Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter: June 2015
Being the Good Shepherd
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down my life for my sheep.” You all have a shepherd who laid down his life for you, who loves you. But the shepherding is not over. Shepherding has to be a constant vigilance. A shepherd can never just say, “Hey, I am taking 10 minutes, sheep. Good luck with this. You can handle this, can’t you?” A shepherd has to be constantly vigilant. That is why there are a lot of shepherds. And so while we know that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is our Good Shepherd and that he died for us on the cross, so much did he love us, we also know that he did not leave us abandoned. He sent us shepherds, of course in our bishops, and myself and all other priests. However, ultimately anyone who is to lead the people of God, in any way shape or form, is to model themselves after he who is the Good Shepherd who will lay down his life for his sheep. That sounds really awesome and and heroic, right? All of us want to be like Christ, all of us want to guard those whom we who have been given. You want to guard your wonderful families, the sheep that you have within them. You been given them as a gift from God. You are indeed, in a way, shepherds as well. And all of us are enthusiastic about this. We say, “Yes! I will lay down my life! I will leap out into moving traffic to save the baby! Yes!” And while we want to be that way, while we want to say, “Yes, I have what it takes to lay down my life,” we also know that we are frail. We know that we are tempted.
If we ask people what are the greatest temptations of life, most people would say the temptation to the worldly things or possessions. However, those are not the greatest temptations. I think you parents might agree with this. The greatest temptation to resist a call from God to shepherd the sheep, is the temptation to be liked. To be liked.
I cannot tell you how many times my sheep have come up to me saying, “Father, I know you know what Jesus told you to do, but can’t you just just ignore that? I really want to do this. Can’t you just let me do this?” And in that moment, there is nothing that I want more than to make my sheep happy. There is nothing that I want more than for them to say, “Oh, thank you, Father!” and go about their business. But if I know it’s’ wrong, I know I can’t say that.
In a sense, this is the same thing that all of you parents have to deal with, especially those of you who have teenagers. God help you! “Mom, everyone is going here. Can I go? Please!” You are thinking, “Oh, dear! I know what I’m supposed to say. But the second I say ‘no’, I’m going to get all kinds of complaints and anger and whining and then slam the door.” Does that sound familiar? And so that temptation to just go the easy route, to say, “Sure! Go for it,” is strong. We might succumb rather than do what we know we need to do to protect our sheep.
Why does this happen? Because while Jesus is our Shepherd, and he is always with us, and he has given his life for us, he has given us free will. We can go up to the shepherd and say, “Hey, Shepherd, I know what is best for me. I know what you told me. But I am gonna go eat that grass over there.” And the shepherd says, “Wait a second. You don’t know this, but there is a wolf right behind that hump. You don’t want to eat the grass over there.” And you and answer, “No, I really want that grass over there,” and off we go. Haven’t we done this so often? We ignore the words of God and of our shepherds. We go off to what we think is important.
Remembrance of Jesus as a Good Shepherd has two purposes. One is to remind us that we do have a shepherd who loves us and laid down his life for us. The second purpose is to remind us that we are sheep dependent on the shepherd so that we are better able to listen to him more in our lives.
What is the one thing that you are ignoring about Jesus? We all have it. Is it music? Is it being a friend to your kids rather than being a parent or guardian? Whatever it might be, it takes a special grace to be a shepherd, to ward off the wolf, to keep our family safe from temptation, most especially from the social media. Parents, I am praying for you. For all your kids. Get them off these social media sites. There are programs you can put on their phones where their text messages will be emailed to you. It’s like being part of the Secret Service! I really pray that you might do this. Be the shepherd, the shepherd who lays on his life for his sheep. We are all called to model ourselves after Jesus. We are called to lay down our lives for our sheep. We must do what is right rather than what someone wants us to do. Jesus is our shepherd, our master, our Lord who loves us. Let’s model ourselves after him and guard the sheep he’s given us.
--Father Jacob Meyer, CFP Visitor
Monthly Letter to All Penitents
Wrestling with Temptation
As penitents, the question often arises, “If I have repented, why am I tempted again? Was my repentance insincere?”
Your repentance may have been very sincere, and precisely because it was sincere, you may find yourself more sorely tempted than before you repented. This is because satan seeks to draw you back to your former way of life, and you can only go back there through succumbing to a temptation to do so. You may inadvertently fall to the temptation before you realize that you have succumbed. For example, you are trying to avoid between meal snacks in Novice 2, but you are used to having them. So, being distracted by something other than your Novice 2 commitment, you pass by your fruit bowl, grab a peach, and start munching. Halfway through the peach, you realize that you are not supposed to be eating between meals. The peach tempted you, you took it, ate it, and then remembered that you were not supposed to eat between meals. Have you sinned? No, because you had not intended to break the CFP Rule. You reacted to the peach out of habit. Now what? How about wrapping the peach in some tinfoil, refrigerating it, and eating it at your next meal? That way the food does not go to waste. And make a resolution to remember next time that you have foregone between meal snacks as part of your penitential commitment. By falling into this tempation to eat, and by repenting again, your repentance has grown stronger.
