Where is Our Catholic Yom Kippur?

We Catholics in New York enjoy the “high holy days” of our Jewish neighbors, and are inspired by the seriousness and sincerity with which they approach their feasts.  Join me in wishing them God’s blessings on their special days!

They began their observance last week with Roshashana, the Jewish New Year, and will conclude evening and tomorrow with Yom Kippur, the great Day of Atonement.

The message of their celebrations, if I understand it correctly, is one of spiritual renewal, fresh starts, and repentance. Our Jewish friends pray, fast, reflect, resolve, ask God to forgive their sins as they repent, and start anew with festive meals and gatherings with family and friends!

Not bad at all!

They are only being faithful to their Scriptures.  God so often coaxed His Chosen People, “Come back to me with all your heart!”  How is that done? God tells us:  “A humble, contrite heart I will not spurn.”

There it is again:  repentance! 

God the Son learned from his Father, because Jesus made repentance the core of His invitation to His followers.

What’s that mean?  Simply put, it means turning away from sin and turning to the Person, message, salvation, and call to discipleship of Jesus.

We Catholics used to be constantly aware of this repentance!
Reminisce with me . . .

. . .     An examination of conscience and act of contrition prior to falling asleep at night;

. . .     frequent confession;

. . .     Friday abstinence from meat as an act of penance for our sins, in union with our Lord’s death on that Friday called “good.”;

. . .     “Ember Days” – - remember! – - at the change of each season, with fasting and the invitation to the Sacrament of Reconciliation;

. . .     Fasting on the vigil of holy days, so we could feast all the better on the day itself;

. . .     Never receiving the Eucharist if conscious of grave sin, without first approaching the Sacrament of Penance;

. . .     First Friday union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus through confession and Mass;

. . .     First Saturday Mass and rosary in response to our Lady’s call at Fatima to conversion of heart and repentance;

. . .     Fasting from food at least three hours before Holy Communion;

. . .     And, of course, the season of Lent, intended as a forty-day Yom Kippur.

Am I on the wrong track in thinking that most of this is now gone?

Now, I admit, customs, traditions, practices change.  Often it’s good when they do.

What can’t change is the call to repentance and conversion of heart at the very core of the Jewish-Christian Scriptures, and of our traditions.  The how we respond might change; that we do penance cannot change.

Our Jewish friends have not forgotten about repentance and conversion of heart, as is so obvious in New York these “high holy days.”

Have we Catholics forgotten it?

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33 Responses to “Where is Our Catholic Yom Kippur?”

  1. Gary Miller says:

    Cardinal Dolan, Very well said and well questioned.

  2. Patrick Reilly says:

    Cardinal, you reference to “An examination of conscience and act of contrition prior to falling asleep at night” caused me to think once again as I often do, with regard to saying an Act of Contrition. I had served a Saturday morning Mass for Father Hickey who was pastor of our rural parish (at the time) in Saratoga County NY. It was winter and our home was about 2 miles away on a country road. I had started for the road when Fr. Hickey, offered to drive me home. I accepted. We got into his car and after backing out of the garage, he stopped the car and asked me if I was ready to go. I replied, yes Father. He then asked me if I had said an Act of Contrition when I got in the vehicle. I said no Father. He told me to always say an Act of Contrition whenever I got into a car as accidents happen. I’ve never forgotten and don’t miss too many to this day 52 years later.

  3. John says:

    “Join me in wishing them God’s blessings on their special days!”

    I hope you will join me in praying for their conversion to the Catholic faith.

    “I am the way and the truth and the life” – Jesus Christ

  4. Alan Wolfson says:

    Dear Cardinal Dolan,

    I read your article on the “Catholic-Yom-Kippur.” You are correct in that we (I am Jewish) must stick together and follow the words of G-D. Yes we each believe a little differently but we are surely and clearly on the same team. We also now must join forces against a common enemy – radical Muslins who desire to eliminate both of our faiths.

    I have followed you from the moment you were ordained as Cardinal and I think you are the best leader not just from a religion standpoint, but from a standpoint of common sense and humanity.

    I am with you, as is the Lord G-D.

    Respectfully,

    Alan Wolfson
    Brewster, NY

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful reflections Eminence. Yes, our Jewish roots are to be cherished. The panoramic history of salvation uniquely binds our heritage of faith. I’ve desired that the Church use the powerful word, shalom, at the giving of the Sign of Peace at Mass. It was certainly uttered by our Precious Lord!

  6. A part of “The Year of Faith” is REPENTANCE! Father Mitch Pacwa did a beautiful lecture on this just recently.

    God wants all to be saved. Baptized Christians, and Catholic Christians – WHAT GOD DO YOU WORSHIP? We do not have the luxury of waiting until Lent. Yom Kippur is NOW.

