2013 January Newsletter
Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter: January 2013
DOUBT AND BELIEF
Joseph Ratzinger’s book, Introduction to Christianity, written in the late 1960’s, opens with a chapter on “Belief in the World of Today” and begins with a section on “doubt and belief”. In this section he asserts that the situation of believers and unbelievers in the world is really quite similar.
He begins first by describing the situation of the believer. Professor Ratzinger uses a play by Paul Claudel, Soulier de Satin, to summarize the situation that we as believers face in the world. A Jesuit missionary had been on a ship which was sunk by pirates. He is tied to the mast of the ship and is floating on the raging waters of the ocean. The play opens with the Jesuit’s monologue: “Lord, I thank thee for bending me down like this. It sometimes happened that I found thy commands laborious and my will at a loss and jibbing at thy dispensation. But now I could not be bound to thee more closely than I am, and however violently my limbs move they cannot get one inch away from thee. So I really am fastened to the cross, but the cross on which I hang is not fastened to anything else. It drifts on the sea.”
Professor Ratzinger then gives the following comments on this: “Fastened to the cross-with the cross fastened to nothing, drifting over the abyss. The situation of the contemporary believer could hardly be more accurately and impressively described. Only a loose plank bobbing over the void seems to hold him up, and it looks as if he must eventually sink. Only a loose plank connects him to God, though certainly it connects him inescapably, and in the last analysis he knows that this wood is stronger than the void that seethes beneath him and that remains nevertheless the really threatening force in his day-to-day life.”
As American society gets more and more secular, we can see that this image also applies to us here just as it did in Joseph Ratzinger’s German secular culture. Those of us who take the teachings of the Church seriously are surrounded by those who openly reject these teachings or simply ignore them and still call themselves Catholics. In past centuries, the beliefs of Christians were supported by the wider culture in which they lived. This is no longer true. Those of us who are older can notice a definite shift in society even in our own lifetime.
How can one escape the sea and get to the firm ground of certain and verifiable knowledge? Some try to do this by fleeing to the idea that they will only accept as true knowledge which can be scientifically and experimentally verified. Of course, this assumes that there are no higher powers or levels of being which by definition cannot be experimentally tested. In the Gospels we read how the devil tempted Jesus to jump from a high tower since Psalm 91 promises that the just man will be born up by the angels. Jesus refuses to put God to the test. You cannot “experimentally” test God in that way. Those who only accept as real knowledge that which can be experimentally tested cannot escape the possibility that they are wrong.
Professor Ratzinger gives us an illustration of this point from the writings of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber:
“An adherent of the Enlightenment [writes Buber], a very learned man, who had heard of the Rabbi of Berditchev, paid a visit to him in order to argue, as was his custom, with him, too, and to shatter his old-fashioned proofs of the truth of his faith. When he entered the Rabbi’s room, he found him walking up and down with a book in his hand, rapt in thought. The Rabbi paid no attention to the new arrival. Suddenly he stopped, looked at him fleetingly, and said, ‘but perhaps it is true after all.’ The scholar tried in vain to collect himself-his knees trembled, so terrible was the Rabbi to behold, and so terrible his simple utterance to hear. But Rabbi Levi Yitschak now turned to face him and spoke quite calmly: ‘My son, the great scholars of the Torah with whom you have argued wasted their words on you; as you departed you laughed at them. They were unable to lay God and his Kingdom on the table before you, and neither can I. But think, my son, perhaps it is true.’ The exponent of the Enlightenment opposed him with all his strength; but this terrible ‘perhaps’ that echoed back at him time after time broke his resistance.”
Joseph Ratzinger explains this story as follows:
“Here we have, I believe-in however strange a guise-a very precise description of the situation of man confronted with the question of God. No one can lay God and his Kingdom on the table before another man; even the believer cannot do it for himself. But however strongly unbelief may feel justified thereby, it cannot forget the eerie feeling induced by the words ‘Yet perhaps it is true.’ That ‘perhaps’ is the unavoidable temptation it cannot elude, the temptation in which it, too, in the very act of rejection, has to experience the unrejectability of belief. In other words, both the believer and the unbeliever share, each in his own way, doubt and belief, if they do not hide from themselves and from the truth of their being. Neither can quite escape either doubt or belief; for the one, faith is present against doubt; for the other, through doubt and in the form of doubt. It is the basic pattern of man's destiny only to be allowed to find the finality of his existence in this unceasing rivalry between doubt and belief, temptation and certainty. Perhaps in precisely this way doubt, which saves both sides from being shut up in their own worlds, could become the avenue of communication. It prevents both from enjoying complete self-satisfaction; it opens up the believer to the doubter and the doubter to the believer; for one, it is his share in the fate of the unbeliever; for the other, the form in which belief remains nevertheless a challenge to him.”
