Pentecost 3rd after - One repentant sinner
Sermon preached by Rev. Robert Brucciani at Sts. Peter & Paul Chapel, Liverpool on 18th June 2023.
One Repentant Sinner
So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance. (Lk 15:10)
The usual way one returns to the fold of the elect is by the sacrament of penance. This sacrament is neglected in the modern Church, but God in His mercy has left us a number of saints whose gifts and miracles in the confessional have confirmed our faith in this sacrament. One of the greatest of these was one who lived in the life time of many of us: St. Padre Pio.
Padre Pio on Confession
Hearing confessions played a prominent role in the life and miracles of Padre Pio. From 1918 to 1923, Padre Pio heard confessions 15 to 19 hours every day. The average confession made to Padre Pio lasted only three minutes. According to one estimate, Padre Pio heard a total of approximately 5 million confessions.
Padre Pio commented on the amount of confessions he heard, and how he was able to do it: "There have been periods when I heard confessions without interruption for eighteen hours consecutively. I don’t have a moment to myself. But God helps me effectively in my ministry. I feel the strength to renounce everything, so long as souls return to Jesus and love Jesus."
Requirements for a good confession
To make a good confession, one must:
- Ask for grace and light from the Holy Ghost.
- Examine one’s conscience.
- Have contrition for one’s sins which includes a firm purpose of amendment.
One woman said she had read immoral books. Padre Pio said, "Have you confessed this before?" "Yes," she replied. "What did your confessor say to you?" Padre Pio asked. "I wasn’t to do it anymore," she said. Without saying a word, Padre Pio closed the confessional door in her face and began to hear the next confession.
One man said to Padre Pio in confession: "But I am attached to my sins, for me they are a necessary way of life. Help me find a remedy." Padre Pio handed him a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to be said every day for four months.
An unbelieving Communist also came to Padre Pio for confession. At the time he still had not abandoned his evil beliefs. Padre Pio chased him out of the confessional, saying: "What are you doing in front of God’s tribunal if you don’t believe? Go! Go away! You are a Communist!"
- Confess one’s sins humbly, contritely, and sincerely.
If the penitent was not honest, or just read through the list of his or her sins without the firm resolution to change, Padre Pio would often growl, "Get out!"
A woman asked: "Where is his soul, Padre? I haven’t slept, worrying." "Your husband’s soul is condemned forever," Padre Pio responded. The woman replied: "Condemned?" Padre Pio sadly nodded. "When receiving the last Sacraments, he concealed many sins. He had neither repentance nor a good resolution. He was also a sinner against God’s mercy, because he said he always wanted to have a share of the good things in life and then have time to be converted to God."
One time Padre Pio was asked: "We confess everything that we can remember or know, but what happens if God sees other things that we cannot recall?" He responded: "If we put into [our confession] all our good will and we have the intention to confess [all mortal sins] . . . all that we can know or remember - the mercy of God is so great that He will include and erase even what we cannot remember or know." For this reason one should say at the end of a confession, "and I confess any sins that I may have forgotten and did not mention in this confession."
- Fulfil the penance imposed by the priest
Padre Pio then said to him [a reformed Communist], "You have given great scandal, and now you must do something to make up for it. For your penance you will go every Sunday to Holy Communion at the last Mass in the main church until I tell you to stop." In those days, the fasting rule was to abstain from all solid foods from midnight until Holy Communion. Giovanni had to do this for the better part of a year.
- Modest dress.
Padre Pio would dismiss women from the confessional, even before they got inside, if he discerned their dress to be inappropriate. Many mornings he drove one out after another - ending up hearing only very few confessions. Women, who managed to enter dressed somewhat improperly, were ordered out by Padre Pio, with him sometimes shouting "out! out! out!"
- Frequent confession.
Padre Pio considered going to confession frequently to be something necessary for growth in the spiritual life. He went to confession at least once a week. He never wanted his spiritual children to go without confession more than ten days.
Let us pray through Padre Pio and the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we may make use of this wonderful means of distributing the treasures merited by Jesus on the Cross ….so that in heaven there may be rejoicing among the angels and not the angry voice of a Capuchin monk shouting “out, out, out!”