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Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter - April 2024


Where there is love and Wisdom, there is neither Fear nor Ignorance.

Where there is Patience and Humility, there is neither Anger nor Annoyance,

Where there is Poverty and Joy, there is neither Cupidity nor Avarice.

Where there is Peace and Contemplation, there is neither Care nor Restlessness.

Where there is Fear of God to guard the dwelling, there no enemy can enter.

Where there is Mercy and Prudence, there is neither Excess nor Harshness.

-- St. Francis  (The Admonitions, XXVII)

As we enter into this magnificent season of Easter, let us recall these beautiful and profound words of St. Francis who understood profoundly the difference between servile fear and filial fear.


Servile fear was the whisper of the wicked serpent to our first parents who embraced this lie in the Garden of Eden. This was the lie—based on fear. “God cannot be trusted, He knows if you eat the forbidden fruit you will be like Him, so His warning to you is not for your advantage but for His, He is wicked.”  


What an absurd and sacrilegious lie, but our first parents bought that lie!


“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam that won for us so great a redeemer!" I, like every priest, every year, sang these words again at the great evening Vigil of Easter. St. Francis, imbued with devotion to his liturgical role of deacon, would have sung those same words.

Even those words and the theology behind them were not enough to contain the exuberant piety of our penitent founder. Saint Bonaventure believed, as he would later reflect in his theology, that St. Francis was convinced that the Omnipotent Most High God would not depend upon the sin of our first parents or on our sins to call Him down from the heights of Heaven. St. Francis believed that The Most High Omnipotent God would have done that anyway out of the depth of His Love for sinful man and to bring all creation to its fulfillment in Him.


Filial fear then is this trust in the Good God that created us, that He gives us everything we need to find salvation, including the death of His own Son!


Filial fear is not the lie that God is wicked, but the truth that we can be wicked, that we can turn our backs on Love.


St. Francis gazing upon an image of Our Blessed Savior upon His Cross reminds us: "Love is not loved." This Easter let us renew our filial fear of the Lord through trust and love. 


Have a Blessed Easter Season. – Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Spiritual Guardian



Praised be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
he who in his great mercy
gave us new birth;
a birth unto hope which draws its life
from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead;
a birth to an imperishable inheritance,
incapable of fading or defilement,
which is kept in heaven for you
who are guarded with God's power through faith;
a birth to a salvation which stands ready
to be revealed in the last days.

There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith...may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears....Realize that you were delivered from the futile way of Christ's blood beyond all price...It is through him that you are believers in God, the God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory. --- 1 Peter 1:1-21

As I reflect on the Resurrection, I am grateful for being given new life in Christ. Despite turning my back on him 17 years ago, he has remained faithful and has been restoring me to who he created me to be. I'm thankful for what he has allowed me to experience and to be able to do here in prison, especially here in the faith dorm at Muskegon Correctional.


So blessed to participate in The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) program, being able to study with 28 other men to grow in relationship with Christ and each other and discover how we can advance the Kingdom of God in prison and beyond. For example, this Holy Week we're blessed to be able to watch "The Passion of the Christ" on Saturday night, have a Resurrection service in the unit with song, scripture, reflection on Sunday morning, followed by a Game Night in the evening.


This Easter season we are holding a raffle in the unit to gather food and hygiene items for indigent people here at this facility. Many of us facilitate Bible studies and peer classes. Recently, I've been able to teach a class in basic accounting, tutor individuals in English and math, and serve as a catechist for someone seeking the sacraments in the Church. Finally, I've been engaging with concerned citizens like you to bring about a more restorative justice system that better reflects God's merciful justice.

May the fullness of God's love in the Risen Lord Jesus fill your heart this day and always. This day everything changed - sin and death were defeated more than 2,000 years ago. Through the gift of faith, we can enter into eternal life. How grateful I am for a new life in Christ and what he has done for me and for all of us.


Wishing you the joy and peace that only the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life can bring. Thank you for being a part of my life. Please remember me in your prayers as I hold you in mine. "Let us build the city of God, may our tears be turned into dancing, for the Lord our light and our love will turn the night into day!"


