From the onset, Fr. Z Kudos to His Excellency Most Rev. Bp. Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix for his new Pastoral Letter on CONFESSIONS!
The letter is called “Apostles of Mercy” and it is directed to the Priests of the Diocese of Phoenix
Some high points:
With this letter, I invite you to consider with me our priestly calling to serve our people by hearing confessions. Let us reflect on three things: our role as an apostle of mercy, second, our experience as a penitent, and third, our experience as a confessor.
We priests have the privilege and duty of promoting the sacrament of Reconciliation. Not only are we ministers of God’s mercy in the confessional, we are also called to be its chief promoters and catechists. Like St. John Vianney, Christ charges us to bring the good news of God’s infinite mercy to His people. Regular preaching and systematic catechesis about the sacrament is valuable, even essential today, for a number of reasons:
It is worth noting that historically, Catholic churches have the venerable tradition of building beautifully ornate confessionals that are conspicuously placed in the church. More than merely offering a suitable place for confessions, the confessionals in our churches should be clear expressions of the importance of this sacrament in Christian life. Confessionals, according to Church law, are to provide a fixed screen for the sake of both the priest and the penitent.
It follows that we priests, who regularly experience the mercy of God by going to Confession, grow in our capacity as Christ-like confessors. Having been encouraged ourselves, we are better able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
Our own frequent experiences of God’s mercy in confession help us to be understanding and patient with other penitents in their weaknesses. We then are able to speak convincingly of our Lord’s mercy, awakening in others a greater desire for conversion and sanctity.