Category Archives: Catholic Faith

How to Make a Good Confession

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The Sacrament of Confession is one of the sacraments recognized by the Catholic Church. Also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance, it provides an opportunity for the faithful to reconcile with God. The need to reconcile becomes necessary when a person is in a state of sin and is therefore deprived of God’s grace. A penitent or a person who confesses his or her sins to a priest can gain forgiveness of sins through the absolution.

There are three basic requirements in making a good confession. A penitent has to be truly sorry for sins committed. He or she must also  fully confess the nature and frequency of sin. Lastly, he or she must be willing to do penance or make amends for the sins.

Preparing for confession is as important as the act of confession itself. It starts with the thorough examination of one’s conscience in relation to the commandments of God. There is no limit to the number of times a person can go to confession and frequency in performing it is even encouraged by the Church to ensure the continued state of grace.

CONFESSION:

Penitent: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bless me Father for I have sinned. My last confession was ______________.

These are the sins I committed since my last confession. (Confess your sins with openness and sincerity. You need not mention all your sins. Focus must be given to big or serious sins, and on the resolutions made. You can ask the priest if you have any doubts or questions.)

For these and all the other sins I may have forgotten, I ask the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. (Listen to the words of the priest , and make the sign of the cross while he recites the prayer of absolution.)

Priest: God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, (+) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

(The priest may ask you to recite the Act of Contrition before the absolution. Otherwise you may recite it by yourself after your confession.)

Priest: The Lord has freed you from sin. Go and proclaim to the world the wonderful works of God.

Act of Contrition

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because I fear the loss of heaven and pains of hell. But most of all because I offended you my God, who are all good and worthy of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

Prayers After Confession

(Spend some time in prayer. If you have not done so, recite the Act of Contrition. Thank God for the gift of forgiveness, and decide on one or two resolutions for the coming month.)

Thanksgiving After Confession

Dear Jesus, you have washed away all my sins and made me your friend once again. I thank you for showering me with your goodness and love. You know that I am not very strong especially in moments of temptation. I place all my trust in you, and ask that you heal me and renew me completely.

Oh Mary Immaculate and full of grace, be always at my side and intercede for me , Amen.

Love Our Enemies: A Difficult Commandment

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Of all the teachings and commandments that Jesus has directed the faithful to do, the one that directs us to love our enemies is one of the most difficult to obey. Can you imagine loving a person that persecutes you, makes life difficult for you and your loved ones, or hurts you in any way? The most natural thing to do is to hate these people but Jesus asks us to go above the human level of reaction and commands us to “Love Your Enemies”.

It has been been said that we cannot call ourselves true followers of Christ if we are unable to do this difficult commandment. Jesus goes further by asking us ” to offer the other when someone strikes us in one cheek”. Truly, most of us would think that this is an impossibility.

To love our enemies is possible only through the grace of forgiveness. It is impossible to love without forgiving. Forgiving is not merely limited to thought but would require the forgiver to do some form of action to manifest such forgiveness.

If people find it difficult to forgive petty mistakes done by others to them, how much more difficult is it to forgive someone guilty of purposely committing a grave violation on your person? Extremely difficult but possible through the grace of God.

Forgiveness is a grace that benefits the giver more than the recipient. Although it could provide some degree of peace to the recipient or sometimes release that person from human punishment, the giver of forgiveness benefits from being released from the bondage of hatred that an unforgiving stance cultivates to the maximum.

We can help ourselves heal faster from a wrong done to us if we are able to follow this commandment. The ultimate test is to love the unlovable and to forgive the unforgivable. Once we open ourselves to this  possibility, God will do the rest for us.

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Catholics and the Sunday Mass

The explanation behind the relationship of  Catholics and the Sunday Mass is not something most Catholics have fully looked into. This is probably the reason why many see going to mass as an optional thing, something that can be done when it is convenient. In the practice of the Catholic Faith however, going to mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is well…an obligation.

According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law , it is clearly indicated that Sunday is the primordial holy day of obligation. As indicated also in the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, the faithful should abstain from work or any other activity that hinders worship on Sundays. The following days are usually observed as Holy Days of Obligation: the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles, and All Saints. However, there may be variations of these depending on the approved observation in different countries.

