Why do Catholics Confess Their Sins to a Priest?

The first and best answer to this question is: because Jesus said so!

In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus appeared to His Apostles after His Resurrection and said to them:

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
—John 20:21-23

Christ clearly states in this passage that He wishes to act through the Apostles in order to forgive men their sins. Since the Church is founded on Peter and the Apostles, the powers given to them are communicated to their successors.

Why might Jesus have chosen to effect the forgiveness of sins in this way?

One reason is so we never have to worry about whether our sins are forgiven. God has given us a simple formula—Confession—for getting back into His graces when we have failed. It’s not based on subjective feeling, but a sacred rite. Within Confession, our contrition doesn’t even have to be perfect, although perfect contrition is the ideal. “Perfect contrition” is being sorry for a sin because it offended God. “Imperfect contrition” is sorrow for sin due to a natural fear of punishment.

Imperfect contrition is all that is necessary within the Sacrament of Confession. God does the rest.

Wow, what a gift. A way to confess and do penance without all the worry of “Have I done it right?”

Other reasons include the sacramental graces we receive in Confession and the advice of the priest, both of which assist us in avoiding sin and growing in virtue.

Jesus is Wisdom Itself. He is the Word of God. He never did anything that was unnecessary—sacramental confession included. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, and knows just what we need.

What Does the Sacred Heart Symbolize?

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus dates back to the time of the Apostles. This devotion honors Jesus’ burning love for each of us and also makes reparation for the rejection, persecution, and disdain His Sacred Heart receives from the world.

The Sacred Heart is frequently depicted in Catholic art. Some depictions present the Sacred Heart alone, while others show Jesus with His Sacred Heart radiant in His chest.

In this image, we can see various small emblems, each representing an aspect of Christ’s sacrificial love.

The first thing we notice is that Jesus’ heart is exposed, for He has poured Himself out for us and desires that we enter into His Most Loving Heart.

The crown surrounding the Sacred Heart recalls Jesus being crowned with thorns, and reminds us that He endured persecution and ridicule for us.

The fire represents the burning flame of divine love and the essence of divinity. (Remember Moses and His encounter with the bush that burned but was never consumed?). The Sacred Heart is on fire with love for mankind.

A crown rests on top of the Sacred Heart because the crown is a symbol of Jesus’ kingship. The lance-wound references John 19:33-37, when the Roman soldiers pierced Jesus’ side and blood and water flowed from the wound, which, according to the Gospel of John, “took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of him shall be broken’” (John 19:36). This image of blood and water is highly symbolic. It represents the Passover Lamb sacrificed for our sins to save us from death and reminds us that Jesus shed every last drop of His blood for our sake.

Now, when you honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus today, you can meditate on its profound symbolism and on Christ’s burning love for you.

Has Mary Ever Appeared in the United States?

There was a Marian apparition…in Wisconsin? It’s true! Discover the story below.

Adele Brise

When young Belgian immigrant Adele Brise arrived in Wisconsin with her family, she may have expected adventure, but not to witness the first approved Marian apparition in the United States. 

In October 1859, while carrying grain to a mill, 28-year-old Adele experienced her first vision near the area now called New Franken. Adele saw a woman bathed in a bright light and dressed in white, a yellow sash, and a crown of stars. Unsure and frightened, Adele prayed until the vision disappeared.

Our Lady of Good Help, as described by Adele

The following Sunday, the lady appeared again on Adele’s way to Mass. Adele immediately consulted with her priest, who advised that she should ask the woman, “In the Name of God, who are you and what do you wish of me?”

Adele saw the apparition a third time on her way home from Mass the same day, and followed the priest’s instructions. Mary told her: “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same.” Our Lady then gave Adele the mission to “gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.” 

From that time onward, Adele dedicated her life to catechetical mission work. She traveled a 50-mile radius on foot to serve local families and teach children about the Catholic faith. At the site of the Marian apparition, Adele’s father built a small twelve-foot chapel, where many pilgrims visited and prayed for Our Lady’s intercession.

Twelve years after Adele first encountered the Blessed Mother, a great drought beset the Midwest. This drought caused the Peshtigo Fire, the worst recorded fire in U.S. history. As the fire approached Robinsonville, local families that Adele had served came together at the chapel grounds with their children and livestock to pray the Rosary, beseeching Our Lady to ask Jesus to save them. They prayed through the night—and while the fire destroyed the surrounding land, the chapel area and all who had gathered there remained untouched. 

This became the first of many miraculous occurrences through Our Lady of Good Help’s intercession.

The National Shrine today

In 1942, a new church was constructed at the site. Devotion to Our Lady of Good Help flourished. In 2010, after much time and discernment by expert Mariologists, the Church formally pronounced Mary’s appearances to Adele as “worthy of belief.” The church constructed at the site was later designated as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, making it the first and only shrine with a Church-approved Marian apparition site in the USA.

//Catholic Company//

The Catholic Bible – The First Printed Book?

Did you know that when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, the first book he published was the Catholic Bible?

Before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the Western world, books were hard to find and highly valuable. Bibles were handwritten by monks and usually only clergy were able to own them. But the printing press allowed vendors to mass-produce books, newspapers, and magazines, making books and information cheaper and more accessible to everyone.

When Gutenberg created this revolutionary piece of technology, the first book he printed to distribute throughout the world was the Catholic Bible. Of all the works Gutenberg could have printed, why the Catholic Bible?

Little is known about Gutenberg other than the fact that he invented the printing press in Europe around 1450 and was a devout Catholic. After designing the printing press, he borrowed money to mass-produce Catholic bibles that could be sent throughout the world. It is believed that Gutenberg printed 180 copies of this bible, known as the Gutenberg Bible.

Many scholars note that what stands out about the Gutenberg Bible is how intricate and delicate this publication is, having been printed with high-quality materials. Today, only forty-nine copies of the Gutenberg Bible have survived.

So why is this bible so important to us? It’s important because the printing press helped spread information and ideas in a way that was not possible before. Thanks to Johannes Gutenberg, the fundamental teachings of Catholicism were able to flourish during this time.

//The Catholic Company//

Can You Have Mass Without Music?

Sacred music isn’t required for a valid Mass, so why is it so important?

For a Mass to be valid, there must be a priest, candles, a crucifix, bread and wine to consecrate, and various other objects that you see at every Mass you’ve been to. Music is not absolutely necessary for a valid Mass, which is why there isn’t always music at a daily Mass. However, the Church places a huge value on music in the liturgy because music adds so much to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In her book Music and Meaning in the Mass, Annamaria Cardinalli shares her love for music and how it enhances the Mass. She explains that there is a certain level of mysticism that liturgical musicians bring to the sacred liturgy. According to Cardinalli, musicians help prepare the souls of the congregation for communion.

Since the graces that we receive from the Mass rely on our openness to accepting those graces, Cardinalli emphasizes that sacred music helps Catholics raise their minds to holy realities. Cardinelli encourages liturgical musicians:

When your music at Mass influences the readiness of our souls, by stirring within us a deeper grasp of what is taking place on the altar, your welcoming of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has glorious repercussions! Imagine the increase in His grace that could be poured out on the whole world through those souls your music prepares to receive Him with love!

Sacred music plays a vital role in the Mass because it helps us focus on God’s gift to us—His Son in the Eucharist.

//The Catholic Company//

Why do Catholics Have a Longer Bible?

Have you noticed that the Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant version?

It’s true. We do have a longer Bible, with seven more books, because we use a different translation. While our Protestant brothers and sisters’ Bible is based on the Hebrew translation, we use the Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, which includes more books.

Many Protestants say that their version is the correct one and is not “missing books.” They have several arguments for this. One of the arguments claims that there were “400 Silent Years” between the time of Malachi (their last book) and the time of Jesus. In other words, they say that there were no divinely-inspired prophetic utterances during this period.

In his book, The Bible Is A Catholic Book, Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin explains what’s wrong with this argument. First, he says, there’s no evidence that all of the books of the Old Testament were written before 400 B.C. Jimmy also says that, while each book of the Bible is divinely inspired, a writer did not have to be an official prophet to pen a divinely-inspired book:

While all of the biblical authors were divinely inspired, this didn’t mean that they functioned in society as prophets. Psalms and Proverbs attribute many passages to David and Solomon, but they were kings, not prophets. The truth is, we don’t know who wrote many Old Testament books, including all the historical ones (Joshua to 2 Chronicles), and it’s just supposition to claim that they were written by prophets. We also have no evidence that New Testament authors like Mark and Luke ever received prophetic revelations.

While there may not have been any prophets between the time of Malachi and Jesus, that doesn’t mean that God didn’t give any revelations to the writers of the remaining books in the Old Testament, which is just one of the reasons why the Catholic Church recognizes that these additional books are also divinely inspired.

//The Catholic Company//

Why are We Catholic AND Christian?

Have you ever wondered how we became known as “Catholics” and “Christians”?

Before they were called Christians or Catholics, Jesus’ earliest disciples were known as “People of the Way.” This is likely because Jesus called Himself “the way, the truth, and the light” (John 14:6). Many names were used to describe the followers of Jesus in the early days before the term “Christians” stuck.

Acts Chapter 9, the story of St. Paul’s conversion, says, “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way… he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”

Later, the “People of the Way” would come to be universally known as “Christians.” The name “Christian” comes from the Greek word Christianos, which means “Follower of Christ.”

So how did Christians become known as “Catholics”?

The Greek word for “church” is katholikos, which translates to “universal.” The word “catholic” comes from katholikos. Since the true Church is universal, “making disciples of all nations” as Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19), the precise wording “Catholic Church” is fitting. It simply affirms that she is the “Universal Church,” the true Church established by Christ.

So, we are “Christians”—those who follow Christ—and we are also “Catholic,” that is, members of the one universal and undivided Church united throughout the whole world thanks to the evangelization of the Apostles and their successors.

//The Catholic Company//

Are You Saved?

“Are You Saved?”

When they find out you’re a Catholic, has someone ever asked you, “Are you saved?” Here’s how to respond.

Has anyone ever told you that as long as you profess Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you are “saved” and definitely going to Heaven?

It is true that the first step to our salvation is accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior through the sacrament of baptism, but our road to salvation does not end there.

In his book Why We’re Catholic: Our Reasons For Faith, Hope, and Love, Trent Horn—an apologist for Catholic Answers and convert to the Faith—explains that salvation doesn’t take place in a single moment. Getting to Heaven is a process that we must cooperate with every day. Trent explains salvation with this analogy:

Imagine you are caught in a storm at sea with some friends and your boat is sinking. You hear a broadcast on your radio, telling you that if you want to be saved you must put on life jackets, report to your position, and wait for help to arrive. You then put on the life jackets and dive into the water…A few days later a rescue boat finds you, pulls you onto the deck, and you breathe a sigh of relief. “Saved!” But when exactly were you saved? Was it when you set foot on the rescue boat? Or was it when you made the initial radio call? The Bible teaches that salvation is a process that begins in the past through faith, continues throughout our lives in the present, and ends with our future eternal glory in heaven.

Jesus Himself said that “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Salvation requires perseverance in faith. We need to receive God’s grace and repent of our sins continually in order to lead holier lives and prepare our hearts for Heaven. So when someone asks, “Are you saved?” you can respond, “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I hope to be saved.” That’s the true answer!

