Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Getting" vs. "Receiving"

We produced a short video on Confession based on a script and VO by Dr. Ray Guarendi, and are thinking of doing a series of them as PSAs. You can watch the first one by clicking on the link at the top of the left column at In an email to our list I asked for feedback. Here's one comment and my response. If I don't make it clear below, I think A.S. is more right than I am. (SW)
A.S. wrote:

Hello, Stan--

I wanted to respond to your invitation to let you know my thoughts regarding the video on Confession.

I think it’s excellent and inviting to all, especially those who have fear around this Sacrament or who, for other reasons, might have stayed away from it. It helps the viewer want to connect or reconnect with the Lord before he or she even gets to the confessional. The only thing that struck me in a negative way was the very last part when Ray said “...Confession is an opportunity to get God’s love, mercy, ...” Would it not be every bit as honoring of the Truth to say either “to know God’s love in an ever deepening way” or “to receive God’s love, His mercy, His forgiveness...” I don’t want to be theologically incorrect in any way. As a Catholic convert and therapist, I hear many former Catholics who didn’t receive the truth of the Gospel in love by way of their catechesis and therefore seemed to come away with the idea that it’s all about ‘what I do to get God to love me.’..I could be way off here—There’s just something about the word “get” used in conjunction with “God’s love” in the last sentence that, to me, feels like it almost wrecks all of the tremendous statements that went before.

Thank you for the wonderful job you do of making the Truth known through your apostolate.

God bless you,


Dear Ann,

Thanks very much for your excellent feedback on our Confession video.

Re: "get" vs. "know" or "receive".

I think you have a valid point. In our Common Ground DVD, Fr. John Riccardo clarifies to Pastor Steve Andrews that when we come forward for The Eucharist it's not so much about taking the body of Christ as it is Christ offering himself to us. (I may have the exact word wrong, but that was the sentiment.) In the same vein we need to be reminded that the sacraments are God's works, not ours. He is constantly giving, more so that we are "taking". God's common grace is ubiquitous to all. We are "recipients" a million over more than we could ever "take" or "get."

The other side of the issue is one of making clear the an important issue (of "getting" to Confession) and motivating people with clear language to do what they ought to be doing for their "own" good. Ray has a way with words, as you may know. He's able to connect with people's motivations. He's going to parse words on the human side of the issue. Using the word "get" in this instance, appeals to the human side of the relationship. Looking at it from God's perspective: God is giving and we're receiving. Looking at it from the sinner's perspective" we're taking and getting.

This reminds me of a conversation I often have with my wife about the use of certain words about human motivation in the process of justification-salvation, or works of charity... and the way a friend of ours positions the whole concept. D.G. is sort of a back-porch philosopher friend who is fond of pointing out that THE basic human need is personal survival. We think and do good and right things for others, he says, because ultimately they make us feel good, or they ensure us salvation. He's not arguing a works based salvation, but rather a basic human need that God has put into us. He'll say that altruism is not entirely selfless, acting altruistic protects us from eternal wrath. He says "You cannot give, help, or serve those in need unless you're alive and healthy enough to walk over and do the work in the first place." He argues that there's a point at which in general terms, taking care of oneself is more important than caring for others. His argument is not to engender selfishness, but to embrace the ability to serve and love one's neighbor. It's the reason the aid workers in destitute parts of the world are careful to get their vaccinations, food, and rest.

My wife doesn't like this argument, and I suspect theologians might not either. I can "get" their point. Most people would not appreciate the finer points of language, here. All they'd be interested in doing -- is "getting." Not good. Perhaps I'm just too selfish, but if the choice between hell and heaven wasn't constantly being dangled in front of me, along with the realization that I have to make hundreds of moral decisions everyday to ensure I "get" to heaven and not go to hell...well, who knows what I might do. My gut feeling as someone who isn't altruistic, nor am I someone who is always thinking of others -- is that I need to "get" to confession. I need to "take" a bath.

In the end I think "getting" and "receiving" are two sides of the same coin.

I'll pass this on to Ray...and the rest of the world, if they care.

Some very early morning thoughts.


  1. In regards to your "confession ad," to whom are you marketing confession? I am totally on board with what the Church teaches, which sets me up to accept and hold dear what is true and beautiful coming from Orthodox Catholic outlets. Yet, as a 23-year old woman, I know if I showed this to some of my not-so-committed Catholic friends, they'd find it 'cheesy,' for lack of a better word. Everything from Dr. Ray's voice to the music in the background would be cause for criticism. Are you working on a series of these ads that will be market-specific, or are you only marketing to one demographic?

  2. Dear Alicia,

    "Cheesy" to 20 somethings. Hmmmm. That's interesting. The confession broadcast is an interstitial (a program filler when the main program is too sort to take the network to the top of the hour). I guess you could call it an "ad" as it promotes getting to confession. It was edited and scored by a 26 year old Catholic guy who's a musician and a heck of an editor. His 26 year old friend is the "actor" on camera. They both liked it. I'm 60 along with my wife, we think it's cool, too.

    I guess we're "marketing" confession to everyone that ought to get to confession. The short project was initially done to fill a void in one of our Dr. Ray television broadcasts on confession while we were shooting the same shots for a seminary recruiting DVD. We'd like to do a series on the sacraments with this as a model. Haven't done it yet.

    So, now that we spilled our guts, please tell me where you live and about your friends that think this is cheesy. Ha! Were you maybe looking for this to be in Latin with a Georgian chant in the background? Or would a international dance beat suit you better.

    As a communicator, something like this confession video is what we call "accessible" to a broad number of viewers. It's not "churchy" or "preachy" and the music is "middle of the road" and not ostentatious or presumptuous.

    You might be surprised. Show it to your not-so-committed Catholic friends. They actually might "get it." It's not suppose to be entertainment...but then the Church we shot it in, St. Josaphat, Detroit, is a very beautiful restored, Polish parish built over 100 years ago. And walking through it can be entertaining, as we tried to show you. Beautiful place.