As a priest for over 55 years, I’ve heard a lot of confessions. It’s one of the joys of the priesthood to bring peace to the souls who come to us for relief. Inner pain that comes from guilt can be awful.

Some people seek the help of psychiatrists or psychologists to help them quiet their feelings of guilt and worry. Jesus gave us absolution and a sense of humor to take care of this problem.

One thing that can help us deal with feelings of guilt and worry is the art of living in the present moment. I once attended a meeting where we had to dispense with the reading of the minutes out of respect for someone who said he was religiously required to not think about the past or the future. A pretty extreme position, I admit. But isn’t it essentially a good idea?

Living in the present moment is an ideal not easily attained. The present moment is the only place where we can find peace and joy. The past is a memory. The future is unknown and unpredictable. If you live in the past, you drag things into the present moment, which might disturb your peace.

The same is true for the future. Many people worry about things that will never happen. Isn’t it better, therefore, to eliminate needless worry about the future?

Here is the basic truth: Happiness is not a destination or a memory. It is the joy we experience in the here and now. Granted, we enjoy remembering the happy times of the past but not the dark corners. Regretting mistakes is only good for stimulating atonement. Confess and be done with it.

Memory fades and so do the happy moments we once enjoyed. The only place we are really able to be happy is in the present. The here and now cannot be wasted with needless worry.

Two things are worth striving for in this connection. The first is a clean conscience. Guilt can poison your life with unnecessary misery. Strive to put things in order. Believe in God’s forgiveness. Go to confession and renew your good intentions. Pray to persevere in believing that God is love.

Also, reject fear. This involves a commitment to control fearful thoughts. If you control your thoughts, dreadful feelings will soon evaporate. Every apprehension about the future gives birth to fear. Close it down right away.

As you gradually reduce needless fear and guilt, you will have cleared the present moment from quite a bit of garbage. Worry will dissipate.

The struggle of daily life can be eased by clearing your mind the minute you begin to be afraid. Stop fear and you will automatically enhance your capacity for joy. Joy is a choice, and it’s yours for the asking. Joy is the reward of your faith in God’s love.
(Fr. Catoir is a retired priest in the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, and a columnist for Catholic News Service. You can follow him at