Archbishops use Lenten messages to prompt greater use of penance
The new archbishop of Los Angeles, in his first written message to Catholics since taking over stewardship of the nation’s largest diocese, urged Catholics to go to confession during Lent.
“I encourage you to make a good confession before Easter, even if it has been a long time,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez in a Lenten message released March 8, the day before Ash Wednesday.
“In the early church, they called confession the ‘second conversion in tears.’ St. Peter wept in sorrow after denying Jesus, and in his mercy Christ spoke to him the tender words of his pardon and peace. In the sacrament, we too can hear these words of compassion for our sins,” Archbishop Gomez said.
The archbishop, who succeeded Cardinal Roger M. Mahony March 1, said the parable of the prodigal son was “one of my favorite Scriptures. … I love this story for its drama and emotion, and because it rings true.”
Archbishop Gomez added, “It is God who rejoices in the parable: ‘My son was dead and is alive again.’ When he gives his son a new robe, it signifies the white garment we are clothed with in baptism. When he orders a feast of thanksgiving, it signifies the Eucharist. My sisters and brothers, the pilgrimage of the prodigal son is the story of our lives!
“This Lent, let us seek to deepen our awareness of our baptismal identity.”
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops, urged Catholics to return to the confessional in a St. Patrick’s Day message.
“My fervent prayer for the Catholics of the Archdiocese of New York is that they will hear in the next weeks the beautiful, profound words of absolution pronounced in the confessional,” Archbishop Dolan said March 17, according to a Catholic News Service report.
“We have to be frank, though. Those words are not heard as often as they should be in the church in New York,” he added. “We can’t imagine Catholic life without the words of consecration — This is my body! This is my blood! Likewise Catholic life cannot be lived properly without the sacrament of penance. We need the forgiveness of our sins. We need the grace of this sacrament to grow in virtue.”
Archbishop Dolan related that one priest told him that “after six months in his new parish, he announced to the people that he was asking the bishop for a transfer. ‘You don’t need me. I’ve sat in the confessional for half a year, and nobody has come. You must all be saints. I want to serve sinners.’”
“I exhort the entire Archdiocese of New York: Experience the joy of forgiveness!” Archbishop Dolan said. “Experience liberation from sin! Keep those confessionals busy! Keep your priests busy about the great work of dispensing the Lord’s mercy! Keep the Sacrament of Penance at the heart of Catholic life.”