On Obedience to your Confessor


The Confession - by LONGHI, Pietro - from Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 

“Whither goest thou?” - John 13:36.

 

On Obedience to your Confessor

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

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How the Senses of the Body can Corrupt the Mind of the Soul

Life of the Senses
(Body)

Two-Way
Passage

Life of the Mind
(Soul)

Passions/Emotions/
Imagination/Memory/
Sensitive Appetite


Soul/Intellect/Will/
Heart/Reason/
Rational Appetite

CC-1764 The Passions are Natural Components of the Human Psyche; they form the Passageway and ensure the connection between the Life-of-the Senses and the Life-of-the Mind.
Satan directly attacks the Psychosomatic Powers, already weakened by Original Sin. However, Satan can only Indirectly Affect the Intellect and Will through 'Natural', 'Physical', and 'Psychological' Causes.
Passions, Feelings, Emotions, Imagination, are Movements-of the Sensitive Appetite, which are limited-by the Rational Appetite. God's Grace, Resident-in the Essence-of the Soul, strengthens the Rational Appetite against being Mislead-by the Sensitive Appetite, so easily Manipulated-by Satan.

 

To Gain Heaven, we must Walk-in the Path, that Leads-to Paradise. Many Christians, who have Faith, but not Works, Live-in Sin, Intent only-on the Pleasures and Goods-of this World. If you say to One-of them: You are a Christian; you Believe that there is an Eternity (∞), a Heaven, and a Hell: Tell me, do you Wish-to Save your Soul? If you do, I will Ask you, in the Words-of this Day's Gospel, Wither goest thou? He will answer: I do not Know, but I Hope-to-be Saved. You know not, Whither you are going. How can you Hope-for Salvation from God, if you Live-in a State-of Perdition? How can you expect Heaven, if you Walk-in the Way that Leads-to Hell? It is Necessary, then, to 'Change' the Road; and for this Purpose, you must put yourself in the Hands-of a Good Confessor, who will Point-out to you, the Way-to Heaven, and you must Obey him Punctually. "My Sheep", said Jesus Christ, "hear My Voice" - John 10:27. We have not Jesus Christ on-Earth, to make us Sensibly hear His Voice; but, in His Stead, He has left us His Priests, and has told us, that he who Hears them, Hears Him, and he who Despises them, Despises Him. "He that Heareth you, Heareth Me, and he that Despiseth you, despiseth Me" - Luke 10:16. Happy, they who are Obedient-to their Spiritual Father; Unhappy, they who do not Obey him; for, by their Disobedience, they give a Proof that they are not among the Sheep-of Jesus Christ. I intend this Day to show, in the First (1st) Point, how Secure-of Salvation, are all who Obey their Confessor; and, in the Second (2nd) Point, how Great the Danger of Perdition, to which they who do not Obey him, are Exposed.

 

First Point
How Secure of Salvation are they,
who Obey their Confessor?

In Leaving us Spiritual Fathers, to Guide us in the Way-of Salvation, Jesus Christ has Bestowed-upon us, a Great Benefit. To obtain Salvation, we must follow the Will-of God in all we Think. What, I ask, is Necessary in-order-to Save our Souls, and to-become Saints? Some, Imagine that Sanctity consists-in Performing many Works-of Penance; but, were a Sick Man to practice Mortifications, which would Expose him to the Proximate Danger-of Death, he would, Instead-of Becoming a Saint, be Guilty-of a very Grievous Sin. Others think, that Perfection consists-in Long and Frequent Prayers; but, should the Father-of a Family, Neglect the Education-of his Children, and go into the Desert to-Pray, he too would Commit Sin; because, although Prayer is Good, a Parent is Bound-to take Care-of his Children, and he can Fulfill the Precept-of Prayer and of Attention-to their Instruction, without going-into the Desert. Others believe that Holiness consists-in Frequent Communion; but if, in-spite-of a Just Command-of her Husband, and to the Injury-of her Family, a Married Woman Wished-to Communicate every Morning, she would Act Improperly, and would have to Render an Account-of her Conduct-to God. In what, then, does Sanctity consist? It consists-in the Perfect Fulfillment-of the Will-of-God. All the Sins which bring Souls to Hell, Proceed-from Self-Will. Let us, then, says Saint Bernard, cease to do our own Will; let us Follow the Will-of-God, and for us there shall be no Hell. "Cesset propria voluntas, et infernus non erit".

 

Saint Thomas Aquinas: "Self-Will is the Source of all Sins"

Inordinate
Self-Will
(Egoism)

Three Concupiscences

Flesh
Eyes

Pride

Seven Capital Sins

Pride, Avarice, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth

All
Other
Forms
of
Sin

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But some of you will ask: How shall we Know, what God Wills us to do? This is a matter which, according-to David, is Involved in Great Doubts and Obscurity. "Of the Business that Walketh about in the Dark" - Psalm 91:6. Many Deceive themselves; for, Bodily Passion often makes them Believe, that they do the Will-of-God, when, in Reality, they do their own Will. Let us Thank, without Ceasing, the Goodness of Jesus Christ, Who has Taught us the Secure Means-of Ascertaining the Will-of-God in our Regard, by Telling us, that, if we Obey our Confessor, we Obey Himself. "He that heareth you, heareth Me". In the Book-of-the-Foundations, Chapter 10, Saint Teresa says: Let a Soul take a Confessor, with a Determination-to think no-more-of Directing Herself, but, to Trust-in the Words-of Our Lord, He that heareth you, heareth Me. She adds, that this is the Secure Way-of finding the Will-of-God. Hence the Saint acknowledged-that it was by Obedience-to the Voice-of her Director, that she Attained-to the Knowledge and Love-of God. Hence, Speaking-of Obedience to One's Confessor, Saint Francis-de-Sales adopts the Words-of Father M. Avila: How much soever you Seek, you shall never Find the Will of God so-Securely, as by this Way-of Humble Obedience, so much Recommended and Practiced by the Ancient Saints.

He that Acts, according-to the Advice-of his Confessor, always Pleases God, when through Obedience, he either Practices or Omits Prayer, Mortifications, or Communions. He even Merits a Reward before God when, to Obey his Confessor, he takes Recreation, when he Eats or Drinks, because he does the Will-of-God. Hence the Scripture says, that "Much better is Obedience, than the Victories of Fools" - Ecclesiastes 4:17. Obedience is more-pleasing-to God, than all the Sacrifices of Penitential Works, or of Alms-deeds, which we can Offer-to Him. He that Sacrifices to God:

(1) his Property by Alms-Deeds,
(2) his Honor by bearing Insults, or
(3) his Body by Mortifications, by Fasts and Penitential Rigors,

Offers-to Him a 'Part-of' himself, and of what Belongs-to him; but he that Sacrifices to God his Will, by Obedience, gives-to Him, 'All' that he has, and can say: Lord, having given You my Will, I have nothing more, to give You.

Mary - A Perfect Example-of
Obedience-to the Will-of-God

Thus, Obedience-to a Confessor, is the Most Acceptable Offering which we can Make-to God, and the most Secure Way-of doing the Divine Will. Blessed Henry Suso says, that God does not Demand an-account-of what we do through Obedience. Obey, says the Apostle, your Spiritual Fathers, and Fear-not anything, which you do through Obedience; for They, and not You, shall have to Render an-account-of your Conduct. "Obey your Prelates, and be Subject-to them; for they Watch, as-being-to Render and Account of your Souls: that they may do this with Joy, and not with Grief" - Hebrews 13:17. Mark the Last Words - they Signify, that Penitents should Obey without-Reply, and without-Causing Pain and Sorrow to their Confessor. Oh!, what Grief do Confessors feel, when Penitents endeavor-by certain Pretexts and Unjust Complaints, to Excuse themselves from Obedience! Let us, then, Obey our Spiritual Father without Reply, and let us Fear not, that we shall have to-account-for any Act, which we do-through Obedience. "They", says Saint Philip Neri, "who Desire-to Advance-in the Way-of God, should place themselves under a Learned Confessor, whom they will Obey, in the Place-of God. They who do so, may be Assured-that, they shall not have to Render-to God, an Account-of their Actions". Hence, if you practice Obedience, and if Jesus Christ should ask you on the Day-of-Judgment, why you have Chosen such a State-of-Life? why you have Communicated so-frequently? why you have Omitted certain Works-of Penance? you will Answer: O Lord, I have done all in Obedience to my Confessor, and Jesus Christ cannot-but, Approve-of what you have done.

