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Catholic Faith
Vol. 5 - #1, Jan / Feb 1999

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Q.  How does someone who is mute or deaf go to Confession? —Anonymous

A.  A mute or deaf person can go to confession in various ways. If he knows sign language, he can choose a confessor among priests who understand sign language. Or again a mute or deaf person can write out his sins, and either personally or through someone else ask the priest to read his written sins. Then the priest, in writing may give the penitent such spiritual assistance and assign the penance in accordance with the sins confessed. Or still again, penitents can ask someone whom they totally trust, and to whom they have confided their sins, to go to confession for them. Of course the priest must be first both informed and willing to cooperate. If the priest cooperates, the assistant to the penitent may confess for the penitent; but of course this assistant is absolutely bound by the seal of confession. Finally if the above options are simply not available, the person may receive absolution from a priest, provided two conditions are fulfilled: the penitent must really want to confess his sins, and secondly he will take the next opportunity to confess his sins by way of sign language, writing or through an assistant.

Q.  What are the ways in which venial sin can be forgiven?  —F.X., Washington, DC

A.  The forgiveness of venial sins is a very important part of our Catholic faith. First of all, there are two things that can be forgiven for the commission of venial sins. The guilt can be forgiven, which means the grace lost through venial sins can be restored. Secondly the punishment due to venial sins can be remitted, either entirely or partially.

Given the above premises, venial sins can be forgiven in all the ways that we can obtain grace from God. Thus every reception of Holy Communion, every participation at Mass, every adoration of the Holy Eucharist, every reception of the sacrament of penance, every indulgence gained, every prayer said, every act of piety performed in the state of grace — are all means by which venial sins are forgiven as described above.

One more proviso should be added. We obtain remission of our venial sins in the degree that we are united with God by His grace and perform a good work with an awareness and a willingness to do God’s will. The more generous we are in doing God’s will in our lives, the more our guilt and penalty for venial sins are remitted.

Q.  What are the missions of the Second and Third Person of the Blessed Trinity? —F.X., Washington, DC

A.  We speak of two missions of the Holy Trinity, by which we mean the two sendings from the Trinity to the human race.

The first and basic mission is the sending of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity at the Incarnation. In other words, the first mission is that of the Incarnate God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Who, then, is Jesus Christ? He is the second person of the Trinity whom the Father sent to the world to become man of the Virgin Mary in order to save the world from sin. Having lost God’s friendship, mankind of itself could not regain his life of grace, any more then a man who is dead can bring himself to life again.

God could have set a new and purely natural destiny for man, and promised him a natural happiness after death. He could also have reopened heaven without the Incarnation by simply forgiving everything without reparation. But this would have been less in keeping with His perfect justice and with the divine will to manifest His perfect love. He therefore decided to take the most sublime course possible. His only Son was to take on human nature and thus representing all humanity, redeem us through His passion and death.

Perfectly adequate reparation and perfectly satisfactory expiation could only be achieved by a Man who was at the same time God.

Christ then is our Mediator because by His death He reconciled an estranged human race with its Creator. He is the one perfect Mediator. Others may share in this mediation either by disposing men’s hearts to conversion or by ministering the sacraments which Christ established to confer the grace that unites us with God.

The second mission of the Holy Trinity was the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. The Church, through which Christ saves the world, was founded the moment Jesus died on the cross.

Having founded the Church by His blood, Christ strengthened her on Pentecost Sunday and inspired her with a deep sense of mission to preach the Gospel to all nations. Pope Pius XII makes this very clear: “He wished to make known and proclaim His spouse through the visible coming of the Holy Spirit with a sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire. For just as He Himself, when He began to preach, was made known by His eternal Father through the Holy Spirit descending and remaining on Him in the form of a dove, so likewise, as the apostles are about to enter on the ministry of preaching, Christ Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit down from heaven, to touch them with tongues of fire and to point out, as by the finger of God, the supernatural mission in the office of the Church” (Mystical Body of Christ, I, 33).

Thus we see that the two missions from the Holy Trinity were a prelude to the mission that we have all received at Baptism. It is the mission to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world, without whom no one can be saved.

Catholic Faith
Vol. 5 - #1, Jan / Feb 1999

Copyright © 1999 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission

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