Question: When Holy Communion is distributed why is "The Body of Christ" said? Why not…
Our witness of going to confession is important for the Body of Christ
Go to confession. It’s amazing. I’m guessing people who read Our Sunday Visitor don’t need to hear this, but I’m probably wrong. We can take things for granted. We can forget how important it is.
I have this in mind for many reasons, but the most recent and most haunting is about a man I met last Sunday. I was leaving St. Joseph’s Church in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. In retrospect, it was totally providential. I had been talking to the pastor, a Dominican priest, after Mass. I wouldn’t have walked out when I did if it hadn’t been for that.
The 87-year-old widower, I would later learn, tries to time things so he only walks into church for Communion. He told me a religious sister told him years ago that whatever he does, “take Communion.” I asked him later if he believes in the Real Presence, and he responded, “absolutely!” But I wonder. There’s something blocking the encounter with Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, over an hour later when we parted, he insisted to me that he’d never go to confession. Please pray to God that him saying that out loud was a step in the journey to the confessional.
When we were first talking about confession, he expressed bewilderment that anyone goes to confession anymore. When I told him how frequently I go to confession, the conversation briefly took a creepy turn, but we got beyond that back to holy ground. I thought his solicitation was such a sign of how perverse things in the world are. That the purest encounter could become sexualized in under a minute or so.
I confess, I walked away shortly after, but then returned on what I prayed were God’s terms. I had a book for him to read: “Amazing Nearness” on the Eucharist. I had grabbed it before going to Mass inexplicably, so I suspected it might be for him. It talks about the strength that is gained by the Eucharistic encounter. I prayed that might draw him into actual Mass. He told me, “I can read the Bible on my own; I don’t need it read to me.”
As for confession, he has a litany of grievances. He will not go because Cardinal Bernard Law was moved to the Vatican after the Boston scandals. He will not go because a priest gave his adult son a hard time for walking away with the Eucharist into his first-row pew. He will not go because the priests are younger than him.
I told him a story I never told my priest friend, come to think of it. Maybe he’ll read it here for the first time. Anyway, I knew my priest friend was in the confessional, but my heart ached for absolution, even though I had made a decision weeks before that I would avoid the confession when I knew he would be in it. Well, I went anyway. And I tell you, it was not my friend who gave me absolution. It was Jesus Christ. It was as clear and certain as anything I’ve ever encountered. It was this rock-solid gift of consolation. It was knowing the love of friendship and also knowing that the sacrament is even more real. It was God, who is the source of all that is good, so it made so much sense. And it truly had me overflowing with gratitude going into the greatest thanksgiving there is: the holy Mass. Thanks be to God.
I told the man this, and all he could keep repeating is: “Your faith is great.” Oh, how I continue to pray that the gift is renewed in him. He said it was waning as he struggled. He didn’t even know Lent was going on.
Please, baptized Catholics: Go to Confession. It doesn’t matter how long it has been. Now is the time. Make it a part of your life, in sorrow for our sins and in seeking to sin no more.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.