Now this might just be me, but I can't see the title of this piece and not think of Monty Python. There is something so hilarious about seeing a bunch of British guys dressed as the Spanish Inquisition (whom nobody expects) and attempting to extract a confession of heresy from an old woman with such dastardly instruments as a comfy chair and soft pillows. Just brilliant! If you haven't seen the skit, I'll link it below.
Obviously I'm not writing an entire blog post about Monty Python. Trust me, I could, but there are more important things to discuss. As you can guess from the photo above, one such thing is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, better known as Confession. That's always been interesting to me: why the two names? Are they the same thing?
In short, yes and no. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is made up of four distinct parts: Contrition (sorrow for sins), Confession (voicing sins to a priest), Satisfaction (penance and an act of contrition), and Absolution (forgiveness of sins by Jesus through a priest).
Basically, Confession is one of the ingredients in the chocolate chip cookie of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sure, chocolate chips are great on their own, but there's a few extra ingredients to add if you want the whole cookie! It's a simple metaphor, sure, but I think it's quite fitting.
Now that we've settled the terminology, I can tell you why I'm writing about Reconciliation here today. As we've said over and over again, many things have fallen by the wayside as a result of this pandemic. The ability (and/or comfort) to attend mass in person is one thing that has been sorely missed by many, but another missing piece is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The only "set requirement" regarding how often Catholics should receive this Sacrament is a minimum of once per year. However, there is also the question of the Eucharist to consider. Catholics are called to confess their mortal sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving the Eucharist. This, in just about every case, would necessitate a more frequent Confession than once per year.
In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul writes that "a person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgement on himself." This self-examination is the first part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation: Contrition. This leads us to believe that the reception of the Eucharist while in a conscious state of mortal sin should be avoided.
This is the issue that Covid has brought to the forefront: many of us haven't received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in months, but our sinful tendencies haven't magically disappeared! This Sacrament, perhaps more than any other, facilitates exponential spiritual growth. One does not receive it once and instantly become a perfect Catholic.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, when received correctly (with all four previously mentioned elements), helps a Catholic to lead a less sinful life. If one avails oneself of the Sacrament, say, once per month, patterns may become clear. Perhaps there are certain sins that keep cropping up. Perhaps the devil is using variations of the same temptation to lead us into sin. Who knows?
Everybody's experience with Reconciliation is different, but that makes sense as we all fall into sin differently! The point is, Jesus forgives us all the same. We just have to ask for it. Pretty sweet, huh? Luckily for us, our parish has some Covid-safe ways to get back into the habit of going to Confession.
Each Saturday at 3pm, drive-thru Confessions are heard in front of St. Bridget Church. It's safe, socially distant, and just as grace-filled as in the confessional! Additionally, the myParish app has some fantastic tools for Confession. You can mark the time since you last received the Sacrament (it can add up very quickly) and even keep track of which sins you've committed for your next Confession. I'd strongly recommend it!
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift of abundant grace that we have access to almost as often as we'd like. It is our charge to seek out the Sacrament and allow God's forgiveness to wash over us. Don't allow fear or anxiety keep you from grace. Avail yourself of the Sacrament (frequently) and let the blessings flow forth!
I pray that you will take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently and boldly in the coming weeks and months. May God bless you abundantly, and I hope to see you soon.
Monty Python Skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAxkcPoLYcQ