September 7, 2009

How To Go To Confession


Fr. Phillip Neri Powell

The following is an excerpt from the article “Advice from Fr. Philip Neri’s Confessional,” by Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P., Ph.D. It's quite long but well worth the read. Visit his website here. Go here for the previous post in this series.

6. Gossip: What sin does gossip pervert? Gossip tends to pervert the gift of Truth, or in other words, gossip distorts our view of objective reality in favor of the illusions generated by lust, envy, jealousy, etc. Depending on the subject of the gossip, gossip is exciting b/c there is the great potential there for making oneself look good or better in front of friends. It is important to us that we appear to be “hooked in,” so we gossip. Gossip, in its worse form, is also a form of tearing people down—lying exaggerating, etc. all build up a false picture that then gets used to make rash judgments.

Advice: St. Philip Neri once took a penitent to the top of his church. He handed the woman a feather pillow and told her to rip the pillow open and scatter the feathers. She did so, watching the thousands of feathers fly all over the city. He then told her that her penance was to go and collect every feather. Such is the nature of gossip.

7. Doubt/Not praying: These sins can also be understood as a perversions of God’s Truth. One thing we have to get clear, however, is there is doubt and there is Doubt. Little “d” doubt is acceptable if and only if you are truly confused about or unsure of the right way to think about and believe an article of the faith. Being ignorant of a teaching can lead to doubt, so can the complexity of some of our beliefs. Big “D” Doubt occurs when you are actually rejecting a de fide (of the faith) teaching of the church for no other reason than you don’t like the teaching or that you the teaching teaches against your favorite sin. This occurs a lot with contraception, masturbation, and pre-martial sex. So, when you confess “doubt” be sure and distinguish between the two. Doubt often leads us to stop praying or to stop using the sacraments.

Advice: Know your faith! You are responsible for knowing and living the faith as it has been given to the Church. If you are truly confused about a teaching, ask for help or get a copy of the Catechism. If you find yourself Doubting, try saying to yourself: “I am one person in a two-thousand year old Church. I’m smart but I’m not Two-Thousand Years Smart, so I will assent to this teaching and assume that my rejection of the teaching is based on my ignorance and not on the falsity of the teaching.” This is a properly humble way of approaching difficult teachings. When you find yourself unable to pray with any eagerness or force, just pray anyway…”fake it ‘til you make it through the dry spell.” Prayer is a habit like any other and requires constant maintenance. Prayer is the means by which God speaks to us, so keep the channel open even when you are convinced that there’s no one on the other end. Think of yourself lost on a deserted island and you have a radio. When you give up hope that you will be rescued, you will turn the radio off. How will the rescue team find you then? Leave it on so you catch anything that might come through. In fact, pick several times during the day when you will sit with the radio and broadcast your location.

8. Lack of charity: This is a really BIG sin. This sin perverts God’s love. First, we are commanded by Christ to love one another. He never says that we have to like one another. This is the whole problem with equating “loving others” with “being nice to others.” We should be nice to other out of a sense of civility but the failure to be pleasant or polite is not a sin. When you find yourself actively working against the Good of another person, then you are in trouble. Charity requires that we will the Good of the other at all times. I can truly dislike someone and still will the Good for them. In fact, there may be more merit to loving someone you dislike. “Willing the Good” requires that we treat others as persons with their own ends, meaning we treat others as fellow creatures created in the image and likeness of God. We cannot use people as means to other ends. This is uncharitable.

Advice: Giving thanks for everyone in your life is key to being charitable to these people. Pay attention to how you are thinking and feeling about the people you interacted with daily. For everyone you meet send up a prayer that whatever they need to grow in holiness will be given to them. If there is someone you really, really dislike make that person a part of your daily thanksgiving. Have a Mass said for them! Beware one common pitfall: “Please, Lord, help Philip to change his ridiculous ways and make him a agree with me about X.” This is a prayer to change me to fit your expectations of who you want me to be. For some reason, I find mothers are terribly burdened with this temptation, especially when it comes to their children! Try instead: “Lord, I give you thanks for Philip. Grant him all he needs to grow in holiness.”

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