Monday, September 11, 2006
Picky, Picky, PIcky
Good thing I have a little extra time. The nit pickers have arrived.
Normally when someone responds to an entry I respond in the comments section of the post. But yesterday's entry had two responses that need a whole new post to reply.
Now, I realize you're all lazy and would love it if I would copy and paste the responses here for you to read. Fat chance, lazybones. Go to yesterday's post and read them yourselves and if you're annoyed, offer it up.
One of the things I love about the Catholic church is that it indeed has an answer for everything. Just like we have a patron saint for everything. Really. Everything. Cramps (Pancras) and hemmoroids (Fiacre!), lost keys (Anthony) and the internet (Isidore), dogs (Rock) and cats ( I forget, but there is one), casting out demons (Benedict), airline pilots (you have your pick of at least three), dizziness (Ulric), eczema (Anthony the Great).
We didn't set out to have an answer for everything but we constantly have to answer really stupid questions that you make up when you are seven or eight and never let go of.
For example, back when we had to fast before Holy Communion (dropped at Vatican II with the Friday fish....except for Lent...you still have to fast on Friday's during Lent...unless St. Patrick's Day lands on a Friday...then you can get a special dispensation from the Bishop to have your corned beef dinner...but not at your house........at the church fund raiser) I had this gem:
"Sister! If I make a whistle out of a blade of grass by putting it between my thumbs and blowing on it and I accidently swallow the grass, can I still go to Communion?"
After calling on St. Dymphna, the patron saint of insanity, I answer. "Was it really an accident? Technically, you did indeed break you fast by having something enter your stomache. But sin is about intent. You had to intend to break your fast. And fasting is not about eating or not eating, anyhow. It's about what you do and think while you're not eating."
"Survey says! No sin here."
Which brings me to my two nit pickers on the subject of to whom you confess and what constitutes contrition.
Here's the deal. If you have a mortal sin on your soul and you are about to buy the farm, you better be really remorseful to have God accept your apology. Them's the rules.
For those who LOVE to nitpick, we have two kinds of sins. Mortal and venial.
We also have "near occasions of sin" meaning you are purposely (perhaps) putting yourself in harms way. They are four: Remote, Proximate, Voluntary, and oh look out you are about to be sooo in hell. Not really. The last one is Necessary, like you have a family of twelve and the only job you can get is next door to that place Tony Soprano owns. Anyhow, they too are to be avoided. Not avoiding sin can be a sin.
Thinking about sinning is also a sin if you intend to commit the sin as soon as you get the chance even if you never get the chance. God is still offended.
And finally, we have two types of contrition, to which my two responders are referring.
Perfect contrition is when you know what you did offended God and you are really sorry because you understand just how exactly it offended God and you feel just terrible about it. The more you understand about God's feelings and how you hurt them, the more perfect the contrition is.
Since we don't that really expect that from you lazybones, we'll take what we can get, which is called 'imperfect contrition', which is when you're sorry because you know what you did IS a sin even if you don't agree, and you are afraid God is going to do something untoward toward you, better known as the Wrath of God.
We figure that's enough for forgiveness for your run of the mill 'lied to my teacher, poked my brother in the back of the head,' type sins. And if you're even a little sorry, for whatever reason, maybe your understanding of your badness will grow on you and you'll grow toward a more perfect contrition.
But you are not going to get away with imperfect contrition and manage to get through the pearly gates if you are, say, Hitler. We never ever ever say that anyone is in hell, not even Hitler, because we give everyone the benefit of the doubt, that somehow in their last moments they suddenly said, "What was I thinking?" But someone as rotten as Hitler, or you if you have really rotten sins going on as you fade from consciousness,must have perfect contrition to cut the mustard.
From the Cathechism of the Catholic Church:
1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). 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.
Which brings us back to the original question of yesterday's post. Why the priest?
So to sum up:
On Your Deathbed With a Mortal Sin on Your Soul
Perfect Contrition (good luck)=no priest necessary
Imperfect Contrition=get yourself one of those medals that say "in case of emergency please call a priest" . Better yet, have it tatted on your forehead.
See? I learned about tats.