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Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- 2021 May

FRANCISCAN SPIRITUAL ADVISOR’S THOUGHTS: MORTAL SIN

"…there is no new thing under the sun.” (Eccles. 1:9) 

 

What is Mortal Sin? 

 

It is an actual sin that I committed myself, (as opposed to Original Sin, which I did not commit but was born with) which DESTROYS sanctifying grace.

 

To review, moral sin is a deliberate turning away from God. It separates us from the grace of God which we need for salvation. See 1 John 5:16-17 where St. John make the distinction between lesser sins which are “not deadly” and those that are. 

 

There are three necessary conditions for this lamentable offense to happen: 1. It must be grave matter. (explain). 2. It must be committed with full knowledge of the sinful action, and 3. It must be committed with complete consent.

Many of us know people who have been living in the state of mortal sin for a long time. God knows the complicated circumstances of our human existence, the many layers of self-deception, the degrees to which we, to a greater or lesser degree, are culpable for our actions. It is important to remember that the LORD tells us not to judge souls, and this means even our own. Wisdom would tell us to surrender all objectively sinful actions to God in confession and let God heal and forgive us. If some particular action is objectively sinful, apart from whatever psychological baggage a person may or may not have, it is important that the person not excuse themselves and confess the behaviors just the same. The LORD God made us and knows us best; it is best for our salvation, for humility and truth, to confess all sins and let God judge us, to open ourselves to His mercy and allow Him to heal us of the wounds of sin. It is pointless to “hide” our sins from the LORD; He sees them all. So why not let Him heal us which He loves to do?

 

Why DO we commit mortal sins, when God is so good to us, so loving and kind? In a word: concupiscence. Disordered self-love. Not properly ordered self-love. Jesus told us we must “love our neighbor as ourselves.” But a gravely disordered self-love which shows itself in disordered attachments we might have (even to the point of addiction) to creatures/created things will drag us away from God. Mortal sin causes grave injury to our soul, to our rational nature, (sin darkens the intellect, makes us stupid!) to others (even in the case of private sin). It wounds the social order. It deprives us of Heaven! It deprives us with friendship with God. 

 

The remedy is the Sacrament of Penance. God in His mercy has provided for all our needs! Jesus knows our frail nature well. He has the remedy. It is His Precious Blood. He forgives our sins and heals the wounds when we confess our sins and receive absolution and do our penance. See how loving and good our God is to help us at every turn, even when we offend Him so much?! 

 

“… where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,” Rom 5:20 So, we must not ever despair! No matter how many times we may fall, all we must do is to confess our sins to Christ, to get up and try again. “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy.” Diary, p.300 (St. Faustina) 

 Do not delay in confessing grave sins. Make a sincere Act of Contrition immediately and get to confession as soon as you can.

 

In the case of habits of grave sin, one must realize that this is war. You are at war with the devil, the flesh and the world. Fight with the weapons of righteousness! Pick up the Rosary. Bless yourself with Holy Water. Fast from things you enjoy. You are a soldier in training. You have a battle to fight and will continue to be beaten until you learn how to fight back. Invoke the Virgin Mother of God to hide you under Her mantle of grace and protection. She is more powerful than all Hell put together! The devils are afraid of Her. Remember, the devil is a bully and a coward. Don’t take his pounding. Run to Mary. She will send him back to hell. Being a skilled soldier in the battle against sin takes training, patience and time. It takes wisdom and prayer. Don’t quit. Keep fighting. Our Eternity depends on it. Get to be friends with your Guardian Angel, who loves you. It is easy to forget our dear angels because we don’t see them but they are real, powerful and ready to help us with everything. – Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, Spiritual Advisor, Franciscan Matters

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NO GREATER LOVE: INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE 

 

The Infancy Narratives of Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth, deals with the earliest part of the life of Jesus Christ on earth. However, this was not the first to be written. He started with the beginning of the public life of Jesus in Volume 1 which covered the ministry of Jesus up to Holy Week. Volume 2 deals with Holy Week and the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. Pope Benedict’s forward to Volume 1 stated that his intent was to discuss the infancy narratives at the end of Volume 2. Later it was decided to put the infancy narratives into a separate, small volume. This method is understandable since when the work was started, before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope, he was already in his seventies. He wanted to do the most important part first since the significance of the infancy narratives derives from what came later.

 

There is much in Pope Benedict’s discussion of the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke which provides stimulation for further meditation. However, we should look at what was discussed by Pope Benedict in his forward to Volume 1. Pope Benedict’s discussion of the life of Jesus is based on Scripture. However, how you see Jesus depends on how one interprets Scripture. At the start of his forward to Volume 1, Pope Benedict explains the context of problems encountered by those who would write about Jesus. This book about Jesus, the first part of which I am now presenting to the public, has had a long gestation. When I was growing up--in the 1930s and 1940s-there was a series of inspiring books about Jesus: Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, Franz Michel Willam, Giovanni Papini, and Henri Daniel­Rops were just some of the authors one could name. All of these books based their portrayal of Jesus Christ on the Gospels. They presented him as a man living on earth who, fully human though he was, at the same time brought God to men, the God with whom as Son he was one. Through the man Jesus, then, God was made visible, and hence our eyes were able to behold the perfect man.

 

But the situation started to change in the 1950s. The gap between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith" grew wider and the two visibly fell apart. But what can faith in Jesus as the Christ possibly mean, in Jesus as the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so completely different from the picture that the Evangelists painted of him and that the Church, on the evidence of the Gospels, takes as the basis of her preaching? 

 

Because of new research into the context of the Bible and biblical times, people started to attempt to “peel away” the Christian traditions which arose very early to get at the “real” Jesus. The assumption behind this is the idea that the apostles, disciples, and early Christians had a primitive and unscientific world view. They did not understand the vastness of the universe. The world was much smaller to them. They did not realize that there “must” be a scientific explanation for Jesus walking on water and His other miracles. The Resurrection of the Lord “must” have been a mental event in the minds of the apostles and disciples. They “knew” that He was alive. If Jesus was not who he was portrayed to be in the Gospels, who was He? Of course, simple people can still believe in the Gospel accounts if that makes them happy. However, modern, intelligent, technological world citizens cannot accept the Gospels as they are written. They need to find the “real” Jesus behind the early Christian traditions. In the forward to Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict points out that those who attempt this reveal more about themselves than they do about Jesus. They come to varied and contradictory interpretations of Jesus according to their own inclinations. 

 

As is the case with many religious and theological controversies, the question turns on who God is. If God is the Supreme Being, He will be able to authoritatively communicate Himself to us. Early Christians naturally struggled with the question of who the Man Jesus was. Many interpretations of Jesus arose as well as many later spurious gospels to support their interpretations. In modern times, those who see God not as the Supreme Being, but as some sort of mysterious “ultimate reality” behind the universe will, if they call themselves Christians, see Jesus as a man who showed us the mystery of God. For these people, specific statements from Jesus are not necessarily authoritative since they come from a human person and are interpreted by human persons.

 

At the end of the forward to Volume 1, after explaining his method for the interpretation of Scripture, Pope Benedict states openly, “The implication of this for my portrayal of Jesus is that I trust the Gospels.” (page xxi) Why can the Gospels be trusted? If the Gospels are not just man reaching out to God, but God reaching down to man, they must be trusted. By what criterion do we judge God? Of course, God has revealed himself to humans throughout the Old Testament, but His ultimate Revelation comes from His Son Jesus Christ, as the author to the letter to the Hebrews states for us. (Heb 1:1-2) When we discern what God is saying to us, we need all the help we can get. Pope Benedict recognizes the importance of historical research. It can be very helpful to us as long as we recognize the limitations of the historical critical method and don’t just treat the Bible as human literature. Pope Benedict favors what is called “canonical exegesis”. This means that we can use modern historical research, but we are not limited by it. We need to see the Bible as one book which has its source in God and not just as a collection of isolated human writings which people later put together into something we call “the Bible”.

 

We can see a striking example of this in the New Testament. St. Luke records an appearance of Jesus to two disciples as they are walking to Emmaus on Easter Sunday. (Lk 24:13-35) The two disciples are discussing Jesus who they hoped would be Israel’s Messiah, but who had been crucified by the Romans. They were also surprised by the report that women had seen Jesus alive that very day. When they met Jesus, they did not recognize Him but recounted to him what they were talking about. He scolds them for not recognizing that these events were predicted by the prophets. (Lk 24:25-26) He then interpreted all the Scriptures which were about Him. (Lk 24:27) Here Jesus is engaging in what Pope Benedict called “canonical exegesis”. What happened to Jesus were events which explained and fulfilled earlier mysterious predictions and references. There are Old Testament passages which could be applied to Jesus, yet none of the New Testament authors used them. Perhaps these passages were not designated by Jesus as pertaining to Him. On the other hand, the Old Testament passage which was most used by the New Testament authors was Psalm 110, the psalm of God’s Priest-King . Jesus must have explained Psalm 110 to the two disciples as well as Isaiah 53 which describes in much detail the sufferings of the Lord. When Jesus left them, the two disciples returned to Jerusalem to tell the apostles and other disciples about the appearance of the Lord. Then the Lord appeared again and explained the Scriptures concerning Him to the other disciples also. (Lk 24:45-47) In the book of Acts, Luke also recounts how an Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot was puzzling over a passage in Isaiah 53 when the deacon Philip joined the chariot and explained to the eunuch that the passage was describing the suffering of the Lord. Jesus is the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53. (Acts 8:26-40). 

