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December 18th, 2012

The Healing Power of Confession

The healing power of confession

I was surprised to see this couple, the leaders of a large prayer group in the Archdiocese of Bombay, who had been knocking at my door early that morning at the retreat house in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai. On my blank refusal to leave my 200 retreatants and accompany them to the hospital, they began to plead their case.

Their son Joseph was sick and had been undergoing medical treatment at home. But after two weeks of medication he was not getting any better. Their family doctor finally acknowledged that he could do nothing more. He was not even able to diagnose the precise nature of his sickness, which baffled him. He recommended him to be admitted to this renowned hospital, where he would be under the care of the topmost specialists of the city. But here too, after he had gone through every diagnostic testing and been administered all kinds of medicine for a further two weeks, those eminent doctors owned up that they too could do nothing more. They too were unable to diagnose the young man’s illness and hence did not know how to treat him.

After coming to know all this, Joseph felt so disheartened and dejected that he told his parents, “I must see Fr. Rufus today.” I made it clear to them, when they approached me, that I could not absent myself from the retreat even for a short time. But they kept coming back again and again, saying that their son would not take no for an answer, and pleading that I come to the hospital – however late the hour.

I finally consented to come at the end of the day’s program, at about 10.30 pm. Seeing him in the ICU (intensive care unit) surrounded by all those sophisticated medical apparatus, I deduced that he must be very, very sick, and that is why he had called for me. But when I asked him, “What do you want? Why did you call me?” he answered to my great astonishment, “I want to make my confession!”

I was taken aback at first by this unusual request, since I had assumed that he had wanted me to come and pray over him for healing. Then I grew somewhat infuriated that he had dragged me all the way from the retreat in Bandra, instead of arranging for a priest in the parish where the hospital was situated to come and hear his routine confession. But on second thoughts, I cooled down and said to myself, “Perhaps, that is what he wants, and more important, what he needs.” And when he made his confession – it was a sincere and thorough confession of his whole life – I knew then that that was what he needed and therefore wanted.

My son, your sins are forgiven

I was about to leave his ICU private room, when there suddenly flashed into my mind the Gospel narrative of the healing of the paralyzed man. Whenever I refer to this Gospel incident during a retreat, I make it a point to ask the participants, “What did Jesus first say to the paralyzed man?” The unanimous answer I receive everywhere is, “Your sins are forgiven!” To their disappointment and chagrin, I tell them that this answer is equally wrong! I repeat the question, and with bated breath they wait for my answer to my own question, “The first thing that Jesus told this sick helpless creature was, ‘MY SON’.” And after a pause, I resume and tell them, “Then only did Jesus continue saying, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ (Mk 2:1-12).

For even though Jesus knew that this man was burdened by sin and needed the experience of God’s forgiveness, he also knew that he was oppressed by in a way the greater burden of guilt and needed also the assurance of God’s forgiving love. For God has sent Jesus to save the world, and NOT to condemn it (Jn 3:17). Jesus has indeed come not just to forgive our sins, but to free us from sin’s greatest consequence, the burden of guilt.

The miraculous healing power of Confession

It was therefore without the previous hesitation and with a new assurance that I returned to the sickbed. Looking up to heaven I prayed, “Lord, after you told the paralyzed man, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven’, you did not stop there; but you continued and said, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and go home’. Lord, you are the same: yesterday, today and forever. And so, in imitation of you, I am not going to stop after telling this modern paralytic, in your name and in the name of your church, ‘Your sins are forgiven’. I am going to continue and do what you did 2000 years ago, knowing fully well that what happened then will likewise happen now.”

I then looked down at the sick man and said, “Now that God has forgiven you your sins, I would like to pray for your physical healing too.”

It was his turn now to stare at me in surprise. He had not asked me to pray for healing before. Nor did he ask me to do so even now. It was I who took the initiative and made the suggestion. And after praying for some time, with his sister Jenny, a youth leader of the charismatic renewal in Bombay, I was so sure that what happened in the Gospel story then would happen even now, that I had the nerve to tell him, “Now move”. Before that he could not move his body, because of the intense pain. Now he moved. “Sit up”, I said. He sat up in his bed. “Get out of your bed.” He got out. “Bend over.” He bent over. “Walk about.” He walked about. Only I did not tell him, as Jesus did, “Take up your bed and go home.” For that was not his bed. And the next day he was discharged from the hospital.

How much more are we in the sight of God, our Father, his beloved sons and daughters first and only then sinners – and forgiven sinners at that. Jesus has indeed come not just to forgive our sins, but to free us from sin’s greatest consequence, the burden of guilt.

Joseph’s Testimony

About a year later, I happened to recognize Joseph as a participant of the retreat that I was giving at Vinayalaya Retreat House, Andheri, Mumbai. When at the end of my first day’s talk on God’s initiative of forgiving love and man’s response of repentance, I retold the above incident, I remarked in passing that the young man whose testimony I had related was present here for this retreat, and that if he wished to confirm or change, add to or subtract from what I had said, – he was free to do so.

