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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Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. Greetings for September – 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

September 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

In September 1224, two years before death would usher him into eternity early in life, while at prayer at a solitary site on a mountaintop in Tuscany, our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, received the answer to his prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask You before I die: the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which You, sweet Lord, endured in the hour of Your most bitter Passion;  the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which You, O Son of God, were inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.  A winged Seraph appeared to him and signed him with the visible marks of the wounds of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi, the Little Poor Man, the Universal Brother, had become a living image of the Crucified Christ. The marks gave witness to the integrity of the person who bore them and credibility to the message he had now become, so that when a spirit of indifference was taking over the world, (The Lord) renewed in the flesh of St. Francis the Sacred Stigmata of (His) Passion to rekindle in our hearts the fire of (His)love. (adapted Opening Prayer for the Feast of the Impression of the Stigmata).

St. Francis received a wonderful privilege that carried with it a great responsibility.  He was entrusted with a mission: to rekindle the fire of Divine Love in the hearts of God’s children.  The Stigmata he bore speak volumes for those willing to ‘read’ them in a spirit of faith.  To see him was to see the living image of the Crucified. To see him was a challenge to change. To encounter him was to recognize God speaking through him reminding all of God’s limitless love and calling everyone to cooperate with grace and become the persons we were all created to be: children of the Father, redeemed in the blood of the Son, bound together in the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those willing to understand and accept the message of the wounds and the person signed with them, knew they were ‘called to action’. The Stigmata call to action not apathy, loving not loathing, conviction not complacency, determination not doubt, commitment not compromise, life not lethargy.

Like the great priest-prophet of the Old Testament, Ezekiel, St. Francis was called to be a living prophecy to a lethargic world suffering from spiritual dryness. Ezekiel’s prophetic words speak of numberless dry, lifeless, disjointed bones, lying on a vast field, (see Ezekiel 37: 1-14); they could be compared to many periods in human history, to St. Francis’ time, and even to our own, when war and its after-effects on society, violence, economic difficulties, contagious illnesses, social restlessness, immorality and amorality take their toll on the spiritual life of God’s people.  Even those of deep faith can experience a dryness and spiritual fatigue. They look for understanding and direction.  They seek someone who will journey with them and nourish them with God’s Word and healing grace.  To see St. Francis, signed with the sign of the Crucified, made Jesus come alive in the hearts of those he met and with whom he spoke. The Stigmata he bore were a visible sign to all of a presence that was reassuring, encouraging, life-giving.  Isaiah spoke of the wounds of Christ centuries before His Passion and Death – Through His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53: 4-5).  St. Francis of Assisi accepted to let those wounds come alive once again in his own body, and thus be a reminder and a sign of hope through Jesus’ self-sacrificing love in His Eucharistic Presence that re-presents His redemptive Passion-Death-Resurrection; those wounds kept the reality of that one great sacrifice vividly alive before the eyes of all.

The great scene of that field of bones in Ezekiel is also a reminder of what we are without God, and what we become once we allow His Word to enter our lives and His Spirit-breath to enter our hearts. There is a gradual and effective rebirth, a new creation, a re-creation in each one of us. God Himself intervenes by doing in-with-for us what is otherwise humanly impossible.  When we feel like ‘dry bones’ – tired, discouraged, disillusioned, even despairing – that is the moment for us to hope against all hope (Romans 4: 18).  God Himself will bring about our spiritual ‘resurrection’ in this life.  The sign of our faith is the Resurrection of Christ and the Eucharist offers us the opportunity to participate in His Passion-Death-Resurrection, our pledge of future life and glory. Love for the cross is the distinctive sign of chosen souls. Jesus’ wounds remind us how He loved us to His death that we might live with Him.

As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi, we continue to let Jesus come alive in a world grown cold to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The ‘Good News’ that we preach with our lives is that God so loved the world He sent His only Son so that all who believe in Him might have life … He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.    When we ‘climb Calvary’ with Christ and accept to receive ‘our own stigmata’ and bear joyfully the responsibilities and burdens that come with life, we begin to rekindle the flame of faith in the hearts of others, as it grows stronger by God’s grace in ourselves.

The signing of our Seraphic Father with the Sacred Stigmata of Jesus calls us to action.  It must however begin with each one of us first, then reach out to others. Ultimately we reach a point where everything is in perspective and even the world is put under our feet; it becomes the theater of salvation, rather than a stumbling-block of distractions and seductions that destroy fervor and lead to tepidity, indifference, and finally separation from all that is good and all that is God. St. Francis’ Prayer asking to experience the love that Jesus had in dying for us and the reception of the Stigmata on La Verna help us to reflect upon a simple and powerful way to strengthen and deepen our spiritual lives.

 

1)      Imitate Love – Ask God for the ability to surrender totally in trust to God’s will.  Love is total surrender to the One Who surrenders Himself for us on the Cross and to us in the Eucharist.

2)      Meditate on the Sufferings and Love of Jesus – Keep the image of the Passion-Death of Jesus alive in your heart.  We Franciscans are noted for our affective prayer.  It touches the heart and makes the reality of what we consider more vivid and impressive.

3)      Love the Cross – Do not fear the image of suffering and death.  The Cross without Christ is a lie.  With Christ, the Cross becomes not a sign of death but Life, not a sign of hatred but Love. Keep the image always alive in your heart and your life, especially in the midst of the heavy burdens that might come.

4)      Grow in Christian Perfection – The spiritual life is not static.  Once Christ and the Cross become ‘real’ and present to the heart, we must proceed forward by ‘living Jesus’ and His Gospel more intensely.

5)      CLIMB CALVARY – Once we grow in our Christian life, we cannot help but desire to ‘climb Calvary’ to be one with the mystery of our redemption.

6)      Embrace with Cheerful Soul Everything – Having embraced the Cross and stood with Jesus, all else becomes a gift we can easily embrace with gratitude, trust, and cheerfulness. Yes, ‘cheerfulness’. To embrace one thing is not to embrace something else.  God loves a cheerful giver. When we embrace cheerfully what God’s permits, we let go of our false securities and comfort zones, and just trust.

7)     Be Faithful  – Nothing can be taken for granted.  We must be ever on the watch to remain faithful.  Never become complacent thinking that everything happens now automatically.  The Spirit’s work is kept alive by faith-filled lives that never slacken, that renew the ‘process’ everyday with greater commitment and intensity.

8)     Place the World Under Your Feet – Like the famous image of St. Francis embracing the Crucified with the world at his feet, now we are able to use the world as the theater of redemption it is and make use of all creation as the gifts that can lead us to the fullness of life, rather than allow the world to control, condition, and ultimately condemn us.

The impression of the Stigmata of Jesus on Saint Francis of Assisi, celebrated this month, challenges us to remember and live the words Per Crucem ad Lucem –Through the Cross to the Light. The wounds of the Passion speak of a world that refused and rejected that incarnate God, Who took on human nature that humanity might rise above what was leading it astray.  Treachery, betrayal, capture, torture, and death were the ‘thanks’ offered all the blessings bestowed and received.  The wounds we celebrate in Our Seraphic Father call us to be spiritually impressed with the same ‘signs’ and respond to the gift as did St. Francis.

–     The nails in the hands remind us to use our hands to bless and not offend, to give not seek to receive, to embrace rather than push away, to raise up rather than put down, help rather than hinder …

–     The nails in the feet remind us of the Scriptural phrase: blessed are the feet of the bearer of peace. They lead us to approach all as sisters and brothers, move towards those in need rather than remain stationary in our own comfort and security, take the first step and seek out those estranged rather than wait for the other to take the first step …

–     The heart pierced reminds us that we must disarm our hearts to one another and allow all to enter our loving embrace that they too, as we, may discover the limitless and unconditional love of God through us.

Let the Impression of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus on the body of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi speak to you. May God bless you; my Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi look upon each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.  Happy Feast Day to all!

Peace and Blessings

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

Regional Spiritual Assistant

Message from NEC Concerning Scandal in Churches in Pennsylvania

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Lord give you peace!
 
The National Executive Council is publishing the following statement regarding the recent scandal in the Churches of Pennsylvania.   It will soon be posted on our website and social media.
This message is addressed to all Secular Franciscans.  Please share it widely.  Thank you!
 
With you in prayer,
Jan and the NEC
 
Jan Parker OFS
Minister, Secular Franciscan Order USA
 
Renewed and Confirmed: Live the Treasure!
Celebrating 40 Years of our OFS Rule

A Message to Secular Franciscans

Regarding the Recent Scandal in the Churches of Pennsylvania

Sisters and Brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, United States:

The release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania is a cause of sorrow, pain and agonizing self-scrutiny for the Catholic Church in the United States.  We are again face to face with the tragic reality of sinful abuse perpetrated on the most vulnerable of our faith family.  How, we ask, can we trust those shepherds with our lives, our children and our faith?  Can the victims find peace and healing in the Church that betrayed their innocence?  Can we, as professed Secular Franciscans, stand as mere bystanders watching this tragic play unfold before us?  What are we to do?  What can we do?

 It saddens all of us that a small minority of men who made a cmmitment to serve the Church betrayed the promises they made to serve, and used their positions of being an authority figure to aid predatory behavior; truly we have wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Mt 7:15)  If it were only a case of a few parish priests, the trust of Church leaders may more easily be re-established; but when it is demonstrated that our chief shepherds, the bishops, were involved in secrecy, cover ups and pay outs, the trust, respect and moral authority of the Church as an institution suffers great damage.  We must all face the truth and make no excuse for those who are guilty of these crimes against the living stones of the Church, the mystical body of Christ; those who have been unfaithful spouses to the Church as the Bride of Christ!

St John Chrysostom, a fourth century bishop, described pastors as the “salt of the earth”.

(Mt 5:13) He said of pastors, “If others lose their savor, then your ministry will help them regain it.  But if you yourselves suffer that loss, you will drag others down with you.”  Sisters and brothers, we have witnessed many being dragged down by those shepherds who have lost their savor as salt of the earth.

As a Secular Order, we are in a unique position to help those who feel abandoned, threatened and fearful of the clerical hierarchy that betrayed their trust.  We are an order of people in the pew.  As people in the pew we can listen to our broken sisters and brothers.  We can listen without judging, without trying to immediately heal them of their pain. We can listen to them and acknowledge their pain without defending or making excuses for the institution that betrayed them.  We can “with a gentle and courteous spirit accept them all as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ” (OFS Rule, Art.13). We can make contributions to support the counselors who will help heal the wounds of those suffering souls.

We were founded as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.  All of us in our individual life, in our fraternities, in our regions and our national fraternity must do penance for this great sin.  Some demons can only be cast out through prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29) This is our call to action! Our Lord asked St. Francis to rebuild the Church which was falling into ruin.  Are we called to do anything less as followers of Francis?  Francis lived his vocation authentically as a living example of Gospel Life.  We must do the same.  Only by living an authentic Gospel life will our light shine and the Church be rebuilt.

We must also stand with our brothers and sisters who have and are serving the Church as good and faithful servants.  These men and women who are faithful to their call are now called to be suffering servants.  They are guilty by association with the Church institution that has betrayed their trust.  How difficult it will be for them to preach the Gospel as representatives of a Church that has lost its moral authority in the public square and in the pew.  We must stand by those faithful servants and help them continue to look after the well-being of others.

