St Francis Q&A

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Christ's healing in Confession

A little boy went into Confession. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned....I was mean to my brother, got mad at my parents, and had a bath with bubbles." The priest said, "Son, work on those first two things, but there is nothing wrong with simply taking a bath with bubbles." He gave the boy absolution and then his penance.

The next boy came in. "Bless me, Father,...I didn't obey my parents a few times, and had a bath with bubbles." The priest started thinking to himself, 'why do they think this is a sin?' "My son, having a bath with bubbles is not a sin." After he received absolution, the boy left to do his penance.

The next child, a little girl, came into the Confessional. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I'm Bubbles."
Whenever we go to Confession (the Sacrament of Penance / Reconcilation), we encounter Jesus Christ in the Confessional (through the person of the priest). It is Christ himself who hears our sins and forgives EVERY sin for which we are sorry. He is the divine physician who treats all of our wounds caused by sin.

The scene from this Sunday's Gospel of the crowds coming to Jesus to be healed is analogous to a long line for the Confessional. They sought physical healing from Christ; we seek personal and spiritual healing from him. Christ could heal even their biggest wounds by merely touching them. He heals our biggest wounds (mortal sins) through the absolution of his priest ("I absolve you of your sins").

No matter what we've done or how long it's been since we've gone to Confession, Jesus desperately wants to heal us and free us in this powerful sacrament. He wants to free us from our sins, the tremendous weight of our sins, our burdens, anxieties, problems, fears, and doubts.

In Confession, we encounter and receive the healing power of Christ. We experience true freedom. We experience his mercy. His forgiveness. Reconciliation with the Father. Union with the Church. Peace.

"There will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15:7).
Questions for St Francis bloggers
1. Why is going to Confession so difficult for many Catholics?

2. Why do we need to go to a priest to have our sins forgiven?

3. Where in the Gospel does Jesus give the first priests (the Apostles) the power to forgive sins?


  • Most of us more mature Catholics were raised in an era, when confession was a rote, not very meaningful ritual, unlike what is being communicated to today's children, thank God! If you're interested in others' views about reconciliation, you may want to check out Sr. Pat's upcoming compilation once it's complete (or perhaps contribute a story of your own to the volume). See a website address of

    By Blogger Cathy, at 2:32 PM  

  • I need to know the effects of receiving the Eucarist. Is it possible to send me the answer in short statements?

    thank you.

    By Anonymous Iso, at 5:58 PM  

  • I have another question. How can I convince a 22 years old non practicing catholic and a 18 years old christian (non catholic) that having sex before marriage is not proper?

    I am very happy about this interative website. God bless you.

    By Anonymous iso, at 6:06 PM  

  • Why is Good Friday called Good?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:49 PM  

  • Anon, thanks for the question. Short answer: Good Friday is called 'good' because it is the day that Jesus saved the world.

    Yes, Jesus truly suffered and died. And, we commemorate Good Friday with sorrow and sadness. But, three days later, he rose from the dead! Life after death! This never happened before Jesus; no one went to Heaven B.C. (I could explain this further)

    Without the Resurrection, Good Friday would not have been good (St Paul writes that if there's no resurrection, our faith in Christ is pointless). So, Christ's death and resurrection are one event: the Salvation of the world.

    Jesus had to endure Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday; he had to go through Calvary to get to Paradise (he has received his rewards; see quote below). For this reason, his suffering and death are good. It is good for him because it leads him to a good end...the best end: Heaven.

    It is good for us because Jesus suffers and dies FOR US! He shed his blood "so that sins might be forgiven". We can't get to heaven unless we are one with God, and have had our sins forgiven.

    Christ freely accepted death on our behalf - he even forbid Peter from stopping his Passion. He knew it was necessary for him to suffer and die in order for us to have life after death.
    "We do see Jesus 'crowned with glory and honor' because he suffered death, he who 'for a little while' was made 'lower than the angels', that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." - Heb 2:9.

