Seeking God’s Forgiveness During Lent

Lent is an excellent time for seeking God’s forgiveness via the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament, God cleanses us from our sins and reunites us to Christ. Although you may be apprehensive at the onset of disclosing your sins to priest, it is really Christ to whom you are confessing your sins, as the priest is acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. You will exit the confessional filled with God’s graces of gratitude, humility, joy and peace.

As a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) Coordinator for my parish, I work with people coming from other Christian faiths (or even no faith) who wish to consider becoming Catholic. One of the most common questions I get is “Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest? Why can’t you just ask God directly for forgiveness?” To answer these questions, this video from gives the best answers:

Seeking God’s forgiveness, along with that of the community, brings us back into union with God and neighbor. Lent is the perfect time to do that, as Jesus is at the ready to issue His pardon for our sins. So, make the time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for the Easter celebration. Open your heart, not only to God’s forgiveness, but that of your neighbor as well. By doing so, you will make your Lenten season more fruitful, not just for you, but for those around you. Then, be a witness for others to the saving grace of Christ received in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Virginia Lieto teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online. She is the author of children’s book Finding Patience and blogs at

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A Work of Missionary Discipleship

Pope Francis with UND coalition

Pope Francis with UND delegation

Recently, Pope Francis greeted a delegation from the University of Notre Dame.  He offered the following exhortation to his guests, but more broadly, to be received by Catholic colleges and universities everywhere.  He said:

In my Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, I stressed the missionary dimension of Christian discipleship, which needs to be evident in the lives of individuals and in the workings of each of the Church’s institutions.  This commitment to “missionary discipleship” ought to be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities, which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life. 

This “missionary discipleship” is the impetus for Saint Joseph’s College Theology blog, which arose out of the desire on the part of the faculty for the Online Theology Programs to foster intellectual engagement among each other and in the wider arena of the Church in which our students and graduates live out their vocation of discipleship in many and various ways, such as religious educators, pastoral associates, hospital chaplains, college professors, campus ministers, just to name a few.  The topics discussed in this blog reflect the varied interests of the bloggers, and so the topic of our inaugural blog on this Ash Wednesday is Confession.

The Medicine of Confession

It is thanks to the medicine of Confession
that the experience of sin does not degenerate into despair.
Augustine, Sermon 82

It is fitting that a blog’s debut on Ash Wednesday be devoted to Confession.  It may, however, seem odd that a college sponsored blog kick off with sinAfter all, in the ever increasing competitive market, many universities are clamoring to attract students by highlighting the warts-free ideal.  It goes something like this:  You, prospective student, are terrific.  We, the college for you, are terrific.  Together, we are perfect.

Maybe so, but since this is a blog of Catholic theology, sin and redemption are foremost in our minds.  Catholics – theologians or otherwise – view those they encounter as souls in need of salvation.  That is to say we see others and ourselves as possessing an immortal soul and that human actions are for the good or the ill of others, not just here and now, but eternally.  When a teacher of Catholic theology remembers that core truth and teaches in sincerity and with humility and joy – all the while sensitive to the diverse needs and backgrounds of his or her students—the extraordinary happens.  The student who doesn’t “feel” terrific and may be on the brink of despair, experiences something wonderful:  hope.  For Catholic students, the Sacrament of Reconciliation may seem like a wonderful starting point, for in the confessional, “hope springs eternal,” as the saying goes.

After my son made his First Confession at age seven, he ran to me and blurted out, “Mom, I feel like I have never sinned in my entire life.”  While we are reluctant to speak of “feelings” in relation to faith—as feelings come and go–what he really was conveying was an experience of grace that involved his entire being.  When not even ten minutes later he started fighting with his brother, I was tempted to say, “So, do you remember now what it feels like to sin?”  Of course, I bit my tongue and refrained from sharing the proverbial parental “gotcha.”  It was well I did keep silent because that initial grace of the confessional stayed with him, and later when the experience of sin became more profound as one matures and grows, Confession was a home to which he could return, a respite from the crushing weight of sin and guilt, and a place of hope from which to set out on the path of True North again and again.

Patricia Ireland is the Director of Theology Programs for Saint Joseph’s College Online.