Require your parish priests to hear confessions

I heard a song today by one Matthew West that got me thinking about the need to revive the practice of regular sacramental confession.

Lyrics HERE

In part….

[...]

Breathe in deep
Feel your heart still breathing
Let’s go see the reason you’re alive
Oh, you are here
and love is up to something
So take your fear
and leave it all behind

This is the story of your life
You decide
How the rest is gonna read
This is your chance between the lines
To redefine what kind of legacy you leave
This is the story of your life
And it’s a story worth telling

[...]

Alas, but thank God, telling the story of our life includes the confession of our sins to the priest.

The matter and form of the Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, are the telling of our mortal sins in kind and number and the formula of absolution spoken by the priest.

This is the normal means Christ Himself intended for the post-baptismal forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation with God, Church, neighbor… ourselves.  With absolution we obtain a clean slate. We have the memory of the sins and the obligation to make reparations and do penance, but we are again clean.  Our sins are part of the “story worth telling” back to Christ, who, knowing them already, receives them and through the merits of His Sacrifice, removes their stain from our souls forever.

Don’t be afraid.

There is no sin we little mortals can commit that is so bad that God’s mighty love and overflowing mercy will not forgive and heal.  But you have to do it.  You have to seek this mercy.

The New Evangelization requires effort from every one of us who is aware of our Catholic identity to do what we can, according to our state in life, to help revive the Sacrament of Penance.

For decades now, preaching and teaching on the Four Last Things and the need for Confession has been neglected… to our peril.

Let us foster a purification of our souls through thorough, unflinching examination of conscience and complete, sincere sacramental confessions.

Go to confession.  Talk about confession.

Require your parish priests to hear confessions if they don’t.

If they don’t, REQUIRE THEM TO.

Pressure, cajole, plead, threaten, urge, invite, beg, prompt, drag by the ear.

Don’t let up on them.

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33 Responses to Require your parish priests to hear confessions

  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Sadly, our new pastor has decreased the availability of confession times because he has so many diocesan responsibilities outside the parish. :(

    We are still blessed to have two priests, so I shan’t complain to vociferously. It just feels like a step in the wrong direction.

  2. It is really sobering to see just how hard it is for people to go to Confession; how little time is available for it from parish to parish. 45 minutes a week, on Saturdays, seems to be the norm. Looking online in my area, I even found one church that offers just 15 minutes per week.
    Can’t imagine a more eloquent way to say “We don’t take sin seriously.”

  3. CharlesG says:

    I know priests are stretched thin these days, but a good start would be if there actually was a priest in the confessional at the advertised times. Many the time I’ve taken the trouble to arrive at the scheduled time only to find no one in the box…

  4. Marie Teresa says:

    And then what? No ear-dragging and no cajoling, but after asking if he had time last Sunday and assuring him there was no emergency, I found myself in the confessional with my pastor who openly loathed my having asked for five minutes of his time – he didn’t even pretend to be civil or polite. [We have to work with these things by grace and elbow grease. Offer it up but keep hitting back. You have the right to request the sacraments reasonably from your pastor.]

    Whatever it takes to face his unmasked animosity, I’ve realized that I just don’t have it. It hurts tremendously to be treated as though my confession is the most repulsive moment he must face as a priest.

    Asking after Mass is the system he’s set up, but when it comes to actually staying long enough to hear confessions, he’s not happy about it.

    IMHO, setting aside time for the Sacrament of Confession needs to come from the bishops. Parishioners asking their priest is like a child asking a parent – the child may be right, but the parent may not hear because that’s just not the order of things.

  5. wmeyer says:

    Marie Teresa: If that was his attitude, then shake the dust from your boots and find a new parish. Or ask him, as he is acting in persona Christi just where in scripture he found the inspiration to serve a parishioner in such a fashion.

  6. wmeyer says:

    Marie Teresa, though I am certainly no Canon Lawyer, I believe that this is the applicable Canon:

    Can. 986 §1 All to whom by virtue of office the care of souls is committed, are bound to provide for the hearing of the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them, who reasonably request confession, and they are to provide these faithful with an opportunity to make individual confession on days and at times arranged to suit them.

    This does not mean he must hear your confession at whatever time you choose, but if he did not propose an alternate time, when you made your request, then I would think that he is obliged to treat you as any other penitent.