There are instances that observation of specific holy days of obligation is transferred to the nearest Sunday but this would require approval from the Apostolic See. This is usually done to allow more Catholics to participate in the mass for the occasion. Attending an anticipated mass or a mass held in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation to attend mass. Anyone who assists at a Catholic mass celebrated anywhere also satisfies the same obligation.

It has to be noted however that attending baptism rite on a Sunday does not satisfy the obligation except if  mass has been specifically included in the rite. This is the reason why most communitybaptism rites are conducted right after a mass. This is to give chance for those attending  the occasion to perform their Sunday obligation as well.

When the absence of a sacred minister or any other grave cause makes it impossible to participate in mass,  the faithful are advised to take part in a liturgy of the word celebrated in a parish church or any other sacred place in accordance with the diocesan bishop’s prescripts. Catholics who find themselves in the same situation can also devote themselves to prayer alone, as a family, or in groups of families , whenever possible.

The way of Catholic worship has always been public and communal. Private worship at home cannot suffice for the obligation to participate in the celebration of mass. There are specific conditions that can “excuse” Catholics from this obligation such as illness and other grave causes. The willful skipping of mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is a serious sin. Parents and guardians also have the responsibility to bring the children to mass considering that the latter are not usually able to bring themselves to church.

Catholics and the Sunday Mass go together. Participating in the Holy Eucharist is very much a part of practicing the faith. The more this is understood, the less going to mass is seen as a heavy obligation and more for what it really is – a celebration of our oneness with Christ.

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Witnessing for Christ

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Modern-day Catholics are called upon to be witnesses for Christ in the same way that the apostles were called upon to do so during their time. Witnessing for Christ is essentially about providing credibility to His existence through our personal experiences. People who have seen Jesus during His life on earth shared their personal accounts as we now read it in the Bible specifically in the New Testament. At least one book (John) is believed to be authored by a person who belonged to the inner circle of Christ. The rest of the books were written by followers of a later time.

In this time and age where Jesus Christ is no longer physically with us, how are we as Catholics expected to witness for Him? One of the critical components of our faith is the capacity to believe even without actually seeing Christ in front of us. This does not constitute a blind faith since a practicing Catholic believer will be able to acknowledge the existence of Christ in his life through his or her personal experiences.

Catholics believe that Christ’s mission on earth culminated in His Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. Christ’s second coming is not to be feared but rather anticipated because it is part of God’s promise of salvation to mankind. Before that time comes, followers are expected to share in the responsibility of sharing God’s message to others.

Witnesses are seen as credible if they themselves have actual knowledge of something by being in a specific place and time where an incident happens. When Jesus passed on the ministry to Peter who eventually became recognized as the first Pope, He likewise passed on the responsibility of spreading the Word of God and this was done through the institution of the Church. Peter and others who have come before have witnessed for Christ in their own capacities. Catholics of today are enjoined to do their part not by sharing just any other story but by making known miracles in various forms that will support the belief that Jesus Christ is very much alive in today’s time. By witnessing for Christ, we are able to extend the benefit of being with Jesus to others who are still searching for Him.

 

 

Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church

The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church are as follows:

 

Baptism

Baptism is the sacrament that initiates a person into Christianity. It is the first and basic sacrament that will allow a person to access the other sacraments. It is done either by pouring water over the person’s head or through immersion in water. It symbolizes union with the death of Jesus Christ and of being reborn as a new creature.

 

Confirmation

Confirmation is also referred to as an affirmation rite when a child reaches the age of reason. It is to be noted that faith acquired in Baptism happen during infancy when children are not yet able to understand the significance of the sacrament. It is performed through anointing by chrism.

 

Holy Eucharist

Holy Eucharist is also called Holy Communion. This is essentially partaking of the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine during the Holy Mass. This sacrament is especially significant considering that celebrating Mass is considered in the Catholic faith as obligatory during Sundays and Days of Obligation.

 

Penance

Penance, Confession, or Reconciliation provides spiritual healing for people who have distanced themselves from God through sin. It is traditionally done with a priest to obtain absolution. There are specific sins that can only be given absolution by theHoly See.

