Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter -- January 2018
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
VISITOR’S VISION: LOOKING AT OUR CALL WITH A NEW INSIGHT
Since I will be overseas in January, I usually write my parish Sunday bulletin articles ahead of time. So, while looking through the readings of January in order to write the bulletin reflections, I saw that there were a couple of readings that narrate the call of some individuals in their specific mission in the salvation history. It is true that the manner of their calling might be different from ours, but, all the same, their calling still reminds us of our own calling as individual Christians, as penitents, and as Christians in our specific works of life. And because of this I felt that reflecting on those calls and responses can encourage us at this time, especially as we begin a new year, when we should resolve to bring newness and freshness into our individual and group call to the mission of bearing the fruit of the kingdom in our different ways. Immanuel is God’ gift of his presence among us, and we are to witness to this presence in the world by being the light through the fruits of the kingdom that we bear.
Each New Year definitely points to new beginnings in our lives, but it can also be said to point to the call to do something new in our lives. This is why we want to reflect here on opening ourselves to the wonderful possibility of growth through God’s creative power in us, so that we help to bring to the society the newness of the mysteries of the identity of Jesus hidden since the foundation of the world (Rom 16:25-27). So, this first month of the New Year, I wish to reflect on our individual and collective call and response, in line with the call and responses of some of our forefathers in the faith. I believe that this will call our mind to a new appreciation of our vocations at the beginning of the year and also remind us that their responses highlight their great faith and willingness to accept responsibilities, the identifying mark of each Christian’s response. In other words, these scriptural figures were called to play a part in the history of our relationship with God, and their responses, as recorded in the scriptures, remind us of our own response in our call to continue the mission of highlighting this relationship.
God calls us as a group, as he called the Israel, but he also calls us as individuals since he created each of us uniquely. Hence, we see the special way and the special mission he called Samuel to, as we read in the book of Samuel (1 Sam 1:10-11). The boy Samuel was given to God's service in the temple as his mother had promised before his conception. And while he was at his duties in the temple, God called Samuel to his special mission as seer and judge of the Israelites (1Sam 3:19). As Samuel was called by God (1 Sam 3:3-10), so were the first disciples of Jesus equally called by Jesus in the gospel of John, to know Jesus and to preach Jesus (Jn 1:35-42). Even in the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the readings also speak of the vocation and our call to evangelize the society, as seen in the calls to Jonah and the apostles. In the 1st reading, Jonah was called to bring the good news of God's universal love and mercy to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-5, 10). And in the Gospel, we see the call of Peter, Andrew, James and John, to become fishers of men (Mk 1:14-20). So, we see in all these the call of Christians to the same mission, to bring the good news of God's love and mercy to our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
God can call us in different ways and to specific missions, but ultimately it is the mission of fostering God’s salvation. As we read at the beginning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church” (CCC, n.1).
The call of God for a special mission can come to us in different ways and through varied instruments. It could be through private revelations, it could be through our experiences of life, and it could be through others, whom God makes use of as his instruments. God called Samuel through the assistance of the priest Eli, and, in the call of the first disciples in John’s gospel, Jesus called Simon Peter through the witnessing of his brother Andrew, who heard John the Baptist point to Jesus as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:35-36). God still calls us in such ways, through people and even events around us. He calls us through our own Baptism to become members of Christ faithful, which is the vocation of being a Christian, called to build up the kingdom of God through our own specific vocations in the community of the people of God and in the society, like the vocation to the priesthood, religious life and our secular careers.
Now, the flip side of the call of God is the response of the one being called. Samuel answered: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (v.10), just as other prophets, the apostles and holy men and women in the Scriptures had answered. Andrew and his companion also responded to the invitation of Jesus: 'Come and see’, by staying with Jesus for the rest of the day (Jn 1:39). Are we attentive and courageous enough to respond like these people and say with the psalmist: “Here I am Lord...?” (Ps 40:7). We know that, though all Christians have been called, not everyone responds fully, positively and properly, as we see in Jonah’s initial response. Jonah tried to run away from the mission, of course, with cogent reasons. As we know, Jonah reasoned that the people of Nineveh were the enemies of God's people and God is supposed to be the God of the Israelites alone.
