Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I for one am glad that CDs and Ipods etc. have taken over from records for personal music entertainment. There are songs that to this day when I hear them I tense up waiting for that part of the song that has been seared into my mind as having a skip that used to plague the records I had when I was very small.

“Does your chewing gum lose its flavor
on the bedpost over night?
And you mother says, “Don’t chew it,”
Do swallow it, (click) Do you swallow it, (click) Do you swallow it”
“in spite.”

Sometimes people come into the confessional and say, “Father, it’s the same old stuff. I sound like a broken record. Can I just say ditto?” The dejection they express is almost palpable. But I encourage them to keep up the effort, to come back as often as necessary, to not be embarrassed and most of all to not lose hope.

Someone asked why more people do not come to confession. There are a lot of theories. Here is one more. Homiletic and Pastoral Review had an excellent article on sin called, “Pornography, Electronic Media and Priestly Formation” by Marysia Weber. As you might suppose it centered on those addicted to porn on the Internet but I wonder if it does not speak to sin in general and furhter point to a reason why some people do not go to confession.

The article listed 5 “successive and interdependent stages through which individuals progress into an addiction into Internet pornography. These include, 1. Discovery, 2. Experimentation, 3. Habituation, 4. Compulsivity, and 5. Hopelessness.” Could we not as a culture be headed into this last stage of hopelessness in the area of sin in general? We are saturated with enticements to sin not the least reason being is that sin sells everything from cars to toothpaste. (See how dazzling my smile is and how attractive I now am to the opposite sex?) Hopelessness says, “What is the point? I’m just going to do it again and there is very little support not to do so. Why even think about it then? God is just going to have to take me for who I am and forgive me.”

But the point is not that God chooses or does not choose us for He already has chosen us. The point is do we or do we not choose God? Do we follow what He clearly laid out for us to do? Do we not lose hope? Do we rely on His mercy and power rather than trying to white knuckle our way into heaven? Are we humble enough to sound repetitive in the confessional? Do we have the courage to at least try again to get up and walk after falling?

I used to go the chiropractor only after some activity that would mess up my back. I wanted his adjustment to last longer. That was until he slapped me upside the head and said, “Father, you have an adjustment so that you can do the activity better in the first place!” In like manner don’t wait to be perfect to get to confession. Use confession, as often as you need to, to work toward perfection.


Adoro said...

Fr. V., how do you DO that? You always seem to speak exactly to the topic I need to hear about!

uncle jim said...

can i just say "ditto" (to adoro's comment)

Anonymous said...

One of the articles I read to prepare for my talk on Confession was Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exortation, Reconciliation & Penance. He talks about the loss of the sense of sin. That the 'moral conscience of many people becomes seriously clouded.' We've become 'immune' to sin because it is everywhere - TV's, radios, work, etc. Because we are constantly surrounded by it, it obscures our 'radar' to what sin is.

uncle jim said...

so, father, to anon's comment, does what JPII writes about[cloudy conscience] affect culpability?

i've read Catholic theological academicians / writers who would say it has - that, in fact, serious sin [mortal] is almost impossible to commit because of culpability issues and our inability to fully consent as required to be held liable.

what do you think?

Fr. V said...

I suppose I would say that it is POSSIBLE that the sin lays elsewhere. But there are many variables here. The first would be to assume that the person in question is a somewhat practicing Catholic otherwise. We have a serious obligation to form our conscience. Perhaps the sin is sloth.

Ignorance can only take you so far.

It is true that there are questions of culpability - and ultimately only God can be the judge on a person's guilt of sin (we might warn a person that they are playing with fire - literally) but an all encompassing invincable ignorance of all sin I would propose (IMHO) is almost as impossible to come by as the complete knowlefge of everything they teach down the road at John Carrol University.

