Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


It's been a lot on my mind of late, this forgiveness thing.

In recent days I have flirted with a return to sins of habit. In my pride -- yeah, I got that; I think we've covered it previously -- I had assumed it was all overwith. But hubris breeds nemesis, like the Ancient Greeks said and Satan, not being stupid, managed to slip in a pry bar. It was by sheer grace that I woke up and swerved back on the road, as it were.

Where flirting-with-disaster fits in the Great Chart of Sins, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure it's in there somewhere, though; and, much like when I get a paper cut I go and scrub it with something antibacterial, I'll be hauling this to Confession. The purpose of Confession, natch, is forgiveness. We have already had our sins dealt with by Christ's salvific sacrifice on the cross. So our forgiveness is there. All we have to do is pick it up.

Previously, I had referred to the Confessional as God's "Will Call" window. It's just like when someone buys you a ticket to a concert or opera or whatever and he (or she) leaves them at the Will Call window of the box office. Do you have tickets to see ___ Live In Concert? Yes, you do. Just go pick them up.

What I suggest as re. Confession is doing it the Old School way wherever possible. Anonymous, in a confessional, unscheduled. There is nothing particularly more noble or "better" about doing it off-hours and face-to-face. In my opinion, you introduce the possibility of Human Error into the equation, both on the part of the confessor and the penitent.

That said, our "worst" sins are the ones which have carved a groove of habit in our lives. The sins that prey on our inattention or exhaustion or imperfect/inconstant vigilance. You know which one it is in your life. Sometimes it spirals utterly out of our control like a hurricane, and sometimes it just comes back to wreck things and leaves until the next time, like an earthquake. The thing not to be hung up about is the role of the confessional in exploring the root causes of sinfulness. When you go in for open heart surgery, that's not the time to discuss diet and exercise.

However, in the Act of Contrition, you (we!) promise to sin no more and to avoid the "near occasion of sin." Plainly put, if you don't want to fall off a cliff, don't walk up to its edge and start wiggling your toes over the abyss. But with sins of habit, this requires something different from Confession. If Confession is surgery, you need the equivalent of a rehabilitation therapist. You need a spiritual director to deal with the implications of your attitudes and behaviors that leave you with, like the Catechism says, "an inclination to sin."

It goes without saying that none of this will work if you undertake it (or try to) without examining your conscience (the Jesuit "Examen of Conscience" is ideal for this, IMCO) and most importantly asking prayerfully for God's help.

Arise and walk, however awkwardly, to God.




  • At 1:22 PM, September 13, 2007 , Blogger Veritas said...

    I myself am dealing with a similar situation, except that in avoiding my habitual sins, I'm becoming increasingly moody with everyone else (it's really bad!). I figure that this is the time to converse with our Lord and make it clear you can't walk this journey alone, you need Him, for without Him, you'll never survive the stones and boulders that you can see ahead on the path.

  • At 9:23 PM, September 28, 2007 , Blogger ~m2~ said...

    There is nothing particularly more noble or "better" about doing it off-hours and face-to-face. In my opinion, you introduce the possibility of Human Error into the equation, both on the part of the confessor and the penitent.

    ah, yeah -- to an extent. thing is, when you are a lector at your church and you have a verrry distinctive voice, as in seeing someone and saying hello and having them say, "i didn't know who you were until you said 'hi' *then* i knew you from church!" kind of honestly doesn't matter. face-to-face gives you a degree of accountability that you don't have by hiding behind a screen (IMHO) -- again, i am a convert, not a cradle Catholic. f-t-f is how i was taught.

    however, taking the time to make an appointment so you don't *clog* up confessional time for the other penitents that are patiently and anxiously waiting in line takes guts and a bit of courage. being shut down by a priest to one's face, by word and by facial expression, could leave a convert penitent running for the hills and back to being "a Christian."

    it can go off in a tangent in so many ways.

    i am the biggest proponent and recipient of grace during and after the confessional; it has washed over me like a wave that has just crested and continues to push my hair back until my face feels tingly from the salt. thing is, when you go *expecting* without being unreasonable that your confession will be heard and you will get a taste of that grace (even if only eventually) and it doesn't happen and leaves you groping for answers, then is grace dependent upon penitent or the confessor? (i'll answer for you -- it is dependent upon Christ Himself. thanks for listening :)

    it's where we sometimes get a bit tripped up in our theology. the grace comes through the priest by way of Christ Himself. I would not and could not ever imagine my Lord and my God telling me to "leave, say no more" and "go get (my) husband because he "needs to be a part of this." in laymen's terms: wtf?

    your post was about forgiveness, joe, for which i apologize for the meandering walk...although it is apparent there is some forgiving i need to do for being so wronged during my recent confession that has turned me away from the Church.

  • At 12:12 PM, October 02, 2007 , Blogger Joe said...

    I forgive your tangent. ;-)

    Two things I said bear further explanation.

    1- There is nothing nobler or better about confession one way vs. another. The best format for Confession whatever way of you will avail yourself with frequency.

    2- We are a fallen race, and so each "format" has its drawbacks. For me -- and you are hereby freed from the onerous and crippling need to agree with me -- the anonymous confession is the best of the available options, because I am more worried (in my case) of the human error thing.

    Clear as mud?



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