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Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter
March 2024

Lenten Reminder:


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.



When I was called to the CfP I looked in my closet and literally said “I have nothing to wear.” My husband wanted meat at dinner time, which would not be allowed on M/W/F /S. This would mean I would have to make myself something different for dinner. Thinking I would never be able to afford a whole new wardrobe and accessories or learn to eat meatless meals, I almost gave up. Then the Lord showed me clothes that would work on sale or at a thrift store that were very nice, appropriate and low cost. I even found vegetarian cookbooks and enjoyed the recipes. To my amazement didn’t starve. I started to give away scented lotions and perfumes, too.


God is so good. When He calls us to this way of life, he provides everything we need just like the lilies of the field. In the Sacred Scriptures we are told that we are not to worry about what to eat and what to wear. He says He knows we need these things and will provide. This is what is to live a life of prayer. –Sandi Wilde, CFP Postulant


(Note: Because Fr. Joseph Tuscan, CFP Spiritual Guardian, is extremely busy preaching Lenten Missions, he could not prepare a reflection for this month. So we share with you this message from Fr. Michael Anthony Sisco who served as CFP Spiritual Guardian previously to Fr. Tuscan).


"For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (I Cor 1:17-20)


Where is the wise man to be found? Saint Paul asks a good question here. One of my favorite Broadway plays is “Godspell,” which is a musical based on Matthew’s gospel, and which was written as an answer to the Broadway play “Jesus Christ Superstar.” One of the things I like about “Godspell” is that it reinvents itself with each generation, because the whole concept is ‘What if the incarnation had happened here, today, instead of two thousand years ago in ancient Israel? What would Jesus be doing for a living? Who would he choose as disciples?’


One of my favorite scenes in the play happens right in the beginning. It’s an optional piece; many productions choose to omit it, probably because they don’t get it, but it’s called “Babel.” Each of the actors walks silently on stage wearing sunglasses and holding a sign in front of them with the name of famous philosopher; Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Galileo, L. Ron Hubbard, Immanuel Kant, etc.


Socrates begins singing an excerpt from his famous “Apology,” as he was on trial for his life in Athens. Then each actor, one by one, begins singing the philosophy of the name they are holding, until by the end it sounds like babbling!


Then enters John the Baptist singing “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” and as he baptizes each of the actors with his bucket and sponge, they drop their signs, take off their sunglasses, and join his chorus until they’re all singing in harmony with him. I think the meaning of the scene is the most profound in the play; human intellect will only take us so far, and then, if we truly seek wisdom, we have to make a leap of faith.


This is exactly what Paul is talking about. “The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those headed for ruin.” I remember when I was in graduate school, wearing my crucifix, this one young woman saying to me, “I’ve never understood why you Catholics get off on wearing an instrument of torture with a man’s corpse on it!” Even after I explained it, it didn’t do any good. Complete absurdity.


When you look at many of our practices, it’s not too hard to see why so many people think we’re superstitious, or just all out nuts. And if you think explaining relics, indulgences, and the intercession of the saints to non-Catholics is challenging, just imagine what Paul had to go through!


The incarnation: OK, that’s not too bad. The pagans believed myths of gods temporarily taking human form. The incarnation shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for them. Miracles: again, not too bad. They believe myths where gods suspend the laws of nature for their purposes. But what happens when you get to the cross? What?! God suffer?! You can’t hurt a god! What’s wrong with you? GOD DIE?! You’re crazy! Gods can’t die! If they could, they wouldn’t be gods! Just imagine trying to explain that to them.


The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those headed for ruin. Try to explain to someone with no faith why they should thank God for their suffering. ‘Thank God? That I’m going through this? Are you crazy?’ The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those headed for ruin. Why can’t they see it? They can’t because faith is by definition that which we can’t scientifically explain.


Sometimes God uses natural events to convey supernatural realities. Sometimes God suspends the natural laws and does something extraordinary to demonstrate his dominion over the natural world, like the miracle of the sun at Fatima. God is always challenging us to see the extraordinary behind the ordinary. God wants us to see him in ourselves, in one another, and in the natural world around us so we can also see him in eternity. For that we need faith. And when we strive to see him there, his great love in the incarnation, and in his passion and death make perfect sense.


Brothers and sisters, it is my prayer for all of us today, that, through our embracing of the cross, those in the world will drop their signs, takes off their sunglasses, and join our chorus, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Blessed Be God Forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco



This isn’t the greatest photo of the most recent life pledged member of the Confraternity of Penitents, but it’s just like Dawn to pledge quietly and humbly with a priest and witness without taking a single photo.


When the CFP asked for a photo, Dawn dug out an old one. She wrote, “It is an old photo. I think me and my sister went to steak and shake that day.” (We cropped out the huge platter in front of Dawn!)


Dawn’s pledge to live the CFP Rule for Life took place on February 9, 2024 in Virginia. Her love of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, is evident in the hidden and self-effacing life Dawn quietly leads. Dawn is a living example of doing penance inconspicuously and without fanfare.


Dawn, we congratulate you and welcome you as a life pledged sister in the Confraternity of Penitents. God bless you!



In all four Gospels, at the Last Supper, Jesus speaks of his betrayal. But in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels, he does not specifically identify the betrayer. (Mt 26:20-25, Mk 14:17-21, Lk 22:21-23) In John’s Gospel, Jesus reveals the betrayer to the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, who was probably John, but John did not seem to understand and grasp what was going to happen. When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of the disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.” So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night. (Jn 13:21-30)


This meal was a solemn meal, and there must have been some sort of ritual where each person at the meal dipped a morsel of bread into a dish with wine. (Mt 26:23, Mk 14:20) In John’s Gospel, Jesus dips a morsel into the dish with wine and then gives it to Judas. (Jn 13:26) After Judas has eaten the morsel, John tells us that “Satan entered into him” and then Jesus tells Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly”. (Jn 13:27) Satan took control of Judas, but Satan, acting through Judas, did the will of Jesus. John makes it clear that none of the other disciples knew what was going on. Jesus did reveal Judas as the betrayer to John who was close to him, but John did not understand. Since Judas immediately left and then the solemn meal continued, there was no time for John and the other disciples to reflect on all this. (Jn 13:28-30) While the Lord appears to be a victim of betrayal, He actually is in control of the events. He needed to be in control to fulfill the Will of His Father.


In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict reflects on Judas’ betrayal of the Lord. John gives a new depth to the psalm verse with which Jesus spoke prophetically of what lay ahead, since instead of the expression given in the Greek Bible for "eating", he chooses the verb trogein, the word used by Jesus in the great "bread of life" discourse for "eating" his flesh and blood, that is, receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist (Jn 6:54-58). So the psalm verse casts a prophetic shadow over the Church of the evangelist's own day, in which the Eucharist was celebrated, and indeed over the Church of all times: Judas' betrayal was not the last breach of fidelity that Jesus would suffer. "Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me" (Ps 41:9). The breach of friendship extends into the sacramental community of the Church, where people continue to take "his bread" and yet betray him.


Jesus’ agony, his struggle against death, continues until the end of the world, as Blaise Pascal said on the basis of similar considerations (cf. Pensées VII, 553). We could also put it the other way around: at this hour, Jesus took upon himself the betrayal of all ages, the pain caused by betrayal in every era, and he endured the anguish of history to the bitter end.


