Tag: Sacrament of reconciliation

Dealing With Sorrow In Confession According To Pope St. Pius X. 

Dealing With Sorrow In Confession According To Pope St. Pius X. 

The sacrament of penance, also called the sacrament of reconciliation (or confession) has four necessary parts, three of which are on the part of the penitent: 1) contrition (sorrow) 2) confession of sins (to a priest, in person) and 3) satisfaction (also called your penance, done outside the confessional). The one aspect of a good confession executed by the priest is absolution (provided the priest has judged the penitent worthy of absolution).

In this very short catechism (which I recommend for any adult or teenager) Pope St. Pius X spends a full four pages on sorrow as the most important part of a good confession!

*The commentary in the bold red font below, is written by Fr. David Nix.*

23 Q. How many conditions are necessary to make a good confession?

A. To make a good confession five things are necessary:

(1) Examination of conscience;

(2) Sorrow for having offended God;

(3) A resolution of sinning no more;

(4) Confession of our sins;

(5) Satisfaction or penance.


Notice that the external parts of confession are verbal confessionabsolution and satisfaction (your “penance” to do) The silent or internal parts of a confession (in the heart and mind) are examinationsorrow and resolution. The CPX says that of all the parts of confession, sorrow is the most important!


24 Q. What should we do first of all to make a good confession?

A. To make a good confession we should first of all earnestly beseech God to give us light to know all our sins and strength to detest them.


This one obviously refers to examination of conscience. As we ask God for light to know our sins, we should also have a pen and paper handy so as to write down our sins before entering the confessional.


11 Q. What is contrition or sorrow for sins?

A. Contrition or sorrow for sin is a grief of the soul leading us to detest sins committed and to resolve not to commit them any more.


Notice that the rest of this blog post will deal with sorrow.


12 Q. What does the word contrition mean?

A. Contrition means a crushing or breaking up into pieces as when a stone is hammered and reduced to dust.


When King David commits adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) and David’s subsequent murder of her husband Uriah (2 Sam 11) David then composes the Miserere in repentance (Ps 50/51.) That Psalm has the famous line, “A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit:  a contrite and humbled heart, O God, Thou will not despise.” (DRB.) The word afflicted in the DRB is broken in the NIV and shabar in Hebrew.  That word contrite in English is dakah in Hebrew. I was surprised to see how much of the CPX section on sorrow reflects the Hebrew dictionary on those two words of the Miserere. Below, King David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, asks for a heart that is crushedcollapsed, smashed to piecesbroken downtorn violentlyrupturedwrecked and shattered:


Q. Why is the name of contrition given to sorrow for sin?

A. The name of contrition is given to sorrow for sin to signify that the hard heart of the sinner is in a certain way crushed by sorrow for having offended God.

18 Q. Of all the parts of the sacrament of Penance which is the most necessary?

A. Of all the parts of the sacrament of Penance the most necessary is contrition, because without it no pardon for sins is obtainable, while with it alone, perfect pardon can be obtained, provided that along with it there is the desire, at least implicit, of going to confession.

36 Q. What is sorrow for sin?

A. Sorrow for sin consists in grief of soul and in a sincere detestation of the offence offered to God.


Notice this includes the affective level of grief, but also a detestation of past sins in the very intellect and will.


37 Q. How many kinds of sorrow are there?

A. Sorrow is of two kinds: perfect sorrow or contrition; and imperfect sorrow or attrition.

38 Q. What is perfect sorrow or contrition?

A. Perfect sorrow is a grief of soul for having offended God because He is infinitely good and worthy of being loved for His own sake.


If you have trouble coming up with imperfect contrition (attrition) or perfect contrition, my first suggestion is: Simply ask God for true sorrow for your sins. He probably will give it. Secondly, another way to spur your heart on to sorrow for your sins is to watch the scourging scene in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ:

39 Q. Why do you call the sorrow of contrition perfect sorrow?

A. I call the sorrow of contrition perfect sorrow for two reasons:

(1) Because it considers the goodness of God alone and not our own advantage or loss;

(2) Because it enables us at once to obtain pardon for sins, even though the obligation to confess them still remains.