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 3:24 PM  

  • question about the Eucharist. I love the Eucharist and look for any excuse to talk or write about it. Thanks!

    Here are some of the effects of receiving the Eucharist:

    we receive:
    - the grace of God (the life of the Holy Trinity)
    - the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ
    - the risen flesh of Christ
    - union with God and the Church
    - forgiveness of venial sins
    - eternal life
    - remain in Christ and Christ remains in you

    -union of heaven and earth
    - communion of saints
    - Heaven on earth

    what have I left out?? Btw, I'll get to your other question asap...

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 5:51 PM  

  • What does the church say about Catholics going to other churches and recieving their communion?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:02 PM  

  • ISO - I would recommend a great, short read by Scott Hahn called "The Lamb's Supper." It is an amazing account of the Eucharist and its place in the Church.

    By Blogger Carmine, at 8:58 AM  

  • Iso, thanks for the question about premarital sex. While I don't know all of the specific factors in the situation you have described, there are some general points to consider about premarital sex.

    There is a great Catholic website which answers many of the questions that we have about sex outside of marriage. Jason Evert, who is probably the best Catholic chastity speaker in the country, has a Q&A based on questions he has received from teens. Check it out at

    Let me know if you have any questions after reading it. Thanks!

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 3:37 PM  

  • Anon, in general terms, the Church does not discourage Catholics from attending non-Catholic services. It's a great way to unite with our brothers and sisters of other faiths in prayer. But, there are some guidelines to it, some of which are pretty obvious. For example, we can't substitute a non-Catholic service for the Catholic Mass on Sundays, if we can help it.

    Now, about receiving Holy Communion in other Churches, we have to be careful there. The Church basically says that Catholics should receive Holy Communion from Catholics. Catholic ministers are to distribute the Holy Eucharist to Catholics, and Catholics are to receive the Eucharist from Catholic ministers alone.

    Now, having said that, Church law (canon# 844) does indicate some times when Catholics may receive Holy Communion from non-Catholic ministers (in whose Churches it is a valid sacrament). These would be:
    -if it is physically or morally impossible to receive from a Catholic minister
    -the "danger of error or indifferentism is avoided"
    -there is a real necessity or spiritual advantage in doing so

    What this means is that if I as a Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist from a Catholic minister, I can receive in another Church where it's a valid sacrament; that would mean 'ok' in an Orthodox church, but 'no' in a Protestant church (orthodox churches possess valid sacraments because of apostolic succession).

    At the heart of all this is the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Only the Catholic and Orthodox Churches truly believe and teach transubstantiation (that the substance of the bread becomes Christ's flesh, and the substance of the wine becomes the blood of Christ). Because these Churches have validly ordained ministers who intend transubstantiation, we can receive Holy Communion when we attend their Churches, knowing that it truly is the Body of Christ.

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 12:38 PM  

  • Hi Deacon Grag, I'll take a stab at your questions:

    1)Well, perhaps my blogspot name is a hint. I have a problem with pride, perhaps it's the remnants from my decades as an atheist...and so I know that *I* think "hey, that really isn't that bad of a transgression to be a mortal sin...even if the Church says differently". If it isn't mortal, then no need for Confession...right?

    I know it is wrong for me to think this way, and I hate it when I tell my conscience to not worry about it, but it is the same conscience telling me, "come on now, you really do know better than to think you know it all".

    2) It is both our public and private announcement of our transgressions. Unless one asks for forgiveness, how can one ever be forgiven.

    3) JOHN 20: 23

    By Blogger Magnificat wannabe, at 12:20 PM  

  • Oops, sorry, I had a typo above. It should say Deacon Greg. I wasn't sure how to correct it after I posted it.

    Now I have something to ask you that's been bugging me lately. It has to to do with people bowing at the Altar during Mass as they happen to walk by it, for example, some readers as they go up to the Lecturn. Shouldn't they be bowing towards the Tabernacle and not the Altar?

    By Blogger Magnificat wannabe, at 12:33 PM  

  • How important is it really for one to be registered in a parish? What I mean is as long as you follow the church's teachings, go to mass at least once a week etc. does one need to belong to a church? I can understand the need to be registered if you want your kids to go to the parish school but that's the extent I see the necessity of it.

    I think this blog is a cool idea and will have a question for you once a week.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:53 PM  

  • Magnificat, thanks for your question. The lector is correct to bow to the altar during Mass, and not to the tabernacle. The Altar of Sacrifice (the main altar) is the focal point of Holy Mass. That is where the Holy Sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood will be offered to the Father on our behalf right in front of our eyes.

    During the liturgy, the gestures of all of the ministers (priest, deacon, etc.) should be toward the altar. The proper gesture to the altar is always a bow (the proper gesture to the tabernacle is always a genuflection unless one is carrying something, then he/she should bow).The only genuflections during Mass are made by the priest - 1) after the showing of the host, 2) after the showing of the chalice, and 3) before Communion (GIRM, #274).

    If the tabernacle is located in the sanctuary, then the priest and all the ministers genuflect "when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself (GIRM, # 274). GIRM stands for the General Instruction of the Roman Missal; this is the rubrics of liturgy. Here is the note from the GIRM about bowing to the altar: "a bow of the body, that is to say a profound bow, is made to the altar.." (#275)

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 3:12 PM  

  • Confession is difficult for many Catholics because of pride. No one wants to think about or admit what they have done to themselves, let alone out loud, to someone else.

    We need to go to a priest to confess our sins and have our sins forgiven as an act of humble repentance. To recognize God as the one we have wronged and receive His grace and guidance through his representative. Also because that is what is required of us to participate fully in the Eucharist.

    Where in the Gospel does Jesus give the first priests (the Apostles) the power to forgive sins? Matthew 16:19 & 18:18

    By Anonymous Humble Servant, at 2:58 PM  

  • Anon, thanks for your question about registering in parishes, and great to hear that you will have a question a week! In general terms, registering in a parish does not make a person a parishioner; this has simply become a custom in the United States.

    Canon law says that where you reside determines what your parish is. If you live within the St Francis parish boundaries, for example, you are a parishioner of St Francis by law. Registration does help the parish know who its parishioners are; ultimately, this works toward the parish serving its flock most efficiently. In addition, each pastor is responsible for the faith and salvation of every Catholic in his parish boundaries.

    But, 'belonging to a Church' is a very Catholic idea. From the moment of our Baptism, we are marked as belonging to Christ and his Church. We profess our belonging to the Catholic Church every Sunday in the Creed; we live this out by belonging to a particular parish. That parish is our Church. We live out our belonging to the universal Church by belonging to one of her parishes.

    A story to make this point. Good friends of mine are parents of many kids in PG county. They have been faithful Catholics their whole lives, but have really struggled in their parish for many years. Let's just say the pastor isn't the best shepherd the Church has ever seen. One day someone asked my buddy why he hasn't gone to another Church / parish. He replied, 'what am I, Protestant?'

    While he may not experience the most reverent of liturgies or hear the most orthodox of sermons, he still hears the Word of God, the bread and wine still become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and it's still his parish. He has been a loyal and active member of his parish through it all because that is his parish. He and his family are there primarily to worship God in the presence of their parish family members.

    Also, he's not going to shop for a Church or pastor that best suits his interests or theology; he won't jump shoip just because it might be sinking. He is a faithful and loyal son of the parish because he is a faithful and loyal son of the Church.

    Finally, I like to think of Sunday Mass as a family meal. Not just because we gather at the Lord's table for the eucharistic banquet, but because we are a parish family. If I missed the family meal growing up at home (even if I went to a friend's house for dinner), there would be an empty chair and a void. The family would not be whole.

