2015 July Newsletter
The Joys of a Life of Penance
My joy could not be more for you this day, Patrick, and not only for you and the Confraternity of Penitents but, indeed, for the Church. And is it not the providence of God that we have this beautiful ceremony on the day when we we have glorious readings for Franciscans? I mean, really? Do I have to preach?
The first reading is about the thorn in the side. Saint Paul wrote, "Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me." And no, Franciscans are not the thorn in the side of the Church, although sometimes they might think they are. That thorn in the side is our desires, our inordinate passions, our concupiscence. This beautiful life of self-denial, this beautiful life of living the way of St. Francis, is the remedy to the thorn. When the Lord says “My grace is sufficient for you,” what does he mean? He means that through this beautiful life of sacrifice and of penance, the grace that you receive is the very remedy for the thorn. And it is the remedy for sin itself. For it is in denying yourself that the Lord gives you the grace to master yourself, to master your passions, and so become as God has created you to be. That is ultimately what this is about.
Patrick, this pledge that you make is a particular way of life that helps you become who God created you to be. You said, before we walked in here, that you really thought that God has been calling you to this, and we agree! We think God has been calling you to this because in this life, not only will you grow in holiness, but the Church will also resound because the more people who live this way of life, the more people who live the life of penance, the life of prayer, the life of sacrifice, the greater conduit they become for grace to flow into the Church so souls can be saved. Most especially yours, right? But then also, other souls of the Church.
And then of course we come the Gospel verse, that beautiful verse in between the two alleluia’s. “Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich so that by his poverty, we might become rich.” In fact, that is the mystery of the Franciscan life. It is a giving up of everything the world supposedly has to offer that we gain more than the world could ever offer. Because it is just in giving up everything that the world offers that we gain the greatest experience of the Lord and Savior, this is how we gain trust in God and not only trust in God but also the ability to live out that life in freedom and to show the world what it is that Christ beckons them to. Out of the worldliness, out of the cares, so that we might live the Gospel, so that we might have no more worries. The world has so many worries.
One thing that I love about the Confraternity of Penitents is the uniform. You know--the uniform! The dress restrictions, right? I just think they are a great idea! As someone who wears a uniform, I know what a blessing that is! When you wake up in the morning, there is no anxiety! What should I wear? Is this appropriate? Whatever it is, there is no question. For me it is even simpler. Black or black. That’s it. I know you have a couple of variations. But regardless, it is beautiful. When we get rid of the things of the world, we do not have to worry as the world worries. And that is my prayer for you, Patrick, that as you continue to deepen your life in this beautiful pledge, and this beautiful way of life of the Confraternity of Penitents, that the worries of the world pass away and the worries of God become your worries. That is the goal. Take on the worries of God.
And what is the worry of God? God thirst for souls. He thirsts for you and for every single person on this earth. He cares not for food or for drink or for clothing. He cares for the hearts of men. And my wish for you is that your hope might be his hope, hopefully through your sacrifices and offering those for the sake of the whole world, that many more hearts might be his, that many more hearts might come to know him, love him and serve him. For that is what truly satisfies the heart, the love of God. That is the only thing that will bring happiness to the heart.
And so the readings could not be more perfect except for this, and this puts the cherry on top. Today is Saturday and today is a day dedicated to the Blessed Mother. And that makes today so perfect. Francis knew this charism of poverty so well, but Francis himself would say that he only falls in the shadow of the Blessed Mother, following after her. And though I ask you to follow after her on this day of the Blessed Mother, I ask you to do it every day. When I thought of this beautiful pledging ceremony, I thought of seven ways that the Blessed Mother can teach you what it is to live the Rule of the Confraternity.
The first is something that you have already done. You have received the call. The Angel Gabriel came to her and she did not shy away or run away. She listened. I think that is the first thing that you can learn from the Blessed Mother. The angel of God will come to you in many different forms, many different disguises, but however he comes, you must listen. Continuously listen to the word of God especially in Holy Scripture. The tradition of the Church says that is what Our Lady was doing when the angel came to her. She was studying the word of God. And so I hope that you study the word of God often so you, like her, might be ready to receive the call to do whatever it is he asks of you in your life.
The second thing is obedience to the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Mother is the spouse of the Spirit. When called upon by the Holy Spirit to take on this great task of bearing Christ to the world, she obeyed. I hope that you have that obedience as well, that you might bear Christ to the world and that her words might be yours, “Let it be done unto me according to Thy word.” May you not only meditate on the word of God but may you, more and more each day, seek to practice it, to bring the word of God into the world.
Thirdly, you might not be surprised if I point this out, but her poverty of life. She left all. She left all. She embraced not only poverty in physical things but most especially poverty in those emotional things. She gave up her good name. She gave up her credibility in the eyes of the world. She gave up caring about what people might think of her, all for the sake of God. For when she received our Lord, she did so in a precarious situation. How many people do you think believed her? “I’m pregnant, but it’s by the Holy Spirit.” “Mmm hmm, Mary.” Do you think she was free from judging eyes, from gossiping lips? In this life, you will be judged as well. You will look different. You will act different. You will live different in because you have accepted Jesus Christ radically into your life. Poverty of life. Not just poverty from material things but poverty in the way you live, and your life is not your own. So live it well, knowing that if you bear Christ, you will have a beautiful relationship with Christ. Fear not. Trudge out into the world . No gossiping lips will harm you. No judgmental stares will distract you for Christ is in your midst.
Number four. The Blessed Mother teaches us to avoid all evil. When the Holy Family fled into Egypt, what were they fleeing? Herod, right? They were fleeing from persecution. They were fleeing from evil. They were fleeing in the sense that they wanted Christ to dwell in their life. Guard your life, Patrick, so that the Lord might grow. This day the Lord is going to come into your life in a very special way and so you must guard this life. You must make sure that you flee from the world, in a sense. Do not allow the allurements of the world or the dangers to come in and to tarnish this way of life. Pray to St. Joseph who protected the Holy Family. May he protect this beautiful life of a pledged member of the Confraternity.
Number five. Intercede for those who are in danger. In this life you will encounter those who do not realize the beauty of your life and do not realize that they themselves need to live this life, and do not realize that they need to draw away from the world. And so intercede for them just like the Blessed Mother did at Cana. The bride and groom were most especially in need of joy which wine symbolizes in the Gospel. Be like the Blessed Mother and go to Christ our Savior and intercede for the world. This pledge is not just for yourself. It is for the Church, for all of the people of the world. Intercede for them. Offer up your sacrifices so that the world might have joy, which consists in drawing away from the world towards Christ.
Number six. Suffer for the sake of the world as Our Lady did at the base of the cross. How often you suffer in this life! You will suffer because of poverty. You will suffer because of want. You will suffer because of so many things, but in your recognition that God is more important, you take the sufferings and turn them into joy. May you offer those sufferings up so that the world might know the joy of the Gospel.
And last. Remember that all of these events in the Blessed Mother’s life led to her coronation in heaven. Remember that this life that you lead ultimately has a promise. And the promise of eternal happiness with the Lord is for ever. St. Paul says, “So run the race so as to win the crown.” So follow after the Blessed Mother and long for a crown like hers, a crown of humility and majesty, a crown of sorrow but of joy, a crown that brings you closer to our Lord and Savior. May this day be a day of joy for us all. May Mary, the Mother of us all, intercede for you today, Patrick, as you take on this beautiful life for yourself and for the Church.
--Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents
Monthly Letter to All Penitents
The Confraternity of Penitents Positon on Human Sexuality
The recent Supreme Court decision legalizing homosexual marriages has many Christians wondering what is going to come next. We take this time to affirm the Confraternity of Penitents position regarding chastity, marriage, and procreation.
The Confraternity of Penitents affirms that God created men and women for specific purposes and that each human being, trusting in God’s wisdom, must embrace the gender that God created in that person because God does not make mistakes. While society may assign certain traits as masculine or feminine, who are we to say that God has to create every human being in a stereo typical image determined by human beings themselves? God’s wisdom is far greater than our own, and, in our humility, we are called to accept each person, including ourselves, as God created each one. Therefore, transgendered individuals who wish to enter the Confraternity of Penitents must show evidence of their conversion to God’s Will by living the gender which God created for them, irrespective of whatever changes surgery may have made to their bodies. To live the opposite gender to their biological gender is to say that God's gender choice for them was wrong and that they know what is good for them more than God does. This is not the attitude of a penitent who strives to affirm that God's Will and Wisdom far surpasses that of humanity.
It is evident from nature that sexuality was created by God as a means of procreating the species. The natural means of procreation must be embraced by all people claiming to follow God’s will. This means that every act of sexuality must be open to the creation of life. Those using artificial means of birth control must find natural ways to space their children if they wish to be penitents. No one who has embraced the life of penance can then choose surgical sterility as a means of family-planning, although removal of certain organs due to disease rather than choice, even if this causes sterility, may be necessary and, therefore, acceptable. Furthermore, any man or woman who is involved in a sexual, but nonmarital, relationship must embrace chastity before entering a life of penance. Penance means that the person is converted to the will of God which, as the Church teaches, is nonsexual chastity for the unmarried.
The Church recognizes the sacrament of matrimony as being only between one man of original biological gender and one woman of original biological gender who, together, have the potential to procreate children. A man or woman who is sterile by nature, accident, or disease, or who has, at a prior time, been humanly sterilized, can be in a legitimate marital union if he or she remains open to life, no matter how improbable procreation may be for them.
Men may live with men, and women may live with women, as friends and apartment mates as long as each remains chaste. Unmarried men and women, even if chastely living together, give the appearance of scandal, as onlookers assume that sexual relations are taking place. Therefore, such living arrangements are not allowed for penitents.
Penitents must remember that refraining from sexual relations, when the Church would not approve of them, is both possible and profitable as well as moral. To decide to engage in sexual relations above God's law as clarified by the the Church is to put one's will above God's. This is not the attitude of a penitent who is called to practice self restraint and self discipline in many areas and who is to be following ALL the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church including those on sexuality.
The Confraternity of Penitents remains open to all people who wish to do penance, that is who wish to be converted to God’s Will. It is essential that penitents recognize the difference between God’s Will as explained by the Church and what society determines is legally permitted, preferable, or normal by modern standards. Society's standards may change, but God's standards do not. God's standards are not outdated. On the contrary, they are far wiser than human license ever can be. The bottom line is that God has the perfect plan for humanity, and that plan is based on self restraint and putting the other first. To engage in sexual relationships without committment to the other and/or without an openness to the procreative purpose of sexuality, is to substitute human ideas for God’s.
--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Letter from One Who Serves the CFP
THE LAW OF DISGUISE
In the course of discussing Christianity in Part II of Introduction to Christianity, Professor Ratzinger next discusses an important aspect of Christianity which he calls the “Law of Disguise”. The fact that “for” is to be regarded as the decisive principle of human existence, and in coinciding with the principle of love becomes the real point at which the divine manifests itself in the world, brings a further consequence with it. It has the result that the “entire-otherness” of God, which man can figure out for himself, becomes total dissimilarity, the complete unknowability of God. It means that the hidden quality of God, on which man counts, assumes the scandalous form of his palpability and visibility as the Crucified One. While God is all powerful, all loving, and all good, He manifests Himself to us in “disguised” form as the Crucified Savior. This, of course, is not what we expect from God. Could He have not saved us in a different way?
Professor Ratzinger explains this further: To put it in another way, the result is that God, the first principle, the Alpha of the world, appears as the Omega, the last letter in the alphabet of creation, as the lowliest creature in it. Luther speaks in this connection of God being hidden sub contrario, that is, in what seems to be the opposite of God. He thereby emphasizes the peculiarity of the Christian form of negative theology, the form determined by the Cross, as opposed to the negative theology of philosophical thinking.
The “negative theology” of philosophy can easily speak of the greatness and magnificence of God which we cannot, as humans, grasp, but we do not see any of that when we look at a Crucifix. When we look at a Crucifix, we see God in a way which many cannot stomach. The Crucifix is the very opposite of the God of might and greatness.
Here, Professor Ratzinger says more about the contrast between human philosophy and Christianity. Even philosophy, man’s own reflection on God, leads to the realization that God is the entirely Other, the absolutely hidden and incomparable. “As blind as the eyes of night birds”, Aristotle had already said, “are our eyes before what is in itself the very brightest thing of all.” In fact, on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ, we shall reply: “God is the entirely other, invisible, unrecognizable. But when he really did appear upon the scene, so other, so invisible in regard to his divinity, so unrecognizable, it was not the kind of otherness and strangeness that we had foreseen and expected, and he thus remained unrecognized. But should not that in itself prove him to be the really entirely Other, the one who casts overboard our notions of otherness and thereby show himself to be the only one who genuinely is entirely other?” Is it so unreasonable to expect that God does not conform to our puny expectations of Him? Why can’t the Real God show us what real greatness is? This is why many reject Christianity. They cannot see how God could be so different from our expectations of Him.
