July 4, 2017 § 1 Comment
I somewhat hesitated sharing this video. Watch it first, if you are interested and want to avoid “spoilers”.
So you watched it?
Are you sure you don’t care about spoilers?
Ok – you have only yourself to blame at this point.
I loved this video. From the lady using confession to gossip about her snotty neighbor the the anguish of the priest when he realized that the penitent before him was the man who killed his father. And I get that he was lifting a burden by lying. But he was lying. I don’t think it was necessary for the story and there were other ways that it could have been dealt with.
When I considered sharing the video I hesitated. Do I really want to share this with such a problematic bit in the ending? It is human nature to pick these sorts of things apart and blow them up far past what the deserve. But in the end this video has several qualities that I think make it worthwhile.
First: the priest is just a guy — who at that moment is acting as God’s active conduit of mercy and love. It is a struggle for him, he does it (arguably) badly, but he does it. I think it is valuable for us to keep in mind that our priests are men, men who love and hate and weep and laugh. Media has a tendency to often either idolize priests or debase them. This video does neither.
Second: the penitent really needs confession and illustrates the need for confession. It is one of those common “Ask a Catholic Questions”: “Why do I need to confess to a priest, I can just confess to God.” Sure you can, but when you are heart torn and painfully aware of the magnitude of your sin, when you question the very possibility of redemption then you need to hear in the physical world the comfort of absolution. The penitent could have prayed for forgiveness a thousand times, but until he heard the words he would never be able to start letting go of the sin and the despair that accompanies it. One of Satan’s most successful lies is the idea that you don’t need to speak your sin to anyone but God. I chains us in despair and prevents us from acting forward in mercy and forgiveness.
Now for the problematic part.
We can look at the idea of lying to the penitent in a few ways. One rather artistic idea from the comments on the video was that our sins are washed away in confession to the point that in the eyes of God they never happen – so in a certain sense the priest’s father wasn’t killed by the penitent. But that is really an Obi Wan “certain point of view” moment and not really satisfactory.
We could also attempt to view it as just an act of Mercy. The priest lied to comfort a dying man There is no denying that the man who is relieved of this burden feels immense joy, but the joy was based on a lie. At the very end the priest even postulates that it might be worse that he lied as a priest. In the end if the priest had maintained honesty, forgiven the penitent both in the sacramental and in his own heart and had communicated that to the penitent we could have had a very powerful ending. Not the joy that the penitent shows, but a something based on reality and truth.
So in the end I decided to share this, not because it is perfect, but because its imperfections make me think and make for a good conversation. Is a lie ever worthwhile? If this is not such a case what would have been better and what would have looked like? How would Christ have approached this differently?
April 24, 2008 § 8 Comments
The answer is a qualified yes. From Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities
19. The eucharist is the most august sacrament, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received, and by which the Church constantly lives and grows. It is the summit and the source of all Christian worship and life, signifying and effecting the unity of the people of God, providing spiritual nourishment for the recipient, and achieving the building up of the Body of Christ. The celebration of the eucharist is the center of the entire Christian life (Canon 897).
20. Parents, those who take the place of parents, and pastors are to see to it that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the eucharist as early as possible. Pastors are to be vigilant lest any children come to the Holy Banquet who have not reached the use of reason or whom they judge are not sufficiently disposed (Canon 914). It is important to note, however, that the criterion for reception of holy communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally. Pastors are encouraged to consult with parents, those who take the place of parents, diocesan personnel involved with disability issues, psychologists, religious educators, and other experts in making their judgment. If it is determined that a parishioner who is disabled is not ready to receive the sacrament, great care is to be taken in explaining the reasons for this decision. Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament. The existence of a disability is not considered in and of itself as disqualifying a person from receiving the eucharist.
21. Eucharistic celebrations are often enhanced by the exercise of the diverse forms of ministry open to the laity. In choosing those who will be invited to use their gifts in service to the parish community, the parish pastoral staff should be mindful of extending Christ’s welcoming invitation to qualified parishioners with disabilities.
When we were looking into First Communion for Rachel we wanted two things. We wanted to follow the teaching of the Church as hard as it can be sometimes when your child is disable there are things that won’t work for them, if it was determined that Rachel lacked sufficient understanding or was unable to receive reverently we would have accepted that and trusted that God would bless her life in other ways. But we wanted our child to be able to participate as fully as possible in the life of the Church.
