Confession and the Art of Boiler Maintenance
Jesus alone redeems and saves through the Cross and Resurrection, mediated by Church teaching through the Ten Commandments and the Sacraments. A Catholic church should be an oasis of orthodoxy, fidelity, and sanity. People should fill every Catholic pew, yet inactive Catholics as a group outnumber large Protestant denominations.
So let’s make this appeal to our young people: teenagers and young adults. Do you realize how good you have it? You attend Mass because of devotion, good habits, or because your parents forced you. It matters little. Your parents are doing their job, and you’re responding.
Your parents care for you. They’re present to you, both of them, or one or the other. They feed and clothe you and send you to school. You study religion. When you become a young adult, they release you into the world with hopes you are successful and, above all, get to heaven. Be proud of your parents and bear with their failings.
A recent event sparked the preceding words of affection for young people and their parents. Recently, a car-jacking took place down the road. Bad people are crossing jurisdictions and causing trouble close to home. A parishioner showed me a picture of a suspect. He is a 13-year-old kid. Heartbreaking! What are the chances he has a church-going caring dad? What does his future hold? More crime? A federal prison? Elected office?
Let’s close the loop with a remedy. Jesus, through the Church, gives us the gift of Confession for good character, our salvation, and peace of soul. Here are a few pointers.
Confession is personal and usually anonymous. The sacramental absolution forgives sins regardless of the sanctity of the priest. His authority comes with his office and extends back through his ordination to Jesus Himself. The Seal of Confession protects the secrecy of the Sacrament of Penance.
Confession is not therapy but often has therapeutic effects. We confess sinful acts, words, deeds, and omissions, but we do not confess feelings except for context. Confessional graces help us to recalibrate our lives, but there are no guarantees for the future. Keep at it. Where else in the modern world can we admit with routine formality: “I was wrong, and I’m sorry, and I’m ready for my penance?”
Confession obtains forgiveness for mortal and venial sins. Devotional Confessions help us understand patterns of sins and direct us to surrender to God’s grace, mercy, and guidance. For example, God made our minds for thinking, gathering evidence, and judging correctly. We sin with rash judgments or if we use correct conclusions unjustly (e.g., gossip). We will never have enough evidence to evaluate another man’s soul. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Mt. 7:1-3)
Perfect contrition forgives mortal sin even before a good Confession. When a child disobeys his mom, he’s sorry, hoping to avoid punishment. That’s imperfect contrition. As his love matures, he is sorrowful because he let his mom down. That’s perfect contrition. We usually know if we fear punishment for mortal sins, but we don’t know whether our sorrow has attained the high bar of perfection. Saint Thomas teaches that the Sacrament raises imperfect contrition—fear of punishment—to perfect contrition and provides a clear and serene conscience. Confession forgives sins with certainty.
The priest assigns a mostly symbolic penance (three Hail Marys, a Rosary, etc.), and we respond with an Act of Contrition. The key is resolving to sin no more, even if we know we will struggle with the same temptations or bad habits.
Despite this wondrous gift, people leave the Catholic Church for various reasons.
Recently a subcontractor—a stranger—came onsite to assist with an installation. In the presence of several other contractors, he announced to me that he left the Catholic Church many years ago because he read about the evil priests and the ugly cover-ups by the bishops. All fixed their gaze on me for a response.
The customary (mostly impersonal) responses flooded my mind. God punishes wickedness and apostasy at the highest levels of God’s people throughout the Scriptures: Cain and Abel, wicked people in the time of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, King David’s sins, Solomon’s apostasy, the Babylonian Exile, the apostasy during the end of the world—in case you haven’t noticed. The scandals also grievously violate immutable Church teaching.
Similar crimes are epidemic in the public school system and ignored by the media. The media and government schools are united in promoting the criminal leftist/woke/diversity/equity/inclusion secular religion. Both are indoctrinating the youth and the populace at large. Of course, neither the media nor the public school system has a philosophical problem with most sexual perversions. But they pretend they are shocked in religious settings.
But these facts may be too academic for a drive-by argument with a contractor with an audience of working men. So I got personal:
- “You are suggesting that Christ and His Church condone such behavior.
- You also imply that as a representative of the Catholic Church, I am part of the machinery of evil, and I also approve of the malice, silence, and cover-ups.
- You at least imply that I am a fool because I didn’t follow you and others out the door.
- You have abandoned the Church when we need warriors, not wimps.
- Catholics who have left the Church are like divorced spouses. It’s almost impossible to persuade them to return to their husbands or wives after a bitter separation.
- So you’re wasting my time.
- You need a good Confession. What is the sin you refuse to renounce?
- Now, let’s talk about how to get that boiler up and operational.”
Afterward, one of the regulars wondered what he did to keep him from attending Mass.
Confession heals us, clears our thinking, strengthens families, begins to heal the culture, and prevents car-jacking. The wise use of Confession prepares us to meet Jesus. “You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Mt.24:44)
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