Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter -- October 2016

As We Celebrate ‘Respect Life Month’

Fellow pilgrims, October is Respect Life Month as set aside by the U.S. Bishops. Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program stresses the value and dignity of human life, and it is observed in all Catholic dioceses in the United States. This year Respect Life Sunday falls on the 27th Sunday of the Ordinary season of the year, the 1st Sunday of the month of October. On this Sunday, we are presented with the need for constant faith and faithfulness in our life as Christians. This is an important lesson for us especially with the ever present questions and situations that bring doubt about all that we have been taught about God, the world, and life in general. In more ways than one, these seemingly irreconcilable situations encourage unfaithfulness among sincere Seekers of the Truth.

Think about the suffering of the innocent, violence against human life, unequal distribution of wealth and resources, the problems of natural disasters, killing of the unborn, etc. As it was in the time of Habakkuk, who questions God on why His people were devoured at the hands of the wicked conquering pagans (Hab 1:2), so it was in the time of the early Christians, who struggled with persecutions despite the fact of their following the Way.

Saint Paul had to exhort these early Christians to be faithful and to daily fan into flame the faith that they have received, through their constant exercise of their individual gifts and talents (2 Tim 1:6). In the same manner, today, we face diverse adverse life issues and situations that daily call our faith into question and that tempt us to faithlessness. We ask, “Why do the wicked seem to be more progressive? Why does evil and suffering seem to triumph over justice and good? Why does our God seem to be silent amidst all these injustices?”

Now, amidst all this, what can help us remain faithful Christians?

(1) Tuning to the wave-length of God always, especially at challenging times and situations. This can help us to see things from God’s perspective, since His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa 55:8). We cannot understand everything, but at least we will align ourselves with the spirit of Christ which St Paul says, helps the spiritual man understand things of the spirit, in contrast to the natural man (1Cor 2:10-16).

(2) This does not mean that we should passively accept evil, violence, injustice and wickedness. It rather means that we actively search for solutions we can proffer to the human life and situations, and determine not to be part of the injustice, violence, wickedness and negative events in the society. This we can do through positive actions towards those faced with life challenges, for we are the face and hand of God in this contemporary society. We have been been imbibed with the spirit of Christ! In other words, we need to counter the evils in today’s world, as St Paul says, by fanning “into flame the gifts we have been given” (2 Tim 1:6).

(3) We must be strong and courageous in the spirit (2 Tim 1:7-8), trusting that injustice and wickedness will have a final defeat soon (Hab 2:2-4). We need to be hopeful, especially when we strive to mercifully recognize, encourage and draw out the good that is in each person. This will be in line with God’s will, knowing that He actually has no pleasure in the death of a wicked person, but rather that he/she repents and lives (Ezk 18:21-23).

(4) Finally, we must strive to strengthen and build ourselves up to withstand devastating situations and life trials as well as challenges to faith. We develop this spiritual strength with the power that comes from the Word of God and the Sacraments, by attending to these as often as possible. The disciples realized that faith is given, increased and sustained by Jesus himself, thus igniting in them the request: “Lord, increase our faith” (Lk 17:5). In the same way, we, too, must learn to pray such a powerful prayer today and always.

(5) Equally, since this is the ‘Respect Life month’, we pray for the respect and protection of life from conception to natural death, as our prayer intention for this month. We might add a Rosary and Psalms 92, 63, 125 to our daily prayers for this intention. John 10:10 helps us to understand the intention: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

May God bless us all!

Fr Francis Chukwuma, CFP Visitor

Confraternity of Penitents' Photo Album  -- Introducing Our CFP Visitor!

The Confraternity of Penitents is so grateful for the gift of our new Visitor, Father Francis  Chukwuma, pastor of St. John Bosco Church in Churubusco, Indiana, and also pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Ege, Indiana. Father Francis follows Father Jacob Meyer, previous Visitor, who retired in May.

 

The Visitor is a priest appointed or approved by the Bishop who supports and assists the Confraternity with matters that concern the entire group. The Visitor is the Church representative to the Bishop.

Father Francis, who is also a canon lawyer, was ordained on August 17, 1996 in Nigeria. He has been a resident of the United States since 2007. He is enthusiastic about assisting the Confraternity of Penitents as Visitor and asks your prayers and promises his.

