CONFESSION AND VOCATIONS Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.
of confession is closely related to priestly and religious vocations. It is not
too much to say, in most cases, the sacrament of penance is a condition for
recognizing, following, and remaining faithful to a vocation. How so?
RECOGNIZING: It is safe to say that those called by Christ are all sinners.
They differ only in the degree of their sinfulness. In God's ordinary
providence those who have received a call to follow Christ in the priesthood or
the consecrated life have no choice. Even to recognize they have a vocation,
they must either acquire or maintain the habit of frequent confession.
Nothing so blinds the mind in recognizing a vocation as sin. Nothing so
forces the mind to hear Christ's call as reduction in sin. So true is this that
we can paraphrase the sixth Beatitude to read, "Blessed are the sinless of
heart, for they shall see the will of God."
Frequent confession, as recommended by the "Catechism of the Catholic
Church," enables young persons to see what state of life God wants them to
embrace. This is especially true if they are called to serve God in a lifetime
commitment as priests or religious.
FOLLOWING: No less than sin blinds the intellect, so it weakens the will to
accept the vocation to which the Savior calls certain people to "follow me."
Again, reception of the sacrament of penance strengthens the will to respond
to Christ's invitation. Every sin we commit lessens our will power to say,
"Yes" to God. In the Church's history, we read how often a single fervent
sacramental confession has converted a great sinner and inspired the convert to
become a great saint.
So, too, frequent confession elevates the natural power of human freedom to
give oneself to Christ without reserve.
PERSEVERING: We are living in what some have called the most unstable period
in two millennia of Christianity. One reason for this is that so many
once-believing Christians have lost their sense of sin. "Whatever Happened to
Sin" is not only the title of a well-known book. It is a commentary on the
moral condition of western society.
Frequent confession is, therefore, not only a proved means of recognizing and
following a vocation. It is also a most effective way of insuring perseverance
in the priesthood or a life of the evangelical counsels.
You might say this stands to reason. It is also confirmed by the Church's
experience. As we become more detached from sin, we become more generous in our
response to Christ's love.
I know of nothing more certain to stabilize the priesthood and consecrated
life in our day, than the restoration of the practice of frequent confession.
The teaching of Pope Pius XII could not be more clear. His words deserve to
"The sacrament of penance is the masterpiece of God's goodness. By it
our weakness is fortified."
"It is true that venial sins may be expiated in many ways which are to be
highly commended. But to ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of
virtue, We desire that the pious practice of frequent confession, which was
introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, should be
earnestly advocated. By it genuine self- knowledge is increased, Christian
humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are
resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary
self-control is attained, and an increase of grace is secured by the very fact
that the sacrament is received."
Frequent confession is eminently valuable for every state of life. It is
imperative for discovering, maintaining, and sustaining the vocation of those
who are called by the Redeemer to follow Him "the whole way."
Copyright (c) 1993, Society for Religious Vocations, 10016 South Komensky
Avenue, Oak Lawn, IL 60453