Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- March 2020
THOUGHT FROM A CFP MEMBER
Year after year I look forward to anticipation to Lent, considering it the "reset button" of my year, giving me a wonderful opportunity to fast, pray, and make sacrifices in order to grow nearer to Our Lord. When I read about the life of a Franciscan Penitent, I marvel at the prospect of making this continual conversion and self-oblation a part of everyday life. This is what has drawn me to submit my application to postulancy in the CFP. --Anthony Piferrer, Postulant
“You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.” -- -Saint Josemaría Escrivá
“Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves… What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment’s hesitation.” – Servant of God Catherine Doherty
MUSINGS FROM FR. JOSEPH TUSCAN, OFM CAP.
CFP SPIRITUAL ADVISER FOR FRANCISCAN AFFAIRS
Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, is the CFP’s Spiritual Advisor for Franciscan Matters.
Bonaventure in his Major Legend said of St. Francis: “Saint Francis realized that he was an exile from the Lord’s presence as long as he was at home in the body, and his love of Christ had left him with no desire for the things of this earth. Therefore, he tried to keep his spirit always in the presence of God, by praying to him without intermission, so that he might not be without some comfort from his Beloved.”
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to make a Franciscan pilgrimage in the footsteps of our founder. In the various places that we visited along the Italian peninsula, we noticed that St Francis often went into the foothills of the mountains to pray in caves. The leader of our pilgrimage pointed out the fact that the reason that Saint Francis liked to pray in caves is that he believed that all of the cracks on the earth were created during the earthquake that occurred as a result of our Lord's crucifixion. For Saint Francis, the crucifixion was the greatest act of love the world has ever known.
Praying in caves became the model for the early Friars when they prayed at Rivotorto. St. Bonaventure says this of their prayer there:
“They spent their time there [in Rivotorto] praying incessantly, devoting themselves to mental rather than vocal prayer because they did not yet have liturgical books from which to chant the canonical hours. In place of these they had the book of Christ’s cross which they studied continually day and night, taught by the example and words of their father who spoke to them constantly about the cross of Christ.”
Here is a meditation from St. Bonaventure for you as we pass through this beautiful season of Lent that our founder loved so dearly:
"Christ on the cross bows his head, waiting for you, that he may kiss you; he stretches out his arms, that he may embrace you; his hands are open, that he may enrich you; his body is spread out, that he may give himself totally; his feet are nailed, that he may stay there; his side is open for you, that he may let you enter there."
Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap
Note: The prayer of St. Bonaventure, to which Fr. Joe refers, is reproduced on Prayer Card RC307, available for 25c from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link. Or write to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 or phone 260-739-6992.
“Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.” -- St. Francis de Sales
“The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.” -- – St. John of the Cross
“Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” -St. Rose of Lima
“Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.” -St. Thomas Aquinas
"Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring." – St. Catherine of Siena
NO GREATER LOVE: HEAVEN AND EARTH
In our life on earth we experience many shadows such as temptation, sin, weakness, illness, and may other things we regard as “bad”. As Christian believers, we know that there is a place where all these evils are absent. This place is called heaven. For believers, heaven is the continuous presence of God while to the unbeliever heaven is “pie in the sky by and by”. There certainly is a tension between heaven and earth since they are clearly not identical. Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us more about this tension in his book Prayer. Creation evinces a mysterious tension which is identified in the very first words of scripture: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." As the subsequent course of salvation history shows, this opposition is not simply cosmological but also theological, contrasting God's being and place (in the world) with man's being and place. What is absolutely clear is that earth is not heaven, even before man puts a spiritual distance between himself and heaven as a result of the Fall. Even before the Fall there are times in Paradise when God makes himself present, walking "in the cool of the day". And afterward we often read of Yahweh's "coming down" (Gen 11:5,7; 18:21, etc.), we read of Jacob's ladder linking earth and heaven, of God's "looking down" on the earth, and conversely of mortal man being transported up to heaven (Elijah and, “in the spirit”, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel). Even people in Biblical times knew that God did not reside in a physical place such as a planet or a distant star. Thus, heaven is a higher state of being.
