In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son. The son leaves his father in search of a more self-serving life. He spends his time squandering his blessings and having what can likely be considered “worldly fun,” only to feel empty and downcast. In his search for self-satisfaction, he is left unfulfilled. So he runs back to his father, ashamed of what he’s done. And his father welcomes him with great joy!
This parable is much more than a story. It speaks to the heart of the human experience in many ways. God is waiting for us to turn back to Him. He knows that sin does not fulfill us, and He wants to bring us back into union with Him. So, in an act of sheer grace, Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance. There, He is waiting for us to come to Him.
“The Sacrament of Penance is designed to relieve the penitent of sin, particularly grave sin,” Fr. Godfrey says. “It restores communion with Christ and the Christian community, removing what divides us and making us more evidently members of Christ’s holy Body.”
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of forgiveness and grace, offering each one of us an opportunity to experience Christ’s love and life in a radical way. Yet, all too often, we hesitate to partake in the sacrament. We avoid it out of fear or shame — Fr. Godfrey assures us all that we ought not to feel this way.
“While I understand the shame in confessing a particularly ugly sin, no one should expect to be rebuked or criticized when walking into the confessional,” Fr. Godfrey says. “The confessor’s main role is to be a physician of souls, offering a penance that works as a salve against the sin, not to sit as judge assessing a sentence.”
What’s more, for those who have been away from the sacrament for years and may be nervous that they forget how to go to Confession, Fr. Godfrey says, “Welcome back!” There is a card in the confessional that walks you through the sacrament, along with the Act of Contrition for you to pray at the end. Confession ought not to be intimidating — rather, it is a sacrament whose graces freely flow to all who partake.
For his part, Fr. Godfrey says he has been humbled to receive the sacrament, and his service to the Church as a confessor has added depth to that humility.
“Serving the Church as a confessor is a daily call to humility and compassion,” he says. “People confess with authentic sorrow, sometimes shame. Standing with them in that moment, looking as they are for forgiveness, is a privileged place to be sure. I am also humbled by the faith I encounter in the confessional.”
As Pope St. John Paul II once said, “Confession is an act of honesty and courage — an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving God.”
We hope you will make time for the Sacrament of Penance!
Reconciliation schedule at Cathedral of St. Peter. Please join us!
SACRAMENT OF PENANCE (CONFESSIONS)
Monday through Friday: 7:15 a.m., Thursday: 6-7:00 p.m., Saturday: 3-3:45 p.m.