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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… More On Confession

June 24, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Part 34

I do not know who said that “Repetition is the Mother of Learning” or “Repetition is the Father of Learning,” or even that “Repetition is the Key of Learning.” The fact is that repetition is most important to anyone who wants to learn something in such a way that will become part and parcel of his memory and life.
It worked in the old days when we learned the arithmetic tables and it works today when we learn about the sacraments of the Church, especially Confession. By repetition of the essentials of Confession, we will be able better to profit from its effects and lead a life of friendship with God, free from sin, en route to Heaven, for which we were created.
If anyone asks this question, “What are the acts required of the penitent to receive the Sacrament of Confession validly?,” I am sure that almost any Wanderer reader will immediately reply: “There are three acts required of the penitent, that is, Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction.”
Good. Let us put your knowledge to the test. And what, pray, is Contrition?
“Contrition is the true sorrow that we conceive for having offended God by sin. We realize that God is our loving and merciful Father, and by committing mortal sins we have offended Him. Every sin we commit offends the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Holy Spirit. By being contrite we are sorry for having done so, even if we are sorry for not being sorry enough. But we are sorry for having offended God, our Father and our best Friend. That is contrition.”
And what is Confession?
“Confession is the declaration of our sins to the priest, in order to obtain forgiveness. When we have mortal sins on our conscience, we must confess them, and our Confession must, as far as memory serves us, be complete, specific, and numerical.”
Now you are getting a little more technical. Very good. What do you mean by “Complete”?
“Complete means that all grave sins committed after Baptism that have not yet been previously confessed, must be declared in the confessional. Everything must be told, as far as we can remember, so that the slate may be made clean.”
Excellent. And what do you mean by “Specific”?
“That is a bit tricky as it requires an extra dose of humility. ‘Specific’ means that the precise nature of the sin must be stated. So, it is not enough to say to the priest, ‘I have sinned against my neighbor.’ No, one must explain how exactly my neighbor had been injured by me, whether in person, property, or good name.”
And what does “Numerical” mean?
“More humility again. Numerical means the number of times each grave sin has been committed must be given. Just to say ‘many times’ is not enough. As far as our memory serves us, the number of sins must be revealed.”
Evidently, it is not worth sinning, I suggest. Now tell me, Wanderer reader, what does “Satisfaction” mean?
“Satisfaction is the voluntary acceptance of the penance imposed by the priest. Every sin incurs an eternal and a temporal punishment. The purpose of this penance is to discharge (in part at least) the debt of the temporal punishment that often remains after the eternal punishment has been forgiven.”
Now I see that Wanderer readers are really becoming experts on the Sacrament of Confession. Let me put you to a more complex test. What happens if I am not sure I committed a sin? Do I confess it or do I not?
“That is what you call a doubtful sin. To commit a mortal sin three conditions are required. It is important to know them in order to avoid unnecessary scruples. The matter must be grave in itself, the person knew that it was, and gave it his full consent. So, if one is not sure that one or more of these requirements were present, that is, one is not sure that the matter was grave in itself, or one did not give his full consent at the moment of the sin, etc., then it is a doubtful sin, and one is not obliged to confess it. But many times, it happens that, for the sake of peace of conscience the penitent will confess it — it is also usually advisable, because an act of humility is always good.”
Goodness gracious, you have made good progress! Now tell me about something else: What about those sins that I had forgotten to confess? How can I confess a sin I do not remember?
“No problem there, either. Since you expressed your contrition for all of your sins in the last Confession, do not be scrupulous: Guilt does not return to you. Since you had already included them in our contrition, be at peace. Now, if later on you remember them, you are obliged to confess them to the priest, unless he decides otherwise. He is the judge, and if you tend to be too scrupulous, to see God often as your Judge and seldom as your Father, the priest may tell you to make the Act of Contrition and forget about them. Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace. Period.”
Thank you! Now, tell me something about the examination of conscience. What is it, and how is it done?
“A good catechism or prayer book is always helpful to set forth how in particular the Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church may be violated. One good method to examine your conscience is to run through the Ten Commandments, keeping in mind what each one enjoins and prohibits, in order to identify sins of commission and omission. After going through the Commandments, we should go through the seven deadly sins, or capital sins.
“They are called deadly because they produce bad habits that bring the death of grace in the soul, and are called capital (from Latin capita, head) because they are the one leading the others, and the one into which we tend to fall more often. They are: Pride, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Usury, Envy, and Sloth. The Catechism will explain detail what they mean, but for our purpose here we must make an effort to memorize the list.
“The seven capital sins plague our lives, make them miserable. And an easy way to learn the list in order to avoid them is to use the word ‘Plagues.’ So, remember:
“‘P’ for Pride, ‘L’ for Lust, ‘A’ for Anger, ‘G’ for Gluttony, ‘U’ for Usury, ‘E’ for Envy, and ‘S’ for Sloth. That is a simple, easy way to remember them. Then we consider the virtues that oppose those sins, which in corresponding order are: humility as opposed to pride, brotherly love as opposed to envy, meekness as opposed to anger, chastity as opposed to lust, liberality (generosity) as opposed to usury, temperance as opposed to gluttony, and diligence as opposed to sloth.”
Wow! Definitely, Wanderer readers are fully capable of becoming involved in re-evangelizing the United States!
In the next article, let us touch on the issue of the examination of conscience.

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website:

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