Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter August 2020
MESSAGE FROM CFP ADVISOR FOR FRANCISCAN MATTERS
We commemorate the Transitus (Latin: crossing) / death of St. Francis on October 3rd. The word in Latin refers to "the time of passage through death to life". The theologian German Martinez writes that: “The idea of death in the Latin transitus (transition, passing over) represents a unique Christian terminology linked to the paschal mystery. It consecrates the passage of the dying to eternal life. Offering the sacrifice of his or her personal life, the believer shares in the paschal transitus of Christ himself.”
We know that at the end of his life Saint Francis was brought back to a hut next to the Porziuncola. There, in the place where the Franciscan movement began, and feeling that the end of his life was approaching, he spent his last days dictating his spiritual testament.
He died on the evening of Saturday, 3 October 1226, singing Psalm 142 (141), "Voce mea ad Dominum". “With full voice I cry to the LORD; with full voice I beseech the LORD. Before God I pour out my complaint, lay bare my distress. My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path. Along the way I walk they have hidden a trap for me. I look to my right hand, but no friend is there. There is no escape for me; no one cares for me. I cry out to you, LORD, I say, You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry for help, for I am brought very low. Rescue me from my pursuers, for they are too strong for me. Lead me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name. Then the just shall gather around me because you have been good to me.”
How profound the Psalms that we pray every day! They echo in the heart with every emotion and renew the intellect and will with hope in God in both consoling and difficult circumstances. Perhaps the most profound circumstance we will face will be our own transitus. What is it that we want to be the final expression of our heart and faith?
From the beginning of the Capuchin order in the 16th century The Testament of Saint Francis was always published along with the Rule because the early friars believed that the Testament represented the true mind and heart of the founder. Perhaps it would be a good thing for all of us to read once again The Testament of Saint Francis as we prepare to celebrate his feast day so that we might gain renewed insight into his spiritual genius and in which we find our ultimate hope, as he did, in Jesus Christ.
–Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, Spiritual Advisor for Franciscan Matters
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: THE TESTAMENT OF SAINT FRANCIS
In this way did the Lord give me, Brother Francis, the grace to begin doing penance: when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world.
And the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would pray with simplicity in this way and say: “We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the whole world and we bless You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.”
Afterwards the Lord gave me, and gives me still, such faith in priests who live according to the rite of the holy Roman Church because of their orders that, were they to persecute me, I would still want to have recourse to them. And if I had as much wisdom as Solomon and found priests of this world impoverished, I would not preach in their parishes against their will. And I desire to respect, love and honour them and all others as my lords. And I do not want to consider any sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them and they are my lords.
And I act in this way because, in this world, I see nothing materially of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood which they receive and they alone administer to others. I want to have these most holy mysteries honoured and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places. Wherever I find our Lord’s most holy name and written words in unbecoming places, I want to gather them up. And I beg that they be gathered up and placed in a becoming place. And we must honour all theologians and those who minister the most holy divine words, and respect them as those who minister to us spirit and life.
And after the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel. And I had this written down simply and in a few words and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me. And those who came to receive life gave whatever they had to the poor and were content with one tunic, patched inside and out, with a cord and short trousers. We desired nothing more. We cleric brothers said the Office as other clerics did; the lay brothers said the Our Fathers. And we quite willingly remained in churches. And we were simple and subject to all.
And I worked with my hands, and I still desire to work; and I earnestly desire all brothers to give themselves to honest work. Let those who do not know how to work learn, not from desire to receive wages, but for example and to avoid idleness. And when we are not paid for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door. The Lord revealed a greeting to me that we would say: “May the Lord give you peace.”
Let the brothers be careful not to receive in any way churches or dwellings or anything else built for them unless they are according to the holy poverty we have promised in the Rule. As pilgrims and strangers, let them always be guests there.
I strictly command all the brothers through obedience, wherever they may be, not to dare to ask any letter from the Roman Curia, either personally or through an intermediary, whether for a church or another place or under the pretext of preaching or the persecution of their bodies. But, wherever they are not received, let them flee into another country to do penance with the blessing of God.
And I firmly wish to obey the General Minister of this fraternity and the other guardians whom it pleases him to give me. And I so wish to be a captive in his hands that I cannot go anywhere or do anything beyond obedience and his will, for he is my master.
And although I may be simple and infirm, I nevertheless want to have a cleric always with me who will celebrate the Office for me as it is prescribed in the Rule.
