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The Surprising Thing That Brings Jesus Joy

Audio only:

Do you have trouble with the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Not sure about? Don’t know quite what to say? Father Hugh Barbour gives a brief lesson on what really happens in confession, and offers tips on how to make confessing part of your life.


Cy Kellett:

What does confessing to a priest actually do? Father Hugh Barbour is next.

Cy Kellett:

Hello, and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding, and defending your Catholic faith. How I’m making Jesus happy. Is that a real thing? Can you make Jesus happy? Well, one of the great insights that Father Hugh shares with us in this episode about confession is that there is something about confession that Jesus actually tells us brings joy to his human heart. Here’s what Father Hugh had to say.

Cy Kellett:

Father Hugh Barbour, thank you for being with us again.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Glad to be here.

Cy Kellett:

And you’ve heard some confessions in your life.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

How long since your last confession? Oh, excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m not hearing confessions, we’re talking about [crosstalk 00:00:47] confessions.

Cy Kellett:

This is being filmed and audio’d.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

We’re talking about confessions, oh yeah, that’s right. Glad I didn’t go any further. Okay. Yes.

Cy Kellett:

No. I’ll go. Bless me, father for I have… No. Okay. The sacrament of confession, I want to get into the depth of it a little bit with you, [crosstalk 00:01:04] what it is. In its essence what it is. And here, let me start you off with a problem. I don’t know what the matter of the confession is. There’s no water, there’s no oil. There’s no laying on of hands. What constitutes the sacrament? What makes it sacramental?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

You mean what kind of sacrament is that, there’s not any visible sign?

Cy Kellett:

I’m not shrugging at it. I’m like [crosstalk 00:01:21]-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

I know, but I’m just saying. Well actually, it’s a very good question. Only a brilliant mind could have conceived of that question, because it’s very, very good. I would say that it’s very important to understand the meaning of the word sacrament. Actually, it’s very word origin tells you. It’s the presenting of or making of, or offering of something holy, is what a sacrament is. A sacramentum. It also referred in ancient times to oaths, like the oath of a soldier was a sacramentum. He made of sacred-

Cy Kellett:

A sacred oath.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

… gesture. So something is making holy, offering is holy. You’re making use of something holy, but it has to do with holiness. And so it’s then thus related to divine worship, it has something to do with worshiping God. All the seven sacraments have to do a divine worship. And it may not be immediately apparent to people how they are, but they are. Now, what is divine worship for Catholic Christians? Absolutely or in the highest sense, what is worship [inaudible 00:02:29]? What would it be?

Cy Kellett:

Communion?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

What action?

Cy Kellett:

What action? Oh, the celebration of the Eucharist?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right, the celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Mass. And all the sacraments are ordered towards the mass. You receive God’s grace in baptism so that you can be able to be a participant in the pleasing worship of God. Not simply as a sinner who is begging for mercy, but as one who is sharing the divine nature is able to offer gifts worthy of God himself. And he gives us the mass as a way of offering an offering which is worthy of himself, namely the body and blood of his only begotten son. But in order for us to be able to offer that according to God’s command, we have to be fitted for it. Baptism fits us by removing the [inaudible 00:03:15] of original sin, of actual sins that are committed if we’re baptized after we’re [inaudible 00:03:18] reason. And then all the graces that are needed, the virtues, the gifts, the Holy Spirit, all that, so that we are able to participate in worship. Confirmation seals or consecrates that baptismal chrism so that we are really and truly fit.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

It’s like a lay ordination to priesthood of receiving. And it’s passive in a sense, the sacraments, the baptismal [inaudible 00:03:44] gives us a passive power to participate in the priesthood. But passive doesn’t mean passive in the sense of not participating. Passive means passive in the sense that the senses are passive. Our seeing, we experience as a vibrant, active reality, but it’s not doing anything to anything it’s actually simply receiving.

Cy Kellett:

It’s receiving, yeah.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right. And so if you will, the grace of baptism gives us spiritual eyes, spiritual ears, spiritual tastes, spiritual touch, spiritual smell, so that we’re able to perceive through faith, divine things, and through love to savor them even more. So that we’re able to participate in all of this.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

It’s the bestowal of His new nature by grace, so that we can participate fully in the worship of God according to the right of the Christian religion. Which is the holy mass, instituted by the savior on the night before he died at the last supper, fulfilling all the worship of the rest of the Old Testament from Abel all the way up to the sacrifices in the second temple.

