Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter December 2020
FAST OF SAINT MARTIN CONTINUES FOR THOSE AT NOVICE 3 LEVEL AND THOSE PROFESSED, THIS MEANS ONE FULL MEAL DAILY AND ONE SMALLER MEAL (SUNDAYS AND SOLEMITIES EXCLUDED), AND NO SOLID FOOD BETWEEN, UNTIL CHRISTMAS. SEE CFP RULE AND CONSTITUTIONS FOR DETAILS.
FRANCISCAN SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S THOUGHTS: “THANK GOD AHEAD OF TIME.”
Blessed Solanaus Casey, OFM Cap., told those who came to him asking favors to “thank God ahead of time.” He wasn’t just mouthing words. Blessed Solanus suffered from many debilitating physical infirmities. He experienced many tragedies and sadnesses in his family and in his religious order, but he used to say, “Don’t wait for God to do something good for you to be grateful to him. Thank him ahead of time.”
These days people often greet each other with laments about how bad 2020 has been. Who could have imagined on January 1st, 2020, what was ahead in the new year? Despite a near total shutdown of the country in March, April and May, millions of Americans still became sick with covid-19. Covid-19 rages on despite all we have done to stop it. We also went through a bruising and contentious 2020 election, one that exposed a nation divided and mistrustful. Our country was rocked this year by demonstrations and then riots.
Yet this is the “holiday season.” Thanksgiving has just passed, one of our most beloved national holidays. Coming is Christmas when, as believers, we celebrate the fact that God took on human flesh to save us from our sins. Yet many families did not gather for Thanksgiving and, likely, many won’t celebrate Christmas together this year. We are afraid of one another and afraid that someone will bring covid-19 to the family table. Families that do gather will be criticized and second-guessed by others who are more sensitive about covid-19. In some places, families will gather covertly because even family gatherings are being made illegal. We did not see crowds of worshipers at Mass on Thanksgiving morning nor will our churches be filled to or beyond capacity on Christmas this year. Millions of Americans lost their jobs. Some families can’t afford a table laden with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pies. Some will not have presents under their Christmas trees. Some people still work during this covid-19 pandemic, but others who are out of work are desperate.
One of the most unfortunate consequences of the covid-19 epidemic is the mistrust that we have for one another. A person who contracts covid can be treated without mercy as a menace, as someone to be blamed and shamed, as one who threatens the lives and well-being of others.
Is there reason to be thankful in 2020? I found some good reasons. Last year, I had the blessing of visiting the Christian mothers in Nigeria where there are thousands of members and so many blessings of generosity from the members. This past September, CCM Nigeria celebrated their hundredth anniversary, thanks be to God! Last month I had the opportunity to visit the country of Tanzania and to start CCM there. I am grateful to my Capuchin brothers for giving me the opportunity and the support to do so. I am grateful for Mrs. Lucy Nambuo who has agreed to serve as their first national president. She is a lawyer and the daughter of the first president of Tanzania. I was very warmly received by the Archbishop in Dar es Salaam who was very supportive of starting CCM in his Archdiocese. Here in the United States just this past year, we have started 20 new confraternities of the Christian Mothers, most recently at Most Precious Blood of Jesus Parish here in Pittsburgh. The CCM there numbers over 80 women, and most of them are young mothers with small children.
I also met Simon Baluku, CFP Regional Minister for Tanzania, and some of the CFP members there. It was certainly a joy meeting them, and I am very impressed with their efforts to start the Confraternity in such a remote place.
Both the Christian Mothers and the CFP in Tanzania give me hope and are causes of great thanksgiving to God. In this country where Masses are held in open air churches and people are packed in on benches to worship the Lord, the faith is strong. The Tanzanians know Who to be thankful to.
What is your response to difficulties in a world where so many are hungry and sick, Do we dare indulge in self-pity about what is not perfect? What is your reaction to adversity? Too often people put their own comforts first and lack empathy for those who suffer bitter hardships. Do our lives during this pandemic consist of blaming others, focusing on others’ faults, reacting with rage when things go wrong? These are not the attitudes of a follower of Jesus who emptied himself for us, even dying on a cross. One who believes in Jesus Christ risen from the dead does not thank God only when everything is fine and when there is no trouble.
Let us examine our consciences. If our hearts are not thankful, let us pray for conversion. If we live with resentment and anger, let us go to confession and ask God for spiritual purification. Yes, 2020 has been a challenging year. There will certainly be more difficulties ahead in 2021. Nevertheless. God’s Mercy is never exhausted. He is always Emanuel - “God with us!”
– Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Spiritual Advisor for Franciscan Matters
REFLECTION ON THE RULE: RULE
CHAPTER V: SACRAMENTS AND OTHER MATTERS
Saint Francis was known for his efforts at bringing peace, symbolized in this painting The Taming of the Wolf of Gubbio by Saint Francis of Assisi by Jose Camaron Bononat.
Last month, this column discussed Section 16 of the Rule of 1221 and the Constitutions, which focuses on peace among people:
Rule: 16. They are not to take up lethal weapons, or bear them about, against anybody.
Constitutions: In keeping with section 16 of this Rule:
16a. They are not to take up or bear lethal weapons that would be used against other human beings with the exception of participation in a just war with the permission of the penitent's spiritual director, or as part of one's legitimate employment (police officers, for example). If a penitent is living in a dangerous environment in which a weapon may be necessary for self-defense, a spiritual director must approve the penitent's possession of any weapon.
16b. Hunting and fishing to provide meat for one's family is permitted. One is also permitted to kill animal, bird, or insect pests that may be destroying one's food supply or threatening one's life or goods.
A CFP inquirer questioned this stipulation, and his Regional Minister Dianne Joslyn, CFP, responded:
Like you, I greatly admire the ways of St. Francis and Jesus, the Prince of Peace! And I agree that our neighborhoods are becoming increasingly more dangerous with churches and Christians as prime targets, and it appears that it may not end anytime soon! It is also true, that many people (including some of my family members) are now purchasing guns and learning how to use them for self-defense suspecting that a time may come when they may be needed by the ordinary citizen.
Being a Christian in today's world may fit the definition of being in a just war for some; however, I think it is only prudent to seek the approval of a spiritual director to possess a weapon for self-defense in any environment. For any individual, but especially for anyone of a religious order, following the will of God is first and foremost. St. Francis and Jesus did not possess earthly weapons and would not have possessed them even in the case of a just war, because they lived in God’s will, whereby they made use of spiritual weapons and not earthly ones. One example of this was the time when Jesus was attacked by some townspeople, and He walked through the midst of them and disappeared.
Another example was when Jesus was in the garden and some soldiers came against Him with weapons. Peter drew his sword and cut off a man’s ear. Jesus told Peter to put his sword away. From this story we see that some of Jesus’ disciples carried weapons of self-defense, but Jesus let the will of God be known to Peter, that as His apostle, he was to use spiritual weapons and not earthly ones. Had Peter asked His “spiritual director,” (Jesus) prior to that incident, whether he should carry a weapon, he may have been spared the guilt and embarrassment (or sin?) of cutting off a man’s ear.
The battle that ensued in heaven in the beginning, we are told by Sr. Mary of Agreda in City of God, was a battle of minds; and the fallen angels were cast to the earth by the sword of the spirit of St. Michael. The earthly weapons we associate with St. Michael represent the spiritual weapons he used in the battle. Similarly, the sword of Jesus in Revelation, is the sword of His Spirit used to cut through the darkness of the world.
Followers of religious rules should always seek counsel of a spiritual director before making any serious decisions to determine God’s will. This is because satan is of a higher order than human beings and the prayers of the spiritual director may help uncover any traps set by the enemy in our spiritual warfare. By consulting a spiritual director in spiritual matters, we are demonstrating our willingness to be humble and obedient before God, even if he or she is in error.
We must utilize the many spiritual weapons given from our Lord and our Lady before using any earthly ones. History has proven that when we use these weapons first in our daily battles, we may never need to use the earthly ones because the fundamental battle is spiritual. An historic example of this is the battle of Lepanto where a few thousand soldiers of the West defeated over 40,000 soldiers of Islam through the power of the rosary.
One of the greatest problems of soldiers who return from war is the psychological trauma of fear and guilt that exists from being involved in situations that violate their moral code. This trauma can last from weeks to years, and even a lifetime. The suicide rate for those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder is high. If these facts hold true for soldiers who chose self-defense as a career and are trained for battle, how much more would they hold true for the ordinary citizen in a similar situation? Knowing that a spiritual director gave approval to carry a weapon in the first place may ease much pain in such a case. It is also true that when ordinary citizens carry or possess weapons, they are more likely to be used in unintended ways that may cause much physical and psychological harm.
As a lay religious, I know that I have the option of carrying an earthly weapon like my family members, but God has made known to me the weapons which I, personally, must carry. Spiritually, Jesus has handed me a helmet of salvation and told me to navigate the rough waters of life with my helmet on and staff in hand. Mary, my mother and queen, handed me the rosary of my youth, and told me to spend each day reciting it while meditating on the life of her Son. I was not chosen to be a Joan of Arc, who was handed a suit of armor and earthly weapons by the Lord. Should an enemy attack, I pray that I have the strength to imitate the Lord and give my life for my brothers and sisters, if this be in His will.
I will pray that the Lord show you what He is asking of you at this point in your life and I ask you to pray for me to be a more humble and obedient penitent. If you discern that the Lord may be calling you to follow an original Franciscan rule, I invite you, Michael, to come walk with us as we do battle for the Lord and his Blessed Mother.
In the Love of Jesus, Mary, and St. Francis, Dianne Joslyn, CFP
Painting of The Virgin and Child with Saints Zacharias, Elizabeth and John the Baptist by
NO GREATER LOVE: THE OLD TESTAMENT AND JESUS CHRIST
In the course of discussing the infancy narratives in Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict strongly emphasizes the Old Testament roots of the infancy narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Of course, this is also true of the entire earthly life of the Lord. The story of John has particularly deep Old Testament roots. Zechariah is a priest from the division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth is also of priestly stock: she is from the tribe of Aaron (cf. Lk 1:5). According to Old Testament law, the service of priests is tied to membership of the tribe of the sons of Aaron and Levi. So, John the Baptist is a priest. In him the priesthood of the Old Covenant moves toward Jesus; it becomes a pointer toward Jesus, a proclamation of his mission.
It strikes me as important that in John the whole Old Covenant priesthood becomes a prophecy of Jesus, and so together with Psalm 118, the highest expression of its theology and spirituality-- it points toward him, it makes itself his. A one-sided emphasis on the contrast between the Old Testament sacrificial cult and the spiritual worship of the New Covenant (cf. Rom 12:1) would obscure this connecting line, this inner dynamic of the Old Testament priesthood, which is a path toward Jesus Christ not only in John but earlier too, in the development of priestly spirituality expressed in Psalm 118.
The characterization of Zechariah and Elizabeth found in the following verse of Luke's Gospel (1:6) likewise points toward the inner unity of the two testaments. It is said of both spouses that they were righteous before God, and that they walked blamelessly in all the commandments and precepts of the Lord. When we come to consider the figure of Saint Joseph we will look more closely at the term "righteous" or "just," in which the whole piety of the Old Covenant is summed up. The "just" are those who inwardly live the ordinances of the law aright - those who walk their path in righteousness, according to the revealed will of God and open up space for new action by the Lord. In them, Old and New Covenant converge and combine to form a single history of God with men. To understand who Jesus is, we need to know where He comes from. He comes from the Old Covenant as the fulfillment of that Covenant.
It is extremely important to understand the role of the Old Testament in our understanding, love, and worship of Jesus Christ. The Lord came for everyone, but there was a proper sequence. He sent the Apostles to first preach to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. (Mt 10:6) Jesus himself tells us that He was sent only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. (Mt 15:24) Yet, His love and obedience were more important than any set program. He preached in Samaria (Jn 4:1-42) and healed Gentiles such as the Canaanite woman’s daughter. (Mt 15:28)
To understand why Israel was first in line to receive the Gospel, we need to see how the God of Israel differed from all the pagan gods. The God of Israel was the Creator and Master of the whole world and the whole universe. He was “above” these things. When the Lord tells us that His Father and our Father is in “heaven”, He was not telling us that His Father lives on a distant star or anywhere else in the “heavens”. He is above everything and created everything out of nothing. Jesus did not change the Old Testament concept of God. None of the pagan gods could claim to be the “Supreme Being” but were simply powers higher than man or perhaps symbols of the powers of nature. They were not above the universe but were part of the universe. Even pagans could still have a concept of “God” who is above everything and the Master of everything. However, this “God” couldn’t possibly care about us or be accessible to us. However, for believing Israel, this God did reveal Himself to us and make Himself accessible to us. This is all described in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the Being of God and the being of the material universe do not overlap. He is above it all. In the New Testament, they do overlap but only in Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate revelation of God.
When St. Paul visited a new place to preach on his missionary journeys as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 13:5 and many other times) he went first to the Jewish synagogues. Why? These were the people who were the most likely to accept the Gospel since Jesus Christ emerged from a Jewish theological context, and they were familiar with the Old Testament. Of course, not all Jews accepted the Gospel. If they believed that the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) was God’s ultimate revelation to humanity, they had to reject Jesus since Jesus claimed that role for himself. However, some Jews realized that the prophesies of the Messiah meant that there was more coming, and that Jesus was the Messiah. Yet Jews were not the only ones to be found in synagogues. There were also Gentiles who were known as “fearers of God” or “worshippers of God” or “devoted persons”. These were Gentiles who saw that the God of Israel was the real God as opposed to the pagan gods who were false gods. These people attended the Jewish synagogues in order to learn more about the True God. They varied from having a very loose association with Judaism to observing many of the laws of Judaism without being circumcised and thus becoming fully Jewish.
