|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||The Practice of Confession in the Catholic Church|
, I tiye -Practice 01 iiifess0 ; ' ; i I 4- i 7$ r Caibolk Cbuixf) I 1 By the Rev. 11. F. Clarke. S. J. (North American Rcvi?w for December.) There is no institution, in the Catholic Cath-olic Chun-h to which the average Pro-teslant, Pro-teslant, whether he be an American or an Kngli-shman, has a mi"e deeply rooted antipathy than the practice of auricular confession. He regards it as an unwarrantable invasion of the privacy of an individual conscience, an. intrusion into the sacred domain of domestic do-mestic life: as dangerous, demoralizing:. 1 a FMurci of -weakness to the will, and Ij destructive- cf the habit of independence independ-ence and self reliance. I know t hat I n:r. advocating: an unpopular cause in tmdert.ikins to plead in its behalf, and that the very name carries with it an unpleasant s'u:v1 in the ears of a majority ma-jority of my readers. At the- fame lime 1 fcrl sure that they wili accede me a fair hv-aring. 1 ask them to listen to me, as far as they can, "with minds unprejudiced, while I speak, from my own knowledge, .f a system if which 1 have had a long and intimate- experience, and which I have learned to love and value more and more in the last thirty years, during dur-ing which I have myself been to confession con-fession at least once a week, and have, as a priest, heard many thousand confessions con-fessions in various English speaking countries. I d not. propose to enter o.i the thorny paths of religious controversy. 1 am no controversialist, and I doubt not that most of my readers share any dislike to controversy. My bjert in" the present paper will be to --cate, as. fairly and impartially as I can the manifold -advantages, to the Individual' and to Society which are the result of habitual unc!flioji.-and try to' ivmovc, if 1 can," some of the' .miscohcept Jons which prevail respecting: it, even among-, honorable and educated men. I need scarcely say that I do not propose to enter the lists against the anti-Popery l.-cturcr, or the professional declaimer against the "abominations of Rome." These unfortunate products of modern bigotry and intolerance I shall leave entirely-alone. The class to whom they appeal are. for the most part, impervious imper-vious to reason, and the infamous literature liter-ature that they sow broadcast is of itself sufficient to condemn them. HISTORY OF THE CONFESSIONAL.. The history of the confession is too wide a field for me to attempt to enter upon, l will only say that Christians, from the very beginning-, taking in their literal and obvious sense our Lord's words to His Apostles: "As my Father hath sent me. even so I send you. Y'hose sins you torsive, they are forgiven for-given to them, and whose sins you r retain, they are retained" have always seen in the ministers of the Church the delegates and representatives of Christ, and have, in obedience to His command, made confession of their sins to them. The early literature on the subject is, indeed, scanty and imperfect: "but it is sufheient to show that the practice of confession prevailed from the first. Whether, in the first fervor of primitive Christianity, this confession was in all cases made in public, or whether this s veie ordeal was. confined to grave sins which gave serious scandal (the rest being confessed privately), is a disputed point. Modern investigation, however, tends to prove that, even in the earliest times, private sins were pri-. pri-. ' vately confessed. p, this as it may, the writings of the Fathers and the decrees of local synods bear ample witness to the general custom cus-tom of auricular confession as prevailing pre-vailing in east and west alike. The Lat-eran Lat-eran Council, in 1215. did not impose tha practice on the faithful, but simply de-terminecLlhe de-terminecLlhe minimum that the Church reouired. To argue from the decree of this Council, ordering that ail shall ennrcsr. their sins at least once a year, that confession was never previously enforced is an utterly unwarrantable inference. It Would be just as reasonable reasona-ble to conclude that if a government wf re to order a mathematical examination examina-tion of hovs in all public schools to be held once a vcar. no mathematical examination ex-amination had ever been previously exacted: or that if a State Legislature were to direct that all the children m its industrial schools were to have a bath at least once a month, the children mi them had never been made to take a bath lief ore. - OBLIGATIONS OF CATHOLICS. What tbi Council did was to define what had hitherto been undefined, to determine what wru-, ihe minimum of obligation r.M- ih faithful the- world over. J merclv notice this in passing.. for I am r,.w considering auricular confession, n.