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 -- December 2013
The Fast of Saint Martin continues until Christmas Day. Please see the Rule and Constitutions for details of this fast, applicable to all those at Novice 3 level and above.
Letter from One Who Serves the CFP
THE PERSONAL GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB
In his Introduction to Christianity, Professor Joseph Ratzinger asserts that God revealed His name to Moses as Yahweh (I AM). Yet, who is “Yahweh”? Is He somebody totally different from the God that Moses and his people had been worshipping? Do Moses and the people of Israel have to retool their whole concept and relationship with God in order to worship Yahweh? God’s answer was No! Moses was told “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’”. (Ex 3:15)
Professor Ratzinger goes on to explain exactly who “the God of your fathers” was: “The God of Israel’s fathers had not, it is true, been called Yahweh; when we meet him he bears the names El and Elohim. The patriarchs of Israel were thus able to use as their starting point the El-religion of the surrounding peoples, a religion that is characterized chiefly by the social and personal character of the divinity denoted by the word El. The God upon whom they decided is characterized by the fact that, in the language of religious typology, he is a numen personale (personal god) not a numen locale (local god). What does this mean? Let us try to elucidate briefly what is meant by each phrase.
First we should recall that the religious experience of the human race has continually been kindled at holy places, where for some reason or other, the “entirely Other”, the divine, becomes especially perceptible to man; a spring, a huge tree, a mysterious stone, or even an unusual happening that occurred at some spot or other, can have this effect.
But then the danger immediately arises that, in man’s eyes, the spot where he experienced the divine, and the divine itself, merge into each other, so that he believes in a special presence of the divine at that particular spot and thinks that he cannot find it in equal measure elsewhere: consequently, the spot becomes a holy spot, the dwelling place of the divine. The local connection of the divine thus resulting then also leads, however, by a sort of inner necessity, to its multiplication.
Because this experience of the holy occurs not just in one spot but in many, while the holy is regarded in each case as confined to the spot concerned, the result is a multitude of local divinities, who thus become at the same time gods of their own respective areas.”
He then contrasts the numen personale (personal god) with the numen locale (local god): “In contrast to the heathen tendency toward the numen locale, the locally defined and limited deity, the “God of our fathers” expresses a completely different approach. He is not the god of a place but the god of men: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is therefore not bound to one spot but is present and powerful wherever man is. In this fashion one arrives at a completely different way of thinking about God.
God is seen on the plane of I and You, not on the plane of the spatial………..By deciding in favor of El, the fathers of Isra-el thus made a choice of the greatest importance: they opted for the numen personale as opposed to the numen locale, for the personal and person-centered God, who is to be thought of and found on the plane of I and You, not primarily in holy places.
This basic characteristic of El remained the one sustaining element, not only of the religion of Israel, but also of the New Testament faith: the emanation of God’s personality, the understanding of God on the plane defined by the I-and-You relationship.”
Professor Ratzinger then mentions two other aspects of the faith of Israel. First, this personal God also stands above all other “gods” and powers and embraces in itself all powers. Also, this God is the God of the Promise: “He is not a God who orients man to the recurring pattern of the cosmic cycle; rather, he directs man’s attention to the coming events toward which his history marches, to a meaning and goal that have a final validity; he is regarded as the God of hope in the future, in a direction that is irreversible.”
He also pointed out that while the early concept of the personal God (El) may have originated from the surrounding people, there were some aspects of the surrounding religions which the Jews definitely rejected: “The Jews rejected the notions of God current in the surrounding areas under the names of Baal (the lord) and Melech, or Moloch (the king).
What was renounced here was fertility worship and the local connection of the divine that it brings with it; and the No to the king-god Melech also involved the rejection of a certain social pattern. The God of Israel is not moved away to the aristocratic distance of a king; he is a stranger to the boundless despotism linked in those days with the image of a king—he is the near-at-hand God, who fundamentally can be the God of each and every man.”
Professor Ratzinger then deals with the plural nature of the word of God which Israel used, Elohim. “Finally, it must be pointed out that the El-faith was accepted in Israel chiefly in its extension to “Elohim”, an extension that also hints at the process of transformation that even the El-figure needed. It may seem curious that in this way the singular El was replaced by a word (Elohim) that really indicates a plural.
We cannot go into the complex details of this process here; suffice it to say that this very development enabled Israel to give a better and better expression to God’s uniqueness. He is one, but as the exceedingly great, entirely Other, he himself transcends the bounds of singular and plural; he lies beyond them. Although in the Old Testament, especially in its early books, there is certainly no kind of revelation of the Trinity, nevertheless in this process there is latent an experience that points toward the Christian concept of the triune God.
People realized, if still quite unreflectively, that while God is indeed radically One, he cannot be forced into our categories of singular and plural; rather, he stands above them, so that in the last analysis, even though he is truly one God, he cannot be fitted with complete appropriateness into the category “one”. In the early history of Israel (and later on, too-for us especially) this means that at the same time the legitimacy of the question implicit in polytheism is admitted. The plural, when it refers to one God, means, so to speak, ‘He is everything divine.’”
Here and in other places Professor Ratzinger is pointing out the foolishness of those who say that the God of the Old Testament is the God of Law while the God of the New Testament is the God of Mercy and Love. The God revealed to us in the teachings and the person of Jesus Christ is the same God as the God of the Old Testament. Certainly, we can say that this God was revealed to us as only a person could reveal Him to us (the Word was made Flesh). We need to understand the richness of God which was hinted at in the early Old Testament and blossomed forth in the New Testament. In writing this, Professor Ratzinger is not just giving us intellectual or academic information about God. He is trying to induce us to love Him totally. We certainly should, though prayer and actions, move toward the love of God every day.
No Greater Love
The Divine Office: Dialog with the Beloved
Recently I was blessed to have taken a trip to assist in the move of the Confraternity of Penitents from Rhode Island to Massachusetts. While the trip was intended to help others, God blessed me through it.
In my trip I was moved by the communal-ness of the Body of Christ. Except for the Mass, I only pray alone. I had the chance during my time on my trip to pray with so many people, and in so many different—and beautiful!--communities. We have a great gift in our way of life in that we pray the Divine Office. The oneness and community of prayer throughout the world, and also joined to the eternal prayer of heaven. This week of prayer reminded me of this. And on the way home I was able to pray the Office in the many different states through which my bus passed. I couldn't help but think that my prayers were joined in a special way to the communities of the lovers of Christ in each of these different places as I passed through.
Think of the motion of time, and how it is joined in prayer to the instant of eternity, what Gerald Vann called the "Eternal Day". The earth turns, and time moves; and yet at every moment someone is saying good morning to God and to His creation. At every moment someone is punctuating the mid-day with prayer. As one of the prayers of the Little Hours says: "This midday moment of rest is your welcome gift." At every moment someone is saying to the Beloved, with all the yearning and fear of a human lover: "Stay with us Lord, for evening draws near." And at every moment, someone somewhere is saying in words of hope and faith that "Night holds no terrors for me, sleeping under God's wings." And this constant cycle of prayer is made one in the oneness of the one prayer of the saints and angels in heaven, gathered around the throne of God, gazing upon His Divine Face, in the sunshine of that 'eternal day'.
Every day is a new opportunity to wait in silence and observe the tangible movement of the Spirit in the world. There is excitement in this. In a noisy world, it takes only one's own silence to be able to hear Him speak, and stillness to feel Him move.
The same hippy-ish couple who had travelled on my bus and who disembarked at a little town on the way boarded the bush again to return to my home city. I was surprised and happy to see them again. A girl in rustic knitted sweater, and a boy in denim pants and shirt. Both with messy hair--hers long, his short and tousled. They seemed just as much, or perhaps even more, in love than the last time I had seen them. A joyful love, one which seemed most happy and contented. Purely satisfied with only a backpack to carry their things, and the joy of being simply in each other’s presence.
