One of the sorrows that strike me profoundly in this present time is the lack of solid spiritual direction on the parish level. I am not speaking about the absence of solid Catholic Teaching from the pulpit on Sunday (that will be another topic for a later time). I'm speaking on this first weekend of Fall about the availability of the Sacrament of Penance, now called Reconcilliation. I don't have a problem with calling it Reconcilliation, provided the priests still recognize the necessity of confessing our sins, receiving absolution, and the vital necessity for the person to amend their life through God's infinite grace and mercy.
The symphony of suffering takes on a whole new melody when one who aspires to amend their life, to confess their sins, to seek God's grace through forgiveness, encounters the following scenario, or one quite similar.
Confession is heard for perhaps one hour at your local parish on a Saturday afternoon. Or, you can always make an appointment with the parish priest, provided the priest is available to accommodate your need. Therefore, you go to Confession. You arrive on time, early so you can pray and examine your conscience. Now it might be different in your parish, but in my parish I encountered something recently that made me pause, then weep, then pray, then wonder just how far Holy Mother Church has come toward the abyss that our Blessed Mother has prophesied throughout the centuries.
Having gone into the Confessional, I proceeded to confess my sins. And to my utmost surprise and dismay, instead of any spiritual direction, counseling, or even a penance for my sins, the priest of the day (our parish has various visiting priests who come to hear Confession on Saturday), I was told that I was wasting the priest's time, and the time of others waiting to come into the Confessional because I didn't have any mortal sins. I was made to feel like a sinner just by seeking out the Sacrament of Confession, and furthermore, made to feel that I had caused "real sinners" to not receive the Sacrament because I was there. Furthermore, it was suggested to me that in the future I refrain from taking up space in line and time in the Confessional for my venial sins, and come just once a year, unless of course, I did commit a mortal sin.
Now, think about that! Isn't Confession to strength us in our fight here on earth to seek and do the will of God, to not offend Him in the slightest way, and to gain the grace and spiritual strength necessary to run the good race, and to be pleasing always in the sight of God. Sure, our venial sins are forgiven at the Confiteor of every Mass, but it is still the recommendation of Holy Mother Church (that is, through the teachings of our Holy Father Pope John Paul II) that we go to Confession often, for it is the source of strength we all need.
So, what was the priest really saying to me, and to how many others that day, or any Saturday? Am I to go and commit mortal sin so that I may receive the Sacrament of Penance, be forgiven, and receive God's grace to strengthen me?
Am I not permitted to receive counseling, spiritual direction and God's saving grace if I am striving, trying and struggling not to commit mortal sin?
I think this is a sad situation, one that cries out with discordant notes to Heaven for justice. Nowhere did God say that He had come to save the person only in mortal sin. Jesus said He came for the sinner, and He didn't qualify that with mortal or venial, which one is more "important" in the scope of forgiveness. Certainly, one who has committed mortal sin must and should receive the Sacrament as soon as possible. But, is that person supposed to enter the church with a sign that says, "Me first, I've committed mortal sin," so that anyone who is there with venial sin will move to the back of the line?
It can't work that way. It must be clear to our priests that Confession is a vitally necessary sacrament, and that those who choose to come to this Sacrament come with a sincere heart that seeks forgiveness. It is not for anyone to know the nature of our sin, and it is not the priest's right to judge whether this person or that deserves the Sacrament, and others should simply go home and not waste their time. Are the priests so worried that they might have to remain in the confessional a bit longer than the allotted forty-five minutes to one hour that is given for large parishes of over 3,000 families?
Would it be so horrible to see a priest remain in the confessional as long as necessary until everyone who had come that day had confessed? Isn't that what our priests are supposed to do?
I doubt that I'm the only one who's been told such a horrible thing, and I'm sure it will not only go on, but also get worse as the days progress toward the millennium. However, I am equally sure that such bold statements by mistakenly guided priests do not please God, and cause a rip in the Symphony that we are to give continuously to Almighty God.
It is as if these priests don't want to fulfill their vocation, much less their job. What are they in such a rush for? A date on the golf course, another meeting with the peace and justice societies of the parish, another party? What!!?? Enough. I am Roman Catholic. I believe. I obey. I am human, I sin, and in sinning, I want to rush to the arms of God and beg forgiveness, to receive strength and grace so that I may not sin again. I want to give God my entire being, as He asks, and commands, and I am unable to do this if the priests to whom God has entrusted the care of souls are too busy thinking about the clock, the timing of the confession, and allotting people a mere minute or two to be on their knees in humble obedience as they confess.
I shudder to think how many suffering souls have gone away more ashamed than when they came to confession, confused, disoriented, and dismayed. How many of those souls have simply stayed away from confession, not sure if they are allowed to go, sneaking in at the Easter Time to fulfill their obligation, when the priests give general absolution and hurry the process along.
No longer are there many priests left who want to give counseling and spiritual direction, who listen to what is being confessed, and seek to shed divine light on the underlying problem the person is having. Where is that care that Jesus, the Good Shepherd gave to those to whom He ministered, and the same care and love that we are to receive from His priests, who have received the same commission as the first apostles?
I think our symphony of suffering is so much more displeasing to God when we are thrust into a situation by which we are ashamed to want to confess, hurried to confess, and then dismissed as if we were a waste of time. God does not waste time, God has no time, and we are all precious to Him. He wants us to confess regularly. Our own Holy Father says the same thing, and our Blessed Mother has said this throughout the course of her many apparitions and messages. God doesn't tell lies, but it would seem that many priests today are more concerned about the Mass being "up-beat and filled with social enjoyment" rather than getting down to the heart of the matter…which is the life of the soul.
I, for one, do not intend to stop, and the priest will be none to happy to see me, or hear my poor confession. Yet, I will to love God with my entire being, and that is first. Let us, then, make a better melody for Almighty God this coming week by going to confession, making a good confession, and if your priest is similar to the one I encountered, then we should be praying for these priests to get their act together before it is too late. Let us sing a hymn of praise to God who forgives and strengthens us, and then we will be able to withstand the continued decline of the basic tenets of our faith, until the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Mother Triumphs.