Cy Kellett:

It’s a wonderful way to think about baptism. It gives me the tools by which I become able to participate in the worship. I can’t really receive what I am meant to receive without being given the receptors, so to speak.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right, exactly. And that’s what the [crosstalk 00:05:01]. That’s true for all the sacraments, they’re all given to us to relate some way towards the perfect worship, the adoration and glorification and thanksgiving toward God that we should offer. And also the reparation, propitiation for our sins. And then also things we ask for, all those things are included and at the ends of our worship of Him, but the sacraments contribute that. Baptism by giving us that new life, confirmation by giving us the full age in that life. And therefore the extra grace to protect that life in us, that’s why we call it soldiers of Christ because we protect it. The life we’re protecting is in view of worshiping God, so that’s why confirmation, classically in the order of the sacraments, proceeds immediately participation in the Eucharist for its full sacramental maturity in view of the Eucharist.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That’s why the current practice needs to be revisited in terms of the inversion of communion and the confirmation. That’s a strange thing, and it’s only in the Latin rite of the church, none of the 13 other rites of the church. The Eastern rites, none of them do that.

Cy Kellett:

And some of the bishops in the Latin rite are getting it.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right. And we used to do that. And also in Mexico years ago they confirmed infants of baptism the way that they do in the Eastern rites. Not so much anymore. But in any case, so baptism, confirmation. Of course, then if after baptism you sin again, you need to have those sins pardoned, so there’s the second baptism. The laborious second baptism of the Sacrament of Penance. Which is what we’re going to talk about today. But the Sacrament of Penance, also just like baptism has its anointing that perfects its work, so the Sacrament of Penance has an anointing that perfects its work, that is the anointing of the sick. Which in addition to being on the occasion of prayer for effective prayer for the healing of body, also has the effect in the soul of removing some of or all of the remains of sin that are in the so-called kindling in preparation for eternal life.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That’s why it was always associated with death. Of course, sickness was associated with death more in the old days when we didn’t have any cures. Just like now people are worried if they get a cough that they have COVID and they’re going to die and go to the hospital. So it’s not surprising that sacrament of the sick began to be viewed as something which is for the dying, because people often died of diseases. But it was meant to be a last little purification of the soul in view, completing the work of baptism and confirmation and penance, all of that together in view of entry into eternal life. Or in view of receiving the Eucharist while when one is sick. Because you always want, as a sick person, you give them sacrament of absolution, then anointing the sick, then holy communion, same order. Baptism, confirmation, communion, absolution, anointing, communion, that’s the way it’s done.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And then of course, Holy orders are there for priests in order to provide the Eucharist, to give the Eucharist to the people. That’s evident. As the social sacrament, that’s for the whole church. And socially also marriage. Why do Christians have a sacrament of marriage? Because you don’t need a sacrament for marriage, it’s rooted in human nature. In the nature of man and woman. And that’s right there in Genesis. A social man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two become as one flesh. That’s there. But what is the Christian sacramental meaning of marriage? It’s precisely to come together in a union, of course, obviously of love. Almost goes without saying. So as to procreate children to bring new life into the world for the worship of God according to the religion revealed by him. And so the mass, when parents form their children so that they can fully share in the holy mass once [inaudible 00:08:40] with attention and devotion, and they live their lives, or did all sorts towards that, then the parents have achieved the goal of their sacramental marriage.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

The sacraments are for sacraments. They exist for the other sacraments also. So that’s that. But let’s go back and look at the Sacrament of Penance, because what you asked about. But I was just giving the whole picture.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

Right. If I had heard this before, I forgot it, so I think I might not never have heard it. That just as baptism has confirmation, the sacrament of confession [crosstalk 00:09:11] has the anointing of the sick. But again, I go back to the matter of the sacrament itself though. What [crosstalk 00:09:21]-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That’s mysterious, because at least on first look if you go over, we’re offering to God something holy. Or making something holy, or we’re using something holy. What’s holy about our sins?

Cy Kellett:

Nothing from mine. I don’t know how yours are.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

No, no, I don’t [crosstalk 00:09:38] think our sins are holy. So we can’t use them to glorify God, we can’t offer them to God precisely as sins. I mean, as something. Because we don’t offer to God and worship something bad.

