Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
MESSAGE FROM FORMER CFP VISITOR: PATIENCE IN SUFFERING
Patience in Suffering: Reflection on 1 Peter 2:20
“Beloved, if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you.” 1 Peter 2:20
On Easter Sunday, I pointed out the first gift this quarantine is that it has given us time for quiet reflection. On the second Sunday of Easter, I pointed out the 2nd gift this pandemic has offered us is opportunities to practice mercy. Today, we learn the third gift this pandemic has afforded us; the gift of suffering so we can be united to Christ. This takes a few different forms. First and foremost, there are those who have contracted this virus. Corona has had a wide range of effects depending on the individual. Some have experienced very mild symptoms; to others it has been fatal. How is this a gift? The people who have been infected with this virus have been given an opportunity to join their suffering to Jesus on the cross. These people have an opportunity to be configured to Christ the paschal lamb, who takes away the sins of the world, by offering up THEIR sufferings for some good intention; the conversion of the world, the souls in purgatory, or specific people they wish to intercede for. These people have been invited to share a few steps of Jesus’ walk to Calvary for the purification of their own souls and a speedy entrance into heaven when they die. And that is most definitely a gift.
The second way this pandemic offers us a gift of suffering is through the people who are watching those they love suffer from the Coronavirus. Some have had their loved ones die, without ever being able to see them, or be with them as they leave this world. Even at funeral services that I have done, because everyone has to social distance, mourners can’t even comfort one another with a hug, an embrace of affection. It’s so sad that people can’t even express their grief or compassion to one another during this pandemic. Others experience the awful anxiety of waiting to see if their loved ones will recover from this disease. How can this possibly be a gift? Because these people are configured to the Blessed Mother, who had to watch her son die slowly from a distance. Mary was socially distanced from Jesus as he suffered on Calvary. They had one brief moment together on the road, and another at the foot of the cross. But through most of the passion, Mary had to keep a discreet distance from her son, the one she loved more than anyone else in the world, as she watched him die. What gave her the strength to endure that? Her trust.
Mary always trusted in the plan of God. And that is the gift that God is offering to the people in this situation; he is offering them the opportunity to trust him. I know that trust doesn’t come easy. My mother turns 87 this month, and she’s had a history of heart issues, so I worry about her. It’s hard to trust God when it comes to those we love. We’d rather take the suffering ourselves rather than see those we love suffer. But through this, we have to trust that God’s goal is to get as many of us into heaven as he can, and so he calls us when we have our best opportunity for that. God knew how and what moment each one of us was going to die before we were born. Worrying is NOT going to change the outcome. If you struggle with that trust as I sometimes do, turn to the Blessed Mother for help. There is no one better to reassure you that everything will be alright in the end, and when you reach eternity and look back, you’ll see how all these seemingly tragic events worked for the salvation of souls that you couldn’t even imagine. That trust is also a gift from God.
The third way this virus offers us the gift of suffering is how we have had to sacrifice all the little things we’ve taken for granted for so long. When this pandemic began, the governor went on TV and said, “This virus has a two-week period before it begins manifesting symptoms, so we all have to hunker down for a couple weeks so we can get this thing under control.” So, we hunkered down. In two weeks, the governor said, “Because too many of you didn’t hunker down the first time, we’ve all got to hunker down for another two weeks.” So, we hunkered down for another two weeks. When THAT was over the governor said, “The next two weeks is going to be the peak time of the spreading of this virus, so we have to hunker down so we can flatten the curve.” OHHHH KAY! We hunkered down AGAIN! NOW the governor got on TV this week and basically cancelled summer and told us we’ve got to hunker down for next few months! And NOW everyone’s patience is wearing thin. Everyone is plum hunkered out! Now in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I’m not a fan of the governor, because she professes to Roman Catholic and yet supports Planned Parenthood and abortion which I personally find appalling and unacceptable, but, my brothers and sisters, GIVE THE WOMAN A BREAK! She has no idea how long this is going to last! The president doesn’t know. The surgeon general doesn’t know. The Bishop doesn’t know. The Pope doesn’t know. NO ONE KNOWS! The rules about Corona change on almost a daily basis. “Don’t worry! Your pets can’t get it! Oops! Fluffy got it. Alright, tell Fluffy she has to quarantine herself from the other cats and use a separate litter box.” “Corona started when a guy in China ate a bat. NO! It was synthetically created in a lab!” “A vaccine for Corona is at least a year away. HEY! We got a vaccine now we think might work!” And yes, some people are using this crisis for political gain and possibly financial gain. I promise you, they WILL answer to God for that someday. But the majority of people are GOOD people concerned with the common good of ALL people, and everyone is flying blind on this one. And I know that’s frustrating. So how is the Christian supposed to respond? We respond with PATIENCE.
My brothers and sisters, we are being called to PATIENTLY SUFFER for doing GOOD! So, we can’t do a lot of those fun activities we’re accustomed to doing. This is a suffering we have to offer up patiently, because though I am not so concerned about catching the coronavirus -I’m healthy enough to fight it off- the people I spread it to may not be so lucky! I owe it to THEM to take every precaution I can because THAT’S what CHRISTIANS DO! We look to the good of others FIRST, before we look to our own wants! You know who the latest casualties of the Corona Virus are? The network news hasn’t said much about this, but I’ve found stories on the internet of first line responders; doctors, nurses, EMT’s, paramedics that are committing suicide because of the long constant hours they have to work, while surrounded by suffering and death, and they just can’t handle the stress anymore. I owe it to them to take every precaution I can to end their suffering as quickly as possible. I owe it to them to take some of my quarantine time, and turn OFF the TV, and turn OFF Netflix and the gaming systems and spend some extra time in prayer; lifting up these people and begging Christ to strengthen and protect them as they struggle to tend to the sick and the dying, because THAT’S what CHRISTIANS DO! We look to the NEEDS of others BEFORE we look to our own wants!
Patient suffering is what Christians do best, because patient suffering makes saints. THAT’S what we have been called to, and THAT is truly a gift. My brothers and sisters, stop complaining, and embrace the gifts that God is offering. Know that I pray for you every day, and please pray for me.
-Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco, Former Visitor to the Confraternity of Penitents
Note: You can access Fr. Sisco’s Reflections weekly at OratoryDivineLove.com
LEARNING TO WAIT DURING THIS PANDEMIC
This month I would like to share with you a beautiful article that I read written by Archbishop (Emeritus) Stefan Soroka the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia
Our daily life has suffered many major disruptions as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. You and I have been challenged to be patient and to wait. For most of us, it is hard to wait. It is hard to wait in traffic. It is hard to wait in line at a check-out counter. It is hard to wait for a vaccine to be developed. The longer we wait, the worse we tend to worry.
Recall that the Risen Christ asked the apostles to wait after His ascension. Jesus knew that the apostles could not fulfill their work alone. They needed the presence of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the work of the kingdom. The Holy Spirit would encourage, instruct, guide, and comfort them in their earthly ministry. They needed to wait. Why wait? There is a lesson for you and for me in what happened to them while they waited. Perhaps the apostles needed to wait so that they could learn some obedience. They needed to learn to prepare themselves in listening to God’s plan for them. The passage of time would also help to prepare the apostles’ hearts. They needed time to heal from their failures. They needed time to draw together. There is a special fellowship that develops among those who wait.
Waiting increases anxiety. Jesus knows this and calls the apostles and us to move beyond anxiety to trust, to grow in faith. If things do not seem to work out the way we expected, perhaps it is an opportunity to find God’s plan in our life.
Waiting can be fruitful. If our lives belong to God, we do not become frustrated when our plans do not work out. If time belongs to God, we are not angered when things get rearranged in life. We come to realize that our ‘to-do’ list may not match God’s assignment list. God is more interested in obedience, in quiet hope, in a prepared soul, than He is in our accomplishments.
The apostles had to wait. Not for ten minutes. Not for ten hours. They will wait for ten days. They did not know how long they would have to wait. While they waited, they struggled with their desires to get started in their earthly ministry. They argued whether they heard Jesus accurately. They struggled to encourage each other, to keep from quitting and returning home.
While waiting, the apostles learned to pray like they had never had to pray before. They learned to depend on one another. They learned to use their faith. In the absence of the physical presence of Jesus, they allowed their faith in his world to grow. They waited and they became the men that Jesus knew they could be. They became a Church.
Just wait! Imagine what can happen to you and to me beyond the challenge of this pandemic.
