One of the most enduring symbols of summer in many Catholic parishes is the school carnival or parish festival. Typically a carnival operator moves on to the parish grounds for a week or an extended weekend, cutting the parish in for a percentage of the profit on the kids’ rides and the more elaborate games of chance, while the church gets a chance to make some real money on its own booths, its hot dogs and ice cream concessions, its “home-style” dinners, and its beer garden. Believe it or not, next weekend Assumption will be having both a Festival and a Fair—and we will pull that off without any rides, games of chance, “home-style” dinners, or a beer garden (Well, it is Lent, after all).
First up, Assumption will be participating in the Archdiocesan Festival of Forgiveness Friday and Saturday (February 27 and 28). Although a number of events have been planned around town, the focus of the festival is to offer as many people as possible the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Most of us know that fewer people avail themselves of this sacrament than was the custom in the past. There are many reasons for that, from a weakening of the sense of sin and fear of going to hell to a decline in strong church affiliation. One of the most common reasons for not going to confession is “I can confess directly to God.” That you can. The advantage of sacramental confession is that we get to hear God talking to us. Sometimes in a relationship it is really important to actually hear the words “I forgive you,” and that applies to our relationship with God too. Sometimes, too, just saying the words out loud coupled with the grace of the sacrament gives us power over some habit of sin that we have not been able to achieve any other way.
Pope Francis has called the Church a “field hospital” in the midst of a terribly wounded world. While the Church itself is populated by wounded and sinful members, by God’s grace we can still serve as an instrument of healing and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In announcing this event, the Archdiocese expressed a hope that the Festival of Forgiveness will prove to be more than an expanded opportunity for individuals to go to confession. The hope is that in calling everyone to repentance, the Festival of Forgiveness will have a real impact on the larger community. “In a special way, the Church calls gang members to turn from violence, those who are addicted in any way to abandon the idolatry that addictions represent, those who have exploited others sexually or economically to affirm the dignity of others, those who have neglected family responsibilities to embrace those closest to them, those who have harbored anger or grudges or resentments to free themselves of these numbing burdens, and those who have forgotten God to return to the one who loves them and calls them home.” On Friday, February 27, a priest will be in the Reconciliation Room between 11:35 and 12:05, between 12:30 and 1:30, and between 5:00 and 6:00pm. On Saturday, the Sacrament will be offered between 11:00 and 12:00 noon, and between 4:00 and 4:45pm.