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Confession’s Comeback
NC Register ^ | March 18, 2007 | TIM DRAKE

Posted on 03/13/2007 1:26:45 PM PDT by NYer

SAN ANTONIO — Archbishop Jose Gomez only has to recall his childhood in Mexico to recognize that people don’t go to confession like they used to.

“In Latin America, it’s part of the culture,” said the Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas. “When I was a kid, the priests would hear confessions on first Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m. In the U.S., people won’t dare to look for a priest in the confessional unless it’s in the bulletin.”

But things may be changing. Signs abound that confession is making a comeback:

• In the Chicago Archdiocese, St. Mary’s Church in Lake Forest, Ill., offered “24 Hours of Grace” Feb. 23-24, during which penitents could avail themselves of the sacrament. When the program was first offered last year, 70 priests heard confessions and more than 350 people received the sacrament.

• In the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo., Capuchin friars continue to offer the sacrament at a storefront called The Catholic Center in the Citadel Mall. More than 6,600 persons have visited the center for the sacrament since its opening in November 2001. The numbers have grown each year, starting with 519 the first year and growing to more than 1,534 last year.

• In recent months, no less than three bishops have written pastoral letters on the subject of confession, placing a new emphasis on the Church’s most underutilized sacrament.

When Pope John Paul II spoke of a crisis in the Church, he meant the crisis of confession. In his 2001 apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the New Millennium), he asked bishops to have “courage, confidence and creativity” in re-establishing the sacrament of confession in their dioceses.

The confession crisis was a constant theme of John Paul’s. In one Holy Thursday letter, he said three times that people in a state of sin should not receive Communion without receiving confession first. On Divine Mercy Sunday in 2002, he dedicated a special apostolic letter to confession. In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Eucharist and Its Relationship to the Church), John Paul II’s language was almost like a formal declaration:

“I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expressions to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, one must first confess one’s sins when one is aware of mortal sin.”

And Pope Benedict XVI weighed in. During a Feb. 19 meeting with father confessors of Roman basilicas, he commented: “How many penitents find in confession the peace and joy they were seeking for so long. Christ has chosen us, dear priests, to be the only ones with the power to pardon sins in his name. This then, is a specific ecclesial service to which we must give priority.”

Last year, Pope Benedict recommended the practice of weekly confession, especially for priests, which he follows himself (see sidebar).

It’s undeniable that the sacrament has fallen into disuse in recent years. Because it’s a private matter, statistics on the use of the sacrament are hard to come by. However, surveys from the 1970s showed that the use of monthly confession had fallen from 38% to 17%, while those who rarely or never go rose from 18% to 38%. A 1980 University of Notre Dame study found that 26% of active Catholics never went to confession.

Correcting Abuses

There’s also been a lot of abuse of the sacrament, such as illegitimate use of general absolution under normal circumstances.

Some bishops, though, such as New Ulm, Minn., Bishop John Nienstedt, have been re-educating priests and faithful. General absolution is a topic Bishop Nienstedt has visited at least twice in recent years in his monthly newspaper columns.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, general absolution, where all eligible Catholics gathered at a given area are granted absolution for sins without prior individual confession to a priest, is lawfully granted in only two circumstances: when there is imminent danger of death and there is no time for priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents, or when a serious need is present, that is, the number of penitents is so large that there are not sufficient priests to hear the individual confessions properly within a reasonable time (generally considered to be 1 month) so that the Catholics, through no fault of their own, would be forced to be deprived of the sacrament or Communion. The diocesan bishop must give prior permission before general absolution may be given under this circumstance. It is important to note that the occurrence of a large number of penitents, such as may occur on a pilgrimage or at penitential services is not considered as sufficient to permit general absolution.

“Despite the fact that the repeated use of general absolution was never approved as being valid by the Church Universal and never officially sanctioned by my predecessors, it took on a life of its own,” Bishop Niendstedt wrote. “The misuse of the rite has led to confusion about the sacramental nature of grace, a general denial of the seriousness of sin, a lessening of the importance of the priesthood and a loss of countless opportunities for spiritual growth. In my humble opinion, these results are the work of the Evil One.”

It was because of a loss of a sense of sin that Archbishop Gomez released his pastoral letter on confession. It was also part of the culmination of a jubilee year. The Archdiocese of San Antonio marked the 275th anniversary of the founding of the Cathedral of San Fernando.

“A jubilee year is a time of reconciliation traditionally in the Church,” Archbishop Gomez told the Register. “Reconciliation is essential for the future of humanity. ... It’s a concept that has been kind of forgotten or misunderstood in modern society.”

The archbishop encouraged pastors to find new ways to make the sacrament accessible to people given the current situation of their lives, including offering it during the week over lunch and offering more family-friendly schedules. But he also called on Catholics to be responsible.

“Failure to seek God’s mercy in the sacrament puts our eternal souls at risk, and can result in our spiritual death,” he writes in the letter, The Tender Mercy of Our God, which came out on Ash Wednesday. “We must not let ourselves be confused or led astray by a culture that would have us avoid truths of the Gospel we might find challenging or uncomfortable.”

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., also released a pastoral letter. He said it was inspired by the diocese’s display of the relics of St. John Mary Vianney in Merrick, N.Y., last fall.

“Thousands of people came to venerate St. John Vianney’s heart and availed themselves of the sacrament,” said Sean Dolan, diocesan director of communications.

Lines Growing

Not all have been positive about the effort.

“Confession was instituted by men in the Church, not by God,” read a letter to the editor of The Washington Post. “Why not take the money to be spent promoting confession and use it to help needy families in the region.”

“I don’t think the archdiocese is wasting its money,” responded Msgr. Edward Filardi of St. Stephen Martyr Church on Pennsylvania Avenue. “Poverty of soul goes hand in hand with the charitable drive of the archbishop.”

“Christ instituted it,” said Father Christopher Walsh, author of The Untapped Power of the Sacrament of Penance: A Priest’s View. “It can’t be accidental that the risen Christ’s first words conveyed the sacrament. It was the first important power the Risen Lord wanted to give to his disciples.”

Father Walsh noted that confession and the Eucharist are the only two ongoing sacraments that Catholics receive.

“The sacrament has been marginalized,” said Father Walsh. “We have to uncork this untapped power that Christ put in the Church.”

There’s evidence that people are responding to the efforts to promote confession. As part of the “The Light Is on for You” campaign accompanying Archbishop Donald Wuerl’s pastoral letter on confession, the Archdiocese of Washington produced user-friendly confession guides, a wallet-size card with the Act of Contrition, and bus and subway advertisements. Archbishop Wuerl asked all parishes to make the sacrament available between 7-8:30 p.m. each Wednesday during Lent.

Msgr. Filardi wasn’t sure what to expect on the first Wednesday.

“I was definitely there beyond my shift,” he said. “As these things do, they more readily attract people who have been away [from the sacrament]. It was worthwhile.”

Archbishop Gomez said that some pastors have difficulty finding time to hear all the confessions because there have been so many people.

“At St. Matthew’s they have three confessors,” he explained. “They are hearing confessions for an hour and a half, and there are still people in line.”

In Washington, Father Charles McCann of St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill said he doesn’t expect to see long lines, but thinks the new emphasis on the sacrament could have an impact long-term.

“Many people have gotten used to communal penance services followed by private confession,” said Father McCann. “For some, confession without a penance service is a novel idea. I don’t expect an immediate surge, but an increased celebration of the sacrament will come over a period of time.”


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Prayer
KEYWORDS: confession; reconciliation

1 posted on 03/13/2007 1:26:50 PM PDT by NYer
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To: Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

7 Ways to Promote Confession

This week’s Register tells the story of the many bishops who are finding innovative ways to promote confession.

BY The Editors

March 18-24, 2007 Issue

Posted 3/13/07 at 8:00 AM

This week’s Register tells the story of the many bishops who are finding innovative ways to promote confession. Here are seven ways laypeople can follow their example and promote confession ourselves in our daily lives.

1. Go regularly yourself. Our examples evangelize more than we know. When we go regularly to confession, God finds a way to make the action count for more than ourselves. And sometimes priests can be tempted to give up waiting in a confessional for penitents that never come. If you give them some business, you will help ensure that they’ll continue to make themselves available.

Quick tip: A friendly “Thanks for being here for us, Father,” doesn’t hurt, either.

2. Bring your family — children, grandchildren or close nephews and nieces. Children need to go to confession, too. Some writers have stressed the negative aspects of childhood confession — being lined up in their Catholic schools and “forced to think of things to feel guilty about.” It needn’t be like that. Confession can give children a place to unburden themselves without fear, and a place to get kindly adult advice when they are worried about speaking to their parents. Many families make confession an outing, followed up with ice cream or coffee.

Quick tip: An examination of conscience for children is available at NCRegister.com — click “Resources” then “Confessional Guides.”

3. Mention it. We often think of confession as unmentionable. It’s true that we shouldn’t normally repeat what we’ve said in confession, and it’s true that priests can’t repeat much of what goes on in the confessional. But there’s no reason we can’t tell people that we have gone to confession. If we don’t, aren’t we tacitly suggesting that there is something shameful and dark about this joyful, healthy sacrament?

Quick tip: The offhand comment, “I won’t be able to make it until later, because I want to get to confession,” can be more convicting than a theological discourse. And since confession is a significant event in our lives, it’s an appropriate answer to the question “What did you do last weekend?”

4. Learn, and spread the knowledge. There are many books and pamphlets on confession. Many priests recommend Father Richard Rego’s booklet on confession, A Guide to Conscience. Scott Hahn’s Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession is a longer treatment of the subject. (To order either, go to CUF.org and search “Confession.” Find both at the bottom of “Faith Facts: First Confession before First Communion.”)

Quick tip: The Register’s own reader-friendly, “How and Why to Go to Confession” is available for free at NCRegister.com. Click on “Resources” then “How to Be a Catholic Guides.”

5. Follow the Pope. Someone asked Pope Benedict XVI why we should go to confession regularly if we always seem to be confessing the same sins anyway. He answered, “It is true: Our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our rooms, at least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to live in cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be seen, but it builds up.

“Something similar can be said about the soul, for me myself: If I never go to confession, my soul is neglected and in the end I am always pleased with myself and no longer understand that I must always work hard to improve, that I must make progress. And this cleansing of the soul that Jesus gives us in the sacrament of confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open, and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons. Therefore, two things: Confession is only necessary in the case of a serious sin, but it is very helpful to confess regularly in order to foster the cleanliness and beauty of the soul and to mature day by day in life.”

6. Children: Use your power. Parents should lead the way to virtuous living — as one priest put it, the failure to take children to Sunday Mass and confession is spiritual child abuse. But children have led their families into all sorts of healthy practices, from recycling to quitting smoking. Many parents rediscover confession through their children.

When a girl asked Pope Benedict if she could take the initiative in leading her parents back to the sacraments, he told her: “I would think so, of course, with great love and great respect for your parents, because they certainly have a lot to do. However, with a daughter’s respect and love, you could say to them: ‘Dear Mommy, dear Daddy, it is so important for us all, even for you, to meet Jesus. This encounter enriches us. It is an important element in our lives. Let’s find a little time together, we can find an opportunity. Perhaps there is also a possibility where Grandma lives.”

7. Mention it as a kind of “excuse.” If someone invited you on a walk through mud, you’d say, “No thanks, I don’t want to have to clean my shoes and clothes.” When someone begins to engage in denigrating gossip or wants you to watch an objectionable movie or suggests plans that make it impossible to go to Mass on Sunday, the same answer is available. “No thanks. I would to have to figure out how to get to confession again before my regularly scheduled time!”

2 posted on 03/13/2007 1:29:14 PM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: NYer

Perfect timing. I am preparing my son for Reconciliation. This will help. Thanks.


3 posted on 03/13/2007 1:48:56 PM PDT by redgirlinabluestate
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To: redgirlinabluestate
Perfect timing. I am preparing my son for Reconciliation. This will help. Thanks.

I was so moved by this comment:

.

When a girl asked Pope Benedict if she could take the initiative in leading her parents back to the sacraments, he told her: “I would think so, of course, with great love and great respect for your parents, because they certainly have a lot to do. However, with a daughter’s respect and love, you could say to them: ‘Dear Mommy, dear Daddy, it is so important for us all, even for you, to meet Jesus. This encounter enriches us. It is an important element in our lives. Let’s find a little time together, we can find an opportunity. Perhaps there is also a possibility where Grandma lives.”