Sisters and Brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, we stand in support of the victims and in favor of holding those responsible for these crimes accountable for their actions.  We pray for healing, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation and a Church that will be rebuilt and with God’s grace, and the movement of Holy Spirit, one day, will once again be a beacon of light, hope and refuge.  Let us go forth and witness to the light of Christ and rebuild the Church so that it may once again be full of grace and truth.

The National Executive Council of the Secular Franciscan Order USA (OFS-USA)

August 26, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – August 2018

August 2018 

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

 All peace and good be with you!  It is hard to believe summer is half over!  I was in the car with one of my granddaughters yesterday and as we passed her school she said how much she missed school and wanted summer to end.  Music to a grandpa’s heart… I said it is wonderful that you love to learn.  She said in her adorable way “Grandpa, I don’t like learning, I miss my friends!” as it should be.  The same is true with our fraternities, we are friends, we are family we should love to gather and be together.  Including just having fun!   

As you know we took a short break from Initial Formation in July’s letter to discuss ongoing formation.  Well, it is time to get back to initial formation.  As you know we were discussing Inquiry and using the Pathways to Profession Chart1 to bring order and constancy to our journey and the exploration of Secular Franciscan spirituality.  Everything we do and teach should be based on this concept and founded in the FUN Manual and the Regional Guidelines.  If we do this we will know we are on the correct path.   

So, when we left off in June, we were discussing Inquiry.  Inquiry is the first true step in initial formation for the Secular Francians.  Orientation is important but is just that, it is meant to give a person some terms and a basic understanding of what will be happening.  But by now your “Inquirer” should have had time to get familiar with some of the language we use (in orientation) and you, the formation team and the members of the fraternity should be getting to know the Inquirer.  And please note I called them an “Inquirer” not Postulate or Novice.  Since regionalization and the adoption of the new rule (forty years ago) the correct terms are Inquirery and Candidacy or Inquirer or Candidate.  While we are on that subject, the Minister or president of a fraternity (at any level) is no longer referred to as a Prefect, it is either minister or president, more places use minister.  But I digress, I apologize. 

Back to the Inquirer, by now you should have collected all of the Spiritual Inventory, sacramental records and other important documents.  There should have been at least one formal interview and possibly two.  In my fraternity we frequently have a BBQ or Picnic with the inquirers and the council instead.  This make the situation much less threatening.  As your Inquirer nears the end of the inquiry phase, they should be invited to request Candidacy (in writing) including why they feel called to a Franciscan vocation.   

Once that is done, the formation team and the fraternity council should review all the documents including the home work where appropriate and have a discussion as to whether they see a vocation in the individual.  Once discussed a council vote should occur and there should be no doubt the individual should continue.  If there is any doubt, a further discussion needs to happen.  What do we do now? 

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.   

Pax et Bonum 

Peace and all Good 

 Ted Bienkowski, OFS 

SKD Region Formation Director 

 

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. – August 2018

August 2018

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)

 

Following are excerpts taken from early documents that speak of  St. Clare of Assisi.

In the month that celebrates the glory of our Holy Mother, we read testimonies

from  the Acts of the Process of Canonization (1st and 2nd Witnesses).

 

Daily reflections are taken from various sources

 

1

Saint Clare, while that holy woman was in the world…was considered by all who knew her to be a person of great honesty and of very good life; and she was intent upon and occupied with works of piety. (1st Witness) – The danger of indifference demands we do battle with triteness, shallowness, and dullness, and that we have to resist and begin to go in the other direction.

2

Saint Clare began the Order that is now at San Damiano through the admonition of Saint Francis.  She entered it as a virgin, and always remained such a virgin. (1st Witness) – Truly good people are always unconscious of their goodness.

3

Lady Clare very much loved the poor, and all the citizens held her in great veneration because of her good manner of life. (1st Witness) – When we compare ourselves with other people, we seem good; when we compare ourselves with God, we are nothing.

4

After Saint Clare had been in the Order, at the prayers and insistence of Saint Francis, who almost forced her, she accepted the direction and government of the sisters. (1st Witness) – Love quickly decays.  Has our love grown cold?

5

The blessed mother (Saint Clare) kept vigil so much of the night in prayer, and kept so many abstinences, that the sisters lamented and were alarmed. (1st Witness) – The closer we get to Christ, the less certain we are of any merit of our own.

6

Lady Clare lay on the ground and had a rock from the river for her head…She was so very strict in her food that the sisters marveled at how her body survived. (1st Witness) – The older we get, the better we see ourselves.

7

Blessed Clare fasted much of the time.  Three days of the week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she did not eat anything…Saint Francis together with the bishop of Assisi commanded her to eat on those days at least a half a roll of bread… (1st Witness) – The psychology of mediocrity seeks rather to ease the problem than cure it.

8

When she came from prayer, she admonished and comforted her sisters always speaking the words of God Who was always in her mouth, so much so that she did not want to speak or hear of vanities. (1st Witness) – Life had to be forfeited for our sins, and no life is more precious than that of God who became man. His blood … paid the infinite price.

9

When she (Saint Clare) commanded her sisters to do something, she did so with great fear and humility and more often than not she wished to do what she had commanded the others. (1st Witness) – Even if we claim not to believe, we still experience the moral effects of guilt.

10

When she was sick that she could not get up from bed, she had herself raised to sit up and be supported with some cushions…She spun thread so that, from her work, she made corporals and altar linens for almost all the churches of the plains and hills of Assisi. (1st Witness) – The great sin of the human race is rebellion.  We are rebels against God.

11

The blessed mother was humble, kind, and loving to her sisters, and had compassion for the sick. (1st Witness) – We need to resolve to change, because when we fall into a pattern of ordinariness, we are loath to change.

