3 Things I Learned about the Sacrament of Confession


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 4, 2019.


According to the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus, “Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.” Written over 2,000 years ago, that advice remains ever relevant and new. Parenting feels like a daily battle. Frustrations brew, chaos ensues, and bedtime routine feels like WWIII.

More often than not, my anger gets the best of me. Fatherhood takes a lot of work. Some days I make excuses to not put in the work. Failure and faux pas have became habit. I desire a reset. A new beginning. I want to do better. Become something better. Become someone better for me kids.

Thankfully, I don’t have to look [or travel] that far for the remedy.

The Sacrament of Confession provides Catholics an opportunity to be forgiven and restore one’s relationship with God and their neighbor. St. Isidore of Seville wrote, “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in confession; in confession there is a chance for mercy.”

This school year my oldest child receives his First Confession and Eucharist. Next week he will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. My wife and I have been going through the religious education lessons to prepare him for an understanding and proper disposition to receive the sacrament of healing. In teaching him the basics about this sacrament, I too, actually learned something about Confession.

The Simpler Is Better

Albert Einstein famously quipped, “If you can’t explain it to a sixyearoldyou don’t understand it yourself.” It definitely takes a talent to be able to articulate the complexities of the Catholic faith to young minds. This is something I struggle with a bit, but I am getting better.

Simple is better

Less is more. I never actually understand that phrase until after going through these lessons with my son. Sometimes discussion about the sacraments can get bogged down with technical jargon or bias. Essentially the main questions kids and new converts to the faith wonder include:

  • What are sacraments?
  • Why are sacraments important?
  • How do I receive the sacraments

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1131, “The sacraments are efficacious [effective] signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” To put it is more basic terms, a sacrament is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace. By receiving the sacraments we grow closer to God.

A Brief History of Sin and Salvation

Adam and Eve disobeyed God. This disobedience caused sin to enter into the world. Sin separates us from God. God sent His only Son Jesus to restore that relationship through his death on the Cross. Before Jesus’ Ascension he promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit met the Apostles and gave them the ability to preach the Gospel.

Sacrament of Confession

The Apostles, the first bishops, ordained their successors. This Apostolic succession continued throughout history. Jesus gave Peter and the rest of the Apostles the authority to forgive sins (see John 20:1-23) and consecrate the Eucharist. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the successors of the Apostles (bishops) ordain men as priests. Jesus Christ works through those men in the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.

We explained to our son that Jesus is working through the priest.  When he will confess his sins to our priest it will actually be Jesus that he will be talking to and it will be Jesus who forgives sins. The priest is an instrument by which God works through.

Mercy

Another lesson I [re]learned in preparing my son for the Sacrament of Confession, is that everyone is in need of God’s mercy. “Even the pope goes to confession!” I told my eight-year-old. I went on to tell him about Saint Pope John XXII who received that sacrament daily.

Although the sacrament of Baptism cleanses us from original sin, humans still have the ability to freely choose to love or to not love God. Choosing to not love God or others results in sin or separation. As a father, I am definitely reminded of my need for forgiveness. Patience does not come naturally. This virtue gets tested daily, hourly, and sometimes every minute in the Chicoine household.

Being able to tell Jesus through the priest of my failures as a parent, husband, friend, worker, and neighbor is an incredible gift. Even more incredible is God’s mercy of absolving me from my past sins.

Reaping the Fruit of Our Sacramental Marriage

The third thing I learned about the Catholic faith while teaching my son about Confession is that the Holy Spirit delays certain gifts and gives them at key times in our life. My wife and I received the Sacrament of Matrimony in 2010. We took [and still take] our faith seriously. The primary purpose of marriage is to help the spouses grow in holiness.

Fruit

According  to the Catechism paragraph 1661,

The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

In my post Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity I wrote, “A fruit of the sacrament of marriage is children…I think of my children as the best gift that God has given me personally to grow in virtue daily.” Kids test your love. They give you opportunities to grow in understanding, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and gratitude to name just a few virtues. Educating our children about the faith provides my wife and I chances to rekindle our love for the Church and Christ.

before and after confession meme

If you are experiencing doubt, impatience, anger, resentment, worry, or other vices I strongly encourage you to examine your conscience and ask God for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession.  Build up the Body of Christ and seek God’s mercy!

