May 2019 Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT’S ADVICE: MORE TO TELL YOU--MORE MERCY, MORE MYSTERY
(This month’s column is written by Sister Karolyn Grace, a Poor Clare nun who is a spiritual assistant to the Fort Wayne, Indiana, chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents.)
Holy Week is the best week to be a nun! Here in the cloister we have the privilege of entering fully into prayer and meditation of all the events leading up to Jesus’ Passion, and then waiting with Mary and expectation on Holy Saturday, and finally entering into the Easter Vigil, hidden but feeling the pulsating joy as all of Mother Church rejoices in Christ’s Victory. Nothing takes priority over simply “being a Christian” and thanking Jesus for my redemption.
Yet even with all the leisure for contemplation in the cloister, every year I experience again Our Lord’s words at the Last Supper, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now” (Jn 16:12). In my limited humanity, and even with all of the fresh zeal of my postulancy ambition, I could never begin to take in all of the aspects worthy of meditation during that most holy week.
I don’t know what your experience of Holy Week and the Triduum was like this year, but I hope all of us at least tasted one breadcrumb from Heaven of the Mercy of God. We have just celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. The Church invites us, after 40 days of Lent, to now rejoice in the Paschal Mystery for 50 days. This is a special time to recall and savor graces that came our way during Holy Week, to let them continue to grow, and, most importantly, to allow them to transform our daily lives.
For example, our holy father St. Francis love to meditate on Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and he even requested that John 13 be read on his deathbed. His reading of the Gospels was much more than an intellectual lectio divina. Jesus’ life gave supernatural life to Francis’ life and very existence.
Saint Camilla Battista Varano was a Poor Clare saint. who was surrounded by a Franciscan atmosphere of prayer from a young age when she felt moved to make a vow to shed at least one tear every Friday in honor of Our Lord’s Passion. Later, after she entered a Poor Clare Monastery, she received various revelations, and her recordings of “The Mental Sorrows of Christ in His Passion” are among her best-known writings. These focus on the interior sufferings of Jesus which far exceeded His physical sufferings. St. Camilla’s writings and an excellent commentary are available in English, thanks to Bret Thoman, OFS, in the book From Worldly Princess to the Foot of the Cross.
This book also explains the spirituality of the “spiritual senses” which was popular in the Middle Ages and which influenced St. Camilla. These five ways of participating in prayer are: 1. Body 2. Senses (sight, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling) 3. Heart 4. Mind 5. Spirit. These spiritual senses help reveal to us the mystery of the human person and help us to pray in the totality of our being.
I’d like to share just a few samples of St. Camilla’s meditations on the interior sufferings of Our Lord which can help us enter more fully into our own meditations. First, St. Camilla writes that, in Our Lord’s suffering over Judas, when Jesus came to wash Judas’s feet, that his heart “melt[ed] in visceral sobbing (p. 100). She writes that Jesus thought, “O Judas, if you desire 30 denarii, why do you not go to your Mother and mine, who would sell herself to save you and me from such a great and mortal danger?” (p. 101) See how intense was Our Lord’s grief and how lovably human His thoughts were in this revelation.
What do you think Our Lord’s sorrow was over the rest of the apostles? If you are like me, you may have guessed that Jesus was grieved that they abandoned him, denied him, and had hard hearts. Actually, he doesn’t once express sorrow over the apostles’ sins and failings. Rather Our Lord describes that “never did a father love his sons, nor a brother his brothers, nor a master his students, with such intense love as I loved these blessed apostles, my most beloved sons, brethren, and disciples” (p. 99). His sorrow was in leaving them and that He knew each would be martyred for love of Him. How often do we think Jesus is upset with our shortcomings, and how little do we think of the gratitude and compassion He has for us when we are faced with trials especially those united with or for Him?
Let us all be touched anew by Mercy and let that spread throughout our being. St. Thomas was invited to place his finger into the wounds of Christ. But our holy father St. Francis entered into union with Christ in his entire being so deeply that he merited to bear the wounds of Christ in his own body as a man become prayer. There is so much the Lord has to tell us. May each of us as poor children of Francis and Clare beg to hear just a little more now. –Sister Karolyn Grace, PSSC
The book which Sr. Karolyn Grace refers to is Available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop. See elsewhere in this newsletter for more information.
HUMOR: BLESSED ARE THE CRACKED FOR THEY LET IN THE LIGHT
I wish there was a way to donate fat like you donate blood.
Sometimes the thoughts in my head get bored and go out for a stroll through my mouth. This is never a good thing.
Some days I just wish I had the wisdom of a 90-year-old, the body of a 20-year-old, and the energy of a three-year-old.
The secret to happiness is a good sense of humor and a bad memory.
I have a brain like the Bermuda triangle. Information goes in, never to be found again.
Good friends make bad days a little more bearable.
I love the kind of hugs for you can physically feel the sadness leaving your body.
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: PRAYER ANSWERED--I RECEIVED INSTANTANEOUS ANSWER TO MY PRAYER!
I love to share this testimony so everyone would see how God could instantly answer our prayers offered through the Blessed Virgin Mary before the Blessed Sacrament and how efficient our Guardian Angels can be when we call on them to help us.
We own a religious articles business in Barcelona, Spain. We shipped a supply to a company on the 10th of January 2018, and they received the goods on the 15th of January. This company has a 30 day payment policy. Due to huge expenses we made in December, we had very little funds that could barely take us through a week. By 22nd of January, we had only 43 Cents in our bank account and 5 Euros at home, but we still had some food stuff that could last us another 3 days. Every effort I made to scoop up a little money to take us till 15th of February, the payment due date, failed. By 25th January, we were dry. All we had was the 43 Cents in the bank and 5 Euro note at home. Panic and anxiety were beginning to set in. I tried hard to deadpan my expression so my wife would not see any traces of worry on my face and begin to panic.
I woke up early that Thursday morning, the 25th, and sat on the sofa in the sitting room and began to pray the Rosary. In the Rosary, I reminded Our Mother Mary what she did for the couple at the wedding in Cana, Galilee. I asked her for an instantaneous miracle to obtain from Jesus the favour that the company to which we supplied some goods, who were supposed to pay on the 15th of February, should pay that day, 25th of January. As I was concluding the Rosary, a thought came to me to go to the chapel of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and offer another Rosary. When the children had left for school, I got on a bus and headed for the chapel.
On getting to the chapel, I prayed another 5 decades of the Rosary, presenting the same intention. As I was concluding the Rosary, I was inspired to send my Guardian Angel to the Guardian Angel of the person in charge of payment in that company to touch her heart and cause her to make the payment that day, the 25th of January. Since I had never made such prayer in my life, I felt it was my mind that was telling me that, but I said exactly that which I was inspired to say to my Guardian Angel and I got up and left.
The following day, as I was working on our website, a thought flashed through my mind to check our business email account. Logging on to the email account, there was only one email there and, brothers and sisters, it was from that company. In the email, they said they were writing to notify me that they had made my payment. I felt a bit confused, and I checked myself properly to make sure I wasn't in a dream. In continuation, they wrote that I should find the confirmation of the bank transfer in the attached file.
By that time, I was beginning to perspire. I didn't believe that was happening to me. I was amazed that I prayed yesterday, the 25th of January, asking Heaven to effect that the payment that was due for the 15th of February be paid on that day, the 25th of January. Because they sent the email on the 26th, I thought that the payment was made on the 26th but, when I opened the attached file to view the bank transfer slip, I got the biggest surprise of my life. On the top part of the bank transfer slip , I saw the date of the transfer was not 26th as I thought. The payment was made on the 25th of January. The same day I asked Heaven through the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the payment be made. I quickly logged into my bank account and, behold, the beautiful sum of money was in the account. That was when I called out to my sweetheart to come and see what was happening. She was completely baffled, and we were so happy together, praising God and thanking Mother Mary for such a powerful intercession.
I have obtained answers to most of my intentions through the prayers of the Holy Rosary. I've got amazing testimonies on the power of the Rosary and the unfailing intercession of Our Heavenly Mother Mary. That was the day I strongly believed the amazing powers, close presence and friendliness of Our Guardian Angels. – Kingsley Eze, Friend of the CFP
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP: From Worldly Princess to the Foot of the Cross by Bret Thoman
The life and writings of Saint Camilla Batista Varano, OSC, by Bret Thoman, OFS.