And let all the brothers be bound to obey their guardians and to recite the Office according to the Rule. And if any are found who do not recite the Office according to the Rule and want to change it in some way, or who are not Catholics, let all the brothers, wherever they may have found such a one, be bound through obedience to bring him before the custodian of that place nearest to where they found him. And the custodian is strictly bound by obedience to keep him securely day and night as a prisoner, so that he cannot be taken from his hands until he can personally deliver him into the hands of his minister. And the minister is bound by obedience to send him with such brothers who shall guard him as a prisoner until they deliver him to the Lord of Ostia, who is the Master, the Protector and the Corrector of this fraternity.
And the brothers may not say: “This is another rule.” Because this is a remembrance, admonition, exhortation, and my testament, which I, little brother Francis, make for you, my blessed brothers, that we may observe the Rule we have promised in a more Catholic way.
And let the General Minister and all the other ministers and custodians be bound through obedience not to add to or take away from these words. And let them always have this writing with them together with the Rule. And in all the chapters which they hold, when they read the Rule, let them also read these words. And I strictly command all my cleric and lay brothers, through obedience, not to place any gloss upon the Rule or upon these words saying: “Let them be understood in this way.” But as the Lord has given me to speak and write the Rule and these words simply and plainly, may you understand them simply and without gloss and observe them with a holy activity until the end.
And whoever observes these things, may he be blessed in heaven with the blessing of the Most High Father, and on earth with the blessing of His Beloved Son with the Most Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, and all the powers of heaven and with all the saints. And, as far as I can, I, little brother Francis, your servant, confirm for you, both within and without, this most holy blessing.
NO GREATER LOVE: ABRAHAM
Pope Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, begins the answer to the question of who Jesus is with the genealogy of Jesus as given in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew’s Gospel begins with Abraham and ends with Mary. The story of the promise begins with Abraham, following the dispersal of mankind after the building of the Tower of Babel. Abraham points ahead to what is yet to come. He is a wayfarer, not only from the land of his birth into the promised land, but also on the journey from the present into the future. His whole life points forward, it is a dynamic of walking along the path of what is to come. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews rightly presents him as a pilgrim of faith on the basis of the promise: "He looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (11:10). For Abraham, the promise refers in the first instance to his descendants, but it also extends further: "all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him" (Gen 18:18). Thus the whole history, beginning with Abraham and leading to Jesus, is open toward universality--through Abraham blessing comes to All.
The “blessing” which came to the world was Jesus Christ. How does Abraham’s life point forward to Jesus Christ? In Genesis 11 Abraham is mentioned as one of the sons of Terah, and Abraham had a barren wife called Sarai. God later changed her name to Sarah. The story of Abraham really begins in Genesis 12 where he receives the command from God to go from Mesopotamia to Canaan in Palestine. Abraham was seventy-five years old when he received the call from God, and Sarah was about sixty-five. He was a rich man with many livestock and yet he remained married to only Sarah while she was alive. Abraham was surely loyal to Sarah but even more so to God and the Covenant God made with him.
Like Abraham, many of us have a task which God wants us to fulfill, but, like Abraham, we get ahead of God and try to fulfill it in our own way. When famine came to the land of Canaan after God had commanded him to go there, Abraham went to Egypt with Sarah and his flocks and possessions. However, Abraham was afraid of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt and lied to him by telling him that Sarah was his sister, not his wife. Abraham was afraid that Pharaoh would kill him because of Sarah. Later, Abraham told the same lie to Abimelech, a tribal king in the Negeb desert, because he was afraid of Abimelech. Abraham was willing to let Sarah be a concubine of pagan rulers to preserve his own life. Both rulers treated Abraham kindly and even added to Abraham’s wealth because of Sarah. However, God sent punishments to both these rulers and soon they realized that Sarah was Abraham’s wife. They did not kill Abraham but gave Sarah back to him and commanded Abraham to leave them. Even though this happened many hundreds of years before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, both rulers understood clearly that adultery offended God. God had protected Abraham.
When Abraham left Mesopotamia, he took his nephew Lot, who was also rich, with him to Canaan. Abraham realized that the land where they were (Canaan) could not support the flocks of both himself and Lot so he asked Lot to separate from him with his flocks. Abraham gave Lot the choice of going to the east to the fertile plain of the Jordan valley where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were located or to the west to the rugged highlands of Canaan. Lot chose to take his flocks to Sodom so Abraham took his flocks to the highlands of Canaan. Later, kings attacked Sodom and kings allied with Sodom and took Lot prisoner. Abraham must have been quite rich since when he was informed that Lot was taken prisoner, he gathered three hundred and eighteen of his servants and set out to liberate Lot. He found out where the camp of the enemy was located and surprised them at night, defeated them, and even pursued them to a place north of Damascus in Syria. He recovered Lot, his possessions and the others who had been taken prisoner as well as the booty that the enemy had left behind.