    In the same way, whenever I miss Sunday Mass in my parish, the parish family meal is incomplete. As a family we do miss and feel the void of our brothers and sisters who aren't there. We need them for our family to be whole, to be one.

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 3:04 PM  

  • Hi Greg,

    I am a returning Catholic who left the church at a very young age, shortly after confirmation. I have come back years later as an older adult who has not formed her spiritual maturity because of the years of absence. How does one continue on the spiritual path with the usual bumps and sometimes storms along the way without it affecting one's own faith and place in the church (which I am still figuring out)? My entire family (including godmother) left the church and recently a very good friend has also so that is upseting because I know the church is true and despite everyone's urging me to leave I really don't want to.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:14 AM  

  • Anon, great question and inspiring witness to the rest of us! Welcome back!! I very much admire your courage to come back to and stay in the Church, despite such criticism from those close to you. Heroic!

    The best thing I can say in answer to your question is to stay focused on Christ. If you keep your eyes on Him, then you know you're following the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The fullness of Christ is found in his Church, the Catholic Church.

    The image that stands out to me about your situation is the scene of Peter walking on water towards Jesus (Matt 14). In the midst of a strong storm at sea, Peter begins to walk on water toward Jesus after Jesus told him to come to him. As long as Peter is focused on Christ, he isn't phased by the driving storm around him; he keeps walking on the water.

    Then, Peter takes his focus off of Christ, and notices how strong the wind was. He gets scared, and begins to sink. "Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'" (Mt 14:31).

    The whole reason any of us would ever be Catholic is one person: Jesus Christ. He died for each one of us so that we might have eternal life. He says if we are going to be followers of his, we must lay down our own lives. For some, it is a physical ("red") martyrdom; for the rest of us, especially you, Anon, it is a "white" martyrdom. You aren't actually shedding blood for Christ, but you are being beaten up pretty good for the sake of his gospel. Jesus promises persecution and hatred from the world: "if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (Jn 15:20).

    I don't know fully what you meant about contuining on the spiritual path and whether it will affect your faith and place in the Church. But, figure that it will. It should! Again, the spiritual life is about a relationship with a person- God. If we continue on the spiritual path, our faith gets stronger and we get closer to Christ (as Peter was doing on the water). Also, we become a more active part of his Body, the Church. We begin to enter into roles we didn't think we would ever do...all in the name of service.

    I just began preaching as a deacon. Preaching the Gospel...that is one daunting responsibility!! But, I believe Christ is calling me to do it, so I'll come forward to do it (like Peter came forward when Christ said, 'Come'). When we serve the Lord, we'll go anywhere for Him, even into places we wouldn't normally want to be.

    Practically, stay close to Jesus in the Eucharist. If it's possible, hit Mass during the week, in addition to Sunday. That is an awesome experience! And, you need the Grace of the sacrament. Also, if possible, make a habit of stopping by a Catholic Church to pray in the presence of our Lord during the day or evening. He is your focus. Be with Him...look at Him...listen to Him.

    Also, praying the rosary every day, and asking the Blessed Mother for her help and intercession is always a good idea. Mary is the greatest example of saying yes to Jesus in the midst of persection. In fact, reading the lives of her and other saints will help give you examples of people in similar situations who kept going toward Christ despite the criticism of others. St Francis, St Thomas More, and St Therese of Lisieux come to mind. They are fascinating and inspiring people!

    Finally, it is vital that you are a part of some kind of a Catholic community. This is normally in the form of a parish; probably, St Francis for you. We all need to be supported and reinforced by those who share and live our Catholic faith. We are all members of a family, and need each other. This builds our faith, and strengthens the love we have for Christ. There is grace, too, when we gather in the name of Jesus Christ. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20).

    Thanks again for the great question, and I hope that you continue to leave comments on here. Yours is a great journey, and we would be blessed to be on it with you.

    "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you" (Jn 15:16).

