Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old people.

Nope, I'm not engaging in the elder bashing I see on other people's blogs - ageing hippies my a...!   No - I'm writing about a dilemma some elderly people face - being too old to sin.  Not long ago I mentioned to a friend that she should call the parish so that Father could visit her elderly mother who was ill.  I explained that he could hear her confession and anoint her and even bring communion.  "Oh, that's an idea - but I doubt she needs confession - she's so good."  I've heard the same thing from elderly women and men at my parish - "What would I confess?  I don't do anything." 
As I age, I know my sins have changed... (Well kinda - they were there, I just never noticed.)  I see things in myself that I never noticed when I was younger and committing the fun sins - passions flaring, shame searing the conscience afterwards.  Once I was racing to confession after serious sin, running red lights to get in line right away, I even nicked a parked car - I ran into church, got in line for confession - pissed someone got there before me, then I confessed my big sin - neglecting to recognize the others I committed on the way to the confessional.  When you get beyond that stage, and if you really examine yourself, you soon realize all the jerky 'little' sins you never noticed before.  Aside from the practice of prayer, getting older helps if you know how to examine your conscience in the first place.
Fr. V of Adam's Ale has posted an excellent guide for older people who think they can't sin anymore.  It is not an extensive examine - but it's a good start for someone who may not realize they are not yet perfect.
"Sin may take on a drastically new and unfamiliar face however. A person may no longer be able to be (or have the desire to be) unchaste or steal a car or fly an airplane into a building. When one is capable of such terrible sins not saying grace before meals may seem so trivial as to not be worth mentioning. We have bigger fish to fry. But when you sin capacity is reduced, things that once seemed picayune are now greater in proportion because to be honest, if we are physically and situationally less capable of sinning, we are also have less opportunities to be loving. So our focus on our examination of conscience must become re-calibrated, more refined, and more thoughtful.
Here are some things to consider. This is not an exhaustive check off list of sins for shut-ins, but a springboard for further thought..."  Finish reading at, "Too old and sick to sin?"


  1. Austringer12:32 PM

    Terry, thank you SO MUCH for your post and the link to Father's. This has been on my mind from time to time, as my mother (84) has said to me, on a number of occasions when the subject of confession comes up, "Oh, at my age, what can I do?". I have always been left a little up in the air as to a response, as a listing of things that come to my mind is not going to improve our relationship, and probably wouldn't be effective even if I weren't related. What I have done is to recite my own particular sins -- not the huge ones, but the ones regarding attitudes and unkindnesses that afflict all of us regardless of age. Whereupon the subject is promptly dropped...Anyway, I think I'll print out Father's post and send it to her, all friendly-like.

  2. Very helpful and insightful, Terry.

  3. Terry, I must agree; hearing the confessions of the elderly, or visiting them and asking if they wanted to go to confession and getting this blank look and "What could I possibly do wrong?"...
    Let me tell you...
    sins of omission; sins of pride, vanity, lust, anger, rash judgment...the list could go on and on...these can be internal sins yet unknown or unacknowledged.
    Unless someone enlightens the conscience.
    I could spend quite some time in the confessional every day, if I could, with just what I omit or think or wish (sorry to scandalize anyone here)...great post!

  4. There will ALWAYS be something to confess and work on within myself.

    This post
    cracks(I think she's one of Terry's blogger buddies:0)
    me up.

  5. belinda: LOL!!!
    Exactly. Exactly...a great illustration of how one is never too old to sin...I'm dying here!
    As to whether this one of Terry's blogging buddies, only the Master can/will tell:<)!

  6. Maria3:57 PM

    Terry--My Mother would send this woman to the Confessional for putting her lipstick on in public!As a social worker, I have worked with the elderly. Charity dictates my silence on this issue. LOL.

  7. The photo I used is Barbara Bush. LOL!

  8. Maria5:00 PM

    Terry: scary, huh? I always thought she had a little too much testosterone. The Bushes lived one house down from my Aunt and Uncle in DC--before the Bushes big limelight. She was NOT nice.

  9. Maria - funny you say that - I always thought she looked so sweet and like she'd be a lot of fun - but another friend also told me she wasn't nice - he used the 'B' word however.

  10. Oh - so anyway - that is exactly why I used her photo - LOL!

  11. Father mentioned sins of omission! It never hurts to go over those.

    But, just to get you all ready to keep your confessors busy, don't forget that violating laws, big and little is a sin.

