Thursday, March 29, 2007

Penance Service tonight!

Parish Penance Service tonight, 7:30 pm, SAA Church.
This past Sunday, Anon asked, “Fr G- can you give some more info about what a penance service is? You mentioned it today, but I'd like some more info.”

Thanks, Anon. A penance service is a communal celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. By that I mean that a community, typically a parish community, gathers together to reflect on and participate in Reconciliation. It is commonly done during Lent and Advent, in preparation for Easter and Christmas, respectively. The Sacrament itself is still celebrated privately with each penitent confessing to an individual priest, but the Confessions are prefaced by communal prayers and the Word of God.

So, this is the basic layout for tonight’s service:

Fr. Mike will begin the celebration with a greeting (as we do at the start of Mass), and then an opening prayer. We’ll then listen to the Word of God as we normally do at Mass, and Fr. Mike will offer a reflection of the Gospel which is focused on reconciliation, forgiveness, repentance, conversion, or all of the above.

Shortly thereafter, he’ll lead us in an Examination of Conscience which helps to know what to confess. This is usually followed by an Our Father and closing prayer. At the end of the service, Fr. Mike will then explain that there are several priests on hand to hear individual confessions, who they are, and where they are stationed in the Church. The stations for each priest will be set up in such a way that each penitent can go either face-to-face or anonymously (typically, behind a screen) to the priest. After a penitent has made his/her confession and done their penance, they are free to go.

It is always a powerful and intimate experience to reconcile with God and the Church in Confession. No doubt. But, it is especially meaningful to do it in the midst of our parish family. I hope that you and many others will come tonight to receive God’s mercy in a real and tangible way as we prepare for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Savior.

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