Confraternity of Penitents Newsletter -- November 2019

REMINDER: Fast of St. Martin-November 12 through December 24. See CFP Rule and Constitutions for guidelines. All CFP Novice 3 members and pledged members are to observe this fast unless excused for health reasons. Others should observe this season in some way, perhaps by giving alms, praying more, doing works of mercy. Have a blessed Fast of St. Martin!

“Walking with God through Urakami’s nuclear wasteland has taught me the depths of his friendship.” (p. 213, Dr. Takashi Nagai, survivor of the Atomic Bomb – Book References from A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn, SM, published 1988 by Ignatius Press. 19.95 post paid Available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link)

As we ponder the themes of death and eternity during this month of November, I would like to share some inspirations from the astounding life of Dr. Takashi Nagai, a Japanese convert to Catholicism and radiologist who lived through the devastation of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Between 1945 and 1951, Nagai was mostly bedridden, suffering from leukemia due to being over exposed to radiation as he had risked his life as a doctor to help others. During that time, he became a source of hope and encouragement as a living symbol of love and forgiveness for many Japanese people, Christian and non-Christian alike.

SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT’S REFLECTION: Thoughts on Eternity from the Life of Dr. Takashi Nagai

Nagai, considered a saint by many, is one representative of the many uncanonized saints who, God willing, await us in heaven! His whole amazing life story is recorded in the book A Song for Nagasaki, by Fr. Paul Glynn, SM. Here I’d like to reflect on a few important events in his life that show us the beauty of the communion of saints.

The Beauty of a Holy Death

Nagai grew up in the Shinto religion of his parents, but when he went off to school, he quickly adopted the atheism of his teachers who believe that science was the only certainty and hope for humanity. But as a young medical student, his nonbelief was shaken after being called home to the bedside of his dying mother. Nagai writes, “I rushed to her bedside. She was still breathing. She looked fixedly at me, and that’s how the end came. My mother, in that last penetrating gaze, knocked down the ideological framework I had constructed. . . . Her eyes spoke to mine, and with finality, saying: ‘Your mother now takes leave in death, but her living spirit will be beside her little one, Takashi!’ I, who was so sure that there was no such thing as the spirit, was now told otherwise; and I could not but believe! My mother’s eyes told me that the human spirit lives on after death.” (p. 34). This event began Nagai’s long search for answers which culminated in his conversion to the Catholic faith. How might reflecting on our own moment of death, or that of a loved one, move us to deeper conversion?

The Beauty of a Vocation Lived Well

Another decisive moment in Nagai’s life came much later, when, after having devoted himself to pioneering the new field of radiology and putting himself at risk for his patients, he was indeed diagnosed with deadly leukemia. At that news, what he dreaded the most was telling his beloved wife Midori whom he felt he had neglected too much for his career. When he told her his diagnosis, Midori got on her knees before the family crucifix, and her shaking shoulders revealed her emotions to her husband. However, when she rose, she spoke with composure and said, “We said before we were married . . . that if our lives are spent for the glory of God, then life and death are beautiful. You have given everything you had for work that was very, very important. It was for his glory.”

Nagai explains how his wife’s response turned him into “a new man. Her complete acceptance of the tragedy, and her refusal to hear any talk of blame, had freed me!” (p. 148). Here is a powerful testament to the heights of holiness that this sacramental marriage was capable of effecting. Are we open to the graces available to us in our own particular vocations?

The Beauty of Healing from Heaven

Nagai was thrown into the pinnacle of human suffering imaginable as he survived the horrors of the atomic bomb which took the life of his cherished Midori. He helped the other surviving victims as he could, but a month later, he came down with severe A-bomb sickness from the radiation. He received the Eucharist and felt ready to die. He lost consciousness and his doctor’s colleagues said nothing could be done for him. However, after he was given some water from the Lourdes grotto from the nearby Hongochi Monastery, Nagai recalls, “I heard-- how, I don’t know, but I alone heard it, and heard it clearly-- a voice telling me to ask Father Maximilian Kolbe to pray for me. I did as I was told, begging Father Kolbe’s prayers. Then I turned to Christ and said: ‘Lord, I leave myself in your divine hands.’” Miraculously, his wound healed up. Nagai had known who we now call St. Maximilian Kolbe when he had been in Japan. He had not heard about his martyred death of love at Auschwitz. How wonderful to think how God truly lets friends on earth become friends in heaven!