 

Anointing of the Sick

Anointing of the Sick or Extreme Unction is a healing  sacrament performed by anointing blessed oil on sick people. Although this usually given to people who are in immediate danger of death, it can also be given to sick people who may not be necessarily be facing such immediate situation. It seeks to convey God’s grace through the Holy Spirit’s power.

 

Holy Orders

Holy Orders is the sacrament which allows people to enter the religious as priests. Priests are the ones authorized to confer the other sacraments except for the sacrament of Holy Orders itself which can only be conferred by bishops. Nuns and brothers do not receive the sacrament of Holy Orders but take the Solemn vows of chastity,  poverty, and obedience.

 

Matrimony

Matrimony or marriage is a sacrament that seeks to confer holiness on married people with their performance of their duties as spouses and parents of their children. The sacrament denotes exclusivity and permanency in the relationship. The primary requirement on anyone seeking to receive this sacrament is free and conscious consent.

The seven sacraments of the Catholic Church consist of the Sacraments on Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist; Sacraments of Healing – Penance and Anointing of the Sick, and Sacraments at the Service of Communion – Holy Orders and Matrimony. The validity of the administration of sacraments lies in the authority and power of the administering person. There are impediments specified by the Canon Law that may prevent valid reception of sacraments.

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Easter – the Greatest Event in the Christian Faith

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Easter is the greatest event in the Christian faith because it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ after His death from crucifixion at The Calvary.  It is the culminating point of His mission to save mankind from the bonds of sin.  The resurrection of Christ forms the very foundation of the faith.

Easter signifies a new spiritual birth for believers. In the Philippines, this event is greeted through the “Salubong” ,a celebration done at early dawn to commemorate the meeting of the Resurrected Christ with His Mother Mary.  Little girls dressed as angels lift the veil of mourning from Mother Mary and is proceeded by a shower of flowers and a song of joy and exultation.

There are traditional liturgical observations done before this.  The ceremony begins in total darkness and the blessing of the Easter fire as represented by the large Paschal candle.  The Easter Proclamation is chanted during this time.  After a  number of readings, the singing of the Gloria follows and the Gospel of the Resurrection is proclaimed.  This is when the church is lighted and bells are rung.

It is believed that this is the best time for converts to be baptized since it is also the time for believers to renew their baptismal vows.  After reciting of the vows, all attendees are sprinkled with holy water. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist signals the end of the Easter Vigil and the celebration of Easter itself.

The Western tradition of Easter celebration is rooted in some representations such as the Easter bunny and the Easter egg.  The Easter Bunny is the gift-giving equivalent of Santa Claus during Christmas.  Since an egg is a traditional symbol of fertility and new life, it is also used as an Easter symbol.  Children are usually treated to an Easter egg hunt using eggs they have decorated themselves.

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Holy Week and What It Means to the Faithful

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The last week of Lent is referred to as the Holy Week.  It starts on Palm Sunday and includes Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, and the Triduum consisting of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, sometimes also referred to as Black Saturday.  Easter Sunday which is considered the most awaited event in the Christian faith is no longer considered part of the Holy Week because it is distinct in itself being the triumph of Christ over death.

Holy Week essentially commemorates the Passion and Death of Christ.  The celebration of the Holy Mass is not done from Maundy Thursday up to Holy Saturday and crosses in churches are veiled.  After sundown on Holy Saturday however, the celebration of Easter begins  through the Easter Vigil.

There are four parts to the Easter Vigil including the Service of Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism, and the Holy Eucharist.  The Holy Eucharist in this vigil is considered the first mass for Easter Sunday.  The vigil is expected to finish before breaking of dawn.

During the Holy Week, many traditions are observed including fasting and abstinence, meditation and deep prayer, various forms of sacrifices depending on the culture, praying the Stations of the Cross, visiting several churches or the Visita Iglesia, or simply the observance of quiet.  Fasting as a religious observance is willingly abstaining from food, drinks, or both.  Catholics equate fasting with reducing intake of food to one full meal for a day.  Meat is also not taken during all Fridays of Lent.  Fasting is required on specific days on Catholics aged 18 to 59.  The abstinence from meat on specified days however includes Catholics from 14 years old.

