Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter - July 2016
Insights from Bishop Rhoades: Love of God, Love of Neighbor
[Note: The Bishop's reflection gives insight into the CFP Motto which is Jesus' words as recorded in Matthew 22: 37-38 “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as yourself."]
The Shema, the great Israelite confession of faith, was recited by devout Jews every morning and evening.
When asked by the scribe “what is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus responded by quoting the Shema (found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) “Hear (Shema), O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” But after saying this, Jesus also added the commandment of love for neighbor found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our Lord united into a single precept the commandments of love for God and for neighbor. His implication is that they are inseparable: our love for God is expressed and made concrete in our love for our fellow human beings. Saint John made this crystal clear in his first letter: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4 20). So love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God. This is an important point for us to ponder: essential for our lives of faith, for conversion, and for growth in holiness.
Also, Pope Benedict emphasized that it is important to recognize that love of God and love of neighbor both live from (or flow from) the love of God who has loved us first. That’s why the great two-fold commandment is not something imposed from the outside, something really impossible in practice. It involves an experience of love within, “a love which by its nature must then be shared with others.” It comes from God and unites us to God.” In God and with God, we can love even people we dislike or do not even know. We look at others not simply with our own feelings but from the perspective of Christ. We see in them the image of God.
--Bishop Kevin Rhoades
Monthly Letter to All Penitents: IT IS IN GIVING THAT WE RECEIVE
I go as a visitor to a care home where most, if not all, have very serious problems of health to contend with. One very fine lady had suffered a stroke and lost ability to communicate, although she seemed quite able to understand what was said to her. One day I was told that she was very depressed, and this upset me. So I made it my business to go and visit her, and when I did she was on her own.
I had to do the talking, and I said, “Mary, you seem very low in spirits at the moment, so I thought I needed to speak to you.” I told her that as a visitor it seemed that folks expected me to uplift the spirits of people I stopped to talk to, but I then told Mary that was not the case. I told her it was exactly the other way round. I told her that it was the people I visited who UPLIFTED MY SPIRITS. She looked a bit perplexed, so I explained.
I told her that when I visited the care home, everyone I spoke to had a very heavy cross to carry. I told her that with every single person I met there, I realized that although their crosses were heavy, each and every one of them was carrying their load. BUT, my amazement with them was, I COULDN’T CARRY THEIR LOAD AT ALL. I finally convinced Mary that she was an EXAMPLE TO ME. A wonderful example. When I left her, she had a loving smile on her face.
One man in particular was a busy, active man, when one day he had a fall and became paralyzed from the neck down. When I visited him, I realized his plight was terrible. BUT I never ever heard him utter a word of complaint. I was over-awed by his ability to carry his load. Another patient was lady in a very serious state. I loved going to see her because her smile and her joy at having a visitor was so infectious, SHE MADE ME HAPPY. Their positive outlook under such adverse conditions was awesome.
Then there was Ross who stayed in his room for 7 years. He had no relatives or friends, so amazingly, he agreed to have me as a befriender, and once he knew he had a buddy (me), he began to flourish. He is now able to leave his room. He now takes communion when the priest visits. He is able to wander the many corridors, takes part in communal events in the common room. And most of all, his jolly laughter can be heard all around the reception area. He is a changed man because somebody cared.
--David Curry, CFP Affiliate
Humor: Actual Signs
In a Podiatrist's office: "Time wounds all heels." *** At an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place." *** On a Plumber's truck: "We repair what your husband fixed." ***On a Church's Billboard: "7 days without God makes one weak." *** At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee: "Invite us to your next blowout." *** At a Towing company: "We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows." *** In a Non-smoking Area: "If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action." *** On a Maternity Room door: "Push. Push. Push." *** On a Taxidermist's window: "We really know our stuff." *** On a Fence: "Salesmen welcome! Dog food is expensive!" *** At a Car Dealership: "The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment." *** Outside a Muffler Shop: "No appointment necessary. We hear you coming." *** In a Veterinarian's waiting room: "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!" *** In a Restaurant window: "Don't stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up." *** In the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully. We'll wait."
Thoughts from CFP’ers: The Virtue of Confession
We all need to confess in our lives. It gives us a feeling of staying on the right track. Confession is one of the Seven Sacraments of the Church, and St. Francis always had deep respect for the Church, it’s sacraments and teachings.
Entering the Confessional and telling our sins to God, through the Priest, is a wonderful way of healing and peace. We know that our sins are forgiven. There is nothing more true and wonderful then to be forgiven and be in God’s Grace. We should be encouraged to go to Confession either once a month or every three months at least. May The Holy Spirit guide us and keep us always ready to confess our sins. By doing so, we are prepared in purity of heart, to receive the most pure of all, Our Dear Lord, in His Sacrament of the Eucharist. -- Donna Kaye Rock, CFP Postulant
CFP Rule, Constitutions, Reflection
CONSTITUTIONS: APPENDIX B
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER IV, 12
Marian Consecration Prayer
To you do we turn, O Holy Mary, glorious and Ever-Virgin Mother of God, Queen of Angels and of Saints, the "Virgin made Church." To you do we cry, O Handmaid of the Lord, Mother of the Suffering Servant, who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. For through you the most exalted Son of God emptied Himself for love of our love, taking the form of a slave in your womb and dying in destitution on a cross as He gave you to us, O Refuge of Sinners. To you do we fly as we beg you to obtain for us the true spirit of the Gospel.
Holy Immaculate Conception, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, taking you into our home, we consecrate and entrust ourselves and our Confraternity totally and forever to your Immaculate Heart. Make us your true sons and daughters and use our Confraternity as an instrument of Christ Our King to convert sinners, to sanctify souls, and to strengthen and renew the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--may be glorified, praised, and adored by all mankind. Amen.
St. Francis had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother as evident from his Salutation to the Virgin, a beautiful hymn which he composed. His favorite church was Our Lady of the Angels, which is located in the forest outside Assisi.
You can imagine the devotion that Jesus had to his Mother. From her, he took his humanity. Through her, the Word became flesh. The Confraternity of Penitents consecrates itself to the Blessed Mother, and each member also makes a daily consecration. The consecration prayer listed in Appendix B to the Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents was written by a Franciscan friar, incorporating many of the phrases used by St. Francis in his prayers honoring Our Lady. Members may select a different Marian consecration prayer if they wish, but this particular one was written especially for us penitents. That makes it special!
No Greater Love: The Apostle’s Creed
Professor Joseph Ratzinger opens part III of Introduction to Christianity, entitled “The Spirit and the Church”, with a chapter concerning the intrinsic unity of the last several statements of the Apostle’s Creed. These statements are: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” According to Professor Ratzinger, the last articles of faith flow naturally from the first article, the belief in the Holy Spirit. Here, he explains why this is so. In the original Greek text the central statement in the third section of the Creed runs simply: "I believe in Holy Spirit." The definite article to which we are accustomed in our translation is thus missing. This is very important for the interpretation of the original meaning, for it means that this article was at first really understood in terms of salvation history, not of the Trinity. In other words, the third section of the Creed refers in the first place, not to the Holy Spirit as the third Person in the Godhead, but to the Holy Spirit as God's gift to history in the community of those who believe in Christ.
The doctrine of the Trinity deals with who God is. Christians believe that the Trinity is revealed by God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Salvation history is concerned with what God has done in human history; the action of God is human history. Examples of this would be the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, or Pentecost among many other things. Professor Ratzinger asserts that these two ways of looking at God have been separated although they really belong together. To this extent the interplay of "salvation history" and Trinitarian viewpoints is characteristic of the oldest stages of Christian thought. Later on this interaction was more and more forgotten, with unfortunate results, so that a division resulted between theological metaphysics, on the one side, and theology of history, on the other. Henceforth both coexist alongside each other as two completely different things; people indulge either in ontological speculation or anti-philosophical theology of salvation history, thus losing in a really tragic way the original unity of Christian thought.
A consequence of this separation of the doctrine of the Trinity from salvation history was that the belief in the Holy Spirit was separated from the belief in the holy Catholic Church. Instead of seeing that the Church is the product of the Holy Spirit, the Church became seen as a worldly institution which sprung up in response to the Incarnation. The Church is something which we produced rather than being the product of the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.
