Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter -- February 2023
Reminder: Lent begins February 22. All those at the Novice 3 level and above are bound to follow the fasting and abstinence provisions of our Rule and Constitutions for the Lenten season. Those who are below the Novice 3 level should undertake some form of penance to prayerfully observe this holy season.
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: BUSY ABOUT THE LORD’ WORK
January 25, 2023
Greetings from Europe. I was in Rome and San Giovanni Rotondo last week leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Sites. We had Mass in St. Peter Basilica among others. I was able to climb the "Holy Stairs" that Our Lord climbed to his judgment in front of Pontius Pilate. We celebrated two Masses in San Giovanni Rotondo, one at the altar of the "old Church" where the Saint said Mass most of his life and where he received the Sacred Stigmata in 1918 in the choir loft. The other Mass was in front of his incorrupt body in the crypt, what a privilege!
This week I am in France. The last three days I made a short retreat at the famous Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault. Today I am on my way to Troyes, west of Paris, to give a retreat to the Poor Clare nuns of Perpetual Adoration, this is the original monastery of the order that Mother Angelica belonged to. This is also the home town of Pope Urban IV who made the feast of Corpus Christi (which he began in Troyes) a universal feast for the Catholic Church. As we are now in a year to stir up devotion and knowledge of the Most Holy Eucharist I will certainly say a prayer there for all of you. I am giving a retreat to the Poor Clare nuns in Cleveland Ohio when I return to the states next week, that is the monastery at the Conversion of St. Paul Shrine on 40th and Euclid Avenue where Mother Angelica entered her Order 70 years ago. Please continue to pray for me and thank you for your prayers for my dear mother. – Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Spiritual Guardian
THE CFP WAY OF LIFE: LIVING CHARITY WHILE SUPPORTING OUR FAMILIES
Two years ago, I warned that we were headed for a time of stiff inflation, and that’s what we got. Now there’s talk of recession, and the question is, are we really headed into a recession, and if so, how bad will it be?
The short answer is, I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. No one has a clue.
The problem is this: To prevent inflation from feeding upon itself – business sees costs going up, so it raises prices, which leads workers to demand higher wages, which leads business to raise prices, etc. – the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate at which it lends to banks. Substantially.
Most of the time, when the Fed raises interest rates, recession follows because companies that overborrowed cut back, often by laying off workers, which leads other workers to trim their own spending, etc. Real estate prices fall because higher interest rates drive up the cost of buying property.
But to a reasonable extent, that’s not happening this time. At least not yet. True, some large companies have laid off workers – Dow Chemical is laying off 2,000 workers globally; Hasbro, 15% of its workforce; IBM, 3,900; Alphabet (parent company of Google), 12,000; Microsoft, 10000; Salesforce, 10% of employees; Binance, 58% of employees; Humana, 1162 employees after it decided to close its home care facilities nationwide, and on and on.
But small business is hiring. All the job growth since the end of the pandemic has come from small business. So, who knows whether the U.S. will enter a recession or not? And, if we do, will it be severe or a “soft landing”?
There are a couple of quotes that are relevant here. One, by J.P. Morgan himself. Asked by a brash young investor for a forecast about the stock market, Morgan replied: “It will fluctuate, young man, it will fluctuate.”
And there was John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who after listening to yet another talk about how in the long run something would happen, replied: “In the long run, we’re all dead.”
So what should penitents – actually, what should anyone -- derive from all this? First, that St. Paul was correct when he told the Corinthians to owe nothing to any man other that the obligation we have to love others.
Second, that Jesus was teaching a great economic truth when he said we should not seek to pile up wealth which can rust away or moths can eat. And he was teaching another economic as well as a physical truth when he said to build a house on a strong foundation.
Under normal circumstances, those two pieces of advice from the Bible are as good as any economics textbook written. If we avoid debt, especially credit card debt, we will save ourselves a great deal of possible pain because there is no assurance even if we work for Alphabet or Microsoft that we won’t find ourselves out of a job. When Jesus said, “You know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt. 25:13) he wasn’t just talking about when the Son of Man is coming. He was also talking about the precariousness of being an employee.
None of this means that we should run around like Chicken Little afraid that the sky will fall. But as we prepare to enter Lent on February 22, we should review the four financial duties of a penitent and see how well we are living up to them – and make changes if we need to.
Four Financial Duties of a Penitent
The four financial duties of a penitent stem from our state in life.
Both our Rule and St. Paul make it clear that we should pay off all our debts as quickly as possible, so that we will owe nothing to anyone other than a duty to practice charity.