The above analysis by Professor Ratzinger explains why our secular American society chooses to marginalize and privatize religious faith rather than directly attacking it. There is always the possibility that “perhaps it is true”. In the 1960’s, Professor Ratzinger could hope that believers and nonbelievers could find a common ground in their mutual lack of absolute certainty. However, it seems as though our society has even rejected that “common ground” be refusing to even discuss the issue.
--Jim Nugent (CFP Life Pledged Member)
No Greater Love
Our Lady of Whalley
Thoughts on Images of Jesus
David Curry, CFP Affiliate, shares these thoughts.
Not long ago, I talked to a Christian lady who told me that she had a wonderful framed portrait of Jesus hanging in her lounge. She was so delighted that it showed Jesus with lovely gold colored hair, blue eyes, wonderful smile, and a lovely handsome face. But this reminded me of something I heard long ago, and soon afterwards I rediscovered it in Isaiah 53:2 - 5. "He had no beauty nor majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid, as it were, our faces from him, he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed."
In the Catholic church in Whalley, Lancashire, there is a statue of Mary and child. It was found in the nearby river Calder in 1930, just behind the old Cistercian abbey which was dedicated to St Mary. The statue was carved in the 14th century and may possibly have occupied a niche in the east gateway. It was damaged during the dissolution of the monasteries, perhaps by iconoclasts or perhaps from being weathered by centuries in the river. It may well have been thrown in the river to hide it. The damaged face and other aspects have been repaired at some stage, but not particularly well. A plaque used to be on the wall next to it, which read, "The statue symbolizes a mysterious enduring witness to the Catholic faith as we enter a new millennium." The statue is called "Our Lady of Whalley". Since we first saw it, we never fail to pop in to say, 'Hello', whenever we pass by there
A preacher on television stated that he had visited Whalley and found a place which was an ancient foundation of a pulpit in the middle of what is now a field (we don't know where this is) and he gave his sermon from that ancient spot, although the church ruins don't seem to be there any more. The valley was Cistercian, and with fish from the river and hunting from surrounding woodlands and produce from the meadows, it must have been a true oasis of peace and plenty for all needing such a harbor of support in body mind and spirit.
Peace, Love, Joy
David’s sharing makes us realize that the images of Jesus, whether painted or sculpted, can fade or be damaged, because they are merely human made images of our Lord. God has asked us to grow into the image of Christ, to portray Him to the world, to be His living representations so that when people interact with us, they sense the presence of Our Lord. As the new year begins, we can reflect on what image of Christ we are presenting to others. Is it in beautiful condition or is it damaged? If there is damage, how can we do a good job of repairing that damage unless the Holy Spirit be the sculptor of our souls? It is wise, too, to reflect on the image of Christ in others, for all human souls are made in His image. The images of Christ in others range from severely damaged reflections to pristine reproductions of holiness and goodness. Unlike static art work, we are works in progress and are either growing to resemble Christ more fully or moving away from His image in us. Even if we seem to make no progress, the reflection of Christ in our souls is never fixed. It is either growing brighter or dimmer depending on our awareness of and response to His grace. We do not have to preach by our words, as do television preachers, and we need to avoid growing disheartened as churches close and religious foundations dissolve, because Christ is eternal. He is not bound by places or people. He lives in souls. He is present in His Church. We meet Him in the Sacraments. May the image of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist, reflected in others, be our guide in 2013 and may the image of Christ in each of us be brighter at the end of 2013 than now at its beginning.
Madeline Pecora Nugent
Reflection on the Rule
Constitutions 6: Sections 6a and 6b
6. In keeping with section 6 of the Rule:
6a. For penitents, all Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are days of abstinence (that is, meatless days) unless directed otherwise by a physician. Meat is allowed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
6b. Abstinence will follow current Church regulations which are listed in Appendix A of these Constitutions.
This section of the CFP Constitutions explains Section 6 of the Rule which reads:
6. All are to abstain from meat save on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, except on account of illness or weakness, for three days at bloodletting, in traveling, or on account of a specially high feast intervening, namely, the Nativity for three days, New Year's, Epiphany, the Pasch of the Resurrection for three days, Assumption of the glorious Virgin Mary, the solemnity of All Saints and of St. Martin. On the other days, when there is no fasting, they may eat cheese and eggs. But when they are with religious in their convent homes, they have leave to eat what is served to them. And except for the feeble, the ailing, and those traveling, let them be content with dinner and supper. Let the healthy be temperate in eating and drinking.