 

Father Francis is fond of saying that following Christ is not about following anyone except Christ. The spiritual life is about each person's relationship with Jesus. In the spiritual life, what we do is not really about you or me. It's about Jesus.

No Greater Love: THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY

 

The Apostles’ Creed says that I believe in the “the resurrection of the body”.  In Part III of Introduction to Christianity, Professor Joseph Ratzinger explains what is the New Testament hope of the “resurrection of the body”. Well, I think that in fact one can only arrive at an answer if one inquires carefully into the real intentions of the biblical testimony and at the same time considers anew the relation between the biblical and the Greek ideas. For their encounter with each other has modified both conceptions and thus overlaid the original intentions of both approaches with a new combined view that we must first remove if we  want to find our way back to the beginning. First of all, the hope for the resurrection of the dead simply represents the basic form of the biblical hope for immortality; it appears in the New Testament not really as a supplement to a preceding and independent immortality of the soul but as the fundamental statement on the fate of man. There were, it is true, in late Jewish teachings hints of immortality on the Greek pattern, and this was probably one of the reasons why very soon the all-embracing scope of the idea of resurrection in the Graeco-Roman world was no longer grasped.  Instead, the Greek notion of the immortality of the soul and the biblical message of the resurrection of the dead were each understood as half the answer to the question of the fate of man, and the two were added together. It was thought that, to the already existing Greek foreknowledge about the immortality of the soul, the Bible added the revelation that at the end of the world bodies would be awakened, too, to share henceforth forever the fate of the soul-damnation or bliss. Christians even now believe that when a person dies they exist as a disembodied soul until the end of the world.  At that time they receive a body which then goes to Heaven or Hell.  Professor Ratzinger rejects this idea.

 

As opposed to this, we must grasp the fact that originally it was not a question of two complementary ideas; on the contrary, we are confronted with two different outlooks, which cannot simply be added together: the image of man, of God, and of the future is in each case quite different, and thus at bottom each of the two views can only be understood as an attempt at a total answer to the question of human fate. The Greek conception is based on the idea that man is composed of two mutually foreign substances, one of which (the body) perishes, while the other (the soul) is in itself imperishable and therefore goes on existing in its own right independent of any other beings. Indeed, it was only in the separation from the body, which is essentially foreign to it, so they thought, that the soul came fully  into its own. The biblical train of thought, on the other hand, presupposes the undivided unity of man; for example, Scripture contains no word denoting only the body (separated and distinguished from the soul), while conversely in the vast majority of cases the word soul, too, means the whole corporeally existing man; the few places where a different view can be discerned hover to a certain extent between Greek and Hebrew thinking and in any case by no means abandon the old view. The awakening of the dead (not of bodies!) of which Scripture speaks is thus concerned with the salvation of the one, undivided man, not just with the fate of one (perhaps secondary) half of man. It now also becomes clear that the real heart of the faith in resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of bodies, to which we have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible. What, then, is the real content of the hope symbolically proclaimed in the Bible in the shape of the resurrection of the dead? I think that this can best be worked out by means of a comparison with the dualistic conception of ancient .philosophy.

 

I. The idea of immortality denoted in the Bible by the word "resurrection" is an immortality of the "person", of the one creation "man". Whereas in Greek thought the typical man is a perishable creature, which as such does not live on but goes two different ways in accordance with its heterogeneous formation out of body and soul, according to the biblical belief it is precisely this being, man, that as such goes on existing, even if transformed.  This perhaps explains why people who have absorbed the Greek view that man is perishable see no problem with “sins of the flesh”.   Since our bodies are destroyed anyway, it does not matter if they are corrupted by sin.        

 

2. It is a question of a "dialogic" immortality (= awakening!); that is, immortality results not simply from the self-evident inability of the indivisible to die but from the saving deed of the lover who has the necessary power: man can no longer totally perish because he is known and loved by God. All love wants eternity, and God's love not only wants it, but effects it and is it. In fact the biblical idea of awakening grew directly out of this dialogical theme: .he who prays knows in faith that God will restore the right (Job I9:25ff.; Ps 73:23ff.); faith is convinced that those who have suffered in the interests of God will also receive a share in the redemption of the promise (2 Macc 7.9ff.).  Immortality as conceived by the Bible proceeds, not from the intrinsic power of what is in itself indestructible, but from being drawn into the dialogue with the Creator; that is why it must be called awakening. Because the Creator intends, not just the soul, but the man physically existing in the midst of history and gives him immortality, it must be called "awakening of the dead" = "of men". It should be noted here that even in the formula of the Creed, which speaks of the "resurrection of the body", the word "body" means in effect "the world of man" (in the sense of biblical expressions like "all flesh will see God's salvation", and so on); even here the word is not meant in the sense of a corporality isolated from the soul.   It is the whole person who is loved by God and not just the “soul”.

 

3· That the awakening is expected on the "Last Day”, the end of history, and in the company of all mankind indicates the communal character of human immortality, which is related to the whole of mankind, from which, toward which, and with which the individual has lived and hence finds salvation or loses it. At bottom this association results automatically from the collective character of the biblical idea of immortality. To the soul as conceived by the Greeks, the body, and so history, too, is completely exterior; the soul goes on existing apart from them and needs no other being in order to do so. For man understood as a unity, on the other hand, fellowship with his fellowmen is constitutive; if he is to live on, then this dimension cannot be excluded. Thus, on the biblical premise, the much-discussed question of whether after death there can be any fellowship between men seems to be solved; at bottom it could only arise at all through a preponderance of the Greek element in the intellectual premises: where the "communion of saints" is an article of faith, the idea of the anima separata (the "separated soul" of Scholastic theology) has in the last analysis become obsolete.  We rise with all humanity and in fellowship with all humanity.

 

The full elaboration of these ideas became possible only after the New Testament had given concrete shape to the biblical hope---the Old Testament by itself ultimately leaves the question about the future of man in the air. Only with Christ, the man who is "one with the Father", the man through whom the being "man" has entered into God's eternity, does the future of man definitely appear open. Only in him, the "second Adam", is the question of man's identity finally answered. Christ is man, completely; to that extent the question of who we men are is present in him. But he is at the same time God speaking to us, the "Word of God". In him the conversation between God and man that has. been going on since the beginning of history has entered a new phase: in him the Word of God became "flesh" and really gained admission into our existence. But if the dialogue of  God with man means life, if it is true that God's partner in the dialogue himself has life precisely through being addressed by him who lives forever, then this means that Christ, as God's Word to us, is himself "the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11:25). It also means that the entry into Christ known 'as faith becomes in a qualified sense an entry into that being known and loved by God which is immortality: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (see Jn 3:15; 3:36; 5:24). Only from this angle is it possible to understand the train of thought of the fourth evangelist, who in. his account of the Lazarus episode wants to make the reader understand that resurrection is not just a distant happening at the end of the world but happens now through faith. Whoever believes is in the conversation with God that is life and that outlasts death. At this point, too, the "dialogic" strand in the biblical concept of immortality, the one related directly to God, and the "human fellowship" strand meet and join. For in Christ, the man, we meet God; but in him we also meet the community of those others whose path to God runs through him and so toward one another. The orientation toward God is, in him at the same time toward the community of mankind, and only the acceptance of this community is movement toward God, who does not exist apart from Christ and thus' not apart either from the context of the whole history of humanity and its common task.  Our fellowship with Christ and the community of humanity cannot be interrupted by death.

--Jim Nugent, CFP

Following Francis, Following Christ: The Rosary

Historians differ on the history of the Rosary. It is almost certain, however, that St. Francis did not pray the Rosary as we know it today. And this was because he did not have it.

At the time of St. Francis people counted their prayers on beads, sometimes strung together and other times loose. Blessed Alain de la Roche said that St. Dominic had a vision of the Rosary in 1214, but no one had heard about this vision until Blessed Alain wrote about it 251 years later. So it seems that the Rosary as a popular devotion was not practiced much before Blessed Alain promoted it and gave it the format now has.

 

October is the month of the Rosary. So this is a good month to remember St. Francis’s devotion to the Blessed Mother. Many times he would write and speak about Our Lady. He wrote a prayer called the Salutation to the Blessed Virgin. His favorite church, the Portizuncola, was named Our Lady of the Angels.

