Fr. Leonard Goffine's
The Church's Year
SUNDAY IN ADVENT
On this Sunday the Church
redoubles her ardent sighs for the coming of the Redeemer, and,
in the Introit, places the longing of the just of the Old Law upon
the lips of the faithful, again exhorting them through the gospel
of the day, to true penance as the best preparation for the worthy
reception of the Savior. Therefore at the Introit she prays:
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the
just (Is. 45). Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Savior.
The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth
the work of his hands (Ps. 18:2). Glory be to the Father.
Raise up, O Lord, we pray Thee, Thy power, and come, and with
great might succor us: that, by the help of Thy grace, that which
our sins impede may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness. Through
(I Cor. 4:1-5). Brethren, Let a man so account of us as of the
ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.
Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found
faithful. But to me, it is a very small thing to be judged by you,
or by man's day: but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not
conscious to myself of anything, yet am I not hereby justified:
but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the
time, until the Lord come: who both will bring to light the hidden
things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts:
and then shall every man have praise from God.
this epistle read on this day?
The Church desires by this
epistle to impress those who received Holy Orders on Ember Saturday
with the dignity of their office, and exhorts them to fill it with
becoming fidelity and sanctity, excelling the laity in piety and
virtue, as well as in official dignity. She wishes again to remind
the faithful of the terrible coming of Christ to judgment, urging
them, by purifying their conscience through a contrite confession,
to receive Christ at this holy Christmas time, as their Savior,
that they may not behold Him, at the Last Day, as their severe judge.
the faithful regard the priests and spiritual superiors?
They should esteem and obey
them as servants, stewards, and vicars of Christ; as dispensers
of the holy mysteries (I Cor. 4:1); as ambassadors of the most High
(II Con 5:20). For this reason God earnestly commands honor to priests
(Ecclus. 7:31), and Christ says of the Apostles and their successors
(Lk. 10:16): Who despiseth you, despiseth me; and St. Paul writes
(I Tim. 5:17): Let the priests that rule well be esteemed worthy
of double honor: especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.
priest dispense the sacraments according to his own will?
No, he must have power from
the Church, and must exercise his office faithfully, in accordance
with the orders of the Church, and act according to the will of
Christ whose steward he is. The priest dare not give that which
is holy to dogs (Mt. 7:6), that is, he is not permitted to give
absolution, and administer the sacraments to impenitent persons,
under penalty of incurring eternal damnation.
St. Paul consider the judgment of men a small matter?
Because it is usually false,
deceptive, foolish, and is consequently not worth seeking or caring
for. Man often counts as evil that which is in itself good and,
on the contrary, esteems as good that which is evil. St. Paul says:
If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal.
1:10). Oh, how foolish, and what poor Christians, therefore, are
they, who not to displease man, willingly adopt all silly customs,
and fashions in dress, manners and appearance, making themselves
contemptible to God, the angels, and saints. Recall the beautiful
words of the Seraphic St. Francis: "We are, what we are in
the sight of God, nothing more"; learn from them to fulfil
your duties faithfully, and be indifferent to the judgment of the
world and its praise.
not St. Paul wish to judge himself?
Because no one, without a
special revelation from heaven, can know if he be just in the sight
of God or not, even though his conscience may accuse him of nothing,
for "man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred"
(Eccles. 9:1). Thus St. Paul goes on to say, that though he was
not conscious of any wrong, he did not judge himself to be justified,
God only could decide that. Man should certainly examine himself
as much as is in his power, to find if he has anything within him
displeasing to God; should he find nothing he must not judge himself
more just than others, but consider that the eyes of his mind may
be dimmed, and fail to see that which God sees and will reveal to
others at the judgment Day. The Pharisees saw no fault in themselves,
and were saintly and perfect in their own estimation, yet our Lord
"O Lord, enter not into judgment with Thy servant: for
in Thy sight no man living can be justified" (Ps. 142:2).
(Lk. 3:1-6). In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch
of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country
of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high
priests Annas and Caiphas: the word of the Lord came to John the
son of Zachary in the desert. And he came into all the country about
the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of
sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the
prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the
way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be
filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: the crooked
shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain: and all flesh
shall see the salvation of God.
the time in which St. John commenced to preach so minutely described?
