By Darlene J.M. Dela Cruz
Hawaii Catholic Herald
“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’”
This verse from the first reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 10, reminds all faithful that the liturgical season leading up to Christmas is a time for preparation and purification.
Amid the many ways Catholics get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus — festive potlucks, Misa de Gallo, caroling, gift-giving, entertaining family and friends — the sacrament of reconciliation is often overlooked. Yet a good confession can be one of the best ways to enter into the joy of the nativity with a clean heart, light and love.
Island parishes will be offering Advent missions and penance services throughout the month of December. For mission and confession times, call your home parish for more information, or visit the Diocese of Honolulu website, www.catholichawaii.org.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1448), the sacrament of reconciliation “comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God’s action through the intervention of the Church.”
The Catechism (1457) notes that, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” Advent and Lent are traditional liturgical seasons of penance when the sacrament of reconciliation is encouraged.
The Hawaii Catholic Herald asked diocesan adult faith formation coordinator Kristina DeNeve to share some of her insights on penance during Advent.
She answers some common questions about reconciliation, and highlights how Island keiki will be making their first confessions this season as part of the diocese’s “Original Order” initiative for the Sacraments of Initiation.
Hawaii Catholic Herald: Why do you feel it is important for Catholics to go to confession?
Kristina DeNeve: Well, I could answer this in terms of how this is one of seven sacraments, one of the best-est and most amazing ways that God literally, physically comes to us and becomes part of our lives, changing us forever. I could answer this in terms of how our church fathers and mothers for the past 2,000-plus years have spoken about the importance of confession if we want to grow in the spiritual life. I could even share how our own Father Damien used to report that of all he endured in undertaking his ministry, it was his lack of regular confession that hurt and bothered him the most.
But, ignoring all these incredibly good reasons, I can share that the sacrament of penance and reconciliation is critical because it brings healing to the parts of our lives that are broken.
HCH: Why do you feel Advent is a good time for the sacrament of reconciliation?
KD: Advent brings to mind hope, love, joy and peace. But, December is also the darkest month of the year, and not just because of our distance from the sun. In Advent, we also cannot ignore that nagging feeling that all is not perfect in our lives. In a deep way that we can scarcely articulate, we long for the completeness that can only come from Jesus Christ. Advent is a perfect time for reconciliation and penance because of two reasons: One, it allows us to ritually (and) sacramentally acknowledge our own incompleteness. Second, it allows God to touch us, and give us the completeness, the healing, the fullness, that only he can give.
HCH: What advice would you give local Catholics to make a good confession this Advent?
KD: Go! Just do it! Any reason you can think of for not going is just evil working against you. Tell the priest it has been a long time. Tell the priest you don’t know the prayers. Tell the priest you are scared or that you can’t remember everything you’ve done. And trust that he has heard lots worse than you will share. You can even Google “making a good confession” if that helps you feel better about going.
HCH: Anything else you want to add?
KD: We have hundreds of children making their first confession throughout our islands this Advent. It is part of their preparation to be confirmed and, for many, to then receive their First Holy Communion. The diocese refers to this as the “Original Order.”
See www.catholichawaii.org/originalorder for more information.
If your children or your spouse or your friends have not gone (to confession) since “forever,” don’t forget to bring them with you this month. Maybe go out for pizza or go get your Christmas tree afterwards!
There is a saying that we are only as sick as our deepest secret. Well, if that is true — and I believe it is — then God obviously wants us to be healthy. When the priest, in the name of Christ, says, “You are forgiven,” there is very little in life to compare to that feeling.