Confession and unity of life

Confession and unity of life

Sacramental confession is a wonderful thing. I say that as a penitent, not as a confessor. As a matter of fact, since becoming a confessor, I’ve learned that ministering the sacrament takes a lot, and gives little.

Not that going to confession is much fun either. It might be likened to a trip to the dentist. Something to plan ahead of time and endure for its duration, only to bask in the good it brings in the end.

Sadly, becoming a confessor has restricted my freedom to blog about confession. It doesn’t have to be this way I suppose, but I’m so wary of the sacramental seal, that I believe it’s prudent to say little.

In my second week as a priest, I heard confessions one evening, and then offered a weekday mass the following morning. As I distributed communion I recognised a vaguely familiar face. After mass, a queue formed to receive the personal blessing of the newly ordained priest. I asked the familiar face if we had met.

“You heard my confession last night Father. Remember?”

I didn’t as it happens — until that moment. And then I realised with horror that the homily I had preached at mass was very similar to the “homiletto” I delivered in the confessional the night before. I hoped the penitent didn’t think I was referring to them as I preached my homily!

No harm was done on that occasion, but I learnt a valuable lesson. The seal of confession is such that I must be attentive even to perceptions of its violation. So the best course of action is not to blog about confessions.

But I can link to a confession-themed post by my favourite blogger! Lindenman has the fresh eyes of an adult convert, and his insights on confession are both mature and light-hearted.

I think it’s good to be light-hearted, especially about our personal failings. The devil takes himself too seriously. The saints avoid that error.

All of this is pertinent, in light of the scandal in Parramatta. The central issue in that case is, I think, unity of life. I can’t imagine Fr Lee “set out” to do what he did. I can well imagine he got to where he got by a series of small steps which slowly embroiled him deeper and deeper into a double life.

We’re all vulnerable to that. God calls us into the light, but the shadows are always beckoning. One of the greatest means to unity of life, I think, is regular confession. Please God we might all frequent this sacrament with a holy maturity and an appropriate lightness of heart.

4 Comments

  1. Florence
    May 4, 2012

    Fr John, approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis can be compared to having a shower atleast twice a day and wearing clean clothes after a shower. Every time we approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus Christ forgives us our sins and He gives us grace to prevent us from committing the same sin again. If we find that a particular sin is plaguing us, we must confess that same sin over and over again until the sin is removed from its roots. This is a wonderful Sacrament – A Sacrament of Mercy – A Sacrament that cleanses our Soul until one day it would be radiant because of the Grace that we receive from God.

    I consider all the Sacraments of the Church to be the Treasures of the Catholic Church. Thank God, we belong to the Catholic Church. I for one am not afraid of the stray incidents that happen in our church. I think all of us Catholics around the world should write in our blogs of all the good things that priests and religious do. Wherever we can advertise the goodness of priests and the lay people, we should do so. We must highlight the miracles that take place in the Catholic Church and in the lives of us Catholics. If we do this, it would change the views of the people. So Fr John, let us begin this campaign. Alleluia!

  2. MuMu of St Kilda
    May 4, 2012

    I’d like to tell a true story about Deacon John and confession. An elderly nun came from some distance to our church for confession and waited patiently in the pews outside. Meanwhile, Deacon John was preparing to expose the Blessed Sacrament for our Holy Hour. I went to the venerable sister and told her, “I’m afraid there are no priests today, but perhaps you’d like to give Deacon John some practice at confession before his ordination?” She looked at me sharply and said with a quaver of uncertainty in her voice, “You’re quite a character, aren’t you?”
    In the remote possibility that anyone believes I suggested profaning the sacrament, it was a joke, joke, joke!

  3. Kevin Lee
    Jul 16, 2012

    Dear John, Thanks for commenting on me so regularly, being slightly the narcissist I enjoy seeing my name in print even in remote places such as Ballarat and by an unknown country priest. I look at your writings and see so much of myself in you. As a young ordained cleric, I was outspoken, judgmental, felt the need to comment on everything and everyone Catholic and felt that everyone else wanted to know my opinion. I had a Spiritual Director, attended Opus Dei recollections, was faithful in all my duties and reverently prayed the Mass. What changed you might ask? Nothing changed, I just grew in maturity and wisdom with constant contact with real people. I grew in compassion and understanding of my fellow travellers. I listened to Jesus in them rather than blindly adhering to Vatican dogmatism. I prayed real conversational prayers to God rather than repetitively recite old Jewish psalms at Him. As a young orthodox self-styled traditionalist priest who even doubted the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass, tending to attend Latin Masses where ever possible, I never thought I would see myself living the life I am living now. And this is why I caution you from becoming the negative, cynical and judgmental person that I became. Please keep talking to God, John. Let Him guide your thoughts and actions. Never allow yourself to be the hands of Satan who uses division within to bring down the House of God. Try to do as you said in another post, be positive. Build up, dont destroy. That includes reputations as well. Try to live as authentically as possible, the message that Jesus our Lord taught. Love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you and always show love and forgiveness. If you keep to that Law of Love John, you will do well. Another last parting wise advise I can give you is avoid pride. It will destroy you more than loving a woman can ever do. People will always tell you that you are wonderful and good. Don’t believe them or trust them. Remember the young man who came to our Lord and called Him “Good Master”. Jesus rebuked him and said, “Why call me Good? No one is good but God alone”,
    Blessings on your day John,
    Kevin Lee

    • Fr John
      Jul 16, 2012

      Wise words. Sincere thanks Kevin!