Monday, February 22, 2010
Because of What Sin Does
We sang a plea for God’s mercy as an Offertory Hymn at Sunday's 11 a.m. Mass: Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo; ne in aeternum irascaris nobis. (Spare your people, Lord. Be not angry, Lord, with your people forever.) Later, at Vespers, three members of the Gregorian Chant Club—my son, my friend Andy, and I—chanted in Latin Audi, Benigne Conditor, which begins with the fourth verse of Parce Domine: Audi, benigne Conditor, Nostras preces cum fletibus. In hoc sacro jejunio, Fusas quadragenario. (O Merciful Creator, hear! To us in pity bow thine ear. Accept the tearful prayer we raise in this our fast of forty days.)
I found comfort in raising my voice with fellow parishioners to ask God for mercy, even though I understand that when I sin, the fault is mine alone.
In the CCD classes of my youth, I was taught that sin makes us separate from God. This is true, but something else happens, too. My parish priest reminded me of this Sunday morning during his homily when he described “the malice of evil and the loneliness of sin.”
This is a good way to think about sin. My sins, my everyday failings, make me lonely, both because they cut me off from my Creator and because they make me a stranger to the Communion of Saints.
Last week, Webster kindly mailed me a book called Frequent Confession: Its Place in the Spiritual Life (with the promise that I would guest-blog about it). First published in 1922, the book reinforces how our sins hurt the entire Body of Christ. Alternatively, the book tells us, the Sacrament of Confession strengthens that Body.
I am reading my way through this book by the late German Abbott, Benedict Baur, OSB, ever so slowly. It is full of insights about the interior life as well as spiritual gems that I do not want to miss. One of these gems lies in the book’s introduction, written in 1984 by the late Rev. Salvador Ferigle. He cites a 1970 decree from the Sacred Congregation for the Religious. It states that frequent confession, as often as weekly confession, in addition to strengthening virtue and giving grace, is “highly beneficial also to the common good of the community.”
Of the seven sacraments, the two most personal are marriage and confession, Baur writes. I enter the confessional separated from God and from the Body of Christ. As Psalm 51 (and the final verse of Parce, Domine) puts it:
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus cor contritum et humiliatum Deus non spernet. (My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit. God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.)
When I emerge from the Sacrament of Confession, I have not only allowed God to grant me grace, but I have also strengthened the Church.
Posted by Webster Bull at 5:43 PM