Father Marchese relates that Saint Dominic, once felt a Scruple in Obeying his Confessor, and that Our Lord said to him: "Why do you Hesitate to Obey your Director? All that he Directs, will be Useful to you". Hence, Saint Bernard says, that "Whatever a Man, holding the Place-of-God, Commands, Provided it be not-certainly Sinful, should be Received as-if the Command came-from God Himself". Gerson relates, that the same Saint Bernard, ordered one-of his Disciples, who, through Scruples, was Afraid-to say Mass, to go, and Trusting-in his Advice, to Offer the Holy Sacrifice. The Disciple Obeyed, and was Cured-of Scruples. Some, adds Gerson, will say: Would to God that I had a Saint Bernard for my Director: my Confessor is not a Saint Bernard. Whosoever you are, that Speak-in this Manner, you Err; for you have not put yourself under the Care-of a Man because he is Learned, but because he is Placed-over you. Obey him, then, not as a Man, but as God. You have Entrusted the Care-of your Soul to a Confessor, not because he is a Man-of Learning, but because God has Given him to you, as a Guide; and therefore you ought to Obey him, not as a Man, but as God.

"An Obedient Man shall Speak of Victory" - Proverbs 21:28. Justly, says Saint Gregory, has the Wise Man asserted, that they who are Obedient, shall Overcome the Temptations-of-Hell; because, as by their Obedience, they Subject their own Will to Men, so they Render themselves Superior-to the Devils, who Fell, through Disobedience. "The Obedient are Conquerors; because, whilst they Subject their Will to others, they Rule over the Angels, that have Fallen, through Disobedience". Cassian teaches, that he who Mortifies Self-Will, beats-down all Vices; because all Vices, Proceed-from Self-Will. "By the Mortification of the Will, all Vices are Dried-up". He who Obeys his Confessor, Overcomes all the Illusions-of the Devil, who sometimes makes us Expose ourselves to Dangerous Occasions, under Pretext-of doing Good, and makes us Engage-in certain-Undertakings, which appear Holy, but which may Prove very Injurious to us. Thus, for example, the Enemy Induces certain Devout Persons, to Practice Immoderate Austerities, which Impair their Health: they then Give-up all Mortifications, and Return-to their Former Irregularities. This happens-to those who Direct themselves; but, they who are Guided-by their Confessor, are not in Danger-of Falling-into such an Illusion.

The Devil Labors-to make Scrupulous Persons Afraid-that they will Commit Sin, if they Follow the Advice-of their Confessor. We must be careful-to Overcome these Vain Fears. All Theologians and Spiritual Writers, commonly-Teach that it is our Duty-to Obey the Directions-of our Confessors, and Conquer our Scruples. Natalis Alexander says, that we must Act-against Scruples; and in-support-of this Doctrine, he Adduces the Doctrine-of Saint Antonine, who, along-with Gerson, Censures Scrupulous Persons for Refusing, through Vain Fears, to Obey their Confessor, and to Overcome Scruples. "Beware, lest, while you seek Security, you Rush into a Pit". Be Careful not, through an Excess-of Fear, to Fall-into the Illusions-of the Devil, by Disobeying your Director. Hence all the Spiritual Masters 'Exhort' us to Obey our Confessors in everything, which is not 'Manifestly' Sinful. B. Hubert, of the Order-of Saint Dominic, says that, "Unless what is Commanded is Evidently Bad, it ought to be Received as if it were Commanded by God"! Blessed Denis-the-Carthusian teaches, that "in Doubtful Matters, we must Obey the Precept of a Superior; because, though it may be against God, a Subject is Excused from Sin, on-account-of Obedience". According-to Gerson, to Act-against a Conscience, formed-with Deliberation, and to Act-against a Fear-of Sinning in some Doubtful-matter, are very different things. He adds, that we should Banish this Fear, and Obey our Confessor. "Iste timor, quam fieri potest abjiciendus". In a Word, he who Obeys his Spiritual Father, is always Secure. Saint Francis-de-Sales used to say, that a Truly Obedient Soul, has never been Lost; and that we should be Satisfied to-Know from our Confessor, that we are Going-on Well, in the Way-of-God, without seeking Further Certainty of it.

 

Second point
How Great is the Danger-of Perdition, to which They,
Who do not Obey their Confessor, are Exposed

Jesus Christ has said, that he who 'Hears' His Priests, 'Hears' Him; and that he who Despises them, Despises Him. "Qui vos spernit, me spernit" - Luke 10:16. When the Prophet Elisha complained-of the Contempt which he had Received-from the People, after God had 'Charged' him with the Direction-of them, the Lord said to him: "They have not Rejected thee, but Me, that I should not Reign over them". They, then, who Despise the Advice-of their Confessors, Despise God Himself, Who has made Confessors His own Representatives.

"Obey your Prelates", says Saint Paul, "and be Subject to them; for they Watch, as being to-Render an Account-of your Souls: that they may do this with Joy, and not with Grief; for, this is not Expedient for you" - Hebrews 13:17. Some Penitents contend-with their Confessors, and endeavor-to make him Adopt their own Opinion. This is a Cause-of Grief to Spiritual Directors. But the Apostle says, this is not Expedient for you; because, when the Confessor finds that you do not Obey him, and that it is only with-Difficulty, he can Induce you to Walk-in the Straight Path, he will give-up the Direction-of your Soul. How Deplorable, the Condition-of a Vessel, which a Pilot refuses-to Steer! How Miserable, the State-of a Sick Man, who is Abandoned-by his Physician! When a Patient refuses-to Obey, or to take the Medicine which has been Prescribed - when he Eats and Drinks what he Pleases - the Physician Abandons him, and allows him to-Follow his own Caprice. But, what Hope can be Entertained-of the Recovery-of such a Patient? "Woe to him that is Alone, ... he hath None to Lift him up" - Ecclesiastes 4:10. Woe to the Penitent, who Wishes-to Direct himself: he shall have no-one to Enlighten or Correct him, and will therefore Rush-into an Abyss.

To everyone that comes-into this World, the Holy Ghost says: "Thou art going in the Midst of Snares" -Ecclesiastes 9:12. We all, on this Earth, Walk-in the Midst-of a Thousand Snares; that is, in the Midst-of the Temptations-of the Devil, Dangerous Occasions, Bad Companions, and our own Passions, which Frequently Deceive us. Who shall be Saved, in the Midst-of so many Dangers? The Wise Man says: "He that is Aware of the Snares, shall be Secure" - Proverbs 11:14,15. They only, who Avoid these Snares, shall be Saved. How shall we Avoid them? If you had to Pass-by Night, through a Wood Full-of Precipices, without a Guide-to give you Light, and to Point-out to you the Dangerous Passages, you would certainly Run a Great Risk-of Losing your Life. You Wish-to Direct yourself: "Take Heed, therefore, that the Light which is in thee, be not Darkness - Luke 11:35. The Light, which you Think you Possess, will be your Ruin; it will Lead you into a Pit.

God Wills, that, in the Way-of-Salvation, we all Submit-to the Guidance-of our Director. Such has been the Practice-of even the most-Learned among the Saints. In Spiritual Things, the Lord Wishes us to Humble ourselves, and to put-ourselves under a Confessor, who will be our Guide. Gerson teaches, that he who Neglects the Advice-of his Director, and Directs himself, does not Require a Devil to Tempt him; he becomes a Devil to himself. "Qui spreto duce, sibi dux esse vult, non indiget dæmone tentante, quia factus est sibi ipsi dæmon". And when God sees that he will not Obey His Minister, He Allows him to Follow his own Caprice. "So I let them go According to the Desires of their own Hearts" - Psalm 81:13.

"It is like the Sin-of Witchcraft, to Rebel: and like the Crime-of Idolatry, to Refuse to Obey"! In Explaining this Text, Saint Gregory says, that the Sin-of-Idolatry consists-in Abandoning God and Adoring-an Idol. This, a Penitent does, when he Disobeys his Confessor, to do his own Will: he Refuses-to do the Will-of-God, Who has Spoken-to him by-means-of His Minister; he Adores the Idol-of-Self-Will, and does what he Pleases. Hence, Saint John-of-the-Cross says, that, "not to Follow the Advice of our Confessor, is Pride and a Want-of Faith; for it appears-to Proceed-from a Want-of Faith in the Gospel, in which Jesus Christ has said: "He that Heareth you, Heareth Me".

If, then, you Wish-to Save your Souls, Obey your Confessor Punctually. Be careful-to have a 'Fixed' Confessor, to whom you will Ordinarily-make your Confession; and avoid going-about from one Confessor to another. Make Choice-of a Learned Priest; and, in the Beginning, make-to him a General Confession, which, as we know-from Experience, is a Great Help to a True Change-of Life. After having made Choice-of a Confessor, you should not Leave him, without a 'Just' and 'Manifest' Cause. "Every time", says Saint Teresa, "that I Resolved-to Leave my Confessor, I felt within me a Reproof, more-Painful-than that, which I Received-from him".

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

Prayer Before Confession

God of Infinite Majesty, behold-at Your Feet a Traitor, who has Offended You over-and-over again, but who now Humbly seeks Forgiveness. Lord, do not Reject me; "A Heart Contrite and Humbled, O God, You will not Spurn" - (Psalm 51:19). I Thank You for having Waited-for me until Now, and for not-Letting me Die-in Sin. Since You have Waited-for me, my God, I Hope that by the Merits-of Jesus Christ, You will Pardon me in this Confession, for all the Offenses I have committed-against You. I Repent and am Sorry for them, because by them I have Merited Hell and Lost Heaven. But it is not so much on Account-of Hell, but because I have Offended You, that I am Sorry from the Bottom-of my Heart. I Love You, my Supreme Good, and because I Love You, I Repent-of all the Insults I have Offered You. I have Turned my Back on You; I have Despised Your Grace and Your Friendship. Lord, I have Lost You, by my own Free Will. Forgive me all my Sins, for the Love of Jesus Christ, now that I Repent, with all my Heart. I Resolve-for the Future, by Your Grace, never-more Willingly-to Offend You. Yes, my God, I would rather Die, than ever Sin again.

Amen

 

Prayer After Confession

My Dear Jesus, how much I Owe You! By the Merits-of Your Blood, I have this Day been Pardoned. I Thank You. You Deserve all my Love. I will give it all to You. I will no-longer Separate myself from You. I have Promised You this Already; now I Repeat my Promise, of being Ready-to Die rather than Offend You again. I Promise also to Avoid all Occasions of Sin. My Jesus, You know my Weakness; give me Grace to be Faithful to You until Death, and to have Recourse-to You when I am Tempted. Most Holy Mary, Help me. You are the Mother of Perseverance; I Place my Hope in you.

Amen

 

Definition of Scruples

From the Catholic Encyclopedia

(Latin Scrupulus, "a small Sharp, or Pointed Stone", hence, in a Transferred Sense, "Uneasiness of Mind")

An Unfounded Apprehension, and consequently Unwarranted Fear, that something is a Sin, which, as a matter-of-fact, is not. It is not considered here so much as an Isolated Act, but rather as a Habitual State-of-Mind, known-to Directors-of Souls, as a "Scrupulous Conscience". Saint Alphonsus describes it as a 'Condition', in which one Influenced-by Trifling Reasons, and without any Solid Foundation, is often Afraid-that Sin lies, where it really does not. This Anxiety may be Entertained not only with Regard-to what is to be done Presently, but also with Regard-to what has been done. The Idea sometimes obtaining, that Scrupulosity is in itself, a Spiritual Benefit of some sort, is, of course, a Great Error. The Providence-of God permits it and can gather Good from it, as from other Forms-of Evil. That apart, however, it is a Bad Habit, doing Harm, sometimes Grievously, to Body and Soul. Indeed, Persisted-in with the Obstinacy Characteristic-of Persons who Suffer-from this Malady, it may Entail the most Lamentable Consequences. The Judgment is Seriously Warped, the Moral-Power Tired-out in Futile Combat, and then not unfrequently the Scrupulous Person makes Shipwreck-of Salvation, either on the Scylla-of Despair, or the Charybdis-of Unheeding Indulgence in Vice.

It is of Great Importance, to be able to make a Correct Diagnosis of this Disease. Hence especially, Guides-of Consciences, should be Familiar-with the Symptoms, that Betray its Presence, as-well-as with the Causes, which commonly give Rise-to it. For one thing, the Confessor should-not Confound a 'Delicate', with a 'Scrupulous' Conscience; neither should he Interpret the Reasonable Solicitude, sometimes Discernible-in those who are Trying-to Emerge-from a Life-of-Sin, as a Sign-of Scrupulosity. Then, too, ordinarily, he ought not to Hastily-reach this Conclusion, on the very First Experience-of his Penitent. It is True, there are Cases-of Scruples, which may be Recognized-from the Start, but this is not the Rule. Some special Indications that Persons are really Scrupulous, generally Adopted-by Theologians are those Enumerated-by Lacroix. Among these is a 'Certain', 'Rooted' Attachment-to their own Opinion, which makes them Unwilling-to Abide-by the Judgment-of those whom they Consult, even though these Latter, have every Title-to-Deference. In consequence, they go-from One Confessor to Another, change their Convictions with hardly a Shadow-of Motive, and are Tortured-by an Overshadowing Dread, that Sin Lurks-in everything they Do, and Say, and Think. The Scrupulous may, and ought to, Act-in Defiance of their Misgivings, i.e. against their so-called Conscience. Nor can they, therefore, be Impeached-as Acting-in a State-of Practical Doubt. The unreal Phantasm, that Affrights their Imagination, or the Unsubstantial Consideration that Offers itself to their Disturbed Reason, has no Validity, against the Conscience once Formed-upon the Pronouncement-of the Confessor, or in some other equally Trustworthy Fashion. In the various Perplexities, as to the Lawfulness-of their Actions, they are not Bound-to Employ any such Scrutiny, as would be Incumbent-upon Persons in a Normal Condition. They are not Bound-to Repeat anything-of Former Confessions, unless they are sure, without Protracted Examination, that it is a Mortal Sin, and has never been Properly Confessed.

Their Chief Remedy is, having Reposed Confidence-in some Confessor, to Obey his Decisions and Commands, Entirely and Absolutely. They are Counseled also, to avoid Idleness, and thus to-Close the Avenue-of-Approach to the Wild Conjectures and Strange Ponderings, Responsible-for so many of their Worries. They should Remove the Cause-of their Scruples, in so-far-as it may have been of their own Choosing. Hence, they are to Guard-against the Reading-of Ascetical Books of a Rigorist Trend, and any Intercourse-with those Afflicted-in the same-way, as themselves. If the Source-of their Scruples be Ignorance — for example, with Regard-to the Obligation-of some Commandment — they are to be Instructed, Discretion being used in the Imparting-of the Necessary Information. If it be a Propensity-to Melancholy, certain Harmless Pleasures and Rational Enjoyments, may be Employed-with Advantage. Confessors, to whom falls the Difficult Task of Receiving the Confessions-of these Harassed Souls, are to Carefully Inquire-into the Origin-of the Anxieties laid before them. They are to Treat their Unhappy Penitents, in general, with Great Kindness. Occasionally, however, some Degree-of Severity may be useful, when the Penitent shows an Extreme Tenacity-in Adhering-to his own Unreasonable View-of the Situation. As a Rule, the Confessor's Answers-to the Innumerable Troubles submitted, should be Clear, unaccompanied by Reasons, and so Unhesitating, as to Inspire Courage. He should not Permit the Presentation, indefinitely-of the various Doubts, much less, of course, the Repetition-of Past Confessions. Finally, he may sometimes do, what should hardly ever be done, in any other instance, that is, Forbid the Penitent to have Recourse-to another Confessor.