A Healthy Sorrow for our Sins

Andrea Solario - Ecce Homo - Google Art Project
Andrea Solario – Ecce Homo (1505-6) Museo Poldi Pezzoli
Part of our daily prayers should be contrition which is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” (Catechism 1451) This healthy sorrow is quite different from an unhealthy “free-floating” guilt.

We might be sorry because our sins deserve God’s punishments, most notably the punishment of eternal damnation which causes us to fear, or because our sins disgust us and make us feel unworthy. This kind of sorrow is called “imperfect contrition” and if it is brought to the sacrament of penance, is enhanced and perfected by God’s grace.

Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin out of the purer motive of the love of God. We consider how much God loves us, and out of love for Him in return, we repent of having offended Him. It is very helpful to consider the crucifix or the Stations of the Cross which show us in simple and graphic human terms how much God loves us.

If we have committed a mortal sin, that is to say, something serious which we have done knowing it is gravely wrong and with the full consent of the will, then we need to receive absolution in the sacrament of confession before receiving Holy Communion again.

In the case of less serious, or venial sins, we may be forgiven by a sincere act of contrition. It is still a salutary practice to confess our venial sins regularly to receive God’s grace to help us grow in holiness. Our sincere sorrow is always met by the rich and abundant mercy of Christ.

The Gift and Fruits of Holy Communion


From our basic Catholic catechesis, we know in that Holy Communion we receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the food and life of our souls. Believing this to be true is enough to motivate us to be reverenct before the Blessed Sacrament.

If we recognise Our Lord as our merciful redeemer, friend and brother, we will also show Him reverence out of sheer joyful love for the great privilege that He gives us in allowing us to draw so close to Him as He offers to us by giving Himself to us in this sacrament. There is nothing greater that God could give us.

The fruits of Holy Communion for our souls are many. If we are contrite, our venial sins are forgiven. If we are weak and suffering from humiliating temptations, Our Lord strengthens us in the spiritual battle. If we are suffering, He gives us His protection and consolation.

Receiving Holy Communion increases sanctifying grace in us, that sunshine of the soul by which we grow and flourish in the spiritual life. This is equivalent to a growth in love for God as a living friendship within our soul, the root of genuine holiness of spirit.

This great sacrament overflows beyond our personal lives to our families and especially to the Church. It is the sacrament of the unity of the Church, binding the parish, the diocese and the whole Catholic Church in a bond of unity in Jesus Christ our Eucharistic Lord. In turn, we are called to go out to the world to bring Our Lord to others.

The Rosary, a Powerful Help for All

Bernardo Cavallino - La Visione di San Domenico (anni 1640)
Bernardo Cavallino – The Vision of St Dominic (1640) National Gallery of Canada
The Rosary is a form of prayer that is suitable for all, whatever their intellectual ability, social circumstances or culture. It is essentially a way of meditating simply on the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the company of Our Lady, asking for her intercession to assist our prayers and purify them.

The fifteen mysteries of the Rosary are rooted firmly in the Gospel. We ponder how Our Lord taught us by his words, demonstrated God’s love by His miracles, and redeemed us by His redeeming sacrifice on the Cross, rising again to bring eternal life to us.

As a form of prayer, the Rosary has been particularly recommended by Our Lady. We note especially the giving of the Rosary to St Dominic, the saving of Christian Europe at various times, and the message which our Immaculate Mother gave to the children of Fatima.

In 1571, St Pius V invoked the help of Our Lady in the Rosary against the aggression of the Ottoman force which threatened Christianity. Today, we have many urgent and pressing needs for which it is right to invoke the help of Our Lady through the means of prayer that she has encouraged us to use.

One of the most powerful uses of the Rosary is to say it together as a family. The fifteen minutes that it takes are not much when we consider how much time we spend on other things, yet the benefits of praying together in this way are incalculable. May Our Lady bring many families closer to Christ through this prayer.

Learning from our Holy Patron, Saint Gregory

Westminster Cathedral. St Gregory meeting the English slaves in Rome. (Photo by Fr Finigan)

We venerate the saints to give glory to God for His wonderful works in them, to ask for their assistance, and to imitate their virtues. St Gregory was one of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church, a teacher whose writings are of perennial value.