Next Professor Ratzinger explains further God’s “double mode” of revelation as majesty and power, and as smallness, weakness, and insignificance. All through the Bible one can find again and again the notion of God’s double mode of appearing in the world. God affirms his presence, first of all, of course, in the cosmic power. Its greatness, the logos of the world that surpasses all our thinking and yet encompasses it, points to him whose thought this world is; to whom, before whom the peoples are like a “drop from the bucket”, like “dust on the scales” (Is 40:15). There really is such a thing as the reference of the universe to its creator. However much we may rebel against proofs of the existence of God and whatever objections philosophical reflection may justifiably make to individual steps in the arguments, the fact remains that the radiance of the original creative idea and of its power to build does shimmer through the world and its intelligible structure. Decades after Professor Ratzinger wrote these words (the mid to late 1960’s) the “Intelligent Design” movement arose among scientists to show how the Glory of God shines in His creation. Opponents of this movement pick possible errors and weaknesses in the arguments. However, no one can show how life, or even a universe capable of supporting life, could arise by blind processes driven by the laws of nature. It seems as if new scientific knowledge can lead to arrogant pride over what humanity can accomplish or humble worship of a God who is greater than we ever could imagine in the past.
Professor Ratzinger then describes the other mode of God’s manifestation. But this is only one way in which God appears in the world. The other sign that he has adopted and that, by concealing him more, shows more truly his intrinsic nature, is the sign of the lowly, which, measured cosmically, quantitatively, is completely insignificant, actually a pure nothing. One could cite in this connection the series Earth-Israel-Nazareth-Cross-Church, in which God seems to keep disappearing more and more and, precisely in this way, becomes more and more manifest as himself. First there is the Earth, a mere nothing in the cosmos, which was to be the point of divine activity in the cosmos. Then comes Israel, a cipher among the powers, which was to be the point of his appearance in the world. Then comes Nazareth, again a cipher within Israel, which was to be the point of his definitive arrival. Then at the end there is the Cross, on which a man was to hang, a man whose life had been a failure; yet this was to be the point at which one can actually touch God. Finally there is the Church, the questionable shape of our history, which claims to be the abiding site of his revelation. We know today only too well how little, even in her, the hiddenness of the divine presence is abolished. Thus, we can see how God continually appears in the world as a cipher or hidden and seemingly insignificant code. The greatness and glory of God, as manifested in His creation, is contrasted with the lowliness of His appearance in human history. Above all, this contract is manifested in the Church, which is far from being exclusively populated with saintly individuals. The weaknesses and deficiencies of Church members often veil the Church’s relationship to Jesus Christ as the bride of Christ.
On the other hand, Professor Ratzinger explains why this is the way it should be. Precisely when the Church believed, in all the glory of the Renaissance princedom, that she could cast off this hiddenness and be directly the “gate of heaven”, the “house of God”, she became once again, and almost more than before, God’s disguise, with God scarcely to be found behind it. Thus what is the small by a cosmic or even worldly scale represents the real sign of God wherein the entirely Other shows itself, which even in relation to our expectations is once again the completely unrecognizable. The cosmic Nothing is the true All, because “for” is the really divine thing. Is it possible that a God who is more than just majesty, power, and grandeur, but is also love needs a “disguise” sometimes in order to manifest love? The real God who really loves us has to enter the world in disguised form for His Love to reach us. Of course, this makes it possible for us to reject His Love. However, for those who are open to His Love St. Paul tells us “But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,’” (1 Cor 2:9). It is easy to obey out of fear the God of majesty and power. However, the “disguised” God of love requires our love. Many canonized and uncanonized saints throughout history have taken the required step.
It seems that God has placed before us two possible ways for us to go. We can go toward Him or away from Him. We are not forced to take either path. We have to choose. God’s “disguise” forces us to choose.
