Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter -- December 2014
On All Souls' Day, we celebrate a beautiful and wonderful feast. While it is beautiful and wonderful, it is also a time of sadness because it is a time when we recognize our sinfulness and the fact that our sinfulness separates us from God. But our hope is that separation can be overcome by our God who loves us so much and who is willing to do everything for us. We celebrate this love in December especially because God came to us as a helpless infant to show us how much he loves us and how approachable he is. And this love extends even after death, even if we aren't perfect when we die.
How many of you have gotten a question like this, at workplace or school or at family gatherings? “What is it with you Catholics and this weird thing about Purgatory? What is it about this whole Purgatory thing?” Sometimes you don’t know how to answer that. You say, “I’ll get back to you.” And then you avoid them for two weeks until they forget. A lot of us are not able to expound upon this teaching of the Church. So I’ll give you a little guidance. You aren’t going to become theological experts in this short teaching, but I hope you will learn something.
There is something that you know that will help you understand this wonderful teaching of the Church, this reality in the process of salvation. Let’s all be honest with ourselves. None of us --even if we went to confession yesterday--none of us are perfect, are we? We’re not perfect. I went to confession yesterday, and I am still not perfect today. How do I know that? Because I got up this morning, even after going to confession yesterday, and I drove by my favorite place which is Dunkin’ Donuts, and if I drive by that place knowing that I am not to go there, what happens to me? There is a battle that goes on inside me because I know that I ought not to turn in and I do. My tendency to sin. And why is that? Why? It is because, for some absolutely ridiculous reason which is the result of all of my choices, which is the result of all of my prior sins, which have been forgiven because I have truly been sorry for them and I went to confession, I still have an attachment to those wonderful sugar donuts that I love so much, but which I ought not to love as much as I do. I should love God more than I love them. But so often my actions show that I do not.
The Lord says, “I am so happy that you are sorrowful because of this sin.” But even though I may fight this sin until my dying day, and I may never break myself of that attachment and that disordered desire, the Lord in his mercy says that, if I go to him in humility on this earth and confess that sin because I am truly sorry for it, then, when I die, if I still have that attachment to sin, then he will take that attachment away and that is what Purgatory is.
None of us when we die are perfect, but here is the thing that trips us up: is there any imperfection in heaven? No, there cannot be any imperfection in heaven; therefore there has to be a process through which God perfects us. Where God perfects us, just like any perfect perfection process, it is hard, difficult, and painful. If I actually want to rid myself of my love of though sugar donuts, what do I have to do? I have to diet. I have to exercise. I have to never go to see that place again, that corner where the Dunkin Donut shop is. I must never go there again if I want to get rid of that sin. And that is hard, right? Purgatory is hard.
There are three sections of the mystical body of Christ. The first section is on earth, the Church militant. We are the Church militant. We are struggling to serve God in this world through our love, through our actions, through our prayers and good works, through all of those things. We are part of the Church militant.
But the Church is so much greater than the Church militant. The Church also includes all those who have gone before us and are now seeing the beatific vision, the Church already united with God. This is the Church triumphant, the saints and angels in heaven around the throne of God.
But then there is the third group, the Church suffering, the Church which is being perfected, the Church which is allowing all of those disordered desires which not of God to be taken away from them and for the Lord to replace them with the pure love of him in heaven. That is what Purgatory is. When we die, we are not perfect, but if we are judged to be such that the Lord desires us, which he always does, if we are judged by our lives to have prepared for the beauties of the kingdom of heaven, then he has to perfect us, and that perfection process is Purgatory.
Hopefully, now you will be able to explain this a little bit better, but more than just explaining it, we need to recognize that we, the Church militant, can help those who are struggling in Purgatory for they cannot help themselves. No longer can they make those free choices that we make every single day, those meritorious actions where I can say, “No, I am not going to have that thing that I want because I love my Lord more. I am not going to have it, and I am going to, as we all hear the wonderful Catholic phrase, ‘offer it up’ for the poor souls in Purgatory, for those people who are being perfected.”
The Lord delights when we participate in his saving action. So Purgatory is also about recognizing that we can pray for the dead. There is never a time when our prayers fall on deaf ears. God always listens to us. And so we might say, “But this person passed away so long ago, and surely they have already been judged and they don’t need our prayers.” Whoa! Wrong! Prayer goes to God who is outside of time, and so when we come before the judgment seat of Christ, he does not only see us but he sees every prayer ever offered for us throughout all time. And so it is never, ever too late to pray for the dead, and it is never too late to offer those sacrifices because those are acts of love which we can give for all those for all have gone before us. For those who loved us so much in this world, we can still show them this love because by offering these things to the Lord, by our sacrifices, we help them.
At Mass we come close to the body of Christ. When we gather around the altar, around the Bread of Life which promises us eternal life, we are connected to all of those who love God now, to those of all times who are enjoying his love in heaven, and to all those who are being perfected, those who are in Purgatory. It is our job today to show our love for them by praying for them. For all those whom we know or don’t know—we love them. They love us. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we have the closest connection to them, for when we receive our Lord, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, we are not only one with God but also one with the whole mystical body of Christ, the Church militant, the Church suffering, and the Church triumphant.
So make sacrifices and pray for the souls of your dead relatives and friends, pray for those who have no one to pray for them. Let us offer these up for the sake of those who await the beatific vision but are not there yet because of their attachment to sin. Ask God to bless them and to release them from Purgatory, perfected. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
--Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents
Following Francis, Following Christ
The Music of Christmas
The first Nativity scene is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who conceived the idea of setting up a live manger scene in a cave at Greccio, Italy, in December, 1223. He was assisted in this by Giovanni Vellita of Greccio who was believed to have been living the Rule of 1221 for penitents. Brother Thomas of Celano, in his first Life of Saint Francis, written two years after Francis’s death, records the following:
The day of joy drew near, the time of exultation approached. The brothers were called from their various places. With glad hearts, the men and women of that place prepared, according to their means, candles and torches to light up that night which has illuminated all the days and years with its glittering star. Finally the holy man of God arrived and, finding everything prepared, saw it and rejoiced.
The manger is ready, hay is brought, the ox and ass are led in. Simplicity is honored there, poverty is exalted, humility is commended and a new Bethlehem, as it were, is made from Greccio. Night is illuminated like the day, delighting men and beasts. The people come and joyfully celebrate the new mystery. The forest resounds with voices and the rocks respond to their rejoicing. The brothers sing, discharging their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night echoes with jubilation. The holy man of God stands before the manger full of sighs, consumed by devotion and filled with a marvelous joy. The solemnities of the mass are performed over the manger and the priest experiences a new consolation.
The holy man of God wears a deacon's vestments, for he was indeed a deacon, and he sings the holy gospel with a sonorous voice. And his voice, a sweet voice, a vehement voice, a clear voice, a sonorous voice, invites all to the highest rewards. Then he preaches mellifluously to the people standing about, telling them about the birth of the poor king and the little city of Bethlehem. Often, too, when he wished to mention Jesus Christ, burning with love he called him "the child of Bethlehem," and speaking the word "Bethlehem" or "Jesus," he licked his lips with his tongue, seeming to taste the sweetness of these words.
Note the predominance of joy and singing in this narrative. It is part of the human nature to sing when joyful, and Francis sang often. He called himself the “troubadour of the great King” and composed songs for the friars to sing including the most famous Canticle of Brother Sun. He instructed the friars to gather the people first and to sing some joyful, chivalric like songs with religious themes in order to assemble them together. And only after the crowd were joyfully listening to the music, then were the friars to preach briefly on faith and repentance. The music prepared the listeners by giving them part of the message in song. Then, by their preaching, the friars completed what the music had begun.
Francis could not have celebrated Christmas without singing and rejoicing. The songs would have been about the birth of Christ, the benevolence of God, the redemption of the human race. They would have commemorated the humility of Jesus and his being born in a manger, the faithfulness of his parents in caring for him, and the wonder and awe experienced by the wise men and shepherds.
