By Ann Schneible
DUBLIN, Ireland, JUNE 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Young people attending the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin on Thursday had the opportunity to reflect upon and receive the sacrament of reconciliation during various events and services that were hosted at the Youth Space.
Throughout the day, which was devoted to the theme “Reconciliation in our Communion,” young people received reflections from President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Cardinal Peter Turkson and Bishop Donal McKeown of the Diocese of Down and Connor. The day concluded with an evening of reconciliation, with music performed by Elation Ministries, testimony of faith by Maebh Carlin (a 20 year singer confined to a wheelchair after an accident), Eucharist adoration, and the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
ZENIT spoke with various participants in the congress about the role of reconciliation in the lives of young people.
Father Gerry Kenny, a priest from the Archdiocese of Dublin who is attending the congress, explained that the needs of young adults are not answered with quick, inattentive confessions, because they have “very complex, questions, wheels upon wheels of problems, within problems. We need the gift of listening, but not any kind of listening: we need listening through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit guiding the priest. And if he doesn’t have the Spirit in him listening, he isn’t even going to hear a quarter of what’s going on.”
“I as a missionary of years ago spent seven hours a day hearing confessions, and they were heavy stuff. Nowadays you have the queues of what I call ‘The Saints Go Marching In,’ and there’s not a decent venial sin among the whole lot of them. However, that’s not what the young adult needs.”
Moreover, Father Kenny said, young people need to be catechized about the meaning of confession. “Confession,” first of all, “means ‘I confess’ – not that I’m a sinner, that’s number two – but the first confession is ‘I confess that You are marvelous, that You’re wonderful, that Your love is endless, that Your mercy is boundless: I confess that You are the One, and there is no other one outside You.’”
The second meaning of confession, Father Kenny continued, “flows out of that. ‘You are so great, I can turn to You in my sins.’”
Volunteering at the Youth Space’s evening of reconciliation were Meg Fisher from Canada and Laura Billici from the USA, two university students from Net Ministries. They spoke about what the sacrament of confession means for them in their lives. “Reconciliation,” Fisher told ZENIT, “is definitely a way to help you live your life better, to be more open to God’s grace and his word. It especially helps when you’re in prayer, trying to answer questions or talk about God. When you haven’t been to confession in a while, it’s very hard to know what God’s will is. After going to confession, I find it’s a lot easier to discern His word, His spirit. I also feel the effects of sin, and after confession, I actually feel a physical, tangible difference.”
“The Eucharist,” Fisher continued, “is communion with God and the saints and all His people. So, if you have sin on yourself, and you’re receiving the Eucharist, and sharing with all those other people, you’re sharing your sin or anything that you’ve done with those people. I find it a duty to myself and to the world to go to confession, so that when I’m sharing with them in the Body of Christ I’m not sharing any sin, and I’m not hurting them in any way.”
The sacrament of penance, said Laura Billici, is for her a means of getting “on the right page with God. It helps me to keep things in perspective in working with other people. Reconciliation has really helped me be more compassionate with other people, because when I hear my sins said out loud by me, it reminds me of how much I need God’s grace. That’s made a huge impact for me, in my life.”
“It’s really powerful being at the congress,” she continued, “being in Ireland, which is a place that needs a lot of reconciliation. That makes it really resonate: how we each have a duty to be reconciled… We can all partake in the healing power of the Eucharist.”
Galway native Anthony Hartnett, a volunteer for the Irish prolife organization Youth Defense, attended the evening of reconciliation held Thursday at the Congress. “It’s a real opportunity to be really, truly honest with God, and to let all of your emotions and feelings go to the priest, and tell him everything. For me, anyways, I find that I can really connect with Jesus, and really experience his love through the sacrament of Reconciliation.”
“It’s very important,” he said, “so that you can leave everything you’ve done in the past behind you, and move on, and just have a fresh start with God, and be closer to Jesus in that way.”