What think you?

uncle jim said...

i think i'm going to pull out a text book or two and cite a couple of examples of what i perceive to be flawed opinions by credentialed writers, whom i take to be way too liberal in their interpretations.

the issues seem to lie in our ability to fully appreciate the gravity of the acts - that, as a 'somewhat practicing Catholic' [your words] we couldn't possibly do the acts with fully conscious consent. So, culpability must be non-existent or greatly diminished. of course the cause of that purported diminished culpability is a whole other chapter Ergo, no sin.

that may be a poorly worded representation of what i'm trying to paraphrase.

so, we'll see what kind of conservative i really am ... and what anyone else thinks.

Anonymous said...

I still have a huge problem going to confession. Even though I know that I should go and the reasons why, I have a hard time admitting my faults to someone else. You said " Are we humble enough to sound repetitive in the confessional?" Maybe that's my problem. I envy Adoro who has said in her posts that she goes quite often. I wish I could get over this but....!


Adoro said...

MJ ~ I got over it by making myself go often. I used to be really shaky, would just cry my eyes out, would soemtimes be was awful. And I recognized it for what it was; both irrationality and an attack. I even brought it up in confession and the priest identified it for what it was.

I made a conscious decision not to let Satan keep me from God's mercy. (The next step was working on ACCEPTING God's mercy). And I'm still working on the next step...realizing that even if I have separeted myself from God, I must keep praying and striving for that relationship with him to be rebuilt.

So....GO! A priest I know recently said that (with reference to teens), if they withhold something, we've lost them. If they aren't naming their sins...we've lost them. He doesn't CARE what they confess, how serious it was or how many times they did it. He only cares that they can name it for what it is. Because the second they can't do that or WON'T do it...they're lost.

And he's not willing for any of them to be lost.

I'm sure you're included on that list.

Anonymous said...

MJ - I also used to hate going to Confession - at one point it was nearly 3 years since I had gone. Yes, at first it can be a bit disconcerting, knowing that you're telling your sins to a Priest, a human being. But when I finally went back, the grace, love, and peace I received was so powerful!

Since then, I made a conscious effort to go to Confession at least once every other week. It is still difficult at times, especially when I KNOW what I did was wrong & having to spell it out. It has become quite humbling.... yet quite rewarding!

It has taken me awhile to get to this point - don't give up! Remember, there is always the veil to keep you hidden from the Priest - if you need to use it. I know some people hate going face to face and feel much more confortable behind the veil.

Regarding being repetitive - there are always certain things that we struggle with - each person is different. There are times when I look at my confessor & say, "I did it again" - but then I ask for assistance. What are ways to help me to overcome this sin? The Priest is there to help us to become holy and overcome our temptations. When you can go back & say I was tempted but overcame that temptation is a day to rejoice!

Continue going - it's worth its weight in gold!!!

Anonymous said...

I recently listened to a talk by Vinny Flynn entitled Healing and Holiness, which is about Confession, and one of the points that he makes is that when we go to Confession we need to ask not only for forgiveness, but also for healing. He does not mean that you make that request to the priest, but to the Holy Spirit. I am an addict. It is a sin that I confess on a way too regular basis. I recently told God, "I give you premission to do whatever you need to do to get me out of this." I was scared as I prayed it, but I did, nonetheless. Now I am praying daily, "I give you permission to do whatever you need to keep me out of this."

Terry Nelson said...

Beautiful post Father. At one point in my life I went to confession almost every day because of habitual sin. Some priests yelled at me, others said I would never overcome it, but others encouraged me to go to confession as often as I needed to, and it "worked" after more than 20 years. Perhaps, just like some exorcisms take repeated attempts, some sins committed repeatedly need to be confessed over and over. Each repentance and confession makes the soul stronger but it is only by sheer grace the ssoul is freed.

A long time ago a Carmelite nun told me, "A saint is a sinner who keeps trying; even if you have to go to confession every day, even twice a day, go. God never rejects the humble and contrite heart."

Terry Nelson said...

I should make it clear that I wasn't going to confession every day for 20 years - only during a couple of periods when I was younger - and it maybe would be within one week's time. That happened maybe a couple of times. And no, I was not being scrupulous - oh, and I do not have OCD.

paramedicgirl said...

One thing about having the humility to keep confessing habitual sins - God gives you the grace to overcome them after awhile. That alone should give people courage to not give up hope.

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