Innovative tool for priests to guide penitents to holiness in confession, help them grow in virtue, and inspire everyone to become saints

reCatholic released their latest tool to help Catholics grow in holiness. This new ministry’s creative project puts the richness of the faith in the palm of your hand.

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(ZENIT News / Washington, 02.21.2023).- As Father Dominic Sternhagen sat with a penitent and looked at the long confession line before him, he thought about how often priests don’t have the necessary time to guide people with all the direction necessary before offering absolution. As pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, Father Dominic spends many hours in the confessional; he understands the penitent’s need for meaningful guidance to overcome their sins once they leave the confessional, and the priest’s need for more resources to help at that moment.

Birth of the holy “Confession Cards”: Saints and their virtues 

That’s when the idea of creating Confession Cards based on the virtues of saints dawned upon him. With the “immense richness of material in our Catholic Church that people are not aware of” these new holy cards are “a gate into that richness of the Catholic faith,” he shares in an online interview. And what better way to master all the sins that overcome and overwhelm us, than by promoting its positive polar opposite, the richness of all the virtues of the Catholic Church. Such as when one confesses a sin rooted in pride, the priest would advocate for the virtue of humility. When one wrestled with anger issues, the priest would temper that deadly sin by promoting the virtue of patience. When one was drowning in gluttony, the virtue of temperance would lead the way out.

reCatholic makes the vision a reality 

Fr. Sternhagen took this project to the US-based Catholic ministry “reCatholic”, and that vision finally became a reality with the recent initial launch of the first set of “Confession Cards” in November 2022. This first set is available in English and Spanish and currently consists of 10 holy cards, each of a saint corresponding to his/her associated virtue that marked their life. These saints are: St. John the Apostle (Charity), St. John Marie Vianney (Confession), St. Teresa of Calcutta (Faith), St. Thomas More (Fortitude), Pope St. John Paul II (Hope), St. Therese of Lisieux (Humility), St. Katharine Drexel (Justice), St. Francis de Sales (Patience), St. Peter the Apostle (Prudence), and St. Augustine (Temperance). reCatholic commissioned a Mexican artist to create the beautiful imagery for each holy card saint, and worked with a team of theologians, psychologists and experts in Catholic spirituality to create the written content and resources for the penitent to grow in virtue.

reCatholic is a ministry of Catholic Support Services. Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, reCatholic’s mission is to “create resources for groups and individuals that inspire and challenge Catholics to rediscover, rekindle, and renew their faith so it becomes a life-changing adventure and the greatest source of fulfillment.” According to reCatholic CEO Nathan Hadsall, the latest project of the Confession Cards fits with reCatholic’s “vision of church renewal that [reCatholic] is dedicated to bringing about … The holy cards are designed based on feedback from priests to help people grow in everyday virtues, answering the concrete struggles we all have on our confession lists.”

Holy Card characteristics 

The “Confession Cards” association with the saints reminds the penitent that that saint too may have fallen to the same sin, but overcame it by growing in virtue to become the best version of themselves, and attaining sainthood. By moving towards the virtue associated with our sin, we are on the way to becoming the perfect optimal version of ourselves. Moreover, to reach that state of perfection we must move away from the vices and sins that plague our soul, and rather become what our Lord created our souls to be. Saints.

Armed with an image of a saint on one side, the reverse side of the 3in by 2.5in card has a prayer and a QR code which will lead the cardholder to the reCatholic web page which has more resources in English and Spanish on how the cardholder can grow in that virtue, and away from the sin they confessed to. For example, the QR code in the image of St. Peter to the left would lead them online to resources to grow in the virtue of Prudence where they can read how St. Peter the Apostle lived the virtue. Further resources on the page aid the reader in discerning how to grow in the virtue of Prudence like St. Peter. In keeping with the times and the growing awareness of mental health issues of the day, reCatholic is now in the process of developing a second set of cards with a new group of saints associated with issues such as anxiety and depression, and hopefully will be launched by advent 2023.

While the original idea is for lay people or parishioners to support their local priest by purchasing gift packs to be used during confession, it’s also possible for parishioners to purchase individual packs of 10 reCatholic confession cards, one of each saint, for their own personal devotion or to share with friends for their spiritual growth.

National and international publicity and reaction 

During a publicity campaign feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Hadsall was invited to be on the “The Katie McGrady Show” (The Catholic Channel – SiriusXM, 129) to talk more about the “Confession Cards.” You can listen to the interview on reCatholic’s Facebook page. Various US dioceses and parishes described the cards as being “a grace.” Others mentioned the cards provide “hope” for a sinner. One pastor liked them so much he is sharing them with fellow priests in his Texan diocese.

The reCatholic “Confession Cards” are also reaching global audiences. In Mexico City, Dominic Curran, a spokesperson at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church (which serves the English-speaking expatriate community in the city) said the cards are “a beautifully designed resource, and a good way to prompt and help us reflect on virtues through reconciliation.” Also in Mexico City, Father Vicente Lozano Gonzalez, an active Instagram Catholic evangelizer (@hno_vicente), and a Vicar at the Parroquia Francesa shared that the Confession Cards helped the parishioners have a “gentler” approach to the sacrament of confession. He continued to say that renewing our practice of confession requires tools that are “simple, beautiful and attractive”, and most importantly with the language and resources of the faithful to bring ourselves closer to confession. These confession cards are a “great help.” Father Butrus Zidan of the Maronite Church in Mendoza, Argentina shared: “It’s a wonderful project and would be a great help for Maronite priests in Latin America.”

Father Raymond Taouk of St. Joseph’s Parish in Sydney, Australia noted the cards were a very good idea … “even though small in size, they are very effective”. He highlighted he has heard many amazing stories of people being “brought back to the faith”, just by little things like these cards.

Becoming saints and helping our priests 

As French Catholic writer Leon Bloy eloquently wrote: “There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint.” Truly, to not have our lives be defined by the tragedy our sins wrought upon us, what better way is there than to grow in our faith, and to aspire to become more virtuous like our saints. And the Confession Cards have been a step towards that life goal.

In closing, Hadsall shares his hope for the Confession Cards. “The world desperately needs Jesus and the joy of a life with His presence. But the number of priests available continues to go down, so the demand on their time is greater. Our hope is that this tool will be a support for our priests and a gift for every Catholic looking to deepen their relationship with our Lord.”

How to place an order 

Orders for parishes, ministries and individual use can be placed online for Confession Card language packs in English or Spanish. Confession Cards are currently available for delivery in the US and internationally.

Free resources 

reCatholic also offers abundant free resources such as a Catholic search Engine in an online Catholic Library collection, a version of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises for Busy Catholics, a Novena to the Holy Spirit, and more.

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