The Evangelist, contrary
to his usual custom, describes the time minutely, and enumerates
exactly, in their precise order, the religious and civil princes
in office, that, in the first place, it could not be denied that
this was truly the time and the year in which the promised Messiah
appeared in this world, whom John baptized, and the Heavenly Father
declared to be His beloved Son. Furthermore, it shows the fulfillment
of the prophecy of the Patriarch Jacob (Gen. 49:10), that when the
scepter would be taken away from Juda, that is, when the Jews would
have no longer a king from their own tribes, the Savior would come.
meant by: "The word of the Lord came to John"?
It means that John was commissioned
by divine inspiration, or by an angel sent from God, to preach penance
and announce to the world the coming of the Lord. He had prepared
himself for this work by a penitential, secluded life, and intercourse
with God. We learn from his example not to intrude ourselves into
office, least of all into a spiritual office, but to await the call
from God, preparing ourselves in solitude and quiet, by fervent
prayer and by a holy life, for the necessary light.
meant by: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his
It means that we should prepare
our hearts for the worthy reception of Christ, by penance, amendment,
and the resolution to lead a pious life in future. To do this, every
valley should be filled, that is, all faintheartedness, sloth and
cowardice, all worldly carnal sentiments should be elevated and
directed to God, the highest Good, by firm confidence and ardent
desire for heavenly virtues; the mountains and hills should be brought
low, that is, pride, stubbornness, and ambition should be humbled,
and the obstinate will be broken. The crooked shall be made straight,
that is, ill-gotten goods should be restored, hypocrisy, malice,
and double dealing be renounced, and our intentions turned to God
and the performance of His holy will. And the rough ways shall be
made plain, that is, anger, revenge, and impatience must leave the
heart, if the Lamb of God is to dwell therein. It may also signify
that the Savior put to shame the pride of the world, and its false
wisdom by building His Church upon the Apostles, who, by reason
of their poverty and simplicity, may be considered the low valleys,
while the way to heaven, formerly so rough and hard to tread, because
of the want of grace, is now by His grace made smooth and easy.
O my Jesus! would that my heart were well prepared and smooth for
Thee! Assist me! O my Savior to do that which I cannot do by myself.
Make me an humble valley, fill me with Thy grace; turn my crooked
and perverted will to Thy pleasure; change my rough and angry disposition,
throw away in me whatever impedes Thy way, that Thou mayst come
to me without hindrance. Thou alone possess and rule me forever.
ON THE HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
“Preaching the baptism
of penance for the remission of sins"(Lk. 3:3).
penance, and how many kinds are there?
Penance, says the Roman Catechism
(Cat. Rom. de Pcenit. 54), consists in the turning of our
whole soul to God, hating and detesting the crimes we have committed,
firmly resolving to amend our lives, its evil habits and corrupt
ways, hoping through the mercy of God to obtain pardon. This is
interior penance, or the virtue of penance. The sincere acknowledgment
of our sins to a priest and the absolution he accords, is exterior
penance, or the holy Sacrament of Penance, which Christ instituted
(Jn. 20:22-23), through which the sins committed after baptism,
of these penances is necessary for the forgiveness of sins?
Both are necessary, for unless
the conversion of the heart to God, a true consciousness of, and
sorrow for sin, the firm purpose of amendment and confidence in
God's mercy, precede the confession, declaring all our sins to a
priest cannot obtain forgiveness of mortal sin committed after baptism.
At the same time a really contrite turning to God, will not, without
confession to a priest, obtain forgiveness, except when by circumstances,
a person is prevented from approaching the tribunal of penance.
Such a person must, however, have the ardent desire to confess as
soon as possible.
one who has committed mortal sin be saved without penance?
No, for penance is as necessary
to such a one as baptism, if he wishes not to perish: Unless you
do penance, says Christ, you shall all likewise perish (Lk. 13:3,
penance performed at once?
This penance is necessary
every day of our lives: that is, we must from day to day endeavor
to be heartily sorry for our sins, to despise them, to eradicate
the roots of sin, that is, our passions and evil inclinations, and
become more pleasing to God by penance and good works.
so many die impenitent?
Because they do not accept
and use the many graces God offers them, but put off their repentance.
If such sinners, like the godless King Antiochus (II Mac. 9) intend
to repent on their deathbed for fear of punishment, they usually
find that God in His justice will no longer give them the grace
of repentance, for he who when he can repent, will not, cannot when
he will. "Who will not listen at the time of grace," says
St. Gregory, "will not be listened to' in the time of anxiety."
