repentance

Poverty Is Not What You Think It Is

Poverty fell off a cliff after the Second World War. It fell like a stone, including for American blacks. The economy was booming and everyone benefited. The poverty rate dropped from 35 percent in 1950 to less than 20 percent when President Lyndon Johnson, nonetheless, announced his War on Poverty. By the time the War [...]

My Most Grievous Fault, Amended

English Catholics are by now familiar with the new translation of the first form of the penitential rite, restoring the three-fold culpa from the original Latin, "through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault." Our sins are most definitely our fault, not God's. But the wounds that contribute to our sins are not all [...]

When “Accompaniment” Never Names Sin

Here’s a little thought experiment to start your day: Imagine you woke up one morning last week and read this headline in your local Catholic newspaper: “Bishop John Smith Leads Prayer at Contra Catholic Gathering.” In this imagined universe, you’ve heard of these “Contra Catholics”—these are fellow Catholics who have publicly “come out” as using [...]

Impurity and the Felix Culpa

"Where sin has abounded, grace has abounded all the more," St. Paul assures us. Felix culpa, as we sing in the Easter Exultet. This "happy fault" refers specifically to Adam's sin, but in Christ's redemptive work, he draws good out of every sin. Accordingly, in our battle against impurity, let us stop trying to bury [...]

They Asked Him to Leave

“The entire population of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them because they were seized with great fear. So he got into a boat and returned.”  (Luke 8:37) It is amazing. Our Lord has just freed a man from a legion of demons, a man that presumably these folks had, at one [...]

It is the Story of Everyone

My grandfather—who loved telling stories and who, in his last years, would endlessly retell the same stories—was particularly partial to the story of the fellow who, condemned to hang for his crimes, was nevertheless permitted a bit of exercise the day before. “In that case,” the prisoner asks the judge, “may I just skip the [...]

Mercy: A Call to Repentance

As the Year of Mercy nears completion, I find myself bewildered by mercy’s many faces. I have listened to nearly a year’s worth of homilies and proclamations exhorting me to a life of mercy. If mercy is love, as I have heard repeatedly, one would think its renewal should address that which destroys love. But [...]

A Tsunami of Mercy

Two stories come to mind when thinking about a Christian’s protracted struggle with sin. One is about a woman who goes to Confession, and, with frustration tells her priest, “Well, Father, I feel a little bit embarrassed. I’m here again to confess the same three sins.” Without pausing the good reverend replies, “Would you feel [...]

More Thoughts on a Pastoral Church

Theory and practice are never exactly the same, in the Church or anywhere else, but they're not separable either. So what is pastoral depends on what God and the world are like. That issue, the nature of things, is always the great dispute in religion. It usually takes the form of a dispute over God's [...]

Thinking Twice about Hell

I still vividly remember the nuns who taught my elementary CCD classes, and the impression they made on me and my fellow students. They hammered the implications of the Ten Commandments into us, as well as the consequences for disobedience, with a heavy seriousness that made its mark on my memory. Our pastor, Father (now Monsignor) [...]

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