This evening I was in the confessional for an hour and a half. We have the great problem in our parish of not enough priests and too many penitents.

While hearing one confession I had this sudden impression of heaven opening up and there being great joy in that small room. Then I remembered the gospel verse about angels rejoicing over one soul who repents.
Surely this is so true. Repentance is when we make a quantum leap forward with God. When our heart cracks open a little bit with repentance, we suddenly make a way for grace to get in.
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  • I haven’t been to mass in almost two months and already it’s as if I’m dying inside.I’ve been catholic for over a year now and it’s so hard to stay catholic. It really is.

  • I wish every priest I have met could share your enthusiasm for this wonderful sacrament. A few I have met have come to the sacrament as if asking for reconciliation was somehow inconvenient to them or their schedule (even if I am asking for it at the time they are scheduled to offer it) once I even heard one grumble under his breath when I told him someone else was in need of confession as he was on his way out the door. how does one address this subject to their priest?

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  • In response to David, My prayers are with you, if its been 2 months that means you haven’t been fulfilling your Sunday obligation and should confess that. I can relate to that feeling creeping in. once I truly had an understanding of what the mass was and was not,I found that every time I intentionally missed it I would keep myself further and further from the grace that God offers each of us, it can feel as if we are dying inside because in reality the life in the spirit which Christ offers us is damaged when we mortally sin. it’s hard but Christianity (of Which Catholicism is the truest sort) is not about things being always enjoyable or feeling good, there is some of that but it only comes with bearing the yoke of Christ. you must embrace truth as opposed to embracing good sentiments. it may be hard but it’s worth it.

  • I’m going to play the boring pedant here, but ‘quantum’ means the smallest measurable quantity. It isn’t what I imagine you are implying: something vast.Anyway, whatever it was, I am glad it happened.

  • If you have too few priests in your parish, everyone’s in the same boat. But if you have too many penitents, you must be doing something right.

  • MAB

    We are going to confession today. We drive 34 miles round trip to a shrine once a month. There are confessions twice daily. The priests there have a special ministry toward pilgrims and it is reflected in the care they take over confessions.In our parish there is an irregularity with the way the priest ministers the sacrament, so we (sadly) can’t go there. He grants absolution without the penitent praying the Act of Contrition first (or at all). It was very confusing for my son when he made his first penance with our homeschool chaplain, and then went to our home parish for his second one! We decided to go elsewhere from now on.It is a beautiful sacrament, which we all need. If you haven’t been in a while, come!

  • This is just what I needed to hear Fr. thank you – I recall hearing or reading somewhere (forgive my ignorance perhaps was it GKC?) that the soul needs reconciliation like our bodies do the warmth of bright sunlight – rather than hiding our weaknesses in the shadows of putrefying decay, uncovering our dirty laundry in the Light of Christ’s Love bleaches the stains and purifies the memory. Your closing remark calls to mind this parting thought in a book review of a couple of years ago published in the New York Times the medieval philosopher Peter Abelard (credited with coining the term “limbo” to encompass all souls even the unbaptized in God’s infinite goodness, in opposition to the Augustinian rigors of certain perdition more prevalent in the first millenium of Christian theology): “If Heloise didn’t get what she most wanted from Abelard, she got the very best he had to give. His reflections, his confidences and his final, all-important confession were addressed to her; his most urgent worldly plea was to be buried where she would be near him. Is their story a fraud because Abelard, as Mews has written, was ”tagging along behind” Heloise in matters of the heart?The love stories that touch us most deeply are punctuated by human frailty. Look at them up close and you see the fault lines, compromises and anticlimaxes. At the beginning of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo is just as intemperately in love with a girl called Rosaline as he is later with Juliet. Tristan and Isolde’s passion could well be the fruit of substance abuse, of a love potion they drank unknowingly. And Abelard and Heloise? They weren’t equally strong or passionate or generous. Still, they put their frailties together and begat a perfect myth, as well as something perhaps even more precious — a surprising, splendid, fractured reality. ”There is a crack,” the Leonard Cohen(*) lyric goes, ”a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in.” Indeed Pope’s poem recalling the tragic lovers has the memorable line used as the title of a movie: “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” that IMHO offers the best analysis of the only option remaining (if one neglects/rejects the healing rays of God’s Love) remaining for humankind to cope – self-lobotomized amnesia.Now for those less-sacramentally-more biblically-minded readers, recall also that the first of two solemnities dedicated to John the Forerunner, that of his Nativity, occurs six months before the night “in the bleak midwinter” of our Lord’s birth: June 24th coinciding roughly with the summer solstice of earth’s longest day! God made us for himself and put the sun and moon and earth spinning on their axes to reveal his plan to redeem us and bring us all home – to the eternal sunshine of resurrection season in Heaven… aligning the altar with the Eastern point on the compass is Mother Church’s gentle way of reminding us that each day dawning promises “freedom ever new” _____* from ‘Anthem’ track 5 of his 1992 album “The Future”

  • Whenever there’s a Penance Service, I’m overjoyed at waiting hours in line, witnessing so many souls receiving the grace of God, perhaps after many years plunged in darkness! Every sob I overhear, some impossible to not notice, is probably followed by much rejoicing in Heaven.We are blessed to have 2 parishes nearby that offer daily Confession, one of them our cathedral. Unfortunately, that’s not our parish’s case.I’d like to hear priests talking about their experience in the confessional, how they deal with “repeat offenders” like me, the unrepentant, long-time away Catholics, or just about the experience of witnessing first-hand how God is good with His children.May St. Padre Pio pray for us, penitents and confessors.

  • I agree with Jeffery–all the penitants means your doing something right–and to have the profound sense of heaven opening wide and great joy entering the room–how beautiful, you are doing something right! What an honor to be a priest–opening heaven for others, I am so grateful for priests–who dispense God’s great grace–thank you!

  • And even the lyrics from the movie’s soundtrack(*) support the metanoia metaphor of a truely contrite heart: ._._._ Change your heart _._._._._._._ Look around you _._._.__._._. Change your heart ._._._._._. It will astound you ._._._._._. I need your lovin’ _._._._._._ Like the sunshine ._._._.Everybody’s gotta learn sometimeEverybody’s gotta learn sometimeEverybody’s gotta learn sometime._._._._. ~m~m m~m m~ ._._._._.._._._ Change your heart _._._._._._._ Look around you _._._.__._._. Change your heart ._._._._._. It will astound you ._._._._._. I need your lovin’ _._._._. ~m~m~ like the sunshine ._.Everybody’s gotta learn sometimeEverybody’s gotta learn sometimeEverybody’s gotta learn sometime._._._ Change your heart _._._._._._._ Look around you _._._.__._._. Change your heart ._._._._._. It will astound you ._._._._._. I need your lovin’ _._._._. ~m~m~ like the sunshine ._.Everybody’s gotta learn sometimeEverybody’s gotta learn sometimeEverybody’s gotta learn sometime (c) James Warren, 1980Contrition requires we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to suffer feeling our own painful emotions (IMHO something our moralistic therapeutic deist culture has medicated into oblivion, aided by the psychobabble mantras of a certain cadre of self-improvement gurus)Ad majorem gloria DeiClare Krishan_____* a Beck cover of the Korgis hit “Everybody’s gotta learn sometime”;=related

  • Father,Not sure if I’ve written before or not, but I think your blog is terrific. The fact that your parish has so many penitents shows that you and Fr. Newman are doing a good job. St. Mary Cathedral in Austin has the same “problem”.Just wanted you to know that “More Christianity” was a great help to me in my conversion. Thanks, and God bless you.

  • Thanks James. I’m glad MC was of some help. Tell your friends!

