Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: PENANCE AND SAINT FRANCIS
CFP Spiritual Guardian Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap suggested that we reprint this article on penance from Bret Thoman, OFS, executive director of Franciscan Pilgrimages. Reprinted with permission.
I think the most important sign of Francis ability to associate his asceticism with the sacrificial love of Christ is fully apparent when he received the stigmata on Mount LaVerna in 1224 two years before his death. Francis received this gift after a life of intensive prayer, penance and service to others. According to the Biography of Thomas, Francis is said to have spent a 40-day fast on the Tuscan mountain during which he asked the Lord for two gifts. The first was to feel in his soul and body the pain which Jesus felt during his Passion. The second was to know in his heart the love which Jesus felt for all people. Immediately after making this request, he was imprinted with the wounds of the stigmata, accompanied by excruciating pain accompanied by an intense joy and spiritual consolation.
It is striking and even mysterious that Francis would ask to feel pain and love at the same time, that he would somehow relate the two. This is not masochism. If it were taken apart from the context of the Christian faith, it might be. However, in faith and simplicity Francis understood the connection between suffering and love because he lived much of his converted life focusing and meditating on Christ and the events surrounding His life, most importantly the Passion, the suffering and death of Jesus. Francis understood that Christ had to suffer for the salvation of humanity, and he did so out of love. This is what he desired to imitate - somehow Christ's suffering was connected to his love for humanity.
What does this mean to us today? How are we to understand penance in the modern world? The first thing is that we understand penance as a call to conversion, which is its biblical meaning. Then, we attempt to integrate this into our lives today in the 21stcentury. To live today as Francis and Clare lived eight centuries ago may not be necessary, practical or relevant nowadays. However, we can certainly let their experiences influence our lives today.
Today penance can be any sacrifice offered up to God. It can be either voluntary or involuntary. By that, we can initiate the sacrifice, such as in fasting, prayer, almsgiving, or other renunciation. Or, we can choose to offer up something unintended or unexpected to the Lord, such as illness, financial loss, personal misunderstanding, or any other difficult moment. When these events are united to the cross, the Lord's grace can fill them up and use them to his purpose. In a mystical way God can transform suffering and work his grace within it. The negative becomes positive. Once we begin trying to live a life of penance, the Lord always shows us more; he tells us what to do next. We start small, and it can lead to very big things. As the cross was the pre-cursor to the Resurrection, so can the Lord make all things new. We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8, 28).
Penance, Christian sacrifice, and ascetic practices only make sense in the light of Christian faith. Without faith, it would seem foolish to deny oneself life's pleasures and happiness. The proper context of penance is within the cross of Christ; our penance must be united to the cross. And it makes sense only as much as the Passion and death of Christ make sense. As much as the cross of Christ has the power to save, to give life, to make miracles, so does the penance of a believer. It can be used for good. That is what Francis, Clare, and countless saints have done in the past. They have united their works, prayers, sacrifices, and penance to that of Christ's Passion and through them God continues to work out his plan of salvation. The Christian sacrifice is not an historical event that took place two millennia ago; it continues in the Church today. However, in light of Christian faith, we have hope in a resurrection. Our faith does not stop at the cross; rather Calvary is a step on the road to the Resurrection. Some might say a necessary step.
Contact Bret Thoman, SFO, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with permission See https://www.franciscanpenancelibrary.com/understanding-penance-in-the-life-o
Taken from A Knight and a Lady: A Journey into the Spirituality of Saints Francis and Clare by Bret Thoman, OFS (2020).
MARY, MOTHER OF PRIESTS CHAPEL AT GUADALUPE MEN’S VOCATION HOUSE
Ten dollars a month for a year and a half will give you enough to sponsor a priest for Mary, Mother of Priests Chapel. Interested?
Reproduce the grid below to keep track of your savings. Monthly put $10 into an envelope to which the chart is taped. Check off the month. When you complete the chart, you will have $180 to sponsor a priest in Mary, Mother of Priests Chapel. The priest may be living, deceased, or canonized.
Who is already sponsored? See www.1000priests.org for progress on the chapel and house and for the 73 sponsored priests including 5 canonized (St. Charles Borromeo, St. Anthony of Padua, Saint Padre Pio, Saint John Paul II, Pope Saint Peter the Apostle).
Each $180 plaque sponsorship will go towards renovating Guadalupe House. Donations of other amounts are also gratefully accepted. See www.GuadalupeVDH.com God bless you!
SAVINGS CHART FOR MARY, MOTHER OF PRIEST CHAPEL
Total: $180. Tax deductible. Check made out to Confraternity of Penitents. Mail donation with priest’s name to CFP. 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803. God bless you!
OUR RULE: LIVING WITH INFLATION – WHAT’S A PENITENT TO DO?
I warned you a year ago that inflation would soon be raging and so it is. According to the Commerce Department, inflation last month was at a 9.6% annual rate, the highest in 40 years. If you followed my advice in June’s newsletter, you’re in far better shape than most people to deal with the inflation to come (and yes, I do believe inflation will exceed 10% this year, although I sincerely hope I’m wrong).
This month I’m going to give you some additional tips on how to live with inflation now that it’s here.
But first, let’s review the tips I gave you last June. You can find that article in the May 2021 newsletter, which can be accessed from the CFP website’s home page.
Step 1: Pay off our debts, especially variable interest rate debt such as credit cards. If you can’t pay them off, refinance higher rate debt with lower-rate debt such as personal loans or home equity loans (NOT home-equity credit lines, which are a form of variable rate debt) if possible.
Step 2: Change what we buy. The idea is to simply reduce the amount of stuff we throw into the trash or recycling bin. See the June 2021 article for specific details.
Step 3: Grow our own food, as much as we can reasonably and effectively do so.
Step 4: Put solar panels, or even better, solar shingles on your roof. To this I would add, “Consider a heat pump if you have to replace your furnace or air conditioner.” New Englanders and those in the Northern Tier might remember heat pumps as being miserable when it gets cold, but that problem has been solved with heat pumps especially engineered for cold climates.
Now, some specific financial tips for surviving inflation.
First, if you’re renting, try to buy. Mortgage rates are now about 5%. When you buy, you lock in a mortgage rate so it won’t increase even if rents do.
Second, earn more for your cash by researching which banks pay more interest on savings accounts.
Third, consider Series I Savings Bonds which, unlike other savings bonds, don’t seem to plummet during inflation.
Fourth, if you have stocks, don’t be too quick to sell them. They generally do well during inflation.
Fifth, if you can, buy a broad index fund, put it away, and forget about it.
Now get back to prayer for any cause that you feel is needed. And there are many such causes including people who are struggling financially, perhaps even more than you may be. –Joel Whitaker, CFP
Joel has detailed information on these suggestions. Email him at email@example.com
Camping: Where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person.
I went to visit a psychic. I knocked on her front door and she hollered, “Who is it?” So I left.
Sometimes my greatest accomplishment is just keeping my mouth shut.
Only on a cruise ship will you pay hundreds of dollars a day to sleep in a closet.
There should be a support group for women who can’t put their dishes into the dishwasher dirty.
Death is the number one killer in the world.
All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
NO GREATER LOVE: THE PRODIGAL SON
A parable which Pope Benedict examines in Jesus of Nazareth, is “The Prodigal Son”. Discussing the younger son who runs away from home, Pope Benedict tells us: The son journeys "into a far country." The Church Fathers read this above all as interior estrangement from the world of the father---the world of God---as interior rupture of relation, as the great abandonment of all that is authentically one's own. The· Son squanders his inheritance. He just wants to enjoy himself. He wants to scoop life out till there is nothing left. He wants to have “life in abundance" as he understands it. He no longer wants to be subject to any commandment, any authority. He seeks radical freedom. He wants to live only for himself, free of any other claim. He enjoys life; he feels that he is completely autonomous. The younger son breaks away from his human father and ultimately from God. Yet he does come back. How does this happen?
The parable of The Prodigal Son is the third of three parables given in Luke Chapter 15. The chapter begins with the Pharisees and scribes complaining that Jesus associates and even eats with sinners. (Lk 15;1-2) Through three parables, the Lord tells them that he associates with sinners in order to bring those who have gone astray back to God. The first parable (Lk 15:3-7) tells of a man who has 100 sheep but loses one, leaves the 99, goes to find the one sheep, and rejoices and has a party with his friends when he finds it. The second parable (Lk 15:8-10) tells of a woman who has ten silver coins. She loses one and searches the house until she finds it. She then has a party with her friends and neighbors to rejoice over the coin she has found. In both parables, the Lord tells us that the lost sheep and the lost coin stand for sinners who have repented. (Lk 15:7, Lk 15:10) Both parables tell us that repenting of sin is equivalent to being “found” by God. However, how does one repent? The third parable in Luke 15, the parable of the Prodigal Son, (Lk 15:11-32) tells us how to repent.
The parable of the Prodigal Son starts with the younger of two sons demanding from his father his share of his father’s property. (Lk 15:11-12) Why did he do this? The parable does not say. However, when the son left for a far country, it tells us that he spent the money on “loose living” (Lk 15:13) and “harlots” (Lk 15:30) The issue probably was sexual freedom and also a rejection of the authority of his father and ultimately the authority of God as Pope Benedict tells us. The younger son certainly left home with lots of anger, resentment, and bitterness against his father and probably his whole family. The human father could have refused to give the younger son his share since the father knew what the son would do with the money. The wise human father knew that withholding the inheritance would not bring the younger son to repentance but would only drive him further away. The father also gave the older son who did not leave his share of the inheritance. The father was just to both his sons. When the younger son left home, he expelled both his father and God from his life. Neither his father nor God abandoned him.
The father certainly hoped and prayed for his son, but God “went searching” for the younger son through the famine which came to the “far country” after the younger son has squandered his inheritance. The famine which came to the “far country” and reduced the younger son to have to feed swine (a degrading thing for anyone but especially a Jew) could be thought of as a punishment for the younger son. It was also a grace for the purpose of bringing the younger son to repentance. One can see the elements of a sacramental confession as the younger son decides to go home. He first needed to let go of his anger and bitterness against his father and his family.
He realized the futility of his longing for autonomy and “freedom”. He had many friends when he was in the money, but where are they now when he is in dire need? He could see that the attractiveness of sin was a phony attraction which does not satisfy but leaves one empty. He then starts to see how good he had it when he was at home. “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!” (Lk 15:17) He then resolves to go home and make a verbal confession to his father. He plans to say to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.” (Lk 15:18-19) Just like a sacramental confession to a priest, the younger son is sorry for and repents verbally of his rebellion against his father. Like a sacramental confession, he is also willing to do a “penance”. He wants to be treated like a hired hand rather than a son. In this way he will begin to pay back his father for squandering his property. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Lk 15:21)
We should note that the son recognized that his first offence was against God and then against his father. He recognized that the human authority of his father, against which he had rebelled, ultimately comes from God. Some teachers say that the repentance of the younger son was not initially genuine. He was only trying get a better living situation than what he had in the “far country”. This is not convincing since there are many places where the son could have gone other than his fathers house. He had to humble himself before the father but also face the derision of his older brother (Lk 15:28-30) and possibly his fellow servants.
When his human father saw his younger son approaching, he did not wait around for a lengthy apology and confession. Knowing the unfortunate circumstances of his son’s departure, his younger son’s return was convincing proof that he had truly repented. Just like the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the father throws a party. (Lk 15:22-24) Why did the father throw a party when his wayward son returns? “[F]or this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Lk 15:24) One can easily see the connection between the human father declaring his son as being “found” and the finding of the lost sheep and the lost coin. The man who lost his sheep, the woman who lost her coin, and the father who lost his son all stand for God. While the human father did not physically go out to search for his son, God certainly did. The younger son’s loss of his money and the famine in the “far country” was God calling to him. The younger son could have hardened himself in his pride and refused God’s call to return home. Instead, he listened and returned home. The human father also referred to his younger son as “dead” but is now alive. We see this idea that sin is death echoed in the writings of St. Paul. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) The younger son experienced death in his sin but chose life instead.
At the end of the parable, we read that the older son, who never left home, resented the father throwing a party for the younger son. “Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!” (Lk 15:29-30) The older son’s anger reflects the very human tendency to see one part of a story but ignore the rest. The older son also received his share of the inheritance, which was probably larger than the younger son. Also, the older son was first in line to get control of the property and servants when the father died. The father hints at this when he says “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (Lk 15:31) The older son was getting what was his. He failed to see his father’s joy at having his “dead” and “lost” son back. (Lk 15:32) He did not see God’s viewpoint. He only saw the arrogance of his younger brother demanding his inheritance early and then leaving abruptly. He did not see the courage and humility of his brother’s return. He also did not see his brother’s starvation and destitution when feeding the swine in the “far country”. Those of us who have not gone to the “far country” of estrangement from God should not envy those who do. The parable does not tell us whether or not the older son joined in his father’s party. However, when our Heavenly Father invites us to a party, we should surely go.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Lord points out to us the importance of the sacramental confession (reconciliation). Even if we do not go all the way to the “far country”, we are still drawn to it because of its false attractiveness. We constantly need to follow in the footsteps of the younger son in repenting of our sin both inwardly but also outwardly like the son did to his father and we can do to a priest. We also need to be willing to do penance for our sin just like the younger son. The Lord assures us we will be welcomed back. – Jim Nugent, CFP
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM
CFP Life Pledged Retreat and Council Meeting April 2022: Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Spiritual Guardian. Council members Maria Dragolich, CFP, Anne Fennessey, CFP, Diane Joslyn, CFP, Karen Sadock, CFP, Susan Brady, CFP,. Elizabeth Lemire, CFP, Jim Nugent, CFP
RENOVATIONS PROGRESS GUADALUPE MEN'S VOCATION DISCERNMENT HOUSE
Saint Charles Borromeo Church Knights of Columbus helped ready Guadalupe Men's Vocation Discernment House for Renovations by assisting in demolition work.
