I know a cardinal who is a good example. He confided to me, speaking of these things, that as soon as someone goes to him to talk about those sins below the belt, he immediately says: ‘I understand, let’s move on.’ He stops him, as if to say: ‘I understand, but let’s see if you have something more important. Do you pray? Are you seeking the Lord? Do you read the Gospel? He makes him understand that there are mistakes that are much more important than that. Yes, it is a sin, but… He says to him: ‘I understand’: And he moves on. On the opposite end there are some who when they receive the confession of a sin of this kind, ask: ‘How did you do it, and when did you do it, and how many times?’ And they make a ‘film’ in their head.  But these are in need of a psychiatrist.”


Council of Trent, Decree on the Sacrament of Penance

CANON VII.–If any one saith, that, in the sacrament of Penance, it is not necessary, of divine right, for the remission of sins, to confess all and singular the mortal sins which after due and diligent previous meditation are remembered, even those (mortal sins) which are secret, and those which are opposed to the two last commandments of the Decalogue, as also the circumstances which change the species of a sin; but (saith) that such confession is only useful to instruct and console the penitent, and that it was of old only observed in order to impose a canonical satisfaction; or saith that they, who strive to confess all their sins, wish to leave nothing to the divine mercy to pardon ; or, finally, that it is not lawful to confess venial sins ; let him be anathema.


… you will practise therein humility, obedience, simplicity and charity: in short, more virtues than in any other single act of religion.


St Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, pt II ch. 19

(read this time in a great book called  L’art d’utiliser ses fautes, by Joseph Tissot: published in English as How to Profit from Your Faults, in Polish as Sztuka Korzystania z Własnych Błędów, etc.)



After Virtue (2nd ed, 1985), p52; David Copperfield (many eds), passim

What’s *not* supposed to happen when you mention to a friend that you have come to the sad conclusion that you resemble Dora Spenlow in all her negative aspects, is the friend saying “Yes, it had occurred to me before”.   😦

Edited: Cut that. Correction.


lourdel_01Pere Lourdel was a missionary in Uganda in the nineteenth century, and baptised many of the Ugandan martyrs whose feast is on June 3rd. The association of Christianity with Europeans,  meant it had, nolens volens,  political connotations, and the Buganda* ruler, the Kabaka, tried to play the “Arabs”**, French and English against each other. In addition, the refusal of the Christian courtiers to assent to sodomy, a practice said to have been introduced by the Muslims and to whichthe Kabaka Mwanga had become addicted, was a source of frustration to the latter and a weapon against the Christians in the political manouevring at court.

A large group of Christians from the Kabaka’s court were arrested towards the end of May 1886 – a few were castrated or flogged and released, the rest held to be executed. Pere Lourdel, hearing of the arrest, hurried to the Kabaka’s palace to try to intercede for the prisoners, thought without result. The next morning he had to leave, as the arrival of more missionaries, a potential irritant to an irate Kabaka, needed to be carefully dealt with. He wrote later:

On my way home, I met Lusaka, an old gate-keeper who, though himself a pagan, was the father of three of our neophytes, and a good friend of ours. He was in tears. “My three sons have been arrested”, he said. “What harm have they done to the Kabaka? He says they pray; but is that a crime?” The old man wrung my hands in sorrow, but with such friendliness that I was greatly moved. Most of the relatives of our CHristians had looked at me that day as if they thought that I was the cause of their trouble. One woman had exclaimed that if she were a man she would pierce my heart for causing the death of her children …

Painful. Your friends and neighbours blame you for the death of their children and spouses and friends. And in a sense, you are to blame. That is, if you had not done what you came to do, those people would not now be about to die.

[quote taken from J. F. Faupel, African Holocaust: the story of the Uganda martyrs (London, 1962) – link is to the 2003 edition by Pauline Publications Africa]

*I hope I got the right prefix there.

** Thus Faupel, but I don’t know what their external allegiance was. Apparently Egypt was hovering around the borders at the time as well.

spowiedz w parafiiMy parish. A weekday evening in late Advent, before one of the evening Masses.

It is easy to find a confessor; wherever there is a Catholic pries, free in the exercise of the powers of his ordination, and of jurisdiction, there one has a minister of the sacrament of penance. Things are quite otherwise if one desires a true director. Whatever the cause might be, the fact is that, as St Francis de Sales,  there are fewer truly capable of such an office than one thinks. Even those few who possess the rare gifts of direction do not always “do” for all souls. It is the great variety of spiritual needs and of the wonderful ways by which God makes the soul pass that can well make it the case that one has a holy director wise and practical in the spiritual life,  such as a St Vincent de Paul, described by St Francis de Sales as the holiest priest of his age whom I have known, and yet he is of no help to us, as happened to Jean Jacques Olier, who at one point in his life left St Vincent to place himself under the direction of Fr de Condren. So Our Lady counselled St Catherine of Siena to change director, though her director was a most worthy man, held to be a saint, to entrust herself to Bl. Raymond of Capua.

