Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Monday, April 25, 2016

FIVE WAYS TO INCREASE PATIENCE

FR. ED BROOM, OMV

None of us can claim to have mastered perfectly the virtue of patience. We think we have made a major victory in acquiring patience, and then, out of the blue and taken by surprise, we explode! Our illusion of being the most patient person in the world went up in smoke!

Patience is so important that Jesus Christ, our model in all virtues, said: “By your patience you will save your souls.” One pious soul prayed in desperation: “Lord, give me patience and right now!” Maybe this has been your prayer for the last few years!

Our patience can be tested by various times and circumstances, in season and out of season. The failure of health, economic set-backs, family members that could put the holy Job to the test, weather extremes, failed and broken relationships, and even God. Sometimes it seems as if God is extremely distant, does not seem to hear my prayers, or at least seems to be uninterested or indifferent to my pleadings. All of the above can try my patience.

What then are ways that we can acquire the all-important virtue of patience, that as Jesus reminds us, is necessary for the salvation of our immortal souls? We will offer five concrete ways that we can attain patience.

1. PRAYER.

St. Ignatius insists that we must beg for grace. St. Augustine humbly reminds us that we are all beggars before God. God is willing to give if we simply persevere in asking Him. Remember the persistent widow who gained the favor of the callous and cold-hearted judge for the simple reason that she kept begging for his help. “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mt. 7:7)

2. JESUS’ LIFE.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is a saying: “Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are.” If we spend time meditating on the Gospels and the words, gestures, and actions of Jesus, then it will rub off on us. We will start to imitate Jesus more and more and specifically in the virtue of patience.

3. PASSION OF CHRIST.

Many saints had a magnetic drawing of their hearts to read and meditate upon the greatest love story in the world. “No greater love than to die for the loved ones.” A constant meditation on the Passion, suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus can prove to be an infinite source of blessings and key to open up the door of patience to the most hardened of hearts.

4. TRIALS AND OPPORTUNITIES.

Then when the trials descend upon us like a torrential deluge, call to mind some element of the Passion of Christ, either from the Gospels, or the works of writers such as Anne Catherine Emmerick. The trial will be viewed in a more universal and supernatural perspective.

The trial that has visited me indeed is very painful, but, in comparison to what Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has gone through, it is a mere trifle. Also I suffer trials partially as a result of my own sinfulness and sinful past, but Jesus suffered the most excruciating pains being the epitome and essence of Innocence.

We can all choose one element or detail of the Passion of Christ that seems to have struck us most and elicit this scene when my patience is put to the bitter test! The love of Jesus can move me to carry patiently the most burdensome crosses! As St. Paul states: “The love of Christ compels us.”

5. MARY, OUR LADY OF SORROWS.

One essential element in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the entire course of the film. Only second to Jesus was Mary in the intensity of suffering.

The film portrays Our Lady of Sorrows along the way of Calvary accompanying Jesus in His most bitter trial. Mary stood at the foot of the cross, patience to a heroic degree.

Mary practiced patience her whole life: travelling to Bethlehem, fleeing to Egypt, seeking out her lost Son for three long days, losing her beloved husband Saint Joseph, and accompanying her beloved Son Jesus, seeing Him crucified, and staying with Him until He drew His last, dying breath.

When our patience is put to the test, then we should lift up our eyes, mind, heart and soul to Our Lady, and she will acquire for us heroic patience.

All of us struggle on a daily basis to be patient with others, with ourselves, with circumstances and, at times, even with God. Patience is so essential to our lives that Jesus even said: “By your patience you will save your souls.” Let us use the arms we have in our arsenal to attain the all-important virtue of patience.

Let us pray as beggars to the most generous giver, God. Let us draw close to Jesus the “Holy of Holies”. Let us meditate on the Passion of Christ and when opportunities to practice patience surface, to call to mind all that Jesus suffered for the world and for me. Finally, may Our Lady of Sorrows attain for me a meek, humble and patient heart!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

IF GOD IS REAL, WHY WON'T HE SHOW HIMSELF?

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that “just as important as the truth, and of the two the even more important one, is the mode in which the truth is accepted, and it is of slight help if one gets millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance they are transposed into untruth.”

God hides himself so we will come to him in the right mode. He is not an object. He is not an old man in the sky, available to our observation, nor a slight grease on the surface of all things, available to our scientific probing. God is love. What merit is it to know of God’s existence as a man knows the existence of his right foot?

God doesn’t want our observation, nor our pitiful attempts to “prove” his existence — he wants our love. He wants to be known in truth, as he is, as love, which is only known in the act of loving.

If we’re going to speak of “knowing” God at all, we must mean to know him in such a way that we infinitely strive for him, in which our knowledge and our panting after him are one in the same, for love is not known disinterestedly, rather, love is interest. We cannot know God cooly, as an object is known.

The knowledge of this tree or that apple sets myself and the object apart. I and the tree are divided into the categories of observer and object, because all knowledge is knowledge of something — some thing we refer to — apart from ourselves. But God is not a thing.

God is love, and love will tolerate no separation. Observation brings certainty. We see the tree and are certain of it. Our relationship is simple, call it I-thing. But with God, what’s needed is precisely uncertainty.

Uncertainties are known — not by knowledge, for knowledge attains certainty and thus eradicates uncertainty — but by belief, and belief always has the quality of hurling us upon another person.

For instance, my father calls, and before he hangs up, he says “I love you.” I do not know this to be an objective fact. I do not observe it with the certainty I observe the tree, because the words “I love you,” are an outward expression of my father’s subjective, interior life — a life I cannot know.

From my perspective, his kindness to me may have been born out of no more than duty, the pressures of his surrounding moral society, or the desire to raise a child in such a manner that he does not become an embarrassment.

In short, the words “I love you” may not be true, and no objective knowledge can eradicate their uncertainty. Even if I were to add up all the constituent parts — his expression, his tone, our history, etc. — I could not arrive — with objective certainty — at the conclusion, “Yes, it all adds up to love,” and this is apparent in the fact that no one bothers to engage in such arithmetic.

I cannot know love as an objective fact, existing outside of myself and available to my objective verification. I can only believe in it.

But this is the point! My believing in the love of my father and my entering into that love are one in the same, for in believing — which embraces the uncertainty precisely as an uncertainty — I fling myself entirely on him. I trust in his word. I trust him as I would myself.

This blurring of he and the I in the moment of love’s expression; this taking on of the other’s hidden, subjective, interior life as if it were my own; this taking for myself as true what only he can know is true — this is love.

In believing I participate in the life of the one I trust to believe. What a pitiful, boring world which elevates objective knowledge over belief! By belief I attain a greater certainty of what cannot be known than the certainty I have of those things that can.

Now we approach, with trembling hearts, the infinite uncertainty of God himself. God is invisible, and this terrible absence, this awful gap in our ability to attain certainty, and this necessary possibility of atheism is also the way in which we come to know God as he is, in truth and in right relation to him.

By being objectively uncertain, yet communicating himself to us in beauty, in truth, in the goodness that inexplicably guides our lives, and ultimately in the fullness of revelation, through his only begotten Son, he offers us a qualitatively different type of certainty that would not be possible were he visible in the way a tree is visible.

He gives us he opportunity to believe, to know him in such a manner that our knowledge of him is simultaneously a total reliance on him, indeed that our “knowledge” — which we should refer to as faith, for it maintains the objective uncertainty by never rendering Eternity objectively visible — is a participation in the life of God himself.

“If God had taken the for, for example, of a rare, enormously large green bird, with a red beak, that perched in a tree on the embankment and perhaps even whistled in an unprecedented manner–then [the modern man] surely would have had his eyes opened,” says Kierkegaard, but then we would not have related to him in truth, but in untruth. But since God is hidden, we must believe, and in belief we approach God in truth, as we approach love.

That this is truly the proper mode for “knowing God” seem evident in that difference between belief and simply knowing a visible something is that the former requires eternity while the latter requires a moment. Once the green bird is seen, it is known. No further effort is required. We may walk away from the embankment, close our eyes, and still know that the green bird exists.

All that was required was the singular moment of perception. But when it is precisely an objective uncertainty that is being offered, an invisible reality expressed to us, the effort to know this uncertainty must be an eternal effort. At no point do we master God. At no point can we walk away.

At no point do we attain a certainty by which we are “finished” with the project of belief. Belief is knowledge that comes from a participation in the life of another, and thus our belief in God only remains insofar as we, in every moment of our life, actively participate in the life of God. “I must continually see to it that I hold fast to the objective uncertainty, see to it that in the objective uncertainty I am “out on 70,000 fathoms of water” and still have faith.”

This is precisely why the Christian says he is saved through faith. To be saved means to become the self who you are, the self you are for all eternity, and only by faith do eternal selves act eternally. Only by faith do we participate in the self-offering of God, do we freely and eternally participate in the life of Love himself, do we attain that reality which, in religious tradition, is referred to as Salvation, or Heaven.
But this is hardly a distant mystery: As goes life so goes love, for there are few distinctions between the two. The words “I love you” — spoken in truth and by their very nature — tend towards relationships that last forever. Man and woman marry to express with a lifetime what cannot be expressed in a moment.

