SENECA FALLS — Dan Kane doesn’t exactly relish the experience of going to confession.
“Do you think I like going to the priest and confessing all my sins? Not particularly. Confession, like most things, is an acquired taste,” Kane told those who’d gathered at the former St. John Bosco School March 2 for Family Faith Day.
Nonetheless, Kane said he recognizes the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation and makes it a point to seek it out frequently. He even credits his life’s blessings — including his good marriage and children — with his regular reception of the sacrament.
“The freedom that I get from going to confession and the gifts of advice and direction I get from the priest serve me more than anything else. I try to get people out of the mold where you only go to confession during Lent and Advent,” said Kane, a member of St. Patrick Parish.
Kane’s reflection on the sacrament of reconciliation was one of the central pieces of Family Faith Day, which was organized and sponsored by Spirit Alive, a joint faith-formation initiative of St. Patrick, St. Mary Parish in Waterloo and Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva. Formed in 2006, this initiative helps parishioners from all three parishes — which anticipate clustering in the future — get to know each other and get used to working together, said Marte Liddell, catechetical leader at the Waterloo parish.
Family Faith Day will hopefully become a regular occurrence, Liddell said, noting the idea for the event came from a book that suggests holding such a family-oriented faith-formation day once a month. Spirit Alive committee members hope to start slowly by holding such a day once every few months and gradually building from there, she said.
“Our goal was to … gather families together to do something with faith and spend time together,” Liddell said.
“This is Lent, so we decided to do the reconciliation theme (today),” added Kim Burke, Family Faith Day coordinator. “It’s about reconciliation and forgiveness, and God’s wonderful love and mercy.”
That afternoon family members worked together to create family posters explaining what reconciliation meant to them. They also created cards using words of forgiveness and love and decorated “reconciliation stones” with such words as “love,” “peace,” “forgiveness,” “faith,” “unity,” “mercy” and, of course, “reconciliation.” Children and adults alike deposited their decorated stones into a basket, and these stones were later distributed to other participants, who were encouraged to keep the stones as daily reminders to seek reconciliation, Liddell said.
Families also decorated paper sheep with white cotton balls and inscribed their family name upon them. Later on, the sheep were hidden and the children searched for and found them while the adults listened to Kane’s presentation on reconciliation.
Kane, a Geneva native and 1979 graduate of Geneva’s DeSales High School, is a nuclear-medicine physicist by trade and a cofounder of Regnum Christi, an apostolic movement associated with the Legionaries of Christ priestly order. He also is a fellow of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, where he promotes the church’s teachings in matters of bioethics.
Humans by nature are fallen and attracted to sin, which darkens our intellect, weakens our will and makes us its slave, Kane said. Regular, sacramental confession is the only way for Catholics to reclaim their intellect, will and freedom, he said.
“It is the key to a successful marriage, effective work and personal happiness. It is the heavy lifting of the interior life that allows us to be effective,” he observed.
The origins of the sacrament of reconciliation can be traced back to the Gospel of John, which details Jesus’ visit with the apostles in the locked room after his resurrection. Those apostles had sinned by betraying and abandoning Jesus in his hour of need, but Jesus forgave them. What’s more, Kane said, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
In this way, Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive or bind sins, and that power is passed down to the priests of today, Kane said. While Jesus was divine and knew the apostles’ sins without being told, priests are human and don’t know what our sins are unless we tell them, he noted. Our human vanity and pride often make it hard for us to approach a priest and share our sins with him, he added.
At our core, all humans are made in the image and likeness of God and are full of grace. Outside that core, however, we’re draped in pride, vanity and sensuality, or an attachment to the senses, Kane said. On top of that, each of us has constructed a facade, or a way we see ourselves and want others to see us, even though this is probably not how God see us, he said.
God has to drill through both these layers to get to our cores, and he does so by sending his grace to us through the sacraments, Kane said, noting the sacrament of reconciliation is the one that best fights pride, vanity and sensualism. With freedom from sin, pride, vanity and sensualism, we are free to be better individuals, spouses, siblings, parents and employees, Kane said before concluding his presentation with a challenge.
“Commit to hit confession twice before Easter, and take along whoever you can,” he said.