Related Links

What is the Sacrament of Confession

Why I Love the Sacrament of Confession

Afraid of going to confession? Pray this prayer for courage

How the Sacrament of Confession is Prefigured in the Old Testament

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How to Cure the Universal Virus Humanity Suffers from

jesus is the cure

We are all infected with a virus. Right now. I’m not referring the coronavirus. Is it serious? Definitely. Apocalyptic like the media portrays? I’m not quite sure about that. But I do know that humanity suffers from a spiritual sickness. A universal virus—sin.

Lent is period patterned on the 40 days that Jesus prayed in the desert. Though tempted by the Devil, Christ never came into the allure of sin. You may feel an intense pull to put yourself over others. To gossip at work. Or despair over news coverage of the coronavirus.

Don’t give up if you failed your Lenten promise already. I am the first to admit that I failed miserably so far. Fear has controlled me. Dealing with my children who had influenza the past week combined with my overnight work schedule has led to me feeling worth down and susceptible to the attacks of the Enemy.

Fear is the Work of the Enemy

Driving to work around 9 p.m. I thought to myself, “Will this schedule ever end? I can’t keep going like this. I am already wanting to sleep and my shift hasn’t even started!” Honestly, I have been having similar thoughts more and more frequently.

Getting a good night sleep is necessary for both your body and your mind. While my body finally got used to the erratic sleep schedule, my mind still is scrambling.  Inadequate sleep during the winter is a scary combination. I have been depressed for the past several months.

Tonight I finally had even of it. I was struggling so much with doubts I had to rely on a proven strategy that helped me during negative times in the past. Finding a blank post-it note I wrote the sentence: “I am feeling an attack from the Enemy. He is using the weapons of despair and doubt.”

Subtle over Sudden

Satan creeps up on you gradually before going for the spiritual kill. Naming your sins  or spiritual struggles specifically are important in an examination of conscience before the Sacrament of Confession. Why not name the sins you are battling right now?

That is what I did. I named my failings: despair and doubt. The opposite of trusting in God. Trust involves not knowing the whole story. I gave into pride. I wanted control of my narrative and desired a guarantee of the outcome. How short was my memory? Had I forgotten the countless times God’s saved and provided for me in the past?

Light Dispels the Darkness of Doubt

light over dark

As mentioned before, rarely does the Devil go for the sudden approach. Temptations and attacks occurs in stages. Succumbing to sin is like using the dimmer on light in your living room. Slowly your life gets dimmer, darker, and ultimately light is gone—unless you turn back to the light.

In John 1:5 we read, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This light that John is referring to is Jesus. He became man for the salvation of all. We don’t have to live long to learn that light will dispel darkness. As children we asked our parents to have a nightlight to shine brightly to ward off fear of the dark. Lights in the form of lamps or lanterns prove effective in caves or dark forests.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He is the Light for us individually too. Trusting in God leads to a dispersal of doubt. Fear disappears from the trusting Light of Christ illuminates your life. I found this powerful quote by St. Maria Faustina. The Polish saint wrote, “I will not allow myself to be so absorbed in the whirlwind of work as to forget about God.  I will spend all my free moments at the feet of the Master hidden in the Blessed Sacrament.”  Incredible. How often do you find yourself swept up in the whirlwind of life. Work, suffering, or fleeting pleasures? All end in doubts and despair.

While sickness has prevented my family from attending the Mass or going to Eucharistic Adoration lately, I can still turn to Jesus in the forms of Scripture and writings from the saints.  Sin is a spiritual virus. The only cure is Jesus.

 

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3 Ways to Defeat Your Worst Enemy

Worst Enemy

American found Benjamin Franklin declared, “I have met the enemy, and it is the eyes of other people.” While his contributions to the start of the United States is undeniable along with his numerous skills as the premiere “Renaissance man”, I disagree with this quote of his. Other people are not our true enemy. Instead, your worst enemy is much closer. Your ego, pride, is the opponent that has to be slay daily. Franklin’s quip relates to the evil of envy. However, envy is not the greatest of sins, that claim belongs to pride. According to St. John Vianney, “Envy, my children, follows pride; whoever is envious is proud.”

