Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter --
Visitor’s Vision: Living in Love
In the New Testament, the apostle John is referred to as the disciple Jesus loved. Interestingly though, this reference was actually recorded by John himself, since this reference is only found in the Gospel according to John (Jn 13:23). It may seem as if John is blowing his own trumpet, but I believe that he spoke and wrote what made sense to him. In other words, this is the way he articulated the place of Jesus in his life. As it is, God loves each person but one has to acknowledge this fact for oneself, determine what it means for him or her, appropriate this fact into one’s life, and express the claim in a way that makes sense to oneself. In other words, we all must realize the effects and consequences of that love in an effective and efficient manner. In the case of John, one can see that he appropriated the love of Jesus in a very deep sense, since he never tired of preaching and writing about the love of God, not only in the Gospel but also in his letters.
Take for instance the teaching and exhortation of John in the fourth chapter of his first letter. John says: "Let us love one another because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 Jn 4:7-8). As we know, this first letter was to encourage a life in fellowship with God and with Jesus Christ as well as to warn against false teaching that associates the physical world with evil. This heresy would lead to the conclusion that Jesus was not truly human, since Jesus could not have allowed himself to have any contact with evil by coming into contact with the evil physical world. Equally, there was the false claim that salvation had nothing to do with matters of morality or of love for others. John, therefore, wrote to teach that Jesus Christ was really human and that all who believes in him and all who love God, must also love one another (Good News Bible with Deuteronical Books, "Introduction to the 1st letter of St John", 264).
Even the second letter of John written to a local church (lady) and her members, is an appeal to love one another, in addition to his usual teachings and warning against false teachers and false teachings. Hence, at one point in that brief second letter, John writes: "This love I speak of means that we must live in obedience to God's commands. The command, as you have all heard from the beginning, is that you must all live in love" (2 Jn 6). Now, this last quote introduces the main point of this article, which is about someone who is living in love. It is really not about the apostle John, as such, but about his living out love, which is instructive to us. Thus, flowing from the on-going, there are two areas of interest that I actually want to highlight with regards to how John lived out love.
The first point is regarding John's claim of Jesus' love, which is a paradigm for each of us. When one claims God's love, it puts one's view into a certain positive perspective, as seen in the life of all the saints. The second point is regarding 'living in that love'. For me, this involves the acceptance of the joys and pains of love, remembering the fact that true love involves sacrifice. As the case may be, we can certainly say that each of the saints did recognize and did claim the love of God, and, equally, they professed that conviction by professing their love in the form of obedience to God's command as well as being a witness to God's love through their love for their fellows. Like these others, the apostle John is highlighted as one who lived out love by claiming for himself the love of God and by actually living in love through obedience to God's commands, in spite of the joys and pains of loving one's neighbour. And as saints in progress, each of us is called to follow the footsteps and examples of those great and holy men and women of God, who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
Now, in this regard, I will suggest that a good way to start is to begin one's day by claiming and affirming that God loves us, especially by saying each morning "Jesus loves me for I am the apple of his eye!". In fact, one can even sing with the kids that hymn whose simple but beautiful original words was written by Anna Bartlet Warner around 1859/60, which says: " Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so". When one truly believes, with one's heart, this truth that Jesus loves him or her, which Jesus expressed in his sacrificial death on the cross, a new perspective opens for a better assessment of life and its vissictudes. Equally, one's spiritual horizon broadens and widens, thereby offering one that peace which the world cannot give (Jn 14:27) - that peace of mind that comes from a realization of being truly in love and being truly loved.
– Father Francis Chukwuma, CFP Visitor
No Greater Love: Being and Doing
Our modern Western society is extremely concerned about doing things. For example, politicians are judged by what they have done. Young people are educated for a career so that they can do something to build a better world. These things really are very important. The world would be very different without the things which people in the past have done. However, the ultimate act of “doing” is that which we have not witnessed: the creation of the world. Scientists have developed theories about how everything came into existence such as the theory of evolution or the big bang theory. However, is there something which has primacy even over the ultimate act of “doing”, the creation? Professor Joseph Ratzinger says “yes” to this question in Dogma and Preaching, pages 93-95, which was completed in 1973.