In the love of Christ, br. Anthony LaCalamita, CfP, Alessandro Prison Ministry


During Lent, some members of the Confraternity of Penitents and some residents of Guadalupe Men’s Vita Dei House and Annunciation Women’s Vita Dei House staged the Living Stations of the Cross. This was held outdoors on all the Friday’s of Lent. The reenactment took place on the lawn of Annunciation Women’s Vita Dei House and the steps of Saint Andrew’s Church, next to the public sidewalk. The goal was to bring the message of Christ’s sacrifice to the general public in same sort of manner in which it happened—in public and seen by passersby. More photos at



In John Chapter 13, Jesus has two conversations with Peter. First, when Jesus is washing the feet of the disciples, Peter refuses to let Him wash his feet. Peter only gives in when the Lord insists. (Jn 13:6-9) It is easy to understand why Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet.  Unlike Judas, Peter did recognize in some way the exalted nature of Jesus. After witnessing a miraculous catch of fish, Peter fell down before Jesus and exclaims “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Lk 5:8) Peter was coming to see, in some sense, the true identity of Jesus. After Jesus had been teaching the crowd from Peter’s boat, He told Peter to go out to deep water for a catch of fish. Peter responds “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Lk 5:5) After hearing Jesus teach from his boat, Peter begins by addressing Jesus as “Master”.  However, after seeing the miraculous catch of fish, Peter calls Jesus “Lord”. In contrast, When Judas betrayed Jesus at Gethsemane, he addresses Jesus as “Master”. (Mk 14:45) Judas never got beyond seeing Jesus as “Master”. Peter had a correct understanding of Jesus, but he was wrong to not let Jesus wash his feet. Peter, at first, failed to recognize that God is Love, and He saves us not by glory and power, but by service. We too, need to put together the glory of the “Lord” with the humble Servant who washes our feet.


Soon after this, Jesus tells His disciples “Where I am going you cannot come.” (Jn 13:33) Pope Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, comments about Peter’s response to that statement. During the washing of the feet, in the atmosphere of farewell that pervades the scene, Peter asks his master quite openly: "Lord, where are you going?" And again he receives a cryptic answer: "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward" (13:36). Peter understands that Jesus is speaking of his imminent death, and he now wants to emphasize his radical fidelity even unto death: "Why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you" (13:37). Indeed, shortly afterward on the Mount of Olives, he rushes in with his sword, ready to put his intention into effect. But he must learn that even martyrdom is no heroic achievement: rather, it is a grace to be able to suffer for Jesus. He must bid farewell to the heroism of personal deeds and learn the humility of the disciple. His desire to rush in-his heroism-leads to his denial. In order to secure his place by the fire in the forecourt of the high priest's palace, and in order to keep abreast of every development in Jesus' destiny as it happens, he claims not to know him. His heroism falls to pieces in a small-minded tactic. He must learn to await his hour. He must, learn how to wait, how to persevere. He must learn the way of the disciple in order to be led, when his hour comes, to the place where he does not want to go (cf. Jn 21:18) and to receive the grace of martyrdom.


The two exchanges are essentially about the same thing: not telling God what to do, but learning to accept him as he reveals himself to us; not seeking to exalt ourselves to God's level, but in humble service letting ourselves be slowly refashioned into God's true image.


Pope Benedict is correcting a misconception about Peter’s denial of the Lord, namely that it was an act of cowardice. When Jesus was seized in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter rashly cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. (Mt 26:51, Mk 14:47, Lk:22:50, Jn 18:10) Jesus immediately rebukes Peter. (Mt 26:52-54, Lk 22:51, Jn 18:11) It was Peter’s plan to defend Jesus with his sword, but this was not the Lord’s plan. Peter then followed at a distance as Jesus was taken to the high priest’s residence. Peter could not get inside to see what was happening but had to stay outside in the courtyard. People started to recognize Peter as a possible follower of Jesus. This was when Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. This could be called “prudent” since Peter probably would have been expelled from the area if he had admitted being a follower of Jesus. Certainly, the authorities did not want the followers of Jesus around when He was being tried.  Of course, Peter did not need to be around the proceedings since it was not the Will of the Lord that He be defended by violence at this point. Peter went out and wept when he realized that Jesus had predicted his denial of knowing Him. (Mt 26:75, Mk 14:72, Lk 22:61-62) He realized that he was putting his own plans before the Lord’s plans. Peter has done that earlier when Jesus predicted that He would be killed and the raised on the third day. Peter says “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Mt: 16:22, Mk 8:32) Here too, when Jesus revealed what “the plan” was, Peter rushes in with his own plan. Peter needed to be rebuked by the Lord. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Mt 16:23, Mk 8:33) Peter needed to learn that “the plan” is the Lord’s and not ours.


At the last supper, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answers “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” (Jn 13:36) As Pope Benedict points out, Jesus was referring to Peter’s martyrdom in Rome over thirty years later. For now, however, “the plan” was for Peter and the other Apostles to preach the Gospel. For Peter and most of the other Apostles, martyrdom was to be a natural result of that endeavor. Pope Benedict points out that the crown of martyrdom is not something we can choose for ourselves. It is a gift which the Lord may or may not choose to give us. Peter wanted the role of a heroic defender of the Lord. Instead, he suffered the same shameful death by crucifixion which his Lord suffered. Thus, according to tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome in the mid 60’s AD upside down.