And it is to be feared that he who postpones penance until old age,
will not find justice where he looked for mercy.
sinners do penance?
With the grace of God all
can, even the greatest sinners; as a real father God calls them
when He says: As I live ...I desire not the death of the wicked,
but that the wicked turn from his way, and live. Turn ye, turn ye
from your evil ways: and why will ye die, O house of Israel? And
the wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him, in what day soever
he shall turn from his wickedness (Ezech. 33:11-12).
who go to confession perform true penance?
Unfortunately they do not;
for all is not accomplished with confession. If there is no sincere
detestation of sin, no true sorrow for having offended God; if the
evil inclinations and bad habits are not overcome, ill-gotten goods
restored, and calumny repaired, the occasions of sin avoided; if
a sincere amendment of life, or, at least, its earnest purpose does
not follow, then indeed, there cannot be the least shadow of true
repentance, not even though such persons confess weekly. But alas!
we see many such. And why? Because many think repentance consists
simply in confession, and not in the amendment of their lives. Only
those obtain pardon who are truly penitent, and perform all that
is enjoined upon them in confession. It is well, therefore, to read
and carefully act according to the following instructions.
THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The foundation of true repentance,
interior and exterior (see the preceding pages), is the vivid knowledge
of our sins. There are many who are unconscious of the most grievous
sins in which they are buried; blinded by self-love they do not
even regard them as sins, do not confess them, perform no penance
for them and are consequently eternally lost. To prevent this great
evil, the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV c.5) ordered a careful examination
of conscience before confession, and afterwards to confess the sins
which are discovered by that examination.
we examine our conscience?
Because, as St. Ignatius
says, no one can become fully aware of his own faults, unless God
reveals them by a special light; we should, therefore, first of
all, daily ask the Holy Ghost to enlighten us, and should then examine
our thoughts, desires, words, actions, and omissions since our last
valid confession and how often we have sinned in these respects.
To know this, we should let our conscience, that is, the inner voice
which tells us what is good and what is evil, speak freely, without
flattering ourselves, or passing it by negligently. St. Charles
Borromeo says, we should place before our eyes the Ten Commandments
of God and carefully compare our life and our morals with them;
it is well also to examine ourselves on the seven deadly sins, and
remember the places and persons with whom we have been in contact,
the duties of our state of life, the vices to which we are most
inclined, the consequences that were, or might have been produced
upon ourselves or others. At the same time, we should imagine ourselves
standing before the judgment seat of God, and whatever would cause
us fear there, whatever we could not answer for there, we should
look upon as sins, be sorry for, and confess.
a sin not to examine ourselves long and carefully?
Certainly it is a sin for
those to examine their consciences carelessly, who live unfaithfully
and in mortal sin, and who seldom confess, because they expose themselves
frivolously to the danger of leaving out great sins, and consequently
they make a sacrilegious confession, committing thereby a new and
Those who daily ask God for
enlightenment and examine their conscience at least every evening
before going to bed, will prepare themselves properly before approaching
the tribunal of penance. "Behold, you have a book in which
you write your daily expenses," says St. Chrysostom, "make
a book of your conscience, also, and write there your daily sins.
Before you go to bed, before sleep comes, take your book, that is,
your conscience, and recall your sins, whether of thought, word,
or deed. Say then to your soul: Again, O my soul, a day is spent,
what have we done of evil or of good? If you have accomplished some
good, be grateful to God; if evil, resolve to avoid it for the future.
Shed tears in remembrance of your sins; ask forgiveness of God,
and then let your body sleep."
"O man," cries
St. Augustine, "why dost thou weep over the body whence the
soul has departed, and not over the soul from which God has withdrawn?"
The idolatrous Michas (Judg. 18:23-24) complained bitterly, because
his idols were taken from him; Esau grieved greatly over the loss
of his birthright and his father's blessing (Gen. 27:34). Should
we not therefore, be filled with sorrow, when by our sins we have
lost God and Heaven?
contrition, and how many kinds are there?
