Would You Camp Out Overnight for This?

Take a look at the picture above. That’s not a refugee camp. That’s a crowd of people waiting for the last Twilight movie.

People spend hours, even days, waiting to be the first to view a new film. And it makes sense (not for Twilight… maybe for Star Wars); new movies will only be “new” for so long, and seeing them first is pretty cool.

Now take a look at this picture:

Penitents wait in line to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at Sts. Philip and James Church in St. James, N.Y., March 25. Sts. Philip and James and all other parishes in the Dioceses of Rockville Centre, N.Y, and Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Archdiocese of New York participate annually in Reconciliation Monday, which falls during Holy Week and offers the opportunity for confession from midafternoon into the evening. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) (March 26, 2013)

You guessed it… that’s the confession line at your local parish.

Obviously, confession is available far more often than a new vampire movie. Maybe it’s offered for an hour or two every weekend, and if you’re lucky, before every Mass. But compare those two pictures again. Have you ever seen a confessional line look like the line for the Dark Knight? Maybe around Easter. But on a random Thursday in October? No way.

Why is that?

It’s simple math to know that not everyone at a parish is going to confession every two weeks. Given the hours and the lack of attendance, they can’t possibly be going even every month. Technically, the Church only requires the faithful to go to confession once a year, but that’s kinda like going to a doctor once a decade: you’re giving bad health or disease a chance to gain momentum. It’s just not a good idea.

Did you REALLY need to be told that?
Did you REALLY need to be told that?

So what’s going on? Why aren’t people taking advantage of this sacrament?

Because confession is a sacrament, and like all sacraments, it’s an extraordinary gift of God’s grace. It’s the first sacrament we ever consciously received in our lives, the first one we prepared for. It’s one of the few sacraments we can receive repeatedly throughout our lives, whenever we need it.

The solace of confession is a gift in itself: we have certainty that we have been forgiven, and we have the grace not to sin again. We should been overcome with gratitude and overjoyed at being forgiven! That’s so much better than stuffing our faces with over-buttered popcorn and vegging out for a couple hours.

We know confession will do us more good than seeing any movie, and yet we as a Church don’t seem to value confession the way some people value the latest installment of whatever young adult book adaptation is in theaters these days.

Is this enough? I think we need a few more, don't you?
Is this enough? I think we need a few more, don’t you?

So how can we value confession more?

Maybe we need to stop seeing it as a mechanical process. Yes, we’ve sinned, and we need God’s forgiveness, but it’s not so bureaucratic. (Just because we’re required to go to confession about as often as we pay taxes doesn’t mean it should be just as unenjoyable.) At the end of the day, confession isn’t about the fact that we’ve done wrong, or that we’ve sinned, or that we don’t want to go to Hell.

Confession is about loving God.

When you hurt someone you love, you apologize to them not to make yourself feel better, but because they don’t deserve that hurt. It’s the same thing with God. We have perfect contrition when we regret our sins for God’s sake, not just for our own sake (which would be called imperfect contrition; it’s not ideal, but confession is still valid). So even if you think you haven’t committed any horrible sins, remember that you’d probably ask forgiveness from your friends and loved ones when you simply hurt their feelings, and you wouldn’t save your apologies for when you key their car or burn down their house. Right?

“What’s that thing I’m supposed to say now… oh, yeah. Sorry. ”
“What’s that thing I’m supposed to say now… oh, yeah. Sorry. ”

We should all strive to reach that point of perfect contrition because that means we’ll be progressing in our spiritual life. That’s also why people also stand in line for days for the newest iPhone: because technological progress means their lives get easier. Spiritual progress will do the same, but in a more profound and lasting way.

Our parish priest may not be a confessor like St. John Vianney or St. Padre Pio, whose confessionals always had crowds of people waiting in line, but that really doesn’t matter. Christ is in the confessional, and His forgiveness is always there.

If you haven’t been to confession in a while, go — and start making it a habit. The lines are probably short now, so you won’t have to camp in the church parking lot.

If anything pre-qualifies as a penance...
If anything pre-qualifies as a penance…

But the more you go to confession, the more you’ll realize that if it ever comes to it, you’d be more than willing to camp out to get this sacrament. Unlike some other things, it’d be worth it.

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