Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
REMINDER: THE FAST OF SAINT MARTIN CONTINUES UNTIL CHRISTMAS
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: PERSECUTED FROM WITHIN: HOW THE SAINTS ENDURED CRISES IN THE CHURCH by Joshua Charles and Alec Torres.
Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, Spiritual Guardian of the Confraternity of Penitents, asked that we encourage members to read Persecuted from Within: How the Saint Endured Crises in the Church.
Many Catholics have either left the Church or been scandalized by the errors or immorality rampant in her clergy. We’ve watched aghast as faithful Catholics have been restricted or punished without just cause, while those who confuse, contradict, or undermine the Faith are elevated. In this bold and urgent book, the authors notice an apparent absurdity: those most disciplined by the Church at this time are often least deserving of correction. This protracted state of confusion and injustice, plain for all to see, has shaken the faith of millions.
Far from being just another diatribe, these absorbing pages provide a deeply illuminating historical perspective, revealing how this chaotic period in the Church is hardly unprecedented — or unpredicted. Instead, it represents a recurring feature of life in the Church throughout her history and is even a part of the divine plan. With this context, you will be able to make sense of and discover solutions to our present suffering.
$18.95 from CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop (free shipping via media mail to USA locations). Write to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 or order through the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop at www.cfpholyangels.com
GUEST COLUMN: A VISIT FROM A SAINT?
The Confraternity of Penitents in both Fort Wayne IN and Portsmouth RI is displaying the Eucharistic Miracles of the World exhibit in parishes and schools in their areas. This exhibit was created from a website designed by Blessed Carlo Acutis. Carlo wrote, “Perhaps people really haven’t yet understood! Jesus is present among us in his very Body just as he was during his mortal life among his friends. If we reflected on this seriously, we would never leave him alone in the tabernacles waiting for us with love, wanting to help us and to support us on our earthly journey.” Carlo’s website was intended to help people really understand the real Presence.
The following sharing comes from a couple whose parish Immaculate Conception hosted the Miracles display in Auburn, Indiana. This CFP display also includes 60 quotes by Blessed Carlo Acutis, pictured here. In 2006, Blessed Carlo died from an acute form of rapidly spreading leukemia. He was fifteen years old.
On our recent trip to Italy, we wanted to visit a couple of churches that had held reliquaries of Eucharist miracles. Marty had been asked by our parish priest to head the Eucharist Revival in our parish. However, not knowing much about any of the Eucharist miracles, he was forced to take the time to study. At one point he made a comment to me, “I don’t know why I volunteered to do this.”
As he spent time learning, I started noticing a change in outlook. Studying made him dig deeper and become more emotionally and spiritually connected to this “project.” When he heard about Eucharist Miracles displays from a contact at a Diocesan meeting on the revival, he was elated to have the display of Eucharistic miracles set up at our parish. He wanted to be at all three Masses extra early when the displays were set up, even though not necessary; he reminded me of a child awaiting Christmas morning.
There was a special display for Carlo Acutis (3 May 1991 – 12 October 2006). He was an English-born Italian Catholic youth and website designer, who is best known for documenting Eucharistic miracles around the world and cataloguing them onto a website which he created before his death from leukemia. He was the first millennial to be beatified by the Catholic Church. His last words were, “I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the Pope, and the Church.” He was quite a remarkable young man who made a huge impact on so many young people as well as on his elders. We visited Assisi, as his tomb is located in Assisi's Sanctuary of the Renunciation, a part of the Church of St. Mary Major. We visited St Francis and St Claire’s crypts, but we were unable to visit Carlo Acutis’s tomb due to lack of time. We were disappointed, yet also thrilled that we were able to visit St Francis and St Claire’s crypts. We felt blessed as we learned the amazing, extraordinary history associated with these churches.
We were excited to visit the Basilica of San Francesco in Siena, but, unfortunately, we missed the adoration hours of the Eucharistic Miracle display. We were based in Florence for 8 days and had attempted to visit St Ambrose where there are 2 Eucharistic miracles. The church was locked; more disappointment as this was a last attempt to see a reliquary of the Eucharistic miracles in our itinerary.
One morning, a few days before leaving Florence, Marty said, “Let’s try going by St. Ambrose again.” We thought, just maybe, we had the wrong church before since no sign was in front of the church. I put St. Ambrose in my GPS and it took us right back to the same church. This time, the doors were unlocked. We walked in. Starting from the back of the church, we began viewing frescos, tombs, and statues and reading about each one. I was excited to see the tomb of Francesco Granacci, whom I became familiar with from reading The Agony & The Ecstasy. He was an artist but also Michelangelo’s childhood friend. That was enough for me! Also present was the tomb of Verrocchio who was Leonardo Da Vinci’s master.
As we were standing there, I noticed a man in red cleaning gloves that came to his elbows. He bent forward to his scrub bucket to get more soap and water onto his sponge, then proceeded to wipe down the stone walls and baseboards. I thought this man obviously works here, so I confronted him by saying “scusami” then immediately noticed, when he turned towards me, that he was wearing a clerical collar. I had confronted a priest! I then asked if he spoke English. He said that he did. I continued to ask if the Eucharistic miracle was displayed and where we could view it. Father Rossi took his gloves off and set them on the bucket, then said, “Come this way”. The sincerity in his eyes was so genuine. This was something that he wanted to share. We hoped he could see our sincerity and eagerness, too.
The story of the miracles, as told by Fr. John Noone, is as follows:
On December 30, 1230, the priest had celebrated Mass at St. Ambrose Church, Florence, Italy. However, he did not notice that some of the Precious Blood remained in the chalice. He saw it the following morning, and it was the color of human blood. It was put in a container so that everyone could see it. It can be seen today, almost 800 years later, and it is incorrupt. Pope Clement IV and Pope Boniface IX declared that a miracle had taken place.
Another miracle took place in Florence in 1595. Fire brook out during a service and in the confusion one of the priests knocked over a pyx in which there were consecrated Hosts. Six hosts fell on the smoldering carpet, and they became attached together as one. Today, over 400 years later these Hosts are incorrupt and people come to pray in front of them throughout the year. (From https://frjohnnoonebooks.org/blog/eucharistic-miracle-florence-italy-1230-1595)
Father Rossi told the story beautifully, Marty and I both sobbed. I’m not sure anything has quite touched us like that before; there was a warmth that went through both of us. The priest allowed both of us to pray by the altar that had the miracles displayed. When we were about to leave, he said “Wait. I have something for you”. He left the room and returned a few minutes later.
He was holding a first class relic which was a silver reliquary with a strand of Carlo’s hair encapsulated into a small area on the relic. This had been given to him by Carlo Acutis’s parents on a visit to his parish. The priest went into detail about this relic. The story was fascinating. He then gave us a small white enveloped case that had a small piece of white cloth that was considered a 2nd degree relic that was obtained through contact with Carlo. There is an inscription written in Latin that confirms this. On the other side were 2 small medals, one dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the other to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, both given to him by Carlo’s parents. He said he wanted us to have them.
Again, he invited us to say prayers with the relic before leaving the church. We had not mentioned to Father Rossi how much we wanted to visit Carlo’s tomb in Assisi, nor did we mention his name, so this extraordinary moment filled us with so much gratification. We can’t recall much that happened after that as we had never been in so much awe! We were walking around Florence for the next hour speechless. Our hearts had truly been touched by the Holy Spirit. We went on a journey that day, for God had led us to this wonderful, dedicated, servant of Christ. Thank you, God, for putting the people you do in our lives. We are truly humbled and blessed. As our priest says, “God is Good.” Indeed, He is.
Later that evening, when we returned to our room, I called my sister to check on her husband who was in his last days with stage 4 lung cancer. There was a 6 hour time difference so I called later that evening. Larry was in hospice care and at a critical point. He had restless days and nights and was delirious. Dreading to hear the answer before asking, I proceeded to ask how he was doing. She enlightened me by saying, “Actually, he had a very good night.” She went on to say how she had been having to get up in the night and help to get him comfortable or how he would just cry out for her. However, she said that sometime in the early morning hours, he called out to her, and, as she entered the room, he spoke plainly as if he had not been suffering at all. His words to her were “I just wanted to let you know this young man has been talking to me and keeping me awake.” My sister asked him who it was, as she was going along with his story because he seemed so happy. His reply was, “I don’t know, but he is just the nicest young man, and he told me everything is going to be ok and I just wanted to tell you.” So it was a good night for Larry, my sister confided. “I was able to sleep for the first night in a while,” she said.
I had not yet told her about our visit to St Ambrose. When we were there, I had held the relic in my hand and said prayers for Larry and asked the Lord for the intervening of Carlo. My prayers were around the same time of night that the young man visited Larry. We can believe what we want. Some may think that he was just a delirious dying man with delusional thoughts. My faith leads me to believe my prayers were answered through the intervening of Carlo. A few weeks later, Larry died. –Kathy Filogamo
Note: The above image is reproduced on a wallet size card available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link.
NO GREATER LOVE: THE HUMILITY OF JESUS
In Father Romano Guardini’s famous book about Jesus Christ, The Lord, he discusses the nature of humility. He says that humility is not admitting that we are sinners and that we often fail in our tasks and fall short of what is required of us. That is not humility; that is the truth. Guadini tells us that true humility is lowering ourselves and not taking the honor or status, to which we are truly entitled. Jesus Christ does not give us a definition of humility, but He shows it to us. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” (Jn 13:3-5)
Here, Jesus is doing what He had previously told us to do. “When you are invited by anyone to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 14:8-11) When Jesus took on a task normally reserved for a slave, He was showing us true humility. However, His washing of the feet of the Apostles was not just an isolated incident in His Life and Ministry. It is a symbol of His entire Ministry to humanity.
St. Paul understood this when he incorporated a hymn about Jesus Christ into his letter to the Philippians. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:5-11)
Pope Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, considered the Lord’s washing of the Apostle’s feet as a summary of His Mission on earth. What the Letter to the Philippians says in its great Christological hymn---namely, that unlike Adam, who had tried to grasp divinity for himself, Christ moves in the opposite direction, coming down from his divinity into humanity, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death on a cross (cf. 2:7-8)---all this is rendered visible in a single gesture. Jesus represents the whole of his saving ministry in one symbolic act. He divests himself of his divine splendor; he, as it were, kneels down before us; he washes and dries our soiled feet, in order to make us fit to sit at table for God's wedding feast.
When we read in the Book of Revelation the paradoxical statement that the redeemed have "washed. their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:14), the meaning is that Jesus' love "to the end" is what cleanses us, washes us. The gesture of washing feet expresses precisely this: it is the servant-love of Jesus that draws us out of our pride and makes us fit for God, makes us "clean".
In the letter to the Philippians, St. Paul is summarizing in very few words Christianity and the life of the Church. The Church year begins with Advent. What does “advent” mean? According to the dictionary, “advent” denotes the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For Christians, Advent refers to the arrival or coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The passage from Philippians begins with “Though he was in the form of God”. (Phil 2:6) Thus, Advent begins with Jesus in the Gospel and the other readings telling us to be prepared for His Second Coming or Advent in glory. His First Coming as a humble Child, who had to be protected from the tyrant King Herod by Saint Joseph, has no meaning without His Second Coming at the end of time as the glorious Son of Man. After that first Sunday, we learn of the prophets foretelling His first coming and the last prophet, John the Baptist, pointing Him out to the all of Israel. At Christmas, we celebrate His “being born in the likeness of men”. (Phil 2:7) What did He do as a “man”? St. Paul tells us He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Phil 2:7) This designates His service to us by teaching and healing and, also, His miracles which hint at His being in the “form of God”. This service to us was His obedience to His Father to the point that He “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”. (Phil 2:8)
Jesus’ role as a servant was prophesied in the Old Testament. In the Good Friday liturgy, we read the fourth song of the suffering servant. (Is 52:13-53:12) This song begins: “See, my servant will prosper, he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights. As the crowds were appalled on seeing him---so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human---so will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him; for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before”. (Is 52:13-15) This is the paradox--that One who was truly great (in the form of God) was spit upon, beaten, ridiculed, whipped, and then died the shameful death of a punished criminal. The gentiles who saw or heard of the crucifixion of Jesus must have been astonished that a man who gave great teachings, cured the sick, raised the dead, and walked on water suffered the death of a despicable criminal. This could only happen because He was more than “man” but was in the “form of God”.
