Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

5/30/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Reclaiming The Virtue Of Contrition

Someone (whose name would only be shared in whispered circles) had used a bottle of squeezable margarine to etch "I hate Sister Margaret" on the school yard black top. And apparently the squeezable oil emulsion stains black top so the hateful message couldn't be stripped away by our diligent janitor before Sister made her morning crossing from the convent to the school house door.
While she may have presented herself as a hard-nosed enforcer with little patience, on that day we all saw her human-side. Her ruler-wielding nun persona was softened by the tears that escaped the corners of her penetrating glance.

Highlights

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/30/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: contrition, love letters, confessional, Tara K. E. Brelinsky


ZEBULON, NC (Catholic Online) - She wasn't the equivalent (exactly) of Mommy Dearest, but writing Sister Margaret a love letter felt about as genuine as that scene from the movie. Penned from the point of view of the actress' daughter, the movie portrayed an abusive mother who required her children to quip, "We love you, Mommy Dearest" whenever she requested it.

Someone (whose name would only be shared in whispered circles) had used a bottle of squeezable margarine to etch "I hate Sister Margaret" on the school yard black top. And apparently the squeezable oil emulsion stains black top so the hateful message couldn't be stripped away by our diligent janitor before Sister made her morning crossing from the convent to the school house door.

While she may have presented herself as a hard-nosed enforcer with little patience, on that day we all saw her human-side. Her ruler-wielding nun persona was softened by the tears that escaped the corners of her penetrating glance.

Her sisterly Sisters, wanting to comfort her injured heart, had each one of us children write, draw and scribble love letters. Of course, as I said the sincerity may have been missing for more than a few of us, but nonetheless we obliged and completed the assigned task.

A valuable lesson, I've carried that memory with me into adulthood and allowed it to influence my parenting. Yes, I could understand the author's angst toward Sister Margaret, but his (oops, is it okay to identify the proper gender three decades after the crime?) public outcry warranted correction. And I think that in requiring all of us to write a love letter, we learned communally to say sorry and to reflect on our actions and their potential to affect others.

How easily we spout our opinions and admonish our enemies, and children are especially impetuous in this regard. While I'd like to pretend my own children are sweet-little darlings at every moment, incapable of uttering a harsh word, honesty calls me to accountability. In this regard, I carry with me the wise advice of a peer-mama who once told me that having so many boys (4 or 5) taught her to never doubt their ability to do the things they were being accused of.

So while my motherly gut response at times wants to beg, "No, never, not my cherubs, you must have your story wrong," I've learned to listen to serious accusations (there have been a few) and investigate before banging the gavel on the side of dismissal. And more times than not, I must insist that the perpetrator issues an apology, whether in person, via the telephone or in writing. Admittedly, not every apology is fully heartfelt or freely given, but the very action of taking personal responsibility goes a long way in teaching the child that our words and actions have consequences.

When we hide our ugliness in secrecy or cover it with denial and excuses, it more easily becomes habitual. By contrast, saying I am sorry shines a light on our choices and hopefully sparks an amendment of life.

After graduating from Catholic grammar school, I don't recall entering a confessional again until I was a married adult with four children. I suppose I'd shelved the lesson of the love letter for a while and the more time that passed the more difficult it felt to face my sins. I justified, ignored and excused because that seemed less painful than the necessitated sorry. But mothering led me to reconsider my perspective and the example being displayed.

My transgressions stained my conscience like that black-top insult, but God's mercy was only an apology away. And what a beautiful reason to love the confessional because it calls us to true accountability. Saying, "I am sorry" to Christ represented by a flesh and blood individual bears a visual and auditory truth. That is to say, by speaking our contrition to a living person (in persona Christi) we are forced to recognize the hurt we've inflicted on the Living God. In response, we hear His loving reply of absolution.

Too often as of late, people are publicly shirking their responsibility. Like a shell game, they shuffle blame from one office or department to another. We see it in politics, we see it in jury rooms, on television, and in classrooms. Saying I am sorry seems to be a lost virtue. In truth, just like we find the shell dealers' integrity to be suspect, so we also lose faith in the ones who make a habit of avoiding those three powerful words.

