Posts Tagged With: mercy

Coffee, Contrition, and Clarity

Saturday, September 8, 2012 – 1:10pm – Cafe Central Coffee Haus – Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

So I’ve been back in General Cepeda for about 2 months now. Earlier this week I realized that even amongst all the down time I’ve had from week to week, I’ve not left town a single time. So I decided to come to Saltillo for a few hours, just to get away. Hopped on the bus, and 35 pesos and 2 hours later I arrived. Having been here many times before, I had no desire to do anything touristy. I just wanted to walk around, explore a tiny bit, and relax.

I’d heard that just down the road from where the bus drops you off, there is a mall. Small, but nice. And the added bonus was stumbling upon this coffee shop. After I walked around the mall, I knew that this was where I’d have my chill time. Spending time at coffee houses is one of my favorite things to do back home. This habit first started during my high school days and cemented itself into my life during my college years. It’s a place and an environment where you can read, study, relax, visit, or people watch.

Did morning prayer from the breviary once I sat down with my frappucino. Also read alot from a book by Ralph Martin, a prominent figure within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. People-watched. Enjoyed the calm, relaxing atmosphere. The soothing hum of the coffee machines, coolers, and various other appliances. Realizing through all of this that we should always have some scheduled down-time, just to relax, refresh, re-energize, and get away for a bit. Also realizing that a key element in living apart from your favorite places and people is to always carry them in your heart. Another key element is to seek out a little taste of home wherever you are. A peaceful coffee shop. A city park. A grocery store. A shopping mall to aimlessly walk around in. These special things and little reminders are a part of who you are and what makes you unique. Embrace them. Rest in the comfort of these little blessings God sends you. They are part of what has made you who you are and gotten you to where you are. I believe in doing this, you will be more genuinely yourself and thus be better able to live and serve where God has you.

Another thing I want to share about is contrition, aka – sorrow for sins. As a Christian the more self-aware I have become, the more I have reflected on this. I feel like I am truly making progress in my spiritual life and that the Lord is helping me to find the proper balance in this area. What follows is a question I posed to several priest friends of mine and their responses. Names have been changed so that you can focus on the answers. And though not worded in exactly the same way, all of the responses essentially and basically say the same thing.

God Bless!
(the following is the question I posed to my priest friends and their responses)

Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation? Another way to phrase the question is, Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?

“My thoughts…Yes. One of the compounding negative effects of sin, especially habitual sin, is despairing emotions/shame. The progress one makes in combating sin is not all lost by a later fall. One truly does get closer to God and grows in his love and grows in trust. A later fall grieves us but our increased trust in God’s mercy dominants our emotional reaction to the sin.” –Fr.K—

“Yes, A healthy fear of sin, is a fear of the distance from God it brings. Being scared of sin means feeling that it’s bigger than God’s Mercy and therefore unforgiveable. count your blessings that you ‘ve been able to move beyond the previous despair. Despair is a trick of the Evil one, to lead you to procrastinate about Confession, to believe less and less in the Mercy of God and more and more of your worthlessness; both are lies. Sin, does not cause you to become worthless in the eyes of God. There’s nothing wrong about you, even if you’ve done something wrong!” –Fr.H—

“I think you are experiencing consolations of seeing some of the progress you’ve made. That is wonderful! I would say: yes, enjoy the good healthy reactions you have but also make sure to guard against the sin of presumption and do not let up in your efforts at self-mastery… Enjoy the consolations AND keep fighting the good fight!” –Fr.S—

