A friar who has been dedicated to urban ministry at churches in New York City, Hartford, Conn., and Providence, R.I., writes about key elements of the Lenten season with particular attention given to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, along with the symbolism that comes with it.
When I came to St. Anthony Shrine in Boston last year in late August, I was excited because of all the possibilities that lay before me, and nervous. I was about to become the guardian of a great and storied community in Holy Name Province and was moving to a great city that I’ve always enjoyed. I really looked forward to the sacramental ministry that has made the Shrine so famous. I was also nervous because I didn’t know what lay ahead.
I’m happy to say that so far that all of it has turned out very well. The sacramental ministry at St. Anthony’s – especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation – has been a real gift for me.
The Joy of Reconciliation
As I reflect on the sacrament and on reconciliation in my own life and as we approach Holy Week, I can’t help but be grateful for the joy it has brought me. I feel a great deal of joy being a confessor and listening to people pour out their hearts to me. That joy comes from two places. First, from the honor I feel when someone chooses to share with me their deepest desires, needs and hurts; and secondly, I feel a great amount of joy when I can send a person on their way with God’s absolution, forgiveness, and blessings.
All of the drama, intrigue, and mystery of Holy Week culminates in the joy of the resurrection. I really believe that the joys we feel as a community and as individuals are due to the reconciliation we have received from the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I believe that this gift of joy is received over and over again in countless ways, and one of those ways is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a great source of joy and a great way to spread the good news. For Christians, “bad news” never rules the day and faith in the resurrection means that “bad news” is never the last word.
I think now, more than ever, we really need that reminder.
Good News Brings Change
The women ran from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, to tell the fearful disciples who were huddled together in the upper room, about the incredible experience they just had. One can only imagine the sheer disbelief they felt and the unbounded joy that must have followed.
That unbounded joy came from the faith that filled their hearts upon hearing the good news: He is risen! That changed everything for the first disciples. The bad news they were enduring, the fear that was consuming them and the sadness that was crushing them was all lifted and wiped away because of the faith they put in the proclamation of the good news: He is risen!
Ultimately, we take the resurrection on faith, and faith is not something we are supposed to understand. Faith is confusing and challenging. The proclamation of the women to the disciples was a proclamation of faith and I’m sure those poor disciples were confused and challenged.
Nevertheless, their confusion gave way to unbounded joy. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that this whole notion of resurrection confuses and challenges us too.
I think the only way we can get beyond the confusion is by accepting the challenge that the resurrection places before us. The challenge to love and forgive and to live lives of peace.
That is the “good news” that pushes back against the “bad news” every time and brings unbounded joy.
— Fr. Frank was appointed guardian of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Mass., after the 2017 Provincial Chapter. He professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1987. The previous reflection, about living one’s authentic self, was written by A. Francis Soucy, OFM.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, current event, holy day, or other seasonal themes – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional reflections by friars can be found on the Spiritual Resources page of HNP.org.
- “Georgia Parish Marks Martin Luther King Holiday with Focus on Reconciliation” – Jan. 27, 2016, HNP Today
- “Frank Sevola Marks 25 Years as a Friar” – Oct. 20, 2012, HNP Today