Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Confession Once a Year

In his Sent. IV., St Bonaventure is discussing the obligation of all Christians to go to Confession at least once a year. Why should this be? The sacrament of penance is the "second plank" if one falls out of the Ark of salvation by sinning mortally after baptism. But what if one is very good and hasn't sinned this year?

To preface these remarks, remember that St Bonaventure was so holy those knowing him said they could believe that Adam never sinned in him. But here he says: "So long as we are in this life, one guilt succeeds another; and so it is necessary that confession and penitence need to be repeated . . . I believe that it is impossible, in the state of a viator, that anyone could go through a week or even a day without the gnawing of venial sin; but that someone should go a whole year, this I think is really impossible, and I scarcely believe that this gift was in anyone, except in Christ and his Mother, and therefore everyone is either aware of sin or ought to be, and ever hour to ask "Forgive us our trespasses", etc. For scarcely can anyone in this life be without venial sin, whether on account of its frequency, because the uproar of vices and venial sins always resound in the ears of our heart; or on account of ignorance, because we sin venially in many things and don't know it or think about it . . ."

We are not obliged to confess every venial sin, and if we have not sinned mortally in the last year, we should be grateful. But we remain sinners, and we are obliged to sacramentally confess our sinfulness and the multitude of minor sins every year, at least.

Of course, for those of us who don't have the problem of wondering whether we are too good for confession, we should be grateful that the second plank is available much more than once a year, and avail ourselves of it as often as we can.

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