    One day we shall see Him face to face. Are we preparing for this awesome event?

  7. AD says:

    It is also worth noting that the Saturday of the September Ember Days, in the traditional Roman rite, essentially commemorates Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The lessons are Levit 23:26-32 (a description of the Day of Atonement), Lev. 23:39-43 (a description of Sukkot), among others, and the communio is Levit 23:41; 23:43 (again, Sukkot).

  8. John G. says:

    +
    JMJ

    Your Eminence,

    You have blogged about this subject before saying that perhaps it is time to revive some of the old traditions of the Church. Those traditional practices enumerated in this current blog were done away with after Vatican II because they weren’t “modern” practices. Remember “The Rules” were not abandoned/changed by the Laity but by the post-Vatican II Bishops.

    If some of these traditional practices were reinstituted, the Church might be in a better place. But can you imagine the outcry from some of our members.

    Respectfully, John G.

  9. tom says:

    Your Excellency,

    All of these things are mostly gone, but they can be brought back. There are many Catholics out there who adhere to the older traditions, although they are no longer required. Bringing these things back would be fantastic for Catholic identity.

    In this age of religious secularism, it would strengthen Catholics to return to those traditions that have served so many generations before us.

    Tom

  10. Cassandra says:

    And what is stopping you from re-invigorating these customs? Consider the Friday abstinence from meat. Nothing prevents you from re-establishing that requirement. I also noticed that you failed to correctly portray it. It’s not gone; it’s still a requirement; it’s just that another act can be substituted for it.

  11. Howard says:

    I like the German Protestant holiday Buß- und Bettag — Prayer and Repentance Day. I think we should have something like it as a national holiday in the US.

  12. Eileen Mechler says:

    Repentence? If only.
    Only when asked by me before the Mass, did four different priests say the confiteor at daily and Sunday Mass. When asked on another occasion, one of those priests told me, “I’ll do what I want”. I couldn’t believe my ears.
    When the confiteor was recited, the entire congregation of 60 was loud and clear. The alternate form allows about 5 seconds to examine our conscience with no verbal “I confess” on our part.
    It is good for us to hear ourselves saying out loud that, “I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” Why don’t the priests agree?

  13. Bob Allard says:

    No, we Catholics haven’t forgotten the Day of Atonement. Our Feast of Atonement also last 10 days from Holy Thursday evening until the evening of Divine Mercy Sunday. The Jews call the 10 days leading up to the Day of Atonement “10 days of awe”. In the same way, Holy Thursday up until Divine Mercy Sunday is very much the 10 days of awe! Read this: http://divinemercysunday.com/pdf/Yom%20Kippur%20and%20Mercy%20Sunday.pdf Here is a chart of the similarities: http://divinemercysunday.com/pdf/Feast%20of%20Atonement,%20Divine%20Mercy%20Sunday,%20and%20the%20Octave%20of%20Easter.pdf

  14. Craig says:

    Yes, your Excellency, you are correct, but…be more forceful! You have the power of the Holy Ghost and Holy Orders-you can and need to call all of your flock out! And yes, Catholics everywhere. We are craving leadership and pure direction, not always allowing us to make horrible decisions with our souls. May Mary and Christ guide you and protect us!

  15. Larry b says:

    I have not forgot. In fact I celebrated both Roshashana and Yom Kippur, to me they are Gods holy days and he wants us all to keep them.

  16. Joseph says:

    Well said Cardinal. As a younger Catholic I hadn’t heard of the Ember days fast nor fasting on the vigil of Holy Days. Those are excellent ideas and I’m going to incorporate them in to my family’s practices!
    Thanks and God Bless you!

  17. Jeanne d'Arc St Pierre says:

    Cardinal Dolan: I listened to you on Sirius XM and agree wholeheartedly with the above summary of what we as Catholics have dropped in our living the faith. It appears we are all consumed with the luxuries of life and have forgotten what we are on this earth for. This is our journey to heaven and Jesus showed us the way but we have fallen by the wayside. Restoration of many of our past celebrations and rituals have given way to the secularism of this world an country.
    I pray and hope that all the prayers of the faithful will turn us back to our proper ways and help us to be truly a country that expresses the direction of our forefathers, “In God We Trust”.
    Keep up the ecumenical work you are doing and ‘God Bless your Ministry”

  18. Steve Martin says:

    The very 1st of Martin Luther’s 96 Theses was this:

    “The entire life of the Christian is one of repentance.”

    We confess (corporately) each and every Sunday, that we have blown it, yet again, and that we ”
    are in bondage to sin and cannot save ourselves.”

    We really do need a Savior and not a ‘self-help guru’.

    Thanks.

