Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: KNOW THE SHEPHERD
Charles Laughton (see black and white photo) was a famous English actor. Classically trained, Laughton performed in many of Shakespeare’s plays in London and went on to star in a number of major Hollywood films during the 1930’s and 40’s.
Laughton was attending a Christmas party with family friends in London one year. During the evening the host of the party asked everyone to recite a favorite poem or passage from literature that best represented the spirit of Christmas. When it was the turn of the famous actor, Laughton skillfully recited Psalm 23. Everyone applauded Laughton’s excellent performance when he finished and then it moved onto the next person.
The last to participate was an adored elderly aunt who had dozed off in a corner. Someone gently woke her and explained what was going on. She thought for a moment and in a shaky voice the aged lady began to recite Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…”
There was a slight disquiet in the room for a very brief moment as everyone realized the aunt wasn’t aware Laughton had recited the exact same passage a few minutes earlier, but they allowed her continue. Within a couple of lines of Psalm 23 something happened – the emotion with which this old lady spoke these famous words of Scripture took the gathering by surprise. When she finished there were audible sobs from some of those gathered, so unexpectedly moved were they by the re-telling of these ancient words.
When the party was over and Charles Laughton was leaving, the host thanked him for coming, and then awkwardly commented on the difference in responses from Laughton’s reciting of Psalm 23 to that of his old aunt. Charles Laughton’s response is said to have been: “Yes, well, I guess I simply know the Psalm – but she clearly knows the Shepherd.”
The year 2021 was filled with many challenges and as far as we can tell this coming year will have its share of the same. How do people who have committed their lives to the Prince of Peace navigate a world that seems so lacking in that gift?
Our Holy Founder is known and loved the world over, even by many souls who do not believe in Christ or follow him. It was said of Saint Francis that even unvirtuous people would begin to manifest virtue in his presence because of the profound nature of his humility and the character of his personality so conformed to Jesus Christ. Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that Our Dear Lord would grant us through a life of penance, dedicated to the intensification of the Gospel, a measure of that virtue.
You are the only Bible that some people will ever read. You are the only catechism that some people will ever read. We have been given a great treasure, held as we know in earthen vessels and yet blessed by God for the pilgrimage of faith that is before each of us.
Let us in this new year recommit ourselves to the life of penance after the pattern of our Holy Founder. Let us constantly renew in our hearts the hope and the knowledge that he will come again in an undeniable way. Let us keep our hearts and souls ever prepared, even in difficult times, that He is with us especially in His humble presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Have a Blessed New Year 2022! – Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Spiritual Guardian
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
NO GREATER LOVE: HIERARCHY IN THE CHURCH
Before going more deeply into the teachings and activity of the Lord, Pope Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, first discusses the disciples of the Lord, and especially the Apostles. In all the stages of Jesus' activity that we have considered so far, it has become evident that Jesus is closely connected with the "we" of the new family that he gathers by his proclamation and his action. It has become evident that this "we" is in principle intended to be universal: It no longer rests on birth, but on communion with Jesus, who is himself God's living Torah. This "we" of the new family is not amorphous. Jesus calls an inner core of people specially chosen by him, who are to carry on his mission and give this family order and shape. That was why Jesus formed the group of the Twelve. The title "apostle" originally extended beyond this group but was later restricted more and more to the Twelve. In Luke, for example, who always speaks of the twelve Apostles, this word is practically synonymous with the Twelve. Yet, why did Jesus choose His Apostles rather than just let the Holy Spirit call up souls to follow Him?
First, we need to realize that the early Church considered the Lord’s choosing of His Apostles to be extremely important. A listing of the Twelve Apostles is given four times in the New Testament, Mt 10:2-4, Mk 3:16-19, Lk 6:14-16, Acts 1:13. All four Gospels recount the Lord’s calling of one or more of the Apostles. John 17 gives us the Lord’s prayer for the Church. This prayer gives us insight into why He chose Apostles for a special task. Referring to the Apostles, He says “for I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (Jn 17:8) First, the Lord had to make sure that His Apostles understood who He was and really believed it. They needed to know that He was not just a great prophet but something much more than that. The task of communicating to the world His Divinity was not initially given to everyone, but to them. “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (Jn 17:9) Later, the Lord says “I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.” (Jn 17:14-15) The Lord tells us that His Hierarchy is not to accommodate to the world but can expect opposition from the world. Next, the Lord tells us why we receive Him through His Hierarchy: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, for they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:20-21) Thus, we learn the faith from His Hierarchy for the sake of unity. Disunity in the Church is a great scandal which fosters unbelief.