The answer to the above question is contained in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word”. The “Word”, “Logos” in the Greek language in which John’s Gospel was written, precedes even the creation. Yet, what is this Word or Logos? Professor Ratzinger says it is the same thing as “mind” or “meaning” or “intelligibility”. In Christian thought, this is what the source of creation is. Yet, our modern Western world chooses to ignore the Logos and look only at how world, as it is now, came into existence. Professor Ratzinger strongly rejects this strange omission.
In this connection, Romano Guardini has spoken about the primacy of Logos over Ethos: before Doing stands Being. In the beginning was not the "deed" but, rather, the Word; it is mightier than the deed. Doing does not create meaning; rather, meaning creates doing. This is connected, at the same time, with the fact that Christian faith has to do with reason, is not opposed to it but, rather, calls for it. Above all, however, this means that Christian faith essentially and originally has to do with the truth. What a man believes is not a matter of indifference to him; the truth cannot be replaced' by a "good opinion". The loss of the truth corrupts even good opinions. It also corrupts love, which without truth is blind and, hence, cannot fulfill its real purpose: to will and to do for the other what is truly good. Only when I know what man is in truth and what the world is in truth can I also be truly good. Goodness without truth can bring about subjective justification but not salvation. God is the Truth---this statement is a program, a fundamental orientation for human existence, which finds verbal expression in the belief in creation.
Here we can see how far the modern mentality has departed from Christianity. We want young people to do good for the world, but we do not train them to be good. We want a good society, and yet we value individual autonomy over being good. People in the public spotlight who are good are more likely to be persecuted than to be advanced. Modern society greatly values “doing” but ignores what is primary over “doing.”
As Professor Ratzinger points out, the Christian faith is based on reason. This again means that the Logos or Word is at the beginning of everything. The early Christians did not ask the ancient world to irrationally accept the claims of Christ. Instead, Christians enlisted the best philosophy of the time to communicate Christianity. This is not because Christianity is just philosophy. Rather, Christianity used reason to defend its claims against all its attackers. However, the modern Western world has chosen to ignore all of this and portray Christianity as a private subjective belief system which should be confined to churches. The separation of Christianity from its basis in reason has been quite successful.
Christ also made very strong truth claims. These claims can be rejected, but they cannot be ignored. In his book called Prayer, the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar has stated that the Gospels were written so that one would either stone Jesus or worship Him. One can find many passages in Scripture where Jesus says things that are outrageous unless they are true. Neutrality to Jesus is not an option. Again, this is the case because Jesus did not just claim to speak the truth, but He also claimed to be the truth. (“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jn 14:6) Modern society strongly rejects this. If truth exists at all, it is only “your truth” or “my truth”. “The Truth” is a medieval notion which modern man has outgrown.
The loss of truth has also corrupted love. How can one truly love without the truth? For example, some people portray abortion as a “loving” act. This can happen when one ignores or rejects the truth about life as a gift from God. Others view sexual acts as “loving” without regard to the God given meaning and purpose of sexual acts. Our modern culture of sexual freedom is divorced from truth. Then, we wonder why so many things in family life and relationships turn out badly. This is rooted in a loss of truth which also means a loss of love.
The ignoring of truth brings us back to the issue of creation. If it is true that creation has its source in the Word or Logos, there is a purpose to sex and everything else which exists. It is not just something which came about by random and irrational processes which accidentally happened to give us the world we have today. No, there is Mind and Reason behind the world. Of course, the world may not conform to our limited human conception of what a world should be like. People reason that since the world is not set up the way one would like it to be, it must be the result of random and irrational processes, hence, the thought goes that the present world is the result of chance. This is a comfortable way to think since one can devise one’s own concept of right action and live as one pleases. This way of thinking ultimately leads to despair since we are now divorced from both truth and love. We need to see that there is Truth and that Truth ultimately is a Person. We have to conform to the Truth which means conforming to Jesus Christ. This is what we were created to do.
–James F. Nugent, CFP
Following Francis, Following Christ: Virtues Common to St. Francis and St. Joseph
From the beginning, Christ was put aside. Every room was full and no one knew him. His family were outcasts, displaced, and it was dark and cold outside. Imagine inside the Inn. Travelers from all over had eaten their fill and were settling down for the night. Others were probably sitting at the table talking about what had happened that day and what they were looking forward to tomorrow. They probably weren't mindful of the child that had just been born in the stable.
There are many things that I have put to the side thinking, "Oh, I'll just do that later, I have plenty of time." My father would always say to me, "Just do it now when it's on your mind, or you'll forget it later." He was right. I feel blessed to have a father who shows the way, the wise and learned man of the world who guides his children along the right path, hoping they won't stumble but being there if they need it. This is the virtue that made Joseph such a kind, gentle, and caring surrogate for the Christ Child who is the light of the nations and the truth that has entered the world.
These virtues, kindness, gentleness, and compassion, become a looking glass into how un learned man named Francis would come to know and love Christ in his own way. Thomas Merton wrote, "We all differ, we all have our own problems and troubles yet we all sing together , ‘Lord hear our prayer.’" Is this not what we are all waiting for? What we are all seeking? Now with God among us, is it not him that is seeking our hearts and our minds as well? In my eyes, Christ is the consolation and help that has come down to be poured out. He is the consolation that David longed for, the Servant of the Lord of Israel. I believe that David was seeking what Isiah wrote, "a bruised reed he will not break, thy chosen one upon whom I have put my spirit.” (Is 42) David was seeking a God of mercy and compassion, one with whom he could walk and bring new life into a world that had grown cold, dark, divisive, and polarized by fear, anger and suffering. Such a world we live in today. For so many, that lowly stable where Christ was born is a refuge, a shelter where the hungry come to be fed, to get out of the cold, to find a place to rest their head. What many are seeking and do not find is a place to 'be loved back to life' as Jesus would later bring Lazarus back from the dead and where they are not put to the side. In my own eyes, I think this is what the shepherds sought as the gazed upon him in all humility and adoration. This is what the wise men sought as they left their gifts at the altar.
I see the new life in Christ in creation as Francis did. As fall turns into winter, the weather turns chilly. It reminds me of home and keeping the wood stove going to keep warm. You have to keep the fire going inside or you'll have to start it again in the morning. When we keep Jesus alive in our hearts, Henri Nouwen writes, "our hearts embrace not only all people but all of creation." Francis was a man filled with hope because he saw Christ incarnated in creation and saw new life springing up from the humility of this lowly birth.
Francis's life was filled with the virtues of the incarnation. Two virtues reflect the righteousness of Joseph as well as Francis. Francis practiced the virtue of waiting and persevering as he sought the poor and humble Christ in the stable of his own heart. I was reminded of how hard it is to wait for something when I was standing out on the porch feeding the birds as Francis loved to do. You have to have patience and a steady hand. Sometimes they won't come when you call, but they'll come when they are hungry again for more seed (bread).
Saint Joseph was also practiced in patience. For "Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my Son.’" (Mt 3:14-15) How difficult this must have been for Joseph! He was out of his comfort zone. He probably was afraid for his family! Probably he frequently felt like going back to his homeland. I have often found myself in similar circumstances wanting to return home, wondering what kind of good could come out of this place.
I love to read the early letters of Mother Teresa. In these letters, she pours out her frustration of wanting to go out into the slums, those dark places, to bring charity, peace and compassion to the suffering Christ. How long she waited until finally being given permission to serve Christ in those who had been put aside. A photograph of one of her homes for the sick has the crucifix with the words "I thirst" underneath. It reflects the mission of the Church that it is Christ in us who thirsts.