The question still remains: What is heaven? Von Balthasar tells us that we need to look to Jesus Christ for an answer to that question. The Son "comes down", and in him heaven becomes tangible on earth. "He who sees me sees the Father." "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." Mankind's yearning to look into God's dwelling place is satisfied, beyond all imagining, through God's arrival in the house of man to "come and eat with him" (Rev 3:20). This first descent is veiled; nothing else is to be made known in it but the humble love of God, ineffable by nature, which the late medieval mystics used to call God's "poverty", destined to be so important to man that for the time being it would make him forget all his inquisitive attempts to spy out the glories of the world beyond. In Jesus, heaven is no longer an image but a Person. He is the love of God and can be loved in human form, as a Thou, like you and I. And this Thou dies for you and me; when he dies, heaven is dead to us all. To contemplate Holy Saturday is to contemplate the collapse of heaven into the horrors of the nether world. But the Son rises from the dead, and the forty days he spends with us establish the fundamental sense of Christian existence: our beloved God, who became man, who became "heaven on earth", who thus wooed our love on earth, and whose love we only reciprocated when he had died for our sake-he is now "earth in heaven". For forty days he shows us this earth transformed into heaven, as if to fan our love for him into an even stronger blaze so that suddenly, when he ultimately goes up to heaven to sit at the Father's right hand, he draws up our love with him.
Since Jesus Christ came from heaven in His incarnation and returned to heaven with His Ascension, we must contemplate Him in order to contemplate heaven. As theologian Von Balthasar points out, there is a fundamental difference between Jesus before His Resurrection and Jesus after His Resurrection. Before His Resurrection Jesus showed us His Father who is in heaven. By showing us the Father as a God of Love, He opened up a window for us to see into heaven. As earthly creatures we can see how heaven operates. As Von Balthasar says, Jesus was “heaven on earth”. While Jesus came from heaven, in order to be fully human he had to endure the shadows of earth, the greatest being His Crucifixion. For forty days after His Resurrection, He came and went without the limitations of this earth. It was the same Jesus, but in His glorified Body. For those forty days on earth He was actually in heaven. Thus, Jesus was “earth in heaven” as Von Balthasar puts it. This tension between heaven and earth is very evident during the Lenten and Easter seasons. During Lent penance helps us to experience the limitations of earth with Jesus through our fasting and penances. This culminates in Good Friday. On Holy Saturday we contemplate the Lord’s descent into the abode of the dead. On Easter we are in a sense with Jesus in heaven as He appears to His disciples, and this goes on for the forty days of the Easter season. On Ascension Day, Jesus goes to the Father but leaves with us the longing for heaven.
We are, of course, still here on earth. Yet, Hans Urs Von Balthasar tells us the we not only can look into heaven, but we can in a sense be in heaven with the Lord. The believer has experienced heaven on earth in company with the Beloved; indeed he meets him anew every day in prayer, the sacraments, the eucharist, in his whole life of love. All this is life in and through the Lord; it is his presence among us who are gathered in his name to celebrate the memorial of his death, but also of his spirit, which, in his name, we endeavor to reproduce in ourselves. But there is more: after his resurrection, which translated him into his Father's realm, he opened heaven to us in such a way as to allow us, earthly men, to share in it with him. When the disciples were with him, they were in heaven. Who can fail, in reading and contemplating the resurrection accounts, to sense the atmosphere of eternal life, the atmosphere of heaven, far more intimately than in the most impressive prophetic visions? We have been given access to heaven; not in an external way, by ecstasies or visions, but primarily in a totally interior way which reinterprets our whole existence, through the Redeemer's gracious act whereby he transplants us from earth into the soil of heaven. We have become "strangers and pilgrims on earth" because he has made us "citizens of heaven". Paul and the other apostles are full of this fact, as the Church's saints will always be. …… So it is that not only Christ, but also our love for him is already in heaven; it is in heaven that we receive him at holy Mass, in heaven we seek and find him in prayer and contemplation. Indeed, in loving our neighbor in the most ordinary earthly matters, we are encountering Christ in heaven. All this is hidden, of course, from our earthly senses at present, but when the Lord returns it will become manifest, along with him, as something that was always there. Paul puts it explicitly: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" ( Col 3:1-4). We can see that heaven is not just some vague hope, “pie in the sky by and by”. Christ shows us that the hope of heaven is a hope, but it is a real hope for He has attained it, and He wants us to attain it also.
The tension between heaven and earth is part of the struggle we all experience as Christians. It is so easy for us to think that only that which we can sense here and now is real. We choose the fleeting and very imperfect joys of sin over what God can give us. We can even be tempted to try to bring heaven to earth by our own plans and effort. This has been tried many times, but it only makes clear that this earth is not heaven and we cannot change this fact. Theologian Von Balthasar shows us clearly this distinction between heaven and earth. If the experience of having "our heart in heaven" were not the foretaste of eternal bliss with God, our existence, bafflingly torn and battered between heaven and earth, would never be "at home" anywhere; we should have to see it as pure tragedy, as nothing but torture. And this is how it does seem from outside. It can look like this even from inside, once faith's love has lost its glowing vigor. Christian existence calls for two things at once: we must maintain the distinction between heaven and earth which is grounded in creation and will not be overcome until the eschaton; and we must affirm the fact that this distinction has been superseded in principle (though not yet made manifest) by the ascension to heaven of the Man Christ, who has taken our humanity to heaven with him, authentically, although hiddenly. This irreducible tension is part of our whole Christian life, and thus it belongs particularly to Christian contemplation. – Jim Nugent, CFP
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: DISCIPLINE
Discipline. Does this word get your attention when you hear it, read it, or think about it? We all spend our lives trying to acquire discipline in one way or another. Lent is the perfect time to ponder this word.
Our lives as Christians are built on the very act of self-discipline. The act of ridding ourselves of sin requires discipline. Oh, if only discipline could be a gene that we inherit! As we strive to acquire virtues, the vices must go! This requires self-discipline. Without grace from God, we would really struggle trying to exercise discipline on a daily basis. We are struggling with different areas where discipline is needed. rt, CFP
Having been the oldest of 10 children, I was able to fly under the radar of a very busy mother (God bless her soul). I did not devote myself to the discipline needed, unless it was something that I was interested in. I am paying now 50 years later with the consequences of this life choice.
I can’t imagine at this point anything more important than discipline in my life as a Catholic and vowed member of the Confraternity of Penitents. Going to Holy Mass daily, praying the Divine Office, and fasting all require great discipline for me. Without the help of the saints above, and the Blessed Mother and the grace she receives from her Son, I would fail.
Have you noticed that when you prioritize your life with your CFP discipline (wherever you are in formation), the other areas of your life that need discipline seem to fall into place? Mentally we are more capable of carrying out our other tasks. We think more clearly. We are able to hear the voice of God in our acts of the will. Go through the day thinking about all the tasks you did or decisions you made that require some form of discipline.
Just keeping my mouth shut is often a very active discipline. We need a heavy prayer life to attend to this gift from the Holy Spirit. Our lives as Christians demand it! Evangelizing those around us requires us to be living a life in Christ! What is more important as we go about our day than taking advantage of the opportunities to witness to those around us? This requires us to be attentive. To be attentive we need to be in the world but not of the world. The world will consume us in a heartbeat if we let our guard down. I know for myself that the days I am not living the Rule the way I should, satan steps right in to provide many opportunities to escape the discipline I have vowed to live. We must ask the Blessed Mother to help us surrender to her Son’s Will each and every moment!
In this world of constant gratification, for this and for that, continual distraction from so much media around us, and people pulling us every which way, it is almost a constant battle not to get caught up in things that in themselves are not bad but that take us away from that which Christ wants of us. I often think a cloistered life would be much easier to live in than living in the world. This is naïve of me; it requires great self-discipline to live a holy life of prayer away from the world. Let us all pray daily for the grace of self-discipline to better hear and live the lives God calls us to. The CFP is one of the very best ways to help us do that. It takes a lifetime to learn. Every day one hopes to take a step closer to being in God’s Holy Will. Thank you, St. Francis, for thinking of laypeople and their desire also to live a life of virtue in holiness as we prepare to see the face of God. -- Sandy Seyfert, CFP
OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE – TAX DEDUCTIBLE CONTRIBUTIONS WELCOME!
CFP Administrative Offices:
Due to variance restrictions, Administrative offices will share space with the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop rather than in the basement at St. Joseph’s Men’s Volunteer and Discernment House.
Annunciation Women’s Volunteer and Discernment House:
Minimal renovations are transforming the Lumbard Street house into Annunciation Women’s House whose residents will work primarily in the Gift Shop and administrative offices on the property. The CFP Volunteer Coordinator, currently housed at Lumbard Street, will move to a private home. CFP Mailing address will remain at Lumbard. Approximately $9500 needed for Lumbard Street renovations.
St. Joseph Men's Volunteer and Discernment House
Saint Joseph Men’s House for CFP was originally a convent for a now disbanded group of religious sisters. The CFP is praying, working, and fund raising to transform the former convent into St. Joseph Men’s House. In this house, God willing, will someday live 8 male CFP volunteer helpers as well as men discerning their future path in life, be it career, priesthood, single life, marriage, or religious life. Saint Joseph House is in great need of renovations.
When the former convent was vacant during a bitterly cold February 2019, a water pipe froze in the 2nd floor bathroom.
When the thaw occurred, water poured through the burst pipe, flooding the second-floor bathroom (damage pictured below) and adjacent rooms and seeping through floors and walls to damage the first floor as well.
Pictured to above is the left is damage done to first floor ceiling, walls, and floor. The previous owner cleaned up the damage and fumigated the house for mold prior to the CFP purchasing the house for future use.
While these photos may seem alarming, our contractor assures us that this is the result of water damage only in this 100-year-old house. It can be repaired. The CFP has had the basement waterproofed and insulation added. However, major restoration will begin when sufficient funds are raised. We ask your prayers and help for this vital endeavor. Tax deductible donations can be made to our headquarters: Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA or by using the donation button below. Approximately $90,000 is needed to complete the restoration. God bless you for your prayers and tax deductible support! No donation is too small!
Additional photos on the Franciscan Vocation House Photos link.
REFLECTION ON THE RULE
All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins1, Prime2, Terce3, Sext4, None5, Vespers6, and Compline7. 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 through 12m were discussed in previous newsletters)
12n. In addition, penitents should, if possible, spend a minimum of fifteen minutes daily in meditative or contemplative prayer.
12o. If possible when penitents are together, they shall pray the CFP prayers and psalms and the Divine Office together in community at the appropriate times.
These two sections of the CFP Constitutions point out the importance of both solitary and communal prayer. While some penitents may spend an hour daily in mental, contemplative prayer as part of their prayer option, every penitent should strive to spend at least 15 minutes daily in quiet prayer. The Lord often speaks when our minds are silenced to the world, so give Him a chance! However, when with other penitents, it is a sign of our family to pray together the Hours of the Divine Office. Wouldn’t it be rude for a family member to take his or her meal and eat apart from the rest of the family? The Liturgy of the Hours is like a spiritual meal shared together by our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Father Patrick Peyton said, “The family that prays together stays together.” The CFP is a family in the Church.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: LENT FOR SAINT FRANCIS
Saint Francis was not content to celebrate one Lent per year. He actually celebrated four Lents yearly or perhaps more. There was the Lent before Easter and then the Lent, which we call Advent, before Christmas. But he also celebrated a Lent before the feast of St. Michael the Archangel on September 29 and another from the feast of the Epiphany to Ash Wednesday.
Was Francis a glutton for punishment? Or was he seeking something else in these Lents?
During these “Lents”, Francis certainly celebrated, a word we find odd to use for Lent, because he took these times to pray in solitude to his Lord. God honored these times. During the 1223 Lent before Christmas, the Holy Spirit inspired Francis to initiate what has become known as the first live Nativity scene. During the 1224 Lent before the Feast of St. Michael, God granted Francis the gift of the stigmata.
Francis should inspire us to make this Lent into a time of prayer and quiet, even if we cannot spend Lent in solitude. In fact, our life may make solitude practically impossible. Nevertheless, we can try to find quiet times alone, even if only for brief periods, during this Lent. We may wish to increase our fasting and almsgiving as well, offering these up to God as certain types of prayer.
A hermitage day, if one can take one, is also a wonderful way to make Lent more prayerful. Go somewhere away from home and workplace and leave your cell phone and iPad in the car. Spend this heritage in an adoration chapel or your church or any quiet place away from your usual haunts. You might take the rosary with you or a prayer book and certainly the Bible. You might want to bring a notepad to jot down any thoughts or inspirations. If you can be away a longer time, don’t hesitate to take a light lunch just to keep your mind from focusing on food. During his hermitage times, Francis ate bread and water. Not a bad idea if you bring a nourishing chunk of bread with you.
May this Lent be a prayerful time of drawing closer to God. Happy Lent! – Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
THOUGHTS FROM A CFP’ER: THE DARK CORNERS IN OUR LIVES.
As we struggle in our daily journey to perfection cooperating with the grace made available to us by God, there are dark corners in our lives where the enemy of our salvation hides to strike us at intervals to cause us to lose graces massively. Have you spotted that dark corner or those dark corners in your life?
One of mine is the inability to control anger when I am provoked or feel provoked. That is the main dark corner in my life where the devil hides to strike me at intervals and cause me to lose massive amount of graces.
Brethren, in all humility, I ask you to pray for me to Our Lord Jesus Christ and through the prayers of the Ever Blessed Virgin Mother of God, that I would be delivered from this dangerous vice of anger which has lived with me for over 40 years from infancy.
Lord I beg you to answer the prayers my brothers and sisters in this community of faith would offer on my behalf regarding this intention I have humbly presented. Mary Help of Christians, Advocate of the children of God, please help me and convey all the prayers to your Son Our Lord Jesus Christ and obtain answers to the prayers I ask through Christ Our Lord Amen. – Kingsley Eze, CFP Postulant
What do we learn from cows, buffaloes and elephants? It’s impossible to lose weight by eating green grass and salads and walking.
I hate it when I see some old person and then realize that we went to high school together.
Hold your wife’s hand in the mall because, if you let go, shall start shopping. It looks romantic, but it’s actually economic.
POETRY BY RAYMOND COLOMBARO, O. de M.
Root of all-being,
Peerless reaver of souls are
Luminous and liminal,
Astride asteroids yet
Nearer to us than our own skins...
A divine warrior of compassion,
You arise and stoop to us and breathe forth Spirit
Wild air, world-mothering air filling our
Pinkish pouches with rich doses of Life.