12

While she was healthy, she (Saint Clare) served them and washed their feet and gave them water with her own hands.  Sometime she washed the mattresses of the sick. (1st Witness) – You will always know the dark days of the Church (and our own) when there is a walking away from the cross of Christ.

13

She particularly loved poverty, but she could never be persuaded to desire anything for herself, or to receive any possession for herself or the monastery. (1st Witness) – There is no such thing as capturing the passing glory. You have to go down the hill and climb the hill of Calvary to come to perfect glory.

14

Lady Clare was as careful about the regular observance of her Order and the government of the sisters as someone might be in safeguarding his temporal treasure. (1st Witness) – The modern world is very fond of denying responsibility; it began in Eden.  The denial of responsibility stops at the cross of Christ.

15

When five sisters were sick in the monastery, Saint Clare made the sign of the cross with her own hand over them and all of them were immediately cured. (1st Witness) – The Cross without Christ is tyranny; Christ without the Cross is a lie.

16

Lady Clare, former abbess of the monastery of San Damiano, had marvelous humility and so looked down on herself … that those tasks which she knew were more degrading she herself performed. (2nd Witness) – Like vines, we must be pruned by the gardener, that we might be more fruitful.

17

She (St. Clare) was eighteen years old or so (when she entered religious life)…She was a virgin in spirit and in body and held in great veneration by all who knew her even before she entered religion…because of her great honesty, kindness, and humility. (2ndWitness) – Galatians 5&6 – After we have embraced discipline, then we will be prepared to change others.

18

She was also so severe toward her body that she was content with only one tunic of ‘lazzo’ (i.e. home-spun cloth made of inferior wool and used by the country folk) and one mantle. (2nd Witness) – Softness of character comes about when we desire to accommodate ourselves to the world, shrinking away from sacrifice, self-denial.

19

If she (St. Clare) ever saw that the tunic of another of the sisters was worse than what she was wearing, she took it from her for herself and gave the better one to that  sisters. (2nd Witness) – The Lord heals, but not always.  There will not be a complete healing until the whole cosmos is renewed.

20

Clare at one time had a certain shirt made of boar’s hide.  She wore it secretly under her woolen tunic with the skin and its bristles close to her skin. (2nd Witness) – Christ solved pain by making it a condition of life. He conquered pain by using it as a means of attaining glory.

21

She used such rough haircloths and shirts for herself, but was very merciful to the sisters who could not endure such harshness, and willingly gave them consolation. (2nd Witness) – God chooses us not for what we are, but for what God knows we can become.

22

Blessed Clare, before she was sick, practiced great abstinence: the greater Lent, of Saint Martin, she always fasted on bread and water, except on Sundays when she drank a little wine when there was some. (2nd Witness) – Love knows no limits.

23

At about midnight she woke the sisters with certain signs in silence to praise God.  She lit the lamps in the church and frequently rang the bells for Matins.  Those sisters who did not rise at the sound of the bell she called with her signs. (2nd Witness) – Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.

24

Her speech was always about the things of God.  She did not wish to talk about worldly things or for the sisters to remember these things. (2ndWitness)  – The crucifix is my autobiography.  The blood is the ink.  The  nails the pen.  The  skin the parchment. On every line of that body I can trace my life.

25

If it happened at times that some worldly person did something contrary to God, astonishingly she wept, reproached such a person, and exhorted that one anxiously to turn to penance. (2nd Witness) – Instead of a question of superiority or inferiority (in the Church and in fraternity) it is a question of the different roles we fulfill.

26

Lady Clare frequently confessed, and, with great devotion and fear, frequently received the holy sacrament of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, trembling all over as she did so. (2nd Witness) – We are all thieves. We cheat God in our lives; we cheat Him in our worship; we cheat Him in our relationships with others.  In us Jesus is reputed among the wicked.

27

Concerning the corporals made from her spinning…she had paper boxes lined with silk made to hold them and had them blessed by the bishop. (2nd Witness) – Scripture never speaks of reconciliation except through the death of Christ.  We are saved by the cross and resurrection.

28

(One sister) had lost her voice so that she was barely able to speak even softly. She had a vision on the night of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in which Lady Clare, while making the sign of the cross with her hand over her, cured her.  It was done in such a way that on the same day she was cured since she did make the sign of the cross over her. (2nd Witness) – Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus and both repented.  One repented to the Lord and the other repented to himself.  One lived in hope and the other died in despair.

29

A certain brother of the Order of Friars Minor, Stephen, was mentally ill.  Saint Francis sent him to the monastery of San Damiano, so Saint Clare would make the sign of the cross over him. After she had done this, the brother went to sleep…Upon waking, he ate a little and then departed cured. (2nd Witness) – In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord suffered not so much from pain, as from evil.

30

When certain Saracens scaled the wall and climbed down into the part within the cloister of San Damiano, holy mother Saint Clare, then seriously ill, got up from her bed, called her sisters, comforting them not to be afraid.  After she prayed, the Lord delivered the monastery and the sisters from the enemy.  Those Saracens, who had already  entered, departed. (2nd Witness) – The sufferings of our blessed Lord were finished in Him as the head of the church, but they are not finished in his body (the Church, us).

31

Through the virtues and grace that God had placed in her, all who knew her considered her a saint. She especially had a great love of poverty.  Neither Pope Gregory nor the Bishop of Ostia could make her consent to receive any possessions. (2nd Witness) – Nothing gives us so much understanding of the love of God, the sacrificial love, as God coming down to this world from heavenly headquarters and saying: ‘I will take the pain as my own’…This is the agape love of Christianity.