  7. Jeannie_C says:

    Throughout our city we have Penitential services in each church during Advent and Lent with up to 7 priests making the rounds, hearing individual confessions – no waiting. The schedule is published online and in bulletins. Additionally, confessions are heard throughout the week and on Sat. mornings and afternoons and by appointment as need be.

    Our priests speak often and encouragingly of this sacrament and work it into homilies. As a result, there is always a line-up before mass, so much so that the celebrant is often a little rushed in robing for Mass. As one priest said to me “I try to hurry things up but everyone has to have their turn.” We are very appreciative.

  8. acardnal says:

    Marie Teresa, that is a horrific story and I am sorry to hear that it happened to you.

    Confessions times are supposed to be scheduled. One of the reasons for doing so is to obviate the need for someone to ask the priest to hear his confession because this does not protect the penitent’s right to anonymity if he so chooses.

  9. The Sicilian Woman says:

    Apparently from responses to this and previous posts on the subject, our parish is quite blessed when it comes to time allocated for Confession. Maria Terese, I am so, so, sorry your pastor treated you that way. What a fantastic way to discourage those trying to be faithful. :-/

    For most of my time at this parish, confession was 3:30pm-5pm on Saturdays. Our current pastor (on leave for a few months), who has encouraged Confession many times, had such a good response to his encouragement, he increased the time by a half hour. He also has several hours of Confession on First Fridays, in addition to Adoration (held in our chapel, as is Confession) during which I’ve seen Fr. stay late (till 9pm) to hear the Confession of everyone who wanted one. Keep in mind, he’s done all of this as the solo priest for most of his tenure at parish of 2000+ individuals.

    Our interim pastor has added three more hours of Confession each week, an hour and a half on Wednesday evenings, and an hour and a half on Friday mornings, the latter to accommodate primarily the schoolchildren (starting them young!) and then any other individuals. I don’t know about the the Friday sessions, but so far, people have been coming on Wednesdays.

    Thank God for Fr. Pastor and Fr. Interim Pastor.

  10. Cafea Fruor says:

    I always thought that what would be just super is if parishes organized confession by deanery such that each parish might only have confession only one day (if the priests are really that busy) a week but that confession would be available for a couple of hours at least one night a week somewhere in your deanery (i.e., not unreasonably far from your own parish). Not everyone has Saturday afternoon free, after all. There are six parishes in my deanery, so what if each of them had a different evening for confessions? That would make confession readily available any night of the week, but in each parish, the priests would only need to bear the burden (whether real or perceived) of hearing confessions once a week.

  11. frjim4321 says:

    Even when it’s inconvenient I still do it and make a point of thanking the person for asking.

    The only time it bugs me is when at person says “i really don’t have anything to confess and i don’t need to be her, but I’m making such-and-such a program and confession is one of the requirements,” in other words the person really does not desire nor necessarily need to go, but are on some kind of spiritual scavenger hunt.

    But then it is an occasion of grace for them, so I remain polite.

    Seems to me a lot of spiritual damage can be done by acting with hostility during a sacramental encounter.

  12. Cafea Fruor says:

    Hmm…not sure if that was really clear. What I meant was a deanery confession schedule like: Parish A has it Mondays, Parish B on Tuesdays, Parish C on Wednesdays, etc.

  13. iowapapist says:

    We had a priest who hated confession. In addition to being lazy, he admitted that it depressed him. He scheduled confession once per month on a Wednesday night. When I went to confess the sins of gossip and detraction, he advised me that these were not mortal sins. I asked for absolution and he granted it by giving me penance of actively thinking for 30 minutes about the people I had injured. I figured that this was his way of discouraging me from going to confession. I started going to priests 20 miles away. I honestly believe that there are priests who do not believe in the efficacy of confession. This situation is made even more tragic by the fact that, in this part of the country, confession lines are generally very short (or nonexistent).

  14. acardnal says:

    I’ve driven 20 miles one way to go to Confession. Fortunately I didn’t die in a car crash on the way.

  15. Matt R says:

    Fr Jim mentioned spiritual damage. Well, there are so many other occasions from which that can spring…and most of the ones I can think of are related to teaching outright teaching against, or minimizing, the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
    On a more related note, it’s good to know that progress is being made with getting priests to hear confessions.
    CharlesG, that stinks. Our pastor is always in the confessional on time. The same is true of the Dominican parish nearby.

  16. PA mom says:

    Yes, and what about parish size? My is huge and still only 45 minutes a week Sat afternoon. Really, like 20 masses is enough…

  17. frjim4321 says:

    iowapapist, probably is better to go to the guy 20 miles away, but not right that you have to do it.

    Obviously the first guy does not understand what a penance is.

  18. transparent2one says:

    I find this interesting from the Synod of Bishops: http://www.zenit.org/article-35831?l=english

    Perpetual Reconciliation…
    Proposition 33 : THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
    The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is the privileged place to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is a place for both personal and communal healing. In this sacrament, all the baptized have a new and personal encounter with Jesus Christ, as well as a new encounter with the Church, facilitating a full reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Here the penitent encounters Jesus, and at the same time he or she experiences a deeper appreciation of himself and herself. The Synod Fathers ask that this sacrament be put again at the center of the pastoral activity of the Church.
    In every diocese, at least one place should be especially dedicated in a permanent way for the celebration of this sacrament, where priests are always present, allowing God’s mercy to be experienced by all the faithful. The sacrament should be especially available, even on a daily basis, at places of pilgrimage and specially designated churches. Fidelity to the specific norms which rule the administration of this sacrament is necessary. Every priest should consider the Sacrament of Penance an essential part of his ministry and of the New Evangelization, and in every parish community a suitable time should be set apart for hearing confessions.

  19. Cathy says:

    I think I mentioned this before, I remember our new associate pastor being asked to hear a penitent’s confession after mass. He stepped in to hear the man’s confession and when he stepped back out with the penitent found a line had accumulated at the confessional. He smiled and went back in. I have to admit, I probably would find a different parish to attend if it were not for the fact that we are a parish that seems to be the training ground for new pastors. My mom’s never sure of them when they arrive, I just smile and tell her she will love them dearly and remember them fondly when they leave – and, she does.

  20. lydia says:

    We have confessions midweek at 9:00 a.m. and Sat. at 9:00 a.m. We have one priest and his scheduel is a whirlwind between our church and multiple senior centers and hospital. He’s doing his best to make confession available to those interested but I have not witnessed to many takers. I’ve heard many Catholics reject the idea of confessing to a priest. We have 900 households.

  21. Southern Catholic says:

    I use to just schedule appointments for confessions, since it was easier then trying to go on Saturdays when I usually work. Luckily my work schedule became a bit more flexible, and now I go to EWTN for confession, which offers it during the week day for an hour with multiple priests who are on time. It is a blessing since it isn’t that far of a drive from me.

  22. Katheryn says:

    The sacrament of Confession saved me from a life bound in mental illness. I will never stop confessing!
    Fr Jim, I know you take a lot of heat on this blog (honestly, I understand why) but I wanted to thank you sincerely for your approach to Confession. It is so important for us lay people! I will continue to pray for you and all clergy.

    I have TWO wonderful parishes near me, Confession every day (sometimes twice, even!), and at our parish, it is mentioned/preached at least weekly (haven’t been able to get to daily Mass, so I can’t say what the homilies are like).
    For those who do not have the gift of parishes like ours, I will pray for you, specifically! My hubby and I searched and prayed for years and years for orthodox parishes and were blessed beyond our wildest hope!

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Thank you, Fr Jim, for having the right attitude about Confession!

    I just wish all priests had such a good attitude about it. I haven’t had any horrible horror stories, but yup, it can be pretty darned hard to find Confession anywhere.

  24. Monica A. says:

    I’m blessed that our priest does confessions every Saturday. Also, there’s a monastery about 45 minutes away and the priests there (2 of them) hear confessions on Saturday & Sunday. They are there before the Mass starts and stay until everyone has had a chance to confess, there are times I’ve missed the homily b/c the line has been so long. But praise God for them being there!!

    I was reading the Final List of Propositions of the Synod of Bishops and proposition # 33 was this:

    “Proposition 33 : THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
    The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is the privileged place to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is a place for both personal and communal healing. In this sacrament, all the baptized have a new and personal encounter with Jesus Christ, as well as a new encounter with the Church, facilitating a full reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Here the penitent encounters Jesus, and at the same time he or she experiences a deeper appreciation of himself and herself. The Synod Fathers ask that this sacrament be put again at the center of the pastoral activity of the Church.

    In every diocese, at least one place should be especially dedicated in a permanent way for the celebration of this sacrament, where priests are always present, allowing God’s mercy to be experienced by all the faithful. The sacrament should be especially available, even on a daily basis, at places of pilgrimage and specially designated churches. Fidelity to the specific norms which rule the administration of this sacrament is necessary. Every priest should consider the Sacrament of Penance an essential part of his ministry and of the New Evangelization, and in every parish community a suitable time should be set apart for hearing confessions.”

    How wonderful would that be?! Do you think it’s possible that it will happen?

    (here’s the link for the part I quoted) – http://www.zenit.org/article-35831?l=english

  25. Catholictothecore says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for stressing the importance of going for confession time and time again in your blog. None of us know when our earthly time will be up. We must be prepared to meet our Lord when he says, “come with me” and opens up the Book of Life the second after we die. It’ll be like waiting for your final exam marks – did I pass? Oh Lord, I hope I passed. The Church I go to for daily Mass has confession half-hour before and half-hour after each Mass, there are four Masses every day, so if my math is correct it amounts to four hours of confession time EVERY DAY. We’re just so blessed. There’s always a lineup for confession. All of the priests are retired priests, one is nearing retirement. But they’re all true shepherds, remarkable men who answered the call from God. We must pray for our priests everyday and for vocations to the priesthood. We cannot survive without our priests. God Bless them all !

  26. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    Pressure, cajole, plead, threaten, urge, invite, beg, prompt, drag by the ear.

    Does any of that actually work? I decided to just have a bunch of Masses offered for the priest who refused to hear my confession of ten years because it was outside of a scheduled time and doesn’t take confession seriously, and to do extra penance and mortification on Fridays and offer it up for his conversion.

  27. StWinefride says:

    acardnal says: I’ve driven 20 miles one way to go to Confession. Fortunately I didn’t die in a car crash on the way.

    Not to worry, even if you had died in a car crash, God was well aware of your “intention” to go to Confession!!

    I’m sure that just like the devil tries to persuade me that it’s a waste of time to go to Confession, he works even harder on dissuading our dear priests to hear our much needed Confessions!

    Thank you to all priests who take Confession seriously and I pray for all those who have heard mine.

    Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us.

  28. VexillaRegis says:

    Our parish covers a vast geographical area, has one priest, no other staff and about 1000 parishoners. Fr. has a lot to do! Yet he offers confession “on demand” before AND after every mass! There are ten or more masses a week… Also, there is never a problem to ask for an appointment for confession outside of these hours. Yes, our pastor likes being a priest! One sunday I happened to pass the confessional 1 1/2 h after the 11 o’ clock Mass had ended, and saw the door closed and a small line!

    Thank you, all priests, for what you do for us!

  29. acardnal says:

    I, too, pray for all priests who have heard my Confession. Thank you.

  30. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Matt R,

    did I understand correctly that you nagged not so much at the content of dear @Fr Jim’s comment but at the name that preceded it… without any necessity to do so I can perceive…? The only person that can ban people from this combox is rev’d dear @Fr Z.

    That said, you are right about teaching against the Church; but I’m not so sure about mere minimizing her teachings, as long as it really is minimizing properly speaking; neither outright denying the Church’s teaching nor hiding it away, but only interpreting them in a faithful and, along the lines of honest interpretation, feasible way, though in a men-friendly and perhaps counterintuitive way.

    Example for illustration: He who denies the Church’s teaching might say nothing about the Friday fast, or even say that this is a thing of the past we’re so glad to be over. A mere minimizer might say that in such and such an Episcopal Conference’s territory, it can, by law, be replaced by prayer or a good work, so pray an Our Father and you’re on the safe side. He might reasonably add a sentence about how much better it would be if you followed ancient practice.

    I do not think unfavorably of such a minimizer. Protestants accused St. Alphonse of being one.

  31. celinedesilva says:

    My brother, who was in his late 50′s, passed away in April, 2012.

    He had not been to confession for 25 years because a priest told him “it was not necessary to go to confession because God is merciful”.

