Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Who is Confession for?"

1) Anon: “Who is Confession for -- the penitent or God? I ask because I am not motivated to go for myself because I have done it and it does not do a thing for me.” As with all the sacraments, Anon, Confession is for us (although our participation in the sacraments glorifies God). God has given us these opportunities to come closer to Him not for himself, but for us. We have addressed the whole ‘feelings’ issue on this site many times – it may not ‘feel’ that Confession does a thing for you, but, believe me, it does A TON! It fills your soul with God’s Grace (divine life) and reconciles you with Him and the Church (all of us). Our bodies may not feel anything when we go to Confession or Mass, but our souls are very happy!! Finally, it may help to think of times when you’ve had to apologize to a dear friend and reconciled with him or her; has there ever been a time when it did not do a thing for you? God is our dear friend with whom we reconcile in Confession.

2) Anon asked the following, and quoted one of my homilies: "'Normally, he is much more subtle in his attacks on the Eucharist. He puts certain thoughts in our heads: “it’s just a symbol”; “I can worship God on my own; “I don’t need the Eucharist”; or “I don’t need to come to Mass every week”’. What is the difference between having these thoughts out of reason than being evil thoughts. I am confused.”

Anon, I wouldn’t refer to these thoughts as reasonable. None of them has been revealed by God – e.g., “the Eucharist is just a symbol” is not found anywhere in Scripture or Tradition. In fact, quite the opposite is true of them. God has revealed that a) the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ, b) worship of God is a communal event, c) we need the Eucharist to have life, bear fruit with our lives, and have eternal life, and d) the Sabbath occurs every week, and we need to go to Mass as Catholic Christians to keep it holy. It is reasonable to believe what God has revealed.

The confusion comes in, of course, when the Evil One gets involved. He tries to put thoughts in our minds that contradict what God has revealed. Quick example: in the Garden of Eden, God revealed to Adam and Eve that they shouldn’t eat the fruit of the tree. Then, Satan got involved, putting the thought in their heads that if they ate the fruit, they would have the knowledge that God has. It wasn’t reasonable to believe that because a) God hadn’t revealed that, and b) it wasn’t true. Reason rejoices with the Truth! What God has revealed – whatever it might be – is the Truth.

The examples of evil thoughts that I used in my homily haven’t been revealed by God and are not true. It might take some time to sift through certain things to discern what the truth is. When we find it, our reason recognizes it: “everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37). And, so, we are then able to know what are evil thoughts – those that the Devil tries to put in our heads to take us away from Christ who is the Truth.

In all of this, I am mainly referring to matters of doctrine; it can be harder to discern personal thoughts as being from God or from the Evil One (e.g., having proud thoughts). As soon as we can recognize thoughts as being doctrinally erroneous (i.e., in direct conflict with what God has revealed), we should move away from them immediately by thinking about or doing something else. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:7).

3) Kiwi Nomad 2006: “I was given a blessing by a priest I met in Lourdes last year, the first such 'personal' blessing I have ever had. A few weeks later it was the 40th anniversary of my father's death, and I was kind of sad thinking about this as I cycled along. But I found that each time I had a 'sad' thought, I also had a memory of the blessing, and it was as if I was 'lifted up' out of my sadness. When I was talking about this to a friend, she said "That was the grace of the blessing." Was she right?”

I think so, Kiwi! Lourdes, France, is an especially powerful place. I was there this time last year. It was a Grace-filled experience!


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A personal blessing is a pretty cool thing. The last time I received one, before he actually blessed me, I thought about the fact that the power of the Holy Spirit does come through a priest, and I was kind of hopeful it would come through this one then. It kind of startled me that I found the blessing, well, "moving", for lack of a better word. I actually reflected on the experience for quite a while. It was the first time in a long time that I didn't feel so alone, and as nice as that priest was/is, I know it wasn't him alone with me in that room then. Strangely, at least for me, even though I've had my moments, I really haven't felt as alone since.

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

Back in August/september (ok so I don't remember when exatly) FG gave me a 1st blessing, this was about a week before I officially "came back" to the church. By the time he had given me the blessing, we had been meeting for several weeks and I had been going to mass and adoration, and I ,wanted to 'come back' but I was terrified of going to confession and 'comming back' (i have issues what can I say).

Looking back on that time, I wonder if that blessing didn't help nudge me over that line. I think it was the following saturday that I went to confession after 1st saturday adoration. The funniest thing though was that Sunday I almost forgot that I could recieve the Eucharist, I remember FG giving me this odd look like 'why are you still in the pew?'.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

If you were in Lourdes about this time a year ago Father Greg, we were just about there at the same time!!!!!! I was there from May 3rd to May 9th.
And as for the "Grace-filled experience" I guess I really had some of that as well. Each evening when I took part in the Mariale processions I had the most profound feeling of peace, and I woke with that same peace. I haven't 'returned' to Church, but I can't walk away either, knowing what it was like for me at Lourdes.

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

"I haven't 'returned' to Church, but I can't walk away either, knowing what it was like for me at Lourdes."

Kiwi Nomad,
I don't mean to be overly personal, but I don't understand something about you. You have had so many amazing experiences, and you share them so beautifully that everyone easily understand what you're saying/meaning, and I don't understand why you haven't come back to the church. You obviously have beautiful qualities to be able to share things as you do, and the community of the church would so greatly benefit from having you as a full part of it. I'm not asking you to bare you soul to everyone, I'm just baffled. You make so many connections that many others have prayed to make, I would think returning to something to which you are obviously drawn would be almost neccessary. Again, I'm sorry if I'm being overly personal or even obtuse (I can be both) but I have wondered this about you.

At 1:50 AM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

mindy... I appreciate the courtesy and kindness of your question. Short answer sort of is: - I can't say the Creed: I don't know if I even believe there is a God. When people talk about knowing Jesus I don't know what they are on about. I have some 'inklings' that maybe I am 'wrong' to not believe. But I have been 'stuck' on the outside for a long time now. There are of course longer explanations, but I don't especially want to go into them here.

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Thanks for the respone. You seem to have seen and done some amazing things in your life, and I hope you will keep sharing about your experiences. You've obbviously had an intersting life, and I'm appreciative that we get to hear about some of it.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something that has been said repeatedly on this site is that a person comes to the faith more readily when it is inculcated in childhood by adults who serve as genuine examples. Trying to go there for the first time as an adult is fraught with obstacles that are not there for children. People talk about how me must have the faith of a child. But an adult isn't a child anymore; the adult comes at anything with life's baggage. The effort can seem futile. I've heard someone use the word "toxic" to describe the "baggage" he brings into Church when he tries to go there and take part -- meaning all the anti-religious and anti-chastity messages of the secular world, all the cynicism and sarcasm -- how does one shed all of that? Kiwi, I do not know if any of this is at work in your life, but it is in mine and many others I have talked to.

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

I wasn't raised in the Catholic faith. I was baptized and rec'd very brief education in prep for my First Communion. I went to a public elem school, attended Mass only on "special occasions" (not even the days of obligation), and considered myself catholic to be as significant as the fact that I have green eyes. When I attended Catholic high school, I felt very much on the outside of something- didn't know exactly what, but the things the other girls seemed to understand with so little effort just bewildered me. As an adult, I had problems that were way beyond what I could handle alone. I wasn't someone who just fell to my knees, but my description has been more like, nose to the pavement. For me to just get through those times required my holding onto (sometimes literally) someone who had enough faith to carry me a while. It's funny, b/c during that difficult time in my life, it wasn't hard to find a sense of my faith, but I didn't have any idea on how to "nuture" it. I had no guidelines on how to embrace my faith, only a vague sense that something in me had shifted. More recently, I have experienced some difficulties in my life again. I once again reached out to someone (well, truthfully- they reached out to me) who's faith was/is strong enough to help me through. For me, that's been what has helped the most. I watched and listened to people who seemed to have that sense of peace and internal "balance" that I was looking for, and I started to listen to their suggestions. Some suggestions came during Mass, some came during some private talks and others came through the good people here. I believe that what works for others is worth trying. Consider finding someone you trust to listen to you and guide you. Remember, faith is a journey, and for some of us (definately me included) it's a long one.

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Zophiel said...

Anonymous asks, re: the "toxic baggage"; how does one shed all of that?

Short answer: with much prayer, patience, and effort.

Much longer answer: Even those of us who could be called "cradle catholics" sometimes end up with this baggage. (ex., myself.)

There was for me a long time when, for various reasons, I harbored a deep bitterness toward the Church. This bitterness lead to a deep, deep, mistrust of the Church and her, er, representatives. But even in the worst of this, I never lost my love for God--Father, Son, or Spirit. And the Spirit, patient as She ever was, pointed out a few things to me, and showed me how She worked even still in the world, despite my doubts.

Seeing these things then called into question all (well, most of) that stupid baggage I'd picked up over the years, and made me radically reasses some of my basic assumptions regarding the Church, and the Church "thinking" on various matters.

I've managed to shed a good amount of that baggage, but I still approach a lot of things with a shade of the old mistrust, and have little tolerance for answers that don't answer-- or even worse, answers that only answer for those who already believe them.

Back to the point: If you're seeking to rid yourself of these unnecessary burdens, I would pray for perspective, and greater understanding.Instead of demanding that the Church see things from your point of view, try to see things from hers.

In many ways, my relationship with The Church is like my relationship with my mother. I don't agree with her on every single thing, but I love her, I appreciate her, and when she says something, I'm inclined to listen--cuz she's my Mom, she's been around the block a few times, and she usually knows what she's talking about.

And, just like outgrowing teen angst happens when you realize maybe your mom was onto something when she advised against partying all night, likewise our outgrowing the baggage of the world comes when we realize that maybe, just maybe, the Church might actually know what she's on about when she says "Um, sex outta wedlock is not really a good idea."

Finally, try to keep in mind that all that cynicism and sarcasm from the world is the sound of people trying to fill their vast emptiness with the hollow shouts of Despair. They will not allow themselves to even contemplate a thing miraculous, and so afraid they are of such belief, that they must ridicule it any way they can. It is a shrill facade, but with prayer, you will find that those voices become muted, silenced, and recognized for the senseless noise they are. It will not happen immedietely, but over time.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger fran said...

Wow! What insight, infused with sound, constructive and eloquently expressed advice.

Might I add, that once one makes more room for God,(through prayer, the sacraments, patience and effort) there is less room for the "baggage."


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