2013 April Newsletter
Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter: April 2013
Letter from One Who Serves the CFP
A Blessed Easter Season to All! Glory to God for His Love!
THE MODERN VIEW OF REALITY
We all know that our society is not very friendly to serious Christian religious belief. But why is it this way? In his Introduction to Christianity, Professor Joseph Ratzinger traces the intellectual ideas and currents which led western society away from being Christian to being “post Christian”. While many of us who are older have witnessed in our own lifetimes drastic changes in our society in the last 50 or 60 years, the roots of these changes go back many centuries.
Many of us, since we were children, asked or were even taught to ask “big questions”. Why is there anything rather than nothing? Why am I here? What is existence? What is being? What is my purpose in life? What is truth? Is the life we experience here and now all there is? Professor Ratzinger summarizes the direction that ancient and medieval thinking took in answering these “big questions”. “For the ancient world and the Middle Ages, being itself is true, in other words, apprehensible, because God, pure intellect, made it, and he made it by thinking it. To the creative original spirit, the Creator Spiritus, thinking and making are one and the same thing. His thinking is a creative process. Things are, because they are thought. In the ancient and medieval view, all being is, therefore, what has been thought, the thought of the absolute spirit. Conversely, this means that since all being is thought, all being is meaningful, logos, truth. It follows from this traditional view that human thinking is the rethinking of being itself, rethinking of the thought that is being itself. Man can rethink the logos, the meaning of being, because his own logos, his own reason, is logos of the one logos, thought of the original thought, of the creative spirit that permeates and governs his being.”
Thus, all of truth ultimately comes from God. The highest science is the study of being which ultimately means seeking God. In contrast, the works and achievements of man are of a much lower order since they are the works of the created human spirit rather than that of the uncreated “absolute spirit”. While we can certainly study the natural world, the highest science is the study of “being itself”, in other words, God.
In the early modern period, however, there occurred a turn away from this mentality. Professor Ratzinger discusses the ideas of the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), whom he believes was the first to specifically formulate this turning away. “Following formally in Aristotle’s footsteps, he asserts that real knowledge is the knowledge of causes. I am familiar with a thing if I know the cause of it; I understand something that has been proved if I know the proof. But from this old thought something completely new is deduced: If part of real knowledge is the knowledge of causes, then we can truly know only what we have made ourselves, for it is only ourselves that we are familiar with. This means that the old equation of truth and being is replaced by the new one of truth and factuality; all that can be known is the factum, that which we have made ourselves. It is not the task of the human mind-nor is it within its capacity-to think about being; rather, it is to think about the factum, what has been made, man’s own particular world, for this is all we can truly understand.”
Here we can see a shift or turning away from the “big questions” and from God and toward the world and ourselves. History and mathematics start to take precedence over the study of ultimate questions. But this was only the first stage. Professor Ratzinger then outlines the next stage which started in the nineteenth century: “The truth with which man is concerned is neither the truth of being, nor even in the last resort that of his accomplished deeds, but the truth of changing the world, molding the world-a truth centered on future and action.” He then goes on to describe the mentality which permeates modern society and affects the thinking of all of us: “So the conviction was bound to spread more and more that in the final analysis all that man could really know was what was repeatable, what he could put before his eyes at any time in an experiment. Everything that he can see only at secondhand remains the past and, whatever proofs may be adduced, is not completely knowable. Thus the scientific method, which consists of a combination of mathematics (Descartes!) and devotion to the facts in the form of the repeatable experiment, appears to be the one real vehicle of reliable certainty. The combination of mathematical thinking and factual thinking has produced the science-oriented intellectual standpoint of modern man, which signifies devotion to reality insofar as it is capable of being shaped.”
Perhaps we can see an early foreshadowing of this modern mentality when the devil asks Jesus Christ to jump from the top of the Jerusalem temple: Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Mt 4:5-6) The devil is asking Jesus to do a repeatable experiment. Since God has promised in scripture that he will protect the just man (Psalm 91:11-12), the devil challenges Jesus to do an experiment to see if what scripture says is true. This is the essence of the scientific method, which is to test a hypothesis (in this case the promise of God) by experiment to see if it is true. Jesus refuses the challenge: Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written, ‘you shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Mt 4:7) Jesus here is quoting Deut 6:16 to show that God is not on the level of reality that we can submit Him to experiments.
Professor Ratzinger points out that there has been a real reversal of priorities here. Previously, the intellect of western humanity was centered on the study of being which led them to God. Now our intellects are centered on ourselves and what we can do to make a better world for ourselves through science and technology. This perhaps explains why politicians and voters are willing to set aside God’s Commandments in government policies since these Commandments come from a previous prescientific time when people had “metaphysical” ideas which are debatable and beyond our comprehension. Of course science and technology began in the west under a Christian worldview and were made possible when the magical ideas of pagan religions were shown to be false. However, the assumption that the only truth is that which can be scientifically studied and experimentally verified has persuaded many to give up the seeking of God. This has created many problems which we are all aware of.
