Practicing, but nowhere near perfect!

The Pride of the Pharisee

From time to time, I fall into the sin of the contented Pharisee – ‘Lord,  I thank thee that I am not as others are… extortioners, unjust, adulterers.’

It is so easy to compare myself favourably with those in public disgrace, or even those whose lifestyle sees them lurch from one moral crisis to another.

What a gift, then, to be reminded of how far I fall short of the perfection to which we are all called.

Practicing Catholic has posted on how she struggles to be a ‘bare-minimum Catholic’. And I read her post and see myself making the same struggle – and falling short time and again. Here is the bare-minimum list Practicing Catholic posted, taken from the Catholic Dictionary by Fr John Hardon SJ:

1. To keep holy the day of the Lord’s Resurrection: to worship God by participating in Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation: to avoid those activities that would hinder renewal of soul and body, e.g., needless work and business activities, unnecessary shopping, etc.

2. To lead a sacramental life: to receive Holy Communion frequently and the Sacrament of Penance regularly.

– minimally, to receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year (annual confession is obligatory only if serious sin is involved).

– minimally, to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, between the First Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.

3. To study Catholic teaching in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, to be confirmed, then to continue to study and advance the cause of Christ.

4. To observe the marriage laws of the Church: to give religious training (by example and word) to one’s children; to use parish schools and religious education programs.

5. To strengthen and support the Church: one’s own parish community and parish priests; the worldwide Church and the Holy Father.

6. To do penance, including abstaining from meat and fasting from food on the appointed days.

7. To join in the missionary spirit and apostolate of the Church.

Do I, like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story, observe the letter of these requirements – making just enough effort to qualify? Far too often!

‘And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.’

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
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22 Responses to Practicing, but nowhere near perfect!

  1. toadspittle says:

    There are far too many ‘recent comments’ listed on the right-hand side of this page by the odious Toad.
    Are all the decent CP&S folk on vacation?


  2. joyfulpapist says:

    Perhaps Toad, like rust, never sleeps? 🙂


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Are all the decent CP&S folk on vacation?

    Like you, wouldn’t know, Spit. I visit, now and then. Whatever. Right now, I’m reading theNorth Bay Nugget. Much like the Toledo Blade. Local drivel. No offence.


  4. ephremos says:

    Hello Joyful Papist. I thought I’d have a look at Catholicism pure and simple. Its most impressive.


  5. teresa says:

    Dear Ephremos, thanks for your visit!

    We are very happy to see you here.


  6. teresa says:

    And I think Joyful’s article is also a very good response to Lazarus’ view of perfection, is my observation correct?


  7. ephremos says:

    Is this the Lazarus we all know on another website? If it is I find him very strange.


  8. teresa says:

    Yes, I meant that Lazarus from DT’s blog. But I have really met people like him before. He is one of the typical fundamental evangelical Christians. They repeat the same mantras. I think they are so radical because of their lacking knowledge of history, and the pride, which belongs to the seven sins, is of course a factor as well.


  9. teresa says:

    I think also the sedivacantists who claim to be Catholics, are of the same mentality like the extreme Calvinists.

    I read some years before that the evangelical church (which is calvinistic), is moderate and people like Lazarus don’t belong to these big organisations, but to the small groups of Christians who are not at all institutionalized.


  10. Brother Burrito says:

    Can anyone help me out here? For some years, I’ve had a nagging feeling that Holy Communion is, in general, too casually received, almost as a careless and habitual thing, to keep in with the crowd. The long queues for Communion are in contrast to the scanty few who attend Confession. My admiration for the saintliness of my fellow parishioners is tainted by concern lest they, unknowingly bring down judgement on themselves. It interests me that the Church precepts state only one Confession and Holy Communion per year are necessary.

    I tend to feel unworthy most of the time, to receive Him under my roof, without immediately prior Confession. I am now used to going for several Sundays without approaching the Sacrament, though I fully participate in the rest of the Mass. When I feel particularly weak and hungry of spirit, I make an act of contrition as I walk up to receive.

