Ambrose of Milan
heals himself by wounding another.
Ambrose of Milan
There are many kinds of alms the giving
of which helps us to obtain pardon for
our sins; but none is greater than that
by which we forgive from our heart a sin
that someone has committed against us.
--St. Augustine of Hippo
saints rejoiced at injuries and
persecutions, because in forgiving them
they had something to present to God
when they prayed to Him.
--St. Teresa of Avila
man truly loves his enemy when he is not
offended by the injury done to himself,
but for love of God feels burning sorrow
for the sin his enemy has brought on his
own soul, and proves his love in a
--St. Francis of Assisi
Crucifixion of Christ
Simone Martine, 1333
"Repent and believe the Good News!"
Penance means conversion. The Confraternity of
Penitents is a world wide private Catholic
association of the faithful, completely loyal to our
Pope and the Magisterium.
Our Rule of Life has been reviewed by our bishop and
recognized in these words: "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. . . . His Excellency
is appreciative of your efforts to live and promote
Franciscan spirituality and especially promote the
neglected practice of penance and he wishes you
success" (January 30, 1998).
Members of the Confraternity of Penitents live this
Rule in their own homes, devoted to prayer, penance,
fasting, conversion, and works of mercy modeled on
Jesus Christ and inspired by the lives and teachings
and all the saints, most especially Mary, the Mother
of God, who lived a life of true penance
(conversion) in perfect union with our Lord.
May Our Lady and all the saints intercede for all
who wish to embrace a life of penance, anywhere in
the world, so that the grace of God will assist them
to obtain every virtue necessary for a life of
holiness and surrender to the Will of God! Amen.
PRAYER OF PENITENTS
"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
MISSION OF PENITENTS
"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
ACTION OF PENITENTS
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
RECONCILIATION: AN OPEN DOOR
The motto of the Confraternity
of Penitents is love of God and love of
"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)
It is impossible to love God if
one does not love one's neighbor as well.
"Those who say, 'I love God,'
and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars;
for those who do not love a brother or sister
whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they
have not seen. The commandment we have from Him
is this: those who love God must love their
brothers and sisters also.' (1 John 4:20-21).
Love is so important that it
brings about union with God.
"Beloved, if God has loves us
so, we must have the same love for one another.
No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love
one another God dwells in us, and His love is
brought to perfection in us." (1 John
Why is this union possible only
if we love?
"God is love, and he who
abides in love abides in God and God in him."
(1 John 4:16)
THE CORE OF THE CFP RULE
Section 26 of our Rule and
Constitutions is the core of the Rule for the
Confraternity of Penitents. This is
because the love of God and of neighbor meet in
the living of this part of the Rule. What
does this section say?
RULE, SECTION 26
26. As regards making peace among the
brothers and sisters or non-members at
odds, let what the ministers find proper
be done; even, if it be expedient, upon
consultation with the Lord Bishop.
CONSTITUTIONS, SECTION 26
a. All are to make peace with members of
the Confraternity and all others,
seeking, if necessary, the consultation
of the Church.
b. 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.
c. 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.
THE PROOF OF LOVE
The living of Section 26 of the
Rule and Constitutions is a proof of love of God and of
neighbor. All the other sections of the
Rule and Constitutions are intended to foster love
of God and of neighbor. It is obvious that
a penitent who nurses resentments toward others
or who refuses to forgive and reconcile does not
understand the meaning of penance (conversion).
Everyone who loves has been
born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love
does not know God, because God is love. This is
how God showed His love among us: He sent his
one and only Son into the world that we might
live through Him. This is love: not that we
loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John
The power to love and the power
to forgive and reconcile come from God Who
loved us first, Who forgave us, and Who,
by His sacrifice, reconciled us to Himself.
By God's grace alone is it possible for us to
reconcile with others.
TAKE NO OFFENSE
The first step toward reconciliation is to
precipitate no situation that would require
reconciliation. This means not taking
offense where none may be intended.
Here's a true story. A
mom of two preschoolers was grocery shopping,
trying to watch one child in the cart and
the other exploring the store, while trying to
select the necessary groceries. Several weeks later,
the mom met a friend who asked, "Are you angry
Dumbfounded, the mom replied, "No. Whatever made you think that?"
The friend responded, "When I saw you in the grocery
store last month, you didn't even say hello."
The mom had
not even seen her friend in the grocery
store! Her total attention had been on the
kids, the grocery list, and the grocery shelves.
example involves emails.
Sometimes when we don't hear back from someone
to whom we sent an email, we assume that the
angry with us or doesn't want to reply. The
truth is, more likely, that the person has
either been too busy to look at emails for
a few days, is having computer problems, is
away, or perhaps never received our email. As
penitents, we ought always look for the best in
others and make excuses for them. After
all, isn't this what Jesus does for us?
If we don't take offense, we will have no need
AN OPEN HEART
For the penitent, reconciliation means having a heart
that is open to all who wish to enter and to
allow them as much space as is safe. Jesus told
us to be wise as serpents but guileless as
doves. He meant that we are to be gentle as a
dove yet as cautious as well, for doves fly at
the sight of danger. We are to be wise as
serpents which means that we quietly slip away
from danger when we can, yet, if we cannot, we
face it courageously as we defend our very
Let's take a few
If a penitent is at odds with a
neighbor because of a boundary dispute, the
penitent could safely speak to the neighbor and
apologize for any wrongs done. This might mend
the fences in more ways than one.
However, if a
penitent was driven, as a teen, from her home by
an alcoholic and abusive parent, she may find
reconciliation more difficult. It may be safe to
contact the parent, perhaps by phone or by
letter, without listing a return address, to
tell the parent that she is praying for him or
her and stating the penitent's forgiveness for
any wrong done.
In the one case, it is safe for
the penitent to confront the one at odds and to
let the other fully know the whereabouts of the
penitent. In the other case, wisdom and safety
may demand more caution. But in both cases
reconciliation can be attempted and, hopefully,
achieved to some degree. In all cases,
love should be given, for the love of God.
THE FIRST STEP
Penitents are to take the first steps
toward reconciliation. This reconciliation must
exist within morally sound parameters. We do not
ever reconcile with evil, even if it comes to us
in persons who appear to be good. We are called
to resist evil in all its forms, even if
temptation tells us that, if we accept the evil,
good will result. Such a statement is always a
lie for, although God can and does bring good
out of evil, He does not ever want us to do evil
so that good may result. To resist evil is to
bring about a greater good, the good of
obedience to God's moral law. We are always to do
what is right in itself.
For example, we may
have upset a friend by condemning an adulterous
affair which the friend insists was unavoidable
and not harmful to anyone. The price which our
friend demands for reconciliation is that the
penitent agree that the affair was not sinful or
avoidable. The penitent cannot make this
concession as it involves agreeing to what is
morally evil. In this case, the penitent ought
to tell the friend that he or she still loves
and prays for the friend and wishes to
communicate with him or her. But in no way ought
the penitent state that what was evil was good
or necessary. The good of reconciling a damaged
or broken friendship is overshadowed by the
greater good of witnessing to what is morally
right. In this case, the refusal to
reconcile is coming from a friend who demands an
immoral solution to bring about the reconciliation.
The open door to reconciliation is not a toll
gate. We demand no apologies, tokens of love, or
out pouring of guilt as a price to enter that
open door to our hearts or to anyone else's. We
are open to all those who come sincerely,
wanting to reconcile with us. And we walk
through that open door to the doors of others,
knocking at them first to see if they will
reconcile with us.
We may go to doors that are closed and barred
against us. Pleading, logic, and the
witness of others have failed to crack
those doors open even a little bit. The
sole weapons left to us are prayer and
sacrifice, so we ought to wield those weapons
daily, asking God to bring about reconciliation
in His time and way.
We may come to
toll gates in the hearts of others who demand
apologies or some other tokens from us before
they will reconcile. If what is demanded is
morally acceptable, then we, by all means, need
to give it. But if what is asked is morally
wrong, if we are asked to acknowledge wrongs we
never committed or confess thoughts we never
had, we cannot lie. We must always follow the
laws of God Who asks the truth of us in all
things. Reconciliation is to be done in truth
and in love, for if it is not done in truth, it
can never be done in love. Love demands
THE SONG OF "SAINT FRANCIS"
The following prayer is attributed to Saint
Francis of Assisi. While it was not
actually written by him, it does express well
his philosophy of life and the tone of the CFP
Rule and Constitutions:
(Text adapted by Sebastian Temple)
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow your love,
where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,
and where there's doubt, new faith in you.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring
where there is darkness, only light,
and where there's sadness, ever joy.
O Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving to all men that we receive,
and in dying that we are born to eternal life.
AN INCLUSIVE LOVE
The motto of the Confraternity of Penitents is
"You shall love the Lord your God with your
whole heart, with your whole soul, with all your
mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as
yourself." Love means a heart that is an open
door to God and to all others. God's love is not
selective nor should ours be. The core of the
CFP Rule is Section 26. Only when we are willing
to show our love for God by our love for all
others, only when we are willing to be at peace
with all and to take the first steps toward
that, does our Rule have meaning. If we give up
food, clothing, possessions, and time to follow
God, but do not give up bitterness, anger,
resentments, or hatred, then our other penances
are meaningless. If we spend long hours in
prayer but won't spend a few moments trying to
make peace with another, our prayers are empty. Penance is a sham if it is not
done in love.
God is a God of
peace, and to love God means to embrace Him with a
heart that is at peace with all. Pray for
that peace. Ask God to grant the graces
necessary for reconciliation and to foster in
you a heart that truly desires it. If you
resist reconciliation, give God your resistant
spirit and ask Him to soften you in His Love.
Reconciliation can only be attempted and
achieved by the grace of God so let us pray for
that grace. Only if one truly
desires and seeks reconciliation with all can
one be truly united with God Whose name is Love
and Who calls us to love as He loves.
May God grant
us hearts that are open doors to others so that
peace and love will reign in us and between us
Madeline Pecora Nugent
Confraternity of Penitents
520 Oliphant Lane
Middletown RI USA