First Sunday of Lent Column
WEDNESDAY LENTEN SERIES. Please join us for this year’s Lenten Series every Wednesday evening during Lent, beginning this Wednesday, February 25th . We are honored this year to have as our speaker Fr. Paul deLadurantaye, STD, Secretary for Religious Education and the Sacred Liturgy for the Diocese. His topic will be the virtues: “Habits of the Mind and Heart: A Virtuous Journey in Lent.”
BEHEADING OF CHRISTIANS. This last week Islamist terrorists released a video of their beheading of 21 Coptic Christians. Our government refuses to recognize these radical Muslim terrorists are driven by extreme religious motives. Pope Francis sees things a little more clearly. Last Monday, he made the following statement:
“Today I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: “Jesus, help me!”. They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians… The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each other to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”
GOOD CONFESSION. One of the most important things you can do during Lent is make a good confession, so I am republishing the following, which has been helpful to many of you in prior years….
How do we make a “good confession”? We begin by prayerfully, and with honesty and humility, looking at our lives to recognize the sins we’ve committed since our last confession, i.e., “an examination of conscience.” In particular we need to look for mortal sins, i.e., sins that involve all three of the following criteria: 1) grave matter, 2) full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, and 3) complete consent. If any one of these is lacking it is not a “mortal sin,” but may be a “venial sin.”
“Grave matter” means the act involves some very serious moral evil, found either in 1) the act itself or 2) the intention behind the act. Grave matter can be difficult to identify, but not always. Clear examples of grave matter include (but are not limited to): violence (in word or deed) against parents; children disobeying parents in a serious matter; neglect of elderly parents (in serious need); serious parental neglect or abuse of their children (including neglecting proper formation in the Catholic faith or unnecessary postponement of the sacraments, especially baptism); murder; abortion; euthanasia; drunkenness; denying just assistance to family members; abandoning a spouse or children; remarriage after a divorce (without annulment); sexual activity before or outside of marriage; viewing pornography; masturbation; contraception; direct intentional sterilization (e.g., vasectomies, tubal ligations); theft of valuable items; unjustly and seriously damaging reputations; lying about important matters; perjury; cursing someone using God’s name; “dabbling” in the occult or witchcraft; willful dissent from Church doctrine; serious and unjust infringements on religious liberty; serious and unjust discrimination; missing Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day; receiving Holy Communion unworthily; direct material cooperation in another’s mortal sin; directly leading another into mortal sin.
Note that there are many “guides” available to help with your examination of conscience, either in pamphlet form, online or as “apps” for smart phones. [Next week I will republish my own guide.]
Also, in confession you must distinguish the “kind” of mortal sin committed: be clear about what the sin was, but avoid graphic or long explanations. So it is not enough to say “I had bad thoughts,” rather one should say (e.g.) “I had lustful thoughts,” etc.. You must also give the number of times you committed particular mortal sins. Sometimes this is difficult to remember, in which case, give some idea of the frequency/number; e.g., “at least once a month for several years,” etc..
Besides mortal sins, we should also consider venial sins, especially any vices (sinful habits) or other venial sins that are particularly problematic.
A Guide for the Penitent in Confession.
You may go to Confession kneeling or sitting, anonymously behind-a-screen or “face-to-face”—these are usually your options, although the priest has the right to require anonymous confession.
After greeting the priest, you begin by making the sign of the cross saying:
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
The priest may invite you to confess your sins; if he remains silent continue, saying these or similar words:
“Bless me father, for I have sinned. It’s been [number of days, weeks, months, years] since my last confession.”
It is then helpful to reveal your “state in life”: e.g., “I am a married man,” etc…
Then say: “These are my sins.”
List by number and kind all mortal sins you have recollected in your examination of conscience.
You may also describe the types of venial sins you have committed, and list any which are of particular concern to you.
Close with these or similar words:
“For these sins, and all my sins, I am truly sorry.”
The priest may ask you some questions to understand your situation better. He may also give you advice.
The priest then gives you a “penance” to perform. If you know you can’t fulfill his penance, tell him so he can give you another penance; (sometimes you don’t know the particular prayer, or you have limitations due to physical impediment).
You then make an Act of Contrition, in these or similar words:
“Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishment; but most of all because I have offended thee, My God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”
Either during or immediately after your prayer the priest will say the prayer of absolution which concludes with the words (as he makes the sign of the cross):
“I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
You make the sign of the cross + and respond: Amen.
The priest then says a dismissal to which you respond:
Priest: “Go in peace.”
You respond: “Thanks be to God.”
He may also add:
Priest: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”
You respond: “His mercy endures forever.”
As you are leaving the confessional it is polite to say, “Thank you, Father.” Leave the confessional and do your penance as soon as possible, immediately in church in if you can.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles