Monday, May 22, 2023
Dolores Hanley McDiarmid
How can we encourage people to return to the sacrament of reconciliation and belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist? Parish missions have the potential to touch hearts in a unique way and redirect the lives of people. During Lent and Advent, many parishes have parish missions that include reconciliation that more people should take advantage of, if possible. From experience, I have learned that one never knows what surprises and what graces will be available during these missions. If you missed this year’s Lenten mission in your church, I recommend attending the Advent mission.
Recently, some parishioners, including myself, attended night one of the Lenten parish mission at St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale. It was a reconciliation service like none of us have ever experienced. The Holy Spirit was moving and working when Father Timothy Canaan created this one-hour experience that united the sacrament of reconciliation with the Real Presence of Jesus Christ on the altar during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The evening began with Father Timothy emphasizing the focus of the mission with the phrase taken from the Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world” while the Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the altar. Then he shared a personal story about forgiveness in his own family. One could not help but be touched by his openness, and his vulnerability in showing us that he is human like the rest of us.
Next, we were directed to look at the program handed out upon entering the church. It included questions to help with the examination of our conscience. These questions required each person to look deep within our interior, beyond the Ten Commandments, to identify our weaknesses and sinfulness. There was no way anyone could say that they have not offended God after looking at these questions. We had to own up to it. We are sinners and we need to ask God for forgiveness. To eliminate any stress or embarrassment that someone might experience due to forgetting the Act of Contrition, Father Timothy asked the congregation to recite the prayer aloud from the program.
Parishioners were being reminded that whenever we go to confess our weaknesses and sins in front of a priest, it is Jesus who is forgiving us. The presence of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar while confessing would reinforce that reality for each of us.
He reminded us that Jesus was there, his Real Presence was on the altar in the monstrance. He told us that when we came up to the altar, we would be asking Jesus to forgive us, and whatever we were asking him to forgive. Parishioners were being reminded that whenever we go to confess our weaknesses and sins in front of a priest, it is Jesus who is forgiving us. The presence of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar while confessing would reinforce that reality for each of us. Father Timothy reminded everyone that Jesus not only heals us during the sacrament of reconciliation but also when we receive the Eucharist, when he forgives all our venial sins.
While parishioners were examining their conscience, four priests spread out on the altar where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. The priests waited for people to come up. Each person could stand behind the priest if they wanted to be anonymous or at the side of the priest. From what I could see, most people stood at the side of the priest. At first, there were people in all four lines while others remained in their seats, taking more time to dig deeper within. Those of us still sitting in the pews realized that we have sinned, and Jesus was inviting us, he was calling us to reconcile with him. Eventually, I believe almost everyone present experienced the gift of being reconciled with God. The one-hour session went overtime with no one complaining.
During this reconciliation service I believe those present were reminded that we are all sinners and we all admitted it as a community. We were all in the front of the church asking God to forgive us our weaknesses, our imperfections and the sins we have committed. We were reminded that when we sin it does not just affect the sinner, but it affects other people in our family, our workplace, our church, and our community, as well as the world. Several people in attendance have shared their thoughts about this unique and beautiful way to confess and are hoping to have regular opportunities to experience the sacrament of reconciliation as we did at the Lenten parish mission.
The way of going to confession or receiving the sacrament of reconciliation has evolved throughout the years. Through this Lenten parish mission and Father Timothy, the Holy Spirit has shown us a new way to draw God’s children back to his beautiful gift of reconciliation. Perhaps this creative reconciliation service can be utilized more often to evaluate its effectiveness in reviving the sacrament of reconciliation and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.