 November 11, Saint Martin's Day, was a Solemnity at the time the Rule was written. Today it is a Memorial.
The Church today wants CFP members to follow the Church guidelines on Abstinence which are as follows (These are reproduced in Appendix A of the CFP Constitutions). It is important to read these carefully and to understand and follow them. CFP members are often surprised that meat broth is allowed on abstinence days. The Church states that ALL Catholics are bound by the abstinence provisions on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. However, penitents VOLUNTARILY go beyond this and embrace abstinence on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays unless they fall into the exception categories listed below. Penitents have embraced abstinence from meat in joyful discipline as they strive to surrender to the Lord in every area of their life including their diet.
Here are the Church guidelines on abstinence from meat:
Abstinence: The law of abstinence forbids the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products, nor condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat. Forbidden are the flesh meat of warm blooded animals and all parts of such animals. This does not include meat juices, broths, soups, lards, gravies, sauces, animal fats, and liquid foods made from meat. Also allowed are fish and all such coldblooded animals such as frogs, shellfish, clams, turtles, oysters, crabs, and lobsters. All those who have completed their fourteenth year are bound to the law of abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all the Friday's of Lent.
The substantial observance of the laws of fast and abstinence is a serious obligation. When a proportionately serious reason exists, there is surely no sin in departing from these norms. Thus, one may very well be excused by sickness or any infirmity which requires that one eat meat even on Friday during Lent, by the need to take one's meals in common, by travel when it is not possible to obtain readily permissible foods, by great poverty, etc.
Affiliates should familiarize themselves with the Church's guidelines on abstinence as well as the CFP regulations. They are invited to observe the abstinence days as much as possible in their lives so as to profit from the discipline of restricting one's diet. All discipline of the will and the self can be very profitable if done as a way to surrender more fully to God in every area of one's life.
Reflection on the San Damiano Crucifix
Colors of the Crucifix
The predominant colors of the San Damiano Crucifix are red, black, orange, and gold. These colors had certain symbolic meanings in medieval times.
Red symbolized the Holy Spirit and Pentecost. It also represented authority and the blood of the martyrs and, as such, indicates humility and atonement.
Orange symbolized courage, endurance, and strength, representing fire and flame.
Black symbolized death, fear, and ignorance and was the color associated with Good Friday, the day of Christ's death on the cross.
Gold indicated divinity and kingship, with its source always being in God.
The predominant colors of the San Damiano Crucifix, therefore, tell a story in and of themselves. On Good Friday, Christ, the Divine King, by His own authority, suffered death in humble atonement for the sins of humanity, and, by His courage, endurance, and strength, overthrew fear, death, and ignorance so as to make us all partakers of His heavenly kingdom.
Saint of the Month
Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi (1804-1884)
Luigi Scrosoppi was born on 4 August 1804 in Udine, a small city in the north of Italy. His father, a gold smith, had married a woman from a wealthy family so Luigi grew up in a comfortable home, lacking in nothing material. His religious parents saw that the faith was taught well to their children, and all three of their sons became priests. Luigi was particularly attracted by Saint Francis of Assisi because of that saint’s humility and love for the poor, virtues dear to Luigi.
Immediately upon his ordination, Luigi devoted himself to the development and expansion of an orphanage which, under his direction, eventually came to house 95 girls who were orphans of plague victims, and 230 additional children who lived elsewhere in the city but who came to the orphanage for support and service. Luigi himself begged money for this foundation. Once, when he was struck by a man from whom he had begged, Luigi retaliated with, “That was for me. But now can you give me something for the orphans?” The man became one of the staunchest benefactors of the foundation. Of course, there were many other obstacles as well, all of which the Holy Spirit overcame. In 1837, seven young women banded together to form the Sisters of Providence, dedicated to the education of young girls. Luigi was able to expand this Congregation and obtain for it ecclesiastical recognition and canonical approval in 1862.
Luigi also founded an institute for those who were deaf and mute and supported with his own income the publication of a newspaper which had a Christian orientation. With the help of the Poor Clares, he cared for impoverished priests, especially former missionaries who had become poor and sick, and he staunchly supported new candidates to the priesthood. Every charitable work in the Udine profited from his open handed generosity which came, partly, from the use of funds he had inherited in his family. All were spent anonymously on the poor.
Luigi spent much time in contemplation on the life of Christ and on His Eucharistic Presence. His day was filled with prayer and meditation including, besides the Mass, the Rosary, the Divine Office, the Stations of the Cross, and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He had a great love for the Church and was ever faithful to its laws and to the Magisterium.
After a long painful illness, which he endured with great trust in God’s Will, Luigi died on April 3, 1884.
Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi, pray for us.
Quote from Scripture:
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40)
In the familiar parable about the sheep and the goats, Jesus reminds us that we need not minister to Him directly because in ministering to others, we are, in fact, ministering to Him. We often think of this as meaning that what we do that is good to others, we do as good to Jesus. But this is not the full meaning of what Jesus said. Note that He stated WHATEVER you did which could be something evil.
WHATEVER we do to others, good, bad, or indifferent, we do to Christ. The popular bracelet fad, a few years ago, 'WWJD' (What Would Jesus Do?) was an attempt to help Christians remember always that WHATEVER they do, or don't do, to others, they do to Christ. WWJD is a prod to living a more Christ centered life in 2013. It's a motto that Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi followed even though he lived long before WWJD fads.
Quote from a Saint:
"I want to be faithful to him (Jesus), perfectly attached to him on the way to heaven and to be a copy of him." -- Blessed Luigi Scrosoppi Blessed Luigi knew that he was to be an image of Christ, and he strove to be that best reproduction possible. How would we change our world if we had the same resolution and strove to fulfill it?
Imagine if all of us in the Confraternity of Penitents were perfectly faithful to Christ and copies of Him! What a change we would make in the world! And, indeed, we are all called to this most diffcult and yet fulfilling mission. May it be a goal for us in 2013.
"Being a Fisherman"
A meditative poem of support person who tries to reach others in need.
A fishing lure, bobbing,
and dancing in the water,
its bright colors glowing,
doing what it was made to do,
fishes biting on its line, showing,
staying afloat because of its
self-protection in an airtight shell.
Signaling the fisherman,
when he as done well,
bobbing up and down,
and shaking its stick!
While below the surface,
a fish, its tail will kick!
To free itself from
the fisherman's hook
and swim away to
some safe cave, or nook!
The tug of war begins.
The fish pulls.
The fisherman's bob goes down!
The fisherman pulls,
reeling in his line,
on his face a determined frown!
Ah, alas, the fish gets loose,
and swims free.
The bob, in the water,
recovers his line and bob,
rows ashore, fish-less, with a sob.
I watch the bob (my life)
to see if everything is OK.
I will row my boat (my soul)
back to the Lord someday,
and answer, when asked,
"Did you catch any fish today?"
"Well, I fed a few fish today, Lord.
That's all, just fed a few fish today."
He will reply,
"Well done, my child, well done!
That was the Way!”
Paul Michael Phelan (Novice 2, CFP)
Some of Forbes Epigrams
The most profitless thing to manufacture is excuses.
Sturdy trees grow slowly.
Chalk up every lie as a liability.
It may be all right to be content with what you have; never with what you are.
The best way out of a difficulty is through it.
Only a man's motives and mission make him great.
The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success, even though the world may write him down as a failure.
Poverty is the best foundation on which to build a career.
In the end, the things that count are the things you can't count.
Confraternity Photo Album
More photos from CFP Retreat 2012, held in East Aurora NY.
Harry, CFP Affiliate, engrossed in his folder at CFP Retreat 2012.
Elizabeth chats with Karen while Sandy (to the left) is paying attention elsewhere.
Happy Birthday to:
Rosemary A, 1/22
Louis-Marie B, 1/23
Antoinette P 1/25
Patricia M 1/25
Malcom S 1/28
Megan A 1/28
Diane L 1/31
David L 1/11
Louis L 1/7
Teresa K 1/8
Laura S 1/12
Cynthia K 1/17
Praxedis C, 1/18
Wayne W 1/22
Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
The following items and many others are available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop at All proceeds from the shop go to support the Confraternity of Penitents. May God bless you for your support.
Creatively and beautifully illustrated paperback children's book on Saint Francis. Illustrations give a sense of the vastness of God as if we see Francis through His eyes, God looking down on the saint. Suitable for ages six to ten. 9.95
Divine Mercy Medal. $1.00
Saint Anthony of Padua--copy of original drawing by artist Joseph Matose, III. 8 1/" x 11". $3.00