Oftentimes, it is not the children, but parents who impede the child's progress. This is quite true in our small Maronite parish and Father works through the children to reach the parents. The kids want to come to Mass on Sunday but rely upon the parents to drive them there. It's a formidable task for a very orthodox priest to accomplish.

God bless you on preparing your son for this beautiful Sacrament. There are no words more beautiful to hear than: "I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen".

4 posted on 03/13/2007 4:23:49 PM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: sandyeggo
This Lent I resolved to go to the sacrament of reconciliation once a week for the entire period. Then, on Monday, write a summary of what the confession taught me.

Here's my summary from this past confession (my husband is Catholic, and plays for our parish, but also plays for a Presbyterian church sometimes):

This morning I brought something to confession that I had read at another church's worship service.

It was a profound confession of allowing the profane to be a part of daily life, of being crude and profane in language, and of treating people badly. The way it was phrased made it easy to understand, showed me the excuses I make for my bad behavior. It also made it clear that these behaviors are bad habits that reveal the state of my soul to be shabby and mean.

I am not going to confession every week during Lent to polish my halo--what halo? I am going to confession every week to examine my faults in the presence of Christ, Who paid the price for them.

A lot of times, I decide that what I have done, said, thought, or failed to do wasn't that bad, just a venal sin. And sometimes, I have looked at my venal sins and decided they weren't that important to God. I've reassured myself that I'm no worse than anyone else, and I have deliberately let myself off the hook with a muttered, "Sorry, God."

Going along that path, I casually wave goodbye to the Cross of Christ, and go straight downhill to a comfortable, humorous, altogether amusing walk through the valley of the shadow of death...each venal sin is a step in the wrong direction, and I have made many. Turning back to Christ involves some uphill steps and a lot of sweat.

Christ, I am so sorry. I didn't follow Your Commandment, to treat others the way I want to be treated. One of the two greatest commandments, and I treated it like a joke.

Anyway, that's what I'm doing along with the spring housecleaning. Hope it makes sense.

6 posted on 03/13/2007 4:45:10 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: NYer
We are having a Mission this week at my Church and Father Michel G. Corriveau, C.P.M., Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky is telling it like it is. Fr. Michel was born in 1964 and is from Westport, Massachusetts. In 1984, Fr. Michel entered the Air Force and served fourteen years, leaving teh Air Force in 1998. He entered the Fathers of Mercy in 1999 and took first vows in 2000. He studied theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. I have been going to this Church for 3 years and I have never seen the confessional line so long.
7 posted on 03/13/2007 5:08:42 PM PDT by franky1
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To: Judith Anne

Wow! Great statement, Judith Anne! I think you have summed up what we all do. We excuse ourselves. But Confession makes us come face to face with ourselves, in the presence of the Lord - and somehow, it's a lot harder to come up with that excuse then!

Have a blessed Lent.


8 posted on 03/13/2007 5:16:46 PM PDT by livius
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To: NYer
“Confession was instituted by men in the Church, not by God,” read a letter to the editor of The Washington Post. “Why not take the money to be spent promoting confession and use it to help needy families in the region.”

". . . Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 'Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?'"

Awful lot of ignorance circulating around out there.

9 posted on 03/13/2007 5:22:21 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: Judith Anne

What a splendid idea for 'housecleaning'.


10 posted on 03/13/2007 5:23:00 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: AnAmericanMother

Well, I hope I can be thorough. I've lived with the "dirt" for a while, sometimes it's just invisible.

And like the Holy Father said, it doesn't mean I won't commit the same sins again, it just means that things start off a bit cleaner...


11 posted on 03/13/2007 5:30:20 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: AnAmericanMother

An excellent quote! And, yest, ignorance tends to prevail.


12 posted on 03/13/2007 5:34:34 PM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: sandyeggo


14 posted on 03/13/2007 5:50:37 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: sandyeggo

Duh, meant to post, "Thanks, especially for the prayer."


