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Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- September 2017


We recall that as we recite the rosary, we contemplate at the fifth glorious mystery, the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as the Mother of God, was assumed into heaven body and soul and crowned queen of heaven and earth amidst the glory of the angels. This is the memorial the Church celebrates today: for in the glory which Mary possesses in body and soul in heaven; she is the model of the Church, in what the church is and in what she will become in the world to come. For in the Mother of Jesus “we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own pilgrimage of faith, and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.972). What happened with Mary will equally happen to her children. Thus, this is a feast of hope for all of sons and daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary in faith.

And, as it is, this is one of the numerous opportunities lined-up each year by the Church to celebrate the role of Mary in the life of the Church and her members. For instance, we just celebrated a week ago the solemnity of the Assumption, whose logic is that having incarnated in the world with the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus resurrected with the same body; thus necessitating the logic that Jesus would not have allowed a part of his body to be corrupted. Thus, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council would say: "finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death" (Lumen Gentium, n.59). Now, what does all this mean for us?

For me, we are reminded about our vocation and the hope that goes with it. We are called to our individual vocations as Mary who was called to be the Mother of God (Lk 1: 31-32). The hope is that we who listen and believe the word of God like Mary (Lk 1:38) and who obey the word like her (Lk 11:28), will also follow Jesus, the first born from the dead, into his glory (1 Cor 15:20-27). In other words, to be saved and to behold the face of God comes only at the end of one’s humble, obedient, faithful and selfless service in one’s vocation, as Jesus answered Peter in the Gospel: “Then Peter spoke up, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. What shall we have?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘I assure you, that in the New Age, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life’” (Mt 19:27-29). Thus, in contrast to the rich young man with many processions, whose encounter with Jesus originated Peter’s question (Mt 19:21-22), Mary showed us an example of one who trusted the will of God and faithfully and obediently carried out her vocation of bearing the child Jesus into the world.

Equally, the 1st reading of the Mass of the Queenship of Mary narrates the call of Gideon to save the Israelites from the power of the Midianites (Jg 6:11-24). Three points that interest me here include the fact that God made a personal call to Gideon to rescue his people, Gideon recognized his unworthiness to carry out the task, but God reminded him of his unique gifts and the grace of God, which then elicited Gideon’s full trust in God in answering God’s call. We can say that Gideon submitted to the will of God, like Mary who in her call to be the mother of God, also submitted to the will, grace and power of God by her ‘yes’. And this brings us to our own vocations.

We are called as individuals to our different careers, to bless the world with peace (in the spirit of Ps 85:8), through our selfless service with our unique personal talents. Again, we are called as Christians to manifest and bear in the world Christ whom we answer to in his name, through our life of holiness. Also, we are called in a special way as penitents of the 3rd Order of Franciscans, to manifest in the society as members of the Confraternity of the Penitents, the special virtues penance, prayer and conversion as outlined by St Francis to the lay people in 1221AD. I think that from the fore-going, we are reminded that we cannot answer these calls faithfully except with the grace and power of God and by the submission of our will to the will of God. And each one is very important as reflected by St. John Paul 11: “All vocations are born of Christ, and that is what is expressed by every anointing with Chrism - from holy Baptism to the anointing of the head of bishop. This is the source of the dignity common to all Christian vocations, which, from this point of view, are all equal. They differ according to the role that Christ assigns to each individual within the community of the Church and the responsibility attached to the role. Great care must be taken so that nothing is wasted (Jn 6:12): no vocation should be wasted because all are valuable and necessary” (John Paul 11, Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, p.37).

Thus, our desire to effectively and faithfully cooperate with the will of God in living out our vocations, should elicit our willingness to always implore the patronage of Mary, who is our mother in the order of grace: "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason, she is a mother to us in the order of grace" (L G 61). Or as the Catechism teaches, that having completed the course of her earthly life Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son's resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body and where she continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ (cf. CCC nn.974-975).

