TEMPE — A Catholic priest and former broadcast media journalist has produced a film about the sacrament of penance as way to raise awareness about the oft-neglected practice of confession.
Fr. John Clote’s “The Miracle Box” was shown to more than 400 people at Holy Spirit Parish Sept. 23. Pastor of Holy Spirit, Msgr. Peter Bui chose the occasion to announce that the parish, which has been offering confession four days a week, would begin offering it seven days a week come Advent — and beyond.
Fr. Clote, parochial vicar at Holy Spirit, said many Catholics do not realize the incredible gift they have in confession.
“Sadly, they’ve listened to the enemy’s voice to say this is about humiliation, it’s having your face rubbed in the dirt, about you getting down and having to whip yourself.” On the contrary, Fr. Clote said, “It’s just the opposite.” Sacramental confession offers growth in virtues, grace, healing, compassion and mercy.
“Fear, pride and ignorance. That’s what keeps people away,” Fr. Clote says. Penitents are guaranteed to have an encounter with Christ in the confessional. “When we go to the sacraments, we don’t have to guess that we’re maybe forgiven, if we go in with contrition and a firm purpose of amendment.”
“The Miracle Box” features several interviews, including one with heavyweight Catholic theologian Dr. Scott Hahn as well as noted Catholic radio personality Fr. Richard Simon, host of “Father Simon Says.”
Hahn notes that the words of absolution spoken by the priest in the confessional are even more powerful that Jesus’ command of “Lazarus, come forth!”
Jesus restored natural, physical life to His friend, Lazarus, “whereas ‘I absolve you’ restores supernatural, eternal life. That’s not less than the resurrection,” Hahn says in the film. “That is an immeasurably greater resurrection. So we have a gift that is so much more precious, valuable and essential than I think we realize.”
Fr. Simon notes that confession differs from the other sacraments because it requires an honest introspection.
“All the other sacraments, people don’t examine their lives,” Fr. Simon says in the film. “The sacrament of confession, the examination of life is the heart of it. It’s the one sacrament that people can’t just take glibly.”
Fr. Clote hopes his brother priests will be impacted by the film too and that they will avail themselves of confession “to strengthen their own priesthood so that they can go out and serve others and speak about God’s mercy.”
His greatest hope is that people would recognize the gift of the sacrament. “Too many people carry around guilt and fear and shame and they don’t need to,” Fr. Clote says.
Among many of the other insightful interviews featured in the film, look for a priest who hears the confessions of thousands of penitents who seek the anonymity available at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
“People think they have to go to their own parish” for confession,” Fr. Clote says. “It’s not about where you go, and it’s about Who you go to. It’s about going to the sacrament and meeting Christ there. That’s what’s important.”
With an undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism and five years working at NBC News, Fr. Clote also served as the chief of programming at Relevant Radio, the Catholic network broadcast in Phoenix on 1310 AM. He’s no stranger to film-making either. Other efforts include films on Purgatory, Eucharistic miracles, St. Maria Goretti and Blessed Solanus Casey.