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Rule and Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents

Rule of 1221 (The Original Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents)

Note: This is the Original Rule. Penitents today live it via the Constitutions which follow.



This is the Rule of Life[1] for the Confraternity of Penitents. Penitents live this Rule according to the Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents.




Here begins the Rule of the Continent Brothers and Sisters: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


The memorial of what is proposed for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, living in their own homes, begun in the year of our Lord 1221, is as follows.





1. The men belonging to this brotherhood shall dress in humble, undyed cloth, the price of which is not to exceed six Ravenna soldi[2] an ell[3], unless for evident and necessary cause a temporary dispensation be given. And breadth and thinness of the cloth are to be considered in said price.


2. They shall wear their outer garments and furred coats without open throat, sewed shut or uncut but certainly laced up, not open as secular people wear them; and they shall wear their sleeves closed.


3. The sisters in turn shall wear an outer garment and tunic made of cloth of the same price and humble quality; or at least they are to have with the outer garment a white or black underwrap or petticoat, or an ample linen gown without gathers[4], the price of an ell of which is not to exceed twelve Pisa denars.[5] As to this price, however, and the fur cloaks they wear a dispensation may be given according to the estate of the woman and the custom of the place. They are not to wear silken or dyed veils and ribbons.


4. And both the brothers and the sisters shall have their fur garments of lamb's wool only. They are permitted to have leather purses and belts sewed in simple fashion without silken thread, and no other kind. Also other vain adornments they shall lay aside at the bidding of the Visitor.


5. They are not to go to unseemly parties or to shows or dances. They shall not donate to actors[6], and shall forbid their household to donate.





6. All are to abstain from meat save on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, except on account of illness or weakness, for three days at bloodletting, in traveling, or on account of a specially high feast intervening, namely, the Nativity for three days, New Year's, Epiphany, the Pasch of the Resurrection for three days, Assumption of the glorious Virgin Mary, the solemnity of All Saints and of St. Martin[7]. On the other days, when there is no fasting, they may eat cheese and eggs. But when they are with religious in their convent homes, they have leave to eat what is served to them. And except for the feeble, the ailing, and those traveling, let them be content with dinner and supper. Let the healthy be temperate in eating and drinking.


7. Before their dinner and supper let them say the Lord's prayer once, likewise after their meal, and let them give thanks to God. Otherwise let them say three Our Fathers.





8. From the Pasch of the Resurrection to the feast of All Saints they are to fast on Fridays. From the feast of All Saints until Easter they are to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, but still observing the other fasts enjoined in general by the Church.


9. They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day until Christmas, and throughout the greater fast from Carnival Sunday[8] until Easter.


10. Sisters who are pregnant are free to refrain until their purification from the corporal observances except those regarding their dress and prayers.


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[9]. 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.





12. All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins[10], Prime[11], Terce[12], Sext[13], None[14], Vespers[15], and Compline[16]. The clerics are to say them after the manner of the clergy. Those who know the Psalter are to say the Deus in nomine tuo (Psalm 54) and the Beati Immaculati (Psalm 119) up to the Legem pone (Verse 33) for Prime, and the other psalms of the Hours, with the Glory Be to the Father; but when they do not attend church, they are to say for Matins the psalms the Church says or any eighteen psalms; or at least to say the Our Father as do the unlettered at any of the Hours. The others say twelve Our Fathers for Matins and for every one of the other Hours seven Our Fathers with the Glory Be to the Father after each one. And those who know the Creed and the Miserere mei Deus (Ps. 51) should say it at Prime and Compline. If they do not say that at the Hours indicated, they shall say three Our Fathers.


13. The sick are not to say the Hours unless they wish.


14. All are to go to Matins in the fast of St. Martin and in the great fast, unless inconvenience for persons or affairs should threaten.





15. They are to make a confession of their sins three times a year and to receive Communion at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. They are to be reconciled with their neighbors and to restore what belongs to others. They are to make up for past tithes and pay future tithes.


16. They are not to take up lethal weapons, or bear them about, against anybody.


17. All are to refrain from formal oaths unless where necessity compels, in the cases excepted by the Sovereign Pontiff in his indult, that is, for peace, for the Faith, under calumny, and in bearing witness.


18. Also in their ordinary conversations they will do their best to avoid oaths. And should anyone have sworn thoughtlessly through a slip of the tongue, as happens where there is much talking, he should the evening of the same day, when he is obliged to think over what he has done, say three Our Fathers in amends of such oaths. Let each member fortify his household to serve God.





19. All the brothers and sisters of every city and place are to foregather every month at the time the ministers see fit, in a church which the ministers will make known, and there assist at Divine Services.


20. And every member is to give the treasurer one ordinary denar[17]. The treasurer is to collect this money and distribute it on the advice of the ministers among the poor brothers and sisters, especially the sick and those who may have nothing for their funeral services, and thereupon among the poor; and they are to offer something of the money to the aforesaid church.


21. And, if it be convenient at the time, they are to have some religious who is informed in the words of God to exhort them and strengthen them to persevere in their penance and in performing the works of mercy. And except for the officers, they are to remain quiet during the Mass and sermon, intent on the Office, on prayer, and on the sermon.





22. Whenever any brother or sister happens to fall ill, the ministers, if the patient let them know of it, shall in person or through others visit the patient once a week, and remind him of penance; and if they find it expedient, they are to supply him from the common fund with what he may need for the body.


23. And if the ailing person depart from this life, it is to be published to the brothers and sisters who may be present in the city or place, so that they may gather for the funeral; and they are not to leave until the Mass has been celebrated and the body consigned to burial. Thereupon each member within eight days of the demise shall say for the soul of the deceased: a Mass, if he is a priest; fifty psalms, if he understands the Psalter, or if not, then fifty Our Fathers with the Requiem aeternam[18] at the end of each.


24. In addition, every year, for the welfare of the brothers and sisters living and dead, each priest is to say three Masses, each member knowing the Psalter is to recite it, and the rest shall say one hundred Our Fathers with the Requiem aeternam at the end of each.


25. All who have the right are to make their last will and make disposition of their goods within three months after their profession, lest anyone of them die intestate.


26. As regards making peace among the brothers and sisters or nonmembers at odds, let what the ministers find proper be done; even, if it be expedient, upon consultation with the Lord Bishop.


27. If contrary to their right and privileges trouble is made for the brothers and sisters by the mayors and governors of the places where they live, the ministers of the place shall do what they shall find expedient on the advice of the Lord Bishop.


28. Let each member accept and faithfully exercise the ministry of other offices imposed on him, although anyone may retire from office after a year.


29. When anybody wishes to enter this brotherhood, the ministers shall carefully inquire into his standing and occupation, and they shall explain to him the obligations of the brotherhood, especially that of restoring what belongs to others. And if he is content with it, let him be vested according to the prescribed way, and he must make satisfaction for his debts, paying money according to what pledged provision is given. They are to reconcile themselves with their neighbors and to pay up their tithes.


30. After these particulars are complied with, when the year is up and he seems suitable to them, let him on the advice of some discreet brothers be received on this condition: that he promise he will all the time of his life observe everything here written, or to be written or abated on the advice of the brothers, unless on occasion there be a valid dispensation by the ministers; and that he will, when called upon by the ministers, render satisfaction as the Visitor shall ordain if he have done anything contrary to this condition. And this promise is to be put in writing then and there by a public notary. Even so nobody is to be received otherwise, unless in consideration of the estate and rank of the person it shall seem advisable to the ministers.


31. No one is to depart from this brotherhood and from what is contained herein, except to enter a religious Order.


32. No heretic or person in bad repute for heresy is to be received. If he is under suspicion of it, he may be admitted if otherwise fit, upon being cleared before the bishop.


33. Married women are not to be received except with the consent and leave of their husbands.


34. Brothers and sisters ejected from the brotherhood as incorrigible are not to be received in it again except it please the saner portion of the brothers.





35. The ministers of any city or place shall report public faults of the brothers and sisters to the Visitor for punishment. And if anyone proves incorrigible, after consultation with some of the discreet brothers he should be denounced to the Visitor, to be expelled by him from the brotherhood, and thereupon it should be published in the meeting. Moreover, if it is a brother, he should be denounced to the mayor or the governor.[19]


36. If anyone learns that a scandal is occurring relative to brothers and sisters, he shall report it to the ministers and shall have opportunity to report it to the Visitor. He need not be held to report it in the case of husband against wife.[20]


37. The Visitor has the power to dispense all the brothers and sisters in any of these points if he finds it advisable.


38. When the year has passed, the ministers with the counsel of the brothers are to elect two other ministers; and a faithful treasurer, who is to provide for the need of the brothers and sisters and other poor; and messengers who at the command of the ministers are to publish what is said and done by the fraternity.


39. In all the above mentioned points no one is to be obligated under guilt, but under penalty; yet so that if after being admonished twice by the ministers he should fail to discharge the penalty imposed or to be imposed on him by the Visitor, he shall be obligated under guilt as contumacious.





Author: Cardinal Hugolino dei Conti dei Segni who wrote this Rule at the request of St. Francis of Assisi, 1221


Source: Franciscan Omnibus of Sources





[1] The Rule has no footnotes. Footnotes were added by the Confraternity to explain terms which are unfamiliar to modern penitents.


[2] Six Ravenna soldi was the equivalent of $5.37 United States of America money in January 2014.


[3] An ell is one man's arm length, approximately 5/8 to 1 yard.


[4] A lady's undergarment required 2 1/2 ell, and an overlock (cape) 3 to 3 1/2 ell. A woman's dress might require 10 ell.


[5] Twelve Pisa denars were somewhat equivalent to six Ravenna soldi. Towns minted their own coinage at the time the Rule of 1221 was written.


[6] In 1221, all plays were bawdy and mocked religion.


[7] November 11, Saint Martin's Day, was a Solemnity at the time the Rule was written. Today it is a Memorial.


[8] The Sunday before Ash Wednesday.


[9] September 29.


[10] Office of Readings


[11] Early Morning Prayer


[12] Midmorning Prayer


[13] Midday Prayer


[14] Midafternoon Prayer


[15] Evening Prayer


[16] Night Prayer


[17] The smallest value coin minted at the time the Rule was written.


[18] Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.


[19] Medieval towns and cities were small in comparison to modern metropolitan areas. In addition, religion and government were intricately bound together. Penitents, like everyone else, were to adhere to public laws. Penitents were living public lives of purported conversion and supposedly striving for holiness.  Public faults of penitents would be well known. To avoid bringing scandal to the Church community, penitents who committed public crimes and did not repent were to be denounced not only to the Church authority (Visitor) but also to public authorities (mayor and governor).


[20] Penitents were not to become involved in domestic disputes.

Constitutions (How Penitents Live the Rule of 1221 Today)

Note: Following the format required by canon law, the juridical elements of the Constitutions come first. These are followed by specific applications of the Rule of 1221 [In keeping with Section __ of the Rule] Penitents live the Rule of 1221 in accord with these Constitutions.




Members of the Confraternity of Penitents (CFP) strive to surrender to God through the living of a Rule of Life given to penitents in the year 1221, at the request of St. Francis of Assisi and written by Cardinal Hugolino de Conti de Segni, later Pope Gregory IX. The Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents delineate how Members are to live the Rule today.



The Confraternity of Penitents is an international, private, Catholic, lay association of the faithful, existing with the permission of the Bishop[1] of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend, Indiana, USA, and headquartered in his Diocese. Because the Bishop has deemed the Rule and Constitutions acceptable to live, he has indicated that the CFP Way of Life is a safe guide to holiness. If penitents live this life in humility and love, they will move deeper into their own personal conversion.



The Pope, by virtue of being head of the Roman Catholic Church, is also head of the Confraternity of Penitents. The Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend, Indiana, USA, is the primary representative of the Church regarding the Confraternity of Penitents and has confirmed the canonical status of the Confraternity of Penitents as a private association of the faithful (Bishop Kevin Rhoades in a letter dated 3 January 2014. This follows a previous letter by Bishop Thomas Tobin, dated 11 February 2009[2], issued when the Confraternity was headquartered in Rhode Island, USA.).The Confraternity acknowledges the authority of the Bishop over its affairs and will follow his directives.


All Members of the Confraternity, as well as its spiritual advisors, Spiritual Directors, and Visitor, are in complete conformity to all the directives of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Holy See to whom belongs the authentic interpretation of the Rule and Constitutions. The practical interpretation of the Rule and Constitutions belongs to the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend, in consultation with the Visitor and Minister General of the Confraternity who may also consult the Confraternity Council.



The Object of the Commitment is for the individual pledged member to lead a penitential life in union with Christ and with all the faithful. Penance is ongoing, putting on the mind of Jesus Christ to "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Penance is conversion from doing things in worldly, selfish ways to doing them God's way. This cannot be done without some self-denial, for the Lord Himself said that we must "deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him" if we are to be His disciples. (Luke 9:23)


Members of the Confraternity of Penitents are to live converted to God and in a loving, Christ-like relationship with each other and with all. They are to participate in some form of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. They are to maintain chastity according to their state in life and are to follow the dictates of the Church regarding sexual activity and family planning. Unless communities of penitents are formed according to Church law and following the CFP Rule and their own Constitutions, penitents are to live in their own homes as they, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, simplify and sanctify their lives.

Without the permission of their spiritual director, or religious superior, penitents should not undertake physical acts of self denial or mortification beyond those delineated in the Rule and Constitutions.



Some graces given to those who live a penitential life under their freely chosen promise to God are: 


a. To enable penitents to understand the transitory nature of this life and the superficiality of a worldly existence (poverty/moderation). 


b. To direct penitents in the surrender of their own will to the Rule and to the spiritual director so that they may accept more joyfully the discipline and direction that God gives (obedience). 


c. To draw penitents into a deep union with God Who wishes all people to surrender everything to Him (contemplative prayer). 


d. To enable penitents to experience in a small way the self-emptying willingly embraced by Our Lord Jesus Christ (abandonment to the will of God). 


e. To foster an increase of love for God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and for human beings, since they are made in God's image. True love is to seek the others' good before one's own (loving, selfless service of God and of others). 



The Confraternity recognizes that God is Lord, Creator, and Father. It endeavors to assist the penitent in surrendering his or her life totally to God's Divine Will as manifest through the teachings of Christ, the authority of the Church, and the motion of the Holy Spirit in the penitent's life, as confirmed by the counsel of the penitent's spiritual director.


Thus, the Purpose (Charism) of the Confraternity of Penitents is to promote penance (conversion), that is, doing things God's way instead of human ways. The Purpose (Charism) is developed in its Vision, Prayer, Mission, Motto, Action, Song, and Symbol.



To give glory to God and surrender to His Will through the living of a medieval, penitential Rule of Life, the Rule of 1221. This Rule is lived as closely as possible to its original intent, and in one's own home, in peace with all others, and in obedience to the Roman Catholic Church, its Pope, and its Magisterium.



"Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my mind, give me right faith, a firm hope and perfect charity, so that I may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen." (Saint Francis's prayer before the San Damiano Crucifix)


"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Jesus's words as recorded in Matthew 22:37-38)


"Go and repair My House which, as you can see, is falling into ruin." (The message given to St. Francis in a voice from the San Damiano Crucifix.)


To pray for God's specific direction in one's life so that, through humbly living our Rule of Life, each penitent may help to rebuild the house of God by bringing love of God and neighbor to his or her own corner of the world.



"No Longer I" is the theme song of the Confraternity of Penitents.



The San Damiano Crucifix is the Symbol of the Confraternity of Penitents.



Briefly, in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island USA, the Confraternity of Penitents began in 1994 with an interior call by the Holy Spirit to one individual to “live the Rule of 1221.” This Rule was made known to others in 1995 and the “Brothers and Sisters of Penance” begun with six members.

In 1998, Bishop Robert Mulvee of the Diocese of Providence gave his permission to live the Rule and Statutes and the Confraternity began a formation program and went on the world wide web.


In 1999, another group also living the original Rule of 1221 joined with the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, but, due to differences among the leaders, the merger was severed in 2003. The Brothers and Sisters of Penance was dissolved and then refounded as the Confraternity of Penitents.

In 2013, the Confraternity of Penitents relocated to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana USA.


An expanded Historical Overview can be found in Appendix E to these Constitutions.



Members are those persons considered to be part of the Confraternity of Penitents. All baptized Catholics who are fourteen years of age[3] or older, who are in complete harmony with all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Magisterium, are eligible to enter formation as Members.


Members include those who have pledged to live the CFP Rule and Constitutions as well as those who are pursuing formation in the CFP at the Postulancy level or above and who have no impediments to pledging if their formation were complete.




Those who wish to live the CFP Rule, but who have impediments to full Membership, may become Associates of the Confraternity. Associates are nonmembers who are in formation, or have completed formation, with the CFP.




Affiliates are nonmembers who support and pray for the CFP but who do not participate in formation.




The Confraternity of Penitents is a private Catholic lay association of the faithful with a hierarchical structure of governance. It is primarily governed by its Rule, Constitutions, and Directory as well as by the Code of Canon Law. Supplementary governance is provided by its Articles of Incorporation and bylaws, originally filed with the State of Rhode Island on August 19, 2003, and amended thereafter, and by the regulations in the State of Rhode Island Non Profit Corporations Act. On November 12, 2013, the Confraternity of Penitents was granted a Certificate of Authority to operate in Indiana as a Non-Profit Foreign Corporation. Foreign means “out of state.” The Confraternity retains its original incorporation under the State of Rhode Island.




Penitents are first and foremost members of the Church which is the body of Christ. Within the CFP, they are Members of the international Confraternity first, secondly of their Regions, and thirdly of any local Chapter or Circle of the Confraternity.


The simplified governing structure is:


Minister General (International)


Regional Minister (Regional)


Chapter or Circle Minister (Local)


This simplified structure reflects the Order of Governance and the Order of Appeal , proceeding from the local level up to the International level. If the lower level, in conjunction with the religious advisor(s) on that level, cannot address the question or matter of concern, it is referred to the next level. The answer is, in turn, relayed down through the levels to the petitioner.


The highest levels of appeal rest in the Magisterium, that is in the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend and in the Pope through the Apostolic Nuncio.




The Confraternity of Penitents is a worldwide organization. All CFP Members, Associates, and Affiliates are ultimately under the governance of the Minister General in consultation with the CFP Council. All Members, Associates, and Affiliates are also subject to the Visitor and Bishop.


The Confraternity of Penitents is self-governing and self-supportive, receiving its funding through donations from its Members and from others worldwide.




Regions are geographical subdivisions of the world which simplify governance. Subject to the Minister General and CFP Council, Regional Ministers shall govern their Regions following the guidelines within the Rule, Constitutions, and Directory.




Local gatherings form when two or more CFP Postulants, Novices, and/or Pledged Members, from at least two different families, meet together in person at least monthly. A CFP Circle consists of at least two Members while a CFP Chapter must consist of at least five.


Chapters and Circles are governed by their own Officers subject to their Spiritual Assistant. They are then subject to their Regional Minister and ultimately to the Minister General and Visitor in consultation with the CFP Council.




Several individuals exercise leadership in the Confraternity of Penitents. The principal ones of these are:




The Confraternity of Penitents' Visitor is a spiritual guide and immediate representative of the Roman Catholic Church. He shall be a priest appointed by the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend, Indiana. If he is also a Religious, the Visitor must have the permission of his superior to serve. The CFP shall have only one Visitor unless the Bishop, in consultation with the Minister General, deems that more are needed.




The office of Minister General is the highest non-clerical office in the Confraternity of Penitents. The Minister General is responsible for the efficient operation of the CFP and oversees it in every regard. The Minister General is the primary contact with all Bishops regarding the Confraternity, protects and promotes the Purpose (Charism), and endeavors, with prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance, to develop and expand the CFP and the message of penance (conversion) worldwide. With prayer and the advice of the CFP Officers and Lay and Spiritual Advisors, the Minister General shall make the final decisions, subject to approval by the Visitor, on all matters involving the Confraternity of Penitents. The only exceptions to this are decisions in the following five areas in which the elected Minister General must have the unanimous consent of those legally named as Council members, plus the consent of the Visitor, to implement a decision:




  • The dissolution of major assets or the spending of 20% or more of CFP funds

  • Change to the CFP Name, Legal Status as a 501c3 Organization, and Purpose (Charism) as detailed in the Vision, Action, Prayer, Motto, Mission, Song, and Symbol

  • Change to the CFP Rule[4] or Constitutions[5]

  • Change to the CFP Governance and Structure

  • Change to the CFP Formation Program




Confraternity Officers ensure that the CFP is running smoothly on an international level. Confraternity Officers are the CFP Ministerial Assistant, CFP Messenger, and CFP Treasurer. They assist and advise the Minister General in the operation of the Confraternity.




Additional Council Members serve as advisors to the Minister General.




Regional Ministers insure that formation is being properly conducted in their Regions, both with isolated Members and Associates and with those in Chapters and Circles.





Elections and confirmation of appointments are conducted annually. The term of office for all Officers and leaders, other than the Minister General and Formators, begins on January 1 following their election or appointment and ends on December 31. If a term of office becomes vacant before December 31, a replacement will be appointed to fill the office until January 1. Unless factors of incapacity or inability are present, all Life Pledged Members are eligible to nominate, vote, and hold office.




Formation assures that those entering the Confraternity of Penitents will be adequately formed in the way of life required by the Rule and Constitutions, will develop and advance in the spiritual life, and will grow in knowledge of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Each person in formation is assigned a Formator to review their lessons and to assist them with formation.


Formation is open to Members and Associates of the Confraternity of Penitents. It consists of 51 lessons, which include 12 Postulant lessons, 12 lessons for each of the three years of Novice formation, and 3 lessons prior to pledging. One lesson is completed monthly, with the exception of those in the August Postulancy who complete two lessons per month. Each year of formation must be completed successfully before applications can be accepted for the next year of formation or for pledging.


Applications are made to the CFP Chapter or Circle Minister (if applicable), the Regional Minister, and the CFP Office, for Inquiry, for each year of formation, for pledging, and for vowing.


The stages of formation are:




A pre-inquirer is an individual who contacts the Confraternity, or any Member of it, for information, advice, and/or prayer about discerning a possible vocation to the Confraternity, but who has not completed an Inquirer application.




Inquiry is the first level of formal contact with the Confraternity. Inquirers are exploring the CFP way of life and discerning a possible vocation to it.




The Postulancy is an introduction into the formation process. Postulants reflect on certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, on penance, and on the spiritual journey. They study the CFP Rule and Constitutions and begin to follow them in certain ways. The Postulancy is a time of further discernment of a vocation to the CFP.




The principal years of formation are the three years of the Novitiate, each consisting of at least twelve full months during which the Novice regularly participates in at least one Spiritual or Corporal Work of Mercy. The Novice also undertakes a study of Scripture and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each year of formation integrates different prescriptions of the Rule and the Constitutions into the Novice's life. Those prescriptions are: for Novice 1, prayer; for Novice 2, fasting and abstinence; for Novice 3, simplicity of life. At the end of three years of Novice formation, the penitent shall be praying certain prayers for a certain amount of time daily, shall fast and abstain weekly, and shall have greatly simplified his or her wardrobe and possessions.







A Pledge is a voluntary commitment, before God, to live the CFP Rule and Constitutions either for a year or for life. Making a Pledge is an important and grace filled step in the life of a penitent because a Pledge is a binding promise to live according to the CFP Rule and Constitutions, although not under pain of sin. Prior to pledging, the Member must be at least eighteen years old, must be confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church, and must have successfully completed all four years of formation plus three additional lessons which discuss the seriousness of the pledge. The pledge is made to a Roman Catholic priest, deacon, religious, or to the penitent's spiritual director.




A vow is the deepest commitment one can make to live the CFP Rule because it is binding under pain of sin, as long as it can be kept. With the permission of the spiritual director, a CFP Life-Pledged Member may take private vows to observe the Rule and Constitutions for life as well as additional vows approved by the Church, such as Consecration to Our Lady.




Any equipment, property, or other assets purchased by the CFP, either internationally, regionally, or locally, for use by and in the Confraternity, remain the property of the CFP entity (International Council, Regional Council, Chapter or Circle Council) which purchased them.




A yearly conference and retreat, open to all Members of the Confraternity, will be held annually if at all possible. The Visitor or another priest, deacon, male or female religious, will preside at this gathering which shall promote Catholic spirituality particularly through penance (conversion) and which shall unite the total Confraternity. Other groups within the Church may be invited to send delegates to this event.





Chapters and Circles shall meet monthly in their local communities. Electronic gatherings shall be held monthly, if possible, for those unable to participate in local meetings.





The Confraternity of Penitents is a nonprofit association. It has no mandatory dues, fees, or assessments. If money is needed, the Treasurer may solicit donations.





Additional procedures are delineated in the CFP Rule and Directory.






In keeping with the Preamble of the Rule, here begin the Constitutions of the Continent (those who give up things) Confraternity of Penitents. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.




  • In keeping with section 1 of the Rule:


1a. Those belonging to this Confraternity shall dress in humble and inexpensive cloth. Subdued, solid colors, as opposed to patterns and designs, should be chosen. Colors shall be neutral shades (black, white, cream, ivory, beige, tan, camel, brown, gray, charcoal, etc.) in conformity with the colors worn by the first penitents and blue in honor of the Blessed Mother who is the patron of the Confraternity of Penitents. The penitent should strive to have only the least expensive and minimum amount of clothing needed for comfort, employment, and utility. 


1b. The penitent should mix and match styles and colors so as appear indistinguishable from other seculars and to avoid the appearance of a wearing a habit. Thus penitents will do penance privately and inconspicuously. 


1c. For evident and necessary cause, a temporary dispensation on clothing colors and quality may be given. 


2. In keeping with section 2 of the Rule:


2a. Visible undergarments such as socks or stockings may be of solid neutral colors or blue. Clothing that is not visible may be of any color or pattern. 


2b. Men's ties should be simple, conservative, and tasteful and may be patterned and of any color or color combination provided that the ties are subdued in appearance and not "flashy." 


2c. Colorful ornamentation and fancy jewelry are not to be worn unless a dispensation is given. Engagement rings, wedding bands, watches, and any other similar adornments, and tasteful and unostentatious religious jewelry such as medals are permitted. Small pierced earring studs, in a simple and inexpensive style, may be allowed if needed to keep earring holes from closing. 


2d. For special events, a dispensation is given for the wearing of earrings, other jewelry, and clothing that falls outside the regular garb of the followers of this Rule. 


2e. The use of perfumes, after shave lotions, and so on should be avoided unless necessary. Wherever possible, unscented hair sprays, soaps, lotions, and so on should be chosen. 


2f. Female penitents may use cosmetics if necessary but should keep their makeup as conservative as possible so as not to draw attention to its use. The use of extensive makeup is discouraged. 


2g. At all times in public, a simple cross or crucifix must be visibly worn either around the neck or in the form of a brooch or lapel pin. The style chosen should be in keeping with poverty, humility, and simplicity according to the penitent's state in life. If a penitent is already wearing a religious habit of a First, Second, or Third Order community, the habit of the Order will suffice. A penitent can be excused from the wearing of a cross, crucifix, or habit if to do so may endanger the penitent's life or impede the penitent's manner of earning a living.



  • In keeping with section 3 of the Rule:


3a. All clothing and accessories must be modest and chaste. They must also be simple and inexpensive unless a dispensation is given according to the estate or employment of the person and custom of the place. 


3b. Penitents should attempt to live as simply and inexpensively as possible according to their state in life. With the consent of their spouses and families, they are to have the minimum number of and least sophisticated appliances, furniture, furnishings, electronic aids, and vehicles as necessary. However, the following of this section of the Rule must not create more work or inconvenience for penitents or other family members.


  • In keeping with section 4 of the Rule:


4a. Outer winter garments shall be either of lamb's wool, or a comparable imitation, only, or of any non-fur material. They shall be of either a solid neutral or blue color, simple and modest, and shall conform to the Constitutions under section 1.


 4b. Purses should be of either a solid neutral or blue color. Suitcases and carry bags such as back packs should be of these colors if possible.


  • In keeping with section 5 of the Rule:


5a. Attendance at immodest functions or events at which immodest or immoral behavior is exhibited or fostered, except to condemn such behavior, is forbidden. This would include movies, parties, plays, and so on.


 5b. The penitent should avoid the near occasions of sin in all circumstances and should strive always to give good example to others.





  • In keeping with section 6 of the Rule:


6a. For penitents, all Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are days of abstinence (that is, meatless days) unless directed otherwise by a physician. Meat is allowed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. 


6b. Abstinence will follow current Church regulations which are listed in Appendix A of these Constitutions. 


6c. Except for Sundays and Solemnities, penitents are to eat but two meals daily throughout the year unless advised otherwise by a physician. However, a third, small "bite to eat" of beverage and solid food may be taken if needed at one other time during the day. Beverages such as fruit juice, milk, coffee, and so on may be taken at any time between meals. 


6d. Except for Sundays and Solemnities, between meal snacks of solid food should be avoided. 


6e. At all times, penitents should be temperate in eating and drinking. 


6f. In their own homes, penitents should attempt to prepare foods that other household members enjoy even if this means that penitents must sometimes prepare an individual dish for themselves in order to follow this Rule. 


6g. In order to be hospitable, penitents may eat small, between meal snacks if they are entertaining guests or if they are guests in the homes of others. 


6h. When eating with others in a group setting, the penitent should endeavor to allow others to choose their foods first as long as this penitential practice can be kept hidden and not call attention to the penitent. 


6i. Travelers while in transit to their destinations and those who are ill, weak, pregnant, or breastfeeding are exempt from following the fasting and abstinence provisions of this Rule.



  • In keeping with section 7 of the Rule:


7a. Before and after meals, let the penitents reverently say either their regular meal prayer, or the Lord's prayer once, and let all give thanks to God. If they forget or if they are fasting completely from food, they are to say three Our Father's. These prayers may be prayed out loud or silently with head bowed unless to do so would either be dangerous to the penitent or highly offensive to the company kept. 




  • In keeping with section 8 of the Rule:


8a. All Fridays are days of fast for penitents. From the Feast of All Saints until Easter, penitents are to fast on Wednesdays as well. Wednesdays and Fridays are also days of abstinence, following section 6 of the Rule. 


8b. Fasting guidelines shall follow current Church law and are listed in Appendix A of these Constitutions. 


8c. The amount of food eaten on fast days will be particular to the individual penitent who should feel hungry but not debilitated, drowsy, or ill. The penitent should consult a spiritual director, confessor, or, if needed, a physician regarding the amount of food to be eaten.


  • In keeping with section 9 of the Rule:


9a. Penitents are to observe a pre-Christmas fast from November 12, the day after the Feast of St. Martin, until Christmas and a pre-Easter fast from Ash Wednesday until Easter. 


9b. Penitents who are guests in the homes of others, or who have been invited out to eat, are permitted to eat what is set before them so as not to embarrass the host unless that day is a day of fast and/or abstinence enjoined by the Church. Penitents might consider not accepting invitations to eat out on Church enjoined days of fast and abstinence. 


9c. Sundays are never days of fast or abstinence. 


9d. Penitents should not fast or abstain on any of the Church Solemnities. These include the Octave of Christmas, the Feasts of New Year's, Epiphany, Annunciation, the Octave of Easter, the Feasts of the Ascension, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and all other Solemnities of the Church. With reference to the fasting and abstinence provisions of this Rule, those in the Confraternity of Penitents also observe as a Solemnity August 22, the Queenship of Mary, which is the date on which, in the year 2003, the Confraternity of Penitents was refounded.


9e. Penitents are permitted to celebrate with between meal snacks birthday parties, anniversaries, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and other special occasions unless these would fall on a fast day enjoined by the Church. 


9f. Additional exceptions to the fasting provisions of this Rule are listed under sections 6, 10, and 11 of the Rule and Constitutions and in Appendix A to these Constitutions.


  • In keeping with section 10 of the Rule:


10a. All pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are exempt from fasting and abstinence both by the Church and the Rule.


  • 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.





  • In keeping with section 12 of the Rule:


12a. Prayer is the core of growth in a life with God. Penitents must be committed to a life of prayer as outlined in this Rule. More prayer than what is listed, including daily mental prayer, meditation, and contemplation, is encouraged. 


12b. One must adjust one's schedule to make time to pray. Extraneous activities that do not foster prayer life should be dropped. However, prayer must not interfere with daily duties such as caring for family members, keeping house, or earning a living. Penitents may have to pray during the night, while driving, while doing house or yard work, and so on. Playing tapes of spiritual conferences or sacred music and hymns while working or driving may help. A pocket sized New Testament or Psalter may be carried so that the penitent can seize a few moments of prayer and meditation while waiting in line, waiting on hold on the phone, and so on. 


12c. While the Liturgy of the Hours is the preferred method of prayer, substitution of the rote prayers (Option Four below) is permissible especially for those times when it is impossible to sit down with a breviary. The penitent should, however, not rely totally on these other prayers as a substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours. 


12d. There will arise certain days on which a penitent finds it impossible to say all the required prayers in any form. On such days, the penitent is to raise his or her mind to God at the required prayer times and have the intention to pray even though the opportunity is not available. These days should be rare. If a penitent finds it impossible to pray the hours on most days, he or she must examine his or her life and make proper adjustments so that the prayers can be said. 


12e. All should renew the consecration of themselves and the Confraternity to Our Lady. The recommended prayer of consecration of the Confraternity, The Marian Consecration Prayer, is in Appendix B of these Constitutions.


12f. All are to pray a daily formal prayer (office) of some kind. The preferred method is to use the Liturgy of the Hours (breviary). 


 12g. For those who have no breviary, other offices approved by the Church may be substituted. These include the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin or the Office of the Passion. 


12h. For those without breviaries or copies of other offices, certain Psalms may be substituted for each of the hours. These are listed in Appendix C of these Constitutions.


12i. If a penitent cannot read or has no Bible, breviary, or Office book, the penitent may pray Our Father's, Hail Mary's, and Glory Be's in place of each office as directed below under Option Four.


12j. All penitents are to pray daily Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer, preferably using the Liturgy of the Hours. Morning Prayer (Lauds, called Prime in the Primitive Rule) is to be prayed between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. Evening Prayer (Vespers) is to be prayed between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. Night Prayer (Compline) is to be prayed right before retiring for bed. 


12k. In addition, for Morning Prayer, all are to add the Apostles' Creed and Psalms 51 ("Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love," etc.) and 54 ("Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might," etc.) and 119 ("Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord") up to verse 32. If a penitent cannot read, he or she should endeavor to memorize the psalms. If this is not possible, three additional Our Fathers may be said. 


12l. For Night Prayer, right before retiring for bed, all are to add Psalm 51 and the Apostles' Creed. If the penitent cannot read Psalm 51, an Our Father may be substituted. 


12m. The Glory Be to the Father is to be prayed after each psalm.


12n. In addition, penitents should, if possible, spend a minimum of fifteen minutes daily in meditative or contemplative prayer.

12o. If possible when penitents are together, they shall pray the CFP prayers and psalms and the Divine Office together in community at the appropriate times.  


12o. To complete the daily prayer schedule, the penitent must then choose, with the guidance of a spiritual director, one of the following five options:




The Office of Readings (formerly called Matins) was once said around midnight but may now be prayed at any time during the day. The little hours of Terce (Midmorning Prayer-about 9 a.m.), Sext (Midday Prayer-about noon), and None (Midafternoon Prayer-about 3 p.m.) are prayed at approximately the hours described. Penitents may combine some of these prayers and say them at alternate hours if their personal schedules require it. For example, the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer may both be said at dawn if need requires. Midmorning, Midday, and Midafternoon Prayer may be combined at noon and Evening Prayer and Night Prayer combined prior to bedtime. Clerics are to recite the Hours after the manner of the clergy. 




If possible the fifteen decades should be broken up so that the Rosary is prayed, in part, throughout the day to approximately correspond to the times of the minor hours.




This may be broken up into two 30 minute segments or four 15 minute segments. An ideal place to pray would be before the Blessed Sacrament.




Those who do not know how to read, who have no Bible or breviary, or who cannot read on a particular day, may say, for the Office of Readings, twelve Our Father's, twelve Hail Mary's, and twelve Glory Be's; for every other one of the hours, seven Our Father's, seven Hail Mary's, and seven Glory Be's. 




Those parenting small children or otherwise suffering continuous distractions or time constraints may, with the permission of their spiritual directors, substitute short pious ejaculations for the minor hours. These may be as simple as mentally lifting one's mind to God. Penitents should, however, endeavor to pray Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer unless dispensed from doing so by their spiritual directors. At the minimum, those who choose Option Five must review their prayer schedule at the first meeting of each year with their spiritual directors so that adjustments may be made.



  • In keeping with section 13 of the Rule:


13a. While the sick do not have to say an office, they may do so all or part of the time.


  • In keeping with section 14 of the Rule:


14a. Since attendance at public recitation of Matins (the Office of Readings) is inaccessible to most penitents, the penitent should attend daily Mass unless there is an intervening conflict of obligations. Parenting small children, health concerns, getting children off to school, employment schedules, and so on constitute some of these conflicting obligations. If Mass attendance is impossible or is unwise, the penitent should prayerfully recite one decade of the Rosary at some time during the day. 


14b. All are to go to daily Mass in Advent and Lent unless serious inconvenience for persons, business, employment, or duties should threaten. Again, a decade of the Rosary is to be said if Mass is not attended. 


14c. At Mass, signs of devotion and reverence before the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist should follow the parish priest's or the bishop's directives. Penitents' behavior and clothing should avoid drawing attention away from Christ's Presence in the Eucharist and from the words and ceremonies attendant to its celebration.




  • In keeping with section 15 of the Rule:


15a. Penitents should consider confessing their sins twice monthly unless an undue burden is involved with this frequency or unless advised by the spiritual director to confess at another time interval. At a minimum, penitents are to confess monthly and to receive the Eucharist weekly provided the penitent is in the state of grace.


15b. All are to be reconciled in every way possible and to tithe ten percent of their income to their parish, the Catholic Church, or to charitable organizations whose goals are in keeping with the Church hierarchy and Magisterium. The tithe must not be given to any organization that is working in opposition to the Church. If a ten percent tithe seems too high, the penitent should consult the spiritual director or a spiritual assistant of the Confraternity, about the appropriate amount of the tithe and then should follow the advice given. Since the penitent is to financially support their home Chapter or Circle of the Confraternity of Penitents and the work of the international Confraternity, a portion of one's tithe may go to this cause. 


  • In keeping with section 16 of this Rule:


16a. They are not to take up or bear lethal weapons that would be used against other human beings with the exception of participation in a just war with the permission of the penitent's spiritual director, or as part of one's legitimate employment (police officers, for example). If a penitent is living in a dangerous environment in which a weapon may be necessary for self-defense, a spiritual director must approve the penitent's possession of any weapon. 


16b. Hunting and fishing to provide meat for one's family is permitted. One is also permitted to kill animal, bird, or insect pests that may be destroying one's food supply or threatening one's life or goods.


  • In keeping with section 17 of this Rule:


17a. All are to refrain from formal oaths except where required by law.


  • In keeping with section 18 of this Rule:


18a. They are not to take oaths in ordinary conversations. 


18b. They are to watch their speech and, should they sin by speaking, they are to say, by evening of that same day, three Our Father's. 


18c. Let each member teach his or her household to love and serve God. 


18d. Let the members lovingly serve others outside their household by participating, as much as obligations, time, finances, and health permit, in the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, following the guidance of God and their spiritual director. Let them serve all with the charity and mercy of Christ. The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are listed in Appendix D of these Constitutions. 




  • In keeping with section 19 of this Rule:


19a. Penitents living in proximity to each other should stay in touch with one another and ideally form a Chapter or Circle to assist each other in this way of life, subject to the Confraternity's guidelines on forming a Chapter or Circle. 


19b. No Chapter or Circle may be formed without a spiritual assistant (Visitor). The spiritual assistant must be a priest, deacon, or male or female religious who upholds all the teachings of the Catholic Church and who fully supports the penitents in living this Rule of Life. 


19c. Should a Chapter or Circle lose its spiritual assistant, it must obtain permission from the Confraternity Visitor to continue meeting while a search is made for a replacement. In the meantime, the Confraternity shall assign a temporary spiritual assistant to the group. Permission to continue meeting without a permanent spiritual assistant must be renewed annually. 


19d. Chapters and Circles that are temporarily without spiritual assistants may wish to use audio or video tapes to provide formation for their members until a new spiritual assistant is acquired. 


19e. All members of this Confraternity are to gather for their monthly Chapter or Circle meeting at a time the local ministers see fit. If possible, they should attend Mass as part of this meeting. 


19f. If there is no local Chapter or Circle, a member is permitted to attend an internet Chapter of the CFP, be part of a by-mail Chapter of the CFP, or live this Rule on his or her own under a competent spiritual director. All such members should be in regular contact with the Confraternity by letter, email, or phone call and should obey the spiritual assistant (Visitor) of the Confraternity in all matters that concern the Visitor as stated in the Rule.


  • In keeping with section 20 of this Rule:


20a. Every member shall contribute generously to the treasury of their Chapter or Circle or of the Confraternity. 


20b. There are fixed expenses affiliated with running the Confraternity that are part of every member's responsibility and apostolate. These include mail and newsletter costs, formation materials, miscellaneous printing, phone expenses, and the cost of maintaining the Web page. Monies will be used to cover these expenses and occasionally to provide alms for needy members, as approved by the minister and the council, who may be consulted to determine a fitting donation as well. 


20c. A report of how this money is being utilized may be requested at any time by any member. 


20d. If a Chapter or Circle in the Confraternity requests a visit from the Visitor or someone else, they should reimburse the expenses of the visit. 


20e. In the United States of America, all monies donated to the Confraternity of Penitents are tax deductible. The CFP is a bona fide nonprofit, tax exempt organization. 


  • In keeping with section 21 of this Rule:


21a. At Mass the penitents should pay particular respectful attention to the Gospel, the homily or sermon, the Consecration of the Eucharist, and its worthy reception. 


21b. In their Chapter or Circle meetings they are to listen attentively and to speak charitably. 


21c. All members should have the opportunity to faith share about their spiritual experiences and concerns at each meeting. 


21d. It is suggested that all penitents make an annual retreat or hermitage experience, unless so exempted by a spiritual director or Chapter minister. 




  • In keeping with section 22 of the Rule:


22a. When a Chapter or Circle member falls ill, fellow penitents should visit the person or else send a card or make a phone call to the ailing party, exhorting the ill penitent to penance (personal, ongoing conversion). Weekly contact is encouraged. 


22b. If penitents are able to provide help to ill members, they should lovingly do so.


  • In keeping with section 23 of the Rule:


23a. If a Chapter or Circle member should die, those surviving members should gather for the funeral if work and family commitments allow. They are not to leave until Mass is celebrated and the body consigned to burial. 


23b. Within eight days of the demise, each member shall say for the soul of the deceased: a Mass, if a priest, fifty Psalms other wise.[2] If a member cannot read the Psalter, he or she may say fifty Our Father's with the words "May the souls of the faithful departed through the Mercy of God rest in peace" following each Our Father.


23c. Penitents may, if they wish, add the ejaculation, "Lord, have mercy on ________'s soul" after praying each psalm, or the Glory be.



  • In keeping with section 24 of the Rule:


24a. In addition, every year, for the welfare of the brothers and sisters living and dead, each priest must say three Masses and the other Chapter or Circle members are to recite the entire Psalter from the Bible. The Psalter may be recited all at once, in sections throughout the year, or by praying one psalm or section of psalm daily. 


24b. Those who cannot read shall say one hundred Our Father's with the words "May the souls of the faithful departed through the Mercy of God rest in peace" after each Our Father. These may be said all at once or throughout the year.


  • In keeping with section 25 of the Rule:


25a. All are to make their last will and testament within three months of their pledging to live the Rule, lest anyone of them die before creating a valid will.


  • In keeping with section 26 of the Rule:


26a. All are to make peace with members of the Confraternity and all others, seeking, if necessary, the consultation of the Church. 


26b. The penitent must daily pray for all those who refuse to make peace with the penitent and must forgive such people all wrongs done to the penitent. 


26c. The brothers and sisters are always to take the first steps toward reconciliation. Under no circumstances are penitents to hold grudges or wish ill to anyone.


  • In keeping with section 27 of the Rule:


27a. If contrary to their rights and privileges, trouble is made for the brothers and sisters by those in civil authority of the places where they live, the ministers of the place shall do what they shall find expedient on the advice of their Chapter or Circle's spiritual assistant, their spiritual director, or their parish priest.


  • In keeping with section 28 of the Rule:


28a. Let each member accept and faithfully exercise the ministry of other offices imposed on him or her, although anyone may retire from office after a year. 


28b. The penitent should follow the consensus of the electing group in determining whether or not to accept an office. If nominated for a position it is prudent to consider if the nomination be the will of God. This holds true for the election as well. 


28c. All nominations and elections must be conducted in absolute charity and honesty. Secret ballot elections are the proper way to elect someone from among those nominated. The person getting the most votes is the one elected. Terms of office are one year. 


28d. If a penitent who is nominated for, or elected to, office feels stress over this service, the penitent should prayerfully examine the causes of this stress and discuss these with a spiritual director, the Chapter or Circle minister, and the Chapter or Circle's spiritual assistant. 


28e. In elections, only life pledged members shall be eligible to nominate, vote and hold office. If an insufficient number of capable members are life pledged, officers shall be appointed by the Confraternity or chosen by and from the members in formation and/or pledged for a year.



  • In keeping with section 29 of the Rule:


29a. When others wish to enter this Confraternity, the ministers shall carefully inquire into their standing and occupation and should question them thoroughly to ascertain their adherence to the Church's teaching regarding faith, Church authority, and morals. Only those who hold to the views of the Church's Magisterium, or who change their views to adopt those of the Church, shall be considered for admission to the Confraternity.


29b. Moreover, the ministers shall explain to all inquirers the obligations of life under the Rule, especially that of restoring what belongs to others. And if those inquiring are content with that, let them begin to follow the rules of formation as set up by this Confraternity. 


29c. Those living this life must at once begin to pay up their debts, are to reconcile with their neighbors, and begin to tithe if they have not been doing so.


  • In keeping with section 30 of the Rule:


30a. After these particulars are complied with and the year of postulancy and three years of novice formation have elapsed, if those novices seem suitable to the ministers of their Chapter or Circles, let them be received on this condition--     ` that they pledge that they will observe everything here written, or to be written or changed on the advice of the ruling body of the Confraternity, unless on occasion there be a valid dispensation by the ministers or Visitors or their own personal spiritual directors; and that they will, when called upon by the ministers, render satisfaction as the Visitor shall ordain if they have done anything contrary to this condition. 


30b. Penitents may pledge to live the Rule for life or for a year. Yearly pledges are to be renewed annually and may be changed at any time to a lifetime pledge. 


30c. All pledges are to be put in writing then and there and signed by the penitent and also by the minister and the spiritual assistant. Nobody is to be received otherwise.


  • In keeping with section 31 of the Rule:


31a. A penitent who has pledged to live this Rule must have the consent of his or her spiritual director in order to be released from the pledge. The penitent must also petition, in writing, the spiritual assistant, minister, and Visitor for release and shall give the reasons for the request. The minister and spiritual assistant should thoroughly explain the seriousness of asking for release from this promise to God. They may also question the penitent to see if the Confraternity has failed the penitent in some way.


31b. Those who wish to depart from this Confraternity to enter a religious Order should receive not only permission but also the blessing of the entire Confraternity. It is the norm of the Church that individuals should always move towards a greater commitment to Christ and His Church when they leave any lifestyle for another.


  • In keeping with section 32 of the Rule:


32a. No person who does not adhere totally to all that the Catholic Church teaches through its hierarchy and Magisterium, and no person in bad repute for disputing these teachings, shall be admitted. If such persons are under suspicion of this, they may be admitted if otherwise fit, upon being cleared by the bishop.


  • In keeping with section 33 of the Rule:


33a. Those married are not to be received except with the consent of their spouses, provided they are living with said spouse. If separation, annulment, or divorce has occurred, spousal consent is not required.


33b. A divorced penitent should seek to reconcile with their spouse, if possible. One can only apply for an annulment if one believes that their marriage is invalid. There could be circumstances in which, for example, a spouse was unjustly abandoned, had to seek civil divorce for reasons of legitimate protection (financial, physical, etc.), and is not able to reconcile with their spouse.


  • In keeping with section 34 of the Rule:


34a. Brothers and sisters ejected from a Chapter or Circle as incorrigible are not to be received in it again except it please the majority of the Chapter or Circle members. 




  • In keeping with section 35 of the Rule:


35a. The ministers shall report public faults (manifest grave sins) of any members to the Visitor for disciplinary action. And if anyone proves incorrigible, after consultation with the council, they should be denounced to the Visitor, to be expelled by the Visitor from the Confraternity, and thereupon it should be published in the meeting. 