The author conducts pilgrimages to Assisi and various environments in Italy and the Holy Land and is quite familiar with Saint Camilla and the nuns living at her monastery. This biography contains many quotes and spiritual instructions from the saint as well as her locutions and other mystical experiences. A marvelous look into conversion, medieval convent life, and the spiritual life lived in the love of Christ.
11.95 plus $3 shipping (out of the USA, higher shipping rates apply).
Order from From Worldly Princess to the Foot of the Cross on this link or by writing to the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA Other books and religious gift items available at cfpholyangels.com
NO GREATER LOVE: CONTEMPLATING THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS
A second transformation takes place in the life of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Here, He passes from His Human Life in an earthly body to Human Life in His resurrected and glorified body. Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar describes the radical nature of this transformation in his book Prayer. The second dimension of transformation is that from the old to the new aeon, from the death of the "old man" on the cross to the resurrection of the "new man" at Easter. This transformation is so radical that the One being transformed cannot in any way control the process himself: he must let it be accomplished in him by the omnipotent Father. He can transform himself by his own word from the historical to the eucharistic mode of existence, but it is not his will to rise by his own power out of the realm of eternal death into which he descended, and to sit at the Father's right hand: in this transformation he lets the Father's absolute supremacy manifest itself, so that, by looking at the Son, all may see what tremendous force is needed to turn mankind from sin to redemption, from unbelief to faith. Paul's speech overflows as he talks of this supremacy: "that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion ... " (Eph 1:18-21).
We need to always keep in mind that Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday belong together. Each one makes no sense for the Christian if taken in isolation from the rest. Von Balthasar explains further the amazement we must have when we contemplate these three days. The contemplative is free to ponder ever anew this transformation which is the foundation and prerequisite of all subsequent transformation within the Church. He can compare the Word of God in his humble, fleshly form, as the gospel portrays him, with his glorified form after resurrection and ascension, as he appears in his self-testimony from heaven through the Holy Spirit, and as he appears in the Church's proclamation .in word, theology, and in Christian life and martyrium. Each time it is a very particular, clearly defined humility and humiliation which blossoms forth and yields fruit in glory in such an astounding way, making a shattering impression upon the gazing contemplative. The yawning abyss of death and the descent into hell interrupts contemplation, but he is carried beyond them. Everything pertaining to the senses is swallowed up in the abyss, taking with it the life, the hopes and the outlook of the old man. Then, in some unimaginable place beyond everything, all things begin again, in a heavenly newness which is without beginning or end. Above the abyss of death and hell waves the seven-hued banner of reconciliation, of the "everlasting covenant between God and every living creature ... that is upon the earth" (Gen 9:16). This may give us a better idea of the importance of Jesus' linking the two ends together by his word of promise and thus lending eternal significance and influence to all "fleshly" process as it hurries to its end.
The Gospels are silent about what happened on Holy Saturday. We cannot accompany the Lord through Holy Saturday. However, we can follow Him through Holy Saturday. St. Paul tells us that we passed through Holy Saturday when we were baptized. “You have been buried with him, when you were baptized; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.” (Col 2:12). Von Balthasar tells us more about the “bridge” between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Our simultaneous contemplation of the heavenly and the earthly Christ also involves the element of representation", of vicarious action. For the vaulting bridge which links one shore to the other means that we are spared the descent into hell. We are regarded as having undergone it in baptism; it lies behind us (Rom 6:3 f). Due to this grace the Church is able to pursue her contemplation even on Holy Saturday - which at first sight seems improbable. For the Church "outlives" the Lord and, by a power which comes in anticipation of his resurrection, erects the bridge of faith, of love and of hope over the abyss. But at the same time she comes to a deeper and deeper awareness, through contemplation, that this same grace implies an embryonic participation in death and the descent to Hades, not only at the sacramental level but also at the spiritual and contemplative level. If the Church is to follow Christ and grow in understanding as a result, her faith, hope and love must undergo a death and a darkness, if not at the level of the institution (which is not touched by it), then in the individuals who constitute the Church: "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward" (Jn 13:36); "Follow me" (Jn 21:19).
Next, Von Balthasar explains that the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord is not unrelated to our own lives as Christians. In the life of Jesus and in the contemplative's faith, therefore, the absolute transformation from the old to the new aeon does cast its shadow, albeit in a more nuanced way, on earthly life and contemplation. We see it in instances of persecution, weariness, failure, betrayal; in the baffling, increasing hatred which the Lord and his disciples have to face; all these are signs heralding the coming storm, and thus they all have a salvific meaning. The "once-for-all" of the cross comprehends all the "gradual" process of his antecedent life. The Lord's everyday life also contains a cross, and he bids us too to "take up our cross daily" (Lk 9:23); for him and for us there is a daily dying of the old man and a daily renewal of the new man (2 Cor 4:16; cf. Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:9-10). This "gradual" aspect - and by no means will the contemplative be allowed to forget the other aspect, the "once-for-all" (Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27 passim), the "irrevocable" (Rom 11:29; Heb 6:17) - is a further stage, through grace, in the understanding of atonement. It is as if the disciple is taken in slow motion through those parts which he can grasp and which he needs to know. All the time, however, he must be aware that the larger portions (the cross, not to mention the Lord's descent into hell) will always remain hidden in the darkness of God's judging and redeeming love. Vicarious suffering always implies that those on whose behalf it takes place, i.e., who are spared the full force of the experience, must also renounce the inner, experiential understanding of what has taken place; they must leave that - out of love - to the Beloved.
The "slow motion" process continues, getting as close as possible to the Lord's Passion and death. This is still the experience of a human life, performed with failing human strength; Christ has the entirely human experience of being stretched beyond his limits, accompanied by an increasing interior darkness in which he "no longer understands". The series of scenes which make up the Passion only give a very indirect indication of the Lord's crucial inner dispositions; they direct our attention almost exclusively to the sinful participants - Christians, Jews, Gentiles - and show the Lord as a passive plaything in their hands. Thus holy scripture seems to show little regard for the observer outside the door, listening, while inside, in the inner room, undisclosed negotiations are going on between God's righteousness and his mercy. All the same, this hard, liturgically objective, official account of the Passion is full of openings, hints and pointers which faith can follow up. They are like seeds patiently planted and nurtured in the mind; eventually they put forth shoots, and the sinner, wholesomely humbled, receives infinitely more than he deserves. …………..The person who has been humiliated will see the points at which his experience can be integrated into the total humiliation of the Son of Man; the person who no longer understands God may still be able to understand, perhaps, that even the Son of God no longer understands why the Father has forsaken him.
We need always to recognize that just as we do not understand why evil seems to triumph, Jesus Christ is with us even there. He went through it all. “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” (Mt 27:46). Yet we know that His “defeat” was not the end of the story. The Resurrection shows us what happens when we obey the Father to the end. The crucifixion, as well as the deaths of all the martyrs who followed the Lord, shows us how costly this obedience can be. – Jim Nugent, CFP
CURRENT EVENTS IN THE CHURCH: CALL TO PRAYER
The Confraternity of Penitents is aware of an open letter written to the Bishops of the world by 19 Catholic theologians and priests, calling for an investigation of charges of heresy against Pope Francis. We ask that all penitents offer daily prayers for our Church, that God’s Will, not man’s, be done.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: A TALL ORDER
The Third Order Regular of Saint Francis has summarized Section 23.11 of the Earlier Rule and placed the following admonition into their Third Order Regular Rule of Life: “Everywhere and in each place, and in every season and each day the brothers and sisters are to have true and humble faith. From the depth of their inner life, let them love, honour, serve, praise, bless and glorify our most high and eternal God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
This does indeed seem overwhelming, even for the priests and religious of the Third Order Regular. Francis, of course, makes this humble, faithful way of living seem like a very natural thing to do, doesn’t he? And it is a very natural way to life, if we think of it in its simplicity. In that way, I offer a prayer that I read from a prisoner, a member of the CFP Alessandro Ministry with whom I correspond. I use his words here (Thank you, Eric). I quote, “Lord, you know my heart, and you know what I want. But you also know what I need, so if what I want isn’t what I need, then let your will be done, not mine.”
