QUAERITUR: A priest says he offers confessions, but there are long lulls.

From a priest:

Blessed Christmas to you. Thanks for your response today to the person asking about writing the bishop about having priests here more confessions.

“However, don’t forget to ask the parish priest, the pastor of your parish, to hear confessions more often. Keep in mind that he might be up to his eyeballs already in administrative tasks and other busy work which relentlessly drain his energy and time.”

We hear confessions Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon (3 priests hearing), Sunday before 3 Masses and Wednesday evenings before and after 7pm Mass. We have a lot of folks coming, but sometimes we sit for long stretches of time with no penitents. And people still complain I don’t have enough confessions.

I would rather sit in the box waiting to hear confessions any time than sit in my office working on “administrative tasks,” but then they’d complain about my poor administration of the parish.

God bless em all. I’m glad they want confessions, but I’m glad you helped put it in perspective. Thanks again.

I have no idea of Father’s situation. However, perhaps a couple things will increase confession frequency.

First, a series in the bulletin about the four last things, mortal sin, the confessional.

Second, mentioning it often in preaching.

Third, confessions for a few minutes before week day Masses.

Fourth, schedule a penance service with lots of confessors (invite the bishop). Perhaps some communal experience will be an opportunity to teach and to engage.

In other words, work in something about confessions all the time and everywhere.

Otherwise, Father, be happy that your flock is so holy!

In any event… I am confident that soon those lulls will fill up. Soon he’ll be writing to ask about how he can slow them down!

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34 Responses to QUAERITUR: A priest says he offers confessions, but there are long lulls.

  1. wmeyer says:

    In my parish of some 3,500 families, the schedule for confession is:
    Saturday
    9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
    3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

    In my limited experience, there is only one priest hearing confessions during scheduled times. I’m no expert in such things, but that seems a bit lean.

  2. The grille: don’t forget the grille. Priests and pentitents both have a right to it.

    wmeyer: how many priests are there in your parish of 3,500 families?

    Fr Z's Gold Star Award

  3. jasoncpetty says:

    As Father Z suggests, I can personally vouch for one method for getting a few, immediate detours from the highway to Hell. Preach about confession and then end the sermon by saying “To show you how important this is, I’ll be in the confessional immediately after Mass.” Don’t stand in the back and shake hands like usual, just hit the box. The priest I knew that did that was always had five or six people in line when he did this.

  4. Cool Catholic says:

    At my church on Christmas Eve, there were no Confessions and none on New Year’s Eve either – there’s usually an hour for Confessions on Saturdays (1 priest). So I’ll have to make an hour’s journey (each way) to another church for confessions this Saturday. My stumbling block that stops me confessing regularly is that the pastor knows me; I feel too embarrassed to make a good confession :(

  5. Supertradmum says:

    I have not heard a live sermon on hell in the past forty years, or more, not even in TLM…that is part of the problem. If hell and purgatory are taught, I am convinced more people would be in the Confessional lines.

  6. APX says:

    @wmeyer

    That’s actually pretty good! If more parishes offered Confession times like that (rather than the ol’ 4-4:45 Saturday), then more people who work either mornings and afternoons, and afternoons and evenings can actually get to Confession. I’m a fan of late in the evening on Saturday Confessions, when there isn’t so much hustle and bustle going on in the church.

    What I never understood was in parishes that have more than one priest, why doesn’t each priest offer at least an hour/week to hear Confessions?

    I find going to Confession a lot like going to the gym. The hardest part is making the first step to actually go. Then the more I started to go and get into the routine of going, the easier it is to go. I also found that when I moved back home for the summer and ended up putting it on hiatus after not being able to find a confessor in the confessional/reconciliation room at the scheduled time, or one that was able to go past the scheduled time when the lines were so long, getting started again was a struggle. Now going to Confession is a significant part of my spiritual life.

    I don’t think people really understand the effects of regular Confession. How many people have actually been taught the theology behind it, what it is and what it isn’t, the sacramental graces, etc? I cringed when I read an article in my diocese’s newsletter about some woman talking about the sacrament of reconciliation and stating, “To celebrate the sacrament as part of a
    line-up where one has, maybe, two minutes with the priest, encourages a minimalistic approach” and “As a church we have not equipped people adequately to use the sacrament in a way that moves them past ‘the grocery list’[of sins].”