Pride vs. humble

The root of all evil originates from believing yourself to be greater than others and ultimately the Other (God). Whenever, I get envious of others’ success, the underlying issue is that I am too prideful. In the past, I have struggled with seeing my co-workers’ promotions especially when they have less experience. Envy clouds my judgment causing me to drive a wedge between myself and others. Jealousy only exists due to my ego. My worst enemy is myself. Your worst enemy is you! Over the course of my life, I have gained a few strategies to combat myself. We will discuss three of the most effective weapons to erode the ego!

Humiliation

Twentieth century French philosopher Simone Weil wrote, “The only way into truth is through one’s own annihilation; through dwelling a long time in a state of extreme and total humiliation.” My experiences as a parents testify to the veracity of his claim. Prior to becoming a dad, I believed any child acting up or acting out was “naughty”. In many cases, I judged the parents of “misbehaving” kids as “lazy” or “ill-informed”.

Becoming a parent certainly humbled me. Walking back from the communion line carrying a screaming toddler shot down my ego. Whispering to tell my daughter, “You cannot call your brother a butthole! That is not expected.” while entering their SCHOOL is not a better alternative. My wife and I laughed at the “Children are like Drunk People” Memes—until we realized nearly all the memes described our kids!

C.S. Lewis declared, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Parenthood necessary entails humility because you are forced to think of your children. Born they are helpless. Babies, toddlers, kids, and teens take time. Time away from being focused on yourself. If you think about yourself too much don’t worry—kids are quick to remind that they need help. Nothing kills the ego like having to put others’ needs above your own!

Take Perspective

Perspective taking

Along with being humble, another good thing to focus on to defeat pride is taking proper perspective. American businessman and author Al Neuharth plainly declared, “The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective. My wife and I recently purchased Superflex … a Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum to help manage our older children’s reactions to problems. Earlier this week we watched the first episode on YouTube.

Although geared for younger audiences, shifting perspective does not have a specific age range. Everyone can learn to be less rigid in thinking, myself especially! Oftentimes, I make mountains out situations in reality are much smaller in scope. Taking time at the beginning or end of the day to reflect on whether your reaction matched the size of the problem will help keep your ego in check!

Be Patient—Ask for Patience!

Patience is a strong weapon to have in your utility belt in the battle against the self. Matthew Kelly stated in his book Rediscovering Catholicism, “Our lives change when our habits change.”  Change sucks!  Transforming bad habits into good takes time and is painful. It is easy to get defeated. I personally struggle with anger, impatience, and pride. I get impatient that I do not possess the gift of patience always!

Waiting for Patience

St. Augustine declared, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Wisdom takes times—years and years! It is not an instant process. The paradox regarding patience is we cannot wait to acquire that virtue. Patience cannot be earned on your own merit. It must be asked. Ask daily. Ask hourly if necessary.Robert P. Reed wrote in Renewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts, And Revive Your Catholic Faith, “The Holy Spirit is the origin of all the gifts, talents, and abilities we need to be of service to others” (p.11).

St. Teresa of Avila best describes the power of waiting, “Patience obtains all things!” Over the years, I am slowly realizing the truth to her statement. Through patience I have learned to whittle down my rough edges of the ego—smoothing out my rash outbursts and judgment. I am still far from rounded out as a person, but I am aiming to improve daily.

Pride is the root of all other evils. Selfishness must be combated on a daily basis in order to live a peacefully, joyfully, and authentically. Asking for the virtues of humility and patience together with perspective taking daily will allow you to defeat your worst enemy—yourself!


Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices

 

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Lost Sheep–Praying for the Conversion of Catholic Politicians Who Allow Abortion

all lives matter.png

Words cannot truly describe the evil passage of the New York State bill permitting abortion through the entirety of pregnancy. Pro-lifers and faithful Catholics across the nation call for the bishops to excommunicate Governor Andrew Cuomo–a Catholic!

My initial reaction to passage of this heinous bill was anger. Anger of the fact this bill could even possibly been drafted. Anger at the governor for promptly signing this legislation.

