Confraternity of Penitents: Living St. Francis' Rule 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: March 2013
Letter from One Who Serves the CFP
OBSTACLES TO BELIEF
Introduction to Christianity, by Professor Joseph Ratzinger, speaks of some barriers or obstacles to Christian belief: “……..there comes, to make things harder for us, the gulf between ‘then’ and ‘now’. The basic paradox already present in belief as such is rendered even more profound by the fact that belief appears on the scene in the garb of days gone by and , indeed, seems itself to be something old-fashioned, the mode of life and existence current a long time ago………Belief appears no longer as the bold but challenging leap out of the apparent all of our visible world and into the apparent void of the invisible and intangible: it looks much more like a demand to bind oneself to yesterday and to affirm it as eternally valid. And who wants to do that in an age when the idea of ‘tradition’ has been replaced by the idea of ‘progress’?
"We touch here on a specific element in our present situation that is of some importance to our question. For intellectual circles in the past, the concept of ‘tradition’ embraced a firm program; it appeared to be something protective on which man could rely; he could think himself safe and on the right lines if he could appeal to tradition. Today precisely the opposite feeling prevails: tradition appears to be what has been laid aside, the merely out-of-date, whereas progress is regarded as the real promise of life, so that man feels at home , not in the realm of tradition, of the past, but in the realm of progress and the future.”
On top of the problem that Christianity comes from the past, lies another problem which Professor Ratzinger goes on to discuss: “Christian belief is not merely concerned, as one might at first suspect from all the talk of belief or faith, with the eternal, which as the ‘entirely Other’ would remain completely outside the human world and time; on the contrary, it is much more concerned with God in history, with God as man. By thus seeming to bridge the gulf between eternal and temporal, between, visible and invisible, by making us meet God as man, the eternal as the temporal, as one of us, it understands itself as revelation. Its claim to be revelation is indeed based on the fact that it has, so to speak, introduced the eternal into our world: ‘No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known’ (John 1:18).” Professor Ratzinger then makes the point even clearer by referring to 1 John 1:1-3 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life----the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us----that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Professor Ratzinger goes on to explain why this aspect of Christianity is such a stumbling block: “The very thing what at first seems to bring God quite close to us, so that we can touch him as a fellow man, follow his footsteps and measure them precisely, also becomes in a very profound sense the precondition for the ‘death of God’, which henceforth puts an ineradicable stamp on the course of history and the human relationship with God. God has come so near to us that we can kill him and that he thereby, so it seems, ceases to be God for us.” After wondering whether it would be better to leave God as the “Mysterious Eternal” rather than the Person whom we can “see” and “touch” as St. John says in his first letter, Professor Ratzinger then states “Surely a God thus narrowed down to one point is bound to die definitively in a view of the world that remorselessly reduces man and his history to a tiny grain of dust in the cosmos, that can see itself as the center of the universe only in the naïve years of its childhood and now, grown out of childhood, ought finally to have the courage to awake from sleep, rub its eyes, shake off that beautiful but foolish dream, and take its place unquestioningly in the huge context in which our tiny lives have their proper function, lives that should find new meaning precisely by accepting their diminutiveness?” Here Professor Ratzinger brings together the double scandal of Christian tradition and claims concerning the Divine Revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
Professor Ratzinger was writing these words in the 1960’s, when the “death of God” was very much in the news and the consciousness of many people. Now, we hear very little about the “death of God”. Why not? It seems that Western society has very quietly “killed” God, not on a cross or by persecution of Christians but by relegating Him to Churches and keeping Him totally out of public society. What is God’s position on abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, divorce, fornication, adultery, or gay marriage? It does not matter since the question of God is a private subjective question and best left out of polite society. Those Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, who have questioned the wisdom of this “style” of our secular society don’t get very far and may even be persecuted.
Next, Professor Ratzinger challenges each Christian to firmly decide whether he or she can stomach the “scandal of Christianity” or simply accept the “death of God” in our society: “The Christian of today must ask himself this question; he is not at liberty to remain satisfied with finding out that, by all kinds of twists and turns, an interpretation of Christianity can still be found that no longer offends anybody. When some theologian explains that ‘the resurrection of the dead’ simply means that one must cheerfully set about the work of the future afresh every day, offense is certainly avoided. But are we then really still being honest? Is there not serious dishonesty in seeking to maintain Christianity as a viable proposition by such artifices of interpretation? Have we not much rather the duty, when we feel forced to take refuge in solutions of this sort, to admit that we have reached the end of the road? Are we not then bound to emerge from the fog and to face straightforwardly the abiding reality? Let us be quite plain about it: An ‘interpreted’ Christianity of this kind that has lost all contact with reality implies a lack of sincerity in dealing with the question of the non-Christian, whose ‘perhaps not’ should worry us as seriously as we want the Christian ‘perhaps’ to worry him.”
In 1968 Professor Joseph Ratzinger challenged Christians to face up to the real scandal of the claims that both Jesus Christ and Christianity have made for Him. He continues to do this right up to this day. Can we Catholics accept the challenge?
--Jim Nugent (Jim is a life pledged member of the Confraternity of Penitents)
No Greater Love
What Is Life?
With the dawning of the holy season of Lent, it is normal and natural to take off on a journey of self-introspection to examine the direction our lives are heading. It is also to be noted that these periods of self-analysis are especially true during moments of silence and solitude. In this regard, Walter de la Mare's famous lines come to my mind: "What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare".
If we were to sum up the main purpose of our lives, Jesus' words would ring in our ears: "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven" (Matt 5: 13-16).
In this effort to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world", we experience a continuous struggle. One of the ways of combating the opposing forces to this Christ-given mission is renunciation, penance and mortification. But these age-old practices are now frowned upon and regarded negatively, and most of them seem to have been absolutely done away with. In this regard, what we need to remember is that all forms of renunciation, penance and mortification engage the body in a type of behaviour which is never that to which we are naturally drawn. Their aim is not to reduce anything in us, although it may look that way at first sight, but to promote another part of us, a better part which cannot be brought to light except by renunciation.
Having now come to understand the purpose behind all mortification and penance, which is not an end in itself but a means to an end, we need to sustain our efforts with nourishment, not just for the body, calling to mind that "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt 4: 4). In fact, the Word of God sustains more than anything else, not just by listening to it read and preached at Mass or during retreats and recollections, but especially by personal reading and reflection, particularly through the practice of Lectio Divina or Divine Reading as done in monasteries and abbeys.
The fact that we are followers of Christ makes it our moral duty and responsibility to "Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News" (Mk 16: 15). This need not be done only by word of mouth, but especially through the witness of our lives. In this regard then, are we called upon to be the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth". Let all our efforts then, "Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do everything for the glory of God" (1 Cor 10: 31). Then we too can say with St. Paul, "And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2: 20a).
By Patrick John Ashing, Oblate, OSB Cam, CFP Affiliate
Reflection on the Rule
6f. In their own homes, penitents should attempt to prepare foods that other household members enjoy even if this means that penitents must sometimes prepare an individual dish for themselves in order to follow this Rule.
6g. In order to be hospitable, penitents may eat small, between meal snacks if they are entertaining guests or if they are guests in the homes of others.
6h. When eating with others in a group setting, the penitent should endeavor to allow others to choose their foods first as long as this penitential practice can be kept hidden and not call attention to the penitent.
6i. Travelers while in transit to their destinations and those who are ill, weak, pregnant, or breastfeeding are exempt from following the abstinence provisions of this Rule.
These sections of the Constitutions provide detailed instructions to Article 6 of the Rule of 1221 which deals with the fasting and abstinence provisions of our Rule. These are very humane details which help the penitent to put others first, to act with charity as well as with self-restraint, and which allow for dispensations in certain important situations where health and well being are at stake. Penitents should not hesitate to follow any of these prescriptions as situations arise, knowing that charity supersedes the Rule. Charity is why penitents should cook foods others in their families enjoy even if this means that the penitent does not eat those foods on certain days (the penitent is following the Rule, not the other family members). Charity is the reason why a penitent can partake of small, between meal snacks if a guest in the home of another or if entertaining a guest (to not do so could cause discomfort in the guest or host). Charity and self discipline are the reasons behind waiting to the end to be served, if possible (no calling attention to this practice or it could cause embarrassment). Charity toward one's own body in certain situations involving health issues is the reason why one may forgo the abstinence provisions of the Rule (unless it is a day of abstinence in the Church). Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and those who are ill or weak, may need more protein than a meatless diet allows. One may ask how traveling is a health issue. It is for people who get motion sickness. If they need meat to remain healthy while traveling (and this would be while actually in motion), then they may have it.
