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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… The Examination Of Conscience

July 1, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 35

One thing is certain: A good Confession requires humility and courage. I knew a priest in Latin America who had a message for males when they went to Confession and hesitated about telling him everything. The priest would say to the penitent: “If you were man enough to sin, be a real man now and confess it!”
There is nothing to be gained by confessing with euphemisms or roundabout expressions. We must tell it as it is, or tell them as they are, in plain language. Fact is, there is nothing new under the sun, the sins we have committed other people have committed before us, and will commit after we die. Moreover, there is nothing a priest has not heard before.
So, let us summarize some of the most important points we have been studying so far. When we speak of sin, we must always bear in mind that sin is any thought, word, deed, or omission that we commit, knowingly and willingly, against the law of God and His Love.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that to think is to distinguish. So, sin can be distinguished into two basic kinds: mortal and venial.
Mortal or grave sin is any serious violation of the Law of God. It is called “serious” or “grave” because of its gravity; it is called “mortal” because it is deadly, and kills the divine life within the soul.
Another distinction: Three conditions must be met for a sin to be mortal: grave matter, full knowledge, deliberate consent.
A venial sin is a minor violation of the Commandments, or a failure to meet the requirements of God’s law in a less serious matter, or a major transgression but without full knowledge or consent. “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal” (1 John 5:17).
Contrition is the true sorrow we conceive for having offended God by sin. It implies the detestation of sin and a firm purpose of amendment. God will not pardon my sins, either great or small, unless I am sorry for them.
Distinction: Contrition must possess four qualities: internal, universal, supernatural, and supreme.
Internal, that is, it must be genuine sorrow, and not mere outward show; I must mean it.
Universal, that is, it must cover all mortal sins of which I know I am guilty of; it must be accompanied by a firm purpose to avoid them and to avoid dangerous occasions of sin.
Supernatural, that is, it must be inspired by grace, for without grace I can do nothing toward eternal life; and it must spring from some motive revealed to me by faith, as, for example, the goodness of God whom I offended, the sufferings of Christ caused by sins or even the fear of Hell. If my contrition is supernatural, I can be certain that God will forgive my sins.
Supreme, that is, I, the penitent, must consider sin to be a greater evil than any evil of this life, and must detest it accordingly.
Dealing more specifically with grave sin, two kinds of contrition can be distinguished:
Perfect Contrition is contrition founded on charity or the perfect love of God. In perfect contrition, I grieve for my sins because they are hateful to One who is Himself infinitely lovable and whom I love above all things for His own sake regardless of the bad consequences those sins may bring about upon me.
But, though this love is unselfish, I need not exclude the thought of the great blessings His friendship will give me. The Church has condemned the opinion that perfect charity must be absolutely disinterested. God wants me to desire Heaven and its eternal happiness.
Perfect contrition immediately reconciles the sinner to God, because it contains the desire of the Sacrament of Confession. So the Love of God restores me to His friendship.
The other kind of contrition is called attrition. It is a contrition that springs from any supernatural motive lower than that of perfect charity, for example, the remembrance of the filth and horror of my sins, the loss of eternal happiness, or the pains of Hell or Purgatory.
Attrition may be justly described as a selfish sorrow for sin. Yet it is true sorrow. It is grounded on faith and hope, and God is pleased with it. There are qualities of attrition. Attrition must also be internal, universal, supernatural, and supreme.
It is a sincere and thorough change of heart, a turning to God, and away from sin. The motives we have set forth (the fear of Hell, the loss of Heaven) lead the sinner to three things:
When the sinner has made such an act of attrition as we have described, he is fit to receive the Sacrament of Penance. More concretely, without the sacrament, I could not obtain pardon for my sins, because my sorrow is not inspired by the perfect love of God. Still, my attrition would seem necessarily to involve some love of God, however imperfect: I cannot completely turn away from sin as my enemy without perceiving, at least obscurely, that I am turning to God as my friend; I cannot desire reconciliation without seeking, or beginning to seek, friendship with God.
Contrition necessarily implies the hope of pardon. Hence the sorrow of Judas, because it was devoid of hope, was not true Contrition. St. Peter had also betrayed Jesus, but his sorrow was born of true contrition. He was pardoned.
Furthermore, as the penitent, I have, in the Passion of our Savior, a greater incentive to divine love than any that can be found in God’s dealings with His chosen people in the past. In the Christian life which I am now beginning anew after my Confession, I will make my acts of charity as easily and as frequently as my acts of faith.
The love that I — and you, dear Reader — should have for God is twofold: First, we should love Him because of all the blessings He has given us and because of the happiness He desires to bestow on us in Heaven. This is the imperfect love of gratitude and hope.
Second, we should also love Him above all things and for His own sake because there is no limit to His goodness and lovableness. This is the perfect love of charity.
Our love of God may begin with the first kind, and should end with the second.
Next article: The Sacrament of Confession in the Sacred Scriptures.

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(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: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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