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Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter

November 2017



Note that the Fast of St. Martin begins on November 12 and continues until Christmas. Those at the Novice 3 level and above are obligated to observe this fast. Details are in Sections 8, 9, 10, and 11 of the CFP Rule and Constitutions. Appendix A explains how fasting is to be done following Church law. The bottom line is one larger meal and one smaller meal with no solid food between. If a bite to eat must be taken to maintain strength at some other point during the day, the amount of food in the bite to eat combined with the amount of food in the smaller meal should be less food than the penitent consumes at the large meal.


For information on how to celebrate Thanksgiving while observing the fast, see Following Francis, Following Christ in this newsletter.

To read about St. Martin of Tours and the Fast of St. Martin, consult the Franciscan Penance Library on this link.

VISITOR’S VISION: Mary’s Friendship with God (Talk to CFP Retreat 2017)

I thank you for having me this evening for a conference, during this wonderful opportunity you have to walk with the Lord, as you take a long, wide and hopeful look behind, around and before you, with regards to your life. I always view a retreat time as a precious time God gifts us to go into ‘the service pit’, just as we do with a car; to check on bolts, joints, oils, water and general movement of the car, and to adjust what needs to be adjusted, strengthen what is weak, and change what is of no more use. This helps the successful running of the car but in our own case, it helps the progressive movement of our holy and faithful journey, in view of our ultimate union with our Holy God. So, the talks you hear these few days will speak to you in different ways, but I believe that they will especially assist you in your life as friends of God and as CFP members, trying to adhere to the program of holiness mapped out for the laity by St Francis in 1221. Now, the theme of your retreat this year is: ‘Why Our Blessed Mother?’ I am sure that during this few days you will hear a couple of reflections pointing to her many virtues. Nevertheless, allow me to talk about some of the qualities and attributes of Our Blessed Mother, which have placed her at the top of all of God’s creation.

Scripture tells us that when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, her cousin was inspired to proclaim to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “…You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear” (Lk 1:42). Now, the first point to remember is that everything with Mary begins with the grace of God, just as it is for each of us, since it is out of God’s manifold love and grace that he created each human being and bestows our gifts to us. Hence, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, the Angel said: “Peace be with you. The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you” (Lk 1:28). This is God’s initiative in his relationship with his creation. In order words, God honored Mary first, and, as implied in the words of Elizabeth above, God blessed her in the child she would bear, since Mary has received the fruits of this child’s (Christ) redemptive mercy in a unique way: for, as it is, this grace kept her from incurring sin, since she was conceived without original sin. In other words, the understanding here is: “Mary belonged to the sinful human race. She therefore stood in need of redemption. The fact that she did not actually incur original sin is not due to her action but Christ’s. He truly suffered and died for her...Because she shared in a unique way in His redemptive grace, she led a life free from any personal sin or evil inclination” (Bishop Donald W. Wuerl et al (eds.), The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, 3rd Edition, 1991, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, p.195).

Now, apart from the love and favor of God, which is also the prevenient grace that allows each person to engage the person’s God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.1996), there is also Mary’s fiat, expressed when she said: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said” (Lk 1:38). This interests us greatly because it speaks of Mary’s cooperation with the grace and favor of God.

Thus, in any discourse about “why the Blessed Virgin Mary”, it is very salient to keep in mind that it is not just because she was chosen to be the Mother of God, but she is also honored because of her assent to God’s will. As we know, Christ’s incarnation was preceded by the assent of faith on the part of the predestined mother, as the fathers of the Second Vatican Council affirmed: “Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and, above all others and in a singular way, the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to souls…” (Lumen Gentium, n.61; See also n.56). This is also noted in the Catechism thus, following from the scriptures (cf. Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5): "God sent forth his Son, but to prepare a body for him, he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity, God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel…and the virgin's name was Mary (Lk 1:26-27)" (CCC, n.488). The key word here is ‘free cooperation’; and this is our Blessed Mother’s ‘yes’ to God’s prevenient love and friendship; a ‘yes’ she said "in the name of all human nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, 30, 1).

