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Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter

November 2020


“Nothing great is ever achieved without enduring much.” St. Catherine of Siena



In the Middle Ages if married couples experienced religious conversion, usually that meant that they would dissolve their marriage and enter religious life. However, under the inspiration given by Saint Francis, a new movement of lay committed Christians began.


The preaching of St. Francis, as well as his example, exercised such a powerful attraction on people that many married men and women wanted to join the First or the Second Order. Because being married was incompatible with the Order, Francis found a middle way and gave them a rule animated by the Franciscan spirit. In the composition of this rule, St. Francis was assisted by his friend Cardinal Ugolino di Conti (later Pope Gregory IX).


Where the Third Order was first introduced is unknown. The preponderance of opinion is Florence, chiefly on the authority of Mariano of Florence, or Faenza, who cites the first papal bull known on the subject (Regesta pontificum). The less authoritative Fioretti assigns Cannara, a small town two hours' walk from the Portiuncula, as the birthplace of the Third Order. Mariano, Thomas of Celano, and the Bull for Faenza (16 December 1221) suggest that 1221 was the earliest date for founding of the Third Order.


Another story tells of Luchesius Modestini, a greedy merchant from Poggibonzi, who had his life changed by meeting Francis about 1213. He and his wife Buonadonna were moved to dedicate their lives to prayer and serving the poor. While many couples of that era who experienced a religious conversion chose to separate and enter monasteries, this couple felt called to live out this new way of life together. Francis was moved to write a Rule for them which would allow them to do so. Thus, began the Brothers and Sisters of Penance in the Franciscan movement, which came to be called the Franciscan Third Order. The Chiesa della Buona Morte in the city of Cannara (Church of the Good Death, previously named "Church of the Stigmata of S. Francesco") claims to be the birthplace of the Third Order. Another contender from the same city is the Church of S. Francesco.


This way of life was quickly embraced by many couples and single men and women who did not feel called to the stark poverty of the friars and nuns, especially widows. They zealously practiced the lessons Francis taught concerning prayer, humility, peacemaking, self-denial, fidelity to the duties of their state, and above all charity. Like Francis, they cared for lepers and outcasts. Even canonical hermits were able to follow this Rule and bring themselves into the orbit of the Franciscan vision. The Order came to be a force in the medieval legal system, since one of its tenets forbade the use of arms, and thus the male members of the order could not be drafted into the constant and frequent battles between cities and regions in that era.


As we approach the 800th anniversary of the Rule of 1221, we can be grateful for all the fruit it is borne! Lay faithful, priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes have been members of the Third Order of St. Francis. What a rich and blessed history! – Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap


(Image of Blessed Mother and Infant Jesus, painted by Sandro Boticelli)



In the third volume of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict discusses how the infancy narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke came to be written. We need to understand that Matthew’s Gospel was written for a Semitic audience in Aramaic or Hebrew as early as the 40’s A.D. This Gospel has been lost and we now have a Greek translation of the original Semitic language. Matthew’s Gospel is the longest and does have a strong Jewish character to it. Mark’s Gospel is the first gospel written in Greek, probably as a simplification of Matthew’s Gospel, for Gentile readers. Luke’s Gospel was written in Greek and is later than both Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels in the late 50’s or early 60’s A.D. John’s Gospel is believed to have been written last, in the 60’s A.D. or even later. 


Aside from the language in which they were originally written, Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel are very different. Matthew’s Gospel is centered on St. Joseph and tells of the birth of Jesus Christ from the viewpoint of St. Joseph and how he was puzzled by Mary’s pregnancy in which he had no part. The flight to Egypt, and the return from Egypt to Nazareth in Galilee, are also centered on St. Joseph. Why did Mary have such a passive role in Matthew’s Gospel while in Luke’s Gospel she is much more in center stage? 


The sources of Matthew’s and Luke’s infancy narrative had to differ from sources used for the remainder of their Gospels. The public life of Jesus Christ lasted about three years and then, quite rapidly, came the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. There were many witnesses to the public life of Jesus Christ. Certainly, while Jesus was preaching to large crowds, people wondered about who he was and what He was doing. After Pentecost, the apostles and early disciples were willing to die for Him since they now could begin to see the importance of the events of the last three years. What witnesses were there for the early life of Jesus Christ? Matthew’s Gospel tells how St. Joseph took Mary into his home when it was revealed to him that God wanted him to be her husband. Joseph was hiding from the public that he was not the father of their Son. The Gospels report that people regarded Jesus as the carpenter’s son or Joseph’s son. (Mt 13:55, Jn 6:42, Lk 4:22). Unlike the public life of Jesus, the significance of the events in Matthew’s infancy narrative were not known until the birth of the Church on Pentecost Sunday over thirty years later. Joseph and Herod were both dead and the Wise Men went back to the East to escape Herod. Mary and Joseph surely kept the circumstances of the birth of Jesus secret even from relatives and friends, for what actually happened could easily be misunderstood at least until the public life of Jesus was completed around thirty years later. Even during the early days of the Church, the role of Mary had to be minimized. The importance of Mary is immense, but it is derived from who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish. Mary, and anyone else in whom she confided, realized that Christians had to understand the Divinity of Christ to see the importance of Mary. Mary herself must have wished to be minimized in Matthew’s Gospel. Moreover, women’s testimony was not taken seriously in that culture. Although the first recorded witnesses of the Resurrection were Mary Magdalene and other women, their testimony was not believed. (Lk 24:10-12) 


Luke’s infancy narrative is largely centered on Mary. Why would that be the case? Luke’s Gospel was certainly written later than Matthew’s, probably in the late 50’s or early 60’s A.D. The Good News had been preached for over twenty years. The significance of the public life of Jesus was more clearly apparent. In John’s Gospel, Mary went into the home of John. (Jn 19:25-27) According to tradition, John eventually left Palestine and went to Ephesus in what is now western Turkey. Mary must have gone with him, and her Assumption into Heaven probably occurred in the 50’s A.D. In the book of Acts, Luke was with St. Paul during at least part of his second and third missionary journeys which spanned from about 50 A.D. to 58 A. D. and included Ephesus and other places in western Turkey. Luke could have had ample opportunity to meet with Mary. In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict asserts that Luke did meet with Mary. … did Matthew and Luke come to know the story that they recount? What are their sources? As Joachim Gnilka rightly says, it is evidently a matter of family traditions. Luke indicates from time to time that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is herself one of his sources, especially when he says in 2:51 that "his mother kept all these things in her heart" (cf. also 2:19). Only she could report the event of the annunciation, for which there were no human witnesses.


Naturally, modem "critical" exegesis will tend to dismiss such connections as naive. But why should there not have been a tradition of this kind, preserved in the most intimate circle and theologically elaborated at the same time? Why should Luke have invented the statement about Mary keeping the words and events in her heart, if there were no concrete grounds for saying so? Why should he have spoken of her "pondering" over the words (Lk 2:19; cf. 1:29) if nothing was known of this? If Luke received this information about Mary in the 50’s A.D. just before her Assumption into Heaven, there was no danger that she would become an “instant celebrity” while she was alive as would have been the case in Matthew’s Gospel which was written significantly earlier (probably in the 40’s A.D). Mary saw the necessity of revealing her role in the in the infancy of Jesus so that people could better understand Christ’s Divinity. Just as Jesus had to keep his role as the Messiah secret until the proper time (Mt 8:4 and many other), there was also a “Marian secret” where the role of Mary could be made public at the proper time. Pope Benedict also believes that the role of Mary had to be secret while she was alive. I would add that the late emergence, particularly of the Marian traditions, can be similarly explained by the discretion of the Lord's mother and of those around her: the sacred events of her early life could not be made public while she was still alive.


Pope Benedict mentions something quite interesting about the original Greek text of Luke’s Gospel. In Luke, there seems to be an underlying Hebrew text; at any rate, the whole account is marked by Semitisms, which are not otherwise typical of Luke. Attempts have been made to explain the particular character of these two chapters (Luke 1-2) in terms of a literary genre found in early Judaism: a Haggadic Midrash, that is to say, an exegesis of Scripture by means of narratives. The literary resemblance is beyond dispute. And yet it is clear that Luke's infancy narrative is not a product of early Judaism, but belongs firmly to early Christianity. If Mary was living with John in Ephesus as tradition asserts, it is reasonable to think that she must have learned Greek since Ephesus was a Greek speaking area and worshipped the Greek goddess Artemis according to Acts 19. She could have related her story to Luke in Greek with the “Semitisms” of which Pope Benedict speaks. Those who can read Luke’s Gospel in the original Greek may be reading many of Mary’s exact words as conveyed to Luke.


In Matthew’s Gospel, St. Joseph is portrayed as a just man and as one who was quick to obey the commands of God. How would Matthew know this except that this was Mary’s assessment of St. Joseph? John’s Gospel contains no infancy narrative and says little about Mary. If Mary went to live with John, she probably gave him strict orders not to say too much about her in his writings. John’s Gospel was the one which focused the most on the Divinity of Christ. This was surely in accord with Mary’s wishes.


Chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel contains an account of the birth of John the Baptist. John’s parents, the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are both described as “righteous”. Luke was writing this over 60 years after the birth of John the Baptist. Both the parents were quite old (Lk 1:7) and had certainly been dead for a long time. Mary was a very young woman at the time of John’s birth. That Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous” was Mary’s assessment of them. After the Annunciation, (Lk 1:26-38), Mary went from her home in Nazareth south to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth and Zechariah (Lk 1:39-56) and stayed about 3 months before returning home (Lk 1:56). She must have been present at the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:57-66) and learned of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah from Elizabeth and Zechariah. (Lk 1:5-25) The other events related in Lk 1-2, such as the birth of Jesus in the manger (Lk 2:1-7), the visit from the shepherds, (Lk 2:8-20), the presentation of Jesus in the temple, (Lk 2:22-38) and the finding of Jesus in the temple (Lk 2:41-52), could only have been related to Luke through Mary as Pope Benedict has noted. Very important parts of the Christian faith, such as the Annunciation and the Christmas narrative, come to us through Mary. Recently Pope Francis established a new Memorial in the liturgy “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church”. This is quite appropriate since the role of Mary in the early Church is much greater than many people imagine. – Jim Nugent, CFP


Remember when we were young and couldn’t wait to grow up so we could do whatever we want whenever we want? How’s that working out for you?


I hate it when I’m singing a song and the artist gets the words wrong.


I thought growing old would take longer.


I wonder what people who spell “u” instead of “you” do with all their spare time?


How many boxes of these Thin Mints do I have to eat before I begin to see results?


Got tasered when picking up my friend from the airport today. Apparently, security doesn’t like it when you shout, “Hi, Jack!”


My bed is a magical place where I can suddenly remember everything I have to do.

Man Fishing in the River




16. They are not to take up lethal weapons, or bear them about, against anybody.

CONSTITUTIONS: 15. In keeping with section 16 of this Rule:


16a. They are not to take up or bear lethal weapons that would be used against other human beings with the exception of participation in a just war with the permission of the penitent's spiritual director, or as part of one's legitimate employment (police officers, for example). If a penitent is living in a dangerous environment in which a weapon may be necessary for self-defense, a spiritual director must approve the penitent's possession of any weapon. 


16b. Hunting and fishing to provide meat for one's family is permitted. One is also permitted to kill animal, bird, or insect pests that may be destroying one's food supply or threatening one's life or goods.

REFLECTION: Obviously the first penitents were permitted to hunt, to protect families and gardens, and to use the meat and hides of animals. This section of the Rule forbid penitents to bear arms against others, thus crippling the feudal system where vendettas and power struggles were rampant. Penitents are to strive for peace both in actions and prayers. This section of the Rule reminds us that our words, spoken or written, and what we share with others in texts and emails, can also be sources of division. While we need to share the truth, let us do it with love and respect, recognizing the other as also a child of God.



In November, the Church prays for the souls of the deceased. We often dread death as an intruder, yet Saint Francis welcomed death as a sister. In the Canticle of Brother Sun, Francis sang, “Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will. No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.” May God grant us a similar attitude.

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CFP Retreat goers visit the Confraternity of Penitents Fort Wayne Administrative Offices and make a visit to Mary’s Glen. Here are the retreatants, along with Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap., assembled in the Glen Gazebo

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Father Joseph Tuscan enjoys lunch in Mary’s Glen along with four women attending CFP Retreat 2020 Notice a portion of the Fence of Saints in the background. Starting with Fr. Tuscan and proceeding around the table to the right: Mariah D.,  CFP, Guest of Mariah, Jackie S., CFP, Sharon K., CFP Volunteer Office Assistant


CFP Retreatants also toured CFP Vocation Discernment Houses, Annunciation House for women and Guadalupe House for men.

Before and after Remodel  - Room in Honor of Sister Emanuel
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The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has deeded a former friary to the Confraternity of Penitents for use as Annunciation Women’s Vocation Discernment and Volunteer House. David Springer and Andrew Holy donated their services regarding deed and title search. The Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation has issued a grant to assist in readying the home for occupancy. Much needs to be done including electrical upgrades, installation of certain appliances, floor refinishing, and plumbing repairs. The Knights of Columbus will be assisting in the renovations, and a group of volunteers have worked to clear the floor area prior to refinishing the 90-year-old oak flooring. 

On the right: before and after remodel photos of same room. Room sponsorship ($5000) includes requesting a color scheme and naming the room plus any message. In addition to the room shown in honor of Sister Emanuel, two additional rooms are sponsored in Annunciation House, one dedicated to Saint Ursula and the other to Saint Monica. Two rooms are also sponsored in Guadalupe Men’s Vocation Discernment and Volunteer House, one in honor of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus and the other yet to be named. Sponsoring a room is a memorable Christmas gift, plus an end of the year tax deduction, and includes a plaque placed on the door of the room, asking for prayers for whatever intention the sponsor wishes. Contact the CFP for details. Additional photos see


Much gratitude to all who are donating or have donated in any amount to the restoration of these two houses. House residents pray daily for all benefactors. Any amount of financial help is greatly needed and appreciated. Some suggested donation amounts are:


ADA compliant (handicapped accessible) shower complete with curtain, grab bars, hardware: $2886


ADA compliant sink: $149 complete (includes faucet)

ADA compliant toilet: $99


Water Saver toilet: $99

24.6 cubic foot Refrigerator: $1,399

Washing Machine 4.6 cubic feet: $799

Clothes Dryer 7 cubic feet: $699


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“Crumbled walls that once gleamed in the bright Mediterranean sun are now overgrown with wild grass and dark vines. Ravaged and ruined, the jaded remnant of the people seek solace amid the shattered columns of the noble and cherished Temple. Steeped in bitterness, the sullen lament resonates among the yet standing stones.


“Little do they know in their pining - now or ever - that their sacred reclamation will quietly appear in natural-flesh in a village nestled on the plain near the Jordan in the southern shadow of Zion. Such is the unfathomable pansophy of the Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame that sends away grief's gasping into the starlit night. ~ Caedmon, this 6th day of December 2019”


This poetic reflection by CFP Affiliate Br. Raymond Colombaro reminds us that we begin spiritual preparation for Christmas this month. Br. Raymond reflects on how the Jewish people longed for the Messiah and how their longing would be satisfied in a totally unexpected way.


What do we expect of God? What do we anticipate Him doing in our lives and in the lives of loved ones? What if He moves in a totally unexpected way? Will we be able to recognize His actions?


Can we fool ourselves into thinking that the Jewish people understood what was happening in Bethlehem? Even the innkeeper who sent the Holy Family to the stable had no clue just Who was being born. Those who had spotted the pregnant young mom and her husband in the streets could not have imagined that they were looking at more than a couple frantically trying to find a place to give birth. The shepherds whom the angels sent to the infant were told why they should leave the sheep in the fields and go into the town to check the stables: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Yet who would believe shepherds? They were lower class. Maybe they were drinking too much wine in the fields.


During this Fast of Saint Martin, may we anticipate the unexpected. God’s plans are better than ours and often surprising. We will be fasting from food, following our Rule of Life, but may God grant us the grace to fast also from putting parameters on the Lord and from grumbling or questioning when life turns out differently than we planned. God is doing the unexpected! –Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop: Christmas Ideas

  • Advent Candles

  • Advent Wreath

  • Christmas cards

  • Stations of the Crib

  • Ornaments

  • Advent Calendars

  • Gifts

  • Christmas Books

  • Coloring Books

  • Jewelry

  • Statuary

  • Prayer Cards

  • Saint Lucy Wheat Kits

  • Scripture Bottles

  • Rosaries

  • Medals

  • Angels

  • Dog at the Manger

  • Nativity Sets

  • Plaques

  • And Much More!


By making the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop your first choice for Christmas shopping, you help the Confraternity of Penitents spread the message of penance worldwide. Contact the gift shop at 260-739-6882 or write to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA.


At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern. – Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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