Only the Twelve Apostles were present at the Last Supper when all of this took place. They were his trusted friends. When asked by his disciples to explain to them the parable of the sower, He told them “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” (Lk 8:10, also, Mt 13:10-13, Mk 4:10-12) Judas was one of those who was entrusted the “secrets of the kingdom of God”. Although it seems that Judas was not present for the entire Last Supper since Jesus had told him “What you are going to do, do quickly”, (Jn 13:27) Jesus wanted to make sure that Psalm 41:9, quoted above by Pope Benedict, was fulfilled. Thus, He gave the morsel, which He had dipped into the dish, to Judas. Pope Benedict links Judas’ betrayal of the Lord to the Eucharist of the present time. When we receive the Eucharist worthily, we are His friends who can be “entrusted with the secrets of the Kingdom of God”. When we receive the Eucharist unworthily, (in the state of mortal sin) we are betraying Him just like Judas.


What was this betrayal by Judas? We know that Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray Him into their hands. In exchange they gave Judas money which St. Matthew identified as thirty pieces of silver. (Mt 26:14-16, Mk 14:10-11, Lk 22:3-6) They needed the help of Judas since Jesus and His disciples were Galileans who were in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. After the Last Supper, Judas led an armed crowd to Gethsemane to seize Jesus. However, he still had to point out which one of the Galileans they were to seize. He did it by addressing Jesus as “Master” and kissing Him. (Mt 26:47-49, Mk 14:43-45). St. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Judas told the crowd “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him and lead him away safely.” (Mk 14:44) Judas addressed Jesus with a title of honor, Master, and gave Him a sign of affection, a kiss, in order to betray Him to His enemies.


Was Judas a hypocrite for honoring Jesus and even kissing Him to deliver Him to His enemies? Was Judas himself an enemy of Jesus? Scripture tells us that this was not the case. When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. (Mt 27:3-5) From the point of view of the Jewish religious authorities, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a success. He was condemned and handed over to the Romans for crucifixion. This same result drove Judas to despair so that he threw back the money and hanged himself. Why? After Judas kissed Jesus, Jesus says to Judas “Friend, why are you here?” (Mt 26:50) Judas was not an enemy of the Jesus like the chief priests and elders who wanted Him crucified. He was a “friend”. Why, then, did he betray Jesus to His enemies?


Judas probably considered Jesus to be a prophet who had the potential to reform Judaism as other prophets had done. The problem was Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of Man” and his claims of Divine Authority such as the power to forgive sins. For example, when Jesus healed a paralytic (Mt 9:1-8, Mk 2:1-12, Lk 5:17-26), He said to the scribes, who considered Him to be blaspheming, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”-he then said to the paralytic - “Rise take up your bed and go home.” (Mt 9:6, Mk 2:10-11, Lk 5:24) Judas probably considered this sort of thing to be “over the top”. He knew that this and other things which Jesus said and did offended the Jewish authorities and would work against any reform of Judaism. He must have thought that betraying Jesus to the authorities, with the threat of Roman crucifixion, would have caused Jesus to back off from His claims of Divine Authority. The Passion narratives tell us that Jesus was given ample opportunity by the council to disavow Divine claims. Yet, He did not do that. He continued to claim to be the “Son of Man”. When the council heard that, they judged Him guilty of blasphemy a crime that deserved death. (Mt 26:62-68, Mk 14:60-65, Lk 22:66-71) The plan of Judas did not work. Jesus did not disavow His Divine claims. Judas did not seem to consider that Jesus really was what He claimed to be. He did not repent in tears like Peter did after denying Jesus three times. (Mt 26:75, Mk 14:72, Lk 22:61-62) Rather, he despaired and hanged himself after telling the council “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” (Mt 27:40)


Judas did not accept or reject Jesus based on what He said and did. Instead, he tried to manipulate Jesus to fulfill his own plans for Jesus. Judas was a “friend” of Jesus, but he really wasn’t. John’s Gospel tells us that just before Jesus announces that He was to be betrayed, He was “troubled in spirit”. (Jn 13:21) This “troubling” of Jesus continues to the present day. As Pope Benedict points out, He is continually being betrayed. Many want to manipulate Him to use Him to further their own plans for the world. Some will use some aspect of the Lord’s teaching to justify the right to choose abortion. Others will use Jesus to justify same sex unions. Others will use Him to justify each person deciding with their sexual identity. Just as Judas failed to manipulate Jesus, everyone else who tries will also fail.—Jim Nugent, CfP



You think you know stress? When I was a kid, if you missed a TV show, you missed it. Forever

I’m so glad I was young and stupid before there were camera phones.



