Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Praying to Mary
Being the feast of the Queenship of Mary, it is very appropriate to talk about why praying to the saints is not sinful but a very good thing. Listen, I know if your a protestant how hard it is to go beyond your radar of thinking, and actually accept the possibility that praying to the saints is ok. First of all, Protestants will many times point to 1 Timothy 2:5-6 which states: "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time." Protestants will tell you that since the Bible says here that there is only mediator between God and man (Jesus) then praying to the saints is wrong since that would be turning the saints into mediators. But what are we Catholics doing when we pray to the saints? Are we asking that they reveal to us when our lives will come to an end? Do we want to know if we will become rich and famous? NO! When we pray to the saints we are simply asking our triumphant brothers and sisters to PRAY for us here on earth. Now tell me of a single protestant that will tell you asking someone else to pray for you is wrong! Let's look at the very beginning of the chapter in 1 Timothy we were just looking at. It says in verses 1-2, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."
You see, St. Paul is asking that we Christians pray for other men. That's called intercession, and that is the same thing that Catholics do when praying to the saints. We are asking for their intercessions.
"BUT THEY'RE DEAD! And we can't pray to dead people!" is what protestants will say. First of all, I always like to remind people that our God is the God of the living and not of the dead. The souls in Heaven are anything but dead. But I will not ignore your argument. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 says: "There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominable practices the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, give heed to soothsayers and to diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you so to do."
These practices that the Lord is forbidding is such as communicating with the dead for information about stuff like 'should I use these lotto numbers tomorrow?'. (Ok, bad example, but I hope you get the point!) We do not try to talk to those who have passed from this earth, but we ask that they pray for us. Why? What is the point? Because God is pleased to have his saints offer up prayers to him. For more information on this you can post questions in the comment box, or you can go to Catholic Answers website. Queen of Heaven pray for us!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

7 excuses that won't work for Confession

In recent years, sadly, the sacrament of confession has been rarely used by the majority of Catholics. It seems that many people got the impression that Vatican II somehow made it that it doesn't matter how often we go to confession before receiving communion, and that frequent confession is an outdated practice. First of all, that is hogwash! The Church has never said that confession was to be discouraged. Look in the Catechism at #1440-1470; it's all about confession and sin. So let's talk about confession...
First of all confession (By the way, confession is also referred to as Reconciliation, and Penance) is a sacrament. What is a sacrament? "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." (Baltimore Catechism.) So what is grace? "Any gift of God, especially His great gift of sanctifying grace, the divine life of the soul." (Baltimore Catechism) So a sacrament is an outward way in which God bestows His gifts to us. All 7 sacraments are outward signs that God gives us. Confession gives us the grace of God's forgiveness and God's help to do better. Now let's move onto the common objections against confession.
1. Q. "I can just ask God and He will forgive all of my sins- past, present, and future. After all, isn't that why Jesus died on the cross?" A. No, not exactly. You see, before Jesus died on the cross no one could go to Heaven. (Now PLEASE stick with me and don't freak out.) However, that doesn't mean everyone just went to Hell. Adam and Eve's sin shut the gates of Heaven for man. Animal sacrifices were preformed for reparation of sin, and the people that were faithful to God were not just sent to Hell, but instead were sent to a special waiting place until the gates of Heaven were reopened for man. Well, Jesus' death on the cross reopened the gates of Heaven for man. Also, His death allowed us to be able to receive forgiveness of our sins without animal sacrifices. So how do we receive that forgiveness? We receive it through confession. But why? Because Jesus established this wonderful sacrament as the means to receiving this grace. Look in the New Testament at John 20:22-23: "And when he [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them, [the Apostles] and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Jesus said this to the Apostles right after His Resurrection, and that is why Confession is the means of receiving God's forgiveness. It's because we can only receive God's grace through the means of which God has told us to. If Jesus said that we would be forgiven just by asking him in our personal prayer then that would be the way to be forgiven. But that is not the way God has decided things should be done. (I hope I explained that complicated matter clearly enough)
2. Q. "Only God has the power to forgive sins. Therefore it is impossible that a priest can. " A. Yes it's true that only God can forgive sins, but God is working THROUGH the priest in the sacrament of confession. Just like the Bible verse above, you can see that God did intend for His priests to pour forth the grace of forgiveness.
3. Q. "The priest is a sinner just like everyone else and therefore is unable to absolve sins." A. Yes, the Priest is a sinner like everyone else, but God has used sinners countless times in history to do great things. Although the priest as a man himself is a sinner and unable to do anything in and of himself, God works THROUGH the priest to accomplish the work.
4. Q. "I'm not a bad person, and therefore I don't need to go to confession." A. Everyone is a sinner. Some people are big sinners, and some people have few sins, but we are all sinners. If you haven't murdered, raped, worked for Sadam, or are a major drug dealer, it doesn't mean you haven't still sinned. Every night you should take 5 minutes or so to examine how you did that day. I'm sure you will find faults that you did. They may be small but that is how sin grows. It starts small and gets bigger. Get rid of your sin while it's still small, before it gets out of hand.
5. Q. "I'll Never get better no matter how hard I try." A. That is really just despair. No, you will probably never be a perfect angel, but all that God demands of you is that you try your hardest (Matthew 5:48).
6. Q. "I'm just too embarrassed to confess my sins to priest." A. The short answer to this is that any priest with a few years under his belt has seen and heard it all in the confessional. No matter if you think you have committed a one of a kind sin, the priest has heard in the past one of a kind sins before. The point is you need help. Go to confession.
7. Q. "I don't know or remember how to go to confession." A. It is pretty simple. A. Walk inside the confessional (either behind the screen or in front of the priest). B. The priest will begin in the name of the Trinity, and possibly read a brief Scripture passage. Then you will say 'Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been ----- since my last confession'. Then you will state all of the Mortal sins you have committed since your last confession, and any smaller sins. C. The priest will then give you any advice and may ask a few questions to clarify something. D. The priest will assign a sort of penance (good work) for you to do that will help you to express sorrow for your sin. Don't worry, penances are not punishments and are not meant to embarrass you. If you don't understand your penance you may ask for a new one or ask how to do it. E. Finally the priest will ask you to recite the Act of Contrition. You may recite any prayer expressing sorrow, but it is traditional to recite the following or similar prayer: "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all of my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they have offended You, O my God, Who art 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. Amen." F. The priest will then give the prayer of absolution (the forgiveness of sins) and will tell you to leave in peace. You may respond 'Amen' and then thank the priest and leave. You should try to do your penance as soon as possible. That's it in a nutshell.
Remember that confession is not a vending machine. You do not just walk in and say a few things and then walk out forgiven and an angel. You must be sorry for your sins and resolve to try your hardest to do better. Just think about what the Holy Scriptures say: "In just the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10)