Sadly, in the modern world, the traditional songs of Christmas have been replaced by secular renditions. Seventy five years ago, all children knew the words to Silent Night, Little Town of Bethlehem, and We Three Kings. Today, because the songs are not played in department stores or song at tree lightings or performed in public schools, today’s children do not know these traditional Christmas hymns. As penitents and believers in the divinity of Christ, we might seek for ways to bring this joyful Christmas music of prayer, adoration, and thanksgiving back into the public’s ear. What is to stop us from taking to the streets in small groups and caroling by singing some of the songs? What will prevent us from obtaining CDs of them and playing them in our car when we carpool to work with someone else? Or, if we host a Christmas party, why not play these beautiful hymns in the background? Faith was nurtured by music. Part of the loss of faith must be attributed to the loss of this music. What are some ways you can share these beautiful Christmas songs this year?
May God richly bless you and give you a Christmas of joy, peace, and love. Let us pray for one another and for all those doing penance worldwide, and for all those suffering for their faith at this holy season.
Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Monthly Letter to All Penitents
Recently I read a life of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Portions of the biography caught my attention.
“From the time that she knew that he (Christ) dwelt in the town chapel, she was drawn to it from the midst of her childhood games. Here she is at home. When people reviled and derided her, it was here that she found comfort. No one was as faithful as he. Therefore, she had to be true to him as well and love him above everyone and everything.”
“In the presence the image of the Crucified One who hangs on the Cross naked and bleeding, she could not wear finery and a crown.”
“ . . . she could have suspected, too, that in her play she was also in danger of getting lost from God.”
“her general desire to do penance and to suffer voluntarily for the Lord's sake”
“she began to look up into heaven, and she was so glad that she began debonairly to laugh, and when she had been long joyful she was suddenly turned into weeping, and then she looked up to heavenward again, and anon she returned into her first joy; and when she closed her eyes she began to weep, and in this manner she abode till Compline.”
The reading caused me to meditate on my own life and action. I could relate to how she felt at times in my own life. When I was having difficulty in a college in Canada, I was alone but was the sacristan of the Chapel. I would go there and spend an hour with the Lord in silence. Despite the difficulties, I found peace, and strength. I felt the tug of grace many times when I turned to God and lived in the present moment with Him. Today I reflected on Jesu’s love for us, and that he will lift us up, and comfort us. I have a statue of Jesus with three children. One of them is a boy, about four years of age, wearing a Priest vestment, holding a prayer book. I remember myself at that age, with a Rosary around my neck, wanting to be a priest. I pray that Jesus will lift that little boy up one day to his Kingdom. I have to patiently wait my turn, or His call, and live a good Catholic life, which I found in the CFP, as a structure and community of love and faith.
Sitting in the presence of the Crucified one, who hangs on on the cross naked, and bleeding, I find the need to let go of worrying about possessions and concerns of this world. Why do I watch TV so much, when I have so many wonderful Catholic books to read? I know my limitations and sit silently looking at the price he paid for us and how much he loved us. I have another crucifix near the bedroom (prayer room) door with a holy water font, with Lourdes water in it. I kiss the crucifix and make a Sign of the Cross, and say a short prayer when entering and leaving the room.
Veil of Manopello.
When I sit at my desk, my spiritual reminders are all around the room. When I am writing letters to inmates, or doing some religious research, or reading a book, or praying, I look up to the left wall and see the Face of God, the veil of Manoppello, Italy, the burial cloth with Christ’s face on it, looking at me. He is smiling with his teeth showing. This image could have been formed during the Resurrection. It is beautiful. It matches the face on the Shroud of Turin with the features almost exactly. I say an Our Father, and then sit silently, looking at him and he looking at me. Talk about tugs of graces! I am brought to tears thinking about the loss of our Lord, then I think of his love all during my life and how I made it through to my elderly years with his graces. And I smile back at him. But with humility, tears come back with love for him.
Finally, I turn around to the Lady of Fatima, our Holy Mother Mary. I say a few prayers for her intercession, and then bless my aches and pains in my body with Lourdes water, saying the prayer sent with it. Several times after a fall I had a landing on my back on the porch, and I awoke with back pains as well as aching my feet which have problems due to spinal stenosis. Then I spray the Lourdes water on them. After 20 minutes the pain is gone for the day. This went on for 12 days, after which I only felt the general aches and pains associated with my age. It was not a miracle but rather a grace or blessing. I thank Our Lady every day, and she smiles back as well.
Reading about St. Elizabeth stirred up these reflections. Her prayer life is mental prayer with a bit of contemplation. She reminds us of the graces we find in Christ through the Saints.
