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Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter

December 2019

REMINDER: Fast of St. Martin-November 12 through December 24. See CFP Rule and Constitutions for guidelines. All CFP Novice 3 members and pledged members are to observe this fast unless excused for health reasons. Others should observe this season in some way, perhaps by giving alms, praying more, doing works of mercy. Have a blessed Fast of St. Martin! And then have a holy and joyous Christmas! Every day of the Octave is a little Christmas with no fasting or abstinence! Let us praise God in His littleness at Christmas.


A liturgical new year is upon us! It’s that joyful time of year when we make that transition back to an endearingly small, possibly blue, first volume of the four volume breviary set designated for the Advent and Christmas seasons. At the beginning of this volume, you’ll see the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours. Yes, Mother Church has written us directions on how to go about this holy work of God known as the Divine Office! For any of us to make time for the Liturgy of the Ours or anyone who is considering doing so, the start of a new year, like this, is a great time to read or reread the General Instruction. Beyond the helpful directives and explanations given, there are presented the deeper meaning and spiritual realities that make this prayer is so important.


I also appreciate some words from Blessed Paul VI who describes the Liturgy of the Hours as a “kind of necessary complement to the fullness of divine worship that is contained in the Eucharistic sacrifice, by means of which that worship might overflow to reach all the hours of daily life.”[1] This surely speaks to the heart of a nun, but can’t all of us since this thrust for a need for Mass to penetrate every bit of our day? As we begin Advent, perhaps we can ask ourselves how are we letting the public prayer of the Church (both Holy Mass and the Divine Office) draw us deeper into prayer and transformation?

Here I would like to offer three paradoxes sprung from considering the words offered to us in the upcoming Advent liturgy that may help to focus our spiritual gaze.

The urgency of our waiting. “Hurry up and wait!” This military phrase pales before our Advent liturgical dilemma. Let’s look at these phrases from the first two collect prayers for Mass during the Advent season. “Grant your faithful, we pray, Almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ . . . “ and “Keep us alert, we pray, O Lord our God, as we await the advent of Christ your Son, so that, when he comes and knocks, he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.”

Oh, how we must hurry to prepare for Christ. Our consumer society has the urgency part of all this down, but what if our Advent wreath candles were being lit for the second coming of Our Lord? Do we expect Christ to come? Do we really want Him to come? The bell in the monastery I live in rings at 2 AM to tell the sisters to get up to . .  . Yes, wait. Vigils are about waiting. But the best things are worth waiting for. Are we eager to pray? Are we waiting on Him in expectation?

Someone who poignantly drags out the agony of this waiting even more is St. Anselm. He is given the Office of Readings second reading slot on Friday, Week 1, and the whole reading is a constant groaning that “I was made in order to see You, and I have not yet done that for which I was made.”

The dignity of humility. As we absorb again the gift of the new translation of the Roman Missal used at Mass, we may be struck by its language which is both intimate and reverent. Paradoxically, the more we humble ourselves before our Creator, the more we are aware of the dignity He has bestowed upon us. For example, let’s look at the collect prayer from Tuesday of the third week of Advent: “Oh God, who through your Only Begotten Son, have made us a new creation, look kindly, we pray, on the handiwork of your mercy, and, at your Son’s coming, cleanse us from every stain of the old way of life.”

Of course, Our Lady understood this key of humility like no other. She was chosen to be the Mother of God. But what does she do? She serves. She calls herself a handmaid. When we pray, are remembering our dignity? Are we mindful of God’s dignity?

The beauty of hiddenness. “Like the sun in the morning sky, the Savior of the world will dawn; like rain on the meadows he will descend to rest in the womb of the Virgin, alleluia.” Brother Sun is the first creation image in this Antiphon for the Canticle of Zachariah on December 19. Our holy father St. Francis knew well the beauty of creation and how the sun rays communicate God. And yet he received the grace to find God hidden in a leper’s disfigured features. God loved us so much that he became one of us. This is the “advent” we are waiting for. And in the coming of Jesus, His beauty touches ever what is most small or most fragile.

May our lives take up the refrain of what we pray in our liturgies this new year. And, as Caryll Houslander so describes Christ growing in Mary, may Christ grow in us: “She had nothing to give Him but herself. He asked for nothing else. She gave Him herself. Working, eating, sleeping, she was forming His body from hers . . . Breaking and eating the bread, drinking the wine of the country, she gave Him His flesh and blood; she prepared the Host for the Mass.”[2]

--Sister Karolyn Grace, PSSC, Spiritual Advisor to Our Lady, Cause of Our Joy, CFP Chapter


[1] Blessed Paul VI. Apostolic Constitution Promogalion. The Divine Office Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Counsel. November 1, 1970.

[2] Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God.

Our Rule, Our Future Update -- Fully Tax deductible

CFP Future Volunteer House:

Contracted with insulator to install and increase insulation.

Sheet rocker contracted to replace sheet rock over outer walls to be insulated.

Mary’s Glen Chapel:

Renderings completed. See elsewhere in this newsletter.

Purchase of CFP Administrative Headquarters

3 sections of fence blown down in wind storm. Will require a few hundred dollars to replace.

Politician on Poduim

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.

--- The problem with political jokes is they get elected.

-- We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

-- If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these State of the Union speeches, there wouldn't be any inducement to go to heaven.

-- Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

-- Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.

-- Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.

-- We'd all like to vote for the best man, but he's never a candidate.



Understanding the two poles of created reality, essence and existence, helps us in our contemplation of scripture.  Essence deals with what something is, whereas existence has to do with the fact that this essence is really there, it’s very being.  Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, in his book Prayer, guides us in recognizing the two poles of essence and existence in scripture and see how contemplation of essences leads to direct adoration (existential contemplation). It is worthwhile reading the Gospel of John with this in mind. In all its major scenes we are shown the breakthrough from contemplation (an attitude which is somehow preliminary and neutral, as is appropriate to its abstract content, provisional, reserved and even distant) to direct adoration, at the point where truth suddenly moves toward the person contemplating and overwhelms him, not from outside but from inside, since Truth is a Person. Even the Prologue of John's Gospel depicts this movement: first of all the Word is with God; it is the absolute ground of everything in the world. But then it "comes", approaches the world, approaches man; it becomes flesh and thus can be encountered directly "among us", bringing grace upon grace out of its "fullness" and so showing itself to be the Word of the Father whom no one has seen. Von Balthasar then points out several instances in John’s Gospel where an encounter with Jesus leads to adoration (existential contemplation). 


An example of this is where the Apostle Nathanael encounters Jesus and ends up saying “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:49) Another example, among many others, occurs when Jesus restores the sight of the man born blind. At the end of the episode, Jesus asks the man He had cured if he believed in the Son of Man.  The man then asks Jesus who he is, and Jesus tells him “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” (Jn 9:37).  The cured man ten says “‘Lord, I believe’; and he worshipped him.” (Jn 9:38).  In both the encounter of Jesus with Nathanael and the man born blind, learning about Jesus (essential encounter) leads to worship (existential encounter).


Von Balthasar tells us that these two poles of tension (essence and existence) do not only occur in John’s Gospel, but in the others as well.  It is worthwhile to look at some examples. In chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel, we learn that Zechariah and Elizabeth had no children since Elizabeth was barren.  Since they were both advanced in years, they probably had stopped having sexual intercourse.  However, the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah and told him to resume sexual intercourse. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call him John. (Lk 1:13) Gabriel gave Zechariah an existential revelation that he who was childless would have a son.  However, what does this mean?  Gabriel quickly answers the question.  “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”  (Lk 1:14-17).  Gabriel gave Zechariah an essential revelation about who his son John would be.  He would be John the Baptist.  John existed as John the Baptist from the very moment of his conception in the “barren” womb of Elizabeth.  The poles of existence and essence are quite evident here.  When John was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, people wanted to name him Zechariah after his father, but both Elizabeth and Zechariah make an existentialist declaration about John.  “But his mother said, ‘Not so; he shall be called John.’ And they said to her, ‘None of your kindred is called by this name.’ And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they all marveled.” (Lk 1:60-63)


Mary also gets an existential and essential revelation from Gabriel. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever.” (Lk 1:30-33) The human Jesus was the Christ from His Conception.  We cannot separate the existential revelation from the essential revelation.  In other words, we cannot separate who Jesus Christ is from what He did. The Man Jesus was the Christ from the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary.


