CONFESSION AND VOCATIONS
Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The sacrament 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
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
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
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 be memorized:
"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 confes sion, 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
Copyright (c) 1993, Society for Religious Vocations
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