CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2019
SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S ADVICE: THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
[The incident of Jesus speaking to the woman at the well is found in John 4:1-42. In this incident, Jesus made to Samaritan woman who comes to draw water late in the day when she would meet very few people at the well. Jesus begins to question her about her lifestyle and she responds with increasing interest and softness to the message Christ is offering her. Penitents are to be at peace with all, so this reflection is especially pertinent to those living the CFP Rule.]
Many of us have been in the situation of Jesus at the well. We get caught in the ultimate family feud. Something insignificant has happened and no one gives in. Things happened so long ago that we do not even know what they are and what everyone is fighting about, but no one is going to give in. The Samaritan woman remembers the feud. She says to Jesus, “Why are you asking for a drink of water from me? You know the rules. Samaritans do not talk to Jews.”
The Samaritans had turned to idol worship and entered into mixed marriages with pagans. They tried to come back to Israel, but the situation got complicated when the Israelites were sent into the Babylonian exile. When they returned to Israel, the two peoples had developed in different ways.
Do we practice love when someone is venting under so much anger? Do we offer an olive branch? Do I desire an olive branch, to come back into fellowship with you after you have offended me? After Jesus’ resurrection, the Samaritans came back into observance. Jesus drew every single person into a relationship with himself. He came to bring all people to God.
What is needed to receive others with love? We need to enter into great trust in God and have him handle our anger. Jesus got the Samaritan woman to know herself, and by recognizing herself to come to know God. We need to put words to our sacrifices. We need this before we come to our just Savior. We have sinfulness in ourselves. We have some big items to bring to Jesus. If we put words to our sinfulness, Jesus will heal us.
How did the woman feel when she just owned up to her sins? Jesus did not trim her down. He forgave her. The woman was engaged in promiscuity which is something celebrated today, unfortunately. The woman came to the well to draw water to comfort her thirst. She came at a time when no one else would see her. But Jesus was there. People come to Christ for comfort and conversion. We have received the living waters in baptism, and Jesus promised this woman living water. God offers us living water in the sacraments of the Church. We receive God himself in the Eucharist. Jesus gives all of himself for everyone. He comes to those who confess their sins. They receive the fruits of that confession, His Body and Blood. You already showed your faith in Jesus Christ when you come to church. The woman at the well believed Jesus. We believe what we have heard. Draw close to the well so you can be free and receive the living water that is Jesus. When you drink of Him you will not be thirsty again.
--Father Jacob Meyer, Spiritual Advisor, Confraternity of Penitents (This reflection is taken from the CFP blog at http://cfpenitents.blogspot.com)
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NO GREATER LOVE: CHRIST AND THE TRINITY
When we contemplate the Trinity, we need to mold our thinking to what God has revealed to us. This means that we must contemplate what God has given us in scripture and tradition, and He can give us so much more according to His good pleasure. Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, in the book Prayer, tells how we must understand Christ in terms of His Trinitarian relationship of Love with the Father. It is crucial that Christ constantly speaks to a Father, points to a God, with whom he is in a dialogue-relationship, who is thus a different Person, yet sharing the same nature. Hence all the references to their being "in" each other (Jn 10:38; 14:11), being simply "one" (Jn 10:30), sharing all that they have (Jn 17:10). In the Old Covenant there were distant analogies for such a relationship to God, but the revealed fulfillment is utterly astounding, far exceeding the natural religious consciousness of any normal human being. It comes as no surprise that we are initially confronted with a clear disjunction: Jesus does not pray together with the apostles. He cannot, for his relationship to the Father is not the same as theirs. He himself refers to the Jewish stage as preliminary, and distances himself clearly from it (Jn 10:34 ff). He does not do this to keep aloof from men and merely preach to them about his heavenly Father, with whom he, and he alone, enjoys a communion of being; if that were all, he would not need to be continually directing men's attention to himself. For, purely as a phenomenon, he himself is incomprehensible, except to those whose faith enables them to solve the riddle of his Person by reference to the context of the Trinity. But if those who hear do this, if they recognize "that I am he" (Jn 8:24), they are given a participation in the truth, for the Father shows his "truth" and "faithfulness" by giving up his Son, the Promised One, for the world; and the Son is "true" in that he says and does nothing but what the Father tells him (Jn 8:26). Together they constitute the one divine truth, accessible to the world in Christ. They constitute a twofold witness which, like the testimony of two persons, has legal force, and yet is complete in the single witness of Christ-on account of the mutual indwelling of Father and Son (Jn 8:13-18). To avoid doing violence to the phenomenon, we must interpret it in terms of the Trinity.
In order to understand this, we first need to believe it, as Theologian Von Balthasar makes very clear. Such an interpretation is possible if we have the humility to believe; indeed, it is the only logical course, for the phenomenon itself permits no other view. This man is neither a mere man, nor is he "God" in the Jewish sense, i.e., the Father who created the world, chose the People of Israel and promised the coming Messiah. He is a man, yet not like us; he is "from God", yet he is not simply "God". He is unique; he is emphatically not an ordinary man like the prophets, who were temporarily "burdened" with the word of God, temporarily God's organs. Nor is he "a" God, disguised for the time being as a man. Rather, this human personality holding commerce with men is a Person in God; in his mission he not only speaks of the Father but also represents him, revealing him in every conceivable way, both actively and passively, with power and in weakness, in speech and in silence, veiling and unveiling. And it is this relationship which is the inexhaustible theme, the boundless field, of Christian contemplation.
This type of contemplation is foolishness to those who do not recognize the supernatural aspect of Jesus Christ. Hans Urs Von Balthasar explains why we need avoid the orientation of “Liberal” theology. In the Son's "descent" into flesh he first of all reveals himself, his self-abasing, humble and obedient love. If we lay aside our prejudices and expose ourselves to the phenomenon of Jesus Christ (and this means, first of all, believing the facts), we shall see in the Lord's actions-from his birth and lowly childhood, through his "going about doing good" (Acts 10:38) to the final humility expressed in his washing of the disciples' feet, in the Eucharist, in his passion, and in his surrender of the Spirit and his death-not only a sublime metaphor of eternal love, but Eternal Love itself. Moreover, Eternal Love is not only present in this man but also, in him, manifests and interprets its very nature and renders it visible. For although the deeds and sufferings of this man exhibit nothing inhuman or superhuman but remain within the framework of what is human, they only make sense if they are seen and expounded as expressing the nature of divine love. Otherwise we would have to agree with those Liberals who see his actions as a huge mistake, objectively speaking. What he did was very well intended, most likely, but in the end, in the dying man's cry of disappointment from the cross, the mistake comes to light, a mistake which is greatly to his credit (and to the credit of Liberal discernment!). Subjectively, the sufferer was a tragic hero; objectively, he was a fool.
Von Balthasar explains that we are seeing the Father when we see Jesus Christ. In his self-abasement, however, the Son wishes to express, not some neutral "nature" of God, but, as he was always insisting, the particular "nature", the innermost character of the Father who sent him. What entered earthly visibility was the Father's divine Image, his "Word", like himself, a Person: his Son. The Father expresses himself in everything that the Son is and does. The Son's entire love represents the love of the Father. In submitting to being crucified, in plunging into God-forsakenness, the Son is giving an ultimate demonstration of how "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son". There is nothing feigned here: the Father actually and in all seriousness leaves his Son lying on the ground, in order to go to the stranger, the enemy, man, and to draw him to himself. The Son's passive, suffering love becomes at once the upright and the inverted mirror-image of the Father's love.
