Part of my routine as a youngster on a Saturday was not only to buy a comic but to make my way to my local parish church of St Bede’s, Clapham Park in the afternoon to go to confession. I hoped that there would not be too many in the queue when I got there. Alternatively I would catch the 118 bus to Clapham Common and go to the Redemptorist church of St Mary’s where there would be usually two priests available. This was when I was ten years old.
The celebration and practise the Sacrament of Reconciliation has changed tremendously since then. The Second Vatican Council decreed that “the rite and formula of penance are to be revised in such a way that they may more clearly express the nature and effects of this sacrament”. In this country the New Rite of Penance was published in 1976. Besides improving the way an individual celebrated this Sacrament, the new Rite provided for a celebration of the sacrament with a group and individual confession and absolution and a third form entitled “Rite of Reconciliation of penitents with general confession and absolution”. This third form caused some excitement and was used extensively initially but then the breaks were put on because it was used in some places as a popular alternative to going to the priest individually to confession.
There is no doubt that is the one sacrament that many Catholics struggle with. We are all aware that children who prepare for First Holy Communion are also prepared to make their Fist Reconciliation. But many of them they not celebrated this sacrament again until they prepare for the sacrament of Confirmation or when there are opportunities given to them when they are at school in preparation for Christmas or Easter. Despite adapting and improving the Confession Box to a Reconciliation Room, encouraging the use of Scripture and giving useful ways of examine ones conscience there does not to seem to be great enthusiasm among many to meet Christ in this Sacrament.
Here are some reasons that Catholics steer clear of the Sacrament.
- I am afraid I might look foolish because I haven’t been for ages.
- I can confess my sins directly to God thus there is no need to go to a priest.
- I don’t know what to say.
- I am embarrassed to confess to another person
- There is no need to go unless I have committed a mortal sin.
- I seem to be confessing the same sin over and over again.
- If I say what I really want to confess I will shock the priest.
You might be able to add your own reasons why Catholics no longer celebrate the Sacrament.