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A Gift That is Always in Season (Sacrament of Penance) Catholic Caucus ^ | December 20, 2008 | Patti Maguire Armstrong

Posted on 12/21/2008 1:58:29 PM PST by Salvation

A Gift That is Always in Season

December 20th, 2008 by Patti Maguire Armstrong

People once lined up for “Cabbage Patch” dolls and “Tickle Me Elmos” before Christmas. I haven’t a clue what the gotta-have-it Christmas item is this year but there’s always a line forming somewhere for that special something.

That’s exactly what Catholics used to do to go to confession on Saturdays — they got in line. Then, the “sixties” hit. All of a sudden a lot of people did not feel the need to go to confession. I do not think there were less sins being committed at this time, just fewer people feeling the need to confess them.

Confession Fell by the Wayside

Technically, my teen years happened during the “seventies”, so I merely followed in wake of the wave that swept a lot of Catholics away from the sacraments. When I began reading and learning about my faith on my own, I often stopped and wondered, Why didn’t I know this before? Whatever the reason, I was not the only one not showing up for confession anymore.

It was easy to convince myself I was good because I was nice. But being nice does not mean being sinless. We can’t grow holier when we throw out confession, stop examining our consciences, and stop trying to improve by overcoming failures. Obviously, I was clueless on many things back then. But surely, the first time I missed Mass, I must have thought about it and just decided I wasn’t going to go. I thought I had better things to do. That meant I was guilty of breaking the First Commandment. “I am the Lord thy God, thou shall have no gods before me.” Every time I made something more important than God, I put other things before Him. I had time for college and graduate school, friends, work, vacations…but I found no time for reading the Bible and only occasionally went to Mass. I filled my life with everything but God.

Then there was the Second Commandment: “Keep Holy the Sabbath.” Well, there went another one. Actually, if I had taken the time to go down the list, I would have realized that following the Ten Commandments was not exactly “my thing.” Yet, I thought of myself as a good person. Why did I have time for every sort of self-improvement except the only one that really mattered-the soul?

We all sin. “Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason, conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation” (CCC 1440).

confessional.jpgAs I became a real Catholic — one who learned what the Catholic Church taught and then followed it — I began to actually want to go to confession (also known as reconciliation or penance) and see the need. After so many years away though, I was nervous. When I did finally make my way to the confessional, I opened the door with the green light over it and stepped inside. It was pitch black. I felt my way to the kneeler and then waited. Then, I heard a door next to me open and close. “Oh good heavens!” I realized. The priest just left. If I stepped out right away, I felt it would be embarrassing to have the priest see me. But if I waited a few minutes until he was gone, the people already in church waiting for 5:00 Mass would wonder what the weirdo was doing in an empty confessional. Oh, this was not a good return to confession for me.

I waited a couple minutes and then with as much casualness as I could muster, I strolled out. I noticed the other confessional doors had lights on. As an amateur at this, I did not realize that at our church, the priest saying the 5:00 Mass left at 4:30 to get ready and the other priest took over. Well, I’ve come this far, I figured, so I followed through and went to confession. It was not so bad after all. As a matter of fact, it was great and I’ve been going regularly ever since.

The Gift that Keeps Giving

Now that I know my Catholic faith so much better, I understand that the sacrament of confession not only takes away sin, but it also fills us with grace. This brings us closer to God and strengthens us so we will be more resistant to sin. The sacrament is a gift from God. Not receiving it is not only rude, it’s plain stupid.

This is a gift like no other. There’s nothing in the shopping lines that compares with what you can get through this sacrament:

- reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;

- reconciliation with the Church;

- remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;

- remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;

- peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;

- an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle (CCC 1496).

The Catholic Church recommends daily examination of sins and confession to God during prayer time. The sacrament of confession is required of anyone guilty of serious sin — mortal sin — before reception of communion. Mortal sin separates us from God by destroying sanctifying grace in our souls. It is spiritual death; loss of the soul’s sanctifying grace. Confession brings our soul back to life in Christ.

The Church teaches that for a sin to be mortal, it must be a grave matter, which is committed with full awareness and deliberate intention. An individual must see the sin as serious, and intentionally commit it anyway. (By the way, missing Mass intentionally is considered a grave sin.)

Not all denominations recognize there are two kinds of sin; mortal and venial. This Catholic teaching is supported in scripture:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21).

If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly (1 John 5:16-17).

The confession of venial faults are not necessary but are strongly recommended by the Church as a way to make reparation and strengthen ourselves spiritually. Venial sin weakens charity within us and interferes with the soul’s progress. It erodes our friendship with Christ but does not destroy it. The further our relationship with Him is eroded, however, the greater the likelihood that we will fall into mortal sin.

Only One Mediator

Some non-Catholics criticize the sacrament of Confession stating: “There is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.” (1 Tim. 2:5) This is an easy one to answer.

Jesus gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. “…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 21:22).

Just prior to giving His apostles the power to forgive sins, Jesus sent them out into the world to act in his place: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” It is important to note Jesus used the word “you,” not “God,” when giving the apostles personally this power. Only God can forgive sins, but here, He was giving God’s power to be used by them.

Jesus bestowed this power on the apostles on Easter Sunday by breathing on them. The only other time the Bible mentions God breathing on anyone was in Genesis 2:7 when He breathed life into the first human beings. Likewise, confession breathes new life into our souls.

The apostles were given the authority to both stand in for Jesus and forgive sins. It is true that Jesus said He is the only mediator between man and God, but Catholic confession does not contradict that passage. We do not confess our sins to a priest instead of to Jesus. The priest is standing in for Jesus. He does not distance us from Christ but rather brings us closer by acting as God’s representative to be physically present and give us forgiveness and comfort. We are actually facing Jesus and confessing our sins to Him. St. Paul explains how the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ’s work of reconciliation:

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us (2 Cor. 5: 17-20).

Also, He told them, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 28:18).

Only the apostles were told this, not the crowds that came to listen to Him. Jesus gave them the power to bind and loose. Forgiving one’s sins is loosing their sins. Jesus forgave sins during his time on Earth and gave that power to the apostles for the time He would no longer be here. That power has subsequently been passed on to keep the Church as Jesus established it, because the apostles would not always be on Earth either. The power is from God.

Some Christians teach that by accepting Jesus as our Savior, we partake in the forgiveness of all our sins, past, present and future, based on His sacrifice on Calvary. But if God has already forgiven all man’s sins, past and future, on a single act of repentance, then it makes no sense to tell the apostles they have been given the power to forgive or retain sins. It does, however, make sense that the Church, established by Jesus to perpetuate His work would provide reconciliation of sinners by His appointed ministers.

It follows… that the power of forgiving sins, on the part of God’s minister, involves the obligation of confessing them on the part of the sinner. “Many of them who believed came confessing and declaring their deeds.” (Acts 19:18).

Of course we must be sorry for our sins and confess them first, but then forgiveness does not erase the need to make up for the wrongdoing.

If we break a window or do damage, to simply say we are sorry and make no attempt to repair the wrong is seen as an insincere apology. To be truly sorry for what we have done gives us the desire to make it up. Doing penance is a logical response on our part when we seek forgiveness. St. Augustine writes:

Our merciful God wills us to confess in this world that we may not be confounded in the other.’ And again: ‘Let no one say to himself, I do penance to God in private, I do it before God. Is it then in vain that Christ hath said, ‘Whatsoever though shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven?’ Is it in vain that the keys have been given to the Church? Do we make void the Gospel, void the words of Christ?

The Advent Season is a time of preparation for Christmas. Going to confession and taking our children is one of the best ways to prepare for such a holy day. The good news is that people are returning to this sacrament, so there are often lines again. But this is gift for which it is well worth getting in line.

Refresher Course

If you have not seen the inside of a confessional in awhile, understand that the priest will be happy to see you. Here is a refresher for those that have not gone in awhile.

Before going to Confession, make a thorough examination of conscience. Consider the commandments, especially the two Jesus gave us, to love God with our whole heart and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more in the future. Conversion touches the past and the future and is nourished by hope in God’s mercy — CCC1490.

The priest welcomes you. You make the sign of the cross, usually together with the priest. Begin your confession, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been (how long?) since my last confession. These are my sins… Begin with any mortal sins, as these MUST be confessed. To intentionally hold a mortal sin back out of fear of embarrassment, we have committed another. Use a confessional with a screen or go to a church where the priest does not know you if it helps, but do not withhold a serious sin.

Then, listen to any advice the priest gives you and accept the penance he gives you to diminish the temporal punishment due to your sins. You will then make an act of contrition prayer, (the priest usually asks you to do this.) There are several forms.

The priest will say: “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 give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

You respond, “Amen.” The priest will tell you to go in peace, and you should respond, “Thank you, Father.”

If at any point you forget the format or get stuck, the priest will guide you along. This is not a test; so as long as you are truly sorry for your sins, you cannot flunk. The only way to fail is to miss out on this gift.


Patti Maguire Armstrong is the mother of ten children including two Kenyan AIDS orphans. She is a speaker and the author of Catholic Truths for Our Children: A Parent's Guide (Scepter). She is also the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press's Amazing Grace book series. Her website is

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; reconciliation; sacraments
Highlighting is mine.
1 posted on 12/21/2008 1:58:29 PM PST by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; Lady In Blue; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...

Please join me in praying that all the “Christmas” Catholics also seek the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation by going to Confession.

Always a gift of God’s grace to me.

2 posted on 12/21/2008 2:00:32 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

**The only way to fail is to miss out on this gif**

Too many people miss out on this gift by

1. Thinking that they don’t have sins to forgive.
2. Not knowing about the importantance of receiving the Eucharist worthily.
3. Just saying “I don’t have time for this — God will forgive me anyway.”
4. Not realize the graces received through this sacrament.

I keep asking myself what I can do to bring more Catholics back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Penance.

Comments, anyone?

3 posted on 12/21/2008 2:09:35 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Despite our snowy weather we had about 80 penitents at our Penance Service. Sometimes, people are lined up outside the door.

The two marks of a great and growing church:
**How long are the Confession lines?
**How many active vocations does your parish have?

