Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Year of Mercy: How to Go to Confession

One of the very practical efforts that might be made during the Year of Mercy is providing resources for simply the mechanics of going to Confession. (A simple and good guide may be found here.)

Although fortunately many parishes already have thriving use of this wonderful sacrament, in many places it might not be used as frequently as possible. There are a number of possible reasons for this (I've written about some of them here and here).

But I think another reason that people don't go is that they simply don't know how.

We professional Catholic types can forget how important it feels to regular folks in the pews to just not do anything wrong at Mass. As an example, I remember my first time going to Mass at a Dominican priory that has wooden seats that flip up, and feeling very self-conscious about how loudly they would slam if I made a mistake about lifting or setting mine down. A lot of people are probably like that in church, just wanting to do "the right thing" without disturbing the peace.

Imagine having the weight of this kind of fear of making a mistake, when considering approaching the sacrament of Confession, in addition to the normal inertia having to do with admitting sins, and everyone's busy weekend schedules, and everything else that impedes frequent reception. Months and even years might pass, with God's people carrying needlessly heavy burdens.

Fortunately this particular issue is very easy to fix. Most parish priests have already coached people through the process of going to Confession, both with schoolchildren and with adults entering the Church through RCIA. It wouldn't take much to adapt the written resources to be referred to parish-wide in the bulletin, or to make an RCIA discussion into a homily where the benefits of Confession are discussed and the steps of going to Confession are outlined.

It might even be nice to have an "open house" for the confessionals, so folks could see the placement of chairs and screens, before attempting to go on their own. And written resources for examinations of conscience and the order of the sacrament are highly useful to have available.

It would be wonderful if in the Year of Mercy every barrier that gets in the way of sacramental reconciliation were removed as much as possible, so that people could avail themselves of the beautiful graces of this sacrament of mercy.