This past Saturday I went on a diocesan men’s retreat featuring speaker Matthew Kelly. He was hilarious, and the retreat was excellent.
At one point he brought up the idea, which he said he has heard from both Catholics and Protestants, that we don’t need to confess to priests. We can just confess to Jesus silently in our hearts.
But, Kelly said, our capacity to deceive ourselves is great. It’s so great that we don’t even realize how much we can deceive ourselves. And that means that we can make Jesus into our own image of how He should be. We can deceive ourselves into confessing when we want to, as we want to, the sins that we consider sins.
This interesting because Reformed Protestantism (Calvinism) emphasizes our own depravity and inability to do anything that is truly pure. Everything we do, even after becoming Christians, is tainted by sinfulness in some way. And yet Reformed Protestants believe strongly that we confess our sins to Jesus directly without any intermediary. They don’t put together the reality of self-deception and how easily “me and Jesus” becomes an echo chamber of me and my own errors.
The other aspect of confessing your sins to Jesus through the priest is the communal one. We are members of the visible Church. Our sins harm the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ. We need forgiveness from God and also reconciliation with His Body. Also, at a human level, knowing that you must confess your sins to a priest is a great deterrent to committing sins. Because it is a humiliation, in a good way. Keeping everything between you and God lets you avoid accountability to other people, especially your brothers and sisters in the Church.
The retreat itself was short and sweet: just a half day on Saturday. I like Kelly because he hits the fundamentals. He’s all about evangelizing Catholics who have fallen away or who are nominal and deepening the conversions of practicing Catholics. His stuff is basic, but when I read the basics I realize that I am not doing half of them. That’s a good reasons for Lent right there: to recommit to doing the basics: prayer, study, giving, evangelizing.
Eliot Morris played some songs during the retreat, and I liked them so much I bought his CD. Do check out his music and give it a listen.
Kelly’s organization, Dynamic Catholic, is doing something great: they are making a professionally done, multimedia Confirmation program. The Catholic Church has no standardization on Baptism classes, nor on Communion or Confirmation ones. So every parish does their own thing. I go to a great parish but the Baptism class included a VHS video from the 1980s with the cheesiest priest you have ever seen in your life, along with 80s hairdos and clothing. Fortunately our parish’s DRE also gave a great evangelization talk of his personal testimony of the saving gospel. But not all parishes have a great DRE.
Dynamic Catholic is going to make world-class Confirmation, Communion, and Baptism programs and give them away to parishes. For free. This is awesome and so needed. We have signed up as Ambassadors, giving a little to the organization each month, to help them accomplish this goal.
Only 17% of the 70+ million Catholics in our country go to Mass each Sunday. We have to do something to stem this enormous tide of Catholics falling away from the Faith. Kelly’s organization is doing something about it, and I’m impressed by it.