BY ANNA ARCO
THE BISHOP of Shrewsbury has urged the faithful to rediscover Confession during Lent.
Bishop Mark Davies said he prayed that the people in his diocese “each re-discover Confession in these 40 days of Lent”.
He said: “Indeed, I hope we more than re-discover this Sacrament. May we come to love this Sacrament left for you and for me by Christ the Lord. Thus, in our struggle with sin and temptation, may we share His victory in the wilderness.” In the letter, which was due to be read on the first Sunday of Lent, Bishop Davies said that the season “began with the invitation to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”.
Bishop Davies said: “It is never easy to face up to our own sins, to resist the illusions about ourselves which the Devil constantly presents. This is why the Church calls us urgently to confess our sins in these 40 days, which lead us towards Easter.” He said that society was used to hearing public confessions on television and demanded that people in public life reveal their “most shameful failings”. But he said: “When it comes to ourselves we can find confessing our sins so humanly difficult even though the priest represents not that often ‘unforgiving public’ but the only One who can save us from our sins. I have gone to Confession regularly throughout my life but I have never found it any easier to say those words: ‘Father, these are my sins.’ And I hope I will never find this any easier.” Describing the Sacrament of Reconciliation he said he was most drawn to the term “Sacrament of Conversion”.
He said: “For conversion continues throughout our lives from our childhood to old age in this Sacrament where Christ Himself promises His grace and forgiveness will be found. Throughout the course of our lives and our struggles we will always find in this sacrament that ‘His patience awaits us,’ as St John Vianney so beautifully expressed it.
“It does, of course, go against the grain to admit where we have gone wrong. It goes against our pride and illusions, to humble ourselves by confessing our sins before a priest. The priest represents both Christ and the whole body of the Church which has been wounded by our sins for in this Sacrament we are healed and reconciled with Christ and His Church. And it is through such a sincere confession of our sins that all illusions about ourselves are put aside.” Meanwhile other bishops focused on the importance of selfdenial and reflection in their Lenten pastoral letters.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said: “Confession is a major task for Lent. By taking on a regular act of self-denial during Lent we train ourselves to turn again to Christ.” Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool preached to his flock about the foundations of faith, and described the Crucifixion and the resurrection as the anchor for the faith. He said: “We will live Lent not judging, condemning, selfsatisfied, safe and aloof from sinners. But through, with and in Our Lord we will long to feel the shame, guilt, isolation, fears of sinners, as if they were our very own.
“Our whole demeanour will be mercy, forgiveness, self-sacrificing love; we will be ministers of that reconciliation with God and each other, accomplished by the carpenter on a wooden cross at the ninth hour, one Friday, on Calvary, with a tomb waiting in a garden nearby.” Bishop Christopher Budd of Plymouth used his Lenten pastoral letter to speak about the virtue of penance during the period of Lent and the quality of discipleship.
Lent, he said, “is about the consequences of our sin, especially the social consequences because sin will always damage community”. He added: “But unless we face the reality of sin and be ready to do something about it, we can never achieve a truthful understanding of who and what we are.”