Friday, March 31, 2017
In the past, I offered several Penance Services with Individual Confession and Absolution (Form 2). True, these were well attended, at least at St. Peter. I tried in several ways to make it clear that it was a penance service with individual confession. Despite this, no more than a quarter would come for individual confession. The rest attended the prayer service and left without receiving the Absolution. All the same, rumors were around that we offered "General Absolution". There was a large amount of confusion.
While the Church allows General Absolution in "grave necessity”, this usually means that those who attend these services are in imminent danger of death (such as war or natural catastrophe) during which they would not have ample opportunity to receive forgiveness of their sins. Should they survive, however, they are to go to a priest all the same and confess all mortal sins. The Church provides a model for these types of celebrations, but mainly because of the emergency nature of the emergency. No matter, the Church teaching is clear that the valid reception of Absolution requires that the individual is willing to confess of all serious sins. If the willingness to confess all mortal sins was lacking, the person would not receive the sacrament. Someone who attended a penance service with General Absolution is required to go to private confession (either Form I or Form II), before returning to a General Absolution service. Further, the Church’s documents note several times that Form 3 is not to become the norm, and that all confusion is to be avoided. Further, in the past, Bishop Nienstedt, and currently Bishop LeVoir both have affirmed the teaching that General Absolution not be used in our local circumstances. Without the Bishop's permission (except, of course, in those extreme cases), a priest does not have the authority to offer General Absolution. I am concerned that my offering even Form II services led to confusion that participants who left without entering the confessional have received the sacrament. My hope by not offering Form 2 services is that I can ‘reset' our perception and appreciation of the Sacrament. That is why I am offering only Individual Confession and Absolution (Form 1) this Lent.
The Church teaches that it is necessary to confess all mortal sins at least once a year (in order to receive Eucharist worthily). This means that the penitent is to confess ALL sins he or she remembers, not just one or two. If one purposely does not confess a mortal sin, one does not receive the sacrament validly. Some have shared anecdotes of penance services where the presider requested only one or two sins be confessed, and then proceed to either general absolution or private absolution. The protector of the sacraments, the Church, does not envision this 'form' of confession. At issue, in part is the nature of the confession - it is not part, but whole. By way of analogy, one could go to a medical doctor because of itchy skin, the main issue that is obviously a problem. If the doctor is not diligent, she or he might be too quick to prescribe an ointment for the itchy skin and fail to look further, perhaps find the itch is due to cirrhosis and possibly cancer of the liver. As far as coming to a Form II service and leaving without Absolution is like drawing up a bath, sticking your finger in and rejoicing in such a delight, and promptly draining the tub.
Hints for the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Be Prepared: Examine your conscience, and if it helps, make a written list. All serious or mortal sins (with the elements of a.) Serious act, b.) full knowledge, and c.) full desire) are to be confessed. Less serious sins should also be confessed to the best of one's ability. This examination can be done at home or even on the way to Church!
Be Prompt: do not wait until the last minute to come in to the confessional, especially if no one is in line.
Be Brief/succinct: You usually don’t have to go into the details or circumstances of the sins – just confess them.
Be Specific: Name the sins. “I did a bad thing” is going to require more.
Be Personal: Do not confess anyone else’s sins, but only your own.
Be Honest/Sincere: Share your sins as brutally honest as you can.
Be Consistent: Come on a regular basis, at least during Lent and Advent, bi-Monthly, or monthly.
Be Not Afraid: Know that the confessor is a sinner as well, and that even he has to go to confession!
How to Go to Reconciliation:
Before going to the Sacrament, examine your conscience for sins. As you enter, you may have the option of using the screen or going face-to-face. If you chose the screen, kneel. If face-to-face, sit down. Father may greet you with a handshake or other gesture.
Order of Penance Greeting: The priest says something to the effect of: May the Holy Spirit be with you as you confess your sins. R.: Amen.
“Revelation of State of life”: If you are unknown to the priest, he may ask some questions to help him help you. This should include when you last received the Sacrament and a little about yourself if needed. If it helps, Say, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been (how long) since my Last confession. These are my sins…” Confession of Sin: you tell the priest all of the sins of which you are aware (be as thorough as you can.)
If you wish, end your confession with, “For these and all sins I cannot truthfully remember, I ask penance and absolution.”
Acceptance of Satisfaction: The priest will give a penance, most of the time a prayer or Scripture which will help you live in the grace you are about to receive in the sacrament and serve as a sign that you are sorrowful for your sins.
Prayer of Sorrow/Act of Contrition: you say a prayer out loud which tells of your sorrow for sin. This prayer can be spoken from the heart, or it can be one of many acts of contrition. For example:
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.
Absolution of sin: The priest extends his hands over you and says the Prayer of Absolution, to which you respond: Amen. Conclusion: The priest says: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good… R. His mercy endures forever. The Lord has freed you from your sins, go in peace. R. Thanks be to God.
At this, you are free to go to do your penance.
While I acknowledge there is fear about the Sacrament, this fear is not of God. When we face the fear, confess our sins in the great and healing Sacrament, we find freedom, healing, and peace. When we confess all of our sins with our mouth, not just consciously, we rob Satan of his power over us and receive assurance of forgiveness. Sadly, Satan deceives us that our sins will be inconsequential until we commit them, and then he enjoys telling us their consequences. The Lord knows the consequences of our sins, and forgives, but only when we are truly contrite and sorrowful. Individual confession also provides a great remedy for dealing with venial sins, especially if the confessor has time to address the roots of the sins. This allows us to grow in holiness. I hope that all of us may make frequent use of the sacrament.
Friday, September 2, 2016
I know that it has been a while since I have blogged except for the various articles that have appeared in newspapers and prayers.
Part is that my focus has been elsewhere.
Recently, though, a few have asked about recording my homilies. After doing some research into process and equipment, and after praying about it, I have decided to create a podcast. You can find it at http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:251744182/sounds.rss, or soon on iTunes (View From the Ambo).
The reason is not in pride, but rather in humility. I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to proclaim the Good News, and I try to do so. I know that the first few may be rough until I get the settings right, as well as the knowledge of the software to help make things sound better.
Input is appreciated!
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
When we truly enter the spirit of the season, we follow the Lord’s command to pray, fast, and give alms and three practical means of Lenten preparation. These are things that go against our fallen nature. We too often remain in broken relationship with our loving Father, and like Adam hid from Him in our shame. Prayer seeks to stand before Him, as venerable and spiritual naked and impoverished as we are. When we fast, we avoid the comforts that the world offers and reminds us of our reliance on the Lord. Our almsgiving is a means of seeking to become generous and to connect with those who have so little, that we can share in their poverty.
This season of Lent is for us who follow Christ to grow in faith, to empty ourselves of all that is not Christ so that we can be ready to receive Him who died and rose again for us, to give us eternal life. This season is not one of self-directed improvement, but of allowing the Lord to grasp us, grace us, and guide us to Himself. May these days of Lent be days of intense preparation for us!
Thursday, May 8, 2014
1. The New Evangelization is absolutely necessary. This New Evangelization is not a program, rather a focus on the proclamation of Jesus Christ, to re-propose to people who may have some familiarity to Him, but do not let that knowledge deepen within them. It is not about a re-invigoration of parishes or promotion of more programs. We live in a culture that is further disconnected from God and the faith. The New Evangelization sees this as a new opportunity to proclaim Christ. It is proclaiming Christ to a world that has a ‘certain forgetfulness of God’, as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us several times. When we can share the love of Christ, tell of His mercy and forgiveness, and help others begin to live a moral life, discernment inevitably follows. True, though, that the New Evangelization will lead to vibrant parishes, but only because the faith has taken flame in the hearts of parishioners!
2. Vocations are everyone’s business. It is not just the Director of Vocations, or the Bishop, or the priest personnel board, or even only the parish pastors who are responsible for promoting vocations. It belongs to everyone, ordained, vowed, and lay men and women of all ages. The flame of faith in the hearts of the faithful lead to a desire that others be on fire with the love of God. They encourage others to respond to the promptings of the Spirit to answer a vocation, and all can personally invite a young man or woman to consider a vocation.
3. Personal Invitation is vital. We can help others hear the voice of Christ by inviting them to consider a vocation. To highlight the point of personal invitation, over 75% of seminarians state that they were encouraged and invited to discern a vocation by a priest, but only about 33% of priests are inviting young men – imagine if we could get at least another third of priests to invite! Further, imagine a parish or diocese in which a majority of the members are listening to the promptings of the Spirit and invite others to follow the Lord.
4. Fear is an obstacle to the spiritual life and to the growth of vocations. Some are afraid to invite others to consider a vocation because of a fear of rejection. Some are afraid to give their lives to God, fearing it will lead to unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Jesus assures us time and again, though, “Be not afraid!” We must also remember that perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18). We need to grow in more perfect love – something we do when we pray.
5. Prayer, even the most humble, is more powerful than any vocations program. If we are not praying, how can we expect other to pray. Recognition of a vocation is born from the silence of prayer. As one grows in relation with the Holy Trinity, one also is more able to respond to the promptings of the Spirit.