In addition, Gabriel also gives Mary Divine Revelation about herself.  The first sentence of the “Hail Mary” prayer reads “Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee.”  This first sentence comes from Gabriel’s initial communication to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Lk 1:28) Gabriel addresses her as Mary a little later (Lk 1:30), but here her name is omitted.  It seems as though “full of grace” is her title.  It is easy to understand why Mary was “troubled” by this greeting.  “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” (Lk 1:29) Being “full of grace” was an existential revelation.  It did not just reveal something about Mary, it revealed who she was.  Christian theology says that “full of grace, the Lord is with you” means that Mary was full of the Holy Spirit.  If John was the Baptist from his conception and the man Jesus was the “Son of the Most High” from conception, it is reasonable to suppose that Mary was also full of the grace or the Holy Spirit from conception.  We should notice that John the Baptist was “filled” with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:15) whereas Mary was “full” of grace, the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:28).  According to a footnote to the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Pope Pius IX used this Annunciation narrative to support the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. Gabriel gave Mary an existential revelation about her very being, but then explains the meaning of it when he tells her what is to happen (essential revelation).


We need to realize that not every existential encounter leads to adoration. At the trial of Jesus before the Jewish leaders we read: “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ And the high priest tore his clothes, and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?’ And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards received him with blows. (Mk 14:61-65)


The essential and existential poles need to be together but can come in either order.  The essential can come first as in the case of Nathanael and the man born blind, but the existential revelation can also come first as it was with Zechariah and Mary as well as St. Paul when he was knocked from his horse on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).  Von Balthasar warns against the danger of falling away from prayer and the love which nourished that prayer after we have had an existential encounter of adoration and worship with the Lord.  It is easy to prefer to keep our prayer at the essential level and not risk an existential encounter. We must include both poles in our prayer.   Von Balthasar tells us that …….. the endless interplay between "essential" and "existential" thinking and praying is something ongoing. Each pole is indispensable, since God wants to approach and treat man as a partner. Adoration by itself, without the effort on the part of the reason to accept and digest the word, would tend toward mere servility; and if we merely reflect upon revealed truth with our reason and try to match its power with our will, we will be misconstruing God's fundamental purpose, which is to disclose himself to man in every way that he can. The dynamic rhythm flowing between the two poles makes contemplation into a fellowship with God in which, through worship, man's spirit is liberated, resulting in an ever more profound, adoring participation in God's own freedom. Even if we come to a genuine existential worship and adoration, we can never be satisfied with that. We must continually seek fellowship with the Lord because He always has more to give up. – Jim Nugent, CFP



Luke 2:13-14  "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."



We profoundly thank our architect, who wishes to remain anonymous, for his renderings of the proposed Prayer Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii for Mary’s Glen, behind our CFP headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA. If the Lord sees fit to send $65,000 our way, we will build this chapel to meet city code, to replace the one which the city would not approve. Our pro bono architect, who works with commercial code, tells us that this chapel will have no problems being approved. The windows overlook Mary’s Glen. Please pray that the Lord bring in the funds to construct this chapel, if He wills.

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CFOP Penitents - Chapel (1).jpg


I read somewhere that Mary gave birth to Jesus in her heart before she physically gave birth to him. What a beautiful thought! As a mother, I know this to be true. We mothers spend nine months living with and growing with the new life within us. Think of Mary as she came to know and love the child in her womb as her Lord-- how incomprehensible it must have been!


Advent is a perfect time to think about this and do the same in our hearts. One of the best ways is to go to Scripture and focus on the Nativity narratives of Matthew or Luke. Take each chapter and let one verse speak to you. Then do a little lectio divina on it. It will penetrate your heart in a deep way, allowing you to internalize what God is saying in it and, through it, to your heart.


Sometimes an Advent companion book or the Magnificat are good tools, but going directly to Scripture is better. Each time you meditate on Scripture, visualize putting straw in the Christ child’s crib. If you actually can put straw into his crib in preparation for Christmas, so much the better. Let’s see how soft becomes the bed you can make for the Christ child.


Come, Lord Jesus, come! – Sandy Seyfert, CFP, Ministerial Assistant



For St. Francis, Christmas was the ultimate holiday. Christmas showed Francis Who Jesus was. He imagined a fabulously wealthy and powerful king relinquishing everything and coming to earth as a poor, helpless baby. Because he had sought riches and power as a young man, Francis could appreciate what God gave up in becoming a mere mortal. The great humility of God who came to earth as a babbling baby overwhelmed Francis with love. If God could do such a thing, out of love for the human race, out of love for Francis, then what might Francis do to show how much he loved God?


St. Clare was also touched by the humility of God who made himself man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. She wrote to Saint Agnes of Prague, “Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the Virgin’s womb, willed to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that men who were in dire poverty and great need of heavenly food might be made rich in him.”


St. Anthony of Padua, a contemporary of Francis and Clare, was also astounded by the humility of God made man. He wrote, “Christ Jesus, you conquered the pride of the evil one by the humility of your incarnation: Grant also to us to shatter the chains of pride and arrogance by the humility of our heart, so that we may be worthy of the gift of your glory. With your help who are blessed from age to age. Amen.”

