Tag Archives: conversion

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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Stuck confessing the same sins over and over?

January 30, 2014

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Better to ask for "the usual" here than in confession, where it's not such a good thing to come in with the same list of sins time after time. A good place to get "the usual." Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives.   Licensed under Creative Commons

Better to ask for “the usual” here than in confession, where it’s not such a good thing to come in with the same list of sins time after time. Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives. Licensed under Creative Commons

If a regular customer sits down in a diner and says “the usual”, an experienced waitress will bring their eggs exactly to order without any more questions.

I feel like if I said “the usual” to my confessor he’d know my list of sins as well as the diner waitress knows her regular customers’ orders. When I go to confession it sometimes seems a lot like the time before.

I commit the same sins over and over. It’s some consolation that I’m mostly not out inventing new sins but sometimes when I kneel in the confessional I don’t feel like I’m making much headway.

I guess what I should ask myself  is, do I really want to get these sins off my list and what am I doing to make that happen?

Conversion

What it takes is interior repentance, according to the Catechism. “a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed.

“At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart). “(CCC 1431)

According to one priest, the way to overcome sin is to “look at the causes of it in ourselves, address them, and avoid what leads us into temptation.” He suggests making an examination of conscience at the end of the day to look at each sin in context, ask for God’s mercy and grace and make a resolution to avoid those sins the next day.

Another suggestion is to journal about it and then go back to find patterns that could lead to a trigger or circumstance causing the sin. That can give clues about how to deal with those circumstances to respond differently the next time.

Desire to overcome sin

We have trouble doing  what we know is right because the enemy convinces us to give up the desire in our hearts to be good. If we don’t have the energy to please God, we won’t try very hard.

The solution is to ask the Holy Spirit to heal us and give us back the desire to please God.  A good goal is to ask God to help us eliminate one sin each year.

It is harder to work at avoiding sin than it is to say “the usual”  in confession partly because we’re kind of comfortable with those sins. They’re always there unless we decide we want to get rid of them. But change happens, if we want it.

A clean heart create for me, God;
renew in me a steadfast spirit. 

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Recovering from my broken leg with St. Ignatius of Loyola

November 22, 2013

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broken leg

Recommended reading whether or not you have a broken leg: the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo/koishikawagirl Licensed under Creative Commons

One morning in October as I was walking across a street near my home, a man in a truck didn’t see me as he crossed the intersection and hit me in the crosswalk.  The truck’s bumper broke my right femur like a karate block.

A week later, when my head cleared from the hospital, surgery and pain meds, I wanted to read about St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. I knew that he broke his leg and had a faith conversion during his recovery.

I’m convinced that when saints come to mind it’s because God’s already dispatched them to help us.

It turns out that St. Ignatius also broke his right leg–the shin bone–almost 500 years ago. After reading about the horrifically bungled medical treatment he received, I didn’t feel so bad about the titanium rod in my leg that now stabilizes the healing leg bone. I also couldn’t help noticing that St. Ignatius bore his pain very stoically. I compared that to all my inner and outward groaning.

Just as I read about his life during my recovery, St. Ignatius read the lives of saints during his.  Reading his story just inspired me but when he read about the saints he thought about outdoing them in works of penance. Since he hurt his leg while fighting as a knight, I guess he was still thinking competitively at that time.

Before his leg was healed, St. Ignatius had a deep conversion that resulted in a complete change of heart and a new direction for life.

That’s not to say that from then on he practiced only heroic virtue. One account states that he nearly died from his injury. Then he spent time in a cave battling his scruples and stubbornly refusing to eat until God granted him peace. (His confessor made him stop.) Later he wandered around asking himself what he was supposed to do next.

But beyond those times of weakness, St. Ignatius led an extraordinary life. I was amazed by his continual perseverance in seeking and following God’s will, his great courage in founding the Society of Jesus despite innumerable obstacles, and his faith in writing his Spiritual Exercises, which have helped many grow in faith.

St. Ignatius was pursued and accused a number of times during the Spanish Inquisition. He made a long, terrible journey to the Holy Land only to be ordered right back onto the ship to Spain once he got there. He was beaten, thrown in prison and almost always harassed for his efforts but he kept going.

St. Ignatius inspired me but in reading about his life I thought that the only thing we have in common is that we both broke our legs. He seemed too big to imitate.

Then St. Therese of Lisieux, also a patron of the missions, came to mind. I think she would tell me that there’s plenty of opportunity to practice heroic virtue right where I am in the ordinary challenges and inspirations of daily life.

Good things that have come from my injury include meeting up with this great founder of the Jesuits who broke his leg and also remembering the insights of another great saint, the Little Flower, who reminds me that my own path to holiness begins right here.

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