The Trinitarian and Divine Love between the Father and the Son is not just something we can look at and admire. Von Balthasar explains that we can participate in it. However, we can also discern the relationships which link the Person of the Son to that of the Father. These relationships are incarnated in the creature's relationships with the Creator; they fulfill them, with the result that we are given a surpassingly perfect model of our relation to God. We learn, in concrete terms, what it means to say that everything is rooted and grounded in the Word, the Son, and that he is the origin and foundation, the unapproachable archetype of all creation; to put it more broadly, we come to understand that the eternal, triune relationships between Son and Father in the Spirit are what make a creation ad extra possible. As we observe how the incarnate Son relates to the Father, we see the archetype within the godhead, and, within it, we see what the creature is meant to be according to the Father's eternal vision of it; of itself, of its own creaturely nature, it cannot fulfill this vision: to do this, the Son must elevate the creature into his own relationship with the Father, a relationship which is divine, and to that extent inaccessible to the creature. The unity which forms the matrix of the dialogue between Father and Son is different from that which exists between creature and Creator. The Son makes reference to food of which we know nothing (Jn 4:32), to a "seeing" (5:19; 6:46; 8:38), a "hearing" (8:26,40) and a "knowing" the Father (7:29; 8:55) which are unique to him. Yet at the same time he desires to become our food and thus to transpose the mystery of the divine communication of Persons into his incarnation, so that we can be included in it: "I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one" (Jn 17:23). Then it will suffice to see the Son, for in seeing him we shall see the Father whom no one can see (6:46 and 14:7,9; 12:44); we shall hear him (6:45; 8:47), indeed, we shall be "of" him (8:47) and "in" him (1 Jn 4:16). In human terms the Son seems to be inaccessible (Jn 7:34), unintelligibly so (7:36), but the man for whom the Son is the "way" will find him accessible beyond all expectation. When he does withdraw from us, it is to prepare a place for us, so that he can take us back with him "that where I am you may be also"; indeed, he presupposes that the believer already has a knowledge of the way and the destination (14:2-4).
How is this possible? Theologian Von Balthasar explains that we must renounce our own will and allow the Lord to do it for us. Thus we are acquainted with the relationship between Son and Father, made visible in the Son's "descent" and his return to the Father. This relationship is the path we must tread if we are to reach the Father through the Son. It is the path of renunciation of our own will and ideas so that we may embrace the loving obedience of faith. Nor is this our work: it is the Father's "work" within us (Jn 6:28-29). It is the Father and Son "making their home" in us (14:23), which signifies that our habitation is already prepared in and with God. Von Balthasar’s emphasis on the “renunciation of our own will and ideas so that we may embrace the loving obedience of faith” runs afoul of much of modern theology which greatly values human autonomy and reason.
--Jim Nugent, CFP
HUMOR: MEN AND WOMEN
Bookseller conducting a market survey asked a woman, "Which book has helped you most in your life?"
The woman replied, "My husband's check book!!"
A prospective husband in a book store "Do you have a book called 'Husband - the Master of the House?'"
Sales girl: "Sir, fiction and comics are on the 1st floor!"
Someone asked an old man: "Even after 70 years, you still call your wife - darling, honey, luv. What's the secret?"
Old man: "I forgot her name and I'm scared to ask her."
When a married man says, I WILL THINK ABOUT IT - what he really means is that he doesn't know his wife's opinion yet.
Confraternity Photo Album
CFP Life Pledged Member Mariah Dragolich and CFP Postulant Bob Deck at CFP Retreat 2018.
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
RULE: Chapter 1.2
2. They shall wear their outer garments and furred coats without open throat, sewed shut or uncut but certainly laced up, not open as secular people wear them; and they shall wear their sleeves closed.
2. In keeping with section 2 of the Rule:
2a. Visible undergarments such as socks or stockings may be of solid neutral colors or blue. Clothing that is not visible may be of any color or pattern.
2b. Men's ties should be simple, conservative, and tasteful and may be patterned and of any color or color combination provided that the ties are subdued in appearance and not "flashy."
2c. Colorful ornamentation and fancy jewelry are not to be worn unless a dispensation is given. Engagement rings, wedding bands, watches, and any other similar adornments, and tasteful and unostentatious religious jewelry such as medals are permitted. Small pierced earring studs, in a simple and inexpensive style, may be allowed if needed to keep earring holes from closing.
2d. For special events, a dispensation is given for the wearing of earrings, other jewelry, and clothing that falls outside the regular garb of the followers of this Rule.
2e. The use of perfumes, after shave lotions, and so on should be avoided unless necessary. Wherever possible, unscented hair sprays, soaps, lotions, and so on should be chosen.
2f. Female penitents may use cosmetics if necessary but should keep their makeup as conservative as possible so as not to draw attention to its use. The use of extensive makeup is discouraged.
