Sunday, November 17, 2013

Examination of Conscience for Confession

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 and the Sins of the Tongue: The Backbiting Tongue

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's Advice to the Woman Who Gossiped

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

The Light is On For You and Other Programs to Encourage People to Go to Confession

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