--Shared by Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Franciscan Spiritual Advisor
HUMOR: ACTUAL ADS FROM A FLORIDA NEWSPAPER
*LONG-TERM COMMITMENT* -- Recent widow who has just buried fourth husband. Looking for someone to round out a six-unit plot. Dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath? Not a problem.
*SERENITY NOW* -- I am into solitude, long walks, sunrises, the ocean, yoga, and meditation. If you are the silent type, let's get together, take out our hearing aids and enjoy quiet times.
*WINNING SMILE* -- Active grandmother with original teeth, seeking a dedicated flosser to share rare steaks, corn on the cob and caramel candy.
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: THOUGHTS FROM A CFP FRIEND
I just want to send you a sign of life and an assurance of my deeply felt prayer and gratitude for all that you have shared with me. These are annoying times, but they are wonderful times as well! The Major Eparch of the OCA in Canada said that Social Distancing and Self-Isolation being called for by our Governments and local Civic communities is a call to Hesychia... “silence of heart”.
He reminded us all that this is the time of preparation for our Eternal Rejoicing before the Lord. As Christian Communities we are in “Babylonian Exile”. We are seated by the water of Babylon and we weep for the Songs of the Lord. “We have hung up our harps. For how could we sing the Songs of the Lord in an alien land?” He reminded us that the early Christians in Jerusalem would go out into the desert for forty days with no Liturgy, no communal prayers and in complete silence and wait for the Lord. And par themselves for the Resurrection Day of Easter.
St. Benedict exhorted his monks to have a Lenten quality about their lives in the monastery at all times reminding that we neither know the time nor the hours of His Coming!
Our Churches have provided us with such generous help. Opening doors so that the Faithful can come and pray and the Catholic Media has cv posted all forms of the Roman Rite sooo that like Manna that conforms itself to everyone’s taste (haha)! Our Bishops have continued to exhort. Cardinal Burke has sent an eloquent exhortation to the Faithful to encourage us to keep proclaiming the winners of the Lord.
So as my beloved prayer buddies, I want b to send you my heartfelt love and affection and intercession!
Wishing you as always. Pax et Bonum. Rod Ferris
REFLECTION ON THE RULE: PRAYER OPTION 2
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 option 2:
OPTION TWO: PRAY A FIFTEEN DECADE ROSARY.
If possible the fifteen decades should be broken up so that the Rosary is prayed, in part, throughout the day to approximately correspond to the times of the minor hours.
REFLECTION: Even though the Rosary now has 20 decades because Saint Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries, the Constitutions remain as they were when originally written in 1997. Penitents who chose this option to complete their daily prayer schedule also chose which fifteen decades they wish to pray on a particular day. The Rosary is a popular way to meditate on the mysteries of our faith, and praying it daily fulfills the request of Our Lady of Fatima, if we offer it up for sinners.
OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE
Plans for the restoration of St. Joseph’s Men’s Vocation Discernment House (pictured) are now undergoing a full review by the state of Indiana. The CFP has been offered a building to use as Annunciation Women’s Vocation Discernment House, but no transaction has yet been signed. Please pray for this. We will keep you informed. A great deal of funding is needed for each house. May God reward you for your prayers for these places and for any financial support you can give or referrals to grants for which we might apply.
CFP PHOTO ALBUM: CFP RETREAT
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.
$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.
Some of the guests at CFP Retreat 2019 are shown here with Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap. Retreat Master. Eric Lipscomb (2nd from left) has entered CFP Postulancy. Susan Porzio (to the right of Fr. Joe Tuscan) has entered the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare.
CFP Retreat 2020 is open to CFP members as well as friends and guests. You need not be in the CFP to attend.
“Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.” St. Francis de Sales
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Pope Benedict XVI
NO GREATER LOVE: THE CONTRAST BETWEEN CROSS AND RESURRECTION
At the end of his book, Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar discusses the contrast between utter rejection which the Lord experienced on the Cross and the complete triumph of the Resurrection. Since the praying person is privileged to enter into the Passion from the standpoint of the resurrection, his fundamental approach will be one of gratitude. The Spirit of consolation sent to us by the Risen Lord bears witness to the world that there is sin, righteousness and judgment (Jn 16:8): the tremors which cleave the earth are forms of the Comforter's grace, shaking the earth to its foundations. Indeed, even things that the earth is bound to regard as the righteous judgment (and nothing else) are in fact the beginnings of resurrection, for the rupturing earth opens Hades and the disturbed graves yield up the resurrected bodies (Mt 27:51). The darkened sun (de-solatio), symbolizing the turning-away of the gracious Father who causes the sun to rise on the good and the evil, is also the sign of his arrival to pronounce judgment, the sign of the "Day of the Lord". Both great and terrible, this Day had always been the focus of Israel's entire hope. In the Passion and resurrection, we have the dramatic climax in which, in seamless continuity, abandonment in death and the darkness of hell are changed into eternal redemption and the dazzling light of heaven. The two poles belong inseparably to one another: the descent of the light of heaven into the depths of hell signals the maximum radiance of spiritual light. This mysterious unity of God's self-veiling and self-manifestation, of God's distance and nearness, was always present, in mystery, to the faith of Israel.
