Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

7/29/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. (Rom. 5:20)

Any Catholic's spiritual life will be peppered with confessions.  Perhaps the ordinary, routine confessions are the bread and butter of the Catholic sacramental life.  But there are always those extraordinary confessions that stick out in one's mind as times of the resolution of crises, or times of extraordinary grace, or times of just plain beauty.  These are times when, reflecting back, you see how beautiful is this gift that God has given to the Church to be exercised by the ministerial priesthood. 

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/29/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: confession, reconciliation, penance, absolution, St. Isidore of Seville, Andrew Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In his Synonyma or On the Lamentations of a Sinful Soul (53), St. Isidore of Seville states: "Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin.  All hope consists in confession.  In confession is found the place of mercy.  Believe, therefore, most certainly, and in no way hesitate, in no way doubt, and by no means despair of the mercy of God.  Have hope in confession, have faith in it.  Do not despair of this remedy of spiritual health.  And do not despair in your healing, so long as you desire to turn to better things."

Any Catholic's spiritual life will be peppered with confessions.  Perhaps the ordinary, routine confessions are the bread and butter of the Catholic sacramental life.  But there are always those extraordinary confessions that stick out in one's mind as times of the resolution of crises, or times of extraordinary grace, or times of just plain beauty.  These are times when, reflecting back, you see how beautiful is this gift that God has given to the Church to be exercised by the ministerial priesthood. 

I recall, for example, the many confessions of my youth--Oh! would my sins today be as jejune, mere peccadilloes, as those of my youth!--with the Passionist priests at the parish of Santa Eduvigis in Caracas, Venezuela, whose black habits were blazoned with an oversized patch of Christ's heart surmounted by a cross, bearing JESUS XPI PASSIO, mysterious words which deeply impressed me.  Because of the Venezuelan custom, these confessions were so Marian ab initio.

"Ave Maria Purísima," the priest would begin, "Hail Mary Most Pure," to the shudder of any Protestant (were he or she within earshot).  To which the penitent was supposed to reply, "Sin pecado concebida," of "Conceived without sin."  I hardly knew the meaning of the words at my age, but they were to remind the penitent of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, our nature's solitary boast, who was perfectly redeemed  by the very Jesus she brought forth into the world, and who therefore was (and is) channel of God's grace.

Then there was the dark period, the fall from grace, when I turned away from the faith of my youth and lived a life so very far from God.  Here, confession was absent from my life, and I went from sin to sin, and never from grace to grace.  And it took such a long time to climb out of the sloughs of despond, the tar pits of sin, into which I had descended.

But God was not so easily defeated.  Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.  (Rom. 5:20)  His grace slowly found holes in the darkness with which I had enveloped my soul, and gently yet inexorably brought me back to Christ first, and then to his Church and her Sacraments.  One such event occurred in that confession where I was refused absolution by Fr. Bourgeois, C.S.C., which was a cause that led me back to the Church, and of which I wrote about in an earlier article.

Eventually, I returned to the Catholic Church, and I had to face the unpleasant prospect of a general confession.  How can I forget my late-night, two-and-one-half-hour, face-to-face general confession with the ever-patient Fr. Joseph Nielson, O.C.D., who--God bless his weary soul--would from time to time nod to sleep and I therefore had from time-to-time to waken.  It took some time to confess all the sins--in both number and kind--that I had amassed for the thirteen years from my last confession at age 13.  Though I scoured my conscience in an examination of conscience before the confession, I am sure I missed some, and so gained comfort from that wonderful Mother Hubbard clause suggested by most practical manuals, "for these and all my sins, I ask God's forgiveness." 

(I ask my readers to pray for the soul of this marvelous priest, a pro-life champion if there ever was one, the only religious priest I have known who jogged in his brown Carmelite habit, and who, unbeknownst to me, died this last March in San Antonio, Texas.  It was through the ministry of this Carmelite friar and priest that I convalidated my marriage, and was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  R.I.P.)

I remember the confession at St. Jude's Chapel in downtown Dallas, Texas, where a Filipino priest was yelling at a penitent (a person of the streets), so loudly that it reverberated in the small chapel: "Don't ever think for a moment that there is a sin that God cannot forgive!  To say that there is a sin that God cannot forgive is to say that your sin is greater than God's mercy.  That would mean that you are greater than God!  You clearly are not greater than God!  Banish that thought!" 

It is a lesson I've never forgotten.  I hope the penitent learned it also.

Then there was the confession to the misguided or just plain wicked priest at St. Mary's Church in Fredericksburg, Texas, with whom I entered into heated argument, as he tried to tell me a sin against chastity I had confessed was not a sin, when I knew (I had read my Prummer) that what I had confessed admitted of no parvity of matter.  If there is knowledge and consent, there is no such thing as a "little" sin against chastity, as the errant priest argued.

I recall my confession with the Irish Monsignor at the Cathedral in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I had the temerity to ask for more penance and was told to go to our local hospital and talk about God's love to two elderly patients, certainly the most unusual penance I ever performed.

How marvelous also, the confession at Assisi, at the Lower Basilica of St. Francis, above the crypt which held the remains of this great saint--the saint whose confirmation name I bear--at the wooden confessional that identified the language of the priest with a simple sign that said, "English."

And then there were those marvelous confessions during my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela where I had no sin to confess--not even a venial sin--since my last confession which may have been but a day ago, and so I had to bring up a past sin so as to have a matter to confess and set up the ability to receive the grace of confession.  The saints are probably used to this, but I am not.

A few of these confessions while en route to Santiago de Compostela were particularly memorable.  I remember my confession to the Augustinian canon at the Abbey of Roncesvalles in Navarre, Spain, who absolved me in the ancient Latin formula to my delight: Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat: et ego auctoritate ipsìus te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis, suspensionis, et interdicti, in quantum possum, et tu indiges.  Deinde ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis, in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.  (May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you, and by his authority I do absolve you from every bond of excommunication, suspension, and interdict, to the extent of my power and your need.  Finally, I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.)

Another memorable confession was the confession at the Cathedral of León, by the Altar of St. Peter, where by the full-bearded statued Peter above the altar next to the confessional were found the words in gold leaf: Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cælis.  (Matt. 16:19)  The Church is a Gothic gem that is a virtual cascade of colored glass, and there the silver-haired and cassocked priest told me, while he assigned me a Salve Regina for my penance, to give thanks for my pilgrimage for my pilgrimage was a gracia especial, a special grace.
 
(The relics of St. Isidore, who wrote the words I quoted at the beginning of this article, by the way, are at León, at the Basilica of San Isodoro.)

And how could I forget the quick confession at Santiago de Compostela where, above the crypt that held the remains of the Apostle St. James the Greater, I confessed shortly before the Mass at which they announced the end of our journey of 28 days.  ¡Un peregrino de los Estados Unidos!  The visit to the crypt, the confession, and the Mass--all three--were the pièce de résistance of a long journey dedicated entirely to the Lord.  A journey also in memory of my recently-deceased parents, for whose souls the Mass was said.

I remember the confession in the Duomo di Saló, Santa Maria Annunziata, in Saló, Italy, next to the beautiful Lago di Garda, where the elderly priest with the friendly brown eyes and a welcoming smile placed his two hands atop mine, and where I struggled to confess my sins in broken Italian and he struggled to respond in even more broken English.  Somehow God's mercy came through this comedy of errors in language.

Then there was the confession to the unknown priest at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where after a particularly serious moral lapse, I confessed a sin while literally sobbing--the donum lacrimarum, the gift of tears--in sorrow.  Sometimes the greatest sins evoke the greatest sorrow and bring the greatest grace.

Like all Catholics, I have encountered Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession through the ministry of the ministerial priesthood instituted by the Lord Jesus.  Jesus has touched me, reproved me, reprimanded me, taught me, but ultimately forgiven me through a whole host of his priests.  Some of them fat, some of them skinny.  Some in cassocks, some in habits, some in black suits, but all of them wearing purple stoles.  Some young, some old, and some of ages between.  Of all colors, of all cultures.  Some holy, some not so holy, and some even errant. 

But withal those human foibles and human weakness with which God is pleased to work and dress his grace, the grace of Jesus has always come through.  I have found that what St. Isidore of Seville wrote many centuries ago is as true today as when he once said it almost 14 centuries ago:

"Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin.  All hope consists in confession. In confession is found the place of mercy.  Believe, therefore, most certainly, and in no way hesitate, in no way doubt, and by no means despair of the mercy of God.  Have hope in confession, have faith in it.  Do not despair of this remedy of spiritual health.  And do not despair in your healing, so long as you desire to turn to better things."

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Living Faith

Christians shouldn't badmouth others, Pope warns Watch

Image of People are

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square this week, Pope Francis says that Christians must set a good example lest they drive people away into atheism. "How many times we've heard in our neighborhoods, 'Oh that person over there always goes ... continue reading


'Structural causes' of poverty must be dismantled, Pope tells activists Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a wide-ranging speech to activists, Pope Francis urged the gathered to join the fight against the "structural causes" of poverty and inequality, calling for a "revolutionary" program drawn from the Gospels. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The poor no ... continue reading


God's existence does not contradict the discoveries of science, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pontiff reassured that the Big Bang theory, as well as the theory of evolution do not eliminate the existence of God.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

God remains the one who set all of creation into motion, Pope Francis told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences this week. The pontiff reassured that the Big Bang theory, as well as the theory of evolution do not eliminate the existence of God. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Yesterday's Faith is Not Enough: How We Can Overcome Pride Watch

Image of Monks in prayer

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus continued to do what the Father had sent Him to do, in spite of opposition from apparently religious people. We are invited to follow his example. He will give us the grace to do so, if we ask Him. St Josemaria Escriva used a phrase to refer to the kind of ... continue reading


Christian rapper comes out of the closet --as straight Watch

Image of Jackie Hill-Perry is living testament to the power of God to change those who are willing to accept Him.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christian rapper, Jackie Hill-Perry has come out of the closet --as straight. Hill-Perry says she experienced gender confusion after being sexually abused as a child and sought same-sex relationships until she says God helped her to change for the better. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


Every Christian is 'to create unity in the Church,' Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of This creating of unity in the Church, the Pope said, recounting the reading from Saint Paul to the Philippians,

By CNA/EWTN News

In his homily for Mass at the Santa Marta residence on Oct. 24, Pope Francis reflected on the call of Christians to perpetuate unity in the Church by being "living stones" built upon the "cornerstone of Christ." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - This creating of ... continue reading


Abolish death penalty and life imprisonment, Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of The Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code, Pope Francis noted.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Calling for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, Pope Francis soundly denounced what he called a "penal populism." The world's prescribed cure for crime - punishment, should never overtake the pursuit for social justice, he says. LOS ... continue reading


Making a Difference - Newly beatified pope championed justice and peace

Image of Pope Paul VI addresses the UN during his 1965 appeal for peace.

By Tony Magliano

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on Oct. 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: "No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and ... continue reading


'War does not begin in the battlefield. Wars begin in the heart,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis addressed the topic of war. With the majority of the world engaged in some sort of battle, and it's up to the individual to realize that major conflicts begin with little things. LOS ... continue reading


Finding the Path to Peace Through Forgiveness Watch

Image of For he (Jesus) is our peace, he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father- St Paul

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In 1999 I was a part of Project Reconciliation led by a true peacemaker, paralyzed police officer Detective Steven McDonald. This trip was a part of Steven McDonald's mission of preaching peace through forgiveness. It had the goal of helping to heal the wounds ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Philippians 1:1-11
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! I give thanks to Yahweh with all my ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 14:1-6
1 Now it happened that on a Sabbath day he had gone ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 31st, 2014 Image

St. Wolfgang
October 31: Wolfgang (d. 994) + Bishop and reformer. Born in Swabia, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter