SIN, FORGIVENESS & THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
Welcome to the season of Lent, the annual retreat that we as a Church undertake together in preparation for the most sacred celebration of the year, Holy Week. For the next six weeks, we will step out of our usual routine and step up our lives of prayer, penance, and charity. While each of these traditional marks of the Lenten season is important and they are all interconnected, we will focus in a special way this year at St. Boniface on penance and its sacramental expression in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, or confession.
It surprises no one over the age of 40 to say that participation in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation has declined drastically. According to a survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (https://cara.georgetown.edu/ reconciliation.pdf), only 2% of Catholics report regularly going to confession, and almost half (45%) report never going. Some of this drop-off may be attributed to the decline in church participation in general - fewer people participating in church life means fewer people going to confession. But even among those who do practice their faith, very few (6%) include regular confession as part of their practice.
No doubt reasons for this decline in participation vary, but Father James Martin, SJ, proposes four major reasons (https://www.americamagazine.org/ issue/615/article/bless-me-father): a widespread loss of the sense of sin; a confusing message from Church ministers about sin and God’s mercy following Vatican Council II; the Church’s loss of moral authority following the social upheaval of the 1960’s; and people’s busier lives that make it difficult to get to confession when it is offered.
Regardless of the reasons, our goal this Lent is to begin to reverse this trend here at St. Boniface. Toward that end, we are launching the SIN, FORGIVENESS & THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE initiative. Over the next 6 weeks, we will promote sacramental confession in a variety of ways.
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Whatever your personal practice regarding confession has been, Lent is the time for new beginnings, including our exercise of penance. May our reflection on the Sacrament of Penance renew our understanding and appreciation of this amazing gift from God, and may we take advantage of this sacred time to make confession a regular part of our spiritual life throughout the year.
Fr. Marc Stockton
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