Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter Archives-- July 2014

Visitor's Vision

At the Well with Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know;we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4: 1-42)

Many of us have been in the situation of Jesus at the well. We get caught in the ultimate family feud. Something insignificant has happened and no one gives in. Things happened so long ago that we do not even know what they are and what everyone is fighting about, but no one is going to give in. The Samaritan woman remembers the feud. She says to Jesus, “Why are you asking for a drink of water from me? You know the rules. Samaritans do not talk to Jews.”

The Samaritans had turned to idol worship and entered into mixed marriages with pagans. They tried to come back to Israel, but the situation got complicated when the Israelites were sent into the Babylonian exile. When they returned to Israel, the two peoples had developed in different ways.

Do we practice love when someone is venting under so much anger? Do we offer an olive branch? Do I desire an olive branch, to come back into fellowship with you after you have offended me? After Jesus’ resurrection, the Samaritans came back into observance. Jesus drew every single person into a relationship with himself. He came to bring all people to God.

What is needed to receive others with love? We need to enter into great trust in God and have him handle our anger. Jesus got the Samaritan woman to know herself, and by recognizing herself to come to know God. We need to put words to our sacrifices. We need this before we come to our just Savior. We have sinfulness in ourselves. We have some big items to bring to Jesus. If we put words to our sinfulness, Jesus will heal us.

How did the woman feel when she just owned up to her sins? Jesus did not trim her down. He forgave her. The woman was engaged in promiscuity which is something celebrated today, unfortunately. The woman came to the well to draw water to comfort her thirst. She came at a time when no one else would see her. But Jesus was there. People come to Christ for comfort and conversion. We have received the living waters in baptism, and Jesus promised this woman living water. God offers us living water in the sacraments of the Church. We receive God himself in the Eucharist. Jesus gives all of himself for everyone. He comes to those who confess their sins. They receive the fruits of that confession, His Body and Blood. You already showed your faith in Jesus Christ when you come to church. The woman at the well believed Jesus. We believe what we have heard. Draw close to the well so you can be free and receive the living water that is Jesus. When you drink of Him you will not be thirsty again.

--Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

Following Francis, Following Christ

The Search for Rocca Paida: Knowing Who to Ask

In my research for this book on St. Francis, which I have been working on for almost ten years now (yes, it's about time to finish it and I'm still researching! Yikes!). I became intrigued with Rocca Paida, a formidable castle in the contado (district) of Assisi at the time of Saint Francis. Francis was often a guest in this castle and, before going up to visit its inhabitants, he would pray in a grotto in the cliff below the castle. Now it's a little disconcerting to imagine Francis, in his ragged clothes and devoted to poverty, going to a lavish castle and hob nobbing with the inhabitants. But Francis was a celebrity and the rich and important wanted to see and hear him. They had the means and the power to have things their own way, and Francis was obliged them. He went where he was invited and spoke about the kingdom of God. We must add, of course, that the rich and powerful had absolutely no advantage over the poor and down trodden regarding Francis' attention. He spent much time with the lowly and even the "scum" of the earth of his day, telling them about the kingdom of God. If anything, the lowly received more of his attention for he used to bathe their sores and exchange his tunic with them if the one he was wearing was better than theirs. You can rest assured that this exchange never happened at Rocca Paida.

I had been following clues in various sources to find Rocca Paida. And I searched googlemaps over and over again, trying to follow the clues to see this place. But I could not locate it exactly. It must have been the Holy Spirit Who led me to exactly the right person, Bret Thoman, who leads Franciscan Pilgrimages. Five of us Confraternity members went on a pilgrimage with Bret several years ago. Bret is a lay Franciscan and very knowledgeable about Assisi and St. Francis. I would encouage anyone who wants a true Franciscan pilgrimage (not a tour but a pilgrimage) to connect with Bret. You will be blessed indeed.

I've been corresponding with Bret about numerous tidbits regarding Francis and locations and he has been most helpful. So when I asked him about Rocca Paida, he told me that he was just a week or so away from conducting a walking pilgrimage in Assisi and he'd look for Rocca Paida for me. He had seen signs but had never been there. And find it he did, although he didn't go there himself. Bret went to a small town called San Giovanni, which Rocca Paida overlooked, and asked around. He met an elderly local man who pointed up Mount Subasio to a certain spot and who told Bret that was where Rocca Paida was. The castle is destroyed. All that is left is the foundation. Bret snapped a photo of the spot and emailed it to me.

