How to Go to Confession

   

          The Sacrament of Confession

 

Part One:

A Brief Examination of Conscience

 

I. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

 

– Have I been more concerned with what people think of me than what God thinks of me? Have I been impious by ridiculing sacred things or rites? Have I engaged in superstitious practices of any kind? Have I been indifferent about the Lord’s teachings as proclaimed in the Scriptures and the teachings of His Church?

 

II. Thou Shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.

 

– Have I always spoken with reverence about God, the saints, and holy things? Do I use the name of the Lord often in Prayer?

 

III. Remember to keep Holy the Sabbath Day.

 

– Have I attended Mass on each Sunday and Holy Day of obligation? Have I seen Sunday as a day of rest set aside for the Lord or do I treat it like just any other day? Do I engage in unnecessary work on Sunday or pressure others to do so?

 

IV. Honor thy father and mother.

 

– Do I show respect and love for my parents? If I no longer live with my parents, do I call or write them often to show my love and concern? What about other lawful superiors and authorities in my life; do I honor, respect, and obey them as I ought?

 

V. Thou shalt not kill.

 

– Do I show reverence and respect for human life from conception to death? Have I in any way approved of violent or vengeful behavior? Have I nursed hatred in my heart for others? Have I endangered the lives of others by reckless behavior? Have I endangered the spiritual life of anyone by encouraging them to commit serious sins or by giving bad example?

 

VI. Thou shalt not commit adultery

 

– Have I entertained impure or lustful thoughts? Have I committed impure actions either with myself or someone else? Have I tempted others to impurity by immodest dress or suggestive talk? Have I ridiculed or downplayed the virtue of chastity? Have I intentionally looked at indecent magazines, movies, or pictures?

 

VII. Thou shalt not steal.

 

– Have I unjustly and intentionally damaged the property of another person? Have I cheated in any way or engaged in dishonest practices? Have I made illegal photocopies, audio, or video recordings? If I am an employer, have I paid a just wage? If I am an employee, do I give an honest day’s work for my wage? As far as possible, do I pay my debts in a timely manner?

 

VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

 

– Have I lied about others? Do I care for the good name and reputation of others, or do I often endanger it by gossip and the spreading of rumors? Am I a truthful person? Have I rashly judged others? Have I told secrets about others that I am bound to keep?

 

IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife

 

– Have I entertained sexual desires or thoughts about someone who is not my spouse? Do I love my own spouse and thank the Lord for him or her?

 

X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

 

– Do I envy the success of others? Am I angry that others seem to have more than I do? Have I sought the things of earth more than those of Heaven?

 

  

 

Part Two:

The Celebration of the Sacrament

 

The penitent sits or kneels, makes the sign of the cross and says,

Bless me Father, for I have sinned

My last confession was __ (days, months, years) ago.

 

Then the penitent tells the priest the sins committed sin the last confession. Usually this is concluded by this or a similar phrase:

 

For these, and other sins which I cannot recall

at this time, I ask pardon and forgiveness.

 

Now the priest will offer some advice or encouragement to the person and then assign a small penance to be performed. He will then ask for an act of contrition. The following act of contrition is commonly recited, but others may be used.

An Act of Contrition

 

Oh My God, I am heartily sorry

for having offended you by my sins.

I detest all my sins

not only because I fear

the loss of heaven and the pains of hell

but most of all

because they offend Thee my God

Who art all good and deserving

of all my love.

I firmly resolve with the help of Thy Grace

To confess my sins

To do my penance

and to amend my life.

Amen.

 

The priest then gives the absolution by extending his hand over the penitent and saying these words:

 

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace and I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The priest will often bid the penitent farewell by saying,

 

“Go in Peace”

 

 

The following video is a little silly (due to its rather mechanistic format), but it actually does a pretty good job of laying out the process of going to confession.

40 Reasons to Come Home: Reason # 15

Reason # 15: E Pluribus Unum (from the many there is one). I was at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last Sunday afternoon as the Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl,  greeted men and women preparing to enter the Catholic faith this Easter.  The Basilica is one of the 15 largest churches in the world, and is surely the largest Catholic Church in this fair city.  It seats well over 3000 and was filled.  What was amazing, though, was the diversity manifested in those who were gathered.  Quite literally, there were people from all over the world: Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, the Philippines, Japan, China, and of course, from right here in the USA.

 The word “catholic” is actually an adjective that means “universal.”  Christ had told the apostles to make disciples from all nations.  That is what I saw last Sunday afternoon.  All of humanity was represented.  I saw that day young and old, rich and poor, famous and not so famous, clergy and laity, and religious brothers and sisters. It is clear that all are invited; no one is excluded who will accept Jesus and his teachings. 