    In Christ,

    Deacon Greg

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 11:17 AM  

  • Hi Greg,

    Thanks for your support and understanding of where I am in my journey back to the Catholic Church. I was over at St. Francis yesterday afternoon and picked up a couple of books on the lives of saints. I find saints most inspiring! I was given the book "Show Me the Way" by Henri Nouwen by a person I didn't even know at a church ( I parish hop a bit). It has readings for each day of Lent! I am looking forward to Lent and spending exra time with our Lord. Although due to my health I can't fast I will find other ways to sacrifice for Him.

    I have already started keeping my eyes focused on Jesus to help me not be scared by different aspects of my life.

    Thanks again for your support.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 PM  

  • Hi Deacon Greg,

    Is there anything special we can do to make a good lent?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:52 PM  

  • I consider myself a Symbolic Christian Existentialist, "though life is absurd, it must be lived" Meursault, or Bellow's character in "The Dangling Man" might say.

    I take great joy in life. It has immense richness. I am a good defender of Catholicism. Surprisingly, in this day and age, there are still "Anti-Catholics" (in Maryland, no less!).

    Of course The Church is peopled, by men, and women, people of faith, and of frailty.

    The one thing I find so disappointing is the failure of Parish priests to address not only of the intellect of their parishoners, and MY intellect. I implore you all, stimulate my intellect and I will follow you to the ends of the earth. (Intellect stimulates action, and as good Christians, good Catholics, we must act.)[See the story about the old woman who gave a beggar one onion.]

    I hear no compelling reason to go to Church on Sunday. No one addressing things that are just plain wrong in our country.

    The Catholic Bishops come out and decry the current Presidential Adminstration's position on illegal immigration, yet I HEAR no word, no PEEP, about the 80 families of Mexico who control BILLIONS in assets that are stashed away in AMERICAN banks, and invested in the United States (which they have been doing for decades, if not tens of decades).

    Mexican's can't buy homes in Mexico, BECAUSE you have to pay CASH UP front. No mortgages are available for working people, because the elite 80 choose to invest elsewhere, rather than in their own country.

    I don't put this on The Church, but why so blind? (I know these things because I have a great education -- I went to Marquette University.)

    And The Church, and Pastors are great at addressing people and life formally, but that's not how we live it. Life is down-low and personal, not some ivory tower breached by platitudes on Sunday.

    As a corporate entity, The Church needs to be the force of change and good in people's lives. That takes imagination, and risk-taking.

    I went today to the website suggested on your parish site, to look for a prayer. While I believe my actions must be prayers, conscious affirmations of our humanity are importantalso. God has given me much, so I went looking for a prayer for encouragement or entreaty, but at the same time, I wanted to find a prayer of Thanksgiving, because G*d has given me so much; and yet, on the website I was referred to, no where to be found was a Prayer of Thanksgiving.

    What do you feel or believe as a local representative of The Church, as to how the clergy, and hierarchy of The Church should act in regards to its clients, us (the faithful)?

    What do you believe the proper role, your proper role as a Parish priest? And what do "you" believe is the proper role of the Bishops?

    By Blogger Terry, at 9:38 PM  

  • Correction(s):

    PARAGRAPH 4 (Should read as follows):

    The one thing I find so disappointing is the failure of Parish priests to address the intellect of their parishoners, and MY intellect. I implore you all, stimulate my intellect and I will follow you to the ends of the earth.

    PARAGRAPH 11 (Corrected)

    I went today to the website suggested on your parish site, to look for a prayer. While I believe my actions must be prayers, conscious affirmations of our humanity are important also. God has given me much for which I am thankful, so I went looking for a prayer for encouragement or entreaty, but at the same time, I wanted to find a separate prayer of/or for Thanksgiving; and yet, on the website I was referred to, no where to be found was a Prayer of Thanksgiving.

    Sorry for the rambling nature of my previous post, but I see them as all connected some how.

    By Blogger Terry, at 9:49 PM  

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