The early Church still had to translate the Lord’s wishes into a concrete reality. St. Paul tells us what was happening in the Church even when he was still alive. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor 12:27-30) St. Paul tells us that even in his time there were different functions in the Church. The first in the Hierarchy was the apostles who were succeeded by the bishops when the original apostles died off. Some of the functions St. Paul lists are “higher” and some are “lower”, but all are important.
St. Paul also tells us that the head of the Hierarchy is Jesus Christ. “He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.” (Col 1:18) Writing to the Jews and Gentiles of the Church in Ephesus and the surrounding areas, St. Paul tells us more about the Hierarchy and what it was supposed to accomplish. “for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph 2:18-22) The various functions in the Church are like a temple built upon Jesus Christ Himself.
Later in the same letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us why the Church is a Hierarchy built on a foundation of the apostles with Christ as the Head. “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: so that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.” (Eph 4:11-16) Here, St. Paul speaks about the implementation of the Lord’s wish for unity in the Church. The Hierarchy is needed to prevent everyone from being swept away by every “wind of doctrine”. Even many believers would wish that the Church would validate their own particular moral compromises. In addition, there are many teachers in the Church who would accommodate by their teaching what some people may want. However, since the Apostles were His Apostles and now the Hierarchy is His Hierarchy, this Hierarchy and ultimately the Pope are responsible to the Lord and no one else. Of course, the Hierarchy is human and can be unfaithful, but they bear a very special responsibility. Even the unfaithfulness of the Hierarchy cannot knock the Church off course since the Lord himself guaranteed that the “gates of Hell” (powers of death) would not prevail against “my Church”. (Mt 16:18)
While the Lord wanted a Hierarchical Church, this does not mean that the laity is not important in the Church. After the apostles, St. Paul lists “prophets” as another function in the Church. If we define a prophet as one who is close to God and can speak for God, this function is very important in the Church. The first example of this in the early Church was Mary. She was very close to her Son for she bore Him. She must have been consulted by the Apostles very often while she was alive. Another example would be Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany. Both Mary and Martha speak in the Gospels, but Lazarus says nothing. When Lazarus dies, Jesus comes to his tomb. At the tomb St. John records that “Jesus wept”. (Jn 11:35) When the Jews see this, they observe “See how he loved him” (Jn 11:36) When Jesus was in Jerusalem, He must have often stayed at night in Bethany. Especially during the tense times before His crucifixion, Lazarus must have been a great friend and consolation to Jesus. In the last 2000 years there have been many people like Lazarus who, like Catherine of Siena, have conveyed His Will to the Hierarchy or have just been a consolation to Him by living in union and obedience to Him in a world that has largely rejected Him.
Why did the Lord choose twelve Apostles to be the core of His Hierarchy? The number certainly comes from the twelve tribes of Israel. The Church is meant to be the new Israel, but it was to go beyond Israel to be world-wide. In the book of Acts, we read how one of the disciples of the Lord, Matthias, was chosen to be an Apostle after the Apostle Judas had hanged himself. (Acts 1:12-26) Judas, who had been chosen by the Lord to be an Apostle, had to be replaced. Yet the other Apostles were not replaced in the same way. Their successors were not called Apostles. Even when the original twelve were still alive, they were being assisted by successors who were eventually called bishops. Of course, because of the international and world-wide nature of the Church, the bishops were many more than twelve and they were not called Apostles. The bishops became the Hierarchy of the Church assisted by priests and deacons. Yet one of the Apostles, Peter, who was the first Bishop of Rome, has had successors who are known right down to Pope Francis. The Pope is the core of the Lord’s Hierarchy and bears ultimate responsibility before the Lord to protect us from the “wolves” who would destroy us. As the Vicar of Christ, he surely needs our prayers. – Jim Nugent, CFP
MORE ON OUR RULE AND CONSTITUTIONS 29: FINANCIAL PLAN FOR PENITENTS
We’ve turned the page on 2021, a year which I suspect few of us are sorry to see in the rearview mirror, and, since the start of a New Year is the traditional time for reviewing our finances and developing a financial plan for 2022, let’s do it!.
We can think of a penitential life as a stool with three legs: prayer, fasting/abstinence, and charity. For penitents, charity involves both an apostolate and tithing – normally donating 10% of our income to church and charity.
So, what should a penitent’s budget look like? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the weeds. But I think there’s a pretty simple, yet practical, way to think about it. The 1221 Rule and our Constitutions both make it clear we are to pay up our debts and also practice tithing – we are to donate 10% of our income to church and to charities not in conflict with the church.
Which comes first – paying off one’s debts or tithing? If you can afford to do both, the answer is, do both. But if you can’t, paying off one’s debts takes precedence over tithing.
Many financial advisors recommend dividing spending into three categories – necessities, savings/debt repayment, and wants. I’ve adapted it for penitents, with our requirement to both pay down debt and to tithe.