He put his natural gifts at the service of the Church, being a wise and unimpeachable leader who taught others how to exercise authority and pastoral care. He was drawn to the contemplative life in the monastery and, although God called Him away from this life, he continued to write spiritual works for others to lead them in the path of prayer.

St Gregory is often pictured with a dove speaking into his ear, representing the Holy Spirit. He combined an effective practical apostolate with an experiential knowledge of the journey of the soul in its relationship with God through prayer and charity.

He is also renowned for helping to give shape to the sacred liturgy of both East and West, and for promoting the music of the Church which is in continuity with the sacred music of the Jewish people that was known and used in prayer by Jesus Christ Himself. Our celebration of Mass today owes much to St Gregory’s care and reverence for the form of our worship.

As we celebrate the feast of our holy patron, we ask for his prayers for our parish, that we may learn from him in our worship and in our evangelisation. In our own prayers, we ask for the wisdom and perseverance that he showed by his own teaching and example.

Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man

Christ Pantocrator - Capela Palatina - Palermo - Italy 2015
Christ Pantocrator – Palatine Chapel, Palermo – Italy 2015 (© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Our faith teaches us that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. We find this doctrine spelt out in the Creed which we say at Mass. This magnificent statement of faith comes from the great Councils of the Church of the 4th and 5th centuries and is a touchstone of orthodox Christianity.

Since He is God, the man Jesus Christ is all-powerful, all-knowing and infinitely loving. In the gospels He teaches with divine authority and works great miracles. His resurrection from the tomb is the final and definitive demonstration of His divine nature. The disciples adored Him as truly God.

Since He is man, God the incarnate Word was born in time, was hungry, suffered pain, and grew in human wisdom and knowledge. He grieved at the death of Lazarus his friend, and he showed human affection to St John the beloved disciple, as to St Mary Magdalene and, of course, His mother, the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

In the person of Jesus Christ, God has humbled Himself to come close to us. In the carols we sing at Christmas, we rejoice at how approachable this makes God for us. We need to keep this in mind when we come to the Church where Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament on our altar.

Jesus invites us to trust in Him absolutely. The devotion of the Sacred Heart is particularly helpful in our friendship with Christ because it shows for us the infinite divine love expressed in a human way that we can understand.

Original Sin and the Path to Holiness

'Our Lady of Sorrows', possibly by Carlo Dossi, oil on panel painting, 18th century, El Paso Museum of Art
‘Our Lady of Sorrows’, possibly by Carlo Dossi, oil on panel painting, 18th century, El Paso Museum of Art
When God looked on the man and woman He had created, He saw that His creation was very good. In our present condition, however, we see many examples of how we and others are not always good, but have a tendency to commit sin. This is a result of original sin whose effects remain in the disordered desires that we experience.

We are indeed redeemed by Jesus Christ who opened the gates of heaven for us by His saving death on the cross. He calls us to follow Him by taking up the cross. This is necessary in order that we grow in holiness by His grace and overcome our greed and selfishness.

There will always be a place for the cross at the heart of our relationships because we do not love as fully as we are called to, and because we hurt others by our sins. Our Lord’s insistence on forgiveness is important in families and in communities so that discord does not grow and become the root of destructive resentment. In teaching that we should love our enemies, Christ sets forth an immensely powerful path for good in the world.

Sometimes, evil done by others can make a person’s life miserable and seemingly hopeless, leaving them “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.” We ask our Lady as our Advocate to lead us ultimately to heaven at the end of this life, but she also consoles us as a loving Mother in the dark times of this life. She teaches us to bear the cross with Jesus and thus to allow Our Lord to bring meaning and hope where humanly these seem to be impossible.

The supernatural gift of God’s grace

Don Bosco @ Torino, 1880 (original)
Don Bosco at Turin, 1880
“Grace is a supernatural gift of God, freely bestowed on us for our sanctification and salvation.” (Penny Catechism) Sanctifying or habitual grace is given at Baptism. St Augustine explained that it is like the sunshine of the soul: God takes up His dwelling within us and invites us to friendship with Him.

We should rejoice in the generous love of God by which He enables us to remain in a state of grace, a continuing relationship of friendship with Him in which He offers us an increasing strength, beauty and holiness of soul, especially through the reception of the sacraments.

St John Bosco was a great saint who dedicated his life to the care of children and young people in need. When asked what was his chief aim in life, he answered “To remain in a state of grace.” The state of grace is lost through mortal sin and restored by God in response to our repentance and sacramental confession.

Actual graces are those helps that we need to carry out supernaturally good works, and to avoid sin and the occasions of sin. God gives us these graces in response to our prayers. St Alphonsus warned us that prayer is therefore morally necessary for our eternal salvation.

The gift of grace is supernatural, above our created human capacity, something for which we rely absolutely on the kindness and love of God, who is infinitely greater than the whole of His creation. Our Lord Himself teaches us that we should treasure the gift of grace more than any earthly riches.

The Infinite Perfection of our God

Cathédrale d'Auch 20
Relief, Auch Cathedral, France: the Ark of the Covenant
Ever since the first man and woman, endowed with a spiritual soul, people have understood that there must be a God, and have tried to understand what He must be like. In His infinite generosity, God has not left us in the dark, but has revealed Himself to us to teach us Who He is and how we might properly know, love and serve Him.

This revelation was given to the priests and prophets of the Old Testament and finally in the person of Jesus Christ who is truly God made man. Christ in turn founded the Church so that His teaching may be given authentically down the ages.

We know from these sources that God is infinite in all perfections. He is limitless goodness, love, truth power and beauty. This is not merely a theoretical affirmation, it is central to how we must relate to God; we must trust Him absolutely and without reserve, bow down with a holy fear in awe of His goodness and beauty, and return with all our hearts that undeserved love which he pours out upon us.

In our daily lives, we are guided by the commandments of God and the moral teaching of His Church, and when we sin, we may call confidently on His infinite mercy towards those who repent with sincere sorrow. In our worship, we offer Him the adoration, praise, and thanksgiving which are His due. Our faith is a cause for rejoicing, since, as Moses proclaimed, and Our Lord shows in the flesh, our God is so close to us as to dwell with us on earth and invite us to His company in heaven.

God, the Creator of the Universe

Screenshot from IMAX® 3D movie Hidden Universe showing the Carina Nebula
Carina Nebula. European Southern Observatory
As Catholics, we believe that we can know the existence of God with certainty from the natural light of human reason. Many people do rely simply on a sense of the presence of God, but when the reality of God is challenged, we need not feel that our faith is simply an emotion.

The beauty of creation is one way in which God’s existence is evident to us. Catholics have also always welcomed the formal investigation of the world in what we call the sciences, and many of the great scientific discoveries have been made by people who share our faith. Science also shows us the beauty of creation.

We observe that the universe is a cosmos rather than a chaos, that it works according to laws and constants that operated long before there were any human beings to discover them and describe them mathematically. The universe, as we discover it to be, shows an order that speaks of a supreme intellect or mind at the origin of all things, which upholds all things in being. This supreme mind we call God.

From what He has revealed to us, we also know God to be personal, loving and merciful, but even without any appeal to the scriptures or to faith, belief in a supreme being is rational and in accord with the evidence. When we reflect on the immensity and complexity of the universe and the way in which we can make use of science to fashion new things, we can also thrill to the power of the mind of God the Creator. Let us praise, worship and adore Him.

The Real and Personal Love of Jesus Christ

Sacred Heart
Statue of the Sacred Heart at St Austin & St Gregory, Margate. (Photo by Fr Timothy Finigan)

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became popular through St John Eudes, and especially St Margaret Mary who was favoured with appearances of Our Lord who asked her to spread the message of His personal love for us.

Our Lord emphasised the wounds which our sins cause to His Sacred Heart, and the consolation which our prayer, penance and charity give to Him. We are encouraged to understand that our sins are not simply the breaking of rules, or foibles that we can excuse ourselves for, but personal offences against God who has come down to earth and suffered for us to redeem us.

Likewise, our good works of mercy, and our loving adoration are far more than the achievement of “peace of soul” or a purely human moral achievement. When they are undertaken out of a real and personal love for Christ, they console His Sacred Heart and bring us further graces to become more like Him.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, devotion to the Sacred Heart was a remedy against the rigorist tendencies of the Jansenists, especially by encouraging frequent devout Holy Communion, received with proper preparation and loving devotion.

Today, the same devotion is a remedy against the indifference and carelessness which arises from a lack of faith in the eternal truths and a reductive humanist approach to “religion” which makes it merely a lifestyle choice. Devotion to the Sacred Heart calls us to a living faith in Jesus Christ who calls for our loyalty and personal love.