Sunday, December 1, 2013
Today is the First Sunday of Advent and it brings us into a liturgical season in which we think about the coming of Christ, as well as the end times. This includes our final end as well. We need to die in a state of grace in order to get into Heaven. Nothing has changed, in this regard, during the last 2,000 years since Jesus founded the Catholic Church.
If we're in a state of mortal sin, we're not in a state of grace. The only sure means of having our souls wiped clean is with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Advent has traditionally been a penitential time. Many parishes are now scheduling extra confession times during the weeks leading up to Christmas. This is a very good thing.
If you haven't been to confession in a long time, there's no time like the present. God Bless and have a wonderful and joyous Christmas.
Flickr photo by odd harmonic
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Catholics who have been away from confession for a lengthy period of time may not remember the formula for confession. Not to worry, though, because the priest will walk them through it. There are also good online resources to help you recall your sins before you make your confession. These "Examination of Conscience" are based upon the 10 Commandments.
Here is a link to an excellent Examination of Conscience guide published by St. Charles Borromeo parish in Picayune, Mississippi.
Flickr photo by Waiting for the Word
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Father Belet is not a canonized saint, and I don't even know his first name. But his advice is so right on. If we follow it, we too can become saints.
Gossip is a grave sin that can separate us from God and from our ultimate goal, of reaching Heaven. This is an evil we must strive to avoid. We also can't listen to gossip or encourage it, even if we remain silent. Father Belet of the Diocese of Basle in France wrote a booklet called Sins of the Tongue: The Backbiting Tongue. You can read this booklet for free by clicking here. It's also available for sale on Amazon.
Father Belet makes it clear that sins of the tongue can land us in hell. He relates the tale of two Catholic men, whom were good friends. One of them had the terrible habit of gossiping. His friend begged him to stop. But he didn't.
Both men had asked God for a favor. If one dies before the other, the deceased could send a message to his friend 30 days later. The man who gossiped was the first to go. God allowed him to "visit" his friend. But it was a disturbing encounter. The man told his friend that he would suffer in hell for all eternity, because of his unbridled tongue.
Backbiting is an ugly thing that often springs from envy. That's why I chose this very ugly picture, which you can see above.
Flickr photo by dingler1109
Saint Philip Neri was a noted spiritual director. He had a good sense of humor as well. He also could tailor his advice to each person, for the greater good of their soul.
Here is my favorite story about Saint Philip Neri. One time, a woman sought him out. (He had developed a reputation as a good confessor.) She had committed the grievous sin of destroying another's reputation with her tongue. He told her to buy a chicken, pluck it and then scatter its feathers. Then, he instructed, she must bring the plucked chicken back to his confessional. Puzzled by this advice, she did as she was told. The he told her to go and find all of the chicken's feathers.
She told him she couldn't do this. He replied that, in the same manner, her careless words could never be retrieved either. Unfortunately, she had permanently damaged someone's good name.
St. Philip Neri was born in 1515 in Florence. His family was wealthy, but he rejected worldly things in order to follow God. He was ordained to the priesthood, and eventually founded a religious order now known as the Congregation of the Oratory, or the Oratorians. He was canonized in 1622.
Flickr photo by Catedrales e Iglesias
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Catholics at one time, or so I'm told, because I'm not old enough to remember, took the Sacrament of Reconciliation seriously. Saturday afternoon was reserved for confession. Entire families would go to church, and, typically, waited in line. Back in those days, there were long lines because people took advantage of the chance to have their sins forgiven.
This all stopped sometime after the close of Vatican II, although the council never changed to need for us to confess our sins to a priest. Church leaders in the United States have long realized they've had a crisis of immense proportions, in that the laity have abandoned the practice of going to confession.
In most parishes, nowadays, confession times are a half hour on Saturday, right before the Sunday vigil Mass. A handful of people still use the Sacrament, but it's also not rare to be the only one waiting outside a confessional on a given afternoon.
Several years ago, in response to this sad situation, the Archdiocese of Washington instituted a program called "The Light is On For You," which ran during the six weeks of Lent. Every parish was open at the same time on Wednesday evenings for confession. The response was overwhelming.
The Archdiocese is to be commended for taking such an initiative. Since then, other bishops have followed suit and developed their similar programs involving weeknight confessions.
I just wish these programs could run the entire year. Saturday afternoons are a difficult time for many people, as we're all so over scheduled.
Flickr photo by Steve W Lee
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Saint John Vianney is often referred to as the Cure of Ars. He was a parish priest assigned to the village of Ars, with a population of just 230, shortly after the French Revolution. He was sent there because he wasn't considered very smart.
Upon his arrival in Ars, Saint John Vianney found his flock had strayed from God. He undertook severe penances to win conversions. He spent a lot of time with his parishioners, trying to get to know each soul entrusted to his care.
The Cure had the ability to "read souls." This means he was acutely aware of the true state of a penitent's condition. He could also tell those visited his confession about other events in their lives. Saint John informed one young lady that she had actually met the devil at a dance she had attended. He was disguised as a handsome young man. The Miraculous Medal she was wearing was her protection.
Saint John spent long hours in the confessional, Catholics from all over the countryside sought him out. He got very little sleep. Many nights the devil kept him awake by making loud noises.
He was canonized in 1925. In 2009, to mark the 150th anniversary of his death, Pope Benedict XVI declared him patron saint of all priests.
Flickr photo by Ambrose Little
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Scrupulosity is characterized by an excessive focus on one's sins, even when they have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. Sometimes the penitent doesn't remember if they confessed the sin accurately or entirely. Other times a person may be tormented by thinking they are sinning,when they aren't.
Priests who hear confessions can tell when someone suffers from scruples, and they can help the person put their mind at ease. This is why it's important that confessors be kind and gentle, as St. Alphonsus Liguori always strove to be.
This saint founded the Redemptorist order in the year 1732. It now has more than 4,000 priests and about 5,000 religious brothers.
Here is some excellent advice on combating scrupulosity, written by a Redemptorist priest.
Flickr photo by cliff1066
Saint Alphonsus Marie de Ligouri is the patron saint of confessors. He was born in 1696 near Naples and was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 30. He entered religious life after having become a lawyer, but left that profession for fear it could damage his eternal salvation.
He suffered from a condition known as scrupulosity, in which he doubted whether he had thoroughly confessed his sins and whether his thoughts, words and deeds were offending God.
As a priest, he worked with the downtrodden in and around Naples, and then later, in the countryside. He was elevated to the rank of bishop in 1762. Three decades earlier he had founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, commonly referred to as the Redemptorists.
He was a great moral theologian and a kind, gentle confessor. He urged other priests to always treat their penitents in the same manner.
Saint Alphonsus was died in 1787 at 90 years of age. He was canonized in 1839.
Flickr image by Lawrence OP