QUAERITUR: Priest leaves confessional when Mass was to start, leaving me in line!

From a reader:

So something strange happened to me this past weekend. I went to confession and brought along my daughter (11) confessions are heard in my parish from 3:30 to 4:30 on Saturday afternoons I must confess, no pun intended, I did not follow one of your rules and arrive slightly after 4:00. The room was packed (praise God) but upon 5:00 when Mass was to be said the priest (not the normal parish priest) apologized, and excused himself to say Mass. My daughter and I were not the only ones still waiting, there were four of us total. Just to bad for us I guess? Hope we don’t die in the next week? I was courteous and just left but had a hard time trying to explain this to my daughter, the best I could do was…next week we go early!! Any thoughts, is this normative?

Normative?  As in “is this normal”?  Yes, normal priests cannot normally be in two places at the same time.

Mass was scheduled for 5 pm.  Confessions were scheduled until 4:30.  However, the priest heard confessions for about a half hour longer than confessions were scheduled, seemingly up to the very last minute, since he was scheduled to say Mass at 5 pm.  Right?

I think your conclusion that “next week we go early” was just about right.

In my 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession I put in the number 3 spot: “…come at the time confessions are scheduled, not a few minutes before they are to end”.   Your experience is why I added that tip.

I am sorry that you were not able to make your confession in that moment.  At the same time, it seems as if the priest there was very diligent and was doing his best.

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53 Responses to QUAERITUR: Priest leaves confessional when Mass was to start, leaving me in line!

  1. Robert of Rome says:

    The good news in this is that 1) the priest in question seems to have gone to some length to allow as many people as possible to receive the Sacrament before he had to leave the confessional in order to say a scheduled Mass, and 2) there were alot of people who wanted to avail themselves of the Sacrament. Isn’t it remarkable that if priests can be found in the confessionals, Catholics will go to Confession? Anyone who thinks this Sacrament is dead or moribund need only observe cases such as the one presented here. Let us hope that priests and bishops see this too.

  2. Bob says:

    At one place I regularly go to for confessions, they offer confessions before every Mass. Very often, the priests will have to stop confessions to say to say Mass. Every time I’ve seen this, the priest has told those still waiting in line that they will hear confessions after Mass.

    It’s very generous for them to do this, which is one the reasons I regularly go there despite that it’s an hour away from me.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    I still can’t find Confessions advertised anywhere here, and I have been in Malta for two weeks.

  4. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I don’t know why the reader feels this experience was “strange.” I would imagine that priests have been getting up and leaving the confessional line, with people still in line, since the Apostles were hearing confessions. It’s not a death bed at the hospital, and so the confession can wait. I remember as a young teenager that the priest got up and left without even telling me. I was waiting for the little window to open and instead heard the priest make the Sign of the Cross to begin Mass. “Oh well,” I thought, “I guess confessions are over.” LOL.

    It’s not something to take personally, as if Father purposely wanted to “stand up” the people left in line, those specific people, just so they would be singled out for some sort of scorn or ridicule (“just too bad for us, I guess”). And if you have some sort of weird premonition that you will die that week, just go up to Father after Mass and tell him, “Father, could you please hear my confession? After all, my chance for confessing was interrupted by Mass and I believe I may die in the next few days. Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, give me Extreme Unction and Viaticum!”

    The lesson here is not that Father is being negligent. Obviously, with long lines for confession, he is doing something right and good as a priest in that parish. I think the more important lesson is to show up 10 minutes early and make sure that the next time, you are the first in line. The early bird gets absolved. Problem solved.

  5. Some of us who have children are unable to arrive an hour before mass; 30mins is the best we can do, while the other spouse handles the crying kids. I would ask those who can to arrive earlier, in order to leave more room for parents or people who drive a long way. We also really appreciate when people leave a few parking spots close to the church, since small children don’t walk much.

  6. Imrahil says:

    Awake contrition by love…

    and try again next week.

  7. ScholaLady says:

    It’s my understanding (perhaps Father will correct me if I’m wrong) that if you make an honest attempt to go to confession and something prevents you from going that you are absolved anyway. Although I’m not sure simply arriving late would be covered under that.

  8. The original writer should be grateful. Our TLM priest offers confession between 7:30-7:45 before 8am Mass and can’t hear confession afterwards because he has to drive 45 minutes to say Mass in another town. If you aren’t in line at 7am you are out of luck.

