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The power of forgiving sins Print
Guest column
Thursday, Nov. 05, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
Fr. Gregory Ihm

In 1793 began the Reign of Terror in France known as the French Revolution when many priests, Religious, and Catholic lay faithful were murdered because of their association with the Church.

One man had a particular hatred for priests and was famous for his style of execution: slitting their throats. Several years after the Reign of Terror, this man grew old, sick, and weaker.

His wife, a hidden Catholic, called in a priest she knew to anoint her husband because she feared for his soul.

When the priest arrived, the old man was lying on his bed, too weak to move, but his face became livid with rage and he screamed, "If I could get up, I would cut your throat!"

And the priest calmly replied, "You already did. But God saved me so that I could save you." The priest pushed down his shirt collar to reveal a long scar across his throat, reaching from ear to ear -- a scar made by the knife of this very man.

The old man was very moved by the magnanimity of this priest. God's grace touched his heart and the old man made his Confession and repented of his sins before he died.

A field hospital

Pope Francis has called the Church a field hospital, denoting that there are many wounded from the battle with the enemy.

The field hospital is set up, but it is in need of more doctors to help bring healing to the wounded souls crying for help. We need to go to them because they are often too weak to come on their own.

Pope Francis has called for a Year of Mercy starting December 8, 2015, to highlight and point people's attention to the profound gift given to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus has given the power of forgiving sins to the Church through the sacramental priesthood.

Priests when they hear Confessions make visible the hidden face of Jesus Christ: a face hidden by one's pain, anger, embarrassment, guilt, and sometimes years of sin.

By communicating the truth of God's love and the power of His mercy, a priest makes visible the loving face of Jesus.

Seeking meaning in life

Men are often seeking to do something with their life that will be both meaningful for them but also fruitful for others. Being the instrument by which God forgives someone of their sins is extremely meaningful and fruitful. Parents usher souls into life, and priests usher souls into eternal life.

Do you know a man seeking meaning in his life but also has a heart for serving others? Jesus Christ may be wanting to grant him the power to forgive sins in a world that is thirsting to know His mercy.

As a way to celebrate and bring about the fulfillment of the Year of Mercy, ask a young man to consider serving the Church in this way.


Fr. Gregory Ihm is the director of vocations for the Diocese of Madison.