General Absolution

As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God.

You know those church gatherings, usually before Christmas, where everyone who attends is proffered “forgiveness” just for turning up, but without any perceptible sorrow on their part for their sins?

Yeah, they make my skin crawl too. They are like treating a major highly infectious and lethal epidemic with the mere fragrance of penicillin et al.

There is no substitute for a sickly soul than their attending the personal presence of a Catholic priest, who is acting in persona Christi, to receive Absolution after confessing their sins in his presence, and their providing some evidence of their genuine sorrow for their sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, whether that be by tears or some other token of sincerity.

There do exist special circumstances whereby general Absolution may be administered as a Sacrament: Where danger of death is very near and a private confessional is not, or where the death of many is very proximate (such as when a plane is about to crash) then a general absolution is both possible and very licit. Who but God can know how many souls have been saved by such exercises of the Apostolic powers?

The reason I have written this post is because like a dim donkey, I have only recently realised that at every Mass I have ever attended there exists a non-Sacramental general Absolution right there in the plaintext:

May Almighty God have Mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and lead us to Everlasting Life.

Many people attend every Mass. Not all are in a state of Grace. Some are very far from it actually, but they are still attending Mass, which is a very good thing in general, and for them in particular. Why should they attend this religious ceremony which can seem so prolonged, ugly,  and tedious to the modern person, while having to tolerate the company of so many fellow humans whom they do not connect with? God only knows.

Well, I can only posit an answer to this from my own experience. Once upon a time, I was also very far from the Church but for some inexplicable reason I desperately knew I had to get back under her wings somehow, like a chick beneath its mother hen. I used then to attend her services more than occasionally while standing at the back, incognito, murmuring  my responses from childhood memory as best I could, and taking part thus up until the Communion procession, when I just wilted into the shadows, a tragic lonely figure, like a self-aware leper.

The only bit of the Mass that made easy sense to me back then was the first 4 minutes or so.

Those few minutes included the Sign of the Cross, the greeting, the Confiteor, and the Absolution. The Gloria, Collect, and the rest were simply beyond my simple ken at that time. I was stuck at the stage of knowing I was just a filthy sinner, a terminally ill soul, begging for any help to get better to avoid an imminent certain death.

As I thrash around for metaphors to portray what I am trying to say, I think of these: For the starving and dehydrated soul, long separated from God, the beginning of the Mass, and of any encounter with the Lord, is like that first gulp of cool water that whets one’s parched whistle before it can manage to chew on solid food and then stronger curatives and preservatives.

Both the very real hunger of newborn babies for their mother’s milk, and the imagery of the psalms attest to this also, I think.

Forgive me if I’m wrong.



About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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16 Responses to General Absolution

  1. Brother Burrito is right. Many of us also feel our skin crawl, for the same reason.

    We understand that the “absolution” given in the course of the Novus Ordo Mass is NOT sacramental absolution.

    And the apparently large number of people who think that it IS sacramental absolution? Well, I suppose we can pray that God will find a way of granting them His mercy.

    I think He will answer that prayer, one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mkoopman2443 says:

    I met that general and bought fire insurance. Then you end with a short pun. Something or someone has you distracted. Don’t let me, and my egocentricism steer you from the center of the Rose Window.
    Regarding your pun, why do you ask your readers to forgive you when that general I have met, absolutely, and even with more than a little water can absolve, in Persona Christi. Go confess it, brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    That’s a very weird comment, ninkinpoop. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. steveesq says:

    I bet most don’t even think and understand the impact. A few do but most are just going through the motions and couldn’t care less


  5. steveesq says:

    When I began my reversion I was drawn to the mass and ewtn was on many nights at midnight. I then found myself also in the back of the church. But for two weeks I received communion until one Sunday I was kept in the pew with the loud silent admonition that I had to go to confession which was my first in 28 years At mass those words have been used by me to receive even though I was not in a state of grace. Just another subtle but potentially deadly effect of the so-called new mass it’s very sad to say

    Liked by 1 person

  6. SaintlySages says:

    “May Almighty God” is merely a wish, a desire that this will somehow come to pass; whereas “I absolve you” is an authoritative command that brings it about.


