Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
FOLLOWING FRANCIS, FOLLOWING CHRIST: FINAL PRAYER OF PSSC
After being founded elsewhere as another Franciscan, uncloistered Order, the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare (PSSC) lived at St. Andrew’s church convent in cloister for ten years. The CFP in Fort Wayne, Indiana, whose headquarters are two blocks from their convent, was one of the many groups and individuals who gave support to these enclosed sisters. Because of directives from the Vatican, the nuns had to move to other convents. Six of them went to a Colettine Poor Clare Monastery in Kokomo, Indiana, and the other one to the Capuchin Poor Clares in Denver, Colorado. Here is the final prayer of their now dissolved Order, which shows Christian faith and hope in the face of unexpected change.
God our Father, we thank You for the many blessings that you have given us in these years in Fort Wayne and particularly these past ten years as the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare in Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.
We thank you for the care of our Bishop, priests, our families, and the many faithful benefactors who supported us in our life of prayer and adoration for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.
Your Providence has now opened for us something new. You are a God of mercy and surprises who is leading us on a new path. We desire to continue to live fully in the spirit of our seraphic Father Saint Francis and our Mother Saint Clare. We trust you as you lead us in the next steps in the great adventure leading to the Kingdom of God.
Thank you for the many blessings you have given us here in Fort Wayne, and for the generous hospitality of the Diocese of Ft. Wayne/South Bend. We promise to carry in our hearts and in our prayers all those who have nurtured us in our vocation here, and to continue to pray for the Church in Ft. Wayne/South Bend along with the universal Church and indeed the entire world.
May Our Lady of the Angels continue to be our mother and advocate as we faithfully entrust all into her hands. We thank you for your Providence which will continue to lead us into a future full of hope and your mercy. Amen.
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: FORGIVENESS
Father Joe Tuscan, our CFP Spiritual Guardian, asked that this article be reprinted in the CFP newsletter. Due to its length, we have condensed it so that it can be included in the 8 page printed edition.
Condensation of an article “As We Forgive,” by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, first published on the Archdiocese of Denver website.
Mercy is at the heart of the Gospel. We who have received the mercy of God play a unique role in extending forgiveness to others and healing our land.
I want to emphasize four points about forgiveness and mercy and why they are especially needed now.
· First, forgiveness is God’s nature. Jesus is clear that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Lk 5:32). Mercy is a gift to everyone seeking it and is meant to be shared with others.
· Second, you have been forgiven by God for your sins, and in turn you need to forgive others for theirs. Forgiveness is not only in God’s nature, but it is required of those who have received it.
· Third, forgiving others is necessary for our own healing and freedom.
· And fourth, it is desperately needed to renew our society.
Human beings are the pinnacle of the visible created world. In Genesis, God said, “‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Gen 1:26). This is an honor only humans and angels have received. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we can only understand ourselves if we understand that God is communion, a communion of three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is not just loving, he is love itself, and our God who is love is also merciful. The Son of God became man to bring us mercy, to forgive sins, and to heal.
The prophets, Psalms, and stories of the Old Testament are full of God’s promises of forgiveness. “As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on the faithful” (Ps 103:8-14).
It can be easy to imagine God as angry with me, unapproving, and unpleasable. While God is angry at our sins, he is so because he loves us. He is always calling the sinner back to him. So where did this false image of God come from? The evil one. His purpose, which has never wavered since Adam and Eve, is to separate us from God the Father.
The prophet Hosea lived in the mid-700s BC, and God commanded him to marry Gomer, a harlot. Gomer, because of her brokenness, was repeatedly unfaithful to Hosea yet God instructed Hosea to continually forgive her.
God used the tragedy of marital infidelity as an image of God’s own relationship with his people who, at the time, were unfaithful to the Lord and in desperate need of repentance. God repeatedly forgave the sins of Israel and asked Hosea to do the same with Gomer. Today, God asks us to do the same with those who sin against us.
Jesus himself taught the Our Father (Mt 6:9-13) and its “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” The word “as” makes this a conditional phrase. Jesus further explains, “If you forgive others their transgression, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Mt 6:14-15). Forgiveness of others is a stipulation for receiving God’s forgiveness.
Consider Jesus’ parable about the king who decided to settle accounts with his servants (Mt 18:21-35). A king forgives his servant a debt that is so high it would take lifetimes to repay. Later, that same servant refuses to forgive one of his own servants a much smaller debt. The king, hearing of this, hands the unforgiving servant over to be tortured. Jesus concludes with a sharp warning: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart” (Mt 18:35).
