Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Come home for Christmas"

Penance Service, next Tuesday (12/19), 7:30 pm, SAA Church. We'll have seven priests here to hear Confessions. Please join us!
Below is a column that the late Msgr. Thomas Wells wrote to his parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda, on December 4, 1994:

"I had time over Thanksgiving to spend some time with a family with whom I have been close since the early years of my priesthood. One of their older sons has gotten a pretty good job in Atlanta and was visiting for the holiday. We had the opportunity to talk, and shy though I am, I nailed him about his spiritual life, especially since the early glow of being away from home and making pretty big money has begun to fade. 'Do you get to Mass every Sunday?' I asked, only to receive the not surprising, 'Probably not as often as I should.'

However, to my next question, 'When was the last time you went to confession?' I was happily surprised to hear that he had been to the Shrine that weekend and that he usually goes when he is in the area. I assured him that he is allowed to go to confession even when he is in Atlanta, but I have to admit that his answer reassured me. I am not saying that Penance is as important as the Eucharist, of course, but I do believe that, very often, it is the foundation on which God builds a solid spiritual life. The person who will face his sinfulness and who recognizes God as the source of forgiveness and growth eventually will experience the increasing spiritual strength.

I know people have hang-ups about confession and that each of them must be dealt with individually. Theological questions can be answered, usually fairly easily, but it is tough to answer a question that is never asked. I have said and written this before but, since I still believe it, I will write it again: the saddest aspect of contemporary Catholicism is the abandonment by so many, and with so little apparent thought, of the Sacrament of Penance. That God would say, in so many words, 'I know that your biggest problem is sin; I know you cannot overcome it by yourself; but I will give you a special gift that, in a personal way, allows you to overcome this problem,' and that we, in turn, say, 'I do not need it' is not only arrogant, but unspeakably sad. The good Lord is in the business of giving mercy, strength and forgiveness, but He will not force us out of mediocrity and vague unhappiness that comes from sin. He offers the grace in Penance. We must accept it.

Lourdes is participating in the 'Come Home for Christmas' program with a number of other parishes near metro stations. It seeks, primarily, to invite those who have been away from the sacraments to come home to the Church. Believe me, though, when I tell you that there are many whose spirituality is incomplete because they are not dealing regularly with the realities of sin and reconciliation and they may be at Mass every week. They too are encouraged, during this wonderful season of homecomings, to be renewed and reconciled through the Sacrament of Penance."

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