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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More Living Faith

5 excellent tips on how to read the Bible Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Bible is one of the most popular published books ever written in the history of life, but also one of the hardest to read and understand. Unlike most books published today, the Bible contains a lot of statements that are full of dates, metaphors and written to ... continue reading


Unholy political positions in the Holy Land Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

As the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the world focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we naturally think of the Holy Land. Throughout much of history, in the land where the world's savior taught human beings to love one another as ... continue reading


200 Christian teachers denied day off for Good Friday Watch

Image of The 2014-2015 school years are the first time in recent memory that officials scheduled classes during both Good Friday and the Jewish holidays.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Rhode Island school district is being sued over the claim that 200 Christian teachers were denied requests to take Good Friday off from work. The teacher's union claims that the decision denies educators the two religious days that they are afforded in their ... continue reading


For the first time in over 150 years -- Blood of St. Januarius liquefies during Francis' visit to Naples Watch

Image of According to legend, Januarius was allegedly born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the first time in over 150 years, the blood of St. Januarius liquefied in the presence of a pope this past weekend. The phenomenon occurred when Pope Francis visited Naples this past weekend. It was the first time the blood liquefied in the presence of a ... continue reading


Church to Canonize Mom and Dad of St Therese, Show the Holiness of Christian Marriage Watch

Image of Pictured: Louis and Zelie Martin, the Mom and Dad of St Therese
For those called to live their Christian life in a consecrated Christian marriage, it is in the domestic church where progress in the spiritual life finds its raw material. The question we face every day becomes whether we live Christian marriage and family as a Christian vocation by responding to grace.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Louis and Zelie married in France in 1858. They had nine children. Five entered a consecrated or religious life in the Church. We have 218 letters which were written by Zelie.  They record the naturally supernatural pattern of a very real, human and devout ... continue reading


Drinking the Chalice of the Lord: Facing Suffering, Struggle and Failure Watch

Image of All of those who bear the name Christian are invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, to walk along with Him on the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. Golgotha beckons.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may indeed be genetic. In fact, the zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human ... continue reading


7 endangering myths Christians believe about other Christians Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disheartening isn't it? But it has been observed that Christians are divided among themselves. This is not what God wanted, as expressed by the writings in the Scriptures. However, there are some issues between the believers that makes them not united as they should ... continue reading


Josephs Way: Joseph, Husband of Mary, Model for Christian Men Watch

Image of The Dream of Joseph led to the response of a life given over to God

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In an age that has lost its way, because it has succumbed to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure, Joseph needs to be lifted up as a model for men who truly want to follow Jesus Christ. It is time for Christian men to follow his example, and become men again. ... continue reading


Pope tells Nigeria's bishops to form united front against terror group Boko Haram Watch

Image of In addition to addressing various issues, the Pope praised Nigeria, with a population of more than 170 million people, and has experienced strong economic growth.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the emerging African economic powerhouse of Nigeria takes to the polls, Pope Francis, in a stirring message, has urged the country's bishops to build a united front against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Pope Francis' comments came in a letter to the ... continue reading


The way of the cross

Image of

By Tony Magliano

Writing a column on social justice and peace offers me plenty of timely issues to choose from. And I always truly sense from God the exact issue he desires that I write on. I'm not claiming here any special revelation. God's active, guiding presence is available to ... 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, Genesis 17:3-9
3 And Abram bowed to the ground. God spoke to him as ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
4 Seek Yahweh and his strength, tirelessly seek his ... Read More

Gospel, John 8:51-59
51 In all truth I tell you, whoever keeps my word ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 26th, 2015 Image

St. Margaret Clitherow
March 26: St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, ... 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