-u historically, but in its relation to the ne-ds of men in modern society. i;nd as affecting for good or evil those v.ho habitually practice it. i The natural origin and fountain-head , ef cor.fe.-?ion is to be found in an instinct in-stinct of human nature, which leads us to communicate to others any strong emotion present to the soul, any power-1Y.1 power-1Y.1 influence oncenedcring in us joy , r sorrow, hope or fear, self-approba- 'on or elf-reproach. If some counter votive render concealment necessary, v -upp'-eioii will be painful to us. wA will aggravate our suffering, v, h'-ie th influence present to the soul w on- unfavorable to its happiness. N..- a sens- of guilt is, of all emotion?! - hieh affect' the soul, the one which c:-;:s.-s the most deeply rooted misery, .'-.ro! is the most destructive of all true 1 Shame, self-reproach, fear, rc- vor-e disgust at the thought of the ! the dependency at the prospect ef future, all combine to make life .-. i,vs; intolerable.. The desire to ex-minute ex-minute that which is the source of o1;:- mental. sur;ering sometimes be-t be-t -r:v s irresistible. STORY OF EUGENE ARAM. T'.-o storv of Eugene Aram is an in-stan.-e in pointa. as is- that of the murder, mur-der, r v.ho approached the cradle of his victim's infant in order that he might 'I'.siK'r to a human ear the crime that ! eoujd no longer bear in silence. J'-.-bablv the most of my readers have, i.: the course of their lives, listened to. h" crcn'idonces of some friend or ac-c.s;' ac-c.s;' intam-e who poured forth, in the -.: .,n-i:ur or bv the dull fire-light, the i.--:iest and self-accusing story of his l'-'s. misdeeds. 1 am not ' concerned ; v.i:h thf source this curious instinct ':' .elf-revelation, but the fact of the ) f that it affords to the heavily -bur- : "':d souid is undeniable. It certainly i much stronger among Christians vhan among those who belong to other. r-!igions; and the reason of this is that the sense or the evil of sin is far more k-i in those who believe in thelncar-i' thelncar-i' :!i ni and death of the Son of God. -Mmosc every revival of religion, outside out-side the Catholic Church, has. bet-n ac- onmanied with some form or other of public or private confession. The early j Wf-sk-yans related in public their re- j li-.-ious "experiences," and the leaders; "! The evangelical movement at the be- . g:r.ning of the' present century received ; from their risciples a "manifestation of; conscience" that was little else than a. confession of. their sins. The rapid j ptowth of the practice of confession s.mor-.g- the Ritualists is not a mere iml- i laiion of Home, but is the natural ou-t- j con.e of their reiigious earnestness and i sincerity. j 'All this proves the necessity' of pro-; viding some carefully guarded and j recognized outlet for that instinct of i human nature which leads a man to j give relief to his sense of personal guilt j by some external manifestation of his j evil deeds. The more intense his sense ef guilt, the more unbearable does it become, unless he has the opportunity f getting rid of, or at all ' events of lighetening, his burden, by revealing ! the source of his misery to some one or more of his fellow-creatures In whose prudence and sympathy he can confide. I have myself known several instances in which the sense of sin made life so intolerable as to lead to an attempt to commit suicile. Our lunatic asylums contain patients not a few who have lost tbeir reason from the samo cause. All of these, or most of them, would certainly have been saved ' if they could have had recourse to the Catholic confessional and poured out their tale of misery and sin into the sympathetic ears of the confessor. I have myself often heard from the lips of those who had told some sad tale of yvilful and long-continued sin the joyful exclamation, "Now, father, I be-t be-t gin to feel better." The inexpressible i relief was due, in great measure, to ! the mere outpouring of their sad story. They yvere employing what was, the natural, as yvell a the supernatural, means of escaping from the crushing and, intolerable burden. THE STRUGGLE WITH OURSELVES But there is a further provision for the needs of human nature that confession, con-fession, and confession only, can sup- ply. Every one yvho goes astray had an undefined and vague intention of be- j ginning, at some time or other, a -new and a better life. He yvants to give up the evil yvhich