Confession: Common things I say

Recently, Sr Teresa Aletheia asked for a quote for me on the topic of Confession. I had returned from World Youth Day, and was a month behind preparing for the new school year, I could only come up with a sentence.

It is important to bear these things in mind:

  1. The Sacrament of Penance may be therapeutic, but it is not a counseling session.

Although I am open to give practical advice, or helpful perspective, I believe the grace of God that they receive in that Sacrament is more important than anything that I can say. I also believe that people would be happy for there to be advice or perspective that is not merely practical, but explicitly  spiritual. Finally, bearing in mind, that many people don’t want or need any advice whatsoever (often this is how I feel going to the Sacrament), I merely need the grace that the Sacrament offers.

  1. People may need moral clarity, but it is not primarily a catechetical session.

I have had a difficult time with older priests assuming that I am paralyzed with guilt over sins. Catholic guilt is not something I suffer from. In fact, I wish my contrition was deeper and more heartfelt. I don’t think a person needs to be explained that they did not in fact sin according to the theological moral criterion and definition of sin. The peace that forgiveness grant’s is more important. That doesn’t mean that the questions of a penitent ought to be disregarded.

  1. People are not forced into the Confessional these days.

Involved Catholics gripe that there is not enough talk of sin in the pulpit. I am sure there are some who would want to know that I am scolding & castigating every last sinner who comes in. The fact is, nowadays, there are no social pressures to go to Confession. Whether or not there should be is another question. What that means, is that whoever shows up, has done so freely, set aside time from their busy life, because they know what they did is wrong, and they know that they need the help of God and the Church. They don’t need moral lessons, they need God’s grace.

  1. Catholics are not encouraged to grow spiritually

I find that most of their regular sins are their own personal spiritual plateau. Faith Formation ends at 14 for most Catholics. Catholics have mistaken holy darkness for atheism or agnosticism. Sometimes a one-on-one session with a Priest is an opportunity to teach them that God’s plan for them is satisfying beyond their wildest dreams.

Now when they show up, I keep these things in mind, and it informs the advice that I give them. As I have advised often, I find that there are a things that I turn to often. People think that they are so alone and unique in their sins and struggles.

  1. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an Encounter with Christ and his mercy.

I know I can get legal minded, and I do encounter this with others as well. This is how relationships are made whole, by communication, by apologizing, by receiving forgiveness. It is personal, not just legal. Sometimes the remorse of the sin, or the preoccupation with the ritual can make people forget that Christ stands at the center of this.

  1. Strategies are not as effective as God’s grace.

I get a Confession of a sin, followed by a lengthy explanation of what they are doing to work on that sin. Maybe they are used to priests scolding them, or challenging them to think about ways to overcome that. Any strategy we make to overcome sin is entirely ineffective if we are not praying, not going to confession, not receiving the sacraments. I often find that the practical advice is inadequate. The most that I often do is ask them to find a mentor or few friends who can help with advice and accountability.

  1. Read the Scriptures

I know Catholics suck at reading or studying the Scriptures. I am not comfortable giving this out as a penance to many people, because many people look at the bible like operating a complicated and elite piece of machinery. I remind them that the Psalms are a good source of prayer, and the Gospels are how we can know about Jesus. This is also very dangerous. It can provoke them to love God and others more.

  1. The Holy Spirit seems to be working in their life

I can’t count how many times, someone enters Confession, after having to traverse many internal challenges. I really admire so many people boldly crying out to Christ in their brokenness. I am moved. As they are their wallowing, imagining that God wants to lunge and hurl condemnations, that the opposite is very true. The courage that to show up is probably an indication of the Spirit’s guidance in their life.

When Penance time comes around I usually assign a few non-traditional penances

  1. Read the Sunday Bible Readings

Every once and a while, I find that someone wants more. They have no legitimate mentors in their life to steer them in the direction of mature faith. One simple thing anyone can do is spend some time in prayer with the Readings for Mass. I started doing this my Senior Year of High School, now it’s my job to do it.