To anyone else, this would look like a tree covered mountain with a flat, cleared out place to the left which had some sort of path cut through the trees going through it. Bret thought that was Rocca Paida's foundation but the man said no--it was below it and to the right. I went once again to googlemaps with a light heart. I had seen that clearing with the road going through it and found it on googlemaps. Sure enough, right there above San Giovanni. And then I looked at the photo again and saw what appeared to be a fruit orchard with fruit on the trees below the clearing. Below the clearing on googlemaps appeared to be a fruit orchard. Now, off to the right of the orchard and a bit above it but below the clearing was what appears, from googlemaps, to be a long stretch of rubble through which trees are growing. That must be, I think, Rocca Paida. All the clues match up down to the stream in the vicinity. And so, here it is.

Finding Rocca Paida was sobering. At the time of St. Francis, this was a flourshing castle of a prominent and powerful family. It was fairly new at the time--like a new house in which its owners take great pride. And now it's gone. Nothing left. So much for temporal power. Temporal possessions. Pride in what we own. Pride in who we control. All gone. I needed a fruit orchard and an old man and a younger one to find this. When we are searching for spiitual truths, as well as physical realities, who you know, who you consult, matters. People all over  the world are seeking happiness and meaning. Are they looking to the right person to give it to them? Jesus has all the answers, and He points to Himself for meaning and happiness. "I am the way and the truth and the life." He is no Rocca Paida, here and then gone. He is the eternal foundation there for the seeking, if only we know where to look. May finding Jesus be a lot easier than finding Rocca Paida. And may the Lord use you as the guide to point to Him.

Let us pray for one another and for all seeking penance worldwide.
Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Monthly Letter to All Penitents

The Value of a Confraternity Retreat

This year the Confraternity of Penitents will hold two retreats (we call them Retreat/Reunion/Conference Events). One will be outside of Buffalo NY at the end of July and the other about an hour outside of Memphis TN over Veterans' Day weekend in November. CFP members are well advised to try very hard to attend at least one of these get togethers.

What is the value of a CFP Retreat/Reunion/Conference? First, the spiritual value is outstanding as every retreat master addresses our spiritual journey. The Holy Spirit speaks to those on retreat through the talks and through the quiet meditative time booked into the retreat when one can reflect on what has been heard. Secondly, the retreats are a time to meet others in the CFP, to understand how varied we are in our personalities but how united in our faith and in our way of life. Members comment that meeting one another is better than a family reunion because we are all family and on the same page spiritually, which is often not the case with blood relatives. The Retreat/Reunion/Conference brings love of God and love of neighbor up close and personal. We learn from one another as well as from the talks given.

A Retreat/Reunion/Conference consists of quiet time and sharing time, of listening and reflecting, of laughter and sometimes of tears. It is a time to meet new penitents and to resume contact with ones you already know. It's a chance to see what that person on the other end of your email looks and sounds like! And it's a time to make space between you and the busy world that grabs so much of your attention. St. Francis and his friars used to go frequently to their hermitages to pray and reconnect with the Lord Who could get slighted in the busy round of preaching and service. The retreat is a time for you and the Lord, in the company of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here is some basic information:
 

CFP SUMMER Retreat, Reunion, Conference 2014

 

Retreat Master: Father George Nixon, Assistant Pastor, St. Philip Neri Church, Greenville RI

 

Wednesday, July 23 through Sunday, July 27, 2014

 

Christ the King Seminary, 711 Knox Road, East Aurora NY

 

$279 includes all meals, materials, lodging

Topic: The Seven Deadly Sins and The Virtues to Combat Them

Talk Titles

1) Eating with Reason: Gluttony and Temperance
2) Nothing but the Real Thing: Lust and Chastity
3) The Triumph of Mercy: Anger and Forgiveness
4) Treasure Troubles: Greed and Detachment
5) Good for the Jones': Envy and Gratitude
6) Coming Down to Earth: Vainglory and Humility
7) Tired of the Good: Sloth and Diligence
 

General schedule (Liturgy of the Hours and Mass daily starting Wed):

Wed night: Get to know you, orientation

Thurs: CFP Conference until supper

7 pm: Retreat begins (silence except in dining hall, designated areas)

Friday: Retreat day including all day and through the night Eucharistic Adoration

Saturday: Retreat continues including 6 hour hermitage day. Adoration continues until 5 p.m.
Saturday night: Evaluation, celebration of newly pledged members

Sunday:  6 a.m. Mass and then departure
 

CFP FALL Retreat, Reunion, Conference

November 7-10, 2014

Our Lady Queen of Peace Retreat Center, Stanton TN (1 hour from Memphis)

Retreat Master: Father David Mary Engo, Minister General, Franciscan Brothers Minor, Fort Wayne IN

Cost: $249 includes all meals, lodging, materials

Advance registration required. Space limited. Details forthcoming.


Whether or not you can come, please pray for those who will attend. May the Holy Spirit grant us each the graces He wishes us to have, at our retreats.

Let us pray for one another and for all doing penance worldwide,


Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Letter from One Who Serves the CFP

DISTORTIONS OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY

 We all know that the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity is not the easiest doctrine to comprehend.  While many individuals and even religious bodies simply deny the doctrine, from the early Church and down to the present, others have tried to cut it down so that it is more comprehensible to human reason.  It is hard for us limited human beings to wrap our minds around the Christian Doctrine that there is One God and yet Three Persons in this One God.  In Chapter 5 of Introduction to Christianity, Professor Joseph Ratzinger deals with some of these attempts.  In the light of what we have already said, the whole struggle of the first few centuries, with its many ramifications, can be traced back to the inadequacy of two paths, which had more and more to be recognized as dead ends:  Subordinationism and Monarchianism.  The starting point of the Doctrine of the Trinity is the Divinity of Christ.  Subordinationism denies the Divinity of Christ.  As Professor Ratzinger describes it:  God himself is only a single being; Christ is not God but only a being particularly close to God.  This removes the difficulty, but the consequence---as we explained at length a little earlier---is that man is cut off from God himself and confined, so to speak, to the antechamber.  God becomes a sort of constitutional monarch; faith deals, not with him, but only with his ministers.   Anyone who is not content with this, who really believes in the Lordship of God, in the “greatest” in the smallest, will have to hold fast to the belief that God is man, that the being of God and man intermingle, and will thus adopt with the belief in Christ the starting point of the doctrine of the Trinity.  This simplifying teaching, broadly classified as subordinationism, which denies Christ’s Divinity, saps the power from Christianity since so much of what we believe about Christ depends on His Divinity.  

Next, Professor Ratzinger describes the ideas of the Monarchians in the early Church.

…when God appears  as Son, who says “You” to the Father, it is not a play produced for man, not a masked ball on the stage of human history, but the expression of reality.   The idea of a divine show had been canvassed in the ancient Church by the Monarchians.  The three Persons, they maintained, were three “roles” in which God shows himself to us in the course of history.  Here it must be mentioned that the word persona and its Greek equivalent, prosopon, belong to the language of the theater.  They denoted the mask that made the actor into the embodiment of someone else.  It was as a result of considerations of this sort that the word was first introduced into the language of Christianity and so transformed by the Christian faith itself in the course of a severe struggle that out of the word arose the idea of the person, a notion alien to antiquity.  Of course, in current usage, the word “person” means much more than a role or mask.   

Professor Ratzinger then describes another variation in this idea.  Others---the so-called Modalists---thought that the three forms of God were three modi, ways, in which our consciousness perceives God and explains him to itself.  Although it is true that we only know God as he is reflected in human thought, the Christian faith held firmly to the view that in this reflection it is him that we know.  Even if we are not capable of breaking out of the narrow bounds of our consciousness, God can nevertheless break into this consciousness and show himself in it.  All the same, it need not be denied that the efforts of the Monarchians and Modalists resulted in noteworthy progress toward a correct conception of God; after all, the language of Christianity adopted the terminology they developed, and in the profession of faith in the three Persons in God it is still at work today.  That the word prosopon or persona could not at once express the whole scope of what there is to express here was not, after all, their fault.  The enlargement of the bounds of human thinking necessary to absorb intellectually the Christ experience of God did not come of its own accord.   It demanded a struggle, in which even error was fruitful; here it followed the basic law that everywhere governs the human mind in its advances.