Practice charity by donating 10% of our income to charity if we are able.
Keeping in mind our Lord told us to build our house on the rock. Spiritually our rock is Our Lord’s teaching and our faithful adherence to our Rule. As laypeople, our financial rock is to build a solid reserve fund to handle most emergencies.
A second part of our financial rock is to invest our money responsibly. We should practice broad diversification. If we buy stocks, we should invest in five or 10 different companies. Or buy a diversified mutual fund. If we invest in real estate, we should buy four or five different houses in different communities.
This idea of broad diversification is crucial. None of us can know with certainty whether the management of a company we invest in is honest. Sometimes hidden defects in the construction of a building will lead to its collapse. If that’s where we placed all our money, we may be wiped out. But if our money is invested in five or 10 different stocks, each in a different industry, we’ll probably be okay. The same thing goes for real estate. If all our real estate money is invested in five or 10 different buildings in different areas, we’ll probably be okay.
Which brings us to the final point as we head into Lent: Should we worry about all this. After all, we’re supposed to focus on spiritual matters not grubby earthly matters, aren’t we?
Yes, but -- as St. Francis de Sales noted, what we’re supposed to do depends upon what our state in life is. A consecrated religious living in a monastery would have no reason to worry about political matters or financial affairs, even if they affect the church.
But if a person is called to be a bishop, it’s his duty pray but also to be informed about political matters and to interface with politicians and financiers even if he’s not enamored of this obligation.
On the other hand, an ordinary lay person with a family must be concerned about a personal faith life bur also about the family’s finances and how to manage wealth to weather hard times.
In the CFP way of life, the tithe provides a way to balance the responsibility to one’s family with the responsibility to love our neighbor. As we head into Lent, let’s reflect upon whether we can do something more to pay off our debts, build a reserve fund and a separate investment account, and give 10% of our income, or as much as we are able, to charity. –Joel Whitaker, CFP
Whenever I try to eat healthy, a chocolate bar looks at me and Snickers.
Despite the high cost of living, it remains popular.
Lif is too short.
After my friend turned vegan, it was like I’d never seen herbivore.
Life without music would b flat.
Reading while sunbathing makes you, well, red.
Kleptomaniacs always take things literally.
Only dead fish go with the flow.
Huge fight at local seafood diner! Battered fish everywhere!
I named my ipod Titanic. It’s syncing now.
Try resistance training. Refuse to go to the gym.
A book hit my head, and I have only my shelf to blame.
Do people in Australia call the rest of the world “up-over”?
She only made whiskey, but I loved her still.
Terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty, but he had a great fall.
I’m not bossy. I just know what you should be doing.
VITA DEI HOUSES
In trying to accurately describe the men’s and women’s house ministry of the Confraternity of Penitents, the name Vita Dei Houses seems a good fit.
The houses serve single Catholics who are:
+ discerning religious or lay vocations
+ facing serious life decisions
+ contemplating marriage or single life
+ exploring career or schooling options
+ seeking inexpensive living arrangements in a Catholic environment
+ desirous of long-term living in with other Catholics
www.GuadalupeVDH.com for Catholic men (2801 New Haven Avenue, Fort Wayne IN USA)
www.AnnunciationVDH.com for Catholic women (2637 Schele Avenue, Fort Wayne IN USA)
While Guadalupe House is being renovated, the men are temporarily housed in a private home at 2508 Chestnut Street, Fort Wayne.
Work is progressing on Guadalupe House. The first inspections should take place in two weeks. Bishop Kevin Rhoades is scheduled to bless Guadalupe House on August 18. Please pray for this glorious day! With God’s grace, Guadalupe House should be ready for occupancy by that time. God bless you for your support.
The Chapel of 1000 Priests at Guadalupe House has almost 100 sponsored priests. Add a priest of your choice by going to www.1000priests.org Sponsoring a priest for $180 will assist in completing the renovations for Guadalupe House. May God reward you for your help!
CFP PHOTO ALBUM: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MONSTRANCE
On the quiet, chilly night of January 30, 2023, the phone rang at CFP headquarters. On the other end of the call was Chris Schortgen, a mild mannered, humble, faith-filled contractor, who, with his wife Theresa, are active in several lay Catholic ministries in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.
The Schortgen’s were seeking a monstrance which disappeared from their possession around 2015. They’d been calling around, looking for it, and Father Lee Allen Fortin suggested that they call us because the friary where Father lived is now the CFP Annunciation Vita Dei Women’s House.
Chris described the monstrance to CFP Volunteer Administrator Madeline Nugent who asked if he had a photo. Chris had a photo of a second, similar monstrance, which he emailed along with the following note:
Thank you for trying to help us to locate this monstrance with a marble stem and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in Nov 2005. It was lent to Fr. David Mary Engo (the Minister General of the friars who lived at the friary become Annunciation House) the night of a Holy Hour for Anna Beier. We are hopeful about getting Pray for Vocations started again.
The Pray for Vocations Holy Hour had been going from parish to parish for several years. The sister monstrance to the missing one had been found at St. Jude’s parish and returned to Chris and Theresa. The missing monstrance was housed in a box made for it by Fr. Tom Shoemaker, now pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo Church, Fort Wayne.
In 2005, plans were underway for Regnum Christi to take the monstrance to Rome for Pope John Paul II’s blessing, but the saint passed away before the trip was taken. So his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, blessed it right at the beginning of his pontificate.
Madeline emailed several people, forwarding them the photo and asking them if they had any information about this monstrance. Lo and behold, the one who found it was Annunciation House administrator Elizabeth Lemire, CFP. Upon assuming role of house administrator, Elizabeth had found the monstrance in the sacristy at the Portiuncula chapel, but there was no information with it. She assumed that it belonged to the chapel along with the liturgical vestments and altar vessels that were there.
“I thought that this monstrance must have been given to the friars who had this chapel,” Elizabeth said, “as they were living poverty, and this is an expensive piece. They could never have bought it.”
Chris came to retrieve the monstrance on February 1 and then toured Annunciation House which has seen seven women residents enter religious life since the CFP began these houses in 2010 in Rhode Island. The photo, taken in the Portiuncula Chapel on February 1, shows Elizabeth returning the monstrance to Chris Schortgen, its rightful owner. May prayer in front of the Eucharistic Lord bring about many vocations!
NO GREATER LOVE: A TRIBUTE TO POPE BENEDICT XVI
Pope Benedict XVI died on December 31, 2022. We who are still alive in 2023 should examine the significance of this man for us today and in the future. Since Pope Benedict was German, we need to look a little bit into European and German history to see his importance.
In the 1500’s western Europe underwent the Reformation which divided Christianity between Catholicism and Protestantism. However, Europe was still Christian. In the 1600’s especially there were wars of religion which caused extensive loss of lives and property. In the Middle Ages and before, wealth was mainly based on land since land was needed to produce food which is essential for people to survive. By the time of the Reformation in the 1500’s, a rising merchant class caused wealth to be more often based on money and less on land. After the Reformation, there arose in Europe more and more people who had very large amounts of monetary wealth. Following a tendency which can even be found in Biblical times, as wealth increases, faith and religious practices decrease. The Old Testament prophets frequently decried this.
Many wealthy Europeans felt that the role of religion in European society must decrease and even be eliminated. At first, wealth tended to gravitate toward Protestantism because of its more individualistic and less hierarchical nature as compared to Catholicism. However, soon philosophies arose which replaced the Judeo-Christian worldview of a personal God who is master of the world and the universe. These philosophies held that God’s Being is much more closely bound up with the being of the world. Those who held a more traditional worldview could hold it privately and in church, the new philosophers declared, but they must keep their views out of the “public square” so that a society of peace and justice could be built without the divisive influence of religion.
While these ideas originated with the “elites” in Europe, they gradually filtered down to the general society. They also infiltrated the churches. Many Protestant churches felt they needed to accommodate Christian doctrine and morals to the “needs of modern man”. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these ideas started to gain acceptance even among Catholic theologians. They felt that we need to “modify” the Biblical worldview of a supreme personal God who gave us rules and acted in the world. The new idea of God was to be the “driving force” behind what is happening in the world. Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius X condemned this trend, calling it “modernism”. Pope Pius X even forced Catholic teachers and theologians to take an oath against modernism. However, this did not eliminate modernist thinking from the Church. It drove it underground.
Joseph Ratzinger was born in Bavaria in 1927. In 1933, when he was about 6 years old, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party was elected to control of the German government in Berlin. They then seized control so that no opposition was permitted. Joseph’s father, and indeed his entire family, were strong Catholics and could see the evil in the Nazi policies and programs. There was little Nazi sympathy in the heavily Catholic area where Joseph grew up. Joseph describes his childhood and life up to the year 1977 in his book Milestones. Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood in his family was very happy, but there certainly was the shadow of Nazism hanging over his life. Even after the Nazi’s were defeated in 1945, the shadow of the thinking which gave rise to Nazism remained until Joseph’s death as Pope emeritus in 2022.