--Jim Nugent, CFP
No Greater Love
A Nation of Heretics
A Catholic columnist named Ross Douthat wrote a book called "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics."
Overall, the book is like taking a drink from a fire hose of facts about American culture and content up to the present day. Overall, it is valuable to become acquainted with what we face in today's culture. In the final analysis, I believe that it helps prepare us for inevitable discussions.
I found one passage particularly note-worthy -- no surprise, it's about our favorite Jewish Carpenter himself. A close second would be the entire chapter analyzing the heresy of "The God Within" a-la Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Eat, Pray, Love' Oprah-friendly drivel.
Here is one of the better parts (from pages 152-154):
"Christianity is a paradoxical religion because the Jew of Nazareth is a paradoxical character. No figure in history or fiction contains as many multitudes as the New Testament's Jesus. He's a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine at weddings. He's an apocalyptic prophet one moment, a wise ethicist the next. He's a fierce critic of Jewish religious law who insists that he's actually fulfilling rather than subverting it. He preaches a reversal of every social hierarchy while deliberately avoiding explicitly political claims. He promises to set parents against children and then disallows divorce; he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts. He makes wild claims about his own relationship to God, and perhaps his own divinity, without displaying any of the usual signs of megalomania or madness. He can be egalitarian and hierarchical, gentle and impatient, extraordinarily charitable and extraordinarily judgmental. He sets impossible standards and then forgives the worst of sinners. He blesses the peacemakers and then promises the he's brought not peace but a sword. He's superhuman one moment; the next he's weeping. And of course the accounts of his resurrection only heighten these paradoxes, by introducing a post-crucifixion Jesus who is somehow neither a resuscitated body nor a flitting ghost but something even stranger still -- a being at once fleshly and supernatural, recognizable and transfigured, bearing the wounds of the crucifixion even as he passes easily through walls.
The boast of Christian orthodoxy, as codified by the councils of the early Church and expounded in the Creeds, has always been its fidelity to THE WHOLE OF JESUS. Its dogmas and definitions seek to encompass the seeming contradictions in the gospel narratives rather than evading them. Was he God or was he man? BOTH, says orthodoxy. Is the kingdom he preached something to be lived out in this world or something to be expected in the next? BOTH. Did he offer a blueprint for moral conduct or a call to spiritual enlightenment? BOTH. Did he mean to fulfill Judaism among the Jews, or to convert the Gentile world? BOTH. Was he the bloodied Man of Sorrows of Mel Gibson; the hippie, lilies-of-the-field Jesus of Godspell; or the wise moralist beloved by Victorian liberal? ALL OF THEM AND MORE...
The goal of the great heresies, on the other hand, has often been to extract from the tensions of the gospel narratives a more consistent, stream-lined, and noncontradictory Jesus. For the Marcionites in the second century, this meant a merciful Jesus with no connection to the vengeful Hebrew God; for their rivals the Ebionites, it meant a Jesus who Judaism required would-be followers to become observant Jews themselves. For the various apocalyptic sects that have dotted Christian history, this has meant a Jesus whose only real concern was the imminent end-times; for modern Christians seeking a more secular, this-worldly religion, it's meant a Jesus who was mainly a moralist and social critic, with no real interest in eschatology.
These simplifications have usually required telling a somewhat different story about Jesus than the one told across the books of the New Testament. Sometimes this retelling has involved thinning out the Christian canon, eliminating tensions by subtracting them [my own comment, think of Luther and the Reformers removing 7 books from the OT canon!]. Sometimes it's been achieved by combining the four gospels into one, smoothing out their seeming contradictions in the process. More often, though, it's been achieved by straightforwardly rewriting or even inventing crucial portions of the New Testament account, as the Gospel of Judas' authors did, to make them offer up a smoother, more palatable, and more straightforward theology.
America's heretics have taken all of these approaches...."
Overall, a good read.
Yours, in the Mystical Body of Christ Jesus, along with Mary and St. Joseph,
your little brother,
Eric Welch, Alessandro Ministry
Following Francis, Following Christ
God’s Closed Door and Blocked Path
As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily. They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. (Acts 16: 4-10)
When God closes a door, He opens a window. So said the Mother Superior to Maria in the Sound of Music. The quote seems to be a paraphrase of Alexander Graham Bell's observation “When one door closes, another door opens.” We may have experienced the truth of this in our own lives, and St. Francis certainly did as well.