Reclamation of the virtue of contrition is a necessity if we are ever to rise from this mire of evil that seems to be fast engulfing our culture. Even if our first baby steps lack the full depth of sincerity, there is merit to be gained in learning to apologize. Like the love letter caused us students to realize Sister Margaret had real feelings, so our first sorry reminds us that we have the power to injure. Conversely, in saying, "I am sorry" we not only accept our part, but we learn that we have the ability to heal those wounds.

-----

Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of seven living children, with six more heavenly ones who intercede (and a little soul expected to arrive in August). Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat, a fish, ducks, roosters and a flock of hens (in addition to all those wonderful kids). Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes simply for the the glory of God. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on her blog "Blessings In Brelinskyville" (www.http://brelinskyville.blogspot.com/).

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Living Faith

Abolish death penalty and life imprisonment, Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of The Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code, Pope Francis noted.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Calling for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, Pope Francis soundly denounced what he called a "penal populism." The world's prescribed cure for crime - punishment, should never overtake the pursuit for social justice, he says. LOS ... continue reading


Making a Difference - Newly beatified pope championed justice and peace

Image of Pope Paul VI addresses the UN during his 1965 appeal for peace.

By Tony Magliano

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on Oct. 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: "No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and ... continue reading


'War does not begin in the battlefield. Wars begin in the heart,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis addressed the topic of war. With the majority of the world engaged in some sort of battle, and it's up to the individual to realize that major conflicts begin with little things. LOS ... continue reading


Finding the Path to Peace Through Forgiveness Watch

Image of For he (Jesus) is our peace, he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father- St Paul

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In 1999 I was a part of Project Reconciliation led by a true peacemaker, paralyzed police officer Detective Steven McDonald. This trip was a part of Steven McDonald's mission of preaching peace through forgiveness. It had the goal of helping to heal the wounds ... continue reading


The Parable of the Rich Man: Becoming Rich in What Matters To God

Image of

By Deacon Frederick K. Bartels

What leads to permanent and lasting happiness? As Jesus points out, becoming "rich in what matters to God" is the key. When we place God first, and love our neighbor as another self, we soon begin to experience a perceptible, lasting happiness that is not of this ... continue reading


Pope Paul VI closer to sainthood with beatification by Pope Francis Watch

Image of Pope Paul VI cleaned house, abolishing the pontifical court and simplifying the Curia, the Vatican's administrative arm. Pope Francis is continuing his predecessor's effort to reform to this day.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis cleared the process for sainthood for Pope Paul VI after his beatification over the weekend. Pope Paul VI led the Catholic Church through internal reform during a tumultuous time of social and political change before his death in 1978. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


We Need Courageous Bishops: Ignatius of Antioch is a Model Watch

Image of Ignatius of Antioch - I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becoming his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

We need Bishops like Ignatius in this new missionary age of the Church. There is a literal assault on marriage and the family in much of the West. Yet, what the Church has to offer on the truth about marriage and the family paves the path to a future of true ... continue reading


Need a chapel? Pope Francis to rent Sistine Chapel for charity Watch

Image of Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity. The decision marks the first time that the chapel has ever been rented out for charity. It will be used for a private concert hosted by Porsche. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Vatican has announced ... continue reading


On World Food Day, a reminder of Pope Francis' mission for the Church Watch

Image of It's time to ensure that everybody has enough.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Today is World Food Day and we are all called to do what we can to feed others. This year's World Food Day falls during Pope Francis' 'Week of Action' where all Catholics are called to pray and act to feed the world's hungry. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Today, ... continue reading


Pope Francis: The only thing that counts for Jesus is 'faith working through love' Watch

Image of Pope Francis related former Jesuit leader Father Arrupe's lesson in humility in his recent talk.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis reiterated in his morning homily that faith is not about appearances and superficially following Church laws. The Pontiff said that God wants to see a faith that inspires action and is "working in charity" and making sacrifices for others. LOS ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2014 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. Chrysanthus was an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter