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The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope. The diocese was elevated to a full diocese, as the diocese of Nassau in June 1960. On June 22nd, 1999, the diocese was again elevated as the new Archdiocese of Nassau.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hopefully a face-lift will make a difference

As I walked towards the room and grasped the door handle, I could feel the eyes on my back from the members already seated. The door closed behind me and the cool air from the air condition made for a more comfortable feeling as I knelt down to the confessional window to have my sins confessed. Time did not matter at that point, nor did I think about who may have seen me enter the confessional, a room that many Catholics neglect to go into.

The appearance of the confessional at my Parish has been updated with touches to make you leave behind the worries and fear of what you are about to take part in. With a sign just above the door, there is no need to wonder where the room is located (just remember to genuflect as you approach the tabernacle). The door has been changed to a solid door from the louver door, making for a very quiet conversation while inside, therefore preventing someone from hearing my transgressions. How to know if the room is occupied of not you may wonder? Well no need to wonder any longer, especially if no one is waiting on the outside to tell you that it is occupied, for just above the door is a green and red light (red means occupied, while green means available). As I indicated earlier, the room has been air-conditioned to make you and the Priest comfortable while engaging in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Will these changes draw in more people to a practice that has been around for centuries? Probably not! As human beings we care so much about what people say about us, that we avoid the Sacrament for fear of being judged. We judge without even trying to get all of the details before jumping to conclusions.  Let's say I am seen walking into a clinic known to treat HIV and AIDS patients, automatically I must have the disease. How about considering that I may be just going inside to use the phone or ask a question? Likewise, when someone walks into the confessional he/she tends to wonder who is watching while those observing the candidate going into the confessional begin to wonder  what major sin could that person have committed? Does it really matter, shouldn't we be happy that this person recognizes their frailty and the need to reconcile with the Body of Christ?

There are many Catholics who refuse to take part in the Sacrament of Confession. The only way to get over the fear of this Sacrament is recognizing and admitting that you are a sinner. We all sin and will continue to fall short of God's Glory. Pride is a great sin and should not be taken lightly. Do you think to yourself while watching someone partake of the sacrament that you do not need to confess your sins because you are a good person and do not offend God? First of all, good people are going to hell, plain and simple. Secondly, you have just committed the sin of pride by looking at yourself as being better than the individual going into confession.

What exactly is a Sacrament and how can it help us as Christians? A Sacrament is defined as an outward sign instituted by Christ to give Grace. There are seven Sacraments and Penance/Reconciliation just happens to be one of them. I do not believe any one person has ever experienced all of the Sacraments, but one that all Catholics are required to take part in is the Sacrament of Penance. However, many avoid this Sacrament and fail to recognize the need for it.

Consider what happens when you are at a party and the music begins; it takes some time to get warmed up before getting on the dance floor. We wait to see who will be the first to start dancing then we will follow suit. With every song that's played you begin to feel more and more comfortable getting on the floor without waiting for someone to take the lead. Those in certain positions should lead by example, whether it be Eucharistic Ministers, Altar servers or those associated with certain ministries, they should find it in themselves to show others how simple it is to get into the confessional. No Parish is looking for bragging rights to say that they are getting its members to partake of this Sacrament,  rather it is a gift given to us by Jesus that the Church is mandated to offer the members of the Church.

Hopefully with the newly renovated confessional at the Parish of St. Thomas More there will be more who will begin to feel the need to participate. We are carrying around so much baggage that it becomes a burden. We should not be approaching the Altar to participate in the Sacrament of Eucharist with the stain of sin on us. With the availability of confession 30 minutes before Mass at STM wouldn't you want to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ with a clean slate?

We can never believe for a moment that we are at a point in our lives where we do not require confession of our sins. Confession is one aspect of the process, however there is another aspect that we must consider when utilizing this gift. I always like to use  "The Jerry Springer Show" as an example of how easy it is to confess to a grander audience yet we have an issue when Jesus asks that we confess in order to receive forgiveness. On that particular show, the participants confess what they do, but do not have an ounce of quilt or repentance for their actions. This is why it is important to know that using the Sacrament of Reconciliation gives way for one to express their sincerest regret and sorrow for their actions.

The Priest through the power vested in him is able to discern whether the person is sorry for his/her sins. You may hear some people (even Catholics) say: "I go directly to God, to express my sorrows for my sins," but are you certain that you were sorry when you asked? You see, God knows our hearts and we cannot fool Him, some of the things we confess to God we know within ourselves that we can't wait to do it again. We know that there are no secrets we can hold back from God, but even if we say with our heart and mind that we are sorry, He still expects for us to say so with our mouths. It's the same as Him knowing our needs; even though God knows what we need, He still expects us to ask.

Anyone who has used the Sacrament knows immediately that they have been forgiven of their sins and walk out with a sense of cleanliness. The burden that you have been carrying with you have been released. So why do we need to seek reconciliation? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: CCC 1422 "Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church that they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion."

Priests do not forgive sins even though the noise in the market suggests otherwise. Priests acts in the capacity of Persona Christi given authority by Jesus. We are simply following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. God forgives sins through the priest, it is God's power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest. James 5:14-16 - Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (NRSV)

The confessional is not only for people who have committed major offenses against God, but rather for any issues that have offended Him whether it be a venial or mortal sin. I am always told that my facial expression tells a thousand stories. Did I enter the confessional with guilt written over my face? Probably, but I cannot worry about what others think when I approach God for forgiveness. I would prefer to deal with a little gossip than to have my soul sent to hell for eternity. If you find yourself gossiping when someone walks into the confessional, please join the line, for you need the Sacrament just as much as every else. Maybe the next time I walk out I will jump and dance to express my freedom and bondage from sin, but I wouldn't want anyone to think I was crazy.

A big fear that people have about confession is whether the sins they tell the Priest will be kept in strictest confidence. Hey, I also had that fear until I recognized that I am a sinner and needed reconciliation. Once I got over the fear and opened those secret doors within my heart did I know for certain that I was forgiven. A good confession of a sin that warranted immediate reconciliation will normally have you balling in tears as you express your sincere sorrow for committing the sin. There is nothing wrong with shedding a tear, it is a sign of true humility. I am reminded by a Priest of the Archdiocese of Pennsylvania that the way to know how to choose a Priest to hear your confession you should observe the way they participate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist during Mass. Go to other Parishes and have your confessions heard another Priest if you are afraid of divulging information to your Priest. Personally I do not believe they sit there judging us, they too are sinners and require confession just like you and me. I encourage you to go to confession as frequent as necessary.

Are you keeping a door within your heart closed with secrets that you do not want to let Jesus access. Jesus wants us to open the secret door within our heart and let Him in. The confessional breaks down that door that we hide away from others to see.

1 comment:

  1. Kevin, you are doing a magnificent job with this site. Keep up the good work. You encourage me with your forthright manner and openness. I always check your website to see what is happening in the Church in the Bahamas. It is up to date and informative--but also VERY interesting. Good work, young man.

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