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Thoughts

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:02pm on August 19th 2017
Hi, Fr. Brendan, I've got one more question about confession (huge thanks for helping me with the other question I had): in regard to impure thoughts related to chastity, how specific should one be? I mean, are we supposed to say what it was each thought we have had, or simply saying "I've entertained impure thoughts" is enough? I'm always afraid to leave things unconfessed or confessed not properly. Is there any situation or kind of thought in which do we have to specify our thoughts? Like with who we thought, etc? Specially because I've read the story told by saint Alphonsus Liguori about the woman who was considered a saint due to her good behaviour, but let a sin of impure thought unconfessed due to shame and was condemned when she died. It looks like she had to detail what she thought to receive absolution, not only say she had impure thoughts, or did I understand it wrong? This kind of story scares a lot because I've never said my thoughts one by one, just stated the kind of them, and one priest told me I shouldn't give details when confessing, but I've seen many different opinions on this subject and I'm confused. Thanks for all the help, again!

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Hi Maria, I hear lots of confessions in Sydney, and certainly for me, the only detail I ever want to know regarding sins in this area is the one you mention - 'I've entertained impure thoughts.' The danger of going into detail is that we could bring the thoughts back again as a temptation, the last thing we want to happen.

My only problem with that story you've attributed to St Alphonsus Ligouri is, how on earth did he know what happened to that woman when she died? Especially since not even the angels are able to penetrate our consciences unless we allow them.

When a penitent is unsure whether they've consented to the thoughts that pass through our minds and over which we don't have complete control, I suggest them to ask themselves, 'Did I ask that thought to come in, make itself at home and have a coffee(!)' That's just to make sure that we're not weighed down by images that won't go away even when we want them to. And of course these images that pester us when we don't want them aren't sinful. But they can help to keep us humble and praying to Jesus and Mary, 'get me out of here, please!' St Alphonsus did say, 'those who pray will be saved, those who don't pray will be condemned.'

So keep up your close contact with God-Love and with Mary and the saints, they'll always be cheering you on and help you over the finishing line during every temptation.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Confession question

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:29pm on August 14th 2017
Hello! Last Lent I started to take my faith more seriously. I confessed some past sins commited when I was very young, between 7 and 15 years old, that I didn't confessed before due to fear. I guess I had no idea they were sins when I commited it (specially when I was around 7-10yo I think I didn't even know what a sin was) or didn't understand very well my faith (specially in my teens), but what if I'm lessing my fault? I don't know anymore. I'm really not sure if they can be considered mortal or only venial. So, anyway, I confessed it at Lent, saying the cathegory of sin, and asked if the priest needed more details (I didn't said the exact name of each sin, only the type they belonged to). He said no, absolved me and said to me to move on with my life, forget it and be happy. But now I'm really not sure. Was I supposed to say the actual name of the sins, one by one? Since then, I'm always having scrupulous thoughts, spending long hours examining my conscience and trying to remember exactly how things happened, but more and more my discernement become more confused. I went to confession again and other priest said that I didn't need to reconfess it, that things were okay. But I'm still confused.
I'm trying to do things right this time, fix everything, and I'm really tired, sad and scared. Do you think am I being too scrupulous (or too lax)? Did I messed up my confession? Thanks in advance for the amazing idea of creating this webpage. Since at the moment I can't have access to a spiritual director, this forum is a blessing! I'm so glad I've found it. Maybe I'll find here some peace of mind until I can get to my next confession.

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Hi Maria, first of all, huge congratulations for your deepening in your faith. As priests hearing confessions, every now and then someone like you can confess sins they've thought of from the past, including, just like you did, sins committed when they weren't aware they were, or later, when they weren't fully aware of them as sins. And once the confessor understands the nature of the sin confessed, as your confessor did, he really doesn't want to go into further details about it.

I really think you should trust that priest making the right decision regarding your confession, and having absolved your sins encouraging you to make a new start with God's help. You know what? I think for all of us, the gift of God's mercy is so infinite, that it's hard for us to take it on board. Remember when Jesus said to the paralysed man left through the roof, 'your sins are forgiven' - the educated theologians present (rightly) said, 'who can forgive sins but God alone?' (Mk 2:7). In your confessions, you met God who is Love head on, so you have a right to say, 'God loves me immensely.'

By your courage and humility in confessing your sins, you brought such joy to heaven, and God rewards you with tons of love. And all you need to do after that is become a saint, by following St Thérèse of Lisieux's motto (I've shortened it a bit), over the last month of her life, 'to love you, Jesus, I have just now.' By trying to do God's will in each moment, and if not so well one moment, not worrying, just starting again in the next moment, you could become a saint over a weekend!

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Addiction

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:50am on June 18th 2017
Hi Father.let say there is someone who has struggled with addiction of pornography in his whole life and is doing everything possible to overcome his addiction. He has been going to confession and has been praying daily for grace. One night he is very depressed and down and watch pornography that he had forgotten about in the house. He tries to fight the urge but gives in. Immediately afterwards he feels sorry and deep remorse. The next morning is Sunday and he tries to go to confession but cannot get to the priest in time. Should he go to Communion? Thanks n God bless

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Hi Christopher, for starters, it's great that person has been doing all he can to overcome his addiction, including praying regularly and going to confession.

In the case you mention, what I have always advised is for the person to make an act of contrition. We have to leave it to God to know whether that contrition is perfect, which would take away the sin. But even a less than perfect act of contrition helps to bring me back to God's grace. The Church has always taught that we must go to confession after a serious sin before receiving the Eucharist, and this goes back to the very earliest days of the Church - see St Paul, 'So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord' (1 Cor 11:27).

So the best thing would be to join the line at Mass of those receiving the Eucharist, and cross your hands on either shoulder, which most priests recognize as asking for a blessing. At the same time you can make a spiritual communion, asking Jesus to come into your soul. Not receiving the Eucharist bodily at that time shows Jesus great respect and love, but we should only receive after we have been absolved in confession from our serious sins. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Priests with Children

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:20pm on May 28th 2017
Is it possible to get ordained if you have a child .? The situation being that you aren't living with the mother of the child ...

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Hi Ines, that's a decision that the local bishop or head of a religious congregation would have to make, having interviewed the candidate. Pope Francis has said several times, regarding not candidates for the priesthood, but priests who have broken their vows and fathered a child, that they should leave the priesthood, since now as fathers of that child, they have responsibility for its upbringing. And even if the person you mention isn't living with the mother of his child, he's still that child's father, who'll need him around for many years, closely present in that child's life. So it mightn't at all be a good idea for such a man to become a priest. Very best, Fr Brendan
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The Rite of Baptism

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:02am on March 26th 2017
Hi Father,



I was looking at the differences between the Extraordinary Form (EF) and Ordinary Form (OF) in regards to baptising an infant, and I saw that there are many valuable aspects in the EF rite that are not in the OF rite, for example: the imposition of salt, the imposition of hands, the putting of the stole on the catechumen, the richness in the priestly prayers, and the many exorcism prayers used. In particular, the EF rite has exorsisms directly addressing the devil, wheres the OF rite has a statement that Jesus exorcised demons.



However the OF does have beautiful aspects that the EF lacks, like the readings, psalm, and the litany.



What are the reasons for dropping such beautiful rites and for directly addressing the devil?



Thanks so much,

Anthony

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Hi Anthony, when baptizing in the Ordinary Form (I'm quoting from the version approved in Ireland which I use in Australia too), with the Anointing before Baptism the first part of the prayer I always say goes like this: 'Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world, to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of Evil...' And at the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, I always use the form: 'Do you reject Satan?... And all his works?... And all his empty promises?' The alternative form includes this question: 'Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?'

