will certainly have figured out by now, that these
last few columns have been about the history of the
Church's practice of reconciliation of sinners has
been heading for the celebration of the Sacrament
of Penance here at Manchester on Sunday 24 March.
of such a celebration lies in the recognition that
sin isolates us from God and from those whom God has
gathered to himself in the community of the faithful.
At the same time, the community is eager to have its
fullness restored and sinners are in need of the prayers
and support of the community as they undertake the
more or less difficult task of penance.
of the Church -the community God has made his own
in Baptism and Eucharist -- and of the Church's sinful
members - who have slipped away from God's work to
do their own thing - brings all of these elements
together in one liturgical setting. In such a service,
the Church rejoices in God's gift of graced existence;
the sinner acknowledges his 'limping' participation
in that life; and the whole congregation, repents
and rejoices that the gift is renewed and the Church
is once more made whole by the reconciling power of
for private confession is always afforded in these
services for those who feel the need or the wish to
be on the receiving end of God's work. There should
always be some people who feel no need for Confession,
but are willing to linger for a bit of time to support
by prayer those who do seek to take advantage of the
of you who have not seen such a service - ever or
in some time - the shape is simple:
hymn; a reading or two; a homily; a common expression
of repentance, the chance for Confession; performance
by each individual of an assigned penance; and leave-taking.
be five priests available for hearing confessions:
three from Bennington, one from Wilmington and YT.
a season of repentance. It makes sense only if we
take seriously our individual need for repentance.
The celebration of such a service - an extra, for
sure, but not an unnecessary one - gives to those
who have been serious about Lent so far a chance to
express that seriousness. For those who have let Lent
begin and almost slip away, this is a second chance
to start; think of it as Ash Wednesday without the
ashes. There are not many such second chances in life!
if you must. Come as a family if you can. Come even
if you don't need forgiving (said he with tongue in
cheek!) Leave as members of a reconciled and reconciling
and truly and penitentially yours,