Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NAC Orientation Part VII - Cenone, Confession, and the Casa Santa Maria, Oh My!

If you notice the name of this post, this is one that has been long in coming. I think during the second week of orientation, we took a trip to the Casa Santa Maria, which is the house of study for older priests from the States and other English speaking countries. At least, that was the impression I got, since I met an English priest there as well as a couple from other countries. The Casa is almost immediately adjacent to the Gregorian University, where I and most of the men will be studying. We were given a tour of the place and then treated to a grand dinner- without a doubt one of the top ten biggest meals of my life.

Let me see if I can remember correctly- we had an appetizer of meats and cheeses and rocket salad (like arugula, I think), followed by fried chicken and mashed potatoes, followed by a big steak and green beans, which was, in turn, followed by a nice salad, which was followed up with a homemade fruit tart and a large bowl of homemade gelato. I swear we don't eat that well all the time! It was big enough that its name is actually changed in Italian- "cena" is the word for dinner in Italian, but this was "cenone"- BIG dinner. In Italian like Spanish, suffixes are used with some frequency to express size. In our defense, we ate dinner over a LONG period of time. We were there for more than two hours. As slowly as I eat, this was a wonderful experience for me.

In the original post for this, I had gone to confession the night before this trip to the Casa (though some of us probably could have used to go again after that dinner...) and was going to comment on how beautiful the sacrament really is. Perhaps I will save a long ode to confession for another day, but simply take this moment to encourage everyone to develop a love for it. It's capable of being an embarrassing experience, to be sure, but that is bound to happen when we make ourselves vulnerable to our Lord. There can be very little growth in the spiritual life without that openness and frankness with God. Now, admittedly, it is really the frankness with the priest which is the primary problem for most people, but two simple thoughts on that-

1)there really is something to be said for having to vocalize our sins and our rejection of them. Giving word to such a thing really does help us better turn our hearts to God and experience that which we profess in our words. For better or for worse we are physical creatures and creatures of ritual- we learn and grow in our habits not merely through thinking but through doing, which is exactly what is done in confession. We do not merely think about our contrition and our repentance but we actively confess and actively repent.

2) the seal of confession is really quite absolute. A priest cannot, of course, tell anyone what one has confessed, but he cannot even really treat a person differently according to that confession, if I understand it correctly- it really is as if it never happened between the priest and the penitent (unless of course the penitent desires to discuss it in a later confession or spiritual direction). Besides, I'm growing to discover that priests really have heard it all- they're much harder to scandalize than just about anyone else on the planet. They are also, if they are living out their vocations, approaching penitents with the Heart of Christ Himself, full of love and compassion for sinners and desirous of bringing us all into closer union with Him and full of awareness of their own sinfulness and need for greater conversion of heart.

Ok, so too late- I talked more than I wanted to, but suffice it to say that I think we are seeing in our time a rededication of the Church faithful to the sacrament of confession and that this is a wonderful thing. We should all take advantage of the graces and love Christ desires to lavish upon us in this sacrament. The Holy Father has made a point in this year of the priest to emphasize the place of confession- that he truly desires this to be a year of the sacrament of confession, as well. Perhaps we should all keep in mind that Pope Benedict goes to confession once a week!

Alright, I think I have, at long last, caught up on posts. Anything from this point forward should be relatively recent news.

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