Our response is our cooperation to the plan of God for the salvation of humanity. In the mystery of the Incarnation that we just celebrated, we recall the response like that of Mary, to the plan of God at the fullness of time to send his Son born of a woman to save those under the law (Gal 4:4), as announced by the prophet (Isa 7:10-14). In other words, our savior came with the cooperation of man, for by the yes response of Mary to the demand of God, the Word was made flesh (Lk 1:37). The salvation will continue to be effective with our positive response to our call and mission, as we bear the Word in the world, making him known and loved. We are afraid that a demand may be made upon us, to inconvenience us. We are even afraid to look at the signs of God’s love around us, which makes a demand and call on us for positive duty. It is like Jonah’s reason for running off initially. We also defaulting from our mission of positively influencing the lives of others for good, with our own cogent reasons such as: 'we have told them this times without number but they will not listen', we have being doing this for this person everyday but the person refuses to appreciate all we have been doing', 'we do not want somebody to make a fool out of us', ‘we should not bother to assist somebody since the person is reaping the consequences of his/her bad life or suffering the effects of the person's wrong decisions', etc.
To think in these lines are quite human and normal, but we have to remember that the mission is God's mission and not ours and so He has to direct to who, what and how it is to be done. This thinking can help us to continue answering the call to our mission towards others and the society. Again, we have to remember that the other person is also part of God's family and God loves equally all his children, even the ones that have strayed (Lk 15:1-7). “[T]hose who with God's help have welcomed Christ's call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world” (CCC, n.3).
In other words, by becoming a Christian, we become a part of the body of Christ. And this calls us to live in spiritual union with Christ in order to give glory to God, since we no longer belong to ourselves but to God who has bought us at a great price (1Cor 6:13-15; 17-20). This is what helps us not to give excuses as Jonah did initially. This means that our response should be to give ear to God's word and to proclaim the goodness of God to the whole world (Ps 40:6-11) by speaking to others in a positive manner through the life of firm faithfulness to the Christian values in our areas of vocation, just as Andrew who stayed with Jesus for the whole day ended up bringing Simon his brother also to Jesus through his witnessing (Jn 1:40-42). Hence, the apostles were able to leave everything to be fully involved in their mission. We may not leave our families, properties or means of livelihood today, but understanding what the other person needs and honestly fulfilling those needs, to the best of our abilities, can actually be the required positive response to our call as a Christian.
—Father Francis Chukwuma, CFP Visitor
NO GREATER LOVE: THE TOTALITY OF PRAYER
When we pray, one of the major categories of prayer is the prayer of petition. At the head of all petitions are the two petitions which Jesus Christ gives us in the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Of course, a prerequisite for God’s Kingdom to come to earth is that His will be done on earth. We all know that the will of God is very far from being completely done here on earth. Yet there is one place where His will is completely done, and that place is heaven. We know from Divine Revelation that the Blessed Trinity is not the only inhabitant of heaven. There are multitudes of angels as well as the entire Church Triumphant, those who are worthy of dwelling with God for all eternity. These all desire and do the Will of God. Thus, when we are praying for the will of God to be done on earth, all of heaven is with us. Referring to this, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar in his book Prayer says the following: People are only rarely aware of this when they pray. Unless they are real mystics who actually encounter heaven’s inhabitants---angels, saints, the Mother of the Lord, or the Son himself---they are inclined to act as if they were encountering God in a solitude which is total on both sides, God’s and theirs; as if they were alone in approaching God, alone in trying to come to grips with word and law. This is wrong in both respects. A person does not leave his place in the choir of the praying Church when he goes to his room to contemplate;............Nor, in contemplation , does he encounter the Word of God in abstraction isolated from the multitude of those who are already in the kingdom of heaven. If he so wishes, all his brothers and sisters (living and dead) in whom the kingdom of God has already come or is coming, can be as close to him as is Christ---and hence, through Him to the triune God.
Heaven is populated with those who have accomplished the will of God. Some of these we have known personally on earth. We can encounter them in our prayer. Theologian Von Balthasar tells us: People are accustomed to think of the “merit” of other’s prayers and sufferings in far too anonymous and sacramental terms, describing them as the Church’s “treasury of prayer”; we pay too little attention to the fact that, in contemplation, the communion of saints also operates in a personal and expressly individual way.
