Original Franciscan "Third Order" -- Confraternity of Penitents
Make Every Day a Path to Holiness
Inquirers do not undergo any specific formation program. They are asked to pray about their decision to enter formation as a postulant.
To assist inquirers in this process, they may wish to consider the following questions. It is suggested that a good period of time be spent on each reflection (perhaps a few weeks) Members of the inquirer's Chapter or Circle or the Regional Minister can assist inquirers in the discernment process. The reflections should be taken in order as written but do not have to be completed in order to enter formation as a postulant.
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1. REFLECTION ON THE RULE OF LIFE:
Study the Guide to the Form of Life of the Confraternity of Penitents--the Rule and its Constitutions. Ask yourself:
Can I envision myself living this Rule of Life? How does that imaginary vision make me feel? What difficulties do I foresee and how will I deal with them? What joys do I think I will experience? Do I foresee any opposition from others? What adjustments will I have to make to live this Rule? Do I feel that God will give me the grace to make them?
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2. REFLECTION ON THE CONFRATERNITY PRAYERS:
Look for these in the Rule, Chapter I and in the Appendices. Look up the psalms in a Bible:
Why were these particular psalms used in the original Rule of 1221? What does Psalm 51 say to me personally? Psalm 54? Psalm 119 as penitents pray it? What meaning does the Marian Consecration Prayer have for me? Why will I be asked to pray the Apostle's Creed twice daily? How do I feel about praying these psalms and prayers every day for the rest of my life? How might they influence my life if I do pray them daily?
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3. REFLECTION ON A LIFE OF PENANCE
How do I feel about living a medieval Rule in the modern world? Do I see myself as one in a long line of penitents? Do I really want to surrender my life, in every way, to God? How might living this Rule help me to do that? What fruits do I see as forthcoming in my own life if I do embrace a life of penance, as put forth in the CFP Rule?
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4. REFLECTION ON THE SAN DAMIANO CRUCIFIX:
Read the section on the San Damiano Crucifix. Use a good sized photograph of the cross or, better yet, a replica of the crucifix, for this reflection. Try to pray daily, gazing at this crucifix. Ask yourself:
What "leaps out" at me from this crucifix when I gaze at it prayerfully? Why do I think this is so? What might God be telling me through this? What parts of the crucifix do I not really notice unless I look very closely? Why do I think I miss those parts? Might there be any symbolic spiritual lessons in those parts that I may not want to see? Do I think that praying with this crucifix might impact my spiritual life? How?
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5. REFLECTION ON BEGINNING THE JOURNEY INTO PENANCE
Why do I want to begin this journey into conversion? What questions do I have? Who might I ask for answers?
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6. REFLECTION ON THE FRANCISCAN CONNECTION
What is the connection between Saint Francis and the Confraternity of Penitents? Why does the CFP focus on penance rather than on St. Francis per se? How do you feel about this? Do you see yourself living a life of penance?
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7. REFLECTION ON MOTTO, MISSION, ACTION, PRAYER
Read these sections in the CFP Constitutions. Do you feel called to these four aspects of a life of penance? How might the Lord bring these about in your own life?
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8. GOALS OF A LIFE OF PENANCE
What goals might living this Rule achieve in your life? How do you feel about these? Which one is most important to you and why?
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9. FOCUSING ON FORMATION
Formation in the Confraternity of Penitents takes at least four years of prayer, change of life style, and study. You will read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church over a three year period. You will meditate on certain Scripture passages. You will study the Franciscan Virtues, one per month, and, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, begin to more fully implement them in your life.
What can you hope to learn through this formation program? How do you feel it will help you spiritually? How might your relationship with others benefit? How do you think you will change by the end of formation? What excites you about formation? Is there anything that causes you some concern?
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10. ONGOING FORMATION
Once you complete formation in the Rule and Constitutions, you are not done! You are only just beginning. You will then continue formation by living the Rule and Constitutions, of course, but also by reading the lives and/or writings of the saints and/or documents of the Church. You will choose which you would like to read and then have an opportunity to share with other penitents whose formation is also complete.
Do you look forward to continuing your formation? What would you like to read? Why? Where will you find appropriate spiritual reading material?