Friday, May 19, 2017

Everyone Needs a Shriver

shrive, v.t.; shrived or shrove, pt.; shriven or shrived, pp.; shriving, ppr. [ME. shriven; AS. scrifan, to shrive, from L. scribere, to write or draw up a law; by extension, to impose a penalty.]
  1. to hear or receive the confession of and, usually after penance, administer absolution to. [Archaic.]
  2. to get absolution for (oneself) by confessing and doing penance. [Archaic or Rare.]

shrift, n. [AS. scrift, from scrifan, to receive confession, from L. scrivere, to write, or draw up a law.]
  1. confession to and absolution by a priest. [Archaic.]
  2. the act of shriving; absolution. [Archaic.]
  short shrift; see under short, a. (a) originally, a very brief period of confession and absolution before death. (b) very little care or attention, as from lack of patience or sympathy; (c) little or no mercy or respite.

Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabrided Second Edition, New York: The Publisher's Guild, 1959.

A fifty year-old priest, having gone regularly to confession and having had constant spiritual directors, in turn, for the past thirty-two years, and after myself hearing confessions now for twenty of those years, I made my Friday confession (as is my wont), today, to a priest whom I have known and respected for over twenty years, with the intention of taking him for my new spiritual director (who will shrive me monthly, he being an hour away, while I will continue going weekly to confession more locally [usually on Friday]).

What impressed me today, at this stage in my life, not having any mortal sins to confess (not always the case), but plenty of venial (forgivable) sins; and the reason I so felt and feel a need for an experienced and holy and orthodox spiritual director again now is that at fifty one's heart and one's life is quite entangled in so many ways, the need for an objective guide and an objective judgment is so important. So the word that came to me throughout the morning is the word shriven. Today I felt the need to be shriven. I know I need a shriver. I need a man who will pronounce sentence on my life now in the name of God. I need the approval (with whatever necessary repentance and correction and amends which that may entail) of the Church, of Christ, of God, and the only place is the Catholic shrift.

So, it was most fitting to my present circumstance and sentiment to find that that word comes from the Latin to write. The sacrament of confession is many things, among which it is a sentence, a court sentence, the most important court sentence on this side of eternity. Every man is given judgment, but no man is judge in his own case. Every man needs to be sentenced. Every man needs a sentence, an absolute and definitive sentence in his case, the great privilege of the priest ordained by Christ for this work: "the binding and the loosing" of Saint Peter (Matthew 16:19), the "forgiving" and the "retaining" of the apostles (John 20:23).

Its good to be judged in the name of God: good to be forgiven, with judgment, with the necessary examination of the case which is essential to that judgment of the Just Judge par excellence, our merciful Lord, Christ. His mercy is precisely in the details of the case and the sentence and the help of the Church, His Body.

Deo gratias.

The following passage of The Roman Catechism on the qualifications of the minister of the Sacrament of Penance as judge and physician is to the point.

Besides the powers of orders and of jurisdiction, which are of absolute necessity, the minister of this Sacrament, holding as he does the place at once of judge and physician, should be gifted not only with knowledge and erudition, but also with prudence.
As judge, his knowledge, it is evident, should be more than ordinary, for by it he is to examine into the nature of sins, and among the various kinds of sins to judge which are grievous and which are not, keeping in view the rank and condition of the person.
As physician he has also occasion for consummate prudence, for to him it belongs to administer to the diseased soul those healing medicines which will not only effect the cure, but prove suitable preservatives againt its future contagion.
The faithful, therefore, will see the great care that each one should take in selecting (as confessor) a priest, who is recommended by integrity of life, by learning and prudence, who is deeply impressed with the awful weight and responsibility of the station which he holds, who understands well the punishment due to every sin, and can also discern who are to be loosed and who to be bound.

Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests, editors McHugh and Callan, New York: Wagner, 1937, 291-292.
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