Having spent a year in Turkey, without practical access to a Catholic Church, (Ed. reminds me of Mass online in Dammam surreptitiously in my hotel room) the author, a convert to Catholicism, returns to the US and to a VERY expensive reckoning with the AZ DMV in attempt to regain his driving privileges…
“…on my first Saturday back in the Valley, I decided to get them absolved and receive Communion for the first time in 13 months.
The church had an open confessional, and the priest turned out to be one of the most benevolent-looking men I’d ever laid eyes on…
After breezing through what I considered the small stuff, I recounted the tongue-lashings I’d dealt out while in the grip of my awful temper. Whenever I recalled these moments privately, or for the benefit of friends, I wilted with shame. They seemed to me not only sinful but contemptible, evidence of a low and ill-formed character. The priest gave no sign of holding such an opinion. With no change in his cuddly affect, he offered a few general pieces of advice and absolved me.
“For your penance,” he said. “I give you one Our Father.”
I felt exactly the way all those Bible verses say I should feel: ransomed, redeemed, suddenly debt-free, welcomed back into the bosom of the family. It made me so giddy that I forgot how to begin the Act of Contrition. The priest pointed to an end table between us; taped to its surface was a piece of paper bearing all the words from start to finish. After I got through it, the priest said, “God bless you.”
I offer these two anecdotes side by side not because they’re so wildly different, but because, in nearly every respect, they’re so similar. In each case, an authorized representative of a legitimate power helps a man atone for some past transgression.
Both representatives strive, above all, to be helpful…The only difference is that one form of penance pinched, memorably, whereas the other was memorable for not pinching at all.
From time to time I hear from people who believe that penance should pinch, that redemption dearly bought should also be dearly paid for…
…the near-occasion of my explosiveness is conflict with my fellow humans. I lack the creativity to stick it to them in ways not covered by the Sermon on the Mount. My approach follows the same phases as Field Marshal Haig’s – either cower behind the parapet or charge. It produces more or less the same results his did. In the best of all possible worlds, I’d be a desert hermit. In this one, I’ve got to earn a living, which means seeking terms with all manner of disagreeable people.
There’s an old story about a prudish actress – I forget who – who installed a swearing jar on the set of one of her films. On the first day of shooting, her more spirited co-star – I want to say Ava Gardner, but I could be wrong – took one look at the thing, dropped in a twenty, and extemporized a prose-poem in high modern Billingsgate. Jesus has dropped a twenty in all of our swearing jars, but there’s a catch. When we transgress, we have to pay Him. By holding down the payment to a token, the priest ensured I could afford to go on trying.”
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles.” –St Basil the Great (Rules Briefly Treated, 288 [A.D. 374])
Act of Contrition
O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve,
with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins,
to do penance,
and to amend my life.
Prayer of Absolution(priest)
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of Your Son, You have reconciled the world to Yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Mercy, Lord! Mercy!
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "As the reading of bad books fills the mind with worldly and poisonous sentiments; so, on the other hand, the reading of pious works fills the soul with holy thoughts and good desires." -St. Alphonsus Liguori, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity… I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism, and where lie the main inconsistences and absurdities of the Protestant theory.” (St. John Henry Newman, “Duties of Catholics Towards the Protestant View,” Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England), "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom