IT is sometimes said, ‘No priest, no Eucharist. No Eucharist, no Church’, or words to that effect.
This is certainly an accurate reflection of our Church’s position under the current dispensation.
What I recall Christ clearly saying to those who gathered with him in the upper room on the night before he died for us is that they were to, ‘Do this in memory of me’.
The reasons for the declining numbers of priestly vocations over much of the Western world are legion as are the reasons for the resignation of priests from active ordained ministry in the Church.
What is essential is that we take all the necessary and prudent steps we possibly can to be loyal to Our Lord’s command.
Once we do all that is within our power to be faithful to Christ’s command to celebrate Eucharist and build and sustain viable Church communities of faith, then and only then, can we with confidence leave the outcome of the future to God.
Anything less would be a negation of our God-given potential and freedom and might be seen to express a prior loyalty to something other than Christ’s final wish.
On the matter of celebrations of forgiveness – they are recommended in the Rite of Penance (1973) and several examples are given therein. They are also commended to us by our Archdiocesan Sacramental Policy (1997). While not the Sacrament of Penance as such, they can be useful communal avenues to acknowledge our sins and appeal to God’s mercy and grace as abundantly offered.
I have found the Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins very helpful during major Church liturgical seasons. It is in the Roman Missal. When celebrated it is well attended and much appreciated.
This frees the First Rite of Penance to be what it can and should be, namely, a personal and searching encounter with God in the Church for persons who have knowingly and wilfully committed grave sin. It is also available for those who have a habit of devotional confession as it is called.
Thankfully the ways we have to access God’s forgiveness in our Catholic tradition are plentiful and designed to suit our particular individual and communal needs and state of life.
For this, I for one, am very grateful.
FR MARK PERCIVAL
Cannon Hill, Qld