Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER
Note: The following was the funeral homily for Phyllis Mae Tuscan, December 29, 2022
Phyllis Mae Tuscan
25 May 1942 - 24 December 2022
Sirach 26:1-4, 13-26
Ephesians 4: 22-32
John 11: 21-27
Today is perhaps the most difficult day of my life and the most difficult day of my priestly ministry. I was able to see my mother in the hospital last week and administer the Apostolic pardon and last Sacraments of the Church.
The reason we mourn today is because my mother was a gift to us from God. Our first reading from the Book of Proverbs speaks about a worthy wife and, in that capacity, she was many things to my dear father. Loving, kind and generous, she truly was.
For those who knew my mom, you know that she faced her own challenges and struggles, physical and emotional, even from her youth. She battled depression and a whole host of physical health issues for many years. For more than 20 years mom suffered from limited vison because of detached retinas in both eyes. She retained limited vision in one eye, which caused not only her retirement from the profession of nursing which she loved so much, but also my own father's retirement from his profession as the manager of the unemployment office out of love for her. Indeed she was a worthy wife, and she certainly was blessed with a worthy husband.
We had a beautiful celebration of Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary on May 15, 2015. but shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Covid-19 hit and, like so many elderly, the isolation caused deterioration and in the end, her body just couldn’t take it anymore. My dad remarked recently on his gratitude that mom’s physical sufferings were over.
Mom was convicted of the reality of God and in the last decades of her life she grew even deeper in her faith. In the last several months, although she may not have understood what God was doing, she still prayed.
Our second reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians 4: 22-32 is a passage found in the Liturgy of the Hours which, as members of the Secular Franciscan Order my parents prayed faithfully everyday. Ephesians 4 struck them so much that they memorized it and would recite it often as part of their daily prayer. We hear in that passage a caution about being disciplined in our speech in relationship to one another in order to build-up the Holy Spirit within our families and communities, a beautiful tribute to my parents shared faith as a Christians.
We gather today in the hope of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in hope of eternal life with Him, focusing on the hope we have in Him as we hear in the Gospel passage about the raising of Lazarus. Indeed what we hope for is not just a physical resuscitation of our physical bodies but I hope that we will share in the resurrection of our Lord himself. In the Nicene Creed that we recite at every Sunday Mass we recall our hope in the resurrection of the body, and we know from the text of sacred scripture and the tradition of the church that the nature of our resurrected bodies will be after the pattern of our Lord's own resurrected body. That is the spiritual truth of the hope we have today.
When we face challenges, doubts and the weakness that comes from our own sinful condition, we may be tempted to run far away from Jesus and the Church that He founded. We could ask “Why, God?” Why did my mom have to be sick and suffer so much? Why did she have to leave us? Why this pain, this grief? Why did God let this happen? It’s not wrong to ask why. (And I’m saying this to myself as well.) Look at the Gospels. Even Jesus Himself, on the cross, suffering and in pain and about to die, asked, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Why did our sinless Lord choose a path of suffering to redeem us? Because he knew that we would suffer and He loves us.
Jesus asked why, and He is perfect, so it’s okay for us ask why as well. The problem is that many times we can’t find the answer to that question. Perhaps a better question is: “What now?” What should we do now? Let me urge all of us to stand on two eternal mysteries:
Stand on the truth that God is good. Scripture tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father” (James 1:17). So, when you think of the good times and the good things about Phyllis, know that these came from God. Every bit of the good in our lives is ultimately a gift from God.
God is good and yet my mom spent part of her life sick, illnesses that caused her to miss out on many things, that limited her in even the basic tasks of life. God did not cause this. Illness, sickness, and disease are a result of the fall of Adam and Eve, the sin of our first parents. Even death is a result of the fall, for God has always desired us to live with Him forever.
Jesus Christ became man, took on flesh and came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. One day God will wipe away every tear, all sickness, evil and pain. Then all who have trusted in the Lord Jesus will live together in total perfection, with no more sickness, no more pain, no sorrow, no sin, no shame, living forever in Heaven with Jesus Christ. Until that day, life can be extremely hard, but we must stand on the truth that God is good.
2) Stand on the truth that God loves you, personally. Blessed Solanus Casey said, “Have confidence in our dear Lord’s infinite love.” “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger people. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” Perhaps the most popular verse in the Bible, John 3:16, reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
When something terrible happens, when our loved ones die, it’s easy to think that God doesn’t love us but He does love us. God the Father has shown it in many ways, but the greatest way was when He sent His Son Jesus to die in the cross for our sins. Jesus became part of our human family. We recall this now especially that we are in Christmas.
Both St. Alphonsus Ligouri and St. Teresa have said that most souls are released from purgatory on Christmas Day (not All Souls Day!). It seems the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord is when purgatory is least populated.
“In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them.” Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective. (CCC, 958)
Their prayers for us, and for others, become more powerful. St. Thomas Aquinas called this “accidental glory.” And the lesson here is to never stop praying for the dead.
A few suggestions:
• Offer your Christmas Mass, holy Communion, and indulgence on that day. Stop at the manger and implore the Infant Jesus to intercede for the most abandoned souls. Those of priests and consecrated religious.
• At home, say a decade of the rosary with family members in front of the Nativity scene. In simple words, explain to members of the youngest generation why the family is doing this.
• In church or at home, light a votive candle for all who have passed away, but perhaps especially those who have died since the previous Christmas. The burning candle is a sign of our prayer, a bright silent intercessor for the holy souls.
• Say the Eternal Rest Prayer before and after meals throughout the Octave of Christmas.
• Join your prayers with the intercessions of the holy souls in purgatory who are praying for their grieving loved ones on earth. (No, the holy souls can’t pray for themselves but, yes, they can, and do, pray for us still on earth!)
• Offer up the stress of the holiday season as a prayer for the holy souls.
• Find out about having Masses celebrated for a loved one who has died.
• On Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, join Our Lady in praying for the holy souls. Here’s what St. Faustina, another saint who received revelations, wrote:
“I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames which were burning them did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call her “The Star of the Sea.” She brings them refreshment.” (Diary, 20)
God created us to be in relationship with Him, and he entered into our world and into our individual lives through humility. As close as my Mom was with her family, so happy to be surrounded by them, God wants us to be even closer with Him. That is the gift of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar as St. Francis wrote:
“The whole of humanity fears, the whole universe trembles and heaven exults, when on the altar, in the hand of the priest, there is Christ, the Son of the living God. O wonderful favor! O sublime humility, that the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, so humbles himself as to hide himself for our salvation, under the low form of bread.”
Nothing is more important than that, because we must get ready to leave this world. My mother went sooner than we would have desired. This reminds us how fragile life really is. We sometimes take it for granted, but every day is a gift from God.
That is why, despite the sadness and the sorrow, we can say like Blessed Solanus Casey, “Blessed be God in all His designs” – even if we don’t understand those designs.
Our vision is so limited; we struggle to look with the eyes of eternity. Today, let us refocus on eternity. In sorrow and sadness, in pain and sometimes even frustration and anger, let us not forget that there is more than this life. Let us remember that this earthly life is temporary and that all of us have been created to live in eternity with God. Let us remember that, even if we don’t understand, God’s has a plan – a great plan, because He is worthy of our trust, He is faithful, He is good, He is loving.
Believing in Our Lord’s resurrection is the core of Christian belief. It is the basis of our Christian faith. There would not be a Gospel without the resurrection; would not be Christianity, the Church, the priesthood, the sacraments without the resurrection. There would not be hope without the resurrection.
We would not have the resurrection without the death of Jesus Christ. We can’t get flowers, fruits and trees unless the seed is sown. The seed has to die in order to germinate a new plant. Therefore, St. Paul preached not only the resurrection but also the crucifixion of Christ.
We are the followers of Christ who is risen from the dead. St. Paul reminds us that the death is not the end of human existence. The preface for the dead in the Roman Missal tells us that the life of a faithful follower of Jesus is not over; it is changed. When our earthly dwelling is turned to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for us in heaven.
So, death is the doorway to the new life. Every person in this world has to go through it. Jesus, the Son of God, also did not escape from it. He accepted to die for you and me. He accepted death and gave us the rewards of eternal life. Those who believe in Christ--God will also raise them up.
Our beloved mother believed in Christ. She was baptized in Christ. She nourished her body with the Most Holy Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ when she participated in the Holy Eucharist. She was anointed by the holy oil that the apostle James speaks of in his epistle, and Mom was confirmed in the Holy Spirit. She received the sacrament of penance regularly. She received Christ through these sacraments He instituted and gave Jesus to all of us through her love.
She was the most wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend to most of you. She chose to be a nurse, a profession that deals with sickness. She took great care of so many people, she reached out to you when you were in the most difficult situations; she stood by you. One of her former patients from the psych unit was at the calling hours last night and told me Mom was instrumental in his return to faith and the Catholic Church.
Mom toiled and worked especially for her children so that they could stand on their feet. Every mother, when she dies, carries with her all her pain and sorrow which she leaves behind with the legacy of motherhood.
As we thank God for her life and for her profound faith as a Christian, let us place her in the hands of Our Blessed Mother. Our Lady, who stood at the foot of the Cross and understands our pain and suffering. May Our Lady of Sorrows intercede for Mom and for us now and forever.
Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen. Hail Mary.. –Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Spiritual Guardian
NO GREATER LOVE: THE TRANSFIGURATION AND THE CHURCH
Close to the time of the Crucifixion of the Lord, three of the Apostles experienced the Transfiguration. (Mt 17:1-8, Mk 9:2-8):
“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep but kept awake, and they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah’---not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.” (Lk 9:28-36)
In chapter nine of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict establishes the link between Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ (Mk 8:27-30; Mt 16:13-20; Lk 9:18-21) and the Lord’s Transfiguration revealed to Peter, James, and John. All three Synoptic Gospels create a link between Peter's confession and the account of Jesus' Transfiguration by means of a reference to time. Matthew and Mark say: "And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother" (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2). Luke writes: "Now about eight days after these sayings" (Lk 9:28). Clearly, this means that the two events, in each of which Peter plays a prominent role, are interrelated. We could say that in both cases the issue is the divinity of Jesus as the Son; another point, though, is that in both cases the appearance of his glory is connected with the Passion motif. Jesus' divinity belongs with the Cross--only when we put the two together do we recognize Jesus correctly. John expressed this intrinsic interconnectedness of Cross and glory when he said that the Cross is Jesus' "exaltation," and that his exaltation is accomplished in no other way than in the Cross.
Pope Benedict gives some very important information and reflections concerning the relationship of the Transfiguration to the Jewish feasts. However, we should also note that when Peter gave his confession that Jesus is “The Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), he was making a statement of faith. Certainly, Peter had heard Jesus speak and seen many of His miracles, and yet he still needed faith since he did not have scientifically proven observable and experimentally verifiable proof that Jesus is the Christ. As the leader of the Apostles, Peter was speaking for the other Apostles in asserting his faith in the Lord. We can view the Transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John hear a voice saying “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Lk 9:35) as a confirmation of the faith of Peter and the Apostles. Of course, a confirmation of faith does not eliminate the need for faith. If one does not believe in the Lord, confirmation can be explained away and is useless. However, we also need to consider why this confirmation of faith was given to only Peter, James, and John and not to the other Apostles and followers of Jesus such as Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the other holy women. Luke tells us that they did not immediately reveal what they had seen to anyone. “And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.” (Lk 9:36) They did this because Jesus had commanded them to keep silent. “And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, ‘Tell no one the vision until the Son of man is raised from the dead.’” (Mt 17:9) The meaning of the Lord’s Transfiguration would not become apparent until after His Death and Resurrection had taken place.
