The Art of Confessing (Part 1 of 3)

The Art of Confessing – PART ONE

by Fr Chery O.P.

THESE WORDS are not addressed to the “big sinners” who come before Christ to relieve themselves of a great burden. They are not even addressed to Catholics who are making their annual Easter confession. But these lessons may be helpful for those people who have the “habit” of weekly, bimonthly or monthly confession.

“Habit” is a colorless word if it signifies only a praiseworthy regularity; it is a cold word if it signifies routine.  And sadly, everyone knows that a praiseworthy regularity easily degenerates into something routine.

The majority of penitents lament the miserable banality of their confessions, the small amount of fruit derived, and sometimes even their little interest in the exhortation that the confessor addresses to them when they come to find him.  Some have disgust for it, confess only by custom, and finally end up spacing their recourse to the sacrament of penance in a way that is prejudicial to their spiritual progress.

This disgust, and its consequences, do these not come from those who do not know how to confess?  There is a manner, an “art,” that could make this regular exercise into a serious means of sanctification.

In writing these lines, we have particularly thought of the numerous young people who seek to live a true Christianity in a generous effort of sincerity.  Not yet habituated, they suffer from a horror of routines, and they reject formalities.  They are right.  But they need to know that formalism is introduced through the fault of the ‘users,’ and I dare say, that it depends on them to keep intact, or lose, their religious vitality, for want of a personal effort.

The rites are conveyors of life, but only to the living.

The use of confession, if it is well understood, can be a serious support for the development of the spiritual life.

But first, since we are going to speak of confession, and nothing but confession [accusation of sins], it is necessary to carefully note that this is not the whole sacrament of penance, that it is not even the principal element.  This principal element consists of a regret, an accusation, an absolution, a reparation.  The sacrament is constituted essentially by an absolution effacing the fault of a heart that repents.  If a penitent, on his deathbed for example, cannot [verbally] express his accusation, the sacrament can [still] take place [even] from this [unspoken] accusation; it cannot take place without regret.  God, for His part, can effect the sacrament (in the absence of any priest qualified to give it): (but) He cannot save a soul in spite of itself, or remit a sin that someone obstinately refuses to regret.

Such people for whom the essential seems to be their accusation will do well to remember it.  The priest exhorts them to contrition, to the means to be considered so as not to fall back into their fault, but once their accusation has been made they seem not to follow him, distracted as they are by the concern to enunciate such and such other sin that did not initially come to their lips.  If it were a matter of a serious fault, it would be normal not to withdraw before expressing it; but most often it is a matter of venial faults. One mainly worries about being complete; but it is necessary above all to be contrite.

Consequently, in the few moments usually spent preparing for confession, it will be good not to give everything to the examination of conscience, but even more to implore the grace of God, in order to obtain a sincere regret for one’s faults, and to express in advance one’s contrition and the intention not to fall again.

To whom am I going to address myself when I go to confession?

First response:  to a priest.  I am deliberately using this general term to emphasize that the primordial importance in the use of the sacrament of penance must be granted not to the qualities of the man who hears confessions, but to his quality as minister of Christ. Because we lack faith, we excessively attach ourselves to the human value of the confessor, a real, objective value, or a value that attributes to him our sympathy and our confidence.

Whether this is to be taken into consideration is undeniable, but from a point of view which is, so to speak, on the margins of the sacrament.

This comes into play for the counsel that will follow the accusation and precede absolution.  But the sacrament is not constituted by this counsel; it can even do without it.  The important thing is to deal with the Christ who holds forgiveness, with the living Christ acting in his Church.  Every priest who has received from the Church the powers to absolve you validly, acts in persona Christi, in the name of Christ.  He opens for your soul the spring of pardon – which is the Blood of the Redeemer Christ – and He washes it in this Blood.

Erroneous for lack of faith is therefore the attitude of such penitents who delay liberating themselves from a serious sin or who indefinitely delay a confession which would release them from a growing malaise (by purifying the infection that spreads little by little) because “their confessor” is not there. If they had an understanding of what the sacrament is – sovereignly valuable in its purifying work, independent of the quality of the confessor who is before all else the “minister of Christ,” that is to say, the ear of Christ to hear the admissions, the wisdom of Christ to judge, and the mouth of Christ to pronounce the remission – they would attach themselves less to the human appearances and not delay at all.

