Major Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza has warned that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is going through a crisis, particularly where confessors are facing a crisis
ANDREA TORNIELLIVATICAN CITY
Priests should sit and wait patiently for faithful in the confessional at times that are convenient for penitents. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza said this this afternoon during the inauguration of the course on the inner conscience, the private inner space of each individual. The week-long course has become something of a tradition. It will be taking place in the Chancery office and attended by about five hundred priests and seminarists who are approaching ordination. The meeting will conclude Friday with an Audience with Francis. In the afternoon there will be a penitential liturgy in the St. Peter’s Basilica, when the Pope will confess some of those present, inaugurating the “feast of forgiveness”, during which churches will stay open 24/7 for confessions.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation “is possibly the most concrete and real way to renew one’s personal meeting with Jesus Christ,” Piacenza said. Although it is true that the celebration of this sacrament often comes after a long and trying inner journey and is a destination one reaches after a previous personal Church-mediated encounter with the Lord, there are cases of radical conversions taking place during the very celebration of the sacrament. During this time, a supernatural grace acts through the confessor, working on the penitent’s conscience and can lead to brief instants of unimaginable spiritual highs.”
“When we deal with the inner conscience, what we’re dealing with is God!,” the cardinal said. “The conscience is a shrine where God always speaks to all humans in accordance with creation and to Christians in accordance with creation and redemption… Accompanying a brother in the process of discerning his or her personal way of acting and receiving everything that emerges from the inner conscience, means entering into sacred territory with this person and one needs to be extremely careful when doing so. It’s like walking on silk.”
Piacenza invited confessors to prepare for the celebration of this sacrament by “invoking the Spirito f prudence and wisdom, asking the Lord to be his obedient instruments” and to pause for a moment of prayer after confession “to thank the Lord for what he has achieved through our poor persons and always invoke the protection of the Holy Spirit and the powerful intercession of the Mother of Mercy on each of the souls that have renewed their personal encounter with Christ through us.”
“What all of us as well as penitentiaries of papal basilicas have noticed, is that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is going through a crisis, particularly where confessors are facing a crisis. That is, where the sacrament is only offered to “Catholic adults” who consciously ask for it and may even have the priest’s phone number at hand. But this risks reducing the sacrament to something individualistic which has nothing to do with one’s personal encounter with Christ,” the cardinal said.
“The wisdom of the Church teaches us that [priests] should wait for penitents in the confessional, with that same patience that is typical of God.”