When we pray for the will of heaven to be done on earth, theologian Von Balthasar tells us what we are actually praying for. The will of heaven can, and indeed must, be entirely different from the will of earth. Those who inhabit heaven have an entirely different view of things; what seems important to us is utterly insignificant to them, and vise versa. What we are at pains to avoid can be the very thing which they see as significant, profitable and necessary; what we put at the center is on the periphery as far as they are concerned; and what we altogether fail to see is, for them, the long acknowledged core of this human life of ours, to which all else must be oriented, as to a magnet. However, the earthly contemplative is not required to use his prayer to gain a kind of preview of heavenly plans and connections; he is not to meddle in the affairs of providence, let alone start pulling the strings; he is not meant to grasp the cardinal points and then steer his actions accordingly. On the contrary. Something entirely different is required of him, namely, that he be docile, that he be soft and malleable in the hand of the divine Potter. What is needed is that his love to God should be expressed as obedience, ecclesial, bridal obedience, the obedience of the body to its heavenly Head, being receptive to His will, His suggestions, His slightest movement. Obedience does not want to “see”, and so contemplation on earth is not primarily a matter of “seeing”. On the other hand, obedience must not be mechanical; it must be an agreement in love. It means being sensitive to the will of the one who commands. Light and spiritual understanding may be given in contemplation, but its purpose is to enhance and deepen this sensitivity to the divine will.......The wish “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is not meant to guarantee the observance of some moral commandment from God: it is to open the world of time to its invasion by the whole being of the kingdom of heaven. Many Christians fail to grasp that the reality of the kingdom of heaven is eternal and thus not temporally “future”. What, in prayer, we yearn for, “coming” for which we plead, is not something as yet nonexistent, something we have to introduce into our existing life by means of prayer and effort, like other temporal and historical values. It is the eternally Real; we, who are unreal, need to allow it to conquer us. So, the reality of contemplation is the eternal reality of the Kingdom of heaven; through contemplation it also becomes a reality here and now, for mankind and for the world.
While we need to pray for the coming of the kingdom of heaven on earth, we also need to act to bring about this kingdom. Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us the relationship between prayer and action. We do not bring about the kingdom of God on earth by our own efforts (however assisted by grace); the most we can do, through genuine prayer, is to make as much room as possible, in ourselves and in the world, for the kingdom of God, so that its energies can go to work. All that we can show our contemporaries of the reality of God springs from contemplation: Jesus Christ, the Church, our own selves. But it is impossible to put forward the contemplation of Jesus Christ and the Church in a convincing manner unless we ourselves participate in it. A person who has not loved cannot say anything relevant about love; nor can a man speak about the smallest spiritual problem unless he has genuinely encountered the spiritual world; so too no Christian can exercise an apostolate unless, like Peter the Rock, he can proclaim what he has seen and heard. In our actions, we certainly need to know what we are doing. However, book knowledge and head knowledge are not enough. We need to know what we are talking about through prayer. As theologian Von Balthasar tells us as an example: There is no divinely inspired religious order that was not born of contemplation and long exercised in it, whether its subsequent role were of contemplation or of apostolate and pastoral care, or both.
Von Balthasar warns us of a false concept often held concerning the relationship of prayer to action. “Action” strives for the implementation of the kingdom of God on earth. But if this is not seen to be rooted in the reality of contemplation, if the two things are torn asunder and prayer is regarded, at most, as a serviceable “source of strength” or a “treasury of merit” yielding earthly success, both contemplation and action are robbed of their reality. In the case of action this is obvious enough. Under these conditions, contemplation will seem to be primarily an opportunity to recover from earthly troubles, or a beholding of eternal verities, true and beautiful whether or not they can be realized on earth. Contemplation of this kind lacks the element of urgency which comes, not primarily from the worldly need and the world’s response to it, but from a particular quality of the kingdom of heaven itself, which is “coming”, “groaning in travail”, “imminent”, overripe and overdue. It is bursting with “power”, as the whole character of the gospel shows plainly enough. If only we were not so used to it, it would strike us with great force, like an apocalyptic tempest.
According to Hans Urs Von Balthasar, the Church is absolutely essential for the coming of the kingdom of God to earth. The Church bows to this immense, imperious will on the part of heaven’s reality seeking its implementation on earth; the Church offers itself to be the meeting-point of heaven and earth; indeed, it is this point of contact. Here (in the Church triumphant, and first of all in those of its members who have already been raised from the dead) earth becomes heaven; here (in the sacraments, in the Church’s official and hierarchical word, but also in all the souls which share in the heavenly reality as a result of this mediation) heaven becomes earth. The contemplative stands on this very spot. When we are praying we are certainly still here on earth. However, through the veil of this earthly life, we are also doing what the inhabitants of heaven are doing, praising God, thanking God, seeking the will of God. May we always desire to join them in doing what they are doing.