15 posted on 03/13/2007 5:51:33 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: Judith Anne

Would it be possible if I could forward your post to my pastor? I am sure he would include it in one of his homilies.


16 posted on 03/13/2007 5:54:47 PM PDT by franky1
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To: franky1

Sure.


17 posted on 03/13/2007 5:56:31 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: Judith Anne

Please accept my sincere thanks for your post. You have really helped me spiritually to address something in myself I have not even looked at seriously.


18 posted on 03/13/2007 5:59:59 PM PDT by Siobhan (Telling my beads ...)
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To: franky1

"I have been going to this Church for 3 years and I have never seen the confessional line so long."


Our world needs so many of this type of priest. Lent isn't over.....we all MUST pray for an increase in vocations, and as Our Lady of Good Success said, pray for the multipication of covents and monastaries filled with holy men and women.


19 posted on 03/13/2007 6:03:32 PM PDT by diamond6 (Everyone who is for abortion has been born. Ronald Reagan)
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To: Siobhan

Well, say thanks to God, because I wasn't sure if it should be posted or not, and flipped a coin for Him to decide. ;-D


20 posted on 03/13/2007 7:25:44 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: Sheryl

Ping


21 posted on 03/13/2007 10:37:55 PM PDT by Phx_RC (Pray for more holy bishops)
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To: NYer

**The confession crisis was a constant theme of John Paul’s. In one Holy Thursday letter, he said three times that people in a state of sin should not receive Communion without receiving confession first.**

BTTT!


22 posted on 03/13/2007 10:42:30 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Judith Anne

This is beautiful, Judith Anne. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.


23 posted on 03/13/2007 10:44:45 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: diamond6

**I have never seen the confessional line so long." **

Last Advent we had five priests hearing Confession and the line was STILL out the door! Good sign.


24 posted on 03/13/2007 10:46:49 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer; All
Examination of Conscience

A Guide for Confession

How To Make a Good Confession (especially if you haven't gone in years)

Why Go to Confession? (Part 1) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte

Why Go to Confession? (Part 2) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte

Why Go to Confession? (Part 3) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte

Pulling Sin up by the Roots: The Need for Mortification

Reasons for Confession [Sacrament of Reconciliation]

Cardinal Stafford's Homily at Penitential Liturgy With an Examination of Conscience

How to Go to Confession

Fr. Z’s 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession

25 posted on 03/13/2007 10:48:07 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation; livius

Thanks for the links, Salvation. I've been reviewing a lot of readings that I've accumulated on confession, over the years, but somehow I missed these, or didn't pay much attention when they came around the first time.

Livius, exactly right. I make excuses for myself. How lame and stupid they look, when I do the stations of the cross, and realize exactly what sin cost my Savior.


26 posted on 03/14/2007 1:10:23 AM PDT by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: NYer

Jose Gomez is my archbishop!

He's a great guy and a respects tradition. He's been a wonderful breath of fresh air in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.


27 posted on 03/14/2007 5:05:48 AM PDT by AlaninSA ("Beware the fury of a patient man." - John Dryden)
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To: NYer
“Confession was instituted by men in the Church, not by God,” read a letter to the editor of The Washington Post.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

Ah, ye olde 'Epistle of Straw'.

The writer should more clearly state their true objection. It can't be the confessing itself. I would guess it to be an objection to the authority of the Church to determine the manner that we use to "confess your sins to one another".

28 posted on 03/14/2007 5:47:29 AM PDT by siunevada (If we learn nothing from history, what's the point of having one? - Peggy Hill)
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To: diamond6

###"Our world needs so many of this type of priest. Lent isn't over.....we all MUST pray for an increase in vocations, and as Our Lady of Good Success said, pray for the multipication of covents and monastaries filled with holy men and women."###

Amen!


29 posted on 03/14/2007 10:36:19 AM PDT by franky1
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To: NYer

Bump


30 posted on 03/14/2007 4:40:21 PM PDT by diamond6 (Everyone who is for abortion has been born. Ronald Reagan)
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To: NYer

Bumping the thread.


31 posted on 03/21/2012 9:33:19 PM PDT by diamond6 (Check out: http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/home.php and learn about the faith.)
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