 

 

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap – August, 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

August 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

For centuries the Christian world has celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven.  This crowning moment in Her life was never really disputed by most Christians before the rise of Protestantism. As time moves on, the world and its values often clouds the vision of our minds and hearts.  As the modern world places humanity at the center rather than God, society takes a different view of life and basic human values.   Technology has become the ‘god’ for many, a practical atheism if not a theoretical one.  Materialism, commercialism, hedonism, just to mention a few ‘isms’ of our day, have sunk their roots deep into the human experience and often seduce the heart and soul urging us to confide in the passing things of time rather than in the lasting gifts of eternity.  The cult of the body has dominated our society for years.  Sixty years ago, recognizing these serious dangers, Pope Pius XII   proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven, November 1st, 1950, amidst a gathering of thousands in St. Peter’s Basilica. This proclamation was the crowning recognition of the simple Maiden of Nazareth, Whose unconditional faith opened Her life to God’s will, and the world to salvation.

The story of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is beautifully told in the Apocrypha (texts not inserted among the books of Sacred Scripture by the Bishops gathered at the Council of Nicea in the fourth century).  The story lets us see how the early Church truly loved Mary as the highest honor of our race. It is no wonder that so many saints have had a particular and deep love and filial devotion for Our Lady.  Our own Seraphic Father St. Francis and Holy Mother St. Clare were devoted children of this Most Holy of Mothers, Whose love envelopes us with Her protective mantle. Close to Her Immaculate Heart, Her children feel secure from harm and assured of an Advocate almighty by intercession with God.

Saint Francis loved Christ and was deeply struck by the humility of the Incarnation and the love of His Passion.  He wanted to conform himself totally to Christ, so that Christ would be the true foundation of his life.  This love for Christ inevitably led him to a profound love for Mary, the Mother of the Lord.  In fact, as Celano states: He embraced the Mother of Jesus with inexpressible love, since She made the Lord of Majesty a brother to us.  He honored Her with his own Praises, poured out prayers to Her, and offered Her his love in a way that no human tongue can express.  But what gives us greatest joy is that he appointed Her the Advocate of the Order, and placed under Her wings the sons to be left behind, that She might protect and cherish them to the end. (2 Celano, chpt.150) Love for Our Lady moved him to imitate Her virtues.  He would tell his friars that it is the example of Christ and His Most Holy Mother that we follow in choosing the way of true poverty. (Legend of Perugia, #3)

St. Francis wanted this basic element of his spirituality to be the same basis for the spirituality of St. Clare and her religious family. Thus an essential element of the life of Clare and her sisters is the love and devotion they have for the Mother of Jesus, whom St. Clare considers their true Mother. The love of Clare for Mary is apparent from the first moment of her consecration to God.  Once she abandoned her home, city and family, she fled to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula (Our Lady of the Angels), where the brothers, who were waiting for her in prayer before the little altar in that chapel, received Clare with lighted torches. (Life, #8).  It was here that St. Francis cut her hair before the altar, in the Church of the Virgin Mary (Process, #12), and it was here that the humble handmaid was wed to Christ (Life, #8) Saint Mary of the Portiuncula is that famous place where the new throng of the poor began, guided by Francis: thus it appears clearly that the Mother of mercy gave birth to both Orders in Her own dwelling place. (Life, #8)

St. Clare began her new life at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She had a particular love and devotion for Her and wanted her sisters, although they received the precious Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion only seven times a year, to receive communion on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. (Rule, #3) Clare even desired that any form of fasting be dispensed on the feasts of Mary.  As much in love as Clare was with Christ Crucified, so also was she with the His Mother, reflecting upon Her sorrows.  She wrote to Sister Ermentrude: Meditate constantly on the mysteries of the cross and the agonies of His Mother standing at the foot of the Cross. (Letter to Ermentrude)

Clare was deeply convinced that perseverance in her vocation gave honor to Mary.  She prayed for the gift of perseverance, and in her Testament she writes: Let us be very careful that, if we have set out on the path of the Lord, we do not at any time turn away from it through our own fault and ignorance, or that we do a great wrong to so great a Lord and His Virgin Mother, and our blessed father Francis, the Church Triumphant and even the Church Militant…For this reason, I bend the knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ so that, through the prayers and merits of the glorious and holy Virgin Mary, His Mother, and our most blessed father Francis and all the saints, the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning, may give the increase and may give final perseverance. Amen. (Testament)

Clare’s love for Mary was a transforming element for her,   that she expressed in the imitation of Mary’s virtues.  Even Cardinal Rainaldo in the letter of  Approval of the Rule, recognizes that the community of St. Clare follows in the footsteps of Christ and His Most Holy Mother, and have chosen to live a cloistered life. Of all the aspects of the life of Jesus and Mary, Clare is particularly concerned with imitating the poverty of Mary that she might be also faithful to the example of Francis, who sought to follow the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother.  It was this deep love for Mary that merited for Clare the assistance of Our Blessed Mother during her illness.  One biographer writes that when Clare seemed close to death, surrounded by her sisters who were weeping, a Benedictine nun had a vision and saw a beautiful lady at the head of the bed who addressed the weeping sisters saying: Daughters, do not cry for one who still must live on until the Lord with His disciples comes to her. (Life, #40)

Mary is the Mother of all the living (Lumen Gentium, #56)   Mary gives birth to God, by giving Him our human nature.  And Her Son, receiving from Her all that is human, gives Her, as much as possible, all that is of God.  Jesus was like Mary in Her human form, and Mary was like Jesus in His spiritual form.  There was never a creature so much ‘like God’ than Mary.  Between Mother and Son there was a full and perfect union and correspondence, even in that insurmountable distance that separates the divine Son from Her, a pure creature. (Free translation from St. Lawrence of Brindisi) It is this relationship between the human and the divine that Clare will learn and deepen through her love for Jesus and Mary.

