Every Tuesday evening since Ash Wednesday, confessional lights have been blinking in parishes all around the Archdiocese of San Francisco as part of “The Light is On for You” campaign.
The Lenten campaign, originated in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, a decade ago and adopted by other dioceses since, is designed to encourage the faithful to go to confession. By offering the sacrament of reconciliation at a universal time frame in all parishes – mostly 6-8 p.m. – and a website with a step-by-step guide including prayers and preparatory tools for the examination of one’s conscience, the idea is to make confession more accessible and approachable for more people.
Catholic San Francisco talked to four parish priests about the fruits of the sacrament of reconciliation and penance. While each shared a unique perspective, all agreed that the sacrament can be spiritually transformative and encouraged more Catholics to make it a part of their lives.
Father Cameron Faller, Parochial vicar, Church of the Epiphany, San Francisco
Father Cameron Faller, whose first assignment as a young priest in 2015 was as chaplain at Archbishop Riordan High School, credits the sacrament for a “turnaround” in how he used to see things and “how I used to live and act” as a young college student.
Father Faller said that he didn’t have the “amazing confession moment” some people have and calls the sacrament a “slow-working process.”
“I think that one of the things that Catholics struggle with today is the desire for instant gratification in a spiritual experience,” he said.
God does sometimes give us a profound spiritual experience, Father Faller said, but it doesn’t mean the sacrament isn’t having an effect if you don’t have one.
“It’s not a one-shot experience,” he said. “I’ve seen the beauty of confession, but it’s been over time in my life.”
Father Mike Quinn,
Pastor, St. Mary Star of the Sea, Sausalito
What new priests fear even more than making a mistake during Mass is not being a good confessor, Father Mike Quinn said.
“It’s because there are no ‘do-overs,’” he said. “You will either be the mouthpiece of God or you will cause the person in the confessional to go away, perhaps forever.”
He recalled the deathbed confession of a person who had committed a “grave mortal sin” earlier in life, had already confessed it and done penance for it but felt the need to confess it again at the end of life.
“I came to the realization that one thing we need to do a little better perhaps, is impart the knowledge that if God forgives you, let it go,” Father Quinn said. “Once you’re forgiven, you’re forgiven.”
Father Felix Lim,
Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Novato
Father Felix Lim says there should be no hemming and hawing when it comes to making a good confession “Lay it all out there.”
There is nothing you can say to a priest that he probably hasn’t heard before, he said, and naming our sins allows us to really let them go.
Father Lim said that a good confession is brief out of courtesy for the confessor and other penitents waiting for their confessor, but mostly because it helps us state our sins more directly.
“Sometimes we draw a really long story because we actually don’t want to say a sin or we’re even trying to justify it,” he said. “As much as the priest loves us, cares about us and wants to forgive us, they’re probably not interested in all the ins and outs of why I lied to my mom.”
Father Larry Goode,
Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, East Palo Alto
In a letter to Catholic San Francisco, Father Goode wrote that “for many Catholics, there are only six sacraments.”
“They receive Communion every week without even thinking about confession – not even Easter duty once a year or even for many years,” he said. “I encourage people to confess frequently, at least once a month, because after a month you begin to forget, to get used to, and to do the same thing over and over.”
Father Goode said we tend to offend most with our sins the people that we love most, “which doesn’t make any sense.”
With men young and old, porn, drugs and alcohol abuse are big problem areas, he said. With married men and women, infidelity and birth control can be. All should confess failing to attend Mass.
“If the children don’t have a ride to Mass I encourage them to ‘bug’ their parents as they would if they wanted to go to a party or a movie or a sports event,” he said. For those who don’t feel they have “big” sins to confess, Father Goode said confessing “run-of-the-mill” sins can be like “preventative medicine.”
Full story at Catholic San Francisco.