Second local ’24 Hours for the Lord’ an invitation to God’s mercy

| March 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

Shortly after the Cathedral of St. Paul’s bells announced it was 7 a.m. March 25, Father John Paul Erickson stepped into the confessional, replacing Father Daniel Haugan, pastor of Holy Spirit in St. Paul, who had just heard confessions for an hour.

They were among 19 priests who heard confessions from noon March 24 to noon March 25 at the Cathedral of St. Paul for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ second 24 Hours for the Lord.

As the sky lightened outside, a handful of people sat in a pew, waiting to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. A few others prayed near the front of the church, adoring the Eucharist in the monstrance on the altar. Adoration accompanying the round-the-clock confessions was new to the event this year.

The event originated a few years ago in Rome. Pope Francis asked all dioceses to offer it last year during Lent as part of the Year of Mercy. Archdiocesan leaders decided to continue it this year. Father Erickson, archdiocesan director of worship and administrator of Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, coordinated it.

Priests heard confessions for one- to three-hour shifts throughout the afternoon, night and morning. The line waxed and waned. At one short stretch during the 7 a.m. hour, there was no wait. By 10 a.m., the line stretched beyond a pew.

Three priests heard confessions from 10-11 p.m.  At other points, there was one. Archbishop Bernard Hebda took a shift from 4-6 a.m.

He relieved Father Luke Marquard, who had been in the confessional since 2 a.m. Last year, 24 Hours for the Lord was held both at the Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, and Father Marquard took an hour in each church. The pastor of Good Shepherd in Golden Valley was a confessor again this year, he said, “because confessions are super important.”

Confession “restores us to right relationship with God, friendship and grace, and back on the path toward eternal life,” he said. “If some people are only able to do that at certain hours, or if they want to go to a place where they can be anonymous, I want to do everything I can to make that sacrament available to people.”

Between 2-3 a.m., he heard what he described as “four really powerful confessions.” From 3-4 a.m., the confessional was empty, so he read.

However, that quiet hour wasn’t a waste of his time, Father Marquard said.

“Whether or not people respond is up to them, but I was there in case someone needed it,” he said. “How long was the father of the Prodigal Son waiting and watching before his son returned? We don’t know. … We imagine he was waiting and watching for a while. We can be there waiting to be instruments of the Lord’s mercy.”

Father Marquard  appreciated the addition of adoration. “The idea that people were praying with the Lord while people were coming back to be reconciled” was powerful, he said. He also found it meaningful that people go from “having a very real experience of God’s mercy and then be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.”

Father Haugan has about 17 penance services on his schedule at various parishes during Lent, but he said he was also eager to hear confessions during 24 Hours for the Lord. During his hour, there was hardly a lull, he said, estimating that he heard confessions for 53 of the 60 minutes.

He makes confession a priority because the sacrament has been an important part of his own faith. Even as a teenager and later, a seminarian, he went to confession regularly at St. Paul parishes.

“I know how valuable it is in my life to be forgiven,” he said. “I know how much I need mercy and how good it feels to receive God’s mercy, and I just want to hand on that beautiful feeling of peace and tranquility, and sharing that ministry that God’s given me.”

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Category: Local News