Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Forgotten, Venerable Tradition

As Fr. Marcin often remarks, the priest ought to be a lion in the pulpit and a lamb in the confessional.  I think this is good advice, but sometimes I fear I am too much the lamb in the confessional.  There are several reasons for this.  First, I think that penances should be concrete, so that the penitent knows when he has accomplished his penance.  It is pretty easy to know when you have prayed three Hail Marys.  It is harder to know when you have spent "some time reflecting on the Gospel for the day."  I think that the penance should be easily accomplished in a timely fashion.  I do not want to place people in the occasion of sin by asking them to do a penance that is easily forgotten over the course of several days.  One Rosary makes sense.  A Rosary every day for the next seven days is easy to forget.  The penance should emphasize conversion, and if possible, be related to the sins confessed as well as emphasize God's forgiveness and love.  Men struggling with any area of fatherhood, for instance, could be asked to light a candle to St. Joseph.

I wonder sometimes, however, if I am not a too lenient father, failing to assign severe enough penances.  I was reflecting on this aloud with a priest friend recently, and he reminded me that I need not worry about such things if I am also doing penances for the penitents who come to me.  I had forgotten about this venerable tradition, but I hope to devote myself to this practice from now on.  May it draw both the penitent and myself into deeper union with the Lord.

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