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Monday, September 02, 2013

Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Early Church Father and Doctor of the Church



Pope Saint Gregory the Great (also known as Gregory I; Gregory Dialogos; Father of the Fathers) was born in 540 A.D., at Rome, Italy. Saint Gregory is a Latin Father of the Church, and Doctor of the Church. He is also one of the four Traditional Doctors of the Latin Church (along with Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and Saint Jerome). 

Gregory was the son of a wealthy Roman senator and Saint Silvia of Rome. He also was the nephew of Saint Emiliana of Rome and Saint Tarsilla, and the great-grandson of Pope Saint Felix III. Gregory was educated by the finest teachers in Rome. He was prefect of the city of Rome for one year, then he sold his possessions, turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome, and he entered the Benedictine Order, where he was a monk. He was appointed cardinal-deacon, and then sent to the Byzantine court to secure aid against the Lombards. The result of his six year sojourn was a conviction that Rome must not rely on the East for help. 

After his return he saw English children being sold in the Roman Forum, and he wanted to become a missionary to England. The people of Rome would not allow him to leave. His desire was realized when he sent Saint Augustine of Canterbury, with a band of missionaries to England in 590.

Gregory was elected 64th Pope by unanimous acclamation on September 3, 590, and was the first monk to be chosen as pope. With his election to the papacy, he published a work on episcopal duties, which was used for centuries. He enforced the celibacy of the clergy, and supervised church funds. Although he strengthened the prerogatives of the papacy by demanding supreme authority over all churches, judging bishops, and hearing the complaints of prelates, he was always tactful in dealing with secular authority. 

He established the system of appeals to Rome, and is recognized as an administrator and lawyer. Gregory collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chant. He also sent missionaries to France, Spain, and Africa. Gregory wrote some very influential works on the Mass and Office.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great died of natural causes on March 12, 604 at Rome, Italy.  

Below are a collection of quotations by Pope Saint Gregory the Great from homilies, writings, and prayers by him:


When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice. – Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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If we knew at what time we were to depart from this world, we would be able to select a season for pleasure and another for repentance. But God, who has promised pardon to every repentant sinner, has not promised us tomorrow. Therefore we must always dread the final day, which we can never foresee. This very day is a day of truce, a day for conversion. And yet we refuse to cry over the evil we have done! Not only do we not weep for the sins we have committed, we even add to them. -– Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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If we are, in fact, now occupied in good deeds, we should not attribute the strength with which we are doing them to ourselves. We must not count on ourselves, because even if we know what kind of person we are today, we do not know what we will be tomorrow. Nobody must rejoice in the security of their own good deeds. As long as we are still experiencing the uncertainties of this life, we do not know what end may follow...we must not trust in our own virtues. – Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. – Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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When Mary Magdalen came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: “The disciples went back home,” and it adds: “but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.” We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tell us: “Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.” -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great from a homily

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It is only right, with all the powers of our heart and mind, to praise You Father and Your Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Dear Father, by Your wondrous condescension of Loving-Kindness toward us, Your servants, You gave up Your Son. Dear Jesus You paid the debt of Adam for us to the Eternal Father by Your Blood poured forth in Loving-Kindness. You cleared away the darkness of sin by Your magnificent and radiant Resurrection. You broke the bonds of death and rose from the grave as a Conqueror. You reconciled Heaven and earth. Our life had no hope of Eternal Happiness before You redeemed us. Your Resurrection has washed away our sins, restored our innocence and brought us joy. How inestimable is the tenderness of Your Love!

We pray You, Lord, to preserve Your servants in the peaceful enjoyment of this Easter happiness. We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with God The Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great from an Easter Prayer by him

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Our fatherland is paradise, heaven. We have departed from it by pride, disobedience, abuse of the senses, therefore it is needed that we return to it by obedience, contempt of the world, and by taming the desires of the flesh; thus we return to our own country by another road. By forbidden pleasures we have forfeited the joys of paradise, by penance we must regain them. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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Don't be anxious about what you have, but about what you are! -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great from a homily

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Perhaps it is not after all so difficult for a man to part with his possessions, but it is certainly most difficult for him to part with himself. To renounce what one has is a minor thing; but to renounce what one is, that is asking a lot. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.

Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great From a HomilyOn Saint Thomas the Apostle

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The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practices what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind's eye. In it we see our inner face. From the Scriptures we can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

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The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joy. -- Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Monday, August 27, 2012

Saint Augustine of Hippo, Early Church Father, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church


Saint Augustine of Hippo (also known as  Aurelius Augustinus; Doctor of Grace) was born around 354 A.D., at Tagaste, Numidia, North Africa (Souk-Ahras, Algeria) as Aurelius Augustinus. He was the son of Patricius, a pagan, and of Saint Monica, and he received a Christian education. 

He lost his faith in his youth and led a wild life. He lived with a Carthaginian woman from the age of 15 through 30, and he fathered a son whom he named Adeotadus, which means the gift of God. Augustine had gone to Carthage to study law, but, he became a slave to immorality and eventually embraced the heresy of Manichaeism.

He went to Italy around 383, and taught rhetoric at Milan. He was a Manichaean for several years after having investigated and experimented with several philosophies. Manichaeism taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his book, “Confessions”: "God, give me chastity and continence - but not just now." This heresy boasted to have an answer to every question and to explain the deepest mysteries of the Christian religion. It was this boast that blinded Saint Augustine for nine years, setting him thinking that Manichaeism "would free us from all error, and bring us to God by pure reason alone." Association with the leaders of this heresy opened his eyes and he saw that, despite the boast of their lips, "their hearts were void of truth." His mother, Saint Monica prayed constantly for his conversion to the truth. His conversion is a classic instance of the efficacy of a mother's prayer. Saint Augustine was baptized by Saint Ambrose of Milan around 387.

On the death of his mother he returned to Tagaste in 388, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. Saint Augustine was ordained a priest around 391, and was consecrated assistant Bishop of Hippo around 396. He introduced religious poverty and community life into his residence, which became a nursery of African monasteries and bishops. 

For 34 years he wrote and preached against the heresies of Manichaeism, Donatism, Pelagianism and others. He oversaw his church and his see during the fall of the Roman Empire to the Vandals. Augustine became renowned as  a philosopher,  theologian, and especially as the Doctor of Grace. His writings cover the whole field of theology, with his “Confessions” and the “City of God” being the best known. Saint Augustine is a Latin Father of the Church, and Doctor of the Church.

Saint Augustine's later thinking is best said by his writing, “Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.

Saint Augustine died at Hippo around 430. His relics are at Pavia and Hippo. His memorial is August 28.

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Below is a prayer by Saint Augustine :

Prayer on Finding God after a Long Search

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace. Amen

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Below are several quotations from Saint Augustine of Hippo:

God has no need of your money, but the poor have. You give it to the poor, and God receives it. - Saint Augustine

The honors of this world, what are they but puff, and emptiness and peril of falling? - Saint Augustine

Daily advance, then, in this love, both by praying and by well doing, that through the help of Him who enjoined it on you, and whose gift it is, it may be nourished and increased, until, being perfected, it render you perfect. - Saint Augustine

What do you possess if you possess not God? - Saint Augustine

Unhappy is the soul enslaved by the love of anything that is mortal. - Saint Augustine

The love of worldly possessions is a sort of bird line, which entangles the soul, and prevents it flying to God. - Saint Augustine

This very moment I may, if I desire, become the friend of God. - Saint Augustine

God bestows more consideration on the purity of the intention with which our actions are performed than on the actions themselves. - Saint Augustine

I will suggest a means whereby you can praise God all day long, if you wish. Whatever you do, do it well, and you have praised God. - Saint Augustine

This is the business of our life. By labor and prayer to advance in the grace of God, till we come to that height of perfection in which, with clean hearts, we may behold God. - Saint Augustine

God in his omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist. - Saint Augustine

God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes you do what you can and to pray for what you cannot, and aids you that you may be able. - Saint Augustine

Our life and our death are with our neighbor. - Saint Augustine

Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. - from The City of God by Saint Augustine

A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers. - from Against Faustus the Manichean, by Saint Augustine

There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended. - from Sermons by Saint Augustine

At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps. - from Homilies on John by Saint Augustine

Since we cannot, as yet, understand that He was begotten by the Father before the day-star, let us celebrate His birth of the Virgin in the nocturnal hours. Since we do not comprehend how His name existed before the light of the sun, let us recognize His tabernacle placed in the sun. Since we do not, as yet, gaze upon the Son inseparably united with His Father, let us remember Him as the ‘bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber.’ Since we are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, let us grow familiar with the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ. - Saint Augustine

He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us. - Saint Augustine

Question the beauty of the earth, the sea, the air distending and diffusing itself, the sky, question all these realities. All respond: ‘See, we are beautiful.’ These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One who is not subject to change? - Saint Augustine

One and the same Word of God extends throughout the Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since He who was in the beginning God with God has no need for separate syllables; for he is not subject to time. - Saint Augustine

Jesus Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all. - Saint Augustine

If physical things please you, then praise God for them, but turn back your love to Him who created them, lest in the things that please you, you displease Him. If souls please you, love them in God; for in themselves they are changeable, but in Him they are firmly established. Without Him they pass away and perish. In Him, then, let them be loved, and carry along with you to Him as many souls as you can, and say to them, “Let us love Him, let us love Him; He made the world and is not far from it. He did not make all things and then leave them, but they are of Him and in Him. See, there He is wherever truth is loved. He is within the very heart, yet the heart has strayed from Him. Return to your heart, O you transgressors, and hold fast to Him who made you. Stand with Him and you will stand fast. Rest in Him and you shall be at rest.” - Saint Augustine, from The Confessions

Let us understand that God is a physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, not a punishment for damnation. - Saint Augustine

O Sacrament of Love! O sign of Unity! O bond of Charity! He who would have Life finds here indeed a Life to live in and a Life to live by. - Saint Augustine

If you see that you have not yet suffered tribulations, consider it certain that you have not begun to be a true servant of God; for Saint Paul says plainly that all who chose to live piously in Christ, shall suffer persecutions - Saint Augustine

I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown. It is the words of the Apostle that I address to you: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires, so that you may be clothed with the life of him whom you have put on in this sacrament. You have all been clothed with Christ by your baptism in him. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus. Such is the power of this sacrament: it is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life. You are walking now by faith, still on pilgrimage in a mortal body away from the Lord; but he to whom your steps are directed is himself the sure and certain way for you: Jesus Christ, who for our sake became man. For all who fear him he has stored up abundant happiness, which he will reveal to those who hope in him, bringing it to completion when we have attained the reality which even now we possess in hope. This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week. And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realized, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit. If, then, you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. - from a sermon by Saint Augustine


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Saint Isidore of Seville


Bishop, Early Church Father and Doctor of the Church


Saint Isidore of Seville (also known as Isidore the Bishop; Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages) was born in 560 A.D., at Cartagena, Spain. He was the son of Severianus and Theodora, people known for their piety. He was the younger brother of Saint Fulgentius, Saint Florentina, and Saint Leander of Seville, who raised him after their father's death.

At first he was a poor student, but he gave the problem over to God and became one of the most learned men of his time. He was ordained a priest, and he helped his brother Leander, archbishop of Seville, in the conversion of the Visigoth Arians. His brother Saint Leander died around 600, and in 601 Isidore succeeded him as Archbishop of Seville.

During his episcopacy he devoted his energies to promoting science, establishing schools and convents, and welding into one single nation the various peoples composing the Hispano-Gothic kingdom. Saint Isidore was a teacher, a founder, and a reformer. He required seminaries in every diocese, and he wrote a rule for religious orders. He was a prolific writer, his works including a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the world beginning with creation.

He also introduced the works of Aristotle to Spain. He completed the Mozarabic liturgy which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. He presided at both the Second Council of Seville in 619, and the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633. He is important for his literary work, and his mastery of all branches of knowledge of his day.

Saint Isidore of Seville is generally held to be the last of the Latin Fathers of the Church, and he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722. He became the leading candidate for patron of computer users and the Internet in 1999.

Saint Isidore of Seville died of natural causes in 636 at Seville, Spain. His relics are in his own church at Leon, Spain.

Below are some quotations from Saint Isidore of Seville:


Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading. If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us. All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned. Reading the holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God. The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study. The more you devote yourself to study of the sacred utterances, the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled, the richer the harvest. The man who is slow to grasp things but who really tries hard is rewarded, equally he who does not cultivate his God-given intellectual ability is condemned for despising his gifts and sinning by sloth. Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. But when God’s grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart.

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Heresy is from the Greek word meaning ‘choice’…. But we are not permitted to believe whatever we choose, nor to choose whatever someone else has believed. We have the Apostles of God as authorities, who did not…choose what they would believe but faithfully transmitted the teachings of Christ. So, even if an angel from heaven should preach otherwise, he shall be called anathema.

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The more we are afflicted in this world, the greater is our assurance in the next; the more sorrow in the present, the greater will our joy be in the future.

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Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession.