Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
MESSAGE FROM FORMER CFP VISITOR: EASTER DURING A PANDEMIC
Happy Easter! And I think it’s safe to say that this has been the most unique Lent and the most unique Easter that any of us have ever experienced. We observed most of this Lent and celebrated this Easter in the midst of a great pandemic that has literally brought our nation and the world to a virtual standstill.
This pandemic has forced us to isolate ourselves from our friends, our extended family, in some cases our immediate family, and our churches. It’s forced us to refrain from many of our social and athletic activities. It has forced many of us to stay home from work or work reduced hours.
Amid all of this confusion, the first thing Easter should remind us of is that God is in control. I know that’s probably difficult for many people to see right now, and yet, that is the true test of faith isn’t it? It’s easy to say “God is in control” when things are going well, but the true test of faith is being able to say “God is in control” when our lives are in turmoil.
Secular power, political power, financial power, and the might of the Roman Empire couldn’t keep our Lord and Savior in that tomb, and there is no power on earth that can stop Him now.
“Well, if that’s true, Father, why doesn’t God DO something about this? What is he waiting for?” How can you be sure that He’s not doing it already? I saw a great meme on Facebook; “It’s like God got tired of our constant fighting and sent us all to our rooms!” I think that’s true. Not that God wills evil things to happen to us, but God can use those things to teach us valuable lessons. What has God been teaching us since this pandemic began?
Well, first of all, in what ways were we falling short of God’s call BEFORE all this began? People were neglecting their responsibility to go to Church. People were neglecting their responsibility to their families. People were not only failing to love their neighbor, but some were also being downright NASTY to their neighbor. As that Facebook meme stated, “It’s like God got tired of our constant fighting and sent us all to our rooms.”
I don’t know if parents still do that; send their children to their rooms when they misbehave. I know I got sent to MY room MANY times as a child, and it was always miserable. This was, of course, in the days before the internet, hand held electronic games, and TV’s in every room. All I had in MY room, besides my bed and desk, was my AM transistor radio. Whenever I got sent to my room my mother would say the SAME thing; “You go STRAIGHT to your room and you THINK about what you did!” (I never understood the “straight” part. There was only one hallway connecting our bedrooms, so I REALLY don’t know where my mother thought I might take a detour on the WAY to my room, but she always said that nonetheless, “STRAIGHT to your room!”)
Obeying my mother in this instance was never a problem, because, as I said, there were no side trips I could take to my room, and there was nothing I could DO in my room BUT think. Quiet reflection. That’s the greatest gift this quarantine is offering us right now. We now ALL…FINALLY… have PLENTY of time for quiet reflection. We now have time to THINK about what we have been doing, and how we have been living. Many people say they can’t wait for life to get back to business as usual. That’s the LAST thing I want. Business as usual wasn’t working. Business as usual got us INTO this mess. When all this ends, I hope we start doing things in a new way, a different way, a better way, a more loving, holy way. God is giving us the opportunities for this RIGHT now, and some people are taking these opportunities right now.
This quarantine has forced families to come together and BE together. There are stories all over the internet and news of people coming together to help one another and comfort one another. I love the stories about people in New York City playing music from their balconies and fire escapes and singing together. I was getting so stir crazy from being alone in the rectory all the time that I found myself talking to complete strangers at the grocery like my long lost friends… “HEY! How you doing! OH, you got toilet paper! Good for YOU! Enjoy that!” I have personally noticed people being kinder, friendlier, and more patient with one another.
Many people have been telling me how much they miss Mass and the Eucharist. I hope that, when all this is over, people return to church with a renewed fervor for the sacraments. They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Now that the faithful been deprived of the Eucharist for so long, it is my hope that people NEVER take the Mass for granted again.
Maybe, my brothers and sisters, just maybe, this quarantine is exactly what we all needed. But whether it is or not, one thing is certain--the empty tomb was God’s proof to the world that no force on earth can stop his Divine Will. Pray to Him. Submit to Him. Trust Him to work His will in your life. Happy Easter. Know that I am praying for all of you. And blessed be God forever
--Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Former Visitor to the Confraternity of Penitents
(Father Sisco writes the reflections for the Oratory of Divine Love, a weekly Bible Study intended to be shared with a small group in one's own home but which can be done on one's own. Reflections and discussion questions are published weekly on the website. They are also emailed to those who subscribe to the mailing list. See OraotoryDivineLove.com for past reflections and more information).
NO GREATER LOVE: CROSS AND RESURRECTION
The last chapter of Hans Urs Von Balthasar's book, Prayer, deals with what is called in theology "soteriology". This word refers to the study of salvation or the "last things."
For the Christian, the human person (body and soul) has two possible final states, heaven and hell. Purgatory is not one of the options since it is not a "final" or "eternal" state but a temporary state. Naturally, the preferred state is heaven, but. for Christians, heaven was only opened to us because Jesus Christ took upon Himself our sins. The Father's acceptance of His death on the cross was proven by his Resurrection from the dead. Von Balthasar explains what this means.
Heaven, in which we already share by way of anticipation, has fashioned our earthly life and given it its meaning; similarly, in the final, "soteriological" tension, it is the resurrection which determines our relation to the cross. We are Christians because the Lord is risen; else would our faith be empty and meaningless (1 Cor 15:14). Jesus suffered with a view to glory; he took upon himself the penance of the cross with a view to the Father's absolution. And, initially, we cannot in any way be regarded as Christ's companions; we do not share his path, walking in step with him---otherwise there would be no qualitative difference between him and us. He would only be primus inter pares and we could seriously be regarded as co-redeemers. But "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us ... while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom 5:8, 10). If we do walk some part of the way with the Son, it is by the grace of the redemption he has accomplished. The sentence which in principle determined our fate was performed upon Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners: in him we were crucified and condemned to death; in him we were made the recipients of grace and adopted as children. In him, and without any activity on our part, God's anger toward us has changed into tender, caring love. All this has become a reality, in and through Christ, in the Father's heaven: our task is to let it come true in all its fullness in our temporal existence on earth.
We need to realize that only Christ's Resurrection makes it possible for us to share in Christ's suffering and even this is the gift of Christ. Von Balthasar explains this further. Thus. Paul always speaks of his own sufferings, many and varied as they are, as a demonstration of the power of the Risen Lord, never as being in competition with the Lord's Passion. This is particularly the case with regard to the wounds of Christ which he bears on his body (2 Cor 4:10; Gal 6:17), when he even speaks of being "crucified with Christ" (Gal 2:20) and of completing in his flesh "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24). This is only possible because he has been chosen by the Risen and Ascended One to demonstrate His power in him, to "show" him how much he must suffer for the name of the Lord (Acts 9:16). Thus, the servant has no reason for boasting; he only does his duty (1 Cor 9:16) in allowing the Father to reveal his Son in him (Gal 1:16). All this "bearing death in the body" is the result of a contemplation of the resurrection in which we are assimilated more and more efficaciously to the glory of the Son, who transforms the beholder into himself: "We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:18)..........Out of the fullness of his victory the Son endows the different kinds of men with different modes of sharing in his temporal sufferings and in Calvary's profound mystery of judgment. Such participation, as the Lord wishes, can go to the extremes of powerlessness, spiritual darkness, forsakenness and rejection; since these things are a sharing in the cross, they may go beyond what can be experienced and endured at the natural level. They can be so intense that the subject seems to lose all spiritual light whatever, all prospect and hope of redemption and resurrection. And yet, infallibly, this is all a result of that light; it presupposes it, objectively and even subjectively. For the light is never withdrawn from a believer unless, having already experienced it, he consents, at least implicitly, to be deprived of it.
St. Francis could receive the Lord's stigmata in 1224 on Mount Alverno, and after much mental and physical suffering die in peace in 1226 because the Lord accepted St. Francis' intense love from Him just as the Father accepted Christ's death on the cross through the Resurrection. St. Francis must have experienced much darkness in the last years of his yet his willingness to undergo it all presupposed the Triumph of the Cross through the Resurrection.
