By Katherine Long | Editor
The light will be on for you at local parishes this Monday, April 10.
Once again this year, churches across the diocese will be open from
4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the Monday of Holy Week, offering Catholics the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“The Light is ON for You” is an initiative originated by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington that has been adopted by dioceses across the country. The campaign invites Catholics to return to and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In the Diocese of Syracuse, special “Light is On for You” nights of Confession are offered during Advent and Lent. Msgr. Timothy Elmer, the diocese’s Vicar General, sees that timing as key.
Whether getting ready for Christmas or Easter, “people at those times of year are thinking perhaps most especially about the meaning of their Catholic faith,” he said. “I think if you go to church knowing you’re right with God, you’re more right with everybody else in your family and the people around you.”
The timing is particularly good at Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Christ and the promise of eternal life: “Jesus came to save us from our sins,” Msgr. Elmer said. “What better time to do it [receive the sacrament] than Holy Week?”
Church doors will be open to all Catholics April 10, but those who have been away from Confession are welcomed especially to return to the sacrament.“ They shouldn’t feel uneasy or that it’s unusual or think that their situation is odd, because most of the people going that night, I’ve found, haven’t been in a long time,” Msgr. Elmer said.
Once at church, penitents can expect to join others waiting to go to confession. “I think that can be a reassuring experience, just to be in line…. There’s a certain solidarity that you’re all there for the same reason,” Msgr. Elmer said. “Standing in line helps you prepare, gives you time to think a little bit further about what you want to say, and to think about how good you’re going to feel when it’s all over!”
In the confessional, too, there’s no need to be nervous if you’re unsure what to do. Be honest with the priest and ask him if you need help making your confession, Msgr. Elmer advised. The priests of the diocese “are ready. They’re pleased to help people,” he said.
If you want to brush up on the basics before you head into the confessional, the Guide to Confession on the next page provides all the details you’ll need to prepare. The diocesan website, syrdio.org, also has guides and resources to help you better understand the sacrament and make a good confession.
Churches throughout the diocese will be open for this special evening of forgiveness April 10. Check with your church to confirm that it will be open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to hear confessions, or to locate the nearest participating church.
A Guide to Confession
May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints, whatever good you do and suffering you endure, heal your sins, help you grow in holiness, and reward you with eternal life. Go in peace.
–Rite of Penance, no. 93
1. PREPARATION: Before going to confession, take some time to prepare. Begin with prayer, and reflect on your life since your last confession. How
have you — in your thoughts, words, and actions — neglected to live Christ’s commands to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39)? As a help with this “examination of conscience,” you might review the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes (Ex 20:2-17; Dt 5:6-21; Mt 5:3-10; or Lk 6:20-26).
2. GREETING: The priest will welcome you; he may say a short blessing or read a Scripture passage.
3. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS: Together, you and the priest will make the Sign of the Cross. You may then begin your confession with these or similar words: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been [give days, months, or years] since my last confession.”
4. CONFESSION: Confess all your sins to the priest. If you are unsure what to say, ask the priest for help. When you are finished, conclude with these or similar words: “I am sorry for these and all my sins.”
5. PENANCE: The priest will propose an act of penance. The penance might be prayer, a work of mercy, or an act of charity. He might also counsel you on how to better live a Christian life.
6. ACT OF CONTRITION: After the priest has conferred your penance, pray an Act of Contrition, expressing sorrow for your sins and resolving to sin no more. A suggested Act of Contrition is:
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
(Rite of Penance, no. 45)
7. ABSOLUTION: The priest will extend his hands over your head and pronounce the words of absolution. You respond, “Amen.”
8. PRAISE: The priest will usually praise the mercy of God and will invite you to do the same. For example, the priest may say, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.” And your response would be, “His mercy endures for ever” (Rite of Penance, no. 47).
9. DISMISSAL: The priest will conclude the sacrament, often saying, “Go in peace.”
Copyright © 2013, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. www.usccb.org.