in his heart he hates, and he means to do so when a convenient con-venient season cornea. But the difficulty diffi-culty is to determine the time when, .that happy moment shall arrive. We' are all procrastinators, especially, where immediate action means- a strugr gle with .ourselves and the. relinquishment relinquish-ment of that to which yve;are.;,at tached. So we put off and put off, until un-til the chain that binds us down becomes be-comes so strong that it is a moral im-posibility im-posibility to shake ourselves free of it; Men sometimes fix for themselves a special day which is to be the beginning begin-ning of a new life their next birthday, birth-day, for instance, or the first day of the coming year. But, in point of fact, the promised reformation very rarely takes place when the appointed day arrives, or if, for a. short time, there is a change for the better, the improvement, unsupported as it is by any fresh influences for good appertaining apper-taining to the neyv era, soon fades away and disappears. Now, this need of a turning point for good, of a special date and limit from yvhich the old things shall have passed away, and all things shall have become new, is- supplied by the confessional con-fessional as nothing else in the yvorld can supply it. The Catholic yyho is desirous of turning over a neyv leaf and of overcoming his past faults and frailties, but yvho at the same time is conscious of his oyvn weakness, turns instinctively to that yvholesome tribunal, tri-bunal, yvhere he knowsi that he will find a kind and attentive listener, a man. yvho has had long experience of the various snares and pitfalls that beset our" path through life, and yvho. can, therefore, sympathize yvith all the difficulties that have to be encountered by one yvho is entering on a struggle yvith evil, and on. the serious pursuit of yvhat is good. . THE SINNER WHO HATES HIMSELF. HIM-SELF. The sinner yvho hag learned to hate himself, and yvho feels himself unable, by his own unaided efforts, to free himself from the yoke of sin, yvill there find a prudent, patient and skilful skil-ful counsellor, yvho yvill have a hundred hun-dred devices to suggest for meeting the force of temptation, and a hundred means by yvhich he may strengthen himself in the practice of virtue. The confessor yvill make for him "the crooked ways straight, and the rough places plain." He yvill encourage him yvhere encouragement is needed, and warn him wherethere are dangers to be avoided. So he betakes himself perhaps in fear and trembling, but still yvith a hope long unknoyvn to him and a confidence to yvhich he ha long been a stranger to that fountain. provided pro-vided for the yvashing away of sin and uncleanliness, and for the strengthening of good resolutions and aspirations after a new and better life, yvhich is to be found in every Catholic Church. In the Priest in the confessional confes-sional he knoyvs that he yvill have a father, a friend and a guide. In him he sees God's oyvn representatiy-e, and there rise to his lips, instinctively and naturally, the yvords of the prodigal in the Gospel, "I yvill arise and go to my father, and yvill say to him, 'Father, I have sinned.' " In this way the tri- grace of the sacrament, yvith which I am not now concerned, is simply an invaluable instrucent of reformation. How valuable and hoyv effective it is, is of course better known to Priests than to any other class; and it is one of the greatest consolations of their sacred ministry to think of the hundreds hun-dreds yvhom they have thus helped over the rough places that beset the first struggle after virtue, and yvho yvill one day tender them their grateful grate-ful thanks for the help that they have received from them in their sore time of need. A RELIEF TO THE DISTRESSED. In close connection yvith this "ministry "min-istry of reconciliation" is a further and a scarcely less important advantage attaching to the confessional, that it affords a sure and a safe resort to all yvho are in any kind of moral or intellectual in-tellectual perplexity or distress. I imagine that very few of my readers have not, at some time or other in their lives, found themselves in some harassing doubt or difficulty from yvhich they kneyv not how to extricate themselves. Their trouble may have arisen from their oyvn fault, or it may have been entirely independent of any ; actum of their own. It may have I arisen from yvithin. or it may have been the result of exterior circumstances circum-stances yvhich have hedged them in yvith embarrassment that for the time made, their lives a misery, or, at all events, very