I also think that 24/7 Adoration brings many vocations to parishes.

4 posted on 12/21/2008 2:11:41 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

You can say that this spiritual gift is a gift that keeps on giving beyond Advent/Christmas. :)

5 posted on 12/21/2008 2:13:40 PM PST by Biggirl (Blessed Merry Christmas!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
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To: Salvation

I had gone through several decades without going to confession. One event preyed on my mind and finally about two years ago I went. I didn’t feel particularly cleansed because the priest was not a native speaker, and I wasn’t sure he understood me. So I went back a couple months later and came away feeling pretty much the same, as this other priest was also an immigrant. I still need to go back. After the second confession, I was admitted to the hospital for open-heart surgery. There were some serious complications and when I finally came out, I was glad that I had gone earlier.

6 posted on 12/21/2008 2:18:03 PM PST by Ax
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To: Ax

Please realize, too, that you can receive the Sacrament of the Annointing of the Sick any time now. It is no long Extreme (condition=dying) Unction. It is an Annointing any time you might go into the hospital. A priest must confer this Sacrament since it also includes the forgiveness of sins.

7 posted on 12/21/2008 4:38:01 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

I accept your invitation to pray for all to receive this sacrament.

Just went yesterday myself. Praise God.

8 posted on 12/21/2008 6:07:37 PM PST by Bigg Red (Palin in 2012!)
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To: Salvation

I lay this problem at the feet of the priests. I think many of us have been give the impression that this sacarament is not so important.

I wonder how many priests emphasize the importance of Penance in their homilies.

9 posted on 12/21/2008 6:11:57 PM PST by Bigg Red (Palin in 2012!)
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To: Salvation; informavoracious; larose; RJR_fan; Prospero; Conservative Vermont Vet; ...

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.

Obama Says A Baby Is A Punishment

Obama: “If they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.”

10 posted on 12/21/2008 6:14:48 PM PST by narses (
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To: Salvation

Went yesterday when the weather was not so great. Glad I went.

11 posted on 12/21/2008 7:09:01 PM PST by Biggirl (Blessed Merry Christmas!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
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To: Bigg Red

**I wonder how many priests emphasize the importance of Penance in their homilies.**

In the intercessions for the last two weeks our priest has emphasized those who might not go to Confession for various reasons. I was almost jumping out of my shoes shouting (No, not really.) “Lord, hear our prayer.”

12 posted on 12/21/2008 7:19:22 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Today is probably the last day that many churches will offer Confession -- unless they have more than one priest.

A Gift That is Always in Season (Sacrament of Penance) Catholic Caucus

[Sacrament of]Confession

Make a Good Confession

Those in Mortal Sin Can't Go to Communion, Says Pope

Holy Week Recovers Celebration of Penance (at St. Peter's Basilica) - photos!

Reasons for Confession [Sacrament of Reconciliation]

Lesson 19: Confession (Part 1) BY FATHER ALTIER

Lesson 20: Confession (Part 2) BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER

Serious about God? Then get serious about confession

St. Ephraim the Syrian: On Repentance

What happened to confession – Changing mores reflective of use

Repentance and Confession - Introduction [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]

The Spiritual and Psychological Value of Frequent Confession

Pick a sin, any sin (Confession gone awry)

The Early Church Fathers on Confession / Reconciliation - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus

Catholics called from the idiot box to confession

Benedict XVI Extols Sacrament of Penance - Says Priests Need to Make It a Priority

Confession’s Comeback

Priests say more Catholics returning to confession

Pope Hears Confessions of Youth

MESSAGE FOR ALL CATHOLICS (in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday - April 15)

Salvation: Just click and confess


Get Thee To A Confessional! (beautiful insight for those who dread going to Confession)

Emerging Trends: The Return to the Confessional

Confessing to 'sins' is booming in America (Evangelicals and Protestants take up practice)

What You [Catholics] Need to Know: Penance (Reconciliation, Confession) [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]

A Comeback for Confession

MORTAL SIN and HOLY CONFESSION - The Antidote of Death

Thinking Inside the Box: An Attitude for Confession

Confessional Advice

The Epidemic and the Cure [The Sin of the World and the Sacrament of Reconciliation] (Confession)

Why do Catholics have to confess their sins to a priest instead of praying straight to God? [Ecu]

When did confession to a priest start? [Ecumenical]

Confession, Confession Everywhere (Cardinal Says Youth Day Is Reviving the Sacrament)

13 posted on 12/23/2008 8:33:57 AM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Examination of Conscience

A Guide for Confession

How To Make a Good Confession (especially if you haven't gone in years)

Why Go to Confession? (Part 1) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte

Why Go to Confession? (Part 2) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte

How To Make a Good Confession (especially if you haven't gone in years)

Why Go to Confession? (Part 3) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte

Pulling Sin up by the Roots: The Need for Mortification

Reasons for Confession [Sacrament of Reconciliation]

Cardinal Stafford's Homily at Penitential Liturgy With an Examination of Conscience

How to Go to Confession

Fr. Z’s 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession

Learning to Confess

14 posted on 12/23/2008 8:34:29 AM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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