Remember that there will be a Penance Service in Church tomorrow (Monday) evening at 7 PM. At least ten priests will be there to help hear Confessions. As usual, there will be old friends (like Fr. Juan Carlos and Fr. James) and priests you probably never met. My hope is that having so many priests will make it easy to go to Confession and experience God's healing mercy.
With that in mind, I'd like to share a little bit about what Confession has meant to me over the years. Like most people my age, I'm old enough to have seen Confession – and people's attitudes towards it – go through a few changes. I made my first Confession back in the days when most Catholics would hesitate to receive Communion on Sunday unless they had been to Confession the preceding Saturday. I suspect many of you also remember those days – and the lines for Confession that were a regular feature in Catholic Churches every Saturday.
I'm sure that most of you – like me – also remember how people began backing away from regular Confession. Some of that was probably legitimate in that few people were so bad that they had to go to Confession every week! But before long it went to the other extreme. People went to Communion all the time – but might go for years without Confession!
A kind of middle of the road position was those who at least went to Confession in Advent and Lent – to get themselves ready for Christmas and Easter. This was certainly better than not going for years. The problem was that people went to Confession because of the season, rather than the state of their soul.
Sad to say, my own relationship with Confession went through all those popular phases. As a young boy I went pretty regularly. Then my family – who never missed Mass on Sunday – fell into the bad habit of not going to Confession too much. Sad to say I think there may have been periods of almost a year between my Confessions! Somewhere late in high school, as I became more convinced of my vocation, I started going to Confession more regularly. It started with my going to Confession to speak with the priest who was helping me think about my vocation. We had a great conversation, and I kind of rediscovered Confession.
Some wonderful things happened when I began going to Confession more regularly. First of all, I was finding it easier to focus and pray during Mass. Secondly, I was finding that my conscience was more finely tuned, and I was making better choices. Most of all, I was learning how the grace that God gives us in Confession can really help us grow as Christians. I share all this to help you understand why I preach so often about Confession – and encourage people to go frequently. My hope is that you will find in Confession the blessings that I did, and that it will help you grow in your friendship with Christ – just as it did for me. Last Sunday, my mother came to the 11 AM Mass with some friends. She enjoys coming to Mass in our Church, and – of course – I enjoyed seeing her. We had lunch after Mass before she had to head home!
Please say a Hail Mary for me today, and every day. Ireally appreciate your prayers and promise to pray for youdaily.