Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Confessional advice for frequent sinners

So you have been coming to Confession for the last forty-eight years and apart from a few occasions, you could be saying, "Same as last time. Father".

Some sins are like crocodiles, the really do kill the soul: murder, apostasy and adultery, were considered the very worse, for most of us they are easily recognised and avoided and once recognised can be dealt with, the same with other sins which are like rats that gnaw away at our souls given gravity, full knowledge and willing co-operation, they too kill our relationship with God, but they are recognisable. Once we understand how dreadful they are we bring them to Confession and deal with them.

The third type of sins are like fleas or lice, we know they are, we feel them biting, we can recognise the rash or the sickness the bring, sometimes they are the infections of other people, sometimes something that has been growing in the depths of our soul for years. These sins often infect us from childhood, maybe even infections we receive from our parents or from friends or those we associate with. They produce dis-ease but we can't identify them.

The first two types of sin must be dealt with in the Confessional, not only to free us from them but to heal us of the infections they bring, in one sense they are easily dealt with, not dealing with them can cost us our salvation and lead us to eternal separation from God, to Hell. They must be confessed before we receive Holy Communion because they turn Communion into eating and drinking our condemnation, something which should be salvific into something which brings judgement upon us.

The third type of sin, we are not strictly bound to confess, and although the wounds can be quite serious, they tend to distance us from God rather separate us from him. They certainly wound our relationship with him, hence we call the 'venial' rather 'mortal'. They are best dealt with by bringing ourselves into contact with Christ through prayer and penance certainly but also through Christ's healing power in the Most Holy Eucharist and as far as we are able to name them in the Sacrament of Penance. It is worth remembering that the Sacrament of Penance isn't just about the forgiveness of sins but also meeting Christ who heals and who strengthens, so that we can say truly, 'By the help of your Grace I will never sin again'. Confession renews Christ's power in us.

Remember it is by His Grace we pray we will never sin again, we can do our best but for all our efforts we come back with the same old bag of rubbish. The good news is 'Jesus saves'. And it is Jesus, not us who saves us. We are not the Saviour of the world, or even of our families, and certainly not of ourselves, it is blasphemous even to think it. All we have is our weakness, and our history of sin but recognising that and handing it over to Christ is our only strength.

All we can give Him is our weakness, taking it along to the Calvary, the city rubbish dump and placing all our sin, our rubbish before Him, who takes away the sins of the world. He alone can heal us.


Victor S E Moubarak said...

Great article Father. Thank you.

In my naive point of view, I feel that too many people these days perhaps cannot distinguish venial from mortal sins. Sure, we all recognise the "real baddies"; but even so, there are some serious sins which through habit, or perhaps because most people do them every now and then, have lost their real seriousness in peoples' minds.

Perhaps we all need some re-affirmation from the pulpit on Sundays on what is right and what is wrong.

Best wishes for Easter.

God bless.

gemoftheocean said...

Beautifully said, Father.

One sin especially has exponentially taken off is pornography - viewing or participating in it. And it's one of those big sins that could impact a person's life in so many ways in literally drag people into hell. Quite some time ago you posted an article about an encounter you had with a man who really wanted to break himself of it and be free from his addiction from it. IIRC he invited you to a ceremony when he burned all the porn he had on a bonfire at the beach. Wish I could find the link to it. Your blog no longer seems to have a "search this blog" function. [BTW, that item and this one might be a good post for the Titus Brandsma website.]

Nicolas Bellord said...

I have just been reading St Francis de Sales on confession and he obviously had much the same ideas as you Father. On venial sins he says it is easy to fall into a habit of confessing the same old venial sins without having a real intention of avoiding them. He suggests particularising each sin i.e. what actually happened rather than generalising: "I sinned against charity" or "I told a lie". Quite tough advice!

Supertradmum said...

Father, I find that confessing weekly or every two weeks helps me break old habits.

The road to perfection means that we must get rid of venial sin, as far as possible, which is why I wrote the 600 plus posts in the past three years on perfection and perfection as noted by the Doctors of the Church.

It is one thing to stop sinning and another thing to stop the habits surrounding sin.

Also, there is the "matter of sin", those inclinations which follow sin, even after confessing these. These fights can take a lifetime and the sacrament gives graces to combat concupiscence learned through sin, as well as a result of Original Sin.

We are all called to be saints, therefore the sacramental grace is essential.

Celia said...

I think it was St John of the Cross who compared venial sin to a small crack in a pitcher of water: it doesn't look much and very little appears to leak out, but if neglected eventually all the water disappears. I do think the Church shoots itself in the foot by saying that venial sins need not be confessed, so that many people think of confession as some kind of emergency service to be used only when they've done something they recognise as very wrong(and as Victor said, many are now confused as to what is and what isn't serious sin). Yes, it's tedious and rather depressing to take the same list of sins with you every time; but if you do persist and recognise you need help with what has become habitual sin, over time things can begin to change. You are more alert to what you're doing, you receive the grace to turn away from it or to stop quickly, above all you learn to turn to God for help.
In my parish the priest bemoans the fact that few people bother to come to confession, but seems not to connect this with the fact that he 'absolves' people at the Advent and Lent penitential services and allows them to think it's the equivalent of confession. The bishop is, I've been told, aware of this and 'winks at it.'

Long-Skirts said...

Thank you, Father!


Of all the happy
Of all my happy

Confessions in the
Were best for
Cutting strife.

Upon my head
A beanie
Or sometimes
Chapel veil

In summer’s heat
Tar-bubbled street
I’d run
Like wind in gale.

Holy water font
Into, my fingers dip
Made the sign of the Cross
So careful not to drip

Dark and cool and quiet
One red rose candle lit
And in the corners’ cornices
My soul saw Angels sit.

For they were there to help me
Come face to face with self
With poor man’s free psychologist
The Priest, behind dark shelf.

It wasn’t always easy
But always was absolved
And light with grace, back to the race
To live His Word, resolved.

And at this very moment
Saturday doors are there, no locks –
A place of virtual reality
Sacramental Confessional box!

Mme Scherzo said...

I'm very new to the faith, and sometimes I feel as though I haven't made a good confession, although I have made a good effort at it. This was helpful.

andHarry said...

AS a child i was required to go to confession every month. It was an ordeal which was resolved with a repetitive recitation of six of this and six of that; hitting my brother, teasing my sister, etc.

Londiniensis said...

A priest of my acquaintance, now long dead, used to tell this delicious story: an old lady entered the confessional, and pleading hoarseness handed him a list of her sins. The priest read them, and gave absolution. On leaving, she asked for the list back "for next time". I sometimes feel like that old lady ...