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Mass of Thanksgiving for the Refounding of the Confraternity of Penitents






The Confraternity of Penitents, a Catholic Association of those doing penance (seeking conversion), began informally in the summer of 1994. Growing through the years, it was refounded on August 22, 2003, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. On the third month anniversary of the refounding, November 22, 2003, the Solemnity of Christ the King, a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated at Holy Ghost Church, Tiverton Rhode Island, USA with approximately twenty five attendees. Thus the Confraternity rededicated itself and all its members to Mary as Queen and Christ as King. May all doing penance in the Confraternity receive many graces through their heavenly patronage.

Main celebrant at the Mass: Father John of the Trinity, Erem. TOCarm

Concelebrant: Dom Julian Stead, OSB

Blessing from Bishop Robert Mulvee, Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island

"His Excellency is sending his special blessing on all who will celebrate the Mass of Thanksgiving on the evening of November 22 at Holy Ghost Church in Tiverton."


Father John of the Trinity, Erem. TOCarm, and Dom Julian Stead, OSB, celebrating the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Refounding

Homily by Father John of the Trinity:

"It's such a privilege for myself and Father Julian also to be here with you this evening as you celebrate this liturgy in thanksgiving to God for the grace of the Confraternity of Penitents. You had various dates in mind for this liturgy, but I think it's very appropriate, very wonderful that the date chosen turned out to be the vigil of Christ the King. I think the Feast of Christ the King highlights, or makes clear, what the vocation to penance is all about.

"Very often you hear penance, you confuse that with penances. Penances are part of penance, but penance is a concept which is far broader, far greater than simply a matter of penances. Probably when people hear of the Confraternity of Penitents, they think of people who do a lot of penances. I often used to tell Madeline, "I don't know what a Carmelite is doing here because Carmelites aren't into penances." That's not true, of course. It's a joke, really. But when you hear "Confraternity of Penitents," you think, "These are people who are into a lot of penances." And that may be true. You know, some one or other of you may enjoy or are involved in doing many penances. And penances are something enjoyable if they are done for the love of God. So penances are not a negative thing at all.

"But the Confraternity of Penitents is far more than an association of people who do penances or are involved in carrying out certain penitential practices. Penitential practices are very good, they're very necessary, but before we talk about practices, there has to be penance, or the spirit of penance.

"Penance is a word which basically means "punishment," "penalty." But the concept of penance in the Church is related very, very much to what we would understand as "change of heart," "metanoia." And that's very important to understand. The Confraternity of Penitents should be an association of people who understand and value very, very much the concept of change of heart, conversion. This is much more what we want to think about when we think about people who are called penitents, people who are trying to live in a converted way, a way in which they manifest a change of heart, you might say their "option for God." You can put it in so many different ways. But that's the main thing, of course, about penance.

"Our Lord said in the Gospel today, to Pilate, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice." And that's basically a challenge that we all have to deal with in our life. We have to open ourselves more and more in our life to listen to the voice of God. That's what penance is all about. Penance is living in such a way that we can hear God's voice, that we can hear God speaking to us in the many ways He does, principally, of course, through the Church. Penance is the way that we open ourselves up to God speaking to us; it's a way that we make ourselves available to God so that He can touch our lives and change us. And that's basically, I think, what the vocation to be a penitent is all about. All of us should be penitents. But you as penitents in a Confraternity of Penitents have to be a particular shining light to the rest of us to help us to understand what it means to live in this constant spirit of change of heart, of conversion to Christ, of metanoia, of opening ourselves up to God. You should be the ones who would show us the way, who would illuminate the road for us. I think that's probably the greatest gift we can ask from our Lord this evening, is to do that for you, to help you to become these lights in the Church, this light showing the way to penance, showing the way to conversion to Christ, to change of heart, to metanoia, showing the way to allowing our Lord to be really the king of our hearts, the king of our lives, the ruler within us and among us. This is what penance, of course, means. And all the penances in the world, if not motivated, or not part of this program of conversion, are absolutely useless. Not only are they useless, they really should be avoided if there is no program of conversion, if there is no change of heart, of allowing the Lord to rule in us or whatever other way you want to put it.

"Our Lord says, "My kingdom does not belong to this world." And neither does ours, if our Lord is our king. We follow Him. We seek where He rules. In another place in Scripture, in Luke's Gospel, our Lord says, "The kingdom of God is not such that you can say here it is or there it is. The kingdom of God is in your midst." Or, another translation is "within you." See there is where our Lord wants to be king. There is where our Lord rules. There is where the kingdom of God is. The kingdom is where our Lord is king and where those who listen to His voice and follow Him are to be found. The kingdom of God on earth, as the Vatican Council taught us, exists in the Church. The Church is the focal point, is the place where you can say, "Here is the Kingdom of God, here is the Kingdom of God on pilgrimage.".

"So you as penitents, therefore, part and parcel of your way of life, of your Christian life in the association of penance, is to be faithful members of the Church, to serve our Lord there, to serve our Lord there, to find our Lord there, to be fruitful members of the Church because conversion, penance, change of heart, bears fruit, of course, in works of love.

"We want to congratulate all of you this evening, those of you who are members of the Confraternity of Penitents, for embarking on this wonderful way of life, this wonderful call from God, special charism in the Church, and we want to encourage you to do it faithfully, and do it happily. Joy, happiness, is going to be, should be the hallmark of a true penitent. So we encourage you to be joyful penitents in the Church, to give a joyful witness of what it means to allow our Lord to rule in us and among us, of what it means to allow our Lord to make Himself be heard among us, to allow our Lord to be king in our hearts and in our world. May God help you in this wonderful vocation, this wonderful call that you have, and may God use you to help the rest of us be more and more converted to God, turned to God."

