Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter: April 2019
Have a blessed Holy Week and a Glorious Easter!
SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT’S ADVICE: FORGIVE
(This month’s column is a summary of a talk by Sister Stella Francis, a Poor Clare nun who is a spiritual assistant to the Fort Wayne, Indiana, chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents.)
in the story of David and King Saul, God put Saul into David’s power, but David said that he would not do any harm to God’s anointed. In the book The Brothers Karamazov, the father has an imperfect repentance. He has an emotional reaction that does not penetrate his heart. This is what Saul had when he realized that David did not kill him even though he could have. Saul calls David his son, but David does not trust Saul’s remorse or repentance. Saul was sincere at the time of his remorseful statement to David, but it was an imperfect repentance because it did not last. It is natural to feel resentment at times, but we can forgive, or think we do, for the wrong motives, and, thus, forgiveness does not take root in us. We can examine our conscience and see if what is happening to us is what happened to Saul.
Scripture says that, just like we are like the first Adam, we are called to be like the second Adam who is Jesus. We are to become the person we have the potential to be, because God calls us to become who we are capable of being. We can get frustrated, but God does not call us to do what we cannot do. We can do all things with Christ, Scripture says. We are capable of forgiving, but only in relationship with Christ.
God called us to love one another as God has loved us. If you can’t love yourself, God help you love your neighbor! If we don’t love ourselves, we can put off carrying our neighbors’ burdens. Sometimes we think that we don’t want to burden God, but God wants us to put our burdens on him. God is calling us to a higher love, to love one another and ourselves. We coexist--that is the gospel message. God asks us to stop judging and to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. We must love our enemies and love our neighbors. Love helps us to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. Lovers are not blind, but they turn a blind eye to what does not need attention. Mothers might see the faults in their children that others do not see, but they love their children anyway while trying to correct their faults.
We have “original sin disorder.” We have a fallen nature. We have thoughts, temptations, and feelings that can make us spiritually sick. What we do with them is what counts. When we try to be still to pray, a whole slew of thoughts come in. We try to get recollected, and the more we do, the more we realize how much is going on inside. This can be disturbing. These are automatic negative thoughts: ANTS. They keep coming. We might even wonder where they come from! I can choose not to believe these thoughts, or I can give them my attention. For example, I might think that Sister Rose Caritas did not come out to hear my talk today because maybe she doesn’t like me. She might be mad at me. She is so holy. So why isn’t she here? These are negative thoughts. I know why she isn’t here. She is cooking! It has nothing to do with me.
We need God to give us proper perspective, or else we can close in on ourselves in our psychological world. We need God to open us up and give us light. Someone who thinks differently than me, who is outside of my recognition, can give me a broader worldview. This person can show me other ways to love Jesus and serve him.
We all need someone that we can consult to get things off our chest. That person is always Jesus. He is always ready to listen and receive. He’s available 24/7 and he knows us. He chooses when to send light and to teach us. He teaches us to stop judging because we each have our own experience of life. We each have found patterns to prove to us how life works. Then something happens, and we see through our lens of experience only so far and try to make sense of the new experience. Two people can experience the same thing and have totally different responses to it.
No one is perfect. You have faults. I have faults. We all have to work our way through things. Instead of judging someone, condemning them, and keeping them in a box, labeled so they are outside of ourselves, we can try to look at them in a different way. Instead of judging in my own little world, I can open up. Forgiveness is a lot of work. If we harbor pain, resentment, and hurts that build up, then we are not forgiving. Say, “I forgive and let’s move on.” Psychologically it is stuffing your feelings down if you say, “I will forget this and move on.”
If we have not experienced the freedom of forgiveness, we are the prisoners of our own bitterness. In order to forgive, no matter if someone vowed to me XYZ, no matter what I feel, no matter what I feel I have suffered, we need to feel forgiveness for ourselves. You might feel you had a right to something, and it is another person’s fault. Forgiveness means that I can no longer demand something from that other person. They failed me, but God makes it right.
Usually we need to forgive those who are closest to us. If we did not love them, we would not let them hurt us so much. Why am I frustrated about someone I do not care about? I need to forgive myself for the way I have treated someone. It takes a lot of pressure off a relationship to forget.
Sometimes we know life can’t be turned around. Something in our hearts will not go away. Forgiveness shows us what God is really like. Anger can be your energy. Jesus did not come for the select few. He came to show us that God loves everyone. All are called to be his children. He does not pick sides. He loves us in the long run. We call a spade a spade. We have mercy. All are called to be one family. to be humble and not take what is ours, to be humble because no one can take away who you are in God.
Self-esteem and self-confidence are not the same thing. Your inner value is yours. No matter how others behave, we can see Christ in them. This is self-confidence. We are confident in what we can do. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. There’s a saying “Fake it until you make it.” We can be self-confident but still have low self-esteem. Be grateful for who you are, not what you did. We form the image of God through the image of our parents. People who have a lot of gifts often realize that we are who we are in God’s eyes. And, ultimately, that’s all that counts. – Sister Stella Francis, PSSC
HUMOR: BAD HEADLINES (These actually ran in newspapers)
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge He probably IS the battery charge!
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group Weren't they fat enough?!
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks Do they taste like chicken?
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half Chainsaw Massacre all over again!
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors Boy, are they tall!
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead Did I read that right?
Help one another with the generosity of the Lord, and despise no one. When you have the opportunity to do good, do not let it go by. -- St. Polycarp of Smyrna
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: PRAYERS AND EXERCISE COMPARISON
Well! It’s April and the month of Easter. So how are our New Year’s Resolutions preparing us to celebrate Our Lord’s Resurrection? Or have we forgotten our resolutions by now?
We make New Year’s resolutions usually to lose weight or to get fit because that yearly check-up is coming and you want,
A. to get the doctor off your back.
B. Reduce your medications.
C. To feel better.
What do you do? I choose A because I have been a failure at losing weight that I said I would lose last year. I failed due to an illness that set me back for a few months last year. My walking routine failed due to summer heat, rain, humidity and another trip to the hairdresser and then the cold weather set in. Thank God for the light that shown into my senior fog regarding my abandoned resolution. I signed up for Silver Sneakers program. Indoor environment. Half mile from the house. Problem solved. Plus it is FREE, a senior requirement. Things are looking up.
Prayer is a lot like my exercise obstacles. As my Formator Lou Samuels said, “The mornings are easy.” I am juggling lots of daily events: grandkids’ transportation, prayer groups, community service, RCIA classes to name a few. Each morning I start my day with Lectio Divina of the daily Mass readings I am listening for God’s personal message to me for today.
CFP prayers then follow the Liturgy of the Hours. Here comes the part of my prayer life that’s similar to my walking routine prior to Silver Sneakers program. Thank God for Universalis.com – I call it the Liturgy of the Hours on the Go! In addition, it also meets the senior requirement. It’s FREE. There is an app if you want pay for it.
Prayer life is now fitting my busy schedule: afternoon prayers in school pick up line, evening prayers in a park or at soccer practice. Of course, night prayers by 9pm. Maybe that prayer exercise routine is increasing oxygen to my brain.
One thing about CFP prayers and fasting: they keep me humble daily. I am living, I know, in a glass house and I can’t judge anyone or throw stones because I am always one step away from failing to do what I promised to do.
Sisters and Brothers, stay strong and remember a saint is just a sinner that fell down but got up.Pat Davis, CFP
CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
Marge Zylla is a postulant with the Confraternity of Penitents. She has several pieces of original art work featured in the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop.
This reverent, 8” x 10” black and white piece Man at Prayer, is available for $8.95 plus $3 shipping from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA.
Several other full color images by Marge are also available. Your purchase helps the Confraternity to spread the message of penance (conversion) world wide. God bless you!
Consult the Gift Shop website on this link.
