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A Leaven In The World… Traditional Latin Mass And Confession Of Sins

July 8, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

Some years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Franciscan Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the very well-educated, longtime preacher to the papal household. I also attended an evening session at a parish in a neighboring state where he spoke at length about his experiences in Rome, and elsewhere, giving retreats and preaching during liturgies for the Pope and his collaborators through many years of such service to the universal Church.
Something that stayed with me after hearing his remarks was his description of his experience of first coming into contact with the charismatic movement. He had been approached with a request to do pastoral work in support of them but had initial misgivings. He was in doubt as to whether it was an authentic expression of the faith.
As we know, in 1 Thess. 5:12 we are asked to “test all things; hold fast that which is good.” The test of whether something is good or not is if it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. How do we know the Holy Spirit is at work through persons or movements in the Church?
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:7-10).
The Holy Spirit “will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” and, when He does, the result is confession of sins informally but also formally, through the Sacrament of Confession.
When Fr. Cantalamessa saw charismatics seeking out the Sacrament of Confession in great numbers his fears were allayed. He became more comfortable with the idea of the charismatic movement and continues still today to devote a large part of his time as a priest to pastoral work with charismatic Catholics.
One cannot argue with Scripture. Father’s remarks left a deep impression on me. I do not have personal experience with the charismatic movement. I certainly cannot attest as he can to the incidence of the practice of the Sacrament of Confession among charismatics but, like him, I can attest to my own experience of the authenticity of one area of the Church’s life today that is deeply marked by the signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit. That is, the faithful who regularly seek out the worship of the Traditional Latin Mass.
I make myself available in the confessional at my parish prior to all weekend Masses so that no one ever approaches the Blessed Sacrament to receive the Lord in Communion outside of the state of grace. To so do would, of course, be sacrilegious and useless.
True pastoral accompaniment leaves no stone unturned in the spiritual care of the human person. Making Confession available at the most convenient time for the greatest number of the faithful is always the most pastoral thing to do.
Yet still in so many places Confessions are scheduled weekly only on Saturday evenings. Anyone needing or wanting to confess outside of that time frame would be forced into the potentially uncomfortable situation of having to reveal themselves in order to make an appointment for the sacrament.
Both the limited availability and the requirement of making an appointment have an undoubted chilling effect on the number of sacramental Confessions, increasing the likelihood of sacrilegious Communions.
Add to this the fear, in California and other places, where there is talk of passing laws requiring priests to break the seal of Confession in the case of sexual crimes against minors, and you have a deepening crisis, potentially contributing to the falling numbers of those who avail themselves regularly of the only means of forgiveness of mortal sins through absolution.
It was not for nothing that the supreme head of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See issued a document July 1 reiterating the inviolability of the seal of the confessional. The head of the penitentiary, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, wrote, “The defense of the sacramental seal and the sanctity of Confession can never constitute some form of connivance with evil, on the contrary, they represent the only true antidote to evil that threatens man and the whole world.”
As a reminder of the seriousness with which the Church takes the sacredness of privacy surrounding the sins of penitents, as described by Catholic News Agency, “Violation of the seal by a priest is punishable by an automatic excommunication, and can be augmented with other penalties, including dismissal from the clerical state.”
There is no other means possible for returning to a state of grace after Baptism than Confession other than bloody martyrdom. The importance of Confession cannot be overstated. One can only return to receiving the Eucharist fruitfully and worthily after mortal sin only by means of sincere expression of sorrow for sin and absolution in Confession.
Like Fr. Cantalamessa, I, too, have seen the signs of the Holy Spirit at work among the people to whom I dedicate my pastoral efforts. Over the nearly ten years I have served a Latin Mass congregation one of the reasons that Confessions have increased is undoubtedly that the number of faithful attending the Mass has increased, more than tripling in that period of time.
But, more than that, the percentage of penitents is exponentially greater than that for all of the other weekend parish Masses combined. As a matter of fact, we often start the weekly 11 a.m. Sunday Latin Mass late because the large number of penitents seeking absolution prior to Mass in order to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace makes it necessary to do so.
The Holy Spirit is at work, convicting the faithful of sin, by means of the traditional Catholic faith. That same faith also seeks the worship of the Latin Mass handed down by that same Holy Spirit through the Church.
But another undoubted sign of the work of the Spirit is love of neighbor, and the joy that comes from spending time together, particularly on the Lord’s Day. After we worship, many of those present at our Traditional Mass walk a few doors down to the parish hall and have lunch together every Sunday. I’ve asked around and have not yet discovered another parish that does the same.
My experience of the love “poured forth into our hearts” by the Holy Spirit is found in both our traditional worship, the vertical aspect, and in community, the horizontal aspect, every week with the faithful of the Traditional Latin Mass.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
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