From Father Beddingfield: A note about Confession
Increasingly, we have people from many different religious backgrounds who find Saint Mary’s. For many, our building and what we do inside raise questions. Very often, I find that the confessionals at Saint Mary’s (those wooden booths at the back of the church and down the side aisle) provoke some of the more interesting conversations. People ask, “You don’t still use those, do you?” I assure them that we do. “Does anyone ever come to say confession?” Yes, they do, I say. One of the bolder visitors once said to me, “Well, I have never thought that I needed a priest to tell me whether I was forgiven or not.” I could only agree with her and say simply, “I guess not.”
In the weekday low Masses as well as in all of the ordinary Sunday Masses we include a prayer of confession (Book of Common Prayer, page 360). Prayers of confession said in public have been with us since the Reformation. For many, this prayer is sufficient. It allows us to pause for a moment before the Eucharist and examine our lives and offer to God those things that have separated us from God and one another. The bishop or priest pronounces the words of absolution, reminding us that in Christ Jesus we are forgiven. For most people and at most times, this “public confession” or “general confession” is sufficient. One feels freed and unburdened from sin. At other times, sin can be obstinate. It is a nuisance and seems to taunt us. Sometimes we feel powerless over particular sins. Other times we may be confused about whether something is in fact, sinful. It is then that private confession can be a great spiritual help.
In the old prayer books of the Church of England, the need for private confession at particular times was made explicit in words that counseled that if anyone’s conscience was not quieted by “their humble confession to God, and the general confession to the church,” then such a person should seek out a “discreet and learned priest taught in the law of God, and confess and open [his or her] sin and grief secretly … that the person’s conscience might be relieved. The words of the 1549 Prayer
Book went on to suggest that each person should act with charity toward a brother or sister with regard to confession. In other words, your neighbor’s need for private confession is none of your business, just as your own peace with general confession is none of your neighbor’s concern.
Confession with a priest at Saint Mary’s works like this: Every Saturday, a priest is available from 11:30 AM until just before noon, when the Noonday Office is offered. Walk along the right-hand aisle, by the chapels, and you should see that the lights are on in confessional near Father Brown’s memorial. This is called the “rector’s confessional,” but it is used by any of the priests hearing confessions on Saturdays. The door to the right side of the booth will be open. If it is not, someone else is saying his or her confession, and you should simply sit in a pew and wait. When it is free, a person wishing to make a confession simply enters the booth, kneels on the kneeler and closes the door. A prayer book should be open to page 447, the usual form used for making a confession. The penitent and the priest say their particular parts, including words of guidance from the priest and perhaps a penance. Normally, the confession ends with the priest giving absolution. This is also our practice from 4:00 PM until just before 5:00 PM each Saturday. If the priest has gone to another part of the building, find the sexton on duty, and he will locate the priest for you. Confessions are also heard by appointment.
Through regular confession, we come to realize that sin only becomes stronger when we obsess over it and give it more power than it deserves. By confessing, ridding ourselves of the things that burden us and slow us down, we move more deeply into the Body of Christ and into the presence of God. Sin has ultimately been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We come to understand and know this through confession and the forgiveness of our sins. With God’s grace, we are brought again and again to the place where the words of the Prayer Book, from the Second Book of Samuel, resonate within us: “The Lord has put away all your sins.” — John Beddingfield
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Francis, Edward, Jason, Harold, Louise, Gates, Harold, Billie, Susan, John, Michael, Virginia, Bart, Brett, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick, and Charles, priest, Gregory, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, John and Colin; and for the repose of the souls of Bernard and Hazard . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 26: 1987 Dorothea Moran; October 31: 1964 Earl Brandt Bird, 1990 Mark Hamilton.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . On October 18, our parishioner Bernard Flannery died after a very brief illness. The Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated for Bernard at Saint Mary’s on Thursday, October 25; at 10:00 AM . . . Please pray for Bernard and for all who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah: 59(1-4)9-19, Psalm 13, Hebrews: 5:12—6:1,9-12, Mark 10:46-52 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, October 25 and on Saturday, November 1 by Father Gerth.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by assistant organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Prelude in G by William Harris (1883-1973) and the postlude is Postlude in D by Healey Willan (1880-1968) . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Méditation from Symphonie I, Op. 13, No. 1 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) and the postlude is Marche by Louis-James-Alfred Lefébure-Wély (1817-1869). The setting of the Mass ordinary is a first for Saint Mary’s, the Gospel Mass of Robert Ray (b. 1946). Robert Ray is associate professor of music at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Many of his compositions are in traditional African-American gospel style, and this piece is no exception. Joining the choir for the Mass will be Ms. Theresa Thomason, soprano soloist; Mr. Joseph Gramley, drums; and Mr. Mathew Fields, electric bass. Gospel Mass is remarkable because it is written with clear liturgical roots, though the traditional texts are enriched by additional verses that give the music the true character of gospel. For example, in Sanctus, immediately after “Hosanna,” the soloist launches into a testimony of Jesus’ healing of a blind man. One is reminded that this is the exact same idea as the medieval practice of “troping” liturgical texts (that is, adding to them), and so it has a definite precedent in Western (and certainly Eastern) liturgical music. In fact, this is how the introit sung at the beginning of each Solemn Mass came to have an antiphon (the main musical portion of the chant); originally psalm verses only were sung. Our interpretation on Sunday will also feature improvisation from soloists, choir and organ. It is not unlikely that this is the first time this piece has been sung in a liturgical context quite like this! Also in gospel style, the anthem at Communion is Here’s one, a traditional spiritual arranged by Mark Hayes (b. 1953) . . . We continue our weekly series of organ recitals at 4:40. This week, Mr. Benjamin Woodward will play works of Bach, Brahms and Duruflé. Mr. Woodward is the organ scholar at Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut . . . Looking ahead, on the Eve of All Saints’, October 31, the recital at 5:30 is played by Mr. Eugene Roan. At the Solemn Mass, the choir sings works of Tye and Byrd.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to George Handy, Dennis Smith and Eileen Whittle for volunteering their help sending out the All Souls’ mailing and the Angelus newsletter . . . Attendance last Sunday 305.
Wisdom Literature: WEDNESDAY EVENINGS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Led by Professor Joseph Pearson, the class meets after Mass from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. On October 29 we begin with the timeless text of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth). Its opening words, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity! Our life is a chasing after wind” challenge us to reflect on the worth, direction and meaning of our own lives. What can the book’s mysterious author mean when he says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom?” Come and explore with us.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Eve of Saint Simon and Saint Jude 6:00 PM
Tuesday Saint Simon and Saint Jude, apostles
Wednesday James Hannington & his Companions, martyrs
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Eve of All Saints’ 6:00 PM
Procession & Solemn Mass
Saturday ALL SAINTS’ DAY
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest, The Reverend John Kilgore, assisting deacon,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.