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Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter - June 2024

SPIRITUAL GUARDIAN’S REFLECTION: LOVING GOD

 “We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear” - Saint Francis de Sales

 

Hell is mentioned twenty-nine times in Sacred Scripture, thirteenth times in the New Testament and eleven times in the Synoptic Gospels. The reality of hell as a consequence of sin is by far the most common topic of Our Lord’s own preaching.

 

On July 13, 1917, Our Lady, at Fatima Portugal, gave the three little shepherd children a vision of the souls in hell. Little St. Jacinta commented to her mother afterward; “Mother, if you had seen what Our Lady showed us, you would never stop weeping.”

The erroneous idea that almost everybody goes to heaven, the concept of “universal salvation,” is a false notion; it is the opposite of what Jesus taught as recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel 7:13-14. The idea of universal salvation is a heresy, but it is quite common today, Our Lord Himself spoke of souls going to hell and instructed us on how to avoid that awful fate. More than that, He left us His Church and the Sacraments to help us concretely.

 

The crisis of our time is not primarily economic or political. In a talk given in 1942, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen stated, “We are at the end of Christendom.” Making clear he didn’t mean Christianity or the Church, he said, “Christendom is economic, political, social life as inspired by Christian principles. That is ending — we’ve seen it die. Look at the symptoms: the breakup of the family, divorce, abortion, immorality, general dishonesty.”

 

This new form of paganism Sheen, said, allows for the spiritual while dethroning God. Sheen said this modern spiritual crisis has three essential elements:

 

(1) People have “no other function in life than to produce and acquire wealth,” (2) “Man is naturally good and has no need of a God to give Him rights, or a Redeemer to salvage him from guilt, because progress is automatic thanks to science-education and evolution, which will one day make man a kind of a god,” and (3) Reason isn’t for discovering “the meaning and goal of life, namely the salvation of the soul, but merely to devise new technical advances to make on this earth a city of man to displace the city of God.”

 

Many of our contemporaries view belief in the existence of God and Christianity as an option for those who chose to buy into this myth. We often hear it this way: “That is not my ‘truth’; if that is your ‘truth;” you do you.”

 

Truth is an aspect of the nature of God. Jesus did not say; “I am an option,” He said: “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life.” Archbishop Sheen commented on this passage and said, “Without the Way, there is no going, without The Truth, there is no knowing, without The Life, there is no living.”

 

Archbishop Fulton Sheen called this modern neo-paganism “functional atheism” so that man makes himself God. This is the definition of pride as St. Thomas Aquinas defines in his Summa in book two where he states that first of the seven deadly sins or “cardinal sins” is pride. Saint Thomas defined pride as that sin which; “Rejects subjection to God.”

 

In the month of June, the world celebrates the deadly sin of pride. Let us as faithful Christians, return to greater devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its virtue of humility, so loved by St. Francis of Assisi, by conforming of our lives to “The Spirit of the Lord and Its Holy operation." -- Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, Spiritual Guardian 

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NO GREATER LOVE: JESUS, THE HIGH PRIEST

Note: The above image is found on a "Bless All Priests" prayer card with prayers for priests at www.cfpholyangels.com on this link

 

We sin against God, feel estranged from God, and need to be reconciled to God. How can this be accomplished? In ancient Israel, this reconciliation took place, once a year, on yom kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day, the High Priest would offer a sacrifice to God by sacrificing a bull for his own sins and the sins of his priestly family, the descendants of the first Mosaic priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses. Then, the High Priest would take two goats to offer for the sins of all the people. He would draw lots and one goat would be sacrificed to God and the other goat would be sent alive to the desert to the demon Azazel bearing all the sins of the people during the past year. This goat was not sacrificed to the demon like the first goat was sacrificed to God. It was only given to him.

