Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The "Box"



Tonight in St Mary's Church in Drogheda, there will be the annual Advent penitential service at 7.30pm. The weather though is doing its very best to make sure that few will attend. I have been in this parish, which I love, for several years, but I haven't been to a penitential service yet. And being a creature of habit, I don't plan on going this year either.

My main issue with penitential services, is the inadequate supply of confession boxes. Simple as that! Confession, for me, is preferable in a big wooden box. Now I must say, the one working confession box in St Mary's is lovely, it is bright, and it lacks the usual musty, damp aroma that most confessionals in Ireland seem to have. Mind you, I haven't been in it for years, as the not so nice, definitely inferior, box at the Dominican Church in Drogheda has a confession timetable that suits me just fine, (confession every morning after the 10am Mass), even my sieve like brain can not forget that schedule.

Why do I prefer the "box"? Is it the anonymity? Partly, but not really, as my accent makes my voice quite recognisable. As a teenager I always went to confession "face to face", in a confessional room, to priests that I knew. The traditional confession boxes were ripped out during renovation, I wonder could they put them back as they are renovating again? The box only became the norm when I got married and moved to Canada. We lived just across the road from a church, and it had four confession boxes that were in constant use, so back to the box of my childhood I went, and surprise, surprise I liked it. I think it is the screen, or fixed grill, or curtain that really draws me to the box. Why? I have found that the screen helps me to focus on the fact that in this sacrament I encounter Christ. In this sacrament the priests acts in personae Christi, I confess my sins to Christ, whom the priest represents.
"It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi). Pius XII, encyclical, Mediator Dei: AAS, 39 (1947) 548.

The priest is obviously important, he's absolutely essential, but if I am sitting in front of him, I tend to get caught up in the human interaction, and I become less aware of the enormity of what is happening in this sacramental encounter. And let's face it, I haven't gone to confession to have a chat with Fr. X.

The "box" also provides for the essential kneeling opportunity. In my mind, it just does not seem right, to confess my sins sitting on a chair. It seems right to confess my sins, seek God's mercy, express sorrow and receive absolution on my knees. OK, if you can't kneel it's different, but I can, and so I do.

I have always been fascinated by this beautiful sacrament. In it I have received so much more than forgiveness. Through it the Lord has given me many graces, and much needed guidance. I'm still a pathetic sinner, but I know that things would be much much worse, without the help that this sacrament provides. But whatever your personal preferences, or past experiences, make sure that this Advent you get to confession. The Lord is always waiting patiently for us. Go, confess your sins, receive absolution, be reconciled with God, and be truely ready to meet the Christ child this Christmas.

If you have been away from this most wonderful sacrament for a while, check out Fr. Z's 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession, or Making a Good Confession, from the Boston Archdiocese.
Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession. --St. Isidore of Seville
 

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