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CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS NEWSLETTER – MARCH 2021

 

FRANCISCAN SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S THOUGHTS: GOD’S LOVE

 

A fresh reading of the Gospel of St. Luke will help us to rejoice in the saving love of God. In the Gospel of Luke 15: 1-5, Jesus tells of a shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep to go out and search for the one lost lamb. He assures us of the rejoicing of Heaven at the recovery of the lost sheep. In Luke 6-10, Jesus continues to teach about the joy of finding what was lost in the parable of the lost coin. We all have lost something valuable to us and the relief and happiness we experience when St. Anthony pulls through for us is great! Imagine how the Lord Jesus must feel when a soul He suffered so much for and died on the Cross for returns to Him! He is like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, waiting for us to return and when He sees us, He runs eagerly to embrace us and make us new. Let us read St. Luke 15:11-32 and consider the tremendous sin of the younger son and the even more tremendous love of the Father.

 

The Sacrament of Penance is an encounter with the Love and Mercy of God. As we confess our sins, the LORD enfolds us in His Mercy and heals us of the wounds of sin. The graces of this sacrament are singular; we cannot find them anywhere else. This is true of all the sacraments. The grace particular to each of the seven sacraments, coming from the pierced Heart of the Savior, has a particular mission, and so each has a particular grace. The grace of Matrimony is different from the grace of Holy Orders which is different from the grace of Baptism. Each is particular because each has a different job to do. It is all “sanctifying grace” but there are distinctions to be made.

 

The graces one may receive in the confessional are truly special and can only be had there! While it is true that the LORD forgives our sins that we confess to Him each evening before we go to bed, and He gives us actual graces to overcome them, the graces we receive from Christ’s Heart, through His priest in the sacrament of Penance are far more efficacious for our salvation. Frequent confession is a great help to gaining self-mastery and making progress along the pilgrim road to Heaven. Fewer and fewer priests are willing to spend time in the confessional “box” to meet the sinner and dispense God’s mercy. This has had a devastating effect on the life of the Church and souls! There has been such a tremendous loss of the sense of sin among faithful and clergy alike. To remedy this, priests need to offer daily opportunities for confession, not “appointment times”!

 

The faithful need to examine their conscience with the eyes of Christ. The closer we come to the LORD, the more we see our poor souls in His blinding light and realize though we are His beloved children, we are dust before Him. How much we need the graces from the Heart of Christ, that He so longs to give us in the Sacrament of Penance! Let us imitate the saints who loved fasting and penance – not punishment for its own sake, but for the freedom and strength these give us to resist temptation! The saints were continually making reparation to God for their sins. They had what we need: a true spirit of penance. Christ made us to be FREE! Let us be free in Him. Let us love what He loved from the Cross and hate what He hates. Let us frequent the path that leads us to the love of the Father: the Sacrament of Penance. – Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap

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FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: RULE 29C: CREDIT CARDS: PART 2: WHY YOUR CREDIT CARD NEEDS A RESERVE FUND AND HOW TO BUILD IT

I’ll never forget the day I was sitting in church and heard those famous words of Christ –“Take up your cross daily and follow me.” How quaint, I thought. After all, in this day and age, and especially in this country, no one is crucified. How, then, is one supposed to “take up your cross daily”?

For those of us in CFP, who are laypeople living as best we can a religious rule of life, the answer is pretty simple: Our cross is living the six elements of the CFP Rule – prayer, fasting and abstinence, clothing, almsgiving, works of charity, and becoming debt-free and tithing 10 percent of our income. Becoming debt-free and tithing is the layperson’s equivalent of the religious vow of poverty.

Imagine this: You’ve got your budget fine-tuned. You’re able to pay all your bills. But there’s very little room for error. You’re driving down the highway when one of your tires blows. Or you take your car to the dealer for a major service, and he says you need new set of tires. Or you take your beloved pet to the vet, and he tells you that your pet needs its teeth cleaned and one extracted --and it will cost $900.

If a person is maxed out on credit cards and living paycheck to paycheck, a big, unexpected expense can derail that individual from becoming debt free. That’s why personal finance experts recommend at least a $1,000 reserve fund as the first step in paying off one’s debts.

I actually think it’s the second step. The first step is to stop charging and start using only cash and/or debit cards. Traveling is an exception. Hotels will place significant holds -- $500 or more -- against debit cards to assure you pay for “incidentals.”

The second step is to build a reserve fund (a catastrophe fund). If one is living on the edge financially, a new set of tires, loss of a job, replacing a roof or boiler, or a huge vet bill can be a catastrophe. Karen Sadock, a life-pledged and privately vowed penitent tells her own story:

“Our big thrills came from November 16-December 16, when the 115-year-old bathtub drainpipe broke and water cascaded through the parlor and front hall ceilings, imperiling the hall wallpaper and the floors in both rooms. The repair involved demolition, industrial dryers roaring nonstop for 3 days, new drywall, and painting the entire parlor. That whole process took just nine days and left us wondering if it was all just a bad dream. Like it never happened. Insurance covered most of it. 

“But WAIT!! There’s MORE!!!

“Monday, December 14, was the annual boiler inspection. Geoff painted the basement floor this summer and had been fretting about some rust around the boiler. The plumber discovered severe corrosion inside and shut the thing down. But we got lucky again. He spent 90 minutes on the phone, locating the right boiler for our space and switching personnel from other projects in order to put two guys experienced with steam systems on our job. Providentially, the temperature never went below 25. We holed up in the library. 

“The crew showed up with the boiler the next morning and took out the old monster. By 6:00 pm, the new boiler was percolating, the radiators were hissing, and we took our jackets off. The whole catastrophe, starting from the broken pipe, came to $24,000 - with only about $6,000 covered by insurance.”

Over the years, the Sadocks had built up a reserve fund – they call it their catastrophe fund – sufficient to pay the $18,000 that wasn’t covered by insurance. “I’m so grateful that we throw money regularly into the disaster fund because none of this required gouging into the daily running money,” she says. “Keeping a crisis fund is the best tranquilizer in the world. And good insurance. Gotta have good insurance.”

Here’s another example, this time from the business world. In 1947, Nelson Poynter purchased the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, the No. 2 newspaper in St. Petersburg, from his father who had loaded the paper with debt to build a dog racing park. Nelson had been unable to pay the monthly payment on the newspaper’s mortgage. So, the insurance company that held the mortgage foreclosed.

Poytner scrambled around, raised the money and succeeded in recovering the newspaper. He then sat down and wrote a document, “Standards of Ownership for a Newspaper or Broadcasting Enterprise” telling his “heirs, successors and assigns” how his newspaper should be run.

No. 11 on the list: “To maintain a strong editorial policy, a newspaper or broadcasting station must be in a strong financial position. Reserves must be built. Debt must be reduced or extinguished.” That’s exactly what CFP Constitutions Rule 29c requires of us.

By the time I joined the Times staff in the mid-1960s, the paper had built reserves that enabled it to simply write a check anytime it had to expand its press lines. That policy served it well during the 2008-2009 Great Recession when many papers barely held on and its biggest competitor, the Tampa Tribune, heavily laden with debt, was dealt a death blow. Following the demise of the Tribune, the Times expanded into Tampa and is now called the Tampa Bay Times.

So, how do you start building the catastrophe fund? Apply the same principles used in the rest of CFP formation process, a step at a time, and remember, “slow and steady win the race.” One fund can serve multiple purposes. You don’t have to have one fund just in case you lose your job, a second fund to replace the roof on your house, a third fund to replace the boiler. Merge your needs into one fund.

I think there are two – and for some people three -- entirely different types of situations we all face. One is short-term, such as needing a new set of tires. If we own a car, we know we eventually will need a new set, we just don’t know when. The second is the medium-term, but expected need for cash, such as a teacher on a 10-month contract who needs money to pay bills over the summer vacation. The third is anticipated long-term expenses such as replacing a roof, HVAC system or major appliances.

To cover the short-term, unexpected bill, such as replacing a set of tires, Dave Ramsey and other personal finance experts all recommend having at least $1,000 in a savings account. You can set your own funding goal, based on what you can afford to set aside right now.

If you can afford $250 a month, you will have built your $1,000 reserve in just four months. If you can afford only $100 a month, you will have built your $1,000 reserve in 10 months. If you can afford just $50 a month, it will take a bit longer – about 20 months.

Once you have reached your $1,000 goal, continue contributing a little each month to this account. That way you’ll be able to cover a situation where in the same year you need to buy a new set of tires for your car and replace your washer-dryer.

 If you are a worker who knows your income will fall during part of the year, such as a teacher who is paid 10 months of the year, or a salesperson paid on commission, the next goal is to have the same amount of money available for spending every month of the year. The math is fairly simple:

Take the full amount of your after-tax income from those 10 months and divide by 12. That will tell you the maximum amount you can spend each month. Let’s say your after-tax income on a 12-month basis is $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year. But you get paid only 10 months a year, or $6,000 a month. So, to be able to have $5,000 a month over the summer when you don’t get paid, you need to save $1,000 each month for 10 months.

Most payroll systems will permit you to deposit your paycheck into at least two bank accounts. So, have the payroll department simply send $5,000 to your checking account and $1,000 a month to your “summer savings account.” In the summer, when you’re not getting paid, transfer $5,000 each month from your summer savings account to your checking account so you can pay your regular household bills without missing a beat.

For longer-term expenses, such as replacing your roof or HVAC system, follow the Sadock’s example. They knew they would have to replace their roof in five years. They determined what it would cost to replace it today, divided that amount by 60 months and began saving that amount each month.        

   

The dollar amounts of these longer-term expenses can be daunting. But the actual amount needed to save each month can be relatively miniscule. We recently replaced our roof. It has a 25-year, or 300-month, life. Our roof cost $18,000. Divide that by 300 months, and we need to set aside just $60 a month to pay for a new roof 25 years from now. You can include replacing your HVAC system, autos and major appliances in the same way if you wish. Simply divide the cost of replacement now by their remaining life span and save that amount.

Not everyone needs long-term reserves (a catastrophe fund). When you’re living a debt-free life, the catastrophe fund holds money that you know you’re going to have to spend at some point. Someone renting a house doesn’t need to worry about a new roof or a new furnace. But if they do have a car, it’s going to need new tires at some point. Perhaps the only expense that person may need to plan for is that $800 set of new tires. If his tires are expected to last four years (or 48 months), that person needs to set aside just $16.67 a month to be able to buy new tires when needed without having to either disrupt normal spending or charge on a credit card.

What if you need long-term reserves but can’t immediately start to build them? Do what you can – start with saving that initial $1,000. To be sure, building reserves requires adjustments, perhaps eliminating a latte every day or taking your lunch to work rather than buying it. Consider that a penance, and the bigger the adjustment, the sweeter the penance.

How is building a reserve fund a penance? The penitential life is giving up something good for something better. In secular terms, being able to sail through a financial crisis without getting in debt, or, if you are still getting out of debt, without having to take on more debt is a good thing.

In spiritual terms, it’s letting go of attachments that keep us from doing God’s will. For a penitent, God’s will is expressed in Rule 29c, to begin at once to pay off our debts, and in Romans 13:8 where St. Paul tells us to “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another” (Romans 13:8). So, if we have to give up a latte or carry our lunch to work, that’s a fine penance.

In at least two New Testament parables, Jesus directly addresses questions about being ready for the future. In the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgin (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus recounts the tale of a wedding feast in which some of the guest virgins run out of oil for their lamps before the bridegroom appears. they go out to get some more oil, the bridegroom appears, and they are shut out of the feast. To be sure, there is a spiritual message here: One never knows when the Lord will come for a second time. Live in such a way that whenever He appears, you will be admitted to Heaven whether you are alive at the moment of His coming, have just passed away, or had died 5,000 years earlier.

But Jesus also told us to be “both as cunning (or wise) as serpents and as simple as doves.” (Matt. 10:16). To be as wise as serpents means to be prudent, careful and intelligent. Not being ready for those bills we could reasonably anticipate – the new tires or the new boiler, for instance -- is equivalent to being a virgin who runs out of oil and has to leave the wedding feast. So, prepare for them. Have a reserve fund.

To be as “simple as doves” means to ignore those who will tell us there is “good debt.” There is never “good debt.” There may be necessary debt, such as using a mortgage to buy a house. But the CFP rule doesn’t exempt necessary debt. To live a penitential life, all debt must be paid off. Necessary debt might be incurred, but it should be paid off as quickly as possible.

Jesus drives home this message in in the parable about a house built with a strong foundation vs. a house built on shifting sand. Jesus tells us that “anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” (Matt. 7:24-27).

Again, there are two messages here. One is spiritual. Do what Jesus says in order to attain eternal life. The other is secular. People of his time often saw a poorly constructed house washed away in a storm. As penitents, we should build our financial houses on solid rock. That means we should have strong reserve funds so that our financial house isn’t washed away by a storm – whether that storm is a new set of tires for our car or a new boiler for our house.   – Joel Whitaker, CFP

Next month: How to pay off your credit cards.

HUMOR
  • I thought the dryer made my clothes shrink. Turns out it was the refrigerator.

  • I thought growing old would take longer.

  • My bucket list: keep breathing.

  • Camping: where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person.

  • Just once, I want a username and password prompt to say: "close enough."

  • I'm a multitasker. I can listen, ignore and forget all at the same time!

  • Retirement to do list: Wake up. Nailed it!