  1. Gratitude List

If someone doubts, they need to see evidence of God’s loving activity in their life. If someone sins, they need to see evidence that God will care for their needs. A gratitude list is a practical way for anyone to look with their eyes, and read aloud, the good things God does for them. Then they can thank them in a Litany. I tell them, as a penance, that they are required to do this once within 3 days, and that I encourage them to do it regularly 1-2x/week. This is very much rooted in Augustine’s Confessions: Writing down exactly how God has been good and generous in your life.

  1. Jesus Prayer

This is one of the ancient practices of our faith. Catholics are trained to see encountering God as a tedious, and often emotionally exhausting exercise, instead of seeing Christ as the source of all our new life. I find, over and over, Catholics are astounded that we have had this simple quiet meditation prayer for centuries, and that they are only hearing about it now.

  1. Offer a Mass Intention / Offer a Holy Hour

I save this one for Catholics that I have indication to believe that they are involved in their faith. I charge them to offer a Mass intention or a Holy Hour (it depends on the circumstances), in reparation for their sins, and in reparation for others who have struggled with the same sin. Sometimes I hear confessions before Mass, or during a Holy Hour. I also trust that they might be happy to bring their bibles, rosaries, and prayer books to adoration, and be set.



Butterfly Effect (Song Lyrics)

I would not change a thing as I was reflecting in retrospect
For it was me who was changed to reflect heavens luminescence

I never saw things so right in my perspective
Until I was turned upside down defenseless
When my survival mechanism of independence
Was opened wide to the beautiful transcendence
I have never felt so awake not to mention
The world around me stays the same but I see a new dimension
I never had a certainty in all of my questions
Its like I step back and suddenly it all makes sense
The loss, the tragedy, the sorrow, the death,
The paschal Lamb, the Prophets, the Sacred Text,
The Sacrifice, the Day, the Life the Resurrection
The glory of the Christ, the Cross of Redemption
Every tear was not wasted but as it shed
Poured forth upon the fertile heart new strength
Every pain filled night of solitary brokenness spent
Was entirely worth it as I delight in this blessing
I never have known love until I had lost
I never was grateful until I could count the cost
That this grace cost me everything I ever wanted
And to think I cannot help but say God is awesome
Every earthquake every blizzard every deadly toxin
Every sunrise, every dew drop every flower blossom
I am renewed by every winter dark hour and evil plot
Something good would arise from the Cross

I would not change a thing as I was reflecting in retrospect
For it was me who was changed to reflect heavens luminescence

I lost every dream and desire to gain the priceless
I descended through fire to ascend to God’s presence
I lost every dream and desire to gain the priceless
I descended through fire to ascend to God’s presence
The gateway into mystery always allowed for investigation
As a hope filled child gazes into the sky with an imagination
However I gave way to terror of false exaggerations
So I was bound up within to a spiritual disintegration
A disinterested nation claimed no need of salvation
And therefore could not look forward to the transformation
I was caught down by doubtful deliberation
Until finally I would let go and cross the threshold of faith
I opened my eyes spread my wings emancipation
The beautiful colors the soothing breeze of regeneration
When now all life itself is a cause for celebration
God throughout time and space is always innovative
I was taught to not believe without explanation
But I found the will to believe provided me liberation
I was expected to not believe without explanation
But I found in the will to believe a profound liberation

I would not change a thing as I was reflecting in retrospect
For it was me who was changed to reflect heavens luminescence

Revolution People

Revolution is for Priests commission for the sacred symbols
Consecrated for the mission, heir to the sacramental syllables
Habitually sacrificing your body offering the holy in reception
That is your holy worship pleasing to God attaining to perfection
Revolution is for Royalty, the responsible elite, the Kings, the Queens,
Elected for stewardship of the providential design of divine dreams
Guardian entrusted with the sacred proclamation of sacred mysteries
manifesting Heaven’s Reign of one mind and heart with the One King
Revolution is for Prophets commission for charismatic speech
Standing on behalf of the Almighty that in order to boldly preach
A Good News subversive to sinful oppression misery and greed
To harmonize with tradition’s kerygma a word to rouse the weak
Revolution is the submersion and sacramental death of self
The end to your personal corruption and desire for false wealth
United in the bowels of the earth with the Christ descended to hell
Sanctified in Risen Life, People of Paschal Fire that cannot be squelched

You’re a Priestly People
You’re a Royal People
You’re a Prophetic People
You’re a Revolution People