Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: SERIES ON SAINT FRANCIS’ WRITINGS ON THE EUCHARIST
In response to the Eucharistic Revival called for by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, our Spiritual Guardian Fr. Joseph Tuscan recommended that we share, in several issues of the newsletter, Saint Francis’ words on the Eucharist. This first reflection is taken from the Admonitions. Francis selected this to be the first admonition, possibly because he saw it as the primary one.
Admonition 1 from Francis of Assisi: Early Documents: The Saint. Edited by Regis J. Armstrong, J.A. Wayne Hellmann and William J. Short (New York: New City Press, 1999). Vol. 1, pages 128-129.
The Lord Jesus says to his disciples: I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. If you knew me, you would also know my Father; and from now on, you do know him and have seen him. Philip says to him: Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough for us. Jesus says to him: Have I been with you for so long a time and you have not known me? Philip, whoever sees me sees my Father as well [Jn 14:6-9].
The Father dwells in inaccessible light [1 Tim 6:16], and God is spirit [Jn 4:24], and no one has ever seen God [Jn 1:18]. Therefore He cannot be seen except in the Spirit because it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh has nothing to offer [Jn 6:63]. But because He is equal to the Father, the Son is not seen by anyone other than the Father or other than the Holy Spirit.
All those who saw the Lord Jesus according to the humanity, therefore, and did not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that He is the true Son of God were condemned. Now in the same way, all those who see the sacrament sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. [This] is affirmed by the Most High Himself Who says: This is my Body and the Blood of my new covenant [which will be shed for many] [Mk 14:22]; and Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life [Mk 14:24]. It is the Spirit of the Lord [Jn 6:55], therefore, That lives in Its faithful, That receives the Body and Blood of the Lord. All others who do not share in this same Spirit and presume to receive Him eat and drink judgment on themselves [1 Cor 11:29].
Therefore: children, how long will you be hard of heart [Ps 4:3]? Why do you not know the truth and believe in the Son of God [Jn 9:35]? Behold, each day He humbles Himself as when He came from the royal throne [Phil 2:8] into the Virgin’s womb [Wis 18:15]; each day He Himself comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father [Jn 1:18] upon the altar in the hands of a priest.
As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us now in sacred bread. And as they saw only His flesh by an insight of their flesh, yet believed that He was God as they contemplated Him with their spiritual eyes, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: Behold I am with you until the end of the age [Mt 28:20].
Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died from leukemia at the age of 15 and who is buried in Assisi, created a website of Eucharistic Miracles. Carlo Acutis believed in the Real Presence. His website was a catalog of all the Vatican approved Eucharistic Miracles that he researched.
The website is now in poster form and is being exhibited worldwide. The Confraternity of Penitents has a 48 poster exhibit which it displays in the Fort Wayne/South Bend Indiana Diocese and neighboring areas. It also has a 160 poster exhibit of the miracles, being displayed in the Northeast USA.
One of Carlo’s neighbors, reflecting on Carlo’s holy, brief life, commented, “I saw Saint Francis in him.” Not only was Carlo concerned about assisting the poor, as was St. Francis, but he also promoted belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. We share one of Carlo’s quotes which echoes a sentiment similar to that expressed by Saint Francis in the Admonitions.ne.
“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 Acutis. Reprinted with permission from Carlo Acutis: The First Millennial Saint by Nicola Gori (Huntington IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2021)
The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop reproduces Carlo’s quote on a prayer card which encourages Eucharistic Adoration. To order these for your Adoration Chapel, prayer group, or parish, go to www.cfpholyangels.com or write to CfP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803. Cards are 30c each. A bulk discount will calculate automatically if ordered on line.
NO GREATER LOVE: I AM
Besides identifying Himself as “The Son of Man” or “The Son”, the Lord also identifies Himself in a more mysterious manner. He simply uses the two words “I AM”. Pope Benedict describes this in Jesus of Nazareth. The sayings of Jesus that the Gospels transmit to us include---predominantly in John, but also (albeit less conspicuously and to a lesser degree) in the Synoptics---a group of "I am" sayings. They fall into two different categories. In the first type, Jesus simply says "I am" or "I am he" without any further additions. In the second type, figurative expressions specify the content of the "I am" in more detail: I am the light of the world, the true vine, the Good Shepherd, and so on. If at first sight the second group appears to be immediately intelligible, this only makes the first group even more puzzling.
