Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter June 2018
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: SPIRITUAL ADVISOR
Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who has recognized the Confraternity of Penitents as a private association of the faithful, has reviewed the CFP governance and asked that it be made consistent with our canonical status. Therefore, at the Bishop’s request, the name Visitor (a term used more for a public association of the faithful) will be changed to Spiritual Advisor throughout the CFP Constitutions, Directory of Governance, Handbook, and website. In addition, the Bishop wishes the CFP Council to assume greater authority in governance, as is the norm for private associations of the faithful. We anticipate that it will take many months to make these changes in our documents, so you will not necessarily see evidence of them immediately, but the Confraternity has already begun to operate on them.
At the time the original Rule of 1221 was written by Cardinal Hugolino de Conti de Segni and accepted for his followers by St. Francis of Assisi, the Church did not recognize a specific canonical status for private lay associations of the faithful. The laity who were living a religious rule of life (the Rule of 1221 being one such religious rule) had a religious status in the Church at that time. Such groups had a priest whom the Bishop either assigned to them or whom the group obtained with the Bishop’s approval. The Rule of 1221 uses the term Visitor for this priest.
Today, Canon Law recognizes lay associations of the faithful. Canons that apply to this status, and, hence, to the Confraternity of Penitents, are detailed elsewhere in this newsletter.
Since the original rule of 1221 cannot be changed, the term Visitor will still appear in it on both the CFP website and in the CFP handbook. However, the CFP Constitutions, which update the Rule for living in modern times, will use the more canonically appropriate term Spiritual Advisor instead of the term Visitor. The Spiritual Advisor will continue to be a priest approved by the Bishop who will serve in an advisory and consulting role to the Confraternity of Penitents.
Chain of Command
The governance of the of Confraternity of Penitents will be primarily in its local, regional, and international councils. The Spiritual Advisor of the Confraternity of Penitents will advise the CFP Council while each local CFP Chapter or Circle will have its own Spiritual Assistant to advise it. Regional Ministers will also be asked to locate a Regional Spiritual Advisor whom they can consult regarding certain concerns in their region.
The governance of the CFP will, therefore, look like this:
Bishop (consulted only for matters which the Bishop must handle such as clearing someone of heresy)
CFP International Council with input from the Spiritual Advisor
Regional Minister with input from Regional Spiritual Assistant
Local CFP Chapter or Circle with input from the Chapter’s or Circle’s Spiritual Assistant
Members take their concerns to their local CFP Chapter or Circle Minister first. If they are not in a local group, then they consult their Regional Minister. If the concern cannot be addressed at the local or regional level, then it is brought to the CFP International Council which will deal with it. Only if the matter is something that canonically requires the Bishop’s attention, then it is brought to the Bishop.
Any Other Changes?
There will be no other changes. The CFP formation program and ceremonies will remain unchanged except in the areas which deal with the governance of the CFP and the Spiritual Advisor (formally called the Visitor). These changes will not affect how the CFP members live the Rule nor will it affect their relationships with their formators and others in the Confraternity. They will not affect any parts of the Constitutions or Directory which not deal directly with governance or the Visitor. The changes involve governance of the CFP only.
The Confraternity of Penitents is grateful to Bishop Kevin Rhoades for taking the time and concern to bring the Confraternity of Penitents into a greater conformity with its canonical status. As CFP members, we have a loving obligation to pray daily for our Bishop and our Spiritual Advisor as well as for all involved in any way with the Confraternity of Penitents. We thank the Lord for his blessings to us through our Bishop, through our Spiritual Advisor and Spiritual Assistants, and through each of you, our members. Let us pray for one another and for all doing penance worldwide.
– Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
CANONS THAT PERTAIN TO THE CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS (Note: This section is in the CFP Handbook)
The Confraternity of Penitents is a private Catholic Association of the Faithful with commendation. Several Canons in the current Code of Canon Law apply to the Confraternity and its place in the Catholic Church. Additional canons apply to the private vow to live the CFP Rule for life, a vow which a pledged member may choose to make.
Those Canons which apply to the Confraternity of Penitents are as follows:
ASSOCIATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL (Can. 298 - 329)
Can. 298 §1. In the Church there are associations distinct from institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life; in these associations the Christian faithful, whether clerics, lay persons, or clerics and lay persons together, strive in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life, to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works of the apostolate such as initiatives of evangelization, works of piety or charity, and those which animate the temporal order with a Christian spirit.
§2. The Christian faithful are to join especially those associations which competent ecclesiastical authority has erected, praised, or commended.
Can. 299 §1. By means of a private agreement made among themselves, the Christian faithful are free to establish associations to pursue the purposes mentioned in ⇒ can. 298, §1, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 301, §1.
§2. Even if ecclesiastical authority praises or commends them, associations of this type are called private associations.
§3. No private association of the Christian faithful is recognized in the Church unless competent authority reviews its statutes.
Can. 300 No association is to assume the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority according to the norm of ⇒ can. 312.
Can. 301 §1. It is for the competent ecclesiastical authority alone to erect associations of the Christian faithful which propose to hand on Christian doctrine in the name of the Church or to promote public worship, or which intend other purposes whose pursuit is of its nature reserved to the same ecclesiastical authority.
§2. Competent ecclesiastical authority, if it has judged it expedient, can also erect associations of the Christian faithful to pursue directly or indirectly other spiritual purposes whose accomplishment has not been sufficiently provided for through the initiatives of private persons.
§3. Associations of the Christian faithful which are erected by competent ecclesiastical authority are called public associations.
Can. 302 Those associations of the Christian faithful are called clerical which are under the direction of clerics, assume the exercise of sacred orders, and are recognized as such by competent authority.
Can. 303 Associations whose members share in the spirit of some religious institute while in secular life, lead an apostolic life, and strive for Christian perfection under the higher direction of the same institute are called third orders or some other appropriate name.
Can. 304 §1. All public or private associations of the Christian faithful, by whatever title or name they are called, are to have their own statutes which define the purpose or social objective of the association, its seat, government, and conditions required for membership and which determine the manner of its acting, attentive, however, to the necessity or advantage of time and place.
§2. They are to choose a title or name for themselves adapted to the usage of time and place, selected above all with regard to their intended purpose.
Can. 305 §1. All associations of the Christian faithful are subject to the vigilance of competent ecclesiastical authority which is to take care that the integrity of faith and morals is preserved in them and is to watch so that abuse does not creep into ecclesiastical discipline. This authority therefore has the duty and right to inspect them according to the norm of law and the statutes. These associations are also subject to the governance of this same authority according to the prescripts of the canons which follow.
§2. Associations of any kind are subject to the vigilance of the Holy See; diocesan associations and other associations to the extent that they work in the diocese are subject to the vigilance of the local ordinary.
Can. 306 In order for a person to possess the rights and privileges of an association and the indulgences and other spiritual favors granted to the same association, it is necessary and sufficient that the person has been validly received into it and has not been legitimately dismissed from it according to the prescripts of law and the proper statutes of the association.
Can. 307 §1. The reception of members is to be done according to the norm of law and the statutes of each association.
§2. The same person can be enrolled in several associations.
§3. Members of religious institutes can join associations according to the norm of their proper law with the consent of their superior.
Can. 308 No one legitimately enrolled is to be dismissed from an association except for a just cause according to the norm of law and the statutes.
Can. 309 According to the norm of law and the statutes, legitimately established associations have the right to issue particular norms respecting the association itself, to hold meetings, and to designate moderators, officials, other officers, and administrators of goods.
Can. 310 A private association which has not been established as a juridic person cannot, as such, be a subject of obligations and rights. Nevertheless, the members of the Christian faithful associated together in it can jointly contract obligations and can acquire and possess rights and goods as co-owners and co-possessors; they are able to exercise these rights and obligations through an agent or a proxy.
Can. 311 Members of institutes of consecrated life who preside offer or assist associations in some way united to their institute are to take care that these associations give assistance to the works of the apostolate which already exist in a diocese, especially cooperating, under the direction of the local ordinary, with associations which are ordered to the exercise of the apostolate in the diocese.
PRIVATE ASSOCIATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL
Can. 321 The Christian faithful guide and direct private associations according to the prescripts of the statutes.
Can. 322 §1. A private association of the Christian faithful can acquire juridic personality through a formal decree of the competent ecclesiastical authority mentioned in ⇒ can. 312.
§2. No private association of the Christian faithful can acquire juridic personality unless the ecclesiastical authority mentioned in ⇒ can. 312,
§1 has approved its statutes. Approval of the statutes, however, does not change the private nature of the association.
Can. 323 §1. Although private associations of the Christian faithful possess autonomy according to the norm of ⇒ can. 321, they are subject to the vigilance of ecclesiastical authority according to the norm of ⇒ can. 305 and even to the governance of the same authority.
§2. It also pertains to ecclesiastical authority, while respecting the autonomy proper to private associations, to be watchful and careful that dissipation of their energies is avoided and that their exercise of the apostolate is ordered to the common good.
Can. 324 §1. A private association of the Christian faithful freely designates its moderator and officials according to the norm of the statutes.
§2. A private association of the Christian faithful can freely choose a spiritual advisor, if it desires one, from among the priests exercising ministry legitimately in the diocese; nevertheless, he needs the confirmation of the local ordinary.
Can. 325 §1. A private association of the Christian faithful freely administers those goods it possesses according to the prescripts of the statutes, without prejudice to the right of competent ecclesiastical authority to exercise vigilance so that the goods are used for the purposes of the association.
§2. A private association is subject to the authority of the local ordinary according to the norm of ⇒ can. 1301 in what pertains to the administration and distribution of goods which have been donated or left to it for pious causes.
Can. 326 §1. A private association of the Christian faithful ceases to exist according to the norm of its statutes. The competent authority can also suppress it if its activity causes grave harm to ecclesiastical doctrine or discipline or is a scandal to the faithful.
§2. The allocation of the goods of an association which has ceased to exist must be determined according to the norm of its statutes, without prejudice to acquired rights and the intention of the donors.
SPECIAL NORMS FOR ASSOCIATIONS OF THE LAITY
Can. 327 Lay members of the Christian faithful are to hold in esteem associations established for the spiritual purposes mentioned in ⇒ can. 298, especially those which propose to animate the temporal order with the Christian spirit and in this way greatly foster an intimate union between faith and life.
Can. 328 Those who preside offer associations of the laity, even those which have been erected by virtue of apostolic privilege, are to take care that their associations cooperate with other associations of the Christian faithful where it is expedient and willingly assist various Christian works, especially those in the same territory.
Can. 329 Moderators of associations of the laity are to take care that the members of the association are duly formed to exercise the apostolate proper to the laity.
Translation from the Vatican Website
GOD BLESS YOU, FR. FRANCIS CHUKWUMA!
With sorrow at his leaving but with gratitude for all his help to the Confraternity of Penitents, we announce the retirement of Fr. Francis Chukwuma as CFP Spiritual Advisor (formerly Visitor). Due to new assignments in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Fr. Chukwuma’s Diocesan workload has increased. Therefore, he feels that he is unable to continue in his service to the CFP. Fr. Francis has seen the CFP through great growth including the dedication of Mary’s Glen, a Catholic spiritual oasis for prayer which is maintained by the Confraternity of Penitents in the city of Fort Wayne. He approved the post humous life pledge of Kimberly Lohman (sr. Francis Mary of the Holy Poverty) who died unexpectedly right before she was able to make her life pledge and vow. Fr. Francis also approved the year pledge of Anthony LaCalamita who is serving a life term in prison, with no option for parole. In addition, Fr. Francis assisted in guiding the CFP Administrative Headquarters in creating workable policies for volunteer helpers. We will miss you, Fr. Francis, as we pray for God’s graces to be with you in all your responsibilities. May your efforts to spread the Good News of the Gospel bear much fruit!
IN COMING SPIRITUAL ADVISOR
The CFP incoming Spiritual Advisor, who will begin his role this month (June), is Father Jacob Meyer who had served in this role immediately preceding Fr. Francis Chukwuma. More on and from Fr. Jacob in the July newsletter.
SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S ADVICE: GOING ALONG THE WAY
We recall that Chapter Eleven of the Letter to the Hebrews discussed faith and outlined the men and women of faith in the Old Covenant who lived their lives with a wholesome and wholehearted trust in God. In the following chapter, the author exhorted believers in the New Covenant to live out their faith likewise (cf. Heb 12:2-29). This appears to be a message of Christian hope, and as my tenure as the CFP Spiritual Advisor (formerly called the Visitor) comes to the end, I wish to reflect on ‘the Way’ of our continued journey of maturing in faith, in order to arrive at the fullness of salvation in Jesus Christ, at the end of our life. It is like the address of Peter to the newly baptized who still looked forward to their full maturity in faith and salvation as they encountered various life-challenges through which the genuineness of their faith would be tested (cf. 1 Pet 1:3-9). We, too, undergo trials as Christians and more so as Penitents, but before discussing the way to live this period of maturation in faith, what do I mean by ‘the way’?
Here, we recall that while discussing his going to prepare a place for the disciples, Jesus stated, in answer to Thomas’ question about not knowing where Jesus was going: “…I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me…” (Jn 14:6). Now, this may not be the reason why the first community of believers was referred to as ‘those who follow the Way’ in Acts of the Apostles, but I certainly think that a connection can be made here, with regards to our understanding the Christian’s way of maturing in faith.
As we remember, some of the instances when the title ‘those who follow the way’ were used for the believers in Acts include: when Saul (Paul) went to the High Priest for a letter of introduction to the synagogue in Damascus, recorded thus: “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). Also, while defending himself before being taken into the Roman fort in Jerusalem, Paul referred to his former life against ‘the Way’, saying: “…being zealous for God as you all are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women” (Acts 22:3-4).
And because of his dedication to ‘the Way’, when some Jews spoke against ‘the Way’ at Ephesus, Paul left the synagogue and turned to the Gentiles, as we read: “…he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God; but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:8-9). The connection between Jesus’ word and the title given to the first community of believers is that in the challenges they faced, the community of believers was following the new way laid out by Jesus, who is the way to the Father. Now before we discuss how we can emulate these believers, can we identify the major challenges of faith?
I believe that what challenges our faith borders essentially on the struggle against the trials of life, the struggle against sin and the struggle against the evil one, which are actually the tests that the disciple undergoes while maturing in holiness, as surmised by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. We read: “…have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons…he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:5-10).
Now, we can also talk of the fear and the lack of courage to practice what we believe, in words and deed. This was pointed to by Saint Pope John Paul II in the book: Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way. As he said, this title is the invitation of Jesus to his 3 disciples in the gospel of Mark (14:42), indicating that “not only He must be on his way to fulfill His Father’s will: they, too, must go with Him” (Rise let us be on our way, 215). Then, the pontiff noted that this is a call to all followers of Jesus in the face of fear, even though the words were addressed particularly to the bishops, indicating their time of trial and painful cross while at the same time assuring them of peace and joy; hence, they should not succumb to fear. Earlier in the chapter on ‘Courageous in faith’, the pontiff had noted the words spoken by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski on fear and lack of courage in the life of an apostle, saying: “The greatest weakness in an apostle is fear. What gives rise to fear is lack of confidence in the power of the Lord; this is what oppresses the heart and tightens the throat. The apostle then ceases to offer witness…Fear in an apostle is the principal ally of the enemies of the cause” (Rise let us be on our way, 190). Today’s Christian may not deny the presence of this fear, too. So, what are the people ‘on the Way’ supposed to do in the face of fear and trials of life and faith?
As pilgrims on the journey of life, we are called to look up to Jesus. This simply means that we have to live our daily challenges following the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Way himself, for there is a profound and intimate relationship between being a believer in the Lord and following the way of the Lord. In other words, looking up to Jesus means not only looking at his way (of humble obedience to the Father’s will) but also looking up to him in complete faith and trust. It is not surprising to see this looking up to Jesus as central in the life of the saints. For instance, we read that the driving force behind the life of St. Francis was the desire to life the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, writing the earliest version of the Rule for the men who came to join him, he began: “‘this is the Life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’. In the later, more formal version that was approved by the Church, this core remains the same: ‘The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ...’” (Helen Julian, CSF, Francis and Clare, A Gospel Story, 25). Saint Pope John Paul II describes it as “our gaze fixed on Christ, strengthened by hope that does not disappoint” (Rise let us be on our way, ix).
As the people of faith in the Old Covenant rested their full trusted in God, so the people of faith in the New Covenant are called to rest their full trust in Jesus Christ. For us, then, our pilgrim journey is a call to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, since our faith depends on him from beginning to the end. He himself did not give up because of the cross; on the contrary, because of the joy awaiting him, he thought nothing of the crosses and sufferings he had to undergo (cf. Heb 12:2). By emulating his way, we, too, are able to mature in faith in spite of what we face in life. Thus, we read: “Look to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood…” (Heb 12:2-4). Thus, as Penitents, it means that we have to live through our trials also in the footsteps of St. Francis. This is what St. Paul said to the Corinthians when he exhorted them to look at the things that are unseen, what lasts forever (cf. 2 Cor 4:18-5:1).
