Last weekend, Mrs. Leonardi and I visited Paris for the first time. It was a great trip. The city has an otherworldly, endless quality to it, but is self-consciously secular to a remarkable degree. For instance, virtually all of the public art outside of a parish context is a Rand-like celebration of man qua man. We spent most of our time walking around and seeing the sites, e.g., Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Versailles, Sacre-Coeur/Montmarte, St. Germain, Rue Cler, and a dozen or more cafes. On our last night, a Sunday, we stumbled upon Saint-Sulpice church on the Left Bank near St. Germain. It is a magnificent and massive church currently undergoing a much-needed restoration. It’s so massive, in fact, that I had to stand on the far end of the spacious courtyard in front of the church to fit all of the facade into the picture you see to the upper right. (Some of you may be familiar with Saint-Sulpice’s famous organ, which we had the pleasure of hearing as we strolled around the place.) As we arrived, the shrine behind the main altar was hosting a surprisingly well-attended communal penance service. Mass immediately followed, which was even better attended, as most of the penitents remained and Mass-goers joined. The sheer normality of it, penitents, communicants, stragglers — all coming together for the sacraments in the heart of supposedly godless France, was so encouraging. Might this be an idea for, say, Cincinnati? Sunday night Mass here is usually hosted by a designated parish in each of the archdiocesan deaneries. In this way the chancery hopes to encourage attendance and ensure that these Masses are geographically dispersed. A brief communal penance service beforehand would provide an additional opportunity for the faithful to receive the sacrament of penance, especially the younger Catholics targeted by Sunday night Masses. We’ve all heard “this is the way we do confession now.” Why not do it outside of Advent and Lent, the seasons when penance services are almost exclusively held? It’s worth a try.

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