Pastor's Corner Dec 17 2017

Holy Communion Around the Holidays: Sometimes awkward situations arise with non-practicing family members. You want to encourage them to attend Midnight Mass, but without receiving holy communion (without confession). Two guideposts are: you are NOT responsible for their proper decisions, you ARE required to help them get to heaven.

How best to help them? This depends on your influence with them. Whether you're very close or almost strangers, friendship is the foundation from which leadership is effective. How best to be friendly? and How best to evangelize? end up having similar answers. Harsh phrases like: "You're going to hell if you keep this up” could exactly be the BEST thing to say, or the WORST thing to say, depending. Our Lord was sharp sometimes. Phrases like, "I'm personally hurt that you are refusing to attend Mass," are always the wrong thing to say. It's not about you; remove yourself emotionally if you want to be helpful. God is more merciful and patient than you are.

Gentle Questions: "Thought about going back to church lately?" tend to work best for two reasons: it's not an accusation, and it's manifest whose decision it is. "If you were thinking about confession, the parish schedule is on the fridge." Another excellent rule: Keep to 'I' statements: "I go to confession regularly. If you wanted to take advantage, here's the schedule." Or, "I love receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I prepare for that by regularly going to confession. I invite you to take advantage of these gifts of God." Again, there's no accusation or threat, but firm leadership nonetheless.

Some relevant Canon Law. Canon 916: "Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not … receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make a perfect act of contrition, which includes the resolve to go to confession as soon as possible." Notice the two conditions: "a grave reason" and "no opportunity." Serious embarrassment over abstaining might qualify as grave, but the rights of God have to considered. Besides, no one else should be concerned to cause us embarrassment. I discourage spouses or parents from asking, "Why didn't you receive?" It's none of your business. Parents can offer assistance: "If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask us or the priests, okay?" The second condition of no opportunity for confession must also exist. (If you feel there's a lack of opportunity at St. Joseph, please let us know.)

Sometimes I hear it said: If you're in mortal sin, just say the "I confess to almighty God, etc.," and then you can communicate. Notice that the canon calls for a "perfect act of contrition." This act of sorrow must be for the highest motive: sorrow for offending the love of our heavenly Father who is "all good and deserving of all our love." In addition, it always includes the resolution to confess without delay. We should be distrustful of paths to heaven which appear too easy.

Canon 915: "Those …who obstinately persist in a manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion." This is an instruction for priests who distribute, which only allows communicants to be publicly denied holy communion if all three conditions exist. A common example might be: a politician who gets elected on an unabashed anti-Catholic plank. Or, a Catholic person who is divorced and civilly remarried and unrepentantly living as husband and wife.

May God bless your immediate preparation for Christmas. Remember to repulse the feast-day devils. Don't allow—-refuse to allow--small upsets to destroy the charity of your home. None of them are worth it.

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