A few weeks ago, in the province of New Brunswick, the health advisor announced the easing of certain quarantine restrictions. Among the events that would now be permitted were “Religious services” celebrated outside, which would facilitate social distances. In the light of these changes, some friends, who are Priests of Saint John, proposed eucharistic adoration in the parking lot of their parishes. They wanted to offer confessions as well and they came up with the idea of doing it as a sort of “drive-through”. The concept of “drive-through” and “drive-in” are very popular in North America; at McDonald’s and Starbucks, for example, people regularly order food from their cars, only a few feet from the window. During the summer, “drive-in” movies are fashionable activities. Why not offer the parishioners, my friends said, the possibility of a “drive-through” confession? It worked as follows. Those who wanted to go to confession lined up in their cars. And, one at a time, they would approach the main entrance of the church where the priest was waiting. As soon as the penitent turned off the motor of their car, the celebration of the sacrament would begin. A safe distance was maintained between confessor and penitent. After absolution, the car would drive through, leaving a space for the next person.
I also began confessing in the parishes of my friends. I enjoyed waving in the cars as they arrived, inviting them to approach. It made me think of the story of the Prodigal Son, and of the father who, animated by his great desire, rushes out to meet the son who was lost. The people who approach the sacrament often feel crushed by the difficulties – familial, societal and economical – that have emerged because of the virus; they struggle with the solitude caused by the lack of human interactions. Many of them are coming back to the sacraments, even through this strange modality, after years of being away. For me, these confessions have been an experience of great joy. I have been able to see how the victory of Christ’s resurrection continues to be present, despite the difficulties caused by the Coronavirus. This time of epidemic has allowed me to recognize that no obstacles, however great or small, can prevent the initiative of God’s mercy from reaching those who need it most.