Paul Phelan, CFP
Letter from One Who Serves the CFP
JESUS THE CHRIST
Professor Joseph Ratzinger continues part II of his Introduction to Christianity with a discussion of how the Apostles’ Creed actually views Jesus Christ. The Creed does not separate the man Jesus from his office as the Christ. Rather, the man Jesus, the historical Jesus who actually walked the earth, became identified with his office as the Christ or Messiah. Ferdinand Kattenbusch, the great student of the Apostles’ Creed, illustrates the process with a neat example from his own time (1897): he points to the comparison with the phrase “Kaiser Wilhelm”. The words “Kaiser” and “Wilhelm” go so closely together that the title “Kaiser” had itself already become almost a part of the name; yet everyone was still aware that the word was not just a name but denoted a function. The phrase “Christ Jesus” is an exactly similar case and shows just the same development: Christ is a title and yet also already part of the unique name for the man from Nazareth. This fusion of the name with the title, the title with the name, is far from being just another example of history’s forgetfulness. On the contrary, it spotlights the very heart of that process of understanding that faith went through with regard to the figure of Nazareth. For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The Person is the office; the office is the person. The two are no longer separable. Here there is no private area reserved for an “I” that remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be “off duty”; here there is no “I” separate from the work; the “I” is the work, and the work is the “I”.
As Professor Ratzinger put it, Jesus Christ is to be identified with his words and teachings. Here there is no “I” (as there is with all of us) that utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that “I” and word are indistinguishable: he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this very work; he performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself. The same applies to the teaching of Jesus Christ. The person of Jesus is his teaching, and his teaching is he himself. Christian faith, that is, faith in Jesus as the Christ, is therefore truly “personal faith”. What this means can really be understood only from this standpoint. Such faith is not the acceptance of a system but the acceptance of this person who is his word; of the word as person and of the person as Word.
Next, Professor Ratzinger discusses the question of when Jesus actually became identified with Christ. Today we can establish with some certainty that the birthplace of the faith in Jesus as the Christ, that is, the birthplace of “Christ”-ian faith as a whole, is the Cross. He explains what he means by this further. So Jesus did not call himself unequivocally the Messiah (Christ); the man who gave him this name was Pilate, who for his part associated himself with the accusation of the Jews by giving in to this accusation and proclaiming Jesus on the Cross, in the execution notice drawn up in all the international languages of the day, as the executed king (= Messiah, Christus) of the Jews. This execution notice, the death sentence of history, became with paradoxical unity the “profession of faith”, the real starting point and taproot of the Christian faith, which holds Jesus to be the Christ: as the crucified criminal, this Jesus is the Christ, the King. His crucifixion is his coronation; his kingship is his surrender of himself to men, the identification of word, mission, and existence in the yielding up of this very existence. He is word because he is love. From the Cross faith understands in increasing measure that this Jesus did not just do and say something; that in him message and person are identical, that he is all along what he says.
Professor Ratzinger then describes how the early Christians came to identify Jesus with the Christ. The unfolding of the understanding that we call faith thus happens in such a way that Christians first hit upon the identification of person, word, and work through the Cross. Through it they recognized the really and finally decisive factor, in the presence of which all else becomes of secondary importance. For this reason their profession of faith could be restricted to the simple association of the words Jesus and Christ---this combination said it all. Jesus is seen from the Cross, which speaks louder than any words: he is the Christ---no more need be said. The crucified “I” of the Lord is such an abundant reality that all else can retire into the background.
If one were to read the Gospels carefully one can find many instances where Jesus refers his teaching and works back to himself. For example, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28), “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.’” (Mk 2:27-28), “ ‘But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins’---he said to the man who was paralyzed---‘I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.’” (Lk 5:24), “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to t he Father, but by me.’” (Jn 14:5-6). There are many other verses in the New Testament where Jesus refers his teachings and his deeds back to himself. The early Christians knew that Jesus Christ was not just a great teacher like Plato or Aristotle, whose teachings one could accept or reject in whole or in part. The enemies of Christianity also knew this. The early Christians knew that Jesus Christ required that one give his or her life to Him (follow Him) or walk away from Him. They knew that this decision was required by the Cross. Did He die for our sins or was He just another crucified criminal?
Jesus Christ requires that those who follow Him put their faith in Him and give their lives to Him. However, what about others and what about the world? Do we put our faith in Jesus Christ into opposition to love of our fellow humans and of the world? Professor Ratzinger gives us the answer to that question. For anyone who recognizes the Christ in Jesus, and only in him, and who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, anyone who grasps the total oneness of person and work as the decisive factor, has abandoned the exclusiveness of faith and its antithesis to love; he has combined both in one and made their mutual separation unthinkable. The hyphen between Jesus and Christ, the inseparability of person and work, the identity of one man with the act of sacrifice---these also signify the hyphen between love and faith. For the peculiarity of Jesus’ “I”, of his person, which now certainly moves right into the center of the stage, lies in the fact that this “I” is not at all something exclusive and independent but rather is Being completely derived from the “Thou” of the Father and lived for the “You” of men. It is identity of logos (truth) and love and thus makes love into the logos, the truth of human existence. The essence of the faith demanded by a Christology so understood is consequently entry into the universal openness of unconditional love. For to believe in a Christ so understood means simply to make love the content of faith, so that from this angle one can perfectly well say, love is faith.
This is at least part of Professor Ratzinger’s answer to Luther’s idea of salvation by faith alone apart from love which Luther regarded as a work or the “righteousness of the law”. Just as Jesus Christ did not separate who He was from what He did or taught, we cannot separate our faith in Jesus Christ from what we do and how we obey Him. We need to love our fellow humans in the way which Jesus Christ and the Church he founded taught us to love, not in the way the secular world teaches us to love.
--Jim Nugent, CFP
No Greater Love
“I was in prison and you visited me.” Or maybe wrote to me or emailed me.
Well, November has come and gone. I turned 65 on the 2nd and the Arctic Express is headed south. Life in the booby hatch continues to blow the mind. Food Service has removed salt from distribution at meals saying it is a 'health issue' while Medical Services claims to have nothing to do with it, pointing out that it is the ONLY source of Iodine and thus a medical necessity. Food Service here has also decided that a serving of bread is only one slice despite the National Menu saying it is two. Have you ever heard of biscuits and gravy with only one biscuit? Since my unfortunate incarceration, we have had microwaves in the unit (purchased with inmate funds). Now they have decided to remove them. I guess there isn't enough money for the bureau to skim from the Inmate Trust Fund. Work continues slowly. I made $44.00 for October. It is not bad for only working about half time, but by the time I buy hygiene (soap, shampoo, tooth paste, razors) and salt, there is little left for this email system or for snacks. I still affirm that God gives me what I NEED, not what I want. I won't discuss two female employess in this place whose public interactions with some of the prisoners seem a bit too suggestive.
The biggest problem that prisoners (BOP) have is that people outside don't realize what prison is really like. Out of sight and forgotten is what most Americans prefer. The first misconception is that "they have everything they need". Not so. First, the menu that is certified to Washington is a 2000 calorie/day menu. That is the absolute minimum calories for a 65-year old inactive male. Yet prisoners are overweight because the meals are based on the army training diet -- high in carbs. It does not provide for all the various nutrition elements that you were taught in schools. They simply don't care and they don't always follow the certified menu. For instance, this fiscal year (began Oct. 1), here, they have cut a serving of bread from two slices to one slice and biscuits from two 2oz biscuits to one. They say "if you're hungry", go to commissary and buy something. MANY have little or no source of money.
That is just one example, along with salt, of the misconceptions. State prisons stories are as different as each state, but Federal Prison stories "should be" the same across the board. I say "should be" because in a Low Security Institution, where the majority of the inmates have only a couple of years, they try and get away with more because it takes years to fight the system. [ I have about 20 more years (I'm 65) and have to suffer for being Low Security.] In a USP (high security), the men have decades and do not allow such abuse. It is a constant downward spiral.
You probably have heard, in the news, of the Muslim inmate that is in the Supreme Court because a state prison denied him the beard required by Islam. This Federal law (42 USC 2000cc) applies to ALL prisons and all faiths. The law (as interpreted by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals) states that the INMATE not the prison decides what the individual inmate (not just the religion) needs to worship his god.
