Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter - November 2016
Visitor’s Vision: SOCIAL AND POLITICAL AWARENESS AND RESPONSIBILITY
Fellow pilgrims, we thank God as we are reminded that, even though we are not of this world, that we are still in the world where our actions or inactions have great influence toward our journey to that New Jerusalem (Rev 21). Thus, as God talks to us through the prophet Amos on social injustice and lack of options for the poor (Am 8:4-7), it becomes obvious that our attention to social issues in the society is as important as our attention to spiritual matters. In other words, as good Christians, the presence of social injustice calls us to social and political awareness and responsibility.
One part of this social and political responsibility is to understand the balance we must make as we acquire and use worldly power, wealth and money, especially since, ‘the love of money is the source of all kinds of evil, and some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows’ (1 Tim 6:10). As it is, after telling the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus said: “And so I tell you: make friends for yourselves with worldly wealth, so that when it gives out, you will be welcomed in the eternal home. . . If, then, you have not been faithful in handling worldly wealth, how can you be trusted with true wealth?” (Lk 16:9-11). The worldly wealth/material possessions are thus only means to the end and not the end in themselves. And, since in a way, our possessions do actually possess us, it is then either we allow God to possess us or we submit that allegiance to material wealth, since no one can be a slave of two masters faithfully, effectively and efficiently (Lk 16:13).
Another part of this social and political responsibility is what St Paul write, “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, requests, and thanksgivings be offered to God for all people; for kings and all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct” (1 Tim 2:1-2). Then, “In every Church service I want the men to pray, men who are dedicated to God and can lift up their hands in prayer without anger or argument” (v.8). Now, it is not only ‘men’ but all of us that are called to this worthwhile act of responsible citizenship. The point here is that this will help the discernment and choices we make in political and moral matters, as we are called to do by the Church and the U.S. bishops (USCCB, Forming Consciences For Faithful Citizenship: A Call To Political Responsibility, nn.31-39). In other words, praying is combined with forming a right conscience to make the right moral and political choices, since we “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, n.183).
Lastly, because of the importance of this social and political maturity in our contemporary society, today we remember all parents and those who volunteer in the formation of our children, and those who see to it that the children get the needed, balanced formation that will make them responsible and faithful citizens of the two cities – secular society and the heavenly city. We appreciate these parents and the dedicated men and women of God, for their personal and collective sacrifices for the sake of our childrn, and for the future of the society and of the Church. We pray for them in these challenging times and society, especially the parents who are the first teachers of faith to their children and wards, since they have the arduous task of forming and informing the consciences of their wards, toward the realization of a true, complete and balanced human formation, bearing in mind that one cannot give what does not have. Shalom!
-- Fr. Francis Chukwuma, CFP Visitor
The Fast of Saint Martin
The Fast of St. Martin begins November 12 and lasts until Christmas. Those at the Novice 3 level and above are to observe this fast as stated in the CFP Rule, following the guidelines in the CFP Constitutions. In a nutshell, the daily fast involves two meals a day, one being larger than the other, and no solid food in between (the days of abstinence from meat remain the same as always). For Thanksgiving in the USA, penitents should consume either a small lunch or supper and have the Thanksgiving meal as their big meal. Even if this meal is drawn out with many courses, it will still meet the guidelines of the day’s larger meal.
No Greater Love: THE ESSENTIAL IMMORTALITY OF MAN
The Apostles’ Creed ends with the belief in “life everlasting”. What does this mean? Professor Joseph Ratzinger lays out for us the meaning of this last article of the Apostles’ Creed in Part III of Introduction to Christianity. The foregoing reflections may have clarified to some extent what is involved in the biblical pronouncements about the resurrection: their essential content is not the conception of a restoration of bodies to souls after a long interval; their aim is to tell men that they, they themselves, live on; not by virtue of their own power, but because they are known and loved by God in such a way that they can no longer perish. In contrast to the dualistic conception of immortality expressed in the Greek body-soul schema, the biblical formula of immortality through awakening means to convey a collective and dialogic conception of immortality: the essential part of man, the person, remains; that which has ripened in the course of this earthly existence of corporeal spirituality and spiritualized corporeality goes on existing in a different fashion. It goes on existing because it lives in God's memory. And because it is the man himself who will live, not an isolated soul, the element of human fellowship is also part of the future; for this reason the future of the individual man will only then be full when the future of humanity is fulfilled. As Professor Ratzinger says, we need to understand our immortality as the immortality of the whole person and not just part of us even if the whole is restored “later”. Since we live our life here on earth in communion with others and with all humanity, this will continue.