seriously interfered yvith their happiness and peace of mind. Those yvho have delicate consciences, men yvith a naturally high sene of honor or justice, are especially liable .to these storms of mental "suffering. Their very anxiety to do yvhat is right aggravates their trouble: they are torn asunder by a number of opposing motives mo-tives and influences, and sometimes do not knoyv yvhich way to turn. Let me take one or two instances such as often occur in modern life. A man in a position of responsibility has, under stress of some pressing need, borrowed ; (or embezzled) some of his employer's money. He has tided over the diffi-culty diffi-culty by some dishonest falsification of his accounts. There is every chance of his escaping undetected, for he is a man yvhose character stands high, and in yvhom his employer placed the most implicit confidence. But his conscience yvill not let him rest. He is simply miserable at the thought of his betrayal be-trayal of his trust. He is bound to confess his misdeeds to his employer, to be dismissed in shame and disgrace, dis-grace, to drag down to misery those near and dear to him. his loving yvife and his innocent children. A STRUGGLE WITH YOUR CONSCIENCE. CON-SCIENCE. Another man is in business for himself him-self say as a picture dealer, and he is much troubled in conscience as to certain cer-tain misrepresentations yvhich he has made with regard to the antiquity or the origin of the pictures, that he wihes to sell. These misrepresentations misrepresenta-tions not actually false, but they are of a nature to mislead the intend- ing purchaser. They are in line with I the universal practice of the trade in the city yvhere he dwells, and without them his business would be liable to be ruined. What is he to do under these difficult circumstances? Or, to take a very different case. A girl is living at home yvith her mother and sister. She is not necessary to her mother's happiness or comfort, but, without doubt, she adds much to it. She has, however, for some time felt strongly drayvn toward consecrating her life to God among the g-ood Sisters of Charity, yvhose self-sacrificing devotion to the poor has made their white caps and gray dress dear even to non-Catholics. What ought she to do?" Is she bound to obey the voict yvithin and to leave these dear to her, in order to follow out at any cost what &he believes to be her vocation? Or is it all a delusion, her real duty being to be the solace of her mother's advancing years? How conducive, con-ducive, hew necessary to her peace of mind that some wise counselor should help her in deciding the question she cannot decide for herself! Children, too, have their oyvn difficulties. Every confessor con-fessor of boys, has been asked: "Father, is it a sin to go out o'f bounds yvithout leave? Is it a sin to use a crib? Is it a sin to have a fight yvith another boy?" Even little girls are sometimes perplexed perplex-ed in conscience. "Father, is it a sin to slap my little sister when she is naughty? Is it a sin to take chocolates choco-lates out of mother's yvork-box?" Sometimes Some-times the questions are on matters of more serious import, for the voice within does not always clearly promulgate promul-gate even the precepts of the natural law. In all these questions, great and suiaH, it i of incalculable benefit to young and old to be' able to resort to one .yvho yvill clearly draw the line between be-tween right and wrong, and set at rest the' troubled conscience. COUNSELOR OF THE CONFESSIONAL. CONFES-SIONAL. In all such cases the confessional fur nishes a counselor yvho is perfectly unprejudiced, un-prejudiced, yvhose one and only desire is to promote the happiness and yvell-being yvell-being of his penitent, who speaks v.ith the authority belonging to his office, J whose long experience gives yveight to his words, and who," above all, knows the severe account that Almighty God yvill exact of him, and the awful responsibility respon-sibility of the task entrusted to him. He knows that if he swerves one hair's breadth from the law of God in the advice given, out of any human respect, or desire to please, or any other inferior infer-ior motive, he will he guilty of a great sin before God. What better means than this could possibly be devised for "giving peace to troubled souls, or for settling doubts and difficulties that, to those yvho are entangled in them, often seem insoluble? I do not mean to say that the confessor is infallible, or may not judge the case yvror.gly. But there is every possible chance yhat his judgment judg-ment yvill be the right one, and that he will be able to give such advice as may release the perplexed conscience from its difficulties and dangers. My oyvn experience is that seldom have I encountered any problem as to future action, however apparently hopeless, yvhich did not admit of a solution that yvas not only practically possible, but that could be carried out without any serious difficulty by the person asking advice. Another benefit attaching to the prac-tipe prac-tipe of confession is one that, I think, cannot fail to be appreciated by anyone any-one yvho calls himself, even in the yvid-est yvid-est sense, a Christian. One of the great dangers of the present day is r. yvant of sufficient appreciation of the evil of sin as an offense against Almighty God. Utilitarianism holds a pernicious sway over the opinion of modern society respecting re-specting right and wrong. If the law of God forbids any course of conduct yvhich utilitarianism declares to be beneficial ben-eficial to society, yvell, so "much the worse for the law of God. I do not mea to say- that any except an extreme school of modern theorists would put j the matter in. this crude form; but it j underlies a great deal of the opinion now prevalent respecting right and wrong. This or that course fof action cannot be bad, because it does no pos- ! sible harm to others; it must be good, because it can be shown to be advantageous advan-tageous to soeity. Why should yve regret re-gret any of our actions in the past if neither yve, nor anyone else, are, as far as yve can judge, a whit the yvorse for them? HATEFULNESS OF SIN. This habit of mind is one that is fos- i tered by a career of prosperity and success. It is all very yvell to say that yve all have yvithin us the dread tribunal tri-bunal of conscience, declaring, yvith a j voice that cannot be silenced, the guilt ! of sin and its hatefulness in the sight ! of God, apart from any evil results that j may proceed from it. This is true; j but conscience, if it be disregarded, soon ceases to speak yvith the same dis- j tiwetnesek, or else the deafened ears fail to hear its sentence of condemnation. It needs an external sanction, a human voice without, that shall be the echo of the voice of God within. It needs, moreover, more-over, the help of some authoritative tribunal, outside of him, which shall compel the wrongdoer to take counsel of his conscience and reckon up "yvith its help the different occasions on yvhich he has disobeyed its voice, in order that he may obtain forgiveness by a. full and frank con-fe?ssion con-fe?ssion of them all to one yvho must, as God's representative, take cognizance cogni-zance of them all, and pass on the guilty accuser of himself a sentence of punishment yvhich shall in some way correspond to the heinousnes: of his sin. One of the most v-aluablb elements of confession is the examination of conscience con-science that necessarily precedes it. It brings a man face to face yvith his sins as nothing- else can. He knows that if they are to be forgiven, not one must be concealed; and he knoyvs, too, that he must use all care and diligence to see that none is, through any negligence negli-gence on his part, omitted from the black list. They must all be told, the I number however great, and the kind of sin however disgraceful and humiliating. humiliat-ing. I can scarcely Imagine anything that has a greater power to quicken the sense of the heinousness of sin than this necessity of first coming face to face with it in careful self-examination, ! and then putting into word3 the results yvhich that self-examination has teveal-ed? teveal-ed? And here I may remind my readers read-ers that this advantage is .altogether lost unless the integrity of confession is strictly enforced. Once allow the penitent pen-itent to tell yvhat seems good to him, and to omit whatever he is reluctant to confess, and the value of confession, as enforcing a sense of the evil of sin, disappears. . The judge must know all the details of the offenses committed, else how can he pass a just sentence? Nothing must be hidden from him. inasmuch in-asmuch as he is God's representative. It is the telling of this humbling tale yvhich keeps alive in the heart of the Catholic that keen appreciation of the evil of sin, the fading away of which is an irreparable loss to Protestant society. so-ciety. x THE ENCOUNTER WITH EVIL. And it is . the fact that the tale is such ft humbling one 'that furnishes the tribunal of penance yvith another most potent yveapon for the encounter with evil and for the salvation of souls. Of all sins there is none so deadly and so hateful to God as pride, and, on the other hand, there is no virtue more indispensable in-dispensable to all those who desire to follow in the footsteps of Christ than the virtue of humility.- Without humility hu-mility every other virtue is a mere pretense pre-tense and . counterfeit; with it every good and perfect gift can be obtained from the Most High.- Nothing Is more ! prominent in the teaching of our Lord j and his Apostles than the all-import- ance of humility. The Pharisees were j liberal in their aim, mortified in their iives, lengthy in Iheir prayers; but their pride spoilt it all. The publican beating his breast yvas humble, and, therefore, yvas forgiven. While God has compassion on sinners, we are told that He hates the proud. But there is no need to dwell' on the truism that, of all Christian duties, the mot essential Is that "yve humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God." Now, of all Christian practices. I think there is none fe-o humbling, so humiliating, as the practice of confession. To tell to a fellow creature the. evil thoughts that we have indul&l. the mean, selfish, disgraceful acts yve have done, and to teU them in:all their naked hideous ness, is a process yvhich knocks the pride out of a man better than any other that I . know of in. the yvhole world. It is this yvhich makes the confessional con-fessional so unpopular yvith average Englishmen in the present day. Cardinal Cardi-nal Manning said in one of his temperance tem-perance speeches.- that drunkenness is the besetting sin ef Eng.j.nd. D;un'.tei-ne3 D;un'.tei-ne3 is bad enough, God knows, not only in itself, but because of the other sins yvhich follow in its train. Nevertheless, Never-theless, I do not agree yvith His Eminence. Emi-nence. I am quite certain that pride is far more subtle, more dangerous, more deadly, more ruinous to the souls of men- than drunkenness. It is a respectable re-spectable vice, a vice yvhich breeds no remorse in the soul, a vice yvhich is often accompanied yvith a great show of virtue, and even of piety, a vice yvhich carries yvith it a fatal blindness and hardness of heart, a vice that renders ren-ders a man impervious to the sweet influences in-fluences of God's grace. Now, a true, heartfelt confession of sin is incompatible incompat-ible yvith pride. This is yvhy the tribunal tri-bunal of penance has always been one of the mKt cherished institutions in the Catholic Church. This, too, is the reason'why it never can take root and flourish in any of those forms of. re-t re-t ligion yvhich have thrown off the yoke of the Church, and proclaimed the right of private judgment and te autocracy of the individual conscience. To con-, fess one's- sins to God, who knoyvs them already, requires no exercise of humility,' humil-ity,' 'such as la-involved, in confessing them to a human being, yvho know9 nothing of them beforehand. It yvould be simply an intolerable abasement f self, at least to the ordinary Christian, unless he saw in 4 hat human being God's delegate and representative,, ond unless he knew that this abasement of himself is a necessary condition to the salvation of his soul. WATCHING OVER THE YOUNG. I must add yet another advantage of confession of a very different differ-ent kind. It has probably often occured to the mind of many most Catholics, as it has often occurred oc-curred to my oyvn, that if there yvere no other proof of the paramount claims of the Catholic Church, yve should find a sufficient one in the elaborate care with yvhich she yvatches over the innocence in-nocence of the young. To guard from evil and corruption the lambs of the fold is one of her chief duties and privileges. This loving care she inherits in-herits from her Divine Founder, Who was the friend and lover of little children. chil-dren. Noyv, I do not think that it Is possible for any unprejudiced and yvell-informed yvell-informed person, yvho compares the practical yvorking of the Catholic sys- ; tern with that of any other religious system in the world, to deny her unrivalled un-rivalled and unapproachable superi-crity superi-crity In this respect. She shields her little ones in their early childhood with j all the jealous care of the most tender mother, and when the time comes for the safe seclusion of the parental roof i to be exchanged for? a freer intercourse yvith their f elloyvs, she provides safeguards safe-guards for their purity that are unknown, un-known, or almost unknown, outside her fold. For the due education of boys, large schools,-and for those of the upper class, large'boarding-schools, are a practical necessity. '. THE DANGEROUS TIME. TO INNOCENCE. IN-NOCENCE. Then comes the dangerous time, and how great the dangers of that time are is well knoyy n to every one yvho has had an experience of the inner working of English public schools. To keep boys safe from a most perilous, if not a. fatal, contact yvith vice and sin, is a problem which has exercised I the mind "and troubled the conscience of every one yvho has taken part in the management of any of, our large schools and colleges: and those among Protestant educators who have studied the subject most deeply, and who have had long experience to guide them, have had to admit. with sorrow and grief, that the task was a hopeless one. They have had to submit to yvhat they considered an inevitable evil, and their best, hope has been by personal influence to mitigate to some extent that which they . kneyv they yvere poyverless to prevent. But is the evil one for which no remedy can be provided? God forbid! The Catholic, Church provides an effective remedy for this, as for every other evil incident inci-dent to human life. Here I can speak from , a large experience, and yvith - a full knoyvledge of the subject. Again I and again I have been assured by boys yvho have passed through Catholic col-legesy col-legesy from the loyvest to the highest form, that during the whole -of their time there they never heard one im- ! modest yvord. or came ' into contact yvith any sort of temptation to evil from those yvith yvhom they associated. I have known some yvho at the end of their school course- yvere as innocent of moral evil as on: the day they entered, en-tered, and yvere utterly shocked and disgusted yvhen they were 'thrown into the vortex of the yvcrld outside, and had to listen, to the kind of talk that too often forms the common staple of conversation among those who have had a Protestant education. THE CHURCH GUARDS HER TENDER PLANTS. I shall, perhaps, he told that, the Catholic system js a "hothouse system," sys-tem," and I accept the simile. Does the prudent gardner expose his tender plants, during their early growth, to the cold east wind and the nipping frosts? If he wants them to be strong and sturdy, he yvatches over them and shelters them from the fatal influences that yvill blight their groyvth and leave traces of evil that can never be yvholly removed. In like manner does the ( Catholic Church. She, too, guards her tender plants, and yvith prudent vigilance vigil-ance avails herself of the means yvith yvhich Christ has provided her, to train them up to habits of virtue and to a hatred of sin. fostering their moral strength and their love of all that is pure, and of good report, that so she may send them forth, yvhen their man. hood shall have come, armed in full panoply, to do baitle yvith all the perils yvhich they yvill then have to encounter and yvith the evils yvhich will then beset be-set their path. I do not say that the Church is always successful in her endeavors. It is quite possible that, even in a Catholic school, evil may for a time run riot. One sinner may destroy des-troy much good. - But the : evil never lasts long, and the Catholic system brings about a speedy recovery. What I do assert Is that, the moral perils to yvhich a boy Is exposed in a Catholic school are infinitesimal as compared yvith those yvhich will surround him in any of the Protestant, public schools and colleges. In all this the chief engine for the good yvork is the confessional. There are, of course, many others There is the personal influence, and the keen sense of responsibility, of those yvho are In authority; there is the close and intimate friendship existing between the teacher and the taught; which is something utterly different from the comparatively , cold relations and official of-ficial reserve yvhich make the Protestant Protest-ant master far more of a stronger to his boys. But it is the yveekly or fortnightly fort-nightly confession that is the real safeguard. safe-guard. It is in the confessor that he has his trusted friend, to yvhom he freely talks of-U... bis dangers and temptations? i Vis confession that keepg the moral atmosphere healthy and pure; it is confession that maintains the high standard, of life and conversation prevailing,, pre-vailing,, through God's mercy, in our Catholic school,.-? and colleges j it is .confession .con-fession yvhich enables the Catholic parent par-ent to entrust his boy... to the good priests, whether secular or regular, who devote themselves to the yvork of education, edu-cation, without any of those qualms or fears, that anxiety and foreboding about the future, that fill the heart of the Protestant parent yvhen he bids farewell to his innocent child on his first plur.ge into the vertex of a Protestant Protest-ant public school. A FALSE AND CRUEL CHARGE. But there is one charge, one false and cruel charge, yvhich some Protestant Protest-ant yvriters bring against confession. They say that it introduces the-young and innocent to a knowledge of subjects sub-jects yvhich are sacro digna silentio, and - even suggests to them evil of which they would otherwise be ignorant. ignor-ant. I can only assure my readers (in answer to this gratuitous calumny), on the yvord of an honest man, that during the tyventy years and more that I have been constantly hearing confessions con-fessions of men and women, boys and girls, of every class and in various countries, I have never once known of a single instance of any knoyvledge of evil having been imparted in the confessional. con-fessional. I am sure that I may speak for all my fellow yo-'ests all over the yvorld, when I say that 1' would, with God's help, .far rather be' torn in a thousand pieces than say one yvord in tha confessional that could endanger the purity of the young or impart a knowledge of evil to one previously ignorant o'c it. But if there should be any of my readers yvho are not yvilling to accept my cwn personal assurance, .there is another consideration yvhich ought to convince them. If there were in this accusation the smallest element of truth, every good mother yvould, in her tender care for her children's innocence, inno-cence, have the greatest horror of seeing see-ing her little ones kneeling before the priest, and eyrery careful father yvould forbid his boys and girls from incurring the risk of such contamination. Ishis the case? Do yve find good Catholic parents dreading the influence of the confessional for their children? On the contrary there is nothing that gives them more hearty satisfaction than to know that the'r sons and daughters are, from their -liest years, regular in making their confession, month by moth, or week by week. They regard it as the best possible safeguard for their innocence and virtue. They are alarmed and anxious if, yvhen boyhood merges into youth, their sons grow irregular ir-regular in frequenting the tribunal of penance. They fear there must be something wrong. They urge and en treat them not to fall away from the practice of confession. BRINGS JOY TO THE MOTHER. Joy fills the mother's heart yvhen she sees her son once more returning. It may be after long absence, to that fount of mercy and of grace, yvhere she knows he yvill obtain pardon for the past, and strength and help for the struggles of the future. Ask any of the heads of thos Catholic families yvhose names are a household word for all that is noble .md .honorable and of good report, yvhat is their opinion of the institution yvhich is thus maligned, and they yvill tell you, one and all, that it is for thamselves a continual source of comfort and happiness an'd consolation consola-tion and peace, and that their Best yvish for all those dear to them Is that they shall share the incalculable benefits that they know by their own experience it confers. They yvill tell you that it is their say and support, that it binds together the members of a household, reconciles these yvho are at variance, teaches children to be obedient to their parents, and parents to be gentle and forbearing yvith their children; the .vife to obey her husband, and the husband to love and cherish his wife; in a word, that it teaches all to fulfil the duties of their station, to observe the layvs of God and of the Church, to live a chaste, sober, honest, godly, life, and to die. a holy and happy death. I have said little or nothing- of the supernatural benefits attaching to the confessional, or of the sacramental grace that floyvs into the souls of those who avail themselves of it. My object has been to dwell chiefly on the natural advantages of the confessional. And I have been speaking of the Catholic confessional, con-fessional, and of it alone. For confession, confes-sion, like every other great instrument for good, has its dangers, and very serious ser-ious ones. Against these dangers tne Catholic Church takes the most careful care-ful precautions; but I do not see how they can be guarded against in a communion com-munion where no- such precautions exist; ex-ist; yvhere the confessor ha3 no recognized recog-nized training for his difficult and responsible re-sponsible duties: yvhere the practice is discouraged and discountenanced by those in authority, and is regarded with suspicion .and dislike by the mass of those yvho are invited to avail themselves them-selves of it. R. F. CLARKE, S. J.