In many other churches there will be opportunities to attend the sacrament of Penance under the 2nd Rite of Reconciliation in these final weeks before Good Friday. At those times the community gathers, prays, listens to Scripture and has an opportunity to think about those areas of their lives that are not in harmony with God's love before going up individually to one of the several priests available to confess their sins, followed by a time of prayer and communal thanksgiving.
The big question is: How can we make it easier for people who haven't experienced God's personal Mercy in a long time to take that daunting step into the confessional?
For starters you need a team of well-prepared parishioners outside the doors of the church building. People need a friendly face on the outside of a church as they do the 'Will I or won't I go in?' battle. The courage it takes to get over a church threshold is formidable, and the battle happens outside not inside. They become a visual reminder of the Father waiting for the prodigal child to return home.
You need people outside, so that someone can come up and ask, 'What's going on inside?' 'Why are there lights on at 2am?' and so an answer can be given, 'Pope Francis has asked us to have open house for 24 hours so that people can pray and so they can experience God's Mercy in the sacrament of Penance. If you wanted to go inside, you would be most welcome.'
Then if someone says, 'But I don't know how to pray' or 'I have forgotten how to go to confession' or 'Can you tell me what sin is, so that I know what I need to confess?' your team can help them.
If you can have a similar team on the inside of the church as well, that's even better. You need people on the alert for those who have become emotional before and especially after the sacrament of penance. Do you have a ready supply of tissues? Do you have people on alert for those going through the 'Will I or won't I risk going through the confessional door?' battle who can pray silently, and can encourage when appropriate. Do you have people ready to listen to those who have just experienced God's Mercy? Do you have people who can get up to a microphone every hour or so and give testimony to how prayer and the sacrament of Penance have changed their lives?
In the confessionals themselves, have the priests been supplied with printed material to hand out to penitents? Things like Parish Welcome kits (with information on parish groups, how to contact the parish office, Mass times, Reconciliation times, RCIA and how to enroll a child in a Catholic school etc), How to Pray pamphlets, small booklets of the Compendium of the Catechism and Gospels. Anything that will assist a penitent to keep going forward in the grace they have received help from God's Mercy.
Person to person interaction is best, but even that needs paperwork support, so here are some resources to download:
Sin is when we do not love God and others as Jesus taught us to. That's the answer our children going through sacramental initiation receive. Pondering our lives in the light of the Ten Commandments is valuable when preparing for the Sacrament of Penance. These documents are A4 size, one for adults and one for children.
May the holy Mother of Jesus, the holy Apostles, and all those Saints who dedicated their lives to proclaiming the Mercy of Jesus, obtain from Him all the graces needed for 24 Hours For The Lord to be extraordinarily fruitful in His sight.