NO GREATER LOVE: CONTEMPLATING THE LIFE OF JESUS
A very fruitful area for prayer is the Human Life of Jesus Christ from the Annunciation to His Death on the Cross. Here we can contemplate the Divine entry into the world. In the book Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar discusses the ways which the Word of God uses to enter into the world. …..he has that of normal human existence between conception and death: a tremendously dramatic field of energy, characterized by the most powerful tensions, tailor-made, in a profound sense, to be the vessel of a more-than-human, divine fullness of life and spirit. The life of Jesus is the ideal stage for the portrayal and interpretation of the meaning of contemplative man's own existence. Here, scene by scene, as each stage of life unfolds, he is shown the meaning of life as God sees it and desires man to see it. …….. The person at prayer need only let himself be carried from one picture to the next: in the humanity which he encounters in each picture he will see a revelation of eternal, triune love. First the child as such, with his natural qualities; the boy, the youth with his, then the grown man; each stage and condition of life; waking and sleeping, liveliness and tiredness, solitude and conversation with others; the "feel" of morning, midday and evening; work and rest, eating and fasting, pleasure and the forgoing of pleasure; human emotions and the lack of emotion, festivities and the monotony of the daily round. God the Creator has designed and created every one of these changing conditions of human life, and now, in the fullness of time, he has sent his Son into them, to "taste" them and make them the "experiences" of God in human nature, to charge them to his account. Thus, he crowns the accomplishment of human life, and by rising from the dead he elevates its truth, its quintessence, into eternity. Now, instead of a vague "similarity in a still greater dissimilarity", there is a communion in which the transitory becomes a vehicle for the eternal, filled to the brim and running over with the fullness of meaning of divine love. The Child at peace in the lap of his virginal Mother; the way he clings to her breasts with his little hands, desiring her milk; the way he sleeps in her arms or, at night, at her side; his child's cry for nourishment, his first smile, his first step taken by himself, the first words learned from his Mother; the first object he makes in the workshop with Joseph's help; friendship with all its joys and disappointments; school, the worship of God, solitary walks and times of prayer: everything begins to speak of "the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed" (Rom 16:25), namely, eternal love. All this human life of his is flesh of the Word of God, the expression of what is eternally true and valid. Nor is it the expression of some kind of truth that will one day be universally acknowledged (for a secret ceases to be a secret once it has been let out, and a solved crossword puzzle is no longer any interest); what we have here is the translation of eternity into temporal terms (exclusively here and now, exclusively in this one particular Person), the translation of temporal reality into eternity. And it is his translation, bearing the hallmark of his personality and inseparable from it. We can perceive it only by looking at him. It is exclusively for his sake that something of it becomes visible in his Mother and his foster-father, in his aunt Elizabeth and her child John, in those who came before him and come after him.
As we contemplate the Life of Jesus, we can see in concrete terms the extreme Love that God has for us. Von Balthasar explains this to us. Through him, everything human has a sacramental symbolism. God's love shines through it; the humanity becomes the mediating vessel of the love of God which it signifies; but, through him, all are bound to this meaning in faith and discipleship. We cannot say that every mother who suckles her child is a picture of heavenly love in the same way as Mary. But because of Jesus and Mary she can have a real share in their symbolism; the contemplative, in faith, can make the archetype come alive in the familiar human picture. For God has taken responsibility for this single unique life in order to give the whole human race a foothold in heaven with himself. He did not do this for his own sake (for how could the Creator fail to know the work he himself had designed and executed? “He who planted the ear, does he not hear?" Ps 93:9), but for the sake of his creature, in order to give him sanctuary and a home with him, to lend an abiding, eternal, divine meaning to the creature's transitory existence.
When we contemplate the Lord in His Human Life, it is always the same Lord for each person and for all times. However, since we are temporal and limited creatures, each person will experience God’s Word differently from someone else and even the same person can experience God’s Word differently from day to day. Theologian Von Balthasar discusses this in more detail. Our aim in contemplation is not to discover some hidden divine meaning behind all the individual material features of the Lord's life. Such complementarity would be impossible anyway since each detail points toward God's inexhaustible infinity. As well as that, the same praying person encounters the same reality differently at different times, and the experiences of people are all different too, in spite of the fact that a particular teaching of Christ, in word or deed, has an unequivocal meaning. Furthermore, it would be impossible because the divine archetype is translated into human terms through the freedom of the Person of the Word, which cannot be restricted by any extrinsic system. It is this that makes everyone's personal meeting with the Lord in prayer so dramatic and fruitful each time he turns to contemplation: we can never know in advance how the eternal will manifest itself in temporal form, what aspects will predominate this time, what familiar aspects will be deepened, what new, unsuspected ones will be brought to light, what dimensions will be brilliantly lit, what others will be left in semidarkness. Every human life is unique, and so each person's gaze will illuminate the Lord's archetypal existence in a different way. Furthermore, at each instance of contemplation, the love of God, which each individual experiences as unique, plays an utterly fresh, original and inimitable melody upon the instrument of Christ's life. The instrument has a limited number of keys, just as the words of holy scripture are limited. But there is an unlimited number of possible variations on the one theme, which is the self-sacrifice of divine love and our initiation into the depths of divine meaning.
