Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Communal Celebrations of Penance: Your Experience?

Thanks so much for the continuing responses to yesterday's blog post. I think we all struggle with issues of welcome and hospitality in our parishes.

A question for you.

First some background.

Throughout my time at my parishes in Florida (1984-1990) and here in Illnois (1992-1999), we celebrated a communal rite of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution twice a year, once during Advent and once during Lent. The churches were packed, many times standing room only, for these celebrations. Everyone was told that if they were in a state of serious sin, they needed to confess their sins to a priest in individual confession. These were powerful liturgies of the Church. I enjoyed preparing them and leading the music for them; the choir always sang and I had a deep sense that God's mercy had been poured out on us sinners.

Of course, that was then and this is now. I don't believe there are many places in the Catholic world that regularly celebrate this form of the rite. I don't want to get into rubrical or theological discussions about that here, because I have a question.

Some people have suggested that the communal celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation in parishes is dead. At least here in Chicago, there is a sense that since general absolution is not employed any longer, people have just stopped going to these communal celebrations, or that they are simply no longer scheduled in parishes.

What is your experience? Please share it here or on the Gotta Sing Gotta Pray Facebook page. Thanks so much.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Liam said...

Two situations in communal penance services that were disturbing, from about 10-15 years ago:

1. Being directed that, during the individual confession portion of the service, that penitents could only confess one sin in particular.

2. Another service where penitents were told to write their sins on paper and place the papers in a vessel where the papers were burned - rather than individual confession.

Aside from the fact that these are clearly out of bounds, sacramentally and liturgicall, these things convey the sense that penitents are parasites on priests' more valuable time. It's the height of clericalism, not pastoral sensitivity.

Anonymous said...

During Advent and Lent, I like to find communal reconciliation services. The ones that I go to generally start with readings and eventually have everyone go to priests stationed around the church to confess their sins, often with music playing in the background. I really like these services. I am not aware of any services where one does not still need to confess one's sins to a priest.

Fr. Larry L├ęger said...

Hi there Jerry.
I have witnessed the decline in Communal Penance service attendance, particularly in Advent. Maybe that helps us remember that Advent is not supposed to be a Pennitential Season...

There are a few reasons for this:
I have seen an increase in the number of people who go to confession at the regular weekly confession time. (Not that they go weekly - but maybe once per month - once per 2 months - at that regular time on Saturday afternoon.)
There has been an increased use of "Day of Reconciliation" in different dioceses (including mine) and this means priests are in the confessional for the better part of a day - and there is no "Service" at any time.
Finally - even when we do have a service - followed by individual confessions, there are lots of people who show up thoughout the evening - and are not ever part of the service.
Part of this practice is rooted in their expereince years ago - when Confirmation Candidates were expected to attend the service - and so with 300 + candidates (and some parents) it was often 2.5 hours of waiting for a priest to be available...