Tag Archives: confession

What Not To Say When Talking About Confession

By Brian Niemiec


This week’s homily on sin brought up a host of questions during our RCIA class. Are some sins worse than others? Why do we need to confess to a priest? Why does the Pope go to confession so often? Now, truth be told, I was a little off my game that morning. It had been a late night, but my co-catechist and I were doing a fairly good job of breaking open a subject we had not prepared to talk about.

Then, however, came the question, “But are little sins every now and again really a big deal? I mean as long as you are generally a good person, aren’t a few sins here or there ok?” Well, I fell flat on my face, and found myself waste deep in relativism. Thankfully my partner saved me from committing the greatest sin of any minister: leading the faithful astray.

My big blunder in the vocal vomit of my answer was forgetting Jesus.  In my attempt to reassure this person that we are all human, and mistakes and sins are part of that humanity, I had forgotten the all-important challenge of being ever more human, that is, to be ever more like Christ.  The Pope goes to confession so often because he has grown close to Christ in his life, and encountering the person of Jesus so intimately, he more easily recognizes the imperfections that you and I tend to miss completely. Continue reading What Not To Say When Talking About Confession


The Hardest Penance


By Javier Soegaard

I went to Reconciliation the other day. I went where I like to go. I went where a lot of Bostonians like to go. In line with me were folks who looked abandoned, folks who looked down on their luck, folks who looked like CEOs—nobody seemed to look the same.

This odd and oddly Catholic collection of folks was not surprising. This church is a place where the priests have really taken on a mission to be confessors and reconcilers. They find that perfect balance of silence and conversation—of listening and interpreting—that illuminates the sacramental nature of Reconciliation.

As the priest was sending me forth to pray this week; however, he did something I didn’t like. He gave me the hardest penance I’ve ever received.

He asked me to pray one Hail Mary.  JUST ONE.

One chance to begin rehabilitating my life and relationship with the Church. One instance of each word, and each phrase, and each movement in what is already a very short prayer. One chance to speak with Gabriel and with Elizabeth, one chance to pray for all those nearing their earthly end, one chance to contemplate my own coming-to-terms with mortality.

It was a task that truly brought me to my knees. Once I overcame the somewhat laughable (but somewhat sincere) superstition that permitted my heart to get all in a tiff, I nevertheless paused for a bit, hesitant to jump to right into this single instance of the Hail Mary.

So I knelt and asked why this might have been my lot, why one simple prayer might be a spiritually healthy exercise for me. After several moments of thinking too hard, wisdom prevailed. This priest wasn’t trying to turn me scrupulous or fearful, he was trying to unclutter my life and send me out into the world to live the Gospel.

Instead of encouraging me further into a life of clutter and confusion, he offered me the balm of simplicity. Pray this simple prayer, pray it once, pray it like you always pray it, then go and live.

This was truly the hardest penance I’ve ever received—not because my relationship to the Church hinged upon the saying of one Hail Mary, but because I was challenged to live a life simple prayer and constant reconciliation with all my brothers and sisters of good will.

The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Seal of Confession Edition

From Father Sam Sawyer, SJ over at the Jesuit Post on Patheos:

I try not to make a habit of wading into swamps, but there’s something going on in Louisiana that should not be ignored.1 The state Supreme Court ruled that, once a penitent has waived confidentiality, what was discussed in the sacrament of confession can be fair game in court. The diocese of Baton Rouge has recently appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court.  The case is particularly challenging because the confession in question was made by a girl who was being abused by a parishioner, and it appears from her testimony that the priest did not do anything to help her.2

Much of the discussion thus far has been about what Louisiana law requires and whether or not the seal of confession supersedes it. But this misses two important questions — one about what should have happened, and one about why the seal cannot be waived, even by the person who made the confession.

Read it all here.

Homily for the 21st Sunday: How Do We Live as Catholics?

Pietro Perugino

By Brian Niemiec

Who do you say that Jesus is? That was the first question I was ever asked in spiritual direction. This passage – “but who do you say that I am?” – is one that I have never been able to answer sufficiently. Peter had the easy way out, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” If I were the first one to proclaim that, I would have gotten the keys too. Now I say it because people told me. It isn’t a personal revelation, but a formula we have come to use in describing Christ over the centuries. Theologians and devoted women and men of faith alike have spent their whole lives cracking open this question. They have explored the question of humanity and divinity in Christ, wrestled with the great Paschal Mystery of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and professed with faith the same words Peter spoke a millennia ago.

Yet, none of them have ever grasped the whole answer to the question. No one has said who Christ really is, and that is because Christ is more than we can ever possibly say. He is more because God is more. To quote a favorite professor of mine, God is always bigger than our image of him. God always surprises us with something new and different.

Continue reading Homily for the 21st Sunday: How Do We Live as Catholics?

Most Timely Post We’ve Read All Day

On Going to Confession from Meg Felice.

I committed the end of my master’s study and my thesis to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At the time it felt like throwing my pearls before swine, since next to Anointing, Confession – more formally the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation – is the most ignored of the seven sacraments.

Read it all here. 

Of Mountain Goats and Mountains: Guest Post


The first time I read this I thought, “Silly goat get out of the clouds.” But of course the real message here is that the pilots are flying into a mountain and do not recognize their error. For me this is what the season of Lent is all about. I often times make mistakes but look to blame the circumstances around me rather than seeking the true problem. During the season of Lent one of the things we are called to do is take a look at our lives and be honest about the metaphorical mountains in our lives.

As Catholics we have the sacrament of confession to get us back on track and help us with our journey. This Lent I am trying to recognize my faults and embrace them as my own so I can change. I think that this funny cartoon is telling us all to do that because if we don’t we will hit that mountain: and it would be rather hard to to change course then!


Matthew Patella is from Long Island where he went to Catholic school. From there he went on to study at The Catholic University of America, then Boston College and is now back at CUA. In between all of that schooling he took a year to serve as a Cap Corps Volunteer in Garrison, NY leading retreats with the Capuchin Province of St. Mary’s. When walking through book stores he has a tendency to end up in the areas devoted to philosophy, politics, and history.