Francis understood this all too well. He trusted that the Lord would provide. In a letter which he writes to Clare,. He says, "I, little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of Jesus Christ and to persevere therein to the end." Murray Bodo writes about Clare's prayer this way, "You prayed for his coming, but you were wise not to let your longing, your loneliness, interfere with living, with what had to be done from moment to moment. You kept giving even when you felt nothing in return, and most of all you learned to trust." Francis's vision of 'God with us' was the 'greatest humility'. To be fed by God was, for Francis, in the service of the 'least,’ the face of Him who cannot be seen.
However, we must not think of the 'least' as 'the other,’ as those that are apart from us. We must think of 'ourselves' as the 'other' as Francis did. It is my heart that needs to be opened. It is my heart that has grown cold and non-reactive. It is my heart that waits for the light in the darkness. We are all one and until we can get over this divide of 'greater' and 'lesser,' we shall continue to live in a world of walls. In my own ministry experience of living in community, I must practice waiting and preserving. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes you feel that prayer is showing little fruit or benefit. But as my father told me not to put the important things aside, I try to wait patiently to allow the love of Christ not only to fill the rooms in my heart but also to be that light of His presence for my fellow brothers and sisters as they seek to know Him and to love Him. – Jesse Pellow, CFP Postulant
Reflection on the Rule: Appendix E
Appendix E is an expanded historical overview of the Confraternity of Penitents which will be added to as needed. The latest addition is this entry from 2016:
2016. Bishop Rhoades reconfirms the canonical status of the Confraternity of Penitents as a private association of the faithful in a letter dated September 28, 2016 and grants the CFP his blessing. He names Father Francis Chukwuma as Confraternity of Penitents’ Visitor to replace Fr. Jacob Meyer.
Reflection: The Confraternity of Penitents is a living body within the Church and its history will continue to unfold as long as the Lord wills its existence. We are grateful for Bishop Rhoades’ reconfirmation of the CFP’s canonical status and for his support of Fr. Chukwuma as our new CFP Visitor. The Visitor is the CFP’s direct liaison to the Bishop and thus is a vital role.
Humor: Assorted Thoughts
What’s the difference between a cat and a comma? One has claws at the end of its paws and the other is a pause at the end of a clause.
Seen on a sign on a high, chain link fence: “Is there life after death? Trespass here and find out.”
Some people should use a glue stick instead of a chap stick.
Remember when we were young and couldn’t wait to grow up . . .
so that we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted?
How’s that working out for you?
On a t-shirt. “I haven’t lost my mind. Half of it wandered off and the other half went looking for it.”
A police officer called the station on his radio. “I have an interesting case here. An old woman just shot her husband for stepping on the floor she just mopped.” “Have you arrested the woman?” “Not yet. The floor is still wet.”
Thoughts from CFP’ers – Empathy
Empathy is a worthy virtue to possess. It allows us to be compassionate and to actually feel for another person who is suffering. We can also feel happy for someone who got good news, etc. St. Francis possessed empathy for his Friars, the Poor, and those around him. If we practice empathy every day, in any situation, we will become more like Jesus and St. Francis. Let us open our hearts to praying daily for compassion and empathy for others. It will help us to grow spiritually, as Penitents. St. Francis wrote: “Blessed is the man who bears with his neighbor according to the frailty of his nature as much as he would wish to be born with by him, if he should be in a like case.” Admonitions: 18
--Donna Kaye Rock, CFP Postulant
Something to Think About
For Jesus, we do not have to be strong. We only have to be needy. . . . It takes time for eternal plans to unfold.