This ‘yes’ is integral to Mary’s friendship with God. What we mean here is that her assent to God’s will is concretized in the manifestation of Christian virtues in her life. And this is what holy life is all about. So, we say that integral to friendship with God is holiness. The idea here is that God is holy, and all who would come near to God must likewise become holy (See Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 1 Pt 1:16; Mt 5:48; Lk 6:36). As we recall, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council made it clear that striving for holiness does not belong only to an elite few within the Church but to all members, as they taught: “all Christians in whatever state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity, and this holiness is conducive to a more human way of living even in society here on earth.” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, n.40). And the Council also made it clear that this is not simply our own doing but depends on the gift that comes to us through Christ. “In order to reach this perfection, the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that, following in his footsteps and conformed to his image, doing the will of God in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor.” (Lumen Gentium, n.40).

Now, those who try to live a holy life are friends of God, since they try to remain connected with God and live out the Christian virtues in relation to others. As it is, every human person has been created to share in the communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Church tries, through different avenues, to foster the greatest possible friendship with God, which, we have note, is the participation in the divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace by our life of virtues. Think about the Sacraments through which graces are channeled to us, the reading of the inspired word of God that empowers us as well as making available to us a glorious array of men and women like us who lived their lives and times trying to maintain their friendship with God. These holy men and women sustained their friendship and relationship with God through the manifestation of one or more virtues in an extraordinary way and with an apostolic zeal.

As already mentioned, friendship with God or holiness cannot be developed in a vacuum. It needs the practice of Christian virtues. In Mary’s case, some of these virtues include her humility, her obedience to the will of God, her concern for all peoples. Hence, she is a model for the Church as well as a sign or example for the Church in following God. It is interesting that a portion of the Gospel we read today says: “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Lk 10:16). Clearly Jesus identifies with his followers here (signifying the Church and each Christian). And this identification between Jesus with his followers and ultimately between Christ and the Father, is the foundation of the missionary spirit of the Church, since those who bear the name of Jesus are brought into the life of God through their assent of faith. This is where we practice our Christian virtues, hence Jesus told the disciples in his parting messages: “And now I give a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:34-35).

To answer then why the Blessed Virgin Mary was uniquely singled out, we must know that it was not because of material wealth or rich background, but because she was a humble servant of God, she obeyed God following her destiny, pondered and held tight the word of God (Lk 2:51), accepted her nature with her whole heart, treasured God’s love for her and manifested this love to all around her. So, the Church honors the Mother of God since she is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son (Cf. Sacrosantum Concilium, n.103; see also CCC, n.964). She advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and was faithfully united with her Son even to the cross, in a friendship that also transcends herself to others. She cooperated with the will of God not only by her assent of faith but also by her practice of virtues especially the missionary spirit, through which she reached out to others, seen first in her visit to her cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-46). This is her friendship with God, which is extended to all that God loves.

Let conclude with the prayer at the end of the Angelus: Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord, Your Grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ, Our Lord - Amen.

--Father Francis Chukwuma, CFP Visitor



When we engage in mental prayer, we are listening to God “directly”. However, even this “direct” communication with God needs mediation. In the book, Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us about this mediation. In the Christian life the believer is never more an individual than in contemplative prayer. In the liturgy he is entirely a member of the community; all face toward the altar, toward God, and voice the same cry of thanksgiving, petition and worship. Even in private vocal prayer the believer uses the formulas, or at least the forms, of ecclesial prayer. But in contemplation, he is simply an open ear to the ever-new word of God. Here God is speaking to this person and no other; to this beggar at the Temple gate who receives some gift, this person who is spiritually blind and lame and is to be healed, this disciple, listening to the Master. He must be really ready and willing to be this particular individual; he must not take refuge behind the barricades of ecclesiastical anonymity for fear of this encounter. The whole glory of this prayer is that, here, the very same personal encounter is meant to take place as in the Lord’s earthly life. In holy scripture or some other grace-filled medium---it may be one of the Church’s prayers, the word and example of a saint or of any loving fellow human being, or nature itself, created with a view to Christ---we have a genuine mediation, just as, in the days of his flesh, the very air was the medium of communication between the mouth of the Son of Man and the ear of the person addressed.


We need to see that any communication with God requires mediation. Even those persons who heard the Sermon on the Mount, for example, needed the air as a mediator between themselves and the Lord. When we are truly praying, it is the Lord who is speaking to us just as he spoke to individuals and groups during His earthly life. Von Balthasar listed some of the various specific mediators in our prayer, but he also tells us what is common to all of them. Having said this, we must note that this medium is also ecclesial and constitutive of community. Grace, which enables man to be a hearer of the word, always operates in and through the community; grace is the love of the God-made-Man, who wishes to do nothing apart from his brothers and sisters. So, the community aspect is found at both poles, in the word of God and in the hearer, without interfering with the fullness of personality of either. It is present in the word of God, which can only be authentically uttered in the context of the ministering, officiating and governing function of the Bride of Christ, the Church; it can only be heard aright by the spiritual ear of the hearer, who can perceive it surely, clearly and with no possibility of error, provided he maintains contact and communion with the original hearer of the word---the infallible Church.


