Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter --February 2022
WHY I WISH TO ENTER THE POSTULANCY OF THE CFP by Anonymous
The new formation year begins on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 2) Applications due now. See this link.
1. To make atonement for my past sins. Before having a reversion to my faith, I lived an unrepentant life full of mortal sins. It is truly a great grace from God that I didn’t die, because I surely would have gone to hell. In His great Mercy, God gave me the grace of conversion. Although I have been to confession and know that those sins have been wiped away, I would like to continue to atone for my sins by accepting the crosses God gives me, but also by taking up additional penances. I see the CFP as a way to accomplish this desire.
2. To divest myself of the things that impede growth in my spiritual life. There are many things that I find I have attachments to, and I have come to see them as weeds choking out the growth in my spiritual life. I would like to implement the practices outlined in the CFP manual to help weed out these attachments.
3. To make atonement for the sins that daily offend Our Lord and Our Lady.
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: THINKING AHEAD TO LENT
Occasionally the season of Lent can sneak up on us and catch us unaware so in anticipation of that sacred season so dear to the heart of our founder, I would like to offer a few thoughts as we prepare for Ash Wednesday which is on March 2nd.
In the traditional Liturgical Calendar universally observed before 1969 there was a very visible and liturgical reminder that Lent was coming, a short pre-lenten period of preparation which had some of the liturgical elements of Lent but without the fasting and other observances. It was called Septuagesima, that is the name for the ninth Sunday before Easter, the third before Ash Wednesday. Quadragesima is the Latin word for the season of Lent, which (not counting Sundays) is forty days long. Septuagesima was sometimes called Shrovetide or Gesimatide which ends on Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.
The majority of Catholics no longer have this liturgical reminder that the season of Lent is approaching, but certainly this was the case during the life of our founder. We know how seriously St. Francis observed the season of Lent. In chapter seven of The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi we find the story of how St. Francis observed Lent one year:
“Saint Francis, true servant of Christ, was in many ways like Christ himself, given to the world for the salvation of all people. Thus, God willed that Saint Francis conform to the example of his only son Jesus Christ in his choice of twelve companions, as we have seen, in the wondrous mystery of the Sacred Stigmata, and in his Lenten fasting, which he observed in the following manner. Having been lodged at the house of a faithful follower near the Lake of Perugia during the time of Carnival, Saint Francis was inspired by God to observe Lent that year on one of the islands in the lake. So Saint Francis asked his devoted son, for the love of God, to take him on Ash Wednesday in his boat to the uninhabited island by night, so that no one might see them, which the man did readily out of the great love and devotion he held toward Saint Francis. Bringing with him only two small loaves of bread, Saint Francis enjoined his friend to tell no one that he was there and to come back for him no sooner than Holy Thursday, at which his friend took leave of the island, leaving Saint Francis there by himself. As there were no houses on the island to be used as shelter, Saint Francis was content to use a large, thick bush overgrown with vines and plants as a kind of den or hut for himself. There he prayed and contemplated heavenly matters, staying there throughout all of Lent without food or drink, eating no more than half of one of the small loaves he had brought with him, and his faithful friend found him on Holy Thursday upon his return to the island. Upon seeing a loaf and a half of bread still untouched, he believed that the saint ate the half loaf he did eat out of sheer reverence for the fasting of the blessed Christ, who ate nothing for forty days and forty nights, wishing to follow the example of Christ’s fast but setting aside any temptation to vainglory by eating this half loaf of bread as an act of intentional humility. Afterward, God began to perform miracles in this place where Saint Francis had observed his Lenten abstinence in such a wondrous fashion. People came to this island, building houses and living there, until finally a town grew up, along with a community house for the friars, and all in this place where Saint Francis observed Lent felt great devotion for him and reverence. Praise be to Jesus Christ and to his poor servant Francis. Amen”
Lent prepares us to let go of the superficiality and lack of attentiveness that can so often inhibit our growth in the spiritual life. The Church asks us to accomplish three practices that are integral to our observance of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. What does all this entail?
Prayer is essential to the life of faith, and by prayer, the Church does not invite us to simply be alone with our thoughts. Prayer is placing oneself at God’s disposal. What must we do? Wait and wonder. What will God do? That is up to Him. As such, prayer is essentially an expression of a disposition to trust God’s purposes. This disposition of trust expresses itself liturgically in the formal prayer of the Divine Office and in the Mass and devotionally in practices like the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross. In the Divine Office, the faithful pray in communion with Christ in the words of the Psalms, words which Christ himself knew and prayed. In the Mass, we receive not merely words, but Christ’s divine life and presence, given to us in the Blessed Sacrament. Liturgical and devotional prayer are the minimum of the spiritual life for Christians. The intensification of the Gospel life that we see in Saint Francis of Assisi had much to do with contemplative prayer and meditation. We know that he spent six months out of every year in complete solitude and this example of an entire lent spent alone and in silence is an expression of his love for quiet meditation with God. Perhaps we need to stir to flame in our hearts again this Lent a love for that silent contemplation that is so important in our tradition. The founders of the Capuchin reform were very strong on this point. Our old constitutions from 1536 required a minimum of two hours in common everyday for the Friars for mental prayer in the chapel. If you find it difficult to start with an entire holy hour begin with a shorter period of time but make it a consistent, non-negotiable park of your spiritual life, it will grow as you deepen in your affect and love for God.
Through fasting we deprive the body of food. Why? Fasting is an exercise in detachment from something that we consider to be necessary and a source of comfort. The experience of deprivation that comes from detachment compels us to consider how worldly things and preoccupations are so easily elevated to ultimate concern and become rivals to God. Oftentimes the most insidious forms of idolatry happen when our assent to an idol is tacit, rather than blatant. Fasting provokes us to a relentless test of our sincerity. Whereas prayer insists on trust, fasting insists on authenticity. What sacrifice do we offer and to whom? Is it the one, true God or some other worldly thing, concern, or power? Further, fasting toughens us for mission. In a conscious and deliberate attempt to deprive ourselves of small things, we prepare ourselves for the occasions when we will be asked to deprive ourselves of greater things. All this is accomplished for the sake of the mission Christ gives to us. His mission, our mission, is love, and love always necessitates a sacrifice.
Finally, we are asked to give alms. Almsgiving is more than just allocating surplus funds to a charitable organization or cause. More is expected of us than that! Think of almsgiving as acts of generosity that enable the performance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It is through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we show ourselves to be faithful disciples. Almsgiving places a demand on us to receive Christ as he presents himself to us in his poor. This can be an off-putting experience because Christ arrives in his poor on his own terms. Our place, once he makes his presence known, is not to control, but to serve. Our Lord chose to take the lowest place, so we are compelled to take our place beneath him as servants of the One who makes himself a slave. The performance of such service often resists offering to us the kinds of consolations that we might expect from our service to the Lord, but it is precisely in this that our service becomes efficacious. We learn from this experience how to imitate Christ’s generosity, who gave to us fully knowing that what he gave was undeserved, could not be reciprocated, and would be unappreciated by many. It is in imitation of Christ’s service and acceptance of his conditions that our own service is perfected. Almsgiving is also a reminder of our own mortality, inasmuch as all worldly goods will be surrendered at the moment of death. Rather than building ever greater storehouses for our possessions, we give what we have away. That we do so incrementally prepares us for the surrender of all worldly goods that will ultimately come. Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving. None of these are ends in themselves. Instead, each is a way, a way that is opening us up to the Church’s spiritual passage into the great mysteries of Holy Week. Have a Blessed Lent. –Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap., CFP Spiritual Guardian (Some information adapted from on line article “How to Get Ready for Lent” by Father Steve Grunow, February 13, 2018)
MARY, MOTHER OF PRIESTS CHAPEL AT GUADALUPE MEN’S VOCATION HOUSE
Seeking Canonized Priests Sponsorships!
Mary, Mother of Priests Chapel now has over 50 sponsored priests, but, of them, only 3 are canonized (St. Charles Borromeo, St. Anthony of Padua, Saint John Paul II).
Might you be willing to sponsor a canonized priest as an inspiration to those using the chapel? There are many to choose from:
All the apostles, Saint Titus, St. Timothy, St. Paul
Founders such as St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Josemaria Escriva, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. John of the Cross, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Francis de Sales
Blessed Stanley Rother, Venerable Augustus Tolton, Saint John Vianney, St. John Neumann, St. Cardinal Henry Newman, St. Claude La Colombière
Each $180 plaque sponsorship will go towards renovating Guadalupe House. Donations of other amounts are also gratefully accepted. Every dollar brings Mary, Mother of Priests Chapel closer to completion! See www.1000priests.org for names of sponsored priests and photos of some of them. See also www.VocationDiscernmentHouse.com
May God bless you for your support and prayers! Please keep them coming!
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: REBUILD MY CHURCH
“Francis, Francis, rebuild my Church, which as you can see, is falling into ruins!”
I recently went on pilgrimage through California and visited on foot the 21 Franciscan missions founded by Saint Juniper Serra and the early Franciscan missionaries. They bear witness to some of the Catholic foundations of the Church in America, and to the beauty of our faith and our traditions. The history of the missions and their various stages of establishment, endurance, destruction, and renewal also offer a living testimony of the ongoing call to extend God’s Kingdom to the ends of the earth and the ongoing call to uphold our sacred tradition and when necessary ‘rebuild the Church’.
I ended the pilgrimage by going on an extended retreat with the Byzantine Monks of Mount Tabor in mid-northern California and allowing myself to be steeped in this setting and in the Tradition of the Eastern Church. From the monks from East, the foundations of the Porziuncola were laid. Also out of the Eastern Tradition arose the icon of the San Damiano Crucifix. From this icon, St. Francis heard God calling Him to rebuild the Church falling into ruins.
In this Eastern setting, I found myself pondering the state of the Church today and the perennial call to rebuild the Church. The pilgrimage was a great experience of our tradition and heritage. I am also grateful for experiencing some wonderful things that I saw the Lord working as I made my way through California. There were many manifestations of God’s ongoing works and Providence and His grace abounding, even today, and in the midst of difficult times
But I also found myself pondering some of the sadder things that are a reality in the Church today. Sad realities like so many people not being faithful to their Sunday obligation and the statistics that tell us of how many people in our Church pews lack faith in the Real Presence (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity) of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. And it is especially sad because these things are at the heart of relationship with God and are at the foundation of our Catholic lives. If we reflect on things like these, we can see that the Church has been rocked to her very foundations over the past several decades, that there is truly a crisis happening in the Church, and that there is now truly even a spiritual pandemic and devastation that is upon us which is crying out for strong remedy and effective action.
If we ponder these things, the call to ‘rebuild the Church’ clearly resounds in the midst of these difficult times. We all must do our part and seek strength and wisdom from on high to rebuild according to God’s Divine Designs that stand from age to age. In all this, we are called to work wisely to restore our foundations, and to give priority to the things that matter most and that are at the heart of our relationship with God and then continue to work ever onward according to God’s Most Holy Will.
I was given a great gift this Advent and Christmas Season (after my pilgrimage and then after my time at the Monastery) that I want to share with my brothers and sisters of penance. Clearly I was struggling with some of the more difficult aspects and realities of the Church today and from this I was clearly perceiving a call to do my part in rebuilding the Church. I initially started by reaching out to our Bishops and priests and crying out for the remedies and strong directives and leadership that we so clearly need. It is so important to be engaged in the work of rebuilding the Church in relationship with our pastors since they have been appointed as Shepherds and since they have positions and authority over God’s household. It is so important to place ourselves and our gifts at their service, and to seek help from them in our own lives. It is critical that we benefit from their gifts and their lives given in service and to benefit from the power flowing from their state and office. But it is also important, when necessary, to cry out to them and call them to remedy areas of disorder, and to ask them to address things that are not in accord with our faith or in accord with tradition and God’s Divine Designs. Such things that are all too common these days.
I encourage the faithful to take the initiative and to consider what they can do in very particular ways to help better the Church today. There are many issues that could be addressed and worked on but of course we can especially emphasize the necessary work of renewing faith in our Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist, which was a matter so important to our Holy Father Saint Francis even during his times.
But getting back to the gift: It came to me after pilgrimage and retreat and was due to my accepting the invitation of a small devout family who invited me to live with them as I transitioned into a new stage in my life. From entering into humble family household life and entering into the typical parish life of the Church that I received a great gift. From this place I found the general call to ‘rebuild the church’ with many clear little calls which came to me in my new setting.