"Contrition is a hearty
sorrow and detestation of our sins, with a firm purpose of sinning
no more" (Conc. Trid., Sess. XIV, can. 4). If this grief and
detestation comes from a temporal injury, shame or punishment, it
is a natural sorrow; but if we are sorry for our sins, because by
them we have offended God, and transgressed His holy law, it is
a supernatural sorrow; this, again, is imperfect when fear of God's
punishment is the motive; it is perfect, if we are sorry for our
sins, because we have offended God, the supreme Lord and best of
sorrow sufficient for a good confession?
It is not, because it proceeds
not from a supernatural motive, but from the love or fear of the
world. A mere natural sorrow for our sins worketh death (II Cor.
7:10). If one confess his sins having only a natural sorrow for
them, he commits a sacrilege, because the most necessary part of
the Sacrament of Penance in wanting.
qualities are necessary for a true contrition?
Contrition should be interior,
proceeding from the heart and not merely from the lips; it must
be universal, that is, it must extend to all the mortal sins which
the sinner has committed; it must be sovereign, that is, he must
be more sorry for having offended God, than for any temporal evil;
it must be supernatural, that is, produced in the heart by supernatural
motives; namely, because we have offended God, lost His grace, deserved
of sorrow must we have in order to obtain forgiveness of our sins?
That sorrow which proceeds
from a perfect love of God, and not from fear of temporal or eternal
punishment. This perfect contrition would suffice for the forgiveness
of sins, if in case of danger of death, there should be a great
desire, but no opportunity to confess to a priest. But the Holy
Catholic Church has declared (Conc. Trid., Sess. XIV, can. 4) the
imperfect contrition which proceeds from the fear of eternal punishment
to be sufficient for the valid reception of the holy Sacrament of
those who have reason to fear they have aroused only a natural sorrow
for their sins?
Those who care little about
knowing what true sorrow is; those who often commit grievous sins,
and do not amend their lives; for if true sorrow for sin had been
excited in their hearts, with the firm purpose of amendment, the
grace of God in this Sacrament would have strengthened the resolution,
and enabled them to avoid sin, at least for a time. On account of
their immediate relapse we justly doubt whether they have validly
received the sacrament of penance and its sanctifying grace.
the sinner attain true sorrow?
The sinner can attain true
sorrow by the grace of God and his own co-operation. That both are
necessary is shown by the prophet Jeremias (jet. 31:18-19), who
prays: Convert me, O Lord, and I shall be converted: for Thou art
the Lord, my God. For after Thou didst convert me, I did penance:
and after Thou didst skew unto me, I struck my thigh (with sorrow).
To which God replies: If thou wilt be converted, I will convert
thee Qer. 15:19). We see, therefore, that the first and most essential
means for producing this sorrow is the grace of God. It must begin
and complete the work of conversion, but it will do this only when
the sinner earnestly and faithfully co-operates. When God in whatever
way has admonished the sinner that he should be converted, let him
ardently implore God for the grace of a true conversion, invoke
the intercession of the Mother of the Savior, his guardian angel,
and like the holy penitents, David, Peter, and Magdalen, let him
meditate upon the truth that God is a just judge, who hates sin,
and will punish it in the eternal torments of hell. Having placed
these truths vividly before his eyes, the sinner will reflect further
whether by his sins he has not himself deserved this punishment,
and if by the enlightenment of God he finds he has, he will also
see the danger in which he stands, that if God should permit him
to die impenitent, he would have to suffer forever in hell. This
fear of eternal punishment urges the sinner to hope in God's mercy;
for He wishes not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn
from his way and live; again, our Redeemer says: I came to call
the sinner to repentance, and, there is more joy in heaven over
one sinner who does penance, than over ninety-nine just. He considers
the patience of God towards him, the graces bestowed upon him during
his sinful life; namely his creation, redemption, sanctification
in baptism, and many others. He will now contemplate the beauty
and perfection of God: "Who art Thou, 0 my God," he cries,
"who art Thou who bast loved me with such an unspeakable love,
and lowest me still, ungrateful, abominable sinner, that I am! What
is all the beauty of this world of the angels and of the blessed
spirits compared to Thine! Thou fountain of all beauty, of all goodness,
of all that is amiable, Thou supreme majesty, Thou infinite abyss
of love and merry! I for one vain thought, a short, momentary pleasure,
a small, mean gain, could forget, offend and despise Thee! Could
I sell, could I forfeit heaven, and eternal joy with Thee! O, could
I repair those crimes! Could I but wash them out with my tears,
even with my blood?" Through such meditations the sinner, by
the grace of God, will be easily moved to sorrow. Without such or
similar reflections the formulas of sorrow as read from prayer books
or recited by heart, are by no means acts of contrition.
we make an act of contrition before confession only?
