Confraternity of Penitents: St. Francis' Rule of Penance for the Laity
"Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command." ---------- Saint Francis' of Assisi's prayer before the San Damiano Crucifix
Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- March 2014
Trust in God
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6: 25-34)
When God prepares me to write a homily, I think I’m going to sit down and study the Scripture for a week and pray about it and meditate on it and come up with a good homily. But God seems to prepare me in ways that I never could foresee. I am the Entertainment Channel of God. God probably enjoys being entertained by me. God teaches me in His own ways.
God says in the Gospel to not be worried about worldly things. Don’t worry. Simply trust in God.
Let me share with you one Saturday and the mysterious doings in the life of a priest. You never know what is going to happen on a Saturday. It’s always a surprise. Yesterday, a Saturday, I received an emergency call on my emergency phone for someone who was very sick and in need of a priest. I enjoy taking these calls because I see the Lord at work in others’ lives. I went out in response to the call and met a family of faith who were mourning their loved one. As I left this family, I looked down and saw by my watch that I was 10 minutes late in relieving Father James in the confessional. So I got in my car and zoomed over there as fast as I could, within the speed limit, to relieve Father James.
‘Hello, Father James,” I said. “I’m here. Sorry I’m late.” Father James smiled as he always does, knowing that Father Jacob is always late. So I heard confessions, and I just love hearing confessions, and the longer the line the better! I heard the last confession and it was over at 5:20 PM. Amazing! Then I realize that I’m supposed to say Mass at 5 PM at a Bishop Dwenger High School fund raiser. So I jumped in my car and zoomed as fast as I could, within the speed limit, to get to the Mass. And I was very apologetic. The people were quite understanding and forgave me for being late, and I finished the Mass at 6:10 p.m. only to look down at my watch and realize that I was supposed to be at the Blue and Gold Dinner at 6 PM. This is my life! So I got in my car and drove as fast as I could, within the speed limit, to get to the dinner. And on my way, I realized that God was trying to tell me something.
I was thinking, “I got to get to the dinner, everyone is waiting for me; they will wonder where I am.” And I asked my guardian angel to be with me and he was. He made every light turned red and five fire trucks pull up so I had to pull over to let them pass. And God was speaking to me. God was saying, “It’ not about your plans. It’s not about your time. It’s not your time. It’s my time. All time belongs to me.” So He taught me. I can’t control time. I just have to use it according to God’s call, according to His ways. Not my ways, but His ways.
I was thinking, “Maybe I should’ve just told people to just tell me their moral sins only so I could get out of the confessional on time,” but that was just Father Jacob talking. Maybe the last person who wanted to confess was late in getting to the confessional, and he or she may have had waited a long time to come to confession. And maybe the sins seem small to me that were important to that person. Who knows? It’s God’s plan, not our plan.
When I worry about time, what has taken hold of me? Mammon. Are we living by our judgment or God’s? Scripture tells us again and again that time cannot last. Tomorrow comes and goes. Yesterday can’t come back. The only thing that is lasting is eternity. The only time we should worry about is eternity. We should live our lives in such a way that eternity is the goal.
What does God want me to have here? What does God want me to do here? Jesus brings up food, drink, and clothing. We are blessed in America in that we have all of these things most of these things come to us we have the bare necessities of life. But we have other worries. How we going to pay our mortgage? How would I get insurance? How are we going to survive a mean kid in school? How do we witness to our faith?
We need to develop the habit of relying on God. We need to develop the habit of prayer. If we are prayerful we will go to God with these concerns. God, what do you expect me to do? Our lives are not our own. We can fill our lives with things that are not of God. We need to draw closer to the things that matter the most and build habits that will change our lives. Then we will worry less about time and more about eternity. If we don’t love people enough to invite them to heaven, it’s not worth the time. We need to put God first in our lives.
Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents
Following Francis, Following Christ
Lent begins this month. How did St. Francis observe Lent? He went off to a hermitage for forty days to fast and pray.
Francis observed several Lents during the year. During each of these Lents, Francis went into solitude to fast and pray. Many of us who live in the world shudder if someone suggests that we take time to go into solitude to fast and pray. Fasting is easy enough. We give up sweets or chocolate or television or some such non-necessity for Lent. Fasting does not take more time to do. In fact, it can give us some extra time.
However, many of us do not have the time to spend forty minutes, much less 40 days, in fasting and praying. We have obligations to meet, family members to care for, and duties to do. We may wish we had the freedom to be able to just go off by ourselves even for a day and spend time with God.
