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Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- June 2019

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Pope St. Leo the Great had a beautiful reflection on the Ascension. You may have read it in the Breviary.


In spite of our Lord's departure from sight, the Apostles put unhesitating faith in what was not seen with their eyes.  They knew of a heavenly realm. Christ would be seated at the right hand of the Father. Everything would be rightly ordered from the humanity unto the Divinity of Christ.


Faith did not fail. Hope was not stolen. Charity did not grow old. So said Pope Leo. The Apostles fixed their desires on what was beyond their sight. He further states that such fidelity could never have been born in their hearts or ours, nor could anyone be justified by faith, if our salvation lay only in what was visible now.


These same men walked, ate, slept and experienced the love of Christ for three years, but their faith didn’t “click” until they saw Him ascend to heaven.  The light went on, so to speak. They could (in my opinion) then be ready for all that the Holy Spirit would give them on Pentecost.


The Faith, that comes from their blindness and from what they didn't see but knew; would remain unshaken through all the trials, sufferings and deaths they all would later endure.


When Christ ascended, His divinity became real to them.  He had never left the Father, and He wasn't leaving them.  Pope St. Leo said that the Son of Man became the Son of God right before them.  They could now reach Him in more depth through their spiritual sight than they ever could by physical contact.


Lord makes us blind that we too may see with eyes of faith. -- Sandy Seyfert, CFP


(This month’s column is written by Sister Rose Caritas, a Poor Clare nun who is a spiritual assistant to the Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents.)

Psalm 100

  1. Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing for joy.

  2. Know that he, the Lord, is God. He made us, we belong to him, we are his people, the sheep of his flock.

  3. Go within his gates giving thanks. Enter his courts with songs of praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.

  4. Indeed, how good is the Lord, eternal his merciful love. He is faithful from age to age.

Joy, the awe and wonder of God’s great love for us! It seems appropriate that I get to speak to you on this day (May 26) because it is the seventh anniversary of the Holy Priesthood for the most joyful person I know-- Father Jacob Meyer, your CFP Spiritual Advisor! I was joyful before I met him and he was a seminarian, but he helped me realize true joy!

Personally, I try to always choose joy because, from experience, I can say it does matter! If everyone chose joy, the world would be at peace because to have true joy is freedom-- the freedom to listen to what Jesus “commands.” He doesn’t just mention this; He commands us to love God by keeping his commandments and to love each other. St. John the beloved says, “How can we love a God we cannot see if we don’t love our brother who is before us?”

The real test comes when we meet Jesus, the just judge. “What did you do today?” he asks. We can rest assured that the answer is not being more organized, or sweeping the floor, washing the car, or the dog, or the dishes, but it is being present to the ones God places before us, our brothers and sisters. What were we asked to do for them today to ease their pain, to make them smile, to feel loved or just comforted by our presence?

Joy is not about being healthy, wealthy, married, single, religious, or well read. Joy is about gratitude. Gratitude to God for all the gifts He pours on us, constantly. Do we even realize that we are being continually pursued by Him, by He who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty? Do we realize that we can witness these things in Him first and foremost, and then in the people whom He has placed before us, whether we know them or not? We are changed by each encounter we have. Why not choose it to be joyful, to see the good in each person, and every soul? It’s true. Can we help to bring it out?

When we encounter a person who looks grumpy or mad or sad, how do we feel? Do we want to turn away from them? When we see a smiling face, it’s joyful. We feel welcome. It could change our entire day. A small kindness, a smile is free. Did we ever imagine that someone may never receive a smile all day or perhaps any day?

I can recount two experiences that I won’t forget. In the early 1980s, I worked in a grocery store daily. There was a certain lady who came in daily, sometimes twice a day, for a few slices of lunch meat. The high school kids always wondered, “Why does she come in so much?” “Well,” I said, “she probably lives alone and has no one to talk to so she talks to us!”

Another more profound memory, not so long ago, was something I learned from my Franciscan brothers. Peace and blessings! When I was with them anywhere, anytime, they acknowledged every person with the words, “Peace and blessings!”

One day I decided that, walking from my work to the grocery, and in the grocery store, which was only steps away, I would greet people on the sidewalk along the way as well as the employees at the grocery. At first, some were hesitant or incredulous, but after a short time, when they would see me coming, they might even speak first and always with a great big smile! Joy is contagious!

Strive for gratitude to God, for everything, for all He gives us, good and plenty and also for what we may see as a trial, a hardship, a loss, a sorrow. We must thank Him for all of these, for everything, because it is sent or allowed by God! We do not know what we really need, but He does. We think we know what we want, but He knows best what we need. He is in control. For example, I always wanted brothers and sisters, and although I had to wait for some time, I got the best ones ever when I became a Poor Sister of Saint Clare at the same church were also live the Poor Brothers of Saint Francis!

Sometimes we are at a very low point in our lives, He allows this to draw us to Him. We may think, “Well, I can do nothing but pray about this!” Exactly! Pray! Conversation with God-- that is what He’s looking for. He is asking us to tell Him what we need or want, or what we can’t handle, or why we are hurting. Yes, He is God and He knows all these things, but He wants His kids to talk to Him. We are all God’s kids. The ultimate prayer is Holy Mass which we all know, but He also waits for us to visit Him in Eucharistic Adoration. He longs for us more than we can know, and He is more intent on answering our prayers that we are in asking! His love knows no end.

He also wants us to know Him through His sweet Mother Mary, and that brings up the third thing -- the Holy Rosary. And since we are talking of joy, consider the Joyful Mysteries-- well, yes, they are all mysteries! And, left to myself, I always pray the Joyful Mysteries. Suddenly one day, not all that long ago, I stopped and thought of what Simeon said to Mary at the last Joyful Mystery. “A sword shall pierce your own heart, and He will be a contradiction to many.” Then I thought about the finding of Jesus in the temple, after Mary and Joseph had lost him. All the Joyful Mysteries are joyful and sorrowful mysteries intermingled, tears and rejoicing. We need these tears as well as rejoicing. Suffering and love are so woven together that they become inseparable. So, trust Jesus. Lay it ALL at His feet, and He will give us the best answer to our prayer.


This choice of joy and trust brings us great freedom. Pray. Give it to him. He will take care of us. He is in control. He can do anything. Without him, we can do nothing. He promises joy eternally if we love and obey Him and love one another. “What greater gift than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends?” He asked, and then He said, “I call you friends.” “I have overcome the world.” “Trust in me.” These are some of his words to us.

God is love. Love is forever. Be gratefully and simply joyful. Only Love remains. We will not reach the Promised Land, our real home, unless we carry our cross, and we have the freedom and choice to do it with joy. We get to do it for love of His Love! -- Sister Rose Caritas, PSSC



During formation, I experienced many trials … so many that I almost gave up several times. My formator told me that it would get harder after I pledged and vowed for life. This, I later found out, was putting it mildly.

At first, I was so attentive to my prayers, always praying at the proper hours. Following the fasting and abstaining from meat on the prescribed days. My closet was cleansed of all colors except the accepted colors of the Confraternity. I followed the Rule to perfection and life was feeling very holy!

Then it began … the downfall.

Cherry Blossoms

My son’s wife divorced him, and he was given 50/50 custody of his children. He needed help! My husband and I picked up our life and moved to be near my son so I could take care of the children when he was working. Praying at the proper times became a little more difficult and since I was an “emotional” eater, I became a little hungry from the stress. To top it off, I began to have some trouble with my vision, shakiness, sweating and extreme hunger. I found out I was experiencing low blood sugar and my then Spiritual Director ordered me not to follow the CFP rule when it came to the fast and abstinence.

My husband and I bought a small, two-bedroom house and decided we were not going to let the kids move in anymore. I never stopped to think that what happens in life is not my choice. The choice is God’s and God’s alone!

Shortly after we moved into our home my son, who had been having trouble with his back, became disabled. He had a spinal fusion that was not successful and developed many other health problems. Needless to say, our home became very crowded and I was no longer just taking care of the girls, but also caring for my son. On top of that, his youngest child was becoming a “monster” and he was the only one who could control her. My 7-year-old granddaughter became physically combative, verbally abusive and self-destructive. I was becoming an abused grandmother!

