March 26, 2022 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. It is called “Laetare Sunday,” “laetare” meaning “rejoice,” which 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 have found their penances manageable and doable, then perhaps you can add some more penances, or intensify the one’s you are currently doing.

“For Your Penance, Say One Hail Mary.”  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 contrition (being sorry) and confessing our sins, but you may not be familiar with the term “satisfaction” in this context. “Satisfaction” here 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?”

Common Courtesy. As we examine our consciences this Lent, I propose we all consider whether we are guilty of offending charity by a lack of what is sometimes called “common courtesy,” or “good manners.” Good manners show respect for the people around us; common courtesy extends charity and compassion toward even strangers. Yet we are guilty of rudeness and crudeness every day, in the small things we do to unnecessarily offend each other. Husbands speak to wives as if they’re servants, children talk back to their parents or other adults, co-workers fail to greet each other in the hallways, younger folks don’t give their seats to the elderly, people use foul language in public, we don’t let other drivers merge in traffic, and on and on.

These are sins—usually very small, but they certainly have the potential to pave the way to worse and even mortal sins.

We see it especially in the use of cell phones. This is 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) never speak on or answer you phone inside the church—if you must make or receive a call, go into the narthex; 2) 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; 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 discourtesies of others. But Lent is a time for striving to improve our charity, especially in the easier, obvious and simple things.

“Synod on Synodality.” As I have discussed previously in this column, the 2023 Synod of Bishops in Rome will be on the subject of “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”—i.e., the “Synod on Synodality.” “Synodality” concerns “the People of God journeying together and reflecting together on the journey, so as to live communion, to achieve participation, and to be open to mission.” In preparation for this 2023 Roman Synod, Pope Francis has asked every Diocese to undertake their own synodal phase of “prayerful listening, dialogue, and discernment.” Bishop Burbidge has required that all parishes host synodal Listening Sessions, and every person may participate.

We invite you to come to our Listening Session, next Saturday, April 2, 2022, from 10-11:30 am in the parish hall.

Please note: this will be a structured opportunity for participants to express their views on 6 particular questions the Pope proposes. I will synthesize your comments, then the Bishop’s delegate will summarize all the diocesan listening sessions into a 10 page report to the USCCB, which will further summarize the  comments from all the diocese of the U.S. and send a report to the Vatican. There, a Vatican committee will summarize all the reports from around the world for a report to be used at the 2023 Bishops’ Synod.

Religious Education Administrative Assistant. This summer Vince Drouillard will be retiring from his post in the parish CCD office, and we are currently looking for someone to fill this position, which opensin mid-July, with training beginning in June. If you are interested in this position or have questions, please submit a resume and/or questions to Mary Salmon, Director of Religious Education at

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles