Ave Maria Meditations
At the foot of Your Cross, O Jesus, I confess my sins. Pour over me Your Precious Blood that it may purify my soul.
1. Penance is the sacrament of Christ’s Precious Blood in which God — according to the eloquent words of St. Catherine of Siena — “has bathed us in order to cleanse the face of our souls from the leprosy of sin”. If mortal sin only is the necessary matter of this sacrament, venial sin is sufficient matter, since all Catholic tradition insists on frequent confession, even when one has only venial sins to confess. However, those who confess weekly must take great care lest their confessions become a mere routine, instead of the really vital acts which would enable these souls to profit fully from all the graces offered by the sacrament.
“Do not despise the Blood of Christ!” exclaims St. Catherine of Siena. Certainly anyone who appreciates it will not approach the sacrament of penance lightly. To this end it is useful to recall that absolution is truly the pouring forth of the Precious Blood which, inundating and penetrating the soul, purifies it from sin, and restores sanctifying grace if it has been lost, or increases this gift if it is already present in the soul. The remission of sin and the imparting of grace are the fruits of the action of Jesus, expressed by the formula the priest pronounces in His Name: “I absolve thee”.
At that moment it is Jesus who is acting in the soul, either by remitting sin or by producing or increasing grace. It is well to remember that the efficacy of the absolution is not limited merely to sins that have already been committed, but that it even extends into the future. By means of the particular sacramental grace, the soul is strengthened beforehand against relapses and it is offered the fortitude to resist temptations and to carry out its good resolutions. The Blood of Christ is, in this sense, not only a remedy for the past, but also a preservative and a strengthening help for the future. The soul which plunges into it, as into a healthful bath, draws from it new vigor and sees the strength of its passions extinguished little by little. We see then the importance of frequent confession for a soul desirous of union with God, a soul which must necessarily aspire to total purification.
2. When the soul in the tribunal of penance has only vernial sins to confess, it is not necessary that it preoccupy itself with confessing all of them, either as to their number or their kind. This completeness is necessary only when there is question of mortal sin. In other cases, however, it is much more profitable to fix the attention on deliberate faults first, then on those which are semi-deliberate — even if they are only simple imperfections — telling not only the faults themselves but also the motives behind them. Although this method is not required for the validity of the confession, it is certain that the soul will draw much profit from it since the accusation will have exposed the root of the evil. The soul will benefit too by its act of humility, which will be a stimulus to deeper repentance and will arouse in it a more ardent desire to amend its life, for this is the logical result of considering the motives — usually not noble ones! — from which our faults arise. Furthermore, an accusation of this kind helps the confessor to have a better knowledge of the penitent’s weak points, and to suggest the most suitable remedies, a matter of special- importance when direction is given with confession.
In addition to its accusation, the soul must also occupy itself with sorrow for its sins because they offend God, who is infinite Goodness. This should be a sorrow ex amore, springing from love, the repentance of the child who is more disconsolate over the displeasure given to a father who loves it so much and to whom it should return love for love, than over the thought of its guilt and the punishment it deserves. For the validity of the sacrament, sorrow is necessary; if it is lacking, the absolution will be null. However, the more perfect the contrition, the more effectively will the absolution erase not only the sin but also the temporal punishment which it has incurred. The Blood of Jesus will purify, renew, and enrich the heart of the penitent with fortitude, charity, and grace, in the measure of his contrition.
“Sweet Jesus, in order to clothe us again with the life of grace, You stripped Yourself of the life of Your body. The body which You stretched on the wood of the holy Cross is like a lamb which has been sacrificed and which is shedding its blood from every part of its body. In Your Blood, You have created us anew to the life of grace.
“Sweet Jesus, my soul ardently desires to be bathed and entirely submerged in Your Blood … since in Your Blood I find the source of all mercy; in Your Blood are clemency, fire, piety. In Your Blood, mercy abounds for our faults. In Your Blood, justice is satisfied and our hardness is melted; what is bitter becomes sweet and what is heavy becomes light. And since all virtues reach maturity in Your Blood, O Christ, inebriate my soul, engulf it in Your Blood, so that it will be adorned with real and solid virtues.” (St. Catherine of Siena)
O Jesus, if just one drop of Your Precious Blood has the power to wipe out all the crimes of the world, what will it not do in me when You pour it so abundantly over my poor soul at the moment of absolution! O Jesus, revive my faith and give me a complete understanding of the immense value of the sacrament of Your Blood. Only Your Blood can wash away my sins, purify the stains on my soul, and heal and vivify it. Oh! grant that this salutary bath may cleanse my whole being and restore it entirely to Your grace and love!
Through the merits of Your passion, grant, O Lord, that I may always bring to the tribunal of penance a truly humble and contrite heart, an increasingly perfect sorrow for my faults, and a deeper and more sincere horror of anything that offends You, my God. Only if it finds no attachment to sin in me, will Your Precious Blood be able to penetrate the depths of my soul, renew it and vivify it wholly. O Jesus, grant that Your Precious Blood may bear its full fruit in me.
+Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen O.C.D.