    Grrr! That just screams, “I don’t know what the sacrament is and how it works.”

    Personally, I think the biggest challenge to get over those lulls is the first step to getting in the habit of going. I think even my FSSP parish experiences lulls at times despite how busy it usually is for Confession.

  7. NoTambourines says:

    Is there any uptick in confessions around Christmas and Easter in proportion with the massive uptick in receptions of Communion?

    Without presuming to know the inner workings of the people in the next pew, I still kind of figure many of the people suddenly filling the pews particularly at Christmas may neither know, care, or know they should care about the conditions for being in good standing to receive communion. Yes, there’s often a blurb in the back of the missalette by the index of hymns, but who knows to look there?

    The connection between confession and Communion is probably lost on a lot of people.

  8. ipadre says:

    Besides regular and special confessions, I do something a little different. I gave up on the Avent and Lent penance services. In it’s place, I have all day confessions, 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. Place a sign in front of the church for weeks and have hundreds of confessions. Each priest takes about two hours. Also Divine Mercy Sunday, I usually have 8 priests and we hear for about two hours.

  9. anilwang says:

    “Is there any uptick in confessions around Christmas and Easter in proportion with the massive uptick in receptions of Communion?”

    I’d guess yes and no. There likely is an uptick on the pious who who desire to be closer to God at those special times, but C and E Catholics likely wouldn’t go since they either don’t care enough to attend masses any other time of year or they look over their long list of sins since the last time of confession and just procrastinate or they simply don’t know what the Church is or its doctrines and foolishly believe the Protestant notion that it’s enough that you can confess your sins to God and you’re sincere. Reception of the Eucharist, well that’s another matter….even nonobservant Catholics don’t want to be “left out”.

  10. RichR says:

    Suppose a clinic were to put a sign out front saying, “Free insulin on Wednesdays and Saturdays”? All the diabetics would show up regularly. Now, suppose the same clinic were to put a second sign next to the first one saying, “Free diabetes screening.” Would that not increase the flow exponentially now that people are informed that they need insulin?

    Preach on what is matter for confession and people’s consciences will be awakened to the need for the sacrament. I don’t know how many times I hear people say, “Well, it’s not like I’ve KILLED anyone, or something.” I swear, murder and smoking seem to be the only sins in society anymore….oh yeah, and intolerance.

  11. Precentrix says:

    One cunning plan used by several of the priests I know is to take the breviary or some spiritual reading into the confessional. It would probably be useful for us to tell them if there is noone waiting right behind us, of course…

  12. rebecca76 says:

    Just thought I’d share about a good problem my parish has: many confession times, all with long lines. If you show up later than 15 minutes before confessions are scheduled to begin, you are not likely to get in before Mass (and that’s with confessions being heard for nearly an hour). Often a deacon has to tell those in line at the end of confession time, “Sorry folks, but Father will hear confessions again after Mass.” And then you lose your place in line and have to start over again after Mass.

    It is so out of hand, I sometimes go to a different parish when I know I can’t get to my own early enough to avoid being at the back of a long line. :)

    It wasn’t always like this at my parish. A few years ago we got a new pastor who increased Eucharistic Adoration, and often preaches about sin, the four last things, and confession.

  13. Mary Jane says:

    There are two priests at my EF parish, and they hear confessions every day (before & after each Mass, and sometimes during – one priest celebrating Mass while the other remains in the confessional). Usually there are lines, even on weekdays. Lines are very long on Sundays. Our priests are wonderful…I feel really blessed to have them. I’d say 1 out of 3 of their homilies touches on the “Last 4 Things”.

  14. Fishing involves a lot of lulls, although there’s fewer if you have detection equipment, know the habits of fish, and fish more when fish are biting.

    I know a lot of laypeople don’t come to Confession enough. I’m sorry that priests get bored waiting. But sometimes fishermen do everything right and still don’t catch fish. That doesn’t mean they stop fishing. Fishermen are patient. They try again.

    Fathers… aren’t you fishers of men?

  15. wmeyer says:

    Chris, there are 4 priests in my parish, though in fairness, two are “in residence” and semi-retired, but they do celebrate Mass and they do hear confessions.

    APX, if the times in my parish are good news, then things are a good deal worse out there than I imagined.

  16. Hugh says:

    Pastors who find it hard to balance confession times with other duties should not be reluctant to use technology. Put a button next to the confessional that rings a bell or buzzer in the presbytery. Construct an entrance to the priest’s side of the confessional, or some form of screening, that ensures anonymity for the penitents when you’re coming to the confessional from the presbytery. Schedule activities around the presbytery for that confession time slot that can afford to be interrupted by the penitent – writing the homily, etc. (Not cooking, if you’re Fr Z.)

    I’ve seen this or variations thereof work to very good effect in a couple of cities. It means confession time slots can be longer without unduly affecting the other pastoral duties of the priest. Of course, the priest may also have to sit in the confession during peak hours.

    This may be going a bit far, but I also think a ticket/number light system would be useful for the confession line. Then the penitents could do activities in other parts of the church – Stations of the Cross, etc rather than having to queue up, which is something only Englishmen look forward to.

    And please make the confessional sound proof. Really sound proof. I don’t understand why this is not grasped in so many places. It’s not all that expensive to do. Trying to avoid hearing priest or penitent while waiting in line can be really off-putting. By the time they get to the front of the line, many penitents have a few more sins of thought than when they first joined it!

  17. JP Borberg says:

    Maybe instead of spending hours at a time in the confessional, Fr could schedule confessions more frequently, but for shorter durations.

    For example, in the town I grew up in an SSPX priory with 3 priests. They hear confessions twice a day during public Mass when the people are there anyway, one at 7 in the morning (so those that work go to confession AND Mass), the other before midday. They hear confessions during all three Masses on Sunday, despite also saying Masses at three other chapels around the country.

    That’s about 7 hours of confessions over a week at times that allow everyone to come, and when the priests would be around the church anyway.

    Just by way of contrast, the city that I study in contains the cathedral of our diocese. Over the three local parishes confessions are heard four times a week. All three parishes offer half an hour mid morning Saturday, the cathedral also has a time midday Friday. Two hours per week in total, and at times when I can’t actually make it most weeks, and when most people wouldn’t be at the church anyway.

  18. jc464 says:

    I preach regularly about the need for frequent confession. I have provided extra scheduled times for confession during Advent and Lent. But most of the time I am sitting in an empty confessional. (And I’m not sure about your diocese, but here there are no surplus priests to assist. None whatsoever.) So I really cannot fathom any reason to schedule additional times for hearing confessions when no one bothers to come. I really do think that many of the laity are not so much interested in “more” times for confession as they are in “more convenient” times. If they actually wanted to go to confession, they’d come when the priest was there, regardless.

  19. Elizabeth D says:

    JP Borbeg, that would be very meritorious of those SSPX priests, if they had faculties to absolve the penitents.

  20. APX says:

    @Elizabeth D

    I was thinking that too.

    Can’t a lot of the parish administrative work be delegated to s0meone else to do, or…this might be pushing it, but get a laptop and a wifi parish network and work on admin stuff between penitents in the Confessional. Or would that be a huge no-no?

  21. LouiseA says:

    ElizabethD,

    The Pharisees objected that Jesus was not following the letter of the law when he cured on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response showed that God wants the sick to be cured rather than to leave them ill because one is overly scrupulous about following the letter of the law.

    The SSPX priests exist because they had to pick up the slack when souls were falling and being irreparably harmed by the actions of those clergy who had the proper certification regarding jurisdiction. Knowing how Our Lord “violated the Sabbath” to cure the sick, can you not understand that it might be possible that, especially in a time of crisis of Faith and a crisis in the clergy) that God is not nit-picking about who has what certificates?

    Could it not be possible that God would bless and reward those good priests, who like His Son was 2000 years ago, are slandered for healing the sick when others think they shouldn’t be?

    On a personal note, I often receive absolution from SSPX priests and I know for a fact that their absolutions are perfectly valid because I personally have experienced how God works through these good priests in their confessionals. I could give many examples , but that would be too personal.

