May 28, 2013


Over the years some of those who have had the misfortune of being my pastoral caregivers have suggested that I might be afflicted with scrupulosity. I've never really accepted the diagnosis; in any case they can't be all bad, the sort of things that get pointed out, because I learn things from them.

For example, at times I have had a hard time getting myself to genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament. At such moments it seemed like it could be hypocritical for such a person, so far from submission to God in mind and so far from a pure intention of pleasing God in the heart, to make such a strong, public gesture of adoration. But in trying to reflect upon and pray through my hesitation I came to realize that a gesture like a genuflection to the Blessed Sacrament is less a proclamation, 'this is the sort of person that I am,' than a confession, 'this is the sort of person I would like to become.'

Perhaps a spoken prayer like the Act of Contrition is an easier starting point to elaborate the same point. I couldn't even guess how many times I have said one version or another of this prayer since my first one at my first confession, a week and two hours after my baptism. Nevertheless, sometimes I have had trouble getting myself to say it. How could I dare to speak such a prayer, proclaiming myself genuinely contrite when I knew all too well that I wasn't? Would it not be at best a lie and at worst a sin against the commandment, taking God's name in vain?

But again, trying to reflect upon and pray through this hesitation, I came to understand better the nature of the  prayer. An Act of Contrition is not a proclamation, saying 'I am this sort of person,' but a confession that God has put into my heart a desire to be the sort of person who might be able to say such a prayer honestly, and thus, precisely as a prayer, it contains the supplication that God would help me surrender to the grace of becoming one.


Anonymous said...

Genuflection and praying hands two things that seem to have disappeared. Notice, I do, some come into church and squat not genuflect. Goint to communion fingers intertwined and at waist level. I'm guilty to not placing my hands in the praying position, to be like everone else. I should just be me and do what I feel is right. Alter servers are the worst any more. That they should be taught proper posture and genuflection as the first rule of serving.

kam said...

Coming from the Traditional Latin Mass point of view, dropping to one knee as I pass in front of the Tabernacle is just something that we do, it's almost a no-brainer. You did mean the Tabernacle, didn't you, and not Our Lord exposed at Adoration? Thats two knees and a profound bow. All of this is just done, no questions asked. Why ask questions, this is GOD, either quietly reposed behind the Veil or shining forth in all His Glory.

Lee said...

Thank you, Fr. Charles. This was very helpful. I cannot say the Act of Contrition without it spinning off thoughts such as, "And, hypocrite, do you really have a firm purpose of amendment?" Please pray for me, a sinner.