Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Penance Service 

The Penance Service started last night with the hymn "Come O Come Emmanuel." I'd estimate there were approximately 150, maybe 200 people in the pews. I saw several entire families with their children, more senior citizens than anyone else, but plenty of middle-agers like me. I stayed in the back pew.

After the song, our priest said an Advent prayer and we had a reading from 2nd Peter 3. We sang a responsive psalm and then a reading from the Gospel of St. Mark Chapter 13. Where Jesus says,
Mar 13:32 "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Mar 13:33 Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come.
Mar 13:34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
Mar 13:35 Watch therefore--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning--
Mar 13:36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.
Mar 13:37 And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."
Our priest then spoke a short homily. He talked about being watchful because we don't know when the Lord will come or whether we will be alive when He does. I can paraphrase some of what he said:
"I stood up here last year and said, be watchful, don't let the Lord come and find you sleeping. Since that time, some in our Parish have died and the Lord has come for them. Be vigilant, be alert... watch. Be prepared for the Lord, don't listen to all the voices telling us not to worry, if Jesus didn't come in 2000 He'll wait another 1000 years, at least. Don't listen to our culture, which tells us everything is OK... we need this sacrament, God offers us grace to avoid temptation if only we will reach for it, take it."
After this, we kneeled and prayed the Our Father. Then seven area priests were introduced and they moved to all the different corners and nooks and crannies of our church to hear confessions. We had a little pamphlet that went through the 10 commandments and reminded us of what sins regarding each commandment are common.

As people lined up, I left the church since I'm not yet eligable to partake in this Rite. The whole preparation took less than 20 minutes and with seven priests it looked like the confessions themselves would not take too long for everyone. This was an interesting service. From what I've read, since Mass has been said in English (or whatever local language), fewer and fewer people have been taking part in the Rite of Reconcilation. One theory is that now that people can understand the Mass, they realize that weekly they are asking God for forgiveness of sins, they realize that Mass, itself, is a form of reconciliation and most don't feel the need for confession. This sounds reasonable to me, but then, I'm a newbie.

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