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Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter August 2013

Letter from One Who Serves the CFP

Marriage Thoughts


There is a story told about Abraham Lincoln. When he was practicing law, he was arguing a case against some attorneys who were trying to play a linguistic game with the facts. Lincoln approached the attorneys and asked them, “Gentlemen, if you call a lamb’s tail a leg, how many legs would then have?” They all agreed it would have five legs. Lincoln disagreed. “No, gentlemen, it would still have four legs, because calling a lamb’s tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”


The definition of marriage has changed in society. The traditional definition of marriage was a lifetime union between a man and woman who are committed to each other and who intend to bear and raise children. The current, secular definition of marriage is a lifetime union of two people who love each other. Note how very different these two definitions are. First of all the traditional definition did not even mention love; it mentioned commitment. Secondly, the modern definition does not mention bearing and raising children. In the modern mind, children have become an accessory to marriage, something you choose, much like you might choose to add air-conditioning to a car even though it costs more. However, the choice is completely up to you.


How did marriage become redefined? How do we go from seeing marriage as a potentially fertile union between a man and woman to a loving long-term relationship? The redefinition began with contraception which divorced sexual union from procreation. Understand that it makes perfect sense in nature that sexual union is intended for procreation. Animals mate at certain times so that young are conceived and born to continue the species. Most animals mate only when the female is fertile and offspring can be conceived. Sexual union is not intended, in the animal world, to show affection for the mate or to satisfy any mate’s lustful feelings. You don’t have to believe in God to realize that sexual union is meant to bring forth new offspring.


The almost universal use of contraception in the modern world has totally divorced conception from sexual union. This is so true that couples who become pregnant when they didn’t intend to are totally shocked by the situation as if pregnancy should not have happened because they didn’t intend it. People have forgotten, if ever they knew that pregnancy is the natural intended outcome of sexual union. The modern attitude is somewhat akin to thinking that I can eat all the fattening donuts I want and I should not gain weight if I don’t want to. People try to trick their bodies by dieting, exercising, and buying low-calorie but fattening tasting foods. They try to trick pregnancy with contraception and, if that fails, with abortion. Modern people are so absorbed in themselves that they think they can, and are entitled to, make nature obey their whims rather than realizing that there are natural consequences to human choices and behaviors.


The universal push for same sex marriage falls right into the modern mindset of marriage being a union between two people who love each other. If the two people who love each other are in a purposefully infertile union, that makes no difference. Children are no longer part of the marriage equation. It is only a matter of time before three people want to marry or a person wants to marry their pet. Why not? If marriage has nothing to do with procreation but only with love, why not permit these other situations?

When the definition of something has changed, you can hardly go back and continue to use the old definition because, when people hear the word, they think of the new definition. When I was a girl 60 years ago, there was a well-known book called Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough. People today, who are not familiar with this book but hear the title of it, will assume that the two women who wrote this book were lesbians. That is certainly not the truth and would’ve been the farthest thing from the minds of the women who wrote this book. Sixty years ago the word “gay” meant happy, joyful, carefree. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation. Today “gay” means homosexual. Anyone speaking or writing today would never say that a happy, joyful, carefree, heterosexual was a gay person. The definition of the word “gay” has changed and it’s not going to revert to its original definition.

Abraham Lincoln was right. Calling a lamb’s tail a leg does not mean that it is a leg. But if society begins to call a tail a leg, and people begin to accept that appendages which animals stand on and additional appendages which project from their behinds are all called by the same name (“legs”), then it becomes useless to try to define a leg as that which supports the body of the creature. The old definition of a leg has been swallowed up in the broader definition of an appendage. Therefore biologists and zoologists would have to coin a new term for legs and probably another term for tails if they want to accurately describe creatures. If they did not do this, their studies would become confused.