  7. mkoopman2443 says:

    We ask all the angels and the saints and you my brothers and sisters to pray for us to the Lord, our God. We ask forgiveness when we bring offense, even when the offense is imagined. Imagine that and consider what might bring one to be defensive when no offense was made?


  8. johnhenrycn says:

    I think those animals are bovidae (impala specifically) not cervidae, judging by the horns. Our parish sister is leaving us this week to return to her convent. She’s getting on (not really old) and hears this call to spend the next years of her life with her closest companions. I sent her a book yesterday and a card much like this (fingers crossed) one in appreciation for her service and her time with us:


  9. Brother Burrito says:

    Impala schmimpala – I care not at all!

    I wish your parish sister the very best, though.


  10. Brother Burrito says:


    In my past, I too have been obsessive-compulsive about feeling unworthy to receive Holy Communion. This neurotic condition was cutting me off like a ligature around my neck from receiving the only help that could possibly save me: Holy Communion. Though a regular Mass attender, I simply refused to receive the Blessed Sacrament, because both It was too Sacred, and I was too unworthy

    I know I am going to ignite a bonfire/conflagration by making this comment, but here it is:

    In medicine, when all else is lost, there exists a tactic called a “therapeutic trial”. There really is no other way forward, but with the patient’s consent, a treatment is commenced, which may kill them or cure them. The outcome can simply not be known until the trial is over.

    Catholics are taught not to receive Holy Communion if they are in a state of mortal sin. The real debate is about what exactly “the state of mortal sin” really means. I suggest that it is only possible for the sinners themselves to know if what they receive is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our lord Jesus Christ. They may choose to receive Him sacrilegiously, but only if they are doing this grave act with full understanding and will.

    I think I have dropped enough hints/hooks to keep this conversation going. I have to go right now. God bless us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mmvc says:

    Why even risk offending Our Lord and ‘eating and drinking condemnation upon yourself’ (1 Corinthians 11:29) when the obvious solution is to go to confession with a firm purpose of amendment beforehand?

    There. No bonfires or conflagrations necessary. ;o)


  12. steveesq says:

    Thanks, Brother Burrito. When I look back, even though I was in an objective state of mortal sin when I was receiving the Eucharist, I wasn’t receiving as an act of defiance, but out of a burning passion to know Him and be with Him again. I can’t help believing that this led to healing and then back to confession for the best experience I had ever had coming from the confession of 28 years of sin; I felt like I was lighter than air and the joy that overcame me will never be forgotten. I know what the Church teaches and I also know what happened to me. I think you have given a key to reconciling the two.


  13. johnhenrycn says:

    That’s a good comment, Steve. I too have found some of my confessions more emotionally and (I hope) spiritually satisfying than others.


  14. mmvc says:

    The real debate is about what exactly “the state of mortal sin” really means.

    CCC: 1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131


  15. Brother Burrito says:

    Dear mmvc,

    Please forgive my incorrect phraseology: I fully understand and believe in the definition of mortal sin as you have quoted. What I meant was what does mortal sin mean in these days of neverending moral confusion, misunderstanding about who exactly is the locus of control in any given situation, and what exactly is consent in such circumstances. These are extremely pastoral considerations when we are very short of good pastors.

    I am sure we can at least agree that “the whole world has gone mad”, for it surely has. In such a world, in a state of continuous war with itself, then scholastical moral theology is an unuseful luxury. In a battlefield, we are all of us necessarily gathered closer to the Loving Heart of Jesus because there is a paucity of willing locums for Him, whose Love covers a myriad of sins: thanks be to Him.


  16. mmvc says:

    Whilst scholastical moral theology may seem obscure or inaccessible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is widely and freely available, even in simplified format. I have no doubt that despite living in these times of confusion and dearth of good pastors, souls in search of the Truth and desiring to please God are given the graces necessary to emerge from mortal sin into a state of grace. But yes, only the Lord can truly know the innermost heart of each and every one of His children. We in the battlefield of the Church Militant can entrust ourselves, our loved ones and every man, woman and child, past, present and future to His merciful Sacred Heart… and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary…


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