I think most people would agree that the Second Vatican's Council's document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium was one of its finest and most beautiful. I well remember as a student in Rome at the time working through some of the books summarizing where the liturgical renewal had arrived at that time, by Martimort for the history of the liturgy, and Vagaggini for its theological meaning. Unfortunately, the application of the Council document sometimes fell below the high expectations for liturgical renewal, sometimes by being too rushed. And maybe this happened more in the English applications more than anywhere else.

A full discussion of this issue isn't possible here, but by fully permitting the use of what's now called the Extraordinary Rite, and by encouraging the revised translation of the liturgy in English, Pope Benedict XVI did all he could to overcome some of the impoverishment due to the poor quality of some elements of the liturgical reform. Very best, Fr Brendan
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marriage

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:21am on April 6th 2017
Good Morning Father,

i plan to marry my Chinese Girlfriend who is not a Catholic. We been coming to Thailand while we wait for a spouse visa which could take 12-18 months.

I was thinking it would be a good idea to marry in Thailand but she would first of all need to be Baptised . What would be the requirements for us to get married.

She lives in Tieling and her nearest Catholic Church is in Shenyang which is not so far away. Would it be better for her to contact the Priest in Shenyang. Do you know how the Diocese in Shenyang can be contacted example a phone number or email address.

Thanks for your help and reading my email. regards frank

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Hi Frank,

We weren't able to find any contact details of the Diocese online and don't have much connection with them. It will be best to contact the local priest directly.
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First Confession Queries

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:37pm on March 31st 2017
Hello Father,

I have a couple of questions that I hope you could help me with. I am due to be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil in two weeks and have my first confession on Palm Sunday (in a week's time). I am just concerned that if something happens in the days between my first confession and my reception, and I needed to go back to confession, would I be able to go again before Easter Saturday (as I want to make sure I am in a state of grace for my first communion)? Also, am I able to go to any priest for my first confession or does it have to be the same priest who will be confirming me and giving me my first communion? Finally, since I am a convert and am fairly unsure on what constitutes a mortal sin, what if I forget or am unable to confess them all?

Sorry for the long list of questions, I just wanted to get everything sorted out.

Thanks a lot!

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Hi Alexander, congratulations on the wonderful steps in the faith you're about to take in two weeks' time! Let's take your questions one at a time:

[1] Of course, you can receive confession after your first confession and before your reception into the Church - when St Peter asked Jesus how often should he forgive - I guess he thought this was a pretty good answer - seven times? Jesus replied, 'not seven times, seventy seven times!' (Mt 18:21). And a week after he was elected Pope, Pope Francis said that God never gets tired of showing us mercy, it's we who get tired of looking for it!

[2] Any priest can hear your first confession - in fact I'd normally advise people I'd been preparing to enter the Church to go to another priest rather than myself. If you live in a town or city, you should be able to check the website for confession times in different churches there.

[3] The 3 requirements for any mortal sin are: gravity of matter, full knowledge, and full consent.

Let's take a few of the commandments, like the 5th, 'you shall not kill.' Gravity of matter here would be serious violence towards another person, but could include some of the modern forms of attack like Facebook shaming, what's called 'revenge porn,' and so on. For the 6th and 9th commandments, gravity of matter would include (always presuming full knowledge and consent) looking or fantasizing about things that are indecent, and sexual activity with oneself or with anyone other than one's spouse. For the 7th commandment, 'you shall not steal,' a mortal sin would involve having stolen a large amount, which would include defrauding someone of a large amount, dishonest tax declarations (again, involving a large amount). For these sins, the person coming to confession has to intend to repay the amount stolen: Even if under present circumstances, I might be unable to repay a large amount just now, I'd still have to promise God I'd do all I could to make good the loss. Mortal sins against the 8th commandment, about bearing false witness, would include perjury in a legal process, and seriously taking away a person's good name by slander. Ordinary lying wouldn't be considered mortally sinful - doesn't mean that's ok of course!

All of these require full knowledge - I'd have had to be aware that what I was doing was seriously wrong, and full consent - I'd have to have chosen to do wrong. Obviously, as a non-Catholic, you may not have realized that some of the things I've mentioned above, particularly regarding the 6th and 9th commandments, were seriously sinful. So there would be a question as to whether they were mortal sins in such a case. I remember once on a summer course I was helping to give in South Carolina, a woman in a trio of blue-grass singers who were singing Gospel songs for us one evening told a few of us afterwards that she'd had an abortion when young, but because she'd been brought up without any beliefs, never thought it was seriously wrong till she heard a song about abortion on the radio. Later she met a committed Christian and changed her life around.

But I'd still be inclined to make a general confession of anything I'd have done wrong in that area, just to clear the decks and encourage myself to make a new start. Being a Christian, very much including being a Catholic, isn't a matter of being perfect, but of being ready to start again, with every confession giving us the chance, with God's help and forgiveness, of a new start. It also includes what's called a firm purpose of amendment - that I'm promising myself, with God's grace, to do all I can do avoid falling into this or that sin again, and to take whatever practical measures this decision would require. With very best wishes and prayers for your reception into the Church, Fr Brendan
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Convalidating a marriage

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:09am on March 30th 2017
Hello father!
Hopefully I didn't ask this a second time, I haven't been able to tell if my first question went through or not so I will try again... I have been married for 4 years in a civil marriage. My husband was a marine at the time we took our vows and we had the intention of coming home after his last year active duty (3 years ago and officiating the marriage in the church) long story short; this did not happen but I have stayed heavily involved in my faith (my husband is not of the faith nor does he wish to be) we have since decided to raise our son on his daughter (he had at 15 out of wedlock) in the faith and they love it, he seems to not mind one way or the other about this. Anyway, I have stayed active in my parish as the nursery director and as a volunteer youth Minister and now as the high school youth Minister, this year I decided I needed to make my sacraments as I felt I was deeply missing something not being in communion and made arrangements for RCIA to make my conformation and to also convalidate our marriage, my husband had always seemed on board with these things but as the Easter Vigil is fast approaching he seems to be pushing back and almost fully against the idea of this. What do I do? What can I do? He has never been involved in the CC but is a very well educated man in theology and in the world, I'm afraid it's beyond reasoning.

Thank you for your time.
God Bless you always

With love,
Delilah Barron

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Hi Delilah, it's just great that both you and your husband are raising your and his child together in a family, and also that your husband has allowed you to bring her up, along with your son, as Catholics. Reading your question, I wondered - and of course I may be wrong - that maybe the idea of convalidation came across to him as saying that you both weren't married. Of course, from the Church's perspective, your marriage isn't yet a sacramental one but of course you're civilly married.

Would it help if you put the convalidation - which is a very simple canonical procedure, not requiring any ceremony - to him as simply the only requirement the Church asks of you so that you can receive the sacraments? He's not asked to do anything, simply to allow you to sign the form for the convalidation. For any marriage, including a convalidated one, both partners have to agree, so please God he can come to see this as an act of love for you (including your desire to receive the sacraments).

As often with these questions, I have to say I'm not a Church lawyer, but if your husband won't go along even with that, I'd suggest contacting whatever local priest you know well and ask him if permission could be given to you to receive Confirmation and the Eucharist.

Keeping you all in my prayers for a good outcome here, very best, Fr Brendan
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Scrupulosity and Confession

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:58pm on February 8th 2017
I seem to struggle with scrupulosity. When going to confesion, I try to recall all sins from my life especially when I was young and a teenager. At the time, that I committed the sins (although I knew they were wrong) I do not think I understood what exactly constituted a mortal sin and did not hae an understanding that many sins can be mortal and that there are 3 conditions. However, I knew they were wrong and some more than others. Today, I would know certain things that I did are mortal. This lack of knowledge of what a serious sin was does not excuse my sins but I am wondering...I always struggle with thinking of sins from long ago and I do confess sins that I am not sure are mortal but should I keep doing this? Did I committ mortal sins by simply knowing it was wrong although I didnt know it was mortal. On one hand I believe I should because I did know they were wrong but I do not want to keep obsessing over things that God may not want me to. I pray with God's help I will do whatever is suggested. Thanks so much.