While the definition of a leg has not changed, the definition of marriage has changed. The Church is not going to be able to continue to use the traditional definition of marriage for the word “marriage.” I believe that the Church needs to coin a new phrase, something like “sacramental union” and offer that. In other words, the Catholic Church offers a Sacramental Union which is a lifetime commitment of one man and one woman to each other with the intention of bearing and raising children. This is what the Church offers, and if you do not fit this definition, then the Church cannot accommodate you. Adopting a new term for the traditional word “marriage” may help the Catholic Church to avoid difficulty in offering this sacrament in the future. People understand that they cannot demand Baptism in the Catholic Church unless they are Catholic. They cannot demand the sacraments of Reconciliation or First Communion or Confirmation without having been baptized Catholic and without going for instruction. No one would dream of demanding the Sacrament of Holy Orders without going through the years of study, psychological testing, and understudy with a priest before being ordained.

ecular people comment that the Catholic Church has to change with the times. This does not mean that it has to accept unions that are incompatible with the teachings in Scripture and the instructions of Christ. It does mean that if the culture has changed the meaning of language, then the Church should not fall into the trap of continuing to use a word that used to mean one thing but now means something else. The Church needs to coin a new word or a new phrase to bring Catholics back to the sacramental meaning of a lifetime union between one man and one woman who intend to bear and raise children. The Church made a language adaptation when it changed the word “man,” which originally meant the human race, to “humanity” or “men and women” in its translation of Scripture. The traditional interpretation of “Jesus came to save all men,” which meant that Jesus came to save everyone, is now translated as “Jesus came to save all people.” The reason the Church made the language switch is because, to people today, the term “men” means male gender, thus leaving women out of the equation. Jesus came to save all men? What about the women?


Language changes, but God and His commandments do not change. God calls us to love all people and to treat everyone with respect and dignity because we are all made in the image of God. God also asks us to recognize that we are all sinners, no exceptions, and so we need to exercise patience and charity with one another as we are all on a journey even if some of us don’t realize it. If the Catholic Church changes the word “marriage” to something else which has the traditional definition of marriage, the sacrament has not changed. Only the words have changed. In the Church of Saint Francis' time, the Blessed Sacrament was often kept in a small wooden box. Today the Blessed Sacrament is housed in golden tabernacles, but the same Jesus is present. God is beyond language. I am sure that He does not care what name the Catholic Church gives to the sacramental union between one man and one woman who are committed to each other for life with the intention of bearing and raising children. What He does care about is the sacrament because through this sacrament, human beings made in the image of God are used by Him to bring new souls into the world. The creation of the souls is an act of love by God and should be accepted as such by those to whom the souls are given.


Let us pray for the Church and for all worldwide in these challenging times.


Madeline Pecora Nugent

No Greater Love



Since Joseph Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity is structured around the Apostles’ Creed, he gives us a very brief history of the Creed:   “The basic form of our profession of faith took shape during the course of the second and third centuries in connection with the ceremony of baptism.  So far as its place of origin is concerned, the text comes from the city of Rome; but its internal origin lies in worship; more precisely, in the conferring of baptism.  This again was fundamentally based on the words of the risen Christ recorded in Matthew 28:19: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ In accordance with this injunction, three questions are put to the person to be baptized:  ‘Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God…?  Do you believe in the Holy Spirit…?’   The person being baptized replies to each of these three questions with the word ‘Credo’------I believe----- and is then each time immersed in the water.  Thus the oldest form of the confession of faith takes the shape of a tripartite dialogue, of question and answer, and is moreover, embedded in the ceremony of baptism.”


 Professor Ratzinger then describes how this text was gradually expanded over subsequent centuries to the point where Charlemagne, who was crowned the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III on Christmas day in the year 800, secured the recognition of one form of the text throughout his empire.  This text, which was based on the old Roman text, was given its final shape in Gaul (now France) and in the eight hundreds adopted in Rome.  This became the Apostles’ Creed.


Professor Ratzinger then notes that this Roman baptismal profession or symbolum (symbol), which we now call the Creed, was adopted throughout the West since Rome was recognized in Western Europe as the one “apostolic see”.  However, this situation was unknown in the East since no Eastern Church had the place that Rome had in the West.  The Eastern Church had a variety of creeds which differed somewhat from the Roman creed.  This situation happened since the East has no individual church which had the same position which Rome occupied in the West.   In turn, this contributed to tensions which eventually led to the split between the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and Rome which began in 1054 and continues to this day.  He then notes how the faith as manifested in the creeds, has always been bound up with worldly politics and ambitions:  “I think it is important to see this, for this, too,  is  a part of the worldly reality of believing, namely, that the bold leap into the infinite signified by it can only take place on the petty scale of everything human; that here, too, where man makes his greatest venture, so to speak, the leap over his own shadow to the meaning that bears him up, his action is  not pure, noble greatness, but instead it shows him up as a divided being pitiful in his greatness, yet still great while he is pitiful.  Something absolutely central becomes visible here, namely, that faith has to do, and must have to do , with forgiving; that it aims at leading man to recognize that he is a being that can only find himself in the reception and transmission of forgiveness, a being that needs forgiveness even in his best and purest moments.”   We all know people who have left or been kept out of the Church and the relationship with Christ which only the Church can bestow by the stupidity and pettiness of representatives of the Church. Perhaps forgiveness is the hardest of Christ’s commands to obey.


After this, Professor Ratzinger makes another very important point:  “We saw earlier that the Creed is pronounced within the framework of baptism as the triple answer to the triple question, ‘Do you believe in God---in Christ---in the Holy Spirit?’  We can now add that it thereby represents the positive corollary to the triple renunciation that precedes it: ‘I renounce the devil, his service, and his works’.


This means that faith is located in the act of conversion, in the turn of one’s being from worship of the visible and practicable to trust in the invisible.  The phrase ‘I believe’ could here be literally translated by ‘I hand myself over to’, ‘I assent to’.  In the sense of the Creed, and by origin, faith is not a recitation of doctrines, an acceptance of theories about things of which in themselves one knows nothing and therefore asserts something all the louder; it signifies an all-encompassing movement of human existence; to use Heidegger’s language, one could say that it signifies an ‘about-turn’ by the whole person that from then on constantly structures one’s existence.  In the procedure of the threefold renunciation and the threefold assent, linked as it is with the thrice-repeated death symbol of drowning and the thrice-repeated symbolization of resurrection to new life, the true nature of faith or belief is clearly illustrated:  it is a conversion, an about-turn, a shift of being.”

The above quote from Professor Ratzinger, written in the 1960’s, brings to mind the recent change in the official text of the Mass regarding the Creed from “We believe” to “I believe”. 

Of course, this change is in the text of the Nicene Creed and not the Apostles’ Creed.  The Nicene Creed originated with the Council of Nicaea in 325 and, with revisions since that time, is recited by the congregation at Sunday Mass.  Thus, the purpose of the Nicene Creed is, at least on the surface, different from the Apostles’ Creed.   Professor Ratzinger points out that the purpose of the Nicene was to formulate correct doctrine.   Yet, he also says “All the same, it is important that these councils did not get to the point of formulating doctrinal statements; their striving  for the right doctrine still takes the form of striving for a perfect ecclesiastical profession of faith and, thus, of striving for the true mode of that conversion, that about-turn, which being a Christian implies.”   


The change in the text from “We” to “I” is surely not a renunciation of the communal nature of worship or a retreat into a totally individual faith. Rather, it is meant to emphasize the “about-turn” which we embrace when we recite the Creed. When we recite the Creed at Mass, we are not merely giving our assent to doctrines from long ago.  We are assenting to the entire change outlook which the Creed implies.   Do we really think about this as we recite the Creed every Sunday?  Do we really understand the rejection of worldly values which our recitation of the Creed implies?


Jim Nugent, Life Pledged Member of the Confraternity of Penitents

Reflection on the Rule


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


10. 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.



This provision of the Rule and Constitutions shows how sensible and charitable our way of life is. The value of raising a healthy child outweighs the value of fasting and abstaining from food. The growing child requires nourishment, and the Rule allows the penitent mother to give that child the nourishment he or she needs. As long as the child is receiving nourishment from the mother, the mother is released from the duty to fast and abstain from certain foods. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers can make the best sacrifice by offering their daily distractions and interruptions to God for the salvation of souls. When their children are grown, they will have more time to participate in the chosen mortifications commonly associated with the life of penance (conversion). When their children are small, mothers' penances come to them from without themselves: they come from the children. God be praised for such penances!

Affiliate Action

Affiliates who are pregnant or breast-feeding mothers should remember to put their children first and to offer their sacrifices of parenting to God as prayers of their time and their free will. Parenting can certainly lead to holiness as it gives many opportunities to relinquish one's own self will for the good of someone else.

Reflection on the San Damiano Crucifix

The San Damiano crucifix is asymmetrical. This comes as a surprise to most people because a quick glance at the crucifix will not show the asymmetry. However, when craftspeople attempt to reproduce the crucifix, they notice that the two sides of it do not exactly match. The original crafter of the crucifix probably intended the crucifix to be symmetrical, but this person was not using modern calibrated equipment to perfect the symmetry. He or she (most likely he) eyeballed the work and made it as close as possible to being symmetrical.

The asymmetry of the crucifix is reminiscent of the asymmetry of our bodies. The right side of our bodies is not a mirror image of the left. This is easy enough to tell if you cover one half of your face from top to bottom with your hand and look in a mirror closely, and then cover the other half of your face with your hand and again look closely. You will notice that your face is not exactly the same on both sides. The crucifix is, therefore, an image of a living reality, the reality of Christ's continued grace operating in our lives and emanating from His one-time sacrifice on the cross.

Saint of the Month

Saint Laura Montoya Upegui (1874-1949)



Laura Montoya Upegui was born on 26 May 1874 in Jericó, Antioquia, Colombia, the second of three children to Juan de la Crux Montoya and Dolores Upegui.

When Laura was only 2 years old, her father was killed defending his Country, and the family was left in extreme poverty after all their goods were confiscated. At such a time of deep misery and loss, Laura's mother gave an example of Christian forgiveness and fortitude that would remain impressed in her young daughter's mind and heart forever.

Following her father's death, Laura was sent to live with her grandmother. She suffered greatly from misunderstandings and the lack of affection, feeling she had been left "orphaned".  However, she accepted with love the sacrifices and loneliness she experienced and sought refuge in God.

As she grew older, she was especially sustained by meditation on Sacred Scripture and the strength she received from the Eucharist.

When Laura was 16, her mother decided that her daughter needed to help the family in its financial difficulties and told her to apply to become a teacher. Although Laura was culturally and academically "ignorant", having grown up without a formal education, she asked to enter the "Normale de Institutoras" of Medellín to receive training to become an elementary school teacher. She was accepted and stood out for her high marks among the students.

Laura began teaching in different parts of Antioquia. She did not limit herself to educating the students simply in academic knowledge, but sought to diffuse Gospel teaching and values.  She also felt called to the religious life, her heart set on God alone, and dreamed of one day becoming a cloistered Carmelite nun; at the same time, though, she felt growing within her the desire to spread the Gospel to the farthest corners of the earth, to those who had never met Jesus Christ.  She was ready to renounce her own "dream" of Carmel to be open to God's project, if his will was otherwise.

At one time during her teaching career, Laura felt decidedly drawn to helping the Indian population in South America and wished to insert herself into their culture, to "become an Indian with the Indians to win them all for Christ". Recognizing their dignity as human beings in an epoch when they were considered by many as "wild beasts", Laura wanted to destroy this racial discrimination and to personally sacrifice herself in order to bring them Christ's love and teaching.

On 14 May 1914, she left Medellín together with four other young women and headed to Dabeiba to live among the native Indians. This new religious family, assisted by the Bishop of Santa Fe de Antioquia and known as the "Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St Catherine of Siena", was thought by some to be nothing more than a family of "religious goats", who were heading off into the wilderness to give the "beasts" a living Gospel catechism.

Laura, however, cared little for public opinion, even if some of the comments made came right from within the Christian community itself.

Mother Laura composed for her "daughters" a directory and other writings (her Autobiography among them) to help them understand better their call to serve God among the Indians, and to live a balance between apostolic and contemplative life. She taught by example the "pedagogy of love" as the only way to teach the Indians, the way which allowed access into their heart and culture to bring them Jesus Christ.

Mother Laura died on 21 October 1949 in Medellín, after a long and painful illness. The last nine years of her life were lived in a wheelchair, where she continued to teach by example, word and writing.

Today her Missionary Sisters work in 19 countries throughout America, Africa and Europe.

Quote from Scripture

"For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9: 19-23)


Saint Paul was saying, in this letter to the Corinthians, that the way to win converts to Jesus Christ is not by preaching above them but by becoming one of them. People are drawn to those who understand and love them. This is why missionaries go to live with and in the same manner as the people to whom they bring the message of Christ. They want to know the people, not just know about them. They want to love the people, not just tell them about God's love. 

With whom are you trying to share the message of the Gospel? Do you understand and empathize with the lifestyle of the people whom you are trying to evangelize? Until you do that, you will likely have little success. 

Quote from a Saint


I wish "to become an Indian with the Indians to win them all for Christ." (Saint Laura Montoya)


Saint Laura Montoya was not concerned about popular opinion which considered the indiginous people of the Americas to be no better than beasts. She saw in all people the image of Christ, but was especially drawn to that image in the native people whom the Europeans disparaged.


Ignoring negative comments about her vocation to bring Christ to the Native Americans, Laura proceeded to live and work among the people with great respect for their dignity and a deep love for their souls. Those of us who wish to win others for Christ might wisely follow her example of ignoring popular opinion while we seek to follow God's Will, no matter how unpopular it may be with the general public. 


Prayer to the Blessed Virgin

Blessed Virgin,

patient gardener of my troubled heart,

clear away the thorny weed and bitter root

that thrive so boldly where they will.


Tireless advocate,

pull up the blemished vines

and poison shoots

that hinder the growth of my virtue,

so the gentle winds of love

may soothe anew my spirit.


Queen of Heaven,

make straight a path in the garden of my heart

so the Savior may shine his endless light

unto the tender green shoots

of my grateful soul.



By Todd, CFP Friend


Why do the American politicians hate the Vatican? They made the first missal.


What does Microsoft Windows XP have in common with a gas station? You have to press start.


When do cardinals leave the nest? When the Pope calls


Why does Buddha feel welcome in Oklahoma? It was once called Indian Territory.


Why did Austrians eat well all the time? The idea of going hungry was foreign.


Why did many ships go down between England and Ireland? There are so many Wales.


Knock Knock… Who’s there? Jen… Jen Who? Jen Tiles


Why did the pirate have a blue beard? It was in his genes.


Where did the explorer do his shopping? On the Amazon


Why do Franciscans go the quarry? The are known as the Brothers Minor


What smart phone does Captain Picard invest in? An Android with unlimited Data


Where does a hunter get quack advice? Deer Abby


What is a formal party for a fisherman called?  Bass Kit Ball


By Patrick Wheeler, Novice 2

Confraternity Photo Album

Three New Year Pledges

At the Confraternity of Penitents Retreat 2013, the CFP was overjoyed to receive the year pledges of three members who have successfully completed formation. Those members are shown with Minister General Madeline Pecora Nugent (in wheel chair) and Father David Engo, FBM, Retreat Master who took the pledged. The newly year pledged members are, left to right, Aimee Fleming, Lucy Fernandez, and Mary Margaret McNeese. May God bless our three new sisters in Christ for their commitment!

Tenth Anniversary of the CFP Refounding

The Confraternity of Penitents celebrates its tenth anniversary of refounding on August 22 of 2013. A joyous celebration of the refounding was held at the July CFP Retreat. Those at the retreat, who were part of the refounding, assembled for the above photo (several others who were also part of the refounding were unable to be at the retreat). Shown left to right are: Karen Hopersburger, Bob Boczek, Jim Nugent, Madeline Nugent (wheelchair), Rita Farnsworth (behind Madeline), Patricia Boynton, Elizabeth Hill, Nancy Myers, Dustin Niblock.

The Confraternity of Penitents may have days of fast and abstinence, but it also knows how to celebrate! Here is the beautiful cake for the refounding celebration. It tasted as good as it looks!

Happy Birthday to:

Michael B 8/1

Alice E, 8/5

Gilbert C 8/8

Marsha W 8/8

Thomas P 8/24

Dianne J 8/27

Marion M 8/31

Mary M 8/11

Patricia B 8/13

Caroline F 8/23

Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop

The following items and many others may be ordered from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop.  all proceeds from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop help support the Confraternity of Penitents. See the full on line gift shop at

Padre Pio Rosary CD with meditations by Fr. Pio Mandato, Padro Pio's Nephew. 16.95

Mary, Undoer of Knots Novena Book. $4

CFP 2013 Retreat Tapes on the Crosses of Saint Francis. Father David Engo, FBM, Presenter, shown here with drawing of Blessed Luchessio, first penitent to live our Rule, in frame. Suggested donation for full CD and DVD set, $35.

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