If you can’t remember what comes after “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” but want to return to confession, don’t worry says Jesuit Father Jake Empereur.
Whether it’s been a few years — or even decades — parishes and dioceses are inviting inactive Catholics to return to church at Lent, with the sacrament of reconciliation as an incentive. Fr. Empereur, a priest since 1965 and a parochial vicar at St. Matthew Parish in San Antonio, said the motivations for wanting to go back to confession can be many.
“It could be because of health issues. It could be because their conscience moves them to finally be able to participate in the church and the liturgy and Communion,” said Fr. Empereur. “People get married. Sometimes it’s someone’s first Communion, sometimes it’s a wedding. It’s all sorts of different reasons.”
And what they have on their mind — and want to get off their chest — can vary as well, Fr. Empereur told Catholic News Service.
“Each case is really, truly different,” Fr. Empereur said, adding he tells penitents to focus on “what they came to say” because it “gives me further questioning on what I need to do [as a priest]: whether or not they’re married, personal relationships, issues in their life, whatever it might be.”
“They don’t talk about a lot of non-sins, small things and so forth,” Fr. Empereur continued. “They have a couple of major things: they got married outside the church, they had a bad experience with a priest, or so forth.”
Fr. Empereur said he asks penitents whether they pray. “Usually they’ll say something like their evening prayers before they go to bed, or they pray before meals. Usually they have not been going to Mass.
“Then you can talk about participation in the Eucharist. So you have to kind of instruct them, helping them along,” he explained. “Encourage them. ‘Are you going to be more involved in the church? Are you going to go to Mass? Are you going to go to confession once in a while?’”
Fr. Empereur said there’s usually something they have on their minds and that’s why they come back in the first place. “Usually I find my questions have to do with their relationships or their spiritual life. After all, that’s the purpose of all this. I can’t say I’ve had two identical confessions,” he said.
Read the full story at the U.S. Catholic website.