Next, Professor Ratzinger describes a modern manifestation of Monarchianism in the philosophy of Hegel and Schelling--- the “historicization” of God.  …they reach the point where they no longer distinguish this process of the historical self-revelation of God from a God quietly resting in himself behind it all; instead, they now understand the process of history as the process of God himself.  The historical form of God, then, is the gradual self-realization of the divine; thus while history is the process of the logos, even the logos is only real as the process of history.  In other words, this means that it is only gradually in the course of history that the logos---the meaning of all being---brings itself forth to itself.  Thus the “historicization” of the doctrine of the Trinity, as contained in Monarchianism, now becomes the “historicization” of God.  This again signifies that meaning is no longer simply the creator of history; instead, history becomes the creator of meaning, and the later becomes its creation.  From this vantage point Karl Marx merely continued resolutely this line of thinking by asserting that if meaning does not precede man, then it lies in the future, which man himself must bring about by his own struggles.

As Professor Ratzinger points out, this “historicization” of God does away with the personal nature of God, as well as things which go with personhood such as freedom and love.  In addition, … the radical attempt to fathom the doctrine of the Trinity, the thoroughly logical approach that ends in the “historicization” of the logos itself and, with the comprehension of God, also wants to abolish mystery and comprehend the history of God, to construct it itself according to its own logic….  In contrast to this, Professor Ratzinger maintains:  The teaching of the Church, as it comes to us in the doctrine of the triune God , means at bottom renouncing any solution and remaining content with a mystery that cannot be plumbed by man.  In truth this profession of faith is the only real way to renounce the arrogance of “knowing all about it”, which makes smooth solutions with their false modesty so tempting.

There is still another manifestation of Monarchianism which is still with us today.  The history of Monarchianism also has another side to it that must at least be briefly mentioned here.  Even in its early Christian form and then again in its revival by Hegel and Marx, it has a decidedly political tinge; it is “political theology”.  In the ancient church it served the attempt to give the imperial monarchy a theological foundation; in Hegel it becomes the apotheosis of the Prussian state, and in Marx a program of action to secure a sound future for humanity.  Conversely, it could be shown how in the old church the victory of belief in the Trinity over Monarchianism signified a victory over the political abuse of theology: the ecclesiastical belief in the Trinity shattered the politically usable molds, destroyed the potentialities of theology as a political myth, and disowned the misuse of the Gospel to justify a political situation.

The heresies of the early Church and the early modern era are still with us today.  There are still many who try to show that a left or right wing political agenda is required by the Gospel and even theology.  However, if the one God truly is three persons and not just roles, modes of our perception, or historical processes, then God is the Lord whom we cannot simply manipulate to suit the desires and tastes of our times.  Let us listen to Professor Ratzinger as he tries to dissuade us from following “Christian” political programs which are often rooted in heresies which destroy the Christian faith.


--Jim Nugent, CFP

No Greater Love

Thoughts to a Newly Ordained Priest

You will have received many good wishes on the day of your ordination--and counsels, admonishments, and the rest. I have nothing to add to this, except for some words borrowed from others.

At the end of his 1980 presidential campaign Edward Kennedy seemed to have alluded to the almost Camusian moment of clarity, of lucidity, that follows a time of preparation, a time of anticipation, when he spoke of "someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down, and the crowds stop cheering, and the bands stop playing".

On that day after your ordination, you will awake in the silence of your heart to that silent voice that still asks, still offers the invitation and the promise. And in that still moment of infinite lucidity you will realise that the "yes" to Divine Love you uttered the day before was not a conclusion, not even an introduction. Rather, it was a definitive assent. A "yes" ratified in eternity, but one which requires constant renewal--each day, and at every moment. Your yes must be a dynamic reality, a living thing. This yes must take on life, and you for you part must make that life your own.

