Friday, October 23, 2015

A Proposal for the Year of Mercy

For the past decade or two, a highly successful initiative of the New Evangelization has arisen in many dioceses.

Confession.

Specifically, during Advent and Lent, a number of urban dioceses have instituted diocesan-wide schedules when parishes are required to offer confessions for about two hours on a specific weeknight (often Wednesday).

This is so important, because the currently widespread model is simply not working.

In many, many parishes, only a miniscule portion of the People of God avail themselves of the Sacrament of Mercy. The Sacrament is rarely a subject of most parishes' preaching. It is not promoted in any way. It is only offered within one of the most family-intensive hours of the week, between 4 and 5 pm on Saturday. It is almost never offered at the time when most Catholics are likely to be in church, on Sunday mornings and afternoons.

The dioceses that sponsor Advent and Lent confessions outside of this time are providing a wonderful opportunity for people to repent, to increase in the life of grace and charity, and to reconcile with God.

Other parishes go the extra mile, and have daily confessions. This does not need to cost an enormous amount of time. A great method is this: schedule the starting time only. If people would like to go to confession, they should come at that time or a little before. The priest will leave when the line is gone.

A couple of years ago, I was in the confession line during Holy Week. Although I don't think the confession line is a good place for chatting, the man next to me had some questions and I spoke with him. Turns out he had not been to confession in thirty years and wasn't sure what to do.

If the parish had not been generous with confession times, how many more years would it have been?

Some parishes excuse themselves from making adequate times for confessions by saying that anyone can "make an appointment" for confession times outside of the small weekly window of opportunity. But anyone who has spent time in or around a rectory can easily see the problem with this.

  • Parish Secretary: St. Stanislaus parish, may I help you?
  • Penitent: Yes, I would like to make an appointment with one of the priests.
  • Secretary: May I ask what this is regarding?
At this point of the phone tree, only the boldest will persevere. Let's not put the People of God through this or any other rigamarole.

For the Year of Mercy, parishes should make confession a natural and easy and convenient part of the sacramental life.