    Am I being scrupulous? Am I giving bad example by staying in the pew? Is weekly, or even daily reception a better idea?


  11. teresa says:

    Dear Burro, I don’t think so. In the booklet for lay edited by the FSSP which is used during the Tridentine Mass here in our place, one can read that we should refrain from receiving communion if we have sinned and not yet made confession. So I do the same as you do.


  12. The Raven says:

    I think that the honest answer to your question, BB, is that daily communion is the goal that we should all seek, but that we must be in a state of grace to receive communion: if we are conscious that we need to go to confession, either to seek absolution for a serious transgression or to simply shed the detritus of accumulated petty wrongs, then we should avoid communion until we have seen the inside of a confessional.

    Like you, I can go weeks at a time making a spiritual communion, instead of joining the queue to receive Our Lord in person.


  13. rebrites says:

    Correct me if I´ve wrongly observed the Mass over the past several hundred weeks, but isn´t a confession of sins and absolution part of the liturgy itself? And what about that part where the priest holds up the host and quotes Jesus, who said “Take this, ALL of you, and eat it, this is my body, broken for you…” Communion is our spiritual food, a “feast” that binds together the family of God. Isn´t it better to participate and honor Christ´s sacrifice as part of the congregation, if proper preparation is built into the service itself?


  14. mmvc says:

    For some years now I’ve been able to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion daily – a huge blessing, I know, but an equally great responsibility. Someone once told me that when we receive Our Lord, we do this not just for our own sanctification, but for the spiritual benefit of the many souls who, for whatever reason, are unable to do so.
    But to be effective instruments in the spiritual economy of souls, we need to be as pure a channel of grace as possible, ie in a state of grace.
    I used to go to monthly confession, but increasingly felt prompted to confess weekly. Now, frustrated from reciting the same dreary litany of transgressions every Saturday, I’ve settled for fortnightly confession. But even after confession, the sense of unworthiness remains, but that’s the time to call on our heavenly Mother, Mary, and our Guardian Angel to join us in welcoming the Eucharistic Jesus into our miserable little abodes.


  15. shieldsheafson says:

    Remember the Centurion’s prayer?
    Domine non sum dignus…..


  16. mmvc says:

    Rebrites, I also understand that through the penitential rite (the Confiteor and subsequent prayers) there is a remission of venial sins and that whilst this is a necessary preparation for the awesome mystery of the Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion, it does not replace the Sacrament of Confession. If there is mortal sin, this must be confessed before approaching the altar for Communion.
    If there is a Padre reading this, your input on this (and/or correction) would be very welcome…


  17. Mimi says:

    Brother Burrito, I strongly believe that you are being over-scrupulous. Of course one should never receive holy communion in a state of mortal sin, but so long as you are not in a state of mortal sin you are in a state of grace, and a sincere act of contrition will wipe away your venial sins. None of us will ever be worthy to receive Our Lord, and we should NEVER feel worthy to receive Him; anyone who DOES feel worthy must surely be guilty of dreadful pride and presumptuousness. If you have the opportunity to communicate daily, or even weekly, grab it with both hands (metaphorically speaking, of course)! Don’t let your sense of your own unworthiness erect a barrier between you and the Lord; think instead about how much He loves you and how He longs for you to come to Him. These feelings of excessive unworthiness are a temptation of the Enemy, who wants to keep you from Our Lord. Don’t let him succeed.

    One other thought: you know the old advice about living each day as if it were your last, and indeed we know not the day nor the hour. Every opportunity you have to receive Holy Communion could be your last — please don’t let it pass!


  18. Brother Burrito says:

    Perhaps, you have heard the testimony of Fr Leo Clifford: “just one Holy Communion, received with true understanding and due reverence is sufficient to guarantee Salvation” (I paraphrase). Look him up on EWTN.

    An Act of Contrition is only perfect if it acknowledges how much you have offended God, as well as how much you fear Hell.

    It is legitimate to fear unworthy Communion, in my humble opinion. Sacraments are the bridges to Heaven. It is perilous to traverse a bridge that is not guaranteed as sound and passable.

    Oh, yes. Every day is our last. This is Christian SOP. I know that.

    I love your avatar btw.


  19. sandygrounder says:

    Brother Burrito

    The gist of the advice I have had from more than one source (a priest I asked, reading the first part of a CTS booklet called “Living the Mass” by Father Andrea Gasparino and a tape on the Penny Catechism by Father Hugh Thwaites SJ) is that if a person is certain they have committed a mortal sin they should refrain from Holy Communion and go to confession. However, if they are not certain they should receive Holy Communion.

    Thanks to you and all above for posting your thoughts on this subject. It is something I think about a lot and it is good to know others are in the same situation.


  20. joyfulpapist says:

    BB, the Church warns against two errors: receiving Communion when in a state of mortal sin, and avoiding Communion unnecessarily. The Penitential Rite in the Rite of the Mass absolves us from venial sin, allowing us to receive the Eucharist. Indeed, the Church tells us that we need to receive as often as possible – even daily, if we can. For Jesus in the Eucharist is medicine to strengthen us – both individually and as a community. Spiritual communion is a great comfort when physical communion is impossible. But to refuse physical communion when not in a state of mortal sin is little like refusing medicine and taking vitamins instead.

    The excerpt below is from a question and answer session with the Holy Father as the answerer:

    Livia: Holy Father, before the day of my First Communion I went to confession. I have also been to confession on other occasions. I wanted to ask you: do I have to go to confession every time I receive Communion, even when I have committed the same sins? Because I realize that they are always the same.

    I will tell you two things. The first, of course, is that you do not always have to go to confession before you receive Communion unless you have committed such serious sins that they need to be confessed. Therefore, it is not necessary to make one’s confession before every Eucharistic Communion. This is the first point. It is only necessary when you have committed a really serious sin, when you have deeply offended Jesus, so that your friendship is destroyed and you have to start again. Only in that case, when you are in a state of “mortal” sin, in other words, grave [sin], is it necessary to go to confession before Communion. This is my first point.

    My second point: even if, as I said, it is not necessary to go to confession before each Communion, it is very helpful to confess with a certain regularity. It is true: our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our rooms, at least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to live in cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be seen but it builds up. Something similar can be said about the soul, for me myself: if I never go to confession, my soul is neglected and in the end I am always pleased with myself and no longer understand that I must always work hard to improve, that I must make progress. And this cleansing of the soul which Jesus gives us in the Sacrament of Confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open, and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons. Therefore, two things: confession is only necessary in the case of a serious sin, but it is very helpful to confess regularly in order to foster the cleanliness and beauty of the soul and to mature day by day in life.


  21. mmvc says:

    Joyful, thank you for posting this. What valuable teaching the Holy Father gives here!
    His second point reminds me of a metaphor a priest once used when I was somewhat apologetic for my frequent visits to the confessional. He told me to imagine a nun’s cell with only a small window to the outside. He then explained that were she to clean the window only once a year, it would for the most part remain opaque with dirt and cobwebs blocking out much of her light. A monthly clean however would make a considerable difference to the amount of light coming into her cell, but a weekly clean would ensure that as much light as possible would brighten her little room at all times. The same principle, he said, applies to us; the cleansing, healing and illuminating power of Christ’s merciful love in the sacrament of confession … it’s got to be a win win situation.


  22. rusticus1 says:

    BB – I quite understand your concern. I’m sure that many people do receive Communion as a matter of habit (or because they fear being thought “odd” if they don’t); but if you feel that you should not, there’s nothing wrong with staying in the pew. I’ve done so myself on several occasions.

    On the other hand, frequent confession (I try to go at least fortnightly) is a wonderful thing, and a much-neglected sacrament.

    On a separate topic – what’s happened to Benedict Carter? Last time I was here there were a couple of very good articles by him, but they seem to have disappeared.


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