Sunday, March 1, 2020
Lenten Penance Services have become a common practice in the Church over the last several decades. They are a means to recognize the communal effects of our personal sins, encounter our sins in the context of a Liturgy of the Word service, and provide a means to bring in numerous priest-confessors to expedite the distribution of the Sacrament and provide anonymity. They are one of three approved forms by which the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation can be celebrated within the Latin Rite Catholic Church.
With this said and acknowledged, I’ve found in hearing Confessions for more than 10-years at Penance Services, they have had a deep formational effect upon the Catholic population. Many, if not most, Catholics now understand the Sacrament of Confession in Seasonal terms rather than State of One’s Soul terms. I mean by this, that many of the Faithful now only approach this wonderful and freeing Sacrament of Grace because they find themselves in Advent or Lent. ‘This is what we do in Advent and Lent,’ I hear. By offering Penance Services in these two seasons, we have been subtly forming people through prayer, belief, and practice that these are the only times is when Confession is needed. This is an understandable outcome of the liturgical principle: Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin, loosely translated, ‘the law of prayer governs the law of belief’. Certainly, in those two penitential and preparatory seasons, Confession is a perfect way to get ready for Christmas or Easter.
But the deeper questions of the Sacrament of Confession resides less in the season and more in ‘How is my soul before God? Am I in Right Relationship with the Lord? Am I aware of sins (mortal or venial) that should be acknowledged and forgiven before I approach the intimate encounter with Jesus Christ Himself in Holy Communion?’ Those are matters of on-going examination, discernment, and honest humility. They are the regular work of conversion of heart. They are the open evaluation of the current state of one’s soul. Since sin does not restrict itself to the 4-weeks before Christmas or the 40-days before Easter, attending to our soul is a day-to-day endeavor. As such, the Sacrament of Confession should be utilized as needed throughout the year, not just in Advent and Lent, which Penance Services seems to suggest. While you are welcome to continue to prepare for Christmas and Easter through Confession, I would encourage a more regular use of this Sacrament.
I currently offer the Sacrament of Confessions nearly 4-hours each week all year and by appointment. I’m rarely that ‘busy’ during those times. I would encourage everyone to utilize those times more frequently. If/when those times become insufficient, I’m happy to add additional time. Holy Family will not be hosting parish penance service. You are free to utilize Lenten Penance Services at nearby Parishes. Also note, there will be ample additional times for Confession at the Parish Mission March 30 to Apr 2 here at Holy Family.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1422 Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against Him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.
1455 The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.
1457 According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.
Lenten Adoration of the Eucharist
Thank you to all those who have committed to spend an Hour with the Lord in prayer and Adoration as part of your Lenten preparations. I am already praying that Jesus Christ, Truly Present in the Eucharist, speaks deeply to each of your hearts, minds, and souls for your good and God’s glory. Even if you did not sign up, you are most welcome to show up.
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Pray for us. ~ Fr. Gries