    I have always found it so ironic that

  22. LouiseA says:

    … I have always found it so ironic that the SSPX is accused of being narrow-minded (about the liturgy, for example) and yet those people who accuse the SSPX of that are themselves so narrow-minded when it comes to understanding supplied jurisdiction.

  23. Elizabeth D says:

    Louise, they do not have faculties, and they exercise no legitimate ministry in the Church. The Church is really clear that they do not have jurisdiction, and this is Peter exercising the power of the keys, it is not narrow minded to believe that the Lord has given Peter this power, it is Catholic. You have never been validly absolved by an SSPX priest. Absolution is not a feeling. Go to a diocesan priest, they can absolve.

  24. Sure, this pastor could be doing administrative tasks instead of waiting in the confessional, but on the other hand if he were praying the breviary in the confessional this time would hardly be wasted. He could do administrative tasks during the time he would normally be praying the breviary. I wonder how many priests actually pray the breviary?

  25. Re: “I really do think that many of the laity are not so much interested in “more” times for confession as they are in “more convenient” times. If they actually wanted to go to confession, they’d come when the priest was there, regardless.”

    You’re right. When I still had a job, I should have taken a half day off from work to walk to Confession on Friday at 11:15-11:45, and then run two miles plus to my job, gotten there tardy, been forced to make up time…. Yup, that’d work. And everybody who works on Fridays and Saturdays should take off from work to go to 3:45-4:15 Confession, too.

    Of course, now that I’ve lost my job and need to go to Confession, I walked up the hill on Friday and found out that Confession had been canceled, and the funeral coordinator doing her best to encourage us random laity to get the heck out. And with all the understanding in the world, I don’t see how we have time to have somebody stand around and shoo me out, when most of the time there’s nobody trying to shoo people in. We have some weird priorities. (And my parish is a pretty faithful parish. If they do these things in the green wood, what will they do in the dry?)

    I’ve worked a lot of different jobs, Fathers. If there’s a lull, they don’t tell you to give up and go home. If there’s really no work, they lay you off. I don’t see any soul shortage around. So obviously priests have plenty of business out there to find. What’s more, you have powers delegated to you that none of us do, and you have control over dispensing them.

    When I walk those two miles up the hill tomorrow, I have no way of knowing whether I’ll find any Confession available or not, or whether I’ll be allowed to go to daily Mass or not, or anything. I might easily find a big line already there, and lose out on going to Confession again on account of noon Mass having to start. Priests are the only ones who have any control over this stuff, and my aching feet have absolutely nothing they can do about it, if the priests have problems getting to the confessional for the designated times. It’s very easy to discourage lay people, and very hard to get us to come back once we’re discouraged.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    LouisaA,

    I am concerned about you and the many SSPX friends I have, who I love dearly, who do not understand the theology of the Church concerning the Sacrament of Confession. Absolution is not about certificates, as you note, but faculties, which are not pieces of paper, but the Apostolic Succession to bind and to loose, which only a Bishop can give to his priests in Ordination and with the giving of faculties in a particular diocese or missionary territory. I realize this is hard and it is the one main thing which has kept me from joining my nearest and dearest ones in the SSPX.

    Faculties are both permission and authority. The authority is lacking in the SSPX as well as the permission from a bishop in good standing with the Catholic Church. How we may feel about reception of Confession has nothing to do with the Canon Law, which is the interpretation of pastoral theology as handed down from the Apostles. As the SSPX is in schism, the authority to grant faculties is missing. One cannot change the truth of this tradition in the Church.

    I really ask you to find a priest in the Roman Catholic Church to hear your Confessions, even though you may attend an SSPX Mass. I know this is difficult, as the peer pressure and pressure from the SSPX priests for you to go to Confession to them I have experienced in the past. God bless you.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    LouisaA,

    I am concerned about you and the many SSPX friends I have, who I love dearly, who do not understand the theology of the Church concerning the Sacrament of Confession. Absolution is not about certificates, as you note, but faculties, which are not pieces of paper, but the Apostolic Succession to bind and to loose, which only a Bishop can give to his priests in Ordination and with the giving of faculties in a particular diocese or missionary territory. I realize this is hard and it is the one main thing which has kept me from joining my nearest and dearest ones in the SSPX.

    Faculties are both permission and authority. The authority is lacking in the SSPX as well as the permission from a bishop in good standing with the Catholic Church. How we may feel about reception of Confession has nothing to do with the Canon Law, which is the interpretation of pastoral theology as handed down from the Apostles. As the SSPX is in schism, the authority to grant faculties is missing. One cannot change the truth of this tradition in the Church.

    I really ask you to find a priest in the Roman Catholic Church to hear your Confessions, even though you may attend an SSPX Mass. I know this is difficult, as the peer pressure and pressure from the SSPX priests for you to go to Confession to them I have experienced in the past. God bless you.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    Daniel Arseneault

    Maybe I should not comment on this, but sadly, less than we would hope. In fact, a vocation’s director of a large diocese told his sems that he never says the Daily Divine Office. I have met this priest and he is one who seems to be “glancing up through the rain”. Also, some of the Jesuits have left off saying the Daily Divine Office. I hope all this changes, but the vocation’s director is a very young priest. Pray for him and the others who are not in obedience to the Church and their vows.

  29. LouiseA says:

    ElizabethD,
    The SSPX has emergency faculties, supplied jurisdiction. Rather than rehash all that here, feel free to do the research yourself.
    Supertradmum,
    The SSPX is in schism?! Pope Benedict himself denies that. Again, do the research.
    Thanks,
    Louise

  30. Random Friar says:

    Back to the practicality: I’ve sat in a confessional for a long time, one confession after another, and then… cricket sounds … then back to mayhem.

    We also occasionally “check in” when we can, to see if the priest(s) need help, and one time I saw zero, decided to go to confession myself, only to return to bedlam and a panicked secretary.

    That’s why I always bring my breviary or rosary… well, I wear my rosary, so it’s always there.

  31. Elizabeth D says:

    LouiseA, only if the penitent is in danger of death. If you could go to a priest with faculties and instead you go to a SSPX priest, the latter is not able to validly absolve you. A priest doesn’t have to be a good Thomist or able to celebrate the TLM to validly absolve you, but he needs faculties. You have never been validly absolved by an SSPX priest.

  32. Supertradmum says:

    LouisaA,

    The schismatic status seems to be an open and complicated question. Schismatic acts, perhaps is the better term. As I have seriously considered recently going over to the SSPX because of the lack of EFs in places where I have lived, I have done considerable research, including reading most of the writings of Lefebvre and Fellay. It is confusing from many angles, none the least, the insistence by many priests, including the ones here where I am living, that the NO is invalid. That to me is a serious area of non-submission. As I have done research, here is some of it http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/09/quaeritur-is-the-sspx-in-schism-or-not/

    Regardless, your Confessions are not valid for separate reasons given above by several. I wish you well.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    LouisaA,

    As I am very concerned regarding my dear SSPX friends, I think we should discuss again the other sacraments of the SSPX. Here is an old link http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/07/quaeritur-validity-of-sspx-marriage/

    The idea of the Church in the state of emergency to me could be applied to any time in the past 2000 years (not quite the exact number). When was the Church not seeing emergencies? I read
    “Supplied Jurisdiction” and the further comments by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais and see the faults in the application of the Canon Law. Any group separated from the Church could make such claims by extrapolation, not just the SSPX. In fact, there is a danger of a separatist attitude in these writings, which concerns me.

  34. JaneC says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if there’s more than one parish in the immediate vicinity, they should coordinate so that confessions aren’t offered at the same time everywhere. Almost every single parish in my whole diocese has confessions at the same time on Saturday afternoon–and ONLY on Saturday afternoon. If you can’t go on Saturday afternoon, you have to make an appointment, and every time I make an appointment it compromises my anonymity because the priests want to meet me outside the confessional. Why does it have to be like this?

    Ask your congregation. Is Saturday afternoon the most convenient time? Is Saturday morning or Wednesday night better for more people? If more people prefer another time, would the Saturday afternoon-ers be willing to go to St. Two-Miles-Away instead? Would you get some penitents from St. Two-Miles-Away as well if you changed the time? Of course there would be complaints–there always are–but it would be worth it if you also heard more confessions.