Totus Tuus - To Jesus through Mary.

To impel the beauty of the new evangelization – this is the charism of the Heralds of the Gospel; Its founder, Monsignor João Dias explains."The Heralds of the Gospel is a private association of faithful with a very special charism based essentially on three points: the Eucharist, Mary and the Pope."

The Heralds of the Gospel are an International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right, the first to be established by the Holy See in the third millennium, during a ceremony which occurred during the feast of the Chair of St. Peter (February 22) in 2001.

The Heralds of the Gospel strive to be instruments of holiness in the Church by encouraging close unity between faith and life, and working to evangelize particularly through art and culture. Their apostolate, which differs depending upon the environments in which they work, gives pride of place to parish animation, evangelizing families, providing catechetical and cultural formation to young people, and disseminating religious Iiterature.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

What is a 'firm purpose of amendment?' Is it necessary for a valid Confession? - Part I

Vol II: The Penitent Christian
Excerpt from a Sermon by Fr. Francis Hunolt
The Nature of a Purpose of Amendment

“Would to God that all sinners whose souls are dead might thus surely recover the
life of sanctifying grace in the Sacrament of Penance! Would to God, that the amendment of their lives always proved the truth of their resurrection! But how many are deluded on this point! How many are there of whom, when they come out of the confessional, we might say with truth in the words of the Gospel of today. “Behold, a dead man is carried out!” Dead he went in, and dead he comes out. His repentance is only an apparent one. This occurs either through culpably omitting a grievous sin in the examination of conscience, or through want of a true supernatural sorrow for sin, or else through want of a firm purpose of amendment, which is the third requisite to a good confession. Of the nature of this purpose learn, today, my brethren,

I. That he who desires to possess the life of grace in the Sacrament of Penance must have a firm purpose of avoiding mortal sin; and II. That he must have a firm purpose of avoiding all mortal sins for all time.

I. True contrition does not consist in mere words, nor in sighs and tears, but in an act of the will by which I hate and detest them all from a supernatural motive, and wish from my heart that I had never committed them. The purpose of amendment that I make in presence of God and of my confessor does not consist in mere words, but in an earnest and present determination of my will, from a supernatural motive, not to commit again a single mortal sin in any way whatever, for the sake of any person, pleasure, or profit, and to use all the necessary efforts to carry out this determination. If this firm purpose is wanting, repentance is of no avail, confession is useless, and the absolution received is invalid.

The Council of Trent says: True repentance requires not merely a detestation of one’s sins, but also a firm purpose of amending one’s life. But, alas! Of the numbers who go to confession, how few there are who make this earnest attempt to amend their lives! “I firmly purpose to avoid all sin, and to amend my life,” such are the words many
sinners utter with the mouth; but what do their hearts say?

Ask your own conscience. Do you not often think, when saying those words: “I shall never be able to do as I say I cannot give up this or that”? “I will amend,” says the mouth. “But,” thinks the heart: “I cannot look favourably on that man whom I have long borne hatred to, much less, can I say anything good about him.” “I will amend,” says the mouth.” But,” thinks the heart: “when difficulties arise at home I will not abstain from cursing and swearing.” “I will amend,” says the mouth. “But, next Sunday, as usual,” says the heart: “I will go to the ale-house, and get drunk.” “I will amend,” says the mouth. “But if I happen to be in that person’s company, which is
very likely to be the case,” says the heart: “I will not abstain from taking impure liberties.” Has he a firm determination of the will who knows in his conscience that he does not intend keeping his promises of amendment? His purpose consists rather in mere desires, which, like the weather-cock on the steeple, turn round in every direction, according to the wind, but, nevertheless, are not to be moved from their place.

Such a sinner would like to avoid sin, but at the same time to gratify his wicked passions. He would like to love God above all things, with his whole heart, and at the same time to place no restraint on his love for creatures. He would like to enter on the way to heaven, and still to keep on the broad path that leads to hell.

… It is not enough to say: “I would like to do it.” You must say, “I will do it; I am in earnest about it; I will make use of the proper means,” It is useless for the merchant to sit idle in his shop, saying : “I would like to be rich!” or in the soldier to run away from the fight, saying : “I would like to gain the victory” ; or for the student to shut up his books and waste his time, saying : “I would like to be at the head of my class!” All this “would like” is not of the least help to them.

