Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- July 2017
VISITOR’S VISION: YOU CANNOT BEAR FRUIT UNLESS YOU REMAIN IN JESUS
“You cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me” (Jn 15: 4)
At this time, the Easter season has given way once more to the Ordinary season in the Church’s liturgical calendar. Of course, we know that this season isn't called Ordinary because it is a time to stop rejoicing for the salvation from the slavery of sin, wrought for us through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! On the contrary, Ordinary Time is the grace-filled time as we grow and mature in faith and put into practice the graces of the great festive time of Eater (or Christmas, as the case may be). And because it is the time of growth, it is also related to the time the farm land is kept watered and tended for the plants to bear bountiful harvest. So, for this month of July, let me reflect on the channel we need to follow in order to keep growing and glowing in our spiritual life as Christians, and more so as penitents who are obliged to more intense spiritual life.
During the Last Supper discourse, as recorded in John’s gospel (13-17), Jesus used the imagery of the vine and its branches to describe his relationship with the apostles. By this he recalled for them the concept and the relationship between the householder and the vineyard, which in the Jewish culture is a metaphor for God and his property. As one scholar of New Testament and Jewish Studies noted in her discussion of the parables of the laborers in the vineyard (narrated in Mt 20: 1-16), Jesus’ Jewish hearers were familiar with the fact that God is the vineyard owner and Israel is the vineyard. This is depicted in the Old Testament imagery seen in Isaiah 5:7 and Jeremiah 12:10 (See, Amy-Jill Levine, Short Stories by Jesus, HarperCollins Publishers, NY, 2014, 199). So, the apostles understood the depth of Jesus’s imagery, especially as Jesus maintained that in the vineyard, he is the vine and his followers are the branches, while the Father is the vine grower. Jesus said: “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener…I am the vine, and you are the branches” (Jn 15:1-5). What interests me most in the passage is his declaration that we cannot bear fruit unless we remain in him, or put in another way, that without him we can do nothing.
Now, my interest here is not so much on the Jewish vineyard and its concepts, since we can relate to that in the natural growth process of trees around us. Equally, I know that we do not have to travel to Jerusalem before we can appreciate the magnitude of the relationship between a vine and its branches, since we observe this in the trees around us. However, the attraction for me here is the ingenuity of Jesus in likening his relationship with the apostles (and with each Christian), to that of a tree and its branches as well as the fruits borne by the branches. As we well know, the branches certainly cannot survive, not to talk of bearing fruits, if they are cut off from the mother tree, since the life source would have been cut off if there is a separation of the branches from the tree-trunk. Now, what does this mean in the divine and human relationship between Jesus and his followers?
I think that Jesus wishes in a more specific way, to emphasize that his love running within us is the life-force that connects us to himself and to the Father, in the same way that the gardener, the vine and its branches are connected. Jesus’ love is experienced and is manifested in the person who keeps his commandments. Hence, going a little further from the above quoted passage Jesus said: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (Jn 15:10). This is why the fruit we bear is summed up as our love of God and love of others. Again, it is interesting to see that Jesus connected love and life, as both the life-force between himself and the disciple, as well as the fruit that the disciple will bear. He said: “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them” (Jn 15:12-13). Here, sacrificial love and life are intertwined. And we know that living such love is the greatest deed a person can undertake. In other words, this reminds us of the virtue of magnanimity, that virtue about doing great things and performing great and honorable acts.
It is interesting to note the description of this virtue by St. Thomas Aquinas. For him, “Magnanimity by its very name denotes stretching forth of the mind to great things. Now virtue bears a relationship to two things, first to the matter about which is the field of its activity, secondly to its proper act, which consists in the right use of such matter. And since a virtuous habit is denominated chiefly from its act, a man is said to be magnanimous chiefly because he is minded to do some great act” (Aquinas T., II, II, Q.129, art 1). In other words, “magnanimity regards two things: honor as its matter, and the accomplishment of something great as its end” (art.8). We remember that St. Thomas' description is over and above Aristotle’s own description as found in Book IV of Nicomachean Ethics, where he describes magnanimity "as the great deeds performed by the wealthy, socially and politically powerful and well-placed men, who knows that they deserve great honor because they are in that high position to perform great deeds and gain great honor, and so, they have a high opinion of themselves, since they know that they are deserving of great honors." Understandably, if magnanimous people are categorized only as Aristotle described, it will then exclude a lot of us.
