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CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS NEWSLETTER: FEBRUARY 2024

LENT

Ash Wednesday is February 14. All those at the Novice 3 level and above are to follow the fasting and abstinence provisions of our Rule and Constitutions during Lent. Those at lower levels of formation should certainly follow Church teachings for Lenten fasting and abstinence but are encouraged to do more for Lent in keeping with the intent of our Rule. Lent is a spiritual discipline to help us more fully surrender to God. Let’s make this a holy and life-changing season.

HUMOR

 

Don’t be mad at lazy people. They didn’t do anything.

New Self Help Book: How to Use a Ladder: A Step by Step Guide

Everyone told Sam not to sing, but Samsung anyway.

If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they would eventually find me attractive.

Instead of presents this year, I’m giving everyone my opinion.

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SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: SECTION 32 OF OUR CFP RULE

Section 32 of our Rule and Constitutions: "no person who does not adhere totally to all that the Catholic Church teaches through its hierarchy and Magisterium...." shall be admitted to the CFP.

 

"To whom shall we go?" We need to stick with the Church that Jesus founded. --CFP Minister General

 

Correct, there is no other option. It is easy and pleasant to be Catholic when everything is going well. The Church is our mother; when our mother is in crisis or struggling, do we abandon her or do we double down on defense and protection through prayer, fasting and penance. --Fr. Joseph Tuscan, CFP Spiritual Guardian

 

"[N]o person who does not adhere totally to all that the Catholic Church teaches through its hierarchy and Magisterium...." shall be admitted." Adhere does not mean agree with. "Teaches" means a matter of doctrine. --CFP Minister General

 

That is exactly correct. People in official positions in the Church have been in error before in the long history of the Church. Doctrinal infallibility doesn't mean personal opinions are infallible, even if such ideas are printed in a document that is part of the ordinary magisterium. --Fr. Joseph Tuscan, CFP Spiritual Guardian

 

The hierarchy and Magisterium mean Pope and Bishops. These directives were from the Pope who did not claim the doctrine of infallibility nor did the Magisterium discuss and vote on these decisions. --CFP Minister General

 

Precisely, the Pope himself chose not to make certain statements and documents binding under papal infallibility. – Fr. Joseph Tuscan, CFP Spiritual Guardian

In a small book, Letter to a Suffering Church, Bishop Barron writes, "to stay and fight" Obviously, not with weapons for a battle, but with prayer, fasting, and penance. As mentioned, we don't abandon the church, our mother, at anytime. What I also have learned in formation is detachment from this world. As I took a step back, God in his mercy, helped me to realize that I was listening too much to social media instead of placing my trust in his Church which will never lead us astray. In my devotions, I need to better understand Church teaching regarding infallibility. "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Although we will all be tested and have disagreements, or different opinions, we are reassured that the Church will stand forever. A scripture passage which I have read numerous times, Romans 5:20, affirms that sin does not stop God's grace from flowing and will be far greater. "The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Romans 5:20-21] - Thoughts by a CFP member

 

In line with these thoughts, the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop is offering the following prayer (25c each, bulk prices available) on this link:

 

Permission Prayer: My Jesus, my all, my everything. How I long to give myself entirely to you without reserve. May I hold nothing back from you, who have given yourself entirely to me. I now renew my self-offering to you. I am yours, and you are mine. I give you complete permission to do whatever pleases you in my life. May I never hold anything back from you. I love you, I love you, I love you. Thank you for first loving me. Amen.

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There's a Reason

Available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop. 25c. Bulk prices available. 

www.cfpholyangels.com 

or write to 

Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop

1702 Lumbard Street

Fort Wayne IN 46803

GUEST COLUMN: JOY IS SUFFERING OVERCOME!

 

Rejoice! Praised be God!

 

I will never forget the reason that we offer our morning offering. It’s what I learned in grade school: Offer it up! In the CFP, I learned how to live a more penitential life which is so very necessary in this world at any time. There is so much to be said about lay people who are heroic in the world, a witness and reminder that we are all called to be SAINTS and to be the support of one another while being accountable and joyful in doing so!

 

If we are not joyful, are we following our Holy Father Francis? I learned what joy means from a dear friend who has so much pain and who came to visit on crutches. We shared how we can see past the pain of this broken world to God’s promise! God has the absolute perfect plan just for each of us! Joy is suffering overcome! Pray with it and about it! It really strikes you!

 

We all suffer in a myriad of ways—visible and not so visible. But again our faith is in God and our trust and our hope. His Love never ends and He will be with us to the end of the age! 😊 God is Love. It’s all about Love. We will be judged on Love! So let us be most JOYFUL because “It’s all good” because it’s God’s PLAN, not ours. We have no IDEA what we NEED, but He knows exactly what we need! -- Sr. Mary Laetitia of the Mother of Mercy (formerly Karen Robertson, who entered the Poor Clares during her third novice year with the Confraternity of Penitents)

A NEW TWIST ON LENTEN FASTING: FASTING FROM OUR CELL PHONES

First, a review.

Most of us know that, had we been living during the Middle Ages, Lent was a time of obligatory fasting during which people were allowed only one meal a day and were prohibited from eating all meat and animal-based products. This meant eggs, butter, cream, milk and cheese could not be eaten during Lent.

This in itself explains where the word Lent comes from. It’s derived from the Latin jejenus, meaning famished, thin and dry. Wine and liqueur were also prohibited in addition to meat and foods derived from meat, eggs, butter, cream, milk and cheese.

Having those items in the house constituted a great temptation, so people spent the week before Ash Wednesday using them up, culminating in Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday or Pancake Day.

Nowadays, of course, the general rule for Catholics ages 18 to 59 and in reasonable health is to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Only one large meal and two smaller meals are permitted. In addition, the general rule for Catholics is that we may not each meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday or, indeed, any Friday during Lent. On any Friday, except Good Friday, Catholics may have three full meals.

Penitents who have completed Novice 2 are expected to fast daily, except for Sundays and Solemnities, during Lent. We also are expected to fast every Friday of the year and on Wednesday from the Feast of All Saints (Friday, Nov. 1) until Easter.

What’s this about fasting from our cell phone?

Some people have suggested giving up all use of our cell phones for Lent. This is plainly nonsense. Cell phones are a primary way to contact Emergency Services if needed. For many of us, cell phones are required in our work, to keep track of our kids, and, using map features, to get around.

However, we can do five things.

First, we can clean up our phone. If your phone is like mine, it’s filled with apps whose purpose I no longer remember. We can simply delete them.

Second, we can go through our list of subscriptions on our phones and cancel any we haven’t used in the last six months to a year.

Third, we can delete any apps we haven’t used in the last 6 months to a year.

Fourth, we can purge our inbox. Manually opening and deleting mail gets really tedious really fast. Besides, it won’t have any impact. But do take the time to unsubscribe from any you haven’t used in a while.

Fifth, in monasteries, a Great Silence is typically observed from the end of Night Prayer until the next day. That could be a general objective in family life, but it certainly can be practiced with a cell phone by turning off notifications, or access to certain apps, etc.

Have a happy and blessed Lent! – Joel Whitaker, CfP

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FROM THE ALESSANDRO PRISON MINISTRY: THE KINGDOM TO COME

Can you picture a world where a Hamas militant sat down for a meal with Israeli soldier? How about a place where the "MAGA" Republican and "leftist, Marxist" Democrat enjoyed a long walk together? Are you able to envision a dwelling place where a young black "gangbanger" and older white "child molester" can live in fraternal charity? If you answered yes to all of the above, then you believe in the power of God to reconcile the entire world to himself. If you answered no to any of the above, then consider the following words:

There shall come forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist and the faithfulness of his loins. The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the loin and the fattened calf together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters above the sea. -- Isaiah 11:1-9 (ESV)

The prophet Isaiah presents the foretelling of an existence where the juxtaposition listed above will be a reality. Living some 750 years before Christ, Isaiah was speaking to a fallen people who had been in exile, that had seen their beloved kingdom overthrown by the Assyrian empire. Judah and Israel were besieged by fierce enemies and the center of the kingdom in Jerusalem was destroyed. Given the gift of prophecy by God, he creator of the universe, Isaiah tells how this broken kingdom will be restored, giving a description of the person and power of the King who is to come, the Messiah, as well as the purpose and the program of the Kingdom to come.

From this text the "shoot from the stump of Jesse" in verse 1 is the Messiah who is to come us as Jesus the Christ (Acts 13:22-23). Verse 2 tells us that as the Messiah he will reign with wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and reverential awe for the divine task that he has been commissioned with. This confirmation of Jesus as Israel's king and messiah, and as God's righteous servant, is made in Matthew 3:16-17 where God' Spirit identifies Jesus as not only as king but as the only begotten Son of God.

Isaiah presents how the Messiah will reign, as a supreme king equipped for his work by the Spirit of God, who bestows the seven virtuous qualities of God. According to Bede the Venerable, "the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit all of which remain in our Lord and Redeemer [Jesus Christ] forever...are disturbed in his members...according to his will" (McKinnon, 101).

The inner qualities of character provided by the Spirit are crucial to whether the parties introduced earlier will put aside their differences. Right judgements of the king and ruler over Israel and the whole world will be accomplished. However divine justice is not the same as human justice. God will decide with perfect righteousness and equity all of our actions with a preferential option for the poor and meek. Those who do not submit to this reign will be subject to this eternal wrath (verse 4). The belt of righteousness and faithfulness in verse 5 refers to the divine authority with which has been commissioned to exercise this judgment.

Images of idyllic harmony of paradise are drawn by Isaiah in verses six though nine. Peace and harmony among carnivores and their natural prey (wolf and lamb, leopard and goat, lion and calf, bear and cow) suggest a new world of entities that were once at odds with each other now living in peace. "[Isaiah] continues to prophetically show the transformation of all different races of humanity...through the teaching of Christ...irrational animals and wild beasts in this passage represent [people] who are naturally like animals" (McKinnon, 106). What does the future bring under the Messiah King Jesus? Restoration of the fallen world to its unfallen condition.

Recalling the enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman i the book of Genesis, we can see the proto-evangelium heralding God as Divine Warrior being fully realized as the enemy of man being subdued in verse 8. The first man Adam was overcome by the serpent but when the kingdom is fully consummated the divine curse of the serpent pronounced at the fall will be removed. Ambrose explains that the "antidote... the Word of God [Jesus Christ] put his hand into the serpent's den, removed the venom and took away the sin" allowing the one with child-like faith in Christ the King to be at peace (McKinnon, 108).

To sum up God's message to Isaiah's original audience, the prophetic vision of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21:4, where there will be no more death, no mourning, no crying, or pain is foretold in verse 9, where Isaiah states that there shall be no hurt or destruction on God's holy mountain, where the peace and security will be far-reaching over all his creation. Restoration of humanity to God comes through "knowledge of the Lord" and for individuals having a personal relationship with Jesus the Messiah King, this peace will be realized fully.​

With all this in mind, one can glean the following principles from this passage: 1) all creation must submit to the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ the Messiah King, 2) the gifts bestowed by the Spirit of God upon Jesus that include wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord are the means by which we are to reign with him, and 3) there will be an everlasting peace for those who yield to the righteousness of the Messianic reign of Jesus Christ.

These principles about how the Kingdom of God function and will someday forever exist lead us to the answer of the question: how do we get a world where seemingly disparate parties at enmity with each other, such as the Hamas militant and Jewish rabbi, live in harmony? Through submission to the One greater than ourselves who will usher in a kingdom of shalom. It is only through the righteousness of Jesus Christ that the consummation of the Kingdom will result in the removal of all evil, which will be eradicated and put down under the feet of Jesus Christ where all creation will be restored to its Edenic glory (Davis, 126). Those who put to death their hatred and distrust of one another by submitting their hearts and minds to Jesus Christ will inherit the Kingdom.​

It is incumbent on us to declare Jesus as Lord to share his Good News of the Kingdom foretold by Isaiah, sharing the same gifts of the Spirit to allow what may seem impossible to become possible. "The redeemed will become the sole possession of God, the city of God will enter the dominion of humankind...God's shalom shall completely and finally come to earth" (Davis, 131). As the cow and bear will graze together so can the humans that were formerly at odds with one another sit at the meal table in peace.—Anthony LaCalamita, CfP

 

CFP PHOTO ALBUM: LIFE PLEDGE OF THERESA FRANKO, CFP
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On December 12, 2023, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Theresa Franko, pledged to live for life the Rule and Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents. She completed successfully her four years of formation lessons and was glad to make this gift of her life to God.

Pictured left to right are Father Shinu Vazhakkoottahil (witness), Father Daniel A. Toomey (who received Theresa’s pledge), Theresa Franko, CfP, and Sandra Lewis, CfP (Confraternity of Penitents representative). Congratulations, Theresa! We welcome you as a life pledged sister in the Confraternity of Penitents.

God bless you!

NO GREATER LOVE: GIFT AND TASK

 

When the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, washes the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper, (Jn 13:1-20) this was not a “random act of kindness”. The Lord’s cleansing of the dirty feet of the Apostles was a Gift to his closest followers which prefigures His Gift of cleansing humanity of sin by shedding His Blood on the Cross. This is a Gift which must be received in faith. We must recognize our need for this Gift and believe that He is the One, the only One, who could bestow it. Yet, right after He washes His Apostles’ feet, He tells them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (Jn 13:12-15). The Task which the Lord gives us is summarized in the “New Commandment”. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35) The Lord suffered an excruciating death on the Cross for us. How can we possibly “love one another; even as I have loved you.”? Has Jesus laid an impossible burden on us? 

 

The answer is no. In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI explains why Gift and Task cannot be separated. The Fathers expressed the difference between these two aspects, as well as their mutual relationship, using the categories of sacramentum and exemplum: by sacramentum they mean, not any particular sacrament, but rather the entire mystery of Christ---his life and death---in which he draws close to us, enters us through his Spirit, and transforms us. But precisely because this sacramentum truly "cleanses" us, renewing us from within, it also unleashes a dynamic of new life. The command to do as Jesus did is no mere moral appendix to the mystery, let alone an antithesis to it. It follows from the inner dynamic of gift with which the Lord renews us and draws us into what is his. 

 

This essential dynamic of gift, through which he now acts in us and our action becomes one with his, is seen with particular clarity in Jesus' saying: "He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father" (Jn 14:12). This expresses exactly what is meant by "I have given you an example" from the account of the foot-washing: Jesus' action becomes ours, because he is acting in us. 

 

The Task the Lord has given us, to love one another as He has loved us, can be done and has been done for the last two thousand years because of His Gift to us. The Task He has given us, the “New Commandment” is not just a “higher” morality than is proclaimed in the Old Testament in the Mosaic Law. Many of the laws of the Mosaic Law such as those concerning release of slaves or of returning property which had been purchased to the original owners were not followed in ancient Israel. The Mosaic Law was not that easy. Also, much of what the Lord taught can also be found in the Old Testament. In St. Matthew’s Gospel we read: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:43-45) However, we also read in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs: If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink. By this you heap red-hot coals on his head, and Yahweh will reward you. (Pr 25:21-22) The newness of the “New Commandment” is not a “higher morality” but rather the means that we have to fulfill this “higher morality”. This means is the Lord’s Gift to us, what Pope Benedict teaches us is the sacramentum, Christ’s fulfilled mission for us from the Father. 

 

This union of Gift and Task, sacramentum and exemplum is hard to maintain, and many have denied it. The gift of the Lord’s Life and Death on the Cross must be accepted in faith. Task is detached from Gift by the doctrine of “faith alone.” This doctrine, which originated with Martin Luther, teaches that the Lord’s Death on the Cross, the Gift, accepted by us in faith, is all we need for salvation. Our righteous deeds are “filthy rags”. It is not possible for us to love each other as He has loved us. However, our righteous deeds are not ours, but His. “He is acting in us” as Pope Benedict stated above. Of course, Luther did not believe this. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to guilty sinners and thus we can be saved. Does Christ’s living in us actually make us righteous or are we simply declared righteous because of faith in His Gift? Are our righteous deeds Christ’s deeds or are they just “filthy rags”? Do Gift and Task really belong together? Do our sins really matter since Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to sinners? 

 

Those who teach this use St. Paul’s letters to support the separation of Gift and Task. “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Rom 3:28) Has St. Paul separated Gift from Task? No. This letter was written during the early decades after Christ’s Death and Resurrection, when it was not clear whether Christianity was a Jewish sect or new religion. Jews were trying to make the new and very fast-growing Christianity a part of Judaism by requiring that Gentile converts to Christianity must in essence become Jews by being circumcised, observing Jewish festivals, and following the other dietary and ritual requirements of Judaism thought to be required for salvation. St. Paul vigorously denied that Gentiles had to become Jews. In the following verses St. Paul states: “Or is God the God of Jews only? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Rom 3:29-31) Does this means that God imputes righteousness to us through faith, but our deeds of righteousness are just “filthy rags”. No. St. Paul teaches us: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.” (Gal 2:20-21) The grace of God is Christ actually living in us and not just Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. Pope Benedict is saying the same thing when he said that “Jesus' action becomes ours, because he is acting in us.” 

 

Did St. Paul believe that we cannot obey Christ’s new commandment to love each other as Christ has loved us, and our righteous deeds are just “filthy rags”? No. Once we have repented of our former sins and now Christ lives in us because of our faith, we cannot return to our sins. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2) Later in that same chapter, Paul says “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey, either to sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom 6:15-16) St. Paul concludes chapter six of Romans with: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) St. Paul is telling us that we cannot continue to live in willful mortal sin and still have Christ living in us. The Lord calls us to repentance, and when we repent, He returns to us. 

 

There is another way to separate Gift from Task, called “deeds not creeds”. In this way of thinking, what one does is more important than what one believes. There are so many different religions, creeds, or doctrines which are sometimes contradictory. These differences are believed to be a source of war and conflict. We should ignore these differences and work together with all people to build a better world of peace and justice. Of course, the issue immediately rises: what do you mean by “better”? What is peace, justice, or good? The answers to these questions ultimately depend on one’s religious and philosophical ideas which often turn out to be godless. Here again, personal sin is not an issue. The structural evils and sins are of more concern than the evil which lurks in the hearts of men. 

 

This is why Gift and Task must be kept together. We can ignore the Task of actually being righteous, using the excuse that we are all sinners and true righteousness is impossible. We can ignore the Gift of the Lord’s saving Death and Resurrection and build our own righteousness on the values of the world such as autonomy and self-determination. Both paths spurn the Gift the Lord has given us, the very Gift of Himself. –Jim Nugent, CfP

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