--Jim Nugent, Life Pledged Member of the Confraternity of Penitents
No Greater Love
Reflection on the Change in the Chair of Peter in 2013
Reflecting on all that has happened in the last month regarding the change in the Papacy and the turmoil (up and down) that so many of us are feeling about it, I have come to some points that make me re-evaluate those very responses of mine.
In the end, does any of that change my response to the call of Christ in my own life? Should it change my response? Is the turmoil important to Christians in their response to their call?
Will my response - and my conversion of heart - be more complete if Pope X or Pope Y is sitting in the Chair of St. Peter? Will I be more charitable? Will I be humble (was going to say 'more' humble but that would mean there was some humility in me, which- if I am honest - is not the case)? Will I be more faithful to my prayer life? Will I be less judgmental? Will I be less proud? Will I be more Christ-like?
And - unfortunately - the answer is NO!!! Because I still am the same sinner!
Like one of my former pastors used to say (sometimes I thought unceasingly) it is MY response in MY life that matters in the end. I will not be judged on what the Curia does or does not do, but whether I cringe when a dirty, homeless, mentally ill person approaches me. It is about what I do in MY life - and how I answer (or don't) that in the end matters. Have I run MY race as I am called to do? Have I faltered? Have I given up? Have I been a hypocrite? Or am I truly trying to get rid of my bad habits, my twisted thinking, my leaps to proclaim my self-righteousness like the Pharisee when I should try to become a Publican: "Sweet Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner!"
How do I measure up to Mt. 25? Did I prepare my lamp with oil awaiting the Bridegroom? What have I done with the talent that the Son of Man has given me to steward? Have I fed the hungry? Have I given water to the thirsty? Have I visited the sick and the imprisoned? Have I clothed the naked? Have I housed the homeless? Those are the things that - when I am standing in front of the Resurrected Christ - will make a difference. Not whether the Pope wears red shoes, whether there are six candlesticks on the altar, whether the Vatileakers or the child molesters are sufficiently and publicly punished, whether the Holy Mass is High Mass or Low Mass. Not whether I have read the Summa (or understand it). Or the Vatican documents. Or the Church Fathers. Or do I know the Catechism by heart. BUT - HAVE I LIVED THE LIFE THE FATHER GAVE ME AS HE WOULD HAVE ME LIVE IT????!!!
I have not been called to be Catherine of Siena and fix the problems in the Papacy. I am called to be ME - Maria - she of the bad feet and the wanky neck and the big nose and the loud laugh and the sharp tongue! How have I responded to Him Who went willingly to the Cross in obedience to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could dwell in my heart? That is the real question. And the only question that must matter to me.
Fortunately, the Lord knows way too well that I am a W-I-P*. And He has given me 70 years so far - and apparently I need more time ‘cuz He ain't done with me yet!’ More work to be done with His Grace.
Psalm-Prayer, Daytime, Week IV - Monday:
You are always true to your word, Father. Look down from heaven and put and an end to our foolishness. Save us from groundless fears and help us to please you with undivided heart.
*W-I-P: term applied in manufacturing to that portion of the inventory which is Work-In-Progress.
Pax et bonum,
MJD (MJD is a Novice 3 with the CFP)
Reflection on the Rule
7. 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.
This section of the Constitutions refers to this section of the Rule:
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.
The Constitutions are aware of the following:
1. Penitents are to be thankful to God for the food they receive. To show their thanks, they should say an Our Father or another meal prayer before eating.
2. Penitents should be firm enough in their faith to pray, in public, grace over meals.
3. Penitents should be aware of hostility toward their faith in others with whom they are eating and should refrain from any acts of worship which may offend their guests or their hosts.
4. If penitents neglect to say grace before and after meals, they are to make up for this by praying three Our Fathers.
Affiliates are encouraged to pray grace both before and after meals, following the provisions of this section of the Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents.
Reflection on the San Damiano Crucifix
Sense of Goodness and Peace
Easter this year was March 31, so this April newsletter is coming right at the end of the forty days of Lent and the celebration of the Lord's Passion during the Triduum. The San Damiano Crucifix shows the culmination of the life of Christ and the peace and goodness brought about by His sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary.
The entire crucifix is an image of balance and harmony. No anguish of the Passion is evident but only the triumphant glory of the Crucified Lord. One gets a sense that Jesus is in full control, and always has been, over the events that took place so dramatically in His life. Like St. Francis, the viewer is drawn into the peace of the crucifix and feels that harmony gently bathe his soul. Lord, for Your sacrifice and love. Help us to bring your peace to others. Amen.
Saint of the Month
Blessed Margaret of Castello (1287-1320)
Blessed Margaret of Castello was born to a noble family in Italy in the late 1200s. When the parents saw that their newborn daughter was a hunchbacked dwarf with one leg shorter than the other, they were horrified. They immediately gave her to a nurse to care for. The nurse took good care of the child whom the parents had not bothered to even name. The nurse named the child Margaret which means " Pearl."
Margaret grew into an intelligent and inquisitive child who was also discovered to be blind. One day, as she wandered about the castle, she was nearly discovered by some friends who were visiting her family. Terrified that society would find out about their child who had such visible disabilities, Margaret's parents decided to take advantage of her faith and make her an anchorite. So they built a small cell next to a church for Margaret and walled her into it. Through a small opening, she received her food, and refuse was taken away. She could watch the Mass through a small window and receive the Eucharist there. Her parents convinced themselves that this was fine for Margaret because she liked to pray, and now she would spend her days doing that. In addition, the priest at this church taught Margaret a great deal about the faith.
When Margaret was in her teens, her parents heard about a recently deceased saint who reportedly had miracles occurring at the tomb. They decided to take Margaret there for a healing, and left her at the tomb to pray. They then withdrew and watched what would happen. When the end of the day arrived, and Margaret was not healed, the parents returned to the castle without her. Margaret waited at the tomb for them to return, but they never did. Sympathetic women from the town found Margaret at the tomb, took her home with them, and cared for her. Margaret's faith, goodness, and intelligence soon became apparent. She taught children about the faith and helped people with housework and other duties. She visited prisoners, even converting one before he went to his death. The townspeople told Margaret about a convent where they thought she would be happy, and she entered but her faith soon made the lax nuns uneasy and they turned Margaret out.
Not to be discouraged, Margaret continued to forgive all just as she had forgiven her parents, and to go about doing good. She became a member of the Third Order Dominicans and was buried in their habit upon her death. Margaret of Castello is patron saint of the unwanted. Blessed Margaret, pray for us.
Quote from a Saint:
Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked. -- St. Augustine of Hippo
St. Augustine reminds us that the disposition of the heart, and not physical appearances or talents, is what counts with God. As penitents, we know that we are not to judge from outward appearances, but we may find ourselves doing so unawares. A short examination of conscience may be in order. Ask yourself:
Do I react differently to people with a disability than I do to others?
What value do I place on intelligence, beauty, wit, ability?
How do I feel when I'm around someone who is "different"?
The answers to these questions will enable the penitent to look more closely at his or her reaction to others. If one's responses are not in line with Christ's words about all being brother and sister, and His identification with the weak, then the penitent will have recourse to prayer and practice in virtue to obtain the graces necessary to see others as God does. May God grant us this grace!
Quote from Scripture:
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40)
As penitents, we need to remember this verse in reverse. Whatever you did NOT do to the least of God's people, you did NOT do to Christ. Margaret of Castello's parents were horrified at what they perceived as visible imperfections in their daughter. So while they did clothe and feed Margaret, for which was was always grateful, they were afraid to show her love.
We cannot assume that they were evil. They may have been too taken up with the ideas of their day (and ours) that grace and beauty go together. They were not brave enough to stand up to society and look for the inner beauty of their daughter. Margaret reminds us to treat all people, no matter what, with love and respect, just as we would treat Christ. For all people are His family.
His name is Yeshua. He hangs pinioned.
No blood left. Heart torn. Body torn.
In that final breathing forth. Dismas
Gave Him comfort.
Hollow, hallowed. Am I comofort?
Hope--remember that--shall hope again
For living fire.
Lazarus lives. He will, too.
--Mary Grace Elizabeth, 2005 (Mary Grace Elizabeth is a life pledged
member of the Confraternity of Penitents)
Regarding temptation -- When the devil is talking, keep on walking.
Jesus came for two reasons. 1/. To comfort the afflicted. 2/. To afflict the comfortable.
The "Blame" game. How do you spell Blame -- B - lame -- a lane excuse.
Be Expectant: Expect Favour. - Expect Good News. - Expect a Lucky Break. . .
We are all born to be saints. Let's not miss the opportunity.
To those with addictions:- There is no 'high' like the Most High. You can't get any higher.
Don't go where you are tolerated, go where you are celebrated.
I don't partake because I am a good Catholic, holy, pious, and sleek. -- I partake because I'm a bad Catholic, riddled by doubt and anxiety and anger; fainting from severe hypoglycemia of the soul. I NEED FOOD. . . . .
(submitted by David Curry, CFP Affiliate)
Confraternity Photo Album
Babies We Have Prayed For
The CFP has an on line prayer list which is prayed by many people worldwide. Here are photos of some babies we prayed for. God be praised for their lives!
This sweet girl was born to a mother who changed her mind about abortion. The mother went into labor far too early and this child was a pound and a few ounces at birth. Look at her now!
The parents of these precious twin girls had tried for years to get pregnant. When they did, they experienced complications and it seemed that the wife would deliver far too early for the babies to survive. She went full term with this wonderful result!
Happy Birthday to:
Bob A 4/3
Anne V 4/3
Patricia M 4/6
Sharon L 4/7
Sue B 4/9
Alan F 4/15
Anne F 4/17
Bob D 4/25
Gretchen E 4/27
Frederick D 4/30
Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
These items and many more are available from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop at cfpholyangels.com
Pope Francis: Pope for a New World. 19.99. Advance orders being taken. Book not available until May.
Pope Francis: Pope for a New World. 19.99. Advance orders being taken. Book not available until May.
Dragon Slayer Study Guide: Study Guide with resources for Leaders and Teachers SEEKING TO TRAIN YOUNG DRAGON SLAYERS (moral virtues for the young) - 6.99. Goes with other Knights Errant materials. See youngknighterrant.com