Remember – this Monday, December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and a Holy Day of Obligation. Many think it is about the conception of Jesus, but it is not. This Feast is a celebration of Mary’s immaculate conception. Here is some more information that helps to clarify this feast:
Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest, and not directly to Jesus? Why is it so important to go to Confession?
Catholics always confess their sins to God. We do it directly as well as through His ministers because that is what God requires, as clearly taught in Scripture.
The Sacrament of Penance is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ Himself on Easter Sunday, when He first appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection. Breathing on them, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). Jesus is clearly giving the disciples the authority to forgive, and not to forgive sins.
Think about it . . . the only other time that God breathed on anyone was when He breathed life into the first human being. (Genesis 2:7.) Both breathing instances were that of an intimate and very powerful moment between God and man.
Sacraments are an outward sign of an inward grace. In this case, the outward sign is the absolution, or forgiveness of sins, that the priest grants to the penitent (the person confessing his sins); the inward grace is the reconciliation of the penitent to God.
But how would His priests” forgive or retain” unless they actually “hear” the sins? If Jesus intended for everyone to confess their sins directly to God, why would Jesus need to give His apostles the authority to forgive? In Matthew 18:18, Jesus again gives the apostles authority to forgive sins by stating: “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever y shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” Powerful stuff here.
There are many non-Catholic Christians who believe that sins are wiped away in Baptism. This means they believe that their ministers or pastors are used by God as His instruments in the forgiveness of sins through a sacrament, Baptism, which they administer. Catholics also believe this about Baptism, but we also believe that priests are used by God as His instruments for the forgiveness of sins in three sacraments: Confession, Anointing of the Sick, and Baptism. Many Christians believe God can use their ministers and pastors as instruments in His physical healing, so why wouldn’t God do the same with spiritual healing?
Three things are required of a penitent in order to receive the sacrament worthily: You must be sorry for your sins; you must confess those sins fully, in kind and in number to the best of your knowledge, and you must be willing to do penance and make amends for your sins. Since it was instituted by Christ as the proper form for the forgiveness of sins, the Catholic Church requires us to receive it at least once per year, and whenever we have committed a mortal sin. The Church strongly recommends that we take advantage of the sacrament often, since it confers graces that help us to live a Christian life. It is a beautiful gift that we should embrace and use frequently. Many people go once a month, some every week. We all need more grace in our lives.
Remember, to receive Holy Communion worthily, you must be in a state of grace. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:27–28). To receive the Eucharist without sanctifying grace in your soul profanes the Eucharist in the most grievous manner.
As Christ well knew, to confess your sins to a priest, whom God has given the authority to be His stand-in, and actually state aloud the sin is not an easy thing to do. It requires humility, a heart-felt examination of conscience, trust in God and His Church, and a true contrition of heart. It can often seem like a frightening, humiliating act, especially if you have been away from it for years. But once you do, it is guaranteed that a relief and cleansing will immediately follow, as well as a strong sense of forgiveness. There is no doubt that you are forgiven when you hear the words of absolution spoken from Jesus’ representatives on earth, His priests.
Nothing in the world can compare to the joy of the soul after a good confession. The veil of sin falls away and the light of grace fills the soul. If you have not been to confession in a while – just go. God knows we all need it. If you’re nervous, pray for peace in your heart, and that you will make a good confession.
Don’t be afraid – just go – and keep going back. What a great way to start off the Advent season. This Christmas try to step back a bit from the focus on gifts and the commercialization of this holy season. Instead perhaps take some time to turn your focus on the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Have fun, celebrate with family and friends, but take time to pray, serve others, and really think about the impact that the birth of Christ has made on our world. Confession is a beautiful way to prepare your hearts for his arrival, and will give you true joy and peace.
God loves you and can’t wait to see you at Confession. Trust in His mercy. Just go. How about today?
The medal of St. Benedict is a very powerful sacramental.
According to the Benedictines, “The purpose of using the medal is to call down God’s blessing and protection on us, wherever we are, and upon our homes and possessions, especially through the intercession of St. Benedict. The medal is a prayer of exorcism against Satan, a prayer in time of temptation, a prayer for peace among ourselves and among the nations of the world, a prayer that the cross of Christ be our light and guide, a prayer of firm rejection of all that is evil, a prayer of petition that we may with Christian courage walk in God’s ways, with the Gospel as our guide.”
It is known that Saint Benedict had a deep and strong faith in the Cross of Jesus Christ, and how he worked miracles with the sign of the cross. God wants to protect us from evil and danger of all kinds. The purpose of using the medal in any of the above ways is to call down God’s blessing and protection upon us, upon our homes and possessions, especially through the intercession of St. Benedict.
By carrying the Medal of Saint Benedict with us, we embody the Holy Cross and the Rule of Saint Benedict, and use it as protection from evil and danger. It can be worn on a chain around the neck, attached to one’s rosary, kept in one’s pocket or purse, or placed in one’s car or home or workplace.
The one rule about the St. Benedict Medal (whether it is on a Crucifix or not) is that it be properly blessed by a priest with the Benedictine blessing. Dear St. Benedict, pray for us.
Holy Saturday (in Latin, Sabbatum Sanctum), the ‘day of the entombed Christ’, is the Lord’s day of rest, for on that day Christ’s body lay in His tomb. We recall the Apostle’s Creed, which says “He descended unto the dead.” It is a day of suspense between two worlds, that of darkness, sin and death, and that of the Resurrection and the restoration of the Light of the World. For this reason no divine services are held until the Easter Vigil begins that night. This day between Good Friday and Easter Day makes present to us the end of one world and the complete newness of the era of salvation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.
Nightfall on Holy Saturday is time for joy and greatest expectation because of the beautiful liturgy of the Easter Vigil, often referred to as the Mother of all Holy Vigils, or the Great Service of Light. The Easter Vigil was restored to the liturgy in 1955, during the liturgical reform that preceded the Second Vatican Council.(Women for Faith and Family website)
Remember, it’s Good Friday – just like Ash Wednesday, Good Friday is a day of penance observed by BOTH fasting (only one full meal during the day) and abstinence from meat. All other Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence; we forego the eating of meat to make ourselves conscious of our Lord’s sacrifice of Himself for our sins. The law of fasting is binding for those who are 18 years old but not yet 60; the law of abstinence is binding for those 14 years of age and older.
Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. Abstinence refers to the avoidance of certain foods. The most common form of abstinence is the avoidance of meat, a spiritual practice that goes back to the earliest days of the Church.
Catholics over the age of 14 are required to abstain from meat and from foods made with meat in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday.
According to the USCCB, “abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chicken, cows, sheep or pigs – all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater specaes of fish, amphibians, reptiles (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.”
Many Catholics do not realize that the Church still recommends abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. In fact, if we don’t abstain from meat on non-Lenten Fridays, we’re required to substitute some other form of penance.
The Easter Triduum (sometimes called the Paschal Triduum) begins on Holy Thursday with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, is continued through Good Friday with the celebration of the Passion of the Lord and Holy Saturday, reaches its summit in the Easter Vigil, and concludes with Vespers (evening prayer) of Easter Sunday.
Holy Thursday is the day on which Christ celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples. This is the day we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.
During the Last Supper, Christ blessed the bread and wine with the same words that Catholic and Orthodox priests use today to consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass. In telling His disciples to “Do this in remembrance of Me,” He instituted the Mass and made them the first priests. During the Last Supper, Jesus offers himself as the Passover sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb, and teaches that every ordained priest is to follow the same sacrifice in the exact same way.
The washing of the feet represents the service and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.”
It was only a few hours after the Last Supper that Judas would betray Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, setting the stage for Christ’s Crucifixion on Good Friday.
Near the end of the Last Supper, after Judas had departed, Christ said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” The Latin word for “commandment,” mandatum became the source for another name for Holy Thursday: Maundy Thursday.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the faithful are invited to continue Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night, just as the disciples were invited to stay up with the Lord during His agony in the garden before His betrayal by Judas.
After Holy Thursday, no Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil celebrates and proclaims the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.