The most amazing and shocking of the Lord’s “I am” statements occur in John Chapter 8 when Jesus is speaking with Jews about Abraham in the Jerusalem temple. The Jews said to Him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Jesus answered, "I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he will be the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, 'If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad." The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple. (Jn 8:48-59)
Why did the Jews want to stone Him? They thought it outrageous that Jesus claimed to have seem Abraham who lived around 1800 years earlier. However, there was a much greater reason for their shock, which was his use of the words “I am” to refer to Himself. “I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” If we refer to the book of Exodus, we can see why the Jews were so amazed and shocked by the Lord’s use of the words “I am”.
In Exodus, Moses is speaking with God at the “burning bush” on Mount Sinai. God had already told Moses, “I am the God of your father,” he said “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God. (Ex 3:6) Then, God gives Moses his mission to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses knows that this is not a trivial mission. Moses wants to know exactly who was telling him to do all this. Then Moses said to God, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you". But if they ask me what is his name, what am I to tell them?' And God said to Moses, 'I Am who I Am. This' he added 'is what you must say to the sons of Israel: "I Am has sent me to you".' (Ex 3:13-14)
As Pope Benedict, and others have pointed out, the “name” that God gives to Moses is not really a name. God refuses to give Moses a name. “I Am who I Am.” This God is the Power behind all powers. He is not the god of the sky or the god of the sea or the god of the mountains. He cannot be controlled or manipulated. He it is whom we should fear to offend. To Him we owe our very existence. Everything owes its existence to Him. He is the source of all being or Being Itself.
In John, chapter 8, and in many other places in the New Testament, Jesus is claiming Divine rank. He is distinct from the Father, as is the Holy Spirit. Yet, along with the Holy Spirit, He has Divine attributes. The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, yet the definition of the Trinity appears quite often in scripture. The Jews who heard the Lord say these words did not understand His Divinity. They thought he was a crazy man who was uttering blasphemies. They thought that handing Him over to the Romans to be crucified would cure Him of his madness. Like Moses, Jesus had a task given to Him. However, the Lord’s task was infinitely greater than the task given to Moses. It was a task which no mere human could possibly accomplish. We need to understand who Jesus is in order to understand the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
The Lord’s claim to Divinity has divided the Jews, the Gentiles, and all Humanity. However, God, at the burning bush on Mount Sinai, and Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, were not the only ones to use the words “I am”. The French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650), famously
taught “I think, therefore I am”. Descartes is considered to be one of the fathers of modern philosophy. He broke from the previous way of thinking. Instead of looking for the truth of our own existence in God, we look to ourselves for the truth since we don’t really “know” the existence of anything except ourselves. Famous philosophers after Descartes were often quite different from him, but they also started with themselves in their reasoning. Descartes and other philosophers may have had some sort of belief in God, but this belief starts with the self and not from the Divine Revelation which we are taught to accept. Other philosophers simply rejected God in their thinking.
This shift of the center from God to ourselves has continued to divide us, especially the Western world, down to the present time. For example, is a human preborn child a gift from God which we have duty to protect? Is this child a random visitor which we can welcome or reject according to our inclinations? Is human sexuality a faculty given us by God for the specific purpose of carrying on the human race? Is reproductive capacity something we can turn on or off depending on the needs and circumstances of the present and use in any way we see fit? Is the male or female gender of a human being an objective fact which we can observe at birth or even before birth? Is what we are just what we think we are, be it male or female or something else? Is marriage a divinely ordained institution? Is it something which can be changed in order to please certain segments of the population? Ultimately, is there even such a thing as truth?
Descartes probably did not imagine where his “I think, therefore I am” would lead. When Descartes died in 1650, Europe was still grounded in God. Over the centuries, this grounding has come loose. Thus, many in Europe and other Western, wealthy nations live as “practical atheists”. They still may assert some sort of belief in God, but this God does not determine the way they live. Their lives are determined by the present teachings of the society in which they live. If society accepts the “right to choose” abortion, they will accept it. The same is true for other issues such as gay marriage or transexual affirmation.
The shift, starting with Descartes, has produced changes in society which even some non- religious people are not happy about. There is “religious freedom” for everyone except those who take their religion seriously. These people are bigots. The “truth” constantly changes according to the political winds. For example, gay marriage was opposed by many politicians until it was supported by the same politicians. Thus, there are many issues where objective truth does not matter. In theory these things are decided by each individual. In practice, what matters is political power.