2g. At all times in public, a simple cross or crucifix must be visibly worn either around the neck or in the form of a brooch or lapel pin. The style chosen should be in keeping with poverty, humility, and simplicity according to the penitent's state in life. If a penitent is already wearing a religious habit of a First, Second, or Third Order community, the habit of the Order will suffice. A penitent can be excused from the wearing of a cross, crucifix, or habit if to do so may endanger the penitent's life or impede the penitent's manner of earning a living.
We see in this section of the original rule a call to modesty in the dress of the original penitents. Their clothing was to be laced or otherwise closed at the throat so that the neck and body parts below were not visible. Sleeves were to be closed rather than wide and flowing because to show one’s wrist or elbows was considered immodest at the time the Rule was written. The modest cut of clothing would prevent undue attention being drawn to the penitents.
The Constitutions continue the call to modesty and inconspicuous dress. What should be noticed is the cross or crucifix, which would be in keeping with a simple, unostentatious lifestyle. But the rest of the clothing should not call attention to the penitent. The clothing follows the color scheme in p of art one of the Rule and Constitutions. Penitents are to do penance by calling attention to Jesus and not to themselves.
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
(The monthly letter was written by Dom Julian Stead, OSB, who was the second Visitor of the Confraternity of Penitents and who, at this writing, was 91 years old and in retirement.)
Let us look into the Catechism and Holy Scripture, and ask them to what extent, or in what circumstances, we ought to be feeling thankful, even expressing our thanks: saying grace before and after every meal is synonymous with giving thanks. “Every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving” (2638). We are not told we must offer words of thanksgiving in every moment present on our journey to heaven. But what do I think or say when I am woken up in the morning?
Before lying down at the end of the day, have I enough faith in God’s loving Providence to thank Him that His will was done. I waken and am forgiven for failing at times, I forgive whoever may have upset me, the Holy Spirit was my guide (did I pay attention to Him?), when from evil spirits or moods He set me free.
We can lie down at the days end, believing and trusting that we are one day closer to the gate of heaven. “Give thanks in all circumstances” wrote St. Paul, more than once. I quote from the paragraph above in the Catechism. We notice also that in the Roman liturgy, every reading is concluded by the congregation saying Deo gratius, thank You, God, for showing us where to go and how.
If penitents read what I have written, you may say, “Okay. That is what we do.” You do not need to feel or be “penitent” for having failed. The Greek word for “sin” also means “fail” (to hit your target). I request you say a penitent prayer for sinners like me who are not always so thankful for all the gifts of physical and spiritual life; our circumstances are not always pleasant.
Mysteriously, Jesus could hardly have felt joy, I imagine, in Gethsemane or when He felt forsaken on that cross. And His Mother must have felt desolate when she lost her only Son. Was her faith great enough to make her thank the Father that she was allowed to join her divine Son that far from His departure from life in this world? Does Mary thank God for what she holds in her Pieta?
When we look into the mirror of our conscience, we may see ourselves complaining, for instance, about the weather, controlled by the will of God. We would die of thirst if it never rained. Not every gift of God is pleasant to receive. Some pains and unpleasantness cannot be understood as a share in Christ’s passion; for example, grudges people feel against their parents. I knew a man could not forgive his father; he had to work to earn enough to pay for his college education. His father was too stingy, because his father could have afforded it. The son held onto a grudge; he could not get married until he had paid his college debts, and his choice for whom to marry had been taken by a wealthy rival. To be grateful for the loss is almost contradictory, as professional athletes will agree. With grudges, we will be happier if we can forgive and forget.
A really holy man or woman can except with thanks “negative” experiences; the opposite of a thankful feeling is felt with an upset stomach, but it is good insofar as it is a way to know what not to eat or drink. Athletes, too, can learn from their losses if it was not just bad luck. It is easier to be grateful for good luck. Who can be thankful for auto accidents in which they are injured, perhaps permanently? If it was another driver’s fault, a holy person will thank God that they have someone to forgive in the image and likeness of our Creator who is all mercy.
Shakespeare’s later writings reveal that he was severe in his judgment of those who are ungrateful. Does that apply to any of us? St. Gregory the Great thought tristitia (sadness, depression) is sinful. But St. Bernard thought otherwise. He wrote in our name in the prayer to Our Lady, the Memorare, “before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful” and this in the person of anyone who is penitent.
It is vital that we not give in to gloom and depression.
I share this poem by Saint John of the Cross, translated by Roy Campbell. It is the saint’s way of showing that gratitude for the spiritual dark night is in order because it leads to union with God, the Beloved.
Upon a gloomy night,
With all my cares to loving ardours flushed,
(O venture of delight!)
With nobody in sight
I went abroad when all my house was hushed.
In safety, in disguise,
In darkness up the secret stair I crept,
(O happy enterprise)
Concealed from other eyes
When all my house at length in silence slept.
Upon that lucky night
In secrecy, inscrutable to sight,
I went without discerning
And with no other light
Except for that which in my heart was burning.
It lit and led me through
More certain than the light of noonday clear
To where One waited near
Whose presence well I knew,
There where no other presence might appear.
Oh night that was my guide!
Oh darkness dearer than the morning’s pride,
Oh night that joined the lover
To the beloved bride
Transfiguring them each into the other.
Within my flowering breast
Which only for himself entire I save
He sank into his rest
And all my gifts I gave
Lulled by the airs with which the cedars wave.
Over the ramparts fanned
While the fresh wind was fluttering his tresses,
With his serenest hand
My neck he wounded, and
Suspended every sense with its caresses.
Lost to myself I stayed
My face upon my lover having laid
From all endeavour ceasing:
And all my cares releasing
Threw them amongst the lilies there to fade.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: THE AGONY OF CONVERSION
The beginning of the new year brings with it an attempt at making resolutions to better ourselves over the next 12 months. Studies have shown that most people abandon these after 12 days. Why? Because conversion takes work and can be painful.
When we read the life of St. Francis, we see how many men followed him and women joined St. Clare. But most of the stories do not tell us the spiritual journey these people endured before making the decision to give up everything in the name of Jesus and follow the example of the poor man or poor woman from Assisi. What makes us think that their journey to surrender to God was any easier than our own? Consider the first follower, Bernard of Quintavalle. He gave up a noble family name, respect from the citizens of Assisi, and a substantial income to become the first to follow Francis. He was not jumping on the bandwagon. He was helping to build the bandwagon. Only God knows the mental processes that Bernard endured before finally deciding to adopt the path of this merchant penitent whom the people of Assisi originally thought was mad.
On our conversion journey, some family and friends may think that we also have leapt off the spiritual deep end. Let us remember people like Bernard who did the same thing. –Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
POETRY: Shekhinah Glory
[The Shekhina(h) (Biblical Hebrew: שכינה šekīnah; also Romanized Shekina(h), Schechina(h), Shechina(h)) is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling" or "settling" and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God. This term does not occur in the Bible, and is from rabbinic literature.]
The following song was written by Timothy Cooper, a member of the CFP Alessandro Prison Ministry. Timothy is a musician who utilizes his musical talents in playing for the prison Masses and for his fellow inmates.
How we wish we could hear this song played and sung! Timothy is unable to provide us with a recording while in prison. Please pray for him and for the other members of the Alessandro Prison Ministry, that they remain strong in their faith and that they be good witnesses of Christ to fellow inmates.
Verse 1: I came to Your window. I came inside Your door. I ask You the questions; showed me so much more. I came to Your mountain. I drank from Your Holy Fountain. I cried Alleluia! And You gave me so much more.
Chorus: Shekhinah Glory! Shekhinah Blue! Signs of Your Splendor, Majesty renewed, Son of the Most High, Prince of the King, Known for His miracles, Blissful in the night
Verse 2: Looking beyond Your footstool, Transfigured in the Light, Silence, ah surrounds You, Holiness in the night. Words of the wonderful, Illuminated bright, Circle of the Universe, Israel in the night
(Guitar pause) (Chorous)
Bridge: Run when you have to. Fly when you can. Never let the people ever get you down. Did they get you down, boy? Did they get you down? Make you feel like a piece of the ground. Far below all these trees and beautiful dreams. Don’t forget now, your beautiful dreams.
Verse 3: I drink from Your fountain. I lived in Your Holy Mountain. Everlasting waters Pour down upon me, Father. Your Skekinah Glory Pour down upon me, Father. Your Shekinah Glory.
(Chorus x 3)