I firmly believe that reconciliation should be used by everyone and used often. So, here is a three pronged plan on how to expand the use of confession.
- Teach/Preach Sin--I don't think we really understand what sin is and what it does to our soul. I wouldn't be surprised if many people don't think the sin at all. I don't think that people know what mortal sin is and what it means to be in a state of mortal sin. I think if people knew that being in mortal sin means death and separation from God they would do whatever they need to do to get into a state of grace. But, to teach about sin is scary and we don't want to scare the kids. Preaching about life and death and the possibility of Hell seems to be frowned upon. There is a way to preach about sin and Hell and eternal damnation though, without preaching fire and brimstone. After all, through Jesus, we can break the chains of sin and escape the fires of Hell. But, if we aren't taught we don't know that. It is much more loving to teach truth and about sin and Hell than it is to cover it up so we don't know about it.
- Teach/Preach Confession--I believe another reason people don't go to reconciliation is because they don't understand it. They think that they can just go to God in prayer and be forgiven for their sins. They don't understand that we are only fooling ourselves when we do that. Jesus gave us the sacrament because He understands that we are human and that we need to humble ourselves, and get our sins off our chests. It is through reconciliation that we are given the grace to not sin. People don't understand that we should go to confession at least once a year and definitely when we are in a state of mortal sin. I heard a story a while back of a youth minister who sent out emails reminding the teens that confirmation was soon and they should go to confession. She was contacted by a parent who told her that her teen had already gone to their first reconciliation. (The key word is "first"--which means there should be a second, and a third etc etc) We need to teach how to go to confession so that people will be more comfortable. Heck, just go to where I posted how to go right here. It should be preached to us in the homilies how important confession is.
- Have reconciliation--I heard someone say once that if you are only offering confessions once a month then you are not really offering confession and I find that very true. If a parish only has a confessions once a month then I feel they are telling their parishoners that confession isn't that important. I have seen with my own eyes that parishes that offer confession often have lines to the confessional. Once a week is good but even more often than that is better. I think it would be fantastic if parishes would have daily confession like they have daily mass. I've seen lines to confession with people of all ages, young and old, men and women at parishes that have daily confession. I think daily confession is a blessing to any parish that has it.
I don't think these things would be very difficult to do. I think the most difficult thing to do is to change the mindset. No, every homily should not be fire and brimstone. Every class should not have confession shoved down their throats. And I understand that priests aren't able to always have daily confession. But let's start somewhere. We are to spread the Good News and part of that is to spread the word of God's mercy. We receive that mercy through reconciliation. We are supposed to be saving souls. We don't do that if we downplay sin and the need for confession.
So, any priest who is reading this---please--start somewhere. I'll start by offering my prayers.