I, personally, have used this in the FBOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) regarding my religious materiel (Bibles, Office Books, Study Books, etc.) and the law computer has many cases that have been won. The states are an individual battle, but, after the Supreme Court decision on the above, it will probably be easier.
Having said this, it must be applied to the individual inmate. It must be one who practices his/her religion. It is also a matter of the amount of time the inmate has to serve. I have almost 20 years remaining, so I have the time, and patience, to pursue the matter, and win. A year or two would not even get the average inmate close to court. There is also a law that states that the inmate "must exhaust all administrative remedies" before filing in court. In FBOP, that is 12-18 months, states may be twice that. The ACLU has shown some interest in this in the past and has offered me advice. They also have a National Prison Project that is out of D. C.
Our Church and the teachings of many saints (St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila et. al.) say that you can't do it alone and need direction. This is how the Confraternity of Penitents helps us in prison. I have been studying these issues for about fifteen years and would be pleased if my knowledge can be utilized and help fellow prisoners (I rarely use the word inmate, except when quoting) practice their faith. Since I am not allowed to communicate directly, I would love to work through the Confraternity.
This is my attempt to stay in touch and give you a taste of what prison life is really like. It makes the TV versions look like a comedy. We prisoners appreciate the penitents who write to us and who pray for us. Both the correspondence and the prayers are greatly needed. Anyone is welcome to write to me by postal mail or email. The Confraternity has both my addresses.
. . . in viam pacis.
Walter Cooksey, Alessandro Ministry
Reflection on the Rule
23. And if the ailing person depart from this life, it is to be published to the brothers and sisters who may be present in the city or place, so that they may gather for the funeral; and they are not to leave until the Mass has been celebrated and the body consigned to burial. Thereupon each member within eight days of the demise shall say for the soul of the deceased: a Mass, if he is a priest; fifty psalms, if he understands the Psalter, or if not, then fifty Our Fathers with the Requiem aeternam (Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them) at the end of each.
23. In keeping with section 23 of the Rule:
23a. If a Chapter or Circle member should die, those surviving members should gather for the funeral if work and family commitments allow. They are not to leave until Mass is celebrated and the body consigned to burial.
23b. Within eight days of the demise, each member shall say for the soul of the deceased: a Mass, if a priest, fifty Psalms other wise. (Any fifty psalms may be said. However, penitents with severe time constraints may wish to know that there are exactly 50 psalms in the Psalter which are 9 lines or less. These are 1, 3, 4. 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20, 23, 28, 43, 47, 52, 53, 54, 61, 67, 70, 82, 87, 93, 98, 99, 100, 101, 110, 113, 114, 117, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 137, 138, 142, 149, 150. These are reproduced on this link.)
If a member cannot read the Psalter, he or she may say fifty Our Father's with the words "May the souls of the faithful departed through the Mercy of God rest in peace" following each Our Father.
23c. Penitents may, if they wish, add the ejaculation, "Lord, have mercy on ________'s soul" after praying each psalm, or the Glory be.
It is a great charity to pray for the dead. In fact, it is one of the spiritual works of mercy. Our Rule specifically tells us how to pray for the dead. We are to pray 50 psalms for the repose of the soul of a fellow penitent, and this within eight days of their death. Once yearly we are to pray the Psalter for the repose of the souls of our fellow penitents. When we pray this yearly, we are praying for all penitents of all time who have died. And we know that, when we die, penitents will be praying for us. This is a great grace we can give when we pray, and receive when we are prayed for. May God make our prayers for the dead bear good fruit, for the dead and for us, the living, praying for them.
Affiliates are not bound to obey our Rule but they would be well advised to pray the Psalter for the dead once a year. This can easily be done by praying a psalm, or a shorter portion of a longer psalm, each day. You can easily keep track of the Psalm, or portion thereof, prayed by writing its number and verse on a slip of paper kept in the Bible. May God reward you for your prayers for our deceased brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hark, O Hark,
Woman of grace
kindly sculpted her infant's face,
bearing the sorrow of so many sins.
Finding grace and goodness
Virtue to virtue,
fruit of the Spirit,
Word into word
for all those who hear it.
I ask you, I beg you, I honestly plead
that you, kind woman, answer each need.