Cy Kellett:

No. Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

All right. So obviously the deepest issue with the Sacrament of Penance is not, or confession, is not the sins we committed. But what?

Cy Kellett:

Oh, our own… What’s the word I’m looking for? Not repentance, but our-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Act of [crosstalk 00:10:09]. Our act of contrition. That is, our love motivated sorrow for our sins. And so St. Thomas says that there are two sacred things offered in the Sacrament of Penance, the turning of the soul away from sin, which is something good. You’re not offering God sin, you’re offering something good. And the pardon for sin given by the precept solution. Because in our worship of God we never offer bad things. And so the Sacrament of Penance has sin as its matter, if you will, but only sin repented of in sorrow and love. And so powerful is the sacrament, that if you at least repent of the sins with a fear of God’s judgments, the absolution provides the charity. Even if you didn’t have it, you only had just a weak enough fear of God so you’re afraid of going to hell. Well, then God puts his love into you by the work of absolution. It’s a great mercy-

Cy Kellett:

Just as he did at baptism.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right, exactly. That’s when that can happen. If you confess with you’re in a state of great sin, I’m talking about. But you can confess any sin any time. That’s why you can go to confession even with slight sins, or you can go to confession and just repeat a sin of your past life that was grave. Because the matter of the sacrament is most properly our sorrow for sin born out of love. And so if we lovingly recount, say you just want to make a confession of devotion, you haven’t really done anything that you can think of that’s particularly wrong. You can say, “I’m very sorry that in my past life I committed this or that sin against chastity,” for example. Or that I had an abortion, although I repented that a long time ago. The sins that people commit that they had particular shame or sorrow for, they can lovingly represent because that stirs up their love for God.

Cy Kellett:

And what they’re offering there is that turning.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That turning that they’re continually offering their continual repentance, continually offering they’re turning away from sin to God in the sacrament. Now there’s some priests that’ll correct people if they confess past sins that have already been forgiven in confession. Now that may be because the person’s too scrupulous and they need to stop mentioning it, because it’s not good for them. But generally speaking in a normal Christian, without any other issues, you can always bring up sins of your past life that you’re still particularly sorry for, because it intensifies your loving sorrow. And that means you’re giving more, you might say, to the matter of the sacrament, and therefore you may receive a greater measure of God’s grace for the avoidance of sin in the future. So like, first of all, I have the practice where when I confess my sins, I confess what’s recent since my last confession.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And then I said, “And I also want to renew my sorrow for all sins of my past life, especially…” I’m not going to tell you, X, Y, and Z.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

I was just teasing you.

Cy Kellett:

Didn’t expect you to tell me.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

I know, I’m just joking.

Cy Kellett:

I wasn’t sure where you were going.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That was [crosstalk 00:13:02] doesn’t bother me so much as it’s already been forgiven in penance, but I want to renew my sorrow for it because it will never be the fact that we didn’t offend God. And the great fact is in his great mercy he loves us, he’s forgiven us. But as the Psalm says, “Forever I’ll sing the mercies of the Lord. The centuries of [inaudible 00:13:24] says that’s what we’ll be singing in heaven forever. Forever I’ll sing the mercies of the Lord.” So we’ll always be aware we’re sinners, but we won’t be terrified or saddened by it so much as we’ll see it as a point of exaltation in God’s goodness.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And so in the Sacrament of Penance, when you go to confession, even if you’re laden with just embarrassing, moral sins that you just really dread confessing. And usually those are sins against chastity, or it could be the sin of abortion, or it could the sin of doing something horribly cruel to someone who was really innocent. Things that people really feel bad about.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

All right? They resist confessing sometimes because of the shame is so great. But just think, the shame, you can throw that out and let that fuel your love for God. Like such a loving God who is going to forgive me, I have the absolute certainty that when I go and confess this, I’m going to receive the full remission of this sin no matter how bad it was. He’s going to pardon me in the blood of Jesus, by the power of the most holy trinity. And the priesthood established by Jesus, who said to the apostles on the night of the resurrection, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” That’s all going to happen to me. And so that makes your reluctance and your shame, or whatever, look like nothing. There’s no objection at all. Because what you’re bringing to confession is something really, really good. You have a good offering to give to God, and he’s eager to receive it.

Cy Kellett:

Ah, yeah. Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

He’s happy that you’re coming.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. If you think of it as what’s being offered is the sorrow. What’s being offered is the contrition.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

The contrition for the sin.