  9. ray from mn says:

    Last year I went to an event at our local Cathedral that was followed by Confession and Mass. The lines were long, thanks be to God. But the lines moved quickly. Father was having people say their Act of Contrition in the pews, after he had given Absolution. Probably not authorized by Canon Law, but it gave most people the opportunity to receive the Sacrament that day.

  10. “Any thoughts, is this normative?”

    It certainly is the norm at our Sunday TLM. Our priest, who hears some confessions most every day of the week, hears confessions up until about 5 minutes before the beginning of Mass. Usually there are some remaining in line when he leaves. After Mass, the priest returns to the confessional to hear those who remain, often for another half hour or so.

  11. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I’ve been in this situation as a confessor. The trouble is, there’s not much you can do. I mean, what if I came out and addressed the line of folks thusly: “I have 5 minutes left; will those with mortal sins please step forward?” Just kidding, I assure you…

    I have, in this situation, offered to hear confessions after Mass; but I noticed, last Christmas, at a weekday Mass before Christmas (when we normally offer confessions), this happened; but folks who were waiting didn’t wait through Mass. I was sorry for that.

    I might point out that it’s difficult to run things right down to the wire. After all, the priest needs to vest, set the missal, and make sure everything is ready; he may not have a sacristan. He may come out of the confessional, one minute till, and find servers didn’t show up, a reader is confused, etc. Then Mass is late; and if this is a Sunday, he may well have another Mass after.

  12. JonPatrick says:

    At the chapel I usually attend, the confessions are heard in the sacristry, so confessions have to end about 10 minutes before Mass starts so the priest and servers have time to get the altar and themselves ready. However our priest (as is true for all the TLM priests I have encountered) bends over backwards to accommodate people after Mass if necessary.

  13. Nordic Breed says:

    It could also be that many people try to turn confession into “counseling”, taking up time that the priest could spend hearing more confessions. If counseling is needed, wouldn’t it be better to schedule an appointment with the priest at a time other than confession time?

  14. Patti Day says:

    Father generally hears confessions for 15 minutes before Mass on Sundays. Many times I’ve seen him go in and spend those 15 minutes (probably nodding off in blessed silence) without a single parishioner availing themselves of the opportunity.

    Father Z, I’m going to visit your 20 Tips for Making a Good Confession and hit the box at 11:45 today, when there’s never a line.

  15. KAS says:

    I’ve only once been left in line when the priest had to go prepare for Mass and that time I arrived EARLY but the line was already very very very very very LONG.

    This was at St. Mary’s Catholic Church near Texas A&M University where there is one of the largest Catholic student populations of ANY secular school and even many Catholic schools but the priests there have been very diligent in reaching out to the students with many class offerings for learning about the faith, a study area, Eucharistic Adoration during the day, a library of books on the faith, and I don’t know what else. It is such an active parish that even arriving EARLY to go to confession does not guarantee you will be heard before Mass.

    Isn’t that AMAZING?

    Oh, and there are all sorts of vocation coming from that parish too!

  16. jesusthroughmary says:

    The comment above about having children doesn’t hold much water with me. Parents with several young children (like myself, and probably many thousands of readers of this blog, based on Father’s poll results) have made it a lifestyle to schedule very full days and to run from place to place to place. If getting to confession is made a priority, you will arrange your schedule around that. Maybe Mom goes one week and Dad goes the next. Maybe you get a babysitter once a month for an hour. Maybe you can arrange ahead of time to have the youth group provide child care at the church on a Saturday afternoon so several couples can make their confessions. Bottom line, if something needs to happen, you make it happen. I’ve never heard a parent say that he can’t get his son to a baseball game by 4:00 and that the best we can do is 4:30.

  17. dominic1955 says:

    I think of those folks in Africa or South America that have to walk miles (kids in tow as well, I would bet) to hopefully get to Mass and *maybe* get a chance to go to Confession. I do not think any one of us (no matter what we are) really have an excuse. Sure, things happen that are beyond our control, but we have within our power to make times work, drop in over lunch hour, etc.

    This is my experience with traditional priests as well, they certainly do bend over backwards to provide Confession. Our priests will often times offer to hear Confession after a weekday Mass-especially in that sort of situation where they have to leave to say the Mass. They also hear Confession through our three Sunday Masses and offer an hour on Thursday evening. We are also blessed with having many other parishes in town that offer Confession before or after weekday Masses, on Saturday for an hour or more and also during Sunday Masses.

