With this year’s leap year toward the end of the week it was no surprise that tonight’s mission was about taking risks and trusting with faith that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words.
I wasn’t sure if I would have the right vocabulary to invite people to confession. I had to trust that the Holy Spirit would give me the vocabulary to talk to people about the beauty of confession and to be able to reach each individual. I discovered I didn’t need any fancy words. I spoke from my heart about my own experiences about confession.
One young lady said that she was here to meet her friend and she had said her name was Elizabeth. She pronounced her name so beautifully as she said she was from Italy. I invited her to go to confession. She said yeah but I’m waiting for a friend and I said great your friend can go too! Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. I let her know the priests speak Italian. One person after the next seemed to be searching for something and as they made eye contact, they asked me if there were perpetual ashes. (It sounded good. I knew she wanted ashes. Of course, yes come with me I’ll show you the way. I asked her name and when was the last time she went to confession. It was as if her jaw suddenly got wired shut and there was a slight murmur of some kind of number. I said smiling, “God already knows your sins and now is a perfect time to tell him and restore your relationship with him.” She burst out laughing. And then I said here’s the entrance to the church. But I’m Spanish and she started laughing again as I replied to her in Spanish that some of the priests speak Spanish. As soon as I ushered a penitent in, I’d meet another person seeking ashes and then another. I’m happy they wanted something from the ashes. They were seeking. And to each person I’d ask them their name and ask them when they made their last confession. And then I’d escort them down the corridor into the church. I introduced myself as part of the mission team. Another lady was so happy. “I can’t believe how many ushers are here. Wow.” The church was filled with the fire of love of the Holy Spirit! Yes Lord, enkindle us with the fire of your love.
St John Paul II said this about receiving ashes:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, … take not your holy Spirit from me.” We hear this plea echoing in our hearts, while in a few moments we will approach the Lord’s altar to receive ashes on our forehead in accordance with a very ancient tradition. This act is filled with spiritual allusions and is an important sign of conversion and inner renewal. Considered in itself, it is a simple liturgical rite, but very profound because of its penitential meaning: with it the Church reminds man, believer and sinner, of his weakness in the face of evil and especially of his total dependence on God’s infinite majesty.