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2013 July Newsletter July 2013

Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter Archives

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.


Secular 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

St. Nicholas Owen (died 1606)

Some historians believe that no single person helped preserve the Catholic faith in England during penal times than a humble artisan named Nicholas Owen. In the reign of King James I, Nicholas saved the lives of many priests by his extraordinary skill in devising hiding places for them. We know nothing of his early life, although it seems that he was a builder by trade. He had several names, some of them aliases but many attesting to his short stature.

For 18 years Nicholas worked with two priests as their faithful and useful servant. He lived an innocent life, untainted by the allurements of the world. His confessor attested that Nicholas preserved his baptismal innocence unsullied until death. Nicholas had great skill in devising hiding places for priests, between walls, under staircases and in other impenetrable recesses. He was able to disguise these so carefully and make them look like something other than what they really were so that few people could discover them. Moreover he kept these places a secret and never disclosed their existence to others. By this skill, many priests were preserved from torture and death in this time of persecution.

When Nicholas was about to design a hiding place, he began by receiving the most holy Eucharist and then seeking God's help in continual prayer, offering the completion of a hiding place to God and accepting no reward except the joy of laboring for the good of Catholics. After working for some years as a builder of hiding places, Nicholas was accepted into the Jesuit order as an English lay brother, although this acceptance was kept secret. He and a priest were betrayed and apprehended in 1594. He was subjected to terrible tortures to force him to disclose the names of other Catholics, but he gave no information and he was finally released for a sum of money which a Catholic gentleman paid.

Nicholas not only could conceal priests; he also could deliver them from prison, and orchestrated the escape of several different priests from the Tower. Finally, after serving 20 years Nicholas once more was apprehended. He was in a hiding place with two priests, but he came voluntarily out of the hiding place in which he had carefully concealed the priests so that he would be captured by passing for priest and thus save the lives of the two fathers. He was eventually brought to the Tower of London where he was suspended day after day, sometimes for six hours at a time. The strain was so severe that his hernia ruptured, causing his death.

Nicholas Owen not only saved the lives of hundreds of priests and lay people, but he also helped others escape many times and was able to conceal priests even when houses were searched. History has no idea how many people Nicholas saved.

St. Nicholas Owen, you who gave your life for the faith of Christ, pray for us.



You are a hiding-place for me;
   you preserve me from trouble;
   you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
          Selah (Psalm 32:07)


This beautiful quote from Scripture falls in the middle of Psalm 32. The writer first praises God who has taken away the sin from the sinner who has repented. The writer laments that it took him a while to reach repentance, but once he did, the Lord became his shelter and his shield. The Lord instructed him and surrounded him with kindness because he had turned to God and away from himself.

St. Nicholas Owen was a man who recognized his own human frailty and who turned to God for support, protection, and guidance. Even though Nicholas built many shelters for priests, he recognized that God alone was the true shelter who would preserve His priests from destruction, and that Nicholas was an instrument in God's plan of protection.

May the Lord be our shelter and our salvation!


To be silent when we are impelled to utter words injurious to God or to our neighbour, is an act of virtue; but, to be silent in confessing our sins, is the ruin of the soul. --St. Alphonsus De Liguori


We have few recorded words of Nicholas Owen. This is because he was a man of silence. He would not talk about his hiding places or tell anyone where they were, and even under torture, he refused to reveal their whereabouts. His silence protected many priests and saved their lives. Certainly his silence was virtuous.

Nicholas was also a man of deep faith so he recognized his own sinfulness and confessed his sins, probably even to some of the priests whose lives he saved. Nicholas is a man who can show us that actions can speak louder than words and are sometimes wiser to use than language. He spoke interiorly to God in the holy Eucharist and in contemplation, asking the Lord where to build the hiding places and how to go about doing so.

Although Nicholas did not use the language of the tongue frequently, he certainly used the language of the soul in his discourse with the Lord. St. Nicholas Owen, teach us the value of silence.



Clothed in white and sashed in sapphire,
You walk by as if in Galilee again.
The warm moist air imparts your fragrance.
Nuances of myrrh and aloes, gardenia and nard,

Mingled notes of scent and color
Concocted by the divine Apothecary,
they are blended to perfection ~ 
An olfactory oblation.

My sotted soul is too sure of itself
Tainted by sin and restless in its sheath of flesh. 
My desire is to call out to you,
grasp your hand
or touch your cloak, 
Yet I remain mute and still.

My thoughts, unspoken as they, are
are known to you in your gentle wisdom eyes fill with unbidden tears.

Your wounded, upraised hand
Yields blessing and anointing
As the earth blossoms forth 
And the stars shed their distant light.

~ Brother Raymond J Columbaro, OdeM, CFP Affiliate


Why did the prime minister always end up at Japanese car wrecks? They needed a Tojo


Who wrote songs of praise during the rise of the Reich in Germany? Joseph Hymn-Lure


Why was Robin afraid to go the pound? He didn’t wanted to be pounced by Catwoman


Who did Jesse ransom out of solitary confinement? Willy the Whale


What is a politician’s favorite ice cream flavor?  Franklin mint


Which Starfleet officer has a song named him from the 20th century? Bones’ Bones dry bones …McCoy praise the name of the Lord


Which General would make a better altarboy? Patton


What do you call a songbird that’s a seamstress? Taylor Swift


What do you call a woman that’s too conceited with her musical talent? Viola Vain


Why did the lion go to confession first? He lived a life of the pride


Why did the bully go before the inquisition? He was guilty of high teasin’


Why did the police officer go to the doctor? He had warrants for search and seizures.


Why couldn’t Cain stand up? He was un-Able!!


What did Lex Luther lock his bicycle with? Kryptonite


Why did King Kong get shot at the bus stop? He tried to take the bus home.


What cat never plays fairly? A Cheetah


Why did Jesus go to the zoo? To cleanse the Leopards.


By Patrick Wheeler, Novice 2 with the Confraternity of Penitents

Confraternity Photo Album

In June, some members of the Confraternity of Penitents made a visit to Indiana and Ohio on CFP business. Part of the trip was visiting with Bill Eddy, a life pledged and privately vowed member of the Confraternity of Penitents. Bill, fondly called br. Anthony by fellow CFP'ers, is now in a care center where three CFP members visited him. These photos are from that vist.

Elizabeth Hill, Jim Nugent, and Madeline Pecora Nugent visited with Bill Eddy. All members shown are life pledged members of the CFP. Please keep Bill in your prayers at this trying time in his life. Please also pray that a priest be found to come in to visit with him and hear his confession. It has been a long time since he has had a visit from a priest.

Secular Franciscan David Osborn met with the CFP members pictured on the left and discussed the CFP Rule and Constitutions with them. He was the photographer for the picture to the left. May God bless David and his OSF Fraternity.

Happy Birthday to:

Saundra H, TO Carm, 7/2

Gail B, OFS 7/3

Clara L, OFS 7/6

Raymond N 7/13

Mary Louise G 7/14

Angela H 7/16

Robert J 7/21

Thomas S 7/21

Jesse P 7/24

Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop

All of these items and many more are available at All proceeds fromt the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop go to support the Confraternity of Penitents. Please patronize our on line religious shop. And may God reward you!

Men are rediscovering the importance of the spiritual life. And Father Larry Richards is helping them do it. While some writers apply a one-size-fits-all approach to the Christian life, Father Richards draws on his many years of ministry and his own experiences. 17.95

CFP Prayer Chaplet. Certain prayers may be substituted for the Divine Office by penitents who have severe time constraints in fulfilling the prayer component of the CFP Rule. The chaplet helps them to pray the substitution prayers. Color and style of beads may differ from what is shown. 3.95

Saint Joseph Home Selling Kit--Catholic Edition. Contains prayers, novena, instructions, statue. 14.95

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