“I certainly think so.” –Fr.B—

“I can only give a guess at what’s going on. First, there is a distinction in types of grace. You may have fallen from a state of “sanctifying grace” due to the sin and thus your conscience rightly pricked you making you aware of the fall. Seemingly God has blessed you simultaneously with an “actual grace” of hopefulness and love despite your fallen state. I would guess it was God presenting himself to you through “actual grace” in an attractive manner so that you trust in his future goodness and continue to follow him. You could prayerfully reflect upon this as though you were one of Jesus’ disciples in scripture before his actual death and resurrection. The joy and inspiration they received from his presence would have been more along the lines of “actual grace” (blessings from God) rather than salvific, since he had not yet offered himself in forgiveness of sins. (Of course, Jesus did forgive certain people along the way, but forgiveness was not yet offered to all prior to his death.) [The other alternative interpretation is that the feeling of “being okay” was from another spirit other than God. A way to discern this is reflecting upon whether your impulse at the time was to avoid the things of God (perhaps a subtle sense of joyful passivity and ambivalence to the things of God) or were you being drawn toward God and a deeper awareness of the peace and love that he reveals?]” –Fr.J—

“ the short answer is yes. Feelings are not a necessary part of the spiritual life. The spiritual life resides in “the will,” not “the heart.” And so you ought to have an intellectual fear of the consequence of sin and have the strength of will to avoid sin. If your feelings support those, super good! If they don’t, well that’s not a big deal. It is not necessary to feel sad or even frustrated when you sin. All that is required is contrition – which is an intellectual understanding of the consequence of sin and a disposition of will to make amends. Of course, all that’s very clinical. Unless you’re a robot, your emotions will play a part. Just don’t give them too much power over you. You can be contrite, even when you’re not “feeling it.” And contrition is what you need, not sadness or despair.” –Fr.R—

“Interesting that you ask this because I was talking about it with someone the other day. I think it is possible to have a healthy fear of sin and yet not be given to great sadness or despair in committing sin. Especially with sins that have been habitual to some extent in the past and from which we are trying to purify ourselves, I think we can arrive at a point at which, though we may fall into sin we realize that God is still working with us and trust in His mercy. There’s a book called “Clean of Heart” that is a 50-day meditation on sexual purity. In the introduction it speaks of a similar thing, namely when one falls they ought not too fall into great despair and get overly-consumed with the actions of the past but simply recognize one’s brokenness, bring it before the Lord in confession and continue the battle again. Hopefully that makes some sense.” –Fr.B—

“In a simple answer, it is possible. The more we grow in trust in the Lord the more we also grow in developing a healthy fear of sin. The challenge if one falls though, regardless of the sin, is to never become complacent. In other words, to recognize the seriousness of sin and go to confession as soon as possible, but at the same time not to despair because one has fallen. This comes with developing a healthy fear of the Lord.” –Fr.G—

“First off, I want to congratulate you for cooperating with God’s grace to create ways to protect yourself from sins of impurity. This is the point of confession: not just to shed the guilt of past sins, but (just as importantly) give strength to change these sinful behaviors and to break free from old patterns.

I definitely feel that your new perspective on sin is another a sign of God’s grace affecting your heart and mind.

That “normal” past sense of despair after falling into sin is healthy and necessary in the early stages of spiritual development. As you mentioned, our conscience must be attuned to the evil ugliness of sin and should thrust us into a healthy sense of guilt and remorse as well as compel us to go to confession ASAP. But as we grow and mature in the spiritual life, we should develop a greater sense of confidence in Christ’s victory over our sins.

So… Yes it is possible – and is in fact the goal- “to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation.” That sense of despair that you used to feel was in some way a lack of confidence in Christ’s power over your sins. This transition in thinking that you’ve described is a transition from worry about what you have done (sin) and what you now have to do (discipline) toward a confidence in what Christ has done (died on the cross/forgiven your sins) and what you and HE together now have to do (cooperate).

So… “Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?”… Yes. Because with Christ by your side there is no reason to fear sin. He has already conquered it. 2000 years ago. It’s done.

This is the transformative power of God’s forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Hope this helps.”

–Fr.M–

“When we realize that sin is not distasteful to God, but that we have messed up our relationship with Him we are usually moved to fix it as soon as possible. Humility tells us that we have more work to do. It is no longer a childish fear, but an adult understanding of what I have to do. We have hurt the One who loves us most and most perfectly. Sorrow is a condition that comes, but in itself does not necessarily give feelings. Instead, it is the movement to get things right.”

