What is the purpose of life? From Conan the Barbarian to Conan O’Brien, this question has been answered in many different ways. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph number 1, answers it in this way, “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, and to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”
Through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the Body of Christ, the Church, God has given us the means to draw close to Him and share in His life. Those means, those tools, are the sacraments, prayer, the devotions of the Church, the lives of the saints, and the Sacred Bible and Sacred Tradition as taught in the Magisterium of the Church. Through them God forgives our sins, renews the life of grace within us, and enables us to grow in virtue, even heroic virtue. Remember that there is no standing still in the spiritual life; you are either moving forward or falling back.
Prayer, even daily prayer, is absolutely essential to the spiritual life. Prayer is basically conversation with God. When we talk with our family and friends and share our lives with them, we come to know them better and love them more. When we pray we come to know God better and to love Him more. In prayer we meditate on the life of Christ, the nature of God, and the mysteries of the faith. God speaks to us through these mysteries, revealing Himself to us throughout the course of our lives. In the silence of prayer we come to know ourselves better as well, because God shines a light on our souls that reveals us to ourselves. We are able to see how God has made us in His image and likeness, and how we have distorted that image through sin. Then, in prayer, God gives us the grace to face our faults, to overcome our sins, and to grow in virtue.
Prayer naturally leads to sorrow for our sins and a desire to amend our lives, and so God has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to receive forgiveness and the grace to fight temptation. In Confession we admit to our sins before God, and God’s minister, the priest, receive penance to begin making up for our sins, and are absolved of our sins. Having the knowledge of our failures without the possibility of forgiveness would be a kind of despair, but God desires to draw us out of our sins, free us from them, and restore us to the life of grace. People often say that they don’t go to Confession because they confess directly to God. Confessing directly to God is a good thing, and every Christian should do it, but Christ Himself gave the Apostles the ability to forgive sins (Jn 20:22-23) and James instructs Christians to call on priests to have their sins forgiven (Jm 5:14-15).
The Sacrament of Reconciliation has a close connection with the Most Holy Eucharist and the Holy Mass. Through Reconciliation we are made ready to approach the Lord in the Eucharist and to receive Him in Holy Communion. The Holy Mass is the representation of the one sacrifice of Christ. The Body and Blood of Christ are offered to the Lord, are consecrated by the power of the Holy Spirit, and are lifted up to Him. We unite ourselves to that sacrifice by receiving it in Holy Communion, just as the ancient Israelites united themselves to the sacrifices of the altar by eating the sacrificial lamb. All grace flows through the Cross of Christ, and there’s enough grace in receiving the Eucharist one time to make us a saint, if only we believe and surrender ourselves to the Lord.
As I approach my last week here at Our Lady of Lourdes, I would like all of you to know that I loved my time here, that I will remember this community and the welcome I received here, and that I love all of you. I will pray for you, and I ask you to pray for me, and pray for your incoming pastor. Inoculate your families against the poison of worldliness by holding fast to our ancient traditions, keeping the faith, and growing daily in the love of Christ through prayer, Reconciliation, and the Most Holy Eucharist.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.