What about us ordinary people? How do we contemplate the cross and resurrection? Von Balthasar gives us his thoughts on this matter. All faith is resurrection faith. Hence contemplation of the cross is part of contemplation of the resurrection. In turn, contemplation of the cross is the context in which we are to contemplate our own sin and the sin of the world. For from a Christian point of view we cannot reflect fruitfully upon sin unless we do so on the way to penance, and the origin of penance is the cross. Only in the light of the cross and its judgment on sin can the sinner hope to get some idea of what his sin is. Our so-called good or bad conscience, however necessary a function it may be, is inadequate on its own, for sin is by nature a lie and thus casts a fog over our insight into ourselves. It is easier than we think to circumvent our consciences and to adopt the standards of the "world". On the other hand, we can be thrown into a sudden despair with regard to the abyss of our own sin, and this despair is not God's will either, but comes from our own attitude of sin. The cross gives the sinner the proper objectivity (a God-given degree of insight into his sinfulness) and the proper subjectivity (a God-given experience of contrition, repentance and sorrow), resulting in an appropriate sense and fear of judgment. There is nothing Christian about unleashing an unrestrained anxiety about judgment which ignores the reality of the cross---indeed, it is totally un-Christian. But there is a dialectic in our contemplation of sin in the light of the cross: only by looking at my Redeemer can I understand the extent of what I have done. In the face of redeeming love, I am pierced through by a nameless terror: I might be, indeed I am, a murderer of Eternal Love; no excuses are of any avail; I deserve unconditional damnation. Beholding the handiwork of ultimate love between Father, Son and Spirit, performed for me, loveless as I am, I begin to understand that I do not belong among them, that I do not have love and thus am deserving of eternal wrath.
In the traditional Act of Contrition, we detest our sins because of "Thy just punishments", but the biggest reason why we detest our sins is that "they offend Thee, my God, who art all-good and deserving of all my love." Thus, even our own condemnation is the working of the all merciful and compassionate God whom we should never stop loving. On the other hand, we can derive hope from the repentant criminal on the cross. "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we, indeed, justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.' And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.' And he said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'" (Lk 23:39-43) The repentant criminal hoped in the Lord even under condemnation, and he was rewarded with heaven.
Von Balthasar emphasizes that in our contemplation of the Cross we are really bystanders observing what the Lord is doing for us. Anyone who tries to contemplate the Passion in all seriousness is bound to feel that there is something liberating in this idea of a fundamental distinction between the Lord and us. Integrity and simple decency demand it. There is something basically untrue and disproportionate about putting my own trivial emotional states in the same context as the vast mystery of redemption. That is frankly, kitch. More than anything else, contemplation of the Passion summons us to kneel in the dust, to worship without looking at ourselves, to direct our gaze solely to the image of the suffering Lord, to what is happening to him externally and internally.
John and Mary were both beneath the Cross. As a sinner, John, like us, was responsible for Christ's suffering. Mary was sinless, but she could not share completely in His suffering since she did not have the Lord's Divine Nature. Von Balthasar tells us about Mary’s role in our post-resurrection sharing in the sufferings of the Lord. The more he is initiated, by grace, into an authentic contemplation of the Passion, the easier he will find it to distinguish between the Lord's suffering and his own fluctuating dispositions. Only the Ecclesia, the pure Bride, symbolized in the Virgin Mother united in suffering with her Son, precedes the rest of mankind in standing on the Son's side; she forms the door by which the others, sinners, may come to share in the Passion. Yet even she is only there because of the prior grace of "preredemption". – Jim Nugent, CFP
OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE
Plans for the restoration of St. Joseph’s Men’s Vocation Discernment House should receive state approval by mid-May. Then, as funds become available, we can begin reconstruction. The architect, who gave us 25% of his work pro bono, has submitted his bill which includes payment for other architects who helped with these extremely detailed plans as well as filing fees for the city, county, and state. This result of several month’s work comes to $7,914.08. Can you help with payment of this? May God bless you! Please use the donaton button or postal mail a check to us at the address in the footer of this newsletter.
REFLECTION ON THE RULE: PRAYER OPTION 1
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.
Previous newsletters contained discussions of Constitutions 12a through 12 p. This newsletter discusses one of the five prayer options for penitents. The other four options will be discussed in subsequent newsletters.
OPTION ONE: PRAY THE COMPLETE LITURGY OF THE HOURS AS PRESCRIBED IN THE CURRENT BREVIARY
The Office of Readings (formerly called Matins) was once said around midnight but may now be prayed at any time during the day. The little hours of Terce (Midmorning Prayer-about 9 a.m.), Sext (Midday Prayer-about noon), and None (Midafternoon Prayer-about 3 p.m.) are prayed at approximately the hours described. Penitents may combine some of these prayers and say them at alternate hours if their personal schedules require it. For example, the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer may both be said at dawn if need requires. Midmorning, Midday, and Midafternoon Prayer may be combined at noon and Evening Prayer and Night Prayer combined prior to bedtime. Clerics are to recite the Hours after the manner of the clergy.
Option One, how the first penitents prayed, is the preferred prayer option. Today clergy and religious pray the Divine Office, many praying all seven hours. The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop offers the book The Divine Office for Dodos which explains, step by step, how to pray all of the hours of the Divine Office and on all the days of the year. People can use the book to learn to pray the hours they choose. Praying the Divine Office seven times a day makes the praying penitents stop whatever they are doing and recall that God is present to them. This is the great grace of praying all seven hours: to pause and allow the Lord to speak throughout the day, through the Scriptures and prayers.
AN OUT POURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
As we approach the great feast of Pentecost, we have beautiful texts from Sacred Scripture in the Church’s liturgy. The Divine Office contains many beautiful passages, of course, from the Psalms but also from the Fathers of the Church and other beautiful texts of Sacred Scripture and tradition. As I was praying the Office of Readings one morning, I was struck by this magnificent passage from a sermon by Saint Augustine:
“There is not one who does not love something, but the question is, what to love. The psalms do not tell us not to love, but to choose the object of our love. But how can we choose unless we are first chosen? We cannot love unless someone has loved us first. Listen to the apostle John: We love him, because he first loved us. The source of man’s love for God can only be found in the fact that God loved him first. He has given us himself as the object of our love, and he has also given us its source. What this source is you may learn more clearly from the apostle Paul who tells us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts. This love is not something we generate ourselves; it comes to us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Of course, the reason that we pray the Psalms each day is because this was the substance of Our Lord’s daily prayer life, the 150 Davidic Psalms. This tradition along with the spiritual advice of the great apostle St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, invites us to pray unceasingly. Perhaps this advice has never been more important than in this very difficult time of pandemic. Let us renew our commitment to pray without ceasing in praise of God, in gratitude and supplication, intercession and adoration, knowing that our good God never permits evil without the intention of bringing about some greater good. We are approaching the great feast of Pentecost and the memory of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Let us stay close to the Word of God for inspiration and edification and renew our commitment to pray without ceasing. – Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, Franciscan Spiritual Advisor to the CFP
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 this website’s retreat page to make an on line deposit.
CFP Life Pledged Members at CFP Retreat 2019 with Retreat Master Fr. Joseph Tuscan. Left to Right:
Lucy Fernandez, CFP—Patricia Davis, CFP—Mariah Dragolich, CFP – Karen Hopersburger, CFP – Father Joseph Tuscan—Joel Whitaker, CFP, Ann Fennessey, CFP --- Jim Nugent, CFP --- Madeline Nugent, CFP --- Sandy Seyfert, CFP
You need not be life pledged to attend the retreat. In subsequent newsletters, we will showcase CFP’ers who attended Retreat 2019 but who are not life pledged.
MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: WHAT IS GOOD
CFP Alessandro Ministry member Eric Welch (Novice 3) shared the following:
From Gilbert Keith Chesterton ("G.K. Chesterton" -- photo above): On the Definition of Culture ...
Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good.
We are fond of talking about "liberty"; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.
We are fond of talking about "progress"; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.
We are fond of talking about "education"; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good..
The modern man says, "Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty." This is, logically rendered, "Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it."
He says, "Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress." This, logically stated, means, "Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it."
He says, "Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education." This, clearly expressed, means, "We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children."
(quoted by Kevin O'Brien on T.S. Eliot's "Notes on the Definition of Culture")
A good bit of truth rests in this pithy insight. When is the last time you heard anyone talk about what is good? What is politically correct, yes. What is healthy, yes. What is judgmental, yes. But what is good? Why are we afraid to talk about good? Could it be because, once we talk about good, we necessarily must talk about moral absolutes. It’s foolish to talk about what’s good to me and what’s good to you. That shows preference but not what is ultimately good. What is ultimately good is not a matter of opinion or preference. It is what is, like the sun which is either visible or not depending on cloud cover and the time of day or night. But the sun IS. No matter how it appears or if it appears, it is THERE and it is a constant. We can’t argue it away or talk about it in degrees. It simply is.
Such is good. It is. But we rather dance around it than confront it. Saint Francis looked for good and found it in God which is the only place one can find good in its purity and completeness. Everything he did was measured against that standard of good. Instead of skirting good, he ran toward it and embraced it.
What good might come to us if we took time this month to think about what is GOOD? Not what good we are doing or what is good for you but what is purely and completely GOOD. If we began to focus on THE GOOD instead of on anything and everything else, how might that change how we live? Saint Francis engaged in the pursuit and embrace of goodness and what a saint he became! What does God have in mind for us? ---Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP
Servant of God Padre Domenico Da Cese, O.F.M. Cap. Born 1905.
The biography of Father Domenico, a humble Capuchin from Cese, Italy - known as the "Rediscoverer of the Volto Santo ", in Manoppello, Italy, stigmatist, mystic.
Illustrated with many photos. 19.95 plus $4 shipping from CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803
Or order on line on this link.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: FOLLOWING THE HOLY SPIRIT
This year, Pentecost is Sunday, May 31. Centuries before the charismatic renewal, Saint Francis knew all about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit inspired him to follow in Christ’s footprints, as Francis put it. The Spirit caused him to give away his cloak to someone who had none. The Spirit directed him and his first two followers to pray and then open Scripture to ascertain the direction God wanted them to go. The Spirit gave them the courage to embrace and live what they read.
The Holy Spirit is as active and alive in our lives as He was in the life of Saint Francis. But we have to do what Francis did to feel the power of this Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. How will the Spirit act in our lives if we don’t believe He’s going to? How will He move us if we question His nudges toward self-emptying and charity? How can we be His followers if we evaluate what He’s asking in terms of human prudence? God is not prudent. Was it prudent to leave eternity and come to earth as a human? Was it prudent to live poorly, die on a cross, and then leave the Church to unlettered men?
Following the Spirit means obedience once we know He’s leading. Let God worry about the rest. God is quite capable of that. We need to be like Francis was—in tune with the Spirit, attentive to His promptings, and obedient when they come. –Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
HUMOR: A LITTLE TOO CLOSE TO HOME
So, this lady got approved to work from home. After the first couple of weeks, she had a complaint: "My co-worker is just awful. He scares the mailman and constantly wants me to let him outside so he can chase birds. I'm calling Human Resources!!"
Human Resources, also working from home, replied, “What are you griping about? My co-worker keeps trying to sit in my lap and, when I push her off because I’m working , she either scratches me or slinks back and nips my ankles. Then she goes and sleeps all afternoon.”
So, they both text the boss with their complaints. The boss never texts back. Finally, the Human Resources Manager emails the boss to ask if he got the text. “You have problems?” the boss emails back. “I have to spoon feed my co-worker. He drops his food on the floor but won’t clean it up no matter how much I threaten. Today, when I was cleaning up HIS mess, he found my phone and flushed it before I could stop him. I can’t wait to get back to the office!”