We’ve reached the midpoint of Lent and that is reason to rejoice. Not to diminish this joyful occurrence, but that does leave only three more weeks to make a good confession before Easter Sunday. Our faith teaches that to receive Holy Communion worthily in the Easter Season is so important that it is part of our identity. Participating in the Paschal mysteries of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is a defining quality of being Christian. From the earliest times of the primitive Church, it was seen as most fitting for the catechumens (converts) to join our ranks at the Easter Vigil. After weeks of scrutiny and preparation, they would receive the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion. Through these Sacraments we are united to the new life of Easter and its promised resurrection. But for we who are initiated, what do we do?
Over time, Lent was developed. A time of doing acts of penitence concluded with a renewed participation in the sacraments. Of course, the faithful couldn’t be rebaptized, so what could they do? The Rite of Renewal of Baptismal Promises was developed. Additionally, there is no redoing our First Holy Communion, but there is always room for improving our communion with the Lord. And so, making a good confession and experiencing the sacramental grace of forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance became a part of our Easter experience.
Throughout most of Christian history much greater obligations of penitence, abstinence and fasting characterized this time compared to the all time historical bare minimum that we have today. Nevertheless, we still have an Easter Obligation, the need to receive Holy Communion worthily during the Easter Season. In turn, this prompts the necessary obligation to sacramentally confess our sins in this time period, hence the urgency. So, according to Canon Law, the bare minimum that defines us as Catholics in good standing, is making a sacramental confession and receiving Holy Communion worthily in the Season of Easter.
What about COVID? As long as there is no obligation to attend Mass, then there can’t be an obligation to receive Holy Communion and therefore neither is there an obligation to go to Confession. Bishop Burbidge hasn’t reinstituted the obligation to attend Mass yet.
While there may be no obligation, as your pastor I invite you to consider. In the course of visiting the supermarket, which 98% of you do, (I know. I’ve seen many of you.) you are exponentially more at risk to encounter the Coronavirus than coming to Confession at SSM. At a minimum you are exposed to at least a dozen people in the course of grocery shopping. At SSM on a Saturday afternoon, you have a 10% chance of seeing another soul at church. (That is a scientific conclusion based on a field study of two penitents in the course of an hour for the past two Saturday’s.)
Perhaps you’re among the group that doesn’t believe he has committed any sins. I believe you. The grace that Our Lord provides us is powerful enough to keep us from mortal sins. What a great blessing to be among those who have experienced this power. But for the rest of us, let’s examine our conscience carefully.
Not only is confessing your sins at SSM safe, but it is so convenient. For the vast majority of you, it is an out of the way location. This means that penance is built to your confession. So not only do you have an automatic reduction in temporal punishment by confessing at SSM because of the time it might take to arrive there, but there is minimal line waiting and ample hours and days to fit the diverse lifestyles of the parish, such as:
- Wednesday nights from 7-8:00pm. This is the time that you are most likely to have to wait. Our Spanish speakers have been taking advantage of this convenient time for years.
- Friday mornings. Please note, this takes place immediately after 8:30am Mass. That means, be there at 9:00am, I won’t wait around for long.
- Friday evenings are blessed with a double header. I’m in the confessional at 6:40pm after the Spanish Stations of the Cross and then again at about 7:30pm following the English. Once more, the Stations are some readily available penitence.
- Saturday afternoon. Starts at 3:45pm . I’m there till 4:45pm, but I have to leave at that moment to get ready for Mass. I can’t linger.
Hope to absolve you soon,