The following is a response to “Confession: more than just another monotonous routine” by Ryan McAnany, published in the Feb. 24 issue of The University News. Fr. Roch Kereszty, O. Cist., an adjunct professor of theology, continues the conversation below.
I hope you don’t mind that, unknown to you personally, I took the liberty of calling you by your first name. I invoke my age as an excuse.
I read your article on Confession with interest and gratitude that you had the courage to bring up such a delicate subject in a student newspaper. The University of Dallas is indeed a special place! I like especially your words: “Confession is meant to make a significant impact on the way we live, to draw us toward God and to encourage us to make positive changes in our daily life.” Of course, while reading all these compliments, a reader may be wondering, where is the “but”?
Here it is, and just one “but,” Ryan, with some implications. I had the impression that you assumed that everyone going to Confession has committed a mortal sin and that in the absolution they receive sanctifying grace again. It is true that I am obligated to confess only mortal sins and go to Confession only after I have committed one. But the truth is that any Catholic who takes spiritual life seriously will go to Confession regularly even if he or she has not committed a single mortal sin. It is also true that any act of true love for God forgives venial sins without Confession, but confessing them makes much more sense to me. Rather than relying on my own request for pardon, I meet the forgiveness of Jesus Christ Himself in the priest’s words of absolution. Also, I ask for the forgiveness of the Church through her representative. In the mind of many Catholics, venial sins do not really count. Perhaps the use of another qualifier may help: venial sins may often be serious sins that hurt Christ and His Church even though by themselves they do not cause the death of the soul.
How many zealous evangelical Protestants have asked us in the past, “Why should I become Catholic? I went to several Sunday Masses and I found the atmosphere cold, impersonal or at most lukewarm.”
Matthew 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.”
Look at our worship services. They are full of joy and ecstatic faith. We are acting like brothers and sisters to each other because that is what we are.
Of course, there are saints around us, most of them ordinary, simple people, their holiness unassuming and hidden. But not everyone discovers them; only those who look for the virtues of extraordinary kindness, peace, generosity and joy perceive them.
The problem is, however, that we are not saints, and even worse, we don’t want to be saints. If only we understood that not becoming a saint equals not becoming happy. As the famous French Jewish convert Leon Bloy said, “The only real sadness … is not to become a saint.” And it is not that hard because God wants it more than we do and he gives us all the grace we need. What we need is to carry out God’s plan in our lives, day by day.
Let’s go beyond the letter of the 10 Commandments. The Christian’s challenge is: “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) If Jesus gave us this commandment, he will also make it possible for us to follow it. Let us read the Sermon on the Mount, the magna carta of Christian life. Then we begin to see that we will always be able to be truly repentant and must start the struggle over again every day. And frequent Confession will be a great help. True repentance, however, is inseparable from joy: We know that in the moment we sincerely repent God is happy to forgive us.