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American Religious Life in Historical Perspective

Chapter 7


Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Bellarmine School of Theology
Chicago, IL

Until recently the subject of Confession among religious was not much discussed. The Church’s legislation that “religious should approach the Sacrament of Confession at least once a week” was taken for granted. (Canon 595,3). Occasionally an article or even a book might be published on the subject, like Die Häufige Beicht (Frequent Confession) by the Benedictine Archabbot of St. Martin’s Abbey in Germany. But the focus was on how to make frequent Confession more profitable. It was not whether weekly Confession was profitable. That was assumed, and perhaps presumed too lightly.

By the late 1930’s a few scattered voices were heard, mainly in Europe, asking what value there was in going to Confession often, except where a person had grave sins to confess, or, at least, had a load of venial sins to remove.

In 1943, Pope Pius XII answered those who were raising the question. But he first placed the critics into context.

What is arising in some quarters, the pope said is an unhealthy Quietism not unlike the kind that infected the Church in the seventeenth century. At that time, men like Michael Molinos taught that frequent Communion is all that a person needs to reach the height of sanctity. Molinos advocated frequent Communion with literally no requirements before, during or after reception---no Confession before, pure passivity during, and no thanksgiving after Communion. The effect of this teaching, especially among religious women, was that they considered themselves sinless, offered no resistance to temptation, and communicated without Confession, even when they had every reason to believe they had committed some grievous sin.

For Molinos, perfection of the interior life consisted in a perfect passivity of soul. As such it was very attractive to women. This passivity, they were assured, is the secret of peace, union with God and sanctification. One’s own activity, one’s own desires, one’s own thoughts are the great enemies of the divine life. To resist temptations, especially internal ones, to gain indulgences, practice penances, recite vocal prayers, all of this is useless in the pursuit of perfection.

Molinos was condemned by Rome and, until recently, was hardly more than a memory. But the Quietistic tendency, Pius XII declared, has returned and needs to be exposed. Among the ideas now proposed are some that repeat what Molinos taught and almost in his very words. I quote the papal statement from the encyclical on the Mystical Body. It localizes a current aberration and delineates the value of frequent Confession.

There are those who assert that little importance should be given to the frequent confession of venial sins. Far more important, they say, is that general confession which the Spouse of Christ, surrounded by her children in the Lord, makes each day by the mouth of the priest as he approaches the altar of God. As you well know, venerable brothers, it is true that venial sins may be expiated in many ways that are to be highly commended. But to insure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we will that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, should be earnestly advocated. By it, genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself. Let those; therefore, among the younger clergy who make light of or lessen esteem for frequent confession realize that what they are doing is alien to the Spirit of Christ and disastrous for the Mystical Body of our Savior. [1]

That was twenty-five years ago. In the meantime, Confession for religious has entered a new stage. The Quietistic opinions have not subsided. If anything they are now more aggressive than ever, and whole religious communities are asking themselves, “What about Confession? Not just frequent Confession, but Confession at all, unless on the rare occasion that somebody feels a special need or is sure he committed a grave sin?”

It is comforting, therefore, to know that the Sacrament of Confession has a prominent place in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. It occurs in at least six of them, and with emphasis in the decree on the priestly ministry where priests are urged to go to Confession frequently and to “prompt their people to confess their sins with a contrite heart in the Sacrament of Penance.” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 5)

The Society of Jesus, in revising its Institute in 1967, incorporated the Vatican teaching in a classic paragraph on the relationship between prayer, abnegation and the Sacrament of Confession:

It said, in effect, that progress in prayer is possible for those alone who continually try to put off their misguided affections to ready themselves to receive the light and grace of God. This continual conversion of heart “to the love of the Father of mercies” is intimately related to the “frequent sacramental act of Penance.” [2]

Against all of this background, we now want to enter more deeply into the meaning of sacramental Confession as it affects religious life. I am persuaded that, properly understood, this sacrament will be restored to its place of honor in religious communities. But the task of restoration will not be easy.

My plan is to see the matter from three aspects: historical, theological and spiritual---where the first will briefly examine the history of Confession in religious communities, the second (also briefly) the Church’s teaching about the benefits of Confession with no grave sins, and the third will go into some detail on how this sacrament can be improved as a powerful means of sanctification and an instrument for the apostolate.

History of Confession Among Religious

It is not commonly known that the Sacrament of Confession had two parallel traditions already in the early Church.

For the laity in general, Confession in the first three centuries was comparatively seldom received. It was intended as a kind of Baptism for those who had the misfortune to fall into grievous sin. We should not overstate the case for infrequent Confession, however, even for the laity, because we know that private reconciliation with the Church---where secret sins had been committed---has a very ancient ancestry and, from all accounts, was available to the people whenever they wanted it.

Public canonical penance that has received so much (too much) attention at the hands of scholars was not available to the priests and religious. It was assumed that they would not have grave sins to confess, and the Church’s discipline in their regard, as we shall immediately see, was different from the start.

If a religious, say a monk (or a nun) in the time of Pachomius, were to commit a grave external sin, he would be put on the same footing as a Christian who had relapsed into sin after being subjected to canonical penance. He would normally have to expiate his sin by living in solitude, maybe for years or even for the rest of his life.

Yet all the while, confession of venial sins and minor faults was so common that, when Benedict wrote his Rule, he explained at length what this confession should be. His explanation occurs as the fifth degree of Benedict’s twelve degrees of humility.

The fifth degree of humility is to hide from one’s Abbot none of the evil thoughts that beset one’s heart, nor the sins committed in secret, but to manifest them in humble confession. To this the Scripture exhorts us, saying, “Make known thy way unto the Lord, and hope in Him.” And again, “Confess to the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.” [3]

We might add that this Confession was expected often from the religious. And the manifestation of conscience was considered so valuable; it was to be made (apart from the sacrament) even when the Abbot, as happened on occasion, was not a priest. We know that Benedict inherited the practice from St. Basil who repeatedly stressed the importance for a religious to humbly avow his secret failings—not just to anyone, but also to those who had the grace of state and the gift of wise direction.

From Benedict on, the custom of voluntary manifestation of conscience and, when a priest was available, of sacramental Confession entered the stream of religious life, in the East and West, among men and women, in monasteries and communities for the active apostolate. I know of no exception to this custom anywhere in the approved Constitutions of any religious order or congregation.

The frequency of Confession among religious was always greater than among the laity. Part of the Counter-Reformation inaugurated by the Council of Trent was to provide steady confessors for convents of religious women, as seen in the lifetime apostolate of men like the Hungarian Jesuit, Gabriel Hevenesi, who reported having heard 2300 confessions in one year.

Long before the Code of Canon Law was published in 1918, the customs of new religious communities followed the lead (for men) of St. Ignatius and (for women) of St. Vincent de Paul of weekly or bimonthly Confession for all the members of a religious family.

What must be admitted is that some convents and houses of religious were infected for a long time with the general virus of Jansenism. Many, however, resisted the plague. Certainly by the time of Vincent de Paul weekly Confession for religious women was the custom and not the exception.

It is noteworthy that the same Pius X who restored daily Communion to the Church also provided for easy access to Confession among religious women whenever they wished. He removed the restrictions under which some communities labored, where superiors had practically veto power over the Sisters’ confessing to anyone except the regular confessor.

Theology of Confessions of Devotion

Theologians distinguish between a sacramental Confession of necessity and a Confession of devotion.

The first implies that a person has sinned grievously since Baptism or his last Confession. By divine law, therefore, he is obliged to confess his sins to a priest and receive absolution before he may go to Holy Communion. Even if he makes an act of perfect contrition, he is still required to submit his sins, as the Church teaches, to the power of the keys.

Confession of devotion, on the other hand, is a true Sacrament, with valid absolution even though no mortal sins are confessed. According to the Council of Trent, “Venial sins may rightly and with profit be told in Confession.” The Council immediately added, “but they can also be withheld without any fault and expiated by various other means.” (Session XIV, 5) Among these other means are the Mass, Holy Communion, acts of faith, hope and charity, and various works of piety.

I believe it is at this point that great clarity is demanded. The superficial attitude would be: Well, if venial sins can be remitted without sacramental Confession, why bother? Why all this talk about frequent Confession?

The error is this attitude consists in supposing two things, neither of which is true: that remission of guilt is the only purpose of Confession, and that a religious should not do anything except what all Christians are obliged to do.

Let us take the first misjudgment: that Confession is only to remit the guilt or stain of sin. There are other, and important benefits of Confession besides removal of moral guilt.

Heading these benefits is the performance of penance, or giving satisfaction for sin. Behind this is the further teaching of faith that, while the guilt of sin is forgiven, either in Confession or otherwise, every sin carries with it a debt of satisfaction. Between these two obligations stands all the difference between a Catholic and a non-Catholic (for example, Protestant) concept of sin. Catholicism teaches that when a person sins he incurs two obligations before God: the stain or culpability, for turning more or less away from the Creator, and a debt of expiation, for turning instead to a creature.

When a grave sin is forgiven by salutary contrition, the stain of guilt and eternal punishment are taken away, but temporal punishment may (and normally does) continue. Venial sins, too, may be forgiven without all the punishment they deserve being simultaneously removed. Hence the need for doing penance to remit the temporal penalty which remains, and which the practice of many penitent saints leads us to believe may be considerable. “Since it is impossible for sin to go unpunished,” say St. Augustine, “let it be punished by you lest it be punished by Him.” [4]

The history of Catholic theology and of hagiology teaches that the voluntary manifestation of one’s faults---as in a Confession of devotion---is the most normal and salutary way of making satisfaction for past sins whose guilt, it is assumed, has long been removed.

Another built-in benefit of Confession, beyond its role of remitting guilt, is the petition of grace from God for light and strength to avoid sin in the future, especially the sins or faults that a person tells in a devotional Confession.

It is a matter of divine faith that every sacrament has its promise of special graces characteristic of that sacrament, and therefore called sacramental graces. Moreover these graces are conferred, as it were, automatically. Provided the necessary ritual acts are performed, the intrinsic sacramental effects are received.

The special sacramental grace of Confession has to do with sin. It removes sin itself, but also the consequences of sin, the tendencies toward sin, the manifestations of sin, the weakness produced by sin, the darkness induced by sin.

Once more, a person who believes that Christ has instituted a special sacrament just to cope with all these manifestations of sin would be failing in wisdom--to put it mildly--if he neglected this means of sanctification. Confession is literally a powerful prayer, which theologians call real prayer (from res = thing) to distinguish it from other kinds of prayer, mental or vocal. The very act of confessing my sins is itself an eloquent plea asking God to help me against more than just my sins, also against my sinfulness, all that happens to me and becomes part of me as a result of my having sinned. Take, for example, the oppressive sense of guilt. What some people would not give to acquire peace of mind! The sacrament of Reconciliation was instituted to confer it.

It was in this context that Christ appeared to His apostles on Easter Sunday night. “Peace be with you,” He told them twice. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” He then breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit! If you forgive any man’s sins, they stand forgiven. If you pronounce them unforgiven, unforgiven they remain.” (John 20: 20-23)

There is one more benefit of sacramental Confession that touches on the heart of the matter. The divine life we have received at Baptism needs sustenance, which is mainly provided by the nourishment of the Eucharist. But this life also requires medication and therapy, which is specially provided by the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is beside the point to say that there are other possible means available. In the spiritual life as in the physical life we cannot afford to ignore the wisdom of the one who knows what is best for us. If we are willing to trust a medical doctor in the field of medicine, should we not trust the physician of our souls when He tells us---through His Church---that the sacrament of Confession is the sacrament of healing?

So much for the first misjudgment: that remission of guilt is the only purpose of Confession.

The second miscalculation would be to suppose that religious men and women should do no more than other Christians are obliged to do.

All that we know from almost two millennia of the Church’s history tells a different story. Christ is infinitely kind and merciful, yet does not deal with any two people in the same way. He had a handful of apostles and disciples, chosen from among thousands, in Palestine. He has, relatively speaking, a handful of special religious out of millions, whom He chooses today. Just as in Palestine then, He revealed secrets to the apostles that others were not privileged to hear; so He now reveals secrets to religious that others do not share.

Privileges imply responsibilities. Among these is the duty to become more Christlike by growing in humility; and among the means for gaining humility, nothing compares with the graces reserved for those who humbly tell their failings to another human being who is vested with the authority of Christ.

Moreover, rightly used, Confession affords an opportunity for spiritual direction that all religious need at some time---and some need more than others---in walking the delicate path of perfection and trying to stay close to God while being immersed in the world where souls are to be saved.

As a priest, I know that priests who are willing to give spiritual direction in the confessional are not numerous; and some who are willing lack training or competence. But priests can be trained and developed, and more would be willing than is now apparent. It is high time that religious women insist on their rights in this matter and appeal to the Church’s authority to support them.

Priests are taught that, as confessors, they have three roles to perform towards the penitent: that of judge to deal with the sins confessed, of teacher to instruct the mind of the penitent, and of physician to give strength and heal the human spirit. If they have too often and for too long been identified only with the first role, this is partly their own fault. But it also means that penitents--and religious in particular--have not availed themselves of two-thirds of the reason why Christ gave us the Sacrament of Peace.

How to Improve Frequent Confession

All we have said so far is calculated to increase the appreciation of frequent Confession. Certainly conviction, born of faith, that frequent reception of the sacraments--the Eucharist and Penance--will draw me closer to Christ and make my work for others more effective, is bedrock motivation. Without this anything else would be only a technique or pious rhetoric.

A practical question still remains. What concrete means are available which, if used, promise real improvement in the use of Confession? The means are available, all right, but for some religious they will have to be retrieved from oblivion. The one means infallibly guaranteed to make the sacrament remarkably effective is the examination of conscience.

I do not like the term, “Examination of Conscience” for several reasons. It is associated with the brief review a person makes just before Confession--whereas this spans the whole time from one Confession to the next. It is commonly identified with ferreting out one’s defect’s--whereas this is specially concerned with the cultivation of virtue. It is usually connected with self-analysis and introspection--whereas this is designed to be of service to others.

Before we enter on a closer analysis of the examination of conscience, let us be clear about one fact. Let no one sell us the idea that sin is out of date, or that overcoming sinful tendencies is for the naïve.

Some years ago, a great scientist and philosopher, Alexis Carrel, penned two paragraphs that depict a modern world in which the sense of sin has been lost. His description is graphic and also true:

Those who discern good and evil, who are industrious and provident, remain poor and are looked upon as morons. The woman who has several children, who devotes herself to their education, instead of her career, is considered weak-minded. If a man saves a little money for his wife and the education of his children this money is stolen from him by enterprising financiers or taken by the government and distributed to those who have been reduced to want by their own improvidence and the shortsightedness of manufacturers, bankers and economists. Artists and men of science supply the community with beauty, health and wealth. They live and die in poverty. Robbers enjoy prosperity in peace. Gangsters are protected by politicians and respected by judges. They are the heroes whom children admire at the movies and imitate in their games.
A rich man has every right. He may discard his aging wife, abandon his old mother to penury, and rob those who have entrusted their money to him, without losing the consideration of his friends. Homosexuality flourishes. Sexual morals have been cast aside. Psychoanalysts supervise men and women in their conjugal relations. There is no difference between right and wrong, just and unjust. Criminals thrive at liberty among the rest of the population. No one makes any objection to their presence.
The clergy have rationalized religion. They have destroyed its mystical basis. But they do not succeed in attracting modern men. In their half-empty churches they vainly preach a weak morality. They are content with the part of policemen, helping in the interest of the wealthy to preserve the framework of present society, or like politicians, they flatter the appetites of the crowd. [5]

Carrel was no cynic. He was only an honest reporter of the facts. If the world is to be brought back to a consciousness of sin as estrangement from God, it must be done as it has been done before—in the hearts of God’s chosen ones, the religious whose vocation is to restore what was lost and open the eyes of the blind.

From the earliest days of the Anchorites in Egypt down to the present day, daily and more than once daily reflection on one’s actions in the presence of God has been the mainstay of religious who understood their responsibility to keep the justice and mercy of God before the eyes of the world.

Value of Periodic Self-Analysis

Modern psychology emphasizes the need of specifying the will act for maximum volitional activity. As a general rule, the more definite and circumscribed a prospective course of action, the more effectively will it be put into execution. The lag and discrepancy between resolution and achievement are common experience. How do we make the real more closely approach the ideal? Superficially it would seem the more earnest our resolutions the better results we can expect. Yet, without minimizing the importance of energetic beginnings, the main factor is sustained motivation, whether I resole on a series of actions like the practice of charitable speech, or a single act like the acceptance of a grave humiliation. In either case what I need at the time the performance is due are clear motives in the shape of strong convictions that this should be done and this is the way to do it. Here the examination of conscience becomes indispensable. If I have resolutely decided on avoiding sharp criticism whenever I am crossed, this judgment becomes a thought pattern in my life, which I reinforce every time I make an internal review. When an occasion comes that provokes my patience, I immediately recall the decision to control myself and keep my tongue--supported by all the motives that I have placed behind the resolution.

However, the previous examination of future acts does more than guarantee motivation for the will. If I have carefully thought through a specific action I want to perform, when the time comes for effecting it, I know what I am supposed to do. Being charitable to a difficult person may involve more than biting my tongue. It may require diplomacy to avoid needless exposure to irritating situations; it may call for speaking kindly to the very man who would normally provoke me; it will always require some adaptation to circumstances that I can wisely anticipate and master because of my anticipation.

This can be highly effective in overcoming unwelcome thoughts. By regularly recalling the kind of thoughts I wish to control and planning on a positive method of controlling them, I give myself the best assurance of success. The reason is that thoughts are more elusive than overt actions; the power of the will over them is described by Aristotle as diplomatic instead of despotic. I cannot say to my mind, “Don’t think of this,” as I would to my hand, “Don’t touch that,” and hope for immediate response. I need to substitute another thought--complex for the undesirable one and hope that the latter will be driven into the subconscious. Through the examination of conscience I foresee what actions can be substituted for the usual ones, with consequently different thoughts evoked in the mind. I may have found that certain reading--perhaps innocuous in itself--brings on a train of thought that will cause me trouble with carnal images or difficulties about the faith. The foresight gained by examination will recommend changes in my reading habits, with corresponding freedom from disturbance in the mind. I can even use my examination to plan on what kind of thoughts to substitute for the bad ones; how I should maintain myself in peace when the disturbances arise; and how to divert my attention to what is attractive, but harmless, and away from what is attractive but potentially sinful.

Theology aside, even natural psychology teaches the wisdom of prudent foresight, and internal scrutiny. Arnold Bennet, who was no theologian, forty years ago wrote a little work on the science of self-direction, in which he recommended periodic examination before the bar of reason. “Happiness,” he said, “does not spring from physical or mental pleasure, but from the development of reason and the adjustment of conduct to principles. A life in which conduct does not fairly well accord with principles is a silly life; and that conduct can be made to accord with principles only by means of daily examination, reflection and resolution.” [6]

The classic example of a man far removed from the cloister and even from orthodox Christianity who used the examination to good effect is Benjamin Franklin. He wrote in his autobiography:

I made a little book in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I rul’d each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I cross’d these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of the virtues, on which line, and its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day. [7]

Spiritual Confession

The practice of spiritual communion is well established among the faithful and needs no apology or promotion here. It means an ardent desire of the soul to be united with Christ in the Eucharist and, therefore, a communion in spirit that looks forward to sacramental communion in reality.

Comparable to spiritual communion is the examination of conscience as a spiritual reception of the sacrament of penance.

In the Sacrament of Confession, the penitent must relate his sins to the priest; in a private examination of conscience the confession is made directly to God. In the sacrament there must be sorrow for the sins confessed, at least attrition through fear of divine justice, otherwise the absolution takes no effect; in the examen that same is true, except that mortal sins are not forgiven without perfect contrition motivated by the love of God. For both the sacrament and examination, one test of a sincere contrition is the firm purpose of amendment. The absolution in the sacrament is given by a priest in the name of the Triune God; in private examens the Holy Trinity effects the remission by direct operation on the human soul. Finally, to complete the analogy, satisfaction for sins confessed sacramentally is essentially covered by the penance imposed by the priest; in the examination, the penance is self-imposed, yet not without the guiding impulse of the Holy Spirit.

But the relation between the Sacrament of Confession and daily examination goes beyond even this close comparison. The two are mutually dependent. Theologians commonly teach that the sacraments give unequal graces to different persons, depending on their varying dispositions of soul. What the Council of Trent says concerning Baptism, what it confers grace “according to each person’s own disposition and cooperation,” applies to the other sacraments, including Confession. Therefore, the better we are prepared spiritually when approaching the tribunal of penance, the more and greater graces we may expect from the sacrament thus received. In other words, the more humility and charity we have, the greater our detachment from creatures and attachment to the will of God, the more of sacramental blessings we shall be given. The genius of the daily examen consists in its ability to produce these valuable dispositions antecedent to sacramental confession. What better means to induce humility or charity than a courageous look at our sins and gratitude to God for his mercies? What surer way of becoming freed from unruly affections and firmly rooted in God than reflections on how creatures have betrayed us and how the Creator only cannot be loved too much?