Anyone at all versed in contemplation will surely have had this experience. Every gospel scene seems new and fresh each day; it does not seem threatened by the dust, pallor and obsolescence of history. Every day the eyes of faith witness the miracle: the gospel is the only factor within history which is superior to the laws of history. "Heaven and earth will pass away; but my words will never pass away."
We always need to understand that the Life of Jesus Christ was not an “ordinary” life. It was miraculous that God chose to enter human history. According to Von Balthasar: Though these words have entered into history, they are actually the supports holding up heaven and earth and all transitory process. What we have here is the word as archetype, beginning (Jn 8:25), word from God, "upholding the universe by his word of power" (Heb 1:3); thus, too, the events of my life take place within this word. Here I am faced with true archetypes; but they are not in me: I am in them. Many of these events are explicit miracles, tangibly showing eternity breaking into time. But the Lord's words are no less miraculous, indeed for the contemplative they are even more so because, according to the Lord himself, they are a greater proof of the truth of his mission than the "works", which are intended more as a help to those who are slow to comprehend (Jn 10:36-38). The miracle of the word is its power over history, the sovereignty which, now as then, the eternal word itself manifests throughout all the changes of history. Throughout all its own transformations, moreover, it remains the same, one, unique word; it can undergo all the variations characteristic of time, including weakness, powerlessness and death, without losing anything of its divine supremacy. –Jim Nugent, CFP
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: THE GIFT OF LA VERNA
Followers of Saint Francis know that Mount La Verna (steps to La Verna pictured above) plays a big role in the life of Saint Francis. Not only did he frequently go there to pray in its wild solitude, but it was there that God impressed upon his body the sacred stigmata, the wounds of Christ. During this month of April, the Church celebrates the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. The wounds of Jesus are very much in our thoughts this month, and we marvel that He shared those wounds with Saint Francis who prayed to be conformed to Christ.
We may overlook the fact that La Verna was a gift to Francis, given to him and his Order by Count Orlando of Chiusi. Count Orlando lived at the foot of this rocky and starkly magnificent mountain and most likely often frequented it for hunting or just to be alone in its solitude. Yet, after hearing Francis preach at a knighting celebration, which Francis and Brother Leo essentially “crashed” (they were not invited but they wandered in when they heard about the festivities), he was so moved toward his own repentance that he offered Francis La Verna as alms toward Orlando’s salvation. In other words, giving up La Verna was a sacrifice great enough for Orlando to believe it would save his soul.
What does this say about Orlando’s love of La Verna? Surely, he must have struggled with the decision to part with the mountain, even though he knew that God was calling him to relinquish it to the friars. The count had no idea of what a huge role that mountain would play in God’s plan, but God knew.
Consider the Passion and Death of Christ. Our Lord’s apostles could not have possibly comprehended why Christ freely relinquished His life, and even after His Resurrection, they could hardly envision the spread of the Gospel throughout the world as it has been spread today. Yet God knew.
In this month of sacrifice and resurrection, what sacrifice might God be calling upon you to make? You will have no idea why He is asking this of you. But God knows. Give Him your La Verna, give Him your life, and let Him do what He wishes with your gift. The purpose of living the Rule of 1221 as a penitent is to get each of us to that point of total surrender. It is not going to be any easier for you than it was for Count Orlando or than it was for our Lord. But easiness of the giving is no measure of its value. Give, and more will be given to you. God is a generous Giver. He gives more back to us than we can possibly give to Him. This Easter season, thank God for the gift of Himself by giving Him yourself. You have nothing to lose except your fear, and everything to gain.
Have a blessed Holy Week and an Easter of great joy! Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
RULE: Chapter 1.5
5. They are not to go to unseemly parties or to shows or dances. They shall not donate to actors, and shall forbid their household to donate. (Note: in 1221, all plays were bawdy and mocked religion).
