Sacrosanctum Concilium 109

It was Vatican II itself, and not crazed liturgists or catechumenate directors who reminded the Church that Lent isn’t 100% about penance:

The season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the liturgy and by liturgical catechesis. Hence:

a) More use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy; some of them, which used to flourish in bygone days, are to be restored as may seem good.

b) The same is to apply to the penitential elements. As regards instruction it is important to impress on the minds of the faithful not only a social consequences of sin but also that essence of the virtue of penance which leads to the detestation of sin as an offence against God; the role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over, and the people must be exhorted to pray for sinners.

For some Catholics, the problem isn’t so much the addition of baptismal or catechumenal features into the liturgy. Actually, this would be one important area for reform of the 1962 Missal, if traditionalists are ever so inspired to follow the Council.

This section seems to skip over the notion that the fear of damnation is the most important or the only motivation for the believer. It is a fact that sin has earthly consequences for the individual. More so, serious sin often has a noticeable impact on others. Twelve Step programs get this. That’s why the founders of AA knew that making amends where possible was an important part of spiritual health. Sin hurts others.

Sin is also an offense against God. Most formal acts of contrition acknowledge this. Encouraging a focus on the fear of hell, while it might motivate some personalities, strikes me as limited and possibly narcissistic. It isn’t always about “me” and “my” consequences.

My last comment on this section: that overlooked aspect at the very end, that believers should pray for sinners. Not wish they would go away. Not wish them upon another denomination. Any comments from the readers?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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