Friday, August 13, 2010

Good Confessions, Good Vocations

Each Friday this Summer, I am devoting my Homily at our Parish’s daily Mass to some aspect of the Sacrament of Penance.

Today, I wish to offer a simple point: Good confessions lead to good vocations.

There are many good reasons to spend a few minutes before Our Eucharistic Lord in Church immediately after making one’s confession. This, of course, is the time when many pray their penance. It is a time to quiet our souls in a state of grace and ask, “Lord, is there anything that you wish to show me, to teach me, to change in me?” The Holy Spirit will often bring us light about how to avoid the near occasion of sin the next time, how to take practical steps toward virtuous habits, how to “amend my life.”

“Lord, in your light, we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

In light of Christ’s teaching in today’s Gospel concerning those who “have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven,” I wish to note a vocational component of the Sacrament of Penance that often goes unrecognized. That is, a person who has been absolved of sin is now brought to a place where sin and its effects are not clouding his spiritual vision as they had previously. If I am steeped in unchastity or self-concern or irreverence, then it is difficult, even laughable, for me to fathom the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. But moral freedom leads me to hear Christ’s call more freely.

Specifically, a good confession is the source of a good vocation in at least three ways:

1. God has forgiven me! I recognize His divine, generous, merciful love in this confession, and now my heart wishes to offer generous love toward Him in return.

2. God has forgiven me! Now I wish for others to taste and see this same mercy, perhaps by means of a priestly vocation, through which I might be a channel of God’s ministry of reconciliation to countless others.

3. God has forgiven me! Even though my sins cling to me so closely, and I consider myself far from ready to enter a vocation of celibacy, of religious poverty, chastity, and obedience … nevertheless, I have witnessed Christ Jesus beginning a good work in me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a work that might one day be brought to perfection!

If your parish is attempting to promote vocations among your young people, don’t waste your time on slick and silly programs. Get the youth back into God’s good graces. Get them back within earshot of the Holy Spirit.

Get them back into the Confessional.


  1. It stands to reason: to hear God better, frequent the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Reconciliation. Great point!

    I'd also like to point out that this applies to all the vocations; that each baptized person has a vocation, not only those called to religious life or the clergy.

  2. Thanks, "MargoB." Yes, your point is important: Each baptized person receives a vocation, the universal call to holiness, which is nourished and guided by the Sacraments.

  3. Could not agree more, Father. so what does it say when so many Parishes offer confessions "by appointment only".....

  4. Thanks, "Anonymous." Your question serves as a fine "Coming Attractions" for my 3 posts next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the topic of "When, and How Often, Should a Parish Offer Confessions Each Week?" I will introduce the topic on Monday.

  5. Thanks Father for your energy and love of our faith. I appreciate it.

  6. Thanks, "Mairin :o)." The issue of priestly "energy" is an interesting and important one. We live in a superficial culture and we tend to judge our parish priests superficially, according to temperament or liveliness or "energy" level. Some of this may be rooted in authentic spiritual dynamism, and even an aged, infirm priest (such as Pope John Paul II in his last years) was able to project a remarkable spiritual dynamism in his eyes. Let's look at this issue of priestly "energy" sometime in the weeks ahead.

  7. Fr. Baer,

    I'm the lay vocations liason between my parish and our diocesean office of Vocations. As such (and a mother of five, soon to be six children) this is an issue near and dear to my heart. I will pass on your blog to our Deacon/Youth ministry director. We had a parochial vicar a couple of years ago who made it a point to offer confession regularly during our youth meetings but that seems to have fallen off.

    I think all of the sacraments need to be emphasized to our youths, and one way to reach the youth is to offer special opportunities for confession and Mass during the time our youths attend their catechesis. It makes the point that each youth is called and special.

  8. Thanks, "Mommyleaf." Yes, your suggestion regarding offering special opportunities for Mass and confessions during the time that our youth attend their catechesis is an excellent one, and for two reasons: First, it is a time when they are already here at church and do not need to be pulled away from their many activities and distractions; and second, it is a sign to them that the Sacraments are not some remote add-on to "real life," even real church life, but that they are the heart and soul of everything that the faith formation or catechesis or youth ministry is seeking to pass along to them.

  9. I am always struck by the cultural phenomena of when making a mistake, there are so many examples of how many people pretend it never happened. This starts at such a young age, it is almost as if society conditions us to not take responsibility for our actions. Catholics must overcome to societal conditioning, and find ways to approach Christ to ask for mercy and forgiveness. It heals our relationship with Christ, each other, and ourselves.

    Reconciliation plays in to that natural and useful anxiety to step up and say I made a mistake. Without this anxiety we would not experience the joy of the forgiveness and healing. I love watching people smile after confession. I also like how renewal plays into vocation. How can we actively participate in our vocation, if we do not take time to be renewed in Christ?