The Patron Saint of Televisions and Computer Screens – Saint Clare of Assisi

St. Clare of Assisi is a beloved Italian saint who was born in 1193 to an aristocratic family. She later renounced her wealthy status to follow St. Francis of Assisi’s call to embrace a lifestyle of humility and poverty. She spent several months at different monastic communities before joining other sisters in a small convent at the Church of San Damiano, given to them by Francis’s Order of Friars Minor.

St. Clare was the superior of the convent of San Damiano while still practicing the virtues of humility, charity, piety, and penitence. She cared for the sick sisters and took up basic chores such as cooking and cleaning. Her devotion to the Eucharist was so great that she performed two miracles. On two different occasions, Saracen mercenaries were about to attack the convent and impose a siege on Assisi. St. Clare simply showed the invaders the Blessed Sacrament, and they ceased in their efforts. These miracles led to her canonization in 1255.

Later in her life, St. Clare became too sick to attend Mass, and she was incredibly disappointed. It is believed that one day, she was lying in her bed when a large image appeared across her wall, as if it were a television screen. The image showed her the Mass, so St. Clare was able to watch Mass from her own bed and make an Act of Spiritual Communion. When the television was invented in the 1950s, Pope Pius XII named St. Clare the patron saint of televisions and screens, since she watched television before anyone had likely thought of the concept!

We honor St. Clare because she devoted her life to the wholehearted pursuit of Christ. We may not be called to enter a monastery or convent, but we still serve others as St. Clare did. We can imitate her virtues by visiting the lonely, caring for the sick, or doing our menial tasks with love and without complaint.

What happened to the True Cross?

How did the Church find the relics from Jesus’ crucifixion?

Have you ever wondered what happened to Jesus’ cross? Known as “the True Cross,” for hundreds of years this highly-venerated relic was thought to be lost.

Anti-Christian Romans sought to dispel any effort to spread the Good News; that included destroying objects from Jesus’s crucifixion. According to tradition, the True Cross was buried in the ground with the crosses of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus.

Almost 300 years later, after the Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, he sent his mother, St. Helena, to the Holy Land in search of the True Cross. According to legend, St. Helena followed in Jesus’ footsteps by performing corporal works of mercy—such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick—on her way to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy Land, some legends say a commoner led her to the True Cross, while others believe that St. Judas Cyriacus helped her find it.

St. Helena found all three crosses buried in the ground, but wasn’t sure which one belonged to Jesus. There are many different legends about how St. Helena and the bishop of Jerusalem confirmed which one was the True Cross. One myth claims the bishop of Jerusalem had an ill woman touch all three crosses. As soon as the woman touched the True Cross, she was healed.

Upon discovering the True Cross, St. Helena ordered a church to be constructed on the site where she found it This church is known as the Church of the Resurrection, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. St. Helena brought a piece of the True Cross back to the empire’s capital city, Constantinople, and left another part at the Church of the Resurrection, where Christians made a yearly pilgrimage to see the relic.

Throughout the next thousand years, the piece of the True Cross at the Church of the Resurrection changed hands many times. It was captured in 614 by the Sassanid emperor, and then restored to Jerusalem by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. Later, when the Islamic rulers took Jerusalem at the beginning of the 11th century, Greek Orthodox Christians protected and hid the relic of the True Cross, a small piece of wood embedded in a gold cross.

This relic was restored to the Church of the Resurrection when Europeans in the First Crusade captured Jerusalem. Finally, in 1187, it was captured by Saladin, the leader of the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in Levant. This piece of the True Cross has never returned and was last seen in the city of Damascus.

The piece of the True Cross that was preserved in Constantinople was shared among the Venetians and the new Eastern Roman Empire. However, threatened with bankruptcy, this new empire decided to sell the relics. St. Louis, King of France, bought several pieces of the True Cross and preserved them in Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Most of these relics disappeared during the French Revolution. All that remain are a few fragments and a Holy Nail; these are preserved with the other relics in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.

//The Catholic Company//