How Often Should Catholics Go To Confession?

Are You There When You Need To Be?

Are You There When You Need To Be?

Stories abound about how often some notably holy people went to confession.  Bl. John Paul II is said to have gone to confession every two weeks.  Bl. Mother Teresa is said to have gone to confession every day.  Does that mean we of lesser holiness ought to be going at least that often? If not, how often?

Here is some advice that I received from a friendly priest about this question:

+     We should always go to confession when we are aware of having committed a mortal sin or a serious venial sin.  We should go as soon as possible.  Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a priest if need be.

+     We may go to confession for regular venial sins, but should remember that the Church offers numerous ways to obtain forgiveness for those sins without full sacramental confession, such as the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist.

+     We should be aware that any religious practice can become rote.  Going to confession for the sake of going to confession can becomes rote and is not a good practice.  We should go to confession when we are aware of sin, are truly sorry, and want God’s forgiveness.

+     Don’t be worried or discouraged if you seem to confess the same sins over and over again.  Just keep working on overcoming them with God’s grace.

+     We should pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten our consciences so that we can avoid sin in the first place, know when we need to go to confession, and make a good confession when we get there.

photo source (wikimedia, creative commons, Adam Smith)

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Updated: How To Strengthen Your Faith In College

This post was published last winter.  Now that it is getting to be back to school season, it seems that now is a good time to re-publish it.  I added some additional thoughts at the end.

___________

Will The Crucifix Be There In Four Years?

How do you keep your faith in college? It can be done. 

The following advice was written by Peter Bullen, a Stanford grad, who has long been a member of the St. Francis of Assisi.

1.    Make a conscious decision to love every single person you meet.  Love is an action rather than a feeling, so it’s the key to living your faith actively.

2.    Love yourself because God loves you and you are His child.  College is hard, and you will fail sometimes, so you may have a hard time loving yourself, but if you don’t love yourself, it’s harder to love others and love God.

3.   Get involved in a Christian fellowship on campus.  Christian friends can support each other in their faith and encourage each other towards Christ.  We’re all members of the Body of Christ, so we’re meant to work together.

4.  Pray and share your faith with your friends.

5. Take time to pray when you have down time, such as when you’re walking to class.  Praying often helps you keep God at the center of your life.

6. Put your faith into your regular schedule.  For example, go to daily mass on a certain day of every week or read the Bible at a certain time.

7. Do not be afraid to ask questions about your faith.  Questions can help you grow if you take the effort to find the answers.

8. At times when you doubt your faith, be active instead of passive. Pray for stronger faith, talk to someone who has a strong faith, and learn more about your faith.

9.   Learn more about the mass and the Eucharist.  The mass can be so rewarding if want to love it.

10. Participate in a community service activity.  Faith without works is dead.

Update (August 6, 2011):

I would add a couple of thoughts to Peter’s excellent summary.

+    Everything your professors think they know about Catholicism is wrong.  Their mistakes will seep into their teaching (mostly) unknowingly and they will rarely reflect well on the Church and her teaching. Most often, they will say or suggest that Catholic Church believes “X” and imply that “X” is really stupid.  Stop and think: Would a billion Catholics believe it if it were really stupid?  Would the Church teach it if it were really stupid?  Is this professor really smarter than some of the most brilliant thinkers known to history — St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bl. John Paul II — thinkers who believed what the professor is mocking?  Uh, no.

So, if they tell you something troubling about Catholicism or the Church, ask someone who knows.  You will find either that the professor has misstated what we and you believe or that the professor simply does not know why we believe what we do — reasons that the Church has probably believed and taught for, oh-I-don’t-know, centuries.

+     “The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.”  Bl. John Paul II, 2002.

In college, you will experience new-found freedom.  Much of the so-called ‘college experience’ is nothing more than an attempt to find happiness by “excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.” Have lots of fun — just choose your fun well.

+     Grace.  Participate in the sacraments — they are the ordinary means of receiving sanctifying grace.  More than anything you need grace.  Grace opens the door to Heaven — nothing else.  Your faith will wither without it.

+     The Church Will Always Be There For You.  The Church carries within her and freely gives out a love like no other.   Your professors don’t.  The guy you met in the bar who’s plying you with drinks and pretending that he likes you doesn’t.  The girl who’s doing shots with you so she can forget what she’s about to do doesn’t. They won’t be there when the chips are down.  They will abandon you; the Church will not.

Updated: How To Strengthen Your Faith In College

This post was published last winter.  Now that it is getting to be back to school season, it seems that now is a good time to re-publish it.  I added some additional thoughts at the end.

___________

Will The Crucifix Be There In Four Years?

