans, prior to Vatican II, we followed the custom of religious communities that gave a new name at the time of reception into the community. It signified the idea of dying to the old self and rising to life in Christ. This is no longer done in religious life. Taking into consideration that we are lay people; we are even less inclined to take a religious name.

Why is this no longer done?

At the time of the second Vatican Council, all religious were encouraged to go back to their roots: to look at Baptism as the foundational sacrament. We are given Christian names at Baptism. Therefore, we are being asked to be known in the community by our baptismal name.

 Our Secular Franciscan profession intensifies our baptismal commitmentIn Profession we make a public statement that we are going to live out our baptismal commitment for the good of the church. 

Remember when we switched from SFO to OFS?  Oh what moaning and groaning there was over that!  It was done so that all Secular Franciscans worldwide are identified in the same way.  Taking a name falls into the same category.  It is not an accepted practice worldwide.  Receiving a cord and taking a religious name at Profession were stopped more than 50 years ago.

By the same token, all formation comes from For Up To Now – or the FUN manual as we know it – and the Franciscan Journey.  To deny the Inquirers and Candidates of what the rest of the world is learning is not acceptable.  People end up being professed without knowing what every professed Secular Franciscan needs to know.  Later, these same folks are voted onto Council and are so lost and find the position so hard because their formation was not done according to the Rule, the Constitutions, the Statutes and Guidelines.

There is work to be done. We have willingly joined an Order and to be able to keep order, we all must comply with our governing documents.  These documents can keep Ongoing Formation well stocked for a couple years at least!

As we learn about where we are in our Secular Franciscan journey, we can step into the future of our Order with solid knowledge and practices.