 

God chose Moses to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt to the land promised to his ancestor Abraham. Moses was from the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob. In chapter 8 of the book of Leviticus, God chose and anointed Moses’s brother Aaron and his sons to be priests. They are the ones who could offer the sacrifice of animals to God. The other members of the tribe of Levi served the priests and continued to do so even later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Aaron, the first High Priest, and successor High Priests after him, offered the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement. The reconciliation with God achieved by the Day of Atonement was temporary and imperfect since sacrifices offered were just animals offered by sinful priests. Thus, the priests had to offer sacrifice first for their own sins, the sins of their priestly family, and finally for the sins of all the people.

 

In John Chapter 17, Jesus offers His “high-priestly prayer”. In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict tells us how Jesus, as High Priest, fulfills the goal of the Day of Atonement, God’s reconciliation with humanity. The structure of the ritual described in Leviticus 16 is reproduced exactly in Jesus' prayer: just as the high priest makes atonement for himself, for the priestly clan, and for the whole community of Israel, so Jesus prays for himself, for the Apostles, and finally for all who will come to believe in him through their word-for the Church of all times (cf. Jn 17:20). He sanctifies "himself", and he obtains the sanctification of those who are his. The fact that, despite a certain demarcation from the "world" (cf. 17:9), this means the salvation of all, the "life of the world" as a whole (cf. 6:51), is something we will be considering later. Jesus' prayer manifests him as the high priest of the Day of Atonement. His Cross and his exaltation is the Day of Atonement for the world, in which the whole of world history-in the face of all human sin and its destructive consequences-finds its meaning and is aligned with its true purpose and destiny.

 

In this sense, the theology of John 17 corresponds exactly to the ideas that are worked out in detail in the Letter to the Hebrews. The interpretation put forward there of Old Testament worship in the light of Jesus Christ is what lies at the heart of the prayer of John 17. But Saint Paul's theology also converges on this center, which is clear in dramatically imploring form in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (5:20).

 

And is it not the case that our need to be reconciled with God-the silent, mysterious, seemingly absent, and yet omnipresent God-is the real problem of the whole of world history? Pope Benedict is telling us that Jesus Christ fulfilled the goal of the Day of Atonement, reconciliation with God, in way which was much superior to that of the descendants of Aaron. This Priesthood of Jesus is expounded in great detail in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews. Scholars believe that this letter was written in about 67 AD, a few years before the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. It was written to Jewish Christians living in the Holy Land. For decades they had been experiencing persecution from the Jews, but now Christians were also being persecuted by the Romans. Judaism was recognized as a religion in the Roman Empire, but Christianity was not. The Jewish Christians were tempted to go back to the Temple worship with the sacrifice of a animals. The letter to the Hebrews tries to dissuade them from doing that.

 

How can Jesus Christ be called a priest since Old Covenant priests had to be descended from Aaron from the priestly tribe of Levi, but Jesus was descended from the royal tribe of Judah? (Mt 1:1-17) In ancient Israel, the function of the king and the priest were separated with the kings coming from the tribe of Judah and the priests coming from the tribe of Levi. However, before the priesthood of Aaron and his descendants was established by Moses, there existed a “patriarchal” priesthood. The father and head of a family or clan was the ruler but could also act as a priest and offer sacrifice to God. The author of the letter to the Hebrews shows that Jesus was not a Levitical priest but was a “patriarchal” priest of the order of Melchizedek who appears only in the book Genesis. Abraham had just defeated the kings who had captured his nephew Lot and his family. He came to the King of Salem (Jerusalem) and offered him a tenth of the booty he had captured. That King was Melchizedek who was also a Priest of the Most High God who could offer sacrifices. He did not offer animals to God; he offered bread and wine in thanksgiving to God for Abraham’s victory.

 

The patriarchal priesthood of pre-Mosaic times was passed on from the father of the family to the first-born son. The author of the letter to the Hebrews cites Psalm 2:9 to show that Jesus was chosen by God to be His Son. “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”. (Heb 5:5) Then the letter cites Psalm 110:4 to show that Jesus is also a Priest. “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:6) Jesus is a Priest like Melchizedek, but also a descendent of David (Mt 1;1-17) and therefore a King like Melchizedek who was king of Salem (Jerusalem).

 

The ultimate goal of the Day of Atonement was that Israel be reconciled to God. However, what separates us from God is sin and the letter to the Hebrews tells us that the animal sacrifices offered by the Old Covenant priests on the Day of Atonement did not remove sin. “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshippers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices, there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.” (Heb 10:1-4) The sacrifices offered by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement reminded Israel of sin but did not remove sins.

 

The High Priest of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ, did what the Old Covenant Day of Atonement could not do. The goal of the Day of Atonement and the other sacrifices was to reconcile each person to God. In the Mosaic Law, the High Priest was needed for the Day of Atonement, but other priests were needed to offer daily sacrifices or sacrifices for particular infractions of the Mosaic Law. As the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, these animals sacrifices reminded people of their sins but did not remove their sins. These sacrifices did not really reconcile Israel to God. Jesus Christ, the High Priest, accomplished what the Old Covenant High Priest and other priests could not accomplish. This was proclaimed by John the Baptist. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) At the Last Supper, Jesus, just like Melchizedek, offered bread and wine. “Take, eat; this is my body,” (Mt 26:26) thus changing the substance of bread to the Body of Christ. Then Jesus took a chalice and said, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:27-28). On Holy Thursday, The Lord told His Apostles and us what He was to do on Good Friday-give His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our sins. His Resurrection on Easter Sunday tells us that the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood was accepted by the Father. The three days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, belong together. They do not make sense if one is missing. On those Days, the Lord, as High Priest, accomplished what the priests of the Old Covenant could not accomplish-our reconciliation to God. Jesus is not a priest because he was a son of Aaron; He is a Priest because He was appointed to be a Priest by God. (Ps 110:4) What He offered to God was not an animal, but Himself.

 

Priests of the New Covenant can do what the priests of the Old Covenant could not do-remove sins. They can do this not on their own merits but because of the Lord. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Jn 20:22-23) Our Priests can do this because of the Divinely Appointed High Priest, Jesus Christ. –Jim Nugent, CfP

HUMOR

  • Still trying to get my head around the fact that ‘Take Out’ can mean food, dating, or murder.

  • If only vegetables smelled as good as bacon.

  • I woke up this morning determined to drink less, eat right, and exercise. But that was four hours ago when I was younger and full of hope.

  • The biggest joke on mankind is that computers have begun asking humans to prove they aren’t a robot.

  • When a kid says, “Daddy, I want Mommy” that’s the kid version of “I’d like to speak to your supervisor."

  • It’s weird being the same age as old people.

  • Just once, I want a username and password prompt to say CLOSE ENOUGH.

  • Last night the internet stopped working so I spent a few hours with my family. They seem like good people.

  • Weight loss goal: To be able to clip my toenails and breathe at the same time.

  • The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts his sails.

  • Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.

Grilled Toast
MORE ON THE CFP RULE: THE WORLDLY BENEFITS OF PENANCE

What document, written more than 800 years ago, turns out to provide a solid guideline for living today?

If you guessed the Rule of 1221, which we as penitents try to live by, you’re right.

We don’t live our Rule for secular benefits – to be able to build up a bank account or an investment portfolio, to be healthy, or to have the benefits that come from a minimalistic lifestyle, all of which are popular among many people. We follow our Rule to get closer to God, to atone for our own sins and those of the whole world.

But that doesn’t mean penitents don’t reap secular benefits as well as spiritual.

Our rule tells us to pay off our debts as quickly as possible. That was good advice in 1221, and it was better advice two years ago. In the last two years, credit card interest rates have risen about 50%; people who were paying roughly 18% interest are now paying roughly 27-29% interest. That’s good for bankers, but bad for just about everyone else. This means, if a credit card holder’s balance doesn’t change, every three years they will have paid the credit card company about as much in interest as they owe on their card.

That 50% increase in interest expense makes it even harder to pay off a credit card. Back in the 1950s, a country singer by the name of Tennessee Ernie Ford had a hit song, “16 Tons,” based on life in the mines of Muhlenberg County, Ky. Here’s the chorus:

“You load 16 tons, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

St. Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go

I owe my soul to the company store.”