If examination of conscious disposes the soul for greater graces in the Sacrament of Penance, it also implements these graces and carries them into consequent effect. Certainly the purpose of confession is not only the remission of sins, but also the improvement of morals and growth in the spiritual life--for which the daily examination becomes a valuable aid.

Experience and faith tell us we need God’s graces and a determined will to overcome the sins and defects we regularly confess. The degree of our determination can be safely gauged by the willingness to submit our habitual failing to an objective daily scrutiny, comparing one day’s progress or failure with the next and taking practical measures to avoid the occasions of our moral defects. The more firm our purpose of amendment, the more seriously we should undertake this methodical self-examination. On the side of divine grace, we know that the ordinary means of obtaining God’s help is confident and assiduous prayer; and not just prayer in globo, but specific petitions requesting specific needs. Daily examination furnishes the framework for this kind of prayer. I have been failing in patience whenever confronted with a situation. As I examine my failure yesterday, I anticipate a recurrence and pray for light and strength to cope with the same problem tomorrow. When tomorrow comes and the provocation arises, I am forearmed with grace merited by yesterday’s prayer and the result is a moral victory instead of another defeat.

Use in the Apostolate

It may come as a surprise that the daily examination of conscience is so highly regarded by the Church as an instrument of sanctification for all classes of people in every station of life.

Priests and clerics in general are urged to make a daily examination of conscience, which Pius XII called “the most efficacious means we have for taking account of our spiritual life during the day, for removing the obstacles, which hinder our spiritual life or retard our progress in virtue, and for determining on the most suitable means to assure to our ministry greater fruitfulness and to implore from the heavenly Father indulgence upon so many of our deeds wretchedly done.” [8]

Religious institutes of men and women universally provide an appointed time each day for examination of conscience. Some of the most practical directions left by the founders elaborated on the merits of this practice. St. Vincent de Paul, who was schooled in the Spiritual Exercises, instructed the Daughters of Charity to make a particular examen on their predominant faults not only twice daily at the usual time, but frequently during the day to ask themselves, “what did I resolve to do?” If it was to mortify impatience, let them reflect, “How have I acted?” And if they acted patiently under irritation, “Thank God”; if not “then beg for forgiveness and impose a penance on yourself. For it is impossible to correct a bad habit without perfect fidelity in this matter.” St. Ignatius valued the examens so highly that in his own lifetime the twice-daily examination was the only mental prayer he prescribed for his young religious. The other half hour of prayer was optionally vocal or mental and more easily dispensed from, but the examens were indispensable.

Less familiar is the practice of daily examination of conscience among the laity as they enter more deeply into the Church’s apostolate. A recent study of the prayer habits of Catholic lay leaders showed a close relation between their use of the examen and the annual retreat or Cursillo. After a closed retreat of more than three days, the ratio of fidelity to the daily examination was over seventy per cent. At the other extreme, the custom was rare among those who had never gone through the Spiritual Exercises or made a Cursillo. From the beginning St. Ignatius gave the Exercises to people whose vocation was to remain in the world, and Bishop Hervas who founded the Cursillo movement, did the same. Both insisted that self-examination is co-essential with prayer as the foundation of Christian perfection and the soul of the apostolate.

As religious today are looking for way to update their spirituality in terms of involvement, they cannot do better than rediscover, if necessary, the connection between Confession and self-reflection. Once they learn from experience how the one deepens and gives meaning to the other, they will not have to be encouraged to pass on this piece of wisdom to anyone who seeks their guidance.


Chapter 7: Confession

  1. Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, (Washington: NCWC, 1943), sec. 88, p. 38.

  2. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 18.

  3. Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7.

  4. Sermo 20, (PL 38, 66).

  5. Alexis Carrel, L’Homme Inconnu (Man, the Unknown), (New York: Harper Brothers, Publishers, 1935), p. 153.

  6. Arnold Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, (New York, 1910), pp. 71-2.

  7. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, (New York, 1927), p. 101.

  8. Pius XII, Apostolic Exhortation Menti Nostrae, (Washington: NCWC, 1951), pp. 19-20.

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