The financial, physical, and mental stress became too hard for me as I slipped more and more away from the Rule of Life I had pledged and vowed to live. Over a period of 5 or so years I was barely praying the Divine Office. I was not following the CFP diet. I was even making some concessions with the clothing part of the rule. I began to use scented lotions again and started to care about the worldly things too much.

In April of 2017, my father died. I think his death was the turning point. We sought psychiatric help for my granddaughter after she was hospitalized for being suicidal and homicidal. Around the end of July, I had a breakdown. I left my home, my family, my life and I went to stay with my mother for a month. I almost didn’t return home! It was then that I realized what had happened to me, and I began to get my spiritual life back on track.

Confession was first! I was in mortal sin. When we vow to live a Rule of Life, it is nothing to play with. If you vow, in the presence of a Deacon or Priest and in the presence of God, you are required to follow that rule. If you don’t, you commit sin. I once again began praying the Office and simply following the Rule to the best of my ability. I couldn’t follow the diet to the fullest because I was not in my own home so I did the best I could. I had much time to think about what had happened and all that had led up to it. My spiritual life began to grow again.

My mother passed away last October. Another loss … but this time I did not let it take me down. So … what happened? I realized that I had been looking to myself for answers. I was trying to control all that was happening. I became anxious and depressed. I lost sight of God and the Rule of Life and let myself fall into a very dark place. I couldn’t see a way out. I was doing a bare minimum to maintain my faith. I had no Spiritual Director, life was complete chaos, and, on my own, I couldn’t figure out how to fit the prayer, the diet, the CFP way of life into that chaos.

What I didn’t understand is that there is nothing to figure out. When you finally give it all to God, you just do it. It all falls into place and there is nothing difficult about it! God is merciful, He loves us, and He knows we are weak. He lets us fall, so that we may learn our nothingness. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are nothing and without God we can do nothing right or good. He, and only He, pulled me out of the darkness. He slowly brought me back, and now I am living the Rule as it is meant to be lived! I leave nothing out. Even the low blood sugar is no longer keeping me from the way of life. If my sugar drops, I take nourishment. (This is in obedience to my Spiritual Director) Otherwise I don’t worry about it, and I follow the rule completely.

Satan will use anything … our family, our weaknesses, our attraction to worldliness, our pride … anything … to bring us down. We, as human beings, will always be drawn to look to ourselves for answers. Living the Confraternity of Penitents’ Rule of Life in the correct way can protect us from that.

If you find yourself not having time to pray, not following the fast and abstinence, not wearing the right colors, simply not able to live the rule, you should re-examine yourself. Are you trusting God, or are you trying to control and fix things? Following the Rule of 1221 completely is easy … It makes the trials easy. It makes us change the way we do things and the way we react to life’s trials. I am not saying you won’t suffer, nor am I saying life will be easy and without trials. What I am saying is that following the Rule of the Confraternity teaches us how to speak, react and love. It makes it easy to go through the trials.

The Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents saved my life and my soul by making the difficult bearable and by teaching me that without God there is only chaos and darkness. Once my eyes were opened, His yoke became light and the burden easy. There is now peace in my home, thanks to the Rule and the devotion to our Sorrowful Mother!


--Rhea Jean Schoettner, CFP

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Psalm 22:14 is a song of misery and approaching death. “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed. My heart is like wax; it melts away within me.” This psalm was close to the heart of St. Francis as it represented, to Francis, the agony of Christ on the cross. Indeed, these is the psalm which the evangelists applied to the agony of the Crucifixion as it was the psalm which Jesus quoted from the Cross. “My God, my God, why have YOU forsaken me?” Francis may have felt the same at his death, for many of his friars were tugging at the Order to pull it in a different direction from the one envisioned by Francis. Yet, like Christ, Francis placed his trust in God. Psalm 24 ends with the words, “and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”