Answer this prayer
if God's will be done;
alight all the world
with the peace of your son!
--Joseph Matose IV, CFP Affiliate
Virtues Portrayed in the San Damiano Crucifix
We don't often identify angels with the Crucifix or joy with the Passion of Christ. Yet the San Damiano Crucifix is alive with angels. They are so numerous that we think of the angels who were singing "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace to people of good will," the song which the shepherds heard at Christ's birth. The multitude of angels on the cross of San Damiano are intended to remind us of the birth of Christ and of the joy of that time. Joy has not dimmed with the torture, crucifixion, and death of that grown up Infant. Joy has been intensified and fufilled because, with the death of Christ, the purpose of Christ's incarnation is complete. He has purchased for us, in His own Body, by His own death, our redemption and salvation, enabling us to go, sinless, to where He, the Sinless One, dwells forever. At Christmas, let us remember that the Babe is the Savior, and the Birth in a stable prefigues our birth into eternity. God be praised forever!
Saint of the Month
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
St. Elizabeth of Hungary is the patron saint of the Third Order of St. Francis. Born in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of Alexander II the king of Hungary. At the age of four she was sent to the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia in Germany to whose 11-year-old son Ludwig she was betrothed. Elizabeth was educated, learning the language and culture, as Ludwig waited for her to grow up. The political alliance of the families was sealed when, at the age of 14, Elizabeth married twenty one year old Ludwig. Always devoted to Christ, the new wife began to lead a simple and austere life, devoting herself to works of penance and charity including the spinning of clothing for the poor.
In 1221, Ludwig became Landgrave of Thuringia in place of his father. The young Ludwig was, like Elizabeth, a saintly person, and he respected her virtue. He encouraged her in her charity, and laughed when people told him that she was spending the castle fortune. He felt that the giving of alms to the poor would have an eternal reward. The couple’s deep love for one another resulted in children who became the joy of their lives.
In 1223, friars who followed the Rule of Saint Francis came to Thurigia and introduced Elizabeth to the Rule of Life for the laity, the Rule of 1221. Elizabeth embraced this Rule and began to live even more prayerfully and simply. When Friar Rodger, who had been acting as her spiritual director, became superior of a Franciscan friary some distance away, Elizabeth turned to Father Conrad of Marburg to take his place.
In the spring of 1226, floods, famine, and plague caused great suffering in Thuringia. Ludwig represented the emperor at the Imperial Diet in Cremona, leaving Elizabeth to control affairs at home. This she did remarkably well, distributing alms throughout the territory, even giving away state robes and gifts to the poor. Below Marburg Castle, she built a hospital with twenty eight beds and visited the patients daily to care for them.
In late summer of 1227, Ludwig headed south to join the Sixth Crusade. Enroute, he died of fever on September 11. To Elizabeth, weeks away from giving birth to the couple’s third child, Ludwig’s death seemed like the death of the world. Ludwig’s brother assumed the regency because Ludwig’s oldest son Hermann was only five years old, and tension was so strong in the castle that Elizabeth left the court and moved to Marburg where she could more perfectly follow her faith and penitential practices.
Elizabeth made solemn vows to Conrad as her spiritual director, fully embracing the Rule of 1221. Under Conrad’s harsh discipline, and despite great family opposition, she pledged to live a celibate life and never remarry. With money from her dowry, she built a hospital at Marburg to care for the poor and sick. She died in 1231 at the age of twenty four.
Saint Elizabeth, pray for us.
Quote from Scripture:
"Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Luke 9:58)
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary may have thought of this verse often as she tended the poor and then, later, after her husband's death when she left Wartburg Castle to fully embrace the life of an impoverished penitent. Was Jesus speaking only of a pillow and bedding or was He speaking of the human heart? Are our hearts resting places for the Lord? Can He rest His head on our breast as St. John the Evangelist rested his head on Christ's breast at the Last Supper? "The Son of Man has no where to rest His head." Come, Lord, rest here, in my heart. I remove the clutter and make room for you. Come, rest here, my Lord. Come.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary washing a poor man. From the main altar of St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Košice, 15th century. Notice the sores of the man, indicative of possible leprosy.
Quote from a Saint:
"How could I bear a crown of gold when my Lord bears a crown of thorns?" - St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Although nobly born and wed, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary knew that she was but the poorest of the poor when compared to the nobility of God. Her sole desire was to serve God through serving others while making herself small and humble. She would have relinquished all her property had her spiritual director forbid it, knowing that she could do much good for the poor if she used it in their behalf. Saint Elizabeth, pray that we may have the right perspective on our lives, that we may understand who God is and who we are. Amen.
Happy Birthday to:
Joann A 12/2
Janice S 12/3
Nellie S 12/4
Corey C 12/11
Evelyn M 12/12
Joseph E 12/13
Susan B 12/16
Linda D 12/18
Judith P 12/17
Sieglinde S 12/20
Maria D 12/22
Larry D 12/22
Julia B 12/23
Grace J 12/23
Alfreda A 12/26
Katherine S 12/26
Kim H 12/30
Bob S 12/31
Bits of Wisdom
Music is what feelings sound like.
Make today your favorite day.
A pretty face is nothing if you have an ugly heart.
You know why it is hard to be happy? It’s because we refuse to let go of the things that make us sad.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
When asked how they managed to stay married for 65 years, the wife said, “We were born in a time when, if something was broke, you fixed it, not throw it away.”
Always remember that the present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.
Be thankful for the bad things in life, because they opened your eyes to the good things that you had not paid attention to before.
One of the hardest things you will ever face in life is trying to decide whether to walk away or whether to try harder.
Be someone who makes you happy.
You cannot hang out with with negative people and expect to live a positive life.
Never lose hope. You never know what tomorrow may bring.
It is better to walk alone than with the crowd going in the wrong direction.
Confraternity Photo Album
The garage which currently houses the Confraternity of Penitents Office and Holy Angels Gift Shop in the area behind the gray insulation covered garage door. This area requires the installation of a handicapped accessible bathroom which meets state standards. In order to do this, sewer and water need to be brought in from the street. The building permit must be obtained by April 30, 2014 or needs to be reapplied for. In order to obtain the permit, the CFP needs the funds to do the construction. The Confraternity's Repair God's House Capital Campaign is designed to raise the required funds, with God's help and grace. Please pray about your contribution to this project.
The Confraternity seeks to build a dwelling for an on site volunteer worker. The city of Fort Wayne requires that this dwelling be a minimum of 950 square feet. Therefore, the dwelling will consist of the remodeled section of the garage behind the white doors (pictured to the left) as well as a built out extension to the garage in the area shown above. The Confraternity has donations of doors, windows, washer/dryer, sinks, and toilets for this on site residence. However, much money is needed for construction materials and costs. Please consider a generous donation to the Confraternity Repair God's House Capital Campaign so that the CFP can provide a home for Tim, a formerly homess man who is helping us for twenty hours a week while living temporarily in a motor home on the property. He will be able to assist with the construction of this small home, once the money is obtained to do the work.
Above find the plans for the renovations needed to the Confraternity of Penitents Headquarters at 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN USA. These meet state and city requirements--to install a handicapped accessible bathroom in the Confraternity Office and CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop area, and to create a 950 square foot (minimum requirement by the city) dwelling for an on site volunteer worker. The worker will open part of the small home to occasional guests or visitors using the grounds. Those parts which will serve both the worker and any occasional guests are designated as the Icon Prayer Chapel, Our Lady's Kitchenette, and the adjacent bathroom and shower. The Confraternity's Repair God's House Capital Campaign, with God's grace and help, hopes to raise the $96,000 needed to complete all of this work. Please help if you can. Please also pray for this effort, that God's Will be done. May God reward you for your prayers.
Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
Christmas is coming, so we share some Christmas gift ideas with you. These and many more are available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA. Please see the website cfpholyangels.com Please call us at 260-739-6882 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. We regret that we do not publish a catalog.
Angel and Baby Ornament for Baby's First Year. Boy and Girl styles. 2.00
Christmas Card Featuring St. Francis, drawn by Sister Veronica of Jesus, CN. 4.95 for ten cards with envelopes
Saint Lucy Wheat Planting Kit. Plant Dec. 13. Contains wheat, peat pellet, instructions, St. Lucy prayer card. Bowl and infant Jesus not included. 75c