Preparing candidates to be received into the Church

Meeting Christ's mercy in Confession

Helping people discover the mercy of Christ

A couple of weekends ago, it was a joy to join my old parish’s candidates and catechumens on their weekend retreat. Once again, we went to Ampleforth Abbey – it is really the perfect setting for such a retreat. I have said this a million times and I will never tire of saying it – what a great joy and privilege to accompany people as they prepare to enter fully into Christ and his Body, the Church. We had a weekend of teaching from Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, Fr Sebastian (who I’ve mentioned here) on the Mass and the lay vocation. Saturday afternoon was dedicated to First Confessions. After a thorough preparation, Fr Sebastian spent several hours hearing each candidate’s First Confession. There was not one candidate for whom this experience was not deeply moving. The joy and exhilaration in our group afterwards was palpable. At breakfast on Sunday morning, the laughter was contagious. This was a group we had felt never particularly ‘bonded’ – perhaps this was true on a natural level, but on a supernatural level, there was real communion. People who had previously been quiet and reserved came out of their shells. It was beautiful to see. What Confession can do!

So…on this topic, allow me to make three points:

1. Don’t become one of the (disturbingly numerous) parishes whose candidates do not go to Confession before being received – If we experience in our own lives the transformative and life-giving power of this sacrament of conversion, why fail to introduce it to those who are precisely in the most fundamental process of conversion?

2. Don’t downplay or minimise this sacrament in an effort to make it ‘easier’ or seem less intimidating – I’ve heard of people being told they don’t need to confess every sin. How very sad. This means that we’re allowing a person both to make an invalid Confession and to not experience the full impact of Jesus’ love and mercy which we receive when we empty our hearts fully of everything

3. We must be lovers of Confession and frequent this sacrament ourselves – As a catechist, how can I convey the love and mercy of Jesus in Confession unless I receive it regularly, frequently? I would suggest that as catechists, desiring to be the best witnesses of Christ that we can be, we should go at the very least once a month, if not fortnightly or weekly. Christ strongly desires for us to allow his love and power to work through us – so let’s keep getting rid of everything that stops it.

One woman, on the weekend, said that she couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t be at Confession every single week, it sounded so wonderful to her! This is the kind of response to Confession that the Holy Spirit can stir in a person’s heart… if we witness to it well.

About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

2 responses to “Preparing candidates to be received into the Church

  • Paul Rodden

    I wish we were even remotely near that! 🙂

    Surely, we want confession only in as much as we have a healthy understanding of God’s love? As the image of the father is distorted, so the nature of one’s relationship with him is too. The gap between the reality of the Father’s love and the distortion, is sin.

    In other words, I believe the parishes where candidates aren’t taught to go to confession or it’s downplayed, are the ones where the catechists don’t teach or understand the love of God either, because they have not experienced it themselves and so don’t see the Father as he truly is.

    I think Georges Chevrot’s (d. 1958) little booklet, ‘The Prodigal Son’ is a great example of what this issue is really all about.

    Confession is an act of love towards our Father, however imperfect, and not listing a set of moral infractions, which misses the point. If the latter is the case, God is just a policeman or like one of the tetchy, Greek or Roman gods. Sadly, most of my Catholic friends think he is like this. 😦

    The irony is that this ‘policeman’ view, prevalent in the pews, is yet another example of the result of the supposedly liberated, trendy, ‘spirit of Vatican II’ catechesis, whilst Chevrot, Goodier, Chautard, Vann, Arendzen, and plenty of others, were preaching the glory and wonder of the love of God the Father, in and through the Blessed Trinity, before Vatican II.

    The ‘policeman’ view serves the agenda of those who want liberation from any moral constraint. It teaches an utterly fictitious view: that the ‘pre-Vatican II’ Church taught a ‘vengeful God’, but then it parades it’s own, ‘live and let live’ God who’s accepting of everything. But, that was exactly the Prodigal Son’s view of his father – and he came to rue – not through his Father’s doing, but his own!

    I believe this is why the hermeneutic of continuity is vital (in its literal sense) and why a lots of what is being taught in so many parishes is so toxic, despite being taught (in most cases) by people of good will.

    It’s driven by the Modernist agenda of which these good souls are totally oblivious and have accepted in good faith because it’s now the water they swim in. They think the moralistic/therapeutic drivel their teachers and textbooks (predominantly from Mayhew/Redeptorist Pubs.) are teaching them is correct as it ‘makes sense’ (to their already distorted conscience).

    In these matters we have to be like a fighter pilot and rely on our instrument panel (the Catechism) and not our senses or feelings, or else we’ll crash and burn.

  • transformedinchrist

    Paul, thanks for your comment. A really insightful analysis, I agree with you.

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