Clare’s love for Jesus and Mary leads her to an active contemplation of Jesus and Mary that culminates at the foot of the Cross in the ultimate sign of the depth of God’s love for humanity, and humanity’s participation with God in Mary. Her love for the Crucified Christ leads to Mary, the Virgin Made Church, Whose ‘yes’ to God made our redemption possible. Before the image of the Crucified, Clare opens herself to the mystery of God’s limitless love for all humanity, and there she finds the Mother of the Redeemer Who leads her to contemplate the role Mary was called to fulfill in our salvation history. From the first moment of Her Conception until Her glorious Assumption to the right hand of Her Son Jesus, Mary is an intimate collaborator in the mystery of salvation.  She offers Jesus to others, disregarding the disadvantages to Herself, so that Jesus in turn could offer Himself for us all. Mary’s collaboration from the first moment of the Lord’s conception in Her womb is remembered by the Evangelists. Mary carries Jesus, still within Her womb, to Elizabeth and the Baptist; She presents Him to the Magi; She offers Him to Simeon and Anna; She encourages Him to perform His first miracle to save a young couple from embarrassment; She accompanies Him to Calvary and death where, at the foot of the Cross, She offers Him and Herself with Him.  In the sufferings of Calvary Mary became our Mother in the life of grace. Her spiritual itinerary is the life of one who accepted and lived God’s Will. When Mary and her relatives went to see Jesus at Capharnum, Jesus said to the one who told Him His Mother and relatives were looking for Him: My Mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and live It. Jesus does not distance Himself from His Mother Mary but, on the contrary, extols Her greatness because She believed and accepted the Father’s Will, as He Himself was doing even in His own journey to the Cross.

Clare, in imitation of Mary, opened her heart and life to live God’s Will as it was proclaimed by the Magisterium and counseled by St. Francis.  Yet, with all her simple, humble obedience, Clare is a woman radical in her approach to the life she has been called to live, flexible towards her sisters and the human weaknesses she encounters, and truly free to be detached from all that could keep her from focusing on the eternal gifts and striving for them.  Clare is an image of that strong Woman who stood at the foot of the Cross with the dignity of an empress and a heart pierced with the sorrow of a loving Mother.  Clare could stand her ground firmly convinced for years with the officials of the Church for the Privilege of Poverty that eventually she was granted shortly before her death; yet she would be aware of and respond with the love, concern, and the flexibility of a caring mother to the needs of her sisters and any who came seeking her assistance. She lived the words she wrote to her spiritual daughter, St. Agnes of Prague:  Embrace the poor Christ.  Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him…gaze, consider, contemplate desiring to imitate your Spouse. (2nd Letter to St. Agnes of Prague)

Saint Clare of Assisi ‘gazed upon the Lord’ in the depths of her heart and in the faces of her sisters and others. With the love of a mother, she responded to their needs, and even placed her own life in jeopardy for their sake. Remember the two times we are told she saved the monastery from invasion and the sisters from harm by standing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament between the sisters and the invaders. Jesus was the center of her life.  He filled her with courage and strength; Mary was the valiant woman of Scripture whose example helped her instill serenity and peace in others.

As spiritual children of our seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy Mother St. Clare, let us follow their example. Let Christ be our center so that we too may irradiate goodness and peace to all. Let Mary be our Mother whose life, from Her Immaculate Conception to Her Assumption body and soul into heaven, be a constant reminder of our origins in God’s love. God’s love for us is His pledge to us in Jesus that we, one day, will have the opportunity to share the eternal joys of heaven in the body with which we were known on earth and through which we sought to give glory and praise to God. O Christian, remember your dignity (St. Leo the Great) and live as redeemed children of God.

We have considered the marvelous privilege of our Heavenly Mother’s Assumption into heaven, the great love of our Seraphic Father St. Francis for “the Virgin made Church”, and the life of our Mother St. Clare, truly filled with the same spirit and love of St. Francis for Mary. May we follow the examples of our “Assisian Parents”.

My God bless you; may Our Lady, guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis and our Holy Mother St. Clare 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

Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018

July 2018

All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,
Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth,
we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will
and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit,
You have created everything spiritual and corporal
… making us in Your own image and likeness,…

We thank You…

Following are excerpts taken from various sources

1

Servants of the Lord should not be ignorant of the lives and teachings of saints through which they can come to God. (Prologue) – When you come to Christ, Christianity demands the personal, intimate bond.  We have to be one with him, and reflect the person, mind, will, heart and humanity of Christ.

2

On the 16th of April, after 1207 years completed since the Incarnation of the Lord … God saw that His people … had forgotten His commandments … desiring not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live… God willed to send workers into His vineyard. (chpt.1) – Faith is not the will to believe; it is the acceptance of truth based on the authority of God’ revelation.

3

Preoccupied with thoughts of wealth … Francis sent (a beggar away) without giving him alms … touched by divine grace, he began to accuse himself. (chpt.1) –Reconciliation is inseparable from the death of Christ. We never have reconciliation without the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord. » Click to continue reading “Reflections from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018” »

Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 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     email: pppgusa@gmail.com

 

July 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,

The Lord give you his peace!

St. Francis of Assisi has a powerful hold over the hearts of many Catholics, non-Catholics, and even non-Christians.  The ‘Poverello’ of Assisi, whose death occurred over eight centuries ago, lives on in his spiritual children and all those who have come to understand the importance of his all-embracing ministry.  God offers us extraordinary signs to remind us that God is with us.  The miracles that suspend or enhance the laws of nature are only messages reminding us that what seems permanent is only passing.  The famous ‘bookmark’ of Saint Teresa of Avila states: Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you.  All things are passing. God alone remains.  Who possesses God possesses all things.

