Full day of confessions an opportunity for mercy, priests say

| February 11, 2016 | 5 Comments
24 Hours for the Lord links the Year of Mercy to confession, the Church’s sacrament of mercy, Archbishop Hebda said. “It’s in the sacrament of confession that we come face to face with God’s mercy, and when we have that opportunity to ask the Lord for his mercy, and he has the opportunity to extend it to us,” he said. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

24 Hours for the Lord links the Year of Mercy to confession, the Church’s sacrament of mercy, Archbishop Hebda said. “It’s in the sacrament of confession that we come face to face with God’s mercy, and when we have that opportunity to ask the Lord for his mercy, and he has the opportunity to extend it to us,” he said. Photo illustration by Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Midnight visitors to the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Mary March 5 can expect to find a priest waiting to hear their confession. An extended opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation will begin at the St. Paul and Minneapolis co-cathedrals at noon March 4 and last until noon March 5 as part of 24 Hours for the Lord, a worldwide Year of Mercy event backed by Pope Francis.

“Having this initiative that’s going to be going on in Hong Kong, Rome . . . and Abuja [Nigeria] is really emphasizing how central this is to our life as Church, and how it is that the Lord desires to reach out to every nation, every people and every individual with his mercy,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Archbishop Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens have asked all priests of the archdiocese to attend a noon penance service March 4 at either location. After priests hear each others’ confessions, they will begin hearing confessions generally at 1:30 p.m. Spanish-speaking priests will be available at both sites from 6-8 p.m.

24 Hours for the Lord links the Year of Mercy to confession, the Church’s sacrament of mercy, Archbishop Hebda said.

“It’s in the sacrament of confession that we come face to face with God’s mercy, and when we have that opportunity to ask the Lord for his mercy, and he has the opportunity to extend it to us,” he said.

Two-year-old event

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization launched 24 Hours for the Lord in 2014, aiming, according to a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to place “the sacrament of reconciliation once again at the center of the pastoral activity of the Church.” The second event was held in 2015. Last year, Pope Francis invited dioceses around the world to participate.

The pope extended the invitation again for 2016 in “Misericordiae Vultus,” or “The Face of Mercy,” the papal bull promulgating the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In that letter, he wrote that the initiative “should be implemented in every diocese” on the Friday and Saturday before the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday.

“Laetare” means “rejoice” in Latin, and the Sunday marks the midpoint of Lent. By connecting the initiative to Laetare Sunday, Pope Francis is showing the relationship between mercy and joy, Archbishop Hebda said.

Father Alex Carlson, pastor of St. John the Baptist, Excelsior, said he has been planning a 24 Hours for the Lord event at his parish since last June, after reading “Misericordiae Vultus.” He had heard of the event in Rome and similar events in other U.S. dioceses and wanted to make a push for confession. He and four other priests will hear confessions for 24 hours beginning at 5 p.m. March 4. Eucharistic adoration will also be available in the main church during those hours.

“The more you offer [confession], the more people come,” said Father Carlson, who added that he preaches about the importance of confession. “The big thing is to let people know it’s not necessarily about how bad you are, but rather, that God wants to be that mercy that has not only forgiven you, but also that’s helping you.”

He reminds his parishioners how free they felt the last time they went to confession. “Don’t you want that again?” he asks. “I never leave [confession] and go, ‘I wish I didn’t go.’”

Confession extensions

Archbishop Hebda and Bishop Cozzens requested that all pastors extend confession availability in their own parishes during the 24 Hours for the Lord. St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center, St. Francis of Assisi in St. Croix Beach and Holy Rosary in Minneapolis are among parishes that have added an hour or two of confession.

Our Lady of the Prairie in Belle Plaine added six hours of confession, timed to correspond with previously planned events such as Stations of the Cross, an evening Bible study and Saturday morning Mass.

The parish typically offers confession before every Mass. Its pastor, Father Brian Lynch, said he is wary of hosting “special” times for confession, because he wants Catholics to see the sacrament as a part of the regular life of the Church. However, he thinks 24 Hours for the Lord is valuable because it may foster a more relaxed experience for Catholics who have been away from the sacrament and dread feeling rushed.

“I think people will benefit more from [hearing about] our own need for the sacraments — not just theoretical needs for the sacraments, but our own personal need for the sacrament,” he said. “I think some of what Pope Francis does . . . is provide his own experiences.”

Priests as penitents

Last year in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis confessed his sins at a Lenten penance service before hearing others’ confessions. He has since stated that he goes to confession every 15 or 20 days, and has frequently encouraged Catholics to use the sacrament. He urged priests to first be penitents before being confessors during 24 Hours for the Lord.

In “Misericordiae Vultus,” Pope Francis said he “will never tire of insisting that confessors be authentic signs of the Father’s mercy.”

“We do not become good confessors automatically,” he wrote. “We become good confessors when, above all, we allow ourselves to be penitents in search of his mercy.”

In the archdiocese, priests will gather for confession before the event opens to all Catholics. Archbishop Hebda said he, too, will likely go to confession that day, “as long as I can find a priest who is willing to take me,” he joked.

Father Nathaniel Meyers, pastor of St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo, is scheduling priests to hear confessions at the Cathedral and Basilica. He hopes four priests will be present at both sites during daytime hours, and two priests at both sites overnight. Priests are also expected to post the languages in which they are able to hear confessions.

Archbishop Hebda acknowledged that it’s a sacrifice for priests to take time to hear confessions at the Cathedral or Basilica, especially during the night. However, he said, their time and presence is one of the ways they communicate their commitment to the sacrament.

The pope’s emphasis on 24 Hours for the Lord this Year of Mercy provides an “opportunity to see how it is that the Church is that universal instrument for God’s forgiveness,” Archbishop Hebda said. “Every time that we receive the sacrament of reconciliation, we’re reconciled with the Lord, but also with that Church that extends all over the world. The whole Church rejoices every time that somebody is reconciled with the Lord.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Local News