We should make an act of
contrition before confession, and not only then, but every evening
after the examination of conscience; we should make one immediately
after any fault committed, above all when in danger of death; for
we know not when God will call us to judgment, or whether we shall
then have the grace to receive the sacrament of Penance with proper
THE PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT
The purpose of amending our
life is as necessary for the remission of sin, as contrition; for
how could he obtain forgiveness from God, who has not the determination
to sin no more? The will to sin cannot exist with the hatred of
necessary for a firm purpose?
A firm purpose of amendment
requires: the determination to avoid sin; to flee from all occasions
that might bring the danger of sinning, all persons, places, societies
in which we usually sin; bravely to fight against our evil inclinations
and bad habits; to make use of all means prescribed by our confessor,
or made known to us by God Himself; to repair the injustice we have
done; to restore the good name of our neighbor, and to remove the
scandal and enmity we have caused.
have no true purpose of amendment?
Those who do not truly intend
to leave the frivolous persons with whom they have associated, and
committed sin; to remove the occasions of cursing, swearing, drunkenness,
and secret sins, etc.; who have the intention to borrow or to contract
debts which they know they cannot pay, or do not even care to pay;
to squander the property of their wives and children, letting them
suffer want; to frequent barrooms, or saloons, fight, gamble, indulge
in vile, filthy conversations and detraction, murmur against spiritual
and temporal superiors, throw away precious time, and bring, even
compel others to do the same. The saloon-keepers, who for the sake
of money allure such wretched people, keep them there, and what
is still worse, help to intoxicate them, participate in their sins.
Confession is a contrite
acknowledgment of our sins to a priest who is duly authorized, in
order to obtain forgiveness. This acknowledgment of our sins is
an important and necessary part of the holy Sacrament of Penance.
Even in the Old Law, a certain
kind of confession was prescribed and connected with a sacrifice,
called the sacrifice of Atonement; but the forgiveness of sins was
effected only through faith in the coming Redeemer, towards whom
this sacrifice pointed (Lev. 5:5-6; Num. 5:7; compare Mt. 3:6).
In the new Law, Christ gave to the apostles and their successors,
power to forgive, and to retain sins (Jn. 20:21-23), and in doing
so made them judges. Without confession on the part of the sinner,
they cannot act as judges, and do justice in regard to giving punishment
and remedies (Conc. Trid., Sess. XIV can. 6), and as the sinner
is but seldom able to make an act of perfect contrition, which obtains
the forgiveness of sin without confession, it was necessary that
the most merciful Lord, as the Roman Catechism says (de poen.
5. 36), through the means of confession to the priest, should
provide in an easier manner for the common salvation of man. Confession,
at the same time, is the best means of bringing man to a knowledge
of his sins and of their malice. Therefore, even Adam was obliged
to acknowledge his sins, and in the same way Cain was asked by God
concerning his brother's murder, although God, the Omniscient, knew
the sins of both. The desire to ease the troubled conscience, seems
born in man. Thus David says of his crime: Because I was silent,
my bones grew old, whilst I cried out all the day long (Ps. 31:3);
and in the book of Proverbs it is said; He that hideth his sins,
shall not prosper: but he that shall confess and forsake them, shall
obtain mercy (Prov. 28:13). Constant experience in life verifies
these words, and heretics could not entirely abolish private confession,
though they rejected the Sacrament of Penance.
a human law, or a human invention?
No, confession was instituted
by Christ Himself; for after His resurrection He appeared to His
apostles and disciples, and said to them: Peace be with you! As
the Father hath sent me, I also send you; that is, the same power
to remit sin which the Father has given me, I give to you. When
he had said this, he breathed on them, and he said to them: Receive
ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven
them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained (Jn.20:21-23;
compare Mt. 18:18). In these words Christ evidently gave to the
apostles and their successors the power to forgive and retain sins.
This they can do only when the sins are confessed to them; and,
therefore, Christ, when instituting the forgiveness of sins, instituted
and connected with it the acknowledgment, that is, the confession
of sins. This regulation of Christ was complied with by the first
Christians in humility of heart, as is proved in the Acts of the
Apostles, where we read: And many (referring to the Christians at
Ephesus) of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their
deeds (Acts 19:18). And the apostle James exhorts his own: Confess
therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that
you may be saved (Jas. 5:16). The work founded by Christ must stand,
as long as the world, and as the apostles and disciples of our Lord
died, their successors necessarily continued the work, and received
the same power from Christ. This is verified by the whole history
of His Church. In the very beginning of Christianity, the faithful
with great sorrow confessed to the priest all their transgressions,
even the smallest and most secret, after which, they received absolution.
"Let us be sincerely sorry as long as we live," says St.
Clement of Rome, a disciple of St. Paul (Ep. 1. ad Cor.), "for
all evil which we have committed in the flesh, for having once left
the world, there will no longer be any confession and penance for
us." Tertullian (217 A.D.) writes of those who hid their sins,
being ashamed to confess them: "Can we also hide from the knowledge
of God that which we conceal from a fellow creature" (Lib.
de qcen. 5. 36). Origen ('1254), after speaking of baptism,
says: "There is still a severer and more tedious way of obtaining
remission of sin: when the sinner moistens his pillow with tears,
and is not ashamed to confess his sins to the priest of the Lord"
(Hom. 3 in Lev.). St. Cyprian ('1258) writes of those
Christians who during the persecutions of his time, had not sinned
by openly denying the faith: "Yet because they had but thought
of doing so, they make a sorrowful and simple confession to God's
priests" (Sib. de laps.). Basil (f 379) writes: "Necessarily
the sins must be made plain to those to whom the power of the mysteries
is confided, that is, to the priests" (In reg. brew 288).
Many more testimonies could be brought from the earliest centuries
of Christianity, which make it clear, that Christ Himself instituted
confession, and that the faithful always availed themselves of it
as a means of remission of sin. It would not have been possible
for a human being, though he were the mightiest prince, to have
imposed upon Catholic Christianity so hard an obligation as confession,
without the special command of Christ the Son of God; nor could
any one have invented it without the faithful at once revolting.
It is also well known that, in the Oriental Churches which separated
from the true Church in the earliest ages, private confession to
a priest is yet valued as a divine institution. The Catholic institution
of confession, with which, in the earliest centuries, there was
even connected a public confession, before the whole congregation,
for notorious sinners, is as old as the Church itself, as Pope Leo
the Great (f 461) proves (Ep. 136); "The secret, auricular
confession was introduced into the Church as early as the times
of the apostles, or their immediate successors." It was instituted
by Christ, the God-Man, and instituted for the purpose of enabling
the apostles and the priests, their successors, to remit in the
confessional the sins committed after baptism, if the sinner heartily
regrets them, sincerely confesses, and renders satisfaction for
them, or to retain them if he be unworthy of absolution. From this
it is seen that the enemies of the Catholic Church oppose, in rejecting
confession, the plain expression of the holy Scriptures, and of
entire Christian antiquity, and that it is a detestable calumny
to assert that confession is simply a human invention. The divine
institution of confession always was and is a fountain of sweetest
consolation for sinful man, and thousands have experienced that
which is said by the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV can. 3, depart.):
"The effect of this Sacrament is reconciliation with God,
followed by peace, cheerfulness and consolation of the heart in
those who worthily receive this Sacrament."
aid us to make confession easy?
The consideration of the
manifold benefits arising from it; first, forgiveness of all, even
the most grievous sins, remission of the guilt and eternal punishment;
secondly, the certainty of having again been made a child of God;
thirdly, the sweet consolation and desired peace of conscience;
fourthly, the necessary remedies which a pious and prudent confessor
will prescribe for the cure of the diseases of the soul; finally,
the prayer and exhortation of the priest which will also add to
the complete conversion of the sinner.
be done to participate in these benefits?
Besides that which has already
been said of the examination of conscience, and especially of sorrow
for sin, the confession must be sincere and open-hearted; that is,
a correct and exact confession not only of all mortal sins, their
kind, circumstances and number, without excuses, or veiling or lessening
them, but also a faithful revelation of all other spiritual affairs,
fears, doubts, and other wounds of the soul; for a wound which is
not shown to the physician, cannot be healed. We should not seek
those confessors who are only "mute dogs" (Is. 56:10),
and give absolution without hesitation, but we should trust the
direction of our souls to learned, pious, and zealous priests, and
remain under their guidance, as in physical sickness we remain under
the care of an experienced physician, and accept their words as
if Christ Himself had spoken.
the false shame which prevents confession be overcome?