All three of these saints, who lived at the same time, were following in the footsteps of Jesus, the God became man. Each of them had come from a wealthy background and had chosen to relinquish their wealth in order to follow the poor Christ. Their poverty was not limited to material things, although each of them lacked material things. They strove to imitate the spiritual poverty of God who did not cling to his Godhead but who assumed fragile human flesh as an infant in Bethlehem, and who, upon the cross at Calvary, assumed the sinfulness of mankind in order to redeem us whom he had created.


Francis, Clare, and Anthony meditated on God made man, power made weakness, glory made rejection, beauty made plainness, infinite knowledge made a babbling baby. As we place the infant Jesus into the crib this Nativity, let us look beyond the plaster imitation of the infinite Lord and think about who He is and who we are. May the Lord increase our self-awareness and our God-awareness this Christmas. A blessed Advent and a holy Christmas to you. – Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP



RULE: 12. All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins[1], Prime[2], Terce[3], Sext[4], None[5], Vespers[6], and Compline[7]. The clerics are to say them after the manner of the clergy. Those who know the Psalter are to say the Deus in nomine tuo (Psalm 54) and the Beati Immaculati (Psalm 119) up to the Legem pone (Verse 33) for Prime, and the other psalms of the Hours, with the Glory Be to the Father; but when they do not attend church, they are to say for Matins the psalms the Church says or any eighteen psalms; or at least to say the Our Father as do the unlettered at any of the Hours. The others say twelve Our Fathers for Matins and for every one of the other Hours seven Our Fathers with the Glory Be to the Father after each one. And those who know the Creed and the Miserere mei Deus (Ps. 51) should say it at Prime and Compline. If they do not say that at the Hours indicated, they shall say three Our Fathers.

CONSTITUTIONS: SECTION 12. In keeping with section 12 of the Rule:

12a. Prayer is the core of growth in a life with God. Penitents must be committed to a life of prayer as outlined in this Rule. More prayer than what is listed, including daily mental prayer, meditation, and contemplation, is encouraged. 

12b. One must adjust one's schedule to make time to pray. Extraneous activities that do not foster prayer life should be dropped. However, prayer must not interfere with daily duties such as caring for family members, keeping house, or earning a living. Penitents may have to pray during the night, while driving, while doing house or yard work, and so on. Playing tapes of spiritual conferences or sacred music and hymns while working or driving may help. A pocket sized New Testament or Psalter may be carried so that the penitent can seize a few moments of prayer and meditation while waiting in line, waiting on hold on the phone, and so on. 




Constitutions 12a and 12b give the reason for the emphasis on prayer in the original Rule. If we want to grow in our life with God, we need to pray. The Rule makes us take time to do that. Constitutions 12b tells us that making time to pray with God and to God is not automatically easy to do. We have to adjust our schedule in order to make time to pray. Constitutions 12b lists some tips on praying continuously as much as possible. Is it possible to pray too much? Not if we make our work into a prayer, not if we offer up our work as a prayer. We can even offer our sleep up as a prayer so that our whole day, all 24 hours of it, is really offered to God as a prayer. Whether or not we are consciously thinking of God at every single moment is not so important as having offered up to him at the beginning of the day our every single moment.


The Christmas readings tell us that Mary pondered all of these things and kept them in her heart.  This type of pondering is meditative prayer at its best. God will send certain people and circumstances into our lives that make us ponder. May we see God in these people and circumstances and  ponder the lessons he is trying to teach us through them. This pondering can be part of the time we spend in prayer as CFP members.


[1] Office of Readings

[2] Early Morning Prayer

[3] Midmorning Prayer

[4] Midday Prayer

[5] Midafternoon Prayer

[6] Evening Prayer

[7] Night Prayer

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CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop is offering a FREE Prayer Pillowcase (our choice, but it will be lovely) for every $35 donation made toward the building of the Prayer Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii, in Mary’s Glen. Please complete the following form and mail it with your tax-deductible donation to Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA. 

Ship to Name:

Ship to Address



$35 donation  (1 pillowcase will be sent)
$70 donation (2 pillowcases will be sent)
$105 donation (3 pillowcases will be sent)
We have a limited number of Spanish pillowcases. If you would prefer a Spanish text, please indicate your choice here. We will attempt to accommodate your choice as long as supplies last.________

Have a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas! Let us pray for all those who have no one to pray for them! God reward you!

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