Cy Kellett:

It’s not the sin that…

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Yeah, your contrition born of the love for God. You realize God is so good, why did I do this? Or that person is made in God’s image, and how could I possibly hurt God’s image? And so you think of that with sorrow in your heart. And then, you have a gift to offer God that he is eager to receive from you. As a sacrifice, an ablation. You did not desire, it says in Psalm 50, 51. You didn’t want these fancy sacrifices. A humble and contrite heart of God, you will not despise. That is, the best sacrifice I could offer you much better than a beautiful church and a magnificent alter, and great music and liturgy, and preaching, and all that. Or anything I could do to embellish God’s worship is just to dispose my heart so as to receive his pardon. So then I really can worship God. Because the real temple of God, as the Lord tells us, is us. Is us. God’s temple are you, that’s what the apostle says.

Cy Kellett:

So it’s like getting the temple ready for the worship of God.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right. And so that he can come and dwell within. That’s what the point of the… Because the sacraments then, and our worship of God in the mass, that worship is… It’s circular. It then becomes his indwelling in our soul. And that’s really where he wants to dwell. Our Lord doesn’t want to dwell just in the tabernacle. He’s alone there and mostly ignored. He wants to dwell in human hearts by grace, and so that’s what the sacraments are doing for us. The Sacrament of Penance, we’re offering God a great gift so we should just throw aside fear and realize that he’s there eager. He’s like the father and the prodigal son story, he’s running out to get what you have to offer, your contrition. He wants it, give me that. That’s what he wants. He wants that. It’s like-

Cy Kellett:

It’s hard for us to think about that, that we have something that he wants from us, going to confession. What we think of it as, is we’re going to get something that we need from him.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right. Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. I like it better this way.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Well, we do need it from him and [crosstalk 00:16:51] he’s giving it to us, but that’s because our sins are our own that we take responsibility for that. God did not make us sin. It’s not like Flip Wilson, those of us who are old enough to remember [crosstalk 00:17:00] the devil made me do it. No, it’s not… The devil can be an excuse for a lot of our weaknesses. He can prod and tempt. And so a lot of the condemnation for our sins would fall upon him, there’s no doubt about it, because he’s involved. But let’s say our sins, if they’re really sins, they’re our own. And everything we have from God is good. So when our Lord says, “There’s more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 sinners who have no need of repentance.” Well, think about that.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

What does joy in heaven mean? And you think, well, join in heaven in the highest possible sense, assessable to a human imagination. It will be joy in the heart of whom?

Cy Kellett:

God.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Of Jesus.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, yeah.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

In his human heart, the joy he has at the thought that you have repented. He becomes joyful over that. Now, right now he has joy in heaven.

Cy Kellett:

That’s a good thing, [crosstalk 00:17:52] to bring joy to the heart of Jesus.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And you know how you are. When you give someone else joy, how do you feel towards that person? The person that’s given you joy.

Cy Kellett:

[crosstalk 00:18:03] You love them all the more.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

You love them, and-

Cy Kellett:

You’re tender towards them.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

You’re grateful to them. And it’s almost as our Lord is grateful to sinners that they come with their pile of sins, but they’re not ready for him then. All he sees is our contrition and our sins are…

Cy Kellett:

Well let me, if I may then, because I wish it were not this way. But there seems to be an objection that really has taken root in the last, I don’t know, few hundred years in the life of the church. Of, well, why can’t I just do that then? Why can’t I just turn to God? I’ll give him my contrition. I’m happy to give him my contrition. Why do I have to talk to you, father? Do you see what I’m saying?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Well, there’s a parallel reason. Well, gosh, why do I have to confess my sin of adultery? Couldn’t I have just… Rather, excuse me. Why do I commit adultery? Can’t I just imagine someone? Well, yes I can. But everyone knows the difference between a real lover and an imaginary one. I really want to steal that money, but why do I have to now actually go and get real money when I can just imagine being rich? I mean, our sins are real, concrete against other people. They’re not private matters. There are sins of thought, but even those regard other people for the most part. That is, we don’t sin alone and we don’t come to repentance alone. We come as members of the church and as members of the community, not only of the church, but of the human race.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And so just like our sins involve other people, so our repentance involves other people. So there’s that aspect, the public aspect. Not public in the sense that people can hear your sins, but that you are making yourself accountable to the ministry of God’s church. It’s very important. But then the other aspect of it is, that you want to guarantee that you’re really sorry. And one way to have the consoled certainty, I’m sure that I was sorry for this, because otherwise how could I ever have told anybody? That’s very helpful. Because it really and truly, you can say, well I’m going to tell God I’m sorry, and whatnot. But Catholics who go to confession, they have this additional assurance that, yeah, I really was contrived because I actually got the words out. I said I did that.

Cy Kellett:

I said it.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And I said how many times. And I didn’t make any excuses for myself. Where the priest told me, “Don’t make excuses for yourself,” I accepted his advice humbly. I didn’t justify myself. I went to confession. So that’s also very helpful for the soul that we confess our sins so that it solidifies, it increases our contrition. It’s the same reason why you might mention the past and it’s already been forgiven. You want your contrition to be in good health, you want it to be robust. And so confessing, it really helps with that. That’s gold for our reception of the Sacrament of Penance, and it’s exceedingly important. So much so that St. Thomas says that it’s not obligatory, but say you were in a situation and you’re dying, and there’s no possibility of access to a priest. He recommends, well then you could confess your sins to a lay person.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And of course they would be under the seal, they couldn’t tell anybody what you said. But because that would guarantee your contrition. And the hour of your death you want to be sorry for your sins, and there’s no priest around, then confess them to some other Christian or some other person even. [crosstalk 00:21:28] Because that will guarantee your sorrow. And it also makes up for some of the temporal punishment due to your sins, if not all of it, because you confess with true sorrow. And those are all great motives. And it shows how important that contrition is that St. Thomas say, even confess to a lay person if you can’t find a priest. Because that guarantees your sorrow.

Cy Kellett:

All right, well then I feel like you’ve given us a… No [crosstalk 00:21:53]-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That doesn’t mean it’s priestly absolution, but you can confess [inaudible 00:21:56], excuse me.

Cy Kellett:

No, but the point is, at least that I took it, is that confessing to another human being actually has an effect on the way that we’re relating to our own sin. It increases [crosstalk 00:22:06]. So even when you’re not receiving absolution, the confession itself of sins is good for you.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Absolutely. And it also makes up for-

Cy Kellett:

Be careful who you confess to.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Some of the temporal punishment due to sin also is remitted by that, because the extra trouble is also satisfactory. Out of love you’ve done an action which is somewhat difficult, and you do it out of love. And so that helps to make up for your sin as well.

Cy Kellett:

All right. Okay. But I’m going to be honest with you, father, lots and lots of Catholics… I haven’t been to confession in so long I wouldn’t even know how to do it. Or they actually never received a catechesis in confession. Can you give them a little catechesis on what’s required of you in confession? What do I actually have to do to make a good confession?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Okay. Well, of course, presuming that you’ve been baptized and you are a Catholic, right? Well then in that case, although a baptized person who’s not a Catholic who believe in the Sacrament of Penance and went to confession would be validly absolved, because baptism is the requirement. But in terms of church’s law they would say, why don’t you wait until you’re fully in commune with the Catholic church? Because again, it’s all ordered towards the worship of God at the mass. And if you can’t go to communion yet, then let’s wait and make sure that everything’s in order for that. But just to point out that the sacraments are not just legal things, they’re also physical realities. If you’re born in baptism, you’re baptized. And so you-

Cy Kellett:

You can receive [crosstalk 00:23:30]-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Principally you have the ability to receive the other sacraments. So, you examine your conscience. And what does that mean? It means that you prayerfully before God consider, what are the things that you have done for which you repent and you want to go to confession? First of all, things that are serious in nature, because the Sacrament of Penance is principally for grave or mortal sins committed after baptism. That’s where it’s a sacrament of necessity. Baptism [inaudible 00:24:07] Sacrament of Penance is necessary when you’ve committed a mortal sin after baptism. Even if we’re already sorry for it, we still go to receive the absolution and the grace of the sacrament because we’ve wounded ourselves. Just like someone before baptism can be so sorry for his sins that he’s already been pardoned, but he still has to be baptized to receive the character of baptism. So that’s so it’s a stable, permanent state. So examine your conscience. Determine, what are the sins you may have committed that are serious in nature?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And again, people often go right to sins against the sixth and ninth commandments. So adultery and sins against chastity alone or with others. But then also, sins of violence against someone else. As I mentioned, I mentioned abortion, violence, harming someone, or against oneself. I’m talking about serious ones, I’m not talking about when you were little you pushed your little brother. Unless you pushed him off a cliff deliberately, that would be different.

Cy Kellett:

Okay, so it’s a sin to push your brother off a cliff.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Yes, it definitely is.

Cy Kellett:

Thank you.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Thank you.

Cy Kellett:

That’s a helpful clarification.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That might be a mortal sin, yes, indeed. But the point is, that your grave sins, so say against chastity, that’s where people automatically start thinking about as they go in the direction of what embarrasses them first. That they don’t want to talk about. But it may be also that you have seriously neglected a duty of yours that you have not done the work you were paid to do, knowing you weren’t doing it, but the employer not finding out. That can happen a lot, especially in this COVID atmosphere where people work for home, and they can put things off and really not earn their pay. That’s possible. But that can be serious if you’re seriously harming your employer.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And I don’t know how to evaluate that, because every case is different. But let’s say that’s an area of your life you’d examine. Do I work honestly and I fulfill my duty? To my family, if I’m married, am I working to take care of my family and to give good example, instruction, and love and security to the people around me? Whether I’m husband or wife, or one of the older children, or what…To look at that family obligations. Like I said, chastity, acts of violence against others, abuse of one’s own body, excessive drinking. And that means gravely sinful drinking, that is where you don’t have the power or capacity of reason that you normally would have. Where you do and say things that you would never do otherwise. That’s a clear sign. That’s, you don’t have to answer [crosstalk 00:26:31]-

Cy Kellett:

You’ve gone to far.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

One of the 20 questions, I mean, that’s just already there. And so such things, theft. Hurting someone’s else’s reputation, that’s often forgotten. Gossiping about people in such way that you weaken the esteem of others for them. When there was no reason for it.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

All right, you’re not really warning someone that you shouldn’t really go out with so-and-so because the guy’s kind of dangerous. And you just say that to that one lady. And you say really [crosstalk 00:27:04] I’m very worried about you’re doing that. And you’re not a jealous suitor yourself, you’re a sister or something. And you go and you examine your motives and you warn someone about someone else that’s being dangerous to them. That’s one thing. But if you just like to repeat stories, sometimes which are in our imagination, or what you imagine the person to be like, or how you interpret their words or expressions or gestures because they seem a little odd or weird to you. And then you murmur about it. You can wreck someone’s reputation when they’ve never done nothing wrong.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And then the people around you, because of social pressure, there’ll be afraid to be seen with or talking to that oddball because of all the talk that’s been going around. And because they don’t want that to happen to them. And that’s murmuring. St. Thomas says that’s a very, very serious sin against charity. But St. Thomas says that friendship, the bond of friendship, loving friendship between people is the highest form of charity. And murmuring attacks charity at that point. It makes people have a disdain for others not based upon some real need to avoid an evil, but just to have it. And so it’s very, very bad. Much worse than people think. Because we have a media that’s full of gossip, lots of commentary in the media on people. Call-in shows where people say horrendous things. And this in your face culture where you’re cool for telling people off, that kind of stuff. People can be committing really great injustices.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, we are all the time. And then the online environment tempts you to that.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

It’s terrible. And so one needs to look at that too, and repent of it and stop it. Like a big stop it. Just stop it. Stop it. And-

Cy Kellett:

Bob Newhart.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

No, really. Pardon?

Cy Kellett:

Bob Newhart.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Stop it.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Stop it, right. Well, he was a psychotherapist, I’m sure they feel that way a lot of the time those guys. But in any case, that’s good advice. Stop it. These concerns. Also, not liking people because they have things that we want, that envy of another person’s financial or social wellbeing. Where we begin to be critical of them. Because that’s in the covetousness part. We so want a good that someone else has that we’re saddened by it, and we begin to come up with reasons why we don’t like that person. And we do it for whole classes of persons. Rich against poor, poor against rich. Don’t talk to him, he’s just a rich snob. Well, maybe you have a low self-esteem and you really are threatened by the fact that someone has more looks or talent or money than you have.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Humble yourself and emulate the things you want instead of trying to tear them down.

