Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- January 2020

HAPPY NEW YEAR! WE HAVE NOW ENTERED THE 2ND FIFTH OF THE 21ST CENTURY. MAY OUR LORD BE BETTER KNOWN AT THE END OF THIS CENTURY THAN AT THE BEGINNING.

OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE – ALL CONTRIBUTIONS ARE FULLY TAX DEDUCTIBLE.

CFP Future Volunteer and Discernment House:

Sheet rock replaced over walls to be insulted. Insulator scheduled for January 9

Basement currently being waterproofed.

Mary’s Glen Chapel:

Poster and flyers displayed at Christmas gathering with Franciscan friars and supporters.

Purchase of CFP Administrative Headquarters

Blown down fence sections replaced. Other fence sections propped up.

The Diocese has agreed to monthly payments which will allow the CFP to purchase this in four years.

SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S ADVICE: SERAPHIC SAINTS WHO HAVE HELD THE CHRIST CHILD

“Lord, now You let Your servant go in peace . . . “ (Simeon’s words upon holding the Infant Christ. Luke 2:25-35)

 

Everyone is moved by the presence of a newborn baby. It’s amazing to watch such innocence command attention and elicit endearing, playful gestures from even the most serious adults. St. Francis and St. Clare, and all who have a love for their gospel way of life, have a particular attraction to the Mystery of the Nativity in which God emptied Himself and was laid in a poor manger. How many with a Franciscan heart have desired with fervent devotion to hold the Christ Child as did Mary and Joseph? To some saints in our Seraphic family, God granted a special mystical grace for them to do just that. Let’s take a look at the experiences of five of our brothers and sisters who have encountered the Christ Child and allow their joy to spread to us!

 

Holy Father St. Francis -- Waking up a Babe and the World.

 

Most Catholics realize that St. Francis was the first person to set up a Christmas creche.. If we read the account of this event at Greccio, we will see that all that was provided was hay, an ox, and an ass as the backdrop for St. Francis’s desire to celebrate Midnight Mass in the same setting in which Our Lord’s birth came about. St. Francis, a deacon, preached a burning homily full of tenderness for the “Babe of Bethlehem” as he relished even the sweetness of those words. A pious knight of Greccio (named John according to St. Bonaventure) revealed that he saw a vision in which St. Francis picked up a beautiful child from the crib and woke him up! Afterwards, many miracles were worked through the hay that had been used for that Nativity scene. Thomas of Celano comments that the image of St. Francis rousing Baby Jesus from a deep sleep was fitting for the way Jesus was being brought to life again in hearts that had forgotten him (cf. 1 Celano 84-87; LM X.7)

 

Holy Mother Saint Clare – Visited in Her Sufferings

 

Our holy mother St. Clare was ardently devoted to the Christ Child as she wrote, “Look . . . at the poverty of Him Who was placed in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes.” (4 LAg 19). She also inscribed in her Form of Life, “Out of love for the most holy and beloved Child wrapped in poor little swaddling clothes and placed in a manger and of His most holy Mother, I admonish, beg, and encourage my sisters always to wear poor garments” (FL II.24).

 

One Christmas Eve, St. Clare was too sick to leave her cell to join her sisters for Matins in the church. However, she was granted a Heavenly view of the liturgy taking place at the church where St. Francis and his brothers were. She heard glorious music. But the much greater Grace was that she was granted to see “the very crib of the Lord!” In the morning Saint Clare told her sisters, “Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ, Who did not leave me after you did . . . “ (Legend of St. Clare 29).

 

Another time a sister witnessed during a homily that “a very splendid child stood by the Virgin Clare and during the greater part of the sermon delighted her with his sighs of joy.” (Ibid. 37). Wouldn’t every priest like that kind of feedback from his preaching?

Saint Anthony of Padua: Seat of Wisdom and Affection

 

St. Anthony of Padua, a doctor of the Church and a Wonder-worker, is depicted throughout the world’s churches in his popularity as commonly holding the Christ Child, sometimes upon a book. The great preacher could speak with educated wisdom, but it was his holiness of life that made Grace flow all around him. One gentleman was blessed to witness the saint’s being favored with a visit by the Christ Child. St. Anthony needed to take up lodging in the man’s home since his ministry kept him late in the city and its gates were closed to his friary. Saint Anthony returned to his room to pray, and his host was surprised to see a light illuminating from under the saint’s door. The man peered through a crack in the door and was full of awe at the sight before him. He saw a most beautiful child beyond what words could describe, and a soft glow was radiating everywhere. The Infant was standing in the air but rested with affection on the chest of the holy friar and reached up with heavenly hands to caress him. After the Christ Child whispered into St. Anthony’s ear, the friar turned to the door to discover his witness. The Christ Child had given St. Anthony a prophecy about the man’s household which proved true generations later.

 

Saint Catherine of Bologna: The Fruit of Perseverance

 

St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463) was a Poor Clare who spent her childhood as a damsel companion in a palace. At 14 years old, she felt called to forsake worldly ambitions to be consecrated to Christ. She helped found a Poor Clare monastery in her youth amid many trials. Her virtue and interior life made her a ready choice as Novice Mistress. During a period of painful dryness in prayer, Catherine asked permission to do an all-night vigil in church on Christmas Eve. In her arid state, all she could manage was to recite vocal prayers. Suddenly the glorious Virgin Mary appeared holding her Child in her arms. She approached Catherine with great kindness and put Jesus in Catherine’s arms. Catherine relates that she put her face against the Face of the Child Jesus, and she felt she would melt away from such sweetness. And so, after that momentous grace, Catherine could encourage her sisters to remain faithful to mental and vocal prayer during times of dryness, knowing that God will multiply the flame of Divine Love in His time. Catherine would later serve as the abbess of a new foundation in Bologna that would flourish with vocations.

 

Saint Felix of Cantalice: Adoration of the Heart

 

St. Felix of Cantalice (1515-1587), the amiable friar questor who was the first canonized Capuchin, had a devotion to the Christ Child which fostered his tender ministry to pregnant mothers, widows with children, and neighborhood children who would gather around him. He would share bread he had begged with these poor ones, sometimes miraculously heal their infirmities, and would encourage them to pray the rosary and to sing songs he had composed about Jesus and Mary. St. Felix told a friend that he could never finish a rosary as he would get caught up in contemplating the mysteries of Christ’s childhood and passion.

 

St. Felix would often be moved to tears after he set up the yearly Christmas crib at the friary. The saint loved to pray during the night, and he would search the church to make sure he was alone before he began his vigils. Still, friars would peek in for glimpses of his prayer and sometimes would observe him holding the Baby Jesus. One particular incident was related by Friar Lupo who had hid in the pulpit. He saw a woman in white offer her Child to St. Felix. St. Felix held the Christ Child who played with the friar’s beard!

 

This Christmas season, may we join in the sweet devotion of our Franciscan family in Heaven, praying more with our hearts and our lives. We close with a Christmas song written by St. Felix:

 

“Today is born that great Lord, the great Emperor; Jesus, our Lord, became a little babe: an infant he became, he, the Word Incarnate: on a pile of hay you see him, newborn, a sweet little child.” (Cordovani, Rinaldo. Saint Felix of Cantalice: The Bread Man. Editrice VELAR, 2013, pp. 45-46)  --Sister Karolyn Grace, PSSC, Spiritual Advisor to Our Lady, Cause of Our Joy, CFP Chapter

NO GREATER LOVE: THE TENSION BETWEEN FLESH AND SPIRIT

 

A tension which is basic to the human condition is the tension between flesh and spirit. We definitely are creatures of flesh living in a material world. Yet, we are more than matter. We also have a spiritual component to our nature. This tension affects our approach to contemplative prayer. We can flee from the flesh and even consider it to be an illusion as some Eastern systems of thought would teach, or we can recognize the reality of our fleshly nature and subject this fleshly nature to the spirit. Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar deals in detail with this tension in his book Prayer. The tension between flesh and spirit which characterizes man in particular (and not creation as a whole) brings out the starkest contrasts in the way contemplation is viewed. If God is pure spirit, and if contemplation is a matter of encountering God, it seems to follow that the contemplative's task is to purify himself and lift himself into the purely spiritual sphere by slowly detaching himself from the external world of sense. This tradition of ascent to God in prayer is definitely a part of Christian tradition. However, there is a danger here. If we flee from the senses and the Divine Revelation we receive from the senses in order to find the being of God in our own soul or in the world, we can easily fall into a pantheistic attitude where God’s Being is not differentiated from the being of the world and even our own being. Instead of ourselves striving to conform to the image of God, God becomes an image of ourselves.

 

If we believe that God has revealed Himself authoritatively in scripture and tradition, this revelation has come to us through the medium of the senses. We cannot simply reject this revelation because it comes to us through the senses. Theologian Von Balthasar explains this idea. We can see how the Old and New Testament order of salvation in the flesh fits in with this teaching on contemplation in the simple words of the Christmas Preface: "In him we see our God made visible, and so are caught up in love of things unseen." God, who is pure spirit, condescends to become man in order thus to lead us up to him. For Christ is both God and man: in the flesh he not only manifests the reality and the power of the soul, the spirit: he even manifests the divine in the medium of flesh. Through the sacraments and salvific message, addressed to the senses, he pours into us, in a hidden manner, the "medicaments of immortality".  . . . God did not descend to the level of flesh simply so that we should "ascend" from flesh to spirit; the revelation of his agape, of his self-sacrificing and self-emptying love (kenosis) is not solely or primarily intended to assist our natural religious eros to reach its goal. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:10). In other words, God's entering into flesh must not be seen as a mere means to our redemption, nor as a preliminary stage on the way to our "divinization"; it is not something that passes away, as it were, is extinguished, is canceled by the Risen Lord's return to the Father. The Risen One returns to the Father with his whole humanity, including his body. This is what makes him the "firstborn" of many brethren. But what kind of body is his? Is it not a glorified body, adopted into the Spirit's mode of existence? And does not this imply that in our contemplation of God, practically speaking, we need to turn our backs on this mortal fallen flesh of ours? In this case the body of the resurrection will be a gift of grace from above, given to the spirit which has conquered the flesh.

 

We must inquire more deeply at this point. Is not creation as a whole, and man in particular, created and designed with a view to Christ? And is not he the perfecter of the cosmos, the divine fullness built into creation from the very beginning, filling heaven and earth as their head? And in that case surely he is more than simply the Redeemer from sin? He who was destined to assume flesh at the turning point of time is as such (and not as a fleshless Logos) the Original Idea, the "ultimate Source of God's creation" (Rev 3:14); it is in him and oriented toward him that man has been set in existence as a being of spirit and body. In this context the Platonic myth according to which only man's soul comes directly from God, whereas his body comes from elsewhere (from below, from natura naturans), both principles having eventually to return to their mutually opposed sources, loses all credibility. For it is God who took clay and formed man, and who breathed life into his nostrils (Gen 2:7); it is God who has given this human being, with his unity of body and soul, the power to hear him and sense his presence, the ability to walk with him and respond obediently to him. So much so that God's revelation to man could never take place anywhere else but in the realm of the world and its history, if God the Redeemer were not to deny and disqualify the word of God the Creator.

 

Even if we accept that we are a composite of body and spirit, this does not mean that the two are just equal. Von Balthasar tells us that the spirit must rule the flesh.  . . .  in the perfect man the corporal world is governed and fashioned by the spiritual. This relationship of master and servant also shows that the soul is more than merely the "form" of the body; i.e., it is ordered to the Infinite, to God, in whom there is neither materiality nor quantitative multiplicity. Here, for the first time, we can discern the mysterious boundary (confinium, the Fathers called it) between the world and God. Here we see man in his Janus-destiny: he is called to order and fashion the world according to his own nature with its unity of body and soul; but at the same time he must look up to the God who is beyond the world, whom he is to fear and love, and whose transcendence he is to reproduce in himself as lord of creation. This is a difficult task: man has to apply himself to his affairs in the world with all his senses, yet he must not lose himself in them.

 

Even though the spirit must rule the senses, this does not mean that the spirit abandons the senses. The spirit must use the senses to ascend to God. Here, Von Balthasar, who was a Jesuit, shows his preference for Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s method of contemplation in his Spiritual Exercises which uses the senses and the imagination in order to contemplate God. On the one hand the proponents of a Platonic contemplation strive to encounter "naked" truth, to "touch" God's essence directly, even if it be in the night of the senses and of the spirit, even if it involve the total absence of concepts in a simple awareness of God's presence. They attempt to construct degrees of abstraction from the world of sense; first they renounce the external senses, then the mind's inner images, and finally finite concepts, bound to the world as even they are. On the other hand, there are those who put forward a contemplation based on the sense-images and concepts of the gospel and of all the saving events. Among the latter, to some extent, are Bernard and Francis, but first and foremost it is Ignatius who opposes the whole weight of tradition and demands a concrete contemplation with the aid of imagination and, explicitly, the five senses. . . . .In the first place, when he contemplates the gospel, he is not concerned with imagining some historical past event but with a personal encounter with the incarnate Word of God, who discloses himself in historical uniqueness and summons believers to discipleship. Thus the concrete object of contemplation is not meant to yield mere dry knowledge: what the contemplative is aiming at is a "feeling and tasting of things from within", that exercise of spiritual taste which is traditionally seen as our faculty of discerning the supernatural and the divine (for sapientia comes from sapere, "to taste"). Consequently Ignatius demands more of the five senses in contemplation than a merely earthly functioning: they must discern the reality of God making himself present in the earthly activity of the imagination: "Smell the indescribable fragrance and taste the boundless sweetness of the divinity" (Exercises, 124). Finally, in mystical experience, Ignatius has been touched by God in a way he describes as direct ("with no previous occasion", i.e., not mediated by anything in the world) and hence free from the possibility of illusion (Exercises, 330, 336). Of course, as Von Balthasar has already pointed out to us, no method can compel God to “touch” us. We can only use the Divine Revelation He has given us to allow Him to give us more if He so chooses. Our bodily existence is a gift from God. We need to use this gift in the way it was intended. – Jim Nugent, CFP

HUMOR: ACTUAL NEWSPAPER HEADLINES

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Barbershop singers bring joy to school for the deaf

Miracle cure kills fifth patient

Bridges help people cross rivers

Girls’ schools still offering something special—head

City unsure why the sewer smells

17 remain dead in morgue

MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: GOOD NEWS FOR THOSE DISCERNING

Don’t you just love to hear those tales from loved ones of how they met their spouses? Sometimes it’s love at first sight, sometimes it’s a rather odd sort of miracle that brought them together, sometimes it’s a long and drawn out process of love, heartbreak, and eventual success, sometimes it’s crystal clear, and sometimes it makes utterly no sense except to the two lovers, but in any case, it’s hard to mistake the hand of God in the arranging of true love. Discerning the religious life is no different. I used to be envious of those who knew they were called to the religious life from the time they were eight years old and were ready to enter the convent, with their parents’ approval, right out of high school- I got my call while I was already in college, and my parents were not at all happy about it. That was over seven years ago now, and the road has not been easy since. Despite contacting various communities, attending religious discernment events, developing a real prayer life and seeking spiritual direction, I still managed to enter and leave the religious life three times, and I’m still searching. I know I’m not the only one. Heartbreak after discernment heartbreak, I have had a dream of starting a discernment house for women who need to get away from home, or just to find a neutral space to be able to hear God’s voice more clearly. Apparently, I was not the only one with this thought.

I recently moved to Fort Wayne to volunteer for the Confraternity and further discern my call, and after about four months here was asked if I would be willing to be “house mom” for a women’s discernment and volunteer house. While I was away visiting a religious community for a mere week, the volunteer house had expanded to become also a discernment house, at least in theory. Of course, I said yes. The journey to actualizing this theory is really just beginning, though. We now have a website (CatholicDiscernmentHouse.com), code of conduct, living contract, and house mom (me), but only two bedrooms for other discerners! God willing, the men’s house will be available before too long to help young men in their journey (they’ll need a house dad, and that house has 8 bedrooms) and we’ll make something work for the women (we are currently operating the women’s house out of a privately owned, 4 bedroom home which we have been allowed to use), but right now we’re going forward with a hefty dose of blind faith. I hope that this project will be mutually beneficial for the discerning volunteers and the Confraternity, and for myself as well. I hope that any wisdom I have gained from my years of discerning will be of some use to those who come, though I suspect I will learn even more from them.

If you know anyone looking for a place to work, pray and discern, whether it be a religious vocation or any other direction in life, we’re here to help! And you’re always welcome to donate to the Our Rule, Our Future funds which will fund these houses. Part of the activity of those discerning will be to help the CFP in its ministry by doing volunteer office and other work. The houses and work done by residents is critical to the future of the Confraternity of Penitents.

 

God bless, Erin Wells, House Mother for CFP Women’s Discernment and Volunteer House

REFLECTION ON THE RULE

 

RULE: 12. All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins[1], Prime[2], Terce[3], Sext[4], None[5], Vespers[6], and Compline[7]. The clerics are to say them after the manner of the clergy. Those who know the Psalter are to say the Deus in nomine tuo (Psalm 54) and the Beati Immaculati (Psalm 119) up to the Legem pone (Verse 33) for Prime, and the other psalms of the Hours, with the Glory Be to the Father; but when they do not attend church, they are to say for Matins the psalms the Church says or any eighteen psalms; or at least to say the Our Father as do the unlettered at any of the Hours. The others say twelve Our Fathers for Matins and for every one of the other Hours seven Our Fathers with the Glory Be to the Father after each one. And those who know the Creed and the Miserere mei Deus (Ps. 51) should say it at Prime and Compline. If they do not say that at the Hours indicated, they shall say three Our Fathers.

CONSTITUTIONS: SECTION 12. (Sections 12a and 12b were discussed last month)

12c. While the Liturgy of the Hours is the preferred method of prayer, substitution of the rote prayers (Option Four below) is permissible especially for those times when it is impossible to sit down with a breviary. The penitent should, however, not rely totally on these other prayers as a substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours. 

12d. There will arise certain days on which a penitent finds it impossible to say all the required prayers in any form. On such days, the penitent is to raise his or her mind to God at the required prayer times and have the intention to pray even though the opportunity is not available. These days should be rare. If a penitent finds it impossible to pray the hours on most days, he or she must examine his or her life and make proper adjustments so that the prayers can be said. 

The CFP Constitutions have a flexibility built into them as evident by these two constitutions. More options will be discussed in later newsletters. Read ALL Section 12 to get the FULL picture on prayer. .

 

[1] Office of Readings

[2] Early Morning Prayer

[3] Midmorning Prayer

[4] Midday Prayer

[5] Midafternoon Prayer

[6] Evening Prayer

[7] Night Prayer

CFP PHOTO ALBUM: FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY GATHERING AT CFP ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS: CFP, GUESTS AND FRANCISCAN FRIARS

Above: Living Room of CFP Administrative house with CFP members Sandy Seyfert [back to camera] and Bpb Shutt [beard, blue shirt] , guests (Mark Stevens [striped shirt]. Kay-Marie Nugent [CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop Manager  [red dress], Shannon Bougher [on swivel chair], Valerie Shutt [on plush chair], and friars Br. Leopold Maria,,PBSF,  [on blue couch] and Br. Alphonsus Maria, PBSF [stroking his beard])

Below: Br. Felice Maria, PBSF, and Tim Luncsford, CFP Property Manager

FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: LET’S BEGIN BECAUSE, UP TO NOW, WE HAVE DONE NOTHING

 

“Let’s begin because, up to now, we have done nothing.” These words are attributed to Saint Francis. Did he actually say them? Quite possibly. For Francis, there was no such thing as having arrived at perfection. What he would mean by these words is this: let’s begin to try to live up to our potential, to become all God created us to be, to do all that God wants us to do. So far all we have become and all we have done are nothing compared to what we could potentially do and be.

 

For Francis, new year’s resolutions were non-existent. Only minute to minute resolutions to turn always to God, to seek and do His will, were reasonable. And not only reasonable but required. For Francis, the bar to reach perfection was as high as the cross. One had to keep stretching to meet it. Did Francis ever think he had reached perfection? Not at all, but he knew he had tried. At the end of his life, he apologized to his body for treating it so harshly with his many penances. To his friars, from his deathbed, he said, “I have done what was mine to do. May you do what is yours to do.”
 

As this new year begins, it’s good to ask God what is ours to do right now—not ours to do in 2020 but ours to do today. Doing that will take us into what is ours to do later on. Doing what is ours to do day by day will bring us to the end of 2020, or, should we die this year, to the end of our life, knowing that we have done what God wanted us to do, every moment of every day.

 

Therefore, a good examination of conscience for the beginning of the year is a good daily examination of conscience.

 

What did I do well today? What did I do poorly?

What was my attitude? When could it have been better?

Who crossed my path today? How did I treat this person and that person?

Was I aware of God’s presence with me today? What could I do to foster my awareness?

 

May 2020 be a year of new beginnings daily, of daily resolutions to grow into the son or daughter of God which the Father intends you to be.

 

Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

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Confraternity of Penitents

1702 Lumbard Street

 Fort Wayne IN USA 46803 

260-739-6882

copenitents@yahoo.com 

 

May God bless you and give you joy!