  • Retired: under new management. See spouse for details.

  • When you can't find the sunshine...be the sunshine.

  • I don't have grey hair. I have wisdom highlights.

  • Sometimes it takes me all day to get nothing done. 

  • I don't trip, I do random gravity checks.

  • My heart says chocolate and wine, but my jeans say, please, please, please, eat a salad! 

  • My spouse says I have 2 faults. I don't listen and...something else.

  • Never laugh at your spouse's choices. You are one of them.

  • Losing weight doesn't seem to be working for me, so from now I'm going to concentrate on getting taller.

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NO GREATER LOVE: THE FULLNESS OF TIME 

When Pope Benedict begins his description of the birth of Jesus in the Infancy Narratives volume of Jesus of Nazareth, he places this birth in the “fullness of time”. "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled" (Lk 2:1). With these words, Luke introduces his account of the birth of Jesus and explains how it came to take place in Bethlehem. A population census, for purposes of determining and collecting taxes, was what prompted Joseph to set off from Nazareth for Bethlehem, together with Mary, his betrothed, who was expecting a child. The birth of Jesus in the city of David is placed within the overarching framework of world history, even though Caesar was quite unaware of the difficult journey that these ordinary people were making on his account. And so it is that the child Jesus is born, seemingly by chance, in the place of the promise. 

 

The context in world history is important for Luke. For the first time, "all the world," the ecumēnē in its entirety, is to be enrolled. For the first time there is a government and an empire that spans the globe. For the first time, there is a great expanse of peace in which everyone's property can be registered and placed at the service of the wider community. Only now, when there is a commonality of law and property on a large scale, and when a universal language has made it possible for a cultural community to trade in ideas and goods, only now can a message of universal salvation, a universal Saviour, enter the world: it is indeed the "fullness of time." 

 

…………There is a further important element. Augustus' instruction regarding the registration, for tax purposes, of all the citizens of the ecumēnē leads Joseph, together with Mary, his betrothed, to Bethlehem, the city of David, and thus it helps to bring to fulfillment the promise of the prophet Micah that the shepherd of Israel would be born in that city (cf. 5:1-3). The Emperor unwittingly contributes to the realization of the prophecy: the history of the Roman Empire is interwoven with the history of the salvation that God established with Israel. The history of God's election, hitherto confined to Israel, enters the wider world, it enters world history. God, who is the God of Israel and of all peoples, shows himself to be the true guiding force behind all history. 

 

We need to note that Pope Benedict refers to God as the “true guiding force behind all history.” Of course, history is not God but is used by God for His purposes. God is not at the mercy of history but intervenes in history to bring about the salvation of all mankind. Around 1850 BC,  God made a promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed in Him. (Gn 12:1-3) This blessing would be fulfilled in Christ, but it continues right to the present. Why was Abraham chosen to receive this promise and not someone else living at that time? This was God’s choice, and that is all we need to know. Why was Abraham’s child, Isaac, born by a miraculous intervention of a 90-year-old woman, Sarah, chosen to carry the promise and not Ishmael, or Abraham’s other children? Why was the promise carried on through Isaac’s son Jacob and not Jacob’s twin brother Esau? Why were all of Jacob’s twelve sons born of Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel and their maids, Zilpah and Bilhah, all heirs to the promise? Why did God choose one of Jacob’s sons, Judah, to be the ancestor of David and other kings and eventually the Christ? All of these were God’s choices which reveals who He is and what He wants. We look at how God has acted in the past to see what pleases God and what displeases Him. On the other hand, we cannot predict what God will do in the future based on what He has done in the past. With the benefit of “hindsight” we can get an idea about why certain things happen. 

 

From the time of King David to the time of Jesus Christ was a period of around 1000 years. The approximate center of that time was the time of the exile around 587 BC. King David eventually became the king of all Israel as did his son Solomon. However, the northern tribes of Israel rebelled against Solomon’s son Rehoboam so Rehoboam remained king only of Jerusalem, the towns of Judah and any Israelites living in those areas. The northern tribes were centered around Samaria, but that nation was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC and most were killed or exiled. Those who remained became the ancestors of the Samaritans of the time of Jesus. The southern tribe of Judah remained, but they too were conquered and exiled by the Babylonians around 587 BC. Why were both Israel and Judah conquered and exiled? This was brought about by the sins of Israel. (2 K 17:7-23). However, Judah also sinned, and that is why they were also conquered and exiled. (Jr 13:1-11) When Cyrus, King of Persia, conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he soon allowed the Jewish exiles in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. He also allowed the temple in Jerusalem, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to be rebuilt. This rebuilding continued, until just before 70 AD when the temple was permanently destroyed by the Romans. However, after the return from exile, there was no reigning Jewish King. The Jews lived under the empires of Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. There was no politically independent nation of Israel until modern times.

