I still have notes from some of the talks given at the workshop on the Sacrament of Confession last summer in Baltimore by Dominicans from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. The following are the main points from a talk given by Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P., entitled “Hope, Despair, Presumption and Sloth”:
-Sometimes people come to confession who are full of despair, especially habitual sinners who are bringing the same sins. They lose hope that they can be helped.
-There is a need to fortify their hope that God is bigger than their sin, if they will give themselves to Him.
-Sometimes people think of hope as a passion, i.e., something that will help them attain some good in the future which is possible, but very difficult to obtain. That is too human a definition.
-Hope as a theological virtue has God as the object. Hope is in God, not in man.We don’t rely on our own natural capacities to get us to heaven. We cannot do it, but God is reliable to accomplish it.
-Hope is seated in the will. It is a type of confidence.
-How can hope go wrong?:
= Somebody could hope in the wrong thing. People sometimes hope in something less than God. People settle for much less than God. For example, there is the experience of misplaced hope when young spouses think their partner will totally satisfy every desire.
= Somebody could be mistaken about what type of help is needed, hoped-for. They can think that our salvation and goodness depend on our own strength. But the truth of the matter is that “God does not love us because we are good, but because He is good.”
-What about despair? First of all, distinguish between the temptation to despair versus the will to despair. Despair ultimately is something that a person chooses. Just because somebody is tempted, he or she need not choose to give in to despair.
-Great sadness can look like despair, but still only be a temptation. Do not mistake great sadness for actual despair that has been chosen by somebody. Be sure to make this distinction for people.
-Some people misunderstand God regarding his forgiveness. Although He is forgiving, they believe they cannot be forgiven for their particular sins. Many people are oppressed by the devil with this type of blackmail.
-One of the consequences of losing hope is the multiplication of sins, especially lust and sloth. With lust, you lose the taste for spiritual goods. With this loss, there is a spiritual sadness that results from looking upon the amount of work it will take to improve. Sloth wishes we were not called to the heights of heaven, because then we would not have to work so hard.
-A counterfeit of hope is presumption. Presumption assumes heaven is an easy good to acquire.
-To hope that someday I will be forgiven, when I will someday reform. This is not yet presumption. The person still realizes that reform has to happen.
-Despair and presumption both have lost the prod of conscience. Conscience no longer “wakes up” the person who has chosen despair.
-Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit connected to hope.
-Every gift/grace of God has a Christ-conforming quality, since Christ is the fountainhead of all graces.
-Charity means loving God above all things for His own sake, as the greatest good.
So there are some of the main points from Fr. Legge’s talk. I hope there is something useful for your meditation here.
On another note, I once again encountered somebody today who was raving about the rich life at St. Vincent’s Parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Without fail, in such conversations about what apparently is quite a dynamic parish, people tell me that there have been some 13 seminarians from that parish. How does that happen?! It is a large parish, apparently, and that helps. People say, “There is so much going on there.” There must be faithful families encouraging vocations. I think a couple of those descriptors fit Divine Mercy Parish. I am hoping that – by God’s grace – with our youth activities, worship from the heart of the Church, and holy families encouraging vocations, our parish can also give more priests to Holy Mother Church someday soon. Are vocations to priesthood and religious life encouraged in your home? Remember Bishop Thomas’ challenge when he visited our deanery soon after his appointment to the Diocese: Holy Disciples, Holy Families, Holy Vocations!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,