The one requirement of erotic love is faithfulness, not simply in reaction to the evil of its opposite, which we call adultery, but because the very essence of love is belief in the other, a participation that renders adultery unthinkable.

Theirs the eternal, theirs the ritual, theirs the belief in the other’s love that is simultaneously a participation in that love.

And what lovers would prefer objective knowledge over the infinite strive of faith? What lovers would demand the singular moment that forever establishes certainty over a lifetime of active love, over the ecstatic comedy of forever proving the unprovable and rendering visible the ever-invisible?

God wants us to relate to him in love, for only by relating to God in love do we relate to him as he is — love himself — and only in this relation are our finite frames expanded and exploded with the infinite. God does not want our validation of his existence any more than the lover wants the beloved to simply say “You exist.” He wants us all swept up in love, forever and ever, amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

THE BATTLE FOR SOULS

The mystic saints versus the demons

Stories of the attacks of the demons against modern day mystic saints

"....And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, an Angel of Satan to beat me, to keep me from being too exalted." -St Paul to the Corinthians [2 Corinthians 12:7]
The primary mission of the mystics is to be victim souls—that is, they are especially called by God to suffer in union with Jesus for the conversion of souls.

It is a spiritual battle for souls between God and the demons, where the victim soul is essentially the “battle ground”, and the stakes is the conversion of many persons who are at that moment in the hands of the devil.

For the majority of us, the devil and his demons prefer to wage a silent, hidden war, primarily because it is through this method that the demons stand the best chance of tempting and deceiving us, for if we physically saw a demon in its efforts to tempt and lead us to sin, we would be absolutely horrified by its hideous appearance and would in fact be strengthened in our resolutions against sin and evil deeds.

So it is in our daily lives that most of us are subjugated to unseen temptations and attacks by the demonic spirits--but in the lives of certain mystics, God allows the malignant spirits to use open warfare.

“War! War against you and your spiritual director!” When it comes to the mystic Saints however, there is much more at stake than one individual soul, for it is the victim soul who, through their mystical union with Jesus on the Cross, actually snatches souls out of Satan’s hands.

And with the victim soul, the devil is met with resolute resistance from the one who has offered him/herself in union with Jesus for the conversion of sinners; and with the prospect of losing souls in his grasp, and unable to make the victim soul sin in any serious way, he takes the most fearful vengeance against them, using all the powers of hell in a demonic torrent of attacks in countless forms, all in an effort to cause the victim soul to despair and lose their trust and love for God.

So it is that in the case of many mystics, the battle with the demons is not hidden one but it is in fact open warfare. And this open battle is permitted by God to manifest to everyone the reality of both the devil and hell, which unfortunately many today try to disclaim the existence of.

For the devil and the demons are very much a reality, and in their dealings with God's mystic saints they show themselves in the most horrid and undisguised perversities of their vicious and corrupt nature, in the wicked hope of snatching from Christ the souls He loves, and for whom He has paid such a high a price in the shedding of His Precious Blood.

These battles between the demons and the victim souls are often epic, and terrible to witness or to even read of. Just one of many examples we will document below be that of St Gemma Galgani, who died in 1903.

The devil, in the form of either a hideous, hairy, ape like man or sometimes in the form of a black dog who would grab her by the hair and rip her out of bed onto the floor, taking out clumps of hair in the process, and would proceed to beat her mercilessly, dislocating her shoulder among many other things in the process, horribly cursing God and shouting “War! War against you and your spiritual director!”

(Those interested can read about Gemma’s epic battles against the demonic here).

But for the many reasons that God allows such diabolic and hellish attacks in the lives of the mystics, certainly one of these reasons is to teach us to have a great horror for grave sin.

And so let us contemplate a few of these battles of the mystics vs. the demons, so as to gain some new perspectives on the beneficial fear that we should have within ourselves for sin.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

IS ABORTION SURGERY OR MURDER?

by David Servant

It is universally agreed that murder is a supreme act of selfishness,and only the most depraved among the human race would be in favor of legalizing it.

Yet there is one group of American people for whom it is legal and socially acceptable to murder, and fifty million of them have had their lives snuffed out since abortion was legalized in 1973.

Is this a moral issue of any importance to God? His prohibition of murder is included in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:13). Murderers were punishable by death under the Mosaic Law (Num. 35:16-30). Murder is also a violation of the Golden Rule, as no one wants to be murdered.

