Emerging Trends: The Return to the Confessional
The indications are modest, but consistent. The latest one comes from Loreto, where twelve thousand young people received the sacrament of forgiveness, with the pope's encouragement. And in the seminaries, there's a return of books for studying "cases of conscience"
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, September 6, 2007 – During the two-day meeting between Benedict XVI and the young people who flocked to Loreto by the hundreds of thousands from Italy and from many other countries, something happened that was unexpected in terms of its intensity and breadth: mass participation in the sacrament of confession.
Between Saturday, September 1, and Sunday, September 2, in the large open plain beneath the town and the shrine of the Virgin Mary, 350 priests heard confessions nonstop from two o'clock in the afternoon until seven in the morning, besieged by twelve thousand young people seeking forgiveness.
But even before the pope's arrival, the rite of penance had been part of the preparations for many of the young people attending the event. Almost all of the pilgrimage venues on the way to Loreto included opportunities for sacramental confession. Such was the case with the abbey in Fiastra, which at times became one giant confessional. Such was the case with the shrine of Canoscio, in the Apennine mountains. Each time, there were dozens and dozens of priests all administering the sacrament at the same time.
This was not an absolute novelty. Great numbers of young people also confessed at the World Youth Day events held in Rome in 2000: 120,000 in three days, in the immense stadium of pagan Rome, the Circus Maximus, which had been transformed into an open-air confessional.
But what seemed at first like a flash in the pan turned out to be a lasting trend. And it is a growing one, especially at shrines and at large gatherings. Of course, the percentage of young Catholics who go to confession is still small. In Loreto, they were less than five percent of those present. But a trend reversal is underway, considering that reception of the sacrament had almost died out some years ago.
Continue reading Confession at www.chiesa
"...I have heard for 40 years how much God loves me. Please, teach me how to love Him back...."
Those were among the very first words I said to Fr. Perrone when I first met him in 2005 and emptied my "closet" on his desk with a general confession. Teach me he did and so did the other fine priests at Assumption Grotto, which is the key reason for my staying and joining the parish. Our human fallen nature truly needs for us to hear frequently how to show our love for God. The first thing I learned was to take the Ten Commandments seriously, and to understand them better.
My first few months at Grotto were crushing, but in a most pleasing way. It was painful to see all the ways I had offended God throughout my life, and to actually come to grips with the fact that these were choices I myself made. The "spirit of Vatican 2" outlook was to avoid pain on the premise that God wants us to be happy. We sometimes make the mistake of avoiding the very thing that is necessary in spiritual growth - to purge ourselves of that which is not God-pleasing.
The first bad choice was to remain ignorant of Church teaching, and the more serious was to blow-off those few teachings that didn't quite mesh with my outlook on life. Relativism's ugly head was revealed only by the grace of God. I had been "jarred" abruptly by then Cardinal Ratzinger's pre-conclave sermon.
All of this was painful, yet it was pleasing to experience a new beginning and a new outlook on life which would have me putting God at the center in my daily life, and not the ways of the world.
Confession is Catchy
The news reported by Sandro Magister is very promising. And, I can tell you that it get's "catchy". I discovered this when I first came to Grotto two years ago. There is something about seeing long lines of confession that draws the soul to contemplate it's own sinfulness, prompting thoughts of using the Sacrament. That makes it a grace to be in the presence of people confessing sins and one that we should act upon should we feel that draw, even where there is no serious sin.
Confession becomes even more "catchy" when you learn to use it for the purpose of building virtue. This is where priests can really help a soul on a personal level to build holiness. There can be no pursuit of holiness while we are in a state of mortal sin because it weighs a soul down like boat anchor. In reality, it is in working on the small things - the venial matters, that we learn to tame our apetites on the heavy hitters - grave or mortal sin. This was one of the key things that Fr. Perrone taught me that day. His advice as we parted following that general confession was to read one small section of My Daily Bread each day. This little book was instrumental in further purgings as the weeks and months went by. I highly recommend it as a great little read for re-tooling your soul. It breaks you down, then teaches you how to get back up with a whole new attitude.
I also discovered then, that people respond to a priest in the confessional, especially when he is persistant. So, Fathers - if you are reading this, talk about it in your sermons - just be there consistently and pray that the people come, even when it seems no one will. I witnessed Confessions on Sunday mornings because priests make it available in the 45 minutes prior to Mass. When they celebrate Mass they put a sign up indicating confessions will need to stop 10 minutes prior so they may finish vesting. Priests at my parish also have a habit of going to the confessional outside of regularly posted times when there are large numbers of people present - and people respond.
Confession: Didn't Vatican 2 do away with that?
Confession waned in the years following Vatican 2 when, in that name of that council, it was de-emphasized. I recall vividly when a Catholic friend said to me, "Confesion? Oh, Vatican 2 did away with that!". Not!
This de-emphasis from my perspective, came right along with the growing banality of sermons in which talk of things like sin, sacrifice, self-denial, justice, and mortification were labeled as "passe".
Banal Sermons Contributed to the Decline of Confession
Sermons of the last 40 years have done much to teach us about how much God loves us, but have fallen terribly short on teaching us how to love God back. Many of our youth, and even many not-so-youthful people, have been literally tricked into believing that God wants us to be happy, even to the point of "enjoying" sinfulness. This was my key error for justifying those Church teachings I blew off: God wants me to be happy. Yeah, right! As if there can be happiness in Hell.
A few years ago, I would probably have recommended seeking out an older priest who seriously values the Sacrament of Confession and knows the graces it brings to soul. The good news is that in growing numbers, it is not only that senior priest (you know - the one who is looked upon as an outcast by the "spirit of V2" crowd), but the younger and newer priests who are emphasizing the merits of Confession.
These priests are not annoyed with the Sacrament, but are interiorly joyful at the opportunity to bring a soul back to a state of grace, which is required for worthy reception of Holy Communion. The fruits of a poorly catechized Catholic community are seen in long Communion lines, but Confession lines that are low or non-existent.
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