WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Fr. Miguel Irizar will be one of dozens of priests across the Edmonton Archdiocese who will hear confessions all day on Wednesday, March 6.
The sacrament of Reconciliation is the means by which Catholics receive the forgiveness of God. Its purpose is to provide healing for the soul as well as to regain the grace of God.
The priest has been given authority by God to forgive sins, "so when you confess your sins to a priest, you are really confessing to Christ," says Father Miguel Irizar, an associate pastor at St. Joseph's Basilica. "The priest is simply an instrument of Christ (a human intermediary who can hear and forgive sins on his behalf)."
Thus, he said, confession of sins to a priest assures us that our sins are forgiven.
Irizar is one of three priests at St. Joseph's Basilica and dozens across the Edmonton Archdiocese who will be hearing confessions all day on Wednesday, March 6, which has been designated Day of Reconciliation in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
A large sign in front of the basilica announces confessions from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In an interview, Irizar said the sacrament of Reconciliation, one of seven sacraments instituted by Christ, is important because it allows the penitent to encounter Christ here and now.
"The sacrament of Reconciliation is sort of like a door," he said.
"When the door is open, the one who celebrates the sacrament is able to encounter Christ and Christ is able to encounter this person. In a very real way, Christ is able to touch this person and to bestow on this person the gift of peace that he promised before he ascended into heaven."
Irizar says the sacrament of Reconciliation provides healing for the soul as it relieves one's burdens.
He provided an example. "Imagine you are carrying a whole bunch of rocks. You carry these rocks anywhere you go. When you celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation, Christ removes all of these rocks from your hands and he sets you free. Once you confess your sins and receive absolution, you receive the gift of peace and find yourself at peace knowing that the burden has been removed."
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
A sign outside St. Joseph's Basilica advertises the Day of Reconciliation.
Father Jozef Wroblewski, pastor at Edmonton's St. John the Evangelist Parish, said the healing that comes from Confession is analogous to a great burden being lifted off one's shoulders.
"It's like our sins weigh us down, preventing us from moving forward," he said. But when we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, we are able to go forward and our relationship with God actually gets stronger.
Wroblewski also gave an example. "When you were a boy and you did something naughty and you knew it would affect your mother and father, you went to them and said you were sorry," he said.
"They embraced you and they forgave you and then your relationship could continue to go forward."
Most people recite a list of their sins in confession. "That's fine, but that's not what the sacrament is about," Wroblewski said. "The sacrament is about opening your heart to God and saying, 'I'm a sinner and I ask for forgiveness.'"
Reconciliation, the priest added, is an opportunity to express those things in your conscience that have been bothering you.
"If you are in a relationship and you have said or done something that hurts the person you love, you say you are sorry and they forgive you. If you don't say you are sorry, your relationship sours.
"Reconciliation is the sacrament that cleanses us so our relationship with God is not a sour one but a beautiful one."
On March 6 Wroblewski will hear confessions from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with two half-hour breaks. "If there are still people at 7 o'clock, I'll carry on until there are no more people."
Pallotine Father George Neumann, pastor at the German-speaking St. Boniface Parish, will be available for confessions from 8 a.m. to mid-afternoon.
The sacrament is important, he said, because the world needs reconciliation and peace.
During Confession, "we come to God and acknowledge our sinfulness and we ask God for forgiveness," Neumann said. "Forgiveness is key for reconciliation. If we want to be forgiven then we forgive others."
People can unburden themselves during Confession and, if the sacrament is properly celebrated, it should bring peace, Neumann said.
Father Donald Stein, a retired priest, will hear confessions at Holy Trinity Church in Spruce Grove.
One aim of Reconciliation Day is to "bring us back to the sacramental form of forgiveness because we have being letting our confessions down," he said.
"When we go to Confession we have an opportunity to meet Christ here on earth through the priests who represent Christ," Stein said.
Catholics should make greater use of the sacrament "because without Christ's forgiveness we really can't live out our full membership in the Body of Christ." Stein recommends going to Confession at least once a month.
Irizar said the sacrament of Reconciliation should be celebrated "frequently." How frequently depends on the person, he said.
Irizar is looking forward to hearing confessions March 6.
The three priests based at the basilica will have no appointments that day "so we can be 100 per cent available to hear confessions."