  18. MissOH says:

    It was very generous of the priest to stay longer hearing confessions. I know the stuck in line feeling and yes, the answer is get their earlier the next time.
    We are more than blessed that, despite living in the suburbs, there are three parishes in our general area where we can attend confession during the week and one of the parish’s has confessions 7 days a week. My prayer would be that there is an increase of churches offering the sacrament more than 45minutes -1 hour a week.

  19. jesusthroughmary says:

    Surprisingly, nothing has been mentioned of the phrase one often sees appended to the scheduled confession times: “or by appointment”.

  20. Elizabeth D says:

    It’s my fault. I am the one in front of you in line who comes to confession every week or two confessing large amounts of lesser sins and asking the priest’s advice about things. I do try to take care to go to confession when it is not going to prevent someone else. If someone makes known one way or another they have not been to confession in a long time then sometimes I have discreetly tried to make sure they get to confess.

  21. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Fr. Fox, we have two confessionals and since I am not one to confess venial sins I wish there were an express lane for the mortal sin people! I was left behind once. I was the last one in line. I suspect if the priest had known I had a mortal sin he wouldn’t have left but we have a scrupulous parish with confession every day and long lines. Surely not all those people are as bad as I am, or as frequently (blush).

    We now have an additional problem of the priests not offering counseling by appointment so I suspect some folks are going to confession for counseling as I have noticed the lines are a bit longer and take longer than they did maybe a year or two ago.

  22. jesusthroughmary says:

    Elizabeth –

    You should ask for a regular appointment for spiritual direction.

  23. MJ says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with what ElizabethD is doing. There’s nothing wrong with going to confession once every week or two, confessing smaller sins, and asking for advice. She did say she was trying to go to confession during times when it would not hinder someone else from going.

    That being said, I don’t believe any of us should advise each other with respect to this topic. [Right! And this is why I sometimes hesitate to post things on this topic and leave the combox open.]
    We’re not qualified to say “You should go to confession more often” or “You should make appointments instead of getting in the regular line”.

  24. Nan says:

    We have long lines most of the time for Confession so everyone knows they need to get there early. If possible, confessions are taken after daily Mass, but that isn’t always possible.

  25. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    This, of course, happens all the time.

    Why not schedule confession after mass?

    Just throwing it out there. It certainly would be a change; practically every parish I’ve been to schedules confession just before mass. But I’ve never found it very convenient, and often enough showing up early is just a waste of time.

  26. MarkJ says:

    We are blessed in our parish to have enough priests so Confessions start 20 minutes before each Sunday Mass and continue while Mass is in progress…

  27. jlduskey says:

    I knew of one Latin Mass Community where there was real discipline about confessions before mass: The congregation recited the rosary before mass and when the last decade of the rosary ended, people in line knew they were supposed to leave the line and take their places in the pews.

    I personally do not like confession immediately before mass or even during mass, partly because of the circumstances this writer described. Also, confession isn’t necessarily something that ought to be done in front of a large crowd of people, just before or during Sunday Mass. I realize that some people have to travel a long distance to get to their TLM on Sunday, and couldn’t make the trip on some other day. But one does not require a Latin Mass community priest in order to have one’s confession heard.

    However, the traditional way, years ago, was that the parish church had confessions on Saturdays: Sometimes on Saturday mornings after the Saturday morning masses, and sometimes also on Saturday afternoons and/or evenings. Sometimes the number of activities that surround Sunday mass can make it hard to give proper concentration to the sacrament of penance.

  28. @jesusthroughmary

    I find it rather presumptuous to assume that you know so much about some stranger’s lifestyle to know that he “overschedules” his children and thus is not making confession – or Mass – a priority.

    My wife and I usually manage to get to confession only by going in shifts. We often manage to get to Mass only by using the same methodology. Children are highly unpredictable, especially when you have three small ones, as we do. The schedule is controlled by whichever one is the most unsettled or cranky or whatever. To quote another priest – Reverend Know It All – “Any one whom God has blessed with children knows that getting to church on time is like trying to organize a hurricane”. We intentionally have not “made it a lifestyle to schedule very full days and to run from place to place to place”. Yet still, in spite of our best efforts, we often make it to mass with no time to spare. Very often can’t make a particular mass at all and have to go to a later Mass at a different parish, and the same rule applies to confession.

  29. nasman2 says:

    God bless our holy priests! I routinely attend a TLM offered by the FSSP, but have learned that, on occasion, you might not make it into the confessional before the start of Mass. We drive a fair distance due to the fact that most diocesan priests won’t offer the EF. However, I regularly utilize local parishes for Confession. I’m not a great stickler on who hears my confession and have been to enough parishes to know which are better options. I have been heartened by the increasing quality of priests in the confessional. Praise God! I want my children to realize that this particular sacrament, Confession, shouldn’t have too many roadblocks in our minds to keep us from frequenting it. Regularly.

  30. Fr_Sotelo says:

    carolinapublican: I don’t think jesusthroughmary was accusing any poster of “overscheduling” or attempting to know their lifestyle. I took his comment to mean that a blanket statement about not making it to confessional earlier because of small children did not hold water–for the poster. He did qualify that the comment didn’t hold water “for me.” Then he gave suggestions of possible methods for getting there earlier even when, as a norm, you have very full days with small children.

    Children are so different, from family to family. Some parents have the challenge of extremely contentious and colicky broods. I don’ know how they ever get them from place to place. Others have a whole batch of mini-Marines, who seem to fall into line even at a tender age to the boom and command of their dad’s voice. So I imagine that the parent of the mini-Marines may not truly grasp the challenges of those with more challenging kids.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Elizabeth,

    I agree with above statement. I you want to Confess weekly and with advice, please get a spiritual director. I know this is very hard. I have been trying to find a good one since I left the States in April. Priests abroad are not used to laywomen asking for spiritual direction, as I have discovered, nor are many trained for such. I had spiritual directors for almost 40 years, and I can say it is much more difficult to find a good priest now than it was in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, or even the early 2000s, because of the increasing priest shortage. But, do try.

  32. Fr_Sotelo

    Good point. My personal problem is that mine have the potential to be either type – but you never can tell which they will be at any time!!!! I have prepared to leave for someplace with LOTS of time to spare only to have “extremely contentious” mode appear and still barely make it. Then the next week leave even earlier and have them go into “marine” mode and be there an hour early! God, how I love it all, though!!!!

  33. MJ says:

    Like I said above, I don’t think any of us should be advising each other on what people should or should not do as far as confession is concerned (“You should make an appointment”, “You shouldn’t go so often”, etc). That is for the confessor to tell the penitent (and he will, if he sees there is an issue).

    ElizabethD, unless your confessor tells you to do something different, don’t worry and keep up the good work.

    Personally, I think weekly or bi-weekly confession is a *very* good thing, even if there are no “biggies” to confess. Confessing this often also ensures that one is fulfilling the confession requirement for gaining Plenary Indulgences, which is usually “confession within the octave”. If you confess once every two weeks, you’re always covered! :)

  34. XYZ321 says:

    I had an experience similar to the one described in the question. In my case, the priest offered those of us still in line “pre-absolution,” and advised us that we could all receive communion. He said he would hear each of our confessions right after Mass. While I very much appreciated his kindness, I wondered about the validity of the “pre-absolution.”

  35. Elizabeth D says:

    To those urging me to have a regular spiritual director, that would be great, but as we all know that is often easier said than done and truly suitable directors are few and far between. I asked my confessor numerous times over at least a year to meet to talk, he always said yes but never actually happened–though this may be changing. Practically the priests do not have time to meet with everyone for direction or counseling. According to my confessor it is typical in my parish that many people make “devotional” confessions of venial sins. I feel that I do so to avoid falling into greater sin but to strive toward real virtue. When I say I ask advice, I mean quick advice.

  36. Random Friar says:

    I sympathize with those unable to make the usual schedule. May I suggest masstimes.org? You may well find a more accomodating parish, one that has more liberal scheduled hours, etc. Shrines (see:DC) and Cathedrals tend to be very good.

    I tend to be liberal in availability before Mass, but I always groan inwardly at the “Father, this eill just take a minute” request right before Mass! Experience shows thia to be up there with “the check is in the mail.”

  37. APX says:

    @MJ
    Personally, I think weekly or bi-weekly confession is a *very* good thing, even if there are no “biggies” to confess.
    I agree with this, especially if you’re really having issues with one or two vices that are extra stubborn and you really can’t escape being put into “occasions of sin” so that you don’t commit said sins. I find going to frequent Confession does help to reduce my own recidivism of certain sins and vices.

    We have Confession daily before Mass, and usually after, but I prefer to leave that time for people who might actually need it to confess mortal sins. I prefer to leave it to Saturday night, as we have it later on in the evening when things have pretty much calmed down in the Church so Father can stay later to hear everyone. It doesn’t really work for us to arrive very early for Confessions though, as Father is habitually late (something I’ve learned to deal with and accept. I’m just happy and thankful he’s so generous in his time to hear confessions), and the church is locked. It’s more a matter of who can get into the church and into the Confession line the fastest than arriving early. (Not really how I like to start my Confession off, so I just accept that this is how it is.)

    As for people who use their children as an excuse, I’m starting to grow very tired of hearing it, especially when people with children assume my life is so simple because I’m single and have no children. It’s not. My time and money is eaten up by my own state in life. Going to Confession and making it on time, or getting into the church fast enough so I’m not stuck behind the family with 12 children all going to Confession weekly who take up the entire hour on their own accord requires that I sacrifice my valuable time to wait in line for over an hour regardless if I get there on time or early. What should take only a few moments, takes hours away from my committments when one factors in driving time and waiting time, etc. I would love to bring one of my state of life responsibilities with me to Confession, but I’m pretty sure someone would throw a nutty if they saw me sitting in line in the church with a laptop on my lap typing up one of my papers. After all, it’s not like I have another person to save my spot in line for me while I’m out in the Hall taking care of my state in life.

    I don’t mean to be rude or uncharitible, but having children doesn’t give people the right to expect other people who don’t have children to completely yield to them because their children are unpredicible, or a real handful, etc. Whomever suggested the youth group babysitter thing during Saturday night confessions, I fully support that. It really bothers me when ill-behaved children run around throughout the church, playing in the holy water fonts, and running in and out of the church causing the doors to slam shut. I wish I had the patience of some people, but I don’t.

  38. Red Cardigan says:

    This church is about a two hours’ drive from where I live; I’ve had the privilege of visiting it for both Mass and Confessions:

    http://www.stwilliamtheconfessor.org/

    I’ve never met a priest with a more generous Confession schedule. A glance at this week’s bulletin shows me that Father has about 11 hours of Confession time scheduled for the week (and that’s a little light for him; I’ve seen 13, 14 or more hours scheduled). He is alone at the parish (no other priests), yet somehow he manages to find this much time in his daily schedule to offer this beautiful sacrament of God’s mercy and love to his people.

    I know that for most priests this would be impossible. But if even one extra day or hour a week were offered at many parishes, situations like the one the original writer described might become very rare. It can be hard, especially for whole families, to show up in the 25 minutes before Saturday evening Mass and actually receive the sacrament–yet in many parishes this is the only time scheduled.

  39. MJ says:

    @APX: “Going to Confession and making it on time, or getting into the church fast enough so I’m not stuck behind the family with 12 children all going to Confession weekly who take up the entire hour on their own accord requires that I sacrifice my valuable time to wait in line for over an hour regardless if I get there on time or early.”

    IMHO, kudos to parents who have 12 children and who take them to confession on a weekly basis! Each of those children has a soul and deserves the chance to avail themselves of the sacrament – even on a weekly basis, yes. Perhaps Sunday morning right before Mass isn’t the best time for this family scenario, but hey if you know that family is usually there an hour early and you don’t want to arrive 1.5hrs early so as to beat them to be first, there is probably somewhere else you can go for confession where the lines are shorter…either that or I would be willing to bet that if you asked if you could go first they’d be okay with that. :)

  40. Imrahil says:

    As a matter of fact by the way, arriving 30 minutes early (before the scheduled end, I mean) I don’t consider arriving late.

  41. Tom T says:

    We are very Blessed to be living near a National Shrine run by an Order called the Pauline Fathers.
    Weekends have a wide liberal schedual of Masses and the confessionals, three or four or whatever is needed are staffed before, during and even after, if need be, and untill the last person wants to go can go. The Mass itself is as close to a Tridentine Mass, without the latin
    as you can get with the Priest facing the Alter, Tabernacle in the center, and the Holy Eucharists distributed by Priests of the Pauline Fathers. No Eucharistic ministers, no shortage here, and it is wonderful and packed every weekend. Pax

  42. St. Rafael says:

    The reader should have asked the priest if he could hear his confession after Mass. The priest should have volunteered to hear their confession after Mass and should have asked if they could wait after Mass.

