Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- October 2013

Letter from One Who Serves the CFP

FAITH IN ONE GOD

 

In Introduction to Christianity, Professor Joseph Ratzinger deals with what it actually means to profess belief in “One God” :  “Let us therefore return to our point of departure,  to the words of the Creed:  I believe in God , the Father, the almighty, the Creator.  This statement, with which Christians have been professing their faith in God for almost two thousand years, is the product of a still older history.   Behind it stands Israel’s daily profession of faith, the Christian form of which it represents: ‘Hear, O Israel, Yahweh, thy God, is an only God.’ With its first words the Christian creed takes up the creed of Israel and takes up with it Israel’s striving, its experience of faith, and its struggle for God, which thus becomes an inner dimension of the Christian faith, which would not exist without this struggle.”  We can see that Christianity shares her faith in One God with Israel.  But what was the alternative to faith in One God for Israel?  This certainly was polytheism (faith in many Gods). 

 

Professor Ratzinger says “ ‘Yahweh, thy God, is an only God’----this fundamental profession, which forms the background to our Creed, making it possible, is in its original sense a renunciation of the surrounding gods.   It is a profession in the fullest sense of this word, that is, it is not the registration of one view alongside others but an existential decision. As a renunciation of the gods, it also implies the renunciation both of the deification of political powers and of the deification of the cosmic cycle ‘Sterbe und werde’ (die and become).  If one can say that hunger, love, and power are the forces that motivate man, then one can point out, as an extension of this observation, that the three main forms of polytheism are the worship of bread, the worship of love, and the idolization of power.  All three paths are aberrations;  they make absolutes out of what is not in itself absolute, and they thereby make slaves of men.   They are also, it is true, aberrations in which something is sensed of the power that bears up the universe.  Israel’s profession is, as we have said, a declaration of war on this threefold worship  and thus an event of the greatest importance in the history of man’s liberation.  As a declaration of war on this threefold worship this profession of faith is at the same time a declaration of war on the multiplication of the divine in general.   It is a renunciation-----we shall have to look at this more closely later on---- of gods of one’s own, or in other words, of the deification of one’s own possessions, something that is fundamental to polytheism.  In this it is simultaneously, a renunciation of the attempt to keep one’s own possessions safe, a renunciation of the fear that tries to tame the mysterious by worshipping it, and an assent  to the one God of heaven as the power that guarantees everything;  it signifies the courage to entrust oneself  to the power that governs the whole world without grasping the divine in one’s hand.”

 

We can see that Israel is not only rejecting the specific neighboring gods and saying that their God (Yahweh) is the only God.  They were also rejecting the idolization of the human drives which are behind these “gods”----  food (pleasure), love (sex), and power (politics).  These things are not rejected outright but rather the idolization of these things.

 

Reading the Old Testament we can see how often Israel lapsed into idolatry by worshipping the neighboring gods alongside or instead of Yahweh.  It is easy to understand how this could happen when we understand the human drives of pleasure, sex, and politics which lie behind these gods.  We want to entrust ourselves to that which is immediate and close at hand rather than to the real God who often seems so distant.  We can understand why the ancient prophets often likened Israel’s lapses into idolatry as adultery since  these lapses are closely related to the drive behind idolatry (pleasure and sex).  In addition, these alien forms of worship also often involved cultic prostitution.

 

Professor Ratzinger then points out that the early Christians took up this very same rejection, but now it was the rejection not of neighboring gods but the rejection of the political and religious atmosphere of the Roman Empire: “For whoever assented to this creed renounced at the same time the laws of the world to which he belonged;  he renounced the worship of the ruling political power, on which the late Roman Empire rested, he renounce the worship of pleasure and the cult of fear and superstition that ruled the world.   It was no coincidence that the struggle over Christianity flared up in the field thereby defined and grew into a struggle over the whole shape of public life in the ancient world.”  

 

Professor Ratzinger asserts that now many would consider the early Christian rejection of even the most harmless forms of the Roman religious cult as extreme since there seems to be many ways to compromise Christian faith with the ruling political and religious climate.  Yet he also says “In any case it is important to realize that this refusal was far from being a piece of narrow-minded fanaticism  and that it changed the world in a way  in which it can only be changed by the readiness to suffer.   Those events showed that faith is not a matter of playing with ideas but a very serious business: it says no, and must say no, to the absoluteness of political power and to the worship of the mighty in general----‘He has put down the mighty from their thrones’ (Lk 1:52); and in doing so  it  has shattered the political  principle’s claim to totality once and for all.  In this sense the profession ‘There is only one God’ is, precisely  because it has itself no political aims, a program of decisive political importance: through the absoluteness that it lends the individual from his God, and through the relativization to which it relegates  all political communities in comparison  with the unity of God who embraces them all, it forms the only definitive  protection against the power of the collective and at the same time implies the complete  abolition  of any idea of exclusiveness in humanity as a whole.”