    Fortunately, on one of his last visits, we talked on this subject. Without delay, he went to Confession and received the mercy and grace of God. Almost a year later, I was at his bedside with his wife and children and rest of our family and saw him breathe his last as we prayed the very Catholic prayers of our Holy Mother Church. I dread to think what would have happened to my brother’s soul had we not talked about sin, forgiveness, heaven and hell, our souls and our ultimate destiny which is union with God in heaven, to adore, praise and be happy with Him forever.

    In this month of November, please pray for my brother’s soul and for all the souls of the faithful departed especially those forgotten souls. RIP.

  32. Sissy says:

    celinedesilva: I’m so happy for your brother that he took your advice. I will pray with you for the repose of his soul, and for all the faithful dead. My own brother died a year ago, suddenly and unprepared. I pray for him, that the Lord will show him mercy. Please pray for my brother, as I pray for yours. How blessed you are to have that precious memory of the peace and comfort of his final moments.

  33. celinedesilva says:

    Thank you Sissy. I shall indeed join you in praying for your brother’s soul.

    A PRAYER FOR
    DELIVERANCE FROM
    AN UNPROVIDED DEATH
    [Indulgences: 500 days each time. - Plenary, once a month, on usual conditions, when recited daily. - Pen., 12 May 1933.]

    Hear us, O God of our salvation! and issue not the decree for the completion of our days before Thou forgivest us our sins; and because penance avails not in hell, and there is no room there for amendment, therefore do we humbly pray and beseech Thee here on earth, that, giving us time to pray for pardon, Thou wouldst grant us also forgiveness of our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Take away, merciful Lord, all errors from Thy faithful people, avert from them the sudden destruction of the wasting pestilence; that those whose wanderings Thou dost justly chastise, Thou wouldst vouchsafe in Thy tender pity to cherish when corrected. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Antiphon – Sin no longer, O my soul! Think upon the sudden change from sin to endless woe. There, in hell, penance is not accepted, and tears profit not. Turn, then, whilst thou hast time; cry out and say: Have mercy upon me, O my God!

    Antiphon – In the midst of life we are in death: whom, then, O Lord, shall we seek to be our helper, save Thee, O Lord! although Thou art indeed angry with us because of sins? O Holy Lord, holy and strong, holy and merciful Saviour! deliver us not ever to a bitter death.

    V. – Lest, overtaken by the day of death, we seek time for penance, and be not able to find it.

    R. – Hearken! O Lord! and have mercy on us; for we have sinned against Thee.

    We beseech Thee, Almighty God, receive in Thy fatherly pity Thy people flying to Thee from Thine anger; that they who fear to be chastised by the rod of Thy Majesty in the suddenness of death, may be made worthy to rejoice in Thy gracious pardon. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    We beseech Thee, Almighty God, graciously to incline Thine ear to the assembly of Thy Church, and let Thy mercy prevent Thine anger in our behalf; for if Thou shouldst mark iniquities, no creature shall be able to stand before Thee: but in that marvellous charity, through which Thou didst create us, pardon us sinners, and destroy not the work of Thine own hands by sudden death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    O God! in Whose sight every heart trembles and every conscience is awed; show forth Thy mercy upon us Thy suppliants, that we, who trust not in the excellence of our own merit, may never know Thy judgments in the suddenness of our death, but may receive Thy pardon. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Prayer

    Most merciful Lord Jesus! by Thine agony and bloody sweat, and by Thy death, deliver me, I beseech Thee, from a sudden and unprovided death. O most gentle Lord Jesus! by Thy cruel and ignominious scourging and crowning with thorns, by Thy cross and most bitter Passion, and by Thy goodness, I humbly pray Thee, let me not die unprepared and pass from this life without the Holy Sacraments. Jesus, my best Beloved, my Lord! by all Thy labours and sorrows, by Thy precious Blood, and by Thy most holy Wounds, and by those last words spoken on the cross by Thee: “Deus meus, Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me?? – “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and again: “Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum,” – “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” most ardently I pray Thee, save me from a sudden death. Thy hands, O Redeemer! have wholly made and formed me: ah! suffer not death to take me unawares; give me, I beseech Thee, time for penance; vouchsafe that I may pass from this life happily in Thy grace, that I may love Thee with my whole heart, and praise and bless Thee forever and ever.

    Amen.

    Our Father…
    Hail Mary…
    Glory Be To The Father…