Category Archives: sin

Separated from God – By Our Own Sin

By Allan Gillis

Sin…     then contrition, confession, absolution and penance.  This seems to be the cycle as it were.   I have written about this dynamic before.  It is always before us.  We sin and we are ipso facto separated from God.  Its that simple.

in Habakkuk 1:13, we read where the prophet reminds himself about God’s dis-inclination toward gazing upon “sin”:  “Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, and thou canst not look on iniquity”.   I believe this is exactly what Jesus himself was aware of as he languished on the cross crying out;  “My God, My God!  Why hast Thou forsaken me?!”

I had a very real sense of this bitter anguish recently.  This eerie sense that I not only was separated from God…  but that I had (almost physically) removed myself….intentionally stepped out from under His wing…   purposefully exited His presence.  It was rather jolting…certainly frightening.

Here’s what happened and I ask your indulgence as I am going to be rather candid.

It has been several weeks since my last confession.   Getting out on my boat is often of paramount importance to me as these seasonal sailing days seem to be so fleeting – especially as I grow older.  Tempus fugit!  So, I have missed a couple of Saturday afternoons at the local Novus Ordo parish where I often go for confession. (I HATE the N.O. “snowflake” term; “reconciliation”!)  I have from time to time availed myself of the wondrous services of the Franciscans intown Boston during the weekdays at St. Anthony’s. (Such a service to the faithful!  God bless them!)  I often tell myself: “oh, I’ll just take care of confession on Saturday or just prior to Mass”.      Not always reliable.  I am awash in the stinking cesspool-waters of pride.  I could go regularly to my very good friend and spiritual-director. He’s the most wonderful priest I have ever known.   But, I am often too proud to reveal how utterly reprobate I am in my heart of hearts.  I am too haughty to ever have Father Fagioli know just what a dirt-bag I really am.  Not that he’s ever said or done anything that would invite me to ever forget that he’s a priest and I’m a layman.  I spend friendly and very enjoyable hours with him at meals and discussions…while afraid of what others might think of me – I fail to secure a good confession with him regularly.

I don’t want him to know what a creep I am.   Pride is such a trap.

So, circumstances didn’t allow me to get to confession.  I then compounded my sin by dilly-dallying this past Sunday…       knowing I had to get to Foxboro by early afternoon to “tailgate BBQ” at Gillette’s Stadium for the Roma vs. Juventus (Serie A) Italian soccer match.  I skipped Mass.

Yeah, a mortal sin.

Driving down to Foxboro I was gripped by this aweful sensation that I had intentionally vacated Almighty God’s protection of Graces.  Compounding my sin…

I am aware of my failings. I can even admit it here to you readers – but, can I personally overcome this prideful propensity to care too much about what people think of me?  … to the detriment of my eternal soul?

Despite what Satan often whispers to me – I am not a fraud.  I am simply a man intermittently  – sometimes gingerly, often-times reluctantly – trying to pick up my cross and follow Him.

Here’s the kicker:  I haven’t even bothered to do my daily prayer regimen since then – all this week…   insolence?    laziness?      I now have this “feeling” that I must somehow  –  body-slam myself, crash through this wall of sinful impudence.  I must get to confession.  I will go.

To be quite honest with you – just writing this is making me cry.

Say a quick prayer for me?

Our Sin, Our Conscience and His Forgiveness

226-jesus-et-penitent

I currently have a stain of sin on my soul.  Yup, I knowingly sinned…a sin that is (or used to be)  referred to as a mortal sin.  We have been reading the gospel message recently in Mass (up to last week I think?) Where in St. Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25 Jesus warns us to remain vigilant and “ready”.  He describes the virgins waiting for the bridegroom who had for certain reasons failed to prepare adequately for the arrival of the bridegroom as they didn’t have sufficient oil for their lamps.  They cajoled and pleaded with their sisters but their sisters told them to go and get what they needed and quickly return  –  sad thing is, they got back too late and missed the party and the MC of the event told them at the door to take a hike – he didn’t “know them”.  They were not prepared.  They missed the boat.  The gospel here refers to them as the “foolish” ones.  Interesting.

At present, at this very moment…   I have no oil in my lamp.  I foolishly decided upon and then deliberately executed my sin.  It was forethought and follow-through.  Just like in archery – or a golf-swing.  It’s a strange process that our minds go through as we contemplate a sin.  We look at it, admire it’s color, sheen and juiciness and then without trepidation, bite right into the apple.  The juice can be so sweet. The flesh of the forbidden fruit can be so delectable!  We chew and ingest/indulge all the while aggressively blocking out any thoughts than can offer us an escape-hatch from the death that is promised.  The death that we oddly – though most assuredly, are savoring at that precise moment. The wages of sin is death.  Period.  So then after our sin, our life calls us back to reality and we remember all that we REALLY are and desire to be.  All that we REALLY hope and strive for during those hours on our knees in prayer – during those times of self-denial…  times of service to God and His Church…His people.  We realize the juxtaposition – the contradiction.  Things turned upside-down.  Our conscience irks us.  We sense the Holy Spirit convicting us of our sin…  our separation from the safety of being looked upon by God’s Holy face – with which He cannot turn to gaze upon sin.  Jesus on the cross knew this horrible feeling well, as he at that moment on Calvary carried all of our sin. He then cried out “my God!, my God!”.  We are discomforted.   Then, at this time that sweet apple suddenly turns to horseradish on our tongues.

I now personally must live with this pungent taste until I get myself to confession tomorrow.  Confession!  Sweet Confession!  A most necessary sacrament!   The sweet absolution of mercy and grace!  God grants me the mercies of His infinite lovingkindness!  Me!  The dirt-bag that I am.  Tonight I lay my self to sleep – I pray the Lord my soul to keep!   …at least ’til I can get to confession tomorrow!

The Catholic Origins of Halloween

halloween

Allan Gillis brings this to you

From uCatholic.com

 

By Father Augustine Thompson, O.P.

We’ve all heard the allegations: Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on October 31–as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Solemnity of All Saints, or “All Hallows,” falls on November 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to November 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland.

Saint Odilio
Saint Odilio of Cluny

The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, “All Hallows Even,” or “Hallowe’en.” In those days Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in southern France, added a celebration on November 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.

So now the Church had feasts for all those in heaven and all those in purgatory. What about those in the other place? It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory, they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. Thus, in Ireland at least, all the dead came to be remembered–even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween and never allowed All Damned Day into the church calendar.

But that still isn’t our celebration of Halloween. Our traditions on this holiday center on dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn’t Irish at all. Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague–the Black Death–and it lost about half its population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife.

A Danse Macabre

More Masses were said on All Souls Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality. We know these representations as the “danse macabre”, or “dance of death,” which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people–popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc.–into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life.

But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up. How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s, when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. The Irish focus on Hell gave the French masquerades an even more macabre twist.

But as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn’t the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. Where on earth did “trick or treat” come in? “Treat or treat” is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics.

During the penal period of the 1500s to the 1700s in England, Catholics had no legal rights. They could not hold office and were subject to fines, jail and heavy taxes. It was a capital offense to say Mass, and hundreds of priests were martyred.

I wonder if they make a Guy Fawkes mask...
I wonder if they make a Guy Fawkes Halloween mask…

Occasionally, English Catholics resisted, sometimes foolishly. One of the most foolish acts of resistance was a plot to blow up the Protestant King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. This was supposed to trigger a Catholic uprising against the oppressors. The ill-conceived Gunpowder Plot was foiled on November 5, 1605, when the man guarding the gunpowder, a reckless convert named Guy Fawkes, was captured and arrested. He was hanged; the plot fizzled.

November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, became a great celebration in England, and so it remains. During the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night, demanding beer and cakes for their celebration: trick or treat!

Guy Fawkes Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. But by the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten. Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to October 31, the day of the Irish-French masquerade. And in America, trick or treat wasn’t limited to Catholics.

The mixture of various immigrant traditions we know as Halloween had become a fixture in the United States by the early 1800s. To this day, it remains unknown in Europe, even in the countries from which some of the customs originated.

But what about witches? Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already “ghoulish,” so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed.

So too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o’-lantern. They thought that Halloween was Druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration.

The next time someone claims that Halloween is a cruel trick to lure your children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of All Hallows Eve and invite them to discover its Christian significance, along with the two greater and more important Catholic festivals that follow it.


Father Augustine Thompson, O.P.Father Augustine Thompson, O.P., is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. BA, MA, The Johns Hopkins University; BA (Philosophy), MDiv, Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology; PhD, University of California, Berkeley; STM, Order of Preachers, 2007.

Reprinted from Catholic Parent magazine. Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.