"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Confession: today's most misunderstood and undervalued sacrament

Everyday For Life Canada

The Healing Grace of Confession

MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2013

In today's world, to suggest to anybody including those in our own families that they go to confession, is to risk being met with criticism or outright dismissal, unless of course one already goes to confession. One big obstacle to returning to the confessional is the plain fact that many of the faithful no longer receive the sacrament on a regular basis. Many Christians have embraced the secular world of self-forgiveness. The other problem is the reluctance to have to admit one's sins to a priest. Have you heard this line before: "Well, I haven't killed anyone or stolen anything so why do I need to go to confession?" or "Why do I need to tell a priest my sins when I can go to God directly?"

A few months ago my dentist's daughter got married and we attended the wedding ceremony. It's important whenever possible to be present. After all, it's at the Mass that the couple actually becomes married before God. A Christian marriage is a sacrament and not merely a civil contract or a big lavish party. Just before communion time, we were shocked to hear from the celebrant these words, "It's unfortunate because of Church rules and regulations that I cannot give the host to everyone present. Those of you who are not Catholic and others who aren't receiving Holy Communion can still come before the altar and I will merely give you a blessing." But the Church rules are there for a good reason. If one has sinned against the Ten Commandments, one must go to confession before receiving Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. Why would anyone wnat to receive Holy Communion if they don't know or believe in the real presence of Christ?

The priest was incorrectly suggesting that he should be able to give communion to everyone present whether they were practicing Catholics in a state of grace or not. But the Catholic Church does have clear rules for all seven sacraments. To receive Holy Communion, one condition is that the faithful make a good confession. There's been so much misunderstanding after Vatican II that somehow regular confession was no longer needed. Christians could now follow more progressive practices. In fact, if you look at how much time the priests now dedicate to confession in the average parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto, it's less than a couple of hours a week. This is hardly enough time to confess the number of parishioners which comprise most parishes. In some churches, the confessionals have even been removed. It's an architectural marker that sin is something of the past, or no longer something that should concern us. Our society is in denial about sin and as consequence so too with confession. This is not what the Church teaches.

Confession is probably the most misunderstood and undervalued sacrament in our times. It was St. John Vianney the patron saint of priests that constantly reminded the faithful of the importance of confession and the Eucharist in living the Christian life. While the modern mind questions the very idea of revealing one's sins to a priest, there are no shortages of people having countless paid sessions ready to tell a stranger the same weaknesses and faults even if they are called psychiatrists and therapists. The modern person looks to find self-improvement in all kinds of programs and books. The growing trend of personal improvement gurus is an indication of people's wish to discard an old and failing self and adopt a new and successful one. Surely you recognize the programs associated with these names: Wayne Dyer, Echardt Tolle, Richard Carlson, Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey and there are many more. The great success of the self-help business is evidence of people's need to be more than they are. There's an innate desire in the human heart to change our fallen state and embrace a new and better self. But it's not in these human activities or in the writers where will find forgiveness for our sins and a better self, but in Christ since He tell us, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

It's confession that truly re-news ourselves because it re-connects our souls to Christ love and mercy. Confession has the healing power of Christ's grace and compassion. And it all costs us nothing but good-will. All we have to do is to say "Yes" to a personal conversion which comes with every confession. Christ has already paid the price for all human sins. It's Christ's death and resurrection from the cross that can forever wipe away our sins. No psychiatrist or self-help program or guru can do this. The sacrament allows the baptized to confess one's sins to an ordained priest. If we are contrite for our sins and propose to reform, we obtain Christ's forgiveness through the priest. After we are reconciled to Christ and his Church, we are spiritually ready to receive Holy Communion.

If you and your family haven't been to confession in some time, don't let this hold you back. Christ's gift of grace and forgiveness will be much more than the effort and worry you may feel. After confession, you will be so grateful and thankful that you can receive Holy Communion and be truly ready to celebrate the greatest feasts of all, EASTER!

Posted by Lou Iacobelli at 7:15 PM

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