Confraternity of Penitents: St. Francis' Rule of Penance for the Laity
"Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command." ---------- Saint Francis' of Assisi's prayer before the San Damiano Crucifix
Confraternity of Penitents Monthly Newsletter Archives: August 2012
Letter from One Who Serves the CFP
A RABBI TALKS WITH JESUS
Chapter 4 of Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth (Volume 1) deals with the Sermon on the Mount. In that chapter, Pope Benedict refers many times to a book written by Rabbi Jacob Neusner called A Rabbi Talks with Jesus. In this book, Rabbi Neusner places himself in the time of Jesus and carries on a conversation with Him. He concentrates his attention on the sayings and teachings of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew. Rabbi Neusner had good reason to do this since Matthew was traditionally the first Gospel to be written and certainly the most Jewish of the four Gospels. Many people in modern times reject Jesus mainly because they reject God or at least the God which is presented in Christianity. Rabbi Neusner is a practicing Jew who has the same God as Jesus Christ. He also accepts the sayings of Jesus as presented in the Gospel of Matthew as the words of Jesus and not just the elaborations of later Christianity. In this book, Rabbi Neusner tells us why he would not have become one of the Lord’s followers.
In the book, Rabbi Neusner presents some detailed criticisms of the teachings of Jesus. But to understand these criticisms, we need to know where Rabbi Neusner is coming from, and he tells us this at the very beginning of the book. “We Jews maintain, and I argue here, that the Torah was and is perfect and beyond improvement, and that Judaism built upon the Torah and the prophets and writings, the originally oral parts of the Torah written down in the Mishnah, Talmuds, and Midrash – that Judaism was and remains God’s will for humanity.”
In the course of reading Rabbi Neusner’s book, I can feel myself transported back to the debates that St. Paul, St. Stephen, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, and many other early Christians had with the Jews of that time. How do we do the Will of God? How do we relate to God? Do we relate to God through the Law and rabbinical interpretations of the Law, or do we relate to God though the person of Jesus Christ, the “Word made Flesh”? Rabbi Neusner and faithful Jews down through the centuries believe the former, while faithful Christians believe the latter. Rabbi Neusner quotes many sayings of Jesus which contradict the liberal Christian view that Jesus was a social reformer who was trying to correct Jewish legalism. The Pope and the Rabbi agree on what the key issue really is concerning Jesus. Do we relate to God through the Mosaic Law (the Torah) within “eternal Israel” or do we relate to God through union with the Person of Jesus Christ within the Church? Rabbi Neusner is very disturbed by the sayings of Jesus where he puts himself above the Law and the Sabbath. To the Rabbi, Jesus seems to be overturning the moral commandments of God and putting Himself in its place. According to Christianity, Jesus was not destroying but was fulfilling the Law. St. Paul explains this in great detail in his letters to the Galatians and the Romans. The Law is good and holy, but it can only inform us about what offends God. It does not give us the power to fulfill God’s Will. That has been done by Jesus Christ. That is why St. Paul was so upset with people who said that Christians needed to obey all the Mosaic Laws. We do not need faith in Jesus Christ if we can be saved by obeying the Mosaic Laws. St. Paul and the other early Christians surely debated the point very vigorously with the Jews of that time.
Rabbi Neusner clearly sees the claims which Jesus was making. Unfortunately, many people who call themselves Christians do not understand the claims that Jesus makes on us. He wants us to give everything to Him. This means our finances, sex life, family life, friendships, relationships and everything else. Naturally, the specifics of this depend on our vocation in life. Nothing belongs to us. It all belongs to Him. This ultimately means union with the Lord, which is the goal of Christian life. This is how faithful Christians right down to Pope Benedict XVI view the demands of Jesus Christ. An excellent example of this can be found in St. Francis. He knew that his life belonged to the Lord. Poverty was St. Francis’s way to serve the King, the richest and most powerful King of all.
It is important for all Christians to understand, like Rabbi Neusner and Pope Benedict, the audacity of the claims of Jesus Christ. If we accept them, we need to know what that entails. St. Francis, as well as all the saints both canonized and not yet canonized, understood what was demanded of them. They also understood that what the Lord would give to them was more than they could ever imagine.
Jim Nugent (Jim is a life pledged member of the Confraternity of Penitents)
No Greater Love
THE ONE IN ME
Everyone loves to see men and women of achievement, especially those who are self-made through the efforts they have made in various fields, leaving their mark on society and their memory in our minds. We all like to be associated with men and women of talent and achievement, and we strive to draw inspiration from their lives. However, for us as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, we need to seriously ask ourselves if there is really anything such as "self-made" persons. We know that as long as we are human, we are liable to err, somewhere, some place, somehow. There is no such thing as a "perfect" or "self-made" person. Behind the outer facade there is always a chink in his/her armor.
If we would contend with the above, then let's just take a moment to sit back and reflect on what the psalmist meant in saying, "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet" (Ps 8: 4-6). If we ponder and reflect on the deep meaning of the truth behind these words, we would come to accept that all that we have, are and accomplish comes from God. It is this deep significant fact of our being that caused Paul to write, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Phil 4: 13).
In spite of everything, there are often times when we are inclined to blow our own trumpet, sit back on our laurels and add feathers to our caps. This is naturally and instinctively human. However, we would soon come to the realization of the emptiness of such vain flights of fancy when we listen to prophet Isaiah taunting us: "Shall the axe vaunt itself over the one who wields it, or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it? As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up, or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood!" (Is 10: 15).
There is no doubt at all, then, that every thing we do, achieve or accomplish which could bring us praise, name, fame or glory should rightly be given to God. Genius is definitely 99 % perspiration and 1 % inspiration. But have we ever wondered where that 1 % inspiration comes from? Isaiah once again reminds us, "For indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us" (Is 26: 12). Whenever we are tempted to take pride and exult in having done anything worthy of glory and honor, let us humbly acknowledge with Paul, "I am what I am by the grace of God" (1 Cor 15: 10a).
Let us always remember, "It is not what we do, but why; not how much, but how well; not how energetically, but how lovingly; not the mountains that we move, but the motive that urged us to move them" (The Family that Overtook Christ, by M Raymond, OCSO). If we continue surrendering ourselves to the Lord, allowing Him to avail of us, as, when and wherever He wills, use our talents, aptitudes and capabilities in His honor and for His glory, then His promise comes true in us: "For to those who have, more will be given, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away" (Matt 13: 12). In referring all the good that we achieve and accomplish to God alone, we may truly say with Paul, "And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2: 20).
By Patrick John Ashing, Oblate, OSB Cam, CFP Affiliate
Reflection on the Rule
2. In keeping with section 2 of the Rule:
2a. Visible undergarments such as socks or stockings may be of solid neutral colors or blue. Clothing that is not visible may be of any color or pattern.
2b. Men's ties should be simple, conservative, and tasteful and may be patterned and of any color or color combination provided that the ties are subdued in appearance and not "flashy."
2c. Colorful ornamentation and fancy jewelry are not to be worn unless a dispensation is given. Engagement rings, wedding bands, watches, and any other similar adornments, and tasteful and unostentatious religious jewelry such as medals are permitted. Small pierced earring studs, in a simple and inexpensive style, may be allowed if needed to keep earring holes from closing.
2d. For special events, a dispensation is given for the wearing of earrings, other jewelry, and clothing that falls outside the regular garb of the followers of this Rule.
This section of the Rule is straightforward. Even visible undergarments and visible accessories should fit the Rule regarding color and decoration. An exception is made for men's ties which are difficult to find in solid colors. Men should attempt to select ties that have small, plain designs if they cannot find those in solid colors that fit the Rule. The tone of these Constitutions intends to keep the penitent as inconspicuous as possible. Penitents who are receiving compliments on their jewelry, for example, are probably not living the Rule properly in regards to adornment. The Constitutions are also humane in that they allow for exceptions for very special events. If a penitent is in a wedding party, for example, he or she could use adornment outside these Constitutions, in order to match the others in the wedding party, and still not be breaking the Rule.
Affiliates can live this section of the Rule as closely as they wish. It is always a good penance to simplify one's wardrobe in the area of dress. Penance has constantly been done in the area of dress, and even though Affiliates are not bound to observe the Rule, they can gain many merits by simplifying their wardrobe as they feel led. We all must remember that "naked we came into the world and naked we leave." It is more beneficial to live a simple life regarding possessions now so that we are better prepared for the ultimate relinquishment which death brings.
Reflection on the San Damiano Crucifix
The Garden of the Crucifix
The colors on the San Damiano Crucifix are so vivid that they seem to breathe. This brilliance makes the crucifix seem almost alive. Indeed it is "alive" because it portrays the life of Christ in many aspects, a life that goes on forever in heaven. The radiant hues suggest a fantastic garden of color, filled with life not only in the blooms but also in the myriad of living creatures who live above, among, and below the flowers and foliage of a garden. And, on this icon, living beings surround Christ and the cross in a fantastic array of action. In addition, the border of the crucifix is a vine, enclosing the entire image as a vine might clamber over a fence surrounding a garden. This vine recalls the Garden of Eden where man disobeyed God and fell into sin. The punishment? Expulsion from the Garden. On the San Damiano Crucifix, Jesus and the scenes around Him are enclosed by the vine, implying that here, on the Cross, we are in a new Garden, one which includes man and from which He cannot be expelled. Instead of the serpent on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we have Christ Who is All-Good on the Tree of Death (the cross), transforming it into the Tree of Life. Calvary becomes the Garden of Redemption.
Saint of the Month
Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, OCD
In Arezzo, Italy, St. Teresa Margaret, the second of thirteen children, was born Anna Maria Redi on July 15, 1747 to a large, loving Catholic family of lower nobility, but not particularly wealthy means. As the oldest daughter, much of the care of the younger children fell to Anna Maria who later said, that “from infancy I have never longed for anything other than to become a saint.”
As a child, Anna Maria wanted to know who God is. When she learned that God is Love, she wondered how to please Him and desired to love God as He loved her. This would be her whole life’s desire.
Anna Maria’s father introduced his pious daughter to the Sacred Heart, to which she formed a great devotion.
The Redi family saw that all of their eight living children were educated well. Anna Maria was educated at a Benedictine boarding school. In imitation of the hidden holy family of Nazareth, Anna Maria attempted to remain as inconspicuous as possible while deeply developing her interior life. For five years, she consulted her father for spiritual direction and then came under the direction of a holy priest. She entered Carmel at the age of seventeen, having twice experienced an inner locution that said, “I am Teresa of Jesus, and I want you among my daughters.” She took the name Sister Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart.
While a novice, Sister Teresa Margaret began to care for the ill nuns in her community. She went beyond what was required or expected in all areas of her work. Although she also served as assistant sacristan for two years, she never gave up her work among the sick. A sister weeping in pain was healed after Teresa kissed her. She was able to converse with a deaf nun with whom no one else could communicate. The sisters attributed unusual cures to her prayers. No matter where she might be in the monastery, she seemed to know when an ill sister needed her.
In addition, she practiced severe penances such as sleeping on the floor, using a hair shirt, leaving windows open in winter and closed in summer, taking the discipline, and so on. These were her ways of uniting with God and disciplining her body. She tried never to do her own will for she believed that “she who does not know how to conform her will to that of others will never be perfect.” Her resolution was: “I propose to have no other purpose in all my activities, either interior or exterior, than the motive of love alone, by constantly asking myself: ‘Now what am I doing in this action? Do I love God?’ If I should notice any obstacle to pure love, I shall take myself in hand and recall that I must seek to return my love for His love.” As for love of neighbor, she determined to “sympathize with their troubles, excuse their faults, always speak well of them, and never willing fail in charity in thought, word or deed”. One Sunday the Holy Spirit gave Teresa Margaret great interior enlightenment about the phrase “Deus caritus est” (God is Love, I John 4:8). After that, she was continually aware of God and His Presence within her. This, however, started a great spiritual trial in which Sr. Teresa Margaret longed to return God’s love with her own yet felt herself bereft of both.
Sr. Teresa Margaret may have strained herself in lifting the heavy, inert body of a nun who died, for shortly after, she herself, at the age of twenty-two, died after experiencing severe abdominal pain and vomiting. The date was March 7, 1770. Because her body appeared to be already suffering decay, the nuns quickly planned a funeral but upon taking the body for burial the next day, the blue-black color of the face had greatly lightened. Waiting, the sisters observed that, a few hours later, the body had regained its natural color. With the Provincial’s permission, the sisters were able to wait another day for burial by which time the limbs, which had been rigid at Teresa Margaret’s death, had regained flexibility and could be moved with ease. This reversal of the death process was so striking that the coffin remained open. Nuns, the Provincial, several priests and doctors all saw and testified that the body was as lifelike as if she were sleeping, and there every evidence of corruption and decay had disappeared. A portrait painter was called to paint a portrait of the young nun. By the time the painting was completed, a strange fragrance was detected about the crypt and in certain parts of the house in which Sr. Teresa Margaret grew up.
For two weeks, several doctors and ecclesial authorities came to examine the body which continued to regain more and more characteristics of a living being. On March 21, the Archbishop of Florence came to make his own examination of the now totally supple body whose bright blue eyes could be seen under lids slightly opened. A bit of moisture collected on her upper lip rendered, when wiped off, a “heavenly fragrance”. The Archbishop declared: “Extraordinary! Indeed, it is a miracle to see a body completely flexible after death, the eyes those of a living person, the complexion that of one in the best of health. Why, even the soles of her feet appear so lifelike that she might have been walking about a few minutes ago. She appears to be asleep. There is no odor of decay, but on the contrary a most delightful fragrance. Indeed, it is the odor of sanctity.”
Eighteen days after her death, Teresa Margaret was buried. Miracles attributed to her intercession began immediately. Thirty-five years later, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, her body was transferred to the nuns’ choir in the Carmel of Florence where it remains incorrupt.
Saint Teresa Margaret, pray for us.
QUOTE FROM SCRIPTURE
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." -- John 14:27
Jesus is telling us that His peace is everlasting. Peace from the Lord does not come and go. Nor does the Lord take it back once it is given. If we feel peace about a particular situation or decision, that peace will not disappear if the situation or decision is truly in God's Will. Scripture tells us that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is peace. Jesus has told us that His peace is beyond all understanding. In all that we do and plan, we should seek God's guidance and expect to receive it with peace. If peace is missing, that is a clear indication that the decision or plan is not from God. This does not mean that every decision will avoid conflict and will not cause upset. It means that, if you are the one making the decision, you must seek God's Will and the peace that will come from it. Once you know the direction, then move forward in faith and trust that the Lord is leading and will see you through.
Saint Teresa Margaret, OCD (1747-1770)
QUOTE FROM A SAINT
“Always receive with equal contentment from God’s hand either consolations or sufferings, peace or distress, health or illness. Ask nothing, refuse nothing, but always be ready to do and to suffer anything that comes from His Providence.” --Saint Teresa Margaret
Do we pray to become "children of quietness"? If we did, would we not inherit peace? Peace comes with quiet, but quiet must be interior as well as exterior. We could sit in the most peaceful spot on earth, but if our souls are disquieted, we have no peace at all. It would be more peaceful to be in the middle of battle fire with destruction all around us, but with peace in our soul, than to be standing in the middle of a silent forest glade awash with sun and to have our soul in turmoil.
How do we obtain the peace we crave? First by asking, and then by being faithful and trusting that the gift will be granted. God wishes each of us to be at peace. Why? Because He can rest only in a peaceful heart. God is not a God of war, tension, or stress. He is God of trust, acceptance, and faith. St. Teresa Margaret accept all that comes from God with a great peace and to trust in His Divine Wisdom.
Writing a Personal Journal Entry
What can one say about one's self, with thoughts so scattered, nothing comes to mind?
What have I done, that is worth anything, there is nothing I can find?
Moments, minutes, hours pass, and the mind, and journal paper are bare.
Sitting in a dark lit room, looking at a crucifix, with a fixed stare.
Paul Phelan, Novice 2
Me: God, can I ask you a question?
Me: Promise you won't get mad.
God: I promise.
Me: Why did you let so much stuff happen to me today?
God: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I woke up late.
Me: My car took forever to start.
Me: At lunch they made my sandwich wrong and I had to wait.
Me: On the way home, my phone went dead, just as I picked up a call.
God: All right.
Me: And on top of it all, when I got home I just wanted to soak my feet in my new foot massager and relax, but it wouldn't work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did you do that?
God: Let me see, the Death Angel was at your bed this morning and I had to send one of the other angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that.
Me: (humbled): OH...
GOD: I didn't let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.
God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick and I didn't want you to catch what they have, I knew you couldn't afford to miss work.
Me: (embarrassed): Ok...
God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, I didn't even let you talk to them so you would be covered.
Me: (softly) I see God.
God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn't think you wanted to be in the dark.
Me: I'm sorry God.
God: Don't be sorry, just learn to trust me...in all things, the good and the bad.
Me: I will trust you.
God: And don't doubt that my plan for your day is always better than your plan.
Me: I won't God. And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything today.
God: You're welcome, child. It was just another day being your God, and I love looking after my children.
Confraternity Photo Album
Year Pledge of Aimee Fleming
The Confraternity of Penitents is delighted that, at our CFP Retreat/Reunion/Conference 2012, Aimee Fleming made a year's pledge to live the Rule and Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents. The CFP is grateful to God and to Aimee for this great grace. Aimee serves as a formator for several CFP members in formation and is a joyful and prayerful member of the CFP as well as an active participant in the on line monthly CFP meeting.
Aimee kneels before the altar during the Mass of Pledging and makes her pledge.
Franciscan Prayers, Available for 3.95 plus shipping from the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop. See http://cfpholyangels.com/devotional.aspx
Clare and Francis Dipytch--12.50 plus shipping from this link: http://cfpholyangels.com/franciscandiptychs.aspx
Wooden Tau Pin, 3.95 plus shipping from this link: http://cfpholyangels.com/pins.aspx
These items and many more are available at www.cfpholyangels.com They may also be ordered by postal mail by writing to CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop, 304 Hooper Street, Tiverton RI 02871 USA or by phoning the Gift Shop at 401-624-4790. Sales of these items supports the Confraternity of Penitents in its mission of promoting penance (conversion) worldwide. Thank you for your support and please pray for us!
"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Jesus' words as recorded in Matthew 22:37-38)
Living Love of God and Love of Neighbor by following modern constitutions to the the original Rule which Saint Francis gave to the penitents in 1221.
The Confraternity of Penitents is fulfilling the Church's call to penance and repentance in the modern world. The Confraternity has canonical status as an international a private lay association of the faithful with commendation under the Bishop of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island, USA. Its members live in their own homes or in CFP community houses. The Confraternity of Penitents welcomes inquiry from all Catholic laity and religious in union with the Pope who are interested in living a life of personal conversion and deepening surrender to God. Non-Catholics may apply as Associates.
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