Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I want to be a Priest to Forgive Sins

Exchanging emails recently with a young man about a vocation to the priesthood, I asked why he felt someone should be drawn to the priesthood, his reply was, "to forgive sins". Personally I thought that was pretty good, but maybe not what most bishops would regard as the normal answer, some might even find it an unacceptable answer.

Co-incidently, I then read Fr Z on Pope Francis' little homily from yesterday morning. It really is brilliant, I think I am going to put it on the back of next Sunday's newsletter. Fr Z is the expert "fisker" so read it there, rather than the Vatican Radio form below.

Interesting, JPII generation of priests wanted to teach or preach the faith, Benedict XVI generation of priests wanted to celebrate the liturgy reverently. I wonder will the Pope Francis generation want to be priests because they want to forgive sins. How exciting if they do".

In many ways what Francis says explains his motto: Miserando atque Eligendo my loose translation "I was given mercy and as a consequence I chose". A priest must be someone who is aware of God's mercy and his need for it. He should be ashamed of falling short of God's love, and be uncomfortable with it and want to seek God's mercy through the Sacrament of Mercy, often.

Pope Francis doesn't seem to be against daily confession, "And if tomorrow I do the same? Go again, and go and go and go .... He always waits for us".  Obviously there are dangers of a priest pandering to a neurosis or a penitent failing to make a firm enough purpose of amendmentment  but with a wise confessor can deal with that but God's mercy helps us to stop sinning. A priest never wastes time hearing Confessions or going to Confession himself. Amongst clergy we need to create culture of frequent Confession. Perhaps Pope Francis will do that, that will certainly be a huge step to "humbler, poorer Church", a Church that identifies with sinners.

I have met plenty of "good" priests and bishops, the less impressive ar those who are naturally good, the more impressive are those in whom one can actually see the workings of Grace. Not necessarilly the most good but certainly the most Holy, was a Bishop who lived with two elderly priests, who used to speak about them as "my confessors". I think he used to go to confession daily, either to one of these priest, or to a priest who he was visting, or to a priest who confessed to him.

"Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: 'If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us'. Look to your sins, to our sins, we are all sinners, all of us ... This is the starting point. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful, He is so just He forgives us our sins, cleansing us from all unrighteousness…The Lord who is so good, so faithful, so just that He forgives. "
"When the Lord forgives us, He does justice" - continued the Pope - first to himself, "because He came to save and forgive", welcoming us with the tenderness of a Father for his children: "The Lord is tender towards those who fear, to those who come to Him "and with tenderness," He always understand us”. He wants to gift us the peace that only He gives. " "This is what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation" even though "many times we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaner" to clean the dirt from our clothes:
"But Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner: it is an encounter with Jesus, but with this Jesus who waits for us, who waits for us just as we are. “But, Lord, look ... this is how I am”, we are often ashamed to tell the truth: 'I did this, I thought this'. But shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human ... the ability to be ashamed: I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country to those who are never ashamed are called “sin vergüenza’: this means ‘the unashamed ', because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble. "
Pope Francis continued: “ we must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father, "Jesus Christ the righteous." And He "supports us before the Father" and defends us in front of our weaknesses. But you need to stand in front of the Lord "with our truth of sinners", "with confidence, even with joy, without masquerading... We must never masquerade before God." And shame is a virtue: "blessed shame." "This is the virtue that Jesus asks of us: humility and meekness".
"Humility and meekness are like the frame of a Christian life. A Christian must always be so, humble and meek. And Jesus waits for us to forgive us. We can ask Him a question: Is going to confession like to a torture session? No! It is going to praise God, because I, a sinner , have been saved by Him. And is He waiting for me to beat me? No, with tenderness to forgive me. And if tomorrow I do the same? Go again, and go and go and go .... He always waits for us. This tenderness of the Lord, this humility, this meekness .... "
This confidence, concluded Pope Francis "gives us room to breathe." "The Lord give us this grace, the courage to always go to Him with the truth, because the truth is light and not the darkness of half-truths or lies before God. It give us this grace! So be it. "


Savonarola said...

Is it not quite worrying if young men want to be priests because they are attracted by the false mystique of priesthood, the notion that priests have quasi-magical powers to forgive sins, confect the eucharist etc.? It is God who forgives sins, priests are merely his mouthpiece. Celebrating sacraments does not require any special gifts or qualities. Anyone could do it who was properly instructed and ordained.
One thing that priests might usefully do - because it is one of the great needs of the Church today - is to help people to pray. I don't mean reading the daily office or knowing when to genuflect, but really knowing God through above all prayer of quiet and contemplation. There is, however, a common perception that especially Catholic clergy are not themselves very prayerful in this sense, so how could they teach others to be? They are always conspicuous by their absence from prayer-centred activities, conferences and retreats which attract large numbers of laypeople and clergy of other denominations. The idea seems to be that once you are ordained you don't need any further spiritual growth, just do your priestly things and that will be enough - that pesky mystique again.

Sixupman said...

Mother Church was, universally, the home of solace for sinners. She embraced the total spectrum of Catholic, from reprobate to the religious maniac - side by side in the pews. That appears to have all been lost.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I cannot but you should, I would be very interested in the reaction!

Fr Ray Blake said...


Forgive me for publishing your comment, it might be considered "inflammatory".

Londiniensis said...

Excellent post as always, Father.

Small point, the Holy Father's coat of arms has been "tweaked" since his installation as pope. The star is now eight pointed and the nard flower more "floral" and looking less like a bunch of grapes. Both are now gold. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/elezione/stemma-papa-francesco_en.html

Rachel M. Gohlman said...

I really wish we could have daily confessions. It would be helpful to those who work weekends and can't make it before Saturday Mass, which is when 90% percent of the churches in my state offer confession.

vetusta ecclesia said...

I had cause to complain to my bishop about confession not being available at advertised times, even in the Cathedral. He replied that he would mention this in an ad clerum. It is terrible if a penitent, who may be finding approaching the sacrament a trial, is prevented by what is frequently clerical slackness.

gemoftheocean said...

Where possible, it might be useful to re-institute the custom of offering confessions DURING Sunday Mass. I can remember up until the mid-1970s when this was pretty common practice. Admittedly these days with one priest parishes, this would be hard -- BUT perhaps some retired priests wouldn't mind being pressed into service on occasion?

Just before I left San Diego I attended St. Anne's parish (FSSP) and they had the practice. It didn't really disrupt at all and the benefits gained, I think far outweighed "missing a bit of the Mass." I mean, a few people would always be standing in line, waiting their turn, and of course they'd still be listening to the Mass and watching. So you were only "out" the couple minutes you were spilling your own sins. SEEING people go is a reminder and an inducement to go yourself. And you're not having to make a special trip on a Saturday. Most people were pretty considerate too, I think. I think they knew if they had "the usual laundry list" to get on with it and just dump the sins -- rather than decide that "now would be a good time to go into all my marital woes, or why I killed Joe Sixpack all those years ago and am only now confessing when the line is longer than the line for Beyonce tickets."

gemoftheocean said...

Angelo, all the priests I have known have been usually happy to take a few minutes to hear someone's confession. [Particularly if the person is unknown to them, I think, because they know that person may not have been for a long time and finally got the courage to go. and of course there's always the possibility that the person known to them may well have committed a mortal sins that needs to be taken care of ASAP.]

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