An awful lot of people set some pretty ambitious goals for themselves at New Year’s. They’re going to become debt free this year. They’re going to lose 25 pounds without weekly injections of Ozempic. They’re going to eat healthy. They are going to adopt a minimalist lifestyle because they heard it will lessen their stress. And on, and on, and on.

But research shows most resolutions fail and fail quickly. A Forbes Health/One Poll of 1,000 U.S. adults on Oct. 23, 2023, found the average resolution lasts just 4.74 months. Eight percent (8%) of respondents said they gave up within a month, 22% gave up within two months, another 22% gave up within three months. In the first three months after making a resolution, 50% had been abandoned.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can start over again any time. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University researcher, has found mindset has a lot to do with it. Some people have a fixed mindset. Faced with failure, they assume nothing can be done and just give up. Others have a growth mindset and live by that old slogan your Mother might have taught you: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says these people have grit. They stick with something they believe to be worthwhile. When Thomas Edison was inventing the incandescent light bulb, over 1,000 experiments were unsuccessful. A newspaper reporter asked Edison if this didn’t make him feel like a failure. Not at all, the Wizard of Menlo Park replied. He had successfully proven 1,000 ways that would not produce a filament with a life long enough to be practicable in a light bulb. This is grit.

Sticking with something is not just a worldly concern. Jesus himself said that, for salvation, it is necessary to take up one’s cross daily. Note the word daily. We can recognize the need for a change, be unsuccessful, and have to try again, perhaps many times.

Consider the Rule of 1221 as it has been adapted for modern life. Our Rule requires us to pay up our debts. One can start to pay off a credit card, have an unexpected expense and have to start all over again. I’ve discussed in previous articles how to pay off credit card debt.

Or consider fasting and abstinence. Penitents are to eat meat just three days a week. For a confirmed carnivore, this can be a real challenge, as fasting can be for someone who is used to grazing throughout the day.

Or consider the main exercise in Novice 3 of simplifying our wardrobe. Disposing of some items of clothing can prove to be a real challenge.

Our New Year’s Resolutions almost always involve a change of habit. Research has found that to make those changes “stick”, it helps to have a fixed day to begin. Research has also found that developing a habit takes anywhere from 30 – 60 days. Starting a new habit during Lent can set the stage for success.

Our Rule is in line with today’s secular objectives. Getting out of debt is a popular topic among many people, for purely financial reasons. For a penitent, it’s a “two-fer” – both spiritual and worldly. Getting out of debt is spiritual because St. Paul tells us to owe nothing to any man. Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, therefore paying down our debts is both spiritual and worldly. The clothing and other simplification rules of Novice 3 are right in line with minimalism, which has become quite popular.

Whether your objective is becoming debt free, eating healthier, developing a better prayer life, or disposing of unneeded clothing or other items, there’s no better time to begin during Lent! –Joel Whitaker, CfP


There is a book by Dan Burke entitled, The Devil in the Castle, the subject of which has to do with obstacles to progress in the spiritual life and how deep mental prayer overcomes these obstacles. I was invited to a class, given by the author, which basically pulls together people to share experiences in carrying out the suggestions of the book. An incident occurred, recently, that reminded me of something that was mentioned in the book regarding a holy and good pursuit, which, nevertheless, may or may not be God's Will. The incident turned out to be a huge lesson for me. The lesson amounts to the fact that God's Will is very much tied, if you will, to physical realities, and should be part of the discernment process.

The class involves discussion of deep mental prayer, its connection to growth in the spiritual life, and interference of the evil one in progress in perceiving and, thus, carrying out God's authentic Will, as opposed to our will in disguise. As the class commenced, the Friars of the Immaculate offered a retreat on deep mental prayer, occurring over a weekend in mid-February of this year. The friars always give the most excellent retreats. I saw this retreat as a sign and registered with my Carmelite friend. It was all adding up to be a perfect weekend retreat. We were both sure that God had plans for us at this retreat, and we were in for something very special.

Flash forward to the afternoon of the retreat which is an hours' drive away from home. It began to snow here in central Indiana. An incident involving a mouse in the engine of the company car required me to interrupt my work on Thursday, and elongate my work day on the Friday of the retreat. As a result, rather than being safely home, I was caught in the weather, with all roads to home backed up for miles. My friend, on her way to my home, ended up straddling a meridian. I, in my impatience, gambled on a "short cut" and along with a school bus and several other cars, with the same idea, came across a treacherous, winding hill covered completely with snow and ice. As a result, I ended up in a ditch alongside a barbed wire fence, at a 60 degree angle, in rapidly dropping temperatures and falling snow, with little hope of rescue for hours, if not even the next day. 

I did not panic, but it was obvious that we were not getting to the retreat. Needless to say, the Lord provided. My friend was easily rescued from her meridian, and I was rescued by the police (thanks to the bus full of kids), with minimum damage, within 5 hours. In any case, the next day we were unable to navigate the roads. The retreat was not meant for us.

This traumatic event caught my attention. My friend and I reflected on the situation. We missed the retreat, and what would have been gained. It had appeared to be God's Will for us to attend. However, no amount of diligence on our part would change the fact that this was not to be. My impatience and lack of prudence, (hindsight is always 20/20), made for an even more miserable situation for me, but,that is a separate issue. Multiple converging happenstances had occurred. Doubtless, this was God's Will, whether permissive or signified. This could have been a scheme of the evil one to interfere with progress in the spiritual life. If so, the devil played into God's hands, because, this incident has provided valuable self-knowledge and discernment experience, to both of us, and which seem apropos to the goals of the class. Just because something is a good and holy pursuit, does not automatically amount to what is God's Will for us. It seems, there is a lesson to be learned in every moment, big or small. -- Lucy Fernandez, CfP



The Good Shepherd discourse in the Gospel has always resonated with me and always has spoken to my heart ever since the beginning of my conversion. I was the lost sheep whom the Good Shepherd found!


I sometimes will pray to Our Lord that I just want to be His sheep and that is enough for me, but then my crosses get heavy and I begin to complain. A HUMAN RESPONSE. KEEP PRAYING TO BE THE SHEEP AND CARRY THAT LOAD WITH MEEKNESS.


I have on my bedhead a small picture prayer card which is Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding a little lamb. On the wall at the end of my bed, I have a large picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that I found in a charity shop in town. I am one of those lost sheep of His, but I was lost because I chose to be lost. I ran away from the Good Shepherd because of my sins, and then I forgot about Him on my travels. I was busy wallowing in my sins like a pig in mud when He, the Good Shepherd, came looking for His lost sheep. The Good Shepherd didn’t forget about His lost sheep; He went on the search for her and then had to convince her of Himself as she had completely lost all faith. That is how good the Good Shepherd is--He lays down His life for His sheep, and when they sin against Him and betray Him He still goes looking for them to forgive them. He is all goodness. I hope I stay His sheep until my last breath. The song “Amazing Grace” always used to go around in my head at the time of my conversion “I was once lost but now am found, was blind but now I see”. Deo gratias!


“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want… He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are at my side with Your rod and Your staff that give me courage.” Ps. 22:2,4. This psalm is on the back of my prayer card on my bedhead. -- Jessica Bishop, postulant


Sorry I’m late. I didn’t want to come.

I have stopped listening. So why are you still talking?

If you can’t laugh at yourself, let me do it.

Patience is a virtue. It’s just not one of MY virtues.

I am who I am. Your approval isn’t needed.


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