Dear Fellow Catholics,
In the absence of Holy Mass this Sunday, please find Fr. Trauner’s sermon for this Sunday:
SOME REMARKS ON CONFESSION
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My dearly beloved in Our Lord,
Our Lord is weeping over Jerusalem in today’s Gospel.
After the material city of Jerusalem – to which he was referring primarily – he weeps over the spiritual Jerusalem, the human soul which neglects the time of grace and thus ceases to be the dwelling place of God the Holy Ghost.
This time of grace and divine mercy for our soul is, in the first place, sacramental Confession.
So today I want to make a few general remarks around the Sacrament of Confession.
Confession is one of the two Sacraments which we should receive often and regularly, together with Holy Communion.
The materia of this Sacrament are the sins committed after Baptism. More precisely, the materia consists in the regret or contrition of these sins. To this materia the form is applied, i.e. the words of absolution pronounced by a validly ordained Catholic priest.
Confession has been instituted by Our Lord, under the form of a tribunal: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (Jn 20,22-23) The priest must pronounce a judgment with regards to the penitent’s contrition. If he is truly contrite, the priest forgives his sins in the name of God. If he does not have any supernatural contrition, he retains his sins in the name of God.
Even a minimal contrition called attrition, is sufficient so that the priestly absolution be valid. But of course one should be as perfectly contrite as possible, for the other effects of the Sacrament – besides its mere validity – depend on the degree of our contrition.
The best way to assure that there is true contrition is to take a particular resolution. Sometimes we think that confession is only about looking back, examining our conscience and getting it cleaned up. But this is clearly not enough: Confession must take into account not only the past, but also the future. The act of contrition contains an outlook into future by stating that – after having regretted our sins – we take a firm resolution never to sin again. This is absolutely necessary with regards to any mortal sins. But of course we should also sincerely strive to avoid venial sin, and correct our inclinations which push us towards these sins.
Thus we should also be working on some concrete, down to earth resolution, a particular resolution, for this is the best way to ensure certain progress in our fight for virtue and against sin.
The actual accusation of sins in confession must be sincere, i.e. the penitent must not lie in confession. It must be complete in the sense that all serious sins are being confessed which have not yet been submitted to the Church’s power of the keys. For this the penitent must use ordinary diligence in preparing his confession.
Particular care must be exercised with regards to the keeping of the confession secret. Normally the priest will take care to set up the place for hearing confessions in such a way that there is no interference or problem. But since nowadays confessions sometimes are made in make-shift circumstances or in small places, the faithful also should be aware that there is no exception to the secrecy of private confession. Of course a penitent can choose to make his confession in public, but this is not normally the case, and no-one can be obliged to do so. (Think for example of someone in hospital with other sick people being in the same room.)
What is important for everyone is that if ever they unintentionally listen to a confession or a part of it, they must treat with utmost secrecy and discretion whatever could be annoying or detrimental to the penitent.
It goes without saying that it would be a very grievous sin to try to intentionally listen to a confession.
What if someone cannot have sacramental confession for a long time? Just as for Holy Communion, one should make every possible effort to receive this Sacrament regularly. Better still, the impossibility to receive sacramental absolution should be an extra incentive to strive for perfection, and to find and use the appropriate means and ways to avoid every single mortal sin. This is possible for everyone, according to the teaching of the Council of Trent. It is unthinkable that God would let our souls down by refusing to give us sufficient grace to avoid at least mortal sin. But God’s grace is only efficient if we choose to co-operate with our free will.
Still, someone who has made “a special effort in sin”, should also be prepared to make a special effort to get rid of this sin again. Ordinarily and absolutely speaking this must be done by making an act of contrition as perfect as possible, i.e. for a motive of love of God, as quickly as possible. A person who has lapsed should make a proportionate effort to get to sacramental Confession. This might mean to undertake a longer journey sometimes.
Only as a last resort, and under aggravated circumstances – an imminent threat to one’s physical life – a true Catholic can access a certainly validly ordained priest in collusion with the new-church (this includes FSSPX and FSSP organizations). The reason is that objectively they are in communion with a non-Catholic setup and religion.
As far as the sacramental penance imposed by the priest is concerned, the penitent must usually accept it and perform it as prescribed, as soon as possible. A penitent can or must ask the priest to change the penance, e.g. if it is seriously inconvenient or impossible for him. He can also ask the priest to increase the penance, not out of pride, but because he is aware that this kind of penance – in connection with the Sacrament – is particularly efficient for the remission of temporal punishments.
Let us cultivate the spirit of penance according to the mind of Our Lord and the Church founded by him. “Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” (Lk 13,3.5) Spiritual ruin is looming everywhere; physical death is threatening each one of us more and more as time goes on and terrorism is becoming an institution in our countries. Even if this additional incentive were missing, doing penance according to the spirit of Holy Church – particularly fast, abstinence and alms-giving – are the best antidote to the spirit of the world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen
If you wish to download your own copy it can be found here:sermon 160717EN