Topic: Confession

Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

Do Not Delay

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Christmas is right around the corner, and I’m not ready. I still have a number of papers to write, cards to address and mail, cookies to bake, and music to prepare for Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. While Advent is supposed to be a season of anticipation and expectation, what I’m feeling right now is overwhelmed. There’s just so much to do in order to get ready for the celebration of our Savior’s birth. It seems like every time I cross one task off my list, two more pop up in its place. 

So I can respond in one of two ways: I can procrastinate and put everything off until the last minute, or I can heed the advice of one of my brothers, who once told me, “Do work, son.” While tempted by the first option, I am sure that the second is best. I need to get organized, develop a plan of action, and get to work, now. That’s the only way that I’m going to get everything done. Besides, if I wait until the last minute, I’ll probably end up making myself sick.

The same principle holds when it comes to the spiritual life. So often we sit back and wait, wanting to be told what to do. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid to make a mistake. At other times, we are simply unwilling to make a commitment. So we avoid doing what it is God wants us to do. Instead of practicing virtue, we become slothful. We put off going to confession, and end up staying away for months, or years at a time. But this is not what God desires.

God wants us to be happy. He wants us to experience everlasting joy as we gaze upon his face. If that is to happen, then we must follow the example of our Blessed Mother. In the Gospel of Luke, we read that after the Annunciation, Mary “went into the hill country with haste” (Luke 1:39). Inspired by the angel’s news that her cousin was pregnant, Mary didn’t wait around. She packed her bags and quickly made her way to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Once there, Mary’s greeting caused John the Baptist to leap in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth to cry out, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42).

Despite what some theologians have said, the story of the Visitation is not about acting impulsively. Mary was responding to God’s revelation, and we are called to do the same, in the same manner. We should not delay when it comes to the movements of the Holy Spirit. If a young man feels called to the priesthood or religious life, then he should call his diocesan vocation director and ask for more information. If a young woman feels God is calling her to do missionary work, then she should contact one of the many organizations that can help make it happen. 

And if it has been awhile since your last confession, now is the time to come back. So many parishes offer communal penance services during this holy season, so that we can get our hearts, and not just our homes, ready for Christmas. Make haste, do not delay, and enjoy the mercy God is ready to bless you with during this sacred time.  

Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

Fireworks, Freedom, and Frassati

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A month after his 21st birthday -- a time when most young people are trying to find themselves -- Pier Giorgio Frassati became a member of the Dominican family. Kneeling down in the gothic church of San Domenico, with the soft glow of candlelight reflecting off the vaulted ceilings, and the sweet aroma of incense filling the air, he received the white scapular of the Third Order of St. Dominic. Taking the name Gerolamo, after the Dominican friar whom he so admired for his religious zeal and fervor, Pier Giorgio had no doubts about his purpose in life. He was to be a man of the beatitudes: merciful, pure of heart, a peacemaker.

Like many Catholics in the modern age, Pier Giorgio was no stranger to political unrest. He understood, perfectly well, the struggle for peace and religious freedom. As a young man he participated in a number of religious processions that often led to his being “detained” by the police. They were afraid that he might be trying to stir up trouble as a member of the Popular-Socialist Party, who along with the Fascists, were vying for control of the Italian government in the early 1900s.

In spite of his distaste for the Fascist Party, the affairs of state were not Pier Giorgio’s chief concern. He simply believed that violence was never the answer and that “true peace is more a fruit of Christian neighborly love than of justice” (A Man of the Beatitudes, 99). So he used his brief periods in jail, not to promote some political agenda, but to encourage his fellow prisoners – to pray the rosary with them, to counsel them, and to ease their pain. For Pier Giorgio, this is what it meant to be a Christian, to be blessed. As a man with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, he had discovered that freedom is not merely something political. True liberty is spiritual – freedom from the power of Satan and slavery to sin.  

We find an example of this type of freedom in the Gospel of Matthew (8:28-34), when Jesus heals two men who have been possessed by evil spirits; men who had been held captive in Satan’s grasp for many years. By sending these demons into a herd of pigs, Jesus reveals that his miraculous work is not limited to feeding the hungry crowds. He also has the power to free us from the bonds of sin. Like the demoniacs who are freed from their spiritual imprisonment, we too can experience the power that frees us from spiritual death and raises us to new life in Christ. It is made available to us in the Sacraments, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we are absolved of our sins, when grace is poured upon us, and we are given the strength to resist future temptation.

These least two weeks, during the Fortnight for Freedom, have been a wonderful time to reflect on our belief as Americans that everyone has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” While I will gladly admit that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are essential aspects of our way of life, we must not forget that spiritual freedom – freedom from the power of sin – is just as important. For Christ’s reign extends over all creation and the proclamation of his kingdom includes a declaration of liberty to captives – those under the thumb of human oppressors, as well as those who find themselves oppressed by spiritual forces.

Pier Giorgio knew this well. He believed that “faith enables us to bear the thorns with which our life is woven,” whether they be political or spiritual. This is why he went to Mass daily and once told a group of young people, “Feed on this Bread of Angels and from it you will gain the strength to fight your inner battle, the battle against passion and all adversities, because Jesus Christ has promised to those who feed on the Holy Eucharist eternal life and the graces necessary to obtain it…you will enjoy the peace that those who are happy in accordance with this world have never experienced, because true happiness does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we only have if we are pure in heart and mind” (A Man of the Beatitudes, 97-8).

Pure in heart; these words were often used to describe Pier Giorgio, by those who knew him best. When he died of polio on the 4th of July, 1925, it seemed as if the entire city of Turin turned up to pay their respects: Ester, the housekeeper whom he had brought to the faith; Signora Converso, the poor woman to whom he had sent medication while on his own deathbed. These and many others poured into the house, lined the streets during the procession, and crowded into the Church during the funeral. In Pier Giorgio they had been witness to a life touched by grace, a man of blessedness, who had experienced spiritual freedom in Christ and wanted to share it with the world.

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Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990, and is a patron of World Youth Day. 

Br. Justine Gable, O.P.'s picture

Frequent Confession by Dom Benedict Baur, O.S.B.

As we approach the Easter Triduum, I’d like to recommend a wonderful book: Frequent Confession by Dom Benedict Baur, O.S.B. Acknowledging that there are many who need the sacrament of confession to combat serious sin, Abbot Baur’s book is written to encourage even those who do not struggle with mortal sin to make frequent use of the sacrament. Although there are many ways in which venial sins can be forgiven, the author shows that the sacrament is a particularly effective means for overcoming voluntary venial sins and sinful habits. While the confession of venial sins is not obligatory, it provides the penitent with a unique opportunity for self-reflection, spiritual direction, and the reception of sacramental grace. As Abbot Baur puts it, “ . . . The sacrament of Penance cures the soul from the weakness that follows venial sin and from the weariness and coldness toward the things of God and the inclination towards worldliness that venial sin brings . . . and all this by its sacramental power, in other words, by the power of Christ himself.” (pp. 45-46)



Frequent Confession is also a treasure trove of practical advice for those who wish to make more fruitful use of the sacrament. For those who no longer struggle with mortal sin or a great number of venial sins, Abbot Baur recommends the formulation of a specific, practical purpose of amendment. A concrete resolution focusing on overcoming even a single sinful habit and the development of a particular virtue is more helpful for spiritual growth than an entire laundry list of faults: “Therefore our guiding principle here should be: a little, but well done; a little done earnestly and with purpose and perseverance. Divide and conquer!” (p. 58) Abbot Baur also examines a number of key concepts for the spiritual life, showing in each case that the frequent use of confession overcomes difficulties and nourishes our friendship with God.

Above all, frequent use of the sacrament of confession is a constant spur to our spiritual growth. It aids us in keeping an active will and firm intention to seek out the root causes of sin, imbuing our lives with a spirit of penance. The sacrament provides strength to continually struggle for spiritual growth and a more perfect love of God which is manifested in love for our neighbor and contrition for our sins.

Frequent Confession is not only enjoyable spiritual reading, it is a wonderful way to renew your devotion to this great sacrament and rediscover one of the church’s most effective means for spiritual growth.

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