Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT’S ADVICE: LOOKING WITH LOVE LIKE SAINT LAWRENCE OF BRINDISI
(This month’s column is written by Sister Karolyn Grace, a Poor Clare nun who is a spiritual assistant to the Fort Wayne, Indiana, chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents.)
At first glance, one might say that little is mentioned about the mother of Jesus in Sacred Scripture. Nothing could be farther from the truth in the eyes of the great Capuchin Franciscan St. Lawrence of Brindisi whose feast day is celebrated July 21.
St. Lawrence, one of the three Franciscan Doctors of the Church along with St. Anthony of Padua and St. Bonaventure, had an outstanding grasp of Sacred Scripture aided by his mastery of at least seven languages including Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. In his collected sermons, scholars have counted 52,000 quotes from Sacred Scripture. It was said that if the Bible were ever lost, St. Lawrence would be able to reconstruct it in its original languages from memory!
And these Scripture passages from the heart flood St. Lawrence’s recorded sermons on Our Lady which are now contained in Volume 1 of his complete works called Mariale. Our Franciscan Mariologist, looking from the perspective of God’s plan from the beginning to create Mary and to choose her as His Bride, delights to find references to Our Lady hidden all through the Old Testament anticipating her arrival. He cites as prefigurements of Mary the women matriarchs and heroines throughout the Old Testament, and he sees Mary as the ultimate fulfillment of the Song of Songs, the woman described in Proverbs, and other illusions in the Psalms. Finally, he proclaims Mary’s outstanding glory as described in the vision of the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation. From her humility and hiddenness, St. Lawrence serves to lift up Mary’s greatness so that she may be more loved and honored.
At this point, I think it merits a pause for reflection to consider how perhaps St. Lawrence of Brindisi himself has often been too quickly passed over in the remembrances of our Franciscan family. He lived between 1559 and 1619, but his vast amount of writings were not published until the 20th century. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on March 19, 1959, by St. John XXIII. As I share some more about the life and person of St. Lawrence, and hope you’ll also be inclined to think that, as St. Lawrence desired Our Lady to be more known and loved, our Lady just well may be inviting us to better know and love her devoted apostle as a powerful intercessor and enlightened father for our times.
St. Lawrence was graced with gifts from God at an early age. It was said that he preached his first sermon as a six-year-old as part of an Italian Christmas custom and that even then he moved his listeners to holiness. He entered the Capuchins at age 16. He excelled in obedience and humility while being quickly recognized for his intellectual genius. One of his lifetime ministries was preaching to the Jews in Hebrew. His gentle disposition, combined with his adept knowledge of Scripture, led to some conversions from among their number. St. Lawrence also was frequently called upon as a diplomat because of his gift for languages. During the years he served as the Minister General of the Capuchins and in other governmental positions, he walked on foot from friary to friary on visitations all over Europe, often covering 25 to 30 miles a day.
One of the most heralded events in his life surrounded by miracles occurred when he was serving as the chief chaplain in the Imperial Army. The Christian army was outnumbered four to one by the Muslims. The Archduke requested Lawrence to speak to his troops. The saint put his confidence in the Victory of Christ and rallied the soldiers by riding in front of them in the thick of battle holding high a crucifix. After God and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the field commander gave St. Lawrence credit for a miraculous victory.
What made this man such a fighter for God and his words and deeds? This “Apostolic Doctor,” as he is called, was trying to offer others a way to see as he did. St. Lawrence was often so wrapped in prayer at Mass that it would take hours for him to finish. His longest Mass was 16 hours on his last celebration of Christmas on earth.
St. Lawrence teaches us that we must let ourselves be guided by what we believe. For example, St. Lawrence even sets a firm foundation of a Josephology. In his writings, he proposes that primary in the Mind of God was what some scholars referred to as an “incarnational circle,” that is, that God willed first of all Christ, who would be conceived by His virgin mother Mary, and that she would be wedded to a virgin husband Joseph. Everything else in creation is subordinate to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (in that order), and this holy family would have existed even had Adam and Eve not sinned.
From this point of view, we can see how St. Lawrence would be moved to tears by simply seeing a mother and a child. He would see them as images of Mary and Jesus. We also sing the praises of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and recognize the dignity and glory that each of us are called to by God our Father. Let us look with Love like St. Lawrence! St. Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us! – Sister Karolyn Grace, PSSC, CFP Spiritual Assistant
References and Recommended Reading:
The Franciscan Book of Saints. Marion A. Habig, OFM, Franciscan Herald Press. Chicago IL, 1979
The 33 Doctors of the Church. Father Christopher Rengrs, OFM Cap. Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., Rockford IL, 2000.
Mariale, Opera Omnia, Vol. 1. Lawrence of Brindisi. Transl. Vernon Wagner, OFM Cap. Media House, Delhi, 2014.
THOUGHTS FROM CFP MEMBERS: DEEPER APPRECIATiON OF THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS (L0TH)
Most mornings (5am) start with the daily Mass readings (Lectio Divina) and contemplation. My morning food, then the nearest 7am daily Mass and Rosary. I am blessed to live in Houston; within 15 miles there are 4 Catholic Churches holding at least 2 daily Masses each and 3 perpetual Adoration chapels. Catholic Heaven!
Breakfast, lots of coffee, CFP prayers, LOTH. Some days I am more open after reading the word (Lectio Divina) and contemplation. I have a central message or thought. As I navigate my day the message stays with me reinforced by attending Mass. It would soon be forgotten if not for the LOTH. As I pray the hours, the message is embedded deeper into my heart. The psalms, readings and songs keep the message of the daily Mass reading flowing. What the lord said in the early morning to me, His words and peace, accompany me throughout the day.
LOTH is a church treasure. I have received far more than I ever hoped from this treasure. While performing tasks at home or serving in community or Church, the words that are needed to comfort others or myself rise from my heart as the Holy Spirit dispenses his graces. It truly sanctifies my day. I can hardly contain my excitement till our yearly retreat in October when we pray together the LOTH. – Patricia Davis, CFP
“A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God.” St. Faustina
NO GREATER LOVE: THE AVOIDANCE OF JUDGMENT
Even if we admit that the Word of God is our judge, there are many ways to evade this Judgement in our earthly lives. We need to realize that the Word comes to us from above us. We cannot look down on the Word as a geologist looks down on a rock to discover its type and origin. Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, in his book Prayer, tells us some of the ways we can evade judgement by the Word and how we can overcome these evasions.
Philologists and historians have a certain habit of mental reservation which can be inimical to contemplation. People who have spent a long time dissecting a text - as in an autopsy room - are in danger, to say no more, of being so taken up with the study of the internal mechanisms that they fail to pay attention to the very animating principle which has constructed all this equipment - but which is not reducible to it. Great theologians and masters of the spiritual life like Origen were able, through all their philological studies, to maintain the attitude of the praying lover who is aware of the divine dimensions of the word; indeed, they pursued the anatomy of the word precisely out of a reverent and ardent love for the Logos who has become man, who has become the letter of scripture. Only a philosophy of this kind is truly objective, i.e., it alone does justice to this unique and incomparable fact.
Von Balthasar warns us against thinking that scholars somehow have a more correct idea of scripture than persons who simply read the plain meaning of the text. But God's word is simple, lucid; we must not let the notion that scholarship has an entirely different (and far more correct) view of a particular text than we have, distract us from direct and docile contact with the word, without inhibitions, reservations and anxious second thoughts. If we listen obediently, we shall hear what the word wishes to say to us, and whatever else it may contain, it at least contains that. If the scholars are right (and how often the work of one biblical scholar has cancelled out that of others over the course of time!) they can only reveal more in the text than the simple, praying believer has already discovered there.
Theologian Von Balthasar also warns against avoiding the application of the Word of God to our own lives. His contemplation can range over matters of universally valid significance, and he may discover much that is both profitable and correct; he may even come across things, in his contemplation, which God had intended for him. But if he undertakes these wide-ranging flights in order to avoid the demanding face-to-face encounter with the word, his contemplation will be tainted with disobedience and he will not gather the intended fruit. He must look the word in the eyes, the Word who is Christ, who is addressing him (and who also speaks to him through the words of the Old Covenant and of the apostles). God allows us great freedom in prayer, but our spirit's gaze, our reason's reflections and the movements of our will must not deviate from the axis of obedience, even if we find it searingly and unbearably painful. The admonition of the Sermon on the Mount applies here, that before we go to pray, we must forgive our neighbor if we want to receive God's forgiveness (Mk 11:25; Mt 5:23-24). This "having something against" someone is the obstacle that the word must burn away if it is to be a reality in the soul. We may have "something" against our neighbor, against a particular brother or against our fellow men in general, but very often it can be something "against" God himself. It may be a grudge, a reservation, a withdrawal of confidence, a hidden resistance, and now, in this very contemplation, it is to be brought to light by the this very contemplation, it is to be brought to light by the word of God.
The Word of God does make specific moral demands on us. The teachings of many modern theologians make it possible to avoid the demands the Word makes upon us. Von Balthasar explains how we must approach the moral demands of the Word. Nowadays there is a lot of talk of situation ethics. There is no better way of seeing how serious we are about this than in the contemplative encounter with God's word. Here it is not primarily a question of ethical demands (although they do apply) but rather of a right attitude to Christ, of being docile and allowing ourselves to be convinced by him, for, under the forms of the sacred word, it is he who stands before us, offers himself to us and desires us for himself.
Precisely because it has to do with the very core of the person, contemplation must not get stuck at the peripheral level of mere moral considerations and decisions. We would be doomed to continual frustration and despair, for, with regard to the word, any "progress" we make is always overbalanced by a far greater weight of omission and failure. While the word in contemplation continually demands very definite and concrete life-decisions from us, such demands do not exhaust the confrontation. If this were the case, the man who had displayed an observable ethical obedience would be in a position to control his relationship with the word of God on the basis of "works". Ultimately, however, it is not a matter of isolated works but of a serious surrender of the person. It is a matter of love, which gives itself and gives up all calculation, and yet, precisely because it is in earnest, is very serious about putting it into practice. Kneeling and praying here, I am meant to feel the summons addressed to my love, not to some kind of moral accounting system. It is only in Person-to-person love, the love of the divine Person (i.e., a judging love) for the human, sinful and hence 'judged" person, that man can really submit to the judgment of the word. In this unique relationship between two unique, irreplaceable persons - man cannot take refuge in general abstractions and validities. The Lord wants “everything” from us. No matter how much we obey Him, we can always obey Him more.
While we need to repent of our sins, Von Balthasar distinguishes between “godly” and “worldly” grief. We must carefully distinguish the two forms of "grief", the "godly" and the "worldly": godly grief "produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret" whereas worldly grief brings only "death". Such "death" is dangerously close in those who, confronted with the judging word, manifest a dejected resignation, accepting condemnation passively without courage. Its opposite, the proper response, is a form of love, however it may express itself: "For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment!" (2 Cor 7:9-11).
Von Balthasar explains how we should have fear. We do not fear the Lord as an arbitrary tyrant, but as one whom we fear to offend since He has loved us to the fullest on the cross. The lover will know best of all that, if he looks at himself, if he examines himself by the pure light of the Beloved, he has every reason to fear. The lover will not indulge in theoretical speculations about the fiducia contained in faith; he will not discourse upon God's grace which outweighs his sin and thus renders real fear superfluous. Love will discern in the cross the exact reflection of his vast and terrible guilt: "My flesh trembles for fear of thee" (Ps 118:120). ……. Thus the fact that I "have nothing to accuse myself of" can be ambivalent: it may indicate that my conscience judges things by very crude and even imperceptibly falsified standards, compared with God's word. If this is how things stand, is it not natural that man should yearn for true judgment, a final and correct judgment by the word of God - hoping all the time that he may survive this judgment, yet by the Lord's mercy and not through his own deserving?
We need to let the Word of God draw us away from our own worldly evaluation of morality. Von Balthasar gives us some examples of how the Word of God does this. For example, he comes across the passage in which Paul urges the Philippians to bear with one another and to renounce quarreling and ambition, and humbly to esteem others more highly than themselves. Any sage might have said as much. But Paul goes on to show the link between this attitude of mind and God's emptying himself unto death on the cross, and he challenges each individual to "have this same mind" (Phil 2). Or there is the teaching of John the Disciple, for instance, who says that we should love the brotherhood: this too can be seen to be rooted in man's nature and conscience. But the very next sentence says that the man who hates his brother is a murderer like Cain, and that if a man loves his brother, he knows God, for God is love: here again the exalted, consuming element is brought out. This, then, is how the word of God draws a man into the truth: it opens up to him a world of love in which he feels at ease, which he is bound to acknowledge to be utterly right and suitable, to be most desirable. If he desires to stay there, however, his heart will be swept and purged to its innermost core. – Jim Nugent, CFP
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: WHAT WILL IT TAKE?
As I sat across from my husband Sunday morning at a restaurant after Mass, the opportunity once again presented itself to try to explain the CFP life I have tried to live for some five years now. I know it sounds unfathomable that two people married 44 years could be so distant, that one would not care to understand the other's deepest desires, but that is my reality. My husband has many good qualities, and I love him very much, but, when it comes to Faith, I have yet to understand what he thinks and feels. He goes to Mass with me but does not go to Communion (Thank God) as he doesn’t believe in the Real Presence. He has never been willing to “ Go too deep” in what he actually does believe. He seems to have a belief in eternity and God himself but finds it hard connect Christ and salvation to his life. I believe he has no idea of why Christ died for us much less what is needed for salvation. He has a hard time understanding suffering and its value, and he questions why God allows suffering in our lives. I get so frustrated with his lack of desire to learn and know the Catholic Faith. When we were dating, he went to Communion. But at that time, I confess, my Faith was shallow. I had a conversion in college but was still finding out what that meant to me when we met. I am glad he willingly goes to Mass and that two of the three children we have live a Catholic life. Praise God! However, our son unfortunately considers himself more Atheist than Agnostic. It breaks my heart.
So what does one do in such circumstances? I know many others deal with similar trials. I have literally adopted Saint Monica as my intercessor. I feel, like her, that it is going to take many years for my son and husband to come back to at least the basics of faith. I want to be a witness but you know how it is -- they see the good, the bad, and the ugly in me and ignore what I do most of the time if they think it even sounds like something associated with religion. And so I keep on my path as a vowed member of the Confraternity. I know this life of prayer and sacrifice will not be wasted in their regard. It is a mother's job to see that her children and spouse get to heaven, and I fail in many ways, but I pray for the grace needed to keep trying, and I thank Christ for being a Merciful God.
What a gift we have in this life to earn merit in the next for ourselves and those we love! I couldn’t do it alone. The CFP has been a life line to keeping me prioritized with prayer and sacrifice. The formation and structure are my life. When I see how hard it is to convey the truths of the Faith to those I love, I confess that sometimes I feel it is impossible to make a difference. Then I remember that it is NOT ME! It is the Holy Spirit and I just need to do what I can and trust that he will take it from there. --Sandra, CFP
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP: PRAYER PILLOWCASES
The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop offers many styles of prayer pillowcases for 14.95 plus shipping. These make beautiful gifts to give someone who has everything, so think ahead to Christmas. Pillowcases offer familiar prayers like the Hail Mary and Our Father and others feature saints such as Kateri Tekakwitha, Francis of Assisi, the Blessed Mother, and Saint Michael the Archangel. Water-based ink that is CPSIA compliant. 20" x 31" Poly-Cotton case fits standard and queen-sized pillows. CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803. Full selection on line at cfpholyangels.com Your purchased goes to support the Confraternity of Penitents in its mission to spread the message of penance (conversion) worldwide. May God bless you.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: THINGS FRANCIS NEVER DREAMED OF: EUTHANASIA AND ASSISTED SUICIDE - NEITHER WISE NOR SAFE
Nobody of reasonable age and intelligence would dive into water of an unknown depth without first checking for safety, determining depth and assuring the absence of rocks or other potentially dangerous obstacles. Diving into eternal life by choosing to die through euthanasia or assisted suicide is far more perilous than diving into unknown waters because God expressly warns us against doing this in the Ten Commandments, other Bible scriptures and in the teachings of Jesus Christ and His "Catholic" (which means "Universal" or "For Everyone") Church so it is infinitely dangerous and unwise. All people's lives are important and valuable. Yes, that means everyone-- rich or poor, powerful or powerless, happy or suffering, born or preborn, seemingly 'perfect' or visibly disabled, especially those who are weakest and most powerless. No matter what, we are ALL important and loved and vital to God, and this includes our prayers, works, joys and sufferings which are vital for ourselves and for our family members who may not understand that suffering can bring grace to themselves and others. We cannot just do these things; we have to just accept each day as it comes and give thanks to God for His grace and mercy each day! Every moment of life is a gift, and even suffering turns sweet if you turn to our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Even pains are treasures!
"Remember that we shall soon quit this world, and then all the past will seem to us like a short dream, and we shall see that it is better to have labored than to have rested here. Learn how to profit by your sorrows, for they bring great riches to the soul. They cleanse it from past sin; what fire is to gold, that tribulation is to the just man, whose heart it purifies. Trials only injure the wicked, for instead of being grateful to God they murmur against Him. Their punishment does them no good, because they turn their sufferings into sins, and so lose where they might have gained, earning hell by painful labour. Do not imitate them, but let your courage increase with your trials. God proves His sons by sorrow, and no one will be crowned but that he has been through combat. St. James says: Blessed is the man who endureth temptation, for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life (Jms. 1:4), which God promises to those who love Him. If only we realized the value of this crown, how gladly should we now suffer affliction! Would that we understand how blessed both now and hereafter, are the tears we shed in this life. Live here as a stranger, your body on earth, but your heart above, so that when our Lord calls you, He may not find you sleeping, but ready to go with Him, and to hear the sweet words: Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord (Mt. 25: 21)."
It is infinitely wiser and safer to dive into communion with God, heed the Ten Commandments, and follow the teachings of Jesus, Who is the Eternal Word of God and Who loves you and all of us infinitely and has plans to help prosper us if we but listen to Him and follow His Way which is clearly revealed to us in the New Testament of the Bible and through His Catholic Church! In this Way we can work together with God to first remove spiritual dangers in our lives and afterlives and assure that we will reach the Eternal Shores of unending Heavenly Happiness!
Promoting euthanasia and assisted suicide (AS) on an elderly, ill or disabled person is like pushing them out of an airplane window without a parachute - it's not a good plan at all, it's not loving, caring, kind or compassionate. Euthanasia and AS "parties" are being promoted for unsuspecting elders and these 'celebrations' of life and death are against God's Will and therefore infinitely unwise - the beginning of wisdom is the holy love and fear of God, who loves us all and only wants what is best for us. –Suzanne Diamond, CFP Friend
“Love Him totally, who gave Himself totally for your love.” -- “Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal. Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world, which passes like a shadow. Do not let false delights of a deceptive world deceive you.” ― St. Clare of Assisi
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM: CFP RETREAT 2018 PHOTOS
Lynn Frederick (Novice 1) (Indiana), Sandy Seyfert, CFP (Indiana), Patricia Davis, CFP (Texas)
CFP RETREAT 2019
October, Wed. Oct 9 through Sunday, Oct. 13. $195 plus $15 donation toward food, paper goods for over night stays. Commuters: $60 plus $15 donation toward food, paper goods. St. Felix Retreat Center, Huntington IN. Reservations being taken now by calling 260-739-6882 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, retreat master. More information on this link.
Jan Scher (CFP Friend), Julia Kanakares (Iowa) –CFP Retreat 2018 ------------->
A Jesuit, a Dominican, and a Franciscan were walking along an old road, debating the greatness of their orders. Suddenly, an apparition of the Holy Family appeared in front of them, with Jesus in a manger and Mary and Joseph praying over him.
The Franciscan fell on his face, overcome with awe at the sight of God born in such poverty.
The Dominican fell to his knees, adoring the beautiful reflection of the Trinity and the Holy Family.
The Jesuit walked up to Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, “So, have you thought about where to send him to school?”
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
RULE: CHAPTER III: FASTING
9. They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day until Christmas, and throughout the greater fast from Carnival Sunday* until Easter.
9. In keeping with section 9 of the Rule: 9a. Penitents are to observe a pre-Christmas fast from November 12, the day after the Feast of St. Martin, until Christmas and a pre-Easter fast from Ash Wednesday until Easter.
9b. Penitents who are guests in the homes of others, or who have been invited out to eat, are permitted to eat what is set before them so as not to embarrass the host unless that day is a day of fast and/or abstinence enjoined by the Church. Penitents might consider not accepting invitations to eat out on Church enjoined days of fast and abstinence.
9c. Sundays are never days of fast or abstinence.
9d. Penitents should not fast or abstain on any of the Church Solemnities. These include the Octave of Christmas, the Feasts of New Year's, Epiphany, Annunciation, the Octave of Easter, the Feasts of the Ascension, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and all other Solemnities of the Church. With reference to the fasting and abstinence provisions of this Rule, those in the Confraternity of Penitents also observe as a Solemnity August 22, the Queenship of Mary, which is the date on which, in the year 2003, the Confraternity of Penitents was refounded.
9e. Penitents are permitted to celebrate with between meal snacks birthday parties, anniversaries, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and other special occasions unless these would fall on a fast day enjoined by the Church.
Fasting is prayer of the body, a sacrifice to be made unless the Church is celebrating or the penitent is invited to a celebration. Penitents need to know when to do penance and when to celebrate with joy! Read these provisions carefully to know when to fast and when to join in the feasting. Thanks be to God for the charity of our Rule of Life.
*The Sunday before Ash Wednesday.