The Beauty of Suffering in Hope of Heaven

After that miraculous healing, Nagai lived for six more years, dying of leukemia and preparing his children for a tough life ahead of them as orphans. He was the first to rebuild a small hut in his completely leveled suburb, and he encouraged others to find meaning to their suffering by rebuilding their homes. Nagai was asked to give a talk at an open air Requiem Mass for all of the victims several months after the bombing.

As Nagai prayed about what to say, he recalled two events within the horrors of that fatal day. The first was reports of the sound of Latin hymns being sung around midnight after the explosion and the later discovery of 27 nuns who had died singing out to God together. Second was the story of the girls at a Catholic school taught to sing daily: “Mary, Mother! I offer myself to you, body, soul and spirit.” On the day of the bombing and in the days following, wounded girls would encourage one another by singing that hymn as others were killed in the tragedy. Nagai was given an insight to see in these nuns and girls a clear reference to the Book of Revelation which refers to “a white robed choir of virgin singing” a new song of the Lamb. On the feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15 several days after the bombing, the war ended.

Nagai spoke to crowds of desolate Christian mourners, and his words would later touch nonbelievers as well: “Is there not a profound relationship between the annihilation of Nagasaki and the end of the war? Was not Nagasaki the chosen victim, the lamb without blemish, slain as a whole burnt offering on an altar of sacrifice, atoning for the sins of all the nations during World War II?” He went on to say: “Happy are those who weep; they shall be comforted. We must walk the way of reparation. . Let us be thankful that Nagasaki was chosen for the whole burnt sacrifice! Let us be thankful that through this sacrifice, peace was granted to the world and religious freedom to Japan.” (pp. 187-9)

Nagai would comfort many people in their sorrows and sufferings. In our own trials, let us reflect on the vision of this holy man: “Unless you have suffered and wept, you really don’t understand what compassion is, nor can you give comfort to someone who is suffering. If you haven’t cried, you can’t dry another’s eyes. Unless you walked in darkness, you can’t help wanderers find the way. Unless you’ve looked into the eyes of menacing death and felt his hot breath you can’t help another rise from the dead and taste anew the joy of being alive.” (p 225)

--Sister Karolyn Grace, PSSC, Spiritual Advisor to Our Lady, Cause of Our Joy, CFP Chapter

Order A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn, SM, 19.95 post paid, from CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 on this link. Your purchase helps support the Confraternity! Thanks!

OUR RULE, OUR FUTURE UPDATE: MAKE AN END OF THE YEAR CONTRIBUTION – FULLY TAX DEDUCTIBLE.

CFP Future Volunteer House:

Overgrown shrubs cut and burned, flower beds weeded by CFP on site volunteers

5 old windows replaced with storm windows and new exterior door purchased: $2888.79

Plumbing reconnected in basement, water turned on in basement bathroom and laundry area in preparation for waterproofing (not on upper floors due to burst pipe damage): $689.45

Electricity reconnected in basement

Whole house fire alarm system checked

Furnaces readied for winter, gas turned on

Met with architect to draw up remodel plans

$110,000 needed to complete remodel.

Mary’s Glen Chapel:

Met with architect to draw up building plans.

$64,678 needed to begin to build.

Purchase of CFP Administrative Headquarters

$44,000 needed to complete purchase.

Please pray about how to donate to help us. Donations accepted on this link.

NO GREATER LOVE: EXISTENCE AND ESSENCE

 

Our lives as human creatures are full of tension. “Tension” in this context refers to things which are different from each other but which cannot be separated from each other. For example, we experience the tension between our attraction to God and to the world. Tensions are also present in contemplation. In his book Prayer, theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar warns against theories of contemplation which try to escape these tensions. Contemplation, in which the believer is opened so that he may hear the word of God, is an act of the whole man. Man must not be cut down to some partial aspect (whether temporarily or, in theory at least, permanently), for instance, by systematically training himself to turn his back on the outer world and concentrate on mere inwardness, abandoning the world of external and internal senses (imagination) in favor of a mere "naked" spirit. To reduce man in this way is to misunderstand the demands of the word of God as it summons man to conversion, to a "turning-around", as it calls him to leave the realm of distraction and come home to reality. Objectively speaking such a reduction represents a disobedience to the word, in that it is based on a false preconception of the nature of man in the act of hearing. We must not turn away from Divine Revelation with all its tensions in order to find God “within” us. 