Cy Kellett:

Right. Yeah.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

You too can be rich, famous, and wealthy if you really tried. Instead of just being mean towards people who are. And I’m not saying the rich are particularly oppressed, but I’m just saying, this is an attitude that even people who don’t regard themselves as privileged in this world, still they can be very, very mean people. There’s nothing more dangerous for a soul than to feel themselves to be the victims of injustice. Because when we feel that we’re unjustly treated, and we may actually be, then we immediately get an angry feeling of we want to [crosstalk 00:30:19] take revenge or re-establish justice. And then we get into the uncharitable thoughts and actions and imputations, and all that. So we have to be very, very careful about all that sort of thing, and recognize yourself clearly. What is it we really want?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And when you’ve been offended, that’s when you really have to be careful. What does our Lord say? We pray in the our father, forgive us our trespasses [crosstalk 00:30:40] since we get along with everybody else.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, because we’re [crosstalk 00:30:43]-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Forgive us our trespasses because everyone else is so cool. Forgives our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. That is, we have to forgive injustices against ourselves in order for us to be forgiven our injustice against God, by refusing to obey his commandment of love of God and neighbor. And there it is, if you want forgiveness, you got to give it. That’s the essence of things. Those are all nice things you can confess.

Cy Kellett:

And how much, as a priest, do you need narrative around all of that?

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

People don’t need to feel burdened. They don’t need to explain themselves. The thing is, you can tell if a penitent knows that that’s a sin, I don’t need to sit there and explain to him why it is. If [crosstalk 00:31:22] the person confesses clearly and without any indication that he needs questions answered or anything. Like, I committed adultery six times, and I was rude and unkind to my wife. And this and this and this. And he doesn’t go into detail. He knows it’s wrong, that’s why he’s confessing it. So what would I say? I would say, “If you’re sorry for committing adultery, you have to cut off with this woman. Are you seeing her anymore?” “No.” “Okay. All right. Are you seeing…” “I have to, she’s at work.” “Well then you must never be alone with her. Don’t go to lunch with her. Don’t do anything that would lead up to these falls.” You know the circumstances where that happens, so you make sure you’re not in the circumstances. That’s all I say.

Cy Kellett:

So you didn’t need that person to give you a great narrative.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

No, no. [crosstalk 00:32:12]-

Cy Kellett:

Just, I committed adultery six times.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

I took this gal to dinner and she was pretty. You don’t need to go in all that detail, you can give yourself a break and just say what you did. And then the priest will just want to make sure that you understand what being sorry for that means. It means you’ve got to be trying at least to remove the occasions or circumstances that you can remove. And someone may be working for someone who’s predatory, and they can’t afford to lose their job. And so they’re in a very difficult position, they can’t remove themselves from the situation. But then they have to think about what to do in order to make sure that… And of course that includes reporting them. But priests cannot put that burden on a penitent. Like, I require you to put your job at risk because this guy needs to be disciplined.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

That’s admirable. It’s important that in a society that people who make such complaints are heard and taken care of. That part of the whole me too thing is very reasonable. But on the other hand, it’s the choice of the person whether or not that person can emotionally or financially even, or socially, take the heat for that. But then at some point down the line they need to say, I need to confront this in some way with someone. So I always tell, just tell someone that’s in your same situation. And think about what is it you might be able to do that’s legitimate. But the priest shouldn’t require that sort of behavior, because people, they have enough to deal with as it is. But you don’t have to go into great detail explaining your motives and whatnot. If you’re just confessing a sin and it’s clear, you know what it is, you can get rid of a whole lot of baggage in a very short period of time.

Cy Kellett:

So someone who’s been carrying a terrible burden, I don’t know, they committed a murder years ago, and they just don’t know how to tell a priest. Could literally sit down with the priest, bless me, [crosstalk 00:33:56] father, it’s been 10 years since my last confession. I committed a murder.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right. Okay, if it was 10 years since your last confession, I might suggest that, “Why don’t I go over all the commandments with you?? And I can-

Cy Kellett:

Because there might be things that you’re [crosstalk 00:34:10] not remembering.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right, you might remember. And I’ll say, “Would you mind…” This is the way I do it, “Would you mind if I just asked you questions and you just answer yes and no?” And that takes a lot of the burden off it, because then you don’t even have to enunciate the sins.

