Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 32: Forms of Celebration, Part 2: Individual Confession, Plus Other Things

Pope John Paul II was a clear advocate of form I of the Rite. I also know from my reading of his life that he advocated and practiced “personalism” in his ministry. That is something that, in my own way, I’ve striven to emulate. Ministry without connection is like operating a NGO, to suggest another pope’s influence. Don’t be deceived: any ill-prepared leader can turn any rite, even confession or the Mass, into an NGO activity.

Let’s read:

The first form makes possible a highlighting of the more personal- and essential-aspects which are included in the penitential process. The dialogue between penitent and confessor, the sum of the elements used (the biblical texts, the choice of the forms of “satisfaction,” etc.), make the sacramental celebration correspond more closely to the concrete situation of the penitent.

Often overlooked here is the selection of Scripture. That’s worth a blog post at some point in the future.

The value of these elements are perceived when one considers the different reasons that bring a Christian to sacramental penance:

  • a need for personal reconciliation and readmission to friendship with God by regaining the grace lost by sin;
  • a need to check one’s spiritual progress and sometimes a need for a more accurate discernment of one’s vocation;
  • on many other occasions a need and a desire to escape from a state of spiritual apathy and religious crisis.

The last two here describe something not necessarily within the Rite of Penance, and something beyond the ability of many priests as well as within the competence of lay people … and not just spiritual directors.

Thanks then to its individual character, the first form of celebration makes it possible to link the sacrament of penance with something which is different but readily linked with it: I am referring to spiritual direction. So it is certainly true that personal decision and commitment are clearly signified and promoted in this first form.

If true, the Church fails to promote people to assist others in discernment and spiritual development. Not every religious crisis or vocation decision requires a sacrament. Or a priest. But the Church does need people to guide.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


About catholicsensibility

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