Our prayer, our listening to Christ, depends on the mediation of the Church. For example, although many use Scripture against the Church, what was Scripture and what was not Scripture among the many writings of New Testament times was decided by the Church. Jesus Christ warned us of false prophets (Mt 7:15, among other places in Scripture). The letters of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude also often warn us of false doctrines and false teachers. How does one know what “interpretations” of the Gospels are correct? This is one place (among many others) where we need the Church.


Von Balthasar teaches us: .........through the nuptial grace of the Incarnation, the Bride, the Church, is assured of a faithfulness which will hold for eternity, enabling it to mediate a correct hearing of the word to each individual (who is not privileged with this guarantee). In Matthew 16:18 we learn from Christ that the Church is His Church (and not our Church) and that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. As Von Balthasar notes, this guarantee is given only to the Church and not to each individual. We need to beware of people who read Scripture as if they were the first one to ever read it. The Word of God is ever new, but we need the Church to distinguish between the Holy Spirit and other spirits.


In the Old Testament, the Word of God was given to individuals such as Moses and the prophets. However, it was not for them alone. They had to deliver it to the people, and that was quite a burden. Ultimately, the community decides which prophets were authentic and which were false. In New Testament times, things which were given to individuals were also meant for the entire Church. The Feast of Corpus Chrisit, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Miraculous Medal were given to the Church through St. Juliana, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and St. Catherine Laboure. Yet all of these came to us through the mediation of the Church.


What about the other “pole” of the Church’s mediation of the word, the hearer of the word? In the Old Covenant, the hearer of the Word of God as delivered by the prophets could either obey or disobey, say yes or no. In the New Covenant as delivered by Christ, more is required than just obeying commandments and laws. Christ wants “everything” from us but what “everything” means for each individual varies greatly, and it cannot be laid out in a set of instructions. Prayer is necessary for everyone to know what is personally required. However, their prayer must be mediated by the Church, and their obedience to God has to be within the Church. This means that their obedience is not just for themselves but for the Church. Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us specifically the role of the individual’s prayer in the Church. The mystical (and ultimately Marian) element which distinguishes the Church of the New Covenant form the holy nation of the Old Covenant takes up the social aspect of “hearing the word” which is to be found in the latter and goes beyond it, to suggest that the genuine hearer actually shares, at the level of being, in the Church’s very nature as Bride and Womb of the Word. Whatever the contemplative perceives and understands in his solitary encounter with the word will be incorporated in the Church’s understanding. And whatever is greater, whatever exceeds his understanding and causes him to adore the received word and to respect its mystery, enters as a living reality into the Church’s attitude of worship, bringing forth fruit in others. This effect, however, unlike outward activity, cannot be observed and assessed, because its distribution is so extensive. Contemplatives are like vast underground rivers, at times causing springs to gush forth where least expected, or revealing their presence simply by the vegetation which is secretly nourished by them.


We must understand that our prayer is not only for us but also for the Church. Even if we have no call to preach or teach, our faithfulness or unfaithfulness affects the entire Church. Especially in our secularized society, which chooses to operate as if God does not exist, where we as Christians are pulled by a gravitational force away from God, we need prayer within the Church to resist this pull. God speaks to us through His Word, but we need to be constantly listening. This applies to the Pope, the hierarchy, the clergy, religious, and the laity. If any part of the Body of Christ fails to listen to the voice of God, the whole Body gets sick. May we always contribute to the health of the Body of Christ.


  • Jim Nugent, CFP



The Fast of Saint Martin begins November 12. CFP members frequently ask if Thanksgiving can be considered a Solemnity so that the fast need not be followed that day. The CFP does not consider Thanksgiving a Solemnity because the Church does not consider it a Solemnity. So penitents are still in the Fast mode on Thanksgiving. However, Thanksgiving can easily be celebrated while fasting. Before we go into some suggestions, let’s review the Rule and Constitutions for the Fast of Saint Martin.


RULE: 9. They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day until Christmas. . . .



·         CONSTITUTIONS: In keeping with section 9 of the Rule:


9a. Penitents are to observe a pre-Christmas fast from November 12, the day after the Feast of St. Martin, until Christmas . . .  


9b. Penitents who are guests in the homes of others, or who have been invited out to eat, are permitted to eat what is set before them so as not to embarrass the host unless that day is a day of fast and/or abstinence enjoined by the Church. . . .  


Appendix A:


Fast: The law of fast prescribes that only one full meal a day be taken; but it does not forbid taking some nourishment at two other times during the day. The two smaller meals should be sufficient to maintain strength according to each one's needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including ordinary, homogenized milk and fruit juices, are allowed. Malted milks, milk shakes, and the like are not included in the term "milk."


How do penitents combine these regulations to celebrate Thanksgiving? Quite easily. Thanksgiving is, thankfully, a Thursday (at least in the USA) so meat can be eaten. Penitents should consider the Thanksgiving meal as the larger meal, even if it is drawn out over several hours as it is in some families. It is still one meal, not two, even if the pumpkin pie is served two hours after the first cranberry salad appetizer. Penitents may choose at any time not to eat sweets as part of their fast, but sweets are not forbidden by the CFP Rule. Forgoing sweets is a choice, not a requirement. Whether or not penitents are invited to a second home for another Thanksgiving meal, they should eat less at the second meal. No one will think it odd that the penitent has small helpings or a turkey sandwich at the second meal because everyone knows that they just finished a very large Thanksgiving meal.


Happy Fast of Saint Martin! And Happy Thanksgiving!


--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP





The Confraternity of Penitents is a worldwide organization. All CFP Members, Associates, and Affiliates are ultimately under the governance of the Minister General in consultation with the CFP Council. All Members, Associates, and Affiliates are also subject to the Visitor and Bishop.


The Confraternity of Penitents is self-governing and self-supportive, receiving its funding through donations from its Members and from others worldwide.




Regions are geographical subdivisions of the world which simplify governance. Subject to the Minister General and CFP Council, Regional Ministers shall govern their Regions following the guidelines within the Rule, Constitutions, and Directory.




Local gatherings form when two or more CFP Postulants, Novices, and/or Pledged Members, from at least two different families, meet together in person at least monthly. A CFP Circle consists of at least two Members while a CFP Chapter must consist of at least five.


Chapters and Circles are governed by their own Officers subject to their Spiritual Assistant. They are then subject to their Regional Minister and ultimately to the Minister General and Visitor in consultation with the CFP Council.

REFLECTION: While the Confraternity of Penitents mentions Third Order (meaning a lay Order) in its promotional materials, the Confraternity is not technically tied to a First Order or a Second Order. It is its own organization. Naturally, the CFP does support religious Orders in local areas where penitents live, but the Confraternity was not begun by an Order of religious men or women. In the same way, neither Saint Francis nor any other person involved with a religious Order founded the original Order of Penitents. The original penitents were living a certain way even before Francis was born. When Francis was converted in 1206, he began as a penitent. In 1221, Cardinal Hugolino di Conti de Segni wrote down how penitent laity were living and gave it to Francis as a Rule for those lay people who wanted to follow Francis’ charism. The friars, however, had no official responsibility for the penitents between 1221 and 1289 when Pope Nicholas IV, himself a Franciscan, put the friars in charge of providing spiritual guidance to the penitents. At that point, the penitents became more formally associated with the Franciscan Order. Today, CFP penitents, wherever they are in the world, are self governing and subject to the CFP Visitor, Council, and Officers. Religious Orders may supply a spiritual assistant to local gatherings, but that person’s function is instruction and guidance, not governance.


If you need to lose weight, skip dinner. Don’t eat snacks. To lose the most weight, make breakfast the biggest meal of the day. And maintain an overnight fast of up to 18 hours.

That’s the conclusion of researchers at Loma Linda University (LLU) who analyzed data from more than 50,000 participants in the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2). The results also indicate making breakfast the largest meal yielded a more significant decrease in BMI (Body Mass Index) than did lunch.

If that sounds like the CFP dietary regime, it’s because it is. Except for a few penitents who have been exempted by their doctors for medical reasons, penitents are supposed to eat only two meals a day. No snacks.

The study found that eating more than three meals per day —snacks were counted as extra meals — and making supper the largest meal of the day were both associated with higher BMI readings.