This is humble faith from the depths of one’s heart. It surrenders our lives to His, and in this way we love, honour, praise and glorify him. I intend to make Eric’s short prayer part of my daily routine more than once a day. – Sandy Seyfert, CFP
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
RULE: CHAPTER II: ABSTINENCE
6. All are to abstain from meat save on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, except on account of illness or weakness, for three days at bloodletting, in traveling, or on account of a specially high feast intervening, namely, the Nativity for three days, New Year's, Epiphany, the Pasch of the Resurrection for three days, Assumption of the glorious Virgin Mary, the solemnity of All Saints and of St. Martin*. On the other days, when there is no fasting, they may eat cheese and eggs. But when they are with religious in their convent homes, they have leave to eat what is served to them. And except for the feeble, the ailing, and those traveling, let them be content with dinner and supper. Let the healthy be temperate in eating and drinking.
CONSTITUTIONS: 6. In keeping with section 6 of the Rule:
6a. For penitents, all Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are days of abstinence (that is, meatless days) unless directed otherwise by a physician. Meat is allowed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
6b. Abstinence will follow current Church regulations which are listed in Appendix A of these Constitutions.
6c. Except for Sundays and Solemnities, penitents are to eat but two meals daily throughout the year unless advised otherwise by a physician. However, a third, small "bite to eat" of beverage and solid food may be taken if needed at one other time during the day. Beverages such as fruit juice, milk, coffee, and so on may be taken at any time between meals.
6d. Except for Sundays and Solemnities, between meal snacks of solid food should be avoided.
6e. At all times, penitents should be temperate in eating and drinking.
(The four following sections of the Constitutions for this Article of the Rule will be discussed in a subsequent newsletter)
Penitents who like to eat have to keep an eternal vigilance over themselves on these sections of the Rule and Constitutions. Certainly following these require, for some people, what seems like a heroic discipline. In other words, no over eating. No stuffing oneself even on holidays or at banquets. No picking between meals – that means not even a nut or a tiny Easter egg or a cracker. No getting a hamburger when going to a fast food restaurant on a meatless day. How are you doing with this section? The fruit of living our Rule will only be as good as you live the Rule. If you are a nibbler or over indulger, how about trying a glass of juice, a cup of tea, or sucking on an ice cube when you want to eat more than you should or eat when you shouldn’t? If you have promised to live this Rule, or are in formation to do so, get the most spiritual benefit possible from your commitment. Follow the Rule’s discipline! What blossoms will surprise you!
* November 11, Saint Martin's Day, was a Solemnity at the time the Rule was written. Today it is a Memorial.
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM: CFP ADMINISTRATIVE DEVELOPMENT
The Confraternity of Penitents asks your prayers and, if possible, financial support, as we embark on a three-part development of our administrative headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana USA. The CFP Council has approved the first stage of this development and is obtaining information on stages 2 and 3 which will be discussed in the future. The purpose of this development is to provide for long term administration of the Confraternity of Penitents to assist and support you as penitents and other future members worldwide.
Stage one involves the purchase of the currently rented property used as the CFP Headquarters.
This includes a house and workspace for 3 live in volunteers, the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop and CFP library, 2 organic vegetable gardens, and the ¾ acre Mary’s Glen Spiritual Oasis for Prayer. Donations toward the purchase of this complex are tax deductible and maybe sent to the Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA or can be made on line on the Donations link.
Above photos show the current CFP Administrative House and one of the vegetable gardens, seen from the back, the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop (side view), and a long range view into Mary’s Glen with an outbuilding used for storage to the left behind the pine trees and a gazebo to the right under the weeping willow, at the Glen entrance.
The CFP is also in need of another on site, live in volunteer in Fort Wayne who can volunteer 20 hours per week in exchange for housing. This live in volunteer must be computer literate, hard working, flexible, and easy to get along with. If interested, contact the CFP for information.
CFP: MOVING FORWARD
The Confraternity of Penitents is looking toward the future with a three-part development plan, and we ask your prayers and financial support. Please prayerfully consider a sacrificial gift toward the first stage of this program, the purchase of the property which we are currently renting. Purchasing this property will enable the CFP to make the necessary renovations needed to utilize the property and buildings for the future. It will insure that the CFP monetary investment in the complex will go solely to benefit the Confraternity and its members. The CFP Council feels that this three-part development plan is crucial to the continuation of the CFP into the future. May God bless you for your prayers and support.