Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter
REMINDER: CFP Annual Retreat Wednesday, October 9 through Sunday, October 13, 2019 in Huntington Indiana. Retreat Master: Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap.
Topic: Why Stay Catholic? -- Franciscan spirituality of The Cross
Biblical and spiritual foundation of forgiveness
Spirituality of St. Padre Pio and Bl. Solanus Casey
The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Eucharist. More Information and Registration on this link.
SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT’S ADVICE: SOME CONSIDERATIONS ON THE STIGMATA AND BROTHER LEO
(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.
Image of Francis receiving the Stigmata with Brother Leo observing was painted by Lorenzo Ghiberti)
One of the most lovable figures surrounding the wonders of the life of our holy father St. Francis is Brother Leo. Brother Leo’s role in our Franciscan family becomes especially apparent during the account of St. Francis receiving the stigmata on Mount Alverna. If Francis has become the “Christ of Umbria,” how grateful we should be to learn from his closest companions just as Peter, James, and John reveal the mysteries of Christ to us and allow us in some way to be “witnesses of these things” with them. (cf. Jn 21:24).
Part II of the Little Flowers of St. Francis is designated for “The Considerations on the Holy Stigmata” and makes for great devotional reading. The author of this book attributes his recording passed down through two other friars, with the first having heard this account from Brother Leo. Let us first offer some considerations on Brother Leo before contemplating the immensity of God’s grace worked in St. Francis through the Holy Stigmata, which traditionally was celebrated throughout the universal church on September 17.
As St. Francis and Brother Leo were on retreat on Mount Alverna, preparing for the Feast of St. Michael, Brother Leo found himself overcome by spiritual temptations. This interior battle was revealed to St. Francis who had compassion on his brother and produced the desire within Brother Leo’s heart to have some inspiring words written by the saint’s own hand. He wrote for him a praise of Christ and signed it with his signature Tau mark.
Because of Brother Leo, we can also hear these words of reassurance spoken by St. Francis when we are faced with temptation: “Do not be troubled because you have temptations. For I consider you more of a servant and friend of God, and I love you more, the more you are attacked by temptations. Truly I tell you that no one should consider himself a perfect friend of God until he has passed through many temptations and tribulations.” It is also worth noting how simply reminding someone that they are loved can be the strongest antidote to lies that attack those around us.
During another part of this retreat, Brother Leo’s admiration of St. Francis and his curiosity get the best of him. He watches in awe as St. Francis is granted a mystical vision and is surrounded by a Heavenly fire when he was supposed to be reverencing the saint’s desire for solitude and privacy. As Brother Leo turned to sneak away, the cracking of sticks under his feet gave him away. Brother Leo was mortified because he truly loved St. Francis and he did not want to offend him. He confessed his disobedience in tears. But then he went on to ask, “Father, please explain to me the words I heard and also tell me those I did not hear.”
And St. Francis was moved to share with Brother Leo his whole mystical experience! Brother Leo was dear to St. Francis, and he had virtues of purity and meekness, and he discerned that God did will for him to have this understanding. Surely, it wasn’t because of Brother Leo’s disobedience that this intimacy was granted. But Brother Leo gives us hope that we should not allow our sins or mistakes to become insurmountable obstacles to friendship with God. We should repent or offer up humiliations, but we should not run away in shame or give up asking for that closeness we desire. It can be precisely because of our littleness that God is moved to favor us. (cf. Mary’s Magnificat Lk 1:46-55)
St. Francis was so favored by God because of his littleness, his poverty. In the mystical experience that he shared with Brother Leo, God asked him three times to put his hand into his bosom and to offer whatever he would find there. St. Francis at first protested saying: “My Lord, I am entirely Yours. You know that I have nothing but a habit and cord and breeches, and those three things are likewise Yours. So, what can I offer or give to Your Majesty? For Heaven and earth, fire and water, and everything in them are Yours, Lord. Who indeed has anything that is not Yours? Therefore, when we offer You anything, we give You back what is Yours. So, what can I offer to You, the Lord God, King of Heaven and earth and all creation? For what do I have that is not Yours?”
Three times St. Francis obeyed God’s request and three times he pulled a large gold coin from his breast. He realized these were his great virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience that God Himself had put there.
And it was with this humble, abandoned disposition that God was able to bestow the wounds of Christ upon our holy father. Brother Leo was the one trusted to care for these holy wounds. May all of us humble ourselves to be able to receive the graces God wants to work in us and support one another in love. – Sister Karolyn Grace, PSSC
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.”
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
“The most important question is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
“As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists.”
