Greg Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, reports on a successful and simple approach to reviving the sacrament of confession at his parish:
My parish tried something unusual this Advent. It decided to make the sacrament available when parishioners were available. A few months ago, Father James Shafer, our pastor, proposed to his two associates that instead of hearing confessions for an hour Saturday, they try a “back to the future” idea.
“I told them that I always wondered what would happen if we heard confessions around the weekend Mass schedule,” he said. “Would making it more available and convenient for people help more of them experience his great forgiving love in their lives?”
The priests agreed. They first talked about confession from the pulpit. They published an examination of conscience in the bulletin. Then, for two weekend Mass cycles, as one priest celebrated Mass, the other two were available not just before and after Mass, but during it as well. For two weekends, the three priests logged more than 60 hours in the confessional, and according to Father Jim, more than 98 percent of the time, they were busy.
This is precisely the sort of authentic creativity envisioned by Church teaching. In his 1984 apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, Pope John Paul II urged pastors “to use all possible and suitable means to ensure that the greatest possible number of our brothers and sisters receive the ‘grace that has been given to us’ through penance.”