Mass Intercessions

The response is:

Christ the King, hear us.

In gratitude for the Lord's many blessings upon the Confraternity of Penitents, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

That the Holy Spirit may inspire each member of the Confraternity of Penitents to lay down his or her life for the sake of the Gospel, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

For our bishops Robert Mulvee and Robert McManus, that the Lord may continue to give them wisdom in guiding this diocese, and in gratitude for their support of the Confraternity of Penitents, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

That Bishop Mulvee's blessing on all who attend this Mass may call down God's special graces upon each of us today. we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

For Msgr. William Varsanyi and Sister Jacqueline Dickey, the Confraternity's main contacts in the Diocese of Providence, that the Holy Spirit will guide them in every decision, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

For all who are struggling with difficulties of whatever type, that they may see their trials as a participation in the sufferings of Christ, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

That our Lord will abundantly grant the gifts of the Holy Spirit to our Confraternity Visitor, Father David Engo, and to our spiritual advisors, Fr. John of the Trinity, Father Martin Mary Fonte, and Dom Julian Stead, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

For the Council and leaders of the Confraternity, that each one may become a truer representative of Christ, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

For each member of the Confraternity, that each will be more totally surrendered to the love and will of God, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

For all friends and benefactors of the Confraternity, that God will reward them for their prayers and support, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

For the intentions of our Holy Father, for peace in the world, for all prolife intentions, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

That those who will die this day may enter eternal life and for all the dead, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

That the Lord will richly bless all penitents everywhere in the world and that Christ will always be King of our Hearts, we pray to the Lord:

Christ the King, hear us.

Grace before the Pot Luck Meal

(Prayed before replica of the San Damiano Crucifix with reflection on various figures in the icon. Figures referred to in italics. From the book The Icon of the Christ of San Damiano, by Marc Picard OFM Cap, Casa Editrice Francescana, Frati Minori Conventuali, Assisi Aprille 2000, pp. 50-52. Copies of the book available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop.)

We honor You, Father, because You "loved the world so much that You gave Your only Son in order that whoever believed in Him might have eternal life" (John 3:16) (Main figure of Christ)

Father, the icon shows us the saints in Your glorious light. Thank You for having made us "children of the light." Preserve us from the power of darkness. (Figures around the ascended Christ at top of crucifix).

Father, the icon presents Mary at the place of honor, at the right side of Jesus. Thank You for having so exalted Your humble handmaid. Thank You for having filled her with the Holy Spirit, and for having given her to us as our Mother. (Mary is the woman beneath the left arm of Christ).

Father, in this icon the Apostle John stands between Jesus and Mary. What a privilege! What a delightful place! Let us believe that it is this very same place that has been destined for us, between Jesus and Mary, beneath the inexhaustible fountain of the heart of Your Beloved.

Blessed are You, Father, for having given us John, this burning witness of the Word of Life

(1J. 4:8) and of Your Holy Spirit (John 19:35) (John is standing next to Mary.)

Father, both the icon and the Gospels place John, the virgin Apostle, and Mary Magdalen, the penitent, close to Jesus. We thank You for the power of the blood of Jesus that is able to unite Your children who have been so far apart. (Mary Magdalen is the woman next to Christ under His right arm.)

Blessed are You, Father, for the glory which the icon reserves for Mary, the mother of James. This woman followed Jesus and served Him (Mark 15:41). She was faithful to Him until His death, and even beyond it. She was present at the Cenacle, invoking, with ardent prayer, the coming of the Promised Spirit. Blessed are You, Father, for the glory You give to the humble ones. You will make them shine brightly on the Day of Your Light. (The figure next to Mary Magdalen is thought to be Mary, the mother of James.)

For the heart of the pagan centurion who sought You, may You be blessed, Father. His trial, that is, the illness of his son, was, for him and all his family, the pathway to Life. "Your ways are not our ways" (Isaiah 55:8), but we wish to adore You in all Your ways. (The male figure next to Mary, the Mother of James, is considered, in this interpretation, to be this centurion.)

For the centurion's son, saved by the faith of his father, we bless You, Lord. Give to those parents whose children are ill the faith to believe that their prayers touch Your heart and that one day they will be answered. (The small head behind the centurion figure is considered here to be the centurion's son, and the figures behind him the members of the centurion's household who came to believe in Christ.)

For the astonishing presence in Your kingdom of the Roman soldier (the small figure at the foot of Mary on the left of the crucifix) and the Temple guard (the small figure at the foot of the centurion on the right of the crucifix), for those who sacrificed Your only Son, we bless You, God of Mercy. Enable all those who are afflicted with sin to come to Jesus with confidence, and to find healing in his wounds (Isaiah 53:5)

For all of us who are represented in these characters at Jesus' feet (below His feet at the very base of the crucifix) we bless You. They are already crowned "because You have chosen us to be holy and immaculate in Your presence, in love" (Ephesians 1:4)

Finally, does not the rock on which the icon rests (the black block like shape beneath the feet of Christ) represent the authority of the Pope? We thank You for the Shepherd that You have given to the Church. Grant us the docility to follow his teachings. Amen."

The Lord's Prayer was then led by Dom Julian Stead, OSB. The pot luck meal then followed.

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