 

The first tension which Von Balthasar examines is the tension between “existence” and “essence”. Creaturely being is constituted by the tension between existence and essence. It is an unfathomable mystery which man shares with all creatures, but in him it also goes right through his spiritual being and thus informs all his spiritual acts. Created being is not necessary in the way divine Being is; its "being thus" does not automatically give rise to its existence; coming forth out of nothing, it is attended by the mysterious aura of inscrutable divine freedom. But the wondrous fact of its "being there" is not simply due to its naked facticity (existence), as if its being (its "being thus", its essence) were familiar to us through contemplation, as if it were to be expected and not something that takes us by surprise; for the concrete, existent being is so much a concrete ( i.e., con-cretum, "grown together") and indivisible whole that our astonishment at its "being there" immediately moves on to our wonderment at its "being thus". Existence, unless it is the existence of this particular essence (and of no other) is of as little concern to the contemplative as an essence lacking the astounding quality of having reality and existence, of "being there". Essence refers to what something is, its properties and nature. However, this essence may not exist. Existence refers to the fact that a particular essence does exist. Each of us has an essence, but we also exist in reality. The is no reason for a Christian to contemplate the “force” of the fictional Star Wars universe even though much information (essence) of the “force” is available since the force does not exist in our real universe (essence apart from existence). Likewise, we cannot contemplate existence in and of itself apart from an essence which really exists since, as creatures, unlike God, we cannot bring anything into existence out of nothing (the total lack of essence).

 

An example of an existential and essential Divine Revelation occurs in the book of Exodus. When Moses encounters God in the burning bush, we read: God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” (Ex 3:14-15 NIV) First God gives Moses an “existentialist” revelation of Himself by saying “I am who I am”. He is there in reality and His Essence is to exist. Then He gives Moses an “essentialist” revelation of Himself by saying he is “the God of your fathers”, the God who has revealed Himself in the book of Genesis and the rest of scripture. He is the God who shows his wrath to the unrepentant but also His kindness, mercy, patience, and love to those who fear Him.

 

Theologian Von Balthasar recommends that we first contemplate the essence of God as he has revealed Himself to us. This leads us to the existential wonder that this God we read about really exists. This existential wonder then leads to worship since it surely is a waste of time to worship what does not exist. In the contemplative too, therefore, there is a rhythmical alternation between essential and existential contemplation, which is both inescapable and fruitful. Both sides call for one another continuously, move toward each other; each sheds light on the other as we pray. In the face of this whole dynamic totality, the fact that, to a certain extent, we can discern different types of gifts and tendencies among contemplatives, is relatively insignificant. Some, like John the Evangelist, treat all the insights concerning "essence" simply as a prelude to their prostrate worship of the incomprehensible marvel of the divine existence. The Augustine of the Confessions, Francis, Ignatius and Newman belong to this type. Others start out from a shattering encounter with the Lord; they spend the rest of their lives in a desperate attempt, as it were, to interpret the content of this experience, to count the uncountable treasures which, "once for all", were poured out for them like a huge pile of gold. Paul was such a man, endeavoring to translate this treasure into coinage; Damascus was the source of his life, and all he can do is to point to the fullness of the mystery shown to him, which almost overpowers him. St. Paul certainly had an existential revelation of the Lord when he was knocked to the ground on the way to Damascus. Paul learned at that instant that Jesus Christ was not a deluded cult leader who was making outrageous claims, but the Son of God. For Paul, the existential encounter with the Lord came first, and later he learned about the Lord (essential encounter).

 

There are, however, false ways of conceiving of this tension between existence and essence. Von Balthasar warns against several of these errors. The distinction being made here is sharper than that commonly made by the terms intellectual and affective contemplation, even though these inadequate words are often used to express it. For on the one hand an affective response can be elicited by the various aspects and qualities of God's "essence" and grace; and on the other hand the total submission and self-surrender which occurs in the encounter with the "existing" Person involves far more than "affections", however much it may include them.

 

Nor is this distinction equivalent to that traditionally made between the prayer of the beginner, which proceeds more discursively, and the "prayer of simplicity" or the "prayer of the heart" which no longer needs a multiplicity of ideas but, since it has become simple, and can rest in the simple fullness of the object of contemplation. While there is progress here­--similar to the development from the child reading its letters to the adult who skims through a whole page at a glance---we must avoid giving the impression that the discursive element is a kind of original sin on the part of reason (as Greek metaphysics represents it), as if progress in contemplation consists primarily in overcoming this supposed "fall".

 

Moreover, we must not confuse the poles of "essential" and "existential" prayer with the distinction between the liturgical prayer of the Church, which is impersonal, objective and anonymous, and the decidedly personal praying of the individual in his private world. For the objectivity of liturgical prayer comes from its participation in the mystery of the Bride of Christ, and the latter's intercourse with the Bridegroom is the most sublime mystery of existential encounter and (on the Bride's part) of adoring submission and self-surrender. If something of this objectivity of the Church's prayer and the anonymity of the individual is to inform personal contemplative prayer, it is in order to impress upon it the comprehensive breadth of the ecclesial and Marian Bride; thus the private encounter with God acquires an ecclesial dimension in its very being, and not simply through its effects.

 

Finally, the tension we are examining must not be equated with the opposition between contemplatio and oratio, between contemplation and vocal prayer. Although there is a sense in which they can be distinguished, they are not true opposites, for all that is vocal, i.e., perceptibly uttered ( whether anyone else can hear it or whether the person praying thinks the words, which involves a certain motion of the speech organs), if it is to be prayer, must be accompanied by a spiritual attitude and spiritual acts which include and presuppose an openness to God and his word, a genuine hearing of his word. Thus, both vocal prayer and silent contemplative prayer contain both sides of the tension, essential and existential. – Jim Nugent, CFP

HUMOR: PHONES

 

When young people tell me their problems, I like to tell them that story about that time I survived without my cell phone or the internet for forty years.

 

People are excited about the new iphone but no one has caught up with the awesome technology of using your blinker when you drive.

 

Hard to believe I once had a phone attached to a wall. When it rang, I picked it up without knowing who was calling. Amazing.

 

I still have a landline. Or, as I like to call it, “a cell phone finder.”

 

Pretty busy today. Was only able to check my phone 1400 times.

 

Waiter to couple in restaurant. “Is everything OK?  You haven’t photographed your food yet.”

 

Anyone have plans to go somewhere and stare at their phone this weekend?

 

Who remembers waiting to call long distance after 7 pm because it was cheaper?

CFP PHOTO ALBUM: Life Pledge and Private Vow of Jackie Stevens (sr. Teresa of Calcutta), CFP

 On Saturday, October 12, 2019, at the Confraternity of Penitents Annual Retreat, Jackie Marie Stevens of Fort Wayne, Indiana, made her life pledge and took a private vow to live the CFP Rule for life. Jackie is a hospice nurse, wife, and grandmother and took the privately vowed name sr. Teresa of Calcutta. The CFP welcomes Jackie and is grateful to God for her faith and gentle compassion.

 

The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop offers a prayer card which reflects Jackie’s personality. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta prayed this daily with her Sisters. The prayer was written by Saint John Henry Newman

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus!  (25c, RCRadiate-GS6S order code. CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard St, Fort Wayne IN 46803 Include a self addressed, stamped envelop for one card. Larger quantities, please order on this link.).

MONTHLY LETTER TO ALL PENITENTS: What Is a Soul?

 

Is it well with your soul? This is an appropriate question to ask ourselves in the month of November, the month dedicated to the Holy Souls. As the ring tone of my phone I have the song “Oh, My Soul.” I thought I would do a little soul-searching with the focus being what is a “soul.” Of course, the first reference was the Catechism of the Catholic Church which defined “soul” as “the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value to him; that by which he is made especially in God’s image. Soul signifies the Spiritual principle of Man.” In Sacred Scripture, the Catechism says, “soul” often refers to Human Life or the entire Human Person.