A whole series of questions arises at this point. The first is this: Does this view not make immortality into a pure grace, although in reality it must fall to man's lot by virtue of his nature as man? In other words, does one not finish up here with an immortality only for the pious and, thus, in a division of human fate that is unacceptable? To put it in theological terms, are we not here confusing the natural immortality of the being "man" with the supernatural gift of eternal love that makes man happy? Must we not hold fast, precisely for the sake of the humanity of the Christian faith, to natural immortality, for the reason that a continued existence conceived in purely Christological terms would necessarily slide into the miraculous and mythological? This last question can indubitably be answered only in the affirmative. But this is by no means at variance with our original premise. It, too, entitled us to say decisively: The immortality that, precisely because of its dialogic character, we have called" awakening" falls to the lot of man, every man, as man, and is not some secondary "supernatural" addition. But we must then go on to ask: What really makes man into man? What is the definitive distinguishing mark of man? To that we shall have to answer: The distinguishing mark of man, seen from above, is his being addressed by God, the fact that he is God's partner in a dialogue, the being called by God. Seen from below, this means that man is the being that can think of God, the being opened onto transcendence. The point here is not whether he really does think of God, really does open himself to him, but that he is in principle the being who is in himself capable of doing so, even if in fact, for whatever reasons, he is perhaps never able to utilize this capacity. Perhaps we can say that we are immortal because God exists, God has created us, and God has given us the capacity to have relationship and even union with Him. Furthermore, He desires intensely this union because He is Love.
Now one could say: Is it not, then, much simpler to see the distinguishing mark of man in the fact that he has a spiritual, immortal soul? This definition is perfectly sound; but we are in fact at this moment engaged in the process of trying to elucidate its concrete meaning. The two definitions are not in the least contradictory; they simply express the same thing in different modes of thought. For "having a spiritual soul" means precisely being willed, known, and loved by God in a special way; it means being a creature called by God to an eternal dialogue and therefore capable for its own part of knowing God and of replying to him. What we call, in substantialist language "having a soul" we will describe in a more historical, actual language as "being God's partner in a. dialogue". This does not mean that talk of the soul is false (as is sometimes asserted today by 'a one-sided and uncritical biblical approach); in one respect it is, indeed, even necessary in order to describe the whole of what is involved here. . But, on the other hand, it also needs to be complemented if we are not to fall back into a dualistic conception that cannot do justice to the dialogic and personalistic view of the Bible. Professor Ratzinger is pointing out to us the danger of seeing the “spiritual soul” as something which exists independently of God. The “spiritual soul” is incomprehensible without the God who loves and desires union with Him. Therefore, the atheist cannot grasp immortality.
So when we say that man's immortality is based on his dialogic relationship with and reliance upon God, whose love alone bestows eternity, we are not claiming a special destiny for the pious but emphasizing the essential immortality of man as man. After the foregoing reflections, it is also perfectly possible to develop the idea out of the body-soul schema, whose importance, perhaps even indispensability, lies in the fact that it emphasizes this essential character of human immortality. But it must also be continually put back in the biblical perspective and corrected by it.in order to remain serviceable to the view of man's future opened up by faith. For the rest, it becomes evident once again at this point that in the last analysis one cannot make a neat distinction between "natural" and "supernatural": the basic dialogue that first makes man into man makes a smooth transition into the dialogue of grace known as Jesus Christ. How could it be otherwise if Christ actually is the "second Adam", the real fulfillment of that infinite longing that arises from the first Adam---from man in general? Reading the Old Testament, we can see in many places that there was a vague hope for immortality with God, with relationship with God. This hope was made concrete by Jesus Christ who tells us that this is what God wants for us and gives to us. How we use this gift is going to be decided by our free will, which is also God’s gift. Much of our modern world has lost sight of or does not understand this gift. Yet we need to keep this gift in mind at all times.