The discouragement of Psalm 22 can come upon us suddenly or gradually. While we acknowledge it as did the Psalmist, as did Saint Francis, as did all the saints, we can use it to turn to the Lord and trust Him. We are not like those who have no hope, who give in to despair and discouragement and sometimes seek to end it all. We know that these trials are the crosses God asks us to bear because, as Sr. Rose Carita notes in her article, through them, we will be made holier. Rhea testifies to this in her article as well. And Francis, himself, knew this for, on his deathbed he told his brothers, “I have done what was mine to do. May you do what is yours to do.” Sometimes suffering is ours to do. May God give you the grace to obtain many graces from your suffering. –Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP


 By Father John Randall, STD (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Koinonia Enterprises, 2009)
Father John Randall has been involved in the Charismatic Renewal since its beginning. He has had many experiences regarding the Holy Spirit's role in the Church as well as first hand experience on what happens when the Spirit is excluded from religious formation. All too often Catholics can think that they are doing the work of the Holy Spirit when they are really doing their own work. What is not of the Spirit is doomed to failure; what is of the Spirit cannot be suppressed.
No Spirit, No Church is Father Randall's personal journey as a Roman Catholic priest. The book is filled with stories of conversion, including Father Randall's, and of anecdotes that show how the Holy Spirit is moving in the Church and how He wants to move.
Father Randall drives home the point that the Holy Spirit's role is to glorify Jesus. Jesus is Lord! That truth must be recognized and taught if the Church is to grow. Being relevant to the world all too often means conforming to the world. It means, as Father Randall points out, that the Church is not so much in the world as that the world is in the Church. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit brings hope. Even as God purifies the Church until the true followers and believers remain, those embracing the truths of the faith will grow stronger through adversity. Father Randall sees our age as similar to the one in which St. Francis of Assisi lived, and he sees God calling us in the same way that He called St. Francis. "Go and rebuild My Church which, as you can see, is falling into ruin."
Father Randall does not sugarcoat what is happening in the Church today, nor does he fall into despair or discouragement. The Holy Spirit is still in charge. This book will give the reader hope that God is moving in a world that largely ignores Him. We have to put our finger to the wind, as Father Randall says, and see where He is active. He may be closer than we suspect. Available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link.


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We know through faith that Jesus Christ, after His death and resurrection, has gone to the Father.  However, that is not the last transformation of Christ which we can contemplate.  He lives in us through the Holy Spirit as mediated by the Church.  Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, in his book Prayer, tells us that Christ comes to us only through the mediation of the Church.  He warns against looking for the “historical Christ” behind the Christ proclaimed by the Church. It is only the third dimension of the Word's transformation which opens all the doors of contemplation. Here, by the Holy Spirit, God's truth in Christ is manifested as valid, intelligible and binding, first of all for the Church of all times and places and then, through the Church, for the world as a whole. The unique and ecclesial truth of Jesus Christ's existence is communicated to man through the Holy Spirit - propositionally, not by way of conclusions - in church formulations and channels which give it a universal, catholic significance. It is in these vessels (and only in them) that saving truth is communicated to the believer, the contemplative; consequently it is not only impossible and futile but actually forbidden and contrary to faith to search for the truth behind these ecclesial forms, a truth about the "historical Christ" (e.g., in biblical criticism) which would contradict the Church's vision of and proclamation of the Lord. Anyone at all acquainted with the nature of faith will know this a priori; but in this area a false concept of knowledge, imported from other disciplines, has obscured the understanding of faith of many Christians and Catholics, discrediting the Church's mediating role, which is essential for all genuine theology and contemplation, and thus wreaking havoc upon both. "He who has the bride is the bridegroom." There is no such thing as historical truth about Christ which is available, not to the Church, but to those who do not recognize it to be binding and universal and simply regard it as the product of history.


Next, Von Balthasar discusses three forms by which the Holy Spirit brings us the truth of Christ. The medium of the Church, into which the Holy Spirit infuses the truth of Christ, can itself be seen to have a three-fold form; and here too each of the three aspects is interwoven with the other two: the Church is the medium of being, of knowledge and of love.


It is the medium of being since it is the receptacle and the guardian of the sacraments, in which the earthly existence of the Father's Word (in whom the triune life is mediated to us) is made into communicable forms which energize our life as Christians. Thus penance, for example, is a cross-section of the life of' Jesus, from his first preaching of repentance, through the countless miracles of purification and healing, the individual instances of absolution and counsel, right up to the cross, where the Son makes a total confession of sins, and Easter, when the Father gives complete absolution. Through the sacrament, effectually and symbolically, the Christian is drawn into this Christological reality, which is made up entirely of existential, personal life. The same applies to the other sacraments.


The next medium which Von Balthasar discusses by which the Holy Spirit brings the Church the truth of Christ is knowledge. It is the medium of knowledge. We see this in every way in which the Holy Spirit in the Church brings home to the individual and the community the meaning of the world's reconciliation with God. This includes kerygma, dogma, preaching, instruction and theology, but also personal inspiration and spiritual experience in prayer, contemplation and life. Here, as in the case of the sacraments, the Spirit may initiate us into profound matters of revelation which are perhaps only indirectly indicated in the letter of scripture. Scripture itself speaks of the countless books which could have been written about Jesus without ever exhausting his truth and reality (Jn 21:25); these books will not ultimately be lost to the Church. The Church is the intended recipient of the whole truth about the grace of the incarnation, and this truth will not be denied her. It is the Spirit who, through the centuries, leads the Church as a whole and the millions of praying Christians "into all truth" (Jn 16:13). Here too the Church is Christ's "body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:23).


Our contemplation can be enriched by the contemplation of Christians down through the ages within the Church. Within the Church there are people who, somewhere or at some time, are placed nearer than others to this total fullness and are simply overwhelmed by the torrent which pours over and into them. Such people, within the Mystical Body, have a quasi-sacramental role, mediating insight to the many. Paul was such a man: "When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ" (Eph 3:4); such, too, are the great and holy teachers and those commissioned to establish foundations, whose "infused" and "acquired" contemplation is to be a wellspring for future generations.


Our contemplation can also benefit from conversation with other Christians. Preaching, which interprets the word of God, must be complemented by spiritual conversation, in which a number of Christians enrich one another by sharing insights they have received in prayer. This must be done in all simplicity and humility, and with discretion, but also in a spirit of communion within the Church, in which "the members ... have the same care for one another" (I Cor 12:25). In this way the Church develops from the stage of "children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" and grows into "the stature of the fullness of Christ" by the mutual interpenetration of the charismatic functions and insights of all the individual members (Eph 4:13 ff).


Similarly, we should cultivate dialogue with those who, now or in the past, have been privileged to receive special contemplative graces. Everyone, according to his abilities, should remember that he has a duty to acquire at least something of the Church's contemplative wealth, either directly from the great practitioners of prayer or through immersing himself in their lives, deeds and effects. Here the Church's riches, which can become our own "property" in the communion of saints, are not so much objects to be contemplated - the prime object is always God in Christ - but rather interpretative, clarifying, enriching elements, enabling us to behold the object. We do not make St. Francis of Assisi the object of our contemplation, but we do learn from him how to contemplate; we are enriched in the freedom of his contemplation and, together with him, in a common action united by love, we worship the Lord in the crib and on the cross.


Von Balthasar also explains how the Church’s recent emphasis on Mary has deepened our contemplation of Christ.  …….. the emphasis on Mary in recent times ministers to a deeper understanding of Christology (of which Mariology is a part) and ecclesiology (which sees in Mary's privileges the model of the Church on earth, a prophetic glimpse of the eschatological Church and the prototype of the lived reality of the communion of saints). The contemplative's task, having appropriated all the details, is to turn his attention, always fresh and alert, to the total picture, which hovers luminously to and fro between a holy scripture read according to the mind of the Church, and the Church's interpretation and tradition under the guidance of the scriptural word.


