Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 12, 2004
Collins offers guide to Reconciliation
Pastoral letter full of suggestions for penitents
By GLEN ARGAN
Edmonton Archbishop Thomas Collins has provided a detailed "how-to" guide to the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Published as a 23-page pastoral letter and dated Dec. 1, 2003, Collins' guide was released Jan. 6. It is titled Reconciliation: "Go in Peace."
The pastoral letter outlines the benefits of the sacrament, especially individual Confession to a priest, and even provides a section on How to Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In an appendix, Collins provides a four-page suggested examination of conscience to be used in preparing for the sacrament. As well, at least twice in the document, he encourages Catholics to perform a daily examination of conscience.
The archbishop was in Rome Jan. 6-14 and was unavailable for comment. Reconciliation: "Go in Peace" is available from the chancery office (8421-101 Ave., Edmonton T6A 0L1; Phone: 469-1010) and will be published soon in the WCR.
It is Collins' second pastoral letter since he became archbishop of Edmonton in June 1999. His first, published in October 2000, was on the Eucharist.
In his new letter, Collins roots his suggestions in a brief discussion of examples from the Gospels of Jesus' mercy for sinners. "In many such passages in the Gospels we are reminded of how easily we turn from the love of God and neighbour, but also how we need to repent and return to God," he writes.
The archbishop notes Jesus' forgiveness of sins is not restricted to those he encountered in Galilee 2,000 years ago. "Jesus continues throughout history to give life to his disciples in the community of faith, and through the sacrament of Reconciliation allows them to share in the sacramental experience that we see in the Gospels."
Collins says forgiveness is not only found in the sacraments. He says when we are conscious of having sinned, we should immediately ask for God's forgiveness.
And he suggests that it is good to regularly express awareness of God's mercy through short prayers throughout the day.
The archbishop further urges his readers to break the power of sin in their lives through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Such non-sacramental forms of repentance can help free us from less serious sins and prepare us for the sacrament. But we need to do more than "ask God for forgiveness in my heart."
The sacrament of Reconciliation allows us, "like the sinners in the Gospel, to experience the sacramental forgiveness of our sins in a direct, human and personal encounter with the mercy of God," he says.
Through Confession, "we grow in humility." It leads us to deeper self-understanding, improvement and awareness of God's greatness, he says. "As we confess, we marvel at the mercy of God. The sacrament can be an occasion for deep joy."
Collins says the practice of general absolution is an exceptional form of the sacrament and cannot be authorized by a priest, only by the bishop.
Both communal and individual forms of the sacrament are excellent, he says. "One advantage of individual celebration, as distinct from communal, is that it often may afford more time for the penitent to confess and receive some spiritual direction from the confessor."
The archbishop also deals with sin and temptation, giving four practical suggestions for dealing with temptation: prayer, avoiding situations of sin, having a plan of how to avoid sin when necessarily placed in a situation of temptation, and brushing temptations away "like mosquitoes."
He also says when our sins involve injustice against others, we should take action "to set right the evil caused by a sin."
Collins urges spouses and whole families to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. "The family in which the sacrament of Reconciliation is treasured by all will be immeasurably strengthened."