35b. If the manifest grave sin also violates civil law, it ought to be also reported to civil authorities.


  • In keeping with section 36 of the Rule:


36a. If anyone learns that scandal is occurring relative to brothers and sisters in any matter, that person shall report it to the Visitor.


  • In keeping with section 37 of the Rule:


37a. The Visitor has the power to dispense all brothers and sisters in any of these points if the Visitor finds it advisable.


  • In keeping with section 38 of the Rule:


38a. When the year has passed, the ministers, with the counsel of the Chapter or Circle, are to elect a minister, associate minister, and a faithful treasurer who is to provide for the needs of the Chapter or Circle and of the brothers and sisters and other poor; and a secretary who, at the command of the ministers, is to publish what is said and done at meetings.


  • In keeping with section 39 of the Rule:


39a. In all the above mentioned points, no one is to be obligated under guilt, but under penalty; yet so if after being admonished twice by the ministers he or she should fail to discharge the penalty imposed or to be imposed on him by the Visitor, he shall be obligated under guilt as contumacious and so expelled from the Chapter or Circle.




Every penitent should have a spiritual director for help in discerning how to grow in the penitential lifestyle and understand the motion of the Holy Spirit. Penitents shall pray for this grace.


Spiritually mature priests, deacons, or other male or female religious can serve as spiritual directors, provided they are supportive of all the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and are also supportive of the intentions of the penitent to live the Rule. In their absence, other penitents, who are experienced in the "things of God" can serve as spiritual directors if approved by a spiritual assistant of this Association. 


It is expected that most penitents will have a spiritual director by the middle of the first year of novice formation and that they will be meeting with their spiritual directors at least monthly. Without a spiritual director, no penitent is permitted to make a permanent commitment to living this Rule. 


Spiritual direction is best done face to face, but spiritual direction via computer, phone, and postal mail is permitted. Spiritual directors serve as advisors not military commanders. A good relationship enables penitent and director to discuss points of disagreement. Generally, once discussion is ended, it is safer for penitents to follow the director's advice, wary of pride in one's own opinions and judgment. However, before the tribunal of Christ, each person will have to take full responsibility for every decision. The virtue of prudence requires that penitents not deviate from a director's advice without prayerful consideration of the entire situation. 








Penitents observe all Church prescribed days of fast and abstinence as well as additional days required by the Rule itself. Current Church regulations on fasting and abstinence are these:


Fast: The law of fast prescribes that only one full meal a day be taken; but it does not forbid taking some nourishment at two other times during the day. The two smaller meals should be sufficient to maintain strength according to each one's needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including ordinary, homogenized milk and fruit juices, are allowed. Malted milks, milk shakes, and the like are not included in the term "milk." All those from eighteen years of age to the beginning of their sixtieth year are bound by the law of fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.


Abstinence: The law of abstinence forbids the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products, nor condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat. Forbidden are the flesh meat of warm blooded animals and all parts of such animals. This does not include meat juices, broths, soups, lards, gravies, sauces, animal fats, and liquid foods made from meat. Also allowed are fish and all such coldblooded animals such as frogs, shellfish, clams, turtles, oysters, crabs, and lobsters. All those who have completed their fourteenth year are bound to the law of abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all the Friday's of Lent.


The substantial observance of the laws of fast and abstinence is a serious obligation. When a proportionately serious reason exists, there is surely no sin in departing from these norms. Thus, one may very well be excused by sickness or any infirmity which requires that one eat meat even on Friday during Lent, by the need to take one's meals in common, by travel when it is not possible to obtain readily permissible foods, by great poverty, etc.


(Source: The Pastoral Companion: A Canon Law Handbook for Catholic Ministry, Franciscan Herald Press: Chicago, Illinois, 1995, pp. 292-96).






Marian Consecration Prayer 


To you do we turn, O Holy Mary, glorious and Ever-Virgin Mother of God, Queen of Angels and of Saints, the "Virgin made Church." To you do we cry, O Handmaid of the Lord, Mother of the Suffering Servant, who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. For through you the most exalted Son of God emptied Himself for love of our love, taking the form of a slave in your womb and dying in destitution on a cross as He gave you to us, O Refuge of Sinners. To you do we fly as we beg you to obtain for us the true spirit of the Gospel.


Holy Immaculate Conception, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, taking you into our home, we consecrate and entrust ourselves and our Confraternity totally and forever to your Immaculate Heart. Make us your true sons and daughters and use our Confraternity as an instrument of Christ Our King to convert sinners, to sanctify souls, and to strengthen and renew the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--may be glorified, praised, and adored by all mankind. Amen.






Those who do not have a breviary may use the following substitutions of Psalms for recitation of the Daily Office (Psalms are numbered according to the New American Bible, Catholic edition, and taken from My Daily Psalm Book, arranged by Rev. Joseph Frey, c. 1947 by the Confraternity of the Most Precious Blood. The entire Psalter is recited in a week's time). Since the hour of Prime has been suppressed, those Psalms listed for Prime may be used as focal points for the period of meditation and mental prayer:


 Sunday: Office of Readings1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11; Morning Prayer 93, 100, 63, Daniel 3: 57-88, 148; Prime 118, 119 v. 1-32; Midmorning Prayer 119 v. 33-80; Midday Prayer 119 v. 81-128; Midafternoon Prayer 119 v.129-176; Evening Prayer 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115; Night Prayer 4, 91, 134


Monday: Office of Readings 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 30; Morning Prayer 47, 5, 29, Canticle of David ("Blessed art thou, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from eternity to eternity. Thine, O Lord, are grandeur and power and splendor and glory and majesty. For all that is in heaven and on earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art the ruler who is exalted above all. Wealth and honor are from thee, and by thy power thou rulest all things. And in thy hand are strength and power, and to thy hand it belongs to make everything great and strong. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee and we praise thy glorious name."), 117; Prime 24, 19; Midmorning Prayer 27, 28; Midday Prayer 31; Midafternoon Prayer 32, 33; Evening Prayer 116, 120, 121, 122; Night Prayer 6, 7


Tuesday: Office of Readings 35, 37, 38, 39; Morning Prayer 96, 43, 67, Tobit 13 v. 1-10, 135; Prime 25; Midmorning Prayer 40; Midday Prayer 41, 42; Midafternoon Prayer 44; Evening Prayer 123, 124, 125, 126, 127; Night Prayer 12, 13, 16 


Wednesday: Office of Readings 45, 46, 48, 49, 50, 51; Morning Prayer 97, 65, 101, Judith 16 v. 13-17, 146; Prime 26, 52, 53; Midmorning Prayer 54, 55; Midday Prayer 56, 57, 58; Midafternoon Prayer 59, 60; Evening Prayer 128, 129, 130, 131, 132; Night Prayer 34, 61 


Thursday: Office of Readings 62, 66, 68, 69; Morning Prayer 98, 90, 36, Jeremiah 31, v. 10-14, 147; Prime 23, 72; Midmorning Prayer 73; Midday Prayer 74; Midafternoon Prayer 75, 76; Evening Prayer 133, 136, 137, 138; Night Prayer 70, 71 


Friday: Office of Readings 78, 79, 81, 83; Morning Prayer 99, 143, 85; Prime: Canticle of Isaiah: Isaiah 45: 15-26, Psalm 147 v. 12-20, 22; Midmorning Prayer 80, 82; Midday Prayer 84, 87; Midafternoon Prayer 89; Evening Prayer 139, 140, 141, 142; Night Prayer 77, 86 


Saturday Office of Readings 105, 106, 107; Morning Prayer 149, 92, 64, Ecclesiasticus 36 v. 1-16; 150; Prime 94, 108; Midmorning Prayer 102; Midday Prayer 104; Midafternoon Prayer 109; Evening Prayer 144, 145; Night Prayer 88, 103, 95, Canticle of Mary: Luke 1 v. 46-55, Canticle of Zachary: Luke 1 v. 68-79, Canticle of Simeon: Luke 2, 29-32






The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:


  • Instruct the ignorant

  • Advise the doubtful

  • Correct sinners

  • Be patient with those in error or who do wrong

  • Forgive offenses

  • Comfort the afflicted

  • Contemplate creation

  • Pray for the living and the dead.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are:


  • Feed the hungry

  • Give drink to the thirsty

  • Clothe the naked

  • Shelter the homeless

  • Visit the sick and imprisoned

  • Ransom the captive

  • Care for creation

  • Bury the dead.


In keeping with the conclusion of the Rule:


Here end the Constitutions of the Continent Confraternity of Penitents, that is those who give up things in fulfillment of the Gospels of our Lord Jesus Christ.




Expanded Historical Overview


1994, July: Our human "founder" Madeline Pecora Nugent, inspired by the Holy Spirit, begins, with the approval of her spiritual director Dom Julian Stead, OSB, to "live the Rule of 1221."


1995: Upon the advice of Father Pio Mandato, FPO, the living of the Rule is made known to a Rhode Island, USA, Secular Franciscan fraternity. Six members express interest in living the Rule of 1221 in addition to their Third Order Franciscan Rule. They name the group "The Brothers and Sisters of Penance" (BSP)


1996, March: The Visitor Brother Francis Kelly, FPO, asks that the group disband for a year to discern God's direction.


1997, March: The group reorganizes with Dom Julian Stead, OSB, as Visitor. That December, Rev. Robert Mulvee, the Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, is presented a copy of the Rule and Statutes (now called Constitutions).


1998 January 30: Date of the initial letter of permission to live the Rule and Statutes, signed by Rev. Msgr. William I. Varsanyi, Vicar General of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island. The letter contains these words, "Bishop Mulvee concurred with my opinion that this Rule does not contain anything contrary to our faith; therefore it may be safely practiced privately by you or by anyone inclined to do so." In autumn of 1998, under the name of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance and with the permission of Bishop Mulvee, the Confraternity goes on the world-wide web, using space on a friend’s website. A formation program with six postulants begins. Formation lessons begin to be written.


1999, Lent: A group from Minnesota, organized as the Franciscan Brothers and Sisters of Penance, finds the Rhode Island group and a merger is effected. Members of that group now enjoy the same legal and tax exempt status as the BSP. After 1999, the resources, including a new website owned by the BSP, membership, and documents of the BSP, expand, but still using the same Statutes as were reviewed by the Diocese of Providence in 1998.  Slight additional adaptations to the Constitutions are accepted by the Diocese of Providence in 1999.  In April 1999, the BSP is legally incorporated in the State of Rhode Island. In the summer of 1999, the first overnight retreat is held in the Knights of Columbus Hall in Middletown Rhode Island with six attendees. In November of 1999, federal non-profit tax exempt status is granted to the incorporated BSP.  


2002 April 7 (Divine Mercy Sunday): Stephanie Natalie Carlson Sullivan and Madeline Pecora Nugent, the first two penitents to complete the four year formation program, pledge to live the Rule for life. They make their pledges at Jesus Savior Church Prayer Chapel, Middletown, Rhode Island, before Father Valerius Messerich, OFM, BSP Visitor. (Dom Julian Stead also continues as Visitor).


2002-2003: After about three and one half years, disagreements among the leaders arise over governance, formation, pledging, and communication procedures. Ten months of communications and discussions can not resolve the disagreements. When the Council of the Association learns of and becomes divided over these issues,  the founder, in August 2003, asks advice of the Diocese of Providence. She is advised to sever the merger and refound the Association. The Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Robert Mulvee, concurs with this advice. Several other leaders of the BSP agree. Legally they must resign from the BSP and start a new Association which legally must receive a new name. The name chosen is the Confraternity of Penitents (CFP). After consulting a lawyer, these leaders turn over the BSP treasury, assets, and material resources of the BSP to the remaining leaders. In addition, the BSP website and passwords, which had been managed from Rhode Island since 1998, are transferred to the remaining leaders. Some of the membership of the BSP also voluntarily leave the BSP and join the Confraternity of Penitents while others stay with the former foundation which also must now incorporate as its own entity. On August 19, 2003, the Confraternity of Penitents is legally incorporated in the state of Rhode Island. On August 22 (the Queenship of Mary), the CFP is refounded in the Church with the formation lessons, pledging procedures, requirements for leadership and voting, and how the Rule is lived (the original Statutes) continuing unchanged, thus effecting a true "refounding" rather than the creation of a different group. In October, the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, incorporated in the State of Rhode Island in 1999, is legally dissolved since no Rhode Island members remain.


2004: With the permission of the Diocese of Providence, her spiritual director, and the CFP Visitor, on March 27, 2004, Elizabeth Hill becomes the first penitent to make a private vow to live the CFP Rule and Constitutions for life. Elizabeth takes the privately vowed name of sr. Bridget Clare of the Eucharist. On May 10, the Confraternity is granted tax exempt status by the federal government. Also in 2004, Bishop Mulvee concurs with the advice of CFP Spiritual Advisor Father John of the Trinity, Erem TOCarm, and with the agreement of CFP Visitor Father Jay Finelli, to grant permission for CFP Members to celebrate the Queenship of Mary yearly as a Solemnity, by following the guidelines in sections 6 and 9 of the CFP Rule and Constitutions.


2005: On May 27, the first death of a pledged member occurs with the death of Stephanie Sullivan. In September , the Council of the Confraternity of Penitents meets with CFP Spiritual Advisor Father Martin Mary Fonte, FI, and Sister Jacqueline Dickey, Vicar for Religious of the Diocese of Providence. The governing structure of the Confraternity is revised to allow the Minister General greater freedom in governance and a set of ordinances is adopted.


2006 July: In order to conform more closely to Church terminology, what had been previously termed "statutes" are renamed "Constitutions" and "ordinances" are renamed the "Directory."


2007 March: The first Life Pledged Chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents, for life pledged members and those planning to pledge for life, is held in Dallas, Texas, with seven members attending, one of whom makes her life pledge at this gathering.


2009 February 11: Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, confirms the canonical status of the Confraternity of Penitents as a “private association of the faithful” and extends to it his “special blessing.”


2010:  Father Michael Anthony Sisco becomes Visitor of the Confraternity of Penitents. The first community house for the Confraternity of Penitents is established at the main headquarters of the Confraternity in Middletown, Rhode Island with Patrick Hamor being the first resident.


2011: With the permission of Father Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Oratory of Divine Love ministry and web site, Father Sisco’s homilies are adapted by Confraternity members to provide weekly reflections for an online web site for the Oratory of Divine Love. The Confraternity of Penitents sponsors the web site. Patrick Hamor enters the Franciscan Brothers Minor and will be given the name Brother Fidelis Maria upon entering the Novitiate. In the fall, the second community house, St. Theresa's Residence, is opened in Tiverton, Rhode Island, for two women in the Confraternity of Penitents.


2012 December: With the departure of all its residents, St.  Theresa’s Residence closes.  


2013: On September 26, 2013, at the invitation of Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend Indiana USA, the Confraternity of Penitents relocates its international headquarters to Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, to a house, outbuildings and property owned by the Diocese. Madeline Pecora Nugent, Jim Nugent, and Kay-Marie Nugent move to Fort Wayne to manage the CFP office and gift shop and to oversee use of the property. Bishop Rhoades blesses the house and property on November 4, 2013. While retaining a location in Rhode Island, the Confraternity receives from the state of Indiana a Certificate of Authority as Non-Profit Foreign (out of state) Corporation on November 12, 2013.


2014. Bishop Rhoades confirms the canonical status of the Confraternity of Penitents as a private association of the faithful in a letter dated January 3, 2014 and grants the CFP his blessing. He names Father Jacob Meyer as Confraternity of Penitents’ Visitor.


2015. Renovations completed at CFP international headquarters to create bathroom, kitchen, dining area, and private living space for on site volunteers. Mary’s Glen development begun at rear of CFP headquarters, to create a wooded prayer area.

2016. Bishop Rhoades reconfirms the canonical status of the Confraternity of Penitents as a private association of the faithful in a letter dated September 28, 2016 and grants the CFP his blessing. He names Father Francis Chukwuma as Confraternity of Penitents’ Visitor to replace Fr. Jacob Meyer.




[1] Any fifteen decades may be chosen.


[2] Any fifty psalms may be said. However, penitents with severe time constraints may wish to know that there are exactly 50 psalms in the Psalter which are 9 lines or less. These are 1, 3, 4. 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20, 23, 28, 43, 47, 52, 53, 54, 61, 67, 70, 82, 87, 93, 98, 99, 100, 101, 110, 113, 114, 117, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 137, 138, 142, 149, 150

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