This is why St. Thomas describes the magnanimous person as one who performs acts that require great virtue and the perfection of good, and this involves the person’s appropriate use of God’s gifts, which the person must have already developed through habit and those virtues that ensure that the performance of great things are within the person’s reach. This person must then avoid the vices, especially those St Thomas named firstly as the vice of ambition, by which one thinks that one can do great things only by one’s might; secondly presumption, by which one thinks that one can do great things not gifted to one by nature; and thirdly pusillanimity, by which one does not perform great things because one thinks very small of oneself (Aquinas T., II, II, Q.130-133).
Now, in the light of the foregoing, what did Jesus mean by the saying that without him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5), and what are the fruits that we have to bear? I think Jesus is actually referring to the accomplishment of great things or the things that ultimately matter in life, with regards to who we are and the purpose of our being. In other words, the great things include our vocation in life, our profession and our career, and above all, our achieving holiness as well as assisting others to achieve holiness. How do we help others achieve holiness? We achieve this through the participation in the mission of the Church (the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ), which is ultimately the mission of all Christians. As it is, this requires the giving of our life which can only be possible through selfless love.
This is precisely why I think Jesus said that we can only accomplish those great deeds, which are our ultimate mission as Christians, when we are hinged or attached to him, just as a branch is attached to the tree. In a way, this means experiencing Jesus’ love, which he manifested by his selfless sacrifice of his life, and which strengthens us to also bear fruits of love that are manifest in our great acts of giving up our precious time, talent and treasures, to positively influence the life of others. Hence, we have to pray for the virtue of magnanimity and the un-interrupting flow of Jesus’s love (in the grace of the sacraments and the word of God), feeding and sustaining us just as a tree sustains the branches with nutrients flowing in it veins, for the branch to bear fruits.
-- Fr. Francis Chukwuma, CFP Visitor
NO GREATER LOVE: LISTENING TO GOD
In order to communicate with God, we first need to listen to the Word of God in whatever way this Word comes to us. However, before we can even listen to God, we first need faith. In other words, how can we listen to God if we do not believe in Him? Yet, what is faith? In his book called Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar defines faith in this way. “Faith is the ability to go beyond our own human, intramundane and personal ‘truth’ and apprehend the absolute truth of God who unveils and offers himself to us, acknowledging it to be the greater truth, allowing it to be the decisive factor in our lives.”
Of course, it is possible to hold to a concept of God which denies the possibility of hearing the Word of God. This is possible if one thinks of God as so far above us and so detached from the world that He could not possible even care about us. Or else, one might think of God as being so bound up with physical, material reality that we could not possibly reach Him. Such concepts of God are really no different from no God at all since it is difficult to see the difference between a “God” which does not speak to us or act specifically in the world and no God at all.
If we are to hear the Word of the personal God, we need to have faith, but it cannot be a “dead” faith which only accepts an intellectual concept without acting on it. To see that our faith must be alive and active, we need only to see that God’s faithfulness to us has been alive and active. In the book of Exodus, we read how God revealed His name to Moses, “I Am” (Ex 3:14). In that book, God also tells us some of what He expects of us through the Ten Commandments. However, God does much more than give us concepts about Himself or commandments about what He expects of us. He is extremely active in the world, first of all by creating the universe out of nothing. He is also very active in His creation as related in the book of Genesis right down to the New Testament book of Revelation. The Bible relates how God has punished evil and rewarded faithfulness and obedience. He has intervened often in this world as related in the Old and New Testaments and beyond, right down to the present. Thus, should not our response to God be active as manifested in our hope and love? It is easy to see that God is not satisfied with simple intellectual belief in Him or simply keeping the commandments. He wants an active and living faith.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us what we need in order to respond to God with a living faith. “But if a person is to answer in this way-----because he believes the word of God-----he must be at home in the word. He must know what he is about. He must be so attentive to God’s word that he is not merely aware of being addressed at all----as a person stands in the wind and feels it blowing past him-----but knows that he is being challenged to understand what he is told and to act accordingly.”
We can see a striking example of the attitude which we need to have in the conversion of St. Paul, as related in the Acts of the Apostles, written by the evangelist St. Luke. St. Paul, also known as Saul, came from the city of Tarsus, which now is in modern Turkey. He was devout and very zealous for the Mosaic Law, which he certainly considered to be God’s ultimate revelation to humanity, as believe all devout Jews down to the present time. As a youth, he had studied in Jerusalem under the very famous rabbi, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was familiar with and at home with the Word of God as he knew it.
We first see the activity of Saul (St. Paul) at the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:54-60). Stephen was one of the seven men chosen by the Apostles to serve the young Church so that the Apostles could pray and preach the Word. Stephen, however, turned out to be a very bold and zealous preacher of the Gospel. Because of his bold preaching, he was brought before the high priest and council in Jerusalem. St. Luke records a speech which Stephen gave to the Council (Acts 7:1-54). In this speech Stephen recounts the history of God’s activity from the calling of Abraham down through the rest of the Old Testament. He recounts how God promised to Moses that He would raise up a prophet like himself, a new Moses (Deut 18:15). Stephen identifies this “prophet” as Jesus. This was probably standard Christian preaching since St. Luke recounts how St. Peter made a similar identification in Acts 3:22. Stephen also relates how many Israelites rejected Moses, longed to go back to Egypt, and turned to the worship of other gods. He relates how the prophets sent to Israel to preach the Word of God were rejected and persecuted by many in Israel. Stephen then accuses the Jews who rejected Jesus of doing the same thing their forefathers did by rejecting the Righteous One who was sent to them.
This speech enraged the Jews who heard it and they drove Stephen out of the city and stoned him to death (Acts 7:54-60). St. Luke notes that one of the witnesses of this stoning was “a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58). St. Luke then notes how on that very day a great persecution arose and many Christians fled out of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3). Luke also notes how Saul (St. Paul) consented to the stoning and also led the persecution of the Christians. Saul must have either heard the speech of Stephen directly or heard of it from those who heard it. Luke does not claim to have been present at the stoning of Stephen, but he does assert that Paul was present and certainly heard the speech of Stephen or heard of it. Since Luke asserts that he was present for parts of Paul’s second and third missionary journeys (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18) as well as his sea journey from Palestine to Rome, including the three month stay on the island of Malta due to a shipwreck (Acts 27:1-28:16), it is reasonable to suppose the speech of St. Stephen came down to St. Luke through the ears of St. Paul himself.
It is easy to see why Saul, a devote and very knowledgeable Jew, would have been enraged by Stephen’s speech. Saul learned from Stephen’s speech that Jesus was not just a liberal rabbi who criticized the way the Torah was interpreted by the Pharisees. Jesus claimed to be much more than just that. What Stephen said about Jesus -- calling Him the “Righteous One” -- was very dangerous unless it was true. Saul (Paul) may have had the common opinion that the Messiah was to be a political liberator, and Jesus certainly did not fit that notion. Thus, Saul, who was both knowledgeable and zealous for God, willingly joined into the persecution of Christians.
When Saul (Paul), on the road to Damascus, heard the words “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 22:7), he was totally baffled. He was not persecuting anyone. He was just going after the dangerous followers of a crucified cult leader. Saul could not answer the question he was asked, but he knew he was hearing the Word of God. He asked his own question which was “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 22:8). He received the answer “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting” (Acts 22:8). Saul heard the Word of God which was for all humanity, namely that Jesus is Lord and the Righteous One as St. Stephen called Him.
Paul also heard the Word of God for himself since that he learned the he was persecuting Jesus. Of course, the Word of God which Saul heard on the road to Damascus was not the first Word of God which he had ever heard. He was “at home” with the Word of God as the theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar had put it. Therefore, Saul did not argue or try to justify his past actions. Rather, he responded by saying “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). He was told “Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.” (Acts 22:10).
What does all this mean for us? Saul (Paul) knew why he was persecuting Christians from the Word of God as he knew it. He also knew that he had to do an “about face” and spread Christianity from the Word of God which came to him. Saul was zealous for God both before and after his conversion. God just had to change the direction of his zeal. Naturally, we cannot expect to have such a dramatic revelation as St. Paul received on the road to Damascus. However, like St. Paul, we need to be ready for it if it comes so that we know when it is time to change direction or continue forward in the same direction. This means seeking the Word of God in whatever way we can receive it. We need to know God and to know how He has come to humanity so that we know what He is saying to us personally.
-- Jim Nugent, CFP
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
VII. HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
Briefly, in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island USA, the Confraternity of Penitents began in 1994 with an interior call by the Holy Spirit to one individual to “live the Rule of 1221.” This Rule was made known to others in 1995 and the “Brothers and Sisters of Penance” begun with six members.
In 1998, Bishop Robert Mulvee of the Diocese of Providence gave his permission to live the Rule and Statutes and the Confraternity began a formation program and went on the world wide web.
In 1999, another group also living the original Rule of 1221 joined with the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, but, due to differences among the leaders, the merger was severed in 2003. The Brothers and Sisters of Penance was dissolved and then refounded as the Confraternity of Penitents.
In 2013, the Confraternity of Penitents relocated to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana USA.
An expanded Historical Overview can be found in Appendix E to these Constitutions.
Only God never had a beginning. Only God was from all eternity. The Confraternity of Penitents has a history that began with the Rule of 1221 and extended to a call to live it again, in the modern world. You who are in the CFP now are part of its history. You are a penitent in your particular place, maybe as an individual or as part of a local group. You are also part of the history of your family, your parish, and your community. The CFP began with permission of the local Bishop and continues with his blessing, thus being firmly under the historical authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Let us thank God for His blessings to us in our unfolding history.
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: PLUNGING TOWARD PLEDGING
I am plunging on toward pledging. My formator said two or three months ago that she thought I was at the point of no return, and she was right. (I think the real point of no return is when you start making those clothing adjustments.)
It's been an amazing ride, and I know for a fact that I'm not the same man I was when I entered postulancy.
First, I thought praying seven daily offices in the Divine Office would be a struggle. It was -- for much of the first year I was constantly panicked for fear I would fail to prey them. But now they just flow seamlessly into my day.
Second, The fasting was easier than expected. Partially this is because my sadistic cardiologist has me on a 1400 calorie diet, which I pretty successfully adhere to. I don't think it would have been possible to adhere to that without CFP. It's given it a spiritual dimension (hungry? don't whine, pray for those who don't have food), as well as a support group. In this respect, my formator has been wonderful.
Third toward the end of Novice 2, I came to an understanding that I had been a real jerk in years past, which is probably why I'm doing penance. For about 25 years, my gods were money, power and self-aggrandizement. And I carried a ton of resentments and grudges, etc., etc. (I relate very well to the rich guy in the Lazarus story, and hope that his fate isn't my fate!😕) My formator warned me that the closer you get to pledging, but more one's faults and failures become apparent. As usual, she was right. At any rate, I hope all those past faults have been washed away . . . I think they have.
Fourth, the clothing thing has been really interesting. I had over 20 polo shirts, about half of which didn't qualify under our rules. As I was taking them to Goodwill, I found myself worried that one day I would have nothing to wear! Isn't this what makes people hoarders? 😉
Finally, I now find myself praying at odd times, like when standing in line at the store. And I find my TV consumption is way, way down. I think that's because I'm learning to put God first.
So, thanks for the journey. I'm looking forward to finishing Novice 3 and taking the plunge (pledge)!
Peace! -- JW, Novice 3
CFP RETREAT, REUNION, CONFERENCE 2017—MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND PLAN TO ATTEND!
October 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 2017 -- St. Felix Catholic Retreat Center, 1280 Hitzfield Street, Huntington Indiana USA.
Retreat Master: Father Warren Tanghe. As an Episcopal priest, Fr. Warren Tanghe served in academic and parish ministries over a period of 38 years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 2009 along with the community he then served as chaplain, the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, MD. He was ordained a Catholic priest by Cardinal O’Brien in 2011 for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. After serving as associate pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City and at St. Mark’s Church in Catonsville, he returned to Ellicott City in December, 2015 as administrator of St. Paul’s parish, and was named its pastor on July 1st, 2016.
Four Conferences with Fr. Tanghe plus a visit and conference from CFP Visitor Fr. Francis Chukwuma. Full Divine Office prayed daily -- Daily Mass -- -- One Night of All Night Adoration-- 6 Hour Silent Hermitage Experience – Fatima Mass and Breakfast – Visit to CFP Administrative Headquarters and Mary’s Glen
$195 plus $15 worth of food to share (we will be cooking our own meals) or $15 toward food costs
Commuters (Thursday Night, Friday, Saturday, Sunday--includes lunch, supper, no overnights)--$60 plus $15 of food or paper goods or $15 toward costs of food and paper goods
Arrival time: 4 - 5 p.m. Thursday, October 7. Mass 7:30 p.m. -- Departure 7 a.m. Monday, October 9, following 6 a.m. Mass
We will pick up airport, train, or bus attendees free of charge and transport them to the retreat and, after the retreat, back to the appropriate location to return home. If you are coming by mass transportation, please contact us regarding the best ports of arrival.
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS PHOTO ALBUM -- LIFE PLEDGE AND PRIVATE VOW OF REJI KURIAN
On May 17, 2017, Reji George Kurian from India took a life pledge and made a private vow to live the Confraternity of Penitents rule for life.
Reji’s privately vowed name in the CFP is br. Francis Maria Kuriakose of the Lord’s Passion.
Reji, (br. Francis Maria Kuriakose) is a formator in the Confraternity of Penitents as well as Regional Minister for Asia.