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Hi Dennis, it seems to me from what you've written that you've already confessed all those sins of your past, no matter what their moral status was for you at the time. If you haven't, why not make a general confession of all those past sins to an understanding priest. But after that, don't worry about them any more. As Pope Francis has said, once they're confessed, God forgets our sins. If God forgets them in his mercy, we should forget them too. Very best, and keeping you in my prayers, Fr Brendan
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Confession, Reparation and OCD/Scrupolosity

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:23pm on December 19th 2016
Hi Father

I have been away from the church for a long time but his year I made a general confession. However I am finding a lot of problems. I am also suffering from OCD and scrupolosity and I am having treatment for these conditions. One of the problems I am facing is that of reparation of sins. During my life I told some lies/exagerations/inaccuricies about people. I have confessed such sins and have been given absolution but will I have to tell the individual that I lied to the truth about another person in order that my sins to be forgiven? If I fail to tell the person that I have lied to the truth about another person will I be guilty of another sin? The problem is that four or more years have passed from when I lied and it is a bit difficult to talk to certain persons and telling them that in that particular occasion I have not told the truth about the other person. The problem is that many of them are not exactly clear cut lies; they may be a bit exagerated, I may have left some information out or I lied about a person without the intention to harm him/her. Some of the persons may also not know the person I lied about or may know him and have no connection with him/her. Some may have some connection.

My great problem is that of how to tell another person that I lied to about the other person. Just imagine contacting a person in person or by e mail and then telling him something that I may have said about another person; things which he may have long forgotten or just don't care about them. I am finding this extremly difficult to do. I have tried to amend my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations and in a case it was a success, in another I think that I have been largely ignored or with little success but in another I was told that I was saying that because I have something in mind such as some trickery or for some other obscure reasons. The problem is that you cannot just contact a person and telling him/her that some years ago I have told them a lie/inaccuracy/exageration about a person and not being looked as I am not quite well mentally. You just can't force such things since I feel that I will look very strange and awkward. I have told about these problems to my wife (which is very religious) and she told me that I am not obliged to contact such persons about my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations of time ago. She also told me that what I have said about certain persons was probably true; which probably she may be right but I have changed a bit the truth. She then turned very worried and promptly contacted the psychiatrist which he adjustd my treatment. I know that currently I am suffering with OCD and scrupolosity but I think that I need also some spiritual direction.

I strongly feel tha telling the truth will not make any difference to the persons that I lied on. Maybe the persons that I lied to may look at the other person a bit more favourably although I dont' think that it will have any serious positive effect. Some years have also passed. What is your opinion about my problem? Do you think that I should stop thinking about this problem and look forward?

Thanks and Kind Regards

James

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Hi James, no confessor would ever require a person who'd lied to go back and confess to the people the lie was told about. Maybe if it was the kind of lie called perjury, where I swore in court something that involved another person being wrongfully accused of a crime, I'd be bound in duty to do all I could to right that wrong. Or if I lied about a person's competence, saying that this or that person was a qualified surgeon or engineer, whatever, where that person might do serious injury to others.

We could do greater harm to our relationships with this persons if we in fact owned up to lies we'd told about them. Much better to pray for them and trust that God will make up now for any injury done them in the past - if indeed there was any injury caused them, which doesn't sound like it from what you've written.

But sometimes I may have seriously wronged others, who have perhaps died since, or at any rate can no longer be contacted. How can I make it up to them? In these matters I remember what a famous Jewish philosopher called Martin Buber wrote about this: 'the wounds of the order-of-being can be healed in infinitely many other places than those at which they were inflicted.' In other words, by trying as best I can to love the people I'm with now - since Jesus is in every one of our neighbours - I am also loving the Jesus in the person I may have wronged, and I can trust it to Jesus to 'pass on' that love to the other, whether they've left this world or are far removed from me now. Very best, Fr Brendan
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