penance

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“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Every year on Ash Wednesday, I seek out some member of the clergy to say those words to me. They come from the curse of mankind in Genesis 3, but I find blessing in hearing them in the tale of the loving purposes of God.

Ann Marie Somma 04-29-2013
RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

The new confessional at St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Church, RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

DERBY, Conn. — The Rev. Janusz Kukulka can’t say for sure that his parishioners are sinning more, but they sure are lining up at the new confessional booth to tell him about it.

For years, Kukulka, was content with absolving sins in a private room marked by an exit sign to the right of the altar St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

But something happened during Lent this year. For the first time, Kukulka really noticed the two confessionals missing from the rear of his church. They’d been gone for four decades, ripped out during the 1970s to make room for air conditioning units during a renovation inspired by the Second Vatican Council.

They must have been a thing of beauty, Kukulka thought. He imagined their dark oak paneled doors and arched moldings to match the Gothic architecture of the church designed by renowned 19th-century architect Patrick Keely.

Their absence was striking, especially when the Archdiocese of Hartford had asked parishes to extend their confession hours during Lent, part of a public relations campaign to get Catholics to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.

So, one Sunday Kukulka announced his desire to the congregation. “I told them I wanted a visible confessional,” he said.

He got one within a week.

Jim Wallis 10-27-2011

Finally, as President Obama has announced, this American war will soon be over, with most of the 44,000 American troops still in Iraq coming home in time to be with their families for Christmas.

The initial feelings that rushed over me after hearing the White House announcement were of deep relief. But then they turned to deep sadness over the terrible cost of a war that was, from the beginning, wrong; intellectually, politically, strategically and, above all, morally wrong.

The War in Iraq was fundamentally a war of choice, and it was the wrong choice.

Rose Marie Berger 05-12-2010
On the papal plane, Shepherd One, en route to Portugal to visit the Shrine of Our
Rebecca Curtin 05-10-2010
Last month, at the height of the media coverage of the most recent sex abuse crisis, Father Francis Clooney, a professor at Harvard Divinity School and Director of the Center for the Study of Wor
Wendy Murray 03-30-2010
The sex abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church simply will not go away. Even the Pope himself is not immune.
Shane Claiborne 03-23-2010
I can't imagine a better way to lament the 7th anniversary of the war in Iraq than by spending it with Iraq veterans who are horrified by the war and courageously speaking out against it
LaVonne Neff 02-22-2010

Here's an idea for Lent that will do more good than giving up desserts: Read a book about contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. It's not a penance, though it can hurt.

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