Lent is given to us as the time to make more room for God in our lives. If we cannot retreat from life and go to a hermitage for one day, much less 40 days, we can look at our busy lives and see where we can find some hermitage moments for each day during Lent. Is it possible to get awake a bit earlier, before the house awakens, and just spend a few moments quietly listening to the room tone and putting ourselves in touch with the Holy Spirit? When we go to work, do we pass any churches that are open during the day? If so, can we stop in for a visit to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament on our way to or from work? If we have children, might we be able to take them for a little walk where we can put ourselves in the presence of God in nature and in our communities while taking our children with us? If we go to daily Mass, is there time before or after Mass to spend some quiet time with God? When we sit down at the computer, can we take a few moments to close our eyes before checking our emails and just listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our souls? When we embark on a duty around the house, can we stop and pause for a few moments before jumping into the obligation and just feel God’s presence with us in our work? When we go to sleep at night, can we possibly collect our thoughts and sit quietly at the side of the bed for just a few moments to put ourselves into the arms of God?
Each of these suggestions causes us to slow down a little bit and give God a little bit more time in our day. God does not need big opportunities and long stretches of time in order to speak to us. He is certainly able to speak to us in the little moments, too, but we have to give Him those little moments and be attentive to Him in them. It is certainly a good practice to spend an hour of Adoration each week before the Blessed Sacrament or to spend a long time in quiet, contemplative prayer in the quiet of our own homes. But some of us do not have the luxury of being able to have that hour of free time. Our days are so full with family obligations and duties of work that, when we get an hour to ourselves, all we want to do is rest or even fall asleep.
This is why making a hermitage out of the little moments of time that we can squeeze out of our day can be very profitable for busy people. Certainly we should see if we have to be as busy as we are. And we probably all have things we can do without in our lives that will give us more time, such as watching television or reading the newspaper or talking on the phone or making sure we vacuum the carpets every single day instead of waiting a few days between vacuuming. But sometimes we have taken away all of the extraneous distractions and unnecessary duties and are still left with a very full schedule. For those who fit this description, the daily hermitage moment maybe just the remedy needed to foster a more peaceful life focused more completely on the Holy Spirit’s direct action in our lives.
Developing the hermitage moment does not come easily to most people, but if we practice it throughout Lent, we will develop the habit of being able to quiet ourselves down and spend a few moments just feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in that moment of our busy lives. May this Lent be the beginning of a deepening relationship with the Lord who is always present to us. All we need to do is to slow down for one moment and pay attention to His Presence.
A blessed, grace filled Lent to all of you.
---Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Monthly Letter to All Penitents
God Does Amazing Things Even When We Don't Know He's at Work
God does amazing things, even when we don’t know that He is at work.
This has been a very snowy winter here in Indiana. The snow that collected in the parking lot and driveway by the headquarters was piled up on either side of the lot, one side against the fence, and the opposite side against the garage in which the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop and CFP office are located. The garage door was supposed to be removed and replaced with a wall, but that did not happen because the state of Indiana wants the plans for the renovation and completion of the garage to meet state standards and include a handicapped accessible bathroom because Confraternity members, other than those who live on the property, may be working in the shop and office at some point. Plans for the renovation are at the state being approved. Meanwhile, the gift shop and CFP office are in the partially renovated garage and are functioning.
Last week Bob, one of our Confraternity of Penitents’ members, stopped by the CFP headquarters and said that he had extra shelving that he had picked up from a demolition job he had done last year. This was in storage at his shop and he knew that we needed more shelving for the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop and wondered if we would want it. We certainly did want it! We needed it because many religious items had been given to us from Good Shepherd Gift Shop which had gone out of business at Christmas time 2012. These items were in boxes on the floor, for the most part, and on some tables. Shelving would enable us to remove the items from the boxes, put them on the Internet site, and be able to see them to fill orders as they came in.
Bob took two days to complete the shelving, sturdy metal shelving that goes up about 6 feet. He made the first shelf about six or 8 inches from the floor and then went up from there. On the first day, Kay Marie, gift shop manager, and I transferred items from tables to shelves and to other tables so that Bob would have room to work. When he went home, we then transferred items from the tables to the new shelving. The second day Bob completed the shelving. Then, because Bob is a great man, he picked up the remaining boxes that were on the floor and put them on the shelves.
