Wind and Snow Storms

In the northern hemisphere it is winter, and particularly here in Iceland, this is a time of snow, wind, darkness, cold, and Northern Lights; natural realities that invite us to reflect.

This year on our way back from the Spiritual Exercises, preached by one of our priests in Luxemburg, there was a very strong storm which delayed our flight. The pilot had to make an alternative route and trace various circles in the sky until he had the right angle and moment to land. In spite of all that, the strength of the wind did not permit us to disembark the plane for over 5 hours; we felt the wind rocking the entire plane and saw the snow fly by at 50 km per second.

In the Sacred Scriptures, snow is used often as an example of whiteness[1] and purity; St. Luke shows how Jesus calmed the storm that battered the boat in which the apostles were[2].

Experiencing these things invited us to reflect on how necessary it is to turn to God in the midst of the storm and to trust in that, even though our sins be red as scarlet, we can become white as snow with God’s forgiveness. God is a Good Father who desires us to come to Him; He is always ready to forgive us; on our part, all we have to do is to come with confidence and a repentant heart.

In the middle of the wind and snow storm, one imagines how much those people suffer who are submitted to the turmoil of the soul; sin turns the soul into a slave, suffocating it and making it difficult for it to see the Light, the Good, the calm. This is what motivated many Saints to work hard to help souls approach the sacrament of confession. To help them reach a sincere repentance and to journey back to God with all their heart, mind, soul, and entire being.

St. John Bosco taught his youth that there are two sacraments that bring us to heaven (like two wings): good confessions and Holy Communions.

Jesus left His apostles with the power to forgive sins and so dispose souls to receive the Body of Our Lord worthily. God uses His priests to administer this sacrament; He uses their lips and hands to pronounce the words that absolve our sins and trace the sign of the Cross over us by which our offenses are forgiven[3].

O great mystery of love in which the All-Powerful God deigns to use instruments for such a sublime work: that of returning peace to souls and filling them with His grace!

What do we have to do? How can we respond to so much kindness?

The best way to respond is to dispose ourselves for the reception of the sacraments and to decide to go to God with a pure heart. Put aside the storms that batter our soul and whiten our soul, our conscience, with a sincere repentance and the sacrament of confession; in this way we allow ourselves to grow in love for God and our neighbor.

In order to make a good confession, it is necessary to make a thorough examination of conscience in order to remember the sins that we’ve committed; to repent of them, that is to say, to feel pain for having committed them and to make the firm decision to not commit them again; to confess them to the priest and do the penance that he gives us.

The Church commands us to go to confession at least once a year, either when we are in danger of death or for the feast of Easter. However, when a soul finds itself in mortal sin, the most sensible thing to do is to go directly to the sacrament of confession, because moral sin drives us completely away from God and makes us miserable; the love of God does not abide in a soul that is in mortal sin.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.”[4]

St. John Bosco recounted what his mother, Mama Margarita, told him before his first confession and Communion: “My son, God is preparing a great gift. Try to prepare yourself well; go to confession and don’t hide anything. Confess everything, be sorry for everything, and promise God to be better in the future.”[5] After he was ordained a priest, he went to confession each week to Fr. Cafasso, and one of his principle ministries in his life was to be available for people go to him for confession.

Referring to the frequency of the practice of going to confession, St. John Bosco advises: “He who wants to think  little about his soul should go once a month; he who wants to be saved, but not be very devoted, should go every 15 days; he who wants to arrive at perfection should go every week.”[6]

It is necessary to make good confessions because so much good comes from doing so.  The devil does not want us go to confession and if someone wants to go, the devil sets traps to try to prevent them from making a good confession, as St. John Bosco relates: “The first trap is to be silent about our sins-to not confess to the priest the sins that we have committed. The second trap is to confess our sins without repenting, without feeling true pain and sorrow for offending God. The third trap is to not make the resolution to do better next time and not to pay attention to the advice of the priest.”[7]

I will finish with an example of St. John Bosco that shows the importance of devotion to Mary and the benefit this is to help us make a good confession.

There was a woman who was gravely ill in the hospital, and because she was stubbornly refusing to receive a priest, they called St. John Bosco who arrived as quickly as possible. The woman told John Bosco that only if he healed her would she confess all her sins. John Bosco, without rejecting her petition, gave her a medal of Mary, Help of Christians, which, after having kissed it, put it contently around her neck. Being filled with astonishment, those present were ordered by John Bosco to leave the room, leaving him alone with her. He blessed the woman and she made the sign of the cross. He asked her how long it had been since her last confession and then began the confession. “When she finished, she told me: ‘What do you think? I have just not wanted to go to confession and now I have done so. I am very happy. I don’t know what to say.’ I told her, ‘Look, it is the Blessed Virgin who wants that you be saved.’ And I left her with the feelings of a good Christian.”[8]

May God grant us the grace to persevere in our good resolutions, especially in reference to making good confessions and holy Communions. May the Blessed Virgin Mary help us to overcome the storms and to have souls white as snow.

[1] “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Is 1:18)

[2] And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was calm. (Luke 8:24)

[3] In this sacrament (of penance) each person can experience mercy in a unique way, that is, the love which is more powerful than sin…Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. (St. John Paul II, Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, 13)

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1457

[5] Autobiography of St. John Bosco, Ed. Salesian, Lima, 1977, p. 18

[6] Biographical Memories 12, 566

[7] Biographical Memories 9, 594-596

[8] Biographical Memories 9, 337-338

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