It is appropriate here to mention why I must admit my faults to a priest instead of contenting myself with an admission directly expressed to God in the intimacy of my heart.  This is because I am a member of the Church.

My fault has offended God and diminished myself: it is a lack of the love that I owe to my Creator and to the virtuous love that I must show for the child of God that I am.  And it also harmed the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. “Every soul that raises itself, raises the world.”  Likewise, every Christian who sins upsets the perfection of the Christian community.  The most obscure of sins causes a wound to the tree of which I am a branch.  Whether I detach myself from the tree completely by mortal sin, or whether I separate myself only a little, the entire tree suffers.  I rise from the Church in my vitality, for God has entrusted his graces to the Church for me.  I should, therefore, also rise to escape my fault.

In the early centuries this responsibility before the Church was more obvious, since accusation was public and professed before the entire community.  Presently, the discipline has softened, but it is always before the Church that I accuse myself – through the person of the priest who hears me, and the Church from which I receive reconciliation through the ministry of the priest who absolves me.

I thus confess to the priest because he is a priest.  This does not prevent me from choosing him as humanly capable of understanding and advising me. We are not speaking here, since it is not our aim, of that which is called (a little improperly perhaps) “direction.” Even while remaining strictly on the plane of confession, it is surely better for the progress of the soul if it usually addresses itself to the same confessor.  After some time (provided we have followed the advice we shall give later concerning the manner of accusing ourselves), he (the same confessor) knows whom he is dealing with.  He knows your tendencies and your habitual weaknesses.  Even if you have little to say, he knows what points should be insisted upon in his exhortations.  Little by little you have revealed the difficulties with which you are struggling:  your particular situation.  He does not risk, as would a stranger who does not understand you, perplexing you by an untimely remark.  At a difficult moment in your life, he can stop you from making a dangerous fall.  And at any time, he is able to suggest to you appropriate decisions to get out of your torpor if you let yourself fall asleep.

How should you choose him?

Above all, he needs good sense and right judgment.   Also, holy if this is possible – this is clear – but a balanced and insightful priest will always be preferable to another of a more fervent life with less sound judgment.

Do not forget that you seek a counselor, and that as is the wisdom of the counselor, so is the value of his advice.  But as he is also one who leads, you ought to desire that he be demanding.  A good-natured confessor who merely lulls you with soothing words or sends you away with absolution and a general exhortation, would risk leaving you to languish in your sin or your serious imperfections.

This is why it is necessary, if need be, to encourage the confessor to this beneficial requirement and to humbly accept his invitations to effort.  You will recall that the first condition for him to be useful to you is that you trust him.  You can have the best confessor in the city; but if you cannot open yourself up to him frankly, he can do nothing for you.  You should thus choose him so that you do not feel paralyzed in his presence and that you readily consider him as a father, perceptive, capable of realizing your situation and to interest himself in it, open to the realities of life, sure in his diagnoses, and of firm goodness in his counsel.

If you do not find him (one such ideal priest), do not be much distressed.  Go to a priest1: he has the grace of state.  The Holy Ghost will use him anyway for your best good, provided you are listening.

If you do find the ideal priest, do not easily switch from him.  While remaining fully free from another choice, do not let yourself be “undone” by a few impressions, all the more by some crushing of self-esteem or by some of his demands.  Persevere until you have positive proof that you are making no progress in his school, despite a loyal and constant effort on your part.

(To be continued)

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé # 26: September, 2017

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé  # 26:  September, 2017

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Public Procession (feast of the Assumption)

The Myth of a “Neutral State” -“Who’s attacking you?” -“Nobody!”

Ulysses called himself “Nobody,” when Polyphemus asked his name. When this latter cried for help to his fellow cyclopses, and they asked who was attacking him, he stupidly replied “Nobody”!   Of course, they did not come to his aid.

Freemasonry has adopted the same trick to make their enemies look like fools.  The states under its control never openly declare themselves Freemasonic.  They claim to be “neutral” or “secular”.  When one asks who is persecuting the Church, the answer is ready-made: “neutrality,” that is, “no one”; and it’s the same “neutrality” (“no one”…) who indoctrinates the children in the atheistic [and totalitarian] public school system.

The myth of the “neutral” state

The stratagem of the “neutral” state — presented as a purely administrative machine, free from any religious or metaphysical principal, limiting itself to the material direction of the country, leaving each citizen to think as he likes — is an essential pillar of Masonic dictatorship.

However, the Masons are not always able to hold their tongue.  They’re so sure of their victory that they easily reveal their secret.  Vincent Peillon (French Minister of Education from 2012 to 2014) publically declared that secularism is a religion.  His predecessor, René Viviani, had already confessed neutrality to be a “necessary lie.”  Another “insider,” T.G. Masaryk, clearly showed that the modern secular state aims at nothing less than to take the place of the Church.

A well informed Freemason

The Freemason Thomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937) was not just anybody.  During the First World War, he repeated to all who wanted to listen that the principal goal of the war was “the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire.”   This well-informed agent then went on to become the first president of the very Masonic (and very artificial) Czechoslovakian Republic.

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Corpus Christi 2017


A special vocabulary

Of course, Masaryk, as a good Mason, muddles his words.  He calls medieval Christendom — which carefully distinguished between the spiritual and temporal powers — “theocracy.”  On the other hand, the regime that mixes the two powers, reuniting them in one hand (or rather, one fist!) is designated by him as “non-theocratic.”  But this coded language does not prevent us from understanding what he means to say.

Masaryk’s avowal: a state “charged with the functions of the Church”

Over and above the words, it’s the reality that counts.  Therefore, in reading the following quotation, let us not be duped by the misuse of the word “theocracy”, or the sarcastic attack against the “medieval state, servus Ecclesiae,” and let’s look at this supposedly wonderful, modern, democratic state imposed upon the world by Freemasonry.  Is it a neutral state, free from all ideology?   No, just the opposite!   Masaryk clearly admits it: the “secular” state has “taken on the functions of the Church,” and has even “extended and multiplied them.”

[W]hat makes the democratic state new, is the fact that its goals and its organization proceed from a new conception of the world, a non-theocratic conception.  That’s the innovation.  The modern state has taken on the functions of the theocracy, especially those of the Church […].  Before, the state was not interested in schools, nor in culture; all the education of society was directed and dispensed by the Church.  To the contrary, the new state has, step by step, taken over all education.  Just as the Reformation, humanism and the Renaissance had engendered a new, secular morality, the state has also taken Charity away from the Church, and transformed it into social legislation.  Compared to the modern state, the former states were practically nothing.  I would even say that they did not think for themselves: the Church thought for them.  If under theocracy philosophy was the “ancilla theologiae,” [Editor:  “handmaiden of theology”]  the old medieval state was the “servus Ecclesiae.” [Editor:  “servant of the Church”]   In secularizing itself, the state was forced to start thinking.  It took on the functions of the Church; it extended and multiplied them.” (T.G. Masaryk, La Résurrection d’un Etat, Paris, Plon, 1930)

It’s clear: the secular state is not just (as they claim) a state separated from the Church.  It’s the state taking itself for the Church, which is only logical for the religion of Man taking himself for God.


Mother Anne-Marie Simoulin (†) (Foundress of the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux) and the Question of Modesty

The keen awareness of her duty to transmit an integrally Catholic education was inseparable from an insistence upon practical moral requirements that are a necessary consequence of this Christian formation.  That’s why Mother Anne-Marie was, for example, so virulent when it came to the question of appropriate dressing, despite the pressure from parents and even bishops.  At Montréjeau, for example, the vice-president of the APEL (Parents’ Association), Mr. Vallet, had written to her:

Most Reverend Mother, we would like to call your attention particularly to a problem which has gained such proportions that the members of the APEL of Sainte-Germaine School find themselves obliged to inform you.

Indeed, practically all the parents disapprove of your prohibition for our girls to wear pants. Certain families are even seriously considering taking their children out of the school if no dispensations are made to this prohibition for the time being.

One must take into account that winter is long and rigorous in this region. Tights are very costly and wear out quickly, so certain families are not able to replace them as often as necessary.

Locally, our girls have become victims of a very unpleasant atmosphere, and the situation has gotten worse since it has been known, by trustworthy sources, that other establishments of the Congregation have allowed the new style of clothing.

We would be very grateful to you if we could have your answer before the general assembly to be held on December 1st, 1973, so that we may inform the families of the outcome of this initiative.

Mother Anne-Marie therefore explained the reasons for her refusal:

I am aware of all the arguments put forward, almost everywhere, in favor of pants:  frugality (or purported frugality, because the same people count their pennies less when it comes to following fashions), comfort, practicality, ease…  I understand how appealing these arguments can be for parents who feel obligated to make calculations, but none of these reasons will force me to yield…

Next, Mother exposes some considerations on the disciplinary as well as esthetic levels.  Lastly, she comes back to the fundamental argument:

Just as we refuse co-education […], because we think it is impossible to form a girl’s intelligence and sensibility in the same way as with boys, we refuse all complicity with decadent trends that are sabotaging our civilization.  We want to treat your girls as girls; we want them to be treated as girls, and therefore we want them to be dressed as girls.  We want to help them deepen their sense of properly feminine values, to desire and to cultivate the virtues specially entrusted to women, which will make them particularly capable of giving and nurturing life, whether it be natural or supernatural life.  We want your girls to be fully women, who are proud to be so, and who love to dress accordingly.

For all these reasons on the disciplinary, esthetic and moral levels, we therefore require your girls to dress in conformity to their feminine nature…

—Quoted by Sr. Alice-Marie (Dominican Sisters of FANJEAUX), Rupture ou fidélité 1948/1975. Une congrégation religieuse dans l’Eglise ébranlée, Clovis, 2016, p. 222-224.

 

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Community Chronicle

May 25th: Ascension of Our Lord. In the Dominican rite, the Solemn High Mass is preceded by a procession in the cloister (accompanied by the men and boys of the parish) symbolizing the cortege of Our Lady and the Apostles following Our Lord from the Cenacle to the Mount of Olives.  A second Solemn High Mass is celebrated by Fr. de Mérode for St. Thomas Boys’ School, during which twenty students pronounce their profession of Faith after having followed a retreat preached by the same Fr. de Mérode.

June 3rd: First Saturday.  It’s a true consolation to see the faithful doing their best to respond to the requests of Our Lady of Fatima for the first Saturday of each month: the St. Dominic Oratory is overflowing with faithful at the 6:30 a.m. Mass (followed by the 15-minute meditation requested by Our Lady), and the main Church is almost full at the 10:00 a.m. Mass.

June 18th: Corpus Christi Procession.

July 1st and 2nd: End of the school year ceremonies for St. Philomena Primary School and St. Thomas Boys’ School, followed by the annual parish lawn fete.  With the school year behind us, the busy summer schedule starts immediately:

July 3rd-8th: Men’s retreat.  Fathers Louis-Marie and Angelico are happy to receive a bit of reinforcement from Fr. Pierre Roy who came in from Canada to help preach a retreat on “The Incarnate Word” to about 20 fervent men, among which were a certain number of recently baptized.

July 14th-16th: Annual Jean Vaquié Days, with the theme: 1917-2017: From Communism to Globalism.

July 16th: Departure of Fathers Terence and Angelico for the Boys’ Summer Camp in Brittany.  Three weeks of camping, hiking and exploration, as well as activities for the soul: daily sacraments, apologetics competitions…

At the same time, Fr. Hyacinth-Marie chaplains the camps for the boys and girls of Our Lady of Fatima Youth Club (7-12 yrs.) and the adolescent girls of “Valiant Souls”.

July 17th-22nd: Fathers Marie-Dominique and Emmanuel-Marie preach a retreat for married couples, with the help of Fr. de Mérode.

July 24th-29th: Lady’s retreat with Fathers François-Marie and Marie Laurent, aided by Fr. Ballini.

August 4th- 13th: The community is reunited for the annual retreat preached this year by Fr. Joaquim FBVM, from Brazil.  Father Joaquim is no stranger to the community, as he studied philosophy and theology here at Avrillé before being ordained in Brazil.  Theme of the retreat: “Our spiritual life in the present crisis in the Church.”

News from our worksites

All is ready for the parish hall project.  God willing, the building permit will be granted in the coming weeks.

Other various projects have begun or progressed.  The chapter room now has its wooden beams.  Once it’s painted, we’ll be able to put in the new altar.

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To help solve the problem of insufficient classroom space at the Boys’ School, a wall has been knocked down (permitting the renovation of a loft) and the grounds have been cleared in view of restoring an old tower (to be used as a study hall).  Also, the recreation courtyards were professionally paved. (To the delight of the seminarians and friars, as well!)

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