As we know, it calls for faith to behold the things that are unseen. Thus, in the end, to gaze unto Jesus and to be empowered by the experience, it is necessary to have the kind of faith that beholds the crucified Jesus as the source and sustainer of life, in the likeness of the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the desert (cf. Jn 3:14). This is living faith, and with it, we can lift Jesus up in front of us, in order to gaze unto him, so as, not only to follow the way he lived but also to see him with us on the way. Our life will be more meaningful and will be able to achieve its purpose when we lift Jesus up in front of us, in good times, difficult times, joyful times, sorrowful times, painful times, depressive times, etc. This was the kind of faith manifested by our fathers and mothers in faith, in the Old Covenant (cf. Heb 11:1-40); and this is the kind of faith John Paul II described as fundamental in our life, because it generates the courage we need to live in the world amidst the troubles of the time. As he said: “Faith in Him, then, is a ceaseless opening up to God’s ceaseless overtures into our world, it is our movement towards God, who for His part leads people towards one another…” (Rise let us be on our way, 214). This is the kind of faith that gives peace of mind, for it fills us with the knowledge that God is with us always.
Of course, this experience of peace does not mean the absence of conflicts, but it is the peace that still flows in spite of events and situations that we cannot change. A point in life should come when we see ourselves seeking peace with others, as St. Francis prayed “Lord, make me an instrument of peace...” following the instruction to: “Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled” (Heb 12:14-15). By this, we not only heal ourselves, but we also bring healing to the world around us. Thus, in the end, those who gaze on Jesus, through their daily encounter with the Word and the sacraments, experience a continuous conversion, for we are exhorted: “…lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Heb 12:12-13).
Finally, looking up to Jesus, as we go along the Way, may for a moment seem painful rather than pleasant; but later it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (cf. Heb 12:11); for “God’s love does not impose burdens upon us that we cannot fulfill. For whatever He asks of us, He provides the help that is needed” (Rise let us be on our way, 215). I pray then that God may increase our faith as we go along the way, so that we always keep our gaze on Jesus.
-- Fr. Francis Chukwuma, outgoing CFP Spiritual Advisor (formerly called the Visitor)
NO GREATER LOVE: FAITHFULNESS IN PRAYER
For our prayer to be fruitful, we need to be faithful. We cannot only pray when we “feel like it” or are in a religious mood. Yet, our faithfulness is a structure to contain our Christian freedom and above all our Christian love. In the book Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar discusses how to maintain Christian freedom within structures of prayer such as the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. There is no such thing as a necessary structure or even an "appropriate" one. At the most, a few suggestions can be offered, useful only to the extent that they do not interfere with the law of contemplation, which is the free Spirit of God, who leads the contemplative along the path of freedom. St. Ignatius never intended his "method of prayer" to be used in any other way. The three points into which the material for meditation is divided are only meant to help the praying reader in his encounter with scripture. Instead of being overwhelmed by the vast wealth of meaning all at once, he is to be introduced to its fullness in a gradual manner. But as soon as the praying soul, walking along this path, is satisfied, as soon as some prospect invites him to rest and stay awhile, Ignatius is the first to take away his framework and give place to the prime law of freedom. Prayer must never be seen as carrying out a program, fulfilling a quota. As soon as God's word strikes me, I must leave everything and follow it. As soon as my wings have developed and I am off the ground, I am to be governed by the laws of the air, of the Spirit. When I am overtaken by God's fullness in the fullness of the word, it is impossible for me to "miss" anything. Of course, the method given by St. Ignatius is one of many that are out there. We should use whatever method helps us to pray. However, in all cases the Lord must ultimately be in charge of our prayer and not the method.
Even if our prayer seems to be bearing fruit for us, Von Balthasar warns us of a trap we could easily slip into. Something further is indicated by these methods, which brings us back to the first group of precepts: the curve of contemplation is the curve of love. Contemplation must not get stuck in the intellect, distinguishing aspects, discerning hidden meanings, for ''gnosis puffs up, but love builds up". All the seeing and hearing must result in a "touching" ( 1 Jn 1:1), a "getting close to" God (Exercises no. 20); the contemplative must be totally taken up with what the divine Persons are "doing" (Exercises no. 108). Normally, of course, the flame of love will burst from the fuel of knowledge with greater force, the deeper and more existential this knowledge has been. But this is no excuse for staying so long at the intellectual level that love suffers, or even that the basic attitude of adoration disappears, and one is lost in speculation and the smoke of Gnosticism!
