Sunday, August 24, 2014

Three Confraternity of Penitents' Pledges

The Confraternity of Penitents rejoices greatly in the year pledge of Sandy Lewis and the life pledges of Lucy Fernandez and Aimee Fleming. The following homily by Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, was given during the Mass of Life Pledging for Aimee Fleming on August 24, 2014. 

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)

I really like this Gospel as it is about bringing joy to people. It is my favorite text in all of Scripture and I am preaching on it from a high pulpit in this beautiful church to all you blessed people on this wondrous occasion on which a penitent is about to make a precious act of love in the giving of herself, in making of herself and her labors, a gift to Jesus. We are all invited into the mystery of Christ today, into the mystery of God’s power today, the mystery at the heart of the Church. The power of God is here.

Sandy Lewis making her pledge to live the Confraternity of Penitents Rule for one year to celebrant Father George Nixon at CFP Retreat 2014. Date: July 25, 2014

When our Lord ascended into heaven, He left to all of us His power in the Church, power to transform the world. The task is not done! We aren’t finished! There will be an end, but, until then, we must make God’s power felt. The power is the power of the greatest sacrifice of love.
When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” they had all sorts of answers. Then He asked them, “But who do YOU say that I am?” Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus does the unbelievable. He tells Peter that whatever he loses on earth, God will lose in heaven and whatever he binds on earth, God will bind in heaven. This is unbelievable power which God is sharing with us. Each pope is not the successor of the previous pope. He is the successor of Jesus. People say, “Oh, no. That can’t be true. Why would God share this power with a human being? Bind on earth. Bound in heaven? Loose on earth. Loosed in heaven?” People say that the Pope does not have the power. But Who gave the power? The One Who had it in the first place. 

Jesus encountered this Himself. “Who but God can forgive sins?” the people asked Him. Only God, yes. But God gives this power to the priest. Amazing power not to lord it over people but to love them. Jesus held nothing back on the cross. He gave His whole self, His whole divinity, His whole humanity, His entire Will. We must spread this message that He held nothing back! We know Christ’s love. We have indulgences to take away the temporal punishment for sin, for example. People say, “How can this be?” Because God loves us so much that He gives us loopholes. Loopholes! God will not stop loving. He will not stop at doing what is fair. He suspends His justice so that we wretched sinners can get to heaven due to His mercy. Who would do this? No one but God! God becomes so trusting, so humble, so simple, so merciful. We can’t understand this because of our fall from grace. Our human nature seeks after power, lusts for power, and we can’t understand a God Who would have the power and give it up to Peter, to His successors, to the Church! 

Lucy Fernandez signing her pledge to live the Confraternity of Penitents Rule for life, at Christ the King Retreat Center, East Aurora NY, during CFP Retreat 2014. Father George Nixon accepted this pledge on July 26, 2014.

Think. We can participate in the power of love. We can participate in the power of loosing and binding. As we loose ourselves from the things of this world, we bind ourselves more securely to God. The Confraternity of Penitents is a witness to the power of the Cross. We make up in ourselves, in our sacrifices, in our prayers, in our fasting and abstinence, in our works of mercy, in our simple clothes and life style—we help make up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ! I have no idea what St. Paul meant when he wrote that, but I believe it. I think this life of penance is part of the mystery. As we separate ourselves from the world, as we are in the world but not of the world, we open ourselves more to entering into eternal life. With great joy, we give God our life.

A lot of people think that my favorite passage in the Scripture just read is the one about Peter and building God’s Church on the rock of Peter and God giving His power to Peter and his successors, that all people who come to salvation come through the Church, even if they don’t know the Church, even if they don’t know Jesus. But that’s not my most favorite passage. That’s my second most favorite passage. 

My most favorite passage is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Brothers and sisters, we are here in this time and we see satan’s attack against the Church. It’s been going on far too many centuries. It has been going on for all time. How can we hold on? We do penance! We give away what seems to be our fullness and are filled with the fullness of God. We fast because we rely on God for our strength. We pray so that God fills our time. We don’t fight this endless battle with swords and spears but with love, with the Rosary, so that God’s love will prevail.

Aimee Fleming following her pledge to live the Confraternity of Penitents Rule for life, pledge made to Father Jacob Meyerm CFP Visitor, August 24, 2014, at Our Lady of the Angels Oratory (formerly St. Andrew's Church), Fort Wayne Indiana. Pictured here with Father Jacob are the four life pledged members at this event (Jim Nugent, Madeline Pecora Nugent, Aimee Fleming, Lucy Fernandez).
Today we celebrate the embracing of the Franciscan life style. Saint Francis was so much like Christ that he called all the world to be like Christ, too, and all the world loves him. I have non Catholic friends who have a Francis birdbath in their gardens. They don’t know much about Francis but they love him, maybe not for the right reasons (Francis was not all about birds, I know) but they know he had an affinity for Jesus, that he was different and simple and loving and poor. And so they love him, even if that is all they know about Francis. The world recognizes the language of love and sacrifice. Your job as penitents, who life your Rule of Life for life, is to bring that message to the world, to lose yourselves for the world to bring the world, even kicking and screaming if needed, to heaven. Every soul you meet is one to bring to the Father.   

--Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Queenship of Mary

The Queenship of Mary is celebrated August 22. It is a joyous day for the Confraternity of Penitents for on this day in 2003 we refounded. So many wonderful blessings have come to the Confraternity since that time! God be praised! We ask your prayers for continued graces.

The CFP Penance Library contains two articles on the Queenship of Mary. One is on the Queenship itself and the other addresses the Why? of this celebration.

The Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop offers several items celebrating the Queenship of the Mother of Our Lord.

These include a poster on the Queenship, a Queenship of Mary Prayer Card, and a statue of Our Blessed Mother as Queen.
The Confraternity of Penitents participated in the Mass for the Assumption on August 15 in which Bishop Kevin Rhoades re-dedicated the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to the Blessed Mother. Photos are on this link .

Thanks be to Our Lady for intercession and God be praised for giving us so great a Mother.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Perseverance in Faith

The word of the Lord came to me, saying: Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord:
I remember the devotion of your youth,
   your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
   in a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
   the first fruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it were held guilty;
   disaster came upon them,

says the Lord.

 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
   that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
   who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
   in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
   in a land that no one passes through,
   where no one lives?’
I brought you into a plentiful land
   to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
   and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
   Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
   the prophets prophesied by Baal,
   and went after things that do not profit.

Therefore once more I accuse you,

says the Lord,
   and I accuse your children’s children.
Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
   send to Kedar and examine with care;
   see if there has ever been such a thing.
Has a nation changed its gods,
   even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
   for something that does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
   be shocked, be utterly desolate,

says the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
   they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
   and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
   that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2: 1-13)

            Perseverance is not usually one of our strong suites. We allow youthful enthusiasm to evolve into mature cynicism. Life beats us down and eventually we abandon our first love. After beginning well, we gradually we get off track. It is hard to keep swimming upstream. Stroke by stroke we grow weary of being 'the odd man out'. Having been worn down, we stop fighting the tug of the current and abandon ourselves to the flow. Once we stop striving against the draw of secular thought and begin to immerse ourselves in the tide of acceptable social mores, we shall stop journeying for the 'other shore'. When we get tired, let us not take the easy way out, of giving in to the movement of the stream. Rather, let us hold fast to the anchor of our profession. It is essential that we cling to Christ Who alone can bring us safely home. 

            Gospel hope is our anchor in the storms of this world. It is sure and steadfast, or it could not keep us so. The free grace of God, the merits and mediation of Christ, and the powerful influences of his Spirit, are the grounds of this hope, and so it is a steadfast hope. Christ is the object and ground of the believer's hope. Let us set our affections on things above, and wait patiently for his appearance, when we shall certainly appear with him in glory. Those who love souls must be willing to bear the consequences of their faithfulness.Maintaining a strong faith in God requires steadfast courage and unwavering hope in the face of our complex world situation. We have to admit, it was much easier to believe when we were young. The ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ have caused us to doubt God’s love, to question other people’s sincerity and to deny our personal worth. It seems we have lost the sure and trustworthy anchor of our souls (Cf. Heb. 6: 19). 

            Popular opinion does not change or alter eternal truth. Contrary to our democratic way of looking at things, God does not need our permission to exist. God does not depend on our approval ratings to be Master of the Universe. As the Master of the Universe, He exercises dominion over all that He has created. Because God is unchanged and unchangeable, He is the ground and foundation that holds us firm in the face of all life’s challenges. He remains faithful to His Word, even though we are unfaithful. He always acknowledges the work of His hands. As the Psalmist wrote: “He made us, we belong to Him” (Ps. 100:3). There is comfort in knowing that it is He who made us and has a plan for us. This plan cannot be undone by our unfaithfulness. Unlike secular society, God never tires of forgiving us when we wander from the fold. In Him we live and move and have our being. In Him we saved from our sins and recreated in light and grace. Because of the victory of the Cross, we belong to Him and are not our own. May we make it our business to give Him glory and praise to the latest day and hour of our lives. 

--Fr. Jerome Machar, OSCO