Finally, Von Balthasar discusses the medium of love.  The Church's third medium in which the Holy Spirit interprets to us the meaning of the life of Christ, is that of brotherly love. It is also the last of the Word's transformations, and, because it is the goal of everything, it is the most important. By being the Son of the Virgin (and not the Son of a particular man), by being the Lamb of God and bearing the experience of sin of all his brothers, by being eucharistic flesh and blood, prodigally squandered for the sake of all, Christ is the Brother in all brothers, the divine Neighbor in all human neighbors. That is why we can speak of our brother, not as "Christ in disguise", but as the "sacrament of Christ". He infallibly communicates his presence under these signs; thus, he can be genuinely found and encountered.


How do we know we are truly growing in the contemplation of God?  We know it when we are growing in love. The inexhaustible multiplicity of situations which bring people together and give them opportunity for loving one another provides a fascinating lesson in Christian truth. For the person involved, whether lover, beloved, or perhaps only a spectator, truth is manifested and illustrated, persuasively and yet without compulsion, wherever a situation is approached in a Christian way. Practiced, experienced love suddenly realizes "So, that is it!" It is something marvelously simple and natural (even if it calls for heroism) because it is made for us, although on our own we would never have found it and been able to measure up to it. It is something liberating, yet it humbles and judges us as we carry it out; it refines and burns us like fire. This is the quintessence of all reality! Not only is it the essence of Christianity with all its dogmas and institutions, it is the essence of God himself, who gave his Son for us and poured his Spirit, which is the Spirit of love, into our hearts.


There are many ways to contemplate God, but we need to keep doing it so that we continue to grow in faith.   Any living thing will die if it is not fed and the same is true of our faith.   We need to keep nourishing the Word of God within us. – Jim Nugent, CFP

  • My luck is like a bald guy who just won a comb.

  • If you answer the phone with, “Hello! You’re on the air!”, most telemarketers will hang up.

  • I had my patience tested. I’m negative.

  • When you ask me what I am doing, and I say, “Nothing,”, it doesn’t mean that I am free. It means that I am doing nothing.

  • When I ask for directions, please don’t use words like “East.”

  • It’s the start of a brand-new day, and I am off like a herd of turtles.

  • The older I get, the earlier it gets late.

  • I don’t mean to interrupt people. I just randomly remember things and get really excited.

  • I run like the winded.




7. Before their dinner and supper let them say the Lord's prayer once, likewise after their meal, and let them give thanks to God. Otherwise let them say three Our Fathers.


7. In keeping with section 7 of the Rule:

7a. Before and after meals, let the penitents reverently say either their regular meal prayer, or the Lord's prayer once, and let all give thanks to God. If they forget or if they are fasting completely from food, they are to say three Our Father's. These prayers may be prayed out loud or silently with head bowed unless to do so would either be dangerous to the penitent or highly offensive to the company kept. 


The Our Father is such a powerful prayer! Many years ago, the Visitor to the Confraternity of Penitents, at the time of our refounding, was giving reflections to the local CFP Chapter on the “Our Father.” Father John spoke to us monthly for over a year on this prayer and never got even halfway through it. Our Rule asks us to pray an Our Father, or another prayer of thanksgiving, before and after meals. Perhaps we are asked to pray the Our Father, not only because it was a familiar prayer to the first penitents, but also because it is so rich in meaning.

Following Fr. John’s lead, consider meditating on the words of this prayer, given to us by Jesus Himself.

  • “Our.” –We can call God OUR Father. Ours. What does that mean? What is my relationship to God?

  • “Father.” – God is not just some amorphous, powerful being. He is FATHER. Who IS a father?

  • “Who” – Who refers to a person. We don’t call animals who—we call them “that.”

  • “Are”—Are is an active word of being. God IS. He EXISTS.

And so on. Take time to meditate on the Our Father, word for word, and see where the Holy Spirit guides your meditation. The insights may surprise and delight you!

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Ben is a Novice 3 who has completed formation with the Confraternity of Penitents and Sarah is a Novice 2. Ben is also a formator and Regional Minister as well as a civil engineer. Sarah is completing graduate school in music and is an accomplished violinist. Congratulations, Ben and Sarah!  May God bless this holy marriage!

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