To me, they incarnated some of the joy of silent prayer. The humble poorness of the soul, alone with the Beloved. To play, to love, and to share the joy of love. The delight He has to simply be with us, and we with him.
May we pray the Divine Office with heightened awareness of being in the Presence of our Beloved and listening to Him.
--Life Pledged CFP Member who wishes to remain anonymous
Reflections on the Rule
Rule 12 (continued reflection on this section)
12. All are daily to say the seven canonical Hours, that is: Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. The clerics are to say them after the manner of the clergy. Those who know the Psalter are to say the Deus in nomine tuo (Psalm 54) and the Beati Immaculati (Psalm 119) up to the Legem pone (Verse 33) for Prime, and the other psalms of the Hours, with the Glory Be to the Father; but when they do not attend church, they are to say for Matins the psalms the Church says or any eighteen psalms; or at least to say the Our Father as do the unlettered at any of the Hours. The others say twelve Our Fathers for Matins and for every one of the other Hours seven Our Fathers with the Glory Be to the Father after each one. And those who know the Creed and the Miserere mei Deus (Ps. 51) should say it at Prime and Compline. If they do not say that at the Hours indicated, they shall say three Our Fathers.
12k. In addition, for Morning Prayer, all are to add the Apostles' Creed and Psalms 51 ("Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love," etc.) and 54 ("Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might," etc.) and 119 ("Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord") up to verse 32. If a penitent cannot read, he or she should endeavor to memorize the psalms. If this is not possible, three additional Our Fathers may be said.
12l. For Night Prayer, right before retiring for bed, all are to add Psalm 51 and the Apostles' Creed. If the penitent cannot read Psalm 51, an Our Father may be substituted.
12m. The Glory Be to the Father is to be prayed after each psalm.
12n. In addition, penitents should, if possible, spend a minimum of fifteen minutes daily in meditative or contemplative prayer.
In its call to follow the Rule of 1221 as closely as possible to its original intent, the Confraternity of Penitents prays the exact Psalms and the Creed as prayed by the early penitents. The prayers are said at the time of day required by the original Rule. The same substitutions as were permitted by the original Rule are also permitted in the Confraternity of Penitents Constitutions. As in the original Rule, the Glory Be is prayed after each Psalm. Upon the advice of the Confraternity of Penitents’ first Visitor, Constitution 12n was added to require the penitent to spend a minimum of 15 minutes in contemplative prayer daily, if at all possible. This is so that the penitent’s prayer time consists of more than vocal prayer. Penitents should spend time quietly in the presence of God. Thus, the Rule and Constitutions strike a balance between vocal and mental or contemplative prayer.
While Affiliates are asked to pray only the Affiliate Prayer daily for the Confraternity of Penitents, and to offer one Mass per year for the CFP, they would be wise to develop a daily prayer schedule. That schedule could consist of the Psalms and Creed prayed by Confraternity members as well as the 15 minutes per day of mental prayer. Such a schedule would bring the Affiliates into a deeper relationship with God who speaks to us through words and through presence.
God’s Choicest Blessings
Peace and joy I wish to you
In every place both old and new—
May you fulfill your destiny
With every vast day grow to be—
A day of peace filled serenity—
A desire that you be whole and free—
And when skies are not clean and blue
You find a journey with a favorable view—
And I’ll say a prayer to surround with peace
That all the good things in life increase!
--Joseph Matose IV, CFP Affiliate
Reflection on the San Damiano Crucifix
Protuberances in the Gold Border
The San Damiano Crucifix is bordered with gold scallop shells, symbols of Baptism. Moving from the outer edge of the cross toward the interior, we find a second gold border, this one of solid narrow gold. A quick look at the San Damiano Crucifix may cause the onlooker to miss the gold protuberances which projects into the image of the cross and carefully spaced intervals. What do these signify?
Perhaps they are to be gold nuggets which emphasize the wealth that Christ forsook in coming to earth as a human being. A few of them, which appear clearer than the others in the reproduction of the Crucifix, resemble different types of sea shells. Could the iconographer have added these to the Crucifix to remind the viewer of the origin of the first apostles? These men, as fishermen, would have seen such shells on the seashore. The subtle variety of these protuberances would symbolize the variety of individuals whom the Lord is calling through the apostles, His fishers of men. Certainly as the fishing nets were raised, shells would come up along with the fish. Or perhaps they indicate the divinity of God, symbolized by the gold, breaking through into the humanity of the world. Or perhaps the iconographer simply wanted to decorate the gold border. Some parts of icons may mean something to the iconographer alone. What do you think?
Saint of the Month
Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel (September 17, 1830 – February 6, 1905)
Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel, foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, was beatified by Pope Francis on November 10, 2013. Because the sisters had a convent in the Fort Wayne/Fort Bend Diocese, Bishop Kevin Rhoades concelebrated the Mass of beatification which took place in Paderborn, Germany, in its 700 year old cathedral.
Born on September 17, 1830, the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, Mother Maria Theresia was baptized Regina Christine Wilhelmine, although she was called Aline. Her home was close to St. Martin’s Church in Olpe, Germany, where her body now rests. Her parents were deeply religious, but little Aline suffered the loss of her father to death when she was only seven years old.
Aline showed a great love for prayer and strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. While studying with the Ursuline Sisters in Cologne, she first felt the stirrings of a religious vocation. With a schoolmate, she devoted herself to good deeds and works of charity and devotion which she promoted among her classmates.
During a mission given in 1850, Aline felt a stronger calling to religious life. A year later, she became a member of the Third Order Secular of St. Francis, taking the name Maria Theresia. At the same time she pronounced a private vow of chastity. However, her mother refused to grant her permission to enter a convent. Later her sister Emily became ill and Aline cared for her. Finally her parish priest persuaded her mother to let Aline enter religious life, but a sudden illness prevented her from traveling to the convent.
Seeing God’s hand in her circumstances, she was able to recognize the opportunity in joining a teacher who had left her religious Congregation in order to start a life of service to poor orphans. Aline and a friend joined her, and they began their work of mercy with four young children. Other young women joined them, and in 1860 the Bishop of Paderborn approved of the new statutes for their way of life. Aline took the name Maria Theresia, which was her Third Order name, and added the phrase “of the Blessed Sacrament.”
Before long, internal and external difficulties led to a division of the group. It was evident that God wanted not one but two Congregations, each of which would do much good work for God and for the Church. On July 20, 1863, the Bishop approved the convent at Olpe as an independent motherhouse, and Sister Maria Theresia was appointed superior of the nine Sisters who remained with her. The Sisters accepted the Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis, and a saintly Franciscan priest advised them.
With the assistance of another holy foundress of a Franciscan Congregation, Mother Maria Theresia worked on new statutes which were approved by the Bishop in 1865. Mother Maria Theresia saw that her Sisters were educated for their work in hospitals and schools, and she oversaw the enlargement of the house for orphans. Mother Maria Theresia appointed St. Joseph as her treasurer; hence, funding was sufficient.
As more young women came to join the Congregation, the number of houses expanded. During the war of 1870-71, the Sisters cared for 800 wounded the soldiers. Mother Maria Theresia was awarded medals in recognition of this work.
However, an anti-clerical reaction against the growing strength of the Catholic Church forbade the Sisters to receive new candidates. The convents were placed under police control, and in 1876 the orphanage was closed. Since the continuation of the Congregation was threatened by the severe laws, Mother Maria Theresia considered it wise to begin a foundation in North America. When the Bishop of Fort Wayne, Indiana, visited the motherhouse in 1875, he approved Mother Maria Theresia’s plan and told her that his Diocese would provide an excellent mission field for the Sisters.
In December, 1875, Mother Maria Theresia, her assistant, and six missionary Sisters began the foundation in the United States. They had no money, but God blessed their work and they received many vocations, found housing, and cared for the sick in a few poorly furnished rooms. With the help of generous benefactors, the Sisters were able to open many new hospitals and schools.
When conditions changed in Germany in 1882, Mother Maria Theresia was able to accept new German members into the Congregation. The orphanage in Germany reopened and began to care for children with epilepsy. The Congregation grew, and Mother Maria Theresia was elected Superior General, an office which she retained until her death. She continued in her great trust in God and in her deep prayer life. She considered herself merely an instrument in the hands of God, while cherishing a special love for the Holy Eucharist, the manger, the cross, the Blessed Mother, and St. Joseph. She endeavored to make sure that her churches were beautifully decorated and the vestments and altar linens of fine quality. At the motherhouse, she introduced perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which continues as the primary apostolate of the Congregation. For many years she prayed the Stations of the Cross barefoot outdoors. The Franciscan model, “My God and my All” was her favorite prayer. She had a great reverence for the Pope and the bishops. Always she gave credit to God and never lost sight of her own unworthiness. She had affection for not only her Sisters, but also for the orphans and all others for whom she was willing to make great sacrifices. Always she gave credit to God for all good achieved through her.
Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel pray for us.
Quote from Scripture:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
The life of Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel shows the truth of this passage from Scripture. Because her mother forbade her from joining the convent, and later, because she was too ill to travel there, she joined another woman in establishing a new Congregation. However, when that congregation split, Mother Maria Theresia became the foundress of a new Congregation. Little did she think that she would leave Germany where the Congregation began, but when persecution of the Catholics arose, she sought another location to preserve the Congregation. This led her to the United States where the Congregation has done much good work. Life did not turn out as Mother Maria Theresia thought, but it did turn out exactly as God had planned. He made all things work together for the good, so as to accomplish His purpose.
Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel
Quote from a Saint:
“Teach me, O my Jesus, to think and judge mildly and charitably, to speak little and wisely, and to act justly and prudently in order that my life be always pleasing to you and that I may reach perfection in holiness.” –Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel
Blessed Maria Theresia’s prayer was answered in her own life. Her Sisters attested to her charity and wisdom, and to the holiness that seemed ever present about her. The Church has recognize the perfection of her holiness by calling her Blessed.
Happy Birthday to:
Joanne A 12/2
Janice S 12/3
Susan B 12/16
Judith P 12/17
Linda C 12/18
Sieglinde S 12/20
Maria D 12/22
Larry D 12/22
Grace J 12/23
Julia B 12/23
Katherine S 12/26
Kim H 12/30
Robert S 12/31
OPINIONS On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read, 'The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.'
KETCHUP A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup out of the jar.. During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone.. 'Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle.’
POLICE # 1 While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, I was interrupted by a little girl about 6 years old. Looking up and down at my uniform, she asked, 'Are you a cop? Yes,' I answered and continued writing the report. My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?' 'Yes, that's right,' I told her. 'Well, then,' she said as she extended her foot toward me, 'would you please tie my shoe?'
POLICE #2 It was the end of the day when I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me. 'Is that a dog you got back there?' he asked. 'It sure is,' I replied. Puzzled, the boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said, 'What'd he do?’
ELDERLY While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, 'The tooth fairy will never believe this!'
Confraternity Photo Album
On November 4, 2013, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Bishop of the Fort Wayne/South Bend Indiana Diocese, blessed the house and grounds used as the Confraternity of Penitents’ International Headquarters. The Confraternity relocated to Fort Wayne upon the Invitation of Bishop Rhoades. We are very grateful to the Bishop for the grace of living here (the CFP is renting the property) to advance the ministry of penance (conversion) worldwide. Here are some photos of the blessing. More photos and text are on line on the CFP blog.
Bishop Rhoades greets guests in the house prayer chapel.
Bishop Rhoades reads the blessing.
Bishop Rhoades prepares for procession to bless the remainder of the house and the property.
Bishop Rhoades blesses the wooded area behind the house.
Bishop Rhoades concludes the blessing outside the garage renovated into the CFP office and on line gift shop.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades with Madeline and Jim Nugent, residents at and caretakers of the property and headquarters.
"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 private lay association of the faithful with commendation under the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend IN USA (formerly under the Bishop of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island). Its members live in their own homes. 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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Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA 260-739-6882 www.penitents.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org