St. Francis spent much time in meditation. The Rosary is to lead us to meditation. As penitents, we should pray a five decade Rosary daily. One of our prayer options is to pray a 15 decade Rosary daily, in addition to Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer. It is more important to meditate on the mysteries than to actually say the words of the Hail Mary. The words are meant to help us to spend a certain amount of time meditating on each particular mystery.  If you have difficulty meditating while saying the words, as people like myself do who have attention deficit disorder, then it is better to finger the beads or even just hold the Rosary and think about the mysteries for a certain period of time. This way, the words are not distracting you from actually contemplating the life of Christ.

October 13th is the anniversary of the final apparition at Fatima. At Fatima, Our Lady called for daily recitation of the Rosary as a way to combat sin and to bring about conversion and peace. We need hardly look at the world today to understand how badly these virtues are needed. May this month be an inspiration to you to pray the Rosary more fervently and more attentively. St. Francis would approve of this goal.

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Monthly Message to All Penitents: Prayer Lesson


When a Christian Pastor was sent to a foreign city to commence ministry, it was discovered that the citizens were deeply involved with a whole industry of pornography, brothels, paedophilia, strip clubs, and every form of depravity. The city seemed to totally depend on the finances this all generated. In total desperation, the pastor prayed to the Father in Jesus name to ask for guidance in changing the hearts of those folks. It all seemed such a total lost cause, and total non-starter. BUT the Lord answered that prayer by speaking to the heart of the priest. The battle was to be won by prayer. The prayers were as follows. “Find the name of each establishment, and in fervent prayer, name that place and entreat The Lord to place that named place under THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST.”   This was done, and in very quick time places began to close and were replaced by genuine businesses. Even the city mayor got replaced.

 

So now we know -- AME THEM AND PUT THEM UNDER THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST OUR SAVIOUR AND REDEEMER – AMEN.

--David Curry, CFP Affiliate

 

Humor

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut.

After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop.

 

When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.


Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week.' The cop was happy and left the shop.

 

The next morning when the barber went to open up, there were a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

 

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week.' The Congressman was very happy and left the shop.

 

The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

Thoughts from CFP Members: Detachment

 

Detachment is a virtue that we allow ourselves not to be upset if we should lose what we have.  We can appreciate our abilities and gifts that we know are from Our Heavenly Father.  We take each moment of our days, and cherish the friendships, talents, nature etc., without being to attached, and like St. Francis we can Praise and thank Our God for giving us these wonderful treasures. Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

 

-- Donna Kaye Rock, CFP Postulant

THE ROSARY—A JOURNEY WITH CHRIST AND MARY



My father’s stepmother, Mama Ricarda, prayed the Rosary every night for the repose of the soul of my grandfather who died when I was two years old.  I could not understand why five years later she still prayed the rosary for his soul.  How many rosaries did it take to take him out of purgatory?  That question troubled me greatly because at seven years old I lived with Mama Ricarda to be close to school which was just across the street.  It meant every night before going to bed I was on my knees on the hard wood floor along with my cousin, Carmin, who was also seven, praying the rosary for our grandfather, including a long litany in Latin.  One night Mama Ricarda fell asleep during the litany and started mumbling “Tell the owner of the hens to gather up the hens.” We were halfway through “Ora pro nobis” when we realized what she was saying.  We laughed and laughed but Mama Ricarda continued with her litany of the hens, still kneeling erect clutching her rosary beads.  My aunt put an end to our merriment, woke up her mother and chided her for insisting on praying the rosary even though she had not been feeling well.


The next day I related the story to my other grandfather who was as irreverent as Mama Ricarda was reverent and he said, “That’s what happens when you pray the rosary like a parrot.”  Like a parrot?!  “You are supposed to think about why you are praying and what you are saying.”  My grandmother was more charitable.  “Poor woman,” she said, shaking her head.  But what stayed with me was what my grandfather said.  That night when we prayed the rosary I immersed myself in the mysteries.  My imagination took off and the Rosary was never quite the same again.  Sometimes I was Mary sitting on a donkey on my way to Bethlehem with Joseph at my side, another time I was Mary going up to Heaven.  The sorrowful mysteries just made me sad as I watched helplessly not knowing what to do.  I did not know it, but I was meditating or contemplating the mysteries, entering into communion with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  I only spent a year with Mama Ricarda but the daily praying of the Rosary—my daily visit with Mary—became a part of my life.  I would pray it on my way to school using ten small pebbles or counting on my fingers.  I would pray it before falling asleep on my bed.  If somehow I fell asleep while reciting it, I would finish it if I woke up in the middle of the night, my fingers still on the last bead I had prayed.  

Through the Rosary the Holy Family became as real as my own family.  As I grew up my knowledge of the mysteries increased and I started relating them to events in my own life.  The Annunciation?  When the doctor told me I was expecting.  The Visitation?  It just so happens that in two of my pregnancies I also had older aunts who were also pregnant at the same time as I was and we developed a deeper bond as a result.  The Child lost and found in the Temple?  My youngest son had a knack for getting lost for hours at the beach, the park or just getting off at the wrong school bus stop!  Yes, I understood Mary’s and Joseph’s anguish looking for their Child.


In periods of dryness I would read the entire gospel passages before each decade and that became a long visit with Jesus and Mary.  I wrote my own Scriptural Rosary. I united the Psalms to the mysteries, especially Psalms 22 and 69 to the Sorrowful Mysteries.  I discovered St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s method of focusing the mind on the mystery by adding a phrase at the name of Jesus in the first part of the Hail Mary:  “…and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, embracing the Cross; Jesus, forgiving the repentant thief; Jesus, my Lord and my God, etc.”  If I am driven to distraction it is by thinking of all the wonderful attributes of Our Lord contained in the mystery!  


I was delighted when on the 16th of October 2002 Pope St. John Paul II published the “Apostolic Letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful On The Most Holy Rosary”  adding the Luminous Mysteries.  Now the Mysteries of the Rosary were complete!   The gap between the Joyful Mysteries and Sorrowful Mysteries was bridged and the Rosary truly became a walk with Mary and Jesus from the time of His Incarnation and their earthly life together to their triumphal entry into Heaven.  It is a document that every Catholic should read for it affirms the Rosary for what it truly is:  a journey with Mary into the heart of Christ.  Every Hail Mary is a song of praise to Mother and Son that asserts the humanity and the divinity of Christ—God with us!


I am now older than Mama Ricarda was when she intoned the litany of the hens while fast asleep on her knees.  I do not always feel well, but I always pray the Rosary.  I’ve taught my grandchildren to pray the Rosary and to meditate on the mysteries.  In thinking of the Ascension, seven year old Elijah saw Jesus shooting up to Heaven like a rocket ship while five year old Carmen thought of the smile on God the Father’s face when Jesus arrived.  When their grandfather died in 2011, Elijah, then ten, along with Carmen and my sister’s grandchildren led all the adults in the praying of the Rosary at the Funeral Home to the amazement of all present.


The Rosary is a door into the Gospels where you encounter a vast cast of characters who were part of Our Lord’s life on earth—Mary and Joseph, friends and enemies, angels and demons.  It presents the life of Christ in an orderly fashion and ever present is the Holy Trinity.  You enter into intimacy with the family of God.    Jesus treats you like He treated Peter, James and John, drawing you ever deeper into His confidence. Despite your weakness, He invites you to pray with Him and keep watch with Him.  In the Rosary I do just that.  I hope you will too.

Rosa A. Garcia, Postulant, Our Lady Queen of Angels Fraternity, Wellsprings 10/2016

 

New Items from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop

Now taking orders for the 2017 Guides to the one and four volume Liturgy of the Hours. We also have guides for Roman Franciscan Christian Prayer and the Roman Franciscan Liturgy of the Hours. Shipment expected by November 1. Order the guides, as well as Franciscan Supplements and other Divine Office aids on this link.

Tim Luncsford  Original Signed Prints

We are delighted to offer prints of original paintings by artist Tim Luncsford. Tim is a God send to the CFP Headquarters in all the work he does to help here voluntarily and in his wonderful humor, self effacing manner, and his joy.  Thank you, Tim, for choosing the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop to be the sole internet vendor for your wonderful work! Three of Tim's prints are shown below. See the full collection, which is being expanded, on this link.

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May God bless you and give you joy!