  19. NS says:

    Cardinal, Im catholic, all my life, but i go to service on Yom Kippur, simply the first time i ever went to confession as a little kid i thought it was quit odd to sit in a dark room and share my sins with a stranger, im much older now but i participate in Yom Kippur…

  20. Ginger says:

    Thanks for the great essay, Your Eminence, but we also need the Sacraments, and in the rest of the country the Sacrament of Penance is usually offered just once a week on a Saturday afternoon, when those of us with kids are running around with a half a dozen (or more) things to do. How many times have I remembered with 5 minutes left (and a 15 minute drive to get there)? And what do those who have to work on Saturday do? (It’s hard and embarrassing to make an appointment.) I’m too young for Ember Days, but the thing I long for most from the movies is stepping into the confessional before Mass. If only the priests could hear confessions AFTER Masses (if not before) to follow up on the spiritual impact of the Mass itself! Even if parish priests would make themselves available for one evening a week, they could affect so many more souls!!

  21. Mike says:

    Repentance, contrition, return to piety… Leaders worth their position would start at the top. Over the past several years we have seen denials, blaming of victims, attacks on whistleblowers, obfuscation, cover ups, obstruction from the top. When a group focuses on charity instead of abortion, they are investigated, publicly embarrassed by their leaders. After years of this, one leader is finally paying a secular price for his sins, but remains a bishop, unpunished. Another was promoted to Cardinal and moved out of jurisdiction. Actions without punishment, protecting the top, hiding misdeeds.

    If you wonder, Cardinal Dolan, why the laity do not listen to the bishops, and even fall away entirely, you should take a hard look in the mirror and realize that change starts at the top. Realize that words are just wind, paper, and pixels. A true leader would realize that actions speak far louder. The actions of Bishops and Cardinals have been giving a different message for decades.

  22. Thank you Cardinal Dolan,
    I translated your beautiful article into Hebrew for our Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel website. Hope you would approve.
    See:
    http://www.catholic.co.il/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1557:cardinal-dolan-where-is-the-catholic-yom-kippur&catid=24:views-and-opinions&Itemid=25&lang=he
    Blessings from Jerusalem,
    F. David SJ
    Latin Patriarchal Vicar

  23. Your Eminence. Since guilt from sin has been eliminated, we no longer have need for repentance. When was the last time we heard that missing mass on Sunday was a mortal sin? Same for violating the sixth commandment. The devil, satan, hell, eternal damnation no longer exist.

    I am 82 years old and had the good fortune to be brought up pre-Vatican II. The good nun’s scared the hell out of us by imbueing us with the fear of an instantaneous death, with mortal sin on our soul without the ability to beg God’s foregiveness. That image still sticks in my mind and I’ve never missed mass. They also taught us that God loves us and created us to be happy with him forever in Heaven. I’m getting a little tired of the feel-good pap and pabulum that passes for today’s homilies. It doesn’t take a lot of courage to regurgitate and para-phrase the meaning of the readings. It takes guts to prick our conscience and remind us, per the gospel, that there still is a is a price to pay for our actions as in Matthew 25: “Depart from me, you accursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.

  24. Patricia Hemsworth says:

    Cardinal Dolan,

    Respectfully, I have to say that your tone is discouraging. Let’s affirm our faith, our traditions and look for ways to invigorate the practice of our Christianity. Why the hand wringing? Let’s look to the sacraments and affirm their healing power. You are in a position to proclaim the ringing truth of our faith, our constant need for reconciliation and forgiveness. As we all are.

    Sincerely,
    Patricia Hemsworth

  25. michigancatholic says:

    Catholics used to have community events marking these things. Those were all effectively done away with, and Catholics behave like the general population in most regards to a remarkable degree.

    Unfortunately now, pretty much everything in Catholicism is a do-it-yourself project with heavy headwinds. And so people have fallen into a routine, for want of help and structure. No one really wants to admit this, but it’s true.

    An important idea: We should not, and cannot exhort the American public into things if we do not believe them or practice them ourselves. It will not work. People see right through it. I am as opposed to immoral practices, such as abortion, as anyone but we cannot carry on with the general public until we fix the fact that Catholics engage in these practices with about the same frequency as the general population. For the exact same reason, all this trying to declare days of this or that for the general population is very presumptuous. We need to tend to our own practical structure and behavior first.

  26. MaryBeth Strassel says:

    Your Eminence:

    I am 63, a life-long Catholic educated woman. and I remember well the traditions you cited. Thank you for reminding us of those practices and calling us to repent. I have also studied in Church history the even older practice of public penitence. With that in mind, I, int the company of the faithful have a call for you.

    I challenge you and your brother prelates to a Day of Atonement: public penitence for the sins of the Church’s pedophilia scandal.

    When this scandal first broke, I naively envisioned the bishops of this country (now it seems, the world) processing into our cathedrals and publicly prostrating themselves in atonement for the sins of their brother cardinals, bishops, and monsignors who had reassigned these victimizing priests instead of laicizing them and turning them over to the authorities.