Holiness is being possessed by God. If we seek only the extraordinary, we may fail to recognize the wonderful gifts found in the ‘ordinary’ experiences of life. God is always at work fulfilling His will in both the ordinary and the extraordinary.  Focusing on ‘the wonder of the miraculous’ in the life of any holy person, we may lose sight of the ever-present gifts of grace in him/her, that we too share with the saint according to our cooperation with God’s grace. » Click to continue reading “Greetings from Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap. July 2018” »

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – July, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

July 2018

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

All peace and good be with you! Well summer is here! It is only 8:00 AM here in Summit Hill and it is 80 degrees already! Hot and humid, but watch, come December we will be saying it is too cold!

I would like to take a short break from Initial Formation for July. Those who know me will know how important I think Initial formation is! It is the bedrock on which our order is built and stands firm. But ongoing formation is also important and needs our attention. Just like initial formation, ongoing formation should be for seculars by seculars. What do I mean by that? Great question.

What that means is that that since regionalization in the 70’s we are intended to be an order true to ourselves and governed by ourselves. Therefore formation of all types should primarily be led by the seculars at a local fraternity level, a regional fraternity level and so on. Does that mean there is no place for our beloved First, Second and Third Order Regular Brothers and Sisters in formation? Absolutely not! They just should not take the lead nor should they be giving formation on a regular basis. That is the job of the Council and Formation Director at all levels.

This might seem like a daunting task, but just like with Initial Formation, there are incredible tools out there. You are not alone! What I have found is that an occasional journey back to basics “The Franciscan Journey” is always a good thing. Take one of the chapters and break it down to 15 – 20 minute small group discussions and then summarize at the larger fraternity level. This is good for several reasons; first, there is always room for refresher and renewed commitment to our rule. Secondly, there are sisters and brothers out there that for one reason or another didn’t necessarily get the best initial formation. This process helps them grow.

Besides the Franciscan Journey, there is a lot of material right on our Regional web site1 under formation resources. Just remember, we should keep it Franciscan. What I mean by that is there are a lot of good and noble Catholic things out there, but we are distinctly Franciscan. We should focus on Franciscan Spirituality. Another good guideline, use only material approved by the Church.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

1 http://www.skdregion.org/ under formation resources

Thoughts from Your Regional Formation Director - June 2018

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

All peace and good be with you! It appears that spring has actually arrived and we are now heading towards summer! It is time to pick up where we left off in April, our discussion about Initial Formation and in particular, Inquiry. » Click to continue reading “Thoughts from Your Regional Formation Director – June 2018” »

Daily Reflections from Father Francis – June 2018

June 2018

All-powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God,

Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth

we thank You for Yourself, for through Your holy will

and through Your only Son with the holy Spirit

You have created everything spiritual and corporal

… making us in Your own image and likeness …

We thank You …

Following are excerpts taken from various Franciscan and other sources.

1

The truly clean of heart are those who look down upon earthly things, seek those of heaven, and, with a clean heart and spirit, never cease adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true (Admonitions,#16) – Let yourselves be charmed by Christ…attracted by his example…loved by the love of the Holy Spirit…fall in love with Jesus Christ.

2

We carry Him (Jesus) in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example. (Letter to Faithful) – Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!…Open to his saving power.

3

He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check the external senses, through which death enters the soul. (1Celano,chpt.16) – Human beings are called to become disciples of that Other One who infinitely transcends them, in order to enter at last into true life.

4

Unbending in discipline he stood upon his guard, taking the greatest care to preserve purity of both soul and body (Major Legend,chpt.5) – In the mystery of his cross and resurrection, Christ…has bridged the infinite distance that separates all people from new life in him.

5

He used to say that it should be incomparably more tolerable for a spiritual man to endure great cold in his flesh rather than to feel even slightly the heat of carnal lust in his heart. (Major Legend,chpt.5) — Faith must be quickened by love.  It must come alive through the good works which reveal God’s truth in us.

6

If, at the instigation of the devil, any brother commits fornication, let him be deprived of the habit he has lost by his wickedness, put it aside completely, and be altogether expelled from our Order.  Afterwards he may do penance. (Earlier Rule,chpt.13) – Being a Christian must mean being a witness for Christ.

7

The Rule of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the holy Gospel of Pour Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of one’s own, and in chastity. (Later Rule,chpt.1) – The commandments must … be understood … as a path involving a moral and spiritual journey toward perfection, at the heart of which is love.

8

He was naturally courteous in manner and speech, and following his heart’s intent, never uttered a rude or offensive word to anyone … His reputation, because of this, became so widespread…that many who knew him said that, in the future, he would be something great. ( Three Companions,chpt.1) – Through the Spirit, (Jesus) gives the grace to share his own life and love and provides the strength to bear witness to that love in personal choices and actions.

9

He taught not only that the vices of the flesh must be mortified and its prompting checked, but also that the exterior senses, through which death enters the soul, should be guarded with the greatest care. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – God who is always merciful even when he punishes … preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide (murder of Abel by Cain) be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide.

10

To carry in his own body the armor of the cross, he held in check his sensual appetites with such a rigid discipline that he scarcely too what was necessary for the sustenance of nature. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – Peace … must become the goal of all men and women of good will.

11

At that time the brothers dedicated themselves to the practices of fasts, of vigils, of work, in order to dominate the incentives of the flesh. (Anonymous of Perugia) – Peace is our duty: our grave duty, our supreme responsibility.

12

The brothers were sometimes surprised that he did not often visit such holy handmaids (St.Clare and Sisters) of Christ…but he would say: ’Don’t imagine, dear brothers, that I don’t love them fully…But I am giving you an example, that as I do, so should you also do’. (2Celano,chpt.155) – t the last judgment we shall all be judged without distinction on our practical love of our brothers and sisters.

