Invitation to Receive Divine Mercy

April 2, 2013

Billboards in Tulsa Diocese

Billboards in Tulsa Diocese


My heart leapt twice over when I saw this billboard picture posted March 23rd at Father Z’s blog. One of my favorite bishops doing something else magnificent for his priests and laity. I wish our diocese would do the same.

When Cardinal Dolan gave his opening speech to the bishops at the USCCB conference last fall, he emphasized the importance of promoting the sacrament of Penance. I haven’t seen it taken to heart in southwest Missouri and that grieves me.

In An Appointment with Jesus I wrote about how I view going to confession. In fact, the local parish is about 5-10 minutes from our house and they advertise in the bulletin that confessions are heard every Saturday from 3:00-3:45. Except that the priest isn’t there. He’s off doing something else. Several times I went and waited, and waited, and waited, but he never came. Nobody else showed up to go to confession, either. I started driving 12 miles to a Springfield parish.

The Sunday prior to Palm Sunday my husband and I happened to break our Extraordinary Form routine and went to the local 8:00 a.m. Mass. The pastor read the parish the riot act for not showing up for the communal penance service that week. Only five people came. So did the bishop. With people from all around, the total was 20.

I emailed the pastor with a link to my post about confession and told him that if he would be in the confessional as advertised, I’d come just about every week. I told him he is one of the best confessors I’ve ever gone to and that I’d prefer him to hear my confessions. He didn’t answer my email.

The Saturday before Palm Sunday, I was the first to arrive for the 3:00 confessions, hoping my email had taken effect. Three o’clock and no priest. Then a young man showed up. Then a mother with three little kids. Then another lady. Father was not in church and the office was locked. Everybody was asking, “Is he coming?” Some looked anxious and distressed.

About 3:10 I got my nerve up and went across to the rectory and rang the bell. Smiling, I said, “Father there are about four of us for confession and it looks like there are going to be more.” He winced and said he’d be right over.

In the five or so minutes it took him to get there, several more people showed up. By the time I left after saying my penance, I counted a total of 13 people who had showed up. How many came after that I don’t know. It should be that way every week in every parish, only with a lot more people keeping a regular appointment with Jesus.

If we want to be holy, we need holy priests. But priests become holy only by doing everything they are ordained to do, and one of those duties is to hear confessions. We laity have to call our priests to holiness. We are a communion of saints. We need each other. We don’t get to heaven alone. We have to ask our priests to hear confessions and be in the confessionals at the advertised time so the weak and fearful, the ones walking around in agony and despair, will slip into the line along with us, drawing courage from our presence.

In these days when people are so confused about sin and desensitized to it, we need our priests going to confession themselves. We need them encouraging us from the pulpit to come to confession and receive the special graces we get from the sacrament while mentioning that they, too, go regularly.

Our diocese and the Tulsa diocese are called “mission dioceses” because the percentage of Catholics is low. Many calling themselves Catholic are fallen away. Bishop Slattery’s billboard is an invitation for all Catholics in his care to make good and regular use of the Sacrament of Penance. It is a conscience pricker, if you will, but also an encouragement to be holy, to be of courage in the secular world to witness to Christ as repentant sinners, and to be receivers of the Divine Mercy Christ is waiting to pour out on us.

Pope Francis met with some priests of Rome for lunch on Holy Thursday. He told them, “Open the doors of the Church, and then the people will come in…if you keep the light on in the confessional and are available, then you will see what kind of line there is for confession.” St. John Vianney did this. In the beginning hardly anyone came. They were at the pubs in town drinking, gambling, and who knows what all else. But he pleaded repeatedly on his knees before God for his parishioners, and God poured out His grace over Ars. The little priest became famous as a confessor, with people driving many days to have him hear their confessions. We need this kind of renewal in the Church if we are going to do a good job of bringing others to Christ.

If we love our pastors and really appreciate them, we will call them to hear our confessions. Outside of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, this is the most compassionate and merciful thing they can do. It means the difference between heaven and hell for them and for us.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 sacraments

10 Comments to Invitation to Receive Divine Mercy

  1. Barb:

    Oh, that all our priests would cherish being priests, love the Eucharist, and lovingly dispense God’s forgiveness and mercy!

    I have said it before here and elsewhere: we do not need any more seminars, studies or commissions to address the problems in the Catholic Church. We need holy priests, Christ-like priests, who have their salvation and ours as the first priority in their lives.

    There is a parish close by where far too frequently a typewritten note is hastily taped to the confessional door apologizing for not being available for confession. What could justify this on-going behavior?

    You have, as usual, written very well, clearly and persuasively. May those who need to hear listen to the wisdom flowing from your heart and your keyboard.

    With much gratitude for the gift you have of teaching so clearly and convincingly.


  2. Michael Seagriff on April 2nd, 2013
  3. God bless you, Mike. I would like to see long lines for confession everywhere. How sad that penitents arrive to see a taped note. How many souls become discouraged and remain in sin because the priests aren’t there. The business of calling up the priest to schedule an appointment for confession is much too intimidating for many.

  4. barb on April 2nd, 2013
  5. Powerful, inspiring, confession would be the beginning of a spiritual revolution, the transformation of ordinary people into the Presence of Christ on earth, in the market place

  6. motherofnine9 on April 2nd, 2013
  7. OOOH! I like that “spiritual revolution.”

  8. barb on April 2nd, 2013
  9. Barb, this has happened to me a number of times too. I’ll stand in line outside the confessional and the priest never shows up. Often I have to travel over half an hour to a shrine to go to Confession instead. (I’ve seen a taped note many times too.)

    St John Vianney often listened to Confessions late into the night, I read.

    Thanks for a great post, Barb. Sorry to hear about the problems with spam. How frustrating that must be.

  10. Mary N. on April 2nd, 2013
  11. Mary, it seems that our problem here is also elsewhere. We must do something. Let’s all think about this.

  12. barb on April 2nd, 2013
  13. I am blessed. Our pastor has Confessions every Saturday and he or another priest are always there.
    During Lent, our bishop had a campaign which he called – The Light is On – and every parish had confessions Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. Our parish also had a communal penance service.
    The sacrament of Reconciliation is such a blessing. One of the greatest gifts in my life since becoming Catholic.
    I am so sorry that you are having this kind of experience. I just don’t get it. I will pray!

  14. colleen on April 2nd, 2013
  15. Thanks, Colleen. Apparently the problem is a lot more wide spread than I thought. All of you in your diocese are very blessed.

  16. barb on April 2nd, 2013
  17. I’m ok with the priest occupying himself with other things during the posted hours for confession while he waits. It always reminded me of professors’ office hours. I suppose confession is more important than discussing a confusing topic with one’s university statistics teacher. 🙂

    I can’t understand, though, if he waits in the rectory, why he can’t peer out his kitchen window and see cars arriving in the lot and deduce the reason?

    Our pastor holds confession immediately AFTER the Saturday evening liturgy. That way, he’s there and the people are there and he doesn’t have to wait. I know that confession AFTER mass sounds strange because presumably folks wants to confess so as to receive the eucharist worthily. But my pastor doesn’t get himself hung up on such technicalities. Perhaps typical sins of the “regulars” have convinced him that this arrangement is acceptable.

  18. Moonshadow on April 7th, 2013
  19. Moonshadow, I love that your pastor hears confession after the Saturday evening Mass – is always there. We just are not so lucky here. The priests need to be in the confessional at the advertised times. Otherwise, why say they’ll hear confessions at such-and-such a time and then we have to chase them down? Some people want to be anonymous before and during confession. For myself, I don’t care, but others are more fragile and need to be able to slip in and out. The desperation on people’s voices and on their faces that Saturday really shook me up.

  20. barb on April 7th, 2013


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