Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter -- February 2019
SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT’S ADVICE: BE WHO YOU ARE
(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.)
Be who you are. God is not impressed by what we do for vainglory.
Remember that there are four legs to a relationship. Loyalty. Empathy. Generosity. And self-sacrifice. These show that we belong to each other. A table can stand if one of the four legs is missing, but it is unsteady and will collapse under pressure. If two of the legs are missing, the table cannot stand. These four legs of the table indicate that we belong to one another.
Remember St. Paul’s writing about the Body of Christ. We belong to one another. It does not matter what part of the body we are; without exception, each of us is important to help support the others. We should want one another to do well just as we should try to be the best person who we can be so that we can support one another.
The gifts of God are not something we choose. We need to take and remember in humility that God has given these to us. We cannot love God or one another without humility. We will be asked to account for the use of our gifts. How do we use them to help one another? Empathy is when you can enter into someone else’s experience because you have experienced it yourself. Sympathy is when you can understand another but have not experienced what they are experiencing. I can try to place myself in your experience, but I have not experienced it. Yet, in my love for you, I can sympathize with what you are feeling and support you.
God calls for union, not fusion. When things are fused together, they do not retain their own identity. God wants us to remain ourselves but to understand one another. Each of us is unique, and our gifts are given for the common good. When we are generous, we express our love to one another and freely give love to each other. When we are generous, we give even if we don’t feel like it.
Loyalty is a type of love. But the highest love is agape, the love that crucifies itself for the other. It is a passionate love of God that is willing to sacrifice for the Beloved. It is the love that is ready to love the other person without asking love in return. This love comes because of the Holy Spirit. It is the highest type of loyalty.
Empathy, loyalty, and generosity all lead to self-sacrifice. We are willing to give of ourselves for the other. The perfect model of this is Jesus.
Empathy. Loyalty. Generosity. Self-sacrifice. They all help build the body of Christ. Therefore, we must be who we are for God’s sake and for one another. The litany of humility is a beautiful litany to pray but not if you don’t love yourself yet. A false humility shows itself as self-hatred. True humility is not taking what would rightfully be ours. Before you give yourself as a gift to someone else, you need to possess yourself.
--Sister Stella Francis, PSSC
HUMOR: BAD HEADLINES (These actually ran in newspapers)
Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter (Really?)
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says (Ya don’t say!)
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers (Isn’t that taking things too far?)
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS PHOTO ALBUM: THREE HOLY DEATHS
BISHOP ROBERT MULVEE—MAY HE REST IN PEACE
Bishop Robert Mulvee, who first gave us his informal permission to live and gently promote our Rule of Life in 1998, passed away on December 28, 2018. Please pray for the repose of his soul. Even though he was not a member of the Confraternity of Penitents, you may also wish to pray 50 psalms for him, which we pray for deceased members within 8 days of their death. May God bless you for your prayers for Bishop Mulvee.
PAULINE L’HEUREAUX – CFP ASSOCIATE, NOVICE 1. MAY SHE REST IN PEACE.
Pauline, who was from Harrisville RI USA, passed away at the age of 87 on Saturday, January 19. Pauline was a wife and mother who had been involved in the Charismatic Renewal for over 30 years and was also involved with music ministry in her Catholic parish. Pauline was also a prolife coordinator and lector for St. Theresa’s Shrine and a Missionary with the Missionaries of the Poor int Kingston, Jamaica.
NANCY MYER, OFS and CFP AFFILIATE MAY SHE REST IN PEACE (died 1/21/19)
Nancy was a CFP Associate whose formation was complete. A lively and engaging woman, Nancy was also formation director for her Secular Franciscan Fraternity. She had a great love for St. Francis, for world travel, for history, and for Native Americans. We thank God for her sisterhood.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: THE FRANCISCAN EXAMPLE OF NANCY JEAN MYER
CFP Associate Nancy Jean Myer passed away at the age of 86 on January 21, 2019. Nancy was a Secular Franciscan when she came to us, and she was buried as a Secular Franciscan, clothed in the habit which Secular Franciscans are permitted to wear for burial. Nancy completed formation with the Confraternity of Penitents, but when the Secular Franciscans required our members to choose between their Order or the Confraternity of Penitents, Nancy chose to stay with the Secular Franciscans because she was formation director and she felt that their local chapter would dissolve if she did not continue with it. However, she continued to attend CFP retreats and meetings as she had in the past, but as an associate who has completed formation.
Nancy was a generous soul in the spirit of St. Francis. One of our CFP members mentioned how she had commented on Nancy’s hat several years ago, and Nancy took it off her head and gave it to this member. And Nancy would not take it back. The member still has the hat in her house and thinks of Nancy every time she looks at it. The priest who gave the funeral homily mentioned that he had been on a pilgrimage with the Nancy, and they had visited an orphanage. When he saw her coming out without her coat, he reminded her to go back and get it. She told him, “They need it more than I do.” When Nancy had to move out of her apartment into senior housing, she donated all her furniture and possessions, other than those few she could take with her, to the Confraternity of Penitents. We are using those now and thinking of Nancy every time we sit in one of her chairs or use one of her tables or read one of her Bibles. The many books and videos she donated are being gradually sold online, with the proceeds going to the Confraternity. The Native American and African items which she had were donated to Catholic elementary schools to instruct the children. Nancy’s giving of her possessions reminds us of St. Francis who used to give away his cloak to people who had none, and this happened so frequently that the friars who accompanied Francis began to carry an extra cloak with them to replace the one Francis would probably give away.
Nancy, after a tough start in life, was a convert to the Catholic faith in her mid-30s. Therefore, she, made sure that her funeral was Catholic. She organized a Franciscan wake service, conducted by a deacon who was also a Secular Franciscan who knew Nancy. She selected the songs for her funeral Mass and had chosen a burial plot that overlooks a large lake. Since she loved nature so much, she must have been delighted with that spot. Her care and providing for her own funeral indicate her deep faith in Christ and the Catholic Church. In this way, she also resembles St. Francis who had an abiding faith in Jesus and the Church.
Nancy had an infectious smile and could regale anybody with a tale or two. She was not one to be hurried, as those who traveled with her know, so she was a good one at teaching patience to others. She could be stubborn, but her heart with golden and she prayed every day for all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Nancy was not perfect, but she recognized that and went on, trusting her imperfections to her Savior whom she loved.
Nancy, we will miss you. May you rest in peace. And please pray for us!
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
RULE: Chapter 1.3
Rule: 3. The sisters in turn shall wear an outer garment and tunic made of cloth of the same price and humble quality; or at least they are to have with the outer garment a white or black underwrap or petticoat, or an ample linen gown without gathers, the price of an ell of which is not to exceed twelve Pisa denars. As to this price, however, and the fur cloaks they wear a dispensation may be given according to the estate of the woman and the custom of the place. They are not to wear silken or dyed veils and ribbons.
: In keeping with section 3 of the Rule:
3a. All clothing and accessories must be modest and chaste. They must also be simple and inexpensive unless a dispensation is given according to the estate or employment of the person and custom of the place.
3b. Penitents should attempt to live as simply and inexpensively as possible according to their state in life. With the consent of their spouses and families, they are to have the minimum number of and least sophisticated appliances, furniture, furnishings, electronic aids, and vehicles as necessary. However, the following of this section of the Rule must not create more work or inconvenience for penitents or other family members.
Let’s rewrite this part of the Rule in current currency. Six Ravenna soldi was approximately equal to twelve Pisa denars. This would be the equivalent of $5.50 United States of America money in January 2019. An ell is one man's arm length, approximately 5/8 to 1 yard. A lady's undergarment required 2 1/2 ell, and an overlock (cape) 3 to 3 1/2 ell. A woman's dress might require 10 ell. By today’s monetary standards, penitents would have to select cloth that would be no more than approximately $5.50 per yard.
Consider these modern examples: a short sleeve woman’s blouse takes about 2 yards of cloth so would not exceed approximately $11 in cost; a long sleeve woman’s blouse takes about 2.5 yards of cloth so would not exceed approximately $13.75 to $14 in cost. These are inexpensive garments by today’s standards. Penitents might consider shopping on line or shopping at thrift stores for clothes that meet both the color requirements and cost requirements of the Rule. At thrift shops, they will find higher quality used clothing for lower prices.
Penitents should be aware that we live by the Constitutions which do not give monetary limits to our garments, but which ask that clothing be simple and inexpensive. Sometimes it is wiser to pay a bit more for a higher quality item that will last a long time rather than buy an inferior item which will soon have to be replaced.
Penitents should also attempt to live as inexpensively as possible regarding their possessions. The same holds true for those. It may be more cost effective in the long run to buy a slightly higher priced but basic appliance, for example, than an expensive one that soon needs repair or replacement.
What we wear and what we use should reflect our commitment to simplicity and poverty of life, according to our state in life. The Rule does not ask us to be paupers but to consider if we are spending wisely so that some money that we do not spend on ourselves or our needs can be given to the poor.
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: REFLECTIONS OF A POST ABORTIVE DAD
Below is an article I wrote recently (1/22/2019, National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn), for the National Catholic Register's "Letters to the Editor". I found my testimony in harmony with the latest plight of David Daleiden's legal battles (defending against Planned Parenthood/ACLU participating in predatory prosecution against Mr. Daleiden for his exposing their demonic practice of selling human baby body parts). This was written by Eric Welch, a member of the CFP Alessandro Prison Ministry and a third year Novice (Associate) with the Confraternity of Penitents. (NOTE: The post abortive dad in the photo is NOT Eric.)
Why a letter from federal prison? In another life I spent a decade (1997 to 2007) believing a living a lie. I drove my first wife to an abortion in 1996, just as I did for my college fiancée (a different person) in 1990. A "Gen-Xer," I lived the 1990's public policy of abortion as "backup birth control." Not only did I believe I had no say (which infected rationalizing my selfish support it), but also thought it was my "job" to sponsor the destruction of human life. Anger began to consume me.
I had taught band at the Catholic Schools in Lansing, Michigan, but quit because I could not look at families anymore. Anger turned to rebellion: I internalized the LIE of my generation: that sex, love, and procreation are separable, disparate things. Sex was "for entertainment purposes only." Rebellion turned to revenge on society.
I empathize with anyone reading this, thinking it incredulous that I did not understand or appreciate the deep effect the throwing away of my unborn children had on their mothers, or to myself. During that decade of decadence, I drank heavily, hired prostitutes, engaged in all types of disordered sexual behavior and even tried to hire an underage teen prostitute. This period contained both an arrest in 2000, and another in 2007 (for a fictitious teen prostitute, which included 16 images of "child" pornography).
I was in another relationship in 2001-2002 where I begged her to have our son, because by then I was opposed to abortion, but she refused, and he died. Afterward, I met a more graceful woman in 2002, almost too soon after these events and not knowing the extent of the harm still affecting me. We married in 2005 (by a justice of the peace) but had two painful miscarriages. This, along with impending poverty, caused a perfect storm of horrible coping mechanisms. I had been "alright" for a while, but those deaths took their toll on us both. Incapable of being there for my beautiful wife in her own life-changing pain, I engaged in the 2007 behavior, however brief it was. Though wounded herself she heroically stood with us.
Subsequently in late 2007 and Summer of 2009, we had two fascinating boys. Things started to heal after we moved to Wisconsin. But, even after "paying my debt" from the state sentence, the feds picked up the SAME case after two state officers violated the plea agreement, sending me to prison AGAIN ... this time for 14 years (or was it "Divine Justice?") It is an understatement to call it catastrophic. I attempted suicide after trial, but God had other plans: My first lifeline in prison was an amazing Priest in Marquette, Michigan: Father John Boyle (we are still writing. He is now at the Archdiocese of Portland).
Concerned friends knew I had been a practicing Catholic, and showed me remarkable resources from Lifedynamics.com, and Rachel's Vineyard. In those pages I read my own story. Disordered behaviors plagued the lives of men; men like me. What struck me was seeing people like Mikhail Gorbechev and his wife's abortion of their son, wounding them for decades. I have read, prayed, and confessed my way to healing, to reform. Under God's providence this helped me learn the root of those disordered beliefs and behaviors, facing them with God. It took about a decade of harm, and would take a decade more of healing, to treat what is known as "complex grief." (Grief that does not follow the Kubler-Ross grief cycle.) After a year of praying the Office and Rosary daily, I recall going to the prison psychologist two or three times wondering why I was crying every day.