    As a lay man, it is quite an awful feeling to go to confession, wait for confession, and then not be able to go because time runs out. It happens, and the for the laity it can be an upsetting situation.
    Priests can always give absolution on the spot if people really need the sacrament and they can’t wait for some reason. Just ask them to confess as soon as possible.

    This absurdity of scheduling confessions for one hour on Saturday has got to stop in parishes around the country. It is not enough time and it is offensive itself that the sacrament of Penance is being offered so little and neglected by priests. Parish priests need to get off their lazy cans and put themselves in the confessional for at least 2-3 hours on a Saturday anywhere from noon to late evening. Saturday is when they should put the most time, but having one day is not even enough. Confession must be offered during the week on weekdays. People commit mortal sin during the week and need that confession during the week.

    The Church is not a dentist’s office or a shrink’s office. Calling and scheduling your own appointment for a normal confession does not work, is lazy, and a way to get out of not giving the sacrament. People want and need anonymity. Having fixed times and having the faithful know the priest will be there at a certain day and time is what gets them to go and confess their sins anonymous and with other people.

  43. CDErvick says:

    I fully recognize there is a time scheuled for this and that arriving with little time to go is at your peril. I was simply surprised at not being able to confess. I am glad for the number of people that were present but it is normally empty. As I am a revert this sacrament is something I take seriously and am trying to make a habit, one to instill in my children. In this particular case there were mortal sins involved. I truly was curious if this is the way it goes. If you are too late, you are too late. At the time I did fully expect that the priest would hear every confession believing that this sacrament, for the four of us at least, took precedent over the scheduled mass and was genuinely surprised when the priest apologized and said he must talk too much to the people he does not know. This is perhaps my own sense of self importance getting in the way, something to keep in mind next week…around 3:30.

  44. elaine says:

    Many times I have been left standing at the confessional when time simply has run out. Even arriving early. I drag my 4 kids, wait for over an hour, and leave without absolution. And its not parish-specific. I am in a large archdiocese with large parishes. The concept of empty confession lines is a myth in my diocese. There aren’t enough confession times.

  45. iudicame says:

    I am usually digesting a tasty snack before Confession and its best to let things settle a bit – So all you appetite challenged folk that want to let me cut in line – well, you’re much appreciated. Also, corpulence does have a downside – I’d also appreciate that parking space by the door. That is all.

    m

  46. I would just like to observe that around me, the majority of parishes have confessions on Saturday from 4 to 5 or thereabouts. At 4 it’s “no lines, no waiting.” By 4:30, people start to arrive for 5 PM Mass and short lines start forming. I just wish I could bus some of the folks from crowded parishes into my diocese at 4 PM and even things out.

    The bottom line is that without another priest available, and a congregation waiting for a scheduled Mass, delaying the Mass just isn’t fair. Pray for vocations so that the priest in the only confessional isn’t the one who has to offer the Mass.

  47. Blackfriar says:

    A little off-topic, perhaps, but to inject a lighter tone …

    I recall my mother telling me of an experience in her younger days. The Irish PP was known for his many questions, long advice and heavy penances. The curate was a young priest, known for few questions, pithy advice and light penances. Both heard confessions on Saturday afternoons. Of course, there was a long queue outside the young priest’s box, while the PP was sitting idle in his. Eventually the door opened. He fixed his eyes on the long queue at the other confessional, paused, and in his best Irish brogue, asked, “Do you want a written invitation?”

  48. Red Cardigan says:

    Andrew Saucci, around here (aside from that wonderful parish two hours away I posted about above) the vast majority of parishes have Confession for only 30 minutes before Mass. The parish where my family and I usually go has Saturday evening Mass at 4 p.m. and Confessions “officially” start at 3:30. Now, our pastor is quite generous and will enter the Confessional at 3:15 or 3:20 if he sees people lining up (I don’t think he’s available earlier most weeks), but still, the problem of only 30 minutes of scheduled Confession time per week for a whole church is not unknown in my diocese.

  49. hawkeye says:

    This happens in my parish a lot. However, the priest always makes himself available after Mass if the people still need to go to Confession. We also have Confession by appointment. Didn’t think I would care for this, but it has worked well for me for the past few years. You then never have to worry about lines. When I take my daughter to Confession, we arrive early enough to ensure she gets to the priest before Mass starts. It doesn’t hurt to sit in Church and pray for awhile before Mass starts either. The poster also needs to realize that Mass must start on time.

