At assembly this past Tuesday I followed with a particular interest in the presentation of an examination of conscience as students were preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The occasion filled me with a sense of great satisfaction that the student body would be given the opportunity to go to “Confession”, but also because they really seemed to be interested. It continues to impress me that so many of our students actually avail themselves of this healing sacrament in an age where it would be easy to dismiss it as unnecessary and irrelevant.
If in the Holy Eucharist Jesus has erected a throne of his undying love towards us, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the throne of his loving mercy. Confession is the great sacrament of the compassion of our Lord, of self-knowledge, of contrition, of reparation and conversion of life.
As Blessed Cardinal Newman reminded us: “The Holy Eucharist draws us upwards to himself. In the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation) the Lord stoops down to listen to us and to open his heart to us in the midst of our sins and in the hour of our greatest miseries. The Sacrament of Penance is loved by Catholics and hated by the world. To us it is all light; to the world it is all darkness. There are two things the world would fain rid itself of – the Day of Judgement and the Sacrament of Penance; of the former because it is searching and inevitable; of the latter because it is the anticipation and witness of the judgement to come.”
Compassion is indeed the characteristic of a tender and loving heart. The place of reconciliation is not a penalty box or detention hall, it is a sacred space of forgiveness and mercy. We all need such spaces today, especially the young who live in a very unforgiving world that chooses to hang on to much in the name of justice but which too often is used to exact revenge and often a false sense of reconciliation that often serves to create further divisions and walls. As adult Catholics, we need to be encouraging our young people to cultivate the capacity to forgive and hearts disposed towards compassion for others. Frequent confession, the frequent reception of Holy Communion, make it easier to live the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. Each time we receive a sacrament we are made more like our Saviour. The failure of too many Catholics today to give their children a sense of a sacramental life deny their children a deeper and more real experience of what Jesus invites us to be and an inability to recognise God’s voice of help and solace in ourselves and in our neighbour.
I am more and more convinced that it will be the young who will restore strength and holiness to the Church. I thank and admire our students whose courage shows us how to be more genuinely Catholic.
Brother Domenic, fsc