Adolf Hitler and Nazism did not arise out of nowhere. They arose out of the theological soil which was powerful in Protestantism and was gaining power in Catholicism. Those who reject the authority of Divine Revelation can easily advocate political programs which promise to build a better world “in partnership” with a “God” who is no more than a definition, as the “wave of the future” and even the will of God, even if this program directly transgresses God’s commandments from Divine Revelation.
There were already problems in the Church in Germany before the Nazi’s came to power. These problems did not go away after the Nazi’s were defeated. In 1958 Joseph Ratzinger wrote a magazine article called “The New Pagans and the Church.” This article was based on his experience with students. In 1958 the institutional Catholic Church in Germany was still strong but the society in which his students lived had moved away from the Church and from Jesus Christ. In his 2016 interview with Peter Seewald called “Last Testament,” Pope Benedict notes that the reaction to the article was generally negative.
Joseph Ratzinger was present at Vatican II as an assistant to Cardinal Joseph Frings. At first, he was regarded as a progressive. He wanted reforms in the Church as opposed to those who wanted to keep the Church the same. He wanted to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to Christianity and yet favored reforms which he believed were needed. He was very intelligent and productive as a theologian and, thus, rose in the esteem of many. Yet he soon realized that many of his fellow progressives wanted something very different. They believed that the Biblical worldview of the personal God who is active in the world was obsolete and had to be replaced with something which met the “needs of modern man”. This conflict was part of the life of Joseph Ratzinger until his death as Pope Emeritus in 2022. This conflict was not only his conflict; it is also our conflict.
As a professor in 1968, Joseph Ratzinger wrote Introduction to Christianity. In that book, he did not present new groundbreaking theological ideas. Rather, he presented to the reader traditional Christianity as many previous writers had done. However, he also confronted the ideas which were very powerful at Vatican II but were also sending Christianity off the tracks. He totally supported Vatican II, but many tried to pervert it into a program for building a “New Church” free of the “baggage” of traditional Christianity. Fortunately, he was not alone in his dismay at what was happening. The Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła was elected Pope in 1978. Having read Introduction to Christianity, Pope John Paul II knew that Joseph Ratzinger was the right man to be the Perfect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the CDF). His job was to preserve the integrity of the Catholic Faith. In the course of faithfully doing his job, his enemies gave him the title “God’s Rottweiler”. This is an excellent example of a “half-truth”. He did have the job of protecting the faith of the Church against those who would destroy it. However, he was not a beast who would destroy anyone who strayed into the wrong place.
What is the meaning of the life of Pope Benedict XVI for us today? When Joseph Ratzinger was young, Europe was already losing faith in Jesus Christ. This has continued right up to the present. The same has been happening in the United States and other parts of the Western world. The Christian Churches and especially the Catholic Church should be leading the fight against this. They have been largely ineffective. This is understandable with Protestantism, which is already divided. Many Protestant denominations have already said “me too” to secularization and the privatization of faith and the marginalization of religion. However, Catholicism has also been largely ineffective for the same reason. Many in the Catholic Church would also like to “go with the flow” toward a Godless society where there is no truth. Of course, this acceptance of a Godless society is often hidden so that teachings which contradict traditional Christianity are presented as if there is no break with traditional teaching. Many young people fall away from Christianity because they were never taught it.
Joseph Ratzinger’s role during his adult life was to teach Christianity. Starting with Introduction to Christianity in 1968 and continuing on to the three volumes of Jesus of Nazareth while he was Pope, he taught Christianity using the latest scholarship but not departing from what Christians have believed. Of course, he wrote much in between these two “bookends” on liturgy, tolerance, the last things, the future of Europe, and many other important topics. His books and essays can be difficult to read but not because they were obscurely written. As a professor, he knew how to teach. He should be read slowly and carefully because he packs a lot into very few words. In other words, he was not a master of taking several pages to say what could be said in one paragraph. His easiest books to read are the interviews he gave where he answered questions from a journalist beginning with The Ratzinger Report in 1985 and ending with Last Testament in 2016. He gave brief but informative answers to the questions posed to him. His other books are important for giving us detailed, traditional Christian responses to the many pressing topics in the Church. Joseph Ratzinger-Pope Benedict’s work has been especially valuable in dealing with the “historical-critical” method of biblical scholarship. While admitting that new scholarship has given us important new information about both the Old and New Testaments, he also saw that much scholarship revealed more of the ideas and prejudices of the particular scholar, than they did of the Bible.
