The communal reconciliation service provides a unique opportunity for Catholics to confess sins and find forgiveness. In the past, people often stood in a long line while waiting their turn for private confession. Today they have another option: the communal service. The communal celebration has certain advantages. The parish may celebrate one service with individual confessions instead of a sequence of private services. People confess their sins; they support and pray for other penitents; they are nourished by the proclamation of the Word and spiritual song; and they receive the support and prayer of others. Communal reconciliation reminds us that our sin affects others and that others will forgive the wrong we've done.
When you take part in a communal celebration of reconciliation, your confession takes a slightly different form. You perform some parts of the service as a community, not as individuals. Therefore, when you go individually to the priest in communal services:
- You need not make the sign of the cross.
- You need not say, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
- You need not say how long it has been since your last confession unless this information would be helpful.
- You may say hello.
- You may say something about yourself which will help the priest extend God's mercy to you.
- You should confess your sins.
- You need not say the act of contrition.
- You should expect very little conversation and advice from the priest because others are waiting.
- You should arrive on time and stay for the end.
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Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, MO, holds a doctorate
in sacramental theology from Sant' Anselmo University in Rome.