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How to Turn a Sob Story into a Good Confession

The other day my husband and I had a decently intense conversation about the merits of a sob story. One of us (my husband) prefers to speak to a contractor in simple terms. His details are succinct and to the point. The other (me) likes to paint a beautiful picture, complete with smells and sound if possible. I want you to SEE and FEEL that our cut propane line is an emergency. When my husband calls a plumber, his conversation goes something like this:

Hi, yes – our propane line is broken. Mmmhmm…yes, we need it repaired. Oh, next week? Yeah, we’re going to need it taken care of sooner. Calls someone else, rinse and repeat.

When I call the plumber, it goes like this:

Hi! I’m driving behind one of your trucks and thought I’d call! We have a bit of an emergency with six children at home and have been without hot water or the ability to cook on the stove the past five days. Is there any chance we could expedite service? Oh, I see the truck I’m behind is turning into my neighborhood – can you send that guy over?

30 minutes later, the plumber shows up – I would wager because I gave enough description for them to determine our need and location to a worker in the area.

Tying this into confession

But how does this relate to what God wants from us? I immediately likened it to confession. I mean a REALLY GOOD confession. You know the kind you give when it’s a priest you’ve never met? I know you’re nodding in agreement right now.

I know when I sit in the pew waiting for confession to begin, I feel nauseous…because sins. Same sins as last time and the time before that and the…well, you get the point. We usually try to get to confession ahead of time so we can wait on the front end instead of wondering if we’ll get to have our confession heard before Mass begins.

And then…as I inch seat by seat as members of the family head into the confessional, that stress creeps in.

“Just focus on how you’ll feel when you walk out,” I tell myself.

And the internal dialogue that follows resembles that of a tantruming toddler tussling with the momma.

I go in and I bare my soul, and pour out my sob story because I think it’s what God wants of me. I know that confessions of old (and even today still) involve enumerating ones sins in an effort to provide a succinct list of what’s what and possibly helps the priest focus on some problematic areas for the penitent. And I appreciate that for what it is and respect Father’s time.

When I say sob story *in* confession, what I am really saying is even if you are enumerating your sins, it can also be super helpful for the priest to hear some backstory, especially if this is a regular confessor and has heard your same sins time and again. It helps them give specific advice and support unique to your state in life.

So, what are some solid ways to make a good confession?

  • Go frequently. Or go back. Yes, I know the virus has made things infinitely hard and maybe, just maybe, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we may have rationalized ourselves into a corner where we have not been to Reconciliation or even Mass in a very long time, but understand this. The priest is there to guide you and be that channel for God’s infinite Mercy. Think of and perhaps focus on how you’ve felt walking out of the confessional!
  • Do a thorough Examination of Conscience. This is especially important if it’s been a while since you’ve been to Reconciliation. Make it a good one!
  • Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with the priest. If it’s been a number of months or longer, consider making an appointment with the priest so you can say all you need to without the potential stress of holding up the line.
  • Make a daily examination of conscience a part of your routine going forward. Now that you’ve been to confession, it’s time to see where you can tweak things on the daily. I highly recommend a daily reflection on areas where you’ve improved and need improvement. This will help your next confession tremendously. If you’ve purchase DAYBOOK, there is a place to do a daily Ignatian Examination of Conscience.

Interested in more resources on Confession?

Read previous articles

Download a good Examination of Conscience

Consider purchasing the Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation from Ascension Press and keep it in your purse (ladies) or in your car (ladies and gents)

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Remember Your Death

In the span of one month this past winter, three people I care very much about lost their fathers unexpectedly. The degree to which each was prepared for death varied greatly. Being spiritually prepared for our own or for a loved one’s death is not something we discuss frequently, if at all, and yet it is one of the most important things we can do. In fact, being properly prepared for death can make all the difference when it comes to the Four Last Things—Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

What can you do to prepare your own soul for death?

  • Remain in a state of grace by avoiding mortal sin, making use of frequent confession, and frequent, worthy reception of the Eucharist.
  • Pray for a holy death, asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph the patron of a happy death and of the Blessed Mother who we invoke with every Hail Mary—“pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
  • Commit to the Nine First Fridays Devotion, availing oneself of confession if needed for worthy reception of communion, attending Mass nine first Fridays in a row and receiving Holy Communion. One of the promises of fulfilling this commitment is the grace of final penitence so that one dies in a state of grace.
  • To the extent that you are able, draw close to your priest and discuss what you desire in the way of a “prepared death.”
  • Make clear funeral plans and plans for Masses to be said after your death. Make sure your family knows in detail your wishes.

What can you do to prepare loved ones for death?