Contractor shown in Basement Beam Boost Photo below.
A VICIOUS DEFENSE OF LOVE
In George Cardinal Pell’s Prison Journal, the Cardinal has detailed his time in an Australian Prison for about 400 days in mostly solitary confinement. He was actually innocent of the charges and was ultimately freed by Australia’s version of the Supreme Court. The Cardinal concludes that his suffering has been and will continue to reap rewards of grace. Jesus challenged us to see Him in the imprisoned. That may seem strange since "9 out of 10" are guilty, right?
The Prison Legal News is a monthly newsletter about 70 pages long with an average of 1.5 stories per page. Each story tells a tale of either one of two different types: on the one hand, innocent persons overcoming the hardships of an unjust sentence (less frequent since 9 out of 10 are actually guilty); and on the other hand, and more numerous are incarcerated persons suffering maltreatment, mistreatment, deprivations to sub-human conditions and so on. Those cases are civil in nature with monetary rewards since most times you can't "imprison" the state or federal government, but you can take their money. I’d like to share one story and my reflection on it.
Kelsey Love was 28, eight months pregnant, and a pretrial detainee at the Franklin County Regional Jail in Kentucky in 2017. Because of her pregnancy, she was isolated from other prisoners and deputy jailers were instructed to observe her every ten minutes. Keep that "every ten minutes" in your mind.
According to jail records, they looked in on her semi-regularly, but somehow missed that she was in labor (but a female guard observed Love on the floor of her cell, holding her stomach), and summoned a nurse. The nurse told the guard she "would observe Love and eventually check on her later".
Three hours later, when the nurse arrived at Love's cell, they saw a large amount of blood on the floor and found Love and her baby alive in the cell's ripped-open mattress. Love had given birth, chewed the baby's umbilical cord off, then ripped open her mattress and crawled inside with the baby to keep him warm. It was May 15, 2017. Against the assertion made by the jailers ("we had no idea she was in labor"), Love said she "screamed for medical help for two days after being placed in the isolation cell." The settlement allowed the jailers "to admit no wrongdoing" on their part.
After her $200,000 settlement, Love said she still had nightmares about being abandoned, in labor, and in jail. Formerly addicted to opioids and methamphetamine, Love had been arrested after driving her mother's car, which had been reported stolen, on suspicion of impaired driving. By the settlement time, she was two years sober and working to regain custody of her other children. I may be wrong (I often am), but I believe that God used this evil experience and pulled a greater good out of it for both her child and herself since both are alive and better off.
Father Landry spoke about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes this way: Christ could have easily made food for the hungry crowd "ex nihilo" (out of nothing, or out of thin air), but he chose to involve the apostles and whatever the "young lad" had. Woefully insufficient, our Lord took what they did have to offer and multiplied it to excess. After everyone was fed there were extra wicker baskets left over (from a feast for 5,000 men, plus women and children). It is clear that God wants us to be involved in the lives of each other and with Him. He sees this as the best way to live, not just survive, but to live.
Kelsey Love was probably guilty of whatever they wanted to charge her with. But somewhere in her mother's heart she had what I call a "vicious defense of love" for the life of her child. How much can God do when we bring him what little we have (a jail cell, a mattress, and a baby)? Kelsey was not an innocent Mary, but can we see her and her baby with the eyes of faith that Jesus asked us to use ("you did it to me")? Can we see Jesus in Cardinal Pell? How about in the convicted felon, murderer, or sex offender? Getting harder to see Him there? Can we look to when these people were babies just like Kelsey’s son? Can we see Jesus in them then, before life beat and shaped them in frightening ways that ultimately led to the crimes that locked them away? The life of a Christian is challenging. We need God’s grace to live it. –Eric Welch, CFP
CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP: PRAYER FOR THE IMPRISONED
25 cents each from CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803. See www.cfpholyangels.com or send payment with a self addressed, stamped envelope to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803