Tag Archives: confession

Advent is penitential

For most of the time since Vatican II liturgists have spent a lot of energy trying to promote the idea that Advent is not a penitential liturgical season. A recent heated inter-change with an aging religious sister who was formed in the sacred Liturgy in the 1980s demonstrated to me that the obvious was missing from “Sister’s” understanding of the nature of Liturgy and her seasons. The downplay of the penitential character of Advent is, in fact, not merely misleading as I would say rather wrong especially if you look at the totality of the liturgical season. Of course, the nature of penitence during Advent is different from Lent; and no one of right mind would claim that Advent and Lent have the same degree of penitence. The Scriptures and prayers chosen for Advent’s Masses and the Divine Office all point to the removal of sin and repentance and conversion; plus, the choice of saints honored in Advent also point in the direction of Advent’s penitential character.

The source of the wrong thinking is likely the fact that some professional Catholics who had a hand in framing a “new” liturgical sensibility in the Catholic Church –as if we really needed a new view– really didn’t like the notion/reality of sin, penance, repentance, etc. The fear-based aspect of religion prevalent in former years was likely disproportionate to a human and religious reality (think of the Irish emphasis on sin); no doubt you can’t dismiss the fact that sin breaks a relationship with God and if not taken care of with the sacrament, it leads to a radical separation that could prevent one from entering into beatitude.

A mature Catholic spiritual life has the emphasis on being healthy, reasonable, human and merciful. A mature spirituality is one that takes responsibility and realizes that humility goes a long way to wholeness and holiness. Pope Francis emphasizes this fact. The capacity to admit we are wrong, that we are imperfect, that we truly desire holiness is the point of true penitence. A Christian life is only possible with a purity of heart. The right-ordered penitential life is only accomplished in conversation with a prudent spiritual director so that one is able to strive for greater coherence and integrity, purity of heart, and single-mindedness.

The Advent hymn “People Look East”has real currency here: “Make your house fair as you are able, / trim the hearth and set the table. / People look East and sing today: / Love the Guest is on the Way.” Indeed, let’s get ready to receive the Divine Guest. Have we made way for the newborn Prince of Peace? How crowded are our hearts and minds for Jesus?

I tried to receive the sacrament of reconciliation today while I was NYC today with a friend. But I was frustrated because the priest left the confessional early. I was little annoyed –well, it was more than a “little annoyed”– because I blurted out: “I guess Father is unaccustomed to working that he couldn’t wait to the end of the scheduled time.” Advent is a great time for priests to spend more time, not less, in the confessional. Being set free from sin to worthily receive the Eucharistic Lord at Christmas is beautiful and necessary thing.

Choose life

The news these past days about bishops being deposed, investigated or admitting to affairs with women is rather distressing. Whether we are in Paraguay, Kansas City, Limburg, or Arundel and Brighton or anywhere else on the globe, or an average Catholic we need to adhere to Christ. To be human is to acknowledge our need for forgiveness; that we are all sinners, that is, redeemed sinners. What do we need to know? How are we to act as Christians?

Precisely because are sinners made in God’s image and likeness and that we receive the sacraments we sinners  have a Savior and a Church whose nature is mercy.  Too often in parish life or in the broader Church one can recognize the experience that there is too much gossip, faithlessness, nihilism and dysfunctional behavior. No gloating in the sin of another; no putting on aires. But let us pray for the grace of conversion and the grace to sin no more.

Being merciful and just does not mean we do nothing and sit complacent. The Church and all that we are and have are given to us by God Himself. The charitable work we are to do is to educate our hearts and minds and to keep steadfast in building the Body of Christ, the Church.

Lastly, I encourage all of us to go to confession. Examine your own consciences, and not other people’s consciences. we need to do penance. Perhaps even observe the First Friday devotion with sincerity. But we don’t need to be self-righteous and accusatory. The book of Deuteronomy exhorts us to choose life: for the Christian choosing life means to do what Jesus did with the woman at the well. The spiritual life requires our clear attention to the points of sin and grace and to move on the path to a grace-filled life.

Confession of sins is Good News

pope confessesThe Pope gave a teaching on the sacrament of Confession. He has three points. Remember the Pope has a central emphasis for his ministry: MERCY. Today, begins a concerted effort on the part of the Bishop of Rome to encourage ALL priests to assist the faithful in this ministry of love and to embrace this gift given by the Lord. I think Pope Francis is quite clear, don’t you?

“24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative of Pope Francis to make room for the reception of Confession. Here is a video clip of the pope doing what he’s been teaching.

The Pope taught:

In the period of Lent, the Church, in the name of God, renews the call to conversion. It is the call to change one’s life. Conversion is not a matter of a moment or a year, is a commitment that lasts a lifetime. Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one. The Apostle John writes: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).” This is what happens in our celebration and throughout this day of penance. The Word of God we have heard introduces us to two essential elements of the Christian life.

The first: put on the new man. The new man, “created according to God(Eph 4:24),” is born in Baptism, where one receives the very life of God, which makes us His sons and incorporates us into Christ and his Church. This new life allows one to look at reality with different eyes, without being distracted by things that do not matter and cannot last long. For this we are called to abandon sinful behaviour and fix our gaze on that, which is essential. “Man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. (Gaudium et Spes, 35)” Behold the difference between the life deformed by sin and the life illumined by grace. From the heart of the man renewed according to God come good behaviors: always to speak with truth and avoid any lie; to steal not, but rather to share what you have with others; especially with those in need; not to give in to anger, resentment and revenge, but to be gentle, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not to fall into backbiting that ruins people’s good name, but to look more rather on each person’s positive side.

Confession LonghiThe second factor [is]: Remain in my love. The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever, will never end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. Our Father never tires of loving and His eyes did not grow heavy in looking at the way home, to see if his Son who left and was lost will return. And this Father does not tire of loving even His other son, who, though he remains ever in the house with Him, nevertheless does not take part in His mercy, His compassion. God is not only the source of love, but in Jesus Christ calls us to imitate his own way of loving: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. (Jn 13:34)” To the extent that Christians live this love, they become credible disciples of Christ in the world. Love cannot stand to remain locked up in itself. By its very nature [Love] is open, it spreads and is fruitful, [it] always generates new love.

Dear brothers and sisters, after this celebration, many of you will make yourselves missionaries to the experience of reconciliation with God. “24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative in which many dioceses all over the world are participating. To everyone you meet, you will communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and regaining full friendship with Him. The one who experiences the mercy of God, is driven to be the creator of mercy among the poor and the least. In these “littlest brothers and sisters” Jesus waits for us (cf. Mt 25:40). Let us go to meet them! And we will celebrate Easter in the joy of God!

Pope to priests: hear confessions

Pope hears confessionsThe human face of Jesus Christ, the mercy of God and the love of Holy Mother Church is only going to be known if the priest gets back into the confessional (on a daily basis?). The Pope of Mercy is calling priests to act like priests and not as bureaucrats by getting into the confessional more often.

Robert Moynihan, Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Vatican, writes today, “Out of the Curia into the Confessional,” that a recent papal decision in asking the priests (which includes the bishops and cardinals) of the Roman Curia to hear confessions on a regular basis. Why? “Because he [Pope Francis] wishes to emphasize the importance of confession, and of God’s great goodness in forgiving human sin.”

Confession of sin opens all of us up to what is a living Catholicism (evangelization and faith formation): to living a mature form of Christianity.

What a great idea! Actually, the Pope is expanding the ministry started at one of the churches in Rome devoted to promoting God’s unfailing mercy through the inspiration of Saint Faustina. Oddly enough, the building next to the church where the confessions are heard, is the Jesuit Roman Curia. You might remember that the Jesuits, from the days of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, had a special ministry in hearing confessions for people of all walks of life. The good Jesuit would stop everything to reconcile someone to God and the Church! A delight that is no longer frequently practiced by the Jesuits of their own Curia. Leave it to the Jesuit pope to re-invigorate this venerable aspect of Jesuit priestly ministry… I hope the Jesuits get the hint.

What the Pope has proposed the Curia is not meant for them alone; it is meant as an invitation to all priests about the world to reclaim the ministry of reconciliation today. There are no reasonable excuses to be made but I can hear the priests complaining now: “I already sit in the confessional once a week for 20 min.” OR, “The people know where to find me.” OR “We’ve lost the battle already, why bother?” OR “There are plenty of other priests hearing confessions in this city, I don’t have to spend more time in that box!” OR my favorite, “I am too busy.” The priest who holds this attitude needs some re-education.

In the City of New Haven, CT, there two Catholic parishes, both run by religious orders, the Order of Preachers and the Vincentian Fathers, St Mary’s Church and St Stanislaus Church (respectively), who make their priests available for confessions six days a week. I frequently see people going into the box a sinner only to emerge freed from sin and given sanctifying grace.

The Dominican Friars have a tendency to preach about the need for repentance and the beauty of being in the merciful embrace of the Good Shepherd through the ministry of the confession box. I think the Holy Father got his ideas in the Elm City, no?

I acknowledge my transgression

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Have you ever thought about the scriptural exhortation that “A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit”? What does it mean? What does it mean for me? Why do I need a contrite (a feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming)  heart to be a person of faith? When I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, or approach the confession box my thoughts and feelings zero-in on contrition, sin and what it all means. Some days I am plagued by the heaviness of sin (separation from God but also living divorced from a good sense of self and relations with others). Here, I am talking about the place of mercy –God’s mercy– for me.

The Responsory for a recent reading in the Office of Readings (Sunday, 14th Sunday through the Year) has us sing: My sins are embedded like arrows in my flesh. Lord, before they wound me, heal me with the medicine of repentance.

A clean heart create for me, O God. Put a steadfast spirit within me. Heal me with the medicine of repentance.

I found myself thinking about what Saint Augustine said about sin in one of his sermons. (The italics is Augustine using Scripture.) Perhaps the following portion of the sermon is of interest for you. The spiritual life, indeed, our whole personhood, needs to consider how we deal with sin in our lives.

Saint Augustine said:

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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