--Jim Nugent, CFP
Thoughts from CFP’ers -- MEDITATION ON DISCERNMENT
Discernment is the virtue that helps us to know which is the best way we should go in our life’s situation. St. Francis used this virtue when he was praying over what rule to follow for the Friars. He, then, opened the Gospel of St. Mathew and God showed him His Rule of Penance and Conversion. Sometimes we cannot be positive of the right decision, but only to pray and ask the Holy Spirit, and then we will be comfortable with the right course to take. If there is a Peace in what we have decided, then that, no doubt, is God’s Will. “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people. 1 Kings 3:9)
-- Donna Kaye Rock, CFP Postulant
Monthly Letter to All Penitents: ROSARY POWER
I just received a card from a nun with whom I have correspond regularly for several years. She mentioned something in my card this month about an event we should all probably join our prayers with (defeating ISIS). I was jolted into adding prayer along those lines because of the story. But, knowing you guys, you may already have been praying for this.
Sr. Cecilia shared in her September 29, 2016 card: "Did you ever hear how powerful a WEAPON the rosary is? Recently a priest in Michigan was in chapel [and] Our Lady appeared to him holding a sword. He had been praying for the defeat of ISIS, and Mary's sword BECAME a rosary! I just heard about that incident from a former student of mine who lives in [Michigan] but came to visit her brother in this area and who made it a point to stop by and visit with me!"
She continued, commenting on our 'Rosary Squad' picture in the CFP newsletter (prisoners who make Rosaries for the CFP): "Well, even in prison there is 'rosary-power' rising heavenward!'"
Yours in Christ Jesus, with Mary and St. Joseph, your little brother, Eric Welch, Novice 2, CFP Alessandro Ministry
Note: This story appears to be similar to a vision received by Nigerian Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme toward the end of 2014 in which Jesus appeared to him holding a sword, but when the Bishop reached for the weapon, it turned into a Rosary. Jesus then said, three times, "Boko Haram is gone." Bishop Dashe knew that Jesus meant that the Rosary was the weapon for defeating and expelling terrorists.
Humor: QUOTES FROM PHYLLIS DILLER
Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance? --- Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing. --- The reason women don't play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public. --- Best way to get rid of kitchen odours: Eat out. --- A bachelor is a guy who never made the same mistake once. --- I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them. --- Any time three New Yorkers get into a cab without an argument, a bank has just been robbed. --- We spend the first twelve months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve years telling them to sit down and shut up. --- My photographs don't do me justice -they just look like me. --- I asked the waiter, 'Is this milk fresh?' He said, 'Lady, three hours ago it was grass.' --- The reason the golf pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can't see him laughing. --- You know you're old if they have discontinued your blood type.
Poetry: NOTHING CAN CURE LONELINESS BUT CHRIST JESUS!
(Loneliness is the most painful emotion, making us feel abandoned, betrayed and unwanted) .
In my loneliness, I looked at the crowds of people around me never helped me.
When the troubles of my life bothered me
I Draw near to Christ by casting my eyes upon Him
In my loneliness, I show love and caring towards those around me
In my loneliness, I have the freedom to serve the Lord more fully.
In my loneliness, I have quiet time to reflect on his blessings
In my loneliness, I seek God's glory
In my loneliness, I serve God with love by serving others in His love.
My Loneliness opened the door of uninterrupted prayer.
It is in my loneliness I walk with God in an ungodly world
Scripture says even Jesus Christ often withdrew to lonely places and prayed
In the midst of my loneliness and sad, I have God's peace and comfort.
When I failed to find someone who will understand me
It was Jesus who understood my struggles, my needs and sufferings.
It is when I was alone and afflicted, Jesus brought me out of my distresses.
It is my Loneliness, drove me into the arms of Jesus Christ.
It is in my loneliness made me to seek God, search for him through his word "The Holy Bible".
It is in my Loneliness I felt that Jesus Christ is my Savior
It is my Jesus Christ, in whom I can trust and confide.
It is my Jesus Christ, who never deserts nor forsakes
It is my Jesus Christ who never slumbers or sleeps
It is my Jesus Christ who keeps me in his mind all time
It is His true love encamps me
It is his protection which leads me to the path of righteousness
It is my Christ, the one who is faithful never tired of me
It is my Christ; the one who is truly cares for me
It is my Jesus Christ, the one who understand my loneliness and pain
It is my Jesus Christ, my comforter, my faithful Companion till the end
It is my Jesus Christ when I am afraid, He holds me by his right hand.
It is the lonely times God spoke to Elijah, Jacob and many others.
When I felt, lonely, unloved and broken in heart Jesus Christ was my closest friend.
I am blessed in my loneliness, because the Spirit of glory of God rests upon my soul
May my suffering, trials and tribulations
be an opportunity to glorify you, my God.
