Thursday, 19 July 2018

The Confessional. Part 116.

Theory and practice of the confessional by Caspar Erich Schieler, Richard Frederick Clarke


2. Of the great usefulness of general confession, popes, saintly bishops, founders of orders, and the great doctors of the Church all speak in most unmistakable terms. The learned Benedict XIV, in his instructions on the preparation of the faithful for a fruitful celebration of the Jubilee, directs priests who give the missions to impress on the people again and again the great profit of general confession. They are to urge them to penance, and to instruct them how to receive the Sacrament validly and profitably. they are to proclaim that it is absolutely necessary to repeat former bad confessions, and they should take all possible pains to excite to a general confession even those who do not feel any necessitv for repeating their sins again. "For if it is not necessary to mention again our former sins, we regard such repetition as very profitable on account of the confusion connected with such avowal, which is an important part of penance, as our predecessor, Benedict XI, teaches in this Decretal Inter Cunctas" He also appeals to St. Charles Borromeo, who in his Monita ad Confessarios proclaims the usefulness of general confession and recommends it. "Confessors," says the saint, "ought, with due regard to persons, times, and places, urge their penitents to make a general confession, that thus by a thorough examination of their lives they may turn to God with greater peace of mind and repair all faults which have been committed in former confessions." As another witness for the usefulness of this practice, Benedict XIV adduces St. Francis of Sales who, in many places in his works, insists strongly on the practice. Thus he writes to a widow concerning her father: The counsels which I give him I reduce to two points: the first one is that he should institute a careful examination of his whole life with a view to making a general confession and performing a corresponding penance, — this is a means which no sensible man will despise in presence of death; the other is that he should continually endeavor to wean his mind from the vanities of the world. Benedict then refers to the rules which St. Vincent de Paul gave to his mission-priests, in which he exhorts them to encourage general confessions. In the life of the holy founder it is recorded what great fruits were reaped from the general confessions which were made during the missions held by those priests.

The advantages of general confession are thus briefly enumerated by St. Ignatius in his Book of the Exercises: (1) We gain greater fruit and merit on account of the deeper contrition with which we approach the Sacrament; (2) we are better able to realize the malice of sins committed; (3) we are in better dispositions for receiving holy communion, and we are more disposed to shun sin. Moreover, the Directorium of the Exercises, a work composed by a member of the Society of Jesus and edited by the General Claudius Aquaviva, adds the following observation : If the general confession offered no other advantage, the following fact would sufficiently recommend it; experience proves that men for the most part go to confession either without proper examination, or without the required contrition, or with but a weak purpose of amendment; the general confession comes in most opportunely to give peace of mind, to remove scruples, which sooner or later, or at least at the hour of death, come to torture the soul and expose it to the danger of losing eternal salvation.

Segneri also very earnestly recommends general confession. It is a very safe and useful plan to examine one's life thoroughly at least once, and to set it right by a general confession, and to keep up the practice at fixed intervals of a year, or even oftener, of making a general confession beginning from the last. The advantage of this practice is that, seeing all our faults and sins at a glance, we are filled with greater confusion and sorrow and are impelled to be more humble; besides the fear of God's justice will grow in us when we see our sins, past and present, hanging like a great mountain over us, so that we are compelled to cry out with Esdras — "Our sins are grown up even unto heaven." (Esdr. ix. 6.) And who does not see how difficult it is without such a confession to obtain that most priceless of blessings, peace of mind, at least if the frequent relapses into sin are due to a want of preparation? Oh, how many confessions are thought to be valid and are not so in reality!

Finally, the words of St. Alphonsus deserve a place here: "I advise every one who has not yet done so to confess all the sins which he has ever committed in his life, and I advise not only those who have made sacrilegious confessions by concealing mortal sins, or whose confessions have been invalid through want of previous examination of conscience or of true contrition, but those also who are anxious to begin a new life; for this purpose a general confession is very useful."


Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Confessional. Part 115.

Theory and practice of the confessional by Caspar Erich Schieler, Richard Frederick Clarke


1. General confession is necessary for all who have made in-valid confessions. St. Alphonsus remarks on this subject that it is a frequent experience in missions that bad confessions have to be set right; hence he advises missioners that since the good of missions consists mainly in setting right bad confessions,they should in all their discourses be urgent in explaining the heinousness of sacrilege and how many souls are lost by concealing mortal sins in confession. Experience teaches that manypeople are overcome by false shame so as to conceal their sinseven in the confessions which they make to the fathers givingthe mission. If at so solemn a time as a mission such peoplefail to set right their bad confessions, what hope is there of theirsalvation ? If in the confession which they make to the missionerthey cannot overcome their shame, how will they do it whenthey confess to the local priest? There is indeed good reason for ever and again insisting on the general confession. Hence it is very desirable that the local priests at the time of a mission should refrain from hearing confessions, and surrender their confessionals to the fathers who give the mission (or to some strange priests called in for the special work of hearing the confessions), for some of the faithful, if they see their usual confessor in attendance, may be deterred from going to a strange priest and continue to make sacrilegious confessions. It not unfrequently happens that people whom we would never suspect have most need of freedom in this respect. It frequently happens that a confessor thinks a general con-fession necessary when the penitent is not at all convinced of its necessity. Whether the penitent is to be advised in such a case to make a general confession will be determined by the rules which are given as- to the duty of instructing the penitent 01leaving him to himself (§ 55); for if the penitent suspects nothing of the nullity of his previous confessions, the confession which he now makes in good faith and proper dispositions is valid, and by virtue of it the sins mentioned in former invalid confessions are indirectly remitted and need only be repeated when the conscience awakes to the fact. Moreover, a prudent confessor, if he fails to persuade a penitent of the necessity of a general confession, may succeed by a few questions in making the confession practically a general one. Indeed, unless the penitent takes it in bad part the priest may by a little adroitness elicit a general confession; then he must, before giving absolution, let the penitent know that he has made a general confession. The case may also occur where the penitent has made one or more sacrilegious confessions and, quite forgetful of this circumstance, has begun to make valid confessions without ever setting right the bad ones; this not unfrequently happens to children. In this case the general confession need only extend over the sacrilegious confessions.