 

Pope Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, was trying to bring together the newest very valuable and valid historical research, “the historical Jesus” with the Lord the Church has been preaching for two thousand years. The writers of the New Testament often quote the Old Testament to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the “Messiah” which the Jews were expecting. These writers were very close in time to “the historical Jesus”. The early Christians were asked by the Lord to give their lives to Him. (Mt 10:34-39) They naturally wanted to know to whom they were giving their lives. Of course, there were many who refused the Lord’s invitation to follow Him. He did not try to force anyone to follow Him. Those who chose to follow Him saw Him as the One who was to fulfill the hopes of Israel. Even though the Lord did not necessarily fulfill their hopes in the way they were expecting, they still saw Him as the anointed one of God (the Christ). They struggled with the question of who He was and what He expected of us. That struggle has continued though the centuries to the present. 

 

If we choose to be Christians, we still need to decide which Christianity we are to follow. In Mt 16:18, we learn “And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church”. Christ did not build Peter’s Church or our Church, he built His Church. The Church belongs to Him. The shepherds and laity of the Church must serve Him. The Church has struggled with how to serve Him for almost two thousand. One question challenges all of us. Do we study and follow teachers such as Pope Benedict and others who remain within the traditions of His Church, or do we follow those who wish to “reinterpret” Church teaching in order to accommodate those who do not “understand” traditional Church teaching and ultimately the teaching of Christ? Is it required that the Church to be on the “right side of history” or to be on the right side of the Lord? -- Jim Nugent, CFP

FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: MY MOTHER’S LITTLE BROWN BOX

Shortly after the end of World War II, I was rummaging through a closet in our apartment looking for treasures to play with. And I found them: A “portable” radio – essentially a table radio with two large batteries built in. What made it portable was a handle by which you could carry it. A ration book containing some food coupons that became unneeded after the end of the war. A savings bond stamp book (you could go to the Post Office, buy stamps for 25 cents each and when you had 75 you could trade them in for a $25 savings bond).

But the real treasure was a small brown metal box. Opened, it revealed nine smaller brass boxes, each with a slot in the top. My mother explained it was a budget box. Back in the 1940s, nearly all workers were paid in cash. They would take their pay envelopes home, where the woman would allocate a certain amount for rent, for food, perhaps for auto expenses (if one had a car, many relied upon public transit), etc.

It was a different world, to be sure. It was different in another way, too: Very few people had credit cards. In fact, credit cards as we know them now didn’t come along until relatively recently. The great mass of Americans was living the way CFP members are expected to live under our Constitutions/Rule 29 – debt free.

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To be sure, if you had enough income you could qualify for a charge card at a particular merchant. But that card had to be paid in full every month. The first universal charge card, which could be used at multiple merchants, was issued in 1950 by Diners Club. It wasn’t until 1958 that American Express issued the first credit card. Unlike a charge card, it didn’t have to be paid off every month.

My mother’s little brown box was an essential item for families before, really, 1958. As the financial system has evolved, it has become largely digital: people’s “paychecks” are now deposited directly into a bank account, credit and debit cards are ubiquitous. The first ATM machine was put into operation in September 1969 at a Chemical Bank branch in Rockville Center, N.Y. The result has been a dramatic loosening in the financial discipline which all Americans lived in postwar America. If your income is high enough today, you probably don’t need financial discipline. But for anyone who is digging their way out of debt, and for penitents living the Rule of 1221, some form of financial discipline is almost essential. Even back in 1221, many people owed money, so the original Rule stated a penitent “must make satisfaction for his debts, paying money according to what pledged provision is given.”

The modern CFP Constitution is equally direct: Constitution provision 29c states: “Those living this life must at once begin to pay up their debts.” Now, to be sure, if one can pay off one’s credit card every month, this is not a big deal. But for those who have credit card or other debt, the mandate is clear: Become debt free as soon as possible.

That requires a modern version of my mother’s little brown box. Banks help by providing tools on their websites to let you establish a budget and show you how you’re spending against that budget. That’s not quite good enough, however, because it is all too easy to “rob Peter to pay Paul.” Let’s say your budget provides that you will set aside $100 a month for auto insurance or to provide the money to cover a deductible on health insurance. It’s all too easy to forget you’ve used up your budget this month for dining and entertainment, to have a fancy dinner at a white table cloth restaurant and pay for it with a credit card. And finally, it’s hard to find those budget tools on your phone.

We need a little brown box for the digital age. You can create it using a series of bank accounts. At a minimum, I think we all need at least three: (1) Recurring monthly charges for rent or mortgage, cable, telephone, utilities, etc.; (2) Variable spending, such things as groceries, clothes, etc., and (3) reserve fund. Most banks will permit you to have multiple accounts, and many banks will permit you to give these accounts a nickname, so you might label the accounts “Recurring Expenses,” Personal expenses,” “Reserve Fund,” etc. So you can, if you wish, have all your accounts at one bank. And before you go buying that book, or new dress or whatever, you can look to see if you have enough money to cover it. To be sure, having multiple accounts doesn’t prevent you from using your reserve fund to pay for a new dress. But you have to think about it.

What if you’re able to pay your credit card bills as they come in? The same principle could apply. You could have one card for recurring expenses that you can charge to a credit card, such as a streaming service subscription. Another for variable expenses, etc.

Why not just use the banks’ budget tool and check it before spending? Those tools aren’t easy to access. My USAA app is an example. To see the balances in my accounts, all I have to do is log in by entering a four-digit PIN. There is no way – at least that I have found – to see my budget using the bank’s app.

So, follow your mother or grandmother’s example: Create a “little brown box” by setting up and funding multiple accounts for various purposes – a recurring account for bills that you pay each month, a variable or personal spending account for miscellaneous items, and a reserve account to those unexpected expenses that can put any of us back into debt. You can add other accounts if you wish, such as a vacation fund (banks used to offer Vacation and Christmas Club accounts to help people save for those, but now only smaller community banks and credit unions do so). – Joel Whitaker, CFP

HUMOR

 

I have a few jokes about unemployed people, but none of them work. 

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Will glass coffins be a success? Remains to be seen. 

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What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo? --One is really heavy and the other is a little lighter.

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Used Books

BOOK REVIEWS BY KRISTEN AND BENJAMIN RINALDO (Novice 2’s)

Treasure in Clay : the autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen “Completed shortly before his death in 1979, Treasure in Clay is the autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, the preeminent teacher, preacher, and pastor of American Catholicism.”—Goodreads.com

Light and leaven: the challenge of the laity in the 21st century by Bishop Joseph Strickland “In Light and Leaven [Bishop Strickland] offers a forthright perspective on the state of the Church today and calls on the lay faithful to meet its challenges boldly. Touching on topics including parish renewal, the state of Catholic education, the centrality of the Eucharist, the need for prayer and silence in a noisy and distracted age, and the battle between good and evil in the Church and world, Bishop Strickland's wise insights and evident love for souls will inspire and edify you.”--Goodreads.com

A layman’s guide to Liturgy of the Hours: how the prayers of the church can change your life by Timothy M. Gallagher “Relying on insights from popes and saints, as well as on his five decades experience praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Fr. Gallagher opens your eyes to this spiritual treasury and shows you how, by means of its sanctifying rhythm, it will help you progress on your spiritual journey.”--Goodreads.com

Discernment of Spirits in marriage : Ignatian wisdom for husbands and wives by Timothy M. Gallagher “In Discernment of Spirits in Marriage, Fr. Gallagher aims to free you from discouragement and assist you in finding peace in your spiritual life and in your marriage. He will help you determine what is of God and what is not and will show you how the enemy works to discourage you in your daily spousal interactions in order to undermine both your spiritual growth and your marital bond.”--Goodreads.com

The Benedict option: a strategy for Christians in a post-Christian nation by Rod Dreher “The Benedict Option is both manifesto and rallying cry for Christians who, if they are not to be conquered, must learn how to fight on culture war battlefields like none the West has seen for fifteen hundred years. It's for all mere Christians—Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox—who can read the signs of the times. Neither false optimism nor fatalistic despair will do. Only faith, hope, and love, embodied in a renewed church, can sustain believers in the dark age that has overtaken us. These are the days for building strong arks for the long journey across a sea of night.”--Amazon.com

