Sacrament of Penance
taken from 'A Dominican Mission' by a Dominican Missionary, 1942
If you wish to make a good mission you must receive the Sacrament of Penance worthily. This is an important part of your mission. You have been bound by sin, and desire to be loosed from the chains which bind. When you feel the desire to be loosed from the sin, God is calling you. If you wish to go to Him, raise up your heart in fervent prayer. You must earnestly ask God's help.
Many sacrilegious Confessions and Communions may be traced to the fact that a soul confides too much in self, and not in the help of God. Men and women come into the confessional without the least preparation, after having been engaged in useless conversation on the street up to the moment of entering the church. Others spend their time idly gazing around the church. This does not happen often, but it should never happen; and those who conduct themselves thus show that they do not realize the sanctity of the action, which they are about to perform.
The priest is the ambassador of Jesus Christ. Christ has placed in him the power of reconciliation. The priest is sent even as our Lord was sent, by the Father. How can he exercise that wonderful ministry of reconciliation if you neglect to do your part in seeking to be united to God in the sacrament of Penance?
For this union you must pray, have sorrow for your sins, examine your conscience, confess your sins to the priest, make a firm resolution of amendment and promise satisfaction.
Say the Rosary that God may give you the grace to make a good, humble, sincere and worthy Confession. Read the Dominican Mission Prayer Book for prayers before Confession
No matter how well you examine your conscience, how precisely you count your sins, how clearly you tell them, all will be useless, without a true sorrow of heart for having offended God
You must have sorrow for your sins. As there is a difference between joy that is true, and that which is put on for effect so, too, with sorrow, one is from the heart and the other a pretense. Sorrow of the heart is necessary for pardon of sins in Confession.
There are two kinds of sorrow. The first arises from a pure love of God. Knowing how good, how loving, how tender a Father we have offended by our sins, knowing all that Christ has done and suffered for us, we are grieved to the very heart that we have offended Him. This is perfect contrition. Imperfect contrition arises from fear of God's judgment and from a knowledge of the baseness of sin and of its evil effects on the soul. The latter is true sorrow but not perfect like the first. United with confession, with a determination to amend the past and with the absolution of the priest, imperfect contrition will justify the sinner; but you should always endeavor to have perfect sorrow for your sins. This sorrow can be acquired by prayer and meditation. You must earnestly ask it of God, and make use of such meditations and considerations as will move you to it.
III. SORROW FOR SIN
The sinner, wishing to receive the Sacrament of Penance must have true and sincere sorrow for his sins; he must detest it, and turn away from it in order to be reconciled with God, whom it offends. Mere natural sorrow for sin because of the temporal evils which it causes is not sufficient. I may be sorry because sin has ruined my good name, or my wealth, or health or honor in purity, but such motives are merely natural, and have no relation to God. The sinner in Penance seeks reconciliation with God, and so the motives of his sorrow must have reference to God; they must be supernatural, founded on revelation and faith. Without faith no act can be of avail for salvation, as "without faith it is impossible to please God." The sinner must regard sin as the greatest of all evils, as it is. He must be prepared to do his very best not to commit sin again. Otherwise he cannot be said to fulfill that greatest of all commandments, which bids us love God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, with all our strength and with all our mind.
You must know that our Lord is most desirous of giving us His graces. He is the Good Shepherd who is anxiously seeking His poor lost sheep. He is the Father of the poor hungry, wretched child. You must also know that sin is the only enemy of God. Sin crucified our Redeemer. Sin blackens and defiles the soul, which is the temple of God. Sin robs the soul of its inheritance, the everlasting joys of heaven, and precipates so many into the eternal torments of hell. A soul in grace is a spouse of Jesus Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost; a soul in mortal sin is a subject of Satan, a den of unclean spirits. A soul in grace is beautiful, like an angel; a soul in sin is poor, despoiled of all merit, a slave of the devil.