Fr. Jerome Machar, OSCO. From the CFP Blog
Monthly Letter to All Penitents: The Weak to Shame the Strong
Brothers, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
As a week unfolded in January with the inauguration of a United States prolife president and vice president, followed by the first Washington DC proabortion Women’s March, followed by the 44th annual prolife March for Life, this passage from 1 Corinthians seems written for this time. President Donald Trump is by no means foolish, poor, or weak, but those who elected him to office are considered such by those who opposed his election. The Women’s March was heavily funded. People flew in from around the world to participate (where did they get the money?). The Women’s March received 129 times more coverage than any previous March for Life ever received. I remember newspaper coverage in our local paper of the first March for Life. A small article with a close-up photo of nuns in a habit in a crowd and an article that referenced “nuns and priests in religious garb” as if the march were sponsored by the Catholic Church (it never was so sponsored) and then statements about the Supreme Court abortion decision legalizing abortion and commentary on that from proabortion spokespeople. Fair coverage, eh?
Coverage of this year’s March for Life was much, much better. CBSN showed the crowd, but not a long distance shot of it to give an idea of how many attended. The commentator said, “While it’s always difficult to estimate crowd sizes,” he would estimate “tens of thousands.” In another breath, he stated that half a million were at the Women’s March. How come it wasn’t difficult to estimate the size of that march? Another newspaper article said that the march was hosted by “abortion rights opponents.” When was abortion declared a “right”? Generally, however, the media is finally recognizing the prolife movement for something other than old Catholic ladies. It’s a generation of young people who call abortion what it is—the denial of all civil rights from a class of people, those yet to be born. Of course, the old Catholic ladies are in the movement, too, but we were once young, like this generation of prolifers. From the beginning, I was part of the prolife movement. I remember reading about the legalization of abortion in the newspaper when I came home from my job teaching second grade. A difficult class but I could not imagine which of those children would have been better off dead. On January 22, 1973, I was a young Catholic teacher. Now I’m 44 years older. The legalization of abortion has, in a great part, defined my life, my writing, my prolife advocacy.
Insignificant people who can see the difference between truth and a lie make up the prolife movement. They were the movement in 1973 and they still are the movement today. Most have no extra money to fly to marches overseas. Most don’t get paid any salary, let alone a big salary, for their prolife work. Some adopt children who would have no other home. Unlike abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood, prolife pregnancy centers take no money from the women they help. On the contrary, the prolife centers frequently give the women financial and material aid to assist them in having and parenting their babies.
The theme of the March for Life 2017 was “The Power of One.” Each one of us penitents has a power of one human being. Jesus told us that we do to Him whatever we do to the least among us. The least, in our world, includes the unborn. As has been noted, “The most dangerous place in the world for an unborn baby is his mother’s womb.” How can we help?
We can work with prolife pregnancy centers to support women through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We can write letters to the editor, post blogs, twitter and tweet and hashtag. We can speak up for the helpless. We can tell the truth about the chant “My Body, My Choice” -- it’s not your body you are choosing for—it’s your baby’s body. You can put arguments into perspective with knowledge. For example, most people don’t know that you cannot legally shoot an unarmed thief in your home or you will be charged with manslaughter. The thief’s right to life takes precedent over goods, your “right to privacy”, and “my house, my choice.” Government recognizes that your TV is worth less than a human life.
Most importantly, you can pray. The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop (cfpholyangels.com) offers many prolife prayers. Pray for human life daily. Prayers have gotten the movement this far. Let’s keep praying until everyone realizes that abortion is unnecessary, until everyone realizes that women deserve better than abortion, until everyone realizes that God has a plan for every child conceived and who are we to thwart, rather than encourage, it?
–Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
A Thought from How Not to Share Your Faith (book by Mark Brumley)
This little book is a lot of fun, and has a couple of sayings that work in every-day life. For example, when a person talks of God, it is essential that he do so because he loves God and his truth, which implies he knows something of God and his truth. As it would be a strange God who would be loved better for being known less, so, too, would it be a strange God who would be known better for being conversed with less. Prayer, as conversation with God, leads to a deeper knowledge of God and of the things of God. Or, as St. Teresa of Avila said, “When we pray, it is best to recall who it is we are speaking with, at least if we want to be polite.” – Eric Welch, Alessandro Ministry, Novice 2
Poetry: The Gift I Received at Christmas 2016
This year is going to be different, for the gift I did receive.
