Surge of penitents at Baclaran Church

So two weeks ago my friend and I went to Baclaran Church to do a Marian pilgrimage.

Obviously not a Wednesday or a Sunday. Photo from wikimedia.org

Obviously not a Wednesday, when even the church grounds become crowded. Photo from wikimedia.org

The church is known for the miraculous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and the millions-strong followers that she has there. Every Wednesday devotees throng by the thousands to attend Holy Mass at the church (there’s one almost the whole day).

I could hardly contain my joy during the pilgrimage when I saw people lining up for Confession — at least 14 of them! — because that’s all the queuing space could accommodate. I remembered that about this time last year, I also went to Confession here. It was also late in the afternoon, and there was no queue; I immediately got in to the confessional.

So what happened? What’s with the sudden surge of penitents?

I did not investigate, but It was surely the work of the Holy Spirit. AND Pope Francis’ instrumentality in the work of the Holy Spirit. Remember how he unexpectedly went to Confession in public last March? That was the strongest image of repentance we’ve seen on pontifical levels.

Anyway. So I was happy seeing the mixed bunch of penitents: old and young, dainty and gruff. And every time one enters the confessional, someone else joins the tail-end of the queue. And the other churchgoers couldn’t help ogling at the queue that barred the entire side aisle (for some reason, we didn’t go parallel to the walls). Confession is going mainstream!

My friend and I went to Confession as well. Thus our Marian pilgrimage ended with Mary’s signature surprise: the joy of finding ourselves in her Son’s embrace.

Mary’s role in Confession

Of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary has a big role in one’s return to God.

Our Lady gives the scapular to St Simon Stock, promising him that anyone who dies wearing her scapular "will not suffer eternal fire." We've heard countless stories of people who died wearing their scapular and have just had Confession. Promise kept!

Our Lady gives the scapular to St Simon Stock, promising him that anyone who dies wearing her scapular “will not suffer eternal fire.” We’ve heard countless stories of people who died wearing their scapular and have just had Confession. Promise kept! Image from holymusic55 on photobucket.com

As the sorrowful Mother of God (whom we offend in sin) and as our very own merciful Mother, Mary wants us to be reconciled with her Son regardless how much we have sinned.

None of us would dream of watching our loved ones writhe in pain in their last hours on earth. But look at our Lady: she was there in Calvary watching her Son suffer the most painful death, all for the sake of our Redemption. That’s how much Mary loves us — as her own children, united to the love that Jesus has for us.

So next time you go to Confession, call on her too. She will help in haste. She is the Mother who washes and dresses our wounds — she gives first aid, in a sense — before she brings us to the Doctor. She tells us hush, Jesus will be gentle, he has always been gentle. Hush.

I get that warm fuzzy feeling, imagining our Mother Mary smiling proudly, seeing her sons and daughters reunited to God in Confession.

The tomb of Lazarus and the confessional

Many times we’ve heard it said that Jesus is the Divine Physician. He heals any wound. He restores health to the weak. He makes impaired people physically whole. He is the awesome Dr. Jesus Christ!

But this divine healing is most manifest in Confession, where we find Jesus Christ who heals us of the wounds caused by sin. There he dresses our gashed souls. Like the Good Samaritan to the mugged man, he anoints our wounds with the oil of compassion.

But then, even better, Jesus Christ resurrects us, in a sense, in Confession. This is particularly true if we had the misfortune of falling into mortal sin and are thus spiritually dead — like a branch cut off the vine. When we confess all our mortal sins, Christ makes our soul alive again and able to absorb grace like sponge in a stream.

Amazing, right?

Lazarus rises from the dead! (Image from Jean Louis Mazieres)

Lazarus rises from the dead! (Image from Jean Louis Mazieres)

So now let’s think of the confessional as the tomb from which came Lazarus, Jesus’ friend and brother of Martha and Mary. He was dead for days; people were sure the body already stunk. But Jesus’ mercy knew no physical law of decomposition. Jesus brought Lazarus back to life.

In Confession, by Jesus’ mercy, we too are brought back to life, fragrant with peace.