  10. I am sorry Father..I am still getting over the shock of a priest actually speaking in a sermon about the Sacrament of Penance.
    Sadly, I can tell you it is not the norm.

  11. Fr. Bill,

    Thanks for reminding me I need to get ME back in the confessional! But it does get frustrating confessing the same areas of sin over and over. It's not that I have no intention of living out what I say in the Act of Contrition; it's just I have certain areas in which I'm tested repeatedly. "Miserable one that I am!"

    Great seeing you at the UCO reunion a few years back.

  12. I attend a TLM church and confessions are heard for 15 minutes before EVERY mass, seven days a week. It is wonderful and I would hope that other parishes would do the same.

  13. Paul T

    I once mentioned the same thing to my confessor. He asked me a feew quesiotns to make sure I wasn't suffering from scrupulosity, and then told me that as a young priest and older priest told him that he would rather hear the same sins the people are honesty trying to deal with rather than "Bles Me Father for I have sinned, I tried something new" :-)

  14. Our pastor (FSSP) once said, "Long confession lines are the sign of a healthy parish."

  15. Father, I read about you on Father Z's blog-he wants us to come over and 'spike up your stats'.

    This is a good posting on confessions and vocations. But what about 'older folks' like myself (I'm in my fifties) with regards to vocations? It seems that after one turns 35, and isn't married or in the priesthood/religious life, that person is thought of as 'weird' or having a 'commitment phobia'. I'm single, BTW.

    I find it hard to go to confession. I tell the same sins over and over again, and so I see no improvement in my spiritual life. It's frustrating trying to find a good confessor, especially here in the liberal Northeastern part of the US!

    I don't even know what Our Lord wants of me with regards to my life. I've wasted it 'chasing after the buck' in the business world, which I absolutely hate! Singlehood, I hate to say it, SUCKS! But what else is there for 'middle-agers' like me?

    Sorry if I'm 'off topic'-I need to vent about this from time to time, because it seems that NO ONE LISTENS!

    Barb in New York [listed as 'Anonymous']

  16. Thanks, "Barb." ("irishgirl"?) Your comments are very insightful.

    First of all, you are not alone in feeling frustrated, both regarding the stubborn persistence of sins even after numerous confessions, as well as the paucity of wise and holy confessors and spiritual directors in many locations.

    I don't mean to add fuel to the fire, but the availability of a good spiritual director or, even better, a good confessor who also offers spiritual direction often makes a big difference in the penitent moving forward in slow, steady moral growth. As a parish priest, I wish I could assist more parishioners as a spiritual director but, for now, I remind them that some of the scheduled confession times each day are not so busy that one cannot come in for a combination of confession and a brief time of spiritual direction.

  17. Yes, Father, I'm 'irishgirl', who comments on Father Z's did you know?

    I wish I could find that 'good spiritual director or confessor'! I've had a few of them, but as luck would have it, they always got transferred or had other responsibilities placed on them by the Bishop. So, guess who gets 'dropped'....?

    There used to be parishes in my area with religious Order priests-Franciscans, Scalabrini Fathers, Vincentians-but they all got pulled out, and now we're left with the overworked diocesan priests, sometimes with more than one parish. So they don't have a lot of time to devote to their people. And I hate bothering them so much! Especially because I'm a female, and there are always gossips out there who will whisper behind their hands if I 'hang around' the priest too much (I know from experience).

    Barb (a/k/a 'irishgirl')

  18. Fr. Baer,

    I saw Fr. Z's link, and I thought, could that be the architect "Bill Baer" from UCO Ann Arbor many years ago? I came here, and discovered that it is! You may not remember me, but you used to lead us in a Bible study on the 5th floor of Couzens Hall at the University of Michigan back in the late 80s. You taught us the book of Colossians. And I never wanted to miss your UCO talks. At that time, I was a Protestant. Four years ago, my wife and my two daughters and I were received into the Catholic Church here in St. Louis under Archbishop Burke. Thanks so much for giving us so much of your time and your gifts back then. I'm deeply grateful. And congratulations on becoming a priest! Your parishioners are so blessed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan Cross

  19. Greetings, Bryan / "Principium Unitatis"! Well, if this isn't the best news I've heard in a long time! I can't tell you how delighted I am to hear from you again, and especially to hear the wonderful news that you and your family were receieved into the Catholic Church four years ago under Archbishop Burke. Praise God!

    Yes, of course I remember you and the gang that would meet on the 5th floor of Couzens for Bible Study. (And I suppose we both remember our fellow Bible Study participant, "CL," who was arrested for torching a Detroit transit bus when the Tigers won the Series in '84. When Dan Keating (now Dr. Daniel Keating, with a doctorate in patristics from Oxford and teaching at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit) handed on his UCO duties on "The Hill" at UM, he made it very clear that I was to "keep that very serious Bryan Cross guy involved."

    Please keep in touch.

    God bless.
    Father Bill Baer