January 9, 2014

From My Confessor

I've taken to going to the Lateran basilica for confession. They're OFMs there and sometimes it's just easier to confess to a Franciscan in case I want to refer to our Rule or the Testament of St. Francis. Besides, Francis recommends that we confess to "priests of our religion." (Earlier Rule, XX:1) So here's a paraphrase of what a priest of our religion said to me last night:

In a certain sense it's a good thing for you to have an experience of sin, of being a sinner. There is so much suffering that comes to you as a priest in the sacrament of Reconciliation, and you must receive it with all gentleness and mercy, knowing yourself as a brother sinner who prays to God and celebrates his mercy together and in communion with his brother and sister sinners. Our Pope Francis has emphasized our role as confessors in this sacrament of mercy. You must know the suffering of sin, the frustration, the difficulty, the feeling of being trapped in precisely what you don't want to be and what you know is less than the person God creates. From this comes real compassion, the suffering-with that moves beyond superficial sorts of kindness.

On the other hand, this is not enough. As a priest you have an even greater responsibility to overcome sin, to be about all the means available to you to allow the Holy Spirit to defeat sin within you. Only with this will you be able to communicate real hope to those who come to you for confession; you must believe in the possibility of liberation from sin with a belief that comes from your own experience. You must know at least something of the rest and peace that comes from this freedom from sin--which is freedom for God--if you want your promise of its possibility to be genuine and confident.

So repent and be converted for God's sake, but also for the sake of your brother and sister sinners.

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