Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Light is On

As Lent begins, I am intrigued by reports on the Web that finally, people are starting to return to the practice of Confession. Apparently the Archdiocese of Washington had a highly successful campaign last year entitled "The Light is On," which encouraged every priest in the Archdiocese to be in his confessional from 6.30pm till 8.00pm every Wednesday in Lent. The campaign was so successful, and so many people came back to confession that they are running the same campaign again this Lent. My experience has been that availability and preaching are the key - and availability when the people CAN come - not on a Saturday afternoon any more. Evenings DO work - it has been my practice in the last two parishes to offer people, apart from the Saturday afternoon, the opportunity for Mass, Adoration and Confession on a Tuesday evening. Following the wise advice of another priest, I also go into the confessional after all the weekend Masses during Advent and Lent - slowly but surely, people are coming back. Of course there are some who will never return - they have convinced themselves that they are without sin and will get to Heaven without God's help - the return of Pelagianism - but sitting in the confessional giving people the opportunity if Grace strikes - is much more important for a priest than endless meetings - and good penance for the priest!


Fr. Peter said...

I have also seen more people in the Orthodox Church return to confession. I started preaching on confession and making it available to them on a regular basis. Before I came to this parish it was by appointment. Who is going to do that? So now it is available to them and they are coming. It is great to see people come back.

jefflax said...

"....and preaching are the key "
Yes!! As a lay person I wonder if it is not, "they have convinced themselves" but more that we have been convinced. Either through direct contradictions of church teaching (starting with the infamous reactions surrounding Humanae Vitae, a huuuge rabbit hole which we should not go down), or through omissions, we pew sitters rarely hear concrete examples of things that we are doing right now in our lives which in fact contradict church teaching.
Couple the demise in "hellfire and brimstone" with the ascendancy of wishy washy, "Smiley face Jesus" catechism and you arrive at our reality.
For you priests who read this, from just a guy in the pews, do not be afraid to be direct with the truth. Obfuscating and playing with generic phrases in order not to offend the parishioners may seem "pastoral" (btw I hate that phrase) but it may also cost me my immortal soul.