My behavior wasn't CAUSED by Bi-Polar, or Mania, but rather I had been running from facing my sin and avoided grieving with Mary, who showed me her Son and introduced me to MY children in Heaven. "The kind of love that undoes one," as St. Teresa of Avila would say. My experience was total conversion and penance. While I am leaving out many of the positives, these things inspired me to "give a voice to the voiceless; to seek and help the hidden." I am grateful for the time to sort things out, talk with my sons every week, and help others with their legal problems. Since 2011, I've apprenticed, trained myself and took college classes while incarcerated, becoming a paralegal.
As a perfection-seeking, post-abortive father, image-management affected my past decisions. For example: two bachelor’s degrees, a P.E. license, and a Master Electrician license. Normal people don't over-achieve that much. Now, I write stories with characters and ideas from my 11 and 9 year-old sons, instead.
In any event, please read about David Daleiden's work. And Pray!! I gave some of my prison wages to Daleiden's cause, but I thought telling my story would help ignite other's hearts. I'm hoping my testimony calls attention to the need. Yours in Christ Jesus, with Mary and St. Joseph, your little brother, Eric
NO GREATER LOVE: CONTEMPLATING THE HOLY SPIRIT
The love relationship between the Father and the Son is certainly an important aspect of the Trinity. However, what does this have to with us? In order to participate in the Trinity, we need the Holy Spirit. In the book, Prayer, Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us more about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. But there is a further, entirely new dimension in God which is also brought out by the incarnation of the Son. It is something new; it is in no way a repetition or a by-product of the Father-Son relationship. It actually looks different. The Son always prays to the Father through and in the Spirit. We do not see him praying directly to the Holy Spirit, yet the Spirit is evident in his prayer. Perhaps, in the dullness of our eyes of faith, we would fail to see the Spirit in the Son if scripture did not expressly bring the fact to our notice. The Son is the prototype of those "who are led by the Spirit of God" (Rom 8:14). This Spirit comes down from the Father in visible form at the Son's baptism; i.e., he is the Spirit of the Father; but he is also present in the Son, impelling him in the most intimate manner to perform and utter deeds and words which are uniquely his; i.e., he is the Spirit of the Son. The Spirit appears so sovereign, so free, in the visible form of the Son's earthly life, that the Son's divine personality is absolutely clear to the believer. The obedience with which the Son performs the Father's will is not the obedience of a "serf" who carries out to the letter the orders of a feudal lord ---- the Son is far too free for that. But he is not "free" in the sense of the human arbitrariness which acts upon its own estimation of things. The freedom he displays does not exist anywhere else in the world: it quite evidently comes from God himself; it is the freedom which reigns between Father and Son. Even if we knew nothing of a third divine Person, we could only understand this freedom as coming simultaneously from the "Spirit of the Father" and the "Spirit of the Son", as the unity of both of them. Perhaps we could say that the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to know of and contemplate the Trinity. It was Jesus who told us of the Father who is Divine like Jesus but not the same as himself. However, God the Son became incarnate through the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35). The Holy Spirit was visible at the Baptism of Jesus in the form of a dove (Mk 1:9-11) and at the Transfiguration in the form of a bright cloud (Mt 17:5). We can know nothing of the Trinity apart from the Holy Spirit.
Of course, the Holy Spirit is Spirit. He is not a concrete physical object which we can look at and study. However, scripture does give us many concrete images of the Holy Spirit. Three common images are water, fire, and wind. Theologian Von Balthasar describes these images for us. Immersion in the flowing waters of the Jordan is not only an effectual sign of the washing of sins; it is also a bathing in the original, fluid element of the incomprehensible Spirit. The Spirit which brooded over the waters of chaos in the beginning, which, from the very origin of the universe, was to guide the destiny of the earth "formed out of water and by means of water" (2 Pet 3:5), the element which "is more mobile than any motion; [which] because of her pureness ... pervades and penetrates all things", the "pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty" (Wis 7:24-25): this Spirit, through the Son's incarnation, has entered into the water of creation. Both elements, the visible and the invisible, constitute the medium of rebirth, the origin of the sacrament of the Son who, dying, sheds both the Spirit and the water (Jn 19:30, 34) together with his heart's blood. This Spirit, rendered visible in the visible Son, "bears witness" that the Son is God, and does so in union with the water and the blood (1 Jn 5:6-8). He only becomes visible, however, to those whose faith makes them open to the same Spirit. The Spirit-bearer, the Son, promises the Spirit to them, and after the resurrection --- again through the medium of the senses--- he breathes the Spirit into them. Finally, then, at Pentecost, the Spirit is poured out upon them from heaven in the eschatological (2 Pet 3:10) and again visible form of fire.
Fire is the second element of the Spirit, always connected to the Son-made-visible. Compared with water baptism, which, after all, belongs to the ancient world, Christ’s baptism is “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Lk 3:16), and the same context also speaks of “unquenchable fire” (3:17). Fire is one of the most common images of God’s activity in the Old Covenant: this judging, consuming, devouring, but also purifying element appears in its ultimate significance in the incarnate Word: God's Word of fire (Ps 12:6) will himself "cast fire upon the earth" (Lk 12:49), and he burns with desire to be thus baptized with fire (Lk 12:50) and, as a sacrifice, to be salted with fire (Mk 9:49)· The Son's ultimate form is that of the Son of Man in the white-hot glow of the Spirit, his eyes like a flame of fire (Rev 1:14; 2:18; 19:12).
The third element which manifests the Spirit also does so in connection with the Son. He breathes, ex-spires, his Spirit and gives him back to the Father Jn 19:30); the Risen Lord, having elevated his spiritualized humanity into the one, divine source of "breath", visibly breathes the Holy Spirit into his Church (Jn 20:22). Now the Spirit which "blows in every land" (Bar 6:61), which is free to "blow where it wills" (Jn 3:8) has grown into a "rushing mighty wind" in the house of the Church (Acts 2:2). Henceforth this wind, in a visible and irrefutable manner, will blow through men and women in this house, carrying out through them those "greater works" which the Lord had predicted (Jn 14:12). Believers will "know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you" (Jn 14:17). He will also equip them with something like eyes of fire, namely, eyes of contemplation, which will enable them to understand interiorly what the Word of God has said to them exteriorly. Thus, the contemplative who gazes at the trinitarian revelation in Christ, in the end comes to contemplate contemplation itself. He contemplates it not in terms of a human work, or of the depth-dimension of his own self, but as the incomprehensible medium---God's water, fire, wind---in which God's primal, inscrutable depths are made accessible. "For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God .... Now we have received ... the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God" (1 Cor 2:10-12). Through the Spirit we can look at the Son; sharing in his Spirit we are permitted to understand him. And through the Son we are led into the Spirit of the Father, who is one Spirit with that of the Son. Bearing the likeness of Father and Son, bringing to light what is most intimate and personal to them, the Spirit is yet a Person in his own right, inimitable because he imitates no one: he is the very freedom of God. Many people seem to think of the Holy Spirit as something abstract and unrelated to themselves. Yet the opposite is true. A concrete relationship with the Father and the Son is impossible without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings the Trinity to us in the Church. He actually brings God to us. – Jim Nugent, CFP
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Forgive me for my distance,
I didn’t know how to say,
How desperately I needed your peace,
Expectedly I lost my way.
Forgive me for my distance,
There’s been so much on my mind,
My brain is constantly running,
I wish I could on rewind.
Forgive me for my distance,
I’ve been placing me before You,
I’ve been worried about myself,
I knew You’d never approve.
Forgive me for my distance,
and let this prayer remind
That without You I am nothing,
In you my happiness I find.
Forgive me for my distance,
You’ve been there all along,
I thought You left me hanging
But yet again You’ve proved me wrong.
Forgive me for my distance,
This world is too hateful for me,
It makes me wonder if this is it,
But I know now Heaven awaits for me.
Forgive me for my distance,
My trust’s been placed in men,
But little did I know,
I’d placed my soul in the lion’s den
Forgive me for my distance,
Forgive me for my doubt,
Your mercy has never failed me,
And again you’ve made me shout!
Olive Robertson (November 3, 2018, 12:24 a.m.)