CATHOLIC DIALOG #4
(The scene is the same construction site as in Dialogue 3 It is lunchtime and Ricky and Marty are sharing their meal again)
Marty: Hey Rick, I have something for you. I hope you're hungry.
Ricky: What is it?
Marty: It's that sandwich you asked for last week. My girlfriend made one just for you.
Ricky: Wow! It looks great. She must be a very nice person.
Marty: She is pretty special. I'm very fortunate to have her.
Ricky: Marty, do you remember what we talked about last week?
Marty: Huh? Do you mean the Church stuff?
Ricky: Yeah, the Church stuff. Well when you mentioned how happy you are with your girlfriend, I couldn't help wonder.
Marty: Wonder what?
Ricky: I couldn't help wonder why you haven't married her. I mean, if you think she's that special...
Marty: Oh no. Here comes the sermon right "father" Rick?
Ricky: You don't have to be sarcastic. I'm not going to preach to you. I was just curious, that's all.
Marty: Well it's funny that you should mention it because that's exactly what her and I talked about this weekend. It just kind of came up in conversation. I didn't realize it was so important to her.
Ricky: Well after our talk the other day I think it was already on your mind and that's how it just happen to come up in conversation. When you asked me what you should do about your "live in" situation, I think you already knew the answer.
Marty: You're probably right. I guess it's just something we never got around to.
Ricky: Let me give you another piece of advice Marty.
Marty: What's that?
Ricky: make sure that you do it right.
Marty: What do you mean?
Ricky: I mean in the Church. Marriage is a Sacrament and can only be performed by ordained clergy.
Marty: I guess I hadn't thought about that. Couldn't we just go to a justice of the peace? That would be legal, wouldn't it?
Ricky: Legal yes, Sacramental no. Listen Marty, it seems to me as if you're trying to do the right thing. Why not do it the right way too?
Marty: But I haven't been to Church in years. The Priest won't just perform the ceremony for us with no hassles will he?
Ricky: That depends what you mean by hassles. There are some required classes as part of preparation for marriage.
Marty: Classes? Do you mean I have to go to school?
Ricky: No. The classes are more like counseling sessions. They are usually conducted by the Priest or a trained lay person. They are designed to prepare you to cope with married life.
Marty: That doesn't sound too bad. Is that it? I graduate then I get married?
Ricky: That's pretty much it. Of course you'll need to go to Confession before the ceremony and...
Marty: Confession? Why do I have to do that?
Ricky: Because you have to be in a state of grace to receive a Sacrament.
Marty: I'm not sure I remember how to go to Confession. I mean, what's the point?
Ricky The point is that Baptism is the first Sacrament of Reconciliation, but after Baptism, man is free and our actions can cause enmity with God. We call these actions sin. And so a second Sacrament is needed to cope with these post Baptismal sins. We call this Penance, Confession, or Reconciliation. All three names emphasize different traits of this Sacrament.
Marty: But why do I have to confess my sins to a Priest?
Ricky: Because in the Gospel of John, Jesus gives the power to forgive sin to the Apostles when He says, "Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven and whose sins you retain, they are retained."
Marty: That makes sense. Is that all He said?
Ricky: Well just before that, He said, "peace be with you." By this He meant peace of soul, but the most significant thing about this Gospel story is that He breathed on them.
Marty: Why would that be so important?
Ricky: When you consider that it was only the second time in history that God breathed on man, (the first being at creation), you can see that He meant to breathe life into the words He was about say. To put it a different way, He breathed life into the Church and then gave it authority to forgive sin.
Marty: Couldn't I just go directly to God with my sins?
Ricky: You could, but that is not the way God wanted it. Of course, when we sin, we go to God immediately, but then we are obliged to go to a Priest. That's why Jesus instituted the Sacrament.
Marty: But why would God want it that way?
Ricky: Because He created us and understands our nature better than we do. Have you ever heard of a doctor performing an operation on himself? If you consider sin as a disease, you will understand better. A Priest is a doctor of the soul. You tell him what you've done and how many times so he can see the depth of the infection and prescribe an appropriate remedy. This is why in the letter from James it says, "If any of you are sick to call the Presbyter." God knows that you just can't do this for yourself.
Marty: I see your point.
Ricky: What about the person who feels guilt over actions that are not even sins? In this case, the Priest is there to reassure him and to ease his conscience so he can have the joy that God intended for Him.
Marty: But what about when a person keeps on committing the same sins over and over even after going to Confession? Doesn't the Priest ever get tired of hearing it?
Ricky: The most important thing is that you are making progress. Even if it is only gradual progress. The Priest will be happy to counsel and guide you until you overcome these persistent sins. In the mean time you will learn an important lesson in humility. I think that is also God's intention.
Marty: All of this makes good sense to me, but is there any chance that Jesus meant only for the Apostles to have this power? I mean, who gave them the right to pass it on anyway?
Ricky: Jesus did. He said, "Make disciples of all nations." He knew this would take time, (longer than the Apostles lifetime), so He went on to say, "I am with you... even to the consummation of the world." If this was supposed to go on until the end of the world, He must have expected them to pass it on.
Marty: I never thought of it that way. I have one more question.
Marty: Well I have this friend who says that there is only one Mediator and that is Jesus Christ. Wasn't that one of the things that Luther and Calvin disagreed with the Church about?
Ricky: First off, your friend is probably a member of a non-denominational church and his anti-Catholic views are a result of misunderstanding or ignorance. It is true that Jesus is the Mediator between God and man, but doesn't He have the right to say how that mediation is applied. Oh, and by the way, Luther and Calvin both heard confessions and wanted it kept in the churches that they started. It was the people that came along later that invented the notion of going directly to God. As a matter of fact, the Evangelical Lutherans in Germany are trying to re-establish this practice and will soon have private confession in their churches again.
Marty: Ricky, I'm not sure I remember how to go to Confession.
Ricky: Don't worry about it. Tell the Priest you need help and he will make it as painless as possible.
Marty: But some of the stuff I have to tell him is pretty bad. I'm embarrassed.
Ricky: That's a real good sign Marty.
Marty: What do you mean?
Ricky: Sin is something we should be ashamed of. Some of our greatest Saints considered themselves to be the worst sinners. This was not because they were bad, but because they were so sensitive to the will of God and wanted to please Him. So when you say that your sins are pretty bad, you are in good company. And your embarrassment may be a sign of humility. By the way, did you know that the Pope goes to Confession a few times a week?
Marty: Ricky, you seem to know what you're talking about and it sounds good to me, but I still don't know.
Ricky: Marty, a while back I heard someone say, "Try God. If you don't like Him, the devil will always take you back."
Marty: That sounds pretty funny.
Ricky: Well, it's the truth. Marty, why don't you try God?
Marty: Yeah. Thanks Rick, you're a "real" friend.
Ricky: Lunch is over. Let's get back to work.