It is something to help me get around, and pain to relieve.
I went to see a waterfall, in our home town.
Having forgotten my cane, naturally, I came tumbling down.
Breaking my right ankle, where no one was around, in my clutches.
Finally, I went to emergency room, and earned a pair of crutches.
The Fire and rescue squad were very nice, but were insistent instead
Would not let me cover my head with the blanket, to act as if I were dead.
They loaded me into the ambulance, without a siren, to emergency we went.
At the hospital three hours we spent, the kind staff were very efficient,
My wife said my next expected Christmas gift is scheduled for 2021.
Frowning in pain I exclaimed "With all this pain, that is not fun!"
I will offer all my pain and suffering to the Lord for residual sins to repent.
My family, frowning at my folly, are a blessings well sent.
Please say a prayer so that I may endure and heal too.
Have a Happy and Holy Christmas and New Year, God bless you.
--Paul Michael Phelan, CFP Associate, Formation Completed
CFP Photo Album – Progress on Mary’s Glen
Mary's Glen is a 3/4 acre wooded area behind the CFP headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Confraternity of Penitents is developing Mary's Glen as a quiet prayer spot for anyone to use. Please pray for funding to complete this development.
One half of the Glen, showing its depth
Statuary to be placed in the glen.
From the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop – Prolife Items
Pictured are only a few of various prolife itemss available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop Other prolife items such as Precious Feet Lapel Pins, Conception Is Life Rosaries, Prolife Bracelets and other jewelry, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Tilma replicas are also available.
In the Palm of His Hand--Prolife Prayer Booklet $1.50 plus shipping
Vintage Collection of Prolife Prayer Cards plus Vintage God Is Pro-Life Prayer Button. $1.95 plus shipping
Civil Rights for All Americans
Pregnant? Upset? Bumper Sticker Set. Phone number 1-800-848-LOVE is that of Birthright USA.
$1 per set plus shipping
Epiphany – Light to Show the Way
At Christ’s birth, the star pointed the way to the divinity that rested in that manger in Bethlehem. What are some things that show the presence of Christ within us? Just recently, a retired volunteer in Camden, who used to come to the school, passed away. We had the kids write their favorite memories of him to put in a book for his wife. Some of what the kinds wrote I saw in Grandpa T myself. They wrote down that he loved to sing, he always had a smile on his face, he was patient when he helped the kids, he loved to teach the kids about places he had visited. He absolutely loved to just 'be with' the kids, and the kids miss his presence at the school. He truly had 'life' in him.
Grandpa T manifested the light of Christ in his daily life. So must we! A new resident at a community for men who have developmental disabilities and behavioral management issues wants to learn who Christ is so he can be baptized. I can help show him the way, be that star for him, be a guide for him, but will he be able to see that light in me? Will Christ be manifested in my own heart, mind, and soul, not just through what I am able to teach about who God is, but through my actions? Am I honestly able to say that Christ is living within me? Can I be joyful and sing, can I always appear to be happy and helpful, can I be patient, kind and caring, can I allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given at Baptism and Confirmation show the way through my life?
Epiphany is about those who seek. It is said that those who knock enter and those who seek will find. We all seek out Christ in our own lives and in different ways. The Sufi mystic Rumi wrote a beautiful poem entitled 'Sometimes I do' "In your light I learn how to love, in your beauty, how to make poems, you dance inside my chest, where no one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that light becomes this art." – Jesse Pellow, CFP Postulant
Prayer to Live Above Ourselves
In all and above all, in this beautiful year, please Lord, grant us the grace to love you above all things and to live in conformity with your commands. Give us the strength to live above sins, to conquer our weaknesses and to increase in the practice of virtues. Sanctify us Lord and use us as the instruments of salvation. Grant that we may bring hope and love to people in need. Grant that we would bring the good news of salvation to the people. These we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
– Kingsley Eze, CFP Postulant