6. When we pray, we must be specific. While it sounds rather bold, it is necessary and theologically sound. Like personal goals, or even a programed GPS, when we are specific in our prayers, we might also see what we need to do to help God grant those prayers or at least be moving in the right direction. Generic prayer and sacrifice for vocations are good, but to offer specific prayers (a rosary a day or an weekly hour of adoration, for example) or specific sacrifices (like fasting from meat on Fridays) are powerful. Pray for a specific number of seminarians or religious, parishioners, pray for those discerning to come from “our parish”. Families, pray for that a son or daughter may be open to discerning! Be specific.
7. We must present vocations out of a great opportunity versus crisis. In our great Diocese of New Ulm, like many throughout the world, it is easy to focus on the need we have for priests. Some, when they do speak on vocations and the need for priests, do so from a very pessimistic perspective. Giving the impression all is lost, and that the Church as we now have it is a sinking ship, leads to despair and many who may be called to walk away in despair. While we cannot be Pollyannish – ignoring the difficulty of our current situation – we must realize that God is still God, and He continues to call men to the priesthood, and men and women to the religious life. We need to encourage them instead of discouraging. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, so it is safe to remain in the “barque of Peter”, in fact – it is the safest place to be.
8. There is a vocations crisis, but one that is bigger than just priests. We see the deterioration of family life in divorce, the attempts to redefine family in which the nuptial meaning of procreation is questioned due to the rampant culture of death. In such a climate, making a lifelong, permanent choice is difficult, if not impossible for many. To confront this, a concerted focus needs to be made in highlight the sacrament of matrimony and those who have embraced this vocation. We can highlight those couples lovingly commit themselves to each other freely, and lovingly embrace children as an extension of their love. The majority of priesthood and religious vocations will continue to come from those (in fact, in the Diocese of New Ulm, all of our current seminarians hail from intact families, and a the large majority of priests have intact, biological families). If our youth cannot identify even one strong witness of a married couple in their lives, how can our young discern a loving vocation, and commit themselves to live such a vocation freely and permanently? This is not to say that those from other types of homes cannot hear a vocation, or do not have a vocation, but it certainly makes responding to one more difficult as I can personally testify.
9. Sadly, certain scandals have damaged the personal witness of the vast majority of good and holy priests, adding to the fuel of those who claim vocations are in crisis. As the Church roots out the perpetrators, brings healing to the victims, and reestablishes trust with parishioners and others, we need to be even more diligent in seeking holiness ourselves.
10. Personal witness is the best vocations promotion. St. John Paul II drew hundreds of thousands to World Youth Days. When he died, many expressed concern that World Youth Days would cease to draw youth. While his personality was more reserved and introspective, Pope Emeritus Benedict drew massive crowds as well. The youth expressed that he was authentic. Pope Francis draws crowds with his warmth and wit. But all three drew people for the same reason – they love Jesus Christ with their whole being, and were leading people to Him, not to themselves (as a pop star might). If we want to draw people to Christ, we must be authentic, not pretending to be something we are not. We must avail ourselves of the grace of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist. We must be in love with Christ, and let that love permeate all that we do and say. In the end, we must all become saints!
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Thursday, April 24, 2014
A few weeks ago, Bishop LeVoir invited me to resign from the Office of Vocations. Recognizing that I have served as director of Vocations for 11 years, with a year of service as director of seminarians, he reminded me that I have worked hard, and while I have served well, it is time to allow someone else serve so that I can focus on the parishes I have also been assigned to serve. The following is adapted from my letter to Bishop LeVoir, accepting his offer to resign:
It was with humility that I accepted the position 12 years ago, understanding the onerous task that was ahead. It is with even deeper humility that I depart, knowing that there is still so much to be done. I take some modest pride in what has been accomplished in planting seeds of vocations awareness through out the Diocese…
I offer my support to my successor(s), whomever they may be, and would willingly offer any insight I may have if asked. Of course, I will continue to promote a culture of vocations on the parish and Area Faith Community level, and will continue to invite young men and women to hear and respond to the call of Christ in their lives as priests, brothers, or sisters. I remain, as always, a servant who has simply tried to do what was required of him.
As of July 1, I will be released from the Office of Vocations. It is bittersweet that I depart. As of that time, I will change the title of this blog, and hopefully with a little more time, will blog more! Please keep my successor in prayer!
Sunday, August 4, 2013
when we become aware of all that we have and in reality all that we are is from God, we avoid greed and live lives of gratitude, trying to return to the Lord with thanks for all the good that He has done.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Sunday, April 7, 2013
The Lord knows that we are in need of a deeper faith, but He also meets that need, when we express it. Doubt is not all bad in the spiritual life, but may be the very vehicle into faith that allows us to proclaim Christ to the ends of the earth when that doubt is cleared.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Sunday, February 10, 2013
When we are feeling empty, we need to find Jesus preaching to us, and listen to His invitation to head to the deep water, and to be prepared for a mighty catch!