Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What's the Big Deal about the Pope Going to Confession?

Early in his Papacy, Pope Francis did something that shocked the Catholic world - he went to confession....Watch the video of it here.

(Video credit: Catholic News Service)

Why are Catholics around the world talking about this? Why are we all so shocked? We have all heard reports that Pope Francis (like Benedict and John Paul before him) celebrates the sacrament of Reconciliation with great frequency. He has encouraged Catholics on multiple occasions to go to Confession. We have seen pictures of him hearing confessions at World Youth Day. But this, this was different.

There is nothing shocking about the fact that he went to confession. The Pope is, after all, Catholic. What has the world's attention is that he did it publicly. We can watch him on video kneeling before the priest, quietly sharing the sins he has committed, and humbly bowing his head to receive absolution. Just like we do. 

A few year's ago at a Penance Service held at my parish on Divine Mercy Sunday, I watched as my regular confessor, sat down before another priest and went to confession in plain view of the entire church. At the time, I was just as stunned to witness him going to confession as I was to watch the Pope going last week. That day gave me a new view on the priesthood and on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

We are all sinners - none of us is exempt from this condition. We are all in need of God's mercy and as Catholics we all have the opportunity to share in the great gift of sacramental Confession which the Lord Jesus gave to the church. The priest, or, for that matter, the Pope himself, is no different from the rest of us sinners when he is sitting on our side of the confessional. Watching the Pope, and my own confessor, celebrate the sacrament before my very eyes drove that point home to me in a way that just "hearing" about it never could. At the time, it gave me a comfort-level about going to Confession that I had not experienced before. 

On the flip side, the priest hearing confessions has been given an extraordinary gift. By the anointing he has received at ordination, he acts in persona Christi, and dispenses Jesus' mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament. The Pope himself, knelt before an "ordinary" priest, who on his side of the confessional, is able to do extraordinary things through the power of the Lord. The minute my confessor puts on his purple stole, and begins to hear my confession, it is palpably evident that this is not an ordinary conversation with an ordinary priest, but rather a "privileged encounter with Christ".

So what is the big deal about the Pope going to Confession?  The Pope's actions spoke more loudly
and more clearly than all the homilies and teachings he has given on Confession combined on the power and the truth about the Sacrament of Confession. Through his protocol-breaking humility, the Pope demonstrated the great need we all have for the gift of Confession. Through his use of the Sacrament, he showed to the world that there is nothing to be afraid of; nothing traumatizing or humiliating about the experience of Confession. And that is a big deal.
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I'm participating in #WorthRevisit Wednedays hosted by Allison at Reconciled to You and
Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb - head on over there for more inspiring Catholic posts.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Coming this Summer: Pope Francis' Recipe for Holiness

"The path to holiness is simple."

Pope Francis spoke these words in a homily about the universal call to holiness on May 24, 2016.  His words received little fanfare from the media. Folks were not clamoring to the comboxes to deliver their opinion on this statement of his. Even the most ardent of Catholics paid virtually no attention to this weekday morning homily. 

I, on the other hand, LOVED it!

Since the inception of this blog, my single focus has been to "strive for the heights of holiness in the trenches of everyday life." It is not only the goal of the blog - but it's also the goal of my life. After reading the Holy Father's homily that morning, I realized that he has been speaking an awful lot about what holiness looks like and how to get there.  In talks, and Angelus addresses, and homilies, and off the cuff comments, Pope Francis is providing we Catholics in the trenches with a "recipe for


I love to cook. In fact, I had a part-time job for eleven years cooking for the priests at our parish - it was the greatest job of my life. During those years, I was constantly testing and trying out new recipes on a very willing and grateful (albeit captive) audience. I came to realize that the quality of the recipe ensured the success of the meal. Some recipes were written so poorly as to be difficult to navigate - resulting in frustration on my part, and less than stellar reviews from my diners. There is nothing worse than ruining some carefully selected ingredients because of a bad recipe.

The Holy Father, in his various teachings on holiness, has provided the Church with a list of the very best of ingredients and the recipe for putting them together to create the greatest of all possible outcomes - a holy soul. 

I am delighted to announce that beginning on Monday July 11, fellow blogger and radio show host Allison Gingras of the blog Reconciled to You and I will be hosting an eight week blog series entitled "Pope Francis' Recipe for Holiness" . Each Monday will feature a new post focused on one of the "ingredients" in the Holy Father's recipe - peppered with lots of his words and some practical ideas from the trenches. 

I hope you'll  join us on this journey to holiness this summer!  Be sure not to miss a post by subscribing today to receive new posts directly in your email by entering your email address below.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shelter From the Storm

The rain pounded the windshield of my car as I tugged on the wiper controls, hoping to make my already whizzing windshield wipers go faster. My hands gripped the wheel as tight as I could and I peered out the window hoping to steer my car and my children to a safe spot to wait out the storm.

We had left a friend's house only a short while before, noting the dark clouds in the sky, but not expecting that Mother Nature would unleash such a severe thunderstorm within a few short minutes. I finally settled the car into a parking spot when the wind picked up dramatically, hail started to pound the roof and the branches of the tree above us began to violently thrash about.

"Let's go to St. John's..." whispered my daughter from the backseat.  St. John's was the parish which housed our homeschool co-op.  I knew it was only about a mile away, but I secretly doubted that its doors would be open in the middle of a random Wednesday afternoon.  Still, I knew we weren't safe where we were and her suggestion seemed to be worth a shot.

"Pray to St. Michael", I instructed the children as we slowly made our way down the road and into the church's vacant parking lot.  I pulled up in front of the church and my son dashed out to try the doors. He pulled on the first door - it was locked. "Please Lord", I silently prayed, "let us find shelter in your house..." The second door swung open.  I shooed my daughter out of the car and told them to wait for me inside while I parked.  She started sobbing. "Mommy, I'm afraid..." "No worries" was my trying-to-sound casual reply - "you are safe in Jesus' house."

The 10 second sprint from the parking lot into the church left me soaked from head to toe.  The children and I entered the dark, silent church, breathing deeply the familiar smell of faded incense, and made our way to the front pew.  We sat in silence in front of the tabernacle, the red light assuring us of the real presence of the Lord.  My daughter stopped crying and my son suggested we pray a rosary.

As we sat praying, the pounding rain slowly began to cease.  The pause in what had been an outrageously busy few weeks gave me a chance to reflect. 

  • How great is God our Father who provides shelter in all the storms of our life!  
  • How humble is our Lord Jesus, who waits patiently for us and welcomes us with love and unfathomable peace whenever we run to him, no matter how long it has been.
  • How wise is the Holy Spirit, who whispers words of wisdom into the hearts of our children, and makes our own "wiser" hearts docile enough to hear them.
  • How wonderful are the Lord's faithful servants who permit our churches to be unlocked, when the more "practical" minded would urge them shut them tight and open them only when necessary.
  • Finally, how powerful are the lessons of the Lord, which come in the most unexpected ways.  My children and I learned more about God's faithfulness and the shelter his Church provides in this short experience than through all the "religion lessons" of our school year. 

We left the church only 40 minutes later, and drove home in a light drizzle.  Within a few minutes of arriving at home, the sun began to shine brightly.  For those who love the Lord, there is always grace during the struggle, a rainbow following the storm, and resurrection after death.

To God be the glory!