Category Archives: Spirituality

Confession Deja Vu

I have a love / hate relationship with Confession.

I love that feeling of walking away clean, that feeling of wholeness you have knowing your sins are as far from you as the the east is from the west. I love that time with the priest, walking through my life over the past couple of week, and hearing his lessons on how I can try to reach closer to God. You can truly feel God’s presence in Confession in a way that simply is not present at any other time. It’s truly very special.

There is one thing about confession that drives me crazy though. Every time I open the door to the holy closet, it’s the same thing.

It’s like deja vu, I am confessing the same darn things I did last week.

What the heck man? Didn’t we go through this last time? Didn’t we talk about how to avoid these very same sins? I could have sworn I remember firmly saying that these were the exact sins that I was not going to bring to Confession this time, and yet, here I am with the same old crap. It almost makes me want to go do something else bad just so that I can have something different to say.

It makes me feel like a blooming idiot.

This is why my ears perked up when one of our teachers at my formation classes started to talk about this subject. I was thinking there might be one or two of you with the same problem, so I figured I would share his thoughts on the matter. I thought they were actually quite profound. I am sure I will not do them justice, but I will give it my best. Most of the ideas that follow come from Father, but I will be speaking in the first person for clarity and brevity.

Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, Laziness. 
(Father added Fear to this list)

You know what these are of course, the cardinal sins, those sins on which all others are based from. One of these is yours. Now I know, you may think you have a little of all of them, but one stands out as your own. It is the one that seems to run your life. It’s the one that you have to bring to Confession every dang week. (If you are having trouble identifying yours, look for my post to come soon on how to examine your conscience)

For us to understand this, we have to have a little theology. (Just a little, I promise!)

Satan is not an inventor. He does not make new things. There is nothing in this world that was not created directly by God. What Satan does is twist things. He takes good things that God has made, and he puts them into the wrong context, and that it what makes them evil. The easiest example is sex. Sex is created by God. It brings a husband and wife closer together, and through their mutual love, brings life into the world. It is truly a gift from God. If you take this same gift and twist it however, you have abortion, birth control, homosexuality and teen pregnancy. See? God made the thing good, Satan twisted it. (See that wasn’t so bad was it?)

So I need you to imagine that God built you with an engine somewhere inside you, and this engine runs all the time. It has boundless fuel, and endless power. To this engine there is connected a drive shaft, a pole designed to connect this power to parts of your life. This big sin is not the engine, it is the engine unconnected. The drive shaft just bounces around your life, smacking into all your relationships like a bull in a china shop. It is not under control. God made you with this engine, it is a part of your fundamental power, but you have allowed it to get twisted, and so it is wreaking havoc in your life. It is like an uncontrolled demon.

This engine is going to pump away no matter what we do, God put it there, so it is not going away. What are we to do?

Well, you are going to have to wait till tomorrow to find out.

Praying the Divine Office

I love old movies, you know, the ones that don’t have scantly clad women in every other scene blasting out profanities while firing an AK47 into unsuspecting public.

I especially love old Catholic movies. What a different time in our nation when a producer could put together a  movie like “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, or “The Song of Bernadette” and actually expect an audience to want to see it. I’m too young to remember such a time, but in my minds eye I can imagine the shops all closed on Sundays, and Friday fish specials at every grocery store. I don’t actually know if it was ever like that, but in my “Leave it to Beaver” dreams, that’s how it is.

One thing you will often see in these old movies is that moment when you catch the priest unawares. If you were to catch a priest off guard in a modern movie, I am saddened to say that it is probably something you really don’t want to see, and you should probably go to another movie immediately. In the good old black and white days though, catching a priest off guard always meant the same thing.

He was reading out of the black book.

What was this ominous black book? Why was he always walking in the garden with that same darn book? Was it the Bible? Butler’s “Lives of the Saints”? Nope, it was the Divine Office.

Just in case you are wondering, all clergy is expected to read the Divine Office, and most religious orders have it in one form or another written into their Rule as well. It’s just one of those things that the religious are supposed to do.

“Priests and deacons aspiring to the presbyterate are obliged to carry out the liturgy of the hours daily according to the proper and approved liturgical books; permanent deacons, however, are to carry out the same to the extent defined by the conference of bishops”  -Code of Canon Law 276-3

So yes, priests are supposed to pray the whole darn thing every day, and according to the the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, deacons are required to pray at least morning and evening prayer. It’s just one of those things that are supposed to be done.

At first, I must say, this was a daunting task. These books are rather confusing to the novice, let me tell you. It is broken into a bunch of different sections and you are constantly flipping from one side of the book to the other to find whatever reading or prayer is next. If it a holy day not celebrated on a Sunday, it might be in the back of the “Propers”. What? It’s a saint’s feast day? Is it local or not? Okay let me search the “Proper of Saints” real quick. Should I pull out my addendum? I mean this thing is so complicated that every year, they print out a guide just with the various page numbers you should be on every day.

You should see all of us deacon candidates when we get together and try to figure this out. It’s hilarious, not unlike watching a circus. We are all shouting out page numbers, books are flying through the air, a moments smile when you get to the right page only to arrive a moment too late and have fumble while the rest of the group is on to the next section. We are like a wheelbarrow full of monkeys.

Phew, It’s like holy juggling.

All joking aside, the rich liturgical feeling of this most ancient prayer truly is divine. You cannot help but feel yourself moving through the liturgical calendar, chanting away with all the men and women before us. The prominent position of the psalms in this prayer help your mind and heart go back even further to our Jewish roots. It is truly timeless.

Unless you are short on time, in which case it feels like a race. “I must do this, I am commanded!” you think to yourself. I hope the Lord can see through my selfishness, and if He cannot reward my lack of focus, perhaps he will be kind to me for my persistence.