In this article, the author considers the challenges of being sacramentally reconciled with the Church in the Year of Mercy. She reflects on her own early experience of Confession and offers a simple Ignatian approach to examination of conscience. Bridie Stringer lectures in Pastoral Theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.
The encouragement of Pope Francis for all to experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Jubilee of Mercy has been the main driver for my reflection. In the Bull of Indiction, Misericordia Vultus (MV), the Holy Father says, ‘Bishops are asked to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with their people so that the time of grace made possible by the Jubilee Year makes it possible for many of God’s sons and daughters to take up once again the journey to the Father’s house’ (MV18). This beautiful and moving document draws heavily on the story of the Prodigal Son’s decision to return home, the father’s welcome, and the need for compassion also to be shown to the elder son who was severe in his criticism of his father’s bountiful generosity. He, too, is in need of mercy, as Pope Francis reminds us. I hope that my reflection might lighten the hearts of those who feel ‘outside the mercy’ for whatever reason and provide space in which to explore the way ahead.
As someone who dates from the middle of the last century, I was probably a fairly typical pre-Vatican II Catholic, schooled in the teaching of the Baltimore Catechism.