Peter stubbornly clung to his own ideas, but the Lord was able to change those ideas. In the book of Acts chapter 10 we read that Peter was in Joppa, along the Mediterranean Sea, and he saw a vision of all kinds of animals including “unclean” animals. He was told by a voice to “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” (Acts 10:13) Peter responds, “No Lord; for I have never eaten anything which was common or unclean.” (Acts 10:14) Peter was a devout Jew who followed the Mosaic Law of the Jews which forbade them to eat “unclean” animals. The voice rebuked him and said, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” (Acts 10:15) This happened three times, and Peter was puzzled by the vision. The Holy Spirit then told Peter, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” (Acts 10:19) Peter may not have gone with the men before the vision since they were gentiles, and Jews were not supposed to associate with “unclean” gentiles. Peter did go with them up the coast to Caesarea to preach the Gospel to the household of the gentile Cornelius. Peter told the household of Cornelius, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) Peter understood that the vision meant not only that the foods were not unclean, but also the people who ate those foods were not unclean. Therefore, he could go and preach the Gospel also to the gentiles. Peter was open to God correcting his wrong ideas. However, even after this, he needed correction. In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he tells how he needed to rebuke Peter for shying away from eating and associating with gentiles. (Gal 2:11-21)


Like Peter, many of us want to serve the Lord and do His Will. However, also like Peter, we want to do it our own way and in our own time. Like a GPS, God will give us step by step directions which we need to listen to and follow. Of course, prayer, trust, and openness to Him are needed for us to know what He wants. Unlike a GPS, God does not usually lay out for us the entire plan for the rest of our lives or even for a short-term goal. Nor does He give us a choice as to the route to take to achieve the goal like a GPS. When we are using a GPS, we need to sometimes take correction when we take a wrong turn. We also need to be open to correction from God when we take a wrong turn. Here, we can imitate Peter who made many wrong turns but also was open to correction. Usually this will not be from a voice or vision but from other people and especially the Church.


We can easily see this at work in the lives of the saints. St. Thérèse of Lisieux wanted to suffer for the salvation of sinners. The Lord granted her wish but not in the way she wanted. She wanted to go to China and die as a martyr. Acting through the Church, the Lord blocked this. Instead, she died a lingering death by suffocation from tuberculosis. St. Thérèse, like St. Peter, learned to accept the path which the Lord set out for her and even to eagerly embrace it. May we always endeavor to do the same. –Jim Nugent, CfP


For 65 years, WQXR was “the radio station of The New York Times,” and for most of that time it signed on at 5 a.m. with an excerpt from Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” – A trumpet blast, followed by an announcer saying, “Every day is a new beginning,” the beat of a timpani, followed another trumpet blast, another line of poetry, and more timpani.

It’s hardly a quote from the Bible or from a Doctor of the Church, although it has been used by a number of motivational speakers, including religious leaders. But it seems particularly relevant to me now, for the world is a worrisome place with armed conflict in every hemisphere, with rogue nations gaining nuclear capability, with many viewing the forthcoming election as having catastrophic consequences.

But as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time for everything under Heaven. And as Pope St. John Paul II often admonished us, we should “fear not.” Still, many wish things were different – that the world wasn’t awash in conflict, that climate change wasn’t being associated with more intense weather in many areas, that politics was more stable, that our employer wasn’t doing yet another round of layoffs, or that we weren’t drowning in credit card debt. WQXR reminded us, as does as popular poem, that “Every Day is a New Beginning.” True. In the words of one version of the “Every Day is a New Beginning” poem, this one by Tony Martignetti, today is manifestly

A chance to start afresh.

To leave behind past mistakes,

And focus on what's next.

Many of us begin our penitential lifestyle expecting great changes, a “road to Emmaus moment.” What we find in many cases is there are indeed changes, but they occur slowly. The lesson is to persevere in the journey and to let God do his work in us. We just finished Lent which is, among other things, an exercise in perseverance. Our worries and burdens are crosses we carry daily, and Lent was the perfect reminder to put them on the shoulder of the Lord by fasting, abstinence, prayer and charity.


But Lent is over, and one of our life pledged members just got word, on Friday of the Easter Octave, that her daughter (also a wife and mother of small children) has advanced cancer. As penitents, we put this burden on the Lord’s shoulders, Lent or not. How? By persevering in living our Rule and Constitutions. Moment by moment we surrender everything to God. Living our Rule keeps pulling us back to that surrender.

One doesn’t have to be a penitent to experience real change. We can encourage that in others at any time. For example, someone might start attending Daily Mass. If we regularly attend daily Mass, we can encourage that person to continue to do so. All it may take is a simple, “See you tomorrow!”

