Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22, 2015

Sorry for the absence. I'm still working to get these little updates into my regular schedule of life. I want to talk a little bit about yesterday and then I'll write about today later on. It was Wednesday, which means I do not have a morning Mass so I worked on other things before I celebrated an evening Mass in Lake Mills. Then, I drove to Britt where I heard confessions for some students there. Here's my dilemma: I am very conflicted with hearing confession for students at Faith Formation. I think it ties a sacrament that is ongoing and life-long to religious education classes which end (at best) at graduation. And, in general, it forces people who may not be prepared spiritually or psychologically for confession, to go because your catechist says it's time. First of all, it should be the parents who bring their kids to confession not the catechists because the parents should be attending the sacrament with their kids. After all, in some ways, we need the sacrament of reconciliation more as adults than we do when we are in school because we are incredibly aware of our faults in middle school and high school through parents, teachers, coaches, tests, peers, etc. but can become incredibly unaware of our faults as adults. Secondly, I know that people believe that students who go to confession will translate into adults who go to confession. However, that's not happening. There are many times throughout the week that I sit alone in a confessional waiting for someone to come in to be relieved of their sins.

Most of the time, a kid learns how to behave in church more from their parents than from any priest or catechist. If they don't see their parents go to church or to confession, then they think that it's unimportant and I don't think that bringing a kid to confession once a year is going to reverse that. Still, I hear faith formation confessions because I don't know what the alternative is. If there's one thing we have learned from the reaction to Vatican II, it is that replacing something that we don't think is working (the rosary, adoration, novenas, 30 hours, etc) with nothing is really bad for the basic spiritual formation of the people of God. So, until it's clear what we should do differently, I sit in a confessional and and am stoned to death with the cotton balls of grade school confession. And, who knows? Maybe three minutes of honesty will translate for at least one kid into a life-long commitment to confession.

1 comment:

nabimba said...

I think you just answered your own dilemma. People (kids AND grown-ups) need to be prepared spiritually and psychologically for the sacrament.

Part of that preparation is an examination of conscience, sure. But that's the easy part to conduct.

Kids need models. Grown-up kids need models. If their parents aren't doing it, you can't change that, but you might insist that the kids see their catechists go first. If you are tag-teaming reconciliations, people would benefit from witnessing your own example of confessing to the other priest, even if he isn't your regular confessor. Kick it like Pope Francis.

Kids and grown-ups need examples. I can't tell you how awkward it is to have grown up with old-school priests and new-school catechesis. Do I wimp-out behind a screen or walk around and face the priest? Awkward. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say, on script, "Bless me Father, blah blah blah..." when I walk in. It's a relief to be welcomed first to participate in God's mercy but, then what? Still awkward. As an "enlightened" Catholic I know that I can say any meaningful words of contrition that I like, but will the priest accept that? Again, awkward, and perhaps I chicken out with a rote reading of that prayer on the card.

That, coupled with a preparation focused on trying to find sins to confess...makes for a confession that's all about Me and my awkwardness, not about a return to right relationship with God. It's counterproductive. I shouldn't hate this sacrament, but 9 times out of 10, I do.

What if you replace it with a multi-grade, multi week initiative instead?
Wk 1: Do some re-catechesis with humor. 2nd grade was a long time ago. Have a couple mock reconciliations, maybe like you might have done in a seminary class. Put the focus back on God. Offer the sacrament for the first 2 takers at the end. 15-20 minutes.
Wk 2: Do a penance service without individual reconciliation/absolution, something like in Appendix II of Penance in the Rites. Offer the sacrament for another 2 takers at the end. 20 minutes.
Wk 3: Offer all the sacrament, during a period of Eucharistic Adoration, maybe songs interspersed with silence. At least 2 grown-ups go first. If people choose not to go, they have an alternative, and it could refocus the experience from personal sins to Christ.