Strangest way by Robert Barron “Is Christianity a bland, domesticated religion, unthreatening and easy to grasp? Or is it the most exotic, unexpected, and uncanny of religious paths? For the mystics and saints - and for Robert Barron, who discovered Christianity through them - it is surely the strangest way. "At its very center", writes Barron, "is a God who comes after us with a reckless abandon, breaking open his own heart in love in order to include us in the rhythm of his own life." What could be more compelling?”—Amazon.com

As by a new Pentecost by Patty Gallagher Mansfield “This book helps all of us to re-read the Acts of the Apostles with new eyes. Then we will see more clearly that the story of Pentecost continues and that the Renewal is indeed, in the words of Paul VI, "a chance for the Church and for the world."”--Goodreads.com

A daily defense : 365 days (plus one) to become a better apologist by Jimmy Aiken “In A Daily Defense, Jimmy compiles 365 challenges that Catholics often hear from skeptics and non-Catholics—about God, Jesus, Scripture, morality, Mary, history, and a host of doctrines—and teaches you how to answer them. Combining deep learning with decades of experience explaining Catholic belief and practice on a popular level, he cuts to the heart of each subject, offering pithy but powerful replies that are both effective and easy to master.”--Goodreads.com

They speak with other tongues by John Sherrill “…[T]hey Speak with Other Tongues is the story of one man's encounter with the Holy Spirit. John Sherrill, a young reporter for Guideposts magazine, set out to gather information about a strange new occurrence happening all over the country. A skeptic when it came to speaking in tongues and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, Sherrill was determined to retain his objectivity while digging out the facts. What he found would change his life.”--Goodreads.com

The cross and the switchblade by David Wilkerson “David Wilkerson was just a young preacher in the Pennsylvania hills when he was stunned by a new calling from God: go to New York City to speak to seven young gang members on trial for murder. But something much greater was to come. Once in New York, David was inspired to stay for a lifetime of helping troubled teenagers get free of drugs and crime. With the word of God in his ears, he founded an inner-city ministry still known as the Teen Challenge to change their paths and alter thousands of lives forever.”—Amazon.com

Walking the road to God : why I left everything behind and took to the streets to save souls by Lawrence Carney “Father Lawrence Carney travels the country, walking the city streets in his cassock, carrying a crucifix, praying the Rosary and seeking lost souls. In his debut work, he writes of the many people he meets, the conversations that unfold and the divine appointments arranged for a priest who lives his life entirely for the salvation of souls. He also reveals his dream of a new order of priests, clerics and brothers, who walk and pray in cities around the United States in an effort to regain what has been lost. With so many lukewarm and fallen-away Catholics in our world today, it is easy to become discouraged. But, rooted in the joy of gospel promises, Father Carney proclaims hope.”--Goodreads.com

The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God : The story of Ruth Pakaluk, Convert, Mother and Pro-Life Activist by Ruth Pakaluk, Michael Pakaluk (editor) “This book is the powerful story of an amazing woman, Ruth Pakaluk, who converted to Catholicism at Harvard, married her college sweetheart and joyfully welcomed seven children. She became a renowned pro-life leader and brilliant debater, who was struck with breast cancer and died at the young age of forty-one.”--Goodreads.com

Now I walk on death row by Dale S. Recinella “As one of the most influential finance lawyers in the country, Dale Recinella was living the American dream. With prestige, power, and unthinkable paychecks at his fingertips, his life was perfect. . . at least on paper. But on the heels of closing a huge deal for the Miami Dolphins, Dale's life took an unfathomable turn. He heard and heeded Jesus's call to sell everything he owned and follow him. Thus began a radical quest to live out the words of Jesus no matter what the cost. In this quick paced, well written story, Recinella shares his amazing journey from growing up in the slums of Detroit to racing through "the good life" on Wall Street to finally walking the humble path of God the path of ministry on death row.”—Amazon.com

CFP PHOTO ALBUM: KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS APPRECIATION LUNCHEON!

In April, the CFP invited the Knights and their wives to an appreciation luncheon at the Women’s Discernment House, to thank the council for the many volunteer hours in the restoration of the former St. Andrew’s convent. Madeline Nugent, Minister General, gave an overview of the work performed and related some interesting background on the furnishings of the chapel. In addition, one of the first women who will soon be discerning at the home talked about her journey as she seeks her future. Guests were invited to take self-guided tours of the home followed by a wonderful lunch. About 1/3 of the Knights who worked on Annunciation House were able to attend. Thank you, Knights! You are angels!