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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Confess

I feel a little guilty about mentioning the high horse of the separated brethren the other day. I certainly spend almost all of my time on my own steed, here on the blog, so I have no room to accuse. So much for my Divine Mercy Plenary Indulgence. Right out the window!

Which brings me to today's questions:

The above comment prompts me to ask, what if you're truly sorry for your mortal sin just before being hit by the bus (or just after, for that matter, the split second before dying). Will it be held against you didn't make it to confession, or are you allowed to skip the middle man in this case?

This is all very disheartening really as I rarely make it through mass without having a sinful thought about "Mrs. Sheffield lumbering out the door".

Technically speaking, you have to confess a mortal sin to a priest to obtain forgiveness. That's why you want one of these! And why we have a Sacrament called "The Anointing of the Sick". That Sacrament used to be called "Extreme Unction" or "Last Rites". That made everyone receiving it too nervous. We don't want to give anyone a heart attack.

How ironic would that be?

But practically speaking, we don't judge. God in His Infinite Mercy may forgive you, it's just not our call. That's why the Catholic Church never ever claims that anyone who has ever died is roasting in Hell. Not even Hitler. God is merciful and just and eternity is a long time.

But before you think, "HA! That's great! I'm always sorry for my sins! God will forgive me!" please take into consideration that forgiveness is a two way street. God already forgave you, even if you are not one bit sorry. It's your own understanding and humility, or lack thereof, that will keep you and God on the outs.

God does not put you in Hell, you go there.

Let's drag up Sister Faustina again, while we're on the subject. She actually paid Hell a visit. Here's what she had to say.

"Today, I was led by an angel to the Chasms of Hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures I saw:
The First Torture that constitutes hell is:
The loss of God.
The Second is:
Perpetual remorse of conscience.
The Third is
That one's condition will never change.
he Fourth is:
The fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it. A terrible suffering since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God's anger.
The Fifth Torture is:
Continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own.
The Sixth Torture is:
The constant company of Satan.
The Seventh Torture is:
Horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies.

These are the Tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings.

You can purchase her diary. She wrote all of this stuff down in a diary.

The questions remain, regarding your question. Were you on your way to confession, with a sorrowful heart, when the bus hit you? You're probably good to go, in that case. But if you were running around with a mortal sin on your soul, thinking, "I'll get to confession after I pick up the dry cleaning," and then the bus hit you because you were standing in the street with your Starbuck's cup on top of the car while you fumbled with the keys and the hangers, how sorry are you, really? I mean about your sin, not about getting hit by the bus. Of course you're sorry about that getting hit by a bus, especially with that mortal sin on your soul.

And while we're on the subject:
Not so much a question but more a request for advice.

I will be making my first confession very soon and I wanted to know if you had any advice for going to confession. What to expect? Do I need to say the number of times I have committed a certain sin? how do I confess 20 plus years of sin?

Surely you have a priest or deacon that can talk this over with you.

I recently saw a great commercial. It was a public service announcement encouraging people to have medical tests that could be life saving, tests they might put off or skip altogether because the test is....embarrassing. The catch phrase, which I'll ask you to keep in mind, was "Don't Die of Embarrassment."

The same is true for the health of your soul. A mortal sin is called "mortal" because it is fatal to the soul.

Of course, you are not going to be able to count up 20 years of sin. Unless you keep a very accurate diary. We get that. You're just going to have to go with trying to be sorry for being unreconciled for so long. And that's fine.

You may be aware of some 'problem areas' in your life and you may want to focus on those. That's the part you may want to discuss ahead of time with someone.

We changed the name of this Sacrament, too. Instead of "Confession", which is a perfectly fine name for what you are going to do, we now call it "Reconciliation" which is an even better name for what is going to happen. Keep that in mind, and everything should turn out wonderfully.

Remember that God has already forgiven you. Reconciling is all up to you now. Don't get hit by a bus.


Diane said...

Please comment on what constitutes a mortal sin. The questioner stated that he/she rarely gets out of Mass without having a sinful thought about Mrs. Sheffield. If it's just a thought and not something that's nurtured into something bigger, I doubt it's a mortal sin and hence no fear of eternal damnation when that bus rolls into you. Or else we're all in big trouble.

Robyn said...

You know, unless you are just wallowing in hatred and maybe planning her demise, entertaining unkind thoughts about old Ms. Sheffield is not a mortal sin. Just having the thoughts pop into your head unbidden is really nothing more than a temptation, and if you refuse to give in to them, it's not a sin at all.

I remember in catechism learning about perfect and imperfect contrition, and how the former can get you forgiven without even going to confession. Of course, an ingredient of perfect contrition is the desire to get oneself to confession ASAP, so it's not really a way around the sacrament. Perfect contrition is sorrow for one's sins for the pain it causes God. It's selfless and, I was taught, impossible without the special grace of God. Imperfect contrition, sorrow for sins because you are afraid of going to hell (or even just purgatory if they're venial), is good enough for the confessional, but won't get you forgiven outside the sacrament.

It sounds like something St. Thomas or one of his followers would have come up with. Anyway, I think the take-home lesson is that God (being all-powerful and "the Boss") can choose to forgive you outside the sacrament, but you have to have contrition (sorrow) for the sin and intend to go to confession. That's because, as Sister pointed out, it takes two to fix the relationship.

Tracy said...

Dear SMM, I enjoy your blog for it's grace and wit, even when, as a separated sisteren, I disagree. Your horse wasn't so high that it would hurt to fall off...

Joe said...

The name of the Sacrament (correct me if I am wrong):

1. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law: The Sacrament of Penance

2. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n.1423 ff): no less than FIVE titles.

I am unhappy with the exclusive use of the title "Reconciliation" for this Sacrament. Perhaps the best presentation is that of the Catechism, in which each of the titles draws attention to a different aspect of the Sacrament.

My personal preference, if we were to use just one title, would be "confession" - driven mainly by Adrienne von Speyr's book of that title.

JP said...

The three necessary conditions for a sin to be mortal:

That the matter is serious (just what kind of thoughts are you having about Mrs. Sheffield?).

That you have full knowledge that you are committing a sin

And that you are in full cooperation with the commission of the sin.

But I would agree that an unbidden bad thought about someone, when the thought is quickly swatted away like a fly, would not likely be any sort of sin, let alone a mortal one.