Only three people witnessed the Transfiguration and yet down through the ages millions and even billions of Christians believe it. Faith is a gift from God, yet we need to ask how this gift is delivered. When the Apostle Thomas (doubting Thomas) saw the risen Lord he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) The Lord answered Thomas, “You have believed because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn 20:29) Through faith, we can see God acting in our lives, but most of us have never seen an outstanding supernatural miracle. Even if we have, these can only confirm the faith which we already have. The gift of faith is delivered to us through others. While we may have received the faith from family members or other individuals, ultimately our faith comes to us through the Church. If Jesus did not found a Church, He would be no more than a Jewish teacher and rabbi among other Jewish teachers and other teachers and founders of world religions. He is so much more than that.
According to tradition, all the Apostles except John died as martyrs. However, the first martyr recorded in scripture was not an Apostle, but the deacon Stephen. (Acts 6:8-7:60) Stephen did not witness the Transfiguration, and yet he powerfully defended faith in the Lord and was killed because of his defense of the faith. Down through the ages to the present time, many have died for the Lord. These martyrs received the faith, which gave them the strength to die for the Lord, through the Church. We need to understand that our relationship with the Lord is certainly personal and individual, but it is mediated by the Church. When we say, “I believe”, our “I” of faith is dependent on and mediated by the “we” of the Church’s faith. The Church provides the “we” of faith. As our ties to the Church weaken, as it has for many Christians during the last several decades, the children of these Christians become only vague believers or even totally unchurched. How many people who still call themselves Christians would die for the Christian faith like St. Stephen did?
At the Transfiguration, God commanded the three Apostles, Peter, James, and John to “listen to Him” (Mt 17:5, Mk 9:7, Lk 9:35). However, God was also commanding all the Apostles and disciples of the Lord and also us to listen to Him. How do we listen to Him? We have to make the effort to do that, and this is not an individual undertaking. All of us living today never have heard the Lord speak while He walked the earth. We listen to Him through the mediation of the Church. It was not just individuals who heard the Lord teach, work miracles, undergo Crucifixion, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven. It was the Church who witnessed all of this, and we know of it through the Church.
Even if we grant the need for the Church in order to listen to Him, still the question remains: which Church? There are so many churches already, and new ones are constantly popping up. It is not helpful to say that it does not matter which Church since they all preach and believe in Jesus Christ. The doctrines and teachings are quite varied and often contradictory. If we pick the doctrines and the Church which we like, are we really listening to Him or are we listening to ourselves? Who are we listening to?
It may be helpful to look at who started the various Christian faiths. Some Churches began with a specific individual such as Luther, Calvin, King Henry VIII, Charles Wesley, and many others. Others formed when they broke away from an existing Church. What about the Catholic Church?
Ester Pauline Lederer was a Jewish woman who wrote the very influential “Ask Ann Landers” advice column from 1955 until her death in 2002.While her columns gave advise to people, not all of them were advice columns. One of them, from the mid 1990’s, was entitled “Find out about your religion”. She starts the column with “Dear Reader, Do you have any idea when your religion was founded and by whom? If you are not interested in the subject, skip today’s column and go directly to the horoscope or crossword puzzle. I found the following fascinating:” She then gives the founders and dates of the founding of the various world religions such as Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Islam, as well as some of the Christian denominations. Within the column, she simply states “If you are Roman Catholic, Jesus Christ began your religion in the year 33.”
The Roman Catholic Church has a relationship to Jesus Christ which no other Church possesses. The Roman Catholic Church was founded directly by the Lord. Other Churches separated themselves from her over some sort of disagreement. The first major split came in around 1054 AD when the Orthodox Churches left. Many other splits followed during the Reformation. This is why so many who dislike the teachings of the Church do not leave her. They would rather try to mold and conform her to the “needs” of modern man rather than leaving her to join the immense crowd of Churches.