In thanksgiving to God for giving him victory over the enemy, Abraham went to Melchizedek, the king of Salem, a city which Jewish and Christian tradition identifies as Jerusalem. Melchizedek was also a priest, but not a pagan priest. He was a priest of “God Most High”. He did not offer an animal from Abraham’s flocks but instead offered “bread and wine”. Christian tradition, and especially the letter to the Hebrews, sees this as an amazing foreshadowing of the Eucharist and Christ’s offering of bread and wine at the last supper. Some Christians give a tithe of their yearly income to the Church. Abraham, however, gave a tithe of “everything” to Melchizedek for giving him a blessing and offering bread and wine. This was quite a substantial “Mass stipend”. The king of Sodom was also present and offered Abraham all the booty. Abraham, however, took nothing for himself but gave it all to the king of Sodom and the men who won the victory for him.
Just as Abraham wanted to “help” God fulfill his promise to him, Sarah wanted to do the same thing. Sarah certainly knew of the promise God made to Abraham to give him numerous descendants, but she was barren so she wondered how this could happen. Mesopotamian law allowed a barren wife to present her slave girl to her husband and the child would be considered to be the wife’s child. Sarah asked Abraham to agree to this and he agreed. Sarah’s Egyptian slave girl named Hagar had a child called Ishmael by Abraham. Ishmael was blessed by God with many descendants, but the promise to Abraham was not fulfilled through Ishmael. God informed Abraham that the promise to Abraham would be fulfilled through a child whom Sarah would bear. Shortly after this, three “men”, whom scripture identified as God and two angels, visited Abraham. They informed him that within a year Sarah would bear a child. This was amazing since Abraham would be one hundred years old at that time and Sarah would be ninety.
Why was this revelation given directly to Abraham and not to Sarah? Sarah gives us a clue. She overheard that she would have a child. Sarah thought to herself “Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!” Abraham certainly loved Sarah, but they must have stopped having relations since she was too old, and there was no point to it. We have a similar situation in the New Testament (Lk 1:5-25) where the angel Gabriel, informs Zechariah that his wife St. Elizabeth, who is also very old, would have a child. This child was St. John the Baptist.
Sarah did have a child named Isaac, and God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled through Isaac and not Ishmael. Since Isaac was the child of God’s promise, Abraham certainly loved Isaac greatly. However, God wanted to know whether Abraham loved Isaac more than he loved God. Therefore, he asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him. Abraham must have been greatly puzzled by this. Yet Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. As they were going to the place of sacrifice, which some believe was Mount Calvary, Isaac asked Abraham where was the lamb for the sacrifice. Abraham replied, “My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” This was correct. God had provided Isaac to Abraham. Of course, God did not want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Instead, God provided a ram caught in a bush to be the sacrifice. Human sacrifice was widely practiced in the ancient world, but the Mosaic Law strictly forbade it.
When Isaac was about forty years old and Abraham was one hundred and forty, Abraham realized that he needed to find a wife for Isaac. Since Abraham was so old, he asked the chief steward of his house to find a wife for Isaac. However, he did not want the steward to get a wife for Isaac from the land of Canaan where they were living at that time and was the land promised to Abraham. Abraham wanted the steward to find a wife for Isaac from Mesopotamia, Abraham’s ancestral homeland. The steward had a big problem since not only did he have to find the wife from a distant place where he did not know anybody, but he also had to get her to come back with him to Canaan since Canaan was the land given to Abraham’s descendants. He was not to take Isaac to Mesopotamia.
When the steward arrived in Mesopotamia, he prayed to God to show him the wife God chose for Isaac. God answered his prayer for he found Rebekah, who was a distant relative of Abraham. She was willing to go to Canaan with the steward and marry Isaac. Rebekah’s brother was Laban, whose two daughters later married Isaac’s son Jacob.
After Sarah died, Abraham married another woman named Keturah who provided him with six children. Abraham seemed to have had concubines who also provided him with children. Before Abraham died at the age of one hundred seventy-five, he sent all his children, except Isaac, to the “east country” (probably Mesopotamia). The child of the promise of God was only Isaac whose descendants were to have the land of Canaan. Abraham always tried to be faithful to the promise God made to him, and the ultimate result of that faithfulness was Jesus Christ. God chooses human beings with human failings to do His will. We need to be grateful to those who have been faithful to God’s call from the distant past down to the present time. – Jim Nugent, CFP
REFLECTION ON THE RULE: SECTION 13
RULE: 13. The sick are not to say the Hours unless they wish.
CONSTITUTIONS: 13. In keeping with section 13 of the Rule: 13a. While the sick do not have to say an office, they may do so all or part of the time.
REFLECTION: Section 13 of the Rule is another section that shows the balance in this Rule and its loving concern for those who are ill. Those who are sick are not only permitted to disregard praying the Divine Office but the sick “are not to say the Hours unless they wish.” In other words, when you are sick, the default is NOT to pray the Hours although, if you WANT to, you can do it. The sick who are not praying the hours can offer up their sufferings as penance for others who are ill and who have no one praying for them. In this way, suffering is not wasted, so to speak. It becomes prayer for others.
OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE
No additional progress on St. Joseph’s Men’s Vocation Discernment House and Annunciation Women’s Vocation Discernment House. The CFP administrative headquarters is continuing to pursue grants for the restoration and remodeling of both houses. Thanks to the suggestion of one of our members, we have placed a banner on the CFP Holy Angels checkout page, asking if customers would like to donate to our Franciscan Vocation House Ministry. Thanks to all who have donated through this banner.
Please pray both houses. May God reward you for your prayers and for any financial support you can give. Does anyone know of any grants for which we could apply? Please contact us with any information!
HUMOR – SCRABBLE
ASTRONOMER :When you rearrange the letters: MOON STARER
THE EYES When you rearrange the letters: THEY SEE
DORMITORY When you rearrange the letters: DIRTY ROOM
CFP Retreat 2020 dates are September 23 through September 27 at St. Felix Catholic Retreat Center, 1280 Hitzfield Street, Huntington Indiana USA. Retreat Master: Father Matthew Palkowski, OFM Cap.
$95 plus $15 worth of food (canned or packaged or fresh fruits or vegetables) and/or paper goods to share (we will be serving our own meals) or $15 toward food costs.
Bedding is provided but please bring your own towel, wash cloth, soap, etc. Commuters $60 plus $15 of food or paper goods or $15 toward costs of food and paper goods. You need not be in the CFP to attend. We will practicing social distancing, a food service provider will be handling the food which will be served in line with guidelines put in place for the covid pandemic, and please wear masks when in the presence of others.
$50 deposit to reserve your spot. Send deposit to Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA or use the donation button on the website’s retreat page to make an on line deposit.
CARLO ACUTIS: UPCOMING SAINT
How many of you are familiar with the life of this young man Carlo Acutis who will be beatified on October 10 in Assisi? Carlo lived in Italy, and he had a particular devotion to Eucharistic Miracles. He also was a computer programmer. He said that the Internet has immense power to do good, but also that it has the capability to do evil when people get addicted to it. He also is quoted as saying "we are all born originals, but many people die as copies," meaning copies of the world and not behaving in the way God intended us with our unique spirit.
He hosted a web-site and after he passed away at the age of fifteen, completely by surprise just three days after diagnosed with leukemia, there were numerous miracles attributed to his intercession. Countless people showed up for his funeral. He is now buried in Assisi near St. Francis.
I felt a strong desire to start a Novena to this young saint who understood at his age that once we decide to follow God, he will help us in our struggles here.
He also said "so many people wait in line for concert tickets, but the King of Heaven sits exposed in the Blessed Sacrament in an empty Church." Jesus loves us and our forgetting Him is a source of sorrow, most especially at indifference. Indifference is the worst sort of offense.
-- Eric Welch, Novice 3, Formation Complete, Alessando Prison Ministry
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP: SAINTS PRAYER CARDS
The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop carries many prayer cards of Catholic saints and will be carrying one for Carlo Acutis once he is beatified. Consult the website www.cfpholyangels.com or write to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA.
CFP PHOTO ALBUM: FORMER CFP’ER BECOMES BENEDICTINE BROTHER
The Confraternity of Penitents is always joyful when one of its members enter religious life. Thus, we rejoiced on July 11, the feast of Saint Benedict, when Patrick Hamor, former CFP member, was received in the novitiate at Saint Martin’s Benedictine Abbey in Lacey, WA, USA.
Patrick is now known as Brother Pachomius, after Saint Pachomius, the founder of cenobitic monasticism.
Saint Pachomius, pray for our brother!
REFLECTION ON VOCATION
“The Crucifixion was the greatest act of love the world has ever known.” It was also the devil’s greatest mistake. All sins and evil were forgiven, paid for, wiped out. The devil drove his enemies to envy Jesus’ popularity with the Jewish people. The proud resisted the rising power of this Messiah. Jesus’ goodness, humility, obedience to his Father led him to ransom all mankind from death and hell. Thus, God can bring good out of evil, that is why He permits it.
One of the shadows over the light of our Christian life is depression. Satan does not want us to be happy. The Christ child was sent from his Father to bring happiness through holiness. Our suffering, mental and physical, when offered up to God in union with the Cross, The Passion of Christ makes us closer to Christ, paradoxically a source of joy, ultimately to heaven. Heaven is God’s bliss.
Jesus, the Son of Man, was changed by his Passion. He was different before his Resurrection and after his Resurrection. We worship that he has ascended to the Father and leaves us longing for Heaven. We are tempted to think a human (girlfriend, sports, champion, business, or career…) can give us happiness, but that ends in tragedy or torture. An eschaton. You try to pray but don’t know how, but the Holy Spirit initiates the spiritual life within you. St. Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, etc. introduces us.
By discipline we rid ourselves of sin. Daily Mass, liturgical prayer. We hear the voice of God in our conscience. We need heavy prayer life (keeping mouth shut in contemplation), poetry and music. Membership in religious orders or movements, CFP rules…. guide us into continual conversion.
– Father Julian Stead, OSB, Second Visitor to the Confraternity of Penitents. Please pray for Fr. Julian. He is in his 90’s and still sharp as a tack and, although he now resides in a Catholic nursing home, he remains a member of Portsmouth Abbey Benedictine Community in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
WHY IS THE CFP CONSIDERED FRANCISCAN?
The bishops under whom we have operated have consistently stated that the CFP is Franciscan because we are following a Rule which St. Francis gave to the laity. Our canonical status, assigned by the Bishop, is private association of the faithful with commendation.
The first followers of this rule were penitents. There were penitents living this way before St. Francis entered his conversion. He began his conversion as one of these penitents. His early followers joined him in a life of penance and, when asked who they were, the first friars (brothers) replied, "We are penitents from Assisi." As more men joined Francis, his bishop required that his group become more canonical in structure and so the Order developed. When St. Clare joined, she joined as a penitent but, when she had women joining her, they, too, had to adopt a more canonical Rule. In 1220 or thereabouts, Cardinal Hugolino who was the Cardinal Protector of both Orders, wrote, at Francis' request, a canonical Rule of life for the laity who were wanting to follow the life style of the friars and sisters but who couldn't leave their homes. This Rule was the way the lay penitents were already living, and it became the Rule of 1221 which the CFP is following, with its modern constitutions. As the Franciscan and Dominican friars preached and circulated among the people, more and more laity felt drawn to conversion. Both Orders gave them the Rule of 1221 to follow. Only in 1289 did Pope Nicholas IV put all the penitents, living the Rule of 1221, directly under the Franciscans which meant that the Franciscans were supposed to look after the lay penitents and be their Visitors (Church representatives). At this point, Francis had been dead for over 40 years (he died in 1226).
The current Franciscan Order has several branches--Order of Friars Minor, Order of Friars Minor Conventual, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and many others. Each group has a Third Order connected to it--these are the laity. The CFP is not officially connected with any one of these Franciscan groups of friars but is informally connected with all of them. Thus, our spiritual directors can come from any of these groups and other groups in the Church. Fr. Joe Tuscan, OFM Cap (Order of Friars Minor Capuchin) is our Franciscan Spiritual Advisor, but we are not a Capuchin Third Order. The CFP is its own group, like the early penitents were, not sponsored by the Franciscans but embracing poverty, simplicity, faith, peace, and humility like the penitents were doing when Francis himself became a penitent.
The CFP call was to live the Rule of 1221 as closely as possible to its original intent. This means to live a life of penance (conversion) like the first penitents did, which means that we are our own Order just as they were -- the Order of Penitents. We could not use the word "Order" when we refounded as that word now means "consecrated religious" and it would be misleading so the word Confraternity was used instead. Thus, the Confraternity of Penitents is Franciscan in spirit but is not sponsored by any of the male or female branches of the Franciscan Order. The CFP is its own group as were the first penitents. –Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP