Original Franciscan "Third Order" -- Confraternity of Penitents
Make Every Day a Path to Holiness
Confraternity of Penitents 2019 March Newsletter
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: LENTEN FAST:
The Lenten fast begins on March 6, 2019 and continues until Easter. Those at the Novice three level and above are required to keep the fast as the CFP constitutions prescribe. All others should make some sacrifice each day during Lent, to observe the tenor of this holy season. The fasting and abstinence guidelines are in the CFP Rule and Constitutions, but a summary is given below for this season. Pregnant and breast-feeding women are exempt from the fast as are those individuals who have health constraints which require them to eat more frequently.
For a full explanation of the fast and abstinence requirements for penitents, please consult our Rule and Constitutions. We offer the highlights below.
Lent is a time of special discipline and, as such, it should be a time of joy for penitents who realize that only in subduing their own will and desires and surrendering them to God’s will and desires will they be able to enter eternal joy. Lent is a time to identify with the sacrifice of Christ and to conform ourselves more fully to him. It is a time when we should grow lesser and He grow greater. Happy Lent!
RULE: Chapter III: 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.
CONSTITUTIONS: 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.
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER II AND CHAPTER III
CURRENT CHURCH REGULATIONS ON FASTING AND ABSTINENCE
Penitents observe all Church prescribed days of fast and abstinence as well as additional days required by the Rule itself. Current Church regulations on fasting and abstinence are these:
Fast: The law of fast prescribes that only one full meal a day be taken; but it does not forbid taking some nourishment at two other times during the day. The two smaller meals should be sufficient to maintain strength according to each one's needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including ordinary, homogenized milk and fruit juices, are allowed. Malted milks, milk shakes, and the like are not included in the term "milk." All those from eighteen years of age to the beginning of their sixtieth year are bound by the law of fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Abstinence: The law of abstinence forbids the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products, nor condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat. Forbidden are the flesh meat of warm blooded animals and all parts of such animals. This does not include meat juices, broths, soups, lards, gravies, sauces, animal fats, and liquid foods made from meat. Also allowed are fish and all such coldblooded animals such as frogs, shellfish, clams, turtles, oysters, crabs, and lobsters. All those who have completed their fourteenth year are bound to the law of abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all the Friday's of Lent.
The substantial observance of the laws of fast and abstinence is a serious obligation. When a proportionately serious reason exists, there is surely no sin in departing from these norms. Thus, one may very well be excused by sickness or any infirmity which requires that one eat meat even on Friday during Lent, by the need to take one's meals in common, by travel when it is not possible to obtain readily permissible foods, by great poverty, etc.
(Source: The Pastoral Companion: A Canon Law Handbook for Catholic Ministry, Franciscan Herald Press: Chicago, Illinois, 1995, pp. 292-96).
Confraternity of Penitents Photo Album:CFP Spiritual Advisor Father Jacob Meyer, leading his pilgrims in prayer at the Jordan River.
Syria has dammed the Jordan River upstream in order to obtain water for irrigation. Hence, the amount of water flowing through the Jordan has greatly decreased.
John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan when Jesus came to him at the start of His public ministry and asked for baptism. At the Jordan, Father Jacob led his pilgrims in the renewal of their baptismal promises.
Jesus was baptized for His mission and we have been baptized for ours. His mission included dying in order to bring God’s message to the world. How are we, too, to die to ourselves in order to bring the message of God’s love, in our words and actions, to the same world?
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)
SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S ADVICE: REFLECTIONS IN THE HOLY LAND
(In February, CFP Spiritual Advisor Father Jacob Meyer led a group of 70 pilgrims to the Holy Land for a pilgrimage. These are some of his reflections)
When you take a group of 70 people anywhere, particularly to the Holy Land, you have a new appreciation of Jesus’ parable about searching for the lost sheep. I didn’t lose anyone, because I told them they had to stay with the flock and, if they didn’t, I wasn’t going to go searching for them. Instead, I gave each one the address of the hotel we were staying in and told them to find it themselves if they got separated from the group. In that sense, I was not like the Good Shepherd.
The terrain of the Holy Land is very varied. Jerusalem is wooded hills with pines, all beautiful. The hill country of Judea is very green and then you go into the desert. It’s amazing how close together things are. The terrain changes quickly on the way to Galilee. Galilee is green, lush, beautiful. You soon come to realize that the people in those days had a lot more stamina for walking than we do.
The Dead Sea has the highest salt content in the world and is the lowest point on earth except for under the sea. It has such a high salt content that nothing can live there. You don’t swim in the Dead Sea. You float.
In the church built at the spot of the wedding feast of Cana, the stone water jugs were massive and thick. Each held 30 gallons. They are almost as tall as me! At this church, married couples, including my parents, renewed their wedding vows. You can imagine the emotions of that spot. What lessons can we learn when we realize that Jesus began his public ministry at a wedding?
In the church built at the place where Jesus taught the Our Father, the Our Father is written in every language in the world. It is a universal prayer, and one gets the sense of that from this church.
We went to the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes. What can we bring to Jesus? Maybe it seems like something very little. Nevertheless, He can use it. What can He do with what we give Him? We need to give it first to find out.
We visited the synagogue where Jesus preached from Isaiah and said, “Today this passage has been fulfilled in your hearing.” After that message, Jesus’ listeners wanted to throw him over a cliff because they considered his words to be blasphemous. How many times do we want to throw Jesus off a cliff because he is not giving us the answer that we want?
Our first stop was the church built on the spot where Jesus began his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There is a rock in this church that Jesus stood on to mount the donkey, and when I prepared to celebrate Mass in that church, I realized that I was supposed to preach to these people. I had not thought about that sermon before that moment. So, I said a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit and thought of the donkey. The donkey had a life of its own before the apostles conscripted it to bring Jesus through the city. And after the donkey was returned to its owners, it took up the life of its own again. However, the donkey was never the same because Jesus had ridden it through the city. The donkey had become the holy donkey of God. We are like that donkey. The pilgrims were like that donkey, brought to the Holy Land to bring Jesus back home with us. We go back to the same things we left behind, but we go back changed. I got a little wooden donkey as a souvenir for myself because that’s what God wants me to be. That is what he wants each of us to be—holy donkeys of God who bring Him to others.
We also went to the Church of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed. The altar is built over the rock where Jesus prayed before His Passion, asking God the Father to let the cup of suffering pass Him by, but only if the Father willed. Pilgrims can go to that same rock and meditate on the things we ask God to pass by us. Are we willing to drink the cup, to do what He asks? There is a 2000-year-old tree in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of the oldest trees in the world. This tree saw Jesus. Can you imagine!
Another church stands in the spot where Peter denied Jesus outside of Caiaphas’ home. This church marks the place where Jesus was flogged and scourged. What a moving experience to be here where Jesus was so tortured! Do you expect to experience that type of suffering? We prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet in that place, and many tears were shed there.
Underneath the altar in the church on Mount Calvary is the rock that held the cross of Christ. You put your hand in a hole and can touch that rock. Jesus’ burial place is very close to this. One large church is built over both the tomb of Christ and the place of His crucifixion. Imagine being there with the Blessed Mother, Saint John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene.
Where Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom is about 20 feet from where Jesus forgave Peter three times, where Jesus ate the fish after His Resurrection. Jesus didn’t take back the keys after Peter’s denial. Jesus forgave Him.
People ask, “How do you know that this is where this certain thing happened?” St. Helena, who was born a little over 200 years after Jesus died, visited the holy places and built shrines over them. These churches are erected over the spots where the shrines were. However, when we get to heaven, will we care if this is the exact spot where these things happened? What matters is that they did happen and that we believe.
Happy Lent! Father Jacob Meyer, CFP Spiritual Advisor
HUMOR: BAD HEADLINES (These actually ran in newspapers)
Miners Refuse to Work after Death (No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!)
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant (See if that works any better than a fair trial!)
War Dims Hope for Peace (I can see where it might have that effect!)
If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile (Ya think?!)
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures (Who would have thought!)
Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide (They may be on to something!)
NO GREATER LOVE: CONTEMPLATING THE TRINITY
The Trinity is a mystery of the Christian Faith. How do we know that the Trinity is reality and not just something which exists in the minds of Christians? Doctrines such as the Trinity are meant to convey in understandable form what is contained in Divine Revelation. We could not grasp and act on what God is telling us without doctrines. There are several hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament, but one could never formulate a doctrine of the Trinity on the basis of the Old Testament. When the Apostles and disciples of Christ saw and heard Him, He was revealing to them the Trinity.
In the book Prayer, Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us why we need Christ in order to see the reality of the Trinity. Contemplation's object is God, and God is triune life. But as far as we are concerned, we only know of this triune life from the Son's incarnation. Consequently, we must not abstract from the incarnation in our contemplation. We cannot contemplate God's triune life in itself; if we did, we would sink into a vacuum, a world without substance, into conceptual mathematics or day-dreaming. We can no more come to grips "objectively" with the Trinity-in-unity than the pagan mystics of antiquity and the Christian ascetics could come "face to face" with God's superessential unity by abstracting from all creaturely multiplicity.