The Scriptures mention a second death, which is everlasting death of the soul in hell. Now, that death is the sequel and issue of mortal sin, for mortal sin deprives the soul of grace of God, which is the life of the soul. How hideous is the body a few days after life has departed! You could hardly find a man willing to stay a whole night with a decomposing corpse. Yet a soul in mortal sin is infinitely more horrible. One mortal sin changed the brightest angels of God into ugly demons; so ugly, that the sight of one deformed spirit would be enough to strike you dead. What, then, must be the terrible deformity of that man's soul who is guilty of many mortal sins! We read in the life of Saint Catherine of Siena, that God permitted her to see a soul in sin; and she declared that, had she not been upheld and strengthened by God, she would instantly have died from fright and horror.
Sin is the greatest evil. God alone knows the enormity of sin. Hence, to have true sorrow for sin, you must ask God to give it to you; and that you may be moved to greater fervor in doing so, meditate on the passion of our Lord. For in the Victim of Calvary we see the enormity of sin required such atonement; the justice of God that required such satisfaction; the love of our Lord who endured so much for us; the ingratitude of men who hardly ever think of all that Jesus Christ suffered in order to save them from the punishment they deserve for their sins.
IV. THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
During your conversations with God through prayer, you came to know your real self. He has given you strength and courage. The Holy Ghost has enlightened the soul. Reflect how you stand before God. Take account of your soul. Think about your sins since your last Confession. This is making an examination of conscience. The neglect of examination of conscience is a source of sacrilegious Confessions. It is owing to carelessness on the part of some, indifference on the part of others and ignorance on the part of a third class. Generally those who hasten to the confessional without asking God to give them grace to make a good Confession, begin to themselves without any previous examination. They never try to COUNT THEIR SINS. Many do not show themselves to the priest as our Lord tells them. They either hide their guilty conscience, or they show themselves in false colors. They do not examine their conscience. They do not count their sins. The follow is an example of a confession made without an examination of conscience:
Let us suppose a man who has been qway from confession for five years:
Confessor---When were you at confession last?
Penitent---A long time ago.
P.---Oh, several years.
C.---Please tell me, as near as you can, how long it is.
P.---It's so long, Father, it's hard for me to tell.
C.---Is it one year, or two or five or ten years?
P.---Well, it's about five years.
See what questions the priest asked before he was told. Why did the penitent not say five years at once? But listen:
Confessor---What sins have you committed since then?
Penitent---A great many.
C.---Have you cursed?
P.---Oh, not very often.
C.---About how many times a day did you take the Holy Name of Jesus in vain?
P.---Some days a good many times, and other days not at all.
C.---Please, tell the number of times, as nearly as you can, that you committed each sin, and do not keep me waiting.
P.---Well I cursed and swore, told lies, missed Mass, had bad thoughts, and got angry sometimes; that's all, Father.
Such a Confession is not clear enough. It is too general. It is a most imperfect confession. How can the priest form a correct judgment of the state of such a man's soul? The priest must form a just judgment before he passes sentence, as far as he is able. The penitent is the only accuser, the witness against himself. If he does not tell the truth, how can the priest rightly tell the condition of his soul? In the example given the penitent says, "I cursed, " but he does not tell the whole truth. He does not say whether it was once, twice, ten or one hundred times a day. How, then, can the priest have any knowledge of curses and oaths which that man has vomitted forth, when he only hears, "Father, I cursed." Then again he says, "Father, I missed Mass." He does not tell how often, whether it was once in a month or once in six months, whether he could help it or not. He says too, that he had bad thoughts, but he gives no intimation that he took pleasure in them; he does not tell how often that was the case and so on. If he absolves that man without a knowledge of his soul, he runs the danger of committing a terrible sacrilege himself.
THINK ABOUT YOUR SINS
Examine your conscience:
1. On the Ten Commandments of God.
2. On the Commandments of the Church.
3. On particular duties of your state of life.
4. On the Seven Deadly Sins.
And consider wherein and how often you have offended God by thought, word, deed or omission. REMEMBER ALWAYS TO COUNT YOUR SINS. There are certain words never to be used in the confessional. Never say sometimes, a good many times, not often, very often. Never use such expressions, because they are all vague, indefinite terms; they do not give the priest any idea of the exact number of one's sins. Tell what you did, and the number of times you did it, as far as you can. Tell about how often. God does not require impossibilities. Doing the best you can, you need no fear of telling a lie. To come as nearly as you can to the number is not lying. It is all you can do. But if you find this too difficult, because you have been absent from Confession a long time, then give an average number of the sins you have committed daily or weekly or monthly. Put one day or one week or one month with another, and see abouthow often in a day or the week or in the month you have been in the habit of committing each sin. Moreover, have some system in examining yourself and in telling your sins. Follow the order of the commandments. Separate your different sins, one kind from another , and count how many you have of each. Act like a man who has a quantity of money of different denominations. He separates the different pieces according to their value, and counting each kind, soon knows the value of the whole.
I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange Gods before Me.
In counting your sins, if you cannot give the exact number, tell as nearly as you can about how often you have committed each. I murmured against God ______times a week, or month I despaired of his mercy ______times a week, or month I missed my prayers habitually ______times a week, or month I went to places of false worship ______times a week, or month I talked against the Church, priests, or faith ______times a week, or month I went to fortune tellers ______times a week, or month I was guilty of supertitious practices ______times a week, or month I read books contrary to faith ______times a week, or month
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
I swore by the name of God ______times a day, or week I cursed others ______times a day, or week I perjured myself by swearing falsely in court ______times a day, or week I took rash and unnecessary oaths ______times a day, or week I provoked others to curse ______times a day, or week I did not prevent cursing when I could and should ______times a day, or week I spoke against saints, holy things, and pious practices ______times a day, or week
Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath Day.
I missed Mass on Sundays and holydays through my own fault ______times a month I was late for Mass ______times a month I kept my wife, children, or servants from Mass ______times a month I assisted at Mass with wilful distractions ______times a month I engaged in servile works on Sunday or holydays without necessity. ______times a month
Honor thy Father and thy Mother.
1. DUTIES OF CHILDREN
I disobeyed my parents in important matters ______times a day, ______times a week I caused them to be angry, I grieved them ______times a day, ______times a week I used insulting language to them ______times a day, ______times a week I did not support them ______times I incited my brothers and sisters against them ______times I kept or wasted my wages I should have given to them ______times I neglected to write them, or send them help ______months, ______years I neglected them in sickness, in death ______months, ______years
2. DUTIES OF HUSBANDS
I grieved, abused, or struck my wife ______times I accused her wrongfully ______times I neglected to provide for my family ______times I gave my children bad example ______times I failed to correct their faults ______times I neglected to instruct them in religion ______times I interfered with their religious vocation ______times
3. DUTIES OF WIFES AND MOTHERS
I disobeyed my husband ______times I accused him wrongfully ______times I caused my children to disobey and dishonor him ______times I talked of his faults to my children or neighbors ______times I neglected to correct my children ______times I gave them bad example ______times I did not instruct them in their religion ______times I interferred with their religious vocation ______times
Under this commandment employers and employees should examine themselves on their respective duties.
Thou shalt not kill.
I was angry ______times I caused others to become angry ______times I was quarreling or fighting ______times I desired the death of others ______times I cherished hatred toward others ______times I refused to speak or to be reconciled with others ______times I caused the death of another directly or indirectly ______times I led others to commit sin, by word or example ______times
For physicians, parents, others who caused, counselled, consented to abortion, remember that abortion is a case reserved by the Holy See to Bishops.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
Here the penitent must seriously consider past thoughts, words, and actions against these commandments. If one had the misfortune to break them, one must tell whether one is single or married; whether thoughts, words, desires, or acts, referred to single or married persons or relatives.
I took pleasure in impure thoughts ______times a day I had impure desires ______times a day I spoke immodestly in the hearing of others ______times a day I sang or listened to immodest songs ______times a day I read immodest books, papers, or writings ______times I was guilty of immodest looks ______times a week I kept, showed, looked at immodest pictures ______times a week I went to immodest places of amusement ______times a week I was guilty of immodest acts (See note above, and tell what
these acts were)
______times I committed immodest acts alone ______times I was guilty of the sin of birth control ______times
There are other kinds of impurity known only to God and the sinner. These he must also tell and the number of times.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.
I stole goods to the amount of $______ ______times I destroyed property, defrauded insurance companies $______ ______times I took from my employees $______ ______times I stole $______ worth, but restored, though able to return all, only $______ worth ______times I wasted time for which I was paid $______ ______times I injured others in their employment or goods $______ ______times I neglected to pay my bills, just debts, amounting to $______ ______times I defrauded in weights and measures $______ ______times I defrauded those employed by me $______ ______times I unjustly deferred the payment of their wages $______ ______times I desired to possess unjustly my neighbor's goods $______ ______times
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
I told lies ______times I seriously injured my neighbor's character, by publishing his secret faults ______times I carried stories and caused trouble ______times I told a deliberate lie to the injury of my neighbor ______times I spoke without necessity of known faults of others ______times I failed to defend my neighbor's character ______times I encourage unjust or false criticism or listened to it with pleasure ______times I failed to make reparation for sins of the tongue ______times
COMMANDMENTS OF THE CHURCH
I neglected my yearly Confession and Easter Communion ______times I attempted marriage contrary to the law of the Church ______times I neglected, when able, to support the Church ______times I ate meat on days of abstinence, without permission or necessity ______times I caused others to meat on days of abstinence ______times I broke the fasts of the Church ______times I caused others to break the fasts of the Church ______times
SEVEN DEADLY SINS
I was guilty of gluttony ______times I was drunk ______times I caused others to be drunk ______times I gave liquor to those drunk ______times I was slothful in religious exercises ______times I was lazy and idle ______times I was envious. ______times I was proud ______times
Having prepared yourself for Confession, go to your confessor with great humility and modesty, and remember that you are about to present yourself before Jesus Christ Himself, who sees the depths of your heart, and will one day judge you. If you are obliged to wait, renew your act of contrition. Regard yourself as a criminal bound with chains, who has been tried and convicted, and is called before the judge whom he has insulted and offended.
When at the feet of your confessor, kneel with the greatest reverence and humility, and consider that you are at the feet of Jesus crucified, who desires to hear from your own lips a sincere Confession of all your sins, and is ready to pardon them if you really repent, and to wash you in His own most precious Blood through the agency of His minister's sacramental absolution. Avoid all mention of your virtues or of the sins of others not pertaining to your own offences, except when, through necessity, you seek direction or advice. Never mention the name of others in the confessional. We enter the tribunal to accuse ourselves of our own sins, not to declare our virtues or to blame others.
Then make the sign of the cross, saying, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
Then humbly, and in a clear, intelligible voice, say how long it is since your last Confession, whether you received absolution, and whether you performed your penance. Confess your sins according to the Commandments; that is, tell all the sins committed against the First Commandment, then those commited against the Second, and so on. Say if you frequently fall back into these sins, or if you live in any bad habit, or in a proximate occasion of sin, or if you have any attachment or occupation which leads you to temptation. Mention, also, if have neglected any serious obligation; tell your confessor everything with sincerity and as clearly as possible, both that he may be able to apply the proper remedy, and that you may avoid making a bad Confession, which is easily done by the slothful and careless.
If, since your last Confession, you have committed no grave offense, you should mention some sin already confessed in the past, and include in your act of sorrow all the sins of your past life. This will serve to increase your humility, and will be for greater purification of your soul.
If you desire to make really good Confessions, imagine each Confession to be the last one you will ever make, and that, immediately after, you will be judged by Almighty God. Think that on this Confession may depend on your salvation or damnation. Endeavor so to confess that at the hour of your death your past Confessions may not be the cause of any disquietude to you, but rather consolation.
Listen with silence, attention and humility to the instructions of your confessor; note carefully the penance enjoined; and while receiving absolution, renew with all your heart your act of contrition and purpose of amendment.
On leaving the confessional, excite in your heart the liveliest sentiments of consolation and confidence, hoping and rejoicing that God has forgiven your sins. Perform your penance as soon as possible, and thank God for the great favor He has granted you.
After Confession go before our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to make your thanksgiving for holy absolution.
Spend at least a quarter of an hour in forming acts of praise, thanksgiving and contrition.
Our Lord delights to pour out His graces on the grateful soul.
Many shamefully go home from Confession without saying one act of thanksgiving.||