In the first centuries of the Church, the early Christians did not fight or rebel against the Roman Empire. However, they could not validate the policies of the Empire in the ways which were demanded of them. Therefore, they were persecuted. They knew what was authentically Christian, because they learned the teaching of the Apostles and their successors.
The Church today is divided between those who want to validate policies of modern western society which contradict traditional Christianity, and those who believe that we cannot accept these policies. Just like the early Christians, we have to make a choice. The writings of Joseph Ratzinger-Pope Benedict are extremely valuable for making that choice. –Jim Nugent, CFP
PHILO-“DEAD”-RON: INSIGHTS INTO THE PARABLE OF THE REPENTANT SINNER
People say I have a green thumb. That’s not really true. Basically, I mainly ignore my houseplants, other than watering them when they are dry, keeping them in a sunny spot, and transplanting them when they are bursting their pots. Food. Light. Water. Give those to plants and you’ll have a green thumb, too.
I’ve had houseplants ever since my second grade teacher gave me a small slip of a prickly cactus which I dutifully nurtured, watching it grow and multiply, until I became a second grade teacher and gave slips of it to my students. Over the years, that plant eventually died out, but others replaced it. Philodendron. Wandering Jew. Air plant, Carrion plant. Snake cactus. Dendrobium Kingianum Orchid (big name for a dime sized orchid). I never had much luck with African violets. Too picky about water on the leaves.
Every spring when the days warmed up, I put the houseplants outdoors in partial shade where God mostly waters them with His rain and I fill in when the heavens are dry. Out there, I sometimes have to empty water OUT of the pots so they won’t drown. And when the days grow chilly and frost threatens, I take them indoors for the winter.
These past two winters, because of renovations at the CFP headquarters, the nook where I kept the plants was filled with moved furniture so I brought the plants to a glassed in porch at the men’s temporary house at 2508 Chestnut Street. There is glass on three sides of that room, but last year was no problem. There is a heater in there to keep the water lines to the washer from freezing.
This past year, before Christmas, temperatures dipped to -14 degrees with strong winds. Not once did I think about the plants, which I had been watering every week or so as they needed it. After Christmas, when I returned to water the plants, I found that cold had killed them all except the cactus, some odd bulbous plant from my mother-in-law and Wandering Jew. I was amazed that these had survived.
What happened? Mike, the property manager who lives at the house, said that the heater had turned off one night, but he thought it was before the cold snap. Whatever it was, the plants were gone. I looked up on the internet how to care for frozen house plants. The advice was to keep watering them. This I did, watching for any green growth. And, lo and behold, in time, some came. First the peace lily’s tiny, green leaves. I found a spider plant with one green leaf. Two or three Dendrobium Kingianum shoots, hidden under collapsed leaves from other plants, had survived. A spider plant that had one green leaf sticking up.
I started to take back to 1702 Lumbard Street any plants that showed any life and put them on top of the desk and file cabinets that were taking up space in that single sunlit nook. Mike brought over the rest of the plants, even those that seem totally hopeless. I cut off all the dead leaves and keep “encouraging” them to bud forth from the roots. Yesterday, five weeks after the big freeze, I saw a little green shoot pushing out of a dried up stem on a plant my sister had given me. Last week, I saw that the spider plant with the one surviving leaf was shooting up a small leaf from the roots. Today I saw a few more of these small sprouts on the same plant.
And I understood now how there “is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just who have no need of repentance.” These “dead” plants are in the same area with two large, green and white leafed philodendrons which the Poor Clare nuns gave to me in January before they relocated. The philodendrons are healthy and growing. But I’m rejoicing more over the insignificant shoots pushing out of the dead looking plants. Imagine how delighted God must be over one sinner, “dead” in sin, who repents. What new growth will that person produce? I understand a little how God must delight in every little bud of goodness that pushes forth. --- Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
NEW PRAYER CARDS: CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP
Visit CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop at www.cfpholyangels.com to view several new prayer cards. Or write to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA for samples. Cards include: Meditation by Cardinal Newman on our Eucharistic Lord, “Jesus, I Need You” prayer, Prayer for the Confraternity of Penitents, Gift of Eucharistic Adoration, Prayers for Unborn Children, and others. All proceeds from gift shop sales go to support the Confraternity of Penitents in our mission to spread penance (conversion) worldwide. God bless you for your support!