 

Even though Professor Ratzinger wrote these words in the middle 1960’s, we can see how they are very relevant today.  At the present time there certainly are many Christians and even Catholics who are so enamored of politicians and political programs that they are willing to set aside God’s commandments concerning abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and marriage.   Just like ancient polytheism, they may be willing to recognize some sort of  Absolute Being, but this “absolute” has no relationship to their everyday lives.  Even though they do not worship the gods of ancient times, they worship the powers behind these gods --- pleasure, sex, politics.  Early Christianity destroyed the divinity of these “gods” and so there usually is not cultic worship of these things.  Yet the human drives behind the “gods” (pleasure, sex, power) remain to this day.  Those who try to totally remove Christianity from  the public sphere and relegate it exclusively to the private sphere have made a vacuum which is being filled by the alternative to Christianity, which is the idolization of pleasure, sex, and politics.  We must never forget what we are saying when we say “I believe in One God”.

 

James Nugent (Jim is a life pledge member of the CFP)

No Greater Love

God of the Last Minute

 

Often God comes through at the last minute.

 

A Pastor said that it came to a time when  a new church was needed and negotiations were such that an ideal place was for sale, and the asking price was one hundred thousand dollars. After a great flurry of activity and scraping together what funds they could, the church put $65,000 down and promised by a certain date to pay the additional sum of $35,000.

In the meantime, they were permitted to use these church premises, but the fund raising was not being very productive at all. When the date came when they had to pay the balance, the money was simply not to hand.

 

The result would seem that they would not only lose the church premises, but also the huge first installment. On the day the final payment was due, when the banks were due to close in the next hour, the pastor sat alone with his head in his hands, and pondered on what was to be a grievous misfortune of loss and closure to a fine dream.

 

Suddenly there was a knock on the door and a stranger stood there. He said he wasn't a member of that church; in fact he was a Lutheran. He said he had planned for a long time to save up and buy a yacht and to spend the rest of his days living on it and sailing to wonderful distant places. He said he had a cheque and was on his way to buy the yacht when an amazing thing happened. The man looked astonished and explained, "GOD SPOKE TO ME." He went on to tell what God had asked him to do.

 

God had told him to go and see the pastor at that church and to give him the money so that God's work could continue. So he gave the pastor an envelope, and when the contents were revealed, it was a cheque for the exact amount needed to pay the balance.

 

The pastor said without even saying thanks, he instantly raced out to the bank which would have closed in 15 minutes. He deposited the money and saved the day totally. He then raced back to thank the man for his donation.

 

The man was equally amazed to listen to the full story, and to learn his part in  a wonderful outcome. So, the pastor spoke to God in prayer and asked, "Why is it, O Lord, that you leave things to the very last minute like that?"

 

God replied, "Because everyone will then know that it had to be my hand in the story, rather than a strange coincidence. The realization will have to be, 'God's hand has surely been in this, there can be no other explanation.' "

 

It happened to labourer Gideon when he was chosen as General of a tiny army, yet the war was won. Everyone knew it was God's hand in that, especially Gideon.

 

--David Curry, CFP Affiliate

Reflections on the Rule

RULE:  

 

CHAPTER IV: PRAYER

 

12. All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. The clerics are to say them after the manner of the clergy. Those who know the Psalter are to say the Deus in nomine tuo (Psalm 54) and the Beati Immaculati (Psalm 119) up to the Legem pone (Verse 33) for Prime, and the other psalms of the Hours, with the Glory Be to the Father; but when they do not attend church, they are to say for Matins the psalms the Church says or any eighteen psalms; or at least to say the Our Father as do the unlettered at any of the Hours. The others say twelve Our Fathers for Matins and for every one of the other Hours seven Our Fathers with the Glory Be to the Father after each one. And those who know the Creed and the Miserere mei Deus (Ps. 51) should say it at Prime and Compline. If they do not say that at the Hours indicated, they shall say three Our Fathers.

CONSTITUTIONS

 

12c. While the Liturgy of the Hours is the preferred method of prayer, substitution of the rote prayers (Option Four below) is permissible especially for those times when it is impossible to sit down with a breviary. The penitent should, however, not rely totally on these other prayers as a substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours. 

 

12d. There will arise certain days on which a penitent finds it impossible to say all the required prayers in any form. On such days, the penitent is to raise his or her mind to God at the required prayer times and have the intention to pray even though the opportunity is not available. These days should be rare. If a penitent finds it impossible to pray the hours on most days, he or she must examine his or her life and make proper adjustments so that the prayers can be said. 

 

12e. All should renew the consecration of themselves and the Confraternity to Our Lady. The recommended prayer of consecration of the Confraternity, The Marian Consecration Prayer, is in Appendix B of these Constitutions.

REFLECTION

 

 

Section 12 of the Rule is clarified by many Constitutions which explain how to live the Prayer component of the Rule in modern times. In the three sections of the Constitutions under consideration today, the penitent sees that, while the Liturgy of the Hours is preferred, substitutions of certain types are permitted. One major substitution is lifting one's mind and heart to God if a day or part of a day arises during which it is impossible to pray the Hours or any form of extended prayer. This most often arises in an emergency situation or sudden crisis. The penitent should follow this prayer option and not feel guilty if praying any formal prayer is simply not possible. 

 

 

This section also reminds the penitent that he or she is consecrated to the Blessed Mother and so have an obligation to pray a Marian Consecration prayer daily. Our Lady is the Mother of the CFP and so we as penitents have an obligation to give ourselves to her, to honor her as the Mother of God, and to allow her to work on our behalf. This is the meaning of Marian Consecration. Since Our Lady always does the will of her Son, we know that, when we consecrate ourselves to her, we are consecrating ourselves to Jesus as well. 

Affiliate Action

Affiliates should be acutely aware of God's presence at every moment which means that they very frequently ought to lift their minds and hearts to God. They can also consecrate themselves to the Blessed Mother by praying the Marian Consecration Prayer of the CFP or another Marian Consecration Prayer daily. Prayer should be an important part of the Affiliate's life, even though he or she does not necessarily keep a specific prayer schedule as do the penitents.

Poetry

A New Dimension of Being

 

A cogent question

all should ask--

are we up to this godly task--

insufficient aptitude or does a written desire collude

a crisis of the super ego

finalized just as we grow

in fears and tears and fretful years

what hope in penance

we must affix

undeluded by satan's tricks.

 

--Joe Matose IV, CFP Affiliate

Reflection on the San Damiano Crucifix

Devotion 

 

The evidence of human devotion to the icon of the San Damiano Crucifix has nothing to do with the iconographer who wrote the icon. The devotion follows most likely from devotees of Saint Francis who, by kissing the bottom of the crucifix, have almost obliterated the saints portrayed there. Would the devotion to this icon been so intense had Saint Francis not found it to be such a vital part of his spiritual journey that it set him on his way to "repair God's house." 

 

Have you ever kissed a crucifix out of pure devotion to God? What a commendable practice! You are not kissing only an image but are making an act of faith in the Person of the image and in what was achieved by that One's death on this ancient torture tree. When we kiss the crucifix, it is as if we are kissing Jesus and saying, "I love You, Lord." 

 

Did Saint Francis dare to kiss the San Damiano crucifix? Probably. It would have been within his reach, it seems, from the image painted by Giotto of Francis praying before the crucifix. Not only would have have kissed it; he may have embrace it and even fell prostrate before it in his prayer, asking God to show him what to do. This trust in the Lord of the crucifix brought an answer to Francis's prayers, an answer he had not expected. "Go and repair My house that, as you can see, is falling into ruin." 

 

What might God show you or ask you if you show devotion to Him Crucified? Only He knows. May you have the courage, as Francis did, to follow His commands.

Saint of the Month

Pope Saint Pius X (1835-1914)

 

Pope Saint Pius X was God's gift to the Church in a time of great need. Born to a postman father and a seamstress wife, Giuseppe Sarto was the oldest of eight surviving children. His education was paid for by his parish priest who recognized in him a deep holiness and a vocation to the priesthood. He rose through the ranks of the Church, eventually becoming Cardinal Patriarch of Venice in 1893 and being elected Pope in 1903. He took the name Pius because, in his lifetime, the popes who had suffered most for the church had that name. 

 

Beginning with his life as a parish priest, Guiseppe Sarto visited the homes of his parishioners, expecting no fancy meals or great welcome. He wanted to meet the people. This practice continued all his life, even as Pope.

 

Giuseppe never forgot his humble, poor roots nor did he forget the poor. All his life, he cared for the poor and sick and victims of natural disasters, visiting them and assisting them financially. He would visit the dying at any time he was called and assist them with the sacraments. These practice, too, he kept up as Pope. When people complained about his generosity with money, he answered, "God will provide." And God always did.

 

Guiseppe had a great love of children, teaching them the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, when elected Pope, lowering the age at which they could receive the Blessed Sacrament. As Pope, he invited all First Communicants to visit him at the Vatican where he instructed them himself about the Eucharist. In addition, he established confraternities and schools and threatened parents with severe penalties if they kept their children from being instructed in the faith.

 

He understood that the people needed instruction in the faith, so he instructed his priests to teach the people and to keep their sermons to the basics of doctrine. He also made sure that priests were well instructed and that they took time for prayer and reflection.

 

He himself spent much time in prayer while retaining a joyful and even joking spirit with his friends.

 

As pope, Guiseppe spoke and wrote against Modernism, a heresy threatening to overwhelm the Church of his time. In an encyclical, he clearly analyzed this heresy and showed how it was based on pride that denied the historical truths of Christ's life, reduced faith to inner feeling, and reinterpreted Catholic doctrine, giving no real importance to religious authority. He required all priests to take an "Anti-Modernist Oath," and caused Modernism to almost disappear. It, however, returned to the Church some decades after Guiseppe's death. 

 

He had a great regard for reverent church music and eliminated all that smacked of popularity and raucousness. 

 

When he heard that the bishops of Mexico had been driven out in 1914, he, as Pope, was deeply shaken. Predicting the first World War, he also predicted that this would kill him. He died only a few months into the war, his last words being, "I resign myself completely." One prelate said that he died of a broken heart.

 

Pope Saint Pius X, pray for us.

© 2016 by The Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN USA 46803   www.penitents.org

 

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