If you are about to die without a priest, ask God immediately for the gift of perfect contrition—that is—sorrow for sins because you are overwhelmed at the goodness of God (more than fear of hell). The best habitual approach to love of God and your own salvation is of course frequent confession and a constant sorrow for past sins, while realizing that the one thing greater than my ability to sin is my Heavenly Father’s ability to forgive me.


40 Q. Perfect sorrow, then, obtains us pardon of our sins independently of confession?

A. Perfect sorrow does not obtain us pardon of our sins independently of confession because it always includes the intention to confess them.


I can not believe how many “decent” priests have heretically instructed their faithful that they can go to receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, as long as they “say the act of contrition at beginning of Mass.” This is absolutely and patently false, according to numerous infallible Church Councils and Popes. Even if you could not get to the front of the Confession line before Mass, you may never, ever go to Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, even if you believe you have made an act of perfect contrition with total sorrow. Even with perfect contrition, you must confess mortal sins before receiving Holy Communion. (Priests in mortal sin may not offer Mass before confession, either).


41 Q. Why does perfect sorrow or contrition produce the effect of restoring us to the grace of God?

A. Perfect sorrow or contrition produces this effect, because it proceeds from charity which cannot exist in the soul together with sin.


This means if you commit a mortal sin and then your plane is about to crash and you make an act of perfect contrition (harder than it looks) then you will be saved. But if your plane pulls back up and you’re going to live (!) then you still may not receive Holy Communion until confession. One reason for this is because perfect sorrow always includes the intention to confess the very sins which one felt such sorrow over at the most immediate opportunity that you have to confess.


42 Q. What is imperfect sorrow or attrition?

A. Imperfect sorrow or attrition is that by which we repent of having offended God because He is our Supreme Judge, that is, for fear of the chastisement deserved in this life or in the life to come, or because of the very foulness of sin itself.


The Church ruled around the 12th century that imperfect contrition was sufficient for a good confession. Two doctors of the Church had debated this up to that ruling. How merciful of the Church for her to declare that fear of hell is enough to save your soul preceding a good confession. (Of course, it is better to want to avoid sin due to the goodness of God, but approaching with “fire insurance” makes a good confession, provided it is accompanied by firm resolution of amendment to avoid in the future the sins that you confess). In other words: Aim for contrition (sorrow), but always be assured that attrition (avoidance of future sin) is sufficient for a good confession.


43 Q. What qualities must sorrow have to be true sorrow?

A. Sorrow in order to be true must have four qualities: It must be internalsupernaturalsupreme and universal.

44 Q. What is meant by saying that sorrow must be internal?

A. It means that it must exist in the heart and will, and not in words alone.


Whoever said that pre-Vatican II Catholicism was routine words without any relationship to God has obviously never read the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X (or any saint, for that matter).


45 Q. Why must sorrow be internal?

A. Sorrow must be internal because the will, which has been alienated from God by sin, must return to God by detesting the sin committed.

46 Q. What is meant by saying that sorrow must be supernatural?

A. It means that it must be excited in us by the grace of God and conceived through motives of faith.

47 Q. Why must sorrow be supernatural?

A. Sorrow must be supernatural because the end to which it is directed is supernatural, namely, God’s pardon, the acquisition of sanctifying grace, and the right to eternal glory.

48 Q. Explain more clearly the difference between natural and supernatural sorrow.

A. He who repents of having offended God because God is infinitely good and worthy of being loved for His own sake; of having lost Heaven and merited hell; or because of the intrinsic malice of sin, has supernatural sorrow, since all these are motives of faith. On the contrary, he who repents only because of the dishonour or chastisement inflicted by men, or because of some purely temporal loss, has a natural sorrow, since he repents from human motives alone.


Notice that several times the CPX says our number-one drive to a good confession should not be a random laundry list of sins, but the “goodness of God.”


49 Q. Why must sorrow be supreme?

A. Sorrow must be supreme because we must look upon and hate sin as the greatest of all evils, being as it is an offence against God.