The Lord told us, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 14:11) In the hymn related to us by St. Paul, this is exactly what happened to Jesus. “Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11) His Resurrection and Ascension tell us that His humiliation at His Passion and Death does not have the last word. God has the last word. The fourth suffering servant song in the book of Isaiah tells of the suffering and humiliation of the servant of God. But it does not end there. “Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute, he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, for surrendering himself to death and letting himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners.” (Is 53:12) The Church year ends with the Solemnity of Christ the King. The Church specifically celebrates the exaltation of the Suffering Servant to the level of Kingship. In His exaltation, He does not leave His humanity behind. The King who reigns in Heaven is One who knows the suffering and struggling of all of us.
It is true that at present every knee does not bow and every tongue does not confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Faith tells us that this will happen at the end of time when everything is to be made right. Yet that time is not yet here. One of the reasons for this is probably the humility of Jesus Christ. Lowering oneself and not taking the status that is yours is not what “the world” wants to hear. One can conceive of a great superior being over all. One can also conceive of the lowly and downtrodden suffering at the hands of evil. How do you put these two things together? This is why Jesus is sometimes called a “stone that will make men stumble”. (Rom 9:33, 1 Pet 2:8) Christ’s message and example go against the “wisdom” of the world which sees only wealth and power as the way to advance the world. Much of the world refuses to put faith in humility and love as the way forward.
The Lord’s statement that “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” certainly applied to Him, but it also applies to us. This is probably one of the more difficult aspects of Christianity. While this is true, many since the time of Christ have learned from Christ and have shown us humility in their own situations. There have been rulers such as Louis IX of France, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry, or Queen Elizabeth of Portugal who showed humility while exercising great power. For us ordinary people, however, it can be hard for us to truly lower ourselves for the good of another. Yet we should always remember that the Lord did that very thing for the salvation of all of us. The reward for our humility will be our own exaltation. – Jim Nugent, CfP
Picked up a hitchhiker. Seemed like a nice guy. After a few miles, he asked me if I wasn’t afraid that he might be a serial killer. I told him that the odds of two serial killers being in the same car were extremely unlikely.
CONFRATERNITY PHOTO ALBUM
Some residents of Annunciation Women’s Vita Dei House and Guadalupe Men’s Vita Dei House got together to sing Christmas Carols on the Sundays of Advent. The location? The front porch of Guadalupe Men’s Vita Dei House, still under renovation (the men are staying in a private home nearby). Assembled were Ruth Linker (song leader) and Susan Porzio (both from Annunciation Vita Dei House) and David Young, Dave Vaughn, Alex Kromkowski, and Mike Freygang (who had the idea for caroling and implemented it) from Guadalupe Vita Dei House. Three of Mike’s grandchildren were part of the group. After the caroling, the group went indoors to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Vita Dei Houses are a ministry of the Confraternity of Penitents. Guadalupe House is nearing completion to apply for a certificate of occupancy. Please keep this in your prayers and God bless you for your support!
THEOLOGY FOR BEGINNERS
Tim Strickland of the Alessandro Ministry has written an in depth study guide to the beginning of Theology for Beginners. Many questions can be answered without reference to the book. If you would like a copy of Tim’s thought provoking study questions, please request them from us and we will mail you a copy. Write to the Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 or email us at email@example.com
REFLECTION ON THE RULE: ARTICLE 26: BE AT PEACE WITH ALL
26. As regards making peace among the brothers and sisters or nonmembers at odds, let what the ministers find proper be done; even, if it be expedient, upon consultation with the Lord Bishop.
· In keeping with section 26 of the Rule:
26a. All are to make peace with members of the Confraternity and all others, seeking, if necessary, the consultation of the Church.
26b. The penitent must daily pray for all those who refuse to make peace with the penitent and must forgive such people all wrongs done to the penitent.
26c. The brothers and sisters are always to take the first steps toward reconciliation. Under no circumstances are penitents to hold grudges or wish ill to anyone.
Reflection: War Is Hell
Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s words could have been spoken about the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the war kicked off by Hamas’s attack upon Israel on Oct. 7. War is cruelty, the Civil War Union general said. You have to break the will of the enemy – both its military and its civilian will – as well as its physical ability to resist.
He set out to prove the point during the Civil War by having his men burn much of downtown Atlanta. He then divided half his men into two columns that marched 30 miles apart and set off for Savannah. He had carefully studied Census records to make sure his men could live off the land. This they did, raiding farms, destroying cotton fields and mills and slaughtering livestock. They burned properties where they met resistance and took as much food as they could carry.
The result of this is depicted in the 1939 movie, “Gone with the Wind.” Scarlett O’Hara returns to the family plantation, totally stripped of everything, to find her father driven mad by the experience and her mother dead. When she learns there is nothing to eat in the house, she goes out back, digs in the dirt with her bare hands, comes up with a carrot or a potato, and says, “As God is my witness – as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
In a letter to the mayor of Atlanta, Gen. Sherman said, “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.” Years later, he shortened this sentiment during an address at the Michigan Military Academy: “War is hell.”
Two major saints – St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola -- would surely agree with him. Both had dreams of glory when they rode off to battle. Both discovered a different reality. St. Ignatius had a leg shattered when a cannonball ricocheted off a wall. He underwent repeated surgeries in an era before anesthesia which left that leg shorter than the other.
St. Francis was taken prisoner when his army lost a battle. He was imprisoned in a dungeon for more than two years and was finally ransomed when he was near death. St. Francis was lucky; he was a knight which meant his family had money to pay a ransom. The ordinary soldiers were killed and their bodies dumped off a bridge into a rushing river.
Their experiences led both St. Francis and St. Ignatius to profound conversions and later to found religious orders. As is evident from our Rule. (Point 16: “They are not to take up lethal weapons or bear them about against anybody.),” followers of St. Francis are to avoid weapons.
On the other hand, St. Ignatius, while inspired by St. Francis, created an order that was different from other orders up to that time: it discontinued regular penances and fasts, the choral recitation of the Office, a highly centralized form of authority with life tenure for the head of the order, probation lasting many years and lack of a female or second order.
The Jesuits were in fact constructed along the concepts of a military organization: special emphasis was placed upon obedience, especially obedience to the pope. This may explain Pope Francis’s fury at conservatives who resist him or seek to maintain the Tridentine Mass, sexual freedom, his latest urging theologians to find an expanded role for women, etc.
At any rate, the televised aerial images of bombed out Gaza City have shocked many; unfortunately for Ukraine, the images of destruction from that country are generally at ground level, which makes it much more difficult to comprehend the extent of destruction
Unfortunately, the long line of history teaches that peace between nations is really achieved only when there is a superpower to enforce it: Pax Sumerica, Pax Assyrica, Pax Babylonia, Pax Romana, Pax Brittania, Pax Romana, etc. Unfortunately, when others perceive that the superpower lacks the will or ability to enforce the peace, peace rapidly evaporates, and war breaks out.
Pray for peace especially at this season when Christ, the Prince of Peace, was born. If only the world would follow His message and surrender to Him, as penitents are to do. – Joel Whitaker, CfP