In a little pamphlet he wrote for priests in 2009, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti listed 10 steps to priestly holiness. The first step seemed rather obvious, “Cease any serious sin.”
Msgr. Rossetti comments that, after working with priests for 17 years at St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland, he believes this fundamental need has to be said clearly and directly. Habitual, mortal sin chokes our capacity for holiness.
Consequences of sin
The monsignor goes on to point out that society today has little room for spiritual realities and spiritual truths. God, he says, is not so much disbelieved as ignored and, consequently, spiritual realities fade into obscurity. When believers, for example, no longer acknowledge the existence of “hell,” they lose their awareness of the devastation of sin and its real consequences.
Rossetti writes: “Sexual affairs, abusing young people, addiction to drugs or alcohol, Internet pornography, stealing Church monies, and the like become deadly to the human spirit. Sin destroys our journey into God and thus our journey into joy. Contrary to the demonic message of our time, it is sin that makes us miserable and joyless.”
The “Good News,” of course, is that there is no sin that cannot be overcome by God’s grace with our own cooperation. It is never too late to repent of our sins.
Advent is a different kind of penitential season than Lent. In these short weeks, we remember the birth of Christ to Mary in Bethlehem, we celebrate his coming among us in the church’s sacraments and we prepare for his future coming at the end of time.
All of us — priests, religious and laity alike — need to prepare ourselves spiritually for each of these comings. The first way to do so, of course, is to cease committing any serious sins.
During these days of Advent, our priests will generously offer multiple occasions for the sacrament of penance/reconciliation. As you know, auricular confession, that is, confessing our sins, number and kind, to a priest is still very much a part of our church’s life. If one is conscious of committing serious sin, auricular confession is required prior to receiving Holy Communion. But the need for a good confession goes far beyond that particular provision. Indeed, confession is good for the soul.
I, therefore, encourage all of us to prepare for the arrival of Christmas by confessing our sins to a priest. If sin is what makes us miserable, its remission should be a great cause for Advent joy!
God bless you!