Just as Pope Francis asked every Diocese across the world to assign one door to be the community’s Holy Door of Mercy in this Jubilee Year, he is now asking for every parish to open its doors for 24 hours so that the faithful might encounter Jesus Christ anew in the Sacrament of Penance and Eucharistic Adoration.
“24 Hours for the Lord” will begin March 4 and end on the following day. In the Diocese of Orlando, Bishop Noonan is asking all parishes to participate. During this observance it is appropriate for parishes to offer a communal celebration of the Rite of Penance with individual confession and absolution either in the evening of Friday March 4 or on Saturday Morning, March 5. In parish communities where it is not possible to offer the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation continuously for 24 hours, parishes are asked to observe special extended hours in the morning, afternoon and evening hours. Check with your local parish for schedule.
“This is a humbling opportunity during the Lenten season for Catholics to deepen their relationship with the God of Mercy who never tires of forgiving. It is also a time for fallen away Catholics to accept the Lord’s invitation to come home and be not afraid,” said Bruce Croteau, Director of Liturgy, Diocese of Orlando.
Reconciliation is a Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in His love and mercy to offer sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God and neighbor. The greatest commandments given by Jesus Christ are to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-39). The Sacrament of Penances also allows sinners to reconcile with the Church because the Church community is the Body of Christ and is also wounded by the sins of each person.
Croteau says receiving God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Penance is something to celebrate and a gift from God. Rather than dwelling upon shame and brokenness, the Church calls us to move through it; to celebrate the effect of the Sacrament which is reconciliation with the Father and the Church made up of the members of the Body of Christ.
“We are all sinners, Pope Francis himself has identified himself as a sinner in whom God has showed great mercy. This is the first step in allowing the Grace of God to penetrate our heart,” said Croteau.
“For me, I look at the Sacrament as a celebration of God’s Mercy, it is a way to meet God face to face and to place my open heart before him by confessing all of my faults. But there is something bigger going on,” added Croteau. “It is about how God’s grace is ever abounding, and how God forgave all of our sins by giving over his only Son to die on the Cross only to rise from the dead. So, salvation has been won for us; this is our way when we fall short, that we can renew and reenter into that relationship with God through the Sacrament.”
Although the Sacrament of Reconciliation may be difficult for some Catholics, this 24 Hours of prayer, healing and forgiveness can be the celebration that opens their hearts to God’s love and a source of grace made available to Catholics through the sacramental Church. To learn more visit www.orlandodiocese.org/yearofmercy.
Catholics are encouraged to participate in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation even if it has been some time since the last confession. Confession is not difficult, but it does require preparation. The forgiveness of sins involves four parts:
Contrition: A sincere sorrow for having offended God, and the most important act of the penitent. There can be no forgiveness of sin if we do not have a repentant heart.
Confession: Confronting our sins in a profound way to God by speaking about them—aloud—to the priest.
Penance: An important part of our healing is the “penance” the priest imposes in reparation for our sins.
Absolution: The priest speaks the words by which “God, the Father of Mercies” reconciles a sinner to Himself through the merits of the Cross.