How do you keep your faith in college? It can be done. 

The following advice was written by Peter Bullen, a Stanford grad, who has long been a member of the St. Francis of Assisi.

1.    Make a conscious decision to love every single person you meet.  Love is an action rather than a feeling, so it’s the key to living your faith actively.

2.    Love yourself because God loves you and you are His child.  College is hard, and you will fail sometimes, so you may have a hard time loving yourself, but if you don’t love yourself, it’s harder to love others and love God.

3.   Get involved in a Christian fellowship on campus.  Christian friends can support each other in their faith and encourage each other towards Christ.  We’re all members of the Body of Christ, so we’re meant to work together.

4.  Pray and share your faith with your friends.

5. Take time to pray when you have down time, such as when you’re walking to class.  Praying often helps you keep God at the center of your life.

6. Put your faith into your regular schedule.  For example, go to daily mass on a certain day of every week or read the Bible at a certain time.

7. Do not be afraid to ask questions about your faith.  Questions can help you grow if you take the effort to find the answers.

8. At times when you doubt your faith, be active instead of passive. Pray for stronger faith, talk to someone who has a strong faith, and learn more about your faith.

9.   Learn more about the mass and the Eucharist.  The mass can be so rewarding if want to love it.

10. Participate in a community service activity.  Faith without works is dead.

Update (August 6, 2011):

I would add a couple of thoughts to Peter’s excellent summary.

+    Everything your professors think they know about Catholicism is wrong.  Their mistakes will seep into their teaching (mostly) unknowingly and they will rarely reflect well on the Church and her teaching. Most often, they will say or suggest that Catholic Church believes “X” and imply that “X” is really stupid.  Stop and think: Would a billion Catholics believe it if it were really stupid?  Would the Church teach it if it were really stupid?  Is this professor really smarter than some of the most brilliant thinkers known to history — St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bl. John Paul II — thinkers who believed what the professor is mocking?  Uh, no.

So, if they tell you something troubling about Catholicism or the Church, ask someone who knows.  You will find either that the professor has misstated what we and you believe or that the professor simply does not know why we believe what we do — reasons that the Church has probably believed and taught for, oh-I-don’t-know, centuries.

+     “The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.”  Bl. John Paul II, 2002.

In college, you will experience new-found freedom.  Much of the so-called ‘college experience’ is nothing more than an attempt to find happiness by “excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.” Have lots of fun — just choose your fun well.

+     Grace.  Participate in the sacraments — they are the ordinary means of receiving sanctifying grace.  More than anything you need grace.  Grace opens the door to Heaven — nothing else.  Your faith will wither without it.

+     The Church Will Always Be There For You.  The Church carries within her and freely gives out a love like no other.   Your professors don’t.  The guy you met in the bar who’s plying you with drinks and pretending that he likes you doesn’t.  The girl who’s doing shots with you so she can forget what she’s about to do doesn’t. They won’t be there when the chips are down.  They will abandon you; the Church will not.

Bl. John Paul Provides A Key To Understanding The First Letter Of John

Yesterday, we Church Guys discussed the first two chapters of the First Letter of St. John.  John’s use of light/dark imagery struck us quite clearly.  The full meaning of the imagery seemed somewhat distant, though, and we struggled to grasp for ourselves the full force of John’s exhortation.

Last night, I came across Bl. John Paul II’s World Youth Day homily in Toronto in 2002.  He began with these words:

1. On a hillside near the lake of Galilee, Jesus’s disciples listened to his gentle and urgent voice; asgentle as the landscape of Galilee itself, as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between truth and falsehood. The Lord spoke words of life that would echo for ever in the hearts of his followers.

Today he is speaking the same words to you, the young people of Toronto and Ontario, of the whole of Canada, of the United States, of the Caribbean, of Spanish-speaking America and Portuguese-speaking America, of Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Listen to the voice of Jesus in the depths of your hearts! His words tell you who you are as Christians. They tell you what you must do to remain in his love.

2. But Jesus offers one thing, and the “spirit of the world” offers another. In today’s Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus leads us from darkness into light (cf. Eph 5,8). Perhaps the great Apostle is thinking of the light that blinded him, the persecutor of Christians, on the road to Damascus. When later he recovered his sight, nothing was as before. He had been born anew and nothing would ever take his new-found joy away from him.

You too are called to be transformed. “Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5, 14), says Saint Paul.

The “spirit of the world” offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.

Compare the words “There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love” with the first two chapters of John’s letter.  Isn’t this exactly what John meant?  False prophets — whether in religious garb or the sirens of a culture that proclaim that one can find “freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility” — literally darken and then extinguish the very light of Christ in young people’s souls.  John’s letter is broader — he warns all of us about this danger and then exhorts all of us to fight it through faith in Christ.