That aptly describes the situation of a lot of Americans, except they owe their soul not to the company store but to a bank. The only way out of this trap is to stop using credit cards, switch to cash or a debit card, and pay off the credit card.

Not using a credit card and making just the minimum payment will eventually get a person out of debt, but it can take as long as 33 years. The banks are required to provide a handy chart on the front of each credit card statement that tells how much one would need to pay each month to pay off the card in three years. Many people who pay off their credit cards take a second job to pay off their cards in three years or less.

A quicker way is to take a personal loan, as long as the interest rate is at least two percentage points less than the credit card rate.

A sure-fire way to reduce credit card debt – or avoid it in the first place – is to live a minimalistic lifestyle, which is encouraged by our Rule. In the Novice 3 year, we get rid of clothing that doesn’t meet our standards – that’s too colorful, that has logos or other patterns, etc. We also begin giving away personal items we don’t need.

Ten-item wardrobes and the Marie Kondo method of tidying up all the rage, and their authors have built substantial careers from their concepts. That doesn’t mean they are wrong – “Life truly begins only after you have put your house in order,” Marie Kondo says. But you don’t have to buy her books. You just have to embrace the discipline taught in Novice 3.

Also, all the rage are intermittent diets. The phrase usually means eating only within a narrowly defined window. Forbes evaluated a number of weight-loss programs and chose 10. We don’t focus on the weight-loss aspects, but our discipline taught in Novice 2 might lead you to losing weight.

For instance, when I began Novice 2, my usual midafternoon snack was four Oreo cookies and a small glass of milk. The very first assignment in Novice 2 is to “eliminate all solid-food snacks between lunch and dinner (afternoon snacks).” Each Oreo cookie is 55 calories; over the course of a week, I had been eating 1,540 calories a week just from those four Oreo cookies.

To lose one pound in one week, the usual wisdom is that you need to cut your caloric intake by 500 calories a day. So, just giving up four Oreo cookies gets you well on your way. It’s not that simple, of course; as you lose weight other factors come into play, and CfP is not a health club nor a health clinic.

We fast to get closer to God, not to lose weight. But losing weight can be a side effect of fasting, even when that fasting is done for a spiritual, not a physical, reason. However, if you are fasting to lose weight, then you should consult with a dietician or a physician who is trained in this area of medicine. Your body changes as you fast, which is why most people who fast hit one or more plateaus.

Meditation is perpetually a hot topic. Google “how to meditate” and you will get something like 660 million hits in a flash. Meditation is mental prayer, which we do 20 minutes a day. Not only can mental prayer bring peace, but it can also lead to answers to some of your most difficult questions.

And then there’s our Constitution section 15b: “All are to be reconciled in every way possible.” At a time when the United States seems so divided, this requirement as well at that expressed in Section 18 of watching what we say can go a long way toward reducing hostilities between neighbors and others.

As the 1970s hymn say, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”—Joel Whitaker, CfP

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CALMING THE STORM: JESUS TESTS THE FAITH OF HIS DISCIPLES

“But as they were sailing, there arose a great squall, and the waves were beating into the boat, so that the boat was now filling and they were in peril. And he himself was in the stern of the boat, on the cushion, asleep. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Master, does it not concern you that we are perishing? Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But he said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)

This passage resonates with me because I can relate to the disciples being tossed around in the storm and being fearful and how difficult it is to have faith in that situation. My own storm was my daughter getting involved with drugs and the whole lifestyle that goes with it and us taking care of and now adopting our two grandsons. Jesus didn’t calm the storm for us in the sense of making our problems go away, but He did calm it in terms of how I perceive it and react to it.

I realize that I am not God and can’t make everybody act right (even God doesn’t do this), but there are things under my control, like caring for the 2 boys (4 and 9 years old), making sure they are safe and taken care of. And knowing that there is always hope for our daughter. God doesn’t write people off; there is always a way back to Him. Having faith is what helps calm the storm for me. – Thomas Chilton, Novice 1

NEW PRODUCT IN CFP HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP
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Our Lady of Sorrows Trifold Brochure

This beautiful trifold brochure (only one side is shown—it is printed on both sides) on the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary is a treasure of meditation and instruction.

This tender devotion is prayed by the Confraternity of Christian Mothers and by many others.

The brochure is 50c each with bulk prices available. The hand crafted chaplet is $9.95

 

CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803.  260-739-6882 (does not take texts)

CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS PHOTO ALBUM  -- CFP LIFE PLEDGED RETREAT APRIL 2024
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The Confraternity of Penitents Life Pledged Retreat is held in the spring at Mount Saint Francis Hermitage, Endicott New York, USA. Shown above is a portion of the CFP Council which attended the retreat.

Front Row: Elizabeth Lemire, CfP and Mariah Dragolich, CfP

Back Row: Jim Nugent, CfP; Madeline Pecora Nugent, CfP; Karen Sadock, CfP; Kristen Rinaldo, CfP; Benjamin Rinaldo, CfP; Joel Whitaker, CfP; Karen Hopersburger, CfP; Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap and CFP Spiritual Guardian.

Missing from this photo are Council members Sandy Seyfert, CfP, Anne Fennessey, CfP; Susan Brady, CfP; Diane Joslyn, CfP, and Sandra Lewis, CfP.

Hotel Desk Check-In
CONTACTLESS CULTURE

I was stricken by my latest hotel reservation, which touted "contactless arrival". Simply use your phone and download something, and you don't have to talk to anyone, just go to your room. I have to travel for work once or twice a month, so hotels have become a normal thing. Soft beds, great breakfasts.

 

I don't know about you, but I thrive on human interaction. Truly real, honest, visceral human interaction, even something as small as checking into a hotel. I have not felt so challenged by deliberate disconnection from people as I do now. I welcome the challenge, however, because after you break the ice, normal people are flowing with life. Even in prison, I had and was surrounded by REAL people. People who knew who they were, warts and all, and didn't mind if I wanted to borrow a sewing needle, thread, or some oil to fix our always-failing fans in the 110 degree heat of southern Illinois' federal penitentiary.

 

n the "free" world, there are rare opportunities when we get to talk to one another, for real things. And "contactless arrival" means we are being engineered out of communion with one another, it seems.

 

By the way, I have wondered if there are more free people in prison than there are "free" people in society. Convicts have a way of stripping away attachments to things of this world and giving it all to God, because everything worldly they have belongs to the government.

 

Solitude helps, our morning prayers prepare us for interactions. Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem had to detach from things of this world and trust in God's providence. Joseph's entire family history was there in Bethlehem, but no one gave him lodging. As Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich mused, "Joseph must have felt bad after he had felt so confident that he would get help for him and his family ... only to find out that the inns were all full and no one would give their brother a chance." (paraphrased from her book on the Blessed Mother).

 

Yes, we do not want to adopt another's "baggage" by getting "too familiar." But in normal discourse, in normal interactions through business, school, even church, we really do love seeing a new face; hear a new voice; experience the life of a new soul we've never met. Seeing a set of eyes that "smile", or in others who "plaintively call", or are "too busy to be bothered". In the best circumstances, there are those who actually lift you up from whatever level of connection you had before you met.  

 

"Everyone is going through something, Welch. You have to learn how to act like you know that," my friend Mike Kelly told me. Mike was a huge meth dealer and distributor I met in prison. We became friends and respected each other despite our vastly different approaches to life as convicts. What brought us together was his hearing the news that son was arrested for drunk driving and his mother was admitted to the hospital for cancer. I learned how to hurt with my brother.

 

"Contactless arrivals.” Really?

 

We are all connected. We shouldn’t be too “brave” to admit that we need each other, nor too shy or too busy to care. We need to stick together as we muddle through the best we can, always leaning on Christ, our Father, and the Holy Ghost. God seeks to walk with us in His hands from time to time, and He also let us stroll away on our own through the garden of life if that’s the way we want to go. But when we stumble, He’s not “contact less.” He is always there for solace and guidance. –Eric Welch, CfP

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