My recent move to an new assignment not quite half way around the world, after 6+ years of stabilitas loci, has made me more receptive than usual to countless anxious comments by laity regarding the sacrament of penance. A change of address like mine also means finding a new confessor in a place unknown to me and with perhaps a smaller number of priests to choose from who share a common language with me. Actually, things went quite well and with very little delay I am back on a regular program of confession. Thanks be to God.
As I say, my heart goes out in a very special way to all those who find it hard to catch a priest to hear their confession, who are embarrassed at Father's unreasonable demand that they make an appointment if they want to confess, who have to put up with the uncertainty of priests who don't do their part in confession strictly by the book (especially in terms of the formula of absolution). Justice requires more of priests and beyond simple justice the laity deserve better treatment.
I would be a fool to repeat the obvious, as the culprits, if you will, don't read my blog, but this too would seem to be part of the post-conciliar rupture we are still trying to heal. Granted, Penance was a special sacrament even before the reform, because it did let personalities shine through in a way the celebration of Holy Mass never could. Even in the good old days there could be fallings out between priest and penitent over issues of communication, fits of impatience and more. Let me say one thing to all priests of good will today and namely: You have to carry the burden of the harm done by some of your predecessors who worked actively to destroy among the faithful the good habit of regular confession (monthly and even more frequently). Only your presence in church, in the confessional, ready with the proper formula for confession, together with a regular positive catechesis for your parish or school encouraging frequent confession will help to restore what has been lost in some cases within families for 4 and 5 generations.
Good old auricular confession on a regular basis with a simple, doable penance of a concrete prayer feeds people. Over these last decades people were simply deprived of this nourishment as they were of basic knowledge of the faith. Sadly, it shows. St. John Vianney did penance, sacrificed himself to bring his parish of Ars back to God. We must do the same. Very simply, the proof is in the putting in our day as well.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI