"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)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

QUAERITUR: suffering and grieving over my past life

From a reader:
Lately my mind has been getting assaulted by the remembrance of my past life and all my sins; it was rooted in egoism and hedonism- not a pretty sight, and I wish it would all go away.
I know I’ve been forgiven, and that there is no sin so serious that God can’t forgive, but the guilt feels like it’s weighing me down all of a sudden.The usual, “Be happy! Jesus died for your sins! You’re Forgiven!” only makes me feel more guilty.
What advice, if any, can you give a person such as myself who is now suffering and grieving over their past life?
I feel for you!
I think that we all feel this way, when we consider our past … our sins.
We will always have the memory of our sins.
We will always, as Catholics, believe that our sins are truly forgiven!
Our post-baptismal sins are forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance.
The Lord Himself forgives your sins through Holy Church and the priest.
Go to confession as often as these things well up in you.
Try not to beat yourself over the head too much.
Yes, you are going to beat yourself over the head.  And you should.  But… not too much.
At a certain point we go on.  We get on with living.
As I have written before, there is a phrase from a mediocre book by Bernard Malamud, turned into a great baseball movie, The NaturalRoy Hobbs, down and wounded, regrets past decisions.  His redemptive character, the woman he loved when he was young (before he made stupid, life-changing mistakes), says to him that we have two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live afterward.
I sure feel that way myself.  I feel that way almost every day of my life, as a matter of fact.
But I believe in Christ’s promises.
Put your sense of shame, for that is what this is, into the chalice during Mass with the little drops of water – our humanity – that are mingled with the wine.
It will all be taken up by Our Lord and transformed.
Then, get involved with corporal works of mercy.  Do some concrete things.  Get your hands busy and a little dirty.  Perhaps your parish has something to do.  Perhaps there is a neighborhood food shelf or group… you get the idea.  Action is needed to counterbalance the introspection.
Do something.

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