More Forms For Penance

Sometimes I think the reference to married couples and their families as the Domestic Church is lip service. In churches on the parish level, there is often a plethora of acts of worship and sacramental life. When the domestic form is cited, prayer and rituals are occasionally cited but not often. Usually it’s devotions–seasonal like Advent wreaths and C+M+B chalked over doors or more frequent observances like daily prayer or the rosary. Sacraments less so. Going to Penance form 1 or 2 together? That’s rare from what I see. Our archdiocesan synod mentions it–the first time I’ve ever seen it promoted in a parish or diocese.

Colleagues in catechesis fret over the involvement of parents. Mainly the lack thereof. I would like to see solutions for that, but most that might come to mind seem to involve significant effort, if not conversion. Tough stuff.

I’ve written before on my question that the Rite of Penance, either in sacramental or other forms, may benefit from expansion. At the very least a discernment for the future. One possibility for couples emerging from marital crisis would be the witnessing by a priest or other designated person a ritual or even a sacramental form of forgiveness for serious transgressions, either navigated and completed or in process. Certainly grace is potentially present in any form of interaction between people offering sorrow and regret and in giving and receiving forgiveness. But a sacramental foundation might add confidence. Perhaps a deeper hope for a reformed future, and perhaps as a renewal of the sacrament itself. Is there a problem that Jesus didn’t “institute” this? There shouldn’t be. He didn’t invent individual confession either–that was a monastic development in the early Middle Ages.

Should parents be involved in the earliest expressions of the sacrament of penance for their children? I wonder about this too. Teaching, offering, and accepting forgiveness is a gravely serious matter. Most clergy realize that young children are deeply impressionable, and that the future of the sacramental practice in form 1 lies very heavily on the skill of a confessor. That the past half-century has seen no uptick in numbers of people coming to confession might indicate clergy, bishops, and theologians have some work to do.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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