By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

Confession at Christmastime need not be a burdensome chore, insist priests of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

“Just like the body cannot live without food, the soul cannot live without grace – the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit,” said Retired Auxiliary Bishop Louis A. DeSimone, now in residence at the rectory of the former St. Justin Martyr Parish in Narberth, Montgomery County.

Just how, then, does one get grace? “The Lord in His goodness gave us seven channels – the sacraments. One of them is, in my opinion, perhaps the most beautiful of all: the sacrament of reconciliation,” the Bishop said. {{more}}

“Why? We all know our limitations, we all know we are sinners.”

Just as in the parable of the Prodigal Son, “we want to go to Him and say, ‘Father, please forgive me. You can make me whole.'”

Those who are afraid to confess their sins might consider picturing their favorite priest saint as the confessor, suggests Bishop DeSimone. “Just imagine that you had the opportunity to go to confession to one of your favorite saints who was a priest.

“Open your heart wide and tell him everything without fear of anything at all because that man is going to give you the words of absolution as if they came from the lips of the Father.”

Advent is a most advantageous time to go to confession, continued Bishop DeSimone. “With all that’s going on, we want to be absolutely ready to receive that little Infant Jesus. When I go to holy Communion on Christmas, I want to go as white and pure as I can.”

Being mindful of the Blessed Mother and her role in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is another manner in which to properly prepare for Christmas, said Bishop DeSimone. “Imagine, in a way, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the extraordinary minister of holy Communion and she’s going to hand me her Son, here.

“How would I receive Him in my hands? That’s the way I want to be ready to receive holy Communion on Christmas Day after I have made a very good confession.”

A person’s mindset plays a major role in disposition to the sacrament of reconciliation, said Father Dennis J. Carbonaro, pastor of Our Lady of Consolation Parish in the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia.

“When you look at a confessional with your human eyes, you see a door, a curtain, a screen, a light. But our spiritual eyes see something different: we see the open heart of Christ,” he said.

“It’s precisely because Christ’s heart was pierced with the sword that it’s opened up and we’re able, then, to know what’s in His heart for us – spanine Mercy.

“If we can keep that in our mind as we’re approaching confession, it might lower some of that nervousness.”

Discomfort in and of itself is understandable in the confessional, particularly among those who have been away from the sacrament for some time, or for those who have a grave matter to discuss with the priest, Father Carbonaro said.

“Those are the confessions that priests welcome the most because we know that it’s God who’s moving them back to Himself. That’s what we realize.”

An adage of the late Pope John Paul I is most apt in this circumstance, continued Father Carbonaro. “He simply said, ‘His patience awaits us.’

“We really all are loving him late,” Father Carbonaro said. “Yet, His patience awaits us. If we can hold that up as the jewel that is at the heart of confession, then people will be drawn. How could you not be drawn?”

Next to the celebration of the Paschal Mystery at Easter, the Church holds most sacred the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events surrounding His early life.

“Even the manger scene has all kinds of real life situations,” Father Carbonaro said. In essence, it’s “our life” depicted in the stable.

“And there at the center is the Lord. What we see in the manger at Christmas is what God wants to do for us all the time: for Him to be in the center of our hearts so that all the other things that surround our lives can find their place in Him.

“Going to confession we generally associate with Lent, and that’s very appropriate. But it’s equally appropriate in Advent as we ‘clear a way’ for our Lord in our hearts.

“Going to confession in Advent is a beautiful way to prepare for the reception of the holy Eucharist at the Christmas Mass.”

Father Carbonaro’s Christmas message to all the faithful of Philadelphia: “I don’t think it could be said any better than what everyone will sing on Christmas Day: ‘Come, let us adore Him.’

“With an invitation like that,” Father Carbonaro said, “it’s worth saying ‘Yes.'”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or