He got up at once, came on to the platform and facing the audience who looked at him with a sort of wonder, said only one sentence: “When I honestly repented and humbly confessed my sins to God and the Church, with the full assurance of God’s forgiving love in the Sacrament of Confession, I knew deep within myself that I was already even physically healed. – Even now I feel that there was really no need of Father having prayed over me for a physical healing”.

It is therefore through our repentance that we open ourselves to God’s forgiveness, that brings with it the experience of the warm embrace of the Father crying out with out joy, ‘My son, my daughter, was dead and is now alive.

- – - written by Fr. Rufus Pereira


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October 17th, 2012

Your Simple Gesture Could Be Life Saving

Your Simple Gesture Could Be Life Saving

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles.

Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of the burden. As they walked Mark discovered the boy’s name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball and history, and that he was having lots of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.

They arrived at Bill’s home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk, then Mark went home.

They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years.

Finally the long-awaited senior year came and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.

Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mothers sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow.

So you see, Mark, when you picked up those books that day, you did a lot more, you saved my life.”

- – - written by John W. Schlatter from Condensed Chicken Soup for the Soul


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August 17th, 2012

The Hail Mary of A Protestant

Hail Mary of a Protestant

This is the beautiful incident of a protestant drawing much strength from the prayer of Hail Mary, unknowingly.

A little six-year-old Protestant boy had often heard his Catholic companion reciting the prayer ‘Hail Mary.’ He liked it so much that he copied it, memorized it and would recite it every day. ‘Look, Mummy, what a beautiful prayer,’ he said to his mother one day.

‘Never again say it,’ answered the mother.’ it is a superstitious prayer of catholics who adore idols and think Mary a goddess. After all, she is a woman like any other. Come on, take this Bible and read it. It contains everything that we are bound to do and have to do.’ From that day on the little boy discontinued his daily ‘Hail Mary’ and gave himself more time to reading the Bible instead.

One day, while reading the Gospel, he came across the passage about the Annunciation of the Angel to Our Lady. Full of joy, the little boy ran to his mother and said: ‘Mummy, I have found the ‘Hail Mary’ in the Bible which says: ‘Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women. ‘Why do you call it a superstitious prayer?’

On another occasion he found that beautiful Salutation of St. Elizabeth to The Virgin Mary and the wonderful canticle. MAGNIFICAT in which Mary foretold that ‘the generations would call her blessed.’ He said no more about it to his mother but started to recite the ‘Hail Mary’ every day as before. He felt pleasure in addressing those charming words to the Mother of Jesus, our Savior.

When he was fourteen, he one day heard a discussion on Our Lady among the members of his family. Every one said that Mary was a common woman like any other woman. The boy, after listening to their erroneous reasoning, could not bear it any longer, and full of indignation, he interrupted them, saying:

‘Mary is not like any other children of Adam, stained with sin. No! The Angel called her FULL OF GRACE AND BLESSED AMONGST WOMEN. Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ and consequently Mother of God. There is no higher dignity to which a creature can be raised. The Gospel says that the generations will proclaim her blessed and you are trying to despise her and look down on her. Your spirit is not the Spirit Of the Gospel or of the Bible which you proclaim to be the foundation of the Christian religion.’

So deep was the impression which the boy’s talk had made that his mother many times cried out sorrowfully: ‘Oh my God! I fear that this son of mine will one day join the Catholic religion, the religion of Popes!’ And indeed, not very long afterwards, having made a serious study of both Protestantism and Catholicism, the boy found the latter to be the only true religion and embraced it and became one of its most ardent apostles.

Some time after his conversion, he met his married sister who rebuked him and said indignantly: ‘You little know how much I love my children. Should any one of them desire to become a Catholic, I would sooner pierce his heart with a dagger than allow him to embrace the religion of the Popes!’

Her anger and temper were as furious as those of St. Paul before his conversion. However, she would change her ways, just as St. Paul did on his way to Damascus. It so happened that one of her sons fell dangerously ill and the doctors gave up hope of recovery. Her brother then approached her affectionately, saying:

‘My dear sister, you naturally wish to have your child cured. Very well, then, do what I ask you to do. Follow me, let us pray one ‘Hail Mary’ and promise God that, if your son recovers his health, you would seriously study the Catholic doctrine, and should you come to the conclusion that Catholicism is the only true religion, you would embrace it no matter what the sacrifices may be.’

His sister was somewhat reluctant at the beginning but as she wished for her son’s recovery. She accepted her brother’s proposal and recited the ‘Hail Mary’ together with him. The next day her son was completely cured! The mother fulfilled her promise and she studied the Catholic doctrine. After long preparation she received Baptism together with her family, thanking her brother for being an apostle to her.

The story was related during a sermon given by the Rev. Father Tuckwell. ‘Brethren, he went on and said, ‘The boy who became a Catholic and converted his sister to Catholicism dedicated his whole life to the service of God. He is the priest who is speaking to you now! What I am I owe to Our Lady.

You, too, my dear brethren, be entirely dedicated also to Our Lady and never let a day pass without saying the beautiful prayer, ‘Hail Mary’, and your Rosary. Ask her to enlighten the minds of Protestants who are separated from the true Church of Christ founded on the Rock (Peter) and ‘against whom the gates of hell shall never prevail.’


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