A happy surprise

I gathered my reading material -- a book, a few documents that I had not yet, but wanted to read, and headed over to the church at 6:15 p.m. Vested for confessions, I went to the confessional, reading material in hand and closed the door behind me...

The first penitent arrived in a few minutes and it was not until 7:45 or so that I was even able to think about catching up on my reading!

The weather was wet; it was winter cold; it was dark. Who would come out to confession on a night like this? But they came.

I was one of the early supporters of The Light is On For You initiative. I had heard about how it worked well in other dioceses and how the collaboration of all the priests and availability in each parish was key. I suspected it would take off in our archdiocese, but the weather...apparently it bothered me more than the folks who came out that night -- and we hope will come out on the remaining nights: March 10, 17, 24, and 31.

I came back to the rectory that evening more convinced that this is a very good idea. Over the following days I chatted with priests and most reported that they had some “business” -- that is penitents taking advantage of this initiative. Many echoed my experience -- a steady stream of penitents.

One priest told me that he received an anonymous Facebook message from a parishioner. “Thanks for making this opportunity available. I had not been to confession in many years. Saturday afternoon is not the most convenient time. The priest who was there was wonderful.”

Looking back on talks and homilies it seems that these themes recur when we talk about reconciliation, confession or penance.

Your sins are not bigger than God’s mercy -- no matter how great or how many God is ready to forgive.

The priest hearing your confession is also a sinner and the priest also must use the sacrament of penance in his own life, for his own spiritual growth.

No matter how long it’s been since your last confession, you can certainly benefit from the grace of this sacrament. I’ll tell you this: a priest’s heart jumps a beat when he’s able to welcome back someone who may have been away from the reception of this sacrament for many years.

While the website -- www.TheLightIsOnForYou.org -- provides you with plenty of material to familiarize you with the “How to...” and an examination of your conscience, the priest who is in the confessional will also help you along with the “how to...” and the “what should I confess...” if you need.

Hearing confessions -- celebrating this sacrament -- is really one of the easiest of the priest’s sacred duties. A sinner sits and waits for a sinner, moved by God’s grace, to come back to God. The confessor is that bridge that helps us reach God with the apologies for the sins and to hear from God: “Your sins are forgiven.”

Please know and let others know that The Light Is On For You -- we priests can make other time for our reading. Serving as mediators of the sacramental grace of reconciliation is more important!

Father O’Grady is Assistant to the Editor of The Pilot.