It is interesting in today’s culture that as churchgoing, and, indeed, church affiliation of any kind, has declined, pollsters tell us a feeling of hopelessness has risen. With hopelessness comes fear – what of what may happen tomorrow, fear of our neighbor, distrust of the fundamental institutions of society.

It’s tempting to tell someone wallowing in fear to put their fears on the Lord and put their trust in Him. But if a person doesn’t believe, that probably won’t do the job. Perhaps the better action is to preach by our actions, not only by our words. Saint Francis was quite adept at both. When we encounter a fearful person, we can portray calm and trust. We can remind that bundle of anxiety that

The sun rises in the morning,

A symbol of hope and light.

A new day dawns before us,

Full of promise and might.


The past is but a memory,

A story we've already told.

The future is unwritten,

A blank canvas to unfold.


With every breath we take,

We have the power to decide,

To live in the present moment,

And let our hearts guide.

Saint Andre Bessett was the saint whose motto was “live in the present moment.” Only 3% of our worries materialize as we fear. That means 97% of what we worry about never happens or never happens as we imagine. Penitents have to live in the present moment. It takes courage to begin the formation process and not worry about how you will do in Novice 2. It takes courage to continue. It takes courage to pledge. It takes courage to commit to an intensive prayer life or to change one’s wardrobe from brightly colored and patterned clothes to neutral, nonpatterned clothes. To do so we must --

Let go of fear and doubt,

Embrace the unknown,

For every day is a new beginning,

And a chance to grow and be shown.


So step forward with courage,

And trust in the journey ahead.

For every day is a new beginning,

And a chance to start anew instead.

And for those who wonder what secret we have that gives us hope in a world riven by conflict, division, and distrust, our best answer was given by Jesus -- “Come and see.” The Lord is always there, in the present moment, just one little step ahead. –Joel Whitaker, CfP



In early January, the Confraternity of Penitents was awaiting a Certificate of Occupancy for Guadalupe Men’s Vita Dei House which had passed final inspection on December 22, 2023. When a call was made to question the delay, we were told that the fire sprinkler inspection had not been called in yet.


What fire sprinkler inspection? In 2020, our architect told us that the fire sprinkler had been waived. Recognizing that a fire sprinkler installation presented a financial hardship for the Confraternity, the state, county, and city had waived a COMMERCIAL fire sprinkler system. What we did not understand was that the state, city, and county were substituting a RESIDENTIAL fire sprinkler system instead. After months of going back and forth about this, the bottom line was that neither the fire marshal, the city, the county, or the state wants to be responsible in case of fire. The sprinkler system is being installed, to the tune of $41,172 plus $1817 for the city to install the water tap (paid for and done already). The silver lining is that our house insurance will be lower because a fire sprinkler system is installed. Another boon is that the city had to dig up and resurface the street to sink the new water tap and bring the new water line from across the street to the curb at the property line. No way did $1817 cover the cost of all that.


We will be frank. The Confraternity needs your help to pay for the fire sprinkler system. About $20,000 of this amount has been collected or promised, In addition, Guadalupe House needs a new roof, new gutters, and vinyl siding. Estimate $37,472. A local church plus an anonymous benefactor gave $22,000 toward this exterior repair. So, all in all, to complete the renovations on Guadalupe Men’s Vita Dei House, about $40,000 is needed. That seems like a small amount compared to the $204,000 already spent on this project. Thanks so much to ALL of you who have donated time, talent, and treasure to this effort!


How can you help now to reach this $40,000 expense? The CFP does not borrow money (against our Rule) so we need to come up with funds. Some suggestions.

·         Pray. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, “God has lots of money.”

·         Make a purchase or several from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop. All profits go to the CFP.

·         Sponsor a priest for the Chapel of 1000 Priests in Guadalupe House. Many canonized priest saints await sponsorship, among them most of the apostles, St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, etc. Or sponsor your parish priest or another priest, living or dead. See

·         Research grants for the work to be done and let us know of any you find.

·         Make a sacrificial, tax-deductible donation to the Confraternity for these projects.


God has brought the CFP this far, and we know He will bring us the rest of the way if He wishes. So, as we recall on Divine Mercy Sunday, “Jesus, we trust in You.” God bless each of you for your help!



I finally watched the documentary on clocks. It was about time.

A tombstone with a typo! Well, that’s a grave mistake.

I made a chicken salad last night. Apparently, they prefer grain.

Fruit farmers eat what they can and can what they can’t.

I’m taking steps to overcome my hiking addiction. I’m not out of the woods yet.

My wife told me to put ketchup on the shopping list. Now I can’t read anything.

The banana went to the doctor because it wasn’t peeling well.

I married my wife for her looks, but not the ones I’m getting lately.

Boarding school taught me how to get on an airplane/

I got booted from the coffee club because I wore a tea shirt.

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