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"The Light is On for You" Effort Invites Catholics to Reconciliation During Lenten Season

The Diocese of Des Moines is launching for a second year "The Light is On for You" effort, encouraging Catholics in the 23 counties of central and southwest Iowa to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, also known as penance or confession, during the Lenten or Easter season.

Parishes are encouraged to broadly publicize days and times when a priest will be available for the sacrament, hence the theme "The Light is On for You." The diocesan Worship Office is coordinating reconciliation schedules, ways to prepare for the sacrament, and helpful resources for growing in understanding and appreciation of the sacrament. Resources can be found at

It's no surprise that some Catholics and others struggle with the sacrament, in which a person is invited to confess sins one-on-one to a priest. What might be surprising is that people do celebrate the sacrament and find in it a joy and a challenge for fuller living. The St. Ambrose Cathedral's Wednesday 11 a.m. hour typically sees anywhere from three to twenty people, many of them downtown employees. St. Augustin's (42nd Street and Grand Avenue in Des Moines) Sunday 9 a.m. time often has a line of people waiting to receive the sacrament. Christ the King Parish in Des Moines' Tuesday 6:00 p.m. evening celebration is well attended every week. St. Francis of Assisi's (West Des Moines) recently added Wednesday noon hour time has also become popular among employees in the west suburbs of the Des Moines metro area.

The root of the sacrament comes from the biblical story of when the apostles were in an upper room after Jesus' death. The Risen Jesus visited them, his wounds still visible, and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:22,23). Pope Francis referred to this story in his General Audience Nov. 20, 2013, when he said Jesus' "wounds represent the price of our salvation." He said, "By the power of these wounds, our sins are pardoned: thus, Jesus gave his life for our peace, for our joy, for the gift of grace in our souls, for the forgiveness of our sins. It is very, very beautiful to look at Jesus in this way!" The Apostle James references reconciliation in the context of healing: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."

Bringing the idea of forgiveness to a religious expression isn't just a Catholic practice. Our Jewish brothers and sisters observe Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, each year, a day on which they are encouraged to forgive or to seek forgiveness for hurts caused and felt over the past year. Kyle Lechtenberg, diocesan director of Worship, says the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation "highlights a need we all have to live in right relationship with one another, with God, and with our Church family."

Bishop Richard Pates says the sacrament of reconciliation is tied to our baptism and that it's a beautiful practice to walk with those preparing to be baptized at Easter by reconciling with God and others in this way. Then, at Easter, we can joyfully renew our baptismal promises alongside the newly baptized. Bishop Pates also says there are a couple of reasons bishops across the country are inviting Catholics to return to the sacrament.

* By reconciling with God, we place our temptations, troubles and sins before God. "He takes it from us, relieving us of the pain and guilt," wrote Bishop Pates. "Jesus eradicates the sin, and extends forgiveness and initiates the process of healing."

* Sin is alienation from God. "The more we sin and the more we sin seriously, the colder our relationship with God becomes until it is deeply frozen," he said in his February, 2013 column. "Thaw begins when we have some perception of the havoc which is created in our lives when we are ever more devoid of God's presence."

"Inevitably," said Bishop Pates, "the outcome of the occasion is uplifting. It is liberating, and it initiates a new beginning."

Watch the diocesan website for resources and check with your local priest to learn when the light will be on at your parish.

Pope Francis said: "Let us not forget that God never tires of forgiving us; through the ministry of priests he holds us close in a new embrace and regenerates us and allows us to rise again and resume the journey. For this is our life: to rise again continuously and to resume our journey."

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The Diocese of Des Moines includes 81 parishes in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa.

Anne Marie Cox
(515) 237-5057




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