Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
LENT: Penitents who have completed Novice 2 are bound by the fasting and abstinence provisions of our Rule concerning Lent. All others are, of course, bound by the Church’s rules regarding fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstinence from meat on all Fridays of Lent. However, all penitents at the Postulant level and above should be abstaining from meat on all Fridays of the year except those on which a Solemnity falls. Please see Chapters II and III of the Rule and Constitutions as well as Appendix A for fasting and abstinence requirements.
EASTER: "The Cross had asked the questions; the Resurrection had answered them...The Cross had asked: "Why does God permit evil and sin to nail Justice to a tree?" The Resurrection answered: "That sin, having done its worst, might exhaust itself and this be overcome by Love that is stronger than either sin or death." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Lent and Easter Wisdom, 110)
VISITOR’S VISION: EASTER BENEFITS
When the people of Israel came back from the exile, they met devastation and hopelessness. But God spoke to them through the prophets regarding the situation. For instance, we read from Isaiah the prophecy on the creation of the new heaven and new earth thus: “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (Isaiah 65:17-21).
I think the quotation captures, in a wonderful way, the description of the benefits of Easter, which for me include freedom, everlasting life, stronger faith, joy, peace, forgiveness and salvation, and these come to mind since we shall be celebrating the Easter festivities within this month. We know that the message of Easter is of the greatest importance to Christianity and the Christian world. As St Paul said, “I pass on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). In other words, we can look at Easter this way - as the greatest and most important aspect of our religion that impacts our lives and our identity as Christians. Nevertheless, our situations both as individuals and as a community of faith, at times, resemble that of the exiles that returned from Babylon, who had their dreams shattered by the harsh realities of life. Like them, we may question the existence or presence of God when we meet these devastating situations.
Isaiah prophesied fresh hope, a new creation, a new springtime, new and long life, joy and peace, happiness and security, to the exiles. With a similar message, the joy and benefits of Easter come to lift our spirit. In his immense goodness, the all-knowing and almighty God, through the seasons we celebrate, informs us of the meaning of our life and equally encourages us to persevere. Hence, as we emerge from the self-denials and mortifications of Lent, we embrace Easter, as a balance to the tumults, challenges, trials and sacrifices of our Christian life. In other words, the benefits of Easter assure us of God’s promises and give us the strength to push on in spite of devastating and depressive situations that we experience either as individuals or as a community. We can understand this more by reflecting on some of these benefits.
Take, for instance, the gift/benefit of freedom. Freedom here is freedom in Christ, which comes through faith instead of through the Law. This is the kind of freedom that made Abraham righteous, for as the Scripture said: “He believed in God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous” (Gal 3:6). As it is, Christ became a curse and died to give all his followers, who believe as Abraham did, freedom from the Law, and an inheritance of the promise and blessings made to Abraham and to those who believed God and lived in righteousness (Gal 3:13-14). Who were these people? These faithful souls were our ancestors in the faith (Heb 11:3-35), the saints of the New Testament, and those additional saints in the canon of the Church. This life of faith is invariably manifested in the joy that we manifest in service, which is a proof of our freedom in Christ (Gal 5:1). In other words, Easter brings joy to those who believe, a joy that manifests from peace in the heart or peace of mind. Christ brings peace to our hearts through his death and resurrection, since we believe in the assurance of our own resurrection, too: “For the truth is that Christ has been raised from death, as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised” (1 Cor 15:20).
Easter is all about the mystery of salvation, the mystery about the deep manifestation of God’s love in Christ Jesus. This is a love that nothing can separate us from, nothing -- “neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the world above nor the world below” (Rom 8:38-39) will ever be able to separate us from the love of God. Thus, we are forgiven out of the love God has for Jesus, who suffered to bring us salvation, since on the cross, He had pleaded: “Forgive them, Father! They do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Forgiveness and salvation came through the cross and the resurrection, for God had promised through the prophet, to wash away our stains and sins and make us as white as snow (Isa 1:18). Hence, Jesus’ death brought salvation, and those who die with Him will be raised with Him (Jn 12:32), since he is the perfect High Priest (Heb 7:2-25), who offered the perfect sacrifice for sin and whose priesthood lasts forever.
