WE’RE LEAVING THE LIGHTS ON AGAIN
You may recall that last year for the first time and during Lent we had what we called “The Light is ON for You“. Every Catholic Church in the diocese was open one evening at the same time for the purpose of making the Sacrament of Reconciliation (“Confession” to most of us) available at the same time everywhere – no phone calls to ascertain when confessions would be heard, checking the bulletin for the same. Every Church was open and priests were hearing confessions from five to eight p.m. throughout the diocese. It was an idea inaugurated by Archbishop Donald Wuerl and the priests of Washington, D.C. (no need to reinvent the wheel) and I brought it to our Presbyteral Council. Legitimate concern was expressed in that body concerning the effect it might have on Lenten Penance Services and would anyone come or not. But they “let the old man” have this one and as regular readers of this blog will recall, our parish Churches were “slammed” with people seeking the sacrament. This year the priests themselves asked to repeat the experience, and on Thursday, March 11th, from five in the evening until eight, every one of our Churches and missions will be open again with priests hearing confessions throughout the evening. In subsequent years until it becomes passe or few use it, the opportunity will always be provided on the Thursday of the Third Week of Lent.
Why the success here in this diocese and in other places? I will offer my thoughts. It is often difficult and nearly impossible to find out what time confessions will be heard or a Lenten Penance Service scheduled if you failed to bring the parish bulletin home, misplaced it, or do not regularly attend week-end Mass. This way you are guaranteed that if you find a Catholic Church on Thursday, March 11th, from 5-8 p.m., at least one and perhaps several priests will be there to welcome you back to the sacrament. A second reason, perhaps you are just a little uncomfortable confessing to a priest in your home parish and wish a higher level of anonymity. A third reason, you may pass a Catholic Church every night commuting from work to home or from one of your children’s after school activities and on this night, at least you can just stop in even though it is not your parish. Last year the priests reported they were amazed both at the number of penitents and the good confessions after being away from the sacrament for a long time. Whatever the reason, it met a need and our priests are happy to make themselves available.
To help remind you of the evening, there will be some 100+ thirty-second “spots” running on BayNews 9, ESPN, ESPN2, and the ABC Family Channel (all on Bright House Networks) between now and March 11th.
Spirit FM 90.5 will also be reminding its listeners of the upcoming opportunity throughout the next ten days. Parishes will highlight the opportunity in their bulletins for this coming week-end. Newspaper ads are out of our price range which I regret but we will be using whatever opportunities are afforded for getting the word out. Each year we will become a little more sophisticated in communicating this opportunity.
So come home if you have been away from this marvelous sacramental encounter with the loving, forgiving Jesus. Experience the relief of the words of absolution and the welcome of a priest acting like the father in the parable of the prodigal son. It is not just Motel Six that is leaving the lights on for you, but the Church of your Baptism offering an unusual opportunity for reconciliation, wiping the slate clean, experiencing the love of God through a wonderful sacramental moment. Try us on March 11th, you will like us. We are leaving the light on for you.