Bob did leave on the floor the boxes of used books which we had piled up out of his way next to the garage door. But the Confraternity is having a Day of Recollection on March 1, and people are always looking for good reading materials for Lent. So it seemed reasonable to take the used books they are and see if they might be useful to those attending. Wanting to price them, because some people are stymied if you tell them to give a donation of their choice, Jim and I brought the books into the house on Friday and Saturday so that they could be priced.
The Great Melt started here on Tuesday as the temperatures began to rise above freezing for the first time in many weeks. We did not anticipate the problems that this might cause.
On Tuesday night, something was being repaired on the sidewalk at the neighbor’s house. Huge trucks dug up the sidewalk and whatever was underneath it and replaced the entire pavement with gravel and dirt. This happened when we, along with CFP Member Jackie, were praying Evening Prayer and Night Prayer around 8:00 PM in the in house prayer chapel that faces the street. The men working surely noticed our lit candles and us at prayer as we were facing the street. We wondered if a water main had broken and was being repaired.
On Wednesday morning, when Kay Marie left the house to go to work in the gift shop, she came back in stating that there was a huge puddle of water at the bottom of the steps into the driveway and that the driveway was flooded with ice. My husband Jim and I went out to investigate and we saw water rushing out from under a huge pile of snow in the parking lot to the left of this puddle, from the direction of the neighbor’s property. The water was a small stream, as if a faucet were turned on full blast, pouring into our parking lot and driveway and then flowing out down the street. We called the city of Fort Wayne, but the city said that since the water appeared to be coming from the neighbor’s property, they could do nothing about it. It was the neighbor’s issue.
So I visited the neighbor and explained to her about the problem, and she promised to tell her son about it. About 30 minutes later, the flow of water stopped. Of course, the driveway was still flooded and icy. So we waited a few hours as the temperature rose and the ice began to melt, and then Kay Marie went out to the garage where the gift shop is located to fill the orders for the day. She immediately phoned and said, “There are couple inches of water in here. The place is flooded.”
Sure enough. Apparently two things happened. First the flow of water from the neighbor’s property, backed up by the snow and ice piled at that end of the parking lot, had flowed toward the shop and came in under the opening where the door would have been had the building been able to be completed. The other issue was that the four foot line of snow that was piled up against the garage door was melting and again, because the bottom layer of the snow was very icy, the flowing water took the path of least resistance which was under the garage door and into the shop.
But the Holy Spirit was looking out for us because there were only four boxes of religious goods on the floor, and this was because Bob had, not even a week before, put up the shelves and had put the items on them and because Jim and I had taken the used books into the house to price. As it was, the items at the top of the four boxes on the floor were not wet or damaged, so what had to be discarded was minimal. Jim put a sump pump into the shop to pump out the water, and I went in after supper and mopped up the floor. The floor dried overnight and was fine on Thursday.
But another problem faced us on Wednesday. What to do about the huge pile of melting snow up against the garage door? We called one of our Confraternity of Penitents affiliates Andy who has a tractor with a front scoop shovel and a back plow. Andy has been so kind as to come and plow our driveway and parking area several times with all the snows Fort Wayne has had. Andy does the plowing and many other jobs for so many people that the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare have nicknamed him Brother Fix-It Mary! After fixing a broken water pipe at a shopping center, Andy came on Wednesday afternoon and hauled away all the snow in front of the garage as well as the huge heap under which the neighbor’s water had been flowing. Jim and I shoveled the rest of the snow that was right next to the garage door where Andy’s plow could not safely reach. By the end of the day, all of the snow that had been abutting the garage door was now against the fence at one end of the parking lot or was piled up on the other side on the lawn away from the garage.
Following Andy’s suggestion about making a trench through the ice which he could not remove with the plow, and Kay Marie’s suggestion about using hot water to melt the ice and Jim’s suggestion about using a crowbar to chip away the ice, I made a channel through the ice so that the water that was backed up from the neighbor could flow through the inch of ice and down the driveway and into the street.
We went to bed praising God for His mercy and goodness. He had given us two good Confraternity friends to help us with this dilemma. One of them came before the melt began and put up the shelves that saved the merchandise. The other came to remove the four foot length of snow piled against the garage door. The melt had occurred on a weekday when Kay Marie goes into the shop to work. Had this happened on a Saturday night, she would not have discovered the flooding until Monday morning and it would have been much worse. In addition, because the garage slopes slightly toward the driveway, the water had not risen enough to travel back to the Confraternity library which is behind the shop but in the same room. About half of the library books are on the floor in boxes being sorted, and none of them were touched by water.