In the Scripture quote from the Book of Acts, Paul thought it would be good to evangelize certain areas, but God prevented him from going there. Had Paul followed his own ideas regarding mission territory, he would have been too far away from Macedonia to bring the message to the people who wanted to hear it. Oh, he could have gotten to Macedonia eventually, but maybe the timing would have been wrong or someone no longer around who was to hear the Good News.
God has the perfect plan. We see in the life of St. Francis that he understood, eventually, that God knew what he was about. Francis tried twice to visit the Muslims and preach the gospel, and both times his journey was thwarted. On the third attempt, he was able to visit, in Egypt,the Sultan who was a man seeking the truth and who respected other faiths. Although Francis did not convert the Sultan, he and the Sultan became friends and prayed for one another.
Francis learned that his friars should go where God wanted them to go, which is why he would take them to a crossroads and have them spin around until they fell down. Whatever direction their heads were pointing was the direction they would go in order to preach. This seems like a childish way of discerning God’s will, but it was Francis’s way of saying that he preferred to give the Lord full control over the preaching missions rather than following his own ideas.
Francis’s first Rule, which contains many beautiful passages of Scripture, was not accepted by the Pope. Friar Elias lost the first copy of the second Rule so Francis had to rewrite it. When that Rule was accepted, some of the parts which had been closest to Francis’s heart had been eliminated. Since the Pope accepted the second Rule, Francis accepted it as well, trusting that God was bringing his perfect plan to completion through that Rule of 1223. And, indeed, that Rule has been the basis for all of the Franciscan Friars’ Rules from 1223 to the present time.
When we face a closed-door or a blocked path, we are confused and often are angry with God. We question what is happening. But if we trust in God’s perfect plan, we will look back upon that disappointment and see where it led us. We will also understand how, had the disappointment not occurred, we would have been on a different path. God uses blocked paths to redirect us into His perfect Will. He teaches us patience and surrender to His wisdom while driving home the message that our plans are fallible because we are not God. When we can look at a closed-door or a blocked path as an opportunity to move more securely into the Will of God, then we will cease to react as if we were facing an obstacle. We are facing an opportunity, not an obstacle.
If your path is blocked or the door has been closed, ask God to show you what opportunity he is opening up for you. It will be there.
Let us pray for one another and for all doing penance worldwide. Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Reflection on the Rule
30. After these particulars are complied with, when the year is up and he seems suitable to them, let him on the advice of some discreet brothers be received on this condition: that he promise he will all the time of his life observe everything here written, or to be written or abated on the advice of the brothers, unless on occasion there be a valid dispensation by the ministers; and that he will, when called upon by the ministers, render satisfaction as the Visitor shall ordain if he have done anything contrary to this condition. And this promise is to be put in writing then and there by a public notary. Even so nobody is to be received otherwise, unless in consideration of the estate and rank of the person it shall seem advisable to the ministers.
30. In keeping with section 30 of the Rule:
30a. After these particulars are complied with and the year of postulancy and three years of novice formation have elapsed, if those novices seem suitable to the ministers of their Chapter or Circles, let them be received on this condition-that they pledge that they will observe everything here written, or to be written or changed on the advice of the ruling body of the Confraternity, unless on occasion there be a valid dispensation by the ministers or Visitors or their own personal spiritual directors; and that they will, when called upon by the ministers, render satisfaction as the Visitor shall ordain if they have done anything contrary to this condition.
30b. Penitents may pledge to live the Rule for life or for a year. Yearly pledges are to be renewed annually and may be changed at any time to a lifetime pledge.
30c. All pledges are to be put in writing then and there and signed by the penitent and also by the minister and the spiritual assistant. Nobody is to be received otherwise.
This section of the Rule, while short, has several critical elements to it. First it indicates that the original fraternity consisted of men, called brothers in the Rule, and supports the thesis that the original penitents were members of various workmen’s guilds, particularly merchant or craft occupations. The original Rule underlines the importance of a lifetime commitment to the penitential way of life and also indicates that the person being accepted has received the approval of the leaders and the Church Visitor. The acceptance is a legally binding document because it is notarized. The original penitents took this way of life very seriously.
The Constitutions were written to bring the Rule of 1221 into the modern world. They require a longer formation period than the original penitents had. This is because our modern lifestyle is farther away from the life of penance than was the life style 800 years ago. Today it takes more time to adjust one’s life to live in a more penitential manner now than it did when the original Rule was written. Because many people today have difficulty making commitments, the year pledge is an option for penitents. This gives penitents a chance to live the rule for a year before deciding to live it for life. Some people need this year to complete their discernment. Penitents today write out and sign their pledge in the presence of witnesses, just as the early penitents did. Moreover everyone completes the formation program before pledging, in keeping with the early penitents who also had to undergo formation prior to their pledge.
While affiliates do not pledge to live the Rule, they do become affiliates through the agreement and acceptance of the leaders of the Confraternity. They may, at any time, apply for full membership in the Confraternity. In the meantime, affiliates should recognize the seriousness of this way of life for the penitents, and the importance of their own commitment to support the Confraternity with their presence and prayers.
Virtues Portrayed in the San Damiano Crucifix
While the horrid events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ march onward, unable to be stopped by Peter's desperate attack with his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane or by Pilate's attempts to dissuade the crowd from their intent, Christ remains assured that all is happening just as the Lord permits. He appears assured on the San Damiano Crucifix, dying and yet secure in the knowledge that God and not humanity is in control. As the world continues to spin out of God's moral sphere, we, too, need to hold onto the assurance that nothing is happening without God's permission and that God can bring good out of evil, exactly as he did on Calvary.
Saint of the Month
Saint John Fisher (c. 19 October 1469 – 22 June 1535)
The oldest son of a moderately prosperous British merchant, John Fisher studied at the University of Cambridge and received a papal dispensation to enter the priesthood earlier than was canonically allowed, thus becoming a priest at the age of 22.
His intelligence and faith were widely recognized and he became a doctor of theology and held many important offices of the universities at which he taught. John also became chaplain and confessor to Countess who was the mother of King Henry VII. Fisher also kept a skull on the altar and at his table. No doubt John Fisher meditated frequently on the transitoriness of life. He was known for his moral life, faith, and education.
In 1504, Fisher was appointed Bishop of Rochester, a position which he held his entire life. In 1504 he was elected Chancellor of Cambridge University, a position which he held until his death. He also became tutor to Prince Henry who later became King Henry VIII. Because he was such a well-known preacher, he was asked to preach the funeral orations for King Henry VII and his wife Margaret, both of whom died in 1507.
In 1526, at the King’s command, Fisher preached a homily against Martin Luther and took up the cause against heresy in the Church. When King Henry VIII try to divorce Catherine of Aragon, she confided in John Fisher who appeared on her behalf in court. The king never forgave him for this.
In 1529, King Henry VIII began to encroach on what had traditionally been the activities and responsibility of the Catholic Church. Fisher warned the House of Lords against this, stating that the Catholic Church in England would be destroyed by this activity. In 1530, Fisher and two other bishops appealed to the Pope for help, and for this they were imprisoned. In 1531, King Henry VIII sought to be acknowledged as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. John Fisher insisted that the phrase “so far as God’s law permits” be added to the declaration. A few days later, two of John Fisher’s servants died after eating poisoned porridge. John Fisher was now in direct opposition to the King.
In 1532, Fisher preached against divorce, and by January of the following year King Henry VIII had secretly married his second wife Anne Boleyn after divorcing his first wife Catherine. Fisher was arrested but then released. In 1534, Parliament passed the First Succession Act by which all were compelled to take an oath stating that they recognized any offspring to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn as a legitimate heir to the throne. Those who refused to take this oath were guilty of treason. Fisher refused to take the oath and was sent to the Tower of London on 26 April 1534. In May, 1535, the Pope made John Fisher Cardinal of the Catholic Church. John Fisher, having been tried and convicted of treason for refusing to recognize the King’s second marriage, was beheaded on June 22.
Saint John Fisher, pray for us.
