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Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
January 2024

SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: VICTORY OVER VICE

The Lord Give You His Peace. Dear brothers and sisters, 

 

I hope that you all had a Blessed Christmas celebration. Thank you for your kind remembrance and prayers. Please know of mine for all of you in this new year of Our Lord 2024.

 

The great Australian Cardinal George Pell once said: "I am an optimist, because things can always get worse." The Cardinal had a great sense of humor and was a realist, but, as we all know, also a man of profound and lived faith. Each year brings new challenges but also, and more importantly, the hope of true conversion and renewal from which hope is born anew and great blessings flow. Those blessings, and that hope is made real by our ongoing conversion and growth in the spiritual life.

 

So, in keeping with the mission of the Confraternity I would like to recommend a wonderful little book for you to meditate on in this new year. It’s called Victory over Vice ($9.95) and was written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Archbishop Sheen claims that we can find means to overcome the seven deadly sins (gluttony, pride, avarice, lust, sloth, greed, anger) in the example of Christ’s suffering and death on Calvary, since He died to redeem us from those very sins. Archbishop Sheen is a master of engaging spiritual instruction that can actually be followed by the laity.

Have a Blessed New Year. Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, CFP Spiritual Guardian

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VICTORY OVER VICE
 

The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop is offering the book Victory over Vice with free shipping. Go to www.cfpholyangels.com and do a search for Victory over Vice. Or send a check ($9.95 made out to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop) to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803. Or phone in an order to 260-739-6882. God bless you in your reading!

HUMOR

For the past twenty-one years, my wife has been complaining about me not putting the cap back on the toothpaste. It’s the new year so I decided to make a new year’s resolution, break this bad habit, and make my wife happy. For a week, I was diligent, always capping the toothpaste. I was expecting my wife to thank me, but she never did. Finally, last night, she turned and looked at me and said, “Why have you stopped brushing your teeth?” Marriage is a difficult relationship, I tell you.

REFLECTION: RISE AND PRAY THAT YOU DO NOT ENTER INTO TEMPTATION

Temptation to sin is everywhere. To say to myself, “It is too hard to give up my former life and become a penitent with the CfP. Clothes that are patterned and colorful. Eating meat on abstinence days. Eating between meals. Tithing. Daily Mass. Giving myself to good deeds. Having patience with those who ask the same questions and can’t recall the answers. Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” It is so easy to say “just give up” and forget that we are called to this way of life. It isn’t easy. There are rules. What is important is that the Holy Spirit changes us. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the life of the Confraternity is not a chore but a chosen path lighted one step at a time through God’s word. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!” – Sandi Wilde, CfP Postulant

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NO GREATER LOVE: YOU ARE CLEAN

 

In the course of washing the feet of the apostles, Jesus comes to Peter to wash his feet. First, Peter does not want Jesus to wash his feet. (Jn 13:8) Then, when Jesus insists that He wash Peter’s feet, Peter wants Jesus to wash him completely. (Jn 13:9) Jesus refuses to do that but tells Peter, “You are clean”. (Jn 13:10) What exactly does it mean to be “clean”? It certainly has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Jesus was not telling Peter about the dirt on his body. In the Judaism of the time of Jesus and in other world religions, “clean” meant fitness to be in the presence of God, to worship God. The Mosaic Law had many regulations concerning “clean” and “unclean”. For example, eating “unclean” animals made one unfit to worship God. A woman during her menstrual cycle could not worship. Touching a dead body made one unclean for a period of time. Of course, lepers could not worship with the community because they were “unclean”. The centurion did not ask Jesus to come into his house to heal his servant. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof;” (Mt 8:8, Lk 7:6) He knew that Jesus would be defiled by entering the house of a Gentile.

 

Jesus certainly rejected the idea that ritual actions make one clean or fit to worship God. “And he called the people to him and said to them, ‘Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.’ Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ He answered, ‘Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain the parable to us.’ And he said, ‘Are you still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.’” (Mt 15:10-20) The Lord is clearly telling us that the evil which comes out of us makes us unfit to be in the presence of God. Ritual actions alone, such as ceremonial washing, do not qualify us to be in the presence of God. 

 

While ritual actions do not, by themselves, make us clean, Pope Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, explains that even moral actions, by themselves, do not make us clean. Yet the question immediately presents itself: How does the heart become pure? Who are the pure in heart, those who can see God (Mt 5: 8)? Liberal exegesis has claimed that Jesus replaced the ritual concept of purity with a moral concept: in place of the cult and all that went with it, we have morality. In this view, Christianity is considered to be essentially about morality, a kind of moral "rearmament". But this does not do justice to the radically new dimension of the New Testament. Its newness becomes clear in the Acts of the Apostles when Peter takes issue with the former Pharisees in the Christian community who insist that Gentile Christians must be circumcised and must "keep the law of Moses". Peter explains: God himself decided that "the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe .... He made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith" (15:5-11). Faith cleanses the heart. It is the result of God's initiative toward man. It is not simply a choice that men make for themselves. Faith comes about because men are touched deep within by God's Spirit, who opens and purifies their hearts. God gives us His Word, which ultimately is Jesus Christ Himself. We did not ask Him to come for He came on the Father’s initiative as His gift to us. This Word purifies us of the evil which, had the Word not come, would be within us. This Word is mediated by the Church. We must receive this gift from God through the Church as a living faith. 

 

What do we mean by “a living faith”? We can see an example of living faith in St. Peter. When the Lord says, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Mt 15:10-11), He does not just say “hear”, He says “hear and understand”. When the Word of God comes to us, it is not enough that we listen to it. We must truly understand it so that it becomes a part of our being. When Peter first heard this statement from Jesus, he did not understand it. Therefore, he said to Jesus “Explain the parable to us.” (Mt 15:15) Peter had a living faith in Jesus since when he heard something which he did not understand, he asked Jesus what it meant. He sought to understand it. Jesus marveled that Peter did not understand what He as saying. “Are you also still without understanding?” (Mt 15:16) Jesus knew that it was extremely important that the disciples understand Him so he patiently explained that being clean comes from the heart and not from external ritual actions. We might still be surprised that Jesus called Peter “clean” at the Last Supper since that very night Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times. (Mt 26:69-75, Mk 14:66-72, Lk 22:54-62, Jn 18:15-18,25-27). Jesus even predicted Peter’s denial. (Mt 26:39-35, Mk 14:26-31, Lk 22:31-34) However, Jesus knew that Peter had a living faith. Thus, when Peter realized the sin he had committed, he repented and went out and “wept bitterly”. (Mt 26:75, Mk 14:72, Lk 22:62) Peter’s living faith in the Lord made him capable of repentance after he had sinned. In contrast to Peter, when Judas realized his sin, he despaired and hanged himself. (Mt 27:5) 

 

A living faith is not a faith which is divorced from life but is something which determines our life. We can see the importance of a living faith in the Lord’s famous parable of the sower. (Mt 13:1-9, Mk 4:1-9, Lk 8:4-8) In this parable, a sower throws seeds on a footpath, on rocky ground, among thorn bushes and onto good soil. However, the disciples do not understand the parable, so the Lord explains that the seed is the Word of God, and the various types of soil are the faith of those who hear the Word. (Mt 13:18-23, Mk 4:10-20, Lk 8:9-15) The seed (the Word of God) which falls on the footpath refers to those hearers of the Word whose faith is weak or non-existent. The devil can take away their faith with even the most silly or weak arguments against the faith. The seed which falls on shallow, rocky ground refers to those whose faith is shallow or superficial. The first troubles or tests of their faith cause them to fall away. The seed which falls among the thorns goes to those for whom the riches and lures of the world are stronger than their faith. Their faith does not mature and bear fruit. The seed which falls on good soil is faith that is received by those who strive to understand it. The Word grows in their hearts and becomes a part of them, thus defining their very being. They are productive in whatever the Lord calls them to do. 

 

The good soil (those who are clean) bear fruit for the Lord. However, what is this fruit? St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is a great theological treatise on faith. At the beginning and end of this letter, St, Paul refers to the “obedience of faith”. (Rom 1:5, 16:26) The fruit of faith is obedience. If we truly have faith in the Lord, we will naturally obey Him. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15:14) When Jesus discussed the things which defile, He gives several examples. “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.” (Mt 15:19) These are all commands of the Mosaic Law which the Lord declared make makes one unclean (unfit for worship). 

 

In the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Mt 5:17) The Lord’s teaching on clean and unclean is an example of His fulfilment of the law and prophets. The Mosaic regulations on ritual purity taught Israel the need for holiness. However, they did not provide that holiness. God provides this holiness through His Word, but we need to accept it in faith. In Psalm 15 we read: “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy mountain? He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks the truth from his heart; who does not slander with is tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.” The teaching of Jesus on the need for a clean heart did not abolish this psalm but fulfilled it. 

 

We need to pay attention to what the Lord says about clean and unclean. Are those who are unfit to worship God in an earthly assembly also unfit to worship Him in the Heavenly Banquet for all eternity? –Jim Nugent, CfP

INSIGHTS ON OUR RULE: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

It was the morning before Christmas. I was awakened from a sound sleep not by tiny reindeer hooves prancing on the roof but my youngest daughter: “Dad! We need a card!” “Huh?” I intelligently replied. “Penny’s throwing up blood,” she said.

I sprang from my sleep, quickly threw on some clothes, and went downstairs where I found my oldest daughter looking like the world had ended. She explained to me that her puppy, Penny, had been throwing up about every two hours, and recently had thrown up blood – twice. I quickly checked my cellphone to ensure I had cash available and handed her a debit card.

She and her Mom went off to the emergency vet. About five hours later they returned, After several tests and X-rays , the vet had determined that Penny had gastroenteritis, gave her some medicine to treat it, and gave my daughter discharge instructions, along with a receipt for $628.

Life has many emergencies, from a sick puppy to a tree falling on the roof. As penitents, we should avoid paying for those emergencies with a credit card or any other sort of debt. (See Rule 29/Constitutions 29c). That’s reason No. 1 to build up an emergency fund. Life happens – dogs get sick, trees fall on roofs, cars get in accidents, workplaces go out of business, government agencies close, etc. Insurance may help with these expenses but will never cover all of them. That’s reason No. 2. The only way to have a reasonable chance of avoiding emergencies putting us into debt is to have an emergency fund.

How much should be in your emergency fund? The “rule” used to be $1,000, but now it’s generally that  $2,500 is more sensible. Most of us don’t have $1,000 much less $2,500 just laying around, so pick a number you can live with ($10, $25, $50, etc., every pay period) and start stocking the money away.

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Build a workout habit now. It’s a sad fact that we begin losing muscle and bone strength a lot earlier than we might expect. So, just as we build a prayer habit in Novice 1, we need to build an exercise habit. How long? You’ll get various advice on that – anywhere from 10 minutes to one hour. What type? You’ll find various advice on that, too. So spend some time researching.

Amazingly enough, some newspapers have developed major columns on health and fitness. Right now, the best that I know of is in The New York Times’ and The Wall Street Journal, both of which have weekly columns. Much of the Times content is behind a paywall, but not all. So do a search for “NYTimes exercise” and a fair amount will come up. Click on what seems to interest you. If it’s behind a paywall, access it through your public library. Almost all the Journal’s content is behind a paywall, so you’ll have to access it either through your public library or buy a subscription.

A personal note: I think a subscription to either the WSJ or the NY Times is really worthwhile. Both have news staffs around the world. Both are committed to rigorous independent reporting. Both maintain a sharp division between their news and opinion departments. The WSJ has its own reporter at the Vatican. Francis X. Rocca covers the Vatican and global religion for the paper. The Times covers the Vatican out of its Rome bureau.

* * *

Cutting out/Cutting down on the alcohol. The old line is “Given the choice, Jesus chose to create wine from water, not water from wine.” It’s funny, and it makes a point. For millennia, people have been drinking alcoholic beverages. Thirty years or so ago, we were told alcohol was actually good for our health when consumed in moderation. Now we’re told that even one drink – just one – could be extremely bad for us.

The people who say alcohol could be extremely bad for us focus on cancer, and there certainly is evidence that associates alcohol with cancer of the esophagus and other organs. They talk much less about heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, because the worldwide mortality rates of cancer are increasing, whereas cardiovascular disease mortality rates have declined for the last 15 years.

What has been well-established for at least the last five decades is this: Alcohol is a toxin. But it’s the dose that is the poison. One or two drinks a day will have little, if any, negative impact on anyone’ s health – in fact there are a bunch of studies that associate one or two drinks a day with longer lifespans than no drinks a day. But drink a lot more than that, say, five or 10 a day, and alcohol may very well kill you.

So, what to think and do? Here at the start of a new year, we’ll hear a lot of promotion of “Dry January” -- the idea of going the entire month of January without consuming a drop of alcohol. Dry January is gaining traction year after year. I don’t have the data to prove it, but my suspicion is that a lot of people taking part in Dry January may have imbibed a bit too much over the holidays and want to prove to themselves and others that they really don’t need a drink.

But Dry January isn’t very penitential. After New Year’s Eve, what big celebration is there in January? At least for penitents, if we’re going to abstain from alcohol, how about a “Dry Lent”? Happy New Year, Everyone! – Joel Whitaker, CfP

HOLINESS DOESN’T MEAN “GOOD”

In his enlightening homily at the Mass of Blessing of Guadalupe Men’s Vita Dei House on December 13, 2023, Fr. Joseph Tuscan brought out the point that “holiness doesn’t mean ‘good.’ Holiness means ‘not of this world.’” Holy people are those who avoid the trap of following worldly ideals and goals. Instead, they follow spiritual ideals and seek God’s goals.

Since the blessing was on the day after the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fr. Joe noted how Saint Juan Diego followed God’s messenger, the Blessed Mother, in going to the Bishop and presenting Our Lady’s request to have a church built there in her honor. Juan Diego was a holy man, a man seeking God’s ways and not those of the world. The Native Americans who knew him used to bless their children by saying, “May you grow to be like Juan Diego.”

Yet even Juan Diego, when his uncle was dying, tried to avoid meeting the Blessed Mother by going around the mountain on which she had appeared to him. He wanted to obtain a doctor for his uncle and not be detained. So Mary met him where he was, on the other side of the mountain. instead of over it where Father noted that, “Catholics don’t worship the Mother of Jesus. We honor her. The fifth commandment is ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ Every Jewish person was to follow that commandment. Jesus did. We cannot honor His Mother more than He did.”

The Blessed Mother is certainly “the highest honor of our race.” Without sin, she is certainly full of a mother’s love in its most perfect sense. Listen to how she gently chided Juan Diego. “Listen, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son; do not be troubled or weighted down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? Do not let this illness of your uncle worry you, because he is not going to die of his sickness. At this very moment he is cured.” And so he was.

The Blessed Mother was good. So were Juan Diego and all saints. They were holy because they sought the greatest good—the Will of God. Father prayed that all Guadalupe House residents would do likewise.

CFP PHOTO ALBUM: THE BLESSING OF GUADALUPE MEN’S VITA DEI HOUSE
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Altar and Saint Joseph Statue in Mary, Mother of Priests Chapel, Guadalupe Vita Dei House

The statue of St. Joseph had been in CfP Headquarters where, in June, 1221, a note was placed beneath it asking for St. Joseph’s intercession to obtain funds to renovate this house. St. Joseph amply answered that prayer! The note and the above explanation is framed and standing at the base of this statue.

Fr. Joseph Tuscan brought a glove of Padre Pio and a first class relic of Fr. Solanus Casey which he placed on the altar for veneration. He explained that relics were mentioned in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. They remind us of the presence of holy people and encourage our faith.

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Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, and CFP Spiritual Guardian, presenting the homily at Guadalupe Men’s Vita Dei House blessing. Father came to Fort Wayne, Indiana, from Pittsburgh to offer the Mass of blessing and to bless the house.

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True to life, life-sized framed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, exact reproduction of the image as it appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego. A generous benefactor paid to have this tilma framed.

 

The tilma shows the Blessed Mother with Aztec Indian features. The black ribbon at her waist indicates that she is pregnant. She is standing on what appears to be a black moon, to the Aztecs a symbol of their Moon God, the god of life and fertility. Her standing on this moon indicates her conquering of this god and also recalls Revelation 12:1 which describes the woman with “the moon under her feet.” The rays behind her represent the Aztec sun god whom our Lady eclipses by being in front.

 

True to life tilma reproductions in three sizes (life size, medium size, and small) are available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift shop (www.cfpholyangels.com ) or by writing to the Confraternity of Penitents at 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA. Or call 260-739-6882.

Additional Photos at the website for Guadalupe Vita Dei House: www.GuadalupeVDH.com 

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