As Catholics, we certainly are not “better” than other Christians. We do, however, have more ways to “listen to Him”. We have Scripture, the Canon of which was decided by the Catholic Church by around 400 AD. We also have the Traditions of the Church which keep us from going “off the rails” as so many outside the Church have gone. We have all the Sacraments of Jesus Christ to give us the Graces we need. We have so many ways to “listen to Him”. Do we use them? -- Jim Nugent, CFP
I am so old that, when I was a kid, you actually had to win to get a trophy.
Bread is a lot like the sun. It rises in the yeast and sets in the waist.
Huge fight at seafood restaurant: battered fish everywhere.
Nurse came in and said, “Doc, there’s a man in the waiting room who thinks he’s invisible. What should I tell him?” The doctor said, “Tell him I can’t see him today.”
Timeline of laundry: Wash: 45 minutes. Dry: 60 minutes. Put away: 7 to 10 business days.
I’m taking care of my procrastination issues. Just you wait and see.
THE MYSTERY MAN OF THE SHROUD
A resin image of the mysterious man pictured on the Should of Turin, has been fifteen years in creation and is “rigorously grounded in scientific, historical, and archaeological data.” On display in the cathedral in Salamanca, Spain, the image will tour the world and be at World Youth Day in Lisbon (2023) and the Rome Jubilee (2025).
Reflect: Is this an image of Christ (5 feet, 9 inches tall)? What emotions do I feel seeing this image?
Compare the wounds on the image with Gospel accounts of the Passion. Perfect match.
Jesus took flesh from the Virgin Mary. Could someone create a feminine version of the man in the shroud so we would know what Mary may have looked like?
CFP PHOTO ALBUM: GOD’S UNEXPECTED, FANTASTIC GRACE
In July, in a totally unexpected, unsought gift of God’s grace, a non profit organization Silence of Mary offered the CFP the gift of a small furnished house which they had used in ministry to the poor. The CFP gratefully accepted the gift, with the disclosure that the house would be sold and funds received would be put toward the restoration of Guadalupe Men’s Vocation Discernment House which needs repair from water damage. Ministry to the poor would resume from Guadalupe House.
The gifted house (see picture) was sold, with the buyer asking that it be complexly cleared out and the closing take place as soon as possible but before the beginning of 2023.
A week before Christmas, the CFP with the help of various individuals, cleaned out this house. Bedding, clothing, and other items were gifted to rescue missions, women’s pregnancy help centers, the Saint Vincent DePaul Society and Thrift Store, and Misfit Ministries to the homeless and poor.
The remainder of the items—furniture, rugs, household utensils—were brought to Guadalupe Men’s Vocation House and a small number of furnishings to a meeting room under the Portiuncula Chapel at Annunciation Women’s Vocation Discernment House.
The biggest clean out took place on Tuesday, December 20, with the very capable help of Knights of Columbus Council 451, three of whose members are pictured here. Five additional knights helped with the emptying of the house and transporting of items to various places. In pleasant temperatures and no rain, the Knights had five vehicles which made seven transports including three full loads to the dump.
The next day, the CFP took out the small amount of remaining items, swept and tidied up, and left the house to be inspected before closing.
With last minute efforts by Realtor Dave Springer (who was working while ill with Covid 19), CFP Attorney Thomas Niezer, CFP Council Messenger and Secretary Ann Fennessey, and a huge dose of God’s grace, the necessary paperwork was in place by 9:59 a.m. on Thursday, December 22, and the closing took place at 10 a.m. as planned. The money was deposited in the CFP Renovations Fund just hours before the predicted winter storm hit with its snow, high winds, and frigid, -11 degree temperatures.
Everyone who worked so hard to make this closing happen before the bad weather hit could now relax for Christmas and celebrate the birth of Christ in warm houses and in peace. THANK YOU, LORD!
Renovations are progressing at Guadalupe Men's House. We will keep you abreast of progress. God bless you for your prayers and support. Donations of any amount continue to be accepted at 1000pirests.org