God has placed within every humna conscience the instinctive knowledge that murder is a heinous evil. Scripture warns that God hates hands that shed innocent blood (Prov. 6:16-17), and that all murderers will one day be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8).

Incredibly, however, people argue that abortion is not murder.

So what is abortion? How should it be classified? What is is most like? Is it most comparable to a woman's rightful choice to have a cancerous tumor removed? Or is it better compared to an appendectomy?

I would suggest that what is removed from a woman's body during an abortion resembles, more than anything else, a living human being, with a head, face, eyes, nose, ears, mouth, heart, brain, liver, arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet and toes. If it were not aborted, it would become what no sane person would deny is a human being.

All human beings on the planet used to be what abortionists rip from female wombs. The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that what abortionists always refer to as "fetuses” are in fact undeniably humans, created in God's image.

Before they are aborted, they are alive with their own beating hearts, but after they are aborted they are dead. Abortion kills them. Abortion is nothing less than the murder of a human being.

This is such a self-evident truth that it is incredible that anyone would deny it. Yet murderers of babies and their promoters hide behind the euphemism "pro-choice," a smoke-screen that attempts to conceal the unspeakable horror of the daily national murder of 3,500 babies. "Pro-baby-killings" is a more accurate label for those who are in favor of this holocaust.

Imagine a group of people who were in favor of the brutal killing of newborn babies choosing to identify themselves with the misleading label "pro-choice." They would be universally mocked to scorn. And can you imagine the Supreme Court making a ruling that read, "Every woman has the right to privacy in the matter of what has been issued from her own body, and so we must protect her liberty to rip her newborn children to shreds with a knife and suction machine"?
What is the difference between a new born baby and an unborn baby? Only a stage of human development, which is no different than any other stages of human development, such as childhood or adulthood. “But there is a big difference between an eight-week fetus and an eight-week-old newborn," some quip.

Yes, and there is also a big difference between an eight-week-old newborn and an eight-year-old child or an eighty-year-old adult. Does that make acceptable the murder of any human being at any stage of human development? Can you imagine if our Supreme Court proposed the idea that children, or those over age sixty-five, were not persons who are entitled to the right to life that is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment?

Any politician who is in favor of the legality of the brutal murder of unborn babies is just as morally unfit to hold a public office as if he were in favor of the legality of the brutal murder of newborn babies or people over age sixty-five.

Any person who votes to put in office or keep in office a politician who is in favor of abortion casts his vote for babies to be gruesomely butchered. Obviously, no genuine follower of Christ would vote for such a political candidate.

Some professing Christians argue that there are other issues which must be considered when we elect governmental leaders, and thus they excuse themselves for casting votes in favor of pro-baby-killer candidates. That there are other issues is without doubt, but this most fundamental moral issue towers above most, if not all, others.

If a person is in favor of the legality of baby slaughtering, his moral compass has completely lost its bearings and is spinning out of control. If a political candidate is on the wrong side of this moral issue, one cannot help but wonder about his or her ability to make a proper judgment regarding any moral issue.

If you looked out your window and saw your neighbor hacking to pieces his or her screaming six-month-old baby daughter while a political candidate stood at that neighbor's side giving a speech in favor of parents' rights to murder their newborn children, would you consider that politician to be a viable candidate for public office?

No, you and all the rest of humanity would consider such a politician to be worthy of being locked behind prison bars for the rest of his life. How does such an imaginary politician differ from those perverse and depraved politicians whom we continue to elect who think there is nothing wrong with the legality of the gruesome slaughter of unborn human beings?

To vote for such people in the hope that they will govern us is unconscionable.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

WHY DO CATHOLICS PRACTICE CONFESSION OF SINS TO A PRIEST?

A Protestant Christian friend of mine wanted to know why Catholics confess sins to a priest rather than straight to God.

He quoted 1 Tm 2:5 from the Bible to explain that Christ is the one true mediator between God and man.

He therefore felt that the Church did not have the authority to require confession of sins to a mediator (a priest).

Here my response to his question.

Well it's a fair question, and is certainly a loaded one. And it's certainly one that I have thought about myself. What it comes down to is that Christ is the one true mediator between God and man. But how he accomplishes the mediation is his choice.

