Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Box Scores

So, church, it's Lent... and in a perfect world, we'd all make it to confession as often as we hit the car wash.

Then again, it's not a perfect world, so no lack of us tend to fall short of that yardstick.

Indeed, practice of the first sacrament of healing is woefully low these days -- according to a 2008 CARA study, almost half of Catholics on these shores never go (up from 42% in 2005)... with but a third of that figure queuing up for the booth or room more than once a year.

Must be a rain-spell at the spiritual car wash. Still, the national experience has shown that where opportunities for the sacrament are extended outside the traditional Saturday afternoon time-slot, more folks respond than usually would.

For one, this Lent's seeing even more dioceses adopt the "Light is On For You" campaign -- the one-evening-a-week availability of confessors in every parish of a local church birthed in 2004 by then-Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, who then brought it to the archdiocese of Washington to a "pastorally fruitful" response. And appropriately enough in the City that Never Sleeps, this weekend's seeing the second turn of a new tradition -- 24 Hours of Confession, grown from last year's initial run of 20 Manhattan parishes to 51 churches all across the archdiocese of New York this time around, running from 7am Friday to 7am Saturday.

Of course, it bears reminding that reconciliation can't be conducted via phone, e.mail or any other means but person-to-person in non-virtual space. That said, though, technology can still provide a spark.

The French bishops recently had to condemn a pay-per-minute service that advertised forgiveness by phone. But on the bright side, maybe even the success of the illicit service (dubbed "The Lord's Line") speaks to a vacuum -- of information, outreach... or even that simplest of things, just an available ear to unburden oneself -- that needs to be broached even better than it's been thus far.

Got ideas?