The Sacrament of Mercy
Sadly, studies show that only 15% of Catholics celebrate the sacrament of Penance (Confession) once a year, which is the bare minimum required by the Church to be considered a practicing Catholic. Moreover, the Church implores us to go beyond the minimum, as we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful.” (CCC 1458)
It’s sad to think that so many are depriving themselves of this experience of God’s mercy. There is nothing more freeing than hearing another say: “I absolve you from your sins…” the assurance of forgiveness is a grace from the Lord. Pope Francis reminds us: “Confessing to a priest is a way of putting my life into the hands and heart of someone else, someone who in that moment acts in the name of Jesus. It’s a way to be real and authentic: we face the facts by looking at another person and not in the mirror.” (The Name of God is Mercy p22.) Let’s take a look at some common objections Catholics make to Sacramental Confession:
Where is confession in the bible? Jesus himself gave his apostles the authority to forgive sins when he told them “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Jn 20:22-23) We see this ministry handed down to the apostles and practiced in the New Testament by St. Paul who says: “For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ” (2 Cor 2:10)
But can’t I just Go to God myself? This is an interesting question for a Catholic to ask. Because as Catholics, we so obviously see that Christ gives himself to us in his Church. Being a Christian is never just about “me and Jesus”, but is about Jesus and his Church, of which I am a member. Do we “go to God by myself” when we are baptized? When we receive the Holy Eucharist? When we are married? No, because we recognize that we in Christ are in communion with one another, and that even my most personal sins affect the life of the entire Church as the Words of Sacred Scripture tell us: “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” (1 Cor 12:26) Which is why the Bible again reiterates the need for confession of our sins: “Let him call for the elders; [literally presbyters, the Greek word from which we get the English word “priest’] of the church, and let them pray over him…and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:14-16).
But I Can’t Think of Any Sins? This seems to be a recurring issue with a generation which has no problem pointing out the sins of their spouses, children, grandchildren, neighbors, celebrities and politicians. The bible tells us that the righteous sin daily (Prov. 24:16). We must remember that sin comes from a term used in archery and means to “miss the mark”. We have all fallen short and need God’s grace, both for sins of commission (what I have done) and sins of omission (what I have failed to do). Being a Christian is not about being perfect, as much as it is about acknowledging that I am not perfect, yet the perfect Father offers me mercy. For your convenience, we will provide a thorough examination of conscience in this issue of the bulletin.
The Consequences of Sin
Remember that the bible tells us that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23) and while “not every sin is mortal” (1 Jn 5:17), some are. A mortal sin is one that separates us completely from God’s grace, without which we have no salvation. For a sin to be mortal there are three conditions: It must be grave matter, I must know that it is grave matter, and I must freely chose do it. The Church identifies the following sins as grave matter in the Catechism:
Intentionally missing Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation, blasphemy, adultery, contraception, fornication (intimate relations apart for a marriage recognized by the Church), defrauding a worker of a just wage, endangerment of human life or safety, abandoning a spouse to divorce, self-gratification, wishing or causing harm to another, extreme anger, assisted suicide, murder, being an accessory to an abortion, hatred, viewing pornography, lying under oath, murder, and denying a teaching of Christ and his Church. The Church also states that to receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege, as one is living apart from God’s grace and cannot receive any grace from the sacraments. In case of mortal sin, run, don’t walk to confession! It’s a severe consequence, but God has remedied the problem of mortal sins by giving us the grace won for us by Jesus on the cross through this sacrament.
We have opportunities for Confession in abundance! Keep reading on the next page for a full listing of what St. Elizabeth Seton & the Diocese are offering this Lent.
Confession: Opportunity in Abundance
During Lent we have so many opportunities for confession:
- Saturdays at 8:30AM and 3:00PM, we begin hearing confessions and conclude when there are no more penitents in line.
- Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00 to 6:00PM
- April 12 and April 13: The Sacrament of Confession will be available at EVERY PARISH IN THE DIOCESE from 4:00-8:00 pm, Friday, April 12, and from 9:00 am to Noon, Saturday, April 13.
- Wednesday April 17 from 7:00-8:30 pm there will be a Mercy Night for the diocese hosted here at St. Elizabeth, with confessions heard.