    Driven 32 in a 30 recently? Parked illegally without putting a quarter in the meter? Changed lanes without signaling? Fudged on your taxes? The just man (or lady) sins seven times a day, it has been said.

    One of the most important things I ever did was make a General Confession a few years ago. I had been out of the Church 1960-1981 and then it probably took me another 20 years to really start to get right with God (and believe me, I'm still working on getting right with Him).

    I made an appointment with a priest and spent an hour with him in his office going over forgetful omissions in that 1981 Confession and subsequent Confessions, really serious sins I have committed and other issues, some of which were not really sins, but things I continued to feel guilty about.

    Today is the midpoint of Lent. Divine Mercy Sunday is the first Sunday after Easter. Get yourself prepared to make a wonderful Confession and get yourself a Plenary Indulgence at the same time.

  12. Maira6:17 PM

    Ray--this is such good advice. Thank you..

  13. Austringer6:34 PM

    Ray, good advice -- but where on earth were you able to find a priest that would spend that kind of time with you, let alone being willing to make an appointment for that kind of confession/spiritual direction at all?

  14. Maria6:38 PM

    Austringer: Is it difficult to find a priest who will spend an hour with you?

  15. Austringer or Maria: Contact me...I do it all the time:<)!

  16. Austringer:

    Well, it did take a few days to find a time that worked for both of us.

    Now that you mention it since this was a priest with two parishes (now three), I might have infringed on his time. He wasn't even my pastor, but I knew him. A lot of his parishioners were elderly (two of his parishes are attached to Eldercare facilities).

    Perhaps one thing that I had going for me was that after it was all over, he, probably in his mid 40s, said that it was the first General Confession that he had ever heard.

    So he might have been interested in seeing what it might be like.

    One thing that worked was that I actually made a printed list, sorted by commandments, of the items I needed to cover (that took me about a week, letting it sit a few times and then taking it up again)

    (I destroyed it later, which I recommend that you do. Don't dwell on the past once you have confessed - again).

  17. Austringer7:23 PM


    Yes, I would say that it is. I've had an unfortunate conflict with my priest which ultimately led to me seeking assistance from the bishop, so my priest is so angry he won't even say hello, let alone grant an appointment. But even before then it was difficult: He is very, very busy. I imagine that most priests are in his shoes, hence my surprise at Ray's access. An hour appointment is an amazing length of time for a personal appointment, from what I've seen. Non-personal meetings such as Parish Council or Financial Committee meetings typically take about an hour, but that kind of time spent on individuals is rare, from what I've seen. I'm not faulting the priest: it's a question of time.

  18. Miss Maria, my priest ALWAYS tells me to hurry up during confession or he cuts me off entirely. Though I try not to goof around.

    Last time I said, "Um, I'm not done yet"

    Father N.P. I am hopeful that the sins that I've missed unintentionally are covered. To try to nit pick every little thing from 20- 30 years ago seems scrupulas (sp?) and that's a sin too. I've been to confession before and had forgotten why I was even there in the first place, but I WAS there and I tried.

    I take a list with me and have been chastised for that too. Isn't it okay if I just do my very best and then abandon the rest to his mercy ? That's the only thing that will save me anyway.......

    Was it okay those times when I sweet talked my priest out of a harsher penance?

    confused in Kansas -( and once (confused) in a truck stop in Wisconsin)

  19. Maria7:32 PM

    Austringer: Oh, I am so sorry. I have access to Jesuits which in some cases,oh, never mind. We really have to pray for holy priests. They give birth to more holy priests. Fr. Hardon talks about how priests have to desire sacrifice and, in sense, martyrdom for Christ. As he likes to say, as the priesthood goes, so goes the Church. When I get discouraged, I remember what a friend told me. She expressed the same sadness, and sometime despair, about the state of the Church. He told he to "tie yourself to the ship" because it is only going to get worse. We have to pray/pray/pray.

  20. Maria7:36 PM

    Belinda: I am SO sorry. Look for an old Jesuit. They would never do this. Only faithful priests understand the sacred importance of Confession. Any priest who tells you to hurry needs your prayers. This seems like someone should know about this. I don't know; however, I find this AMAZING.
    Pray for a good confessor. I did and found this old Jesuit--he must be near 80. He is an old physicist and so kind. So holy.

  21. Austringer7:37 PM

    Father NP,

    From reading your posts, I know you would be an excellent how far away are you from the Twin Cities? Who knows, maybe I'll end up having to take you up on your offer.

    Which reminds me: Father, I've been re-reading St. Francis de Sales' "An Introduction to he Devout Life", and frequently he mentions spiritual direction. Well, so do many books, come to think of it! But just how can one find a priest who isn't already overburdened? I know that lay people sometimes do this, but how can one determine if they are sound?

    The priest who assists my pastor on weekends is a marvelous confessor. Because I go to confession frequently, often his advice could be considered spiritual direction: - he knows me, knows my difficulties, etc. But obviously I am not going to take up much time in the confessional with what could and should be done elsewhere, especially with people waiting in line. Any advice?

  22. Miss Maria, I didn't mean to say bad things about my priest. (sorry) I really do love the man. He's just overwhelmed and rushed. It wasn't personal and he encourages confession for our parishners but there aren't many takers.

    If father "looses" me then I've been loosed even if father screws up it still counts. Christ said it's so.

    My anxiety makes me rush and hurry people it's one of my biggest sins. I have to make myself slow down so I can't judge my priest for something I do.

  23. Austringer7:56 PM


    There are good Jesuits and there are bad Jesuits...(suddenly the line from "The Wizard of Oz" popped into my head: "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?")I'm pleased that you've found a good one!

    Which reminds me of a joke about the difference between a Jesuit and a Franciscan -- have you heard it? (It's the one involving a Lexus...)

  24. When I was going through RCIA and had to make my First Confession I made an appointment with Father and told him that it would take awhile..considering I really didn't know what I was doing I did write everything down, and he coached me through was nice not to be rushed.

    Nowadays when Confession is only one hour on Sat, there is one priest, and there is a line out the door is not the time to expect alot of spiritual direction or sitting in the Confessional "Well, I KNOW I had something else..." I always write stuff down because I'll space if I don't...

    Fr Z has a good guide to Confession on his site..

    I've also had people say to me in line for Confession, knowing I'm a Secular Carmelite," Why are you here?? Carmelites DON'T sin..." Really??


  25. Austringer8:14 PM


    Sorry, I got sidetracked and off-topic.

  26. Maria8:19 PM

    Austringer: I am ROFLMAO. Are you a good Jesuit or a bad Jesuit?

    Terry-I apologize. I am also off topic. We can use a little comic relief, right? Jesuit Joke--

    Driving and Drinking:

    Then there was the Jesuit out for a drive who crashed into another car, only to discover that the other driver was a Franciscan. "It was my fault," each of them insisted -- as is only right and proper with religious men. The Jesuit in his concern for the other said, "You look badly shaken up. You could probably use a good stiff drink right now to calm down." So he produced a flask. The Franciscan drank and said, "Thank you; I feel much better now." The Jesuit said, "You still look a little rattled, have another drink." And the Frannie did. "One more," said the Jesuit," and you'll be feeling fine again." The Franciscan, after taking a drink, said, "But Father, you're probably shaken up too. Why don't you have a drink." "I will," the Jesuit replied, "but I think I'll wait until after the police have come."

  27. Austringer8:41 PM

    OK, Maria, here's mine: A businessman, new to the Faith, was wondering if his prayer request was really very appropriate. He asked a local Franciscan, "Father, is it OK to pray a novena for a Lexus?"

    The Franciscan's response: "What's a Lexus?"

    He asked a Jesuit the same question.

    The Jesuit's response: "What's a novena?"

    OK Terry, I'm done kidnapping this post...

  28. Maria and Austringer: LOL!!!
    Only a Jesuit...only a Jesuit:<)!

    belinda: If you are sorry for all your sins and receive absolution, they are forgiven, even if they are forgotten...if you remember them later, tell them at your next confession;
    mortal sins need to be confessed in number and kind, as you see need to be overly worried...just give the number or say "often", "daily"...whatever.
    Venial sins do not need to be confessed in this way; it is helpful to focus upon a particular venial sin one is conscious of that needs to be worked on...but if you are sorry for all of your venial sins, absolution pardons, heals and lessens the temporal punishment due to sin.

    Austringer: St. Francis de Sales'
    "Introduction to the Devout Life" is excellent; you can't go wrong with him.
    As for me, I'm about an hour and a half from the Twin Cities, going east on 94. Prayers.

  29. belinda: Just re-read your post...if it's any consolation, I got told to "cut to the chase" about six months ago in the really p***** me off and I do understand what the laity have to go through, sometimes...never again will I enter that particular box! (And this was in, by the way, Saint Paul, MN!) You've got a lot more patience and charity than I do:<)!

    Just call 'em as you see 'em and know the Lord forgives you and releases you from the bondage to sin in His absolution, even if you might forget some things.

    Austringer: Spiritual direction is something that is not well understood amongst the clergy; I am inundated with requests from people to have direction because their parish priest does not want to do it, doesn't feel adequate to do it, or is just overwhelmed with other responsibilities.
    As a monastic priest, I have the ability to devote time to this; but I must say this, and don't want to sound harsh or judgmental...a lot of these people just want someone to listen to them, to encourage them, to give them basic direction in prayer and struggles with virtue,...I'm no rocket scientist (believe me!)...I don't know what is so hard in helping others if you are praying, reading and studying every day...I just don't get it why a lot of priests are so reticent to just help people grow in their relationship with God.

  30. Maria9:47 PM

    Austringer: Very rich. LOL. Thanks for the yuks!

    Terry: I too am really sorry if I went on too much or hijacked the post. Mea culpa.

    Padre: I feel like we get a kind of spiritual direction w/ you on this blog. I bet this is what Papa Benedict intended, huh?

  31. Austringer10:39 PM


    Yes, I'm sure that one of the reasons the Holy Father gave his approval to priests blogging was so that good shepherds like Nazareth Priest can spend their time helping the rest of us!

    With that in mind, Padre, I have another question for you: You mention above to Belinda that we need to confess mortal sins "in number and kind". I have heard that many times before....When I first came back to the church, I went to confession and had some pretty major mortal sins to confess. I was not, at that time, aware that the number was to be mentioned as well as the kind. So, it was "Father, I have done such-and-such..", but I didn't say how often. Is this something that should be brought up again, now that I'm aware of it? I know that we only confess our sins once, but would it be a good idea to mention to the priest that, through ignorance, I had omitted in the past the number of times I had committed a particular mortal sin? I know it's probably not necessary, but I'm wondering if it would be beneficial. I'm sure I'm not the only one who does not want to waste a priest's time or test his patience, so I tend not to bring up items like this.

    Do you have any ideas or opinions as to why spiritual direction is not well understood amongst the clergy? I was surprised by what you wrote.

  32. Austringer: You can always confess sins from past confessions that you are particularly sorry for: it's called "free matter"...meaning that the sins were forgiven, but you want to deepen your sorrow and repentance (not in a scrupulous way, as if they were never forgiven)...
    Just try to add anything that you might have left out of any confessions and in the past; then, be done with it. God knows you're sorry; you've made the effort to do what you can do; the rest is God's Mercy.
    As for priests and spiritual direction...I can only guess here; I've not discussed it with any priests (they just send people to me!!)...anyway, I think this is changing, shifting, with the kind of seminary formation young priests are receiving...our confessor told me (he's young; compared to me!) "I don't feel qualified to be the confessor of religious..." Okay.
    We can be just as sinful and nasty as anybody else (Please cover your ears or eyes!!) but this is, I believe, a common attitude.
    Diocesan priests just do not feel qualified, in many cases, to do spiritual direction.
    I'm sad about this because, like I said before, I'm no rocket scientist...I have no advanced degree in spirituality (other than my training for the priesthood and an advanced degree in moral theology)...if you pray, study and try to lead a Christ-like life, I think you can lead's not that complicated, really.

  33. Maria - you are welcome to say anything here - I don't consider you as a hijacker.

  34. Austringer1:23 PM

    Hmmmmm....Terry, do you consider me a hijacker?

    If so, mea culpa...I'll try to make amends.

  35. A - none of you are hijackers.

  36. Maria2:45 PM

    Terry: Deo Gratias. LOL...

  37. Austringer: I thought you might enjoy this article at CNA entitled "Pope urges priests to offer Confession and educate faithful on sin", Kind of timely, huh?

  38. I should change my name to Jack, so then when you see me in the combox, you can say "Hi, Jack!"

  39. That is so funny. Really.


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