Thursday, January 10, 2008

Confession

Based on the volume of discussion the AOTM post generated it is a topic many of you are thinking about. I want to ask some related questions.

1. An excerpt from the Catholic answers tract on communion has this to say;
"Out of habit and out of fear of what those around them will think if they do not receive Communion, some Catholics, in a state of mortal sin, choose to go forward and offend God rather than stay in the pew while others receive the Eucharist. The Church’s ancient teaching on this particular matter is expressed in the Didache, an early Christian document written around A.D. 70, which states: "Whosoever is holy [i.e., in a state of sanctifying grace], let him approach. Whosoever is not, let him repent" (Didache 10). " Under what circumstances would you not receive the Eucharist as a matter of conscience?

2. Do you perform a daily or frequent examination of conscience? I ask this because I think it would be very difficult to keep track of ones "state" if some sort of examination is not performed at least several times a week. I know this from experience. I find nightly examinations difficult for many reasons though I suspect the primary reason is because my flesh (sarx) detests it.

I ask these questions because I am guilty of receiving the Eucharist unworthily. I have justifyed it by saying I will confess this sin next time, or worse that I made an act of contrition just 30 mins ago so I am "ok".
It is my intention to amend these behaviors by continuing to struggle with examinations and frequent confession.

3 comments:

Joshua 24:15 said...

Those are great questions and ideas, Germanicus. I haven't quite figured out how scupulous to be when it comes to taking Communion. When it gets to be 2-3 months between confessions, logic tells me I have seriously sinned in the interim. But, I struggle to discern whether I have mortal sin on my soul. I feel ok with my decisions so far, and certainly have high-tailed it to Saturday confession when I knew for sure that I was not in a state of grace. To be completely honest, I did not want to attend Mass with my family and NOT go up for Communion. But, I also didn't want to miss the grace, so I made sure to got to Reconciliation before Sunday.
In one of my early men's prayer group meetings, advice from several older and wiser men than me, warned not to be so scrupulous that I might "give up" the grace offered by God via Communion.
Still, I also walk the tightrope, that I might not offend God by receiving unworthily.
Thanks for getting us thinking.

J. Thorp said...

I have a much (much!) longer comment I'd love to leave, had I the free hours to write it! Alas, I do not.

I will say that, like Joshua 21:15, I've been advised not to let my own
failings keep me from the grace offered through Communion. Our priest in my formative years (in my case, this means my early 20s, since aside from a two-year stint around fourth and fifth grade, we were never a church-going family -- my better half changed all that) saw that I was in church with my wife and infant son each Sunday, but was not taking Communion. He invited me to talk (and ultimately to a hour-long examination of conscience and face-to-face confession then and there).

I told him I had serious doubts, reservations and lack of understanding regarding my faith and church teachings -- and that I didn't want to belittle what the faithful around were doing or offend God by receiving Communion in half-belief.

He said it was obvious to him that I thought and prayed a great deal about these things. He also said that all the faithful have their doubts and questions, and assured me that God had given me this head on my shoulders, so as long as I continued to grapple with my questions with an open mind, I would be alright.

Finally, he told me not to allow my doubts and failings keep me from grace through Communion. I realize this doesn't directly answer the questions asked -- but I guess I have a hard time imagining a God (who understands my struggles better than I do myself) being easily offended by my stumbling steps toward Him.


I'm reminded of Jack Nicholson's line in a Few Good Men -- Tom Cruise asks him if a Marine was in "grave danger" and Nicholson replies, "Is there another kind?" If sin is sin is sin, are we ever worthy of grace? And yet it's given.

We declare our unworthiness before we receive the Eucharist, and in my case, it resonates *every time.* Christ got after the leaders of his day for stressing over the rules at the expense of actually trying to bring good to the world. I, too, walk the tight-rope -- but our God, I think, is not so process-oriented as to be upset by "inadequate yearly progress" as measured by frequency of confession, etc. (Sort of a "No Sinner Left Behind" program -- catechists beware!) I know when I need to go -- I ache for it -- but then, I suspect you might say that's a sure sign I've waited too long ...

I agree, these are great questions, Germanicus -- but isn't the asking and the struggle to answer evidence enough of our sorrow over our unworthiness? Help me to understand, because honestly, I never feel worthy of Communion, and yet rarely have felt so unworthy as to not come forward ...

Germanicus said...

j thorpe wrote; "I know when I need to go -- I ache for it -- but then, I suspect you might say that's a sure sign I've waited too long ..."

You bring up a good point. St John tells us that we need no one to teach us because we have the Spirit which will teach us. Now I know some have taken that too far, but in the case of when to confess I think "listening" for the Spirit is a good practice.