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Hearts of stone turn to flesh at communal reconciliation


Archbishop Timothy Costelloe gives the opening prayer, asking God to give attendees the strength and courage to truly open their hearts to Him. Photo: Rachel Curry

By Rachel Curry

Priests and parishioners from across the Archdiocese of Perth came together to submit themselves to the power of God’s mercy during a special liturgy at St Mary’s Cathedral this month.

Celebrating the Second Rite of Reconciliation during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe quoted the words of Pope Francis in his opening greeting.

“The Sacrament of Reconciliation calls us back to God and embraces us with His infinite mercy and joy,” he said.


Held at St Mary’s Cathedral, the Second Rite of Reconciliation had a solemn and powerful atmosphere and was attended by about 100 people. Photo: Rachel Curry

“May we allow His love to renew us as His children and to reconcile us with Him, with ourselves and with one another.”

Attended by some 100 people, the solemn and powerful liturgy included a collective examination of conscience, followed by private confessions, and the sharing of final prayers.

Those present were warmly welcomed, whether or not they had been to Reconciliation recently, and provided with a guide of how to confess their sins to the priest.

In his homily for the occasion, Archbishop Costelloe told the congregation that, in coming to the Cathedral, to experience the mystery of God’s mercy, they had implicitly committed to being signs and bearers of that same mercy to others.


Vicar General Frs Peter Whitely, Sean Fernandez and fellow priests sing a hymn during the liturgy. Photo: Rachel Curry

“While a merciful person will obviously be known by the things he or she does, or refrains from doing, mercy is really a thing of the heart,” he said.

“Sometimes we can use our actions to disguise what we most deeply believe, but it is within our hearts that we discover who we truly are.”

Archbishop Costelloe cited the example of a person who may be seen as merciful because he donates large sums of money to charity, but he does so in surplus to his own needs, and only to seek recognition for his generosity.

“But does the image correspond to the reality? Do the actions manifest what lies in the heart?” he asked.

“Surely, it is not primarily what we do but, rather, why we do what we do, which is the real measure of our sincerity and, indeed, of our humanity.”

Archbishop Costelloe went on to explain that to have a merciful heart is a gift from God.


Individuals privately confess their sins to priests during the Second Rite of Reconciliation, celebrated at St Mary’s Cathedral this month. Photo: Rachel Curry

Recalling the famous verse from Ezekiel – where God assures His people He will remove their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh instead – he encouraged those present to pray to God to help them be more merciful to others.

“Tonight, we come to acknowledge the ways in which our hearts of stone manifest themselves in our day-to-day lives,” he said.

“Let us make this our confident prayer this evening: that the Lord will take away from us our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh instead.”