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: SAINT MARY MAGDALENE
In the Confraternity of Penitents, we are all admitted sinners. Let’s consider one of our greatest role models, Saint Mary Magdalene. In the West, St. Mary Magdalene's feast day comes up on July 22. During prayer the last couple of days, I have been urged in my heart and mind to share the following with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ:
First, how must it have been, to have "seven devils?" I can’t imagine it. Can you? I've seen the Exorcist, and I know it was based on a true story connected with Fr. Gabriel Amorth. The names and places were changed to protect the poor soul. In a similar way, the Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on a true story. These movies show the reality of demon possession, and they are the only two movies that I know of that accurately portray this possession with only slight embellishment.
Now, consider that, in these two instances, each woman was possessed by only ONE devil. Imagine being possessed by seven. Twisting and contorting her frame, her mind, her every act of her body held captive and doing the bidding of another. Addiction is an example of a devastating illness that destroys the human, and devils are even worse. And in one word from the Word of God, Mary Magdalene was delivered from the unimaginable torture. She had been in Hell, but on earth.
I believe Scripture leaves out things that are not meant to help us. I think of grotesque things as one example, things shown in movies but not discussed in Scripture. For example, I would never want to tell anyone of some of the things I saw in prison, because they really would serve no good purpose. The same for leaving out horrifying details of the Magdalene’s possession.
I am very fond of Mary Magdalene. I have been afflicted in every way, and most of it by my own act of willing sin in my life. Her "clinging" to the Lord. Her arrival even on Sunday early in the Morning to see Him. His body, anyway. Literally, nothing else mattered to her but Jesus. She was so fixated on seeing His body that it never "dawned" on her to believe that the gardener was the Lord ... until He meant her to understand by calling her by name. When I want to abandon myself to divine providence, I think of her and her abandonment of everything else to seek Him in his tomb.
Mary Magdalene’s faith is so beautiful. Consider the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, piety (faithfulness), gentleness, self-control (temperance). Translations use different words. Mary Magdalene, it seems to me, is telling us that these things are ours, or were ours, naturally in the Garden of Eden. We think of them as "gifts" because we have been without them for so long. But, when we are united with Christ, when Christ is living in us in the Eucharistic rest of heaven, healing that brokenness of disobedience, we are really just getting back what God gave to us as rightfully ours to begin with. Mary Magdalene knew what it was like to be bound apart from grace. The gifts of the Holy Spirit returned to her with her unbinding but, more importantly, with her love of Christ. May she pray that we can love even a little bit as much as she did. That is from the Magdalene to me in prayer, now I give it to you. – Eric Welch, Novice 3, CFP Alessandro Prison Ministry
OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE (AS OF SEPTEMBER 28, 2019)
Our Rule, Our Future is the result of prayer regarding the future of the CFP. Please pray for and financially help this effort! See Our Rule, Our Future link. God bless you!
Construct Chapel for Mary’s Glen: $65,000 needed -- $513 collected
Purchase Chief of Staff House: $50,000 needed -- $2500 collected
Renovate Administrative and Volunteer House: $120,000 needed -- $6861.63 collected
NO GREATER LOVE: JESUS AS OUR JUDGE
We know that at our death and the Last Judgement we will be judged. However, who will be our judge? In Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar discusses this question. We can say that the Father's revelation has this twofold form: he sends into the world both his Word and his Son, and the two are one; but "the Word" of the Father has the totally unyielding quality of one who has been commissioned from on high. He can do no other but carry out, to the last detail, the task laid upon him. "The Son", by contrast, is the Father's sole Beloved, whom the Father gives up because he so loves the world. When we meet revelation in the New Covenant, we first of all meet the Son in his human form. We find that through our contact with him, the man Jesus Christ becomes, to us, word, sword and fire. Having been initiated into love, we become initiated into judgment. When we truly love someone, our lack of love for them becomes a judgment on us. Jesus gave us a way to gauge our love or lack of love when He said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
Von Balthasar explains this in detail. In John, the Lord himself refers to this dual function in his own nature: "If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak" (Jn 12:47-49). The Son does not judge and pronounce sentence as Savior and Redeemer; but he does so as the Word of the Father. For the Father is the righteous Creator, he guards both the world order and his own holiness, visiting with judgment those who scorn and reject the holiness of the Son. Judgment lies, not in the Son, but in men's failure to accept the Son: the Son's love which they spurn has its effect in them in terms of judgment, not because the Son wanted to judge them, but because, by their reaction against love, they condemn themselves. "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who
believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:17-19).
In the same sense a man "eats and drinks judgment upon himself" if he consumes the Lord's flesh and blood without "discernment" (i.e., without examining himself and submitting to judgment by the word). Paul goes on to explain, in an entirely Johannine sense: "But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world" (1 Cor 11:29-32). In the scene with the adulteress the Lord's word transfixes the sinners who were condemning her and forces them to retreat, carrying the Word's judgment in themselves: in the form of punishment; they are obliged to give way; to the judgment of mercy: "Neither do I condemn you" (Jn 8:11, cf. Jn 12:46-48). It is as though God abandons the 'sinner to the devouring self-contradiction of his opposition to God's word; it sticks in him like a "thorn in the flesh". The more he kicks against it, the deeper he drives the pain into his own flesh (Acts 26:14). The sinner bears judgment in himself; ultimately, he will condemn himself in the light of God. Nothing will fall upon him but God's light, but it will rest upon him until the contradiction is completely, nakedly revealed, until the verdict is plain to see in the sinner himself, in God's word in him. Peter experienced something of this when, placed in this burning light, he begged: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Lk 5:8); so too the Prodigal Son: "Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Lk 15:21).
Some modern theologians deny that we will be condemned for any specific actions but only for a general orientation against God. Thus, the adulterer or liar who is really a “good person” who really loves God need not fear judgement. Yet that person will be confronted with the way their actions conformed with God’s Word. Von Balthasar relates our judgement to the three stages of the mystics (purification, illumination, and union). It remains the Lord's own secret what he will do sitting in judgment after death with the sinner under condemnation by the word. What we are concerned with is how the Christian contemplative is to relate to the word which penetrates "to the division of soul and spirit", burning through him and searching him out. Out of love he exposes himself to fear, and the fear of the Lord brings him back to love. The first love is the anticipatory risk of faith; faith offers its life to the Son and, like the first disciples, follows the as yet unknown Lord. The second love is a love chastened and purified by him, the Father's Word, a love which has discovered the divine word of grace in his human word of judgment. Here we can see clearly that the classical three stages, the ways of purification, of illumination and of union, are not isolated from one another: they interpenetrate. It is the light of the Word of God, uniting with the soul, which purifies the soul - although we cannot exclude a certain temporal sequence in which first one element predominates, then another. But illumination is crucial if purification is to take place; in the teaching of the mystics, for instance, the "dark night" always presupposes a foregoing spiritual light. Similarly, the decisive union takes place not after, but in purification. For it is the refining, crucifying, word of God (which is actually stamped upon the soul) which reveals itself, at the end of the "night", in the "resurrection", as the redeeming Son.
All this means that salvation (eternal life) cannot be separated from judgement. If we see Christ as the Way of salvation, we must realize that judgement goes with this. Von Balthasar explains what this means. Judgment is committed to the Son (Jn 5): the wicked will rise to be judged, the righteous will rise to life. The Redeemer cannot hinder this judgment, for it is of his very essence as the Father's Word: "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me." This is the image of the inexorable Logos, sword or sickle in hand, as the author of Revelation sees him. But this awesome figure inspires hope in those who have life, for the Word’s power is a power to make all men hear his voice, "the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live". For the Word of God has life in himself; the Son has received from his Father power "to have life in himself" and so also to give life to others through his self-communication, both as Son and as Word (Jn 5:24-30). But this acceptance of eternal life, through hearing the Son's voice, is tremendous, mysterious and full of danger, for it is an acceptance of “judgment", it involves man in self-condemnation under the Word. But at a deeper level, for the contemplative, it is full of consolation; indeed, it alone abounds with hope, for, by hearing the Word the believer genuinely participates in the life of the Word, which is a life of obedience, of the cross and resurrection. Thus, the Lord can put forward his paradox: "I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me" (Jn 8:15-16).
Crucified Love, in order not to judge us, takes the Father's sentence upon itself; and in doing so it becomes (by an absolute necessity) a crucifying love in so far as it communicates itself and its burning love-mystery. So he who has come not to judge but to save (Jn 12:47) ultimately has come "for judgment ... into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind" (Jn 9:39). Jesus Christ came not to condemn the world but to save it. Yet we have to accept the Gift He has given us, which is Himself. We shall be judged on how we have accepted this Gift. – Jim Nugent, CFP
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: MORE ON THE STIGMATA
Sister Karolyn Grace gave a thorough introduction to the stigmata of St. Francis in her reflection elsewhere in this newsletter. It’s interesting to see how the development of this event took place.
In the first life of St. Francis, written by Friar Thomas of Celano, after interviewing other friars who knew St. Francis, wrote that the stigmata appeared gradually and that what appeared to be nails of flesh had pierced his hands and his feet. The wounding was painful but not bloody. However, the side wound did drip blood. Later descriptions of the stigmata and paintings of the event made it seem that Francis was zapped in the hands, feet, and side by the vision.
The first description spoke of what appeared to be a crucified man without naming that man as Jesus, whereas later biographers and painters clearly identified the vision as Christ crucified.
What does this tell us? That Francis experienced something that no one had experienced previously, at least to our knowledge, and he did not know what it was. It would have been inconceivable to Francis to think that he, whom he considered to be a vile sinner, would be chosen to bear the wounds of Christ.
Sister Karolyn Grace mentioned the “humble, abandoned disposition” that prepared Francis to receive this great grace, and it was precisely this same “humble, abandoned disposition” that kept him from naming what he received as the wounds of his Savior. May we pray to receive the humility that Francis had so that our life with Christ and others may truly reflect our Savior -- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
“As gifts increase in you, let your humility grow, for you must consider that everything is given to you on loan.” -- Saint Padre Pio
“Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly; and if He does not let you feel the sweetness of His love, it is to make you more humble and abject in your own eyes.” -- Saint Padre Pio
REFLECTION ON THE RULE: SECTION 10
RULE 10. Sisters who are pregnant are free to refrain until their purification from the corporal observances except those regarding their dress and prayers.
CONSTITUTIONS: 10. In keeping with section 10 of the Rule:
10a. All pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are exempt from fasting and abstinence both by the Church and the Rule.
What generosity and empathy were shown to pregnant women and unborn children in the original Rule! The Church recognized the unborn as needing the nourishment which the mother provided, and so women who had vowed to live a penitential rule of life were exempt from the fasting and abstinence portions of it while pregnant. This is because the baby needed nourishment. Today we understand that breast-feeding requires a healthy, well-nourished mother in order to provide ample and vitamin rich milk for the baby. This is why breast-feeding mothers are also exempt from fasting and abstaining.
Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers can do penance in the area of food by selecting protein rich foods that are not their favorites. This maintains a healthy diet while fostering penance.
Note that in the original rule, women penitents were still required to follow the dress and prayer requirements of the Rule even when they were pregnant and presumably when they were caring for their children. Prayer and dress does not affect the development of the child, so women penitents were expected to keep to what they had vowed.
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP
The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop is pleased to offer a $0.25 prayer card featuring a vintage image of a youthful Lady of Mental Peace, shown to the left.
The prayer reads:
O Lady of Mental Peace, Mother of tranquility and Mother of hope, look upon me in this time of my weakness and unrest.
Teach my searching heart to know that God's love for me is unchanging and unchangeable, and that true, human love can only begin and grow by touching His love.
Let your gentle peace, which this world cannot give but only God, be always with me. Help me to bring this same peace into the lives of others.
Our Lady of Mental Peace, pray for me! Amen.
Available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link. Buy 10 cards and get the 10th free.
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS PHOTO ALBUM
LIFE PLEDGE AND PRIVATE VOW OF JOHN MUTORO, NAIROBI, KENYA
John Francis Mutoro signs his life pledge and private vow while Rev. Fr. Martin Erapu, who accepted the pledge and vow, looks on.
The Confraternity of Penitents welcomes with joy John Francis Mutoro of Nairobi, Kenya, who, on August 22, the Queenship of Mary, pledged and privately vowed to live the CFP Rule for Life. Within the CFP, his privately vowed name is br. Francis of Assisi.
John is a husband, father, and pharmacy technician as well as a CFP formator.
God bless you, dear brother, and welcome to the CFP!
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS PROPERTY CLEAN UP
CFP Property Manager Tim Luncsford was able to secure a very reasonable price from a local tree trimming company to remove some very large, very high dead branches from the weeping willow tree toward the middle of the CFP Administrative House property.
The tree surgeon brought down the branches and Tim cut them up, hauled them to the rear of the property, and burned them in the fire pit. All this was done within less than a week because a local Knights of Columbus group was coming to Mary’s Glen for their annual picnic which they hold right under the willow tree. Here is a photo of the sled Tim made attached to the riding mower as he cleans up the cut branches.
Thank you, Tim!
POSTER PRODUCTION FOR MARY'S GLEN
Common Room area at CFP Administrative Headquarters showing Mary’s Glen poster that Property Manager Tim Luncsford created for an event at St. Andrew’s Church two blocks away.
The local CFP Chapter, Our Lady, Cause of Our Joy, is attempting to raise funds locally to build a prayer chapel that meets city code in Mary’s Glen. This poster introduced this effort.
The poster and information were also displayed at the Knights of Columbus picnic mentioned above and will be displayed at a well attended breakfast commemorating Our Lady of Fatima.
God bless you for your prayers for it!
PS. Note one of Tim's paintings on the back wall. His paintings are available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link.