On the other hand, our prayer can easily lose its initial enthusiasm and become routine and even boring. Theologian Von Balthasar counsels us that we need to always return to our initial motivation for prayer, which is love. A third group of counsels emphasizes the everyday virtues of love. Moments of ultimate, blissful intercourse are few in the lives of lovers; likely most of their lives are spent apart from one another, each pursuing his or her own work and obligations. It is here that love must demonstrate its stamina and carry for long distances. Here it becomes faithfulness, patience, humble service. Many a man is able to endure the barrenness, and the stifling monotony of his job, thinking of his wife and children. Love for her husband means that the woman can put up with weeks of loneliness at home while he has to be away on business; it may be that, as the years go by, her love for him enables her to bear bodily contact with him without revealing the effort it costs her. Similarly, after the few months or years of initial enthusiasm, contemplation enters a stage of testing. Have we really based our lives on the word of God, drawing sustenance from it as earthly men are sustained by earthly food? Do we really do it as a reverent service offered to divine love, and not out of a spiritual egoism which is trying to enrich itself or amass spiritual pleasures? Have we really entered into a new and eternal covenant with the Word? (for this is the only way to arrive at the exchange of life and love which is signified by the covenant and covenant-faithfulness). Or, quick as we are to speak of the damage inflicted by divorce in secular life, do we act in the spiritual life as if the covenant with God is only a temporary arrangement, lasting as long as we find it agreeable? Are we still immature children who have never been faced with a crucial and finally binding life-choice? Shall we never understand that it is this very ultimate, freely given faithfulness which cannot be shaken by the hardness of everyday life, nor by aridity, nor even, perhaps, by our being far from God, that constitutes the essence of Christianity?
How do we know, however, that we are really being faithful in our love? Hans Urs Von Balthasar warns us that we need to be accountable in our prayer to the Church. Wherever love, unveiled, lives out its mysterious exchange, wherever its richness is manifested in the lovers' becoming "poor", each to the other, there is always a "watchman", a guardian's lodge, a firm, solid framework. In God this third party is the Holy Spirit who witnesses and guarantees the love of Father and Son. He is the very objectivity of their love, their unity (since the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son). This unity as such is not identical with the lovers; it is love's fruit and thus its miracle, challenging and stimulating the lovers to an ever-new mutual encounter; it is love's veil, allowing it to express itself without danger; it is love's charter, guaranteeing it forever. This trinitarian mystery was made manifest externally in God's covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham and the people on Sinai: covenant is the objectivity of the love between God and the man he loves, and only in this setting can love be fully lived out. This mystery becomes definitive in the New Covenant, hence the solid exterior constituted by the Church; hence also, narrowing the focus, the structure of the Christian life, the definite and final choice to belong utterly to God in marriage or in the life of the evangelical counsels. It is this outer shell alone which protects and fosters the wondrously fresh, daily renewed, nuptial mystery between God and man. Contemplation is at the center of it, and must share in its trinitarian structure, and it can do this if it sees itself as love, a love which is not casual, dilettante and eclectic, but exhibits the faithfulness which is characteristic of the Church and its prototype, the Mother of the Lord. The connection between inner "spirit" and outer "form" is the most intimate imaginable (to faith): the two are one; each presupposes, edifies and heightens the other. The "framework" is love's faithfulness, and it is faithfulness that makes the life of love possible and keeps it going. Where this faithfulness is breached, love is shown to have been nonexistent, just as, in the Old Covenant, breaking the Covenant is equated with adultery. If our prayer seems to be taking us away from the Church, we need to be careful that we are not being ensnared in the counterfeit love known as adultery.
Finally, theologian Von Balthasar urges us to never grow weary in the work of prayer for our prayer must always be driven by love. Unavoidably, the life of contemplation is an everyday life, a life of fidelity in small matters, small services rendered in the spirit and warmth of love which lightens every burden. The sun's brightness can from time to time (and perhaps often) be hidden in mist and cloud, but that is no reason for laying aside one's daily work. Here we can apply Paul's dictum: "If anyone will not work, let him not eat" (2 Thess 3:10). Contemplative prayer is work. It is performed out of love for the Beloved, who is "at work, in every created reality" for my sake (Exercises no. 236), who has spared himself no ill-treatment, even unto the cross, to bring his love to me. Contemplation is work, and it goes on working even when the person praying derives no apparent satisfaction from it. It is like a woman who puts all her love into a garment she is working on, even though the one who wears it will not notice. Contemplation is a conversation in which I am at pains not to be boring, not to say and think the same thing every day; I use my imagination and creativity to offer God at least something of myself, some gesture of love which he can recognize, some attempt at an answer to the never-failing, inventive love of the Holy Spirit, who daily reveals to me new aspects of God.