CONSTITUTIONS: In keeping with section 5 of the Rule:
5a. Attendance at immodest functions or events at which immodest or immoral behavior is exhibited or fostered, except to condemn such behavior, is forbidden. This would include movies, parties, plays, and so on.
5b. The penitent should avoid the near occasions of sin in all circumstances and should strive always to give good example to others.
REFLECTION: At the time the Rule was written, most parties, shows, dances, and plays were occasions of immoral behavior. Penitents were to avoid these. In today’s society, many parties, shows, dances, plays, movies, books, radio programs, and internet websites are immoral. Penitents, indeed, all Christians, are to avoid these. It is not only wrong but also risky to place oneself in a compromising situation where one could easily see, hear, or experience something morally sinful. Jesus told us to cut off our hand or pluck out our eye (speaking symbolically, of course) if one of these members caused us to sin. He was saying that anything that causes us to sin, no matter how vital it may seem, needs to be sacrificed for the greater good, the good of our soul. The Easter season is the perfect time to evaluate what we are letting influence our lives. Would we want the risen Christ to be part of our activities? If not, then this is the time to let go of those activities forever. God is more important than a so called “good time”, especially when that “good time” could lead us into sin which draws us farther from what is really a “good time” in eternity.
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM
The Confraternity of Penitents held its Life Pledged Chapter in April 2018. Below are photos of Life Pledged CFP members who attended.
Left to Right:
Joel Whitaker, CFP
Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Jim Nugent, CFP
Sandy Seyfert, CFP.
Left to Right:
Dianne Joslyn, CFP
Anne Fennessey, CFP
Lucy Fernandez, CFP
Diocesan Hermit Sr. Elizabeth Bridget Clare Hill
Sandy Lewis, CFP
Karen Sadock, CFP
Sue Brady, CFP
There are many things that can be seen only through eyes that have cried. St. Oscar Romero
No one heals himself by wounding another. St. Ambrose
At the end of our life, we shall all be judged by charity. -- St. John of the Cross
The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt. -St. Ambrose of Milan
A REMINDER ABOUT ANNUAL LENTEN DONATION TO THE CFP
The Confraternity of Penitents does not require any dues or financial support from its members. However, this does not mean that the CFP has no expenses. Once a year, during Lent, which is a traditional time of almsgiving, we remind our members of these ongoing expenses and ask your help, as you can give it. We thank those who have given in 2018. We are especially grateful to monthly donors. We can assist you in working with your bank to give a monthly donation of your choice to the CFP if that is your wish.
Our CFP Rule asks us to tithe. A tithe is 10% of our income which should be used, if we can afford it, to support our parishes, charitable groups in line with Church teaching, and the CFP. The following suggested tithe guidelines for the CFP were approved by the CFP Spiritual Advisor.
The CFP will not mandate any tithe for anyone. We do not feel that people should have to pay to do penance. However, we do have expenses including postage, printing, website and internet fees, utilities, rent, property upkeep, phone expenses, and so on. It is reasonable, of course, to expect that those who benefit from the CFP should support the CFP financially if at all possible. We thank especially those in the Alessandro Ministry who, as prisoners, have very little and yet many of whom send their widow’s mite to the CFP. May God bless them for their donations.
The suggested guidelines, approved by our Spiritual Advisor. should be within reach of most in the CFP. These guidelines are that postulants tithe a minimum of 0.25% of their yearly income to the CFP, Novice 1’s tithe a minimum of 0.50%, Novice 2’s tithe a minimum of 0.75%, and Novice 3’s and above tithe a minimum of 1% of their yearly income.
For example, if a CFP member makes $25,000 per year, the minimum suggested yearly tithe to the CFP would be: Postulant-- 0.25% of yearly income of $25,000 = $62.50; Novice 1-- 0.50% of yearly income of $25,000= $125.00 ; Novice 2 -- 0.75% of yearly income of $25,000 = $187.50 ; Novice 3 and above -- 1% of yearly income of $25,000 = $250.00 We sincerely thank you for considering these suggestions. Thanks so much for whatever you can give. And thank you most especially and above all your prayers.