March 10, 2024 Column Father De Celles

Halfway Through Lent. Today we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Lent, the traditional midpoint of the 40 days of the penitential season, and is called “Laetare Sunday,” “laetare” meaning “rejoice.” It is considered a sort of a slight lifting of the austerity and somberness of Lent as we remember to lift our gaze to see that beyond the Cross is the Resurrection; in the midst of our sorrow for our lives of sin we also rejoice in the forgiveness and new life won by the Paschal Mystery. The Rose Vestments symbolize this: the dark purple of repentance and sorrow mingled with the light of forgiveness and joy.

But today we also remember that there is still half of Lent remaining to rededicate or increase our efforts to keep Lent holy. To those who haven’t chosen a penance yet, get with it! To those who are struggling to keep their penances: if your penance is too hard, it’s okay to change your penance to something that is challenging but manageable in your situation. To those who just haven’t been trying, no excuses—pick up your cross and follow Jesus! And to those who have found their penances manageable and doable, then perhaps you can add some more penances, or intensify the ones you are currently doing.

More on the Sacrament of Penance. In order to be forgiven our sins in the Sacrament of Penance three things are required of every sinner/penitent: 1) contrition, 2) confession of our sins, and 3) satisfaction. Most of us understand confessing our sins, but maybe not so much contrition and satisfaction.

Contrition. As the Catechism teaches, [1452-1460], Contrition is “Sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again… When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’… Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.” Note, since it is practically impossible to be certain if we have such “perfect contrition,” so we should not presume it, and are still required to receive the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion if we are aware of an unconfessed mortal sin.

“Most of the time contrition is usually not ‘perfect,’ so it is called “imperfect” (or “attrition”).” Imperfect contrition is born not from pure love of God “above all else” but “of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner…. Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.”

Satisfaction. “Satisfaction” refers to the real effort to make up for our sins, and comes in two ways: “reparation” and “expiation” Let’s look a little closer at this. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches [1452-1460]:

“Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much.” This is called ‘making reparation.’ 

“But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is also called ‘penance.’”

When a priest gives a “penance” in confession, many people wonder how something as small and simple as “saying three Hail Marys” can serve as an adequate penance/satisfaction. But remember, we could never do enough penance to pay for all our sins—only Jesus can do this, and does so, on the Cross. The penance after confession is an important personal effort at trying to make amends. Moreover a simple and clear penance, such as some short prayers, makes a good practical penance because: 1) if done devoutly they can be an important first step forward toward God, 2) they are more likely to be done immediately, so that the penance won’t be forgotten and the penitent can immediately renew the life of grace, and 3) they avoid the confusion of more ambiguous or ambitious penances, so the penitent won’t be wondering, “did I do enough?” “did I do too much?” “did I do it right?”

Cell Phones. Cell phones are a relatively new but ubiquitous reality in our culture, and so perhaps we haven’t considered how their use in public can violate courtesy and good manners, i.e., charity.

This is especially the case in church, and most especially at Mass. So, I remind you: 1) always mute or turn off your phone (or leave it in the car) before you enter the church, and double check this before Mass begins; 2) never speak on or answer you phone inside the church—if you must make or receive a call, go into the narthex; and 3) try not to use your smart phone as a Mass aid, i.e. using apps with the prayers for Mass in them.

A phone going off during Mass is not only a violation of common courtesy—it can sometimes also be a form of sacrilegious interruption of the Sacred Liturgy.

Hey, we all make mistakes, and common courtesy demands patience and forgiveness for small mistakes and discourtesies of others. But Lent is a time for striving to improve our charity, especially in the easier, obvious and simple things.

Cardinal Burke’s 9 Month Novena. Don’t forget to sign up for Cardinal Raymond Burke’s nine-month novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, beginning on March 12. Visit

Cardinal Dolan: Small Correction. After reading my column about the Cecilia Gentili funeral last week, a former parishioner pointed out that one of the quotations I used was actually something the Cardinal said a few years ago. (“… Don’t yell at me! Look at yourselves!”). I apologize, I misread the article in The Pillar. Even so, there were several other quotes I could have used to make my point. I could have even used that same quote, as The Pillar did, to show a pattern of scandalous behavior. So, except for that correction, my point stands.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles