Make a good confession. Many nominal Catholics live for years in entire forgetfulness of God and add sin upon sin. In order to set things right they must make a confession of their past life. There are some who confess invalidly on account of their want of contrition and a firm purpose of amendment; some do not examine their conscience strictly enough, and on that account their confession is very imperfect. Even for those who are pious a rehearsal of their past confessions is at times advisable. In their examination of conscience they might find that one or the other of their past confessions was essentially faulty.
St. John Climacus relates the following consoling story: There lived in the East a young man who had from his youth given himself up to every kind of sin, and was remarkable even among those who were wicked for his evil deeds. But God spoke to the heart of this young man and inspired him with the resolution to return to his Heavenly Father. Going at once to a monastery in Alexandria, he fell down at the feet of the Abbot and besought him to admit him into the number of his religious. The holy man who had heard much about the bad life of this man was indeed glad to see him kneeling so humbly at his feet, but fearing that the present emotions would pass away, he said to him: 'My child, you will
never be able to practice the austerities which our monks practice; besides you would never be able to confess your sins publicly in Church, as is the custom amongst us.' 'Yes, my Father," he answered, "not only would I confess all my sins before the monks of your house, but I am willing to confess them in public before all the world, if necessary.' The abbot on hearing this admitted him.
On the following Sunday, when the monks were assembled in the church to the number of two hundred and thirty, the Abbot ordered the young man to be brought in. He entered clothed in sackcloth and covered with ashes. The Abbot then placed him in the middle of the Church and told him to begin his confession. He at once obeyed and recited his sins amid sobs and tears. During the time he was thus accusing himself one of the monks saw standing at his side a beautiful angel. He held a large open book and with a pen he effaced every sin that was confessed. God was pleased to make known in this way that He forgave that great sinner all that he had done wrong, because he was sorry for his sins, and confessed them.
The same thing happens to you, children, every time you make a good confession. God's angel effaces your sins from the book in which they were recorded, never to appear against you again. Oh, try then, always to make good confessions that your sins may be blotted out, and that your soul may become beautiful before God. If you find it difficult to tell some sin you may have committed, ask the most holy Mother of God to obtain for you the grace to confess it.
When we find that a general confession is necessary we must never delay it. No one knows whether he will be so situated as to make a good general confession. A Spanish nobleman came one day to a missionary, requesting him to hear his general confession. To the question why he wished to make one then he replied : "Ah, must I not die! But if I wait till that time the thought of wife and children, fear, the vehemence of the sickness, may prevent me from being calm and deliberate ; how great, therefore, would be my imprudence if I should put off this business to such an inopportune time and under so many difficulties." And he would not defer his general confession for a single day. Children, do not let a mission, or a jubilee, or a change of your state of life pass by without making a general confession.
Marie, spouse of Louis XV. of France, had a son whom she also trained in the fear of God up from his infancy. When he grew up to be a young man he had to leave his mother's house and live for a time among strangers. During his absence word was brought to his mother that he had to spend part of his time among those who would take a pleasure in corrupting his young heart. As soon as she was informed of this, she threw herself on her knees at the foot of the crucifix and recommended her beloved child to the protection of his Heavenly Father. "O my God," she prayed, "take my darling boy to Thyself, rather than permit him to offend Thee by sin, or to lose the treasure of his innocence."
God heard the prayer of that good mother and delivered him from the evil that threatened him. When he returned home, the first question his mother asked him was if he had much to endure from the companions he had to mingle with. "Yes, my mother," he replied, "great indeed were the dangers they put around me to ruin me; but, thanks be to God, and to your prayers, I have still kept my soul pure and stainless." Not long after this time the young Prince became suddenly very ill and died in sentiments of great piety. On the evening of the day of his death his mother sent for her other children, and, with tears in her eyes, said to them: "Your brother is dead; it is I, your mother, who asked God to take him to Himself. Sometime ago I heard that he was in danger of committing sin. I went on my knees and prayed fervently to God to take him out of this world rather than permit him to lose his innocence. God has heard me, and I thank Him for His goodness to me. Still I weep for him, for I loved him as dearly as any mother could love her child."
Children, you have just heard how prayer kept the son of the king pure and innocent, you can rest assured that his conscience was always in order. How calm and innocent he must have stood before the just Judge. In order to persevere in grace unto the end we need special help from God, for the enemies of our soul are very powerful. We must ask for this help and that is obtained first of all by prayer. Only those obtain salvation who pray, and those are lost who do not pray. All the saints have been saved because they prayed. Who then would not pray with fervor, since so much depends on prayer?
The Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist are another means to keep our conscience in order. As often as you make a humble and sincere confession you are cleansed from all your sins, both mortal and venial, and at the same time you also receive special graces by which you are strengthened against sin. Holy Communion affords us extraordinary power and strength to overcome all the assaults of the devil and to persevere in good. Besides these means there is another and that is devotion to the saints of God. By devotion to the saints we can obtain many graces, they are in great favor with God and are His friends. But we may promise to ourselves still greater graces from our devotion to Mary, because she is not only a servant of God, but also the Mother of God. The prayer of Mary, being the prayer of a mother, has the virtue almost of a command.
A young man who had many times fallen into mortal sins went to confession to a certain priest. The good priest in order to encourage his penitent to be good, said : "My child, I will tell you an easy means to overcome temptations. If you do what I tell you, you will never fall again." "Oh, my Father," he replied, "tell me what it is, for with all my heart I desire to overcome all my evil habits." "Say a 'Hail Mary' every morning and evening in honor of her immaculate purity, and whenever you are tempted to do evil, say to her at once, 'O Mary, help me, for I am thine.' " The young man followed this advice, and in a short time was entirely delivered from his bad habits. Now it happened a short time afterwards that he was relating this to some of his acquaintances whom he had formerly scandalized by his bad conduct. Amongst those who were listening to him was a young officer, who, like himself, had fallen into many sins, because he went willfully with bad companions. As soon as he had heard the young man's story he resolved to follow his example. He at once went to confession and continued to lead a pious life. "O Mary, help me, for I am thine," was his watchword whenever any temptation assailed him. Some months after his conversion he had the imprudence to go again to visit those companions who had formerly led him into sin; he wished to see if they had followed his example. But no sooner had he reached the place where they dwelt than a strange feeling of terror came over him, and he cried out : "O Mary, help me, for I am thine." That very instant he felt himself thrust back by an invisible hand and found himself at a distance from the house. He immediately saw the danger in which he had been and returned his most heartfelt thanks to God and His Holy Mother for having thus preserved him.
My dear boys and girls, you know what you must do that you may be prepared to face judgment. You must keep your conscience in order and therefore fervently practice prayer, read pious books, frequently receive the Sacraments and have a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Consider that your doom for all eternity will be decided before the judgment seat of God, and therefore let it be your only business to prepare yourselves well for the Day of Judgment.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921