For in entering this state of life, you will be offering yourself as a sacrificial victim in union with the sacrifice of the Divine Victim in the very essence of His action: Sacrificial Love. And so now more than ever, your only purpose must be to love. And all the grand institutional machinery of the Church and the religious state has been erected for this sole purpose, to enable you to seize the opportunity and the unmerited privilege of loving: spending yourself in love, suffering with joy for love's sake. To serve, to give, to suffer, ultimately to die, and all this in order to love and be loved.

And this is easily transposed into the context of the Confraternity. Just as the "machinery of the Church and the religious state has been erected for this sole purpose" of enabling the newly ordained priest to love, so has the Confraternity's own machinery been created in order to enable each one of us to love: to love each one within, to love each one outside, and to love God.

The Confraternity is dispensible. No one needs it, no one is required to be a member of it. It exists in order to enable our love. For the one called to this life, the Confraternity is the path along which he or she will
enter into the life of Divine love. This is its purpose.

Such a principle of fraternal charity, of practical love, is seen throughout our Rule. It is the very basis of our life. In the reciprocity of Divine Love which is incarnated in our lives, and which must be especially, intensely incarnated in the life of a penitent, our practical love for each and EVERY one must be the impetus of all that we do, and concurrently the result of what we do. This is the circular reciprocity, the mystery, of Love: love begets love, love is simultaneously the result of that begetting. To put it in terms of causality (Aristotelian
metaphysics), Love must be both our efficient cause and our final cause.

If any part of this mechanism prevents us from loving, we are guilty of disintegration and disorder. And if we fail to use this mechanism to express this love, we have failed altogether.

One of the quotes I sent to the new priest were these words of Christ to St. Catherine of Sienna:

"You cannot render Me any service, but you can help your neighbour. The soul in love with My truth gives herself no rest but searches ceaselessly to help others. You cannot give back to me Myself the love I demand, but I have put you beside your neighbour so that you may do for him what you cannot do for Me. What you do for your neighbour, then I consider as being done for Me."

Love is heroic, but we must be witnesses that the heroic is ordinary, that it is the rule rather than the exception. We must be witnesses in deed that each moment can be saturated with the dynamic life of Divine Love. As St Josemaria said (one of the quotes I sent to the priest): "Let me stress this point: it is in the simplicity of your ordinary work, in the monotonous details of each day, that you have to find the secret, which is hidden from so many, of something great and new: Love."

The saints' lives were saturated with love, and we too easily assume that this is extraordinary. We take it for granted that a Mother Therese lives in destitution serving the untouchables of society. We take it for granted
that a Jesus sits at table with prostitutes and crooks, that he touches a leper. We take it, literally, for granted, because we are used to these tales in their lives. The anecdote takes on a facility which corrodes the exceptional love of the act. Love is not easy, it takes effort to say yes.

Mother Therese was quite comfortable as a Sister of Loreto, Francis was quite comfortable as the playboy son of a merchant, John Paul II wanted to be a contemplative Carmelite, Dominic was a revered Spanish Canon, and on, and on. The saints' lives each present such an example. But I have always been adament that the saints and their lives are only examples. Examples held out not as models to be slavishly impersonated; conversely, not as exceptional abberations. Rather, I see them as examples that it IS possible. That Divine Love is real, that it is truly possible to say yes. After all, why is the sinful woman so famous, or the woman at the well, or Saint Peter, or St Thomas, or St. John Paul II? Why? Because their very lives tell me that if a whore, a woman with a half dozen husbands, a block-head, and a cynic can all make it, then maybe I can too. And the last example in the list refutes the objection that those were ancient days and extraordinary cases, that such fairy tales can't happen now. The life of John Paul II (and he, again, is only one example) shows that even today a nobody, the son of an unknown, from a long line of unknowns, can look into the very face of our own present world, a world which during his own life and before his very eyes industrialised evil for the first time--the holocaust of Hitler, the progrom of Stalin, the subsidization of abortion by the state--that such a no-one can still, and in our own day, come out from behind an iron curtain and set the byways of the world on fire with love.

These are only examples, they are not exceptions. To make a saint an exception is to isolate them, to isolate the forces of Love in their lives, and to resign one's own responsibility--it is to deny that the same, the exact same force is present and available in our own lives. To say that the saint is somehow special or different from oneself, that they lived a hundred years ago and a thousand miles away, is to shirk and deny the reality that the same One is still here, and that He asks me the same question.

