Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter -- August 2021
Have you ever noticed the following two ironies in the Bible?
First irony: Both Mark and Matthew record the request that James and John be on our Lord's "right and left" when he comes into his Kingdom. It’s obvious that they were seeking some sort of insurance policy this side of heaven. We all know that our Lord told them that it was not His place to say where they sat. That was up to the Father. However, since James was the first to die, and John the last, they were "bookends," to the bodily experience of Christ (one on the right, and one on the left). Coincidence? Or God’s irony?
Second irony: At Moab, Moses met resistance crossing into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1 and 2) So God sent the people wandering in the desert, a metaphorical journey through sin and suffering. Forty years later, Moses was back on the plains of Moab and getting to see the Promised Land. Fast forward to Jesus, of whom Moses was a sort of prefigurement. Did you know that Judas was from Kerioth, the capital of Moab? Judas, a microcosm of humanity’s disbelief and disobedience, resisted Jesus’ message. Jesus, taking upon himself our sins and suffering, justly paid for humanity’s disbelief and disobedience, thus opening the Promised Land of eternal life to us. God’s irony again?
– Eric Welch, Novice 3, Alessandro Prison Ministry
FRANCISCAN SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S THOUGHTS: THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
The Blessed Mother of Jesus, Mary ever-virgin, is “our tainted-nature’s solitary boast”! We are all tainted with Original Sin as we enter the world, thanks to our first parents, Adam and Eve. We receive this “inheritance” from them. Mary is our “boast” because she never said ‘no’ to God; she never sinned. The devil never got one finger on her.
God made Adam and Eve perfect, too. They did not remain so, however. They freely, even though they did not have a wounded nature, sinned against the All-Good God.
Eve’s “no” to God was reversed by Mary’s “yes”. Eve’s disobedience was undone by Mary’s humble obedience, even to watching her son’s cruel death on the cross.
Mary always gave the “right answer” as we teach little children; Mary’s answer to God was always ‘Yes’.
There are so many reasons to love Mary. The simplest reason is because Jesus does. She is God’s masterpiece of creation. She is not equal to God or a lesser, female deity. She is a simple human being made in the image and likeness of God as we are, but to her was given the singular grace of being preserved from the stain of Original Sin. God saved her. He anticipated the redemption of Christ and applied it to her soul upon the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Anna. This is the grace of the Immaculate Conception.
Remember, there is no time in Heaven. God is in another dimension, in eternity – above earthly space and time. So He can circumvent it, being above it.
Christ is Mary’s savior and He is her Son. He is God – the same substance as the Father. Therefore, Mary is rightly called Mother of God as established definitively at the council of Nicaea in 325AD: “Theotokos” God-bearer.
Mary is “full of grace” sinless and immaculate as the Angel Gabriel greeted her. The LORD is indeed with her as she bore Him in her Immaculate Heart even as she bore Him in her womb.
She is “blessed among all women” being the representative of God’s faithful people, Israel. She, like Queen Esther of the Old Testament, was called upon to save her people. Mary acknowledges and praises God’s fidelity to the covenant He made with His people. She is a model of the Church, we who are the mystical Body of Christ, as she is the first disciple and bore in her own heart with supernatural grace the torturous death of her son right before her eyes.
She is our spiritual Mother as Christ said to St. John the beloved, “Behold your mother.” He looked at Mary and said “Behold, your son.” We are the faithful sons and daughters of Mary. Jesus gave her to us from the Cross, His one, last gift. How foolish we would be to tell our Lord we do not need this gift of His! John took her into his home that day and we must do the same. Take Mary into your homes. Pray and ask her blessing on your family. She will surely love and bless you especially if you faithfully offer to her the roses of each ‘ave’ of the Rosary. Moms love flowers. Mary loves the Rosary. With this powerful weapon of righteousness, we join her with her legions of angels in the battle for souls. The war is raging, even now, as it seems darkness has the upper hand. Dawn is near. The savior is coming soon. Those last hours of the night are darkest and then the sun rises in the East. Christ our savior will come, as He promised. Let us be His true and faithful disciples and enlist in the service of His Mother who is “more powerful than all hell together” as St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches us.
Finally, let us commend our priests and hierarchy to Mary, that they will be worthy stewards of the mysteries of God, that they will all be “priest adorers” of Jesus in the Eucharist and work together with Him to “restore all things in Christ.”
-- Father Joseph Tuscan, CFP Spiritual Advisor for Franciscan Matters
NO GREATER LOVE: THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS
After the Lord was initiated into His mission as the Messiah by being baptized by John in the Jordan River, Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert to be tempted by the devil. (Mt 4:1-11, Mk 1:12-13, Lk 4:1-12). Why? Jesus is the true Son of God, but He is also one of us. He had to be one of us for Him to save us from our sins. St. Paul tells us that Jesus “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil 2:6-7)
St. Mathew and St. Luke describe the temptations of the devil in some detail. One of the most pervasive temptations which humans face is the temptation to sins of the flesh. Yet this temptation was absent from the three temptations which the devil presented to Jesus. The devil is a brilliant being and knows our spiritual level. He certainly knew that the Lord was not an ordinary man who could be brought to ruin by a beautiful woman. Both Jesus and the devil knew that the human attraction between the sexes has a very specific purpose ordained by God. This is made very clear in the Old Testament, which both parties knew very well since both Jesus and the devil quoted scripture in the three temptations which the devil actually brought to Jesus.
The devil seemed to be looking for a looseness in the commitment and obedience of Jesus to the Father. He does not do this by presenting known evils to the Lord such as the temptations of the flesh or other temptations to lie steal or cheat. Rather He presented to the Lord temptations to do things which in other contexts could be good but are in disobedience to the Father. These are great temptations since they do not look like temptations at all. Rather, they look like inducements to good. One of the reasons why many at the time of Jesus and until now do not believe in Jesus comes from the fact that He did not give in to these temptations to do good in disobedience to God.
In the first temptation, the devil commands Jesus to turn stones into bread. (Mt 4:3) This temptation took place in the desert since that is where Jesus went after His Baptism to fast and pray. Many deserts in the world are not covered with sand or silt since this has all blown away. Rather the desert floor is covered with a “carpet” of stones. Thus, the devil was not just tempting Jesus to relieve His own hunger, but to feed a world which was hungry both then and now. Even now, many people wonder why God allows children to die of hunger and many multitudes are in need. Jesus did feed the hungry when He multiplied the loaves and fishes. (Mt 14:12-21, 15,32-28, Mk 6:32-44, Lk 9:10-17, Jn 6:1-13) He did not feed the whole world, but He did feed those who were before His eyes. He also expects us to help those in need who are before our eyes. The Good Samaritan did this. (Lk 10:30-37). However, the “rich man” did not help the poor man Lazarus. (Lk 16:19-31).
In the second temptation, the devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem. He commands Jesus to jump down from the top for God will keep Him from harm acting through His angels. (Mt 4:5-6) Both the devil and Jesus knew from the Old Testament that God does take care of those who are righteous and keeps them from harm. However, that does not mean that we can expect God to bail us out when we do something stupid like jumping from a high place and expecting not to get hurt. However, sometimes evil comes to us even when we have not done something wrong. In the Old Testament book of Job, the righteous man Job suffers all kinds of calamities even though Job has done nothing wrong. (Job 1:13-19,2:7-8) Although Job does complain about his plight, he never takes the advice of his wife to “Curse God and die.” (Job 7:9). Job never rejects the justice and goodness of God. He continues to love God in spite of all his troubles. When God answers, He questions him about his knowledge of the heavens and earth and all of reality. (Job 38:1-41:34). Job them repents of his questioning of the Lord. (Job 42:1-6) God also rebukes Job’s friends for trying to explain the ways of God to Job when they are not competent to do that. (Job 42:7-9) We cannot know why God permits evil. Yet many lose their faith in God when something evil happens in their lives. While Jesus rebuked the devil for his demand that He put God to the test (Mt 4:7), His ultimate rebuke of the devil came when He said to the Father “nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done” (Lk 22:42) and went on to endure crucifixion in obedience to the Father.
In the final temptation, the devil tempts Jesus to take political power and right all the wrongs in the world to bring about a much better world. All Jesus had to do was to worship Satan and He could bring about this wonderful world of peace and justice. Indeed, many in Israel would believe in Jesus if He would only throw out the Romans and restore the freedom of Israel. Some Christians believe that Christians have the obligation to bring peace, prosperity, and abundance to the entire world through the “right” political programs even if these programs are godless in their conception and implementation. We are to help those in need in any way that we can, but we must, like the Good Samaritan, take it as an individual responsibility and not think that we are relieved of our obligations if we support the correct politicians and political parties.
If Jesus did not bring to the world abundance and material prosperity, release from all our woes, or a world full of loving kindness and justice with peace and prosperity, what did the Lord bring us? In Chapter two of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict gives us the answer to that question. The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature---the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the nations of the earth.
He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed; God's power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God's cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves. The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to put before the Lord at that time have all passed away. Their glory, their doxa, has proven to be a mere semblance. But the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, nor will it ever do so.
We read in the gospels “Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.” (Mt 13:17, Lk 10:23-24) The prophets and righteous persons of the Old Testament received Divine Revelations from God, and God told them what he expected of them. However, they did not see or hear what the Apostles and other witnesses saw and heard. They also did not have the access to God and the face of God which we have. In the book of Exodus, Moses says to the Lord “I beg you, show me your glory.” (Ex 33:18) Yet, the Lord replied to Moses “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live”. (Ex 33:20) Through the scriptures and the Church we can see the “face” of God. In the Gospel of John, Philip asks Jesus “Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied” (Jn 14:8) Jesus replied, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:9) We cannot see the physical living face of Jesus but through the scriptures and the Church we can see the “face” of Jesus which is the “face” of the Father.
In the book of Numbers, we read that the spirit which God gave to Moses also rested on seventy elders and they prophesied. In addition, two men who were not with the seventy elders also prophesied. Joshua told Moses to stop them. Moses replied, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Num 11:29) The “prophets and righteous persons” of the Old Testament were longing for God. They had contact with God, but they wanted more. The people who lived at the time of Christ got that “more” and through them we can get it also. Through the scriptures and the Church, we can truly know God when we know Jesus Christ. Through the sacraments, the spirit which Moses wanted for everyone (the Holy Spirit) lives in all who are in the state of grace. Do we truly appreciate what we have and the holy persons of the Old Testament did not have?
–Jim Nugent, CFP
REFLECTION ON OUR RULE: TITHING III
We have spent much of this year reflecting upon how to implement St. Paul’s mandate to the Romans (Rom. 13:8) -- "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law." (Rom. 13:8)
In CFP we do this in two ways financially. First, we are obligated by Constitution 29b to “pay up” all our debts. That having been done, we are also obligated to tithe. Our formation materials explain that tithing is donating 10% of one’s gross (before taxes and other deductions) income.
Does this mean we are expected to become destitute, to be living on the street, to be so reliant on God that we don’t know where our next meal is coming from if we’ve done our best, but just can’t make that 10% mark?
St. Paul has an answer to that question in Corinthians 8:1-24. “The willingness to give should match one’s means, not go beyond them. The relief of others ought not to impoverish you. Your plenty at the present time should supply their need, so that their surplus may one day supply your need, with equality as a result.”
I got an email from a CFP member the other day. She’s going to need a new car soon. Does our obligation to be debt-free mean when her car stops running she can’t buy a new car, since she doesn’t have enough cash on hand to avoid an auto loan?