The devout Israelites of Old Testament times as well as devout Jews at the time of Christ, such as Mary, the apostles, and many others, understood that they knew the real God in ways that the pagan world did not. Yet there were still questions. What happens to us after death? The author of the book of Ecclesiastes expressed the general belief of ancient Israel. “Whatever work you propose to do, do it while you can, for there is neither achievement, nor planning, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” (Eccles 9:10) In ancient Israel, Sheol was not annihilation as modern atheism imagines death, but it was thought to be a place of total isolation where there was no interaction with others or God. “The dead cannot praise Yahweh, they have gone down to silence; but we, the living, bless Yahweh henceforth and evermore.” (Ps 115:17-18) Yet, there was the hope that the isolation of Sheol was not the last word. “keep my soul: I am your devoted one, save your servant who relies on you.” (Ps 86:2). By New Testament times the hope for resurrection had grown so that the Pharisees did accept it, but the Sadducees still did not. (Mt 22:23-33, Mk 12:18-27, Lk 20:27-40) By His Cross and Resurrection, the Lord showed the Jews and all humanity that suffering has meaning and the resurrection of the dead is real.
Von Balthasar also tells us how the Cross is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The psalms of dejection and the embittered reflections of Jeremiah and Job are an authentic form of the revealed word. They must be understood not only psychologically or anthropologically, but theologically. They are rungs on the ladder of the cross. Yet, dark patches that they are, their significance is only that of the elements of shadow in a painting that is full of light: they are part of the total picture of Yahweh's care and faithfulness toward his People, and, in that People, toward mankind. Indeed, even from a subjective point of view, the people of the Old Covenant only experienced them as offending and puzzling phenomena within the context of a wondrous destiny of faith. Thus these troubling aspects always elicit questions, reproaches and complaints addressed to the Covenant God whose very nature is to afford comfort and strength to the believer. The darkness is only dark in relation to a prior light which is in principle inextinguishable. The same dialectic is developed in the Wisdom literature to illuminate and evaluate the world as a whole. There is a wisdom of nearness to God, like that of Sirach and the Book of Wisdom, which see the entire creation filled with the wisdom of God, visible at all points. This is not a passing wisdom (Wis 7:29 f) like the light of day which is succeeded by night. It shines as brightly in nature as in Israel's history: the living Creator can be seen by attending to what he has created; no images are required. For these praying believers, too, God's wisdom is unfathomable and completely inaccessible to the natural man, but God imparts it to those who, in fear and love, ask him for it: "He set his eye upon their hearts to show them the majesty of his works .... Their eyes saw his glorious majesty, and their ears heard the glory of his voice" (Sir 17:8,13). But man also realizes that the most stupendous of God's manifestations is yet small compared with the glory which remains hidden (Sir 43:27-33). The faithful believers of the Old Covenant knew that the world was full of trouble, sorrow and evil. Yet they also knew that a loving, kind and compassionate God was in charge of it all. Evil and destruction do not have the last word.
The faithful believers, however, were not satisfied with the majestic God revealed in nature. They wanted to know Him. Theologian Von Balthasar tells us about how they were not satisfied. God maintained a remoteness from us. It is here that the reversal takes place. Wisdom becomes the manifestation of God's hiddenness, of his nonappearance in the world. Ecclesiastes puts forward the wisdom of the world's remoteness from God, of its emptiness of him, and Job, in the chapter on wisdom, discourses on the inaccessibility of wisdom: "Man does not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, 'It is not in me,' and the sea says, 'It is not with me.' ... It is hid from the eyes of all living" (Job 28:13,21). What does appear is only vanity, futility, limitation and weariness. Those who want intimacy with God cannot find it in the world. Scripture tells us that God transcends the world. Thus, we need to go above the world to reach God.