I was really sadded by the story of an eight-year-old girl who was intolerant of wheat and the way her mother decided to deal with the issue of her daughter receiving communion. The only valid medium for the Eucharistic bread is wheat. For those who can’t consume wheat they may receive the wine only and that is valid, every bit as much as the reception of bread alone. What bothered me so much about the above news story was how the mother acknowledged that she knew that her daughter could receive the wine, but in her opinion an eight-year-old shouldn’t ingest any alcohol and so the entire Church would have to change the dogma of two-thousand years because she didn’t want her daughter to have a miniscule taste of wine. “It’s not appropriate for children to drink alcohol,” she said. “Even a sip.” The last thing I wanted to do when looking at this sacrament for my own child was to become so caught up in what I wanted that I missed what was resonable and right. So the question of Rachel understanding that the host was not just a little snack weighed on me heavily.
There were some signs that Rachel did understand. She had always been very caught up with food. One cookie was never enough. It was always surprising to me that she had never reached for or grabbed a host when I went to receive Communion. But reason suggested that since she never had one she might not see them as food. I was somewhat comforted by the idea that in “Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament”. I talked to my priest, to our Diocese director of the Office for People with Disabilities and to the Lord in prayer. But in the end it was God, through Rachel, who let us know that she understood enough to receive.
My small bits of advice gleaned from what I have read and my own experience:
- As your child approaches the age typical in your parish for First Communion speak with your priest and/or the person responsible for religious instruction in your parish. Go in with an open mind and heart and explain your child’s situation as fully and objectively as you can. Listen to what they say and consider it thoughtfully.The vast majority of priests want to serve their parishioner and they want to serve the Church and to do both faithfully. In my experience it has actually been the more liberal priests who are the ones most likely to say that your child shouldn’t participate in the Sacraments at all. I have heard several mothers say that they went to Fr. and he said their child didn’t need the Eucharist (or reconcilliation). Sometimes going back with Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities in hand is helpful. Generally their reason for refusing is some idiotic banality about how “your child is so close to God already because their are disabled they don’t need to receive Communion.” Don’t buy this, we all need grace. It is one thing if your child really doesn’t understand that this is a special thing, a holy thing, and would not approach the sacrament with reverence, but not some fluffiness about not needing it.
- If you can not come to some agreement at the parish level don’t be afraid to go to the diocese. I wouldn’t say just go straight to the Bishop, but if you need to you need to.
- When it is decided that your child is capable of receiving the Eucharist there are some wonderful resources for helping your child prepare. Meyer Johnson has communion symbols available for their products. We used these to help create a social story for Rachel. There are also some good books available for First Communion with colorful pictures and simple explanations.
- Test drive with an unconsecrated host if you think there is ANY chance that your child will spit it out or not eat it. Reverence for the Body of Christ has to come above all else. I know there are a few people who might think that sounds harsh, but if we don’t believe in the Eucharistic miracle what is the point? I know personally the hurt that pulls at your heart when you realise that your child can do something because of their disability and how much worse it is with those lovely rites of passage like First Communion, but we are talking about the actual presence of Christ and the reverence that demands must trump parental sentiment. When we were preparing Rachel for her first communion we brought home a half a dozen unconsecrated hosts and she was happy to eat it and seems to like the flat, tasteless breads. I know that for some people with autism the texture is off-putting. Be sure to let your priest know if a smaller bit is better. For the rite to be valid only the smallest bit is needed so be sure to explore that option before the day if that seems appropriate.
- You can also validly receive the wine alone. The same caveat applies. Be sure that your child won’t just spit it out, but if the bread is not working for you that could be an option to explore. Your priest will most likely be happy to work with you on this. Most parishes that I have been in have allowed the children to try a tiny sip of the unconsecrated wine before they experienced it in mass. Some children really don’t like the taste and no priest wants to risk desecrating the host.
- If a packed First Communion mass would spell disaster for you First Communicant talk to your priest about about your child either receiving their First Communion as part of a regular mass or communion service. Sometimes a small weekday mass works better. Or see if your Diocese has masses for people with disabilities that might serve your families needs.
