In the course of any parish priest’s day there are many varied activities. Really, from concern over some item of the buildings to time spent with a family grieving the death of a
loved one, the spectrum is broad and deep – and I love it! And often the activity that is the most important and precious is listening. We priests are good listeners – at least we try to be! Now that might not sound like “heavy lifting” – yet there are many times when it is! The issue is around the ma7er being discussed. If it is about the possible retirement of Tom Brady from the Patriots that is one thing; if the subject is a family coping with a loved one diagnosed with a terminal cancer, that is something else.
Listening in any event calls one to offer complete attention to the other – and often we do not listen that way! We hear what another is saying without truly listening. Rather we are inclined to anticipate what someone is saying as we formulate our response before the person has finished speaking! At other times one’s mind is elsewhere while another is speaking. All of us have done this and also have been in conversations when this is common.
Some years ago Carl Rogers, a noted psychologist and prolific author introduced a new way of looking at effective therapy. Among other things, he suggested that what he called; “Unconditional Positive Regard” was crucial to effective psychotherapy. Rogers was talking about how we listen. He taught that when a listener gives his/her entire attention to the other, in a positive and nonjudgmental way, allowing a person to speak and no matter what is said, it is accepted without judgment, in that encounter healing can take place. A person’s hurts, brokenness, shame, anxiety, fear, inferiority, confused identity and so much more, can improve. On the one hand it sounds so elementary and yet in truth, it is so profound.
And this very experience happens all the time, among friends, spouses, colleagues and teachers … It is that phenomenon of one human being caring for another – and caring in such a
way as to make it possible for another to open up and unburden all kinds of trouble and pain that is within. We all need such opportunities and everyone is healthier because of them. At the same time we all know there are some parts of life, some experiences, choices and actions that are very difficult and cannot be spoken about easily. Sometimes a priest can help.
Actually it is better to say, all the time, God can help. And God has chosen, for God’s own reasons, to be present to us in countless ways and through the Sacraments of the Church,
in very specific and deeply helpful ways. The Sacrament of Penance, Confession, is one of these gifts. The fact that few use the Sacrament in these days does not diminish its value and
its availability to be a source of Grace and healing for those who approach this precious gift.
Since my Ordination as a Priest in June, 1982 to this present day, I am in awe of how God uses this sacrament to bring His love to people in these moments. Further while I am well aware
of the effectiveness of counseling and therapy – the listening that happens in this Sacrament occasions a time of Grace: God is present and the Priest serves only as an instrument of this Grace in ways that are far beyond understanding.
During Lent, Confession will be available in churches and chapels throughout the Archdiocese every Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:00. In our Parish there will be a priest at the Parish Center on Winthrop St. Also a priest will be available every Saturday afternoon from 3:15 – 3:45 in the Confession corner in the upper Church. Further, there will be a parish wide Lenten Prayer and Penance Service on Monday evening, April 15 at 7:00. Also any person can contact the Parish Office to set up an appointment to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance.
Rogers is right – lovingly listening to another can be a wonderful and healing experience. Imagine how much more such a moment can be when one seeks God in the Sacrament of Penance
and the fruit of that is forgiveness, healing and consolation. This Lent the Light is On for You.