Tag Archives: Confession

St. John Vianney

images

Tomorrow August 4th  is the feast of St. John Vianney, (1786-1859) the patron of parish priests. Born in Lyon, France, he had to struggle to become a priest. Once ordained he was made pastor of a small parish in an out of the way place called Ars. “He cared for this parish in a marvelous way by his preaching , his mortification, prayer and good works,” his biography says. He was especially good in hearing confessions and soon people were coming from everywhere to Ars.

Good to pray for parish priests, struggling to minister in the church today as it goes through difficult times of change and questioning.We need more John Vianneys.

John Vianney knew the value of prayer. He wanted to become like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Colette who “used to see our Lord and talk to him as we talk to one another. How unlike them we are! How often we come to church and have no idea what to do and what to ask for. We know how to speak to another human being, but not to God. “

His simple sermons challenged and changed those who heard him.Hurray for simple sermons and priests who preach them.

Morning Thoughts: The Bad Thief

rembrandt-self-portrait-c-1668

Rembrandt, “Self Portrait”, c. 1668 (detail)

 


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The Bad Thief
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.
.
good thief
bad thief
Savior in between
how is it
that you and i
can be all three?
.
we know of Jesus
as perfect
as perfect can be
speaking faith
breathing forgiveness
the Word
bound up
still
completely free
.
we know too
of the good thief
turning
turning toward Goodness
our Goodness
so gracious
hanging there
tortured
beside him
beside the good thief
Jesus nailed
one with the tree
.
we know too
what happened
what happened then
to the prodigal thief
humility
contriteness
a humble heart
spurned not
yes
true repentance
sorrow for sin
painful sorrow
paid forth
by a sinless man
and God
God the father
accepting the fee
the precious blood
of Jesus Christ
setting him
the good thief free
.
but what
what of the other one
what of the thief
named bad
what of him
unrepentant
deserving to hang
what of that poor man
that poor
prideful soul
just like you and me
that poor
nameless sinner
just like you and me
also hanging
hanging there
hanging above Mary
and the disciple
Jesus loved
hanging there
upon a third
a third
rarely talked about tree
.
who is he?
but you and me
.
i am the bad thief
.
and so are you
.
i have stolen
stolen so much
.
especially time
.
what have you
in your pocket
that isn’t thine?
.
Jesus makes it
perfectly clear
what happens
what happens to thieves
thieves like us
who simply say
i’m sorry
yet even His promise
His promise
full of mercy
His promise
of paradise
of paradise in fact
that very day
doesn’t stop
his good thieving legs
from being smashed
his repentant body
completely broken
head to toe
no
not even Christ’s promise
the promise
from the King Himself
removes the good thief
from the gift
from the gift that is his cross
.
but what of the other one
what of you and me
what of us
thieves who also lie
who reject justice
Justice hanging
right next-door
what of the bad thief
can be redeemed
what of the bad thief
in you and me
God only knows
.
mercy
mercy
mercy
Father
upon the dead
both the living
and the deceased
mercy
mercy
mercy
Father
upon us all
upon Your children
Your children turned thieves
whose faith
and sorrow
is known
by You
and You alone
.
good thief
bad thief
Savior in between
how is it
that you and i
and all the rest
of all humanity
can lack
to such a degree
true repentance
true humility
.
good thief
bad thief
Savior in between
how is it
that you and i
are all three?
.


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—Howard Hain

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The Sacrament of Penance

Prodigal son

Penance is a neglected sacrament in our church today. Few Catholics receive it. It was among the last sacramental rites to be revised after the Second Vatican Council and little catechesis accompanied its introduction. The Mass, with its changes in language and form, got most attention after the council. It seems to me that Penance needs to be better known and better celebrated.

Like the Mass, this sacrament has different names. It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Penance and also Confession. Each term describes something about it.

It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation because God shows us mercy here, a mercy that reconciles us to him and to our world. The prayer the priest prays after the penitent confesses sin explains the sacrament:

“God the Father of mercies through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church may God grant you pardon and peace. I absolve you from your sin in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Reason can point to a God all-powerful and infinitely wise, but faith says God is “the Father of mercies.” God reveals himself as merciful in Jesus Christ who died and rose again from the dead. Appearing to his fearful disciples on Easter Sunday evening he said to them:

“’Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20,19-23)

God is merciful and mercy brings “pardon and peace.” The mercy of God is a favorite theme Pope Francis stresses today in his preaching and ministry. It is a prominent theme in the recent Synod on the Family. We need to believe in it.

Besides the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament is called the Sacrament of Penance. To do penance is to try to heal the wounds and damage we have caused through what we have done or left undone in life. The penance given the penitent by the priest in confession is part of a life-long way of penance. We’re also part of a church that must be always penitential, a church always needing to be reformed.

The sacrament is called Confession because we look at ourselves in the light of God’s word and try to uncover and express what are our sins and how they prevent us from loving God and neighbor as we should.

Reconciliation, Penance, Confession. The simple steps taken in this sacrament are concrete expressions of these themes. We can confess individually, probably the most familiar way, or as part of a group. There are two ways for celebrating the sacrament in groups, one ending with individual absolution, the other with general absolution.

Briefly, individual confession before a priest can be done either kneeling or face to face. It begins with the Sign of the Cross, a sign of God’s blessing and God’s presence. Then there is a short reflection on God’s word so that we might know our sins and be encouraged to confess them to our God. This step should also take place in our preparation for confession.

We express our sins to the priest, receive a penance from him and pray that God forgive us.

The priest then declares the mercy of God and the grace of pardon and peace in the prayer mentioned above.

The sacrament concludes with an expression of thanksgiving to God, who is merciful.

A fuller treatment of the Sacrament of Penance can be found in The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults,  now free online.