09 RENEWING the Sacrament of Penance - Bishop Bosco Penha

posted Feb 28, 2019, 10:32 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 28, 2019, 10:33 AM ]
This article is a complement to the one which I wrote in The Examiner at the beginning of Advent 2018 on Confession. It is on the same theme, highlighting the historical background of the Sacrament of Penance, and its implications for a renewal of the sacrament.

It is quite common to hear people say that they get nothing out of confession, and today, there is no doubt that the number of confessions has considerably declined – which, to me, seems to be a pity. Has the Sacrament of Penance failed us? Or has it perhaps never been tried? Have we honestly done our best when we received this sacrament, or has it been one of the many "formalities" in our lives? If one attends a college course without really studying at all, it is no wonder that one ends the course almost as ignorant as when one began it (degrees nowadays are hardly a guarantee of knowledge acquired). If one rushes through Europe in twenty-one days ("ten countries in 21 days" as the advertisements go) without any preparation or any reading in advance on the history and landmarks of these countries, it is not surprising that all one comes back with, is a whirl of sights and sounds, but little real knowledge of these countries. So also with the Sacrament of Penance; one may have gone to a hundred confessions, but was even one of them satisfactorily made? It is high time that we really and seriously assess our approach to this beautiful and powerful sacrament, because, otherwise, we are missing out on a big source of power and peace in our lives.

A Glance at History

Only naïve children would believe that the magician who recites "abracadabra" over a piece of paper and produces chocolates, really brings forth those delicious edibles from that ordinary paper. Every effect must be proportionate to its cause. So chocolates can only come from the right blend of cocoa, milk, nuts, etc. But in the Sacrament of Penance, this "abracadabra" mentality is pretty widespread. In this case, the magical words are the "recitation of my sins, according to their exact species and number." Whether love, power, strength can come from such a mere recitation of words is a question that hardly ever crosses our minds. How has this attitude come about?