CHURCHES and confessionals across Queensland remained open for 24 hours to respond to Pope Francis’ call for the world to be “immersed in the mercy of God”.
Brisbane archdiocesan parishes, including the communities of Kenmore; Redcliffe; Nambour; St Mary’s, South Brisbane; and Sandgate, opened their doors for adoration, communal prayer and Confession.
Rockhampton diocese also organised a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Bundaberg, as well as in several parishes across the central Queensland region.
Coinciding with the jubilee Year of Mercy, the Holy Father commissioned this third “24 Hours for the Lord” to encourage Catholics to seek God’s mercy in Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of Confession.
Redcliffe parishioner Francine Shepherd said the parish’s small Blessed Sacrament chapel had “standing room only” during the global event.
Mrs Shepherd said “countless” adorers of all ages spent between one and five hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
“They looked like the people going to Bethlehem,” she said.
Mrs Shepherd said the full-day invitation to adoration was a new concept in the parish, but was supported by parish priest Fr John Conway.
“It will be a moment I treasure in my heart for the rest of my life,” she said.
Fr Conway said the parish organised a full day of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament “in response to the call of Pope Francis to be open to the presence of God in our lives”.
The day of adoration concluded with a Mass.
Other parishioners also welcomed the new day at a sunrise prayer gathering at Suttons Beach.
The “24 Hours for the Lord” is an initiative of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.
Pope Francis opened the event in St Peter’s Basilica with a Penitential Service before making himself available to hear confessions.
In his homily, which explained the service’s chosen passage from the Gospel of St Mark, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to approach the confessional with open hearts.
“Let us not remain sedentary, but let us get up and find our spiritual worth again, our dignity as loved sons and daughters who stand before the Lord so that we can be seen by him, forgiven and recreated,” he said. “May every man and woman who comes to Confession find a father who welcomes them and the Father who forgives them.”
Pope Francis said all clergy were called to “hear the cry, perhaps hidden, of all those who wish to encounter the Lord”.
“We need to re-examine those behaviours of ours which at times do not help others to draw close to Jesus; the schedules and programs which do not meet the real needs of those who may approach the confessional; human regulations, if they are more important than the desire for forgiveness; our own inflexibility which may keep others away from God’s tenderness,” he said.
“We must certainly not water down the demands of the Gospel, but we cannot risk frustrating the desire of the sinner to be reconciled with the Father.
“For what the Father awaits more than anything is for his sons and daughters to return home.”
By Emilie Ng