All of this diversity makes for a rich experience in Church life. We all celebrate the one true faith and are united in the celebration of one liturgy, but there is a great diversity as to things such as music, language, preaching style, etc.  Some people say they have left the Catholic Church because of boredom. But my challenge to you is that if you don’t find a parish you like in your own immediate neighborhood, look around!  You’ll be surprised at what you see. Some of our downtown city parishes feature very formal liturgies, wonderful choirs, and traditional music.  Our African-American Catholic parishes feature dynamic gospel choirs and exuberant preaching.  One of our largest and most diverse parishes is St. Camillus in Silver Spring which features, among other things, a large multicultural choir. We have  Korean parishes and Hispanic and Latino parishes. Several of our parishes also have a large Filipino communities.  Mass is celebrated in over a dozen languages in the Archdiocese every Sunday.  Some of our parishes also celebrate the ancient form of the Latin liturgy.

If you think every parish is the same, look again! E pluribus (and there’s a lot of pluribus) unum: “among the many there is one.” There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; but all of it is manifest in the rich tapestry that is the Roman Catholic Church. Come on home—you might be surprised what you find if you’ve been away for a while!

I’ve  featured this video before, but it makes sense to do so again in this post.

Vocations Anyone?

If you have never seen this video about the vocation to the Holy Priesthood then I dare you to watch it! This is one of the best vocations videos ever produced.

And Here is Part Two:

Why not call and get things started?

Office for Priest Vocations in the Archdiocese of Washington  (301) 853-4580

40 Reasons to Come Home: Reason # 14

Reason # 14: Here to Stay!  When I think of the Church, I cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that the Church is a miracle! If the Catholic Church’s survival were dependent upon human beings, how long would she have lasted? I suppose, about twenty minutes, max! But here we are 2000 years later. To me, this is a miracle and a very clear sign that Jesus both founded and sustained the Catholic Church. The Roman empire is gone. Other nations and empires have come and gone. Chinese dynasties have risen and fallen. Fads and fashions, political movements and theories, all these have had their time only to fade away and disappear. But through it all, the Church has remained. There’s just something about the Church. Sometimes she’s loved by the world, more often she is hated, but in the end she remains, firm and fixed, as everything else comes and goes. And she will remain until the end!

You may say that this sounds arrogant, but I do not base it on any human promise. Rather, I base it on the promises of Christ. The place was Caesarea Phillipi: Simon had just confessed Jesus’ divinity and that He was the Messiah. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of John, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are rock(Peter), and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17 -18). Thus Christ promised that the Church is here to stay. There have been many times in history that the world in some way announced the death of the Catholic Church; but here we are, still! The Church’s influence may have waxed and waned, her numbers risen and fallen, but still we remain. Do you see the miracle? No human effort could ever have sustained this 2000- year unity. Only God can do that. Don’t argue with God; behold the proof that he both founded and sustains the Catholic Church. All other human institutions that you see around you will one day disappear, but the Church is here to stay. So why is this a reason to come home? Well I don’t know about you, but if I have such strong evidence that Jesus both founded and sustained His Church, I want to make darned sure I’m on the winning team. And it’s the winning team for no other reason than this: Jesus Christ is the head of the Body, the Church. You may hear the Church ridiculed, scoffed at, and called “out of touch.”  But do not be fooled. She alone is the winning team, for she alone has the promise that she will be here to the end. Jesus guarantees it! Join the winning team.

40 Reasons for Coming Home: Reason # 13

Reason # 13: The Warning.  Jesus says quite plainly in the Gospel of John, “Amen, Amen I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and Drink his blood, you have no life in you.” So the warning is clear enough: if we don’t receive Holy Communion each Sunday, we are starving ourselves spiritually and are dying, if not already dead, spiritually. I once quoted this text to a woman who was away from the Church and she said, “Oh, I have life in me.” “Well,” I said, “I’m just telling you what Jesus said, and he says you don’t.” 🙂 I wasn’t gonna back down. Sometimes we just have to stick to what scripture says!

And really, we ought to just listen to Jesus here and not get into arguments based on our own subjective self-evaluation. Besides, no one is a fair judge in his own case!

So here is a powerful reason to “come home” to the Eucharist.  Without Jesus in Holy Communion, you starve. Come on home now; you gotta eat! Don’t block your blessings! An old Gospel song that we sometimes sing says, “Come over here, where the table is spread, and the feast of the Lord is goin’ on!” Enjoy this video of the old Gospel song in a Catholic Context.

40 Reasons for Coming Home: Reason # 12

Reason # 12: The Promise. The Lord Jesus makes some pretty powerful promises to those who faithfully and fruitfully receive his Body and Blood in Holy Communion: I am the bread of life, who ever comes to me will never hunger…I am the living bread that comes down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him…the one who feeds on me will have life because of me…Whoever eats this bread will live forever. (John 6:35ff).

 

So here is a central reason to come home: Holy Communion is not some empty ritual; it is a partaking of the living Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. Many people today have lost touch with the power of the Eucharist. Sadly, many people put more faith in Tylenol than in the Eucharist, since when they take Tylenol they expect something to happen. But they expect little or nothing from Holy Communion. But look at the promises of Jesus! He promises radical transformation and new life to those who receive with faith. Take Jesus at his word!

 

Try not to understand the Eucharistic promises in a magical way. Sacraments, in order to be fruitful, require that we receive them with faith and that we be open to their full effects. It is an absolute truth that everyone who receives Holy Communion truly receives the Body and Blood of Christ. But not everyone receives it as fruitfully. Picture two people at an Art Museum. One person is a well-trained artist who appreciates art history; knows color, shadow, and techniques; knows the personal styles and stories of artists and the subjects they paint. The other person has no such training, or even an appreciation for art. Now both of them look at the same work of art, say a Rembrandt, but the one appreciates it richly while the other is downright bored. This is how it can be with the Sacraments. The Lord makes wonderful promises to us if we receive the Eucharist, but what we bring to each Holy Communion is also important. Beg the Lord to help you grow in appreciation for his greatest gift—the gift of his very self in Holy Communion. If you do, I promise you, Jesus will bring forth in you new life and powerful transformation that will usher you right into eternal life. It is Jesus who promises, and Jesus always keeps his promises. Reason # 12  to come home is the promises of Jesus in the Eucharist. He promises his True Presence and amazing transformation to those who receive it with faith.

The following video explores the true presence and recent miracles that confirm Jesus’ promise in the Eucharist. I think the video is very balanced and scientific in its exploration of these miracles.

The Church and stem cells

What does the Catholic Church teach on stem cell research? Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl calls President Barack Obama’s decision today to void restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research “very disheartening,” and notes the availability and success of ethical alternatives. Here’s an excerpt from his Catholic Standard column, Lifting Limits on Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Politics over Science and Ethics:

 

The announcement that President Barack Obama has signed an executive order voiding restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is very disheartening news. It is described by Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, as a “sad victory of politics over science and ethics.”  Human life is not to be treated as a commodity, as a raw material to be used in science experiments, but as the gift of God that it is.

 

What is particularly distressing about the President’s decision is that it is not necessary. Ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, such as the use of adult stem cell tissue and umbilical cord blood where there is no destruction of innocent human life, already exist and have been used successfully for decades.

 

The Catholic Church supports scientific advances, but the decision to move forward should not be based on whether something can be done, but whether it should be done. As a society, we are called to protect the dignity of all human life and therefore must oppose embryonic stem cell research…..Read the entire column here.

Back to Basics!

The following comment and question came in from a reader and presents a very soul-searching insight.

I am a Catholic in my mid thirties, raising a family and faithfully attending Mass. But I must admit I have some concern that the Church is missing the mark in reaching out to people my age and younger. It seems that all the concerns of the Church are about internal things like translations and where tabernacles should be. Don’t get me wrong, as a faithful Catholic those things are important to me. But these discussions take all our time, and, meanwhile, the world around us gets more and more secular. Many young people I know are practical atheists; God and the Church aren’t even on their radar. Yet we continue to go on and on with our internal preoccupations. Any comments?

Yes, this is a very important insight. There is always the temptation for any organization with humans involved to become primarily inward-looking and to lose sight of its essential mission. Obviously our fundamental mission is to announce Jesus Christ, to go to all the nations and teach them what the Lord Jesus taught for our salvation. We are to bring people into living, conscious contact with Jesus Christ; to bring them into a transformative relationship with Him through Word, Sacrament, and witness. But too easily we can spend all our time consumed with internal procedures and policy, debates about furniture and buildings, etc.

As you point out, some attention has to be paid to internal issues; there can be some very important theological and faith-related issues in such details. But the danger is that this becomes all-consuming. Meanwhile we have lost the culture around us, and even more sadly, many indviduals.

What to do? I would answer that we as a Church should continue the very discussion you have begun. As we both seem to agree, the answer is not simply to disregard internal issues, but rather to continue to summon the Church to her fundamental mission. Your insight is powerful and is a profound call to awakening. If we do not listen to your wake-up call, we risk the proverbial fate of “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Some will counter that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the Church, hence we could never be the Titanic. True, but no such promise is given to our western world, which increasingly has lost its way through secularism. Souls are being lost and error is spreading. We have to renew the good fight and take our message back out into the world as never before. That is one hope that underlies both this blog and the fundamental question asked by our Archbishop: Longing for something? Maybe it’s God!

Fr. Robert Barron struggles with the very problem you have raised in the following video—one of his best commentaries ever. He also has proposed some solutions.