Arts & Entertainment
The healing power of confession: Penitents brave long lines to confess sins
CHARLOTTE — For nearly five hours, long lines – at times stretching more than 100 people deep – formed outside two tented areas at the 2011 Eucharistic Congress in Charlotte, where penitents waited patiently, often in silence, to receive the sacrament of confession.
In both the English and Spanish tracks, "priests rotated through 10 confessionals, and they stayed as long as they liked to hear confessions," said volunteer Manny Obregon, a parishioner of St. Mark Church in Huntersville. "So many priests volunteered that we had to ask them to come back later!"
The lines "went about as quickly as the line on Saturday at my parish," said Mark Brown, a University of North Carolina-Charlotte student who attends St. Ann Church in Charlotte. Brown attempted to beat the lines by going to confession during the lunch break, but he found himself on still a very long line.
Obregon said no official count was made of the number of penitents.
Brochures were available in English and Spanish to serve as primers for receiving the sacrament; they listed the Ten Commandments and gave specific examples for making a good confession.
"God is here with us today not just in the Blessed Sacrament, but the Holy Spirit is guiding us (the priests)," said Father John Starczewski, pastor of St. Francis Church in Mocksville. "Today, it was amazing the things that came out of my mouth to bring healing ... God gives to us words and thoughts we've never had before, for the penitent."
Benedictine Abbot Placid Solari from Belmont Abbey himself spent nearly two hours hearing confessions. "So many people use this as an opportunity to go to confession when they haven't gone in years," he noted.
Volunteer Enrique Rojas, also from St. Mark Parish, further explained: "In some parishes, there is no one to hear a Spanish confession, so this may be the only chance all year that people get to go."
Once penitents finished praying with their priest-confessor, they were given penances. Obregon noted that participants in both the English and Spanish tracks proceeded from the confessional to the adjacent Adoration chapel inside the Charlotte Convention Center, to say their penances and be healed by the hands of the Divine Physician.
— Mary B. Worthington, correspondent. Photos by Doreen Sugierski and Bill Washington.
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