I am always amazed by how God’s hand works even when we don’t see it. In this case, He sent Bob in advance, and we are so grateful. He inspired me to take in the used books to prepare well in advance for the Day of Recollection, and we are so grateful. He made sure that the flow of water from the neighbor was stopped, and we are so grateful. He sent Kay Marie out to see what was going on, and we are so grateful. He sent Andy with a snow shovel, and we are so grateful. When you read this, thank Him for the mercy’s He has granted to you. May God be praised now and forever!
“So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love”
1 Cor 13:13
For the past 12 years, I have worked with the sick, the suffering and the dying as a social worker for hospice. I recently had a conversation with Madeline Nugent about the dying process since the Confraternity receives so many emails asking for prayers for the dying.
As a result of our exchange, I was asked to write an article on Christian care for the dying and I gladly accepted the invitation.
Before I worked for hospice, I knew very little about the dying process and had my own fears and misconceptions about it.
It is no secret that we live in a death denying culture which is evidenced in our daily life in a thousand ways through the media, cultural values and even the health care system! And I was greatly impacted by that - although unbeknownst to me at the time. I had been accustomed to working within a more medical model of treatment which focused on recovery, rehabilitation and measureable goals of improvement and physical healing. Moving from that mindset to a more palliative model of care had its challenges and difficult moments of stumbling over my best intentions to help.
I was privileged to be mentored through those challenges and educated by the best nurses, social workers and chaplains in the field as I took my first few hesitating and cautious steps into the world of the dying patient and their families.
One of the basic misconceptions about end of life care has to do with food and feeding. Family members struggled, as did I, with not feeding their loved one when they began to refuse food or drink. Not eating, of course, is a sign of disturbance in one who is not diagnosed with a terminal illness. It can be a sign of depression, severe anxiety, anorexia or evidence of an underlying medical problem and needs to be addressed quickly. However for the patient who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and entering their final days - not eating is natural and even expected.
Questions such as “isn’t she starving to death?” or “shouldn’t we hydrate him!” are asked over and over again. As hospice workers, our goal is to alleviate suffering - not only for the patient but for the loved ones caring for them and anticipating their passing. When I was new at this work, I often brought these questions back to the nurse or supervisor and was gently educated about the dying process as “natural” and “progressive” - moving from one phase to another - with the final phase consisting of the body not being able to tolerate food or drink and sometimes even smells, noises or touch. Hydration, oxygen, feeding through tubes - although wonderful, miraculous and life sustaining interventions, can actually be sometimes harmful to those who are dying. God has created the body to have a natural wisdom and knowing - not only how to live - but how to die.
Just as we have to let go emotionally, mentally and even spiritually - the body also begins to “let go” physically of this material world. The person may begin to withdraw emotionally and socially as the soul knows that it is about to travel to a different world where this body will not be needed anymore. Traveling metaphors are used by the patient during the imminent phase - such as “I am looking for the train ticket…” or “I can’t miss the bus.” There is a going within to do this work which can sometimes be misinterpreted by loved ones as rejection or anger.
There can also be pain. When physical, medications can certainly be helpful and the Catechism teaches about palliative care in a most compassionate manner….“Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged”. Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 2, 2279
When the pain is spiritual (which can also result in emotional pain), Catholics have the Sacrament of the Sick, Viaticum - “Bread for the Journey”. This Sacrament has brought persons who have been away from the Church and their faith for many years - a peaceful acceptance of their death and a happy transition. I have witnessed this and it has given me as much comfort as it does to patients and their loved ones.
There are always exceptions to the rule and there are persons who do not have pain and who even crave certain foods, sweets or a favorite dish that may have been a “comfort food” to them in their life. I believe St. Francis himself asked for almond cookies when dying.
We, as hospice workers, do everything we can to honor the final wishes of our patients - especially if the patient is in a nursing home and/or has no family to advocate for them. Sometimes that final wish is as basic as having a cigarette outside in the sunshine, chocolate (I know of an elderly man who lived on Reese’s pieces and chocolate pudding for over a year) or a bowl of hot tomato soup (as happened recently 4 days before death) or seeing the ocean (we have to resort to DVD’s or tapes of the ocean waves).
The Mercy of God has shown Himself to me through the dying on many different levels - physical, emotional and spiritual. Many persons who begin with fear, unfinished business and anxiety - end with peace, forgiveness and a preparedness for the next world that only God can give.
I have witnessed patients and family members moving from hope for healing and recovery to a deeper hope for peace, comfort and forgiveness.
As a Catholic Christian social worker working with dying persons and their loved ones - I have adopted St. Christopher as my patron. I have found the image of St. Christopher carrying the Child Jesus across deep waters - to be a comfort and an inspiration to me. I so often feel that I, too, am called to carry “the Child Jesus” in our patients across troubled waters to the safety of their eternal shore. It is a humbling apostolate and I have learned over and over that it is only the Paschal Mystery that sustains and strengthens me.
As Christians we believe that Jesus destroyed death once for all and that there is an eternal home that awaits us - and this gives us hope and meaning and joy.
With all of our medical advances and knowledge which has been a gift of Divine Providence, death remains a mystery and one that can be embraced in and through Christ and prepared for throughout our life as we move from one death and resurrection to the next.
In the end, there truly is only love ~
“When the time
Of our particular sunset comes
Our thing, our accomplishment
Won't really matter a great deal.
But the clarity and care
With which we have loved others
Will speak with vitality
Of the great gift of life
We have been for each other.”
May the Mercy of God sustain us on our journey and may the Peace of Christ always be our strength and our hope.
Patricia Boynton, CFP
(Note: The CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop carries the book Dying as a Franciscan: Approaching Our Transitus to Eternal Life, Accompanying Others on the Way to Theirs. 19.95)
No Greater Love
THE EARLY CHURCH AND PHILOSOPHY
Just as the chosen people, the people of Israel, had to choose whether their God was a god among other gods or was God (being itself), the Church had to make the same choice. In chapter III of his Introduction to Christianity, Professor Ratzinger discusses the religious world in which the early Church found itself and the choice which the early Church had to make. Professor Ratzinger states that early Christianity boldly and resolutely made its choice for the God of the philosophers and against the gods of the various religions. Wherever the question arose as to which god the Christian God corresponded, Zeus perhaps or Hermes or Dionysus or some other god, the answer ran: To none of them. To none of the gods to whom you pray but solely and alone to him to whom you do not pray, to that highest being of whom your philosophers speak. The early Church resolutely put aside the whole cosmos of the ancient religions, regarding the whole of it as deceit and illusion, and explained its faith by saying: When we say God, we do not mean or worship any of this; we mean only Being itself, what the philosophers have expounded as the ground of all being, as the God above all powers---that alone is our God.
Next Professor Ratzinger asks about whether the decision against the myths of the ancient religions and for the logos (word) of the philosophers was the right one: it must be noted that the ancient world itself knew the dilemma between the God of faith and the God of the philosophers in a very pronounced form. Between the mythical gods of the religions and the philosophical knowledge of God there had developed in the course of history a stronger and stronger tension, which is apparent in the criticism of the myths by the philosophers from Xenophanes to Plato, who even thought of trying to replace the classical Homeric mythology with a new mythology appropriate to the logos. Professor Ratzinger then goes on to state: The ancient religion did eventually break up because of the gulf between the God of faith and the God of the philosophers, because of the total dichotomy between reason and piety. That no success was achieved in uniting the two, that reason and piety moved farther and farther apart, and the God of faith and the God of the philosophers were separated from each other, meant the inner collapse of the ancient religion. The Christian religion would have to expect just the same fate if it were to accept a similar amputation of reason and were to embark on a corresponding withdrawal into the purely religious….
After this, Professor Ratzinger tells us how pagan philosophy during the time of the early Church denied the myths of the gods yet supported these myths as religion. Thus a person in the ancient world could understand that there truly was one God and the natural law which flowed from this one God and still worship gods which he knew did not exist and even engage in immoral practices all for the sake of politics and society. As Professor Ratzinger described it: The paradox of ancient philosophy consists, from the point of view of religious history, in the fact that intellectually it destroyed myth but simultaneously tried to legitimize it afresh as religion; in other words, that from the religious point of view it was not revolutionary but, at the most, evolutionary, that it treated religion as a question of the regulation of life, not a question of truth. Professor Ratzinger here is showing how pagan philosophy treated religion as something socially or politically useful but also as separated from truth.
This separation of piety from truth was strongly condemned by St. Paul. Professor Ratzinger notes how St. Paul summarizes the condemnation of religion separated from truth found in chapter 13-15 of the Book of Wisdom in his own epistle to the Romans:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve of those who practice them.” (Rom 1:18-32)
Professor Ratzinger then gives us the Christian response to this pagan culture: The Christian position, as opposed to this situation, is put emphatically by Tertullian when he says with splendid boldness: “Christ called himself truth, not custom.” In my view this is one of the really great assertions of patristic theology. In it the struggle of the early Church, and the abiding task with which the Christian faith is confronted if it is to remain itself, is summed up with unique conciseness. The idolization of the consuetudo Romana, of the “tradition” of the city of Rome, which had made its own customs into a self-sufficient code of behavior, was challenged by the truth and its claim to uniqueness. Christianity thus put itself resolutely on the side of truth and turned its back on a conception of religion satisfied to be mere outward ceremonial that in the end can be interpreted to mean anything one fancies. Thus, Professor Ratzinger notes how pagan philosophy tried to either justify the separation of mythological religion from truth as necessary for social or political reasons or to interpret the pagan myths in philosophical terms. This was especially done by Neoplatonic philosophy, which tried to interpret the pagan myths as a philosophy of being.
Writing this in the 1960’s, Professor Ratzinger notes how all this relates to modern times. Both procedures have something frighteningly contemporary about them. In a situation in which the truth of the Christian approach seems to be disappearing, the struggle for Christianity has brought to the fore again the two very methods that ancient polytheism employed to fight---and lose---its last battle. On one side, we have the retreat from the truth of reason into a realm of mere piety, mere faith, mere revelation; a retreat that in reality bears a fatal resemblance, whether by design or accident and whether the fact is admitted or not, to the ancient religion’s retreat before the logos, to the flight from truth to beautiful custom, from nature to politics. On the other side, we have an approach I will call for short “interpreted Christianity”: the stumbling blocks in Christianity are removed by the interpretative method, and, as part of the process of thus rendering it unobjectionable, its actual content is written off as dispensable phraseology, as a periphrasis not required to say the simple things now alleged, by complicated modes of expression, to constitute its real meaning.
While Professor Ratzinger wrote the above words in the 1960’s, the trends he refers to are still with us. There are now numerous Catholics and other Christians who are quite willing to separate religious faith from the rest of their lives. They are very willing to accept the privatization of religion which current secularity demands. The “truth” of the “scientific” and secular outlook is opposed to the subjectivity of Christian religious faith.
On the other side, there are those who try to interpret away the objectionable content of Christian Divine Revelation to make it more palatable for the secular mindset. For example, people will find a way to interpret away the meaning of the above cited passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Professor Ratzinger rightly fears that Christianity will go the way of mythological ancient polytheism. This would happen if it tries to separate faith from truth or interpret the faith away to make it more attractive to the modern mentality. In this section, Professor Ratzinger is showing us that the battles which Christianity faced in its early decades are still with us today in a different form.
--Jim Nugent, CFP
Reflections on the Rule
14. All are to go to Matins in the fast of St. Martin and in the great fast (Lent), unless inconvenience for persons or affairs should threaten.
14. 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.
This section of the Rule and Constitutions is intended to put the penitent in the presence of God every day during Lent and Advent by having the penitent attend daily Mass. At the time the Rule was written, Matins was more easily accessible on a daily basis than Mass. This is why the early penitents were asked to go to Matins unless a serious obligation intervened. Today Matins are prayed by religious in their monasteries at times generally inaccessible to the public. But most penitents are able to attend daily Mass unless they live too far from a church that offers daily Mass. In that case, and in other cases when the penitent cannot attend Mass, he or she should pray a decade of the Rosary and meditate on one of the mysteries of the Rosary.
Daily Mass attendance is something every penitent should aspire to. Penitents need to be examples of how to show reverence to the Blessed Sacrament. They should receive the Eucharist with devotion, attention, and joy. In this way, their prayerful reception of Our Lord will make an impression on others who are also at Mass.
Penitents need to remember that if they cannot attend daily Mass due to obligations or difficult circumstances, or due to the parenting small children who are difficult to handle during Mass, they have no obligation to attend but should rather pray the Rosary decade and be assured that they are living the Rule. Attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is obligatory for penitents as well as all Catholics unless they absolutely cannot get there. While penitents can determine whether or not to attend daily Mass, they cannot determine on the same basis attendance at Masses which the Church deems obligatory. Just like other Catholics, penitents will have to make arrangements with others to help them if Sunday Mass or Mass on Holy Days of Obligation is difficult.
Affiliates should try to attend daily Mass during Lent and Advent, if at all possible. If they cannot attend, they may choose to pray a decade of the Rosary, in union with CFP members, or they make some other prayerful commitment. The intention is to spend time with God in prayer each day, preferably through the highest from of liturgical prayer, the Mass.
"Ora Et Labora"
For Father Christopher Davis, OSB
Or ill-bred chore
Just call each day
What it deserves--
Or October preserves--
Life's more joyful
In a toy full way
It even prevents
Severe tooth decay!
I tell you this
Unto you I say
If you desire bliss
Work, laugh, and pray!
--Joseph Matose IV, CFP Affiliate
Virtues Portrayed in the San Damiano Crucifix
San Damiano Crucifix, symbol of the Confraternity of Penitents
Faith is evident in the people clustered around the foot of the cross. We see the Blessed Mother, Saint John, Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the official whose son Jesus healed. They look with amazement and faith at the crucified yet risen Christ of the Crucifix. What gave these people faith in Christ? His miracles? His teachings? His love? His humility? His authority? Perhaps all of these and more. Faith is a gift from God. Everyone could know about or experience Christ's miracles, teachings, love, humility, and authority, but many who did had no faith in Him. Faith is ultimately a gift from God. It is a gift we must desire and be willing, in humility, to embrace, for faith acknowledges that there is a God but we are not Him. Is our faith strong enough to draw us to act even if it means incurring the rejection of others? Those who followed Jesus to the foot of the Cross cared more about Jesus than they cared about what others thought of them. May God give us the grace to be the same.
Saint of the Month
Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala (27 April 1878 - 24 June 1963)
Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, also known as Mother Lupita, was born in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico in 1878. Her father operated a religious goods store in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, so, as a child, she made many visits to this shrine. Although she initially planned to marry, she broke off her engagement because she felt a call to religious life as a means to not only grow in sanctity but also to minister to the sick and poor.
Along with her spiritual director, Maria Guadalupe co-founded a new Congregation on October 13, 1901, known as the "Handmaids of Saint Margaret Mary (Alacoque) and the Poor." As a nurse to the sick and poor, Maria disregarded the poverty in her patients while caring for them physically and spiritually. She was named Superior General of the quickly-growing Congregation. The Sisters, by her words and example, learned the importance of living a genuine and joyful interior and exterior poverty. Mother Lupita was convinced that only by loving and living poverty could one truly be "poor with the poor." In fact, the Sisters were so poor that they would often go begging to meet the needs of the hospital and patients. They would ask no more than was necessary.
The sisters also assisted nearby parishes by teaching the faith to the children.
The Mexican Revolution, which started in 1911 and lasted 25 years, persecuted the Catholic Church. Mother Lupita was prudent but not cowed. She put her own life at risk and hid priests and the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Guadaljara in her hospital. Forced to carry out her work as laity because anti-clerical restrictions forbade the wearing of a habit, Mother Lupita and the Sisters carried on by celebrating Mass in secret during predawn hours even though soldiers were stationed at the door. Because the government recognized this work as a hospital, not a convent, the Sisters and the ministry were spared persecution and closure of the work.
When the rebellion subsided, the Order expanded. Today it has foundations in five countries.
After spending two years in extreme suffering due to a grave illness, Mother Lupita's soul was released into the hands of God in 1963. Her patients, her Sisters, and those from whom she begged recognized her as a saint long before Pope John Paul II beatified her in 2004. She was canonized by Pope Francis on 12 May 2013.
Hospital patients say that Mother Lupita still walks the grounds, ministering to them. Many say they have seen her in the hospital wards, and patients claim that she still attends to them.
Mother Lupita, pray for us!
Quote from Scripture:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:3)
Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala embraced poverty in fact as well as in spirit. She wished to be poor with the poor in order to minister to them. In this she was quite successful. As Saint Maria Guadalupe recognized, it is difficult to be poor in spirit if one is not poor in fact. Poverty in spirit involves a willigness to give up whatever one has to pursue the Kingdom of God. If one is poor in spirit, he or she will have many opportunities to become poor in fact because the needs in the world are great. When we are willing to share, even to the point of lacking ourselves, we have truly embraced poverty in imitation of Christ and in love for the needy. May God give us the grace to be truly poor in spirit, for love of Him.
Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala
Quote from a Saint:
"It's Christ coming to visit us."
When someone would come to the door of the hospital, even in the middle of the night or at any other unconvenient hour, Mother Maria Lupita would say, "It's Christ coming to visit us." When soldiers, who were carrying out orders to persecute religious, showed up hungry, Mother Maria Lupita would feed them saying, "It's not their fault." She would find the image of Christ in all people by looking for the good in them. This led her to practice charity to all. Saint Maria Guadalupe, pray for us that we may view all people with love and see in them the image of Christ, as you did. Amen.