There is nothing to fear from encountering God’s mercy in this sacrament. If it has been a while, we are waiting for you with open arms to receive God’s grace. Remember, there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over a hundred righteous. Let’s make heaven celebrate this Lent. Come home to the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
Examination of Conscience
I. “I am the Lord, thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.” Have I sinned against Religion by seriously believing in New Age, Non-Christian religion. Astrology, Horoscopes, Fortune-telling, Superstition or engaging in the Occult? Did I endanger my Catholic Faith or cause scandal by associating with anti-Catholic groups & associations or secret societies (including Freemasons)? Have fame, fortune, money, career, pleasure, and the like replaced God as my highest priority? Have I neglected my daily prayers? Do I commit sins, presuming God’s mercy? Have I taken advantage of all the moments the Lord has given me to pray? Have I shared the gospel with others? What have I done to advance the mission of the Church?
II. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Have I committed blasphemy by using the name of God and Jesus Christ, to swear rather than to praise? Have I committed sacrilege by showing disrespect to holy objects or contempt for religious persons or for sacred places. Have I committed sacrilege by going to Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin without first going to confession? Did I violate the one-hour fast before Communion? Did I break the laws of fast and abstinence during Lent? Do I abstain from meat on all Fridays or make alternate penance?
III. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Did I intentionally and willfully miss Mass on any Sunday or Holyday of Obligation? Have I shown disrespect by leaving Mass early arriving late, not paying attention or not joining in the prayers? Did I do unnecessary work on Sunday which could have been done the day before? Have I been stingy in my support for the Church? Do I give of my time and talent?
IV. Honor thy Father and Mother. Have I set a bad example for my children by casually missing Mass, neglecting prayer, or ignore my responsibility to provide Religious Education? Do I show little or no interest in my children’s faith and practice of it? Have I showed disrespect for those in authority, government or church? Have I not expressed my moral values to my children? Have I caused my children to miss Mass? Have I been disobedient or disrespectful to my parents or guardians? Did I neglect to help them with household chores? Have I caused them unnecessary worry and anxiety by my attitude, behavior, moods, etc.? Have I shown proper care and respect to my adult parents?
V. Thou shalt not kill. Did I consent, recommend, advise, approve, support or have an abortion? Did I actively or passively cooperate with an act of euthanasia whereby ordinary means were stopped or means taken to directly end the life of an elderly or sick person? Have I committed an act of violence or abuse (physical, emotional or verbal)? Have I endangered the lives of others by reckless driving or by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Do I show contempt for my body by neglecting to take care of my own health? Have I been mean or unjust to anyone? Have I held a grudge or sought revenge against someone who wronged me? Do I point out others faults and mistakes while ignoring my own? Do I complain more than I compliment? Am I ungrateful for what other people do for me? Do I tear people down rather than encourage them? Have I assassinated someone’s character? Am I prejudiced against people because of their color, language or ethnic-religious background or way of life, or political persuasion? Am I cruel or unkind to those who are different?
VI. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Have I respected the love that is only exchanged between husband and wife? Have I openly supported lifestyles in opposition to Christ and his Church? Have I committed acts of impurity alone or with another? Have I not avoided the occasions of sin (persons or places) which would tempt me including what I watch, read and that to which I listen? Do I encourage and entertain impure thoughts and desires? Do I tell or listen to impure jokes?
VII. Thou shalt not steal.
X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. Have I stolen any object, committed any shoplifting or cheated anyone of their money? Did I knowingly deceive someone in business or commit fraud? Have I shown disrespect or even contempt for other people’s property? Have I done any acts of vandalism? Am I greedy or envious of another’s goods? Do I let financial and material concerns or the desire for comfort override my duty to God, to Church, to my family, or my own spiritual well-being? Have I been neglectful in my duties to the poor?
VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Have I told a lie in order to deceive someone? Have I told the truth with the purpose and intention of ruining someone’s reputation (sin of detraction)? Have I told a lie or spread rumors which may ruin someone’s reputation (sin of calumny or slander)? Did I commit perjury by falsely swearing an oath on the Bible? Am I a busybody or do I love to spread gossip and secrets about others? Do I love to hear bad news about my enemies?