 

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. God has created our body and will raise it up on the last day. A soul is created immediately by God for each person; a soul is not produced by the parents! The soul is separated from the body at death and reunited with the body at the Resurrection.

 

It was a good study to then learn some of the worldly definitions of “soul.” These include: “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.” Or “the emotional energy revealed in art or a performance.” The world also uses soul and psyche interchangeably. “The soul comprises the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc.” Worldly definitions go on to say that there are parts of the soul: “heart, shadow, name, spark.” They say the soul is in the lungs, heart, or brain.

 

It is easy to see how thinking along these lines would make the soul seem new age-ish or some similar thing, that it evolved within us and that we had some input into it. It is easy to see how people could think they were like God, creating their own soul, how they could take the lives of others through abortion, for example, because they believe that unborn children haven’t created their souls yet or because they believe that the soul enters the body at birth. Not understanding the significance of our soul, given us by God when we were conceived, leads us to think that we can manipulate life, be our own God, and make decisions that only God can make.

 

Our actions and our faith determine the destiny of our immortal soul. Understanding that we have a soul, and that we find within it the means back to God in whose image we were made, leads us to make decisions that reflect an understanding of the soul’s eternal significance. The soul is more than a spiritual force, emotional energy, or collection of mental abilities; it is the essence of who we are. In our soul is the imprint of God whom we were created for. Our purpose of being created is to find Him, live for Him, and return to Him whose image we are. Your soul is the essence of God in your life. Is it well with your soul? – Sandy Seyfert, CFP

INTRODUCING CFP SPIRITUAL ADVISER FOR FRANCISCAN MATTERS -- Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap.

 

The Confraternity of Penitents graciously welcomes Father Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, who has agreed to be our Spiritual Advisor for Franciscan matters. Father Joe was born in Columbus, OH, in 1967 and was raised in Canton, OH.  Making his Perpetual vows in 1993, he studied Theology at the Washington Theological Union before his ordination to the priesthood in 1995. His first assignment after ordination was working in the Provincial mission in Papua New Guinea where he served for four years. Returning to the US in 2001, he has served in various capacities as Parochial Vicar, Military and Hospital Chaplain and as Pastor.

 

He is also the priestly visitor for the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers, worked in Puerto Rico and currently serves as a full-time Minister of the Word and Evangelization, offering retreats and reflection days for parishes, Religious and Priests and conducting pilgrimages.

 

Father Joe, we are blessed in you!

REFLECTION ON THE RULE: Section 11

 

RULE: 11. Those engaged in fatiguing work shall be allowed to take food three times a day from the Pasch of the Resurrection until the Dedication feast of St. Michael[1]. And when they work for others it will be allowed them to eat everything served to them, except on Fridays and on the fasts enjoined in general by the Church.

CONSTITUTIONS: 11. In keeping with section 11 of the Rule:

11a. Fatiguing work may be either physical or mental. If a penitent is unsure whether his or her work classifies as fatiguing, a priest or spiritual director should be consulted. 

11b. Those engaged in fatiguing work may eat three times daily on work days, if necessary for strength. They are bound to follow, however, the days of fast and abstinence enjoined by the Church and, as a penitent, to observe Friday as a day of fast and abstinence, unless their parish priest, confessor, or spiritual director exempts them.

REFLECTION:

The Rule is generous in that it takes into consideration the food needed by a body doing hard, manual labor. The Rule was never intended to make people weak or ill but rather to have them discipline themselves through limiting food intake, but only to the extent that it was healthy to do so. Generally, two meal per day were eaten, and meat was eaten on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays only, but Section 11 of the Rule allows for an extra meal if one is doing fatiguing work in spring and summer while also allowing workers to eat whatever is given them by their employers, unless it was a Church enjoined fast day. Saint Francis and his brothers followed these guidelines, as they worked for their food. Sometimes eating what one is given can be just as much a penance as eating less or eating only certain foods.

 

During the Fast of St Martin, penitents can practice a fast and abstinence regime similar to that of Lent by refraining from favorite foods, sweets, and so on. The Fast of St. Martin is the Christmas Lent.

 

[1] September 29.

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May God bless you and give you joy!