The Advent season is a busy time for most of us, as we balance the demands of preparing for Christmas with the need to prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ at Christmas.
So while we’re filling out our calendars in the coming days, remember to make time to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Catholics must confess their sins at least once a year (CC 1457). The faithful are especially encouraged to go to confession during the seasons of Lent and Advent.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a vivid description of the benefits of confession, both for the penitent and the overall life of the church. It states “The confession of sins … frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission, man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.” (1455)
Some deaneries around the state are following a tradition of offering penance services that rotate from parish to parish, where people can gather for prayer and have their confessions heard by several local priests.
Father Gary Linsky, pastor of the Basilica of St. Peter in Columbia and dean of the Columbia Deanery, said the deanery’s churches decided against penance services during Advent this year due to the pandemic, but the faithful are still strongly encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to receive the sacrament during Advent.
There hasn’t been a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking the sacrament at the Basilica, he said, but noted it is understandable because many people still feel uncomfortable coming to Mass or other church functions because of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Those who are worried, however, should note that churches are taking special precautions to make sure confessions are offered in a safe manner. At the Basilica and elsewhere, for instance, penitents waiting in line must stay six feet apart and must wear masks. Many priests are hearing confessions in spaces that offer room for distancing. Father Linsky, for instance, hears them in the parish nursery.
He said the season is a perfect time for people to make a serious examination of conscience and confess their sins because it is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus.
Father Linsky noted the passage from the Gospel of Mark heard at Mass on Nov. 29, the first Sunday of Advent. In it, Jesus admonishes his followers to “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.”
“Confession during Advent is important because it reminds us we are going to come into the presence of the Lord, both at Christmas and then again when we are with him at the end of our lives,” Father Linsky said. “We never know what is going to happen to us, especially during this pandemic, and we never know when the Lord is going to require our presence. We need to follow the words of Jesus and be prepared.”