50 Q. To have sorrow for sin, is it necessary to weep, as we sometimes do, in consequence of the misfortunes of this life?

A. It is not necessary to shed tears of sorrow for our sins; it is enough if in our heart we make more of having offended God than of any other misfortune whatsoever.


How many Catholic Americans would consider a single mortal sin in a family member to be a worse “misfortune” than the loss of a whole family in a car wreck or a home in a fire?


51 Q. What is meant by saying that sorrow must be universal?

A. It means that it must extend to every mortal sin committed.

52 Q. Why should sorrow extend to every mortal sin committed?

A. Because he who does not repent of even one mortal sin still remains an enemy to God.


I could not find the quote, but St. John Chrysostom explains somewhere that hiding a single sin in confession invalidates the entire confession. He compares it to a surgeon excising malignant cancer from a patient who keeps some of the cancer hidden, in a different area. Of course, the cancer in such a case will remain and will grow. The CPX is saying even more: Not only is an integral (complete) confession enough, but one should feel sorrow for every mortal sin of his past.


53 Q. What should we do to have sorrow for our sins?

A. To have sorrow for our sins we should ask it of God with our whole heart, and excite it in ourselves by the thought of the great evil we have done by sinning.


If this blog post is making you feel bad for not having enough sorrow, don’t worry! Just simply ask the Father in the name of Jesus for more sorrow for your sins. I believe He will give it to you. Again, go watch the scourging scene of the Passion of the Christ while remembering He took your place at the pillar.


54 Q. What should you do to excite yourself to detest your sins? 

A. To excite myself to detest my sins:
(1) I will consider the rigour of the infinite justice of God and the foulness of sin which has defiled my soul and made me worthy of the eternal punishment of hell.

(2) I will consider that by sin I have lost the grace, friendship and sonship of God and the inheritance of Heaven;

(3) That I have offended my Redeemer who died for me and that my sins caused His death;

(4) That I have despised my Creator and my God, that I have turned my back upon Him who is my Supreme Good and worthy of being loved above everything else And of being faithfully served.


I recently saw a video of a very famous American social-media priest (much more conservative than Fr. James Martin SJ) who said that when we return to confession, this is not God giving me another chance, but it is me giving God another chance! This is borderline-blasphemy. The saints would never say that confession is man giving God another chance. When we “consider the rigour of the infinite justice of God” there is no room to believe anything but the truth: Confession is truly God giving man another chance at His own supernatural life.


55 Q. In going to confession should we be extremely solicitous to have a true sorrow for our sins?

A. In going to confession we should certainly be very solicitous to have a true sorrow for our sins, because this is of all things the most important; and if sorrow is wanting, the confession is no good.


How many careless confessions I have made…Oh Lord, I Fr. David Nix repent of this. Please stop scrolling and say a “Hail Mary” for me if you have actually made it this far in my long blog post.


56 Q. If one has only venial sins to confess, must he be sorry for all of them?

A. If one has only venial sins to confess it is enough to repent of some of them for his confession to be valid; but to obtain pardon of all of them it is necessary to repent of all he remembers having committed.

57 Q. If one has only venial sins to confess and if he does not repent of even one of them, does he make a good confession?

A. If one confesses only venial sins without having sorrow for at least one of them, his confession is in vain; moreover it would be sacrilegious if the absence of sorrow was conscious.

58 Q. What should be done to render the confession of only venial sins more secure?

A. To render the confession of venial sins more secure it is prudent also to confess with true sorrow some grave sin of the past, even though it has been already confessed.  


It has been said that the best way to make a good confession is to confess, pretending that the priest is Jesus in the Garden. If your next confession were to be made to Jesus in the Garden, already taking the burden of your sins, how would you confess? As a laundry list? Or with great love?


59 Q. Is it well to make an act of contrition often?

A. It is well and most useful to make an act of contrition often, especially before going to sleep or when we know we have or fear we have fallen into mortal sin, in order to recover God’s grace as soon as possible; and this practice will make it easier for us to obtain from God the grace of making a like act at time of our greatest need, that is, when in danger of death.

15 Reasons To Go To Confession And Why Catholics Confess Sins To Priests

15 Reasons To Go To Confession And Why Catholics Confess Sins To Priests

Can You Go Straight To God?

Yes and no. We are told, as we see clearly in Scripture that we are to confess our sins to one another. Thus, the ordinary way we have our grave sins forgiven is through the Sacrament of Confession. Thus, this is the way that Christ has established as the ordinary way to forgive grave (i.e. mortal) sins. But, there are extreme situations where God may forgive grave sins outside of Confession if the person has perfect contrition (sorrow) for their sins, but these are extraordinary.

Can Only Catholics Have Sin Forgiven?The simple answer is no. While confession is the ordinary way to have your sins forgiven, it is not the only way. The Catechism says:

“When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). 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” (CCC 1452).

If someone is not Catholic (thus they do not have recourse to the Sacrament), then they can be forgiven, with perfect contrition and confession of their sins to God. If a non-Catholic is in situation of death, they can receive the Sacrament – if they are a baptized Christian.

“If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they show the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.” (Code of Canon Law, canon 844.4)

Here are 15 Reasons Why You Need To Go To Confession!

  1. God commanded we confess our sins to one another in the scripture. (James 5:16).
  2. We receive grace to resist sin through the Sacrament, as well as forgiveness.
  3. We learn humility by having to confess to another person.
  4. We receive counsel from the priest.
  5. We can be comforted hearing the words of absolution.
  6. Helps give you the strength to forgive others.
  7. We may not be positive that we have “perfect” contrition without it.
  8. Assists us to go deep within and think about how we can improve.
  9. When we realize (again) we are sinners, it is easier to be patient with others.
  10. Always confidential – what is said in the confessional stays in the confessional.
  11. No more guilt.
  12. We are better prepared to receive the Eucharist.
  13. Forgiveness is an essential part of growing in holiness.
  14. Our consciences can be better formed.
  15. If we have mortally sinned, then Confession brings us back into the family of God – The Church as well as restores sanctifying grace in our souls!
Don’t Be Afraid or Ashamed To Go To Confession Says Pope Francis

Don’t Be Afraid or Ashamed To Go To Confession Says Pope Francis

Trusting in God’s infinite mercy, people should not be afraid or embarrassed to go to confession, Pope Francis said.

“There are people who are afraid to go to confession, forgetting that they will not encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father,” Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 2 for the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer.

The pope also told the people gathered under a scalding sun that “when we go to confession, we feel a bit ashamed. That happens to all of us, but we must remember that this shame is a grace that prepares us for the embrace of the Father, who always forgives and always forgives everything.”

In his main address the pope commented on the day’s Gospel reading from the Gospel of St. John, which recounts how the crowds followed Jesus after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

“Those people followed him for the material bread that had placated their hunger the day before,” Francis said. “They didn’t understand that that bread, broken for many, was the expression of the love of Jesus.”

“They gave more value to the bread than to the giver,” the pope said.

Feeding the crowd, he said, Jesus wanted to lead people to the Father and to a life that was about more than just “the daily worries of eating, dressing, success or a career.”

Every person has within him or her a hunger for life, for meaning and for eternity, Francis said. Jesus satisfies that hunger with the gift of himself on the cross and in the Eucharist.

“Jesus does not eliminate preoccupations and the search for daily bread,” the pope said. However, “Jesus reminds us that the real meaning of our earthly existence is the end — eternity — the encounter with him, who is gift and giver.”

In giving himself, Pope Francis said, Jesus also gives people a task: “that we, in turn, satisfy the spiritual and material hunger of our brothers and sisters by proclaiming the Gospel everywhere.”



6 Lessons I’ve learned Going To Confession

6 Lessons I’ve learned Going To Confession

 

Pope Francis has made it his mission to try to coax people back to confession.

“There are people who are afraid to go to confession, forgetting that they will not encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father,” he’s said.

In my own trips to confession, I have learned that — and more.

I learned to take some sins more seriously.

