Here’s another of those Lenten Reflections I wrote for my church’s prayer book, followed up by a bit of a Lenten/Confession Rant.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent – March 3
Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
“Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow.” Maybe it’s because I’m an English teacher, but this line always reminds me of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. Sometimes I feel like my sins are a big red letter that I’m wearing around for everyone to see. That, somehow, everyone will know the horrible things I’ve done and shun me for them. That’s when lines like this in Scripture comfort me. What a gift we have in the Sacrament of Reconciliation! I don’t have to wear my sins on me like some scarlet letter. God forgives me, and He’ll make my “crimson” sins “become white as wool.”
An old friend recently requested advice about going to confession because she hadn’t been in many years. My advice? Go! Don’t be afraid! Simply tell the priest how long it’s been, and he’ll guide you from there. I’m sure helping us realize God’s infinite compassion and mercy must be one of the most gratifying aspects of a priest’s vocation.
So after I wrote and submitted this to my church, several interesting things happened that have me ranting a little. First, one of my neighborhood churches has decided to cut back their confession times from every Saturday to every other Saturday, and they’ve moved it from a reasonable hour on Saturday mornings to 8:00-9:00 a.m. Who except the holiest among us are going to get up that early for confession? And what happened to Pope Francis’s request to have *more* confession time so that more people would come?
Then I found another neighborhood church that only offers it for a half-hour a week. What? A half hour?
Then a friend, who hadn’t been to confession in a long time (not the same friend mentioned in the passage) told me she went and had a horrible experience. The priest made her feel like she was judged instead of forgiven, and now she probably won’t go again for a really long time! This is all in direct contradiction to Pope Francis’s request to priests.
I swear, poor Papa Francesco must be banging his head against the walls some days.
On the bright side, I had a mostly positive confession experience myself this weekend. Archbishop Cupich decided to start a “Festival of Forgiveness,” during which churches would stay open for 24 hours for confession. (Yay!) Now this is more in line with Pope Francis’s requests. However, only a handful of churches participated. (Boooo!) I headed off to one during the last hour of the Festival. The line was 25 people along, and there was only one priest who was taking 7-8 minutes per person. (More booing.) Thankfully, a second priest arrived and started a second line. (Yay!) He wasn’t a priest I knew, but he talked with me for a little while and gave me a simple prayer to say when I ask God for forgiveness: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” Simple. I like it. 🙂 Now if only all priests could be good confessors.