There are several examples of “fearers of God” in the Old Testament. After the forty years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites, under Joshua, were about to enter the promised land, but they had to defeat Jericho which was on the other side of the Jordan river. Joshua sent two spies to study Jericho. They stayed in Jericho at the house of the harlot Rahab. She had heard about all that God did to bring Israel out of Egypt and how God had defeated the enemies of Israel along the way. Rahab realized that the God of Israel was the true God over all the false gods that people worshipped. She hid the two spies from the king of Jericho. (Jos 2) When the Israelites did march in and take Jericho, God ordered them to destroy everyone in Jericho. Only Rahab and her household were spared destruction. (Jos 6:17-25)
The short book of Ruth tells of an Israelite woman named Naomi, who went to the country of Moab to escape a famine in Israel. However, her husband died in Moab, and her two sons, who had married Moabite women, also died. She urged her two daughters-in-law to stay in Moab while she went back to Israel. One of them, Orpah, did stay in Moab, but the other one, Ruth, insisted on going with Naomi back to Israel. (Rt 1:16-18) Ruth had chosen to worship only the God of Israel and not the God of Moab, Chemosh. In Israel, Ruth married Boaz and became the great grandmother of King David. (Rt 4:13-17)
In 2 Kings we learn of Naaman who was the King of Aram’s army commander. However. Naaman was also a leper. Naaman’s wife had a very young slave girl who had been captured in a raid against Israel. Through Naaman’s wife, the slave girl urged Naaman to go to Israel to be healed by the prophet Elisha. He got permission from the king of Aram to go to Israel. In Israel, Elisha sent messengers to Naaman to tell him to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman at first refused to do it, but he gave in at the urging of his servants. He was healed and he immediately realized that there was no God except in Israel. When Elisha refused gifts from Naaman, Naaman requested two mule loads of dirt to take back to Aram since he was to worship no other God but the God of Israel. (2 K 5:1-19)
Gentile “God fearers” appear quite often in the New Testament. Prominent examples would be the centurion (Mt 8:5-13, Lk 7:1-10) or Cornelius (Acts 10:1-33). The Gentile evangelist, Luke must have come from a “God fearing” background. When St. Paul’s teaching was rejected by the Jews, he felt free to go to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:44-49), These Gentiles were certainly the “God fearers”. In Athens, St. Paul encountered Gentiles who probably had little knowledge of Judaism and worshipped a host of pagan gods. Act 17:16-34 tells us that he had little success among these pagans. Of course, in obedience to the Lord (Mt 28:16-20) many Christian missionaries went out to preach to the pagans and many suffered martyrdom doing it.
Christianity took on the monotheism of Judaism but not the rituals and festivals. Acts 15 tells us how the Council of Jerusalem in 49 A. D. ruled that Gentiles converting to Christianity did not have to be circumcised or obey the rituals of Judaism, but they did have to break from the immoral practices of paganism. This meant that Christianity was not just a sect of Judaism. Yet, it was not something entirely independent of Judaism. Christianity is incomprehensible apart from Judaism. Christian morality, Christian piety, and Christian worship all have their roots in the Old Testament. Unfortunately, many modern theologians tend to deemphasize the Old Testament roots of Christianity, thinking that the Old Testament is based on an outmoded cosmology and concept of God. As a result, many young people tend to think that the sexual immorality common is modern society is perfectly consistent with Christianity. The power of Christ is destroyed so they live in a way which is not very different from paganism. This is why the link between Christianity and the Old Testament needs to be restored. – Jim Nugent, CFP
FRANCISCAN VOCATION HOUSE UPDATE
Renovations have begun at Annunciation Woman’s Vocation Discernment House, Fort Wayne.
Floors have been sanded and staining is beginning.
Trim around walls (baseboard) is being replaced where it is missing.
Partitions dividing rooms removed so that rooms are restored to original layout. Thank you, Saint Charles Knights of Columbus (Fort Wayne) for your volunteer work on this!
Building permit applied for to construct handicapped accessible bath and shower
Appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, dryer) being installed (the previous tenants had removed these from the premises).
Please continue your prayers for these Annunciation House (Women’s) and Guadalupe House (men). Many of those discerning vocations and those who will mentor them will also be helping the CFP in its administrative work and gift shop. Therefore, these houses are essential to the CFP mission. Currently one man and two women are temporarily living in two different houses until Annunciation and Guadalupe Houses are renovated.
Reminder: All donations to the CFP to support these houses are tax deductible. Consider an end of the year donation to help this mission. Might you wish to sponsor a room at either house and name that room in honor of your favorite saint or to memorialize a family member or friend? See an example of a sponsored room on this link. God bless you for your support!
Lambert Lombard Painting: The Miracle of The Loaves and Fishes
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: LOAVES AND FISHES
I was reminded by our Pastor this morning how much more there is to the Parable of the Loaves and Fishes. As he talked, I realized how much lay beneath the surface. I never thought about these things. Allow me to share some of his thoughts.
First of all, Christ is always drawn to us in our need. The crowd needed nourishment, and He would provide it in a very amazing and humble way.
The Apostles also needed something….. they needed to see Christ in His Divinity and realize how they were to multiply the miracle along with Christ. He asked How many loaves do you have? And they said seven and a few fish. Thy volunteered the fish! Christ did not even ask for them. The act of distributing the loaves and fish was a personal miracle to each person who ate. They saw and ate a true Miracle, just like the Eucharist. Of course, it was not the Body Soul and Divinity of Christ because He had not died for us yet, but it was how the Eucharist would become the means of salvation for us. It nourishes us in our need and sustains us with the Grace needed to do His Holy Will in our lives. Do we not ask that we become what we receive? Does He not want us to “go and do likewise”? Meet people in their need? There is so much need right now that we can easily become overwhelmed thinking that our efforts would be too miniscule. Not so. A few loaves and a few fish met the needs of thousands. All we need to do is ask Him to multiply our efforts.
We need Communion with him; we need Him physically Body Soul and Divinity. What is happening to lives that have not been nourished in such a long time? Spiritual Communion is a good and Holy thing but can’t sustain us like physically receiving Him. Resting with Him physically present in us even for a short time helps us become what we receive. In this way Christ can meet our needs and send us forth to help meet the needs of others. Encourage people to go to Mass! Christ needs them!
Imagine what the multitudes had to say when they returned home? Imagine how their lives where changed? Are our lives helping to feed others in their need? –Sandy Seyfert, CFP
CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS PHOTO ALBUM: FR. JOSEPH TUSCAN IN TANZANIA
Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, with Christian Mothers of Tanzania. Fr. Joe is the CFP Spiritual Advisor for Franciscan Matters. Taken October 2020.
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP: NEW 25C PRAYER CARDS
HAIL MARY CLUB. Pray a Hail Mary daily for everyone in the club. Meet in heaven. Join this club and know you are being prayed for daily by other club members. 25c per club membership card and no dues! Card features tender drawing of the Blessed Mother with children offering her their love and their little gifts.
OFFER IT UP PRAYER CARD. Card reads, “I can pray throughout my day: Jesus, I unite myself to You. And I offer up my sufferings for ___________.” There is room on the card to write the date that you began offering up your sufferings for this intention and a place to record the date when your prayers were answered. Order a few cards for several intentions and pass out to family and friends. Enclose with Christmas cards!
Legend of the Christmas Crib, by Gitto di Bondone.
Fresco, 270 x 230 cm
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: JESUS, THE INCARNATE WORD
Saint Francis had a deep sense of the incarnate Christ. God was not only Deity above but also Brother below. Because Christ was Brother and Francis sought to “walk in His footprints,” all other human beings became brother and sister as well. So did other creatures, each one shaped by God in love and beauty. Thus, Francis felt kinship with Sister Water and Brother Sun, with Sister Cricket and Brother Tench (a fish in Umbria). All creation was Francis’ family because all creation was God’s.
During Francis’ lifetime, the Catharist heresy preached that spirit was good and made by God but flesh was evil and made by satan. To combat this anti-Christian heresy, Francis devised the first Nativity scene so that those who attended could “see with their own eyes”, as he put it, Christ the Son of God become human flesh. Surely flesh was good if God chose to assume it. Francis celebrated Christmas with love, awe, and joy. May your Christmas be celebrated in like manner. –Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
How did the ornament get addicted to Christmas? ---- He was hooked on trees his whole life.
What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa? --- A rebel without a Claus.
How much did Santa pay for his sleigh? --- Nothing. It was on the house!
What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire? --- Frostbite.
What did Adam say to his wife on Christmas? --- It’s finally Christmas, Eve!
What do you call a frog hanging from the ceiling? --- Mistletoad
Why does Santa always enter through the chimney? --- Because it soots him
Why do Christmas trees like the past so much? --- Because the present’s beneath them
What do you call a snowman that can walk? --- Snow-mobile.