No. We have to do what we have to do. In her case, she can take the auto loan. But she should begin saving now to get the new car (I assume, by the way that “new” does not mean new but “recent model,” since a car normally loses about 25% of its value the moment we drive a new car off the lot.) But once she has paid off the auto loan, she should continue those car payments, putting the monthly payment into a savings account so she will have cash on hand to buy the next car.
What if one has cut back on spending as much as seems possible but still can’t devote 10% of one’s income to paying up one’s debts? Again, St. Paul’s advice to the Corinthians answers that question, too. Our willingness to obey our Rule and Constitution should match our resources, not go beyond them. If you can only put 5% of your income to paying off debt or donating to charity, that’s enough. We shouldn’t let the perfect (being debt free or tithing 10%) be the enemy of the good.
The goal is to be debt-free and to tithe 10%. But that’s a journey, and it can take five years or more to get there.
There’s another issue that came up in the last month, when The Wall Street Journal ran an article describing the “buy-borrow-die” strategy being followed by some wealthy families. They acquire stock or other assets, borrow against it for living expenses, and never sell. It’s a legal way to avoid both ordinary income and capital gains taxes.
A Smart Financial Strategy . . .That Penitents Can’t Follow
As a financial strategy, as long as one doesn’t personally guarantee the loan, I think it’s pretty smart. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for a penitent. Let’s break down both aspects of this question.
As all the ads for tax-favored IRAs, 401(k)s, college savings plans, etc., tell us, you can grow your assets much quicker if you don’t have to pay taxes on them. There’s an advantage to not putting your assets into an IRA or 401(k): You can borrow against them for anything – reinvestment, personal spending, whatever. Because it’s a loan it’s not taxable. If you hold the asset until you die, you can pass it along to your heirs at a stepped-up basis.
What’s a “basis”? It’s what you originally paid for the asset, plus in some cases, additional money put into the asset. When your heirs inherit the asset, what you paid for the asset goes away. The asset is now valued for tax purposes at its value on the day you died. Voila! In your lifetime you avoided income taxes on the money you borrowed to support your lifestyle. At your death, your heirs avoid capital gains taxes on the appreciation from what you paid for the property to its value on the day you die.
That’s a pretty good deal -- unless you’re a penitent. I don’t think our Rule and Constitution leave any room for penitents to execute this strategy. We are obligated to pay up our debts. That implies an obligation to not borrow money.
We are supposed to adjust our lifestyle to live within our income without becoming destitute. That’s not stated in the Rule or Constitutions, but it’s clearly implied. What if we have a large stock portfolio, but get laid off from our job? We can sell some stock. What if we need a new late-model car? We can sell some stock.
Yes, once we have a new job and are tithing, we can buy stock to replace that which we sold. And yes, we can save for a new car that we expect to buy five to 10 years down the road by buying stock. And yes, we can sell some or all of that stock to buy the next car.
The intent of the Rule and Constitution is clear. The question is, are we living that intent? Answering that question is one of the reasons why we are required to have a spiritual director.
-- Joel Whitaker, CFP
Golf: The adult version of an Easter egg hut.
The main function of the little toe on your foot is to make sure that all of the furniture in the house is in the right place.
If you are paying $3 for a bottle of Smart Water, it’s not working.
I don’t call it getting old. I call it outliving the warranty.
The brain is the most outstanding organ. It works for 24 hours, 365 days, from before you were born until you fall in love.
Adultery is a sin. You can’t have your Kate and Edith, too.
As I watched the dog chasing his tail, I thought that dogs are easily amused. Then I realized that I was watching the dog chase his tail.
I do all my own stunts, but never intentionally.
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM
Pat and Ken Wolfert, Secular Franciscans from Florida, visited the CFP Headquarters and Mary’s Glen in July. Here they are standing beside the slate tile of Saint Raphael, which they sponsored as one of the hundred tiles on the Glen’s Fence of Saints. The Wolferts are frequent travelers who invoke Saint Raphael on every excursion.
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: “THOSE NOT INTO RELIGION”
Have you read this newsletter’s article on “The Temptations of Jesus”? Please review it and then return to read this reflection.
For sixty-five years, I’ve been good friends with a former elementary school classmate. Karen and I didn’t’ always agree, but we could talk with each other, respect each other, and enjoy having fun together.
Karen s parents were non-Catholic Christians. Our single conversation about religion involved Karen telling me that, when she was a toddler, she ran up the aisle at church, sat on steps going up to the chancel, and wouldn’t come down until the service ended. Whatever religious instruction she received didn’t make much of an impression because Karen stopped attending in her youth and never went back.
I’ve been praying for her re-conversion to faith in God but to no avail yet. So, I had sent her the reflection in this newsletter in the hopes that it might answer a basic question which maybe she never asked: why did Jesus come? I asked her if she minded my sharing the article. Her response was: “No I don’t mind you sharing it; however, I couldn’t make it all the way through. You see, for those of us who are not into religion, it sounds like rambling because we do not follow what you are saying. I’m sure Jim put a lot of time and effort into it and I hope it accomplishes what he intended. “
What an eye opener for me! “. . for those of us who are not into religion, it sounds like rambling because we do not follow what you are saying.” In simple terms, people who don’t know Christ don’t know about his temptations and never think about why he came. To them, he is an historical figure like Aristotle, Charles Dickens, or Genghis Khan, but with no more eternal significance than they.
Sixty years ago, when our daughter Frances was performing puppet shows for the children’s homily at our parish’s 9:30 a.m. Mass, the biggest crowd came on Easter. Many of these children came to church on Easter and Christmas but knew nothing about Jesus. The challenge? Present a puppet show that took the children, and their parents who accompanied them, through the conception, birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ, all in 15 minutes! Why? Because some of these children had never heard of Jesus.
Those children are now the grandparents of this generation. So, penitents, let’s recognize that we have knowledge and background that many people lack. The Book of Romans is clear: For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:13-15)
Fellow penitents, God is sending us to this generation. Saint Francis knew that the people of his generation, so often taken in by the example and preaching of heretics, needed the example and preaching of good Catholics to counteract the faith decline. He wanted his followers to provide that example and recall the people to faith in simple terms. The Franciscans weren’t primarily great theologians. They were simple, faithful people. So must we be. For people like Karen and her husband, we need to begin with kindness. I wrote back, “Thank you so much for your comment! It was really insightful, more than you might expect! Thanks for reading and plugging along! I appreciate your honesty in sharing. Have a great rest of your weekend!” Karen replied, “I’m so glad you’re not upset! You’re a good understanding person. I often wish we lived closer together.” The door is still open with Karen.
Are you trying to bring someone to faith in Christ? Maybe that person “isn’t into religion,” as if faith is akin to yoga or golf. Start with being kind. Try to show them Jesus even as you gently mention him. We have to speak. But the hearer must be open. Ask God to open hearts. Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
POETRY: YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN
I have so many treasures from everywhere I know;
I store them in my bureau, from now and long ago.
Within my scrapbook, there are names from deep within my past,
Of an athlete strong and young and faster. I remember last to last.
On my desk the frames I have of all that I achieve,
But greatest of all I have is my family halve by halve.
Memories of Mother and Father bring joys that never end.
Remember this especially when joy is ever with you now and then
But you can’t go home again!
– Joe Matose, CFP Affiliate (written in an assisted living facility)
CFP RETREAT 2021
Mark your calendars for CFP RETREAT 2021--OCTOBER 13-17. THE MESSAGE OF FATIMA AND THE RULE OF 1221. St. Felix Retreat Center, Huntington IN. Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, Retreat Master.
$195 plus $15 worth of food or paper goods for overnight retreatants. $60 plus $15 worth of food or paper goods for commuters. Plan to attend! Call 260-739-6882 or email email@example.com
Full Schedule at www.penitents.org on the retreat link.
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP
Now carrying Outdoor and Garden Flags. Have a look at www.cfpholyangels.com