Father Julian Stead, OSB, a now retired former Visitor of the Confraternity of Penitents, likens the struggle with temptation to a wrestling match. He writes,
A simple way of putting this is to say there are forces within us that may be compared to two boys in the same uniform: one is Vice #1, the other is Repentance. Repentance wrestles Vice #1, but gets overcome and pinned down. Vice gets tired out, and Repentance pins him down. But after a good rest, Vice #1 takes control again. Repentance is honestly trying and MAY GROW IN STRENGTH until it can keep the Vice down for good.
When we are born we are not all muscle; in fact, we are no match for our opponent(s). We have to keep battling back, however. Day by day, hour by hour, we are getting stronger. We build by pulling, pushing weights heavier than our own; it takes the opponent longer to get us down, and we get up faster, until finally the devil has to surrender.
Father Julian observes that some theologians believe that Jesus never got angry because “the hypostatic union made Him imperturbable, like Easter icons tend to show Him, so absorbed in His Union with the Trinity that He could sleep in a storm tossed boat, bear without batting an eye the crowning with thorns, scourging at the pillar, nails through His hand and feet.” So, in other words, these theologians believe that temptation was no problem for Jesus. The Agony in the Garden seems to give a different impression. Jesus asked God to remove the cup from him, but was willing to accept the Father’s Will. The saints definitely struggled with temptation. Lives of the saints are replete with such incidents. St. Francis rolled in the snow to avoid temptations of the flesh. St. Therese, in her final illness, was so tempted to take an overdose of medication to commit suicide that she told the nurses to move the medicines far away from her. St. Augustine, in the beginning stages of the conversion, asked the Lord to make him pure, but not just yet.
Father Julian goes on:
The Lord gave us the Commandments because He understands us in terms of our weakness and our constant need for repeated repentence.
So if you have repented, and fallen again into temptation, take courage! Repent again and move forward in the spiritual life. You are growing stronger!
Let us pray for each other and for all doing penance worldwide.
Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
No Greater Love
WORD OF KNOWLEDGE
At a recent Christian retreat we were asked to be silent for two minutes to listen to what God is giving us as “words of knowledge”. After the quiet time, it was really surprising that many spoke of messages of health matters needing prayers of healing. One word of knowledge God gave was about someone who was suffering due to a nasty accident in the snow; instantly another person put up their hand and said that applied to them. Another received a word about someone suffering from sciatica, and instantly someone else claimed this was their need for prayer. God had given Words of Knowledge to many people and each time, somebody ‘claimed’ it as their need for prayer. Each couple were invited to the front and the ones receiving the Word were asked to pray for the one claiming it as their need. Some claimed they were healed due to this ministry, and some said they would report back on developments over the days following.
A Word of Knowledge may not always be a verbal word, but many times it may be a sympathetic sensation. One example was a Christian healer in a supermarket waiting for her shopping to be booked out, but suddenly she became afflicted with deep hurts concerning the still birth of a baby. As this had happened to her 20 years before, she couldn’t understand why those very dark and sad thoughts should return. She instantly decided it was a Word of Knowledge for somebody else. The checkout lady at the till was too old to be that person, but the Christian lady mentioned the matter to her. Instantly the check-out lady claimed it because her daughter had suffered that very same sad problem. She added, “How on earth did you know?” The Christian lady then saw the great need to pray over the lady at the till. The next time she was in that store, the checkout clerk spoke of the great comfort those prayers had been, but there was also a side effect. That clerk’s husband had not attended church for a long time, but after those prayers were said, he returned to church and had recouped his faith in God, with greatly increased fervour.
This exercise in Words of Knowledge has caused me to wonder how many times in my life might I have been given Words of Knowledge from The Lord, and I have simply not known that is what it was. Maybe all sorts of thoughts of similar things have been brushed aside as inappropriate thinking at the time. How about you?
Learning about the Word of Knowledge shed light on a Bible story I had often wondered about. When Jesus was surrounded by a great throng of folks, He suddenly asked His disciples, “Who touched me?” This may have caused puzzlement to some followers, because everyone could see that many were jostling Him. It was explained to me that Jesus must have had A WORD OF KNOWLEDGE. He knew that somebody had touched Him with a particular need for healing. Just as the above examples show, Jesus also needed a person to CLAIM that Word. And this happened when a woman suffering from a hemorrhage came forward and claimed that Jesus had healed her because she touched his clothing.
So we must copy Jesus. When a word of knowledge is given to us, maybe it isn’t always clear who that word applies to. But if speak the Word of Knowledge and someone ‘claims’ it, then we know who to minister to.
--David Curry, CFP Affiliate
Following Francis, Following Christ
Being Who You Are
A few weeks ago I watched a movie with our daughter in which one of the main characters changed how she related to people when speaking to other teens. Being far from a teenager myself, I was taken aback at this apparently common way young people speak to each other, because I had seen the very same phraseology and mannerisms among my own nieces and nephews. And it occurred to me that young people are doing what we did when we were young, which is to adopt a persona when talking among your peers.
A Christian movie called Beyond the Mask portrays the story of an assassin during the time of the United States Revolutionary War who leaves behind his evil life and tries to become a God-fearing new man. The film appears to be an allegory for many penitents who leave behind various sinful life styles to embrace the person God created them to be and to live according to God’s ways.
Who is the real you? Years ago a book came out called “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?” The book has been rewritten in a new format and addresses people’s insecurities and why they are afraid to share them with others. The very question of opening up to others is an important one for those who seek to follow St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis did not seem to know who he really was as a young man. He tried to be a knight to please his father, but he was not suited to knighthood. His father wanted him to be a good businessman, and he certainly was able to sell cloth to his father’s customers, but that was not who Francis was or wanted to be. Francis partied with his friends and had a great time of leisure, dissipation, and prodigality, but this lifestyle kept him from facing who he really was. When Francis found himself an ill prisoner of war for a year, he began to question who he was and who others expected him to be and this questioning began his conversion.
We live in an age where some people are supposedly expressing who they really are with many different means, some opposed to God’s moral laws. But are all these expressions of who people really are or are they ways to fit into a society that tries to put people into stereotypical boxes? St. Francis refused to be put into a box. After his conversion, when people began to recognize him as a holy, converted man, he refused to play into their expectations and insisted on being transparent about his own penitential practices. When it was necessary for his health to eat meat during a season of abstinence, Francis confeseds this transgression to the general public. When the friar caring for him wanted to sew a piece of fox fur on the inside of his tunic to keep Francis warm during a bitterly cold winter, Francis insisted on sewing a piece of fur on the outside of the tunic as well so that people would know that he was not suffering the cold as much as they thought he was. When someone praised St. Francis for his purity, he said, “Do not be so quick to praise me. I might still have sons and daughters.”
How about you? If you are following St. Francis, be open about who you are. You do not necessarily need to broadcast your faith expression, but witness to Jesus as the opportunity arises. Are you wearing a mask of assertiveness or clannishness or reticence as a means of protecting some vulnerable spot within? Pray about removing that mask and being who you are. One caution here. Being who you are means being the best person God created you to be, and this means falling within the moral guidelines and the ethical principles that Jesus taught. If you discover that you are a forthright person, being who you are does not give you license to be uncharitable to others. It means you should learn how to be forthright with compassion. If you discover that you have mixed gender issues, taking off your mask does not mean changing from one gender to another but rather accepting both the feminine and masculine sides of your personality and expressing them in modest and appropriate ways. There is no freedom outside of God’s law. St. Francis knew this and he insisted upon it for his friars. Each one was to be transparent and make his needs known to the other, each one was to seek the joy that can be found if we look for it, and each one was to be charitable to everyone else. And all this was to be done within the framework of God’s wise commandments. Being who you are does not mean license to do whatever you want. It means accepting who you are because God made you that way and living within the commandments of your Father.
Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP
Reflection on the Rule
29. When anybody wishes to enter this brotherhood, the ministers shall carefully inquire into his standing and occupation, and they shall explain to him the obligations of the brotherhood, especially that of restoring what belongs to others. And if he is content with it, let him be vested according to the prescribed way, and he must make satisfaction for his debts, paying money according to what pledged provision is given. They are to reconcile themselves with their neighbors and to pay up their tithes.
29. In keeping with section 29 of the Rule:
29a. When others wish to enter this Confraternity, the ministers shall carefully inquire into their standing and occupation and should question them thoroughly to ascertain their adherence to the Church's teaching regarding faith, Church authority, and morals. Only those who hold to the views of the Church's Magisterium, or who change their views to adopt those of the Church, shall be considered for admission to the Confraternity.