  • Discuss all of the above with your loved ones, especially if they are faithfully practicing Catholics. Get a clear idea of their desires and needs when it comes to preparing for death.
  • Pray fervently for the conversion of your loved ones who are outside the faith. You can even offer your Nine First Fridays on their behalf.
  • Get a priest to them as soon as possible if death is immanent or even a possibility. This is a real responsibility. Your loved one’s soul is at stake and as much as we hope they have prepared themselves for the inevitability, nothing can replace what a priest can do for a soul near death.

What should you do after the fact?

  • First of all you should assume nothing—neither canonize nor condemn your loved one.
  • Have Masses said for them.
  • Enroll them in the Seraphic Mass Association or a similar society who offers frequent or perpetual masses for the dead. Have a Traditional Requiem Mass said, if possible.
  • Continue to pray for the soul of your loved one. Our Lady gave the following prayer to the Fatima children. She promised it would be particularly efficacious for the poor souls in Purgatory.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in the most need of Thy mercy.”

This month remember your death. Let us give appropriate time, thought, and prayer focused upon our own mortality and state of our souls. May we meet our death in a state of preparation and grace.

Originally, I had written this post for this past Lent and then the world turned completely upside down. It just didn’t seem to be a truly appropriate time to publish it, especially since many of us were completely deprived of the sacraments and the recommendations I gave in this post are pretty reliant on access to the sacraments. I know there are still many who have limited access to confession and getting a priest into a hospital remains a real obstacle, but much of the information provided is so very important. You may need to forcefully advocate for your loved one with the hospital, your priest, or even the diocese to get what is needed. Just remember, your loved one’s soul may very much depend upon it.


5 Things Catholics Should Know About First Fridays

What is the Apostolic Pardon?

Seraphic Mass Association

Memento Mori Devotional

A Prayer for a Holy Death

What Every Catholic Needs to Know About the Four Last Things

On Commendation of the Soul and Expiration

God’s Final Act of Mercy: A Reminder to Remember the Faithful Departed This November

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What Not to Say to a Catholic Newlywed (Whether You’re Catholic or Not)

Catholic newlywed, newlywed

Over the last year of married life, I’ve come to learn a lot about myself, my husband, and my relationship with God. I’ve also come to realise that anyone and everyone has an opinion on the above, and many have decided to share them with me.

It’s wonderful when people are kind enough to share their thoughts on marriage with us, whether they have tips for long-lasting happiness, date night ideas, or promises to pray for us. But as a newly married couple, there’s been a lot of unwanted and unwarranted advice, probing questions, and even rudeness when people want to ask about our lives.

Questions are great! But let’s keep them kind and polite. So if you’re headed to a wedding soon, or have a newly-married best friend, have a glance through the below to find some questions not to ask – and some kinder alternatives!

(And yes. I really have been asked all of the below. Help me.)

(1) When are you having children?

People asked me this on my wedding day. On my wedding day. As if there isn’t enough pressure on the bride. (Not just one person. Several. Seriously, I thought this one was already well known as a no-go area, but I’ve been asked it pretty much constantly since I got married. Time to wipe it from the slate for good.)

You never know what struggles others are dealing with. Infertility and child loss are heartbreaking crosses to bear, and although some couples may choose to share their burdens with family and friends, others might prefer to keep them private. Continually asking when the children are going to arrive can be insensitive, and even painful for a young couple longing for their first child. 

God will sort it out in His own sweet time, and when the couple are ready, they’ll definitely tell you!

Say instead: I pray God blesses your family.

Or don’t say anything. Just pray for them.

(2) Marriage is so much hard work!

It’s true that marriage requires a lot of work and dedication for both parties, but it’s also hugely rewarding, fulfilling, and blessed. When newlyweds are starting out on their own, brand new, wonderful, exciting journey as a married couple, now’s not the time to be a negative Nancy about all the struggles they have in their future. It’s time to celebrate, raise a toast, and wish them well for everything they’re going to experience.

Say instead: You have a wonderful journey ahead of you.

Or don’t say anything. Just pray for them.

(3) I hope you have a confetti shower / enormous cake / lace dress / sit down dinner / organ music / fire eaters / giraffes at your wedding!

There’s so much pressure on the bride to make her wedding day the best day of her life. If having all her family and friends in one room and all the attention on her wasn’t enough, you have an entire multi-million dollar wedding industry banging on the door insisting that if you don’t hand over enough cold hard cash, you’ll have a miserable day and regret it for the rest of your life. Spoiler: not true!

Their wedding is just one day, their first as husband and wife. Yes, it’s pretty damn special. But it’s special because it’s their wedding day – it’s not their wedding day because it’s special.

So don’t go bashing the bride and groom if their wedding isn’t to your tastes, or you wanted a particular hymn or song. If you’re a parent, or you’re paying for a big part of the wedding, you can make yourself heard politely. If you’re not, shush.

And take it from a bride with social anxiety: sometimes she doesn’t want a big wedding. So be glad you’re on the invite list at all.

Say instead: I hope your wedding day was everything you wanted it to be.

Or don’t say anything. Just pray for them.

(4) Wow, you married so young! Judgmental face…

By modern standards, I suppose I did get married relatively early, which means I get a lot of strange looks when I mention my husband. I understand surprise, particularly in non-Catholic circles, however surprise often gives way to judgement, questioning, and criticism. Clearly, for some people, my being married young means I make ‘important decisions too quickly’ and they feel the need to comment on my decisions, tell me why I was wrong, or why I might regret this in the future.

Advice is great, but there’s no need to be judgemental about it. Even if you’ve been married for ten years, twenty, or even fifty, we all started out young once! We’ve all got our own stories and our own journeys in life – and ours starts right here.

Say instead: How are you enjoying married life?

Or don’t say anything. Just pray for them.

(5) What contraception are you using?

Do I need to explain this one?!?

I get it – a lot of non-Catholics don’t get the whole ‘Catholic contraception thing’, and want to know more, but there are many politer ways of asking about what Catholics believe. I’m more than happy to explain the teaching to you, or point you in the direction of someone who can explain it better – but there’s really no need to get into the nitty-gritty of my private life in order to do so. Other Catholics feel the need to ‘check up on us’ – that we’re doing things the right way, or the wrong way, and want to have their say about it.

But do I really need to explain why it’s an incredibly personal and private thing to be asking a newly married couple? Really?

If you’re not my doctor – don’t.

Just pray for us.

Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacraments Spiritual Growth Victoria K

Talking About Sin

Endorsing My Sins

Do you talk about your sins?

I think the gut reaction is, “of course not!” At least, that’s what the gut reaction is for me.  But my gut reaction…might have been wrong.

I thought that I was fairly clear-cut about sin. Sins were these evil things I wrestled with in the privacy of my own heart and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Private, tucked away. I would never talk about my sins to others, right?

But then, humility struck (man that pesky litany of humility really does change your life!).  This year, I’m guiding children and their families in preparation for First Reconciliation. It’s made me hyperaware about how I view and talk about sin.

As I endeavor to communicate the concept of sin to second graders, I’ve started to notice something.  I’m talking about my sins a lot more than I thought.

“This is totally gossiping, but…”

“Take one more picture. I know, I’m vain.”

“Maybe it’s gluttonous, but these chocolates are SO good.”

“I know I shouldn’t be complaining about my husband, but…”

“Oh my goodness, back in college, I used to do [insert all the bad tendencies I had before my recommitment to the faith] all the time!” 

Each moment was like a pinprick.  Was I really just openly acknowledging my sins and temptations?  And, on top of that, was I really basically acknowledging and endorsing them?


What’s the tone?

Let me get this straight: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever talk about our sins.  There is humility in being able to acknowledge when we’ve fallen short of the glory of God.  

Part of what’s so wonderful about the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ability to admit out loud the brokenness on our hearts.  What’s more, within our relationships and communities it is important to be honest about our shortcomings.

But I do think that sometimes we need to ask ourselves: what is the tone that we convey when we’re talking about sin? 

When I mention a sin I’m struggling with, is it to ask for advice and to be held accountable? Or is it to laugh about it and normalize it?

When I talk about my sins in the past, is it to reveal the glory of God that has worked through my life? Or is it to glorify all of the “cool” or “interesting” or “rebellious” things I did in the past?

The Devil is constantly working to downplay the impact of our sins.  How we talk about our sins can be very revelatory of the work he is doing in this regard. Do we make our sins sound interesting, fun, or just a part of day-to-day life?

What’s more, our sins are places of brokenness.  There are places in which we are in desperate need of healing.  We don’t go to the doctor celebrating the malignant tumor threatening our lives. We celebrate the doctor who works to heal us, and our efforts to aid the doctor in this task. In the same way, we don’t celebrate the fact we were sinners.


Conversion Stories

When it comes to the Saints, we obsess over conversion stories.  And rightly so! It is incredible to see the grace of God work in everyone’s life, in all lives.

But we need to be careful that our emphasis isn’t on the sinner, as much as the salvation.

Why is St. Paul’s story compelling? It’s because he preached the Gospel all across the Roman Empire, and was an enduring witness to the Faith. There might be a temptation to relish in his dramatic turn from murderer of Christians to evangelizer.  But St. Paul underscores what’s most important: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Christ’s victory is the focus, not our sins.

Why is St. Augustine’s story compelling? Because he wrote incredible books that are so foundational to our understanding of our Faith. Yes, his back-story reads like a tabloid.  But throughout his Confessions, his finger isn’t pointing at his sin – its God’s work shining through his life. He states in his Confessions: “‘For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?” God is the source of goodness, God our savior is the focus.

Why, on the other hand, do I have students who constantly complain that St. Therese’s story is “boring?”  She was an incredible witness to God’s love, and man, she’s a doctor of the Church with her incredible writings on love, simplicity, trust, devotion.  Honestly, she needs more attention.


A Change in Phrasing

So, with the inspiration of the Saints, instead of normalizing my sin, I can say:

“There were a lot of bad things I did in college, but Christ worked through the people around me to help me through it.”

“Let me know if it seems like I’m gossiping.  I need to work on that.”

“Can I share a struggle I’m having? I want to work through it.

And by sharing this, in the right context, with humility, I pray that God will have the triumph in my life.


Baptism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Maurisa Parenting Prayer Sacraments Vocations

On the Choosing, Keeping, and Caring of Catholic Godparents

On the Choosing, Keeping, and Caring of Catholic Godparents

We celebrated with great joy the marriage of our daughter this past January.  For Mother’s Day, the newlyweds surprised me with a card announcing my immanent grandmotherhood. I’ve been over-the-moon excited and grandbaby dreaming ever since.  Recently the topic of the difficulty in choosing godparents came up. My daughter and her husband have lamented so few of their peers are remotely Catholic and really very few of their combined family members are Catholic. Their pool of choices is very sparse. I don’t think this lament is all that rare, especially for young Catholic families.

Choosing Good Godparents

Choosing good godparents is an important part of planning a Catholic baptism. A godparent must be a Catholic in good standing–being at least 16 years old (some exceptions can be made regarding the minimum age) and having received all four Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation.  A godparent’s main role is to be a spiritual presence in the child’s life—praying for them, assisting the parents in raising the child in the Faith, and personally modeling a life of Christian virtue and faith.

What a Godparent Isn’t

There are many misconceptions about Catholic godparenthood. Catholic godparents do not take custody of their godchildren if the child’s parents die. My own mom believed this misconception and the idea she might lose her grandchildren to their godparents was very alarming to her.

Being a Catholic godparent isn’t some kind of reward or rite of passage. We don’t take turns divvying out the honor. I’ve seen this misconception most often in Catholic families who choose siblings as godparents of one child and then the next set of siblings feel it is their due when the next child is born. Being a Catholic godparent is a serious responsibility and parents owe it to their children to prayerfully choose truly faithful godparents. If this becomes an issue, you may need to gently explain to someone passed over the reason you take the choice of godparents so seriously. No one wants to hurt the feelings of those close to us but we need to make the best choice for the good of our children’s spiritual welfare.

Did you know you are not required to have two godparents? One godparent meets the requirement for a Catholic baptism. This could be a viable solution if you are having difficulty finding two suitable candidates. Of course, if you are able, two faithful Catholics are always better than one. If you choose two godparents one must be female and one must be male.

You need not choose a married couple. Some of our children have godparents who are not married to each other but the longer we’ve been Catholic and the more children we had, the easier it was to find a faithful couple to stand as godparents for our children. For us, this is the preferred choice as a married couple can work as a team in spiritually supporting their godchild. If you choose a married couple as godparents they must be validly married in the Catholic Church.

How to be a Good Godparent

If you are privileged to be asked to be a godparent it is important to take that role seriously, devotedly, and faithfully.  Pray daily for your godchildren and communicate this to them. Knowing someone is praying for you on a regular basis is truly fortifying.  Stay in touch with your godchildren even if it is just on special occasions. Remember them on their birthdays, and/or baptism days and Christmas. Send them gifts that will assist them in learning and keeping the Faith.  Our own children have received their own personal bibles and various books on the sacraments and saints from their godparents. We appreciate their thoughtful and prayerful support in our duty to raise them in the Faith.

What You Can do for Your Own and Your Children’s Godparents

Godparents need spiritual support too. Pray for the godparents in your family. Encourage your children to pray for their godparents. Stay in touch with your and your children’s godparents. Let them know what you are up to and that you are remembering them in prayer. Having spent most of our married life in the military, our children’s godparents are pretty far flung. We try to stay in touch as best we can but we always remember to pray for them.  Invite and include godparents in other sacraments. Many of our children’s godparents have come for First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and a wedding.  It’s a joy to reconnect with them and it helps reaffirm the important role they have in our children’s spiritual life.


About Godparents

The Role of Godparents

How to Choose Good Catholic Godparents