This Monday night, we will try for the third time to have a joint Penance Service with our neighbors in Webster, Mary, Queen of Peace parish. Last Advent, when we planned to have the service here at Holy, we had an ice storm. Of course, good Catholics made it out and so we had a smaller version of it. Last Lent, we planned for one at MQP and Covid-19 hit. So it has been awhile since we have had a Webster Penance Service.
We hope to have confessors available and we will have socially distant celebrations of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A couple of things about this.
This a great opportunity. Reconciliation is not just about sin and shame. It is not about hellfire and damnation. It is, at its roots, about growth and freedom. The Sacrament is not about making people feel bad about themselves, although confronting the truth will always be somewhat difficult. But if we are honest, the times we have been confronted with the truth in our lives are the most life-giving, enriching and powerful. They are the time we make quantum leaps in growth. It may make us feel uncomfortable, but the out- comes can be glorious. I had a spiritual direc- tor once who could pinpoint what was happening in my soul with a laser beam insight. It was un- nerving and unpleasant, but it was exactly what I needed.
Second, Reconciliation offers us freedom be- cause it gives us the security of confidential- ity. The Seal of Confession is one of the strictest principles we priests live by. We know not to mess around with someone’s deepest secrets in relationship with their God. The Seal is rarely broken and if it is, there are harsh and severe consequences. Don’t be afraid. Some people wonder what I would think about them if I knew what they did. Would my opinion of them change? I can honestly say that I have never walked away from the confessional thinking the worst about someone. Instead, I am flabbergast- ed by their honesty and trust. I usually walk away humbled.
Finally, we need someone else to bounce these things off of. (Grammatically incorrect, but you get the point.) We can get trapped in our own little worlds of sin, and Reconciliation gives us the opportunity to put it out there, see our sin clearly and find the pathway to life. I ex- plain it to people like going to the doctor or a dentist. We often cannot see the problem or (worse to my mind) may think that things are worse than they really are. The confessional smashes through all of that.
Please consider coming to Church on Monday evening and finding the best preparation for Christmas.