Happy Birthday to:
Mark B 3/9
Paul B 3/10
Paul P 3/14
Jason H 3/13
Eric W 3/15
Jackie S 3/15
Elizabeth H 3/15
Francis D 3/15
Robert B 3/18
Keith M 3/18
Carol M 3/24
Lou S 3/24
William C 3/30
Dustin N 3/30
A priest and a taxi driver arrived in heaven at the same time, and Jesus welcomed them both. "Let me show you what you will be staying," He said. First he took them to a small rustic cottage with a small closet of simple clothing. "This is your place," Jesus said to the priest. They took them to a large mansion, lavishly furnished with a huge bedroom and a large walk-in closet filled with the finest clothing. "And this is your place," Jesus said to the taxi driver.
"Wait a minute," objected the priest. "How come he gets this place and I get that little dump?"
Jesus smiled. "It was easy to decide. When you preached, the people fell asleep. But when he drove, they prayed."
A man and his wife had a lovely marriage, and he often corresponded with her by email from his work. His email name was Your Hubby. The two of them decided to take a vacation in Florida, so the husband went first to prepare their cottage rental by the sea. His wife was going to come the next day. That evening he sent his wife an email, but he could not remember her email address exactly although he thought he had it right. However he missed one of the letters in her email address. Nevertheless, the letter went through. It was received by a woman who had a house full of children who were there to console her because her husband had passed away the previous day. She was an email correspondence with some of her family members so went to check her email. Her children heard her screan and then found their mother fainted at the computer. They wondered what happened until they read the email that was open on the screen. The email read, "Hello, dear. Arrived safely. Looking forward to your arrival tomorrow. Sure is hot here!"
Confraternity Photo Album
Confraternity of Penitents Parking Area being plowed, February 2014
During one of the February snowstorms, we were able to get a photo of Andy on his tractor. Andy is a CFP Affiliate who is the Good Samaritan of Snow Plowing as he will simply turn up with his tractor, plow the CFP parking area, and then head out to plow out someone else. On this particular day, we caught Andy in the act. THANK YOU, Andy, for a great job!
One day in February when the temperature had dropped several digits below zero, we awoke to fog. Yes, fog on such a frozen morning. When we arrived back home after morning Mass, the fog had condensed into frost on the shrubs and was dancing in the air in sparkles that would have reminded the Celts of flocks of fairies. In the back yard, we were stunned that the huge willow tree and pine that abut the parking area were covered in glittery frost. The above photos show the frost but do not do justice to the beauty of these sparkling trees. In the first photo, you can also see the snow piled up next to the garage on the left. This is the snow that, during the Great Melt, caused the flood which is written about in the Monthly Letter to All Penitents. Indeed, God did amazing things with that flood--and He did amazing things with this fog frost morning. Every day He blesses us with His kindness. We are so grateful.
Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop is an on line shop which supports the Confraternity of Penitents through its sale of religious books and gifts. It does not have a catalog, unfortunately. However, readers can access the website atwww.cfpholyangels.com for the full range of items offered. They may also like to view the blog atwww.cfpholyangels.blogspot.com for special featured items. Thank you for your support of the Holy Angels Gift Shop, because through it you support the Confraternity of Penitents.
9" Crucifix featuring Saint Benedict Medal. Very beautiful. 9.95
Jesus Crowned with Thorns Color Print: Original painting by B. K. Nugent. 5" x 7". 1.95
Wooden Tau with Jesus, all carved from one piece of wood. On card. 1 3/4 inches. 4.95
"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' words as recorded in Matthew 22:37-38)
Living Love of God and Love of Neighbor by following modern constitutions to the the original Rule which Saint Francis gave to the penitents in 1221.
The Confraternity of Penitents is fulfilling the Church's call to penance and repentance in the modern world. The Confraternity has canonical status as an international private lay association of the faithful with commendation under the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend IN USA (formerly under the Bishop of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island). Its members live in their own homes. The Confraternity of Penitents welcomes inquiry from all Catholic laity and religious in union with the Pope who are interested in living a life of personal conversion and deepening surrender to God. Non-Catholics may apply as Associates.
When emailing us, please write "Inquiry about Confraternity of Penitents" in your subject line so that we do not mistakenly delete your email as spam. If you do not hear from us within five days, please write again as occasionally emails go astray.
Also please email us in English as we are unable to translate correspondence sent in other languages. Thank you for understanding.
Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA 260-739-6882 www.penitents.org firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com