–Fr.B–

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So the other day I was in the confessional…………

So, yesterday I was in need of the Sacrament of Confession (what’s new, huh?). I started the day with plans to try and escape during my lunch break and hit up confession @ Cathedral. However, my dad called me and said “Hey, I got some missionary work I need you to help me with”. As a domestic missionary and future foreign missionary, I couldn’t say no, and I think it’s cuz he used the word “missionary”. Yeah, had he not used that word, I might not have been as inclined to help. But I think he knew what he was doing when he used that word. The great part about it was that besides helping do some maintenance and yard work for a family member, I realized my dad was associating what he does here in the U.S. as missionary work (praise God!). I also realized that he was starting to associate the word “missionary” with the word “Sid”. 🙂

So I pull some strings with my other boss (mom), and leave the shop right after lunch. I go to help him do the work and without hesitation, but I still have in the back of my mind that I can be done early enough to maybe hit up afternoon confession @ Cathedral. As we work into the afternoon and I see how much we had to accomplish, I knew that Cathedral wasn’t going to be an option. This was mildly difficult for me, b/c when I need to receive God’s mercy in The Sacrament of Confession, I don’t play around. I go as soon as I can. But, I didn’t worry too much b/c I knew my delay in going to Confession was due to a worthy cause. I think it was also good because my eagerness to receive that Sacrament can sometimes cause me to get impatient when I can’t go right away. So,  I know the good Lord was teaching me patience. God was also putting it on my heart that the poor I will be serving on missions hardly ever have access to a priest or the Sacraments. It was God’s way of helping me to have compassion for them.

After we finished working, and ate supper at my parents’ house with my nieces, I get a hunch to drive to the Community of Jesus Crucified to see if one of the priests can hear my confession. Sure enough, Fr. Frey was more than happy to do it. After the confession, we chatted a little bit, and I asked him if they were still having night prayer at 9. He told me yes, and that he was gonna be saying a Mass immediately afterwards. Considering daily Mass time is at 6:15am, this was a pleasant surprise! In this small, humble little chapel, it was Fr. Frey, 3 other people & me. It was one of the most chilled, peaceful, relaxing, prayerful, and intimate Masses I’ve ever been to. Of course, Fr. Frey is so holy and dedicated and he’s a great homilist too, that any Mass he does is good. It was just kinda neat to see how I went from not thinking I’d get to go to Confession or Mass, to having both. Yet another instance of God loving me unconditionally and showering blessing upon me even when I don’t deserve it. In the interest of privacy, I simply ask you to say a prayer for this family member, for healing in all areas of life, and for a closer walk with God. Please say a prayer too that I would learn the guitar well (I’m teaching myself) so that I can use it as an evangelization tool in missions. Thank You & Praise God!

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Devil’s Gonna Try To Derail You…………

Monday 6/14/10 – 3pm @ Awardmaster (Lafayette, LA)

There’s this trilogy of books by Catholic author Bud McFarlane: House of Gold, Conceived Without Sin, and Pierced By a Sword (I highly recommend these books). When I read these books (multiple times), I remember the author talking about how when he was working on these books, things would constantly go wrong. He then went on to re-iterate that anytime we strive to follow God’s will, the Devil will try to derail us. Need proof? Look in the Bible at Jesus time in the desert.

The Devil himself came to Jesus to try and derail him. He plays on our struggles, weaknesses, emotions, and impatience to try and stop us from doing God’s work. Lately, I have noticed this in my life. As you may already know, I plan on going into foreign missions this fall. Well, since I made that decision, and especially in recent weeks and months, I have been struggling mightily. The Devil has been throwing these temptations my way, and with quite a vengeance. This actually makes me happy, because it confirms that I’m headed in the right direction. Yet, at the same time it is quite discouraging.

Why? Because we are not meant to wallow in sin. Victory is ours. Christ conquered the power of sin through his death, and gives us the grace to overcome. I was reminded of this today in the confessional. Msgr. Mouton told me, “Sidney, you keep waffling, going back and forth. You have not made the decision to be chaste. Make the decision, and stick with a regimen of prayer and Scripture, and the virtue gained will help you to abide by that decision.”

It was such a simple solution, so obvious, yet so true. It made perfect sense, so, I did it. Praise God for the sacrament of confession, and for his mercy. I leave you with words from the prophet Nehemiah: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10-

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QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM THE 2010 DIVINE MERCY CONFERENCE

4-10-10 Saturday – Divine Mercy Conference @ The Cajundome Convention Center

I’ve decided this entry will be quotable quotes from today.

Fr. Hampton Davis quotes:

“Can’t catch love with a closed heart.” – “You better have some Jesus in You.” – ” Hell…….NO! Heaven……..YES!” – “M-E-R-C-Y. May Easter’s Reality Convert You!” – “We better count ourselves among the sinners, if we ever wanna count ourselves among the saints.” – “If  a soul does not show mercy, it will not obtain my mercy. (Fr. Hampton quoting St. Faustina who was quoting Jesus)” – “If we are merciful we choose heaven, if not we choose hell.” – “Divine Mercy is God’s medicine.” – “If we don’t fill our empty hearts with mercy, something worse will come back and fill it up.” – “A fly cannot enter a pressure cooker. Evil cannot enter a heart full of mercy.” – “To have the title ‘Christian’, and not live up to it, THAT is taking the name of the Lord in vain.” – “C-R-E-A-M. Cash Rules Everything Around Me. The world wants CREAM.”

Dr. Bryan Thatcher quotes (involved with Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy):

“If you pray the chaplet of divine mercy at the bedside of a dying person, I will be there as their merciful Savior. (Dr. Bryan quoting St. Faustina who was quoting Jesus)” – “We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors.” – “Father, your will be done = Jesus I trust in you.” – “Do what I did; give it up to God, look up to Jesus.”

Imaculee Ilibagiza quotes: (sidenote: She’s a survivor of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 that claimed 1 million lives, including her WHOLE family, except for one brother and herself)

“We own nothing. We should thank God for everything. It is all a gift.” – “If we grow our brains, but not our hearts, that’s bad.” – “God exists. He can help you. He is Almighty. He can do anything. If you ask him, he can move mountains.” – “At this moment of crisis, I had to decide which voice to listen to.” – “God heard me, he is real.” – “When you are angry, you are very creative.” – “You hating them does not change anything. If you pray for them, maybe there is hope.” – “The rosary is not just for Catholics or Christians. It is for every human being.” – “If I can forgive, anyone can forgive.” – “If you are conflicted between being kind and being right, choose kindness.”

Marcus Grodi quotes (he hosts the EWTN tv show “Journey Home” and is director of Coming Home Network International and is a former Protestant pastor):

“Proverbs 3:5-6. Look it up.” – “No Catholic ever gave me a reason to ever wanna become Catholic.” – “Sometimes we’re not open to an answer until we know there’s a problem.” – “1 Tim. 3:15. Look it up” – “3 biggest obstacles to becoming Catholic were ignorance of Catholic teaching, prejudice about their beliefs, and bad Catholics.” – “2 Thess. 2:15. Look it up” – “If you throw out the Church, you throw out everything.”

Annie Karto quotes (Catholic musician/evangelist):

“The truth can hurt, but it will set you free!”

Fr. Michael Champagne quotes:

“He is communion and he reconciles.” – “Enjoy the experience of your reposessed dignity.” – “When the priest lifts his hand during absolution, he’s washing you with the blood and water of Jesus. Let that inundate you.” – “Having received mercy, we have to, in turn, be merciful.”

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