– Jim Nugent, CFP
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
CONSTITUTIONS XII. TERM OF OFFICE
Elections and confirmation of appointments are conducted annually. The term of office for all Officers and leaders, other than the Minister General and Formators, begins on January 1 following their election or appointment and ends on December 31. If a term of office becomes vacant before December 31, a replacement will be appointed to fill the office until January 1. Unless factors of incapacity or inability are present, all Life Pledged Members are eligible to nominate, vote, and hold office.
The term of the Minister General is six years. Formators serve as long as they wish and are capable to review and respond to lessons. Regional Ministers are appointed and also have no term limits. However, the offices of Vice Minister, Messenger, and Treasurer are elected annually and Council members appointed annually. The year term of office was in the original Rule and allows people who are elected or appointed to give proper attention and service to the office as they would not have agreed to the position had they felt that their circumstances would prevent them from fulfilling the office well. If things change during the year, the individual need not consent to run for or to accept that office again.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: WHAT THE CFP HAS DONE FOR ME
The journey of St. Francis is a journey of conversion. Any journey of conversion to Christ has similarities with the journey of St. Francis because each journey begins with a worldly point of view and ends with the spiritual one. Each journey begins with focus on self and ends with focus on others. This is a letter from a member of the Alessandro Ministry in which he details his journey.
"[Jesus] went on, "This is why I told you that no one could come to me except by the gift of the Father. After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more." (John 6:65-66)
I see that the Father has given me the CFP as a gift.
"Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘What about you? Do you want to go away, too?’ Simon Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe, we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.’" (John 6:67-68)
Where will I go? I have grown to see Jesus working through the CFP, in ways that are not always clear to me. But at the end of the day, I see a difference in the spirituality that I have from that of others. Not that I think that I am better than or fuller than others.
I see the Spirit of Love. I see a gentler man that when I first started this journey. I look forward to who God is transforming me into. I like reacting to situations different than others do. I like praying for my enemies, even though at times it is hard to do. I love you, my new family, the CFP. I appreciate the people that God has put into my life. I like being able to grow from the troubles in my life. I dislike taking my eyes off Jesus. I dislike my bad habits and struggles against the flesh.
I love my new Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our dear Mother is a gift the Church is given to me. It makes me sad to think I could have gone my entire life not getting to know her. It makes me sad knowing that other churches ignore her. Their lives could, would be so much fuller with her in it.
Please continue to teach me the way. May Jesus Mary and Joseph watch over and protect you. Amen.
Your son in Christ, Tim Strickland, Alessandro Ministry
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: PRAY FOR THE POOR SOULS
At the suggestion of a religious sister, I obtained and started to read the book Hungry Souls, published by TAN publishing company. The book talks about Purgatory and visits from poor souls to individuals whom they asked to pray for them. I’ve heard of several instances where people seem to have seen souls from Purgatory who needed prayers.
For example, a good Catholic woman who I knew in Rhode Island bought a house built in colonial days. Shortly thereafter her husband saw a woman dressed in colonial garb standing at the foot of their bed at night. They saw other manifestations at different times of the day. When they were hosting a Christmas party in their house for many people, some of the guests saw three women dressed in colonial garb, talking in the kitchen. The guests thought that these women were part of those invited who had come in festive dress for this Christmas party. Such was not the case. When my friend went to a priest about this last appearance, the priest suggested having a Mass said for the souls of these people. This was done as the manifestations stopped.
The religious sister mentioned two instances involving two convents of her Order. She had been visiting one convent when she heard footsteps running upstairs at night. She thought, "Why is that sister running up and down the hallway? She knows she’s supposed to be walking quietly." When she mentioned this to the other sisters, they said that they, too, had heard footsteps running in the hallway upstairs. They did an investigation about the history of the house and discovered that many years ago, before they converted the house into a convent, a 12-year-old girl died in a fire in that house. They wondered if this might be the soul that had come back, asking for prayers. A priest offered a Mass for this child, and the footsteps stopped.
The religious sister mentioned a second convent of her Order in which the sisters kept finding items moved from one place to another and no one owning up to having moved them. When this strange moving continued, the sisters investigated the history of the house and discovered that, several years previously to their moving there, a 19-year-old woman had died in a car accident right in front of the convent. The sisters asked a priest to offer a Mass for that young woman, and the items stopped being moved around in the house.
The book Hungry Souls shares other manifestations of poor souls and helps us realize that Purgatory is real. We need to pray for the souls there. With God’s help, we must do the best we can to become the best we can here, so we can avoid going to purgatory or spending excessively long periods of time there. Wouldn’t you rather do your Purgatory time before you die than after, because after can be a very, very, very long time?
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
POETRY BY DOM JULIAN STEAD, OSB
Dom Julian was our second Visitor. He is now retired from active priestly ministry and in a care home. No matter how frail his body may be, Fr. Julian’s mind is sharp. Here are two poems which he wrote at the age of 90 years.
The hand, hold me by the hand
and across the land
the river and the sea
aiming for the tree
standing on the summit
of Cal Varee.
sing the song or hum it
the angelic tune
I love to crow
when my throat has no caterrh
and you take your new guitar
"Alle -- lu -- oo -- ya!" (May 16, 2017)
Not sunshine, divine
melts the darkness
and we incline
to purr as a kitten
Smitten from above
with the emotionless love,
faith; not perturbed
ever so chaste. (January, 2017)
Fence sign featuring Doberman Pinscher: “Is there life after death? Jump this fence and find out.”
What do we learn from cows, buffaloes, and elephants? It’s impossible to lose weight by eating green grass and salads and walking.
Woman observing a clothes line full of clothing: It dries the wash using the very latest technology – solar and wind power.
Dear Algebra, Please stop asking us to find your X. She’s never coming back, and please don’t ask Y.
Every family has one weird relative. If you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.
My wife’s female intuition is so highly developed that she sometimes knows I’m wrong even before I’ve opened my mouth.
The more you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap. Stay safe. Eat cake.
The first five days after the weekend are the hardest.
Confraternity of Penitents Photo Album
Kimberly Caron Lohman of Modesto California, USA. May she rest in peace. Kimberly was battling an aggressive, fast developing malignant brain cancer, had completed Novice 3, and was preparing to pledge and privately vow to live the CFP Rule for life when her tumor burst before she could make her pledge. Without warning and in a totally unexpected way, Kimberly’s life on this earth ended on November 13, 2017. Kimberly, dear sister, we pray for the repose of your soul and ask your prayers for us.
LIFE PLEDGES AND PRIVATE VOWS
Tamara Rae (Tammy) Ringhand with daughter. Tammy pledged and privately vowed to live the CFP Rule for life on September 15, 2017. Tammy took the privately vowed name sr. Angelina Faustina. Tammy is a wife and mother of ten living children, three of whom are adopted. She is a retired nurse and a Director of Religious Education for her parish, lives on forty acres in rural Minnesota, USA, and, in addition to caring for her house and family, also does much manual labor in caring for chickens, milking goats, and tending several large gardens.
Welcome, dear sister!
Raymond Newkirk, from Florida, USA, pledged and privately vowed to live the CFP Rule for life on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, 2017. Raymond took the privately vowed name of br. Raphael. Married and father of a daughter, Raymond is CEO and co-founder of his company and has worked all over the world. He is also sought after to give talks and seminars on Catholic spirituality.
Welcome, dear brother!
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP
Easter is coming up quickly this year, and you may know someone in RCIA. The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop includes many selections especially appropriate for RCIA members. Some are:
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition. United States Catholic Conference, 1997. All the teachings of the Catholic Church. 9.99 on this link.
Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops as a translation of the Compendium presented by Pope Benedict XVI in March, 2006. The Compendium is a synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church's faith.
The Compendium is a synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church's faith. 14.95 on this link.
Day by Day with the Catechism: A perfect book to help make the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH more easily understandable and applicable to everyday experience, these minute meditations for every day of the year feature a text from the CATECHISM, a reflection upon some aspect of the text, and a prayer to act upon it. Illustrated and printed in two colors. Includes ribbon marker. 8.95 on this link.
Handbook on the Mass: Handbook of the Mass from Catholic Book Publishing provides an introduction to understanding the greatest prayer of the Church, the Eucharistic Liturgy. This handy, compact volume contains 100 succinct summary statements that serve as a basic overview of the parts of the Mass. This attractive, user-friendly handbook has many uses: perfect for RCIA, returning Catholics who need a "brush-up," or as a concise, handy reference. Handbook of the Mass from Catholic Book Publishing is enhanced with contemporary illustrations and flexibly bound. 3.50 on this link.