Forgiving others is not optional precisely because our Father in Heaven has forgiven us an unpayable debt. While we may be faced with the challenge of forgiving terrible and heinous acts, we must remember that only the spilt blood of Jesus Christ could forgive us our sins and offer us salvation. What we have been forgiven will always exceed what we are asked to forgive. Pope Francis writes, “if you cannot do it, ask the Lord to give you the strength to do so: Lord, help me to forgive.”2
Anyone who has had to forgive someone knows that it is not easy. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit desires to help us to forgive because forgiveness helps us to grow into the full stature of Christ (Eph 4:13).
It is said that not forgiving others is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets hurt. Withholding forgiveness builds anger, bitterness, vengeance, and resentment. These grow into a heavy burden that darkens our outlook on life, makes us question God’s goodness, and inhibits our ability to trust and receive love. Our suffering very rarely affects the people who have harmed us. We suffer from the original transgression and then suffer further from harboring a grudge.
Many people withhold forgiveness because the person who hurt them has never asked for forgiveness. Reconciliation is the ideal but may be impossible. Reconciliation implies a renewal of the former relationship. This is not always desirable or wise. Think of a bully who would continue this behavior if the relationship were resumed. Forgiveness is possible even when reconciliation is not. We cannot allow someone’s lack of repentance to hold us in a prison of unforgiveness.
When we forgive someone, we are not condoning their actions. Forgiving them does not take away the need for their repentance. We are saying we will no longer allow their sin to have power over us. We will not hold resentment or wrath toward the person, and we desire and will their good.
This can be a struggle. A simple cry of the heart such as, “Jesus grant to me the grace to forgive as you forgive” can begin the process of forgiveness. We depend on Jesus to move our hearts, not ourselves.
Unlike God, our society is quick to anger, abounding in judgement, and seems to remember publicly every past sin. Society, and yes, the Church too, has a great need for forgiveness.
I invite you to pray about and offer forgiveness in three major areas.
First, consider if there is anything you need to forgive God or the Church for. To be clear, God is perfect and is not guilty of any wrongdoing. However, we commonly experience great pain in not understanding actions and events which God has allowed to happen. Many of these are brought on by the freedom God has given to human beings who choose an evil over a good. We tend to blame God rather than humanity for the evil we experience.
We also experience the pain of prayers not answered in the ways we wanted, or loved ones who are estranged from us or God and never come to know the Lord. In these situations, we can become angry with God and become closed off to a relationship with him.
In both, we do not let God be God. We forget that we are called to trust God’s will. We are to be confident that he knows and wills what is for our good. I invite you to contemplate your image of God. Is your God the loving Father that Jesus reveals or a God you want to control?
Too many times, the faithful and unfaithful alike have been harmed by representatives of the Church. This is especially tragic because clergy have a responsibility to faithfully represent God’s mercy, love, and compassion. When a leader in the Church harms someone, it can be interpreted and felt as if God himself committed the offense.
Take time to pray and think about your image of God. Ask the Lord if there is anything you blame him for and seek forgiveness for that. Ask the Lord to reveal his love for you. Go to the image of the Prodigal Son. Imagine the Father’s warm embrace and his total forgiveness of you.
The second group I invite you to forgive is your enemies. Jesus teaches, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). In a time where our society is so divided, we must take this teaching seriously. Our temptation is to consider our enemies people who are promoting sinful and destructive causes.
Remember, “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph 6:12). Spiritual warfare is real, and you are on the battlefield.
Our job is to love every single person no matter their political affiliation, ideological affiliation, or the civil or moral crimes. We speak the truth because charity demands it. Loving others does not include affirming or condoning immoral behavior, but it does include accepting these others and treating them with dignity and civility.
As an antidote to anger, hatred, and resentment toward your enemies, I invite you to go to a quiet place, in adoration, or before a crucifix in your room, and ask the Lord to reveal to you who you see as an enemy. Make a list. Ask God to help you to forgive as he forgives, to love as he loves.
If they are committing sins, bring them in prayer to Mass with you. Ask the Lord to forgive them their sin and then imagine the person and bathe them in the Precious Blood of Jesus during the consecration of the Blood of Christ. Ask the Lord to open their hearts to his love, to his mercy and healing and to repentance.
In quiet prayer, ask the Lord if there are people who have hurt you whom you have not forgiven, and write down their names. Go with Jesus to that person in your imagination and ask the Lord to help you forgive as he forgives and calls his disciples (i.e., you) to forgive.
Finally, consider whether you need to forgive yourself, an often overlooked but incredibly common need. Many of us have committed great offenses. We can often find it is easier to forgive others than ourselves. Shame can hold us bound and the devil, the accuser, keeps throwing the sin at us. He may even tempt us with words such as, “you will always be unclean,” or “God will never forgive you,” or “you will never be enough,” or “you are a mistake.” All of those are lies! You are precious in the eyes of the Father! Jesus tells us there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than the 99 righteous (Lk 15:7-10).
Let us repent of holding on to any guilt, shame, or unforgiveness towards ourselves, for the Father only desires to console and forgive us. After hearing the words of absolution in Confession, sit quietly in Church and simply bask in the joy of the Father. The Father is gazing at you with abundant joy. Taste it and experience it!
1 Hos 6:6
2 Pope Francis, General Audience, April 24, 2019, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2019/documents/papa-francesco_20190424_udienza-generale.html
NO GREATER LOVE: THE SON OF MAN
Chapter 10 of Jesus of Nazareth Pope Benedict called “Jesus Declares His Identity”. The first title which Jesus uses to identify Himself is “The Son of Man”. Son of Man-this mysterious term is the title that Jesus most frequently uses to speak of himself. In the Gospel of Mark alone the term occurs fourteen times on Jesus' lips. In fact, in the whole of the New Testament, the term “Son of Man" is found only on Jesus' lips, with the single exception of the vision of the open heavens that is granted to the dying Stephen: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). At the moment of his death, Stephen sees what Jesus had foretold during his trial before the Sanhedrin: "You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mk 14:62). Stephen is therefore actually "citing" a saying of Jesus, the truth of which he is privileged to· behold at the very moment of his martyrdom.
Here, the “exception” to the rule that only Jesus called Himself “The Son of Man” is quite instructive. Stephen was one of seven men ordained to assist the apostles in their many duties in the early Church. Stephen and the other six were the first deacons of the Church. In the book of Acts, Stephen is called “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 6:5) Stephen was a very zealous Christian and preached about Jesus Christ. However, some Jews disputed with Stephen, and they brought him before the Jewish Council. (Acts 6:12) At his trial before the Council, Stephen gave a long speech where, beginning with Abraham, he summarized the history of Israel as it pointed to Jesus Christ. (Acts 7:2-50). Stephen ends his speech with a condemnation of those who refused to follow Jesus. “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53) Then Stephen looked into heaven and saw the vision of the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God as cited above by Pope Benedict. (Act 7:56) This enraged the Council, and they dragged him out of Jerusalem and stoned Stephen to death. (Acts 7:54-60). The author of Acts, St Luke, mentions that one of those present at the trial of Stephen was “a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58) Saul was probably Luke’s source of information about Stephen’s speech and execution, since Saul became St. Paul after his conversion. (Acts 9:1-19)
What was Stephen’s vision of “The Son of Man” all about? At the Lord’s trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, He refused to give answers to the many accusations made against Him. Then the high priest asks Him “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mk 14:61) Jesus answers, “I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mk 14:62) Stephen may have heard Jesus say these words or else he heard them from those who did hear Jesus say them. Jesus does not deny that He is “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed”. Yet He does refer to Himself as the “Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power”. What was Jesus talking about here?
Pope Benedict points out that “Son of Man” simply means “man” in Hebrew and Aramaic. In the Old Testament, God often addresses the prophet Ezekiel as “Son of man”. (for example. Ezk 37:16 or Ezk 37:11) However, the vision of Daniel in chapter seven of the book of Danial shows that it means more than just “man”. In this vision, Daniel sees “one of great age” or the “Ancient of Days” sitting on a throne. (Dn 7:9-10) Then Daniel sees “the Son of Man” approaching the throne of the one of great age. “I gazed into the visions of the night. And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man. He came to the one of great age and was led into his presence. On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants. His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed.” (Dn 7:13-14) Standing before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Jesus declares Himself to be this “Son of Man” coming on the clouds of heaven who received this “sovereignty, glory and kingship” from God. The Sanhedrin considered that claim to be blasphemy and determined that He should die. They knew exactly what He was saying, but they did not believe Him.
This was the bone of contention between the early Christians and the Jews. Was the coming of Jesus prophesied in the Old Testament, or wasn’t it? All the Gospels declare that Jesus did not simply burst on the scene as someone making fantastic claims for Himself. They point out that He fulfilled what was prophesized. On the evening after the Resurrection, two disciples were walking to Emmaus when the Resurrected Jesus joins them although they did not recognize Him. “Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.” (Lk 24:27) The Gospel writers did not use all the Old Testament passages which could conceivably be applied to Jesus. The Lord Himself gave them their first instruction on what passages did apply to Him.
What does Daniel’s vision of “the Son of Man” say about Jesus? Traditional Christian theology asserts that Jesus is “true God and true Man” or “fully God and fully Man”. This is what Daniel’s vision asserts about “one like a son of man”. The son of man is certainly “Man” since that is what this title means as Pope Benedict has pointed out. While God can confer “sovereignty, glory and kingship” on a man, what man is worthy of “an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed”? (Dn 7:14) “Never pass away” and “eternal” are words which refer to God and not man. Right now, it can be said of Jesus that “men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.” (Dn 7:14) It does not say that “all” men have become his servants. His sovereignty is worldwide, and no one is excluded from serving Him. Everyone can serve Him if given the opportunity and if they choose to do so. The term “son of man” is quite non-political. The Jews were hoping to be liberated from the political domination of the Romans by the Messiah or Christ. However, the early Christian were persecuted by the Roman Empire starting with Emperor Nero in the 60’s AD. They did not rebel against the Roman Empire. When the Romans attacked Jerusalem in the late 60’s and destroyed it in 70 AD, the Christians of Jerusalem had fled across the Jordan to Pella as Jesus had warned them. (Lk 21:20-23) The early Christians realized that Jesus was not a political Messiah. He did not come to bring peace and political liberation. He came for another reason.
If the Lord did prefer to refer to Himself as the “the Son of Man”. why did St. Paul and others in the early Church refer to Jesus as “Christ Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” rather than “the Son of Man”? To answer this, we should look back to St. Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr. At his trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Stephen gave a rather long discourse on Israelite sacred history. (Acts 7:2-50) This would indicate that Stephen was a very well informed devote Jew. When he heard about or even witnessed some of the events in the life of Jesus, he could see that Jesus was the long awaited “Messiah” or “Christ” but also this “son of man” of Daniel’s vision. That is why he could argue so forcefully with the unbelieving Jews. (Acts 6:8-10) However, less informed Jews or gentiles may not understand the term “son of man” or may even believe that it just means “man”. The apostles and early Christians used a title for Jesus which was much more understandable to less informed Jews and gentiles. While the term “Christ” could have political implications, the Lord’s death on the Cross ended those hopes. Those who pinned their hopes for Jesus exclusively on political liberation did not become Christians. They had to look elsewhere for what they wanted.
What does the title “Son of Man” tell us about Jesus? Christians often refer to Jesus as “the Second Adam”. The first Adam, the first Man, listened to the Satanic serpent and introduced sin and death into the world (Gn 3). We are attracted to sin because the first Man gave in to sin. “But I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” (Rom 7:23) Jesus is the Second Adam who can free us from the damage done to our nature by the first Adam. Satan was there to tempt the first Adam, and he was also there to tempt the second Adam. While the First Adam gave in the Satan, the Second Adam did not. (Mt 4:1-17, Mk 1:12, Lk 41-12) The first Man disobeyed God and introduced sin into our nature. The Second Man obeyed God even to the point of death on a Cross. St. Paul asked “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24) St. Paul knew the answer. It is Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, the Son of Man. –Jim Nugent, CFP
LENT’S FASTING AND ABSTINENCE ARE GOOD FOR US
It’s Lent. For whatever reason, this seems to be the season when many of us experience an additional penance – being told by friends or acquaintances that CFP is so “medieval,” so “primitive” so “extreme.” For proof, the accusers point to our Lenten fasting and abstinence regulations – You know, those of us at Novice 3 or above are to fast every day during Lent except Sundays and Solemnities and to abstain from meat on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Although the Rule of 1221 has been modified slightly to fit today’s world, it’s hard to argue that the fasting rules aren’t medieval. After all, 1221 was smack in the middle of the Middle Ages. We tend to forget that Jesus fasted, and that He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Just in case his disciples didn’t get the message, Jesus made it plain that he expected his disciples to fast (Mt. 6:16, among others).
Consider Daniel 1:3-16. You recall that three Jewish boys attracted the attention of King Nebuchadnezzar, who would give them the same food he ate and train them to be his servants. But the three Jewish boys refused to eat anything except vegetables for 10 days. After 10 days, they “looked heathier than all the young men who ate the king’s food.” Daniel makes the case that eating vegetables is good for us.
But what does science say? Intermittent fasting is good for you, and avoiding meat avoids an awful lot of bad diseases. The CFP way of fasting – two meals a day relatively close together, say breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner -- – is known as intermittent fasting. And science says with this form of fasting you can manage your weight and prevent or even reverse some forms of disease. During Lent and the Fast of St. Martin in the Fall, in addition to the daily intermittent fasting routine we reduce the amount of food we consume.
“Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours,” Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Mark Mattson says. “If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”
Evidence shows that when you consistently practice intermittent fasting, it may:
Banish brain fog, by forcing you to get energy from stored fat instead of sugar
Decrease your risk for diabetes, by controlling blood sugar and reducing your body’s resistance to insulin, the hormone that helps control the amount of sugar in the blood
Help you lose weight and visceral fat, the harmful fat around the abdomen that causes disease
Improve sleep, by regulating your circadian rhythm (internal clock) and moving digestion earlier in the day
Protect your heart, by reducing blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels
Reduce inflammation, which can improve conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and asthma (UCLA Health)
Turning to abstaining from meat, which we do four days a week, there is “increasing evidence that red meat and especially processed meat are associated with increased risks of CVD, cancer and dementia whereas white meat is neutral or associated with a lower risk. There now seems little doubt that processed and unprocessed meat should have separate public dietary guidance,” according to a literature review in MDPI, a journal indexed in the National Library of Medicine.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, demonstrates that a total vegan diet can in fact reverse damage from serious heart attacks and other coronary artery disease. In UnDo It! Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases, Dr. Dean Ornish and his wife Anne outline a largely whole foods, plant-based diet, moderate exercise, meditation and love can often reverse progression of many of the most common and costly diseases.
CFP is not a health club. But it turns out that practicing the historic practices used by penitents through the ages and recommended by Jesus Christ himself, stands the test of scientific scrutiny. So the next time someone tells you CFP is “medieval” because we fast through Lent, correct them: We’re not medieval, we’re trendy – intermittent fasting is a hot trend right now. And it’s healthy. When they criticize our abstinence rule, invite them to research for themselves the health benefits of reducing consumption of red meat. And then invite them to experience the joy and benefits of uniting their life to the Lord while practicing the Rule of 1221.—Joel Whitaker, CFP
CFP PHOTO ALBUM
Mariah Dragolich, CFP Life Pledged member and her family several years ago on a visit to Mary's Glen, Fort Wayne Indiana. The children are several years older now and several inches taller!
Mariah is a Regional Minister, formator for others in the CFP, a nurse, and marathon runner. She organizes the monthly CFP Zoom meetings, bakes her own bread, makes fabulous home made salad dressings, and home schools her children. She is also a member of the Seven Sisters Apostolate and brought the Catholic Mothers apostolate to her area.
See the series below. Hopefully, Mariah will share on how she lives the Rule in her busy, faith filled life!
SERIES: LIVING THE CFP WAY OF LIFE
Suggestion from a reader: I wonder if there are many men/women with young families and busy lives/jobs that are living this life fruitfully. I imagine that in the 13th century there would be many families living this penitential rule. It would be wonderful to highlight and read about the lived experiences of vowed members of the CFP that are living the rule in busy families. This might be a great newsletter article topic. It would definitely help Postulants and Novices who are struggling or questioning whether this life is possible to see how fully formed and vowed members of the CFP in their same life situation are doing it. In other words, what is the exact horarium or schedule and adaptations they have made to live the rule with balance. Lots of details like when do they pray, what prayer option did they choose, how they have lived the rule and not neglected their spouses/children, etc.
CFP Life Pledged Members: Please share how you live the Rule and we will share in a future newsletter.
· Fishing largely consists of not catching fish. – Robert Hughes
· I no longer listen to what people say. I just watch what they do. – Winston Churchill
· No one heals himself by wounding another. – St. Ambrose
· I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least. – Dorothy Day