Quote from a Saint
Where are now the kings and princes that once reigned over all the world, whose glory and triumph were lifted up above the earth? Where are now the innumerable company and power of Xerxes and Caesar? Where are the great victories of Alexander and Pompey? Where are now the great riches of Croesus and Crassus? But what shall we say of those who once were kings and governors of this realm? Where are they now whom we have known and seen in our days in such great wealth and glory that it was thought by many they would never have died, never have been forgotten? . . . Every man held with them, all were at their command. Every man was obedient to them, feared them, also honored and praised them, everywhere now? Are they not gone and wasted like smoke? (St. John Fisher)
While we may emulate, fear, honor, or despise great and well known people, John Fisher reminds us that earthly fame is fleeting. Only how we live our lives for the glory of God matters. All is passing. The mark we can leave on the world may be great and wonderful, but in the scheme of things, it is small indeed. If by our lives, words, and faith, we can help someone be more fully who they were intended by God to be, then we will have achieved something eternal.
Quote from Scripture
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’
That word is the good news that was announced to you. (1 Peter 1: 24-25)
The saints recognized that life is fleeting as are all things worldly. Our eyes must be fixed on the Word of God and must follow Him where He leads. His path leads to eternal life where there is neither loss nor decay. Jim Elliott, a Christian evangelist who, in 1956 in Ecuador, was martyred for his faith at the age of twenty eight, said, "A man is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." His quote echoed the sentiments of Rev. Philip Henry (died 1696) who wrote, "He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose." Both of these quotes, and many others, echo that of Saint Peter. Do we embrace the truth of them?
(For Elvera Matose, my mother)
Never Never Never quit
Make this oath your sacred writ
Keep your mind and body fit
In the end your life's well lit
You will find if you don't quit
You'll never strain or rip or split
You'll win the girls you'll be a hit
Make it a vow to never quit.
--Joseph Matose IV, CFP Affiliate
Do not let your worries get the best of you. Remember that Moses started out as a basket case.
Many folks want to serve God but only as advisors.
It is easier to preach 10 sermons that it is to live one.
When you get to your wits end, you will find that God lives there.
Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on the door forever.
God does not propose to judge a person before he is dead, so why should you?
Peace starts with a smile.
Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.
Do not put a question mark where God puts a period.
God does not called qualified. He qualifies the called.
God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
If God is your copilot, swap seats.
Prayer: do not give God instructions. Just report for duty.
You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.
Confraternity Photo Album
Life Pledge of Patrick Joseph Wheeler, CFP
The Confraternity of Penitents rejoices at the Life Pledge of Patrick Joseph Wheeler on June 20, 2015, made to God through the person of Father Jacob Meyer, CFP Visitor, who received Patrick's pledge during a beautiful Mass of Pledging. The Poor Sisters of Saint Clare wonderously enhanced the Mass with their singing and with their cantoring of the Litany of the Saints.
Patrick is a college student studying Library Science. He also works part time in the food service industry. The Confraternity thanks God for Patrick's faith, good humor, and commitment to this way of life. Welcome, Patrick, our brother!
Father Jacob's homily is reproduced in this newsletter under Visitor's Vision.
Additional photos are on the Confraternity of Penitents Blog.
Patrick with life pledged witnesses to his pledge Lucy Fernandez (left) and Madeline Pecora Nugent (right) with Father Jacob Meyer, CFP Visitor, who received Patrick's life pledge.
Patrick responds "Present" to his call to pledge.
Patrick receives his cord of life pledging.
Patrick cuts his cake of pledging at the brunch following the Pledging Mass.
Happy Birthday to:
Saundra H 7/2
Gail B 7/3
Kingsley E 7/5
Clara L 7/6
Iffat P 7/11
Jason S 7/12
Ronald R 7/13
Raymond N 7/13
Mary Louise G 7/14
Angela H 7/16
Gerard T 7/17
Patricia H 7/23
Jesse P 7/24
Tamara R 7/30
Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop offers a wide variety of Catholic books, sacramentals, jewelry, and gifts. All proceeds go to support the Confraternity of Penitents. See www.cfpholyangels.com or send your order (please include a donation for postage) to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803. God bless you for your support of the CFP!
Saint Philomena Brown Scapular. Many other types of scapulars available including St. Francis, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Pio, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Joseph, etc. 6.50
The Chaplet of the Precious Blood is a meditative way to consider the seven major times that Jesus shed His Blood for our salvation. Hand made by a penitent. Comes with instructions. Very beautiful. 9.95
Pray the Rosary for Priests. Meditations. 9.95