Jesus you proved your love for me through your death, burial, and resurrection
Your everlasting love, drawn me to your loving kindness
Jesus, my Lord, and my Savior, I feel your love, grace and presence.
Lord, I claim total complete protection and blessings for my life, for my husband for my children's life through the Blood of Jesus Christ in Jesus mighty name.
Lord, I surrender my whole life, my family, our past, present and future to you.
I will continue to give you all of the praises and all of the glory forever and ever.
Lord Jesus, I praise you with all my heart, soul and spirit.
-- Shaila Touchton, CFP Postulant
Following Francis: Following Christ: THE LIFE OPTION
What would St. Francis do about the political process and voting? He’s probably do what Mother Angelica, years ago, said that she would do—vote for life, not for candidates. Life is, after all, the first human right. Without life, we have no other rights. The rights to vote, justice, housing, food, clothing, employment, choice, and every other right are meaningless to a person who is dead. Therefore, the right to live the life God ordained for us is the primary and basic right, underlying all other rights. And for that right, and the candidate who best supports it, we, as good Catholics, must vote.
An obscure story about St. Francis talks about him finding a woman who was about to drown her newborn child in a river, presumably to hide its birth from the town’s populace. The story does not give the circumstances of the woman, but it does tell that Francis took the baby and found a good family to love and raise the child. You might liken this incident to pro-life individuals who pray outside of abortion clinics, asking the women not to abort their children and promising to help the women and their children should they choose life.
Saint Francis chose life for himself and his friars. Well known for his extreme fasting, Francis once broke his fast, and had his brothers break their fasts as well, to eat at midnight with a friar who was crying out that he was starving. The friar was probably not in danger of dying, but Francis wanted to take no chances. He had the friar eat and he and his fellow friars ate with him so that the famished friar would not be ashamed. Francis’ action was for not only physical life for this starving friar but also for his spiritual and emotional life, so that he would not be embarrassed by his hunger.
Francis also acted for life when he was dying. Very ill and suffering for two years, Francis bore his sufferings with patience and resignation. The idea of taking his own life or asking a friar to do it for him would be completely beyond Francis’ comprehension. He believed that God gave him his life, would sustain his life as long as God wished, and would take it when God was ready. That was good enough for Francis. And for us Catholic penitents, it should be good enough for us as well.
-- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
CFP Photo Album: CFP FALL RETREAT PHOTOS
The CFP Fall retreat was held at St. Felix Retreat Center in Huntington IN, over Columbus Day Weekend. Father Elias Maria of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, retreat master, presented the Marian Dogmas.
CFP Fall Retreat 2017 attendees. Front row: Iffat, Sandy, Jan, Mariah, Julia B, Julia K, Tammy. Back row: Lynn, Patrick, Ben, Cyndie, Fr. Elias, Sr. Sarah, Julie C, Jim. Taking photo: Madeline
CFP Life Pledged Members at the CFP 2017 Fall Retreat.
Left to Right: Jim Nugent, CFP, Patrick Wheeler, CFP, Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP, Sandy Seyfert, CFP, Cyndi Kaufmann, CFP, Mariah Dragolich, CFP
Advent and Penitents
Advent was not part of the original Rule of 1221 because it was not part of the culture at that time. At that time, the Fast of St. Martin was the time of penance preceding the great feast of Christmas. Everyone observed the Fast of St. Martin. Penitents who lived the Rule of 1221 observed this fast in specific ways as outlined in our Rule. These ways have been updated to correspond to how the Church fasts today, and this update is in the CFP Constitutions.
Many penitents are in families so how a penitent observes Advent will be noticed by others living with the penitent. In addition to the daily fast required of those at Novice 3 level and above (which begins on November 12, not on the first Sunday of Advent), penitents can draw their families into a more prayerful observance of Christmas by being aware of the need to do so. Here are some ideas:
Have a Jesse Tree. Each day of Advent, beginning with the story of Adam and Eve, read Scripture that gradually leads up to the birth of Jesus. Internet websites provide both readings and ornaments one can make to hang on a large, bare branch or to tape to the refrigerator or a large wall. Children look forward to the daily sharing, the new story, and the fascinating decoration. The Jesse Tree helps children focus more on Christ and less on Santa. The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop sells a book on celebrating Advent with the Jesse Tree.