In binding our contemplation to the humanity of his Son, God is giving us more, not less. He gives us a concrete vision of triune life by involving us in it through grace and our serious discipleship of Christ. This vision is simply the inner illumination of the obedience of faith rendered to the Father, together with Christ, in the Spirit. Mary is our model for this kind of trinitarian contemplation; she was directly addressed by God in trinitarian terms (through the angel who brought God's word to her: Lk 1:27-38). The decisive factor is that the angel's three salutations (the first manifesting the Father, the second the Son and the third the Holy Spirit) are each followed by a reaction on Mary's part, not empty speculation about God but her reflection as to the best possible response and course of action in view of what God has told her.
Her reaction to the revelation of the Father is alarm (as, indeed, every creature must be alarmed to be in the immediate presence of God) as she wonders "what sort of greeting this might be", i.e., what it implies in terms of her response and her willingness to be of service.
Her second reaction, in the wake of the revelation of the Son whom she is to bear, who will be both God's Son and David's heir, is even more concrete: she asks what practical steps she must take to render the obedience expected of her.
Thirdly, in response to the revelation of the Spirit who will overshadow her, she consents to God's perfect Word which is to take effect in her, control her and become flesh in and from her.
Every stage of the trinitarian revelation is a reply from heaven to a question posed by obedient earth. The creature wonders about the meaning of the salutation, "The Lord is with you", and this very wondering is a prelude to the sending of the Son. The question of how to prepare for the coming of the Son results in the announcement of the Holy Spirit's role. The New Covenant's trinitarian revelation is not only inseparably interwoven with the Son's incarnation: it is also inseparable from the obedient response of the praying believer; it cannot be isolated as an abstract object of contemplation. Indeed, contemplation does not even need to be explicitly trinitarian to be truly incarnational, for the trinitarian dimension is something that comes down from above, whereas Mary, a truly human mother, is entirely taken up with being the God-bearer. It is through this particular vocation that she learns that her Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit will bring her the Father's seed. Thus, in caring for her Son and in her discipleship of him, keeping and pondering all his words in her heart, she will penetrate more and more deeply into an understanding of the Trinity: of the Father whose daughter she is, of the Son whose Mother and spiritual Bride she is, and of the Spirit whose vessel she is.
And so it is with the whole Church, whose prototype Mary here is. She does not speculate: she worships and obeys, opens her womb to the Spirit, and until the end of the world she will be giving birth to the Son, his members, his brothers. She is the woman in whom the triune life is fulfilled, the woman who, through her existence, compels the divine mystery of the three countenances to reveal itself and shine forth clearly. The obedience of Christians (and this includes contemplation in particular) is the medium in which God reveals his triune nature.
Theologian Von Balthasar tells us that obedience is necessary for us to receive Divine Revelation. We cannot look at what God authoritatively tells as an offence against our freedom and reason. Mary did not do that.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar also tells us that just as the Trinity was revealed to Mary at the Annunciation, the Trinity was revealed to the embryonic Church at the Transfiguration. The situation is fundamentally the same on Mount Tabor, where the embryonic hierarchical Church, through contemplation, is initiated and drawn into the trinitarian mystery. The three "pillars of the Church", Peter, John and James (who represents his later namesake), symbolizing the Church's trinitarian structure, are "taken up" to a high place. There the Son, "in the form of God" (Phil 2:6), as "the second man from heaven" (I Cor 15:47) and the "eternal gospel" (Rev 14:6), proclaims the trinitarian form of God's entire revelation of salvation in his conversation with Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the prophets. But at the same time, he shows that this "horizontal" dialogue is the exposition of the most sublime "vertical" dialogue, since the Father's word resounds over the Word-made-flesh and the Spirit's shekinah completes the whole theophany.
While Jesus is speaking with the representatives of the Old Covenant, this glory streams from his own radiant countenance and brilliant raiment. Then the revelation is lifted to a higher plane, where the Son is no longer the fulfiller of salvation history but the One whom the Father fills, accredits and glorifies. On this plane the glory becomes a cloud of light enveloping him; the "excess" of revelation has a veiling effect, the excessive brightness results in a kind of "darkness" (Lk 9:34). And when the plain human form of the Son, “Jesus alone", steps forth from the cloud of glory (which finally brings the disciples to their knees in trembling adoration), we are actually confronted, in this ultimate, heightened "veiling", with the laying-bare of the triune God. This is the figure whose face, from now on, will be set to go to Jerusalem, where, under the total veil of his Passion, he is to be "received up" (Lk 9:51), "lifted up" (Jn 8:28; 12:32) and "glorified" (Jn 12:3, 28; 13:31-32).
Thus it was essential for him to discuss with Moses and Elijah "his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem" (Lk 9:31), and it was a mistake on Peter's part to think that he ought to set up hermitages on the Mount ("not knowing what he said") at the very moment when Moses and Elijah were "parting" from Jesus, for the dialogue has come to an end and what they had been discussing has in reality arrived. The Church is made to share in this whole vision in order that it may step forward, with the Son, toward the realization of the Passion; so that the same fructifying cloud of the Holy Spirit which "overshadowed" Mary (Lk 1:35) shall now "overshadow" the institutional Church too (Lk 9:34) and make it fruitful - albeit the implications of this trinitarian and nuptial mystery fill the officers of the Church with a profound fear. However, the fact that they observed his command to keep silence about these things (Mk 9:9; cf. Lk 9:36) shows that they did receive the fruit entrusted to them, whereas in the case of the unbelieving multitude it was scattered to the winds.