The call to ‘rebuild’ usually arose out of situations of ruin or disorder (sometimes big but more often small), that I faced daily in the parishes and in relationships. The gift comes with the call to ‘rebuild my church’ because as the Lord calls, He also equips us (and gifts us) to fulfill His call. In perceiving the call or in perceiving situations of difficulty or devastation, we count on His grace to fulfill the task that is clearly before us. We rejoice because our Savior humbly comes to us again and again and wants to enter into our poverty and situations with His saving power and work something wonderful! That’s the gift.
In my own case it was perceiving things in the parish again and again and stepping out in faith and action to try and better things, but more so it was in working to remedy things in my own life and in the household that I was staying in and in the relationships of my life along with the people that I encountered day after day. I realized in all this that I would be hypocritical if I found myself crying out to our Bishops and priests to address so many issues, but then failed to do my part in addressing the people around me, who rightly expect things of me, or who might be in distress and in need of help, or living in sin or disorder and in need of correction, direction etc. It can be easy to avoid the things right before us because it takes really hard work to labor with authentic love in our own daily lives and to be diligent in our relationships with those nearest to us, and to not avoid the most significant matters (such as relationships and matters of faith, morals, and salvation).
Our Pastors can only do so much and their involvement in our lives is limited. But we are each responsible for upholding God’s designs and His Order in our own lives, and in our homes, families, work, and relationships. There is often so much work to be done right around us, and within us, in living uprightly ourselves and then in being the servants of God in relationships with those around us.
In conclusion, let us realize anew the call to ‘rebuild the Church’, but also the gift, the call, and the reality that Christ has come to SAVE US and that this is the real work of our lives--a labor of love. In this may we continue to work out our salvation day by day, and labor with the love and zeal that our holy Father Saint Francis models for us (little by little, stone by stone, and then more and more) and may we always rejoice that God is truly with us and that He is committed to providing for our salvation. At the end of the day, God always outdoes us in generosity.
Deo Gratias. In Him, Chase Michael Wall
(Editor’s Note: Chase was a resident of the Men’s Vocation Discernment House from mid 2020 to mid 2021. He left in the spring to begin his pilgrimage to the California Missions. He asks for prayers as he and a few other men are in discussion with a California bishop on beginning a primitive Franciscan religious expression for men in his diocese.)
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM --CHASE WALL AND BISHOP
Chase Wall, resident at CFP Men’s Vocation Discernment House, with Bishop Kevin Rhoades, March 2021. See Chase’s article elsewhere in this newsletter. Please pray for him as he and some other men work with a California bishop to begin a primitive Franciscan Men’s Order in that California diocese.
CFP PHOTO ALBUM—DOING A VERY FRANCISCAN CHORE—FEEDING THE BIRDS
One of our CFP Life Pledged and Vowed Members feeding the birds after a winter snowstorm. Isn’t that a Franciscan thing to do?
FORMATION INSIGHTS: WHY DID YOU JOIN?—THOUGHTS FOR INCOMING POSTULANTS (OR ANYONE ELSE!)
You weren’t attracted to the Confraternity of Penitents to be trendy. You were attracted to CFP because it offers a challenging life that will help you grow in holiness; a way of living Christ’s command to “take up your cross daily and follow me.”
And yet, an outside observer, not knowing about our religious status, might very well think you were being trendy. Consider the three elements of a penitential life that will be covered in your formation: prayer, fasting, and charity. Substitute “meditation” for “prayer” and many seculars will commend you for your commitment. Our fasting rules are a form of intermittent fasting. Our abstinence rules would be endorsed by many who are attracted to a “whole food, plant-based diet.” They might likely call it a “flexitarian diet" -- a cross between full vegan and vegetarian with the ability to enjoy meat products every so often. And our clothing and “dispose of what you don’t need” rules, covered in Novice 3, would be endorsed by anyone following a minimalist lifestyle.
We follow these rules, not to be trendy, but to draw closer to God. The CFP Rule was first given to St. Francis in 1221 specifically for his lay followers. Penance, we are told, is a three-legged stool: prayer, fasting, and charity. Prayer and fasting are easy enough to understand. But charity – not quite so easy.
Recall the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’s answer: Obey the commandments. “I’ve kept all these things from my youth,” the young man replied. In that case, Jesus said, “Sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow me.” When the young man went away, deeply grieving because he was attached to much property, Jesus observed, “How hard it will be for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mk. 10:17-27).
Even today some middle-aged people hear the call to enter religious life and sell or give away all their possessions to enter religious life. We know a woman, a divorcee, who while serving in Africa as a Peace Corp missionary discerned that she was to enter the Poor Clares. When she returned to the United States, she obtained the permission of her children, sold her possessions and entered a monastery. The father of Matt Murray, editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, did the same thing following the death of his wife. Murray tells the story in “The Father and the Son: My Father’s Journey into the Monastic Life.”
But to follow Jesus, is it necessary to sell all you have? The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that there are many vocations. The priesthood and consecrated religious orders. The diaconate. But there’s also the marriage vocation, the single vocation, the vocation of widowhood. If you are entering a religious order, it is necessary to embrace poverty, to own nothing or almost nothing.
But not If you’re a diocesan priest, much less if you are married and have young children. Some ways of being the “hands of God” can’t be done in a monastery, such as being a neurosurgeon who performs delicate brain surgeries that restore people to a full life. Or a nurse who was needed during the Covid pandemic and might be needed again in another health emergency. Or volunteering to go aid hurricane victims, tornado victims, wildfire victims. Or a home health aide who is depended upon by elderly residents to help them stay in their homes. There are many ways people follow Jesus in their choice of a vocation, and if one is not called to the consecrated life, it is necessary to own stuff.
Even if we aren’t called to a monastic life, all Catholics are called to practice charity. This is especially true for penitents. That can lead to a lot of questions – should we volunteer in a soup kitchen? Should we teach in a Catholic school? Should we donate to a hospital, school or college, an art museum, St. Jude’s Research Hospital for Children? If so, how much should we donate?
Fortunately, Cardinal Hugolino, who wrote the rule for the lay followers of St. Francis of Assisi, anticipated those questions. His answer is incorporated both in the Rule of 1221 and today’s CFP Constitution in paragraph 29c. Following St. Paul’s instructions to the Romans – “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8) – our Constitution requires us to begin immediately to pay up our debts and to tithe. Here we are, being “trendy” again: 18 million people a week listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio tell them how to get out of debt and build wealth.
The difference between Dave Ramsey and CFP is that Ramsey talks about paying off debt and building wealth. CFP talks about paying off debt so we can donate 10% or more of our income to charity. We may not “sell all you have,” but we restrain our consumerist appetite by being debt-free so we can give a lot to charity. We go well beyond what the average Catholic does.
A postulant, being new to the penitential life, might feel it is impossible to give 10% of his income to charity, must less 10% of pretax income. But penitents are not alone in doing so. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventists, many Baptists and others do so also.
In future lessons, we’ll walk you through paying up your debts until you are debt-free, except, perhaps for a mortgage and car payment. Because unexpected expenses are the biggest single reason people who have paid off credit cards get back into credit card debt, we’ll walk you through the process of building a reserve fund and stepping up your charitable donations to the point that you are at a minimum, tithing.
WHAT TO DO THIS MONTH
Read Romans 13:8. How do you think people today should interpret St. Paul’s admonition to “Owe nothing to any man... “ Share this with your formator.
Read Proverbs 22:7. Share with your formator what this quote means to you.
If you lost your job or suffered some other catastrophic financial reverse, would you be able to continue paying your debts? Share with your formator.
If you are married, when did you and your spouse last discuss paying off your debts?
--Joel Whitaker, CFP
Cold? Go stand in the corner. It’s 90 degrees.
To the thief who stole my glasses: I will find you. I have contacts.
I wanted to be a monk but I never got the chants.
My friend David had his ID stolen. Now’s just Dav.
Police car loses wheels to thief. Cops are working tirelessly to nab suspect.
Have you noticed that “The” and “IRS” spells “Theirs”?
Why can’t you trust an atom? Because they make up everything.
Man injured in bizarre peek-a-boo accident. He’s in ICU!