  50. bernadettem says:

    Our parish is very fortunate as we have other priests who help celebrate the Masses and hear confessions. Confessions are heard weekdays from 6:00 AM to 7:30 AM. Saturdays for two hours and on Sundays before each of the 5 Masses. There are always long lines and the priest doesn’t leave until all confessions are heard.

    Of course we are a pretty traditional parish and the Pastor is always open to speaking with you, if you need his counsel.

  51. Father S. says:

    Background: I hear Confessions every day for 30 minutes before daily Mass and for 45 minutes before every weekend Mass. On First Saturdays, before the EF, we have additional Confessions for one hour. During Advent and Lent, we have them every Saturday morning. We do not have penance services. I am not trying to pat myself on the back, but that is a lot of time for Confession; the Sacrament of Penance is very available. I am the only priest in my parish. We have about 1000 souls.

    I’m not sure that the priest should have offered to hear Confessions after Holy Mass. Very often, there is a line to see me after Holy Mass. This does not include scheduled appointments. Likewise–especially on Saturday evenings–there are Baptisms after the weekend Masses. If I can, I will offer to stay after, particularly on weekdays. That being said, it is not always possible. More often than not, it is not possible. When people complain that the line is long on Saturday, I offer to them the possibility of coming at 6:45 on Tuesday morning before work or at 5:45 on Wednesday evening after work before the evening Mass in Spanish. The effort has to go both ways. We cannot postpone the evening Mass for those who only plan to come on Saturday afternoons. Certainly, though, the person who is in a parish with only Saturday afternoon Confessions has a legitimate complaint.

    Also, to the person who mentioned above that sins are absolved if one does not make it through line, that is false. If we are knowledgeable of grave sin, we must not receive the Blessed Sacrament. There is a similar situation, though. If a person has committed grave sin and has every intention of confessing and the nearest possible time and then dies before being able to do so, certainly they are in a different condition than the person who died unrepentant. Sorrow alone, however, is not sufficient to absolve sin.

  52. Melody says:

    This happens at every parish I’ve been to and it’s not the fault of the priest because people will keep lining up as long he is in the confessional. It’s up to the people remaining in line to ask Father for an appointment or come next time confession is offered.

    That said, many parishes don’t offer confession nearly often enough or over a long enough period. One parish I attend only offers confession for a half hour, so it is possible to arrive on time and not make it in.

  53. If someone collapsed before Mass began, the priest would naturally anoint the person and delay Mass a few minutes. When healthy people, on the other hand, are waiting in line to go to confession and it is time to start Mass, it is reasonable for the penitents to expect to wait until after Mass for them to receive the sacrament of Penance. It would not be fair to the people who are there to attend the 5 pm Mass to make them wait because the confessions which are scheduled from 3:30-4:30 were not finished in time.

    A lot of people presume that if confessions are from 3:30-4:30, then they can arrive at 4 or even 4:15 or 4:25 and receive the sacrament of Penance in time before Mass. Unfortunately, if a large enough number think likewise, then fewer will go from 3:30-4:00 and more will crowd in at the latter half or quarter.

    Unless it is IN PERICULO MORTIS (in danger of death), I have no problem politely asking penitents to WAIT until AFTER Mass if I need to leave the confessional and begin Holy Mass on time. When I was growing up, everyone showed up at the same time every week and just waited to go to confession. Hence, if confessions began at 3:30, people arrived as early as 3 o’clock to get their spot in line. Ironically, people queue up (stand in line) hours and even days before to get the latest iPhone or iPad but when it comes to Church, people hate to wait and expect express service. Recall what John Milton once wrote long ago: “they also serve who stand and wait” Patience is indeed a virtue and one most neglected these days of immediate and instant access. High speed broadband, 4G, supersonic: these conveniences can become addictive and spill into our spirituality. With fewer priests taking care of larger number of parishioners, there will be more waiting than there was in the 1950′s. Being pastor of two parishes myself, I have to triage my time and give priority to the urgent matters. Hence, I missed a Knights of Columbus meeting to go to a funeral wake and will miss the lunch time of our parish spaghetti dinner so as to celebrate a funeral Mass and burial for a parishioner at the other parish. There will always be some who accuse their pastor of being distant or disconnected when he opts to take care of a high priority IN PERICULO MORTIS case instead. One pastor in my diocese died on a Monday and was not found until three days laying on the floor of his kitchen. Meanwhile, some of the ladies who attend daily Mass spread rumors that the pastor overslept or was just negligent in his duties (while in reality he died ON THE JOB)