13

When he spoke with her (St. Clare) or about her, he never mentioned her by name, but he called her the Christian. (Bro. Stephen) – It will be in the practical love they have shown that many will discover that they have in fact met Christ, although without having known him before in an explicit way.

14

Father Francis exhorted her (St. Clare) to despise the world…and instilled in her ears the sweetness of being wed to Christ, persuading her to preserve the precious gem of her virginal chastity for her blessed Spouse. (Legend of St. Clare,chpt.5) – If you want peace, reach out to the poor!

15

(St. Clare) entrusted herself totally to Francis, choosing him as her guide, after God…and she accepted with an ardent heart all that he taught her about the good Jesus. (Legend of St. Clare,chpt.6) – (The church is a ‘pilgrim church’); her pilgrimage is interior: it is a question of a pilgrimage in the Holy Spirit … strengthened by the power of God’s grace promised her by the Lord …

16

The week that Francis passed from the this life, Clare … informed Francis of her desire to see him.  The saint, informed of this, was deeply moved, because he loved Clare and her sisters with a father’s love. (Legend of Perugia) -(There is) a need for a profound transformation of hearts through the rediscovery of the father’s mercy and through victory over misunderstanding and over hostility among brothers and sisters.

17

(As the body of Francis is brought to Assisi passing San Damiano, Clare and sisters weep saying):Father, what shall we do…Why are you abandoning us poor women?… all consolation ebbs away along with you …who will comfort us in so great a poverty, poverty of merit as much as of goods? Who will help us in temptations? (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.10) – Refusal of God’s fatherly love and of his loving gifts is always at the root of humanity’s divisions.

18

(Clare and Sisters continue): You, who experienced so many temptations!  Who will comfort us in the midst of distress? You, who were so often our help in times of distress!  What bitter separation!, what painful absence! (1Celano,bk.2,chpt.10) – God, ‘rich in mercy’, … does not close his heart to any of his children.

19

Among the virtues Francis loved and desired the brothers preserve after holy humility he loved the beautiful and immaculate virtue of chastity.(Mirror, 86) – (God) waits for (his children), looks for them, goes to meet them at the place where the refusal of communion imprisons them in isolation and division.

20

Unbending in discipline, he kept an exceedingly attentive watch over himself.  He took particular care in guarding the priceless treasure in a vessel of clay, that is, chastity, which he strove to possess in holiness and honor through the virtuous purity of both body and soul. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The initiative on God’s part is made concrete and manifest in the redemptive act of Christ, which radiates through the world by means of the ministry of the church.

21

His mastery over the flesh was now so complete that he seemed to have made a covenant with his eyes; he would not only flee far away from carnal sights, but also totally avoid even the curious glance at anything vain. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love.

22

Even though he had attained purity of heart and body, and in some manner was approaching the height of sanctification, he did not cease to cleanse the eyes of his soul with a continuous flood of tears. (Minor Legend,chpt.3) – The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the church his bride.

23

We prohibit anyone of you to wander outside of obedience with the habit of your holy religion and thus corrupt the purity of your poverty. (‘Cum Secundum’ of Pope Honorius III) – Man cannot live without love … His life is senseless if love is not revealed to him – if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.

24

Encompassed by the weakness of the flesh, a human cannot follow the spotless crucified Lamb so perfectly as to avoid contacting any filth.  Therefore he taught those who strive after the perfect life to cleanse themselves daily…(Major Legend,chpt.5) -(We are) to become a temple of the Blessed Trinity.  What greater degree of communion with God could (we) ever aspire to?

25

Although he had already attained extraordinary purity of heart and body, he did not cease to cleanse the eyes of his soul with a continuous flood of tears, unconcerned about the loss of his bodily sight. (Major Legend,chpt.5) – The hectic pace of daily activity, combined with the noisy and often frivolous invasiveness of the means of communication, is certainly not something conducive to the interior recollection required for prayer.

26

(The Dominican theologian after visiting with Francis said to the friars) My brothers, the theology of this man, held aloft by purity and contemplation, is a soaring eagle, while our learning crawls on its belly on the ground. (2Celano,bk.2,chpt.69) – You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. (St. Augustine)

27

I beg in the Lord all my brothers who are priests, or who will be, or who wish to be priests of the Most High that whenever they wish to celebrate Mass, being pure, they offer the true Sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with purity and reverence, with a holy and unblemished intention…(Letter to the Order) – The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes into man’s heart together with prayer. In prayer he manifests himself first of all as the gift that ‘helps us in our weakness’.

28

Seeing the Foe was carrying the day, the most high Lord sent in the cavalry with a well-trained commander.  St. Francis was chosen as standard-bearer…He wanted no one to ride with him who did not accept the reins of three bridles: poverty, obedience, and chastity. (Jacopone of Todi) – Evangelization will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force when it is carried out through the gift not only of the word proclaimed but also of the word lived. In particular the life of holiness …

29

Wherever they may be or may go, let all the brothers avoid evil glances and association with women…Let us all keep close watch over ourselves and keep all our members clean…(Earlier Rule,chpt.12) – The life of holiness … constitutes the simplest and most attractive way to perceive at once the beauty of truth, the liberating force of God’s love, and the value of unconditional fidelity to all the demands of the Lord’s law…

30

Saint Francis used to engage carefully in a daily, or rather, constant examination of himself and his followers.  Allowing nothing dangerous to remain in them, he drove from their hearts any negligence…he was on his guard at every hour…He taught them to mortify not only vices and to check the promptings of the flesh, but also to check external senses, through which death enters the soul. (1Celano,chpt.16) – The Mother of God is a type of the church in the matter of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ … the church brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God. (Vatican II)