“And so he is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him, because he plead with God for them” (Heb 7:25). This pleading for the forgiveness of our sins and salvation is perpetuated by the continued libation with the blood of the Lamb on the Altar of Sacrifice, for “indeed, according to the Law almost everything is purified by blood, and sins are forgiven only if blood is poured out (Heb 9:22). Without this sacrifice, we die eternal death.
But thanks to God for Easter, the feast of the resurrection of Christ and the high point of our salvation history. Now, the benefits of the Easter feast give us confidence in our mission as the people of the resurrection, spurring us into becoming ‘gospels’ ourselves, because we have experienced the resurrection, though not yet in its fullness. This means that our belief in God is firmer and stronger; being more convinced that He is a living God, who will raise us up also on the last day, as Jesus was raised, for “He is the God of the living, and not of the dead” (Mtt 22:32). So, in the face of this richness, what can we do other than to embrace the Easter benefits by spreading our arms wide in a grateful life of our baptismal faith, opening our senses to breathe the fulfilling and peaceful scent of Easter, and immersing ourselves in the embrace of the joy and salvation of Easter, as the Easter people that we are.
– Father Francis Chukwuma, Visitor
NO GREATER LOVE: THE TORAH OF JESUS
Jesus Christ has often been compared with Moses and has even been called the “New Moses”. Just as Moses gave Israel the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, also called the Pentateuch, Jesus also gave us His own Torah in His Sermon on the Mount and other teachings. In Volume I of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict specifically discusses this designation in a section called “The Torah of the Messiah” (pages 99-127). The Torah did indeed have the task of giving a concrete juridical and social order to this particular people, Israel. But while Israel is, on one hand a definite nation whose members are bound together by birth and the succession of generations, on the other hand, it has been from the beginning and is, by its very nature, the bearer of a universal promise. In Jesus' new family, which will later be called "the Church,” these individual juridical and social regulations no longer apply universally in their literal historical form. This was precisely the issue at the beginning of the "Church of the Gentiles,” and it was the bone of contention between Paul and the so-called Judaizers. A literal application of Israel's social order to the people of all nations would have been tantamount to a denial of the universality of the growing community of God. Paul saw this with perfect clarity. The Torah of the Messiah could not be like that. (Quote taken from pages 117-118).
Jesus is, in many ways, the “New Moses”, but the Torah of Jesus and the Torah of Moses were quite different from each other. Pope Benedict points out that the Torah of Moses was meant for a nation with a certain bloodline which lived in a certain geographical region. Yet the “god” of this nation was the God and Creator of the Universe. The Torah of Jesus was not meant for a specific nation. It was for the Church which was centered upon Christ. Membership in the Church is not based on bloodline or geography but on adherence to Christ.
A striking example of the difference between the Torah of Moses and the Torah of Jesus can be seen in the Lord’s teaching on marriage and divorce. Jesus forbids divorce and remarriage in Mt 5:31-32, Mk 10:2-12, and Lk 16:18. However, the most extensive treatment of this topic is given in Mt 19:3-12. “And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one”? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.’ The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.’”
Here we can see the difference between the Torah of Moses and the Torah of Jesus. When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce and remarriage, they probably already knew that he was against divorce and remarriage (Mt 5:31-32). They were trying to get him to oppose Moses. Jesus tells them that the joining of a man and a woman as husband and wife was God’s plan from the beginning and that they should not be separated. Then the Pharisees ask Jesus why Moses allowed divorce and remarriage by saying that a man could put his wife away by giving her a certificate of divorce. Jesus does not attack or criticize Moses but just says that it was because of “your hardness of heart”. The contrast between the Torah of Moses and the Torah of Jesus comes out right here. Moses was giving God’s Laws to a nation which God Himself chose to receive His Laws. This nation consisted of the descendants of Israel (Jacob), who were given a specific land in what is now the Middle East. Naturally, this nation, which had grown quite large in Egypt, consisted of many different types of people. Some were probably quite good and some were less good. Moses had a problem with the issue of divorce and remarriage. If Moses did not permit a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce, then, if he remarried, he was committing adultery since he was with another woman while still married to his wife. Jesus calls it adultery. In the Torah of Moses, the penalty for adultery was death. (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22) Moses knew that divorce and remarriage was not God’s plan for the beginning. Yet he had to allow it because of the “hardness of heart” of the people. Otherwise, many people would, by law, need to be killed because they were committing adultery.
The Torah of Jesus was quite different. It was not for a nation with a specific bloodline but for all who adhered to Him as God Incarnate. He is more inclusive than the Torah of Moses since all peoples and nations could adhere to Him. These people became known as the Church. Yet His Torah is also less inclusive than that of Moses, since adherence to Christ is a matter of choice and not bloodline or geographical residence. One can reject Him. Jesus asserts that those who adhere to Him will not divorce and remarry since that is not the Will of the Father. “Except for unchastity” could refer to people who were living together without being formally married as was the case of the woman at the well. “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.’” (Jn 4:16-18) Assuming that this woman did not formally marry any of her five “husbands”, she could enter into a marriage. Jesus did not recognize “living together” as a marriage.
It may seem that the shock that His disciples expressed, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” (Mt 19:10), was an overreaction, but it was not. They were probably thinking of the Mosaic Law and the penalty for adultery, which was death. They did not yet understand that the Torah of Jesus was for the Church and not for a nation. It is possible for those who adhere to Christ, through the Grace which He gives, to do what others cannot do. As Christians, we can avoid adultery through marital fidelity and even be celibate as many chosen to do through the ages right to the present. However, this is not due to our inherent superiority over others. Our power comes from Christ who not only gives us a Torah, just as Moses did, but also gives us the power to obey His Torah, which Moses did not do. While many Christians fail to use the graces given to them, do we really appreciate what the Lord has done for us? Through Christ, our “hardness of heart” can be overcome.
– Jim Nugent, CFP
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns.” (St. John Chrysostom, Easter Homily)
'Tis the spring of souls today: Christ has burst His prison;
And from three days' sleep in death as a Sun has risen.
All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.
Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts comes its joy to render!
--St. John of Damascus
Now let the heavens be joyful; let earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph, and all that is therein!
Let all things seen and unseen their notes of gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord hath risen, our Joy that hath no end!
-- St. John of Damascus
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: DOING GOD’S WILL
God asks us to do His will. Doing His will is our gift to Him. Will we be ready to do what He asks? We think we are seeking God, but God is really seeking us. The question is, “Do we want to be found?”
People spend their lives running from the Lord, but God hunts us down like the Hound of Heaven until we finally quit running. Remember the parable of the lost sheep. Did that she want to be found? Or wasn’t having a good time running about free of the flock? In any case, it probably had no idea of the dangers lurking in the desert. But the Good Shepherd knew and wanted his sheep back, safe and sound in the fold.
We are a lot like sheep and our lack of understanding the ways and motives of the Good Shepherd. Like the lost sheep, we can snuggle down in God’s arms and allow Him to carry us where ever He wishes us to go. Or we can kick ourselves out of God’s arms and run away from Him or butt against Him.
Love gives thanks. Love calls. Love responds. St. Francis asked, “What do you want of me, Lord?” And God told him, “Go and repair my house, which, as you can see, is falling into ruin.” Francis took that literally and got busy repairing San Damiano.
Jesus spoke a parable and said that those who followed Him and put their hand to the plow, then turned back, were not fit for the Kingdom of God. We need to follow God whole heartedly. We need to trust Him to give us what we need when we do follow Him. If we ask God for a fish, He is not going to give us a stone. He might not, however, give us the fish. He may have something better in mind. Sometimes, we ask for the stone, although we think it’s a fish, and God says to us, “No. That’s a rock. I’m not giving that to you. I will give you a fish.”
God loves us all specially. Each one of us is His “favorite.” God wants to give each of us special gifts. St. Francis knew this so he followed God closely. He knew that God loved Him – what else did the Passion and Resurrection of Christ prove but that? That kind of love required an equal response. The only response Francis could give was to surrender himself to his incomparable Lord.
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
HUMOR: MORE KIDS’ THOUGHTS
A little girl became restless as the preacher's sermon dragged on and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, "Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?"
Ms. Terri asked her Sunday School class to draw pictures of their favorite Bible stories. She was puzzled by Kyle's picture, which showed four people on an airplane, So she asked him which story it was meant to represent. "The Flight to Egypt," was his reply. Pointing at each figure, Ms. Terri said, "That must be Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. But who's the fourth person?" "Oh, that's Pontius - the pilot!"
The Sunday School Teacher asks, "Now, Johnny, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating?" "No ma'am," little Johnny replies, I don't have to. My mom is a good cook."
A little girl was sitting on her grandfather's lap as he read her a bedtime story. From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek. She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again. Finally, she spoke up, "Grandpa, did God make you?" "Yes, sweetheart," he answered, "God made me a long time ago." "Oh," she paused, "Grandpa, did God make me, too?" "Yes, indeed, honey," he said, "God made you just a little while ago." Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, "God's getting better at it, isn't he?"
THOUGHTS FROM CFP’ERS: EUCHARISTIC REVERENCE
St. Francis was in awe of the great Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. He reverenced the priest who brings the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord in the Sacred Host at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We, too, should be encouraged daily, to reverence Our Dear Lord in this August Sacrament. The Eucharist is the Mystical Presence of Jesus, with His great Love for us. First, He gave us the Eucharist, and then suffered and died for us on the Cross. Let us be like St. Francis, and adore and love the Holy Eucharist and visit Jesus often waiting for us in His Great Sacrament of Love.
– Donna Kaye Rock, CFP Postulant
THOUGHTS FROM CFP’ERS: ENCOURAGEMENT
Our Holy Father St. Francis took a lot of time encouraging his Friars. The Friars knew that St. Francis cared about them and wanted them to be happy in living Holy Poverty. We, too, should encourage the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our fellow Catholic Christians. We are urged to look for ways to affirm each other, and help each other grow in our Franciscan and Spiritual Life. A kind word, a compliment, a smile, a “Hello, how are you?” and so on can work wonders. Also, always remember to encourage yourself. We need to be at peace with ourselves before we can help others. Keep a cheerful and positive outlook as we go on our Franciscan Journey.
– Donna Kaye Rock, CFP Postulant
THOUGHTS FROM CFP’ERS: LOYALTY TO THE CHURCH
One of Saint Francis' central requirements was that his followers always be obedient to the Pope and to the Holy Catholic Church. Despite many problems in the Church when Francis was alive, he remained obedient and faithful to the Pope. We also remain obedient children of Pope Francis and our local Bishop, and we must teach our children to do the same. Consider this: my father is not perfect, he has some strange ideas, he sins, but he is my father. I honor him by being an obedient and loving son. I don't leave him nor say to him that he is wrong so therefore he is no longer my father. Likewise, we pray for our Pope, for the Holy Catholic Church, for our fathers and mothers. Let us always be faithful and true to our Pope. Love him, pray for him, be by his side, talk to him, encourage him, but never walk away from him.
– William Elsass, Novice 2
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
CONSTITUTIONS: IV. THE OBJECT OF THE COMMITMENT
The Object of the Commitment is for the individual pledged member to lead a penitential life in union with Christ and with all the faithful. Penance is ongoing, putting on the mind of Jesus Christ to "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Penance is conversion from doing things in worldly, selfish ways to doing them God's way. This cannot be done without some self-denial, for the Lord Himself said that we must "deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him" if we are to be His disciples. (Luke 9:23)
Members of the Confraternity of Penitents are to live converted to God and in a loving, Christ-like relationship with each other and with all. They are to participate in some form of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. They are to maintain chastity according to their state in life and are to follow the dictates of the Church regarding sexual activity and family planning. Unless communities of penitents are formed according to Church law and following the CFP Rule and their own Constitutions, penitents are to live in their own homes as they, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, simplify and sanctify their lives.
Without the permission of their spiritual director, or religious superior, penitents should not undertake physical acts of self denial or mortification beyond those delineated in the Rule and Constitutions.
The Object of the Commitment is the reason why we live our Rule of Life in the first place. We are not doing it to lose weight, look holy, or downsize or wardrobe and possessions. We live our Rule of Life to follow Christ and to be faithful to the Gospel. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and to follow Him, and that’s what we try to do by living our Rule. Every Rule of Life has an objective. Some religious live their Rules to serve the poor or to nurse the sick or to teach. We can do all these things as part of our commitment to the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. However, the primary object of our living this Rule of Life is to grow closer to God by doing things His way rather than our own way. Living this Rule gives us practice in denying our own will so that we are open to following God’s will. Thus, the main reason for living the Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents is personal conversion to the ways of God.
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: WHEN I SEE A CRUCIFIX
When I see a Crucifix, . . .
It reminds me that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that we could behold God's glory.
I remember Jesus died on the cross for my sins and sins of others.
It represents the symbol of the death of Jesus Christ and hope for resurrection.
It reminds me that Jesus Christ took away the sins of the world.
It reminds me that salvation is the result of a willing sacrifice by the very Son of God.
A Crucifix is the visual reminder that . . .
Jesus suffered and died for us.
Jesus received blasphemous false accusations from the world.
He was denied, abandoned, mocked, was arrested and bound.
When I see a Crucifix, it reminds me that . . .
Jesus was ridiculed by his own family members.
He was blindfolded, beaten.
He was rejected by his own hometown and was asked deceitful questions.
Jesus was Struck with blows, was arrested, wounded, bruised unaccompanied by his accusers.
He was falsely charged, chastised, endured stripes, oppressed, led to the slaughter.
He was cut off from the land of the living and abused by Roman soldiers.
He was scourged and a crown of thorns put on His head. He was given a reed in His right hand and then soldiers struck him on the head with the reed.
When I see a Crucifix, it reminds me that . . .
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter but opened not His mouth.
He bore his own cross and was crucified for the sake of us.
The soldiers striped Him and divided His garments, then nailed Him to the cross.
The chief priests with the scribes mocked and sneered at him.
A Crucifix is a reminder of . . .
The terror and pain of Christ's suffering and death
Our union with Christ.
The greatest sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar of the cross, to die to reconcile us to God.
When I see a Crucifix, it reminds me that . . .
Jesus Christ is my comforter, my faithful Companion till the end.
Jesus proved his love for me through his death, burial, and resurrection.
He had unconditional for me and for others.
He redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.
Christ had boundless, matchless love for the lost world.
When I see a Crucifix, it reminds me that the physical, emotional, spiritual torture Jesus underwent speaks more of the hatred and cruelty of humanity.
When I see a Crucifix, it reminds me that Jesus came to serve and willingly paid the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world with His Own Blood. He bore our sickness and carried our sorrows and pains and was bruised for our iniquities.
A Crucifix is a beautiful reminder that . . .
Our sins are forgiven and we are justified through His blood.
The chains of sins are broken and Satan and hell are defeated.
We have eternal life, communion and fellowship with God through Christ.
Jesus is the way, the truth, the light, the resurrection, and the life.
Jesus is the Alpha, Omega, the beginning and the end.
Saint John Paul II's Papal Crucifix. Spectacular silver shiny crucifix. Has a circular hook to be hung on a wall. The uniqueness of this crucifix adds a nice touch to the character. Medal look and feel. Approximately 5" tall by 2" wide. $7.99 plus shipping. Available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link.
Jesus is our High Priest, our example, our Perfect Advocate to motivate us for striving for love, holy, blameless, perfect and righteousness and to rescue us from final judgment and from the eternal Fire.
Jesus Christ is my Lord, and Savior, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18) Amen
– Shaila Touchton, CFP Postulant
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS PHOTO ALBUM
Interior of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii Prayer Chapel in Mary's Glen at CFP Headquarters. Icons donated by Dennis Villa. Thank you, Dennis!
Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop
The Easter Story Children's Picture Book 1.50 on this link.
He Is Risen Lapel Pin. $1.00 on this link.
Easter Coloring Book. $2.50 on this link.