In this photo he is shown with his daughters and wife as well as the Most Rev. Father Superior John Paul who took his pledge. Welcome, dear brother!
- If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they'd eventually find me attractive.
- I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom, until they're flashing behind you.
- Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.
- I changed my password to "incorrect" so whenever I forget it, the computer will say, "Your password is incorrect.”
- Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: MY BROTHER DAVID
Back in May of 2014, I was at daily Mass, as usual. This grey-bearded man was praying very intently and devoutly before Mass began. I had just joined the Legion of Mary as an active member then, and was looking for other people to ask to join. David impressed me very much, and I could feel that God wanted me to ask him to come to our Legion Meetings. I also did not hesitate to ask him to “Come and See,” in our Secular Franciscan Fraternity. I knew he wanted to get close to God and his faith, and find the plan and work that God would have for him. David looked at me, and was very eager. He smiled and answered: “Yes, I would love to.” He never became an active Legionnaire of Mary, but he did come to our Franciscan gatherings. David was very faithful and never missed a meeting. He did not drive a car, and walked everywhere so I was happy to drive him. I shared my faith with him because he had not yet been confirmed, but was going to classes for Confirmation.
David had traveled all over the country, and he just was getting over a bad marriage. He had struggles and sufferings and was even was at the point of homelessness when he found his way to Transitions who took him in. He then got a nice apartment and started his life, faithfully, every day. He would get up at 2 AM, and study his Bible, Franciscan lessons, and Daily Office, plus do some Spiritual Reading. He was, and still is, a joy to all of us in the Fraternity. He had a great sense of humor and would make us laugh. One day he shaved his beard and no one knew him at church! Wow! What a transformation!
He and I became dear friends, and I would take him to church meetings, prayer vigils, and Franciscan Retreats, etc. he was so happy to be a part of all of us. To make a long story short, he stayed with our Fraternity faithfully, and helped in the Food Kitchen for the Poor, one of our Apostolates, and to this day, has become a daily Communicant and exemplary Franciscan. David is also active in volunteering for Clean of Heart, our Catholic Diocesan Ministry for the homeless. He understood because he was once homeless himself, and he imitated St. Francis in his gentleness, humility, and eagerness to help everyone. He also was very faithful in praying at the abortion clinic every week. I am very thankful that God has put in my path my brother David.
--Donna Kaye Rock, Associate CFP Postulant (David is also an Associate CFP postulant)
THOUGHTS FROM CFP’ERS—LATE NIGHT REFLECTION
I reflected on this last night and decided to share with my friends:
If we are serious with God, God does not and will never joke with us. If you are a faithful child of God, He will fulfill His promises in your life. He will lift you up in all aspects of your life. If you really trust in His love, mercy and providence, keep it up, even in times of difficulties. Always be eager and ready to reject alternatives, solutions or remedies that are contrary to the laws and precepts of God. Occasions will always arise when it would appear as though all that is left are options that are ungodly. Such times are when God waits for you to prove your faithfulness and trust in Him. If you remain steadfast, reject the ungodly alternatives and choose to suffer rather than offend God, He will crown you with glories and multiply your blessings. I strongly resolve to remain steadfast and faithful to God in all circumstances.
Though the fig does not blossom and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3: 17-19)
--Kingsley Eze, CFP Postulant
POETRY: EVERY DAY IS EASTER TO A CHRISTIAN
Oh this Happy Easter Day!
A love that cannot be contained
Within walls or stone
but enshrined within the heart.
This light that was shed for thee
A perfect joy that came from misery
You hung along side the road
For all who pass by might see
And learn to sit beside the stream.
As I comfort those who need comfort
As I tend to those who need care
Remember those that see you as you are
Those who are poor and made bare
Your presence may be more fully shown
As wounds that are hidden, covered by the stone
Not all secrets of thy heart are made known
The hand that guides this eloquent mystery.
This story of love, of tender mercy
While you are risen, hidden from thy sight
Thomas needed to touch to feel this wondrous delight
The garden needs tending so the birds may sing
Of the joy that this day brings!
Oh this Happy Easter Day!
Oh that thy love may dwell with thee. (Jesse Pellow, CFP Postulant)
CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop (1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN USA 46803): 25c PRAYER CARDS
The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop offers a variety of full color, two sided 25c prayer cards which can be ordered in bulk (order 10 cards and get the 10th card free – any quantity). We have access to many more cards than are on line in the gift shop. Please contact us if you are interested in a particular subject that is not listed. See this link for prayer cards.