At the time of this writing, fellow Catholic Guy Adam Fischer is helping to revamp the website for St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park, the parish of my youth.
A few days ago he informed me that the most visited page among the Sacraments was Reconciliation. This spurred a thought in me, and I’d like to hear whether you have any thoughts on the subject.
My response was, “There is something sublime about that. It’s the first act of intimacy for the cynic, to confess sins.”
I hold to that. At the certainty of sounding cliche, much of the media we consume is cynical in nature. How else can it be that Jon Stewart’s trustworthiness rates higher than those of traditional news anchors? His point of view aligns with the culture, and it’s very cynical.
Reconciliation is the first act of intimacy, then? I think it is, and here’s why: People become cynical when they observe hypocrisy without due recompense. Children want to know why some students get more favorable treatment than others, and adults want to know how some politicians can be such crooks and still hold their offices. The injustice, the complete failure of immediate and obvious karmic retribution, is unbelievable. It’s offensive, which is another way of saying it is an insult and an injury. So we begin to distrust everything, especially if promises are involved.
Yet cynicism ultimately breeds death, whether from sloth or envy or avarice. When cynics, or the cynical elements in us, want to turn back to faith, to child-like trust and child-like life, the first condition is renewed integrity. We have to admit that we are not without our own hypocrisies. More to the point: The cynic puts down his shield of disbelief, his sword of sarcasm – he is fully penitential – and admits that in his unrelenting struggle against hypocrisy, he ceased to trust the promises of God. It is this betrayal which must be forgiven before full communion is restored.
Of course, cynics aren’t the only ones visiting a suburban parish’s website looking for the reconciliation schedule. Why do you think Reconciliation was the most visited Sacrament?