21 December 2015

Confessions in the mall in Ireland

Confessional, Basilica of Our Lady of Manaoag, Philippines [Wikipedia]

Catholic News Service has a video about twenty priests hearing confessions in a shopping mall in Ireland to mark the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which began on 8 December.

For many years at least some shopping malls in Ireland have been seen as places for pastoral ministry, with some having pastoral centres as part of the set up. One with which I am very familiar is The Oratory, part of The Blanchardstown Centre, one of the biggest malls in Dublin. It is an initiative of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Ireland. Fr Dan Joe O'Mahony OFMCap is the person in charge, a man of unlimited energy, a familiar figure not only in the mall itself but in a number of the neighbouring parishes. One of his modes of transport is his bicycle. And he always wears his Capuchin habit.

Here in the Philippines, very sadly, the many shopping malls that we have now are not seen as places for pastoral ministry. But they are often seen as places for Masses of convenience for Sunday shoppers, despite the many churches in our cities and the many Sunday Masses celebrated in them. Here in the Diocese of Bacolod such Masses were stopped after our Diocesan Synod ten years ago.

The reporter in the video above doesn't seem to be aware of the fact that in Ireland for many years at least a number of malls have been serving not just the body but the soul. Apart from The Oratory in Blanchardstown another such is The St Peregrine Oratory in Rathfarnham Shopping Centre. Confessions are heard daily form 3 to 4:15 and there is a special ministry to persons and families affected by cancer. St Peregrine, a Servite Friar, was healed of a cancerous growth on his leg, is a patron saint of those with cancer.

Pope Francis goes to confession and hears confessions.

General Audience, 19 February 2014

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation flows directly from the Paschal Mystery. In fact, on the evening of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, who were locked in the Upper Room, and after addressing them with the greeting, “Peace be with you!”, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:21-23). This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic contained in this Sacrament.

First, the fact that the forgiveness of our sins is not something we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked for, is asked of another, and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our own efforts but rather a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the the wellspring of mercy and of grace that flows unceasingly from the open heart of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Secondly, it reminds us that we can truly be at peace only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in the Lord Jesus, with the Father and with the brethren. And we have all felt this in our hearts, when we have gone to confession with a soul weighed down and with a little sadness; and when we receive Jesus’ forgiveness we feel at peace, with that peace of soul which is so beautiful, and which only Jesus can give, only Him.

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