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Confession and Vocations

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
SRV Chaplain

The sacrament of confession is closely related to priestly and religious vocations. It is not too much to say, in most cases, the sacrament of penance is a condition for recognizing, following, and remaining faithful to a vocation. How so?

Recognizing: It is safe to say that those called by Christ are all sinners. They differ only in the degree of their sinfulness. In God’s ordinary providence those who have received a call to follow Christ in the priesthood or the consecrated life have no choice. Even to recognize they have a vocation, they must either acquire or maintain the habit of frequent confession.

Nothing so blinds the mind in recognizing a vocation as sin. Nothing so forces the mind to hear Christ’s call as reduction in sin. So true is this that we can paraphrase the sixth Beatitude to read, “Blessed are the sinless of heart, for they shall see the will of God.”

Frequent confession, as recommended by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, enables young persons to see what state of life God wants them to embrace. This is especially true if they are called to serve God in a lifetime commitment as priests or religious.

Following: No less than sin blinds the intellect, so it weakens the will to accept the vocation to which the Savior calls certain people to “follow me.”

Again, reception of the sacrament of penance strengthens the will to respond to Christ’s invitation. Every sin we commit lessens our will power to say, “Yes” to God. In the Church’s history, we read how often a single fervent sacramental confession has converted a great sinner and inspired the convert to become a great saint.

So, too, frequent confession elevates the natural power of human freedom to give oneself to Christ without reserve.

Persevering: We are living in what some have called the most unstable period in two millennia of Christianity. One reason for this is that so many once-believing Christians have lost their sense of sin. Whatever Happened to Sin is not only the title of a well-known book, it is a commentary on the moral condition of western society.

Frequent confession is, therefore, not only a proved means of recognizing and following a vocation, it is also a most effective way of insuring perseverance in the priesthood or a life of the evangelical counsels.

You might say this stands to reason. It is also confirmed by the Church’s experience. As we become more detached from sin, we become more generous in our response to Christ’s love.

I know of nothing more certain to stabilize the priesthood and consecrated life in our day, than the restoration of the practice of frequent confession.

The teaching of Pope Pius XII could not be more clear. His words deserve to be memorized:

The sacrament of penance is the masterpiece of God’s goodness. By it our weakness is fortified.
It is true that venial sins may be expiated in many ways which are to be highly commended. But to ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue, we desire 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 an increase of grace is secured by the very fact that the sacrament is received.

Frequent confession is eminently valuable for every state of life. It is imperative for discovering, maintaining, and sustaining the vocation of those who are called by the Redeemer to follow Him “the whole way.”

Vol. 15 - #1, Summer 1991, pp. 1,5

Copyright © 1990 Inter Mirifica

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