Tag Archives: sins

Priests – necessary for life

Despite faults, sins, and scandals, problems of perseverance, and crises that have afflicted the priesthood over 2,000 years, the Catholic Church would have no life without Her faithful priests. We cannot lose sight of the beauty and graces that come through our priests, not to mention their irreplaceable support and loyalty when we need them so.

Beginning with His apostles, Christ instituted the priesthood for three reasons: so that His Presence through the Holy Eucharist would be continually accessible to us; and for the sacraments of forgiveness – Confession, and final cleansing and preparation for eternity – Anointing of the Sick. Only Catholic priests can confer those three sacraments in particular, no one else

Many today forget the value of the Anointing of the Sick. But it enables forgiveness of serious sin when a person cannot make a final Confession, and can spare him eternal punishment. It’s critical that a gravely ill Catholic have access to it – his spiritual wellbeing should be prioritized to the end.

Catholic priests are our palpable connection to heaven. Through offering the Mass, bringing
us the essential sacraments, and authoritative counsel and guidance, they are our lifeline to God.

At so many critical junctures in my life – from childhood to middle age – I can point to life- changing priests who kept me on track with God’s presence and will. At my First Holy Communion in 1969, the celestial hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” thundered on the pipe organ as our second-grade class processed forward and knelt along the Communion rail of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Rockville, CT. Boys were in gelled crew cuts, white suits, and dress shoes, and girls in miniature ‘wedding dresses’ and veils, long pipe curls, white patent Mary Janes, and elbow-length white gloves – awaiting our eternal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Our pastor stopped slowly before each child, flanked by two solemn altar boys in a fog of incense, and suspended the Blessed Host before placing it on our tongue. I had never heard the glorious hymn before, and associated it since with that heavenly day. I later learned the organ, and playing that hymn still brings tears.

In high school, I remember asking our priest questions in Confession I wouldn’t broach in religion class. His authority and inspiration on Catholic teaching, along with his approachability, set me on my way with explanations that were clarifying and calming. He helped me navigate a tumultuous time as a teen and young adult. I’ll never forget him.

When caring for my dad in his final years, I called our parish priest in a panic early one morning as my father was being put on a respirator, in a medically induced coma, and the intensive-care team hurried me on making life-or-death decisions for him. Our priest explained what I could and couldn’t agree to, and as soon as dad was awake, gave him the Anointing. A devout Catholic, dad recognized the rite and prayed each prayer in tandem with him, as medical staff surrounded his bed and joined in.

Let us pray for and support always our faithful priests. As Catholics, we owe them our very lives.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Why are some sins so hard to overcome?

FR. JOHN BARTUNEK says attachments and self-absorption can hinder spiritual progress . . .

Fr. John Bartunek

Fr. John Bartunek

It’s important to remember that here on earth we’re members of the Church militant. We’re in the midst of a battle. As we grow spiritually, the enemies of our soul don’t sit idly by.

Did you know that the Church’s most notable heretics were almost all priests in their 40s? Pelagius, Arius, Apollinaris, Nestorius — these were all men of God, passionately dedicated to the Church and seeking deeper intimacy with Christ, who advanced in theological knowledge and in the spiritual life. Who would have guessed that they would become instruments of ecclesial devastation and spiritual shipwreck? Yet, they did. We can never forget that as we grow spiritually, the battle doesn’t go away.

The enemy of our souls is smart. He knows that temptation has to be customized to the situation of the person being tempted. The devil can’t invent new sins, but he can disguise them in new ways. So, for someone who is well along the road toward spiritual maturity, the tempter instead seeks to clothe the capital sins in spiritual garments.

For example, the inclination to vanity can appear in a subtle desire to have one’s new and advanced piety noticed. You might start trying to draw attention to the outward manifestation of your devotion. Or you find yourself seeking to impress your spiritual director — hiding your real struggles, lest your director thinks you are less holy than you want to appear. You may even switch spiritual directors, not for any objective reason, but simply because you don’t want to follow anyone’s advice except your own.

In the area of sensuality, one can become attached to the consolations that God has given during one’s prayer and sacramental life. Maybe you find yourself trying to force certain emotional reactions during your meditation or after Communion. You start to seek spiritual feelings too much, forgetting that the goal of holiness is union with God in mind and will, not feelings of consolation.

Spiritual greed can take the form of an insatiable desire to read every spiritual book, to accumulate rosaries and holy cards and icons, to jump around from devotion to devotion trying to imbibe the entire spiritual patrimony of the Church all at once — even to the neglect of life’s basic duties, instead of seeking patiently to go deep in the essentials.

These types of attachments and self-absorption can hinder spiritual progress as much as the less subtle sins. We need not become obsessed with them. As always in the spiritual life, the compass and anchor remain the same: I love God by accepting and fulfilling his will in each moment of my life. That’s the surest guide through the shadows and tangles of this earthly pilgrimage — as sure a guide for us as it was for Jesus: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34).

FR. JOHN BARTUNEK, LC, is a former professional actor who became a Catholic priest in 2003. This column is printed with permission from his book “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions” (Servant Books, 2014).

Catechism 101

Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

Sin creates a proclivity to sin; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts. This results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil. Thus sin tends to reproduce itself and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1849, 1865