Tag Archives: almsgiving

The Five Names of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

December 7, 2018

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Sacrament of ReconciliationConversion. Conversion is to switch from one thing to another. Jesus asks us to “Repent” (Mk 1:15), to make a metanoia, a change of heart and direction, a conscious choice to quit doing one thing and start or resume doing another. Conversion is the shift from sin to grace, evil to good, wrong to right, vice to virtue, deception to truth, darkness to light, the flesh to the spirit, indulgence to self-control, and from personal gratification to pleasing God. Conversion admits an evil deed and makes a firm commitment never to repeat it, or breaks a bad habit and replaces it with a pattern of good decisions and behaviors. It is common to say, “I am sorry for this sin,” and then commit the same sin over again, because the person prefers the sin. True conversion is not only to stop the sin, but to detest the sin, and consider it unthinkable now and in the future.

Penance. Penance is to make “satisfaction” for sins that have been committed. There is nothing “satisfying” about sin. In this context, penance is an expression of sorrow for sin, a sign of a change of heart, an attempt to make up for sin, to make right a wrong, or to repair the damage. Peter wrote, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4:8). So does almsgiving (see Tb 12:9; Sir 3:29b). The four penitential practices are prayer; fasting, self-denial, and sacrifices; almsgiving; and acts of love, charity, and service.

Reconciliation. Sin causes alienation. Trust is broken. Relationships are weakened, damaged, and sometimes shattered. Sin separates a person from God, who has been disappointed, offended, or angered; from other people, who have been harmed or misled; from the community of the Church, that has been let down, and if the sin were known, would be shocked, scandalized, upset, or saddened; and from one’s self, estranged from one’s authentic goodness, blemished, and diminished by self-inflicted wounds. Reconciliation is to reconnect what has been separated, reunite what has been apart, settle differences, heal wounds, and restore wholeness; it is to make amends, restitution, and reparation.

Confession. Confession is the disclosure of sin. We are prone to make excuses, dodge responsibility, and go easy on ourselves. Sometimes we are so mired in our sinful ruts that we become blind to our wrongdoing, grow callous and insensitive to our own sin, and fail to be honest with ourselves. The apostle John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 Jn 1:8). Honesty and humility are indispensable. Each of us has greatly sinned, in thought and in word, in what we have done and what we have failed to do. Once we realize our sins, it is necessary to take them to God through a priest, confess them, contritely acknowledge and name them out loud, and humbly ask for pardon.

Forgiveness. God forgives sins. God is “gracious and merciful … slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:13). Even though our sins are scarlet, God makes them white as snow (Is 1:18b); though they be crimson red, God makes them white as wool (Is 1:18c). God wipes away our offenses, and our sins he remembers no more (Is 43:25). It is by Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the Blood that he shed on the Cross, that the sins of the world are taken away (Jn 1:29). Jesus asked his apostles to mediate his forgiveness when he instructed them, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (Jn 20:23). It is through the Holy Spirit that God absolves sins and grants pardon and peace. Forgiveness is an unmerited and undeserved grace granted by God out of his infinite love and mercy.

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The Poor (and the Cold) Will Always Be With Us

December 11, 2013

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Snowman in St. Paul

Snowman in St. Paul

On my way to work – I saw this (picture attached) where I usually see the homeless man asking for money.
It is sort of cute – being a little snow man on the corner of a busy St. Paul intersection, but it brought me to think of whom I usually see there and why I need to care if he has found some shelter.

For the last 5 years I have been driving by this spot and I often see someone asking for money. Different people. Some young, some old. Some have signs that they carry, others don’t. For a while I wouldn’t give them any change because I had bought into that idea that it might be someone who would use my money for drugs or alcohol, but lately I have changed my thoughts on that. It has caused me to reflect on what Jesus said.

“The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11

A friend recently told me that after volunteering at various food shelves and homeless shelters that she had come to a revelation. She said “We want the poor to be like us” meaning that when we give, we want the people that we help to become like us. We put conditions on our giving. While we would like to make sure that every opportunity is given to those in need to break out of the chains of poverty; that is not why we help the poor. We give and help, because we can. We give because every person is made in God’s image. We give because we wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to serve Jesus.

In the Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers from Evangelii Gaudium, Holy Father says in paragraph 85:
“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents.”

It is easy to think and say “I have given enough” or “Others will take care of them” or “They might just use my money for drugs” or   “I will only give to an organization” but maybe that is the defeatism that Pope Francis is referring to.

So for now I keep a dollar or two handy to give when I can and try to remember this prayer of Blessed Mother Teresa while I pray that the man I ususally see on this corner isn’t as cold as the snowman that he left behind.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

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Why fasting is a good idea

October 14, 2011

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fasting illustration

CNS photo illustration/Nancy Wiechec

I don’t imagine many people enjoy fasting. I’ll bet you don’t wake up on Ash Wednesday and say, ” How great that I get to eat a lot less food today!”

Although fasting isn’t easy, its spiritual benefits are available to Catholics all year, not just when it’s required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Even though Ash Wednesday is months away, I’m bringing this up now because earlier this month Jews fasted from food and drink for 25 hours in observance of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, the most important day in the Jewish liturgical year. This fast, which is noted in the Bible is the climax of 10 days of penitence starting with Rosh Hashanah. In biblical days, Jews also weren’t supposed to wash or wear shoes during this fast.

Fasting from wearing shoes?

Shoes don’t enter into the Catholic definition of fasting, which is the “complete or partial abstention from food.”  Another root of the word means to hold, to keep, to observe or to restrain one’s self. The Latin root word is of an animal intestine which is always empty.

Fasting has been practiced since ancient times for a variety of reasons, including deliverance from calamity and mourning.

The Church considers fasting, along with prayer and almsgiving, as one of the acts of religion through which Catholics express interior penance. (CCC 1434, 1969) Fasting is part of the Fourth Precept of the Church: “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.” (CCC 2043)

The Church’s fasting rules are pretty clear: Catholics from their 18th birthday to their 59th birthday (the beginning of their 60th year) are to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. This fasting is required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast  is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milkshakes, but not milk).  Alcoholic beverages technically don’t break the fast but they don’t quite fit with the spirit of doing penance.

(Catholics also fast from food and drink, except water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before receiving Holy Communion. (Canon 919)

In her wisdom, the Church gives us a good reason to fast: to make us stronger. Natural law shows us we need to fast to overcome our concupiscence.  Or as the Catechism puts it, the required fasts are times of  “ascesis and penance which prepare us for liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” (CCC 2043)

Fasting makes sense all year long. Not that we have to do it year round but the Church encourages us to do some kind of penance. It could be fasting or giving up something else we enjoy to grow in holiness, for a special intention or in thanksgiving.

Other benefits of fasting

As the early Church writer Tertullian put it, there are even more advantages to any weight loss resulting from fasting:

“More easily, it may be, through the strait gate of salvation will slenderer flesh enter; more speedily will lighter flesh rise; longer in the sepulcher will drier flesh retain its firmness.”

He gave the early Christians another good reason to fast:

“…an over-fed Christian will be more necessary to bears and lions perchance, than to God; only that, even to encounter beasts, it will be his duty to practice emaciation.”

I’m not sure that’s what Jesus meant when he said we should try not to look like we’re  fasting. (Matt. 6:16-18)  He does say we will be rewarded if we fast the right way: “Your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

 

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