Next, Professor Ratzinger discussed the articles on the communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins. The remaining statements in the third section of the Creed are intended to be nothing more than developments of its basic profession, "I believe in Holy Spirit." These developments proceed in two directions. First comes the phrase about the communion of saints, which did not figure in the original text of the creed formulated in the city of Rome itself but nevertheless represents an ancient tradition of the Church. Then comes the phrase about the forgiveness of sins. Both statements are to be understood as. concretizations of the words about the Holy Spirit, as descriptions of the way in which this Spirit works in history. Both have a directly sacramental meaning of which we are hardly aware today. The saying about the communion of saints refers, first of all, to the Eucharistic community, which through the Body of the Lord binds the Churches scattered all over the earth into one Church. Thus originally the word sanetorum (of the holy ones) does not refer to persons but means the holy gifts, the holy thing, granted to the Church in her Eucharistic feast by God as the real bond of unity. Thus the Church is not defined as a matter of offices and organization but on the basis of her worship of God: as a community at one table around the risen Christ, who gathers and unites them everywhere. Of course, very soon people began to include in this idea the persons who themselves are united with one another and sanctified by God's one, holy gift. The Church began to be seen, not just as the unity of the Eucharistic table, but also as the community of those who through this table are united among themselves. Then from this point a cosmic breadth very soon entered into the concept of Church: the communion of saints spoken of here extends beyond the frontier of death; it binds together all those who have received the one Spirit and his one, life-giving power. We are in communion not only with Catholics from other parts of the world but also with Catholics of all times who received the Eucharist.
The phrase about the forgiveness of sins, on the other hand, refers to the other fundamental sacrament of the Church, namely, baptism; and from there it very soon came to include the sacrament of penance. At first, of course, baptism was the great sacrament of forgiveness, the moment when a visible transformation took place. Only gradually, through painful experience, did people come to see that even the baptized Christian needs forgiveness, with the result that the renewed remission of sins granted by the sacrament of penance advanced more and more into the foreground, especially since baptism moved to the 'beginning of life and thus ceased to be an expression of active conversion. Nevertheless, the fact remains even now that one cannot become a Christian by birth but only by rebirth: Christianity only ever comes into being by man's turning his life around, turning away from the self-satisfaction of mere existence and being "converted". In this sense baptism remains, as the start of a life-long conversion, the fundamental pattern of the Christian existence, as the phrase about the "remission of sins" is intended to remind us. But if Christianity is regarded, not as a chance grouping of men, but as the about-turn into real humanity, then this profession of faith goes beyond the circle of the baptized and means that man does not come to himself if he simply abandons himself to his natural inclination. To become truly a man, he must oppose this inclination; he must turn around: even the waters of his nature do not climb upward of their own accord. In order to convert, we must freely cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
To summarize all this, we can now say that in our Creed the Church is understood in terms of the Holy Spirit, as the center of the Spirit's activity in the world. Concretely, she is seen from the two angles of baptism (penance) and the Eucharist. This sacramental approach produces a completely theocentric understanding of the Church: the foreground is occupied, not by the group of men composing her, but by the gift of God that turns man around toward a new being that he cannot give to himself, to a communion he can only receive as a gift. Yet precisely this theocentric image of the Church is entirely human, entirely real; by centering around conversion and unification, and understanding both as a process that cannot be brought to completion within history, it reveals the meaningful human connection between sacrament and Church. Thus the "objective" view (from the angle of the gift of God) brings the personal element into play' of its own accord: the new being of forgiveness leads us into fellowship with those who live from forgiveness; forgiveness establishes communion; and communion with the Lord in the Eucharist leads necessarily to the communion of the converted, who all eat one and the same bread, to become in it "one body" (I Cor 10:17) and, indeed, "one single new man" (cf. Eph 2:15). Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the source of the worldwide unity of the Church.
The concluding words of the Creed, too, the profession of faith in the "resurrection of the body" and "life everlasting", are to be understood as the unfolding of faith in the Holy Spirit and his transforming power, whose final effect they depict. For 'the prospect of resurrection, on which the whole section here converges, follows necessarily from faith in the transformation of history that started with the Resurrection of Jesus. With this event, as we have seen, the frontier of bios, in other words, death, was crossed and a new continuum was opened up: the biological has been overtaken by the spirit, by love, which is stronger than death. Thus the barrier of death has been broken through in principle, and a definitive future has been opened up for man and world. This conviction, in which faith in Christ and acknowledgment of the power of the Holy Spirit meet, is expressly applied in the last words of the Creed to the future of all of us. The sight of the Omega of world history, in which everything will be fulfilled, results by an inner necessity from faith in the God who himself wished to be, in the Cross, the Omega of the world, its last letter. Precisely by this he has made the Omega into his point, so that one day love is definitively stronger than death, and out of the "complexification" of bios by love the final complex emerges, the finality of the person and the finality of unity that comes from love. Because God himself became a mere worm, the last letter in the alphabet of creation, the last letter has become his letter and thereby turned history toward the final victory of love: the Cross really is the salvation of the world. St. Paul explains it for us in this way: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you,” (Rom 8:11). The Holy Spirit is God’s most precious gift to us.
--Jim Nugent, CFP
Confraternity Photo Album
Tim Strickland of the CFP Alessandro Ministry.
Tim is a Novice 1 who has shared an article under “Following Francis, Following Christ.”
Tim is a talented man, but he can’t take credit for painting the rustic backdrop behind him!
Life Pledge and Private Vow of Two CFP Members
The Confraternity of Penitents is delighted to welcome the Life Pledge and Private Vow of two CFP Members from Saint Mary Magdalene Circle of the Confraternity of Penitents in Northport, Florida. Welcome, dear sisters! God bless you for your pledge and private vow!
On June 24, 2016, Father John Fitch, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church, Port Charlotte, Florida, accepts the life pledges and private vows of Mary Ann Gennuso and Dolores Ventura. Witnesses are Deacon Gene Willis and Rhea Schoettner.
Newly life pledged and privately vowed members are Mary Ann Gennuso (sr. Juliana) and Dolores Ventura (sr. Angeline) pictured with (center) Rhea Schoettner (sr. Benedict Mary Francis), June 24, 2016.
Following Francis, Following Christ: We Must Will to Be Good
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan friar who was martyred at Auschwitz in 1941. These are his words, shared by a member of the CFP Alessandro Prison Ministry. St. Maximilian’s words reflect St. Francis’ words regarding perfection in the spiritual life.
“There is one trait that we all have in common: we find it hard to be good. We should distinguish between two groups of brothers: those who want to be good and actually strive for perfection, and those who would like to be good and make some effort, but who will not make all the sacrifices necessary for attaining perfection.
“Those are on the right path, and will reach their goal, who make very many efforts, although they do not see the results. Even if they go back to their former bad habits and commit a grievous fault, they can be sure they are on the right path, as long as they will it.
“But if someone grows discouraged and immediately tells himself that his efforts bring no results, he deviates from the way of perfection. Satan is really victorious when he finds out that we can be discouraged.
“How shall we treat those who say, “I would like to do but I cannot”? Tell them that they must really want to. That would be the first right step. “To want” means to use all necessary means whereas “I would like to” means that I’m afraid to use all means because self-love will have to pay a high price. Souls can be motivated by selfishness and self-love, even spiritual self-love. Those who wish to become saints must will it.
“St. Augustine was very bad, even depraved. But he said to himself, “Augustine, many kinds of persons become saints. So can you.” He became a saint because he wanted to.
“The Sacred Scriptures say that a just man falls seven times daily. We fall more often than that. But we must rise again and again. If anyone should say, “Enough! I can do nothing more,” he would only reveal his pride that prompts him to trust his own strengths. Meanwhile our strength comes from God’s grace. The Lord can permit us to fall so we might learn we are nothing. . .
Sometimes we feel we are worse today than we were out in the world. This can be because we now receive more light of grace than we did previously. We can detect the smallest particles of dust and remove them. Therefore, we are not worse today since we always have these faults that we could not see before.”
The above is from a conference given by St. Maximilian Kolbe to the Niepokalanow friars on May 3, 1937.
God has shown me through the Confraternity of Penitents, postulancy, Novice One, spiritual advisor, and my formator, that it’s all about Jesus. Slow down. Allow him to work with you. Be gentle, kind, loving and understanding with those around you. Don’t worry about what we say, but be content with what God says to others through us. Let our study and meditation be fixed on the life of Christ. Through his Gospels he will feed us, for the love of Christ is to keep his commandments. Amen.
--Timothy Strickland, Novice 1, CFP Alessandro Prison Ministry
Thoughts from the Saints
Our Lord does not come down from Heaven every day to lie in a golden ciborium. He comes to find another heaven which is infinitely dearer to him - the heaven of our souls, created in His Image, the living temples of the Adorable Trinity. - Saint Therese of Lisieux
Thoughts from CFP’ers: WHAT THE EUCHARIST MEANS TO ME
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” Luke 22:15.
I believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is where Jesus calls me to participate in a more intimate way in His Life. For a very few minutes He lives fully in me as He did in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s womb, except that in her womb she was feeding Him and through the Eucharist He feeds me. For a very few minutes also I am transformed into His Tabernacle, which should cause me to be humble, but He is the one showing true humility by taking the form of a tiny piece of bread and becoming food for my soul. In the Eucharist I am immersed in the love of Jesus and become aware of the Church as the Body of Christ on earth. In the Eucharist I encounter Christ, my Lord and my God. He awaits my coming just as He waited for the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, thirsty for a heart to heart talk. Were I to see Him as He truly is, I would die of fright. Though my heart trembles as I extend my hands to receive the Sacred Host, I am not afraid. Such is His love for me that He has made it easy for me to touch Him, even eat Him—just as He made it easy for Mary and Joseph to pick Him up as a baby, hold Him in their arms and hug Him to their hearts.
The Eucharist is a feast for my Guardian Angel as well. For once, my Guardian Angel and I are one in spirit, fully absorbed in adoring our Lord. And through the Eucharist I enter also into the mystery of the Communion of Saints and the mystery of myself. Lord, I am not worthy!
Through the Eucharist I have gained great respect and gratitude for the priesthood. I see the priest and Jesus as one. The priest is a willing earthen vessel through whom God dispenses mercy and through whom Jesus continues to be truly present among us, fulfilling His promise that He would be with us always, even to the end of time. The words of Consecration take me to that first Holy Thursday when Holy Communion was first served and the Apostles became priests. The words of Consecration have not changed. Bread becomes Flesh, Wine becomes Blood. Jesus is alive—body and blood, soul and divinity—in each fragment, in each drop. In the Eucharist another promise is fulfilled. Christ did not leave us orphans. Not only did He send us the Holy Spirit, but He also left us many Fathers to heal our wounds and to feed us.
Rosa A. Garcia, CFP Postulant, Our Lady Queen of Angels Fraternity
From the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
The following item is available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46803 or on this link. Your support of the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop means support of the Confraternity of Penitents. All who work in the gift shop are live-in volunteers at the Confraternity headquarters, so all profits from the shop go to support the Confraternity.
Christ in the Psalms by Patrick Reardon devotes a page or two to each psalm. In his commentary on Psalm 4, Fr. Reardon writes, "The Psalter has nothing to say to the worldly; it is not for the unconverted, the unrepentant. It is, rather, the prayer book of those who strive for holiness of life and the unceasing praise of God." Christ in the Psalms has been called "Brilliant!" "A great reference book" "Nothing less than outstanding" in understanding the psalms and deepening their meaning. $19.95 plus $3 shipping.
CFP SUMMER RETREAT IS ON THE PRAYING THE PSALMS AND THIS BOOK WAS SUGGESTED BY FATHER JEROME WOLBERT, OFM, RETREAT MASTER. Retreat July 27-31 at Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, NY. $299 (Commuters only July 28-30, $85). Still room! Call 260-739-6882 to reserve your spot.