    Then on “60 Minutes,” I saw what I had envisioned but dismissed as unachievable–the archbishop of Dublin, prostrate on the altar, repenting for the sins of his predecessors and colleagues. And perhaps for his own “looking the other way” or failing to look deeply into this darkness that had quietly enveloped our beloved Church.

    If you and other bishops are sincere in desiring a year of faith, do this public repentance for your faithful, for those who have drifted from their childhood faith disillusioned–disillusioned and dehydrated spiritually by the hypocrisy and hubris of the hierarchy. This day of atonement will accomplish more than the billions of reparation dollars exacted from the pockets of the flock to pay for the sins of their shepherds.

    A day of atonement: I challenge you, I invite you, I beg you.

    Lead us. Model for us. Be humbled for us–and for yourselves: “A humble, contrite heart I will not spurn.”

    Sincerely,

    MaryBeth Strassel
    Age 63: lifelong Catholic, Catholic educated for 16 years and active parish member

  27. Carrie Gourley says:

    You are so right, Cardinal Dolan. I am reading a book about the early Christians, who were even more observant of reconciliation practices. I feel that we are slowly moving away from God to a secular Catholicism, and are often no longer following at all the letter or the spirit of the law. These practices that you mention kept the faithful for centuries on the pathway to a sincere relationship with Jesus. Around us, our society is breaking apart. Something needs to be done to renew the Church and to return some of these practices to the faithful. They are needed to bring us back to the message of Christ.

  28. Leticia Barrett says:

    As a high school teacher, before report card time, I always had a ” A Great Day of Atonement”. Kid could make up any assignment, no questions asked. They could also come to me and request help to complete assignment no matter how old, or how insignificant to make up their grade…it was not for the sake of a grade; it was to teach my students that likewise, in God’s eyes, we can always “make up”…we can always have recouse to His Mercy.

  29. Lana Turner says:

    Bring back the Inquisition! All those who dare to translate the Bible into other languages should have molten lead poured down their throats. All those who refuse to worship the bread-god and his Mother should be torn into pieces!
    The Holy Office is still in place, and just chomping at the bits to be re-activated…

  30. Larry says:

    You neglected to make one important distinction. Abstaining from Holy Communion when conscious of mortal sin–until a sacramental confession–has been, is, and always will be a requirement. Because it comes from God, and is conveyed to us by St. Paul in the New Testament, it can NEVER be modified or done away with by the Church, in contrast to the other items you mentioned above, most of which are now optional. Reception of Holy Communion while conscious of mortal sin is in itself a mortal sin of sacrilege. You might also do well to mention some common mortal sins–such as fornication, adultery, contraceptive sex, voting for pro-abortion candidates without a “proportionately grave” reason–etc. Another of the items–frequent confession–while not strictly required is nonetheless strongly recommended. Going years or decades without confessing places the soul at very serious risk of eternal punishment. Your article implies a sort of parity among all the items, which is gravely misleading. Failure to observe the “Ember days”–failure to fast on holy day vigils, etc are in no way comparable to receiving Holy Communion unworthily, or failure to confess one’s sins regularly. The distinction must be made clear.

  31. William B. Slowey says:

    It is commendable that His Eminence joins in spirit with our Jewish brothers and sisters for their time of spiritual renewal and nourishment ; and, likewise reminds us that the opportunity for forgiveness, repentance and spiritual nourishment of the Lord is available to us daily

    Bill.

  32. Rev. Dr.Paul Mc Lachlan says:

    Your Excellency I admire your comments here and elsewhere I have wriied before, I don’t know if you ever received them? Eminence I hope you did because they had to come along way from here!I feel we have to start talking to our people OVER and ABOVE TV! We have to make sure they know what we are saying:eg “In the name of the Father ……” the greatest, most powerful sign we can ever use it professes our faith – The Trinity. It states for all to hear that we believe in God & we state the athority of what we will say: We are speaking in Hios name, with his Authority. eg: If I want to but tyres I go to Joe blow and say “Can I use your name at the dealers to buy the tyres cheaper?” I would be using his authority. In the sign of the Cross we speak in and with His authority. Then also at the Baptism as in the Mass how many listen o the words we use? “Priest, prophet, King< do they know what the words mean? Or have they been watching TV too much? I do believe we have to start again and TEACH from the very beginning the meaning of each word in the liturgy.

  33. Bring it on! Ember days (with some modifications)? Yes, please? Fasting on the Vigil of Great Feasts? Love it. Let’s talk Rogation days and acts of reparation too. These “old fashioned” traditions are only old because we stopped them. We need reminders of repentance. We need the outward signs to spur the inward realization. Bring it on!