Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bishop Finn - Take the Family to Confession this Lent

Update: Welcome Fr. Z & Youngfogeys visitors. Also see this testimonial on the value of the availability of Confession.

Following is Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's column from the upcoming print edition of The Catholic Key:

Lent is an Important Time for Sacramental Confession

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

On Saturdays whenever I am in town, I try to be available at the Cathedral so that I can fulfill one of my greatest privileges as a priest – to hear the confessions of the faithful, and offer sacramental absolution

Hearing Confessions in the sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most wonderful priestly acts – to represent Jesus in mercy. It is also a very significant responsibility to act as judge and as counselor in the work of reconciling sinners to God and the Church.

This sacrament was given to the Church by Jesus Christ as the normal means for us to receive the forgiveness of our sins, particularly our serious sins. At the same time, it is a powerful way to grow in virtue and holiness.

Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis (#88) urged frequent confession of venial sins “to ensure more rapid progress day by day in the path of virtue.”

According to the Pope, some of its benefits are these: Genuine self-knowledge is increased; Humility grows; Bad habits are corrected; Spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted; The conscience is purified; The will strengthened; A helpful self-control is attained; and Grace is increased in virtue of the Sacrament itself.

I have found personally that frequent confession – I try to go every week – helps me to try harder to be a better and more holy bishop.

Almost every Pope since the 1950’s has said that the great “sin of our century” is the lack of the sense of sin. It is true, I fear, that unless we reflect honestly and with humility every day on God’s commandments, we can quickly become numb to so many of the wrongs that flourish in our culture. We may not even realize how far away from God we have grown.

The most important ingredient of Confession, on the part of the penitent, is contrition or sorrow for our sins. We must begin to realize, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps the caring direction of another person, how we have hurt others; how we have damaged the integrity of our life through the decisions and choices we make; how we have compromised the great dignity and love to which we are called by Jesus.

Our Lord, because He knows and loves the human heart, also knew this Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation would be necessary for us in our path to heaven. Lent, because it is a kind of community retreat for the Church, provides a particularly helpful moment of grace. Many of our parishes have Lenten Penance services, or missions, or additional times of prayer and reflection that provide a help to us to examine our conscience. The presence of additional priests may make it easier for us to take this important step back to the life of the Church, even if we have not visited the Sacrament for many years.

I have asked our priests a number of times to help me make the renewal of this Sacrament of Reconciliation a pastoral priority in our Diocese. I am grateful that so many of them spend long hours in the confessional and greet those who come with gentleness. They are blessed instruments of Christ’s peace. Make good use of this wonderful gift, during Lent and frequently throughout the year. Consider going to church for confession as spouses or as a family. In this way you can strengthen each other in your resolve to be more faithful.

O Mary Conceived without sin; Mary ever-sinless virgin; Mary Mother of Mercy: Pray for us sinners!