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April 3, 1998     The Message
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April 3, 1998

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J. SCHMIDT Service asked what "con- s when you sacrament Of recon- olice. They are i 'a nKnister of the church, God's mercy fear when Some of their legitimate embar- of it comes from or teacher that formidable in confession is parent or teacher, or judge and an ears may well no reason in the f reconcilia- and mercy of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit. afraid of God, the is Outside the confes- [f we have difficulty to a priest, , is always an with the sacra- because it seems them. They say The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 relevant to your "real needs"? they don't "get anything out of it." Some of these people may have a "confession conscience." This is distinct from the "complete conscience." The confession conscience consists of those things one has learned to say in con- fession -- maybe a list of "acceptable," even "comfortable" sins that we list with- out touching the depth of our real needs. The complete conscience goes beneath the surface to deal with things that real- ly alienate us from God and our fellow J human beings. It gets at causes. It is seri- ous and may feel threatening. Some people have learned to bring this conscience to confession. They "get a lot" from the sacrament. But many have never learned to look beneath the surface. So they do not "get all" they could and should get from the sacrament. Sometimes they set the sacrament aside because they regard it as irrelevant to their "real needs." Then they miss a wonderful opportu- nity for spiritual growth. Confession deals with a spiritual dimen- sion at a different level from psychiatry. It can assist mental health, but it cannot replace psychological help, any more than spiritual counsel sets a broken arm. The sacrament of reconciliation, how- ever, is a wonderful gift given by Jesus to the church for pardon and peace. But if it has become something like "telling our Father Paul Schmidt recalls how "a youngster, when asked what 'confes- sins to the police," I think we need to see sion' means, replied, 'That's when you tell your sins to the police."' If we if we can understand it better, insist on being afraid of God, he cautions, "the place to be afraid is outside the confessional, not inside ,t. ...... ' " i ....... Father Schmidt is the director of Priests Per- -- CNS photo from the Catholic Witne 1 sonnel for the Diocese of Oakland, Calif. s j dealing with mari- us, he knows that if actions aren't taken, problems won't go away. I always have determined a penance in Marketplace Point: the sacrament of penance? from St. Mary, Huntingburg readers: teacher, twelfth grade religious education students. get done confessing my s4ns. ' ! mBrian Heichelbech i nlatter how far down Satan's path I may stray or even how self- .... Lord, I know that I will still be forgiven by my Lord...  mKyle Kuczyski . will be free of any wrongs after I have confessed to live each day joyfully...  --Stephanie Smith it allows us to share with God. I am grateful that he has granted to achieve this closeness .... ...... --Aren Gerdon t mistakes to start over, and glad that I'm allowed ne wrong. Michael McLimore ! . i, i ,, I feel a lot better afterwards and God believes that t sin again. --Kurt Blackgrove for your sins and they don't have to weigh you down. Jodi Rasche all the avoidable sins that I have made over time .... I will never take for granted his crament of penan. Lea Terwiske dialogue with the penitent. Usually the specific penance I describe is an action relative to what the person has confessed; I ask if the action seems meaningful and possible. Quite often the person will counter with something more demanding or make an alternative suggestion that seems even more pertinent to his or her circumstances. In negotiating these penances, it is clear to me that the penitent is committed to liv- ing a better life, not just to talking about it. This example certainly puts my own resolutions and good intentions to the test. In ministering the sacrament of penance I am constantly edified at peni- tents" honesty, their openness, their pos- itive attitude toward improvement and their willingness to make practical changes to bring it about. My therapist friend says he is envious of my role, but  far he hasn't asked to confess his enD: Father Kinast is the director of the Cen- ter for Theological Reflection, Indian Rocks Beach, Fla. * Food A dose of introspection accompanies the sacrament of reconciliation. We take stock of ourselves and our actions, judge our motives, assess our rela- tionships with others and with God. To someone unfamiliar with the sacra- ment, it might sound a little negative. Won't we, in judging ourselves, become our own worst enemies? Won't we be putting ourselves down? The experience of the sacrament, however, doesn't prove negative. Judging our actions proves quite different from judging ourselves to be unworthy human beings or undeserving of God's attention. As with all sacraments, rec- onciliation proves to be all about life. Sacraments don't diminish us. They expand us. And this is a sacrament of healing, the catechism explains. I take that to mean that in the sacrament we are being made whole, hardly torn down, Should I mention that people tend to feel happy after celebrating  sacra- ment? Rather than finding ourselves pushed too far inward, the sac.dment ulti' m0000tely draws us out of ourselves. Even the of it contact with the larger church: with the print and, very vi.4ibly inl celebrations, the community. We disccrcer again that we don't have to go it alone. We have  oer. David Gibson Editor, Faith Alive!