Those of us who still the accept the “I Am” of the God of the fathers and the “I Am” of our Lord Jesus Christ have to beware of the world in which we live. Children, even sometimes in Catholic schools, are taught to be critical of traditional Christianity but not to be critical of the many attacks on Christianity. All of us are taught that we are free to go to Church, but when we leave Church, we are to become practical atheists and accept whatever is dished out to us in the name of “diversity” and “affirmation”. We cannot forget what the Lord taught us when He was asked about whether it is lawful to pay taxes to pagan Rome. (Mt 22:15-22, Mk 12:13-17, Lk 20:20-26) “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21) We learn from Scripture, that human life, human marriage, and human sexuality come from God and thus belong to God. While much of society has forgotten this truth, we must continue to remember it. We must choose between the “I Am” of God which sets us free or the “I am” of the world which makes us slaves to sin and the world. –Jim Nugent, CFP
CfP PHOTO ALBUM: GRACE FRENCH (sr. Grace of Jesus of the Most Holy Trinity), CfP (died 2 May 2023, the day after the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker). Photo taken Fall 2002.
On March 31, 2007, Grace French took her pledge to live the CfP Rule for life. Several years later, she added a private vow, taking the name sr. Grace of Jesus of the Most Holy Trinity. sr. Grace was an intrepid prayer warrior with a host of friends both in the Cfp and outside of it.
“She was the only saint I ever met. We need to pray TO her, not FOR her.” sr. Lou Samuels, Cfp
“Ten days before she died, we took our great-grandson Chase to see her. She just loves Chase. She was on hospice care, but she tried to jump out of bed to see him. She’d have fallen down if she had done it. They gave each other a big hug.” – Pat Murray (sr. Ann Line) CfP
“What a gentle soul she was. Her love of nature and in particular cats was only surpassed by her love of Jesus, Mother Mary and St. Joseph. She talked to me for hours about her favorite shows on Animal Planet and one of her favorite authors who wrote adventures with animals. I think he runs a dog rescue somewhere in Maine, NH or Vermont. And her love for EWTN and the friars there. A bunch of us went to TX for her Life Pledge. We stayed in the monastery and prayed the night away asking God to protect sr. Lou’s place from flooding. I think it stopped just outside her door. And Grace and br. Anthony, CfP, and others on retreat, laughing so much in the kitchen we would have to close the door. Oh, she loved being with everyone at Christ the King!” –Rita Farnsworth (sr. Mary Rose of the Vine), Cfp
OUR RULE: MORE ON DEALING WITH AND AVOIDING DEBT
“I know I don’t have to own things to be an adult, so why do I feel like I do?” read The Wall Street Journal headline a few weeks ago. The author was a 31-year-old WSJ reporter who lives in New York, doesn’t own a house and doesn’t own a car.
At her age, I was a WSJ editor, lived in Jersey City (right across the Hudson River), rented an apartment and had brought my car from Indiana to Jersey City. Most of the time it sat in the apartment building’s parking lot.
A few days later, another story appeared in the Journal. This one reported that a couple in Lincoln, Neb., thought they had finally escaped the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle they had fallen into. The couple, whose combined annual income is $80,000, had saved money during the pandemic while they were stuck at home. They used stimulus checks to chip away at credit-card debt and enjoyed a reprieve from their $160,000 in student loans.
But lately, the article went on, they have been hit with one unexpected expense after another, There was an out-of-pocket charge for an MRI and a broken water heater. They took trips with their four children they had put off because of Covid, including to Walt Disney World, local museums and the zoo. By 2022, their credit-card debt had doubled to nearly $40,000.
Another 31-year-old told how during the pandemic she lived with her parents, saved for a down payment on a house and shrank her credit card debt. But then schools shut down, and she ran her credit-card balances back up to pay child-care bills of $1,200 a month for her two children. She eventually ended up with almost no savings and $20,000 in credit-card and personal-loan debt. She makes just over $40,000 as a construction project manager in the Miami area.
In a nutshell, young adults’ incomes aren’t keeping up with their expenses. The result: they are falling behind on their car payments, their credit card payments. Is it their fault? In one sense, yes, of course. But in another sense, they are victims of a system that is geared to get them into financial trouble. The people who benefit from that system – bankers, retailers, college officials, restaurant and bar operators etc. -- will deny it, and to the extent that they don’t intend for people to get into financial trouble, they are telling the truth.
But consider this: The U.S. economy depends on consumer spending, as federal officials and the media remind us on a regular basis. In fact, 70% of gross domestic product is dependent on consumers spending, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that everything is geared toward getting people to borrow and spend.
That’s not the way it used to be.
Our houses today are three times as large as in the 1950s, but we still have so much stuff that self-storage is a $22 billion industry.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, banks regularly ran advertisements promoting savings accounts. Few banks do that today. Instead, they run ads promoting their credit cards. They offer various rewards – cash back, airline miles, hotel rooms -- for running up credit card balances. In the 1950s and 1960s, public schools routinely taught elemental personal finance – how to write a check, how long it takes for your money to double at various interest rates, etc. Today, public schools don’t teach that. But they do teach how to put on a condom.
In the 1950s, Merrill Lynch arranged for Pocket Books to publish “How to Buy Stocks,” a book written by Merrill’s public relations chief – and gave it away for free. Merrill Lynch also invented a Monthly Investment Plan where one could “buy a share of American business” for as little as $40 a month. Today, Merrill Lynch isn’t interested in the little guy, but if you want to talk wealth management, they’ll be happy to talk to you.
For penitents, of course, we have a religious obligation to avoid debt. Our Rule says so, and for those who have pledged to live by the CfP Rule, that’s a serious obligation. Are there occasions where debt cannot be avoided? Of course. If you’re buying a house, for instance, you probably haven’t saved enough to pay cash. That may be true, too, when it comes to your first car (or, in some cases, your second or third car).
We all need to understand it takes time and a plan to become debt free. If we owe money, we need a plan. If we are debt free, we need to be able to counsel our children, friends and fellow parishioners on how to get out of debt. That means setting a goal and priorities.
Here’s a suggested list, ranked in importance:
Build a reserve fund
Find a checking account with a cash-back debit card or that pays interest on deposits
Once your reserve fund has $2,000 in it, use money over that to pay off credit cards, student loans, etc.
Get those paid up and then save for retirement in a tax-favored account (401(k)s, IRAs, etc.)
Or save for a house and a car.
Or invest in stocks and bonds
Why is a reserve fund No. 1 on the list? Because if you stop charging tomorrow, but don’t have a reserve fund, the slightest little thing – a broken water heater, for instance -- may require you to run up your credit card. So, having a reserve fund and building it up to at least $2,000 before doing anything else is essential.
I think the easiest way to do this is to set a percentage of each paycheck to go into the reserve fund. Once you hit your target (say $2,000), you then shift most of that percentage to your next target. But if you wanted to split that percentage equally after hitting the reserve fund target, that will work, too. –Joel Whitaker, CfP
Every box of raisins is a tragic tale of grapes that could have been wine.
Theme parks can snap a crystal-clear picture of you on a roller coaster going 70 mph, but bank cameras can't get a clear shot of a robber standing still.
Someone posted that they had just made “synonym buns”. I replied "you mean just like the ones that grammar used to make?" I am now blocked.
Dear paranoid people who check behind their shower curtains for murderers ... if you do find one, what's your plan?
Facial recognition software can pick a person out of a crowd, but the vending machine at work can't recognize a dollar bill with a bent corner.
Covid-19 Fact: 87% of gym members didn't even know their gym is closed.
I never make the same mistake twice. I do it like, five or six times, you know, to make sure.
My train of thought derailed. There were no survivors.
HOW I LIVED THE RULE by Mary Louise Giroux, CfP
What was your family life like when you pledged to live the Rule for Life? My husband and I were retired and living on a smallholding of forty-seven acres.
How did you live the Rule and Constitutions at that time? I did the best I could but I didn’t attend Mass most days of the week but only Sunday and one other day when possible. At that time we were not close to a church. Also, our parish priest could not speak English but only French; my French is poor. (I can say what I wish usually but have difficulty understanding the reply.) Therefore, I did not go to confession as often as recommended.
What adjustments have you had to make since then? I have made many adjustments. Nine years ago we moved to a village up the hill and live only a seven minute walk from the Church, enabling us to attend daily Mass. Also, I am obligated to make a daily hour-long visit to the Blessed Sacrament (except on Monday). Of course, I go to confession regularly, as well.
What was most difficult at the beginning of your pledged life in living the Rule, and how did you deal with that? Practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy was perhaps the most difficult and I missed some opportunities along the way. Our little farm was quite isolated, and I was “the woman who lives in the bush.” However, I learned to watch for opportunities at home and in the community.
What is most difficult now in your life regarding living our Rule, and how do you deal with that? Prior to Covid 19 I was a volunteer at the local nursing home but the home was in lockdown during Covid. I am looking for other opportunities to serve (works of mercy). The clothing rule presents some difficulty for me as well. I prefer to wear skirts and dresses and own no trousers. It has become increasingly difficult to purchase these items in the style, colour and price range I want and am now honing my seamstress skills to make clothing that I can wear for visiting, etc instead of just for kitchen and garden. It’s a bit hard because I don’t seem naturally inclined that way.
What fruits have you received from living this way of life? My prayer life has greatly expanded and is an integral part of my life now. I have learned to love the Mass more even though it is in a language I don’t always understand. (I still have to ask my husband what the homily was about.) Best of all I trust the Lord far more than I ever did and the anxiety and depression which had plagued me from my teens have long gone completely. My faith is greater than it ever was and I am still growing.