Father James opening prayer at Theology on Tap at Mo' Dailey's
Letters from a Pastor to His People- September 15, 2019
Compunction is a virtue we don't hear about too much anymore. The only time it is mentioned in the Liturgy (to my knowledge) is on Ash Wednesday. The priest says this prayer over the people at the end of the Mass:
Pour out a spirit of compunction, O God,
on those who bow before your majesty,
and by your mercy may they merit the rewards you promise
to those who do penance.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines compunction as "anxiety arising from awareness of guilt." We can do better than this at describing this virtue. I would never pray over you all to have anxiety. In fact, I do the opposite at Mass. At the end of the Our Father I pray that you be "safe from all distress" (the prior English translation said, "from all anxiety").
The word comes from the Latin compungere, which means 'to prick.' When we have compunction, we have pain over the awareness of our imperfection.
Let’s unpack this a little more. Part of us secretly hopes that we are perfect; that we have it all figured out and that we will never fail. This is natural. It is painful to experience failure and rejection, and natural law dictates that we avoid pain. When we discipline this inclination to be perfect and avoid failure, we are humbling ourselves (see Gospel a few weeks ago on humility) and allowing God to work through us. Compunction allows us to see our imperfection, hence our dependence on God. Amazing things will happen, then, when God works through us.
I speak of this because of what the compunctious St. Paul says in our second reading.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16
Paul sees himself as the "foremost sinner." This means Christ has an opportunity to exercise the foremost amount of mercy. Paul can’t do it himself; he needs the Lord. And we see what happened to Paul. He became the great missionary, the preeminent author of the New Testament, and a saint.
Look at the prodigal son. Had he not had compunction, he would not have returned home to receive his father's forgiveness.
It is not an easy virtue, but please consider praying for compunction. I think you'll be pleased with the results.
This Saturday evening is the Emerald City Gala. Thank you to the co-chairs and the committee for the hard work they've put into this event. It will be a great time and great success, and we are especially pleased to have St. Juliana alum John McDonough and honoree Kevin Matthews present. All of you who have contributed to the event and given an auction item, thank you immensely!
Good luck to the SJS girls basketball teams that are beginning their season this week. Also, boys football plays against Queen of All Saints this Sunday afternoon. Reminder, there is no school this Friday. The 8:30am Mass will be in the chapel.
Enjoy these beautiful September days and try not to stress about the Bears and Cubs.
Yours in Christ,