“Judas made a huge blunder when he sold Christ for 30 denarii, but he made an even bigger one when…”

I often refer to Pope John Paul I as the Pope people forget to remember.

Today the intrepid Andrea Tornielli has a post about John Paul I, Papa Luciani.  He talks about an initiative to recall the Pope’s life and short pontificate this year, which is the one hundredeth since his birth (17 Oct 1912).  In the entry Tornielli offers a quote:

“What a mistake those who do not hope make!” Judas made a huge blunder the day in which he sold Christ for 30 denarii, but he made an even bigger one when he thought that his sin was too great to be forgiven.  No sin is too big: any wretchedness, however great, can always be enclosed in infinite mercy.”

There is no sin that we little mortals can commit that is so great that God, who is infinite and merciful, cannot forgive.

Moreover, when we receive absolution for our sincerely and completely confessed mortal sins, the sin is gone, removed, taken away from our souls.  We will have the memory, but no long the guilt.  Those sins will not be held against us in our judgment.  We have to do penance, and we will carry the sorrow of the memory, but we can know with sure Catholic Faith that in the priest’s actions Christ forgave us and washed our souls clean.  The sins are not merely covered over or set aside as if in some trick of accounting.  They are gone.  They are no more.

No matter how great the sin was, God will forgive it and remove it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. mamajen says:

    That quote is amazing. I’m always so sad when I think about the fate of Judas.

  2. StarOfTheSea47 says:

    I’m also sad to think of Judas’ dispair.

    On another note, how specific does one’s confession have to be? How much detail should one go into? I don’t have the opportunity to go to Confession often, for serious reasons that are often out of my control, but I’m wondering if my previous confessions have completely cleaned my sins away?

    How much detail do we have to give? Can we simply say the nature of the sins, for example “for greed/sexual immorality/doubt of God” without giving specific examples? I did not provide specific examples, mostly because at the time I confessed there were so many that had piled up after years of not going that I simply confessed very, very generally. But now I wonder if this is valid?

  3. Lori Pieper says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for continuing to remember Pope John Paul I. I certainly don’t forget to remember; I could never forget him even if I tried.

    On so many occasions he stressed the mercy of God. I’d like to invite people to read more about what he said about this as Pope and how it inspired his successor, here: (especially parts IV and V).


    And also don’t forget the centenary conference on Pope John Paul I in new York Oct 12 and 13:


  4. mamajen says:


    A priest can answer your questions better than I could, but if you know you cannot get to confession often and you’re prone to forgetting, I would suggest keeping a journal or computer file or something where you can write things down each day. Obviously it would need to be something you could keep from prying eyes. That way you’d have the peace of mind that you’re not forgetting important things when you go. I sometimes bring notes with me because I get so flustered and emotional in the confessional that my memory goes out the window. Once I’m finished, I rip them into itty bitty pieces of paper and throw them away.

  5. jessicahoff says:

    That is so right. The great sin is to despair, because it means we reject God’s love. All we need is to begin by turning from our sins and repenting. Too often we forget that – thank you for reminding us.

  6. Ralph says:

    I am happy to report:
    Confession this Saturday, Mass on Sunday, Mass yesterday…
    I am on a good roll and you deserve some credit for it Father.

    Your gentle prodding really helps. Your blog has been a positive force for positive change in my life and I appreciate it. Posts like these continue to help keep me on the right path. If you ever feel discouraged about preaching the need for confession, I hope you will think of people like me who have been reminded to go back to that great sacrament because of you.

  7. bookworm says:

    I had been wanting to go to confession for several weeks, and finally made it today. Or I thought I had. I showed up right at the beginning of the scheduled hour and there were already half a dozen people in line. No problem — based on past experience, I figured I could probably still make it out by 4 p.m., since I was obligated to be somewhere else at 4:30. Well, one person took at least 25 minutes and the person after them took at least 15 minutes. 4:15 arrived and I had to leave since there were still three people ahead of me. I felt really disappointed and unfortunately a little miffed with the people who took so long because I don’t know when I’ll be able to make it back. But, perhaps they had good reasons for taking a long time — maybe they had been away from the Church for many years and had more ground to cover. So I will try to remember to pray for them tonight.

  8. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I have seen people who write down their lists, and have generally thought it a bad idea. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t make a sincere examination of conscience, but that if we have done our best that we have not INTENTIONALLY concealed any mortal sin.

    Consider the following:

    A man lives in the diocese of Whatsthatville, where confessions are offered rarely, except for the regularly scheduled general absolution and the parish penance services at which the most liberal priests are present, those for whom the penitent repeatedly finds himself asking the question “was that a valid absolution?” If this man goes to confession to one such priest, even if he has made a thorough examination of conscience, he still finds himself troubled. If he goes to the one well-trusted holy priest who does the red and says the black, he sometimes has to wait a month (or longer), which means that he worries about forgetting sins. There are no good solutions, but the best available is to wait, make a sincere confession, receive unquestionably valid absolution and move on. Otherwise, not only will the man worry about remembering his sins during the confession, he will wonder whether or not they have been forgiven, which will only make the memory of them more aggressive.

    I’m NOT advocating infrequent confession. I’m simply pointing out that God knows more than we do, and that Holy Mother Church doesn’t require the impossible. If we “forget” on purpose, that’s a problem, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the issue here.

    God bless,

  9. mamajen says:


    I understand where you’re coming from. My perspective is that since I know that I would probably forget my own head if it weren’t attached to me, and there’s something I could be doing to help remember my sins, I should probably do it. There have been times when I’ve entered the confessional and literally went completely blank, which was embarrassing. I wouldn’t advocate bringing an extensive laundry list into the confessional by any means, and I don’t stress about remembering every minute thing, but sometimes having a few items jotted down helps a lot.

  10. JARay says:

    Maybe this is not the place for this observation because the emphasis is on going more and more often to confession/reconciliation. Certainly I know that when I have been to confession and said all that I can remember, received absolution and then walked out of the confessional, ALL my sins have been completely wiped away. I still have to complete my penance but that does not fit me for immediate entry into heaven.
    My observation is that we are still imperfect, with a propensity towards sin and in order to enter heaven we have to be PERFECT. We are going to be united to the essence of all perfection which is God Himself and nothing which is imperfect can possibly be united to the essence of all perfection. This means that we must still undergo Purgatory which will purge away our imperfections, making US perfect and fit to enter heaven itself. The very word Purgatory implies purgation and after that purgation we are fit for heaven.

  11. Filipino Catholic says:

    Saint Jerome once remarked that “Judas offended God more greatly by hanging himself than by betraying Him.” Nice to see John Paul I wasn’t far off the mark and is getting some attention after all this time.

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