The merchant must labour, the soldier must fight and the student must study earnestly, if they wish to succeed. Hell is filled with such fruitless wishes and desires, which, if they were capable of restoring a sinner to the state of grace, would soon convert the abode of death into the mansion of life, and the prison of the damned into a paradise of joys. Sinner, are you in earnest about being converted and doing penance? Then you must say from your heart, with the penitent David “I said: Now have I begun” (Ps. 56: 11); I am fully determined to avoid all sin, and to amend my life. Now I have begun; the change for the better has already commenced. Ah, (you think), if I only could do that! You should rather say: If I only wished to do it. You do not wish to do it, and there the fault lies. We read in the Gospel of St. Luke that the guests who were invited to the feast “began all at once to make excuse.”

The first said: “I have bought a farm, and must needs go out and see it.” Another said “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them;” but the third made it appear an utter impossibility for him to go: “I have married a wife, and therefore, I cannot come” (St. Luke 14: 18- 20). But St. Matthew, who relates the same parable in a different manner, gives, in a few words, the true cause of their remaining away, and shows that their excuses were worthless : “They would not come” (St. Matthew 22 : 3), he says. Thus he gives us to understand, that the excuses we allege for not amending our lives, and which are founded on our weakness, or evil inclinations, or on temptations, habits, and necessity, are referred by the all-seeing God to the one chief cause, “they would not come.”

They do not amend, because they do not wish to amend. They do not abstain from cursing, drunkenness, hatred, injustice, and impurity, because they do not wish to abstain. In a word, the earnest purpose is wanting to them. Ah, what can we not do to secure some temporal gain, to prevent some outlay of money, because we are in earnest about it! How readily we overcome ourselves, and what difficulties we are ready to face! If sinners would only give a penny to some poor person whenever they curse or swear, or send some money to a charitable institution when they fall into their accustomed sins, I am sure that in a short time they would find a great change for the better; and they would have to acknowledge, that they were unable to amend hitherto because they had no wish to amend, and that, as they were wanting in this firm purpose, their confessions were invalid.

Others who flatter themselves that they have a firm purpose of amendment while, in reality, they are always running from one confessor to another, looking for a priest who never gives them a word of advice; who knows not the state of their conscience; who is ignorant of the length of time they have been subject to their bad habits, and who, not being aware that they are in the proximate occasion of sin, cannot remind them of their duty in that respect. Again; the same grievous sins of which you now accuse yourself, you have often confessed before; and you have been confessing them for the last six, seven, or eight months, or even for the last two or three years, or longer. After all that time, you are just as much addicted to vice as before.

How is it possible; how can any sensible man imagine, that you ever had a sincere purpose of amendment, since there is not the least sign of any improvement in you? If a man is really resolved to avoid a certain thing, he can easily find means to carry out his intention. If you are determined not to fall into the mud, you know how to avoid the stone over which you stumbled before. The proverb says: “Even the stupid ass does not stumble twice over the same stone.” If, once or twice you scald a dog that you wish to drive out of your kitchen, you will find that he will not come back again. But you return for the third, sixth, or twentieth time, with the same sins on your conscience, after having fallen over the same stone, or been scalded with the same water. Who can believe that your purpose of amendment was anything more than empty words, to which you did not attach the least meaning? “He is a scoffer, and not a penitent,” says St. Augustine, “who still does what he repents of.” …

This is like the apparent repentance of many who go to confession. They throw themselves down on their knees, praying, sighing, and striking their breasts, and saying to themselves: “I am heartily sorry for having offended God, and I will never sin again!” So much they say with their lips, and then they go to the priest and receive absolution. Those who cannot see the heart would say of such: “Surely, there is now an end of sin! Here is every sign of true sorrow!” But alas, God thinks differently. The consciences of those people are still burdened with sin as before. How do we know that? Have a little patience and in a short time you will see the apparent penitent returning to his former evil ways; a sure sign that he has not had an earnest purpose of amendment; for where there is no amendment, there has been only a useless repentance.

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