It should be remembered that
the priest in the confessional is the representative of Christ,
and that whoever lies to the confessor, seeks to deceive God Himself,
who abominates a lie, and at the Last Day will publicly put such
a liar to shame. The confessor takes the place of Christ, and after
His example must be merciful to the sinner, if, a sinful man himself,
he hopes to receive merry and grace from God. At the same time,
no confessor is allowed to reveal the slightest thing heard in confession,
even should it cost him his life. It may be considered further that
he who conceals a sin in confession, and thus obtains absolution
by false pretences, receives no remission, but, on the contrary,
commits a new sin, "When man uncovers his sins, God covers
them; when man conceals his sins, God reveals them," says St.
Augustine. Man can be deceived, but not God, the Omniscient; and
who is ashamed to show his wounds to the physician? Why should it
be a cause of shame to throw out the poison of sin by a sincere
confession? To sin only is shameful, to confess sin is not shameful.
But if by all these reflections we are still unable to overcome
ourselves so as to confess our sins to a certain confessor we may
seek another in whom we have confidence.
SATISFACTION AFTER CONFESSION
Satisfaction is the diligent
performance of all the works of penance imposed upon us by the confessor.
With this, however, a true penitent will not be satisfied; for in
our times, on account of the weakness and little zeal of Christians,
a light penance is imposed that they may not be deterred from the
reception of the holy Sacraments. To avoid relapsing into sin, one
must do penance, and bring forth worthy fruits (Lk. 13:3), for God
will only then give the grace to persevere. We satisfy God by fasting,
prayer, almsdeeds, avoidance of the snares of the world, diffidence
in ourselves, and especially by patient endurance of the afflictions
and sufferings which He imposes upon us. Those who have committed
sin must do penance in this life or submit to everlasting penance
in the next.
Is the heretic right in asserting
that man does not need to render satisfaction since Christ has rendered
it complete on the cross?
He is entirely wrong. Christ
on the cross did indeed render satisfaction for all the sins of
the whole world, and man is not capable to atone for one single
sin but it does not follow from this that man is not required to
do something. To render satisfaction means to perform a duty which
has been neglected. Instead of obeying God, the sinner by his sins
disobeys Him. Satisfaction for disobedience requires perfect obedience
from the sinner: but this, because of his weakness and corruption,
no man is able to render therefore Christ rendered it for us by
His perfect obedience even unto the death of the cross. But because
Christ has been thus obedient for us, must we not be somewhat obedient
also? or which is the same, because Christ for love of us has atoned
for our sins by perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father, are we
to do no penance for ourselves? It is precisely by this atonement
made by Christ that we receive the power of rendering satisfaction.
But for this we must, first of all, ask the grace, i.e., pray,
to restrain our earthly desires, i.e., fast, and by means
of active love (charity) make ourselves susceptible to this grace.
St. Paul the Apostle, who calls himself the greatest of sinners,
writes of himself: I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill
up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in
my flesh for his body, which is the Church (Col. 1:24); and
to the Corinthians he writes: But I chastise my body and bring it
into subjection: lest perhaps: when I have preached to others (meaning
penance and conversion), I myself should become cast away (I Cor.
9:27). Christ Himself did not censure the Ninivites for their
fasting and their penance in sackcloth and ashes, but gave them
as an example (Mt. 12:41). In the Old Testament we find that
even after remitting the sin, God imposed a punishment for it. Thus
He let the child of king David die, as punishment for his adultery,
even though He had forgiven the sin (II Kings 12:13, 14); thus
Moses and Aaron, because they once distrusted God, were not permitted
to enter the Promised Land (Num. 20:24; Deut. 34:4). According
to this doctrine of the Bible, the Catholic Church teaches that
there remains a temporal punishment which the sinner must expiate
either in this world, or in the next, though on account of the infinite
merits of Christ the guilt and eternal punishment of sin are taken
away by absolution. In the earliest times of the Church certain
works of penance were imposed, which were then very severe, and
in the course of time, owing to the indolence of the faithful, were