Saturday, August 11, 2007

Defending the Faith part 2

So, In my previous post I talked about how Diane is probably at a point where a debate about the benefits of one Christian group over another would harm her. Well, just in case I wasn't sure, the Lord has made sure to keep us separated with widely different schedules. The few times we were in the house at the same time, I was running VERY late and couldn't talk even though I wanted to.

On the other hand, there is Opal. Every morning we are in the kitchen at around the same time. She's learned that I go to daily mass and she has even been to the church I go to, because "it's very beautiful". (side note: it's not really - it looks like a prison, but it's nicer than most protestant churches). She has also asked about what I learned, although in a conversational manner since Christianity is about the only thing we have in common.

Well, it so happened that she asked about this on a day one of the priests had discussed how important confession was. She then asked a question about confession! When I say I was overjoyed it's an understatement. Thank you Lord for this little blessing, I hope I didn't spoil it with an overly enthusiastic response. This is what we discussed, although I'm sure I've written it a lot better than I spoke it. Let me know if I could have said something better!

Why do you go to confession anyway? How does saying five Hail Mary's get your sins forgiven?

Well, let me explain Confession first. We are called to have a relationship with Jesus right? Sin harms that relationship and when you repent you need to do something to show it's sincere. Like any relationship, if it's damaged steps need to be taken to repair it.

Think about your friendship with Diane. Lets say you go and beat her up one day. Later you apologize and Diane, being a good Christian, of course forgives you. The next day you see her and again beat her up, this time breaking her legs. If you keep doing this Diane will stop trusting you. To show you are truly sorry you have to take steps to NOT beat her up and make reparations for doing so, like helping her do things since she can no longer walk.

In confession we need to have three pieces present; we need to be sorry for our sins, decided to avoid doing them in the future, and be willing to make amends. When we go to confession we say "My God I am heartily sorry for my sins...I firmly intend with your help to do penance, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin." So the five Hail Mary's are that step towards fixing the relationship after you've said you'd sin no more.

But still, it seems like it would be very awkward to tell a man your sins. I don't want some strange guy knowing everything I've done wrong!

We are not confessing to the priest, we are confessing to Christ. The priest acts "in the person of Christ" during confession. When we go to confession it is under the strictest seal because of that. Just as you should be able to talk to Christ in all confidence, so we can talk to the priest in all confidence. If a priest was to act on what he heard in confession it's an automatic excommunication.

To give an example, lets say you work at the Church and go to confession to tell Father that you stole money from his desk. Once confession is over, he cannot tell the police or even talk to you about it. He cannot even change his behavior and start locking his desk or move the money to another drawer.

So he cannot say anything at all about any sins?

The priest can say "I heard this sin confessed" ONLY IF there is no possibility of it every being associated with the sinner. So if he heard the confession of a murderer who killed six people and buried their bodies behind his house, he would not be able to mention it at all since it could theoretically be connected with the killer once he is arrested.

In the case of a criminal though, wouldn't he be obligated to say something?

First, how many murderers who are still committing the crime actually go to confession? Second, no, he cannot say anything, although he can give a conditional absolution or make their penance such that they must turn themselves in.

Lets say I go to confession a lot, couldn't the priest eventually say "Opal, you're in here every day confessing the same sins, I'm not going to forgive you this time."

While the priest can withhold absolution, it's usually only done in cases where it's clear the person has not repented. Lets say a guy confesses sleeping with his girlfriend whom he lives with. Until he removes himself from the sinful situation (living with the woman) he is technically not repentant and therefore the priest can withhold absolution.

However, if you are just struggling with a sin, the priest will not withhold absolution because we all struggle and fall. That is what makes confession so great, because it helps us to overcome our sins. There have been many sins I've overcome through the sacrament of confession.
Looking back, I think I should have defined the terms for her (confession, absolution, penance, etc), but I'm not sure I could even at this point. Either way, I was thrilled with the small moment of being able to teach someone about the faith. I hope the Lord continues to open her heart and helps her question, but I know that is not my job but his...even as I sit here with bated breath hoping for yet another conversation :)


paramedicgirl said...

Very nice blog! It's good to read spiritual blogs along with all the other forms of Catholic blogs out there.

Christina said...

Thanks :)