The Sacrament of Penance

762. MERCY FOR EVERY SIN.-----A certain woman, who was a great sinner, was one day crossing a church, which she had entered with the sole intention of shortening her way, when she perceived a number of people crowding in, as if to assist at some public service. Moved by curiosity, she took her seat among the rest, and the crowd increasing, she soon found herself so surrounded that it was impossible to think of withdrawing. Soon after, a venerable priest entered the pulpit, and began to preach on the Goodness of God to sinners. Among other things, he several times repeated these words, "My brethren, there is mercy for every sin, provided that the sinner repents." These words touched the heart of the woman, and became deeply impressed upon her mind. No sooner was the sermon ended, than this poor sinner made her way through the crowd, and as the preacher came down from the pulpit, pulled him by the sleeve, saying to him with great simplicity, "Father, is it really true that there is pardon for every sin?" "Certainly," he replied, "God forgives all sinners, if they only repent." "But will He pardon me," said the woman, "who for fifteen years have been committing the most grievous crimes?" "Undoubtedly He will," replied the Missioner, "if you only detest them and give up committing them." "If that is the case, Father," said the woman, "please to tell me at what hour you can hear my Confession." "Immediately," said the priest, pointing to his Confessional. "Kneel down there, and I will be with you directly." Accordingly, having returned from the sacristy, he heard her Confession, which she made with sentiments of the deepest compunction. Her Confession being completed, the poor woman acquainted her Confessor with the extreme danger to which she would be exposed were she to return to her usual place of abode to pass the night. As, however, it was impossible at that hour to procure her another shelter, he allowed her to remain in the Church during the night, a permission of which she gladly availed herself. On the following morning, when the doors were opened, she was found lifeless in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin. There, prostrate on the ground, which she had watered with her tears, she had bewailed the sins of her life so sincerely, that she had expired from excess of grief, a true victim of penance, and striking example of the truth of those words, which had been the means of her conversion, "There is mercy for every sin, provided the sinner repents."-----Catholic Anecdotes

773. THE THREE CHILDREN.-----A father had three children to whom he entrusted the care of three little lambs. One day, as they were asleep, wolves came forth and bore away the lambs. On seeing this, the children began to weep and were inconsolable. Their grief arose in this way. The eldest said: "I weep because my father will beat me for allowing the lambs to be carried off." The second said: "I weep because father will punish me, and also because he will be grieved to learn the loss of his lambs." The youngest wept more than the other two, and said: "My father will be greatly afflicted, and I would rather be punished all my life than cause him such pain."-----The first of these children is the Christian who has only a servile fear, sorrow based on purely natural grounds: the second and third represent sorrow grounded on supernatural motives, the last being perfect contrition.-----Gaume

791. APPARITION OF A DAMNED SOUL.-----A young person of eighteen, who lived in Florence, had the misfortune to fall into temptation, and commit a great sin. No sooner had she done so than she found herself covered with confusion and tom with remorse. "Oh!" said she to herself, "how shall I have the courage to declare that sin to my confessor?" She went, nevertheless, to confession, but dared not confess that sin; she got absolution, and had the misfortune to receive Communion in that state. This horrible sacrilege increased still more her remorse and trouble. In the height of her interior anguish, a thought came into her mind to go into a convent and make a general confession. She did so, and commenced the confession she had proposed making; but, still enslaved by false shame, she related the hidden sin in such a garbled, confused way, that her confessor did not understand it, and yet she continued to receive Communion in that sad state. Her trouble became so great that life appeared insupportable to her. To relieve her heart, tormented as it was, she redoubled her prayers, mortifications, and good works, to such an extent that the nuns of the convent took her for a Saint, and elected her for their superior. . . this wretched hypocrite continued to lead outwardly a penitential and exemplary life, embittered still by the reproaches of her conscience. She at length made a firm resolution to confess her sin in her last illness, which came sooner than she expected; for she was seized with a fever which quickly rose so high that she became delirious, and so died. Some days after, the religious of the monastery, being in prayer for the repose of the soul of this pretended Saint, she appeared to them in a hideous form and told them: "My dear sisters, pray not for me, it is useless-----I am damned!" " How?" cried an old religious, more dead than alive; "you are damned, after leading such a holy and penitential life!" " Alas! yes, I am damned for having all my life concealed in confession a mortal sin which I committed at the age of eighteen years." Having said these frightful words, she disappeared.-----S. Antoninus
794. S. ANGELA OF FOLIGNO.-----Angela of Foligno had in her youth the misfortune to conceal some sins in confession. Fear and shame closed her lips for some years, when one day she fervently invoked the aid of S. Francis of Assisi, towards whom she felt great devotion. He appeared to her and pointed out the confessor she was to go to. Next morning she followed his advice and with true repentance made a general confession, and so repaired the past. She now felt intense joy in the heart, and advanced rapidly in virtue, till at length, through God's mercy, she died in the odor of sanctity.-----Dumont

-----A certain rich man in the Netherlands, having fallen into a grievous sin, was so overwhelmed with confusion, that it seemed to him as if death, or even damnation, was preferable to the shame of confessing his guilt. He was, however, grievously tormented in conscience, nor did he see any hope of relief, until he happened at Antwerp to hear a preacher say from the pulpit that if we had forgotten a sin, we could obtain pardon for it without confessing it. Upon this he determined to do all in his power to blot out the sin from his memory, and with this object, he gave himself up to every kind of pleasure and worldly amusement. He set out upon his travels, visiting various countries, and spending many months in journeying by sea and land. So far, however, from forgetting his sin, there seemed hardly a moment when it was not present to his mind, tormenting him almost beyond endurance. Finally, he gave himself up to the study of mathematics, a subject of such engrossing interest to a diligent student, as completely to occupy the mind, to the exclusion of everything else. This plan, after a fair trial, he found equally ineffectual. At length, weary of his life, he determined to put an end to it, and actually entered his carriage to proceed to a certain place, where he thought of executing his purpose. On his way thither it happened, through the merciful Providence of God, that he overtook a religious of his acquaintance and offered him a seat in his vehicle. In the course of the conversation Confession was mentioned, upon which the gentleman exclaimed abruptly, "Why do you speak of that?" These words awakened the suspicions of the priest, who spoke so earnestly to the unhappy man, that the latter acknowledged that he had resolved to hang himself, because he could not confess a certain sin, and was unable any longer to endure the reproaches of his conscience. Upon this the religious assured him that he knew of a way by which he could afford him certain relief. Having arrived at their destination, the priest proposed to his friend a walk in the neighboring wood. Here they returned to the subject of their conversation, and the priest mentioned various sins which would be likely to create shame in the breast of a sinner. At length he named the crime which was the subject of his friend's long and bitter remorse, upon which the gentleman exclaimed, "That is it, Father; that is the very sin the remembrance of which drives me to despair." "Kneel down, then," said the priest, "and since you have now told me what the sin is, accuse yourself of it and the rest of your faults. I will then absolve you from all." The sinner at these words threw himself on his knees, and freely opened his heart. Moved by the grace of God, he bitterly lamented his past sins, and received absolution in excellent dispositions. Ever after he was wont to exclaim, "Oh, Confession, what peace, what happiness you bestow upon the soul!"-----Gibson