For many people brought up Catholic, going to confession is a bit of a chore. You have to do it every now and then to keep the parents off your back but you stop bothering as soon as you’re old enough to make your own decisions.
Then it’s no more saying Our Fathers and Hail Marys for you… well, maybe that’s not so true anymore.
Irish priest Father Clement MacMánuis said he’d noticed an increase in the number of people coming back to confession over recent years and it’s not due to a sudden rise in sinfulness. It’s more because people want to escape their stressful lives for a few minutes and have a one to one chat with a caring and sympathetic listener.
They want an escape from the increasing strains of modern day life.
Fr MacMánuis told the Irish Times: “For some people, they don’t want or can’t afford to be waiting for counsellors or psychiatrists.
“They don’t want labels, they want to be treated as normal. The confessional is somewhere they can find a little reassurance.”
He believes the idea of a chat with someone who cares takes confession back towards its original purpose. He said: “The original confession was based on the notion of an ‘anam cara’, or spiritual friend, who gave guidance, before the church introduced all these rules and regulations.”
Fr MacMánuis was speaking ahead of the the annual solemn novena in Galway Cathedral. His views were echoed by Dominican priest Fr Denis Murphy who has also been hearing novena confessions in Galway. He told the Times that the “listening ear” was valued by parents struggling to rear children in a highly competitive “achievement and points-obsessed” environment.
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