Finally, the Church wants to serve your family and your child, each individual member of the Body of Christ. At the same time She is also trusted with safeguarding the sacraments and traditions of the Church. Most priests, the US Bishops and Rome all echo that every being, no matter their state in life or their disability is of infinite worth, a full person of dignity and worthy of the utmost respect and they want each soul to participate in the sacramental life as much as they able to within the limits of their understanding and capabilities.
March 14, 2008 § 1 Comment
There has been a lot in the news the past week and even more in blogs written about confession, both the Sacrament and the basic concept. In the news there have been two stories which have caught my eye. The first was that horrible misreporting of the Vatican announcing new, more culturally relevant sins and the second was a report on the trend to confess sins online. The Catholic Blog world has been much more rich with a variety of articles being written about Confession, first confession, the practice of the Sacrament, the renewed interest so many people are having with the act of just going in reciting sins and receiving absolution.
Now as most Catholics have picked up by now the main-stream news media is horribly out of touch when it comes to reporting on anything having to do with the Catholic Church. When it is the British Press just triple that. Amy Welbourn and Deacon Kandra had insightful things to say about this crossing of bad reporting and the secular media’s natural inclination to get fuzzy headed, silly, giddy any time they think they found something interesting to say about the Catholic faith. Dullards.
Almost as stupid is the CNN.com report on online “confession”. I wish I could say I was surprised that a national news source reported on the trend of “true confession” sites with such a religious sounding angle but at the same time showed little respect or understanding of the significance of confession in religion. It isn’t shocking simply because the press so often gets religion wrong. At least in this article they bother to actually talk to religious leaders about the sacrament vrs the online confession fad.
Around the blogs I read there has been a trend of some very fine writing about Confession in the Sacramental sense. Julie at Happy Catholic has a wonderful post and round-up of some of the best of these articles. I really encourage everyone to read them.
March 3, 2008 § 2 Comments
As a convert to the Catholic faith I wasn’t raised with all the practices and habit of Catholic life. I didn’t grow up with table blessings and rosaries and mass every Sunday. In my RCIA we learned about many of these but there is a difference between the abstract knowledge of something and the actual doing it.
The one thing I have been struggling with the most is Confession. I could probably write a book about the “hows” and “whys” of Confession, in theory it is a wonderful, spiritual and useful practice. But in theory, oh my, how difficult it is to start. It took me eight years to start going to confession.
My priest is someone very easy for me to talk to. So we had a very good “pre-confession” meeting where I explained my situation. Going through RCIA I was preparing for Baptism so I didn’t have to “do” Confession as some of my classmates did. Those who were coming in for Confirmation met all together during Lent and made a confession. My sins, being washed away at Baptism, didn’t ‘count’. I suppose I could have gone to Confession at that point, but it wasn’t required so I didn’t. After our Baptism we were left to our own path. Mine avoided the confessional all together. And it has eaten at me all this time.
I longed for Confession; I needed it. I could feel the block working against me and keeping me from progressing in my walk with Christ as completely as I should be. So finally I screwed up my courage and took the plunge and met with my priest and just did it. Yeah me.
The part I found the worst and best was the examination of conscience. This is by far the most difficult thing to do. I found it helpful to have the printed “help” so I could look at it, think about it. Sin isn’t about feeling guilty. It is perfectly possible to sin and feel no guilt at all. Feelings are not a good indicator of guilt. The human conscience is a malleable thing and I know that if I allow myself to do certain things or think certain ways those things begin to seem justified and eventually right no matter how objectively wrong they are. I need to compare my actions not against what I feel to be correct but to what is objectively right.
One of the saddest losses in the Post Vat II era has been Confession. My priest expressed it very aptly when he said that the “face to face” confession has been disastrous experiment. The confession is not supposed to be a heartfelt talk with a friend nor is it a counselling sessions, though I suppose it can have aspects of both. The confession should be the opportunity to reconcile oneself with God and with your own soul, your own better self.
In retrospect I really wish that my RCIA program had met longer after we were Baptised. I think I would have been helpful to have had a “First Confession” meeting about a month later. This would seem to me to be helpful for the newly Baptised Catholic. But I suppose that Reconciliation is one of those things that really isn’t in favor in the American Catholic Church. I have read several articles this year about how Confession is coming back into “fashion”. Some Dioceses are encouraging the laity to come back to the confessional with formal programs such as The Archdiocese of Washington’s program “The Light is on for You“.