No, the saints are only different from you or I in that they are famous, because they are widely known. And I am not, of course, denying them veneration and love, etc. We love them, we venerate them, we respect them, we emulate them. And for good reason, because they help us, they encourage us, they intercede for us: they show us that it is really possible to love.

In the secular context, why do we love the rags to riches story, why do we fantasize about a Cinderella? Because such a legend helps us to believe, if only for a time, that maybe one day it could happen to us too.

Yes, we take for granted that Mother Therese rescues the babies of India, that Francis talks to birds in Italy, that Symeon prays for 37 years at the top of a pillar in Syria, and on and on.

They did not have to do this, there was nothing wrong with their original state, they could have stayed there. Nothing REQUIRED them to move; there was no fear of loss for staying, there was no hope for gain in leaving.

But in the same way, Love asks something more, without REQUIRING it. Like the examples above, it doesn't threaten damnation for saying no, it doesn't promise glory for saying yes. Instead we see only the natural result of our answer: that to say no to the invitation will bring as a result an isolation, a stagnation of life and ultimate death; that to say yes will bring as a result an opening up to infinity.

Robert Kennedy often quoted the words of Camus, asking "if you will not do this, then who will do this?" And I think Divine Love asks us the same thing.

I always remember the short exchange between Jesus and the Leper

And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed."(Matthew 8:2-3)

This is a most beautiful example of the 'yes' to Divine Love. He said, "I am willing".

When we idealise the experiences of the saints, we also diminish their value as examples. If Time magazine had never written of Mother Therese, would she have been less a saint? Would the love she showed be any less love? I say emphatically no. She would have been less famous to us, yes. But that was not her project. Her project was to love; and if we had never heard her name it would make no difference at all, because the love she showed would still live in the untouchable's heart, even if she had only ever helped one of them. But then yes we would be the poorer had we never heard her name, not because the language would have one less cliche, but because we would not have the example of her life to show us that love is real, that it is possible, and that it is possible for each of us. And if her body was not encased in gold and silver, would it be any less worthy of our respect? If you and I never kissed her picture or lit candles in front of it, her face would still shine with the radiancy of God's own face, in the light of the eternal day.

You see, love is charismatic, it is attractive. People are drawn to love, because it is open. Closed in upon oneself in the "brittle shell of one's own self-hood" the door is closed and locked, and the life of such a
person repels others from approaching. But love draws to itself, even if it is incarnated in a ragged old woman smoking a cigarette and drinking instant coffee in some out of the way town.

I remember another example like this. I remember a Sunday morning in July 2002. The charismatic love which illuminated a single man's life had attracted 800,000 people to an abandoned field in pouring rain. Many had slept all night in puddles. Many had walked miles and miles, some had flown from all over the world. And they all came--myself included--to see a single man. An old man, one who could no longer walk, one who drooled, one who could barely be understood while speaking, one who (after about an hour) could not even hold his own head up. Why would little less than a million people go through so much to see such a person. Why would a million young, attractive, energetic people want to see and hear such a person. Why would anyone want to be bothered with someone in a condition which, in the eyes of the world and the culture of death, classifies him as a piece of garbage, refuse to be discarded and removed from sight.

The answer, of course, is love. As with Christ, we loved John Paul II, and we love him still, because he first loved us.

--A CFP Life Pledged Member Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous

Reflections on the Rule

RULE:

18. Also in their ordinary conversations they will do their best to avoid oaths. And should anyone have sworn thoughtlessly through a slip of the tongue, as happens where there is much talking, he should the evening of the same day, when he is obliged to think over what he has done, say three Our Fathers in amends of such oaths. Let each member fortify his household to serve God.

CONSTITUTIONS:

18. In keeping with section 18 of this Rule:

18a. They are not to take oaths in ordinary conversations. 

18b. They are to watch their speech and, should they sin by speaking, they are to say, by evening of that same day, three Our Father's. 

18c. Let each member teach his or her household to love and serve God. 