 

It is often said that God can bring good out of evil and that is what happened here. When the Jews lost political power, they realized that their existence as a people came not from their kings or even the land they occupied but from their worship of the God of Israel, also the God of the entire world. If they had abandoned the worship of the God of Israel after the exile, they would have gone the way of the surrounding peoples such as the Moabites, Edomites, and Philistines. They would been absorbed into the great empires of that time. Thus, the Jews prefigure the Church which is also a people but not tied to a given land area. There have been times in the history of the Church when she has had political power in various places. These have been dark times for the Church. We can see that the exile was a political cleansing for the Jews. 

 

The exile was also a theological cleansing. Throughout the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, there was also a competition between the God of Israel and the other “gods” in that region. It is possible that initially the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex 3:5-6) was conceived as one God among other gods, but this changed when God displayed his awesome power. God was the “Supreme Being” who created the world and the entire universe and had power over it. While the Bible does not use the term “Supreme Being”, God is treated as One who has total power over nature, the world, nations, and everything else. The Being of God is totally independent of the physical world. While God can dwell in human beings, (for example 2 K 2:8-13), this is an indwelling which we could have or not have according to God’s choice. This indwelling of God is also asserted in the New Testament. (Rom 8:11 and many other places)

 

The concept of God as “Supreme Being” soon received competition. The first biblical example is the golden calf. This episode in the history of Israel is related in Ex 32. When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law from God, the people grew restless and impatient. They asked Moses’s brother Aaron to make “gods” for them to lead them, because Moses might never come back. So, Aaron made a golden calf which they worshipped saying that these “gods” brought them out of Egypt. Now everyone knew that the calf they had just made did not bring them out of Egypt. The people must have thought of the “gods” as symbols for the powers of nature, of youth, of “ultimate reality” or whatever it was that brought them out of Egypt. These “gods” were very different from the God of Moses who gave them commandments and laws and punished them when they disobeyed. These “gods” could be placated and pleased just by offering worship and sacrifice. It didn’t matter if you stole or oppressed the poor or were unfaithful. One can see how attractive idolatry can be. We can go to “ultimate reality” as symbolized by the “gods” but it does not make uncomfortable demands on us like the God of Moses on Mount Sinai did.

Moses destroyed the golden calf, but he did not destroy the attraction to idolatry. This attraction was very powerful in Israel and Judah even to the time of the exile. The prophets such as Jerimiah, Isaiah, and many others preached against idolatry as well as the moral evils which go with it. The leaders of the Jewish people after the exile such as Ezra and Nehemiah as well many others worked hard to eradicate idolatry and encourage worship, devotion, and obedience to the true God. 

 

When Jesus Christ started preaching the “Kingdom of God”, He did not have to teach to Jews who God was. He did not attack the theology of the Pharisees. He did attack their application of that theology. He did have to teach the people who He was and why He came. Of course, some accepted and followed Him, but many others chose not to do that. The time when he came was the “fullness of time” with regard to the Roman Empire, as Pope Benedict pointed out. However, it was also the “fullness of time” with regard to Israel as well as the rest of the world. This “fullness of time” continues to the very present as God continues to fulfill His plan for us. – Jim Nugent, CFP 

CFP PHOTO ALBUM: PROGRESS AT ANNUNCIATION WOMEN’S VOCATION DISCERNMENT
AND VOLUNTEER HOUSE
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The in house chapel at Annunciation Women’s Vocation Discernment and Volunteer House is beginning to take shape in the room that originally had been a chapel when the convent was built in 1930. An altar will be placed between the two statues. Statues were originally in a Cluny Convent in Newport, Rhode Island, and were completely white. A Poor Clare nun painted them.

Pews were donated by JAGH Preservation Society which is restoring the neighboring Saint Andrew's Church. The small pews were not original to the church and so JAGH was going to eliminate them. They are perfect for the chapel.

 

Women residents of this house will use the chapel for private prayer and to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in common. God bless you for your support of this CFP ministry.

CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP: SAINT JOSEPH BANNER
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Saint Joseph Banner for church, school, hospital, home. Needs to be seen and touched to be appreciated. Very beautiful. Only $195.95. Free Shipping from CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop. See www.cfpholyangels.com 

We continue our Lenten observances as we move toward the solemn time of Holy Week. May the Lord keep us firm in our commitment and persistent in our faith.