Contemplation is work which needs to be carried out in a certain sobriety (like all worship and all ecclesial life; sobriety is one of the virtues most often urged upon us in the New Testament), yet there must be nothing hard and angular about it. It is the sobriety of the saints, accompanied by a certain smiling kindness, which reveals the gentle docility in which the heart approaches all tasks. The Holy Spirit always proceeds quietly and softly, manifesting himself, not to the one who makes a dramatic show of disputing with God, but to him who is ready to follow the slightest and most discreet indication of where love is to be practiced; our hearts must cultivate this same approach if they are to become sensitive to the hidden radiance of the Spirit.
--Jim Nugent, CFP
HUMOR: MORE TRAVEL COMPLAINTS
THESE ARE ACTUAL COMPLAINTS RECEIVED BY "THOMAS COOK VACATIONS" FROM DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS. SOME WERE SHARED IN THE MAY NEWSLETTER. MORE WILL BE IN SUBSEQUENT NEWSLETTERS.
"We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow."
"It's lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallartato to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time -- this should be banned."
"No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared."
"Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers."
"I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."
"The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun."
"It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."
"I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends' three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller."
"The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the resort.' We're trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service."
You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud. -St. Vincent de Paul
CFP YEARLY RETREAT
This year’s retreat will be Columbus Day weekend, 5 PM Thursday, October 4 through 7 AM Monday morning, October 8. Theme: The Spirituality of Padre Pio. Retreat master Father Pio Mandato, FMHSJ, who is a distant relative of Padre Pio. Daily Mass, conferences, the full Divine Office, fellowship, and time for personal prayer and reflection. The retreat will be held at St. Felix Catholic Retreat Center, 1280 Hitzfield Street, Huntington Indiana USA. Cost is $195 plus $15 worth of food or paper goods to share or $15 toward food costs. Commuter cost (includes all lunches, suppers but no overnight stays) is $60 plus $15 of food or paper goods or $15 toward costs of food and paper goods. Please inform us if you need first floor accommodations. If you have special food restrictions, please bring and/or prepare your own foods in place of the $15 food costs. If coming by mass transportation, please contact us so that we can arrange to pick you up and bring you to the retreat.
A $50 deposit, made out to the CFP Retreat Fund and mailed to the Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard St., Fort Wayne, IN 46803 USA, will reserve your place at the retreat. Non-CFP members may attend if there is room.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: RESPECT FOR AND OBEDIENCE TO THE BISHOP
St. Francis had a great respect for and obedience to his Bishop. Bishop Guido was the Church authority to whom St. Francis went as he was experiencing his conversion, and this Bishop confirmed Francis his desire to leave the world and follow Jesus. Guided by the Bishop throughout his religious life, Francis, in his dying days, was taken to the Bishop’s palace and cared for until he requested to be brought to Francis’s favorite Franciscan Hermitage the Portiuncola where he wanted to die.
The Confraternity of Penitents is experiencing, from Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the same solicitude for our welfare that Francis experienced from his Bishop. Francis always saw the Bishop’s directives as being God’s voice speaking to him and to his friars. In the same way, the Confraternity sees God’s Spirit working through Bishop Rhoades for the good of our members. This is evident by the Bishop instructing us to institute a strong, internal government of life pledged CFP members who work for the good of the Confraternity through our Council. The Vision of the Confraternity is to live the Rule of 1221 “as closely as possible to its original intent.” The original groups of penitents had strong local governance with guidance from their local Church representative called the Visitor. The Bishop was consulted only to clear someone of heresy which only he can canonically do, or if penitents were involved in grave civil matters or grave, unresolvable internal disputes, both of which would cause scandal for the Church and which would dishearten the faithful. Please pray that none of these things happen in the Confraternity of Penitents because each of them is totally against the prescriptions of our Rule which require us to adhere to the teachings of the Church and to be at peace with all.
–Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP