On Confession. By Fr.Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD.

On Confession, by Fr.Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD.

“Penance is the sacrament of Christ’s Precious Blood in which God — according to the eloquent words of St. Catherine of Siena — “has bathed us in order to cleanse the face of our souls from the leprosy of sin.” If mortal sin only is the necessary matter of this sacrament, venial sin is sufficient matter, since all Catholic tradition insists on frequent confession, even when one has only venial sins to confess. However, those who confess weekly must take great care lest their confessions become a mere routine, instead of the really vital acts which would enable these souls to profit fully from all the graces offered by the sacrament.

” ‘Do not despise the Blood of Christ!’ exclaims St. Catherine of Siena. Certainly anyone who appreciates it will not approach the sacrament of penance lightly. To this end it is useful to recall that absolution is truly the pouring forth of the Precious Blood which, inundating and penetrating the soul, purifies it from sin, and restores sanctifying grace if it has been lost, or increases this gift if it is already present in the soul.

The remission of sin and the imparting of grace are the fruits of the action of Jesus, expressed by the formula the priest pronounces in His Name: ‘I absolve thee.’ At that moment it is Jesus who is acting in the soul, either by remitting sin or by producing or increasing grace. It is well to remember that the efficacy of the absolution is not limited merely to sins that have already been committed, but that it even extends into the future. By means of the particular sacramental grace, the soul is strengthened beforehand against relapses and it is offered the fortitude to resist temptations and to carry out its good resolutions.

The Blood of Christ is, in this sense, not only a remedy for the past, but also a preservative and a strengthening help for the future. The soul which plunges into it, as into a healthful bath, draws from it new vigor and sees the strength of its passions extinguished little by little. We see then the importance of frequent confession for a soul desirous of union with God, a soul which must necessarily aspire to total purification.

“When the soul in the tribunal of penance has only venial sins to confess, it is not necessary that it preoccupy itself with confessing all of them, either as to their number or their kind. This completeness is necessary only when there is a question of mortal sin.

In other cases, however, it is much more profitable to fix the attention on deliberate faults first, then on those which are semi-deliberate — even if they are only simple imperfections — telling not only the faults themselves but also the motives behind them. Although this method is not required for the validity of the confession, it is certain that the soul will draw much profit from it since the accusation will have exposed the root of the evil. The soul will benefit too by its act of humility, which will be a stimulus to deeper repentance and will arouse in it a more ardent desire to amend its life, for this is the logical result of considering the motives — usually not noble ones! — from which our faults arise.

Furthermore, an accusation of this kind helps the confessor to have a better knowledge of the penitent’s weak points, and to suggest the most suitable remedies, a matter of special importance when direction is given with confession.

“In addition to its accusation, the soul must also occupy itself with sorrow for its sins because they offend God, who is infinite Goodness. This should be a sorrow ex amore, springing from love, the repentance of the child who is more disconsolate over the displeasure given to a father who loves it so much and to whom it should return love for love, than over the thought of its guilt and the punishment it deserves.

For the validity of the sacrament, sorrow is necessary; if it is lacking, the absolution will be null. However, the more perfect the contrition, the more effectively will the absolution erase not only the sin but also the temporal punishment which it has incurred. The Blood of Jesus will purify, renew, and enrich the heart of the penitent with fortitude, charity, and grace, in the measure of his contrition.

Thank you to Naruhodo

St. Alphonsus Liguori on Avoiding the Occasions of Sin

Alphonsus: “The most necessary means for avoiding sins against chastity, is to fly from dangerous occasions.

Generally speaking, the first of all the means of preserving yourself always chaste is to avoid the occasions of sin. There are many means, such as to frequent the sacraments, to have recourse to God in temptations, to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin; but the first of all is to avoid the occasions of sin.

The Scripture says, Your strength shall be as the ashes of tow,. . . . and there shall be none to quench it.

Our strength is like the strength of tow thrown into the fire: it is instantly burned and consumed. Would it not be a miracle if tow cast into fire did not burn? It would also be a miracle if we exposed ourselves to the occasion, and did not fall.

According to St. Bernardine of Siena,it is a greater miracle not to fall in the occasion of sin, than to raise a dead man to life.

St. Philip Neri used to say that in the warfare of the flesh, cowards—that is, they who fly from occasions—are always victorious. You say: I hope that God will assist me. But God says:

He that loveth the danger shall perish in it.

God does not assist those who, without necessity, expose themselves voluntarily to the occasion of sin. It is necessary to know that he who puts himself in the proximate occasion of sin is in the state of sin, though he should have no intention of committing the principal sin to which he exposes himself.”

Perfect Contrition

“[I]f you have had the misfortune to close it through mortal sin, and especially if, at the hour of death, you do not have by your side a priest, the dispenser of divine mercy. Perfect contrition [The Act of Contrition from the heart] will be the last key that, with the grace of God, will open heaven for you.

However, to do so, you must have gained the habit of employing it effectively during your life. How many souls, thanks to perfect contrition, have been assured of heaven, who without it would have been irremediably lost! “If I were able to traverse the countryside preaching the divine word,” said the learned and pious Cardinal Franzelin, “my favorite sermon topic would be perfect contrition.” — Fr. J.D. Driesch, The Golden Key to Paradise: Perfect Contrition