Several days have passed since news broke. As a result, I have had a chance to ponder and reflect on the situation. While I still harbor anger at the bill, the main feeling is that of sadness. I am saddened for the poor souls whose life will be ended before it hardly began. I am saddened by the woman who believe abortion would be their only option. Finally, I am saddened that the officials in government, in particular Governor Cuomo, committed such a heinous offense and thus endangering their souls.

A week ago I would have first and foremost called Andrew Cuomo a laundry list of adjectives: vile, evil, sinister, deplorable, despicable, etc. I even would need to go to a thesaurus as even those would not justly describe his actions. Although I still vehemently denounce his approval of the bill, I now believe a more apt description of Cuomo is that he is ill. No rational and healthy person would allow for third term abortions (really any abortion) to even come into discussion.

salvationmeme

Just as with a physical sickness, the illness of sin causes separation from God which results in a distorted view on goodness, truth, and beauty. Andrew Cuomo signed an objective evil bill into state law. He may appear as a lost cause. But that cannot be further from the truth. According to St. Monica, “Nothing is far from God.” God’s mercy is infinite and mysterious. The parable of the lost sheep applies even in the 21st century. I used to only think of the spiritually lost in terms of people who commit the primary sin directly: prostitutes, murderers, robbers, and terrorists. What if God’s mercy could extend to corrupt politicians as well?! Politicians who may not directly ‘killed the unborn’, but whose ambition for power may have caused them to sell out their moral principles.

We as a pro-life movement need to not only speak out for the unborn and educate about the evils of abortion, but we need to pray just as fervently–perhaps even more, for the conversion of those politicians complicit in allowing abortion legislation to become legal! I will offer up daily sacrifices and increase my prayers for Divine Mercy to bring Andrew Cuomo back to the Catholic Church and realize that all life is sacred.

divinemercyimage

True beauty involves realizes the Ultimate Good if God and following the golden rule in our lives. Jesus proclaimed in Luke 15:7, I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Pray ardently for Andrew Cuomo that he may realize his errors and ask for pardon and forgiveness. If that occurs it will be a beautiful sight and cause for jubilation!


Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer for the Unborn

Lord Jesus, 
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence the Church and the history of men; You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood render us participants in divine Life and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life; We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life, truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life, make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb the miraculous work of the Creator, open our hearts to generously welcoming every child that comes into life.

Bless all families, sanctify the union of spouses, render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies with the light of your Spirit,so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors, so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person, and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists, so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions so that young families can serenely embrace the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer because they are unable to have children and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children, so they may experience the warmth of your Charity, the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer, in whose womb you took on our human nature, we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior, the strength to love and serve life, in anticipation of living forever in You, in communion with the Blessed Trinity. 

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Missing Pieces or Finding Peace—How the Puzzling Brokenness of Human Nature Leads to God

Saint Augustine’s simple and ageless maxim, “Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him” resonates with mankind regardless of history and time. No amount of material possessions, health, or control over finances will provide lasting and authentic happiness and peace. Humanity is naturally a broken species—greed, pride, anger, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy abound. This truth is evident simply by noticing daily interaction with yourself and others. Perfectibility in the human race—eugenics—was tried and failed many times, arguably most notoriously during the Nazi regime in the mid-20th century. True perfection does not occur through purely human willpower and scientific advancement. Rather authentic perfection—or holiness is achieved through cooperating with the Divine Will.

Possessing all the catechetical knowledge in the world will not ensure that a person has the puzzle of life solved. A relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to fill that “God-shaped” hole in my soul/complete the puzzle of life. As a perfectionist, I struggle mightily with falling into the heresy of Pelagianism. St. Augustine, himself, battled the false teaching of the monk Pelagius. Heresies rise and fall. Pope Francis warned of the dangers of this heresy in his encyclical letter Gaudete Et Exsultate. He declared,

Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset, even though they speak warmly of God’s grace, “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style”.[46] When some of them tell the weak that all things can be accomplished with God’s grace, deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added. (no. 49).

Awill lacking humility cannot fix the human condition no matter one’s tenacity and intellectual prowess. As I mentioned before I struggle with relying on my willpower over cooperation with my Creator’s gift of grace He bestowed on me. After a frustrating situation at work, I expressed concerns to my manager, “I did everything right. I provided accurate information, willingness, to help, and empathy to customer situations. Normally, I am able to control/steer nearly all my customer interactions to a positive outcome. I wish I could have this influence for all situations.”

Listening intently to my concerns, my manager acknowledged my frustrations yet added this profoundly simple, but very applicable analogy—that of a jigsaw puzzle. “Imagine you are working on a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle and you completed everything perfectly. When you get to the end you discover there is a piece missing. No matter how perfectly you worked with that piece missing the puzzle is still incomplete. Some customer conversations are like that. You may do everything perfect on your end, but still a piece is missing to prevent your perfect result.”

Now I am not aware of my manager’s theological leanings. His analogy originally meant to be for a practical workplace example, after further reflection I learned that this example of a puzzle missing a piece applies to my faith life as well. Willing myself toward perfection and completion cannot happen because a piece of missing in the puzzle of my life—a God-shaped hole!

C.S. Lewis stated “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin.” Humanity cannot evolve out of the original brokenness of human nature ushered in through the Fall of Adam and Eve. Time and time again my hubris leads to the danger relying solely on my will. However, God’s merciful gift of confession allows me to exercise my free will to cooperate with Divine grace to complete the puzzle of my life and overcome my inclinations for self-centeredness. True peace only happens when we have a relationship with God.


Trying to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts with things other than God is like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles. —Peter Kreeft

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Sufferings of a Simple Catholic

To be honest, I did not think I have the strength to even write about anything today. I thought exerting any real mental exercises and strain today would lead to my incapacitation. What am I talking about? Am I being overly dramatic? Perhaps, I probably am not in a good frame of mind at this point of the week. Let me at least try to explain my situation and I can let you be the judge of that.

Over the course of the past week I’ve experienced the funeral of my grandfather and persistent fevers and severe flu-like symptoms from everyone in my family including: my three young children.  I’m nearly exhausted the amount of PTO I’m able to utilize for this month–and possibly the next month. Both my wife and I are sleep deprived. I’m definitely past the point of exhaustion and almost crossed the line of delirium.

sleep-deprivation-gif.gif

I’ve really struggled in my spiritual life the last week. Frankly, my relationship with God has been fractured and virtually nonexistent. Sure I could point to several valid (but are they truly!) reasons for why I have not relied on God during my time of turmoil. Some of you may be quick to forgive me—others maybe not. Ultimately, I need to ask Our Father in Heaven for forgiveness.

Doubt, despair, hopelessness, destitution, weakness in faith, and spiritual sloth have been the fruits of my suffering. Jesus Christ clearly teaches in Luke 6:43-45,

43“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.44For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.45A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

indictment

My reactions to the suffering I encountered this week are an indictment on my spiritual resolve. The one benefit to my failings in my spiritual life is that one thing is clear – I’m at a crossroads. I can either choose the path of sanctity through redemptive suffering or I let wallowing in self-pity dominate my attitude and view suffering as purposeless.

The central event of human history is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His redemptive suffering ties together the fabric of reality. Every person is given a choice: to accept the cross gracefully or flee from it. Sometimes people choose the cross during a significant watershed moment in their life – like Saint Paul’s conversion. Most people have to choose the cross of Jesus Christ daily. This choice is the most important choice in our life. This choice determines whether we are a saint, a child of God, or sycophant of the world.

deny-mysefl

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Suffering will come, trouble will come – that’s part of life; a sign that you are alive. If you have no suffering and no trouble, the devil is taking it easy. You are in his hand.” I need to be continually reminded that suffering is part and parcel of living. Only by joyfully taking up my struggles and uniting them to the redemptive suffering of Jesus’ suffering, death, and Resurrection will I truly find moments of peace during the storms of life!

 

Hope-Slider

Dear Lord,
Help me [us all] to remember in these troubled times
The cross you carried for my sake,
So that I may better carry mine
And to help others do the same,
As I offer up (my sufferings) to you
For the conversion of sinners
For the forgiveness of sins
In reparation for sins
And for the salvation of souls. Amen

 

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