Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This past weekend you may have noticed a fairly conspicuous change to the front of the church: the family statue (which is now in the school) was replaced by our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. Hopefully this does not come as a great surprise, as it has been part of our ongoing conversation regarding the church, but for those who perhaps missed some of the conversation, I would like to take this opportunity to revisit the plan.
As you may recall last spring, discussions began about the safety of the confessionals, and three issues were raised. First, the confessionals are tucked away and hard to find for those who may be visiting the church. Especially if someone is returning after a long time and has finally summoned the courage to go to confession, a situation like this, where he may already feel uncomfortable, can often dissuade him from following through. Second, accessing the confessionals is difficult. There is no handicap accessibility, as the elevator is not functioning, and the stairs to the confessionals are irregular and can be hard to distinguish due to their coloring, which has led to a number of trips and falls. Thirdly, in this dark time of our Church’s history, we are rediscovering the wisdom of not hearing confessions in a hidden room where priest and penitent can be in physical contact. For the sake of both penitent and priest, it is important that no boundaries can possibly be crossed, especially where the priest is unable to speak of what occurs in the confessional.
So by moving the statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, we now have room to relocate the statues from the back niches to those niches closest to the altar. Those back niches will then be opened back up and confessionals will be built in, mirroring the original design. The confessionals will have three sections: the middle will be the room for the priest, and on either side there will be two rooms for the penitent, one with a kneeler and one with a chair. Both sides will have a screen to ensure safety, as discussed above. This will mean that face to face confessions will only be available by appointment. Many may prefer face to face, but hopefully we can come to appreciate the way in which the screen helps remind us that we are not speaking to a priest, but God Himself, and that while in confession our focus is on confessing our list of sins, there are other times to have a longer discussion with the priest.
The move of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph was also a response though, to a particular desire I have repeatedly heard from many of you. It seems as though many longed to have the Holy Family returned to a place of prominence in the church. Especially in a church dedicated to Our Lady, it seems appropriate that she be elevated. One concern I have heard is that the pedestal is a bit tight for both of them, but my hope is that, provided we are able to move forward with our work, we can shift St. Joseph back to where the elevator structure currently stands.
As we find ourselves in these first days of Lent, reflecting on the confessional, I hope we all take this opportunity to renew that desire in our hearts to go to confession, and go often. As I have probably said over and over again, I go to confession as frequently as I can, and am grateful for the peace I find and the grace which helps me strive to be a little better each day. Traditionally the Tuesday before Lent, rather than being called Mardi Gras, was called Shrove Tuesday, which meant the day when many would go to confession to receive forgiveness (or be shriven) and prepare for Lent. Maybe this year we go to confession at the beginning, and at the end, of lent, to really see how our six weeks of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, is helping us grow in the path of holiness. Let’s take advantage of this incredible gift, knowing our humble confession is one of the greatest gifts we can give to the Lord, the Lord who has given us so much.
Yours in Christ,