By Natalie Romano
Confessionals around the world got extra use this March…but not due to a surge of sin.
Rather, Catholics answered the Papal call to dedicate “24 Hours for the Lord.” On March 11th, Our Lady of Hope in San Bernardino opened its doors for one day and night of non-stop Confession and Eucharistic Adoration. The parish was one of several in the Diocese celebrating the Lenten initiative. After displaying the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, priests took one hour shifts to hear Confession. Mary Haldorsen from St. Adelaide, Highland was one of the first in line.
“I read it in the church bulletin and I really wanted to come,” she said. “I’m getting ready to go on a trip. There’s no better way to start than with a clean slate.”
In this third year of “24 Hours for the Lord,” getting a clean slate is exactly what’s being offered.
“If you want freedom from sin, if you want peace, then come to Confession. It’s really a fantastic Sacrament especially in this Year of Mercy,” explains Father Manuel Cardoza, Administrator of Our Lady of Hope.
Pope Francis, himself, publicly went to Confession on March 4th at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He then heard Confessions from the faithful. As part of his initial proclamation of the Year Of Mercy, the Holy Father proclaimed, “So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives.”
He went on to say, “For every penitent it will be a source of true interior peace.”
Connie Ramirez, parishioner of Our Lady of Hope, wanted that “exuberant” feeling.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she says. “Not a lot of people realize the grace allotted to them by God. “I feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders.”
But as Fr. Cardoza knows, Confession can be intimidating, especially for children.
“I ask kids if they’re nervous and almost 100 percent say yes. I say you’re already forgiven, just let it out.”
He asserts that the same absolution is available to adults, with more adult-like problems.
“It doesn’t matter how dark our sin, God is the light,” Fr. Cardoza says. “It doesn’t matter if you haven’t come for 20 or 30 years, just come and feel that sense of peace.”
If Confession is time to talk, then Adoration is time to listen. Fr. Cardoza says be still.
“We speak to Him. Do we allow Him to speak to us? Do we listen? Sometimes it’s just a matter of saying, ‘Lord I’m here. What do you want to tell me?’ ”
Jose Gonzalez listened as he knelt in a pew. The parishioner of St. Bernardine, San Bernardino, came before work to reflect and confess. He says we should all think about the Year of Mercy in our daily lives.
“Here in the world, here in San Bernardino, bad things happen and you want to respond but you have to say wait, that’s not my faith, that’s not my spirituality.”
After spending an hour inside the church, Gonzalez says he’s leaving a changed man.
“I feel a lot better, at ease. I feel joy.”
Le Nguyen of Our Lady of Hope walked out ready for Easter.
“I feel good, liberated. I do not have to worry anymore.”
While parishioners go out with spirits soaring, how do priests feel after hearing sins for 24 hours?
“Sorry my butt hurts.” Fr. Cardoza chuckles. “I have to get up after a while. But I don’t get tired of hearing people’s sins. I’m grateful we have this Sacrament.”
Natalie Romano is a freelance writer and a parishioner of The Holy Name of Jesus in Redlands.