The contemplative, trinitarian mystery which the Church has gazed upon and which it cherishes in its heart, is not to be belittled by much talking; it brings forth its genuine fruit in those who follow Christ into suffering.
Theologian Von Balthasar has given us two examples of the revelation of the Trinity in the New Testament. There are many more since the whole life of Jesus Christ is a revelation of the Trinity. The Trinity has continued to operate in the early Church and down to the present time. Of course, we need the eyes of faith in order to see this. – Jim Nugent, CFP
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: SENTIMENTALITY
I just read this rather poignant blog from a Father Simon (an Orthodox Priest). In it, he talks quite a bit about sentimentality, feelings, and how superficial they are. That is, they are not a great indicator of what a person truly believes (their faith). People who go by their feelings are defined by them. “For the feelings themselves, our sentiments, quite often do not rise to the level of action, nor constitute a way of living.” Rather, behavior over a period of time is a better way to see what people believe in.
The short of it is this great little point he made: "Sentimentality is a secular belief held by secular people who want to convince themselves that their lives matter." Ouch.
In context it has to do with basing morality on that secular type of culture we live in. He sums up the blog this way:
“Our faith has much to say about what we do with our bodies, and even, in a sense, what we do with our pots and pans. Those instructions are not rules given to crush us. They are tools given for the acquisition of virtue. Virtue asks the question of character. What kind of person does the right thing? Those who are governed by sentiment, driven by the passions nurtured in the bosom of a consumerist culture will never become people of virtue.
Feelings are interesting. They come and they go like the small pleasures of life. In the end, they don’t matter much unless they are allowed to matter much. Then they matter because they destroy us and make us into slaves. God wants more for us.”
I might add that Saint Francis was certainly not sentimental. He would have considered his feelings as part of himself that he needed to conquer, with God’s grace. Incident after incident shows that Francis never considered how he felt about something. He asked what Jesus would have done and then did that. That’s virtue. – Eric Welch, Novice 3, Alessandro Ministry
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP: 25c card “Your Cross” by Saint Francis de Sales
The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God. -- St. Francis de Sales
Order from CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803.
Or order on line at www.cfpholyangels.com on this link.
Buy any 10 cards (mix and match) which have RC in the SKU number (the RC 25c prayer cards) and get the 10th card free! If you are ordering over 500 RC prayer cards in any combination, please contact us so that you receive the appropriate discount. Thank you!
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
RULE: Chapter 1.4 And both the brothers and the sisters shall have their fur garments of lamb's wool only. They are permitted to have leather purses and belts sewed in simple fashion without silken thread, and no other kind. Also other vain adornments they shall lay aside at the bidding of the Visitor.
CONSTITUTIONS: 1.4 In keeping with section 4 of the Rule:
4a. Outer winter garments shall be either of lamb's wool, or a comparable imitation, only, or of any non-fur material. They shall be of either a solid neutral or blue color, simple and modest, and shall conform to the Constitutions under section 1.
4b. Purses should be of either a solid neutral or blue color. Suitcases and carry bags such as back packs should be of these colors if possible.
REFLECTION: This section of the Rule is further clarification of how penitents are to avoid the pitfall of being stylish. The lamb’s wool garments were those which the poorer classes wore; only the wealthy could afford furs and silks. Leather was common, but silken thread was for the well to do. Vain adornments (read this as fancy laces and jewelry) were not to be used. The Constitutions clarify these guidelines for today as we are called to live our Rule as closely as possible to its original intent. Therefore, no fake furs are to be selected although wool look alikes are fine. The colors conform to those of the Rule. Purses and carry bags should likewise conform to the Rule colors if possible. As penitents, our garb and what we haul around with us should not call attention to us. If anything calls attention, it should point to Jesus. He is the one we hope to mirror to the world.
When the Israelites were being bitten by the snakes, their only remedy and the ultimate solution to their problems was to look up to the bronze serpent. In all troubles, torments and distractions of life, our only remedy and the ultimate solution to all our problems is to look up to God in prayers. In my case, when the going is smooth or when the whole thing seems like they are halted or when the sea seems to turn rough; I look up to God in prayers using the prayer He cherishes and answers most; the Rosary of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. – Kingsley Eze, CFP Postulant
[Note: This relic rosary is one of the types of rosaries which Kingsley and his family market through their family business The Rosary City. You may wish to look at what they offer.]