Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter - July 2020
MESSAGE FROM CFP ADVISOR FOR FRANCISCAN MATTERS
Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP, notes in his acclaimed book, "Francis of Assisi: A New Biography" (Cornell University Press, 2012), St. Francis loved God first and creation in its proper order:
“He loved nature and animals, and they caused him not only to pray and praise God but to become ecstatic. Nature was a reason for him to praise God, and he loved nature. But there was no confusion between nature and God for Francis."
Fr. Augustine continues; “One of the principal conclusions of my book is that St. Francis had no political projects, whether for the Church or for society . . . the essence of his spirituality was the Eucharist and the Holy Mass. Divine worship was for St. Francis the highest good in the field of human activity.
We see a great deal of human activity going on in the streets around us and a lot of striving in the Church and in society. Saint Francis was not only a voice of sanity in an age of corruption and insanity; he was and is more importantly an instrument for healing those wounds. St. Padre Pio used to say that the greatest miracle of Saint Francis was that after 800 years he was still inspiring the young to follow the Gospel in this way of life. The way of St. Francis was always a source of healing in times of crisis and chaos, and the heart of our spirituality is the Most Holy Eucharist. Remember that at Rivo Torto the early Franciscans did not have a tabernacle. They had simple mud huts and a crucifix, and Saint Francis would give simple sermons on the love of God in the crucified. In these days when many of us are not able to receive the Most Holy Eucharist sacramentally or even attend Mass. we can make a spiritual communion in our homes in front of the crucifix, remembering the love poured out there. – Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap.
NO GREATER LOVE: WHO IS GOD?
In the course of the reading of scripture, especially when the passage is unfamiliar, we are often left cold. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to contemplate what the Lord is saying to us. Of course, Christians have been reading and contemplating scripture for almost two thousand years and Jews have been doing it even longer. There is a lot of help available. During the eight years of his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI published three volumes of Jesus of Nazareth. His purpose was to provide a portrait of Jesus which is certainly his own but is also faithful to the almost two thousand years of Christian contemplation. This Christian tradition is found in the Church. Pope Benedict’s three volumes can be extremely helpful in our own personal contemplation of the Lord. He can “break the ground” so that we can do our own personal “digging” into who the Lord really is. This doesn’t mean that we can go off into our own ideas. We must be faithful to Christian tradition as Pope Benedict himself has been.
Starting with Volume III, the Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict’s reflections will hopefully help stimulate further reflections. We should all read Jesus of Nazareth or the work of other authors who can stimulate our own further reflections. Pope Benedict’s work is a good starting point because it is contemporary to the issues that Christians face today.
Pope Benedict begins this volume on the Infancy Narratives with a question addressed to Jesus by Pontius Pilate. While he was interrogating Jesus, Pilate unexpectedly put this question to the accused: "Where are you from?" Jesus' accusers had called for him to receive the death penalty by dramatically declaring that this Jesus had made himself the Son of God---a capital offense under the law. The "enlightened" Roman judge, who had already expressed skepticism regarding the question of truth (cf. Jn 18:38), could easily have found this claim by the accused laughable. And yet he was frightened. The accused had indicated that he was a king, but that his kingdom was "not of this world" (Jn 18:36). And then he had alluded to a mysterious origin and purpose, saying: "For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37). All this must have seemed like madness to the Roman judge. And yet he could not shake off the mysterious impression left by this man, so different from those he had met before who resisted Roman domination and fought for the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. The Roman judge asks where Jesus is from in order to understand who he really is and what he wants.
Who is Jesus? In the three volumes of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict endeavors to cast light on this question. Yet as Pope Benedict himself admits, there are many other interpretations of Jesus which are quite different from his own but also quite different from the Christian tradition to which Pope Benedict has tried to be faithful. All the gospels claim that Jesus is God. However, this claim resulted in Christian persecution by the Romans until 313 when the Edict of Milan stopped the persecution of Christianity. The Divinity of Jesus was formally defined at the Council of Nicea in 325. While most modern Catholic theologians accept this designation, huge disagreements on who Jesus is still exist even among even among Catholic theologians. Why?
Let’s look at the prior question about who God is to get an answer. Baltimore Catechism, from which many older Catholics learned the faith, states: God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, who made all things and keeps them in existence. Just as humans have a higher level of being than animals, plants, and inanimate objects, God is the highest level of Being that we know. This implies that the Being of God is quite separate from the being of everything else. The Old Testament certainly assumes this, although God can also dwell in the world and also in us. This is clearly stated in the New Testament (Rom 5:5, 8:9 as well as many other possible citations). The idea that the Being of God is separate from, and infinitely superior to, our being as finite human beings is not universally accepted by Catholic theologians. In the 1980’s, a Catholic theologian who is now a prominent Cardinal wrote the following. The basic defect of scientistic atheism, on the one hand, and, on the other, of the ecclesiastical apologetics that was launched against it and sought to harmonize faith and science, was that they tried to put God and the world as it were, on the same level. God and the world became competitors, and it was assumed that anything attributed to God had to be denied to the world, and vice versa. But the notion of competition mistakes both the absoluteness of God and the freedom of man. For God, as the reality that encompasses everything, cannot be an entity alongside or above the world, since, if he were, he would be limited by the world and would himself be a limited finite being. Here we can see a very different concept of God from that of the Baltimore Catechism. God is not the “Supreme Being” but rather “the reality that encompasses everything”. The Being of God (as opposed to the indwelling of God in us) is not above, independent and separate from the world as it is portrayed in the Old Testament. Rather, the Being of God is bound up with the being of the world and even our being since God is not “an entity alongside or above the world”. Since there is a different starting point concerning who is God, is there any wonder that there are differences in how Jesus Christ is viewed?
However, what does this have to do with ordinary Catholics? Isn’t this just a dispute among philosophers and theologians which doesn’t concern us? It certainly does concern us. If God is the “Supreme Being”, then it is quite reasonable to consider Divine Revelation to be authoritative. What God communicates to us is from “above”. The Baltimore Catechism states: Besides knowing God by our natural reason, we can also know Him from supernatural revelation, that is, from the truths found in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition, which God Himself has revealed to us.
The theologian quoted above views revelation differently. The usual procedure is to start with individual revelations or truths of revelation; by 'truths of revelation' is meant individual truths which are not accessible to the unaided human mind and which God, through his messengers of revelation authoritatively sets before human beings for their belief. This authoritarian understanding of revelation, which is modelled on the phenomena of information and instruction, by its nature comes into inevitable conflict with the responsible use of human reason and human freedom. It is therefore significant that more recent theology usually replaces this authoritarian understanding of revelation with another that is based on the model of communication. In this new context theologians speak not of revelations in the plural but of revelation in the singular, with revelation understood not as a revelation of objective facts but as a self-revelation of a person. What God reveals is first and foremost not something but himself and his saving will for humanity….. Biblical revelation is thus not primarily a revelation of objects, not a revelation of truths, teachings, commandments, and 'supernatural' realities, but a personal self-revelation of God. What God primarily makes known to us in revelation is not various truths and realities but himself and his saving will for human beings. It’s easy to see why specific commandments, truths, and teachings are rejected since they conflict with “the responsible use of human reason and human freedom”. Here we have a God who is certainly kind, merciful, loving, and compassionate, but who does not give inconvenient commandments and rules.
We can see that the traditional concept of God as the Supreme Being goes with the concept that Divine Revelation is God’s authoritative revealing of specific commandments and teachings. The “infinitely perfect” God, as the Baltimore Catechism puts it, is certainly capable of communicating to us specific commands, especially those which apply to all humanity and which reveal His loving Will for all humanity. By contrast, the concept that God does not reveal specific commandments and truths to us but only his “self-revelation” as a person dovetails with the idea that God “cannot be an entity alongside or above the world”. This means that God is not the “Supreme Being” whose Being is infinitely superior to and separate from our being as finite human beings. Instead, the being of God is bound up with the being of the world and even our being. We can observe all kinds of ambiguities and failures in the world and even ourselves. While these may not apply to God as the “reality that encompasses everything”, nevertheless, the Being of God is mixed in with all this. Thus, God cannot overcome human sins, prejudices, and failures in revealing His will for us. No wonder this same theologian and Cardinal also supports communion for the divorced and remarried which at least implies that the Lord’s teaching on divorce and remarriage is not authoritative (Mt 5:31-32, Mt 19:3-12, Mk 10:2-12, Lk 16:18).
Differences among Catholic theologians and teachers concerning Jesus Christ, has its roots in fundamental differences concerning who God is. The Baltimore Catechism teaching of God as the Supreme Being whose Being is totally separate from and independent of the universe is a form of theism. The idea that the being of God is the same as the being of the universe is called pantheism. The theologian cited above seems to be describing a form of pantheism which says that the Being of God overlaps and exceeds the being of the universe. We should all ponder what we believe about this. – Jim Nugent, CFP
REFLECTION ON THE RULE: PRAYER OPTIONs 3, 4, 5
RULE: RULE: 12. All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. 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: Previous newsletters contained discussions of Constitutions applying to this section of the Original Rule of 1221. We continue to the discussion by exploring prayer options 3, 4, 5:
OPTION THREE: PRAY AN HOUR OF MENTAL PRAYER DAILY. This may be broken up into two 30 minute segments or four 15 minute segments. An ideal place to pray would be before the Blessed Sacrament.
OPTION FOUR: PRAY OUR FATHER'S Those who do not know how to read, who have no Bible or breviary, or who cannot read on a particular day, may say, for the Office of Readings, twelve Our Father's, twelve Hail Mary's, and twelve Glory Be's; for every other one of the hours, seven Our Father's, seven Hail Mary's, and seven Glory Be's.
OPTION FIVE: OTHER SUBSTITUTIONS Those parenting small children or otherwise suffering continuous distractions or time constraints may, with the permission of their spiritual directors, substitute short pious ejaculations for the minor hours. These may be as simple as mentally lifting one's mind to God. Penitents should, however, endeavor to pray Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer unless dispensed from doing so by their spiritual directors. At the minimum, those who choose Option Five must review their prayer schedule at the first meeting of each year with their spiritual directors so that adjustments may be made.
REFLECTION: The CFP Constitutions adapt the Rule to various lifestyles and living arrangements. Certainly within the Constitutions. Everyone can find some way to observe the prayer options. It is important that we all pray and that, if we can, a certain amount of time be devoted to prayer daily. God speaks to us in prayer and because of our prayers. If we value His direction in our lives, we need to give Him time and attention. After all, He gave and gives the same to us.
What did the man do to his saltwater aquarium to make it easier to pick up? "He put a little 'mussel' in it"
Why did Charlie put a dictionary five feet above his television set? "He wanted to watch 'high definition' TV."
OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE
The state of Indiana has approved the plans for the restoration of St. Joseph’s Men’s Vocation Discernment House. This means that construction can now proceed once funds are sufficient. The CFP has been not yet signed the paperwork for Annunciation Women’s Vocation House although women’s house residents have been caring for the yard and flower beds at this property. This house requires less renovation than the men’s house, but some funding is needed. Please pray both houses. May God reward you for your prayers for these places 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!
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.
$195 plus $15 worth of food to share (we will be cooking 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.
$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.
CFP PHOTO ALBUM: RENOVATIONS AT CFP ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS
Dave, Dennis, and Bob (left to right) from local Knights of Columbus and the Carpenter’s Sons (named after St. Joseph) recently removed an island from the CFP Administrative Headquarters kitchen, opening up a cramped space to make it more usable. The island was held up by a section of the original altar rail from St. Andrew’s Church up the street, taken from the church when it was closed in the 1970’s. The church is now being restored to its original condition and the Carpenter’s Sons are here loading up the altar rail to return it to the church for the restoration. The CFP thanks these men for their volunteer work in making the CFP kitchen seem larger and in bringing back to St. Andrew’s what belongs there.
CLARA LINE, OSF, CFP ASSOCIATE WHO HAD COMPLETED FORMATION. MAY SHE REST IN PEACE
On June 20, at the age of 95, CFP Associate Clara Line, from Michigan, USA, went home to the Lord. Clara had completed formation with the CFP in the late 1990’s but did not pledge.
CFP members and Associates should pray 50 psalms for the repose of her soul, as stated in our Rule and Constitutions. May you rest in peace, Clara, after a long and faithful life.
Thank you for being one of us and pray for us!
LETTER FROM THE ALESSANDRO PRISON MINISTRY: GOD'S WISDOM VS. OUR WISDOM
We often come across the subject of wisdom in our Christian tradition,, but do we really understand it? During the last few years of my incarceration, I have been asking God for more wisdom. Many of us are familiar with the "Serenity Prayer" made famous by Twelve Step groups with the phrase "...and the wisdom to know the difference" between accepting things and changing circumstances in our lives. Even though I am in prison with limited privileges and means, I have been blessed with many opportunities to engage in great works in service of our Lord and neighbor, so much so that I am often at a loss for what to do or who to minister to, sometimes leaving me paralyzed in my actions. Recently I have been learning what God's wisdom is and how to apply it in my life.
I have been asking, seeking, and knocking in prayer as Jesus directed us to do. This has involved speaking AND listening to God during quiet meditation, and being attentive to what He reveals to me during the day, whether in the Divine Office, spiritual reading (including Church Fathers and the saints), nature, other members of the Body of Christ, and even in "worldly" places such as the newspaper, television, and from non-Christians, including atheists. Lately I recalled the priest's invocation to the congregation before the Gospel is proclaimed in the Byzantine Catholic liturgy: "Wisdom! Be attentive!"
What about this wisdom? We have heard the expression: "He is wise beyond his years", and that people that have accumulated many years of life have wisdom to share with younger folks, yet is this God's wisdom? Our most recent celebration of Pentecost shed some light on this - one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Isaiah 11) is wisdom - separate from knowledge and understanding. I have come to discover this as '"divine vision", being to able to see as God sees, observing the physical, corporeal world we live in and allowing God to inform not only my mind but also my heart.
I have realized that man's wisdom is limited to his own recollection, experiences, and observations, while God's wisdom is supernatural or beyond the physical world we experience. My own life experience demonstrates this, as I relied on too much of my own, or worldly, wisdom to guide my mind, my heart, and my life choices for many years - ultimately, this allowed the influence of the Evil One, and sadly the destructive path I chose that led to my incarceration.
Thanks be to God for the grace of my baptism and for a heart that has been reawakened by the love of Jesus and his Sacred Heart and the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary his mother that have led me toward re-discovery of his wisdom as to who God created me to be .
Prior to the pandemic, before renewing my pledge to live the Rule with the Confraternity of Penitents, one of the virtues that the Spirit revealed to me to reflect on was wisdom. I discovered that I have been gaining an understanding of God's will - his ways, his plan, and what he wants to me to do each day as I examine my life, share my struggles and submit myself to God and others. Obstacles that keep me from obtaining supernatural, or God's wisdom, are meaningless conversations with others, aimless TV watching, reading too many secular publications, engaging in too many activities for the sake of being busy, and not honestly reflecting on my life.
The recent executive orders in Michigan have dramatically altered my activities, causing me to re-evaluate where I am at with the Lord. God's wisdom was recently revealed in the writing of St. Lawrence Justinian who wrote that we can look to Mary our Mother, as "all she had come to know through reading, listening, and observing, she grew in faith, increased in merits, and was more illuminated by wisdom and more consumed by the fire of charity." He implores us to "Imitate her... Enter into the deep recesses of your heart so that you may be cleansed from your sins. God places more value on the good will in all we do than on the works themselves." How reassuring for one who has been driven the last 13 years since my heinous crime to show others - my family, friends, associates, victims of my crime, the court, prison staff, fellow prisoners, the parole board - that I am a good person by my good works. St. Lawrence further reminds me that "whether we give ourselves to God in the work of contemplation or whether we serve the needs of our neighbor by good works, we accomplish these things because the love of Christ urges us on. The acceptable offering of the spiritual purification is accomplished...in the recesses of the heart where the Lord Jesus enters." Our lives and our world can only gain true wisdom, that of our God, through allowing the Spirit to lead Jesus into our hearts. These statements confirm another kernel of wisdom from the saints (what a great source), I received earlier this year, this one from St. Jane Frances de Chantal: "Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him, that's all the doing you need to worry about."
So as I await the prison quarantine to be lifted and wonder about when visits will be restored or how or when "normal operations" will resume and what to do next, my task, as all of ours should be, as we ponder the challenges of our lives and the world, is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. After all, he is "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). I have come to realize that the peace and happiness that we all desire is not gained through our own or worldly wisdom, it is only through God himself. As Jesus tells us: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (John 14:27). During this troubling time of the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty, political instability, and social unrest, let us turn to our God as St. Faustina reminds us: “Jesus, I Trust in You.” – Anthony LaCalamita, CFP
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: PENITENTS ALREADY ON THE WAY
I just read Father Larry Richards' book "Be A Man!" and found it solidifies lessons learned throughout a decade of penance and praying the Office daily. For anyone familiar with Father Richards from EWTN or other Catholic stations, you already know his style has real punch (because he speaks the truth and pulls no punches). Early on in my devout life, I fell in love with this "Lenny Bruce of Priests" for his no-nonsense approach. I could definitely see how some people would be offended or even off-put, but I firmly believe that he loves Jesus Christ above all else and sincerely wants to help others get to Heaven.
Another aspect I liked is that if you are unfamiliar with his radio personae, then you are in luck: Be A Man is based entirely on his radio shows and on his retreats. The Truth doesn't change, just the audience.
The chapters build one upon the other, starting with his catchy message: You are going to die! Chapters 1 through 10 are listed below (with my comments in parenthesis):
1. Be a Man Who Stays Focused on the Final Goal (hint, he's talking about Heaven, not earthly success).
2. Be a Man Who Lives as a Beloved Son (a son of the King of the Universe, not the son of King Kong).
3. Be a Man Who Repents.
4. Be a Man Who Lives in the Holy Spirit
5. Be a Man Who is Strong (not puffed-up machismo, strong in the Lord).
6. Be a Man Who Is Loving
7. Be a Man Who Is Wise (wisdom of the heart, not wisdom of the world).
8. Be a man Who Lives as he Was Created (natural law aficionados will like this chapter)
9. Be a Man Who Is Holy
10. Be a Man Who Changes the World
The book punctuates with a list of 30 Tasks you must accomplish to help you become the man you were created to be. For myself personally, I really enjoyed the reminders of the absolute necessity and awesomeness of God and how much he cares about me. The other thing I liked is in struggles with lust (all kinds: sex, possessions, esteem of men or power) that when temptations come (inevitably) to immediately invite Jesus into the middle of it. Right smack dab into the middle of that temptation and in docility of spirit introduce your temptation to the God of the Universe and ask him to help. Never fight a
temptation alone, you will lose 100% of the time. Surround yourself with faithful men to honestly challenge your assumptions about how "good" or "fine" you are feeling, to help keep you in shape spiritually.
For me, it was great to have in one source all the things I had heard Father Larry say throughout the years as I listened to his show while walking the yard and trying to memorize them.
If you are a true penitent, your perspective will be reinforced for many reasons. One in particular is that the CFP way of life, the Rule of St. Francis, already has you doing the foundational exercises and disciplines Father Larry expects men to do. So, if you are living the Rule, you can focus on the subtle and simple points of his message for men in particular. Hopefully then, it will not take as long as it might take a person still trapped and enslaved (by the culture) to get out of the book on their own, although it is good for that, too. -- J.M.J. Eric Welch, Novice 3, Ready to Pledge, Alessandro Prison Ministry
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP. ROSARY FOR THE UNITED STATES WITH QUOTES FROM AMERICAN SAINTS
At this critical time in the United States, this Rosary offers one Hail Mary for each state and each soul in it, all announced as the Rosary is prayed. Sturdy card stock in booklet form. Organize a group virtually or in person to pray for the United States. 89c each with bulk pricing.
Visit this link, call 260-739-6882, or send order to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA.
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
Happiness comes through doors you didn’t even know you left open
Most of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
Living on earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year.
Ever notice that people who are late are often much jollier than those who have to wait for them?