  • On the theme of light descending: here’s lyrics of the third verse of “Let all Mortal Flesh keep silence” I posted under the AngloCatholics thread earlier this evening and thought a cross-reference may be apropos?“Rank on rank the host of heavenSpreads its vanguard on the way,As the Light of light descendethFrom the realms of endless day,That the powers of hell may vanishAs the darkness clears away. The sacraments are efficacious,oftentimes more so than we care to realize, the gift of the confessional is like installing cat’s eyes in the road – helping us to overcome the treachery of the past and get adept at steering clear of upcoming hazards (as anyone who has driven Rte 250 at night from Staunton to Monterey in Virginia’s Little Switzerland can attest to)

  • My experience of confession is that priests are moved and happy to do it if you have been away from church for a long time and have some juicy sins to confess.However, in trying to engage in intercessory prayer ministry, I have wanted to go to confession every two weeks; but there’s only little buzzing gnat sins to confess, nothing indicating a big metanoia or juicy mortal sins like a prodigal. Priests in this situation often remind me that I only need to confess when I have mortal sins, once a year if needed. They don’t understand that my frequent confession is part of the spiritual warfare and intercession I do for others. Am I to commit juicy mortal sins biweekly to make the priest happy? Rhetorical question, of course not.I am not scrupulous; I barely know what is a sin or not, mortal or not, because I was so badly catechized. I tend to have a poorly formed, numbed out conscience–the opposite problem of scrupulousness. So that’s not it.I wish priests loved confession more, including frequent confession. I will sacrifice my plans and activities to go to a scheduled Saturday confession time and the priest won’t even show up. It’s so disheartening to prepare, to get my soul naked in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and be an open wound; then not have access to the Balm of Gilead to heal it up. Priests seriously don’t know how it affects us when they are casual or negligent about their confessions and schedule. Are their superiors calling them to account over it?David, staying Catholic is not difficult. You’re trying to do everything on your own effort. Just trust God and pray a little each day and drag yourself to Mass next Sunday. There is more virtue in seeking God’s face when you don’t feel like it, than when you’re receiving all kinds of consolations and special graces–which is candy for children. You know you’re advancing spiritually when God takes away the candy and makes you eat your vegetables. (St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross are the mystical doctors of the church that know all about this process.)

  • Re: mortal and venial:Depends on the formation of one’s conscience: you must “know” the sin and “will” it regardless of the consequences for the wound to be deadly (spiritually suicidal so to speak). Ignorance is no virtue – there’s a category of vice called vincible ignorance: things we ought to know by care not to. May I offer this charming snippet of Mark Twain’s commone sense (as an addendum from “Innocents Abroad” to my early posts on the meme of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) to illustrate my point:“This is the grave of Abelard and Heloise—a grave which has been more revered, more widely known, more written and sung about and wept over, for seven hundred years, than any other in Christendom save only that of the Saviour…… With infinite pains I have acquired a knowledge of that history, and I propose to narrate it here, partly for the honest information of the public and partly to show that public that they have been wasting a good deal of marketable sentiment very unnecessarily …”And so it is, oftentimes we dwell in the sweet sentimental regret of our venial sins all the while failing to recognize the awful injustices we have wrought on others lives, out of a kind of selfish pride that falls under the column “unforgiven” in the Book of Life to be opened at the Escaton. Perhaps if we examined our consciences for those moments when we chose to ignore the resistance of others to our intended purposes we would come to see ourselves more honestly and humbly as the sinners we all are? The relationship that heals through love is Communion, its preliminary balm is in making our infirmity known via its unpleasant symptoms (think of the wound of Amfortas that would not heal in “Parsifal” or the Sickness unto Death of Soren Kierkegaard). John Paul II’s personalism(*) called this our “reflexive conscience” (see for Amazon viewer at citation page 232)How we see ourselves act as moral creatures is revealed by the effect our actions have on “the other.” Our conscience experiences compunction when we use our memory and will to grasp that our intended purpose abused the best interests of another (that we failed to love them as we have been loved).CheerioClare Krishan_____* from Crossing the Threshold of Loveby Mary Shivanandan