Let’s think about a set of four buckets:
50% of our income should go into one bucket for necessary expenses – rent or mortgage, insurance on our house/apartment, car payment, groceries, child care, internet, and phone costs.
10% of our income into another bucket for tithing
20% for savings/debt repayment
20% for wants – “premium” channels on cable, clothing, vacation, dining out, other shopping.
Given the priority for paying off one’s debts over tithing, I suggest a slight modification until we are debt-free:
5% for tithing,
50% of our income should go into another bucket for necessary expenses – rent or mortgage, insurance on our house/apartment, car payment, groceries, child care, internet, and phone costs.
10% for savings,
25% for debt repayment
10% for wants – “premium” channels on cable, clothing, vacation, dining out, other shopping.
I cut both the basic tithing, wants, and basic savings in half to create the 25% bucket for debt repayment. We want to get out of debt as quickly as possible even while we continue to give to church and charity as well as build our savings. Once we do so, then our buckets revert to 10% for tithing and 20% for savings. You may want to keep the 10% for wants because, as penitents, we should be wanting less material things and more spiritual ones.
I kept savings at 10% even while cutting tithing because having savings is key to avoiding new debt. Avoiding new debt is critical to getting out of debt, and a savings account you can tap instantly is what will let you buy a new set of tires for cash. If it’s large enough, it is also what will let you simply write a check when you need a new roof or a new car. Also, having savings is what will let you choose a high-deductible health insurance plan, or a high deductible on your car insurance and homeowner’s insurance.
About the buckets: I’m a big believer in having separate bank accounts for each – one account for necessities, one for tithing, one for savings, and one for “wants.”
A final note: Some people – such as those with low incomes – may not be able to follow this 50/10/20/20 plan. That’s okay. They can adjust the amounts as needed. For instance, their spending plan might be 60% necessities, 5% tithing, 10% savings, 10% debt repayment, and 15% wants. And people with especially large incomes may be able to increase their debt repayment.
Happy New Year! –Joel Whitaker, CFP
GUEST COLUMN: BUYING A USED CAR
“Make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails you may be received into everlasting dwellings…”
Buying a car on a small budget. Nothing in my price range is terribly attractive. All are older than I’d like or have too many miles. Basically, no matter what I get, it’s gonna need work sooner or later, and maybe sooner than I’d like. But I need something now. My current vehicle is not exactly highway safe and to be so would require at least $1200 worth of work. And I suspect it won’t be long before it needs more. I need to take a retreat, but I can’t afford to because I would have to rent a car to get there, on top of the expense of the stay and the cost of not working for a week. I want to see my family over my birthday weekend, but it would cost over $200 just to spend the weekend with them if I rent a car, and to take the bus would mean at least another day off of work. If I want to go visiting any religious communities outside of town… again, rent a car. All in all, I might as well turn all of that cash into a down payment for something that will last.
So, I went to a dealer after work on Monday. First car they showed me was a car which was $2k over my initial price range. I let them get me behind the wheel for a test drive because it was a good price for the vehicle, and really quite attractive. Well… financing time, and I got pushed around and offered an obnoxious interest rate, and then, when I reacted negatively to their financing options, I was talked down to about why I need to make this purchase. Suddenly, I was done. I let them have it. They pushed me over the edge, and I walked out, paperwork half- signed. And I was SOOOOO angry that I couldn’t sleep until after midnight. The next day I could hardly pray, and I ranted to my coworkers about the whole encounter. So much for “don’t let the sun go down on your wrath."
Yet, that evening at home, as I spent a good bit of time car shopping online, number crunching, etc, this verse came to me: “Make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails you may be received into everlasting dwellings…”
“Lord,” I asked, “What do you mean by this parable. I have yet to understand it.” Suddenly out of nowhere I understood. Our Lord meant, “use every encounter with the failing things of this life as an opportunity to gain the kind of wealth that will last. Virtue.” Buying the car was no longer about getting a sweet new ride. It was about getting to heaven. This was an opportunity to grow in detachment, patience., mercy, humility, and faith.
Detachment. As I saw the condition of the vehicles in my price range, I realized that they were all eventually going to die, as are we all. New vehicles drive smoothly, have no wear and tear, they seem for the moment to have an infinite life span, but they don’t. The depreciation and the deterioration of the vehicle begins as soon as it drives off the lot, even before. Yet the vehicles in my price range showed their age. None was perfect any more, or even close. I was tempted to make a vinyl sticker for the car that says “memento mori,” but decided against it, for now. I will be thinking it, though, whenever I get behind the wheel. This car is meant to serve me for however long God wills, but I won’t drive it into heaven with me.
Patience (and self knowledge). The next day, the dealer called, and I told him I was not interested in the vehicle, but had to be firm about my original price range. I really wanted to tell him off about how I was treated the day before, but I couldn’t do it for some reason. Instead, I was polite. Yet I was stewing inside, and, as I mentioned, couldn’t sleep. I was nearly blinded by anger. Later, the salesman texted me with an offer for a much more reasonable car and I wanted to text back something snarky. Thanks be to God my coworker talked me down into a simple non-committal response. I ended up buying that vehicle, so I was glad my coworker’s prudence overcame my wrath… but it was only by the grace of God! I met the limits of my patience, and also the grace of God.
Humility. That evening, I went back to shopping online for available vehicles and looked at the one the original dealer showed me. It started to look like it was “the one.” So I reached out to him the next morning to take it for a test drive. I had to swallow some pride in order to make contact with them again. I realized after I left the dealership this morning that the mannerisms of the salesmen had changed towards me. They were still trying to be “salesmen” but they were kind of like dogs with their tails between their legs. The manager would hardly make eye contact. They knew they did wrong by me on Monday. They didn’t apologize, exactly, but things were somewhat different. It takes humility to recognize a subtle change in someone, and then to forgive for the wrong done. Yes, I still have to make a good deal with them and hold my ground on what’s right, but I have to be gentle and humble about it at the same time.
Mercy. I was a little wary of something so old (2005) as my new purchase and gave the car every bit of criticism that came to mind as I test drove it, but I knew it was the car I was meant to have. Small, compact, simple, well taken care of, and probably very reliable. I could have used its age and defects as leverage for perhaps an even better price, but they had the advantage of the urgency of the situation- there was another test-driver coming at 2. The vehicle was very attractive, so I made a down payment even before it was officially inspected or the oil changed. A little nerve wracking. What if something comes up in the inspection? I’m stuck with it now, right? Well, at least I’d rather fix up this one than the one that I have been driving. Perhaps I can ask the dealer to fix it before I drive it off… and other questions come to mind. But any car will need work. Which of us, after all, is a perfect instrument? We all have our defects, our wear and tear, but God still works with us. The Master Mechanic has a great destination in mind for us and was willing to die for us to make sure we get there. Now I wouldn’t die for a car! But I will have to “suffer” a bit financially for it. I hope that whenever it costs me money or time to maintain, I will better remember how merciful God has been towards me.
Faith. There are some decisions in life in which there is a clear “right choice” and there are others in which one has to simply let go and say, “alright, God, please help. This is what I got!” I asked St. Joseph to help me find the right car, and I believe he answered. Did it have to be a miraculous answer to be a response to prayer? Perhaps the greater proof that this car was an answer to prayer was the spiritual benefit of the whole buying experience. After all, I have never understood this parable until now.
Make friends with dishonest wealth. Make the ordinary encounters of daily life, even the most difficult and seemingly crooked encounters, such as buying a used car, an opportunity to find God and to grow in virtue. Then, when the car, or whatever else, fails, you will be received into eternal dwellings, for you will have acquired riches for that type of purse that does not wear out, stored where there is neither moth nor decay. -Erin Wells
(Editor’s Note: This article was written on February 3, 2021, when Erin was housemother at Annunciation Women’s Vocation Discernment House. In September, Erin entered Filiae Laboris Mariae, a new religious Order in Minneapolis MN. She drove this car from Fort Wayne to make a last visit to her family in Ohio and then drove from there to Minneapolis where she gave the car to the Order which then sold it, probably in a charitable manner. Erin is now Sr. Erin Wells and very happy in her vocation. Please keep her in your prayers.
Elizabeth Lemire, CFP, replaced Erin as house mother. She and house resident Erica Faunce are currently working to publicize both the men’s and women’s houses in Fort Wayne IN and to let all know that they provide a quiet, prayerful environment to hear the Spirit’s direction as residents discern their life’s path. Older applicants who wish to live and fellowship in such an environment are also welcome to apply.)
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM
Residents at CFP’s Annunciation Women’s Vocation Discernment House.
Mentioned in this newsletter are Erica Faunce (kneeling left), Erin Wells (now Sr. Erin Wells—standing behind Erica) and Elizabeth Lemire, CFP, house mother (kneeling next to Erica F.).
In the rear are Erica N and Mary Beth C (both discerning religious life) and Sue S (standing to the right) who passed her nursing exams in December and is “the newest RN in Indiana,” soon to be moving to Alaska.
On the floor next to Sue is Renay, the faithful, protective and loud-barking house dog.
Photo taken in September 2021 shortly before Erin drove off in her used car (see article elsewhere in this newsletter) to enter religious life..
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!
The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending and to have the two as close together as possible. – George Burns
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