11 September 2009

Priests are called to give their time generously

You’d be hard-pressed to find more experience and more wisdom than the ninety-eight year old Paul Augustin Cardinal Mayer O.S.B., the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. He has been a priest for seventy-four years, a bishop for 37 years and a cardinal for twenty-four years. Please read his words as he spoke about the Sacrament of Confession.

Nowadays, it is sad to say, that Confession, the Sacrament of Confession, is a Sacrament disappearing – yes, disappearing – not everywhere in the world, but in some regions it has diminished.

And so, what is the task of the priest in this very moment, when now the Sacrament so rich, so wonderful, beautiful and merciful, is in danger? And we who are those who must be the ministers of this great Sacrament, what are we doing? The priest first must instruct the faithful about the meaning, about the riches, the graces of the Sacrament; of the peace and joy we’ve got now with the Church. We have to preach about it!

We must ask ourselves, if in these last periods, thirty/forty years, if we have not emitted, to preach enough about these gifts. Then, priests must encourage the faithful to come to the Sacrament, and help them to make a good Confession. They must themselves not forget this! They must make themselves available for the Sacrament. Priests are called to give their time generously.

Recall the example of the great saints of Confession: We had in the nineteenth century and the last century the Curé of Ars – Saint John Vianney, or Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, or the Capuchin priest – Leopold Mandic, who for thirty-four years gave, in Padua, to Confession daily – daily for ten to twelve hours -- and this becomes a great Confessor.

Here today, in some regions of the world, as I said already, the Sacrament is in danger of disappearing. The reasons may be bountiful, but especially the lack of consciousness of sin, which in a secularized world is also less inviting. But not the least reason for the danger of disappearing lies with us priests: that we give not enough, not enough time, not enough attention to preaching, and not enough time in administering the Sacrament. We must make ourselves more available to Confession.

The priests excuse themselves and say: “Nobody’s coming to Confession. Why, then, should I be in the confessional?” But in my experience there’s a different story: When priests make themselves generously available and preach on the importance and blessings of the Sacrament, then the faithful will come. They will use this great – great offering to them by the Lord through the Church.