In some countries like the Philippines, there are still some penitential rites being performed which are not really encouraged by the Catholic Church.  These include being nailed to the cross, flagellation, and willfully undergoing other severe forms of physical pain.  The Catholic Church looks favorably on other practices such as the “senakulo” or the reenactment of Christ’s passion through plays or visiting places that encourage prayer and meditation.  Staying at home to pray is equally acceptable for Holy Week.

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Palm Sunday

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The start of the Holy Week is represented by Palm Sunday, the day where Catholics go to Church to have their palm branches blessed.  It is the Sunday before Easter.  The biblical event speaks of the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem which is interpreted as  Christ’s establishment of kingship over Israel.  Contrary to a political leader which was what was expected by the people, Jesus came in humility riding a donkey as opposed to horses commonly used by warriors.

The choice in the animal ridden is considered very significant as a donkey represented peace while a horse is often associated with war.  Jesus intended to be seen as a Prince of Peace rather than a king about to wage war against anyone.  This particular event is commemorated every year but its date is movable depending on the current liturgical calendar.

In today’s time, the raising of palm branches is done in honor of Jesus.  In a church ceremony where the people read the Passion of Christ while holding on to their palm branches, we are reminded that most people who waved their branches to welcome Jesus were the very same ones who joined the call for His crucifixion.  This pertains to the natural weakness of man. Palm Sunday signals the beginning of Christ’s journey to the Cross.

Blessed palms or olive branches are placed in homes as part of witnessing for Christ.  They are considered sacramentals or sacred signs instituted by the Church.  They are not to be treated as amulets or magical weapons against evil spirits or catastrophe to prevent any superstitious belief from deviating from its real meaning.

They are disposed either through burying or burning.  The Church usually requests the faithful to give their old previously blessed palm branches to be burned and used as ash for Ash Wednesday.  Palm weaving is a popular tradition in many countries including the Philippines, Italy, and Poland.

 

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Choosing a New Pope

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There is much interest in knowing how a new pope is elected following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  The Pope is considered the bishop of Rome and the human leader of the whole Catholic Church.  The position itself represents the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle while the body of bishops is taken to represent the apostles.

The word pope is derived from a Greek word which means Father.  The Pope has the difficult task of shepherding the Catholic flock all over the world.  He is expected to occupy the position until his death.

During the early times, the Pope was chosen by senior clergymen who were residing in Rome or near it.  The electorate was eventually restricted to the Cardinals which was further qualified into cardinals below 80 years old. In regular circumstances where the election is being done due to the death of the Pope, the 120 cardinal electors are required to meet within 10 days.  The Camerlengo or the Cardinal Chamberlain of the Roman Catholic Church temporarily takes over until the new Pope has been elected.

The electors are called to a sequestered meeting called the conclave where they will stay until a Pope has been elected.  Black smoke signifies that they have not been successful yet in electing the new Pope while white smoke signifies success in choosing the successor.  Voting is done by secret ballot and all ballots are burned after each voting.  The Pope’s office is called the papacy while his ecclesiastical jurisdiction is referred to as the Holy See.

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Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent traditionally observed 46 days before Easter.  It has no definite date and can fall any time from February 4 to March 10 depending on the liturgical calendar for the year.  It also marks the beginning of the period of prayer and fasting in relation to Jesus’ 40-day fasting in the desert.

The ashes imposed on the forehead of the faithful come from palms used for the previous years burned specifically for Ash Wednesday.  The day of the burning of the palms that occurs before Ash Wednesday is called Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove comes from the word shrive which means to confess or obtain absolution for sin.  Ash signifies repentance for transgressions.

During early times, the ashes were scattered on the head as a sign for sorrow of sins and faults.  Other Christian denominations also observe Ash Wednesday with a specific service including the Baptist, Methodist, Lutherans , and Anglicans.   The Catholic Church considers ashes used for this day as a sacramental and not a sacrament and therefore can be imposed on anyone who wishes to receive them as opposed to the sacraments which can only be given to church members.

The words used by the priest or minister who imposes the ashes can either be “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”. Since Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance, confession is also made available while the service is being provided.  The recipients of the imposed ashes are expected to retain the mark until they wear off.