The choice is therefore a most important thing and very difficult. When we want to choose someone to whom we can entrust the execution of our will, when we shall be no longer in this world, we do not turn to the first person who comes to mind, but we look for someone who will be both able and willing to carry out this service for us, someone worthy of our respect and trust.  Well, at least as much diligence should be used in making a choice in the great matter of our sanctification, so much more important than all other earthly interests put together. It is the advice which the Catechism of Trent gives where it says ” each one should take in selecting a priest, who is recommended by integrity of life, by learning and prudence”.

Following this authoritative and official book of the Church, we find a magisterial [groan] setting out of all the points which we ought to keep in mind in this search. And first of all: the absolute freedom of the individual in this search. In second place, the criteria according to which we ought to carry it out.

[here ends the introduction to Part 2 section 1 Chapter 2 Article 2 ofthe first volume of Bl. Luigi’s Confessione e Direzione, a book given to me by a very holy monk. Trans. bat Ionah, busking at some points. Tomorrow, possibly, §1 – “Absolute personal liberty in the choice of director”. I might put fr Jordan Aumann OP’s suggestion up tomorrow instead, it’s shorter, and not written with early C20 Turin’s particular atmosphere in mind.]

For the day has come at last when Mary will bring forth her firstborn Son.

So hopefully we will all be excited and joyful now.  And reap the reward for the extend to which we prepared ourselves for this blessed night during the last three and a half weeks. I, personally, was busy, very busy – and notice now that, oh, suddenly Christmas is there. For that reason, no uplifting and edifying post from me today. I think, for edifying posts, one has to be really holy, immersed in prayer, or elsewise at least extremely learned or original; otherwise, they will be either cheesy or hypocritical. Wherefore here just some assorted ramblings, inspired by Seraphic’s recent post.

For, na na na na naaa: I went to confession yesterday! It is a marvellous thing indeed (as Berenike’s wonderful series of posts has illustrated), not only if you commited a mortal sin! I have to admit I did not have to queue. There were two priests and probably twelve penitents, but since my mother was waiting for me, I politely and humbly edged towards the confessional before a real queue formed. And was remarkably lucky, for the priest, a Dominican, made some very helpful remarks, and so on, gave me the penance to pray a prayer in the intention of the Holy Father (!!! highly unusual thing in Germany) and then excused himself that he had to read the words of absolution as he usually gave it in Latin. “That’s fine with me!” I said – and made the sign of the cross at the wrong point, embarrasingly. Apparently, the Dominicans give two absolutions? If so, all the better – a real bargain indeed. I came out beaming with happiness to my astonished mother. “I wonder what you have to confess”, she said. So I gave her a short and somewhat flippant catechesis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, including the story of a priest a friend of me knew who put up a sign on the confessional “If you have not sinned at all, come anyway, so that we can start the beatification process.” (I think he had to take down the sign pretty soon.)

The diocese in which I stay at the moment has one priest for every 660 Catholics (or for every 140 Catholics if you take the number of mean Mass attendents as a basis). In most parishes in Germany it is difficult to go to Confession not because of long queues, but because there are hardly any regular times for confession. My current parish has confessions once a month on a Friday. My last parish had confession, I think, seven times a year: three times in Advent and four times in Lent. I once was in the church, praying, during one of these times of confession. During fourty minutes, no-one came! Out of charity, to show the priest that there were persons still receiving this sacrament, and as I had planned it for the next day anyway, I went myself. (I did not repeat that, since I never found out if, given the changes he made the confession had been valid at all). But this very lack of penitents seems the reason why German priests seems the reason why priests decide that they can read their books in more confortable and better lit places than in the confessional.

And as to Bishop Kieran Conry complaining that people repeating the same sins every week, showing that “actually, there is no conversion taking place” I can only repeat what a priest once told an exasperated friend of mine who had exactly that problem: “Well, if you would come up with new sins every week I would find that much worse!”


My spiritual child N., who hast confessed to my humble self, I, humble and a sinner, have not power on earth to forgive sins, but God alone. Yet through that divinely spoken word which came to the Apostles after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted, and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” we too are emboldened to say: Whatsoever thou hast said to my most humble self, and whatsoever thou hast not succeeded in saying, either through ignorance or forgetfulness, whatever it may be, God forgive thee in this present life and that which is to come.

God it was Who forgave David through Nathan the Prophet when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman in tears at His feet, and the Publican, and the Prodigal Son, may that same God forgive things, through me, a sinner, both in this present world and that which is to come, and set thee uncondemned before His dread seat.

And now, having no further care for the sins which thou hast declared, depart in peace.