Spring means new life

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | May 1, 2013

We are on the brink of the Ascension and the subsequent feast of Pentecost (May 19).

The diocese is preparing to celebrate jubilees in religious life of 41 women (see special section) on May 5.

Also on May 5, eight people in the Discípulos de Cristo faith formation program (see page 5) for Hispanic Catholics in the diocese will celebrate their graduations — only the beginning of ongoing service to their local parishes.

The same is true of the 12 people who will complete the Emmaus program and be certified as lay church leaders on May 16 and the nine men who will be ordained to the permanent diaconate on May 18.

In our parishes, children are receiving first Communions and teens are being confirmed (see story about 44 young people confirmed by Pope Francis on page 12). School graduations will begin at the end of the month.

And there have been the first reconciliations.

Remember your first confession? Most of us, no matter how well prepared by teachers, were probably at least a little scared. Perhaps some of us still feel a little fear upon entering a reconciliation room.

Pope Francis knows about that feeling. In a homily on April 29, he spoke about the sacrament of reconciliation and assured us that confession isn’t like “going to a torture session” where Jesus “is waiting to lambast me.”

Many people in our local church overcame whatever had held them back and experienced sacramental reconciliation during Lent. The diocese’s The Light is ON for You program offered extra times for confession at parishes. A survey of those parishes has shown that many people — some who had been away for years, even decades — came home and experienced new life.

Reflect on what you thought that first time you went to confession and on how you think about confession today. Has it changed? Is it still a little like “a torture session?” Or, as Pope Francis also said, is it like going to the dry cleaners to remove a stain? Is it something on the errand list: change the oil, clean the refrigerator, pick up laundry, go to confession?

What about Communion? Remember the first time for that? You were all dressed up. Everyone was so proud. You were scared to death you might drop something, forget to say, “Amen,” or spill the consecrated wine. You were also thrilled to be so “grown-up” that day. And didn’t Jesus feel so close? Didn’t he smile?

What about today?

Hopefully we are moving closer to understanding that both sacraments are, as Pope Francis said, “an encounter with Jesus.” If we aren’t, take a moment to ask yourself: “What do I need to do to get that special feeling back?”

No matter how busy we get, how many things fill our schedules, no matter how thrilled and excited, or harried and tired we might be, there is really only one important thing to remember: that special and personal meeting with Jesus.

Because each time we encounter Christ in the sacraments, we are, as Pope Francis told those he confirmed, preparing ourselves for “the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality: the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face — his beautiful face — and be with him forever in his love.”

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