Make Jesus a soft straw bed. For every good deed done or kind word spoken, family members put a piece of straw into the manger for Baby Jesus. See how fluffy you can make his bed by Christmas. The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop sells a large image of Jesus and a crib that works well for this activity.
Use an Advent Wreath. Make an Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent and light the appropriate candles at each main family meal, praying while you do so. Jesus is the Light of the World. What better way to pictorially portray this than by lighting the Advent candles? The home Advent wreath also draws the parallel between the family environment and the parish church where candles on the large parish Advent wreath are lit every Sunday of Advent. The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop sells Advent candles and wreaths.
Use a Nativity set to make the Nativity the center of your Christmas celebrations. This should be more the focal point than the tree, stockings, or any other decorations. The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop sells Nativity sets also.
Hold off on decorating until Christmas Eve. Try this, this year. You will be amazed at how special Christmas day becomes when all the decorations go up on Christmas Eve. The day of Jesus’ birth has finally arrived. The Nativity is set up and the empty manger awaits Jesus, to be placed there in before anyone unwraps any gifts. Jesus is, after all, the greatest possible gift so He needs to get the first attention.
Celebrate Advent well and you will celebrate Christmas well. If you don’t have time to decorate much or to bake batches of cookies or wrap gifts, then do with less. Put up fewer decorations, buy some cookies, and put your gifts into gift bags. Christmas is about Christ and His gift of life to us. Everything else is glitter. God bless and Happy Advent!
–Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Thoughts from the CFP Alessandro Ministry: READING SCRIPTURE
Peace my little sparrow friends! St. Francis had some access to Scripture. Whether, he had a Bible, or his community had access to one, or he gained access through a priest or the Church, it is certain that he was well aware of God's Word. His writings and teachings are laced throughout with his knowledge and wisdom found only by extensive reading and/or exposure to the words of Jesus in the Gospels. He was effective in relating what he learned therein.
To read the Bible effectively, as St. Francis did, we are tasked with reading it meditatively. Ah yes, this can be a difficult thing to do because we (little sparrows especially) live in an age when ''faster is better.'' In old times, if a man missed a stagecoach, he waited until the next week. Today we can choose between multiple modes of rapid transportation. We live in a distracted society of instant communication by cell phones, email, and satellite links. As a result, meditative Bible reading has fallen by the wayside.
Can we read God's Word in quiet meditation at the beginning of the day (or any time of the day)? A spiritual man meditates in God's law "day and night" (Psalm 1:2). In other words, this is not just an exercise to be done out of habit for ten or fifteen minutes, then checked off the list. Rather, it's a mental discipline that ought to be part of our character. We should have a mentality and a lifestyle in which the Word of God courses through our mind all day.
Meditation allows us to feel the effects of God's Word. If we read a passage and then hasten on to our duties, we miss the real purpose of reading. Meditating allows God's Word to become effective and practical during the day. It allows us to "listen" to the Word and not just hear or read it. Meditation helps us to see the effects of the Word in our life.
It doesn't matter whether we've been to college or how high our IQ is. What matters is how teachable we are and whether we are willing to apply the wisdom that Scripture provides. Some of the greatest changes God can bring about in our life will come through the process of quiet meditation. My question, dear sparrows, is do we have the time?
When I read scriptures, everything seems clear. A single word shows my soul an infinite vision. Perfection seems easy to me. I see that it is enough to recognize our nothingness and to abandon ourselves, like little children, into the arms of the good God. -- St. Therese, the Little Flower
pax et bonum, bro. sparrow – Robert Hall, CFP Affiliate, Alessandro Ministry
(By the way, please pray for Robert. He is attempting to obtain a medical leave from prison to be admitted to a nursing home, following a series of health incidents including strokes that have left him partly paralyzed on one side. May God reward you for your prayers for our dear brother.)
Advent and Christmas Offerings from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
From the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop. The products below and many others can be ordered from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803, online at www.cfpholyangels.com All proceeds go to support the mission of the Confraternity of Penitents, that is, to spread the message of conversion to Jesus around the world. Please include postage donation.
Advent Wreath -- $20 plus shipping
Jesse Tree Picture Book -- $1.50 plus shipping
Soft Baby Jesus Doll and Manger -- $60 plus shipping
Nativity Set -- $64.95 plus shipping
Click on the images to go directly to the pages where these products are featured.
Click on this link to see all the Advent and Christmas selections in the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop. Visit the shop for a wide variety of religious gifts including jewelry, rosaries, and books.