Children who received their First Holy Communion from Pope Francis last Sunday:
Pope Benedict hearing Confessions:
Way back in the 1970's and 80's some smart catechist kind of theologians decided that going to confession prior to receiving Holy Communion messed little second graders up. So there was a catehetical trend (during the coloring book Catholicism era) to prepare children for First Holy Communion in the second grade (usually age 7, the age of reason) and then prepare them, and God only knows why this grade was chosen, in the 4th grade for their first confession.
That was challenged by the bishops of this country in the 1980's who mandated that children must be prepared for the Sacrament of Penance prior to receiving Holy Communion.
When I arrived here in 2004 our kids were still being prepared for the Sacrament of Penance in the 4th grade, but I changed that immediately to comply with the 1980's mandate.
Along with this unfortunate trend pushed upon parishes by stupid theologians, Catholics in general began to see a separation of going to Confession prior to receiving Holy Communion. In fact the practice of going to confession dropped significantly although the number of people receiving Holy Communion increased. Certainly a loss of the sense of sin is to blame and that many now believe they are entitled to receive Holy Communion regardless of their Catholic practices or lack thereof or the sins they have committed.
Sandro Magister of the Chiesa blog reports on Pope Francis' pastoral visit to the periphery of Rome to the parish of Saints Elizabeth and Zachary (I love that name, if I get to name a parish in our diocese I'm choosing that one!)
This is what he writes in part, you can read his whole article HERE.
ROME, May 31, 2013 – The visit of Pope Francis, on Trinity Sunday, to the parish of Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah to the far north of the city, the first of a series of his visits to Roman parishes, immediately distinguished itself by several original characteristics.
The pope arrived early in the morning, before the time announced, and the first thing he wanted to do was to meet one-on-one the children baptized in the past year, about fifty of them, together with their parents.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is highly sensitive about the baptism of children. On the previous day, in the morning homily at Saint Martha's, he had cited the example of a teenage mother who had asked to have her child baptized and was refused. “The child is in no way at fault for the marital status of his parents” - this has been his principle since he was a bishop in Argentina - and in fact baptism “often becomes for the parents a new beginning.” Woe to those who set up a “pastoral customs agency" in front of this gate of entry into the Christian life: “So many times we are supervisors of the faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people.”
The second novelty of the visit took place shortly afterward. The pope entered the sacristy, closed the door, and before celebrating Mass he heard the confession, one after another, of eight parishioners chosen at random. There were supposed to have been five, but three were added unexpectedly. The reporter from “L'Osservatore Romano” wrote: “When that door opened there came out a radiant face, most of the time furrowed with tears.”
Before him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI had heard confessions at St. Peter's during Holy Week. Pope Joseph Ratzinger had also heard confessions at World Youth Day in Madrid, in 2011.
Francis, however, wanted to hear confessions in the parish, right before Mass. He gave a good example to priests and faithful. He wanted to make visible the connection between confession and communion, which must be received only when one is “in the grace of God.”
MY FINAL COMMENTS: The last line from Magister is his opinion based upon what Pope Francis did in this parish, he heard confessions prior to Mass thus showing by example that priests should hear confessions on Sunday prior to Mass because of the "connection between confession and communion, which must be received only when one is "in the grace of God" (the state of grace as we say).
I can remember as a child prior to Vatican II in my Augusta parish that the priests always heard confessions prior to Mass. If the priest also had to say the Mass, I can't remember what time he stopped hearing, but I suspect it would be about 10 minutes before Mass began. But after Vatican II this same parish stopped doing it. I don't recall the rationale, but I think we were told we were too Jansenist for wanting to go to confession prior to Holy Communion and confessions were heard on Saturday, so go then!
I can't help believe that the drop in the number of those going to confession coincided with the dropping of having confessions prior to Mass on Sunday. Let's face it, it is a matter of convenience and if you can kill two birds with one stone, why not.
I suspect that if every parish in the world had confessions every Sunday prior to each Mass, we would see a dramatic increase in the number of Catholics making use of this sacrament.
We hear confession prior to daily Mass which is at 8 AM. So I or Fr. Dawid are in the confessional at 7:30 AM and I stop hearing at 7:50 to vest for Mass.
We have four Sunday Masses and I'm alone for the next three Sundays as Fr. Dawid is on vacation. I might experiment with Sunday confessions during Advent or next Lent, see how it goes and make a decision about doing it prior to all Masses on Sunday, but don't hold me to it. The ideal is to have only one Sunday Mass and no more than two, thus this would make Sunday confessions quite possible.
My last comment has to do with baptisms and marriages. We sometimes do make Catholics who at least try to do the right thing by coming to the parish for these two sacraments feel as though they are idiots for doing so. Should we not put non-practicing Catholics into the hands of God and be nice to them when they come to us for baptisms, marriages and funerals. Why deny a mother who is single and may not be the best Catholic in the world the baptism of her child? It doesn't make sense. God can sort out the dragnet of people who come to us for this, that and the other. Why should we place more stumbling blocks in the way of God's grace?