Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
I am writing this letter from my hotel room at the end of the first day of my conference in Baltimore: “Becoming a Better Confessor: Using the Virtues and Vices (of St. Thomas Aquinas) in the Confessional”. The conference – after only one day, as I write this – has been extremely refreshing. The speakers are some of the priests whose books I read back in my seminary days. They are wise men with years of pastoral experience. They all speak from the heart of the Church.
Instead of trying to take the time to craft a nicely flowing letter reproducing a talk, I thought I would do just as well giving you a list of bullet-points that I noted for your reflection from last night’s principle talk. The talk was given by Fr. Fred Miller, a close friend of the Thomistic Institute and the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., that is sponsoring the conference. The talk was entitled, “Humility, Pride and Vainglory in the Pastor”. Here are some of the talk’s main points:
-Humility is nothing other than the submission of oneself in love to God.
-Fr. Miller spoke of an adage his first pastor taught him: “1,000 mortal sins are better than one false principle.” By this he was referring especially to the battle that was being fought in post Vatican II years over the Church’s moral authority. Even priests (and some bishops) were teaching people wrongly that they could set themselves up above the Church in Her moral authority. This is the classic sin of pride. People were taught they could contracept, they could stop attending Mass, etc. Helping people form this prideful principle of action ruined them far worse than 1,000 mortal sins would have. That is to say, if they had committed 1,000 mortal sins out of weakness, but were still displeased with these sins and attempting to improve themselves, they would be in a much better place than if they learned to consider themselves a greater moral authority than the Church, deciding that they could decide something contrary in morality to what the Church is guided infallibly to teach. This was to help people eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve ate from. It was a flight from Christ and a flight from the Cross. And you have to have both: Christ and Cross.
-Many bishops in the United States actually started and supported general absolution their dioceses, by which people were led to believe that their mortal sins could be forgiven by a group absolution, without personal confession of sins. These bishops and their priests were largely responsible for the demise of the use of the confessional in our country. We are still struggling today to get back to the practice of confession. General absolution was never permitted for normal use. It is for emergencies only.
-We have to help people see the Sacrament of Penance from a mystical point of view. They have to realize that Jesus is embracing them in this sacrament. The grace of Calvary is being directly applied to their lives in this sacrament. Tell the people that Jesus on the Cross saw them specifically; and he longed to give Himself for them specifically. And this gift continues to be for them specifically mediated in the confessional.
-Realize that today’s current rejection of Church teaching against same-sex so-called marriage is directly related to the rejection of the Church’s teaching against contraception in the late 1960’s. Once you separate the procreative and unitive ends of the marital embrace, you have no grounds to argue against all the other permutations of marriage that people want to invent.
-Fr. Miller suggested that in this upcoming year of Mercy a special remedy to our dilemma could be emphasis on the confessional, where the mercy of Jesus is so powerfully administered.
-So many parishes for decades have made the sacrament of Penance available for only 30 minutes a week! This tells people the sacrament is not that important.
-Confession for the baptized soul is just as important as baptism is for the non-baptized soul.
-Priests can expect the Holy Spirit to be moving in people’s hearts as they preach the gospel, even when they are preaching about sin and the need to repent and come to Confession.
So there are the main highlights from Fr. Miller’s talk on the first evening. I will be back by the time you read this; but I will definitely continue to meditate on what I have heard… and hopefully serve my parish better because of it.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,