As a practical weight-management strategy, Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, recommends eating breakfast and lunch, skipping supper, avoiding snacks, making breakfast the largest meal of the day and fasting overnight for up to 18 hours.

A postdoctoral research fellow at LLU School of Public Health when the study was conducted, Kahleova is now director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, and is currently on sabbatical from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, Czech Republic, as a postdoctoral research fellow and diabetes consultant physician.

Kahleova says the findings confirm an ancient nutritional maxim: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

Titled “Meal frequency and timing are associated with Body Mass Index in the Adventist Health Study-2,” the study was co-written by Gary Fraser, MBChB, PhD, a professor at LLU Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and director of AHS-2. It was published as an online advance on July 12 and appeared in the Sept. 2017 edition of the Journal of Nutrition.

Fraser said that irrespective of meal pattern, there was, on average, an increase in weight gain year by year until participants reached the age of 60. After age 60, most participants experienced a weight loss each year.

“Before age 60 years, those eating calories earlier in the day had less weight gain,” Fraser said, adding that after age 60, the same behavior tended to produce a larger rate of weight loss than average. “Over decades, the total effect would be very important.”

The Adventist church promotes a vegetarian lifestyle, but does not require members to be vegetarians.

  • Joel Whitaker, Novice 3


Do not regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.

Live your life and forget your age.

I’ve seen better days, but I’ve also seen worse. I don’t have everything that I want, but I do have all I need. I woke up with some aches and pains, but I woke up.  My life may not be perfect, but I am blessed.

Spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.

Putting away your phone and spending time with those talking to you? There’s an app for that. It’s called RESPECT.

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you’re anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -- Albert Einstein

Two things to remember in life: take care of your thoughts when you are alone, and take care of your words for you are with people.

Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend never owned a dog.

Nature: cheaper than therapy.

I don’t have time to worry about the people who don’t like me. I’m too busy loving the people who love me.


At a gathering of limited people on a sports day, a man was very affected by something he saw.

At a little race of folks, some with mental limitations and some with physical problems, they lined up and waited for the starter’s gun. When the gun was fired, the race began and the whole objective was to cross the finishing line, first. As they ran, a young man with Down’s Syndrome, turned to see how his friend was doing, but noticed that he had fallen at the start. He instantly, turned and ran back to help his stricken pal, who couldn’t get up. Then others in the race also saw what was happening, and they, too, turned and helped the fallen competitor, or to ask how he was. They all seemed to have compassion for each other and showed great concern. Eventually, all who started the race had gone back to assist their friends, and then they all came forward and crossed the finishing line together. The onlooker was deeply impacted at what he saw, and said that, for him, the event had put a whole new complexion on competitive sports. I think we must all learn from these very special people.



TREE OF LIFE. The Fruit and Works of the Holy Spirit when JESUS IS LORD. Rooted in Humility, Unselfishness, Love, Holiness, Peace, A friend to Jesus, Virtue, Longsuffering, Meekness, Honour, Kindness, Contentment, Submission, Gentleness, Praise, Preferring others, Compassion, Temperance, Goodness, Benevolence, Thanksgiving, Joy, Faith, Godliness, Righteousness

TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Fruit and works of the flesh. WHEN I AM LORD.

Rooted in Pride, Selfishness, Religiousness, Drunkenness, Fornication, Wrath, Ways that seem right, Judging, Envying, Strife, Variance, Idolatry, Bitterness, Hatred, Reveling, Self-Righteousness, Witchcraft, Adultery, Lying, Heresies, Seditions, Uncleanness, Murders, Emulations, Love of Money, Deception, Lust, “Good works”, Envying, Lasciviousness, Greed. Might we add more?


At CFP Retreat 2017, Patricia Davis from Texas pledged to live the CFP Rule for Life. Here Pat is shown with CFP Visitor Fr. Francis Chukwuma, who received her life pledge, and her CFP Witnesses, Karen Hopersburger, life pledged member from Michigan, and Ben Douglass, Novice 2. Pat has a devotion to St. Therese of the Child Jesus whose statue looks over the new pledgee.

 Pat being welcomed into the CFP by Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP, while Patrick Wheeler, CFP, who served Pat’s Mass of Pledging, and Karen Hopersburger, CFP, one of Pat’s witnesses, joyfully watch.


Pat, who is a CFP formator, is the 41st person to pledge to live the CFP Rule for life. May God bless her for her giving heart and joyful spirit.


Welcome, dear sister!


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