Affiliates should read carefully these provisions of the Constitutions and follow them as closely as they can. Certainly they can allow others to be served first, if possible, while at buffets and dinner gatherings. This is a good penance and also a good self-discipline. If Affiliates are trying to follow, as much as possible, the fasting and abstinence provisions of the Rule, they can remember these exceptions and explanations also. A balanced life of penance is the best life. It avoids spiritual pride while providing discipline and gives the penitent a physical, time tested way to practice self restraint so that the penitent is more capable of surrendering one's own will to the Will of God.
Reflection on the San Damiano Crucifix
Serenity of Surrender
When one gazes on the San Damiano Crucifix, one can't help noticing how serene Jesus looks. This is an image of His masterful conquest of His Passion, but it is also a model of how we should deal with struggle and pain. Jesus remains serene because He knows that all that is happening to Him is in the Will of His Father. The horrors of His Passion, the grievous three hours of dying, are not random happenings but ordained by God for a greater good. If we retain that same attitude in our own struggles, we will better be able to bear them because we will understand that God has not abandoned us. On the contrary, God is with us, having determined how our life should be at that moment, turning to our good and the good of others all the pain and questions, all the confusion and set backs, all the dashing of our dreams and the destruction of our plans. For God has a better plan and other dreams for us. And He is perfectly clear about them. To embrace His Will and not our own, at every moment, and most especially in the most upsetting moments, is to rest in the peace of Christ as portrayed on the Crucifix of San Damiano. Let us pray for a strong faith so that such peace can come.
San Damiano Crucifix
Saint of the Month
Blessed Marie-Clementine (Anuarite Nengapeta)
Anuarite was born in the Congo on December 29, 1939. Since Anuarite's father wanted a son, and his wife had given him six daughters, he divorced his wife and married another woman. Anuarite forgave him for this. Anuarte's aspired to be a nun like those in her village, and she and her mother were baptized on the same day in 1945, Anuarite being baptized Alphonsine.
Anuarite was sensitive and helpful. Even as a child, she aspired to be a nun like those in her village who taught school. At first, Anuarite's mother disapproved but Anuarite, on her own, requested admission to the convent. The nuns, however, refused her because she was too young. One day, however, a truck arrived to take the postulants to the convent in another city and Anuarite climbed aboard. Having searched for her for days, Anuarite's mother discovered she had gone to the convent.
Anuarite took her vows on August 5, 1959 and became Sister Marie-Clementine. Although both parents proudly attended the ceremony, her mother later tried to persuade Sister Marie-Clementine to return home to support the family financially.
At the convent, Sister Marie-Clementine devoted herself to serving others and making them happy. She even did chores others avoided, although she would openly scold those who refused the work. She had vowed perpetual chastity and celibacy and encouraged the other nuns to do the same.
In 1964, a rebellion broke out and indigenous monks and nuns were suspected of being in league with the foreigners. On November 29, 1964, the Simba rebels arrived at the convent and took all 46 nuns by truck to another location where one of the leaders tried to persuade Sister Marie-Clementine to become his wife. She refused repeatedly, even though threatened with death. The defense of her mother superior did nothing to deter the colonel from his advances. Through the night, the colonel tried to seduce Sister Marie-Clementine and she continually resisted him. He forced her and another nun, whom he also wanted, into his car but caught them when they tried to escape. He beat both nuns, breaking the arm of the one in three places and, in his fury, calling Simbas to stab Sister Marie-Clementine with their bayonets. After they had done this several times, the colonel took his revolver and shot her in the chest. Sister Marie-Clementine died on the morning of December 1, 1964.
After being captured, following the rebellion, imprisoned, and released after several years, the colonel came to the convent, requesting food which the nuns gave him. The convent superior said, "Sister Marie-Clementine forgave you. We must follow her example."
Quote from a Saint:
"I forgive you for you know not what you are doing." -- Sister Marie-Clementine as she was being beaten, shortly before being murdered.
Sister Marie-Clementine knew Jesus' words of forgiveness, uttered on the cross at Calvary, and used them when she faced her own torment and death. She, like Christ, was innocent of any wrong when evil entered her life in the form of lust and anger and caused her death. She is an example of how an ordinary person can embrace a life of holiness and sacrifice when thrust into a situation where valor in the face of immorality is necessary.
Sister Marie-Clementine, pray for us to embrace purity as you did. Pray for us to practice charity as you did. Pray for us to forgive those who hurt us. Amen.
Blessed Marie-Clementine (Anuarite Nengapeta)
Quote from Scripture:
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Jesus in Luke 23:34)
This is the quote which Sister Marie-Clementine remembered when she was being beaten. She used it to address her tormentors, soon to be murderers. Who do we know who knows not what they do? How can anyone really know what he or she is doing when they purposely harm someone else? It is impossible to know the ramifications of such hurt. As penitents, our obligation is two fold, as we are trying to follow Christ's example. We must avoid hurting others needlessly and we must forgive those who hurt us intentionally or thoughtlessly. Sometimes hurt is needed for a good end, as a doctor must "hurt" a patient when a tumor is removed or a parent must "hurt" a child's feelings when he or she has to forbid the child from engaging in dangerous or unethical behavior. However, we can all avoid the self-righteous remark, the verbal quip intended to prick an enemy, and the showing up someone else for no reason other than to prove our superiority. Likewise, to those who have treated us in this way, we can pray, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Often we can offer our forgiveness to the hurting parties as well. In all cases, we must do as Jesus would have done and as He calls us to do--to act with charity and to respond with charity. May the Holy Spirit help us to do this.
Down this grassy,
Rocky path –
Dappled – confined –
Yet always continuous
Tadpoles and fish.
We have grown away
From its transparent wake.
Life’s clarity is different—
Not so clear as these waters.
While it flows along
Day and night
To its constant destination—
To the ocean far away
And to fill also
Our thirst ~
--Joseph Matose, CFP Affiliate
Why John Adams go to the Benedictine monastery? To meet his wife Abbey.
Why did the Rabbi require basic arithmetic? To fully comprehend the book of Numbers.
What Benedictine martyr dug for treasure? St. Meinrad.
Who was born in a convent? Joshua son of Nun.
Which pope thought he saw a putty cat? Sylvester I.
Which pope would better be called the Lion Pontiff? Leo the Great.
Who in England is famous for lawn work? Professor More E. Yardi.
Why was the Joker afraid to play Cricket? Because of the Batman.
What did Ahab do to get away from Jezebel? He set sail to hunt the White Whale.
Created by Patrick Wheeler, CFP Novice 2
Confraternity Photo Album
Northeastern United States weathered a blizzard on February 9 and 10, 2013. Here are some photos of the Confraternity of Penitents Office and Community House taken immediately after the snow stopped. Yes, a truck plowed the driveway, at least so cars could get in and out. But the rest of the driveway and the walkways were shoveled or cleared by snow blowers, by CFP members. And lots of places in the Northeast got MORE snow than this!
Apple Tree in Drift in Back Yard
Juniper Hedge and Drift
Driveway. There IS a street at the end of this.
Walk to Front Door.
Happy Birthday to:
Andrew L 3/2
Mary Grace W 3/2
Paul B 3/10
Eugene 0 3/11
Paul P 3/12
Elizabeth H 3/15
Jackie S 3/15
Francis D 3/15
Robert B 3/18
James M 3/23
Carol M 3/24
Mary Louise S 3/24
Jeremy R 3/27
Donna S 3/29
William C 3/30
Dustin N 3/30
Stephen S 3/31
Featured Items CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop
These and many other items are available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop. See cfpholyangels.com
Saint Francis and Brother Duck. A fanciful retelling of the story of Francis of Assisi, for young children. May well spark a vocation! Delightful pictures. Charming text. True to the history (except for the duck who becomes a friar!) 15.99
First Holy Communion Lapel Pin 1.95 First Holy Communion Custom Print Cards also available.
Padre Pio Rosary and How to Pray Rosary Booklet. Packaged for Communion or Confirmation Gift. Our Lady of Grace, St. Francis of Assisi styles also available. 9.95
"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.
When emailing us, please write "Inquiry about Confraternity of Penitents" in your subject line so that we do not mistakenly delete your email as spam. If you do not hear from us within five days, please write again as occasionally emails go astray.
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Confraternity of Penitents, 520 Oliphant Lane, Middletown RI 02842-4600 USA 401.849.5421 www.penitents.org firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com