This is why it is so providential that this Oratory is to be blessed today, not only because it is a day we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, but because it is an Oratory named after Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii, as directed by the Bishop. As we know, the Oratory, like the Church, is a place of prayer. Can. 1223 says of oratories: “By the term oratory is understood a place for divine worship designated by permission of the Ordinary for the benefit of some community or group of the faithful who gather in it and to which other members of the faithful can also come with the consent of the competent superior”. So, this is a place of prayer, as Isaiah prophesied: God’s temple is a place of prayer for all peoples (cf. Isa 56:6-7). Thus, this is a place of prayer for all peoples, to obtain the graces to faithfully answer our individual calls, through the intercession of Our Lady of Pompeii. It is truly amazing how God works in bringing all things together for those who fear and worship him. So, as we recognize and thank all those who had allowed themselves to be God’s instruments in bringing together today’s celebration, we immensely thank God whose will and love are continually manifest in our lives and undertakings.

--Father Francis Chukwuma, CFP Visitor



God the Son, Jesus Christ, has a crucial role in our prayer. Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar examines the role of God the Son in our prayer in his book, Prayer. What empowers us to embrace a contemplative faith which listens, which beholds, is fundamentally grace; grace as our election, calling and justification by God the Father, and the resultant faculty and liberty to gaze openly into his truth made manifest.


But the manifest truth of the Father is the Son. In the Son, the Father contemplates us from before all time, and is well pleased. It is in the Son that the Father can predestine and choose us to be his children, fellow children with the one, eternal Child, who, from the beginning of the world, intervenes as sponsor for his alienated creatures. It is in him that the Father justifies us, viewing and valuing us in the context of his Son’s righteousness which pays all our debts; he ascribes the Son’s righteousness to us; he gives it to us as our very own. Finally, it is in the Son that the Father glorifies us, by permitting us to participate in the Son’s resurrection and finally, by grace, setting us at his right hand, the Son’s rightful place.


In the Son, therefore, heaven is open to the world. He has opened the way from one to the other and made exchange between the two possible, first and foremost through his Incarnation (Jn 1:51). In this verse Jesus says to the Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew) “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” 

First, in our prayer, Heaven is open to us because of Jesus Christ. Heaven is the abode of God the Father, and Jesus has shown us the Father. “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.’” (Jn 14:8-11) Jesus Christ has brought God and God’s Heaven to us. This opens a whole world of prayer for us. 

Because Christ was in the world and a part of the world, the things of this world can help bring us to God through Christ. Non-Christian mystics do not have this advantage. As theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar puts it: .....natural mysticism represents a centrifugal eros, flying up from the earth, and in its urge to rush past everything that might point the way to God (seeing only that it is not God), it is always in danger of losing both the world and God. It can lose the world simply because it is not God, and God, because he is not the world and, without the without the help of the things of the world which mirror him, can only be experienced as the absolute void, the abyss, nirvana. Christ, who was in the world, did not merely reflect God or point to God. He is God. Thus, He can show us what in this world brings us to God and what leads us away from God.


Jesus Christ not only brought Heaven to earth through His Incarnation, but He also brought earth to Heaven through his Ascension. Speaking of the Ascension, theologian Von Balthasar writes: The Son went to the Father in order to prepare those “mansions” in which mankind and the world as a whole, transformed, cleansed, but not denied and annihilated, are to be received.


In order to go with Jesus Christ to heaven, we need to be fit for heaven. One aspect of this fitness is our mission or vocation as given us by Christ himself. Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar gives us a very specific biblical example of Christ’s vocation for us. In obeying his calling, a person fulfils his essence, although he would never have been able to discover this, his own archetype and ideal within himself, in his nature, by descending into the center of his natural being, his superego, his subconscious or superconscious, by studying his predispositions, yearnings, talents, his potential. Simon the fisherman could have explored every region of his ego prior to his encounter with Christ, but he would not have found “Peter” there; for the present, the “form” summed up in the name “Peter”, the particular mission reserved for him alone, is hidden in the mystery of Christ’s soul. Then Christ confronts him with it, unyielding, demanding obedience, and it will be the fulfillment of everything that, in Simon, vainly sought a “form” that would be ultimately valid before God and eternity. In the form of Peter, Simon will be able to understand Christ’s word, since the form itself proceeds out of the word and incorporates its addressee into the Word. Each time Simon follows the understanding native to “Simon” he will go dangerously astray, whereas he will always hit the mark when, refusing to “confer with flesh and blood”, he attends only to his commission, which reveals the Father’s will to him. The Church declares Simon the fisherman to be in heaven as “Saint Peter” and not as Simon, the devoted fisherman from Galilee.

Jesus has a vocation or mission for all of us. “To him who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Rev 2:17) Of course, just like Peter, even we do not know our mission until Christ gives it to us. We need to be listening to Christ in a prayerful way, so that we know what mission He has for us. Christ is certainly the One whom we look to outside of ourselves. However, He also tells us who we really are in the eyes of the Father.


Christ is the real Center of our lives, but He also is the real Center of the Universe. As St. Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities-----all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1:15-17) Theologian Von Balthasar tells us: ...where man retains an awareness that all things are conceived, loved and created in the word of God, it follows that the whole world will be seen as co-creature, as a shared environment; it too becomes an object of prayerful contemplation. For Christ is not an isolated phenomenon, to be neatly excised from the body of world history; he can only be understood as the climax of a total history of salvation which reaches from Adam, Noah and Abraham, right through the history of the Church and the world up to the day of judgment. Just as he is inseparable from the world which he came to redeem, so the world cannot be separated from him in whom it “subsists” and who thus provides its rationale. On the other hand, Von Balthasar warns us that we can easily go astray here and lose sight of the fact that creation receives its goal and meaning from Christ. Modern man is more aware of his share of responsibility for the whole of creation than were his forebears, and, seeing himself as the divinely appointed steward of the world’s affairs, is more easily tempted to regard himself as the ultimate truth of the cosmos. Consequently, he is doubly in need of persisting in the contemplation of the word of God, so that he may bring himself and all other things to the genuine, definitive truth. St. Francis is an example of someone who had a proper understanding of this. He saw all creation as his “brother” and “sister” but always in relation to Jesus Christ and His Truth.


Von Balthasar warns of another barrier that one can encounter as one contemplates Christ. The Christian might be tempted to envy other religions and forms of contemplation, which are not bound, as he is, to a particular number of finite words and propositions in a “holy scripture”, a particular number of utterances, events and anecdotes in salvation history, a particular number of statements, defined by councils and popes and to be accepted by faith as true. The Christian is surrounded by an apparently finite world of truths. In other words, as a Christian gets deeper into prayer, the desire to go “beyond” Christ and the Church in order to reach God can easily arise. This is point where we have to get back to faith in Christ and the Church which He founded. There are so many wrong “pathways to God” which one could take. When we contemplate Christ, how do we know we are not just contemplating our own personal wishes, hopes, and desires?


Christ spent much time in prayer before he picked the apostles as the nucleus of the Church hierarchy. Christ saw the problem and gave us the remedy. The dogmas of the Church keep us on the right pathway in our prayer. Yet this is a path of freedom just as traffic rules and laws seem to restrict our “freedom” but really allow us to reach our destination. In this case, however, the destination is God. For most of us, we need all the help we can get to reach that destination.


– Jim Nugent, CFP



Kristi Rhoads Wittenmyer, a CFP Postulant, shared these thoughts on detachment for one of her postulant lessons:

“In the past few years, I've been given many opportunities to become less attached to things I own, and so have gotten better with detachment. (In the forms of multiple moves, theft, bed bug infestations, flooding, buying my first new car and immediately getting in my first car wreck, etc!). I'm most attached to my journals and sketchbooks that I've been filling up since age 9, for reasons I've never considered much. In general, I'm also attached to ideals (as in, the idea of the way I think things should be). It can be hard for me to let go of my expectations, which is hardest in my relationships with friends and family. It is clear to me that detachment from these ideas/expectations can help me be more loving. I do feel detachment is important, and think living the CFP rule will help with that.

"One example of detachment in the Gospels is in the advice Jesus gives at the sending of his apostles. He asks them to carry nothing extra with them for the journey; he also suggests that though they may encounter hostility, they shake the dust off their feet and continue on their way. That seems to me like two forms of detachment.”

Saint Francis certainly practiced that virtue of detachment. When one of the friars came looking for him without success, he told Francis, when he finally found the saint, “I was looking for you in your cell.” “My cell?” Francis replied. “Since you say it’s ‘my’ cell, I won’t use it again.” And he didn’t. Francis was also known for giving away his cloak and tunic so frequently that the friar who traveled with him always carried extra garments to clothe Francis with should he give away what he was wearing.

These are well known examples of detachment from physical things, but Kristi brings up detachment from our own emotions and plans. Jesus’ advice to the apostles about shaking the dust from their feet certainly indicates that they should hold loosely their plans for evangelization, nor should they be so upset that they want to call down fire and brimstone on the towns that rejected them. As followers of Francis, who strove to follow Jesus, we need to practice this same detachment regarding possessions, ideas, plans, and our own personal sense of rejection. Our only possession must be Jesus. The only rejection that should concern us should be God’s rejection. What or who, if you lost it, him, or her, would make you angry with God? It might be good to examine your attachment to that person, place, or thing.


– Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP




The Confraternity of Penitents is a private Catholic lay association of the faithful with a hierarchical structure of governance. It is primarily governed by its Rule, Constitutions, and Directory as well as by the Code of Canon Law. Supplementary governance is provided by its Articles of Incorporation and bylaws, originally filed with the State of Rhode Island on August 19, 2003, and amended thereafter, and by the regulations in the State of Rhode Island Non Profit Corporations Act. On November 12, 2013, the Confraternity of Penitents was granted a Certificate of Authority to operate in Indiana as a Non-Profit Foreign Corporation. Foreign means “out of state.” The Confraternity retains its original incorporation under the State of Rhode Island.


Every organization needs a governing structure. While there is a religious structure, there is also a political structure because organizations in the United States need to be registered with the government. The Confraternity of Penitents is a nonprofit, religious organization so recognized by the religious and governmental authorities.


In our prayer group, we are all Christian denominations. I have a strong Catholic background. As a Third Order Franciscan, I have no photos of St Francis, but I have 7 statues of him, very varied. One is a garden ornament, and I have other little statues, some holy, some secular. One day I had a visitor, and he was hyper critical of these and said they were against the 1st commandment because they were images. I reminded him that he was an avid photographer with all sorts of pictures of family on his walls at home. I told him that he was an image maker. His friend was in an art group, and he painted portraits, so he was an image maker as well. I pointed out that every artist, photographer, sculptor, etc. were all image makers. Are they all going to hell? I told him it was a nonsense to think that I worshipped these statues, which the commandment forbids. I told him that the statues, as well as family photos on display, were not for any veneration, nor did they have powers, but that they gave the room a flavour as soon as anyone walked in. I asked him, ‘Supposing I had a huge mural of Hitler on one wall and a huge swastika on another. Do you think it would instantly give the room an evil flavour?’. He said it certainly would. So I said that my little effigies are to transmit flavours of love, peace, joy, gentleness, holiness, etc. II offered him no judgmental attitude, no criticism, condemnation , accusations or argument. He shut up and never mentioned the images again.


-- David Curry, CFP Affiliate


Dates: October 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 2017

Location: St. Felix Catholic Retreat Center, 1280 Hitzfield Street, Huntington Indiana USA.

Retreat topic: Why Our Blessed Mother.

Daily -- Mass, Conferences, full Divine Office, time for private prayer and reflection.

Cost (includes all meals, overnights): $195 plus $15 worth of food to share (we will be cooking our own meals) or $15 toward food costs

Commuter Cost (does not include overnights): Includes Thursday Night dinner, Friday lunch and dinner, Saturday Fatima Breakfast and dinner, Sunday lunch and dinner. $60 plus $15 of food or paper goods or $15 toward costs of food and paper goods​​

Retreat Master: Father Augustine Mugarura, Parochial Vicar at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Fort Wayne IN and Priest Custodian of the Blessed Sacrament for Mary's Glen, Fort Wayne IN. Includes attendance at special Mass, breakfast, and conference honoring Our Lady of Fatima. An additional conference by CFP Visitor Fr. Francis Chukwuma and a second additional conference by Sr. Stella Francis of the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare. Saturday night supper, conference, and concert with the Franciscan Brothers Minor. Private prayer time in Mary’s Glen Catholic Prayer Park. Six hour hermitage experience at retreat center.

Arrival Thursday, October 5, 4-5 p.m. Departure Monday, October 9 following a 6 a.m. Mass.


A tourist was visiting the Holy Land and wanted to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. When he asked the price, he was told, "$75." The tourist was amazed and said, "In my country, we can take a boat ride across a lake for $30." "You must remember," the Jewish guide said, "that this is the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walked across this sea." "No wonder He walked," the tourist remarked, "if it cost so much to take the boat."


I had an interesting and delightful experience a couple evenings ago. It clarified some of the language used in the Difficulties in Mental Prayer book (This book is used in Novice 1 formation and is available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop).

I was working at a better understanding of affective prayer, what the author meant by "acts" and "affects". I got tired and to relax I put a DVD in my player. I have 40 to 50 of the older films that I enjoy watching again and again. This time I randomly chose Fiddler on the Roof. As I was watching it, suddenly, it struck me that the whole story centers on Reb Tevya’s conversations with God. His conversations are, I am sure, examples of affective prayer. He talks to God as to his best friend. He talks about his contentment, his love, his anger, his sorrow ---a variety of emotions. God is his friend with whom he can talk freely. In one scene, he even offers God a drink (actually he pushes the vodka bottle skyward as he would push it in the direction of an earthly friend with whom he was talking.)

True, Tevya is not Christian, but the development of Christianity and prayer grew out of the Old Testament and Jewish history. The story certainly underlines loving and helping your neighbor. It illustrates working together and the frustrations that grow out of the relationship, even to the point of making the Russian Orthodox residents of Anatevka. neighbors, in the biblical sense (not just the guy who lives next door)

Tevya thanks God for news, good and bad. He complains a bit about the timing of bad news, but accepts it. He asks for things he wants and thanks God for providing. and he complains when he doesn't get what he wanted. He complains, turning his problems over to God rather than trying to handle them himself. I have always loved the scene where he says, “…I know we are your chosen people, but, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?”

 My whole appreciation of the play changed. I watch the film often, but I never really gave much thought to Tevya’s frequent conversations with God. I have just seen those conversations about the frustrations of his life as part of a funny story and laughed at them. Suddenly they became a demonstration of the ways in which Tevya takes his life to God.

Peace and health, Cam Parvitee, Novice 1

CFP Postulants Kristi Rhoads and Tyler Wittenmyer -- Married July 22, 2017

Their wedding is a first for the Confraternity of Penitents. On rare occasions, both husband and wife will join the Confraternity of Penitents, but Kristi and Tyler are the first to be penitents before their marriage and then to marry each other. We wish God's choicest blessings upon them and are so grateful for their presence in the CFP. 

Tyler is a college student and Kristi is looking for employment. Please pray for this delightful CFP couple from Ohio, USA.

To celebrate their one month wedding anniversary, Kristi and Tyler attended a special Mass at the CFP Headquarters. At that Mass on August 22, the Queenship of Mary, CFP Visitor Fr. Francis Chukwuma, assisted by Fr. Augustine Mugarura, blessed the altar and reposed the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle in what hereafter will be called the Oratory of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii, located in Mary’s Glen behind CFP headquarters at 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN


We rejoice that Tyler and Kristi and about 40 other people attended this grace filled event on a beautiful sunny day. Since the Oratory seats only 12 people, the remainder of the crowd sat out doors under tents to watch the Mass through the doorway.  

Pictured are Fr. Francis Chukwuma and Br. Ignatius, FFM, adoring the Blessed Sacrament in the ciborium before It is reposed for the first time in the tabernacle in the Oratory of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii.


New Items in the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop (1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803), phone 260-739-6882 -- 

Pillowcases! Cute children’s pillowcases and tasteful saints’ pillowcases, all with religious themes, all affordable, make lovely gifts See the complete selection at

Children’s Themes (14.95 each):

How to Pray the Rosary

Five Fingers of Prayer

Glory Be (Trinity Prayer)

Guardian Angel

Ten Commandments

I Am a Child of God

Lord’s Prayer

Noah’s Ark

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Saint’s Themes (17.95 each):

Saints Jude, Joseph, Michael, Mother Teresa, Padre Pio, Infant of Prague, Our Lady of the Snows, Our Lady of Los Lagos, Kateri Tekakwitha, Francis of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, Patrick, and many others. Full selection on line.

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