Upon ascending into heaven Christ instituted a church that would be his earthly guide for all nations. A church that would be protected and guided by the Holy Spirit, to preserve his Christian truths and guide all men to Jesus for their salvation. Essentially, this is where the Catholic Church came from. It was founded on Peter, the first of the popes. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells Simon after his confession of faith:

"Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." --Matthew 16:17-19

Basically, in this passage Jesus does a curious thing. He changes Simon's name to Peter. Peter translated into Aramaic (the language of Jesus and his apostles) is Kepha, or rock. So what Jesus did was say that Peter is the rock. Not just any rock, but the rock on which he will build his church.

Jesus also says that the church would be infallible and would preserve his truths when he says "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it..." (knowing the truth of Christianity certainly is necessary to be saved). He also gives Peter binding and loosing powers as well as the keys of heaven (strong symbols of authority) thus giving Peter ultimate teaching authority over the church.

In order to preserve this authority and give the gift of teaching to the church, it had to be preserved from error in the future. This is why the successors of Peter have always been the leaders of the Church.

True ability to interpret scripture and preserve the teachings of Christ are only fully possible within the Catholic Church. This is evidenced by the wide array of Protestantism, which hold a large amount of conflicting teachings (an example is the necessity of Baptism) even though all claim to be interpreting the Bible correctly.

Although much truth exists in other Christian religions, the only infallible truth lies within the Bible and the Traditions of the Catholic Church. If Christ had not established a teaching, living, apostolic church then how could we properly understand the doctrines of the Bible? Note that 2 Peter 1:20 says "know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation".

And even the Ethiopian eunuch on his way to Damascus while trying to interpret scripture asks for Philip's help (who is ordained as a priest in Acts 6:5). "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

He replied "How can I unless someone instructs me?" (Acts 8:30-31) Thus the church has the authority to properly teach the doctrines of faith for our salvation. This is why I am Catholic. Because without the Church I can't be sure that Christ's teachings are being properly preserved.

If you read the Father's of the Church their writings correlate with Catholic views on a ministerial priesthood, the sacraments and many other Catholic doctrines. The first Christians themselves were Catholics. Acts 6:1-6 shows the establishment of the priesthood under the apostles of the Church.

In the end, it is the divinely ordained teaching authority of the Church that assures me of the validity and necessity of the Christian Sacraments; especially that of Confession. The sacrament of reconciliation (confession), the Church teaches, is the normative, necessary means by which a Christian receives the forgiveness of God.

The efficacy of confession is derived from Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, where he served as the divine substitute for our transgressions. Not only does the Church teach the need of regular confession, but the Bible also records Christ’s institution of the sacrament following his resurrection from the dead when he first appeared to the assembly of apostles (John 20:19-23):

On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
This moment, when Jesus breathed on his apostles, constituted both the institution of the Catholic ministerial priesthood and the sacrament of confession. Christ gave his first priests, the apostles, the authority to forgive and retain sins.

It was his intention that all sin be forgiven though the Church by aural confession of sins to the priests. We should realize that in Holy Scripture God breathed on man only twice: once when he breathed life into the clay of earth to create man (Genesis 2:7) and the second time when he breathed the life of grace into his Church.

Both instances were that of an intimate, riveting moment between God and man. It is clear that the ability to forgive and retain sin given to the apostles, requires that each of us (even to this day) confess our sins to the priests of the Church so that our sins can be forgiven or retained.

As Christ well knew, confession of sins to a priest requires humility, trust in God and the Church, and contrition of heart. Confession of sins to a priest gives us the assurance that our sins are forgiven, even though we may not be perfectly penitent.

For that is what God requires outside the bounds of sacramental confession: a man who goes directly to God for forgiveness of sin can be forgiven, but only if he is perfectly contrite and resolved to sin no more. Those who are outside the Church by birth and circumstance can still be saved and forgiven of sins, but only if they are perfectly penitent and are unaware of the divine institution of the Church.

A Catholic who will not consent to a sacramental confession, is the man the Church grieves for the most. He has all the instruments of salvation laid out at his feet, but he will not lay his pride down at the foot of the Cross to pick them up.

I know sacramental confession often seems like a frightening, humiliating act for those who have neglected the sacrament for many years. I myself, after deciding to return to full communion with the Church, had to endure a heart-pounding moment of decision in which I laid down my pride and returned to the confessional. I found that the priest was compassionate, gentle and welcoming.

He realized that my presence there was an act of God’s grace. No priest will ever condemn a penitent man; and since then I have always found this to be the rule. Over time, confessions become less frightening; but they always require a measure of humility and resolve.

Yet, nothing in the world can compare to the joy of the soul after a good confession. The veil of sin falls away and the light of grace fills the soul. In the end, nothing in the world is as precious as the forgiveness of sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

--S.M.M.