“I Like Bein’ A Catholic!”

The title says it all:

(c) 2009 justinstroh

Don’t mess with the Swiss Guard.  Bonus points for anyone who can name all of the Cardinals/Saints/Blesseds in the video.

Is There A Doctor In The House? Doctors of the Church

A “Doctor” of the Church is a person, officially proclaimed by a pope, whose life shows:

1) holiness that is truly outstanding, even among saints;

2) depth of doctrinal insight; and

3) an extensive body of writings which the church can recom­mend as an expression of the authentic and life-giving Catholic Tradition.

(Further details are here).  There are 33 doctors:  30 are men and 3 are women.  John Paul II proclaimed the most recent doctor of the Church.  Who was she? Hint: She told the story of her soul.  Who are the other two women?  One was known for her dialogues and speaking very frankly to the Holy Father (as Italians are wont to do) and the other spent much time in her interior castle.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of many of the men: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome.  Some others are little more obscure: St. Ephraem the Deacon, St. Anselm (unless you are a philosophy major),  and St. Bonaventure (St. Francis of Assisi’s right-hand man).

Of the writings that I am familiar with, St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Theresa’s Interior Castle, and St. Therese’s Story of a Soul are the best.

Is Catholic Social Justice Teaching Pro-Family?

Although having made peace with Catholic social justice teaching, it still seems to me that it provides at best an imperfect tool to making real world policy choices.

Certainly, there are some absolutes. Pro-life. Either the baby is dead or the baby isn”t. But as soon as one goes beyond that set of issues, trade-offs begin. These trade offs don’t necessarily undermine the principle. But made often enough and openly enough, the practical wisdom implied in the trade off becomes the new principle.

At least in those instances, the trade-off isn’t necessarily open and obvious. But sometimes it is. When Catholic social justice teaching trades off one principle, it undermines the devalued principle and ultimately the effectiveness and legitimacy of the public policy aspect of social justice enterprise.

A recent column that appeared in the Washington Post by Robert Samuelson made this point well.

Samuelson first pointed out a new USDA study of the costs of raising kids. As any parent will tell you, it’s expensive. Although there are many variables (upper income families spend more; families with fewer kids spend more per kid), it’s about $12,000 per kid and they get more expensive as they get older… and that doesn’t count college (see “Just Say No” –which will be the subject of another post).

Samuelson then writes:

Our society does not — despite rhetoric to the contrary — put much value on raising children. Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly. Meanwhile, tax breaks for children are modest. If deficit reduction aggravates these biases, more Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children.

As an economist, he then applies this to the economic realm. But what about Catholics? Can it be said that “despite rhetoric to the contrary” that the Catholic Church or, at least, Catholic Social Justice Teaching, does not put “much value on raising children.” As a matter of doctrine, the answer is certainly “no.” But what happens when a new, expensive social program is proposed — one that trades massive new taxes, massive new social controls (e.g., your diet and BMI), for the chimera of universally available material good “X” or service “Y.” What if the program imposed 8% payroll tax, promised that no one would lack funds in retirement, but at the price of weakening family ties between older and younger family members? Does the Church or Catholic Social Justice teaching ever hold up the self-sacrifice inherent in family life as a legitimate form of sacrifice? I think the Church as a whole does, but I fail to see it in Catholic Social Justice teaching.

There are several conclusions to draw, but I will close with, perhaps, the blandest one of all. The Bishops and the Catholic social thinkers need to integrate family life — the domestic church — into social teaching. The current reflexive attachment to any government program that asks us to bow down before it and it will give us every material things — after all, it will help some people — needs to be rethought so that we don’t undermine one good in our imperfect pursuit of another.

Samuelson column — higher cost of living necessarily decreases family ties; CST has a strong component of re-distribution as an aspect of charity – sometimes it’s forced into an inequality model, but seems to be mostly charity. The agent of re-distribution is the federal government. (theoretically, the individual redistributes part of his wealth and the FG is only the agent; but he also redistributes part of others’ wealth too).

CST – if this is a part of CST – encourages large families. Domestic church. vocation to hand on the faith and to model virtue. “Be fertile and multiply”

There’s a contradiction or tension here. Higher costs mean less ability from a prudential perspective to raise kids well and fulfill the domestic church’s vocation. So couples take a number of steps in response. Limiting family size. Also other intergenerational breakdown. No need to support my mom since she’s got medicare and social security etc. “Independence’ but it’s really a new form of dependence because those options inevitably close off others.

Demographic winter?