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Father, I have had impure thoughts’

Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC | Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I could never list all the things that I love about being a priest. There are very many. Of the top things that I love about being a priest is the incredible privilege that it is to hear confessions. I am always grateful to be able to be a minister, unworthy that I am, of God’s grace and mercy in the confessional.

I have the privilege of hearing confessions a lot at Notre Dame — most often in the Basilica, on NDEs and retreats, and sometimes in my room in Dillon Hall. One of the most common things that I hear is, “Father, I have had impure thoughts.” I hear it a lot. I suppose that most priests do.

While I know what the penitent means by saying “impure thoughts,” I wish to look at a different meaning or take on these words.

Not one of us could really begin to understand the unconditional and ever-present love of God. The love of God is greater than what we can imagine. The love of God is free. The love of God is unconditional. God initiates this love in each one of us. God loves us when we sin and when we don’t sin. God loves us when we succeed and when we fail. God loves us when we win and when we lose. God loves us when we turn towards Him and when we turn away from Him. God loves us without reason.

The Scriptures tell us that God’s love is like the rain, which falls on the good and on the bad. God loves us in season and out of season. God loves us when we are hopeful and when we are despairing. God loves us when we do good and when we do evil.

St. Paul repeatedly assures us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Even if we wanted to escape from God’s unconditional love, we could not. God loves us at every moment of our existence. If God stopped loving us for a split second, we would become like a grease spot on the floor somewhere.

I long to know that love more deeply. I want to be penetrated by that love to the core of my being. I think that the only “impure thought” I can really have is that I am not totally loved by God or that I am unlovable or that something that I have done could cause God to withhold His love from me.

These thoughts are impure because they are so against the love and nature of God. That is more impure than any other “impure thought.” My most impure thought is that I could be outside of the love and embrace of God.

I wish that this would be the understanding that we might have of impure thoughts. God’s love is so overwhelming and so great and so large that to doubt it or to think that you are outside of it is what real impurity is.

This week’s column is written by Fr. Joseph V. Corpora, CSC., the Director of University-School Partnerships with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE)and an Assistant Rector in Dillon Hall. He is a sinner whose sins are forgiven. He can be reached at jcorpora@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.