Seek the Lord by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr: Encounter the peace of Christ in Confession
You have probably heard the old expression, “Everybody makes mistakes. That is why pencils have erasers.” As Catholics, we have something much better than an eraser. We have a kind of reset button known as the Sacrament of Confession, or Penance, or Reconciliation.
All three of those names for the sacrament are appropriate. By means of it, we confess our sins, we do penance for them, and we are reconciled to God and to the Church when the confessor extends absolution in the name of Christ.
“The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing,” Pope Francis has said. “When I go to Confession, it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul, to heal my heart, and to be healed of some wrongdoing.”
Yes, the Holy Father goes to confession! Moreover, he has spoken often about the importance of this sacrament. In Misericordiae Vultus, his April 2015 papal bull declaring the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote: “Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.”
Church law calls for all the faithful who have reached the age of discretion to confess serious sins at least once a year. The Church also strongly recommends (CCC 1458) that we confess even venial sins on a regular basis. It is particularly appropriate to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance during the penitential season of Lent as we prepare our hearts for the Easter Triduum, the summit of the Church’s liturgical year.
As Archbishop, I invite all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to avail themselves of this sacrament, especially on Tuesday, February 27. On that date, I have asked every parish/pastoral region to offer Confession from 7 to 9 p.m. This is the fifth consecutive year for this Lenten initiative, which we call The Light Is On For You.
The light of the confessional is like a porch light leading us home. At the same time, it reminds us that the light of Christ shines in the darkness (cf. Jn 1:5) for all of us, whatever our failings and whatever our challenges. I hope that you will follow that light to this sacrament of healing, and take friends and family members with you. Learn more at EncounterPeace.org.
Bishop Binzer and I will be hearing confessions on the evening of February 27. While doing so in previous years, I have found The Light Is On For You to be an occasion of particularly profound experiences of the sacrament. I expect that to be the case again.
If you are among those who find it difficult to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, take the advice of Pope Francis: “Be courageous, and go to confession!”
It does not matter if it has been many years, or even decades, since your last confession.
It does not matter if you have been away from the Church for some time.
It does not matter if you have forgotten how to go to Confession.
It does not matter if you have a particularly grave sin to confess.
In fact, if any of these barriers applies in your case, the light is on especially for you. The priest will welcome you, as God welcomes you, and will help you to make a good confession. At the end he will say:
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and the resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
At these words, it is not uncommon for the penitent to feel a great sense of serenity as he or she responds, “Amen.”
Please visit your parish, or another, on the evening of February 27 and encounter the peace of Christ, which is beyond all understanding (cf. Phil 4:7).