Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Now is the Favourable Time

Dr Pusey preached on Sacramental Confession. It had almost disappeared from the church of his day. When someone eventually asked him to hear their confession, he decided he must first make his own confession. That practice, of teaching and encouraging Anglicans to use sacramental confession, grew and flourished in our churches - despite vitriolic attacks by Protestants. Those fathers who threatened to horsewhip priests who dared hear their daughters confessions; I wonder now if they were seeking to protect their daughters, or themselves?

The best advice I ever had from a confessor, as I was about to move to another post, was that if and when I found a confessor who was helpful, I should not be dissuaded by time or distance. This was a first call on a priest's time. So for a while I would cross the York Moors from Hull (in the Prayer Book's telling phrase) to 'open my grief'.

Now I come across priests who have given up on regular confession, saying how they've not got anyone near who will help them. Then if there is no-one near, we must find someone further away. Yesterday I made another visit to London, to a priest who has helped me in the past. A day return to London on the train is not exactly cheap - but I can usually find other things, other people to see, on the back of my appointment with the Box - and in any case, for me it is absolutely essential as I prepare to celebrate a Chrism Mass, and help lead a congregation through Holy Week. Without this sacramental support I would feel even more of a fraud than I generally do.

All this is meant to be by way of encouragement. We have a very short time left between now and Easter, and this is the best possible time for self-examination and an unburdening of our souls. Of all the words we hear in the Confessional, among the most encouraging is "and pray for me, a sinner". Priests are helped into penitence themselves by those who use them as their confessors. So, if you have been putting it off, delay no longer. The Office of Readings this morning began with "Behold now is the favourable time: this is the day of salvation". So it is. If we are serious about the Ordinariate, then our use of this Sacrament of Forgiveness is a vital part of our Patrimony.

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