29b. Moreover, the ministers shall explain to all inquirers the obligations of life under the Rule, especially that of restoring what belongs to others. And if those inquiring are content with that, let them begin to follow the rules of formation as set up by this Confraternity.
29c. Those living this life must at once begin to pay up their debts, are to reconcile with their neighbors, and begin to tithe if they have not been doing so.
Entry into the Confraternity of Penitents is not automatic. It is contingent upon a person's agreement with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Magisterium. It is also contingent on a person being at peace with all and tithing, or at least beginning to tithe. A tithe is 10% of a person's income as long as the person can afford that amount without prolonging debt or entering it. Penitents who enter the Confraternity should begin to tithe as much as possible right from the start. If you are on a fixed income and you cannot afford, because of your expenses, 10% to be given to charity, then give what you can and try to make some time in your day for doing things to help a charity, whether donating your time and talents or, if you are homebound, donating a portion of your day to praying for charitable causes.
The Confraternity of Penitents demands a commitment to a lifestyle change immediately upon entering. This is why the early penitents had to pay up their debts and tithe right from the start. We understand today that many laypeople have debts, such as home mortages, that they wish they could pay up immediately but simply cannot. This is not an impediment to entering the Confraternity. Such penitents should adhere to a good schedule for paying back the debts that they have or establish such a schedule if they have none. All of this involves charity toward others, and if we are to love God and neighbor we need to do so with sacrifice on our part.
Affiliates should also be loyal to all the teachings of the Catholic Church, should be at peace with all, and should pay up their debts and tithe. If they have difficulty in any of these areas, they should consult the Confraternity for guidance and pray to God for direction. These things are required of all good Catholics.
Virtues Portrayed in the San Damiano Crucifix
A quick glance at the San Damiano crucifix reveals how balanced this crucifix is. The focal point is Christ, particularly His face, and everything revolves around that. Everything in the crucifix points to Jesus. No side is lopsided nor is the crucifix top-heavy or splayed on the bottom. The crucifix is a subtle call to keep our lives in balance with God at the center. Everything we do should revolve around God and His moral plan. Moreover, what we do should not be overbalanced in one area or another. We should strive to be well-rounded people, with time in our days for prayer, fellowship, recreation, and healthy activities. If your life seems to be unbalanced, ask God how you might restore that balance. The Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents is a proven way to keep one's life in balance. Those who live this way of life understand.
Saint of the Month
Saint Peter Faber (1506-1546)
St. Peter Faber was born in 1506 to a French peasant family and spent his boyhood as a shepherd. As such, he had little education but a wonderful memory. He could hear a sermon and then repeat it verbatim for his friends! His uncles, both Carthusian priors, made arrangements for his education, first with a priest and then later in Paris where he was admitted to the oldest school in the University of Paris. Here he shared his lodgings with Saint Francis Xavier who became his close friend. These two also met Saint Ignatius of Loyola at the University where they tutored one another in subjects in which they individually excelled and came to share a room together. Together the three of them founded the Society of Jesus.
Having been the first of the three to be ordained, Faber received the religious vows of St. Ignatius and five other companions on 15 August 1534. The men put themselves at the disposal of the Pope who sent Faber to Parma and Piacenza where his evangelization revived Christianity in that area. The Pope then sent Faber to Germany in 1540 to uphold the Catholic position at the Diet of Worms and then the Diet of Ratisbon. Upset by the unrest caused by the Protestant movement in Germany, and troubled by the decadence in the Catholic hierarchy, Faber decided that the remedy lay with reforming the Catholic Church beginning with the clergy. He influenced everyone, both great and small, by his gentle outreach, attentive conversatons, and spiritual guidance. On foot, he traversed Europe, guiding bishops, princes, laity, indeed, everyone in the Spiritual Exercises formulated by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Daily he asked the saints and his guardian angel to intercede for him and for the evangelization of the areas through which he passed.
Faber worked to establish the Society of Jesus in Portugal and was recognized as an effective, fervent preacher in Spain where he fostered vocations to the clegy. His Memoriale is the diary of his spiritual life, dating mainly from June 1542 to July 1543. His final journey was to Rome where, in 1546, exhausted from his labors, he died in the arms of St. Ignatius. His companions began calling him a saint immediately upon his death.
Pope Francis canonized Peter Faber on the Pope’s 77th birthday, December 17, 2013.
Quote from Scripture
"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." (Luke 16:10)
We progress in virtue by practicing it in little ways and then in greater ways. Often we wish to make giant leaps in holiness, but it takes practice to become a holy person. God gives us many little opportunities for being virtuous, and these often come in unexpected moments. We can ask for vigilance so that we may do the noble thing no matter the seeming insignificance of the situation nor the suddenness with which it is foisted upon us.
Quote from a Saint
"Seek grace in the smallest things, and you will find also grace to accomplish, to believe in, and to hope for the greatest things." -- Saint Peter Faber
These words from a saint can lead us to deduce that the road to sanctity is in doing the small things well for the love of God. When we do small things well, we are preparing to do great things well. Jesus said this very thing in the parable about the talents. "If you are faithful in a small thing, the master will set you over greater affairs." So instead of wondering what great thing we can do for God, perhaps the way to begin is to do small things out of love for Him.
Why I'm Here
I'm not here to climb the corporate ladder
I'm not here because I failed at something else
I'm not here waiting for greener pastures
I'm not here for a stepping stone to something greater
I'm not here to punch in and out of the time clock
Why am I here?
I'm here because God called me out of my darkness
I'm here so that I could taste and feel the goodness of the Lord
I'm here to descend into his love, the ladder that monks climb in their cell
This cell which I have brought into the world, the lamp stand next to my heart
If the time clock were replaced with the Tabernacle, yes I would still adore
For then I would not be serving my own means, but the heart of my brother
For whom I have been called to serve
For that is why I am here, the net has been cast
Patience and goodness are my defense
For the weak have come to know him
The lost have come to find him
Through the kindness that my heart has shown
Through the words my tongue has spoken
They have sought to know the joy that lives in the kingdom
That lives in my soul.
--Jesse Pellow, CFP Inquirer
In a Podiatrist's office:
"Time wounds all heels."
At an Optometrist's office:
"If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."
On a Plumber's truck:
"We repair what your husband fixed."
At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee:
"Invite us to your next blowout."
In a Non-smoking Area:
"If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."
On a Maternity Room door:
"Push. Push. Push."
At a Car Dealership:
"The best way to get back on your feet -- miss a car payment."
Outside a Muffler Shop:
"No appointment necessary. We hear you coming."
In a Veterinarian's waiting room:
"Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"
At the Electric Company:
"We would be delighted if you send in your payment. However, if you don't, you will be delighted."
In a Restaurant Window:
"Don't stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up."
In the front yard of a Funeral Home:
"Drive carefully. We'll wait."
At a Propane Filling Station:
"Thank heaven for little grills."
Confraternity Photo Album
On May 18, 2015, Brother Fidelis Maria of Our Mother of Fairest Love made his solemn profession as a member of the Franciscan Brothers Minor. Patrick Hamor (the future Brother Fidelis) had been in the seminary in his twenties but had dropped out. Through many twists and turns, he found the Confraternity of Penitents in 2010, lived at the Confraternity house, managed a Christian bookstore, and entered formation in the CFP. During his CFP Postulancy, Patrick re-explored his religious vocation and joined the Franciscan Brothers Minor. Brother Fidelis is now Novice Master and Vicar General in his Order as well as Spiritual Assistant to Our Lady, Cause of Our Joy Chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents. The Confraternity rejoices in his solemn, perpetual profession and is grateful to God for having played a significant part in his vocation discernment.
Brother Fidelis Maria with Bishop Kevin Rhoades who accepted Brother Fidelis' solemn profession. Also shown Father David Mary Engo, Minister General of the Franciscan Brothers Minor. The remainder of the people are Confraternity of Penitents members and affiliates from Indiana and Massachusetts who celebrated this joyous occasion.
Brother Fidelis Maria is Spiritual Assistant to Our Lady, Cause of Our Joy Chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents. Here he displays his profession gift given to him by the Chapter, a reproduction of a painting of Saint Fidelis. Some penitent members and affiliates are shown with Br. Fidelis.
Happy Birthday to:
Gregory G 6/5
James F 6/6
Michael F 6/6
Blair D 6/9
Mary Ann G 6/12
Nicholas C 6/13
Patricia D 6/16
Dennis M 6/16
Attah O 6/19
Grace F 6/20
James S 6/20
Fr. Terry S 6/21
Rhea S 6/21
Patricia D 6/16
Dennis M 6/16
Attah O 6/19
Grace F 6/20
James S 6/20
Fr. Terry S 6/21
Rhea S 6/21
All proceeds from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop go to support the Confraternity of Penitents. Now easy to order from any computer or mobile device! See cfpholyangels.com Or order by mail by sending a check, made out to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA. A few of the many items available are pictured below.
Confirmation Cross 3.00
Last Supper Plate 6.75" x 8.75" 19.95 plus free shipping
Clear Lucite Cross Memento Box 4" x 5" 2.99