I once wrote about the priest who heard my first confession in college after many years away. Five years later, when I was engaged to be married, I was back in the same confessional with the same priest. I went through a rote list of sins including, “I held a grudge against my fiancé for about a week,” and then moved on to “Also, I didn’t help my roommates out around the house as much as I should.”

The priest spoke sharply to me for the first time in five years.

“You did what?” he said.

“I didn’t help my roommates around the house enough?” I said.

“You didn’t forgive your fiancé! Son, you are going to be married soon. You had better get your moral life in order!”

I was a little stung by the comment, but the more I thought about it — and I thought about it a lot, for weeks, and then years — the more sense it made. There I was, looking for forgiveness and not willing to give it. Jesus himself warned against that.

I learned to take some sins less seriously.

A caring priest in the confessional can be a great blessing. But sometimes an unconcerned priest can be a blessing, too.

Once, when I was working in San Francisco’s financial district, a sin I no longer remember weighed heavily on my soul, and I was convinced it was a terrible thing. I think I even refrained from receiving Communion over it. I went to the French parish by Chinatown and shudderingly unburdened my soul.

“That’s it?” said the priest, nonplussed.

“Yes?” I said, already realizing how underwhelming the sin was.

“Well, this kind of thing happens,” he said, assigning me a Hail Mary and then hurrying through absolution.

His indifference was a balm to my soul, convincing me that my sin had been no big deal after all.

I learned that you can’t negotiate with sin.

I once confessed to a great priest in New Haven, Connecticut. I had looked where I shouldn’t on the internet, but my rationalization made perfect sense to me. It was related to a news story, I was a journalist, and it was my duty to know what I was writing about.

I mentioned it in confession, then hurried on to, “Also, I didn’t help around the house enough …”

“Wait, let’s talk more about that,” he said.

“About not helping around the house?” I asked.

“No, the sin before that.”

The priest then subjected me to a cross examination that revealed that my rationalizations were weak and self-deceptive. I did not, in fact, need to see first-hand the darkest part of the story I was covering.

“You can’t play games with Almighty God,” he told me. Those words have come back to interrupt my rationalizations many times since.

I learned that priests are sometimes willing to negotiate.

My desk is a perfect illustration of the second law of thermodynamics — that disorder increases over time unless order intervenes.

I know the only sins I must confess are the grave ones, but I felt bad enough about my desk to confess its messiness once to a parish priest in Washington, D.C.

“For your penance,” he said, “I want you to clean your desk.”

I balked. “Um, Father, I don’t think I am capable of that,” I said. “Could I get a different penance?”

The priest relented, but I learned that I needed to be actually repentant about sins I confess, and not just use the confessional to alleviate the guilt while keeping the sin.

I also learned that some priests won’t negotiate.

Actually, I learned this through a college friend’s experience. Let’s call him Doug. Doug was going to confession way too often. I try to go monthly — he was going more than once a week.

The priest strongly recommended he come less often, but Doug kept coming. Finally, the priest got fed up, and had a great idea: He started giving Doug 10 push-ups as penance every time he came to confession.

Doug hated physical exercise and begged for 10 Hail Marys instead. “No. Push-ups,” said the priest.

Doug decided to stop going to confession quite so often.

I learned that you don’t need to “feel forgiven,” either.

I once confessed a sin that continued to bother me after I confessed it. So I brought it up in confession again, explaining, “I don’t think I said this right the last time.”

The priest said, “That’s already forgiven. Don’t doubt God. Get over it.”

One of my favorite confessional stories makes this point powerfully. It happened after Jesus appeared to Margaret Mary and told her to establish devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Her confessor wanted to make sure Jesus was really appearing to her, so he said, “Next time our Lord appears to you, ask him to tell you the last mortal sin I confessed.”

She did, and when she returned to confession, he asked her what Jesus answered. “He said, ‘I don’t remember,’” she told him. He had forgiven and forgotten it.

And with that, the confessor knew that she had really seen Jesus.

That kind of total forgiveness is an experience every one of us has in the confessional.



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