The problem is that God cannot be reached by our own efforts. Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us about the efforts of the Sage of the book of Ecclesiastes and his conclusion on the path we must take. This too is a contemplation of the ever-greater God in his world: but it is the prayer of a tired man who has lost the joy of reaching up to God. With the eclipse of the living God, wisdom itself becomes dialectical: "I said to myself, 'I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.' And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow" (Eccles 1:16-18). And instead of a life which strives up the steep path toward God, the Sage recommends a life which, conscious of its own futility, rejoices in what is vain and insubstantial: "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun." "He who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap" (Eccles 9:9; 11:4). While the Sage observes that the vain joys of this life are the only joys we have, he does not recommend the path of modern secularism which believes that God is not involved in the world and does not care about human actions, good or evil. The epilogue of the book of Ecclesiastes warns us: “To sum up the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments, since this is the whole duty of man. For God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad, to judgement. (Eccles 12:13-14)
To end his book on Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar does not recommend that we take the advice of the Sage of Ecclesiastes. In the New Testament, however, these "vain joys" are taken up into the joy of redeemed existence in God, i.e., into the joy of the resurrection. They are assumed into that heavenly joy which is laid up entirely in God, albeit hiddenly, and which is the backdrop of the Christian's living, rejoicing and suffering. The Christian cannot slip out of the tension between heaven and earth, resurrection and cross, and fall back into a purely natural existence, since he is governed by the revealed word which has come home to him once for all and has made him what, forever, he will be. But ultimately it is no concern of his how the word will fashion him, whether as someone dead or someone risen, as someone who is still living on earth or whose being is already in heaven, or whether he is brought down with the Word into the nether world. The contemplative leaves it to the Word to decide that particular state of the Word in which he is to make his earthly pilgrimage, no longer at home in the world and not yet having reached his home in heaven. As he has said before, it is up to God to determine the relationship we have with Him in this world. Our job is to be faithful to Him in the state He has given us.
– Jim Nugent, CFP
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Perhaps the best known follower of Saint Francis is Saint Anthony of Padua, whose feast day falls on June 13 and who, 800 years ago this year, left the Augustinian Order in which he had been ordained a priest, to follow the poor, simple, joyful, faith filled Francis of Assisi. Anthony had not met Francis. Instead, he had met five of his followers who were on their way to Morocco to preach the message of Christ to the sultan. When the men were martyred, their remains were sent back to Portugal where they were interred in the very monastery in which the then Father Fernando resided. Praying at their tombs, the youthful priest felt called to follow them and to give God his all by sacrificing his life. So, he approached the Franciscans about joining them, provided that they send him to Morocco to preach. They agreed, giving him the new name of Anthony, after Saint Anthony, the desert father. Anthony did, indeed, go to Morocco, but became so ill on the ship taking him there that he had to be sent home. Hence, he never preached to the sultan. Francis, however, had preached to a sultan the year before and had been honored by him with gifts although not by the sultan’s conversion.
Anthony’s ship home was blown off course to the shores of Sicily where he learned that the Franciscans were holding a huge gathering, the Chapter of Mats, in Assisi. Ill, he made his way there and was sent to a hidden mountain hermitage to pray and wash dishes. By a motion of God’s grace, Anthony was unexpectedly asked to preach at an ordination where the bishop who heard him immediately sent him to preach the message of Christ throughout Italy which, at that time, was rife with heretics. From Italy, Anthony went into France to continue preaching. Thus, God used this man’s faith, compassion, and eloquence to convert many while hearing innumerable confessions and working for justice among the poor.
Saint Anthony, who died in Padua, wanted to serve God one way (by martyrdom), but God had other plans about how best to serve Him. God showed Francis his path and Anthony his. The Lord will show us our paths, too, if we ask Him and then are willing to obey. Saint Anthony, in this month of your entry into the Franciscan Order, pray for us to have a measure of the faith, love, and compassion that was yours.
–Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP carries over 70 items pertaining to Saint Anthony, including prayer cards, chaplet, plaques, art, t-shirts, pillowcases, medals, keychain, and novena. Visit http://www.cfpholyangels.com or call 260-739-6882. Your purchase helps support the CFP. God bless!