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placeholder February 18, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
Tips for those long absent from confession

WASHINGTON — After "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned" — even if they get that far — there are millions of Catholics who don't exactly know what to say next. This is especially true for Catholics who have not gone to confession in years, or even decades.

Despite parishes and dioceses inviting inactive Catholics to return to church at Lent, with the sacrament of reconciliation as an incentive, it is likely Catholics are afraid, bewildered or even intimidated at the prospect of returning to the confessional after such a long period away from it.

A rote recitation of sins doesn't seem quite right. Laundry lists, as some priests call them, are out.

In fact, one advises, even devising a game plan before returning to the confessional is out. "Just come. Don't prepare. We'll do it in there. I'll help you with this. At the end of it, you're going to think about things we didn't cover. You can come again," said Msgr. Richard Lavalley, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Winooski, Vermont.

"The more complicated it becomes, the worse it becomes. They (penitents) don't know what to make of it and they become ashamed." The motivations for wanting to go back to confession can be many, said Jesuit Father Jake Empereur, a priest since 1965 and a parochial vicar at St. Matthew Parish in San Antonio.

"It could be because of health issues. It could be because their conscience moves them to finally be able to participate in the church and the liturgy and Communion and things like that," he said. "People get married. Sometimes it's someone's first Communion, sometimes it's a wedding. It's all sorts of different reasons."

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