Cy Kellett:

Just say yes.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

The priest is annunciating this.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

And you can cover a lot of territory, you don’t have to spend hours going over 10 years. Because I mean, these are mortal sins we’re talking about, first of all. And there-

Cy Kellett:

There’s a limit on-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

There’s a limit. Well, I mean, the point is, or even if they did a lot of them, you can quickly give a notion of how many times over a period of years. But few people can remember an exact number. But, yeah, you’re moved by your sorrow for a murder you committed. And this is not as though this never happens. Right? So you’re moved to go to confession at all because you live in the fear of God and you really want to be forgiven for that. So you go to confession, you said it’s been 10 years and principally I want to confess this. Don’t be surprised the pries says, “Well, now let’s see if there’s some other things here.” Because [crosstalk 00:35:08] 10 years.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Just, have you been getting to mass? Sometimes the murderer will say, “Yeah, I go to mass every Sunday.” A lot of people who have done some really bad things and have been too ashamed or frightened to confess them, they still go to church. They still do their duties. They’re still otherwise very good people. And that’s part of the reason why the grace to repent finally and overcome their fear comes to them, because they haven’t dropped everything because they committed this big sin.

Cy Kellett:

But the key is you don’t have to overcomplicate the confession.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

No, absolutely not.

Cy Kellett:

You can just come, make the confession and it’s over, and let the priest deal with it.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right. And if it needs some further level of complication, the priest will help you with it. But you don’t have to do that.

Cy Kellett:

And the best part of all of this is where you started, which is your heart of Jesus [crosstalk 00:35:52] is joyful at that.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

… a big presence. He is happy to hear it. And the priest is not going to tell you, “Well you committed murder, you’ve got to turn yourself in.” He’s not going to tell you that. He’s going to say, “You have to make sure that no one else is being blamed for this crime and going to prison for you.” That much that’s injustice. But you can find a way to do that without revealing your identity, that’s possible. But sometimes being heroic is an obligation.

Cy Kellett:

In that case [crosstalk 00:36:21] if someone is spending their life in jail for you.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Right, you have to come forward and admit it. There also may be issues of restitution for a family that you harmed economically, because you took away their support or something like that. If you’re able to. There are all kinds of possibilities, but the priest will help you with that. But the main thing is, if you’re sorry for that, there’s a way out. If God can forgive the sin, which is the main thing, then the rest are details that will be happily and gracefully resolved because you gave Jesus the joy of coming to confess your sin. And of course, murder is not that common. I just was using it as an example that might touch the heart of someone who’s listening to this.

Cy Kellett:

Sure.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

But also might let everyone else off the hook. Say, oh, well I at least haven’t done that. So it has a double rhetorical value.

Cy Kellett:

But father, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Well may we have your blessing [crosstalk 00:37:09]-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Certainly. Why don’t we all just make an act of contrition right now.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Okay. To get ourselves ready for next confession.

Cy Kellett:

Oh my God.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Oh my God, [crosstalk 00:37:16] I’m heartily sorry for having offended thee. And I attest to all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and [inaudible 00:37:22]. But most of all, because I offended you, my God-

Cy Kellett:

Who are all [crosstalk 00:37:27] and deserving of all my love.

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

Therefore, I firmly resolve [crosstalk 00:37:31]-

Cy Kellett:

With the help of thy grace to [crosstalk 00:37:32]-

Fr. Hugh Barbour:

To confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen. [foreign language 00:37:37].

Cy Kellett:

Amen.

Cy Kellett:

Bit by bit, as the pandemic recedes, more and more of us will get back to mass. But long before the pandemic there was an epidemic of Catholics not going to confession. I hope that this has inspired you to maybe to get back to confession. It brings joy to your heart, I can tell you that. To walk out of that confessional renewed and restored. But it’s not just your heart, the heart of Jesus longs for you to be in confession as well. So, give it a try if you haven’t been there for a long time. I hope that father’s instruction on how it can be done quite easily will be helpful to you.

Cy Kellett:

Hey, we’d love to hear from you. Give us an email at [email protected], [email protected] Anytime, whether you want to propose a future episode, you want to comment on a past episode. And if you are of a mind to, you can support us at givecatholic.com, give catholic.com. Leave a little note, this is for Catholic Answers Focus. And if you’re watching on YouTube, you know what to do, like and subscribe. That helps to grow the podcast. You do it down here somewhere. And then if you’re just listening to the podcast, you can always give us that five star review wherever you get the podcast, and maybe a few words to recommend it to others. That does help it to grow. Once again, I’m Cy Kellett, your host. We’ll see you next time. God-willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

 

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