18d. Let the members lovingly serve others outside their house-hold by participating, as much as obligations, time, finances, and health permit, in the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, following the guidance of God and their spiritual director. Let them serve all with the charity and mercy of Christ. The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are listed in Appendix D of these Constitutions. 

REFLECTION:

Sins of the tongue can be so harmful. Because of this, our Rule and Constitutions contain ways to deal with sins of the tongue. And they go beyond that as charity does not consist only of avoiding sins that offend charity. Charity consists of actions that bring love. The old saying that charity begins at home finds meaning in the Constitutions, which ask members to teach their household to serve God first and then neighbor. Hence, not only do penitents strive to refrain from sins of the tongue, but they also strive to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy which bring love to others.

Affiliate Action

Affiliates would do well to put into practice Section 18 of the Rule and Constitutions, if they truly want to advance in holiness. Refraining from sins of the tongue can be much more difficult than refraining from desirable foods. Moreover, one does not grow in holiness without works of charity toward one's neighbor. The spiritual and corporal works of mercy, which include praying for others and instructing them, flesh out the more commonly thought of means of service such as feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Most of us could use some restraining of our mouths and some more extensions of our thoughts and hands toward others. How are you doing in these areas?

Poetry

Elephant and Man

God made the elephants
God made the man
all along he taught us
we can do anything we can
put your faith above
a simple prayer of love
the impossible is here
one prayer, one cheer.

--Joseph Matose, IV, CFP Affiliate

Virtues Portrayed in the San Damiano Crucifix

Dynamism

The San Damiano Crucific portrays the dynamism of faith. Note the activity portrayed on the crucifix. The angels whisper to one another about the salvation taking place. The saving blood spurts from the wounds of Christ. Christ is actively gazing at those who gaze at him. The figures under the cross point to the Lord and share their thoughts about Him. Above the crucifix, Christ ascends to the Father while the Father's hand extends in blessing and welcome. Our faith needs to be alive and active. Our faith must respond to what we know and what Christ taught. This is done by sharing the faith, as those portrayed show. May the dynamism in the San Damiano Crucifix surge through our life and bring us to evangelize the world we meet.

Saint of the Month

Saint Mary-Magdalen Postel (1756-1846)

Born Julie Francois Catherine Posel in the small French port of Barfleur, the future Saint Mary-Magdalen was educated in a local school and then in a Benedictine convent. Here she made a private vow of virginity, desiring to commit herself to God's service. Although the nuns urged her to continue as a postulant once she reached the age of eighteen, Julie knew this was not her vocation. She returned to her home town and there opened a school for girls.

The French Revolution of 1789 caused the church to pass into the hands of the constitutional clergy whom Julie refused to recognize. Instead, she created a secret chapel under her house where clergy faithful to the Catholic faith could say Mass and where the Blessed Sacrament was reposed. The priests allowed her to bring Communion to the sick.

In 1798, Julie became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis. After the concordat of 1801, she worked for four years to rebuild the faith the people and to restore a proper parish life through her teaching, preparing children and adults for the sacraments, and organizing works of mercy. When some difficulties developed, she moved to another town where teachers were needed. There she explained to a local priest,"I want to teach the young and to inspire them with the love of God and a liking for work. I want to help the poor and relieve some of their misery. These are the things I want to do, and for long I have seen that I must have a religious Congregation to do it."

The priest, supportive of these goals, found a house which Julie dedicated to Our Lady, Mother of Mercy. Three other teachers joined her and, in 1807, the women made religious vows, Julie taking the name Mary-Magdalen. Within three years, they were educating 200 girls, teaching them religion and handicrafts, rescuing others from the streets, and giving large sums of money to help the poor.

In 1811, the sisters left the town so that the Sisters of Providence, who had worked there before, could return. For a few years they failed to find a home and, at one time, matters became so desperate that their priest advisor suggested they disband. Mary-Magdalen replied, "I am so certain that Our Lord wants me to succeed in achieving my dreams that I shall not cease pursuing them with the greatest ardour. He who has given my daughters to me and who watches over the birds of the air can easily provide me with the means to support them."

After two more years of extreme poverty, the women were able to settle in Tamerville and open a school. By 1832 the community had increased so that the women took over a run down abbey. In 1837, the authorities in Rome required the women to replace the Rule that they had lived for 28 years with the approved Rule for the Brothers of the Christian Schools. So the women took the name the Sisters of the Christian Schools of Mercy. Expansion continued. The abbey was rebuilt. The number of sisters and schools increased. When Mary-Magdalen died on July 16, 1846, the Order had 150 sisters in 37 houses. The Order expanded their charity into caring for the poor and elderly as well as teaching. Their Constitution received final approval in 1925, the year of Mary-Magdalen's canonization.

Saint Mary-Magdalen Postel, pray for us.

Quote from Scripture:

"But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck." (Mark 9:42)

These words from Jesus seem especially harsh because they imply the value of a soul and the horror of sin. We can consider a possible converse statement. "But if you cause one of these little ones who do not believe in me to cme to faith and believe, you will receive a heavenly reward." Jesus did not say these exact words but He said something like them:  And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." (Mark 16: 15-16) 

Saint Mary Magdalen Postel wanted to save the souls of all children. She wanted to bring each one to faith in God and to acting upon God's Will. Her own faith and trust in God were the basis of her actions and her evangelization. May she inspire us to bring God's word to the children in our lives, no matter what their age.

Saint Mary-Magdalen Postel

Quote from a Saint

"I go to the end of the world to win a soul to God." -- Saint Mary-Magdalen Postel

Do we view souls with the same love as St. Mary-Magdalen Postel? Her statement indicates how strong was her faith in salvation and damnation. She had a strong sense of God's justice as well as His mercy. She also had a deep understanding of the need for evangelization. In our present day when faith is so maligned in many areas, we do well to ponder this saint's words. "I go to the end of the world to win a soul to God." Would we go across the street? Lord, open our eyes and let us see how much we could do for You and for souls!

Happy Birthday to:

Saundra H 7/2

Jeournice B 7/3

Gail B 7/3

Clara L 7/6

Jason S 7/12

Raymond N 7/13

Mary Louise G 7/14

Angela H 7/16

Robert J 7/21

Thomas S 7/21

Gil M 7/22

Jesse P 7/24

Tamara R 7/30

Humor

Ten Good Insights For Life!

 

 1] Prayer is not a "spare wheel" that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a "steering wheel" that directs the right path throughout the journey.

 

 2] So why is a Car's WINDSHIELD so large & the Rear View Mirror so small? Because our PAST is not as important as our FUTURE. So, Look Ahead and Move on.

 

 3] Friendship is like a BOOK. It takes a few minutes to burn, but it takes years to write.

 

 4] All things in life are temporary. If going well, enjoy it, they will not last forever. If going wrong, don't worry, they can't last long either.

 

 5] Old Friends are Gold! New Friends are Diamond! If you get a Diamond, don't forget the Gold! Because to hold a Diamond, you always need a Base of Gold!

 

 6] Often when we lose hope and think this is the end, GOD smiles from above and says, "Relax, sweetheart, it's just a bend, not the end!

 

 7] When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn't solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.

 

  8] A blind person asked St. Anthony: "Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?" He replied: "Yes, losing your vision!"

 

  9] When you pray for others, God listens to you and blesses them, and sometimes, when you are safe and happy, remember that someone has prayed for you.

 

 10] WORRYING does not take away tomorrow's TROUBLES, it takes away today's PEACE.

Confraternity Photo Album

Spring Clean Up Days at the Confraternity of Penitents headquarters. Cleanup of brush and trash in the wooded area by the hermitage. Grass will eventually be planted in the cleared out areas. We thank the CFP members and other volunteers who came out three Saturdays in a row to begin the grounds clean up. More needs to be done, but it may have to wait until the hotter months are over.

CFP Inquirer Ricardo, hard at work.

CFP Friend Dexter removing trash.

CFP Affiliate Andy brought his tractor and supervised the clean up. Andy, we could not have done it without you!

Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop

The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop has many fine religious items, the proceeds from which go to support the Confraternity of Penitents. Some featured items for this month are shown below.

Franciscan Prayers: 3/95

The St. Francis Prayer Book: 14.99

The St. Clare Prayer Book--$14.99

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

 

Visit our on line Religious Book and Gift Shop, CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop  www.cfpholyangels.com

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