I frequently hear from people who were raised Catholic. I ran into one in a coffee shop just yesterday morning. And I think it’s important for people to know that if you were baptized Catholic, you can always come back. There’s a home for you, if you want to live what the Church teaches. And there’s nothing like sacramental grace to help us do so. It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation because it is about reconciliation with God — it gets us back right with God.
I say this in a special way this week as it’s the holiest week of the year for Christianity, and if you were baptized Catholic but have fallen away because of something that you’ve done, there is nothing like the Sacrament of Confession if you truly want to encounter sacramental grace again.
I talked to a man just the other day who has been away from confession for over 30 years. He says he occasionally times things so he can “take Communion” at a church, without being a part of the whole liturgy. But this is another opportunity — this year when some of us who do go regularly to confession and Mass — to share what Communion really is in the Catholic Church: the Real Presence of Christ! This particular man has a litany of understandable reasons why he doesn’t want to bother with the Church — doesn’t want to listen to young priests, is upset about the scandals, has had run-ins with priests over the years. But if it is Jesus in this Sacrament, I’m not going to let any of that keep me from Him.
I know there are people who are away because they were hurt by the Church. I’m so sorry. I know abhorrent things have been done. But that’s evil, that’s sin, that’s crime. That’s not the Church. That’s not how we are to live. And it’s an added injustice that you feel as if you have to stay away from the sacraments because of it.
No matter how long it’s been, you can go to confession. The priest has heard it all. As I write about here, I’ve had the experience recently where I awkwardly realize a priest friend was in the confessional, however when he spoke to me, he was the instrument — Jesus was giving the absolution.
Tonight, if you’re in the New York downstate area (though up to Albany, too), including Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, there are confession hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in churches all over (theoretically all of them) — it’s called Reconciliation Monday. Other places have similar things. Or call a rectory or pull a priest aside — they have daily Masses, but try to go earlier in the week if you can. Things get extra busy for priests the further in we get. Go. Sacramental confession is like taking a shower: If you don’t do it regularly, you’re going to have some problems. And why would you deprive yourself of sacramental grace?
There are some guides to an examination of conscience here.
And also: Please do not go to receive the Eucharist without a Lenten confession, especially if you have a mortal sin on your soul. Do go to confession so you can receive with a clear conscience! God wants you back. And we need Him. Religion is essential, even thought we sent an erroneous sign by closing the churches last year.
By the way, in a recent interview I did with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, he talked about how in retrospect, the churches closed too quickly and stayed closed too long last year. He also talked about how essential sanctifying grace is:
A column WFB once wrote on Good Friday always makes me think I ought to share things like this now and again here. He was wrestling with if NR should be closed on Good Friday, if he knows there are Christians on staff who are not going to use the day for prayer. Was he morally culpable in their misuse of the day? I loved Bill Buckley. He was one of a kind. God be good to him, as a dear priest friend of mine says, and forever after.