Everyone… GO TO CONFESSION!
I just went. Yay! After confessing my sins I had a question about a friend who fell away from church. It took 2 minutes, 3 tops. I don’t usually get into asking for advice in the confessional. Then he gave me my penance including an act of contrition to be said right there in the church– find a quiet place. Then – ‘Now I will say a prayer granting you absolution’. I was a bit confused and started to say the act of contrition but he was praying kinda loud so I waited. Then I asked -‘Don’t I say the act of contrition now? Right? He said ‘no- I told you to say it after you leave here…’ I said ‘Really? That’s okay?’ I was confused and it didn’t feel right- maybe because I always follow the formula. He says again -‘Yes it’s okay’…so I responded -‘if you say so’. He told me to tell the next person they could come in. (?) I went out into a pew & said my penance & my act of contrition. I’m asking you just because it wasn’t feeling right…I thought I had to say it in the confessional in the presence the priest and then he gives absolution.
I general, yes, the Act of Contrition should be spoken after you confess your sins and before the priest gives absolution.
There are good reasons to say the Act of Contrition when it is classically assigned. First, it helps you truly to be sorry for your sins and to deepen your resolve to amend your life. Also, the priest has to be reasonably certain that the penitent is sorry for her sins.
One could argue that the fact of the confession itself is the minimum adequate to convince him of the sorrow. That, however, has to be the exception rather than the rule. Hearing at least attrition during the Act of Contrition is the normal way that Father comes to reasonable certainty that you are sorry and have a firm purpose of amendment. The Act of Contrition says, first, that you are sorry for your sins because you fear punishment. That kind of sorrow is called attrition. A more perfect sorrow for sins comes from love of God. This is contrition. Both attrition and contrition are sufficient for receiving absolution validly. Once the priest knows you have at least sufficient sorrow, and a purpose of amendment, he should give absolution.
However, there are times when the line of penitents is quite long and the confessor is up against a scheduled event, such as the beginning of Mass at the top of the hour for a church full of people. In that case Father might try to move things along so that more penitents can be heard. That is usually why a confessor might occasionally ask penitents to say the Act of Contrition afterward. Again, that is not the optimal practice, but, if you are sorry for your sins and made your good confession, it would not invalidate the absolution. And during “high volume” times, that can get a few more people in. That’s a good thing, right?
This situation prompts me to remind everyone reading this not to “ramble” when there is a line of people behind you. Be thoughtful!
Please, friends, be clear, be concise, be blunt, and be gone. Get in there and confess those sins in number and kind, and include just the details that might aggravate or attenuate the sins. Under the normal circumstances of regular confession times, priests don’t need the story of your life or account of your week. It isn’t chat time. Nor is it a psychotherapy session. You don’t have to speed talk, like the disclaimers at the end of a radio commercial. Just be clear, be concise, be blunt, and be gone.
To this end, examine your conscience beforehand. Pretty please? You should know what you are going to confess before entering the confessional. Before, right?
And, please, pay attention to that request for “bluntness”, above. Be blunt. Don’t beat around the bush. Use the clearest words, even if embarrassing. “Father, I did ___ X times, ___’d X times, I failed to ___ although I must add that the house was on fire at the time, I ___’d my ___ X times….” etc.
There is very little that a priest hasn’t heard before. He usually has no idea who you are, especially if you whisper. He can’t reveal anything to anyone. He usually – and this is something just about every priest you will ever meet can verify – he usually forgets what you told him even as he goes to the next penitent on the other side of the box. It’s weird, but true… at least for me and priests I know.
Making a good confession regularly will help you with being clear, concise, blunt and gone.
In the meantime, if you are really nervous or haven’t gone to confession often for a long time, Father can help you out, but ask him to help you out so that he doesn’t wonder about intervening. Be direct.
If you are reasonably sure that a) there isn’t anyone in line behind you and b) you can truly be concise with a question and c) Father isn’t up against a schedule and d) your question doesn’t pertain to your own confession, then you might ask that question after making your confession and receiving absolution and after asking if it is okay to ask a question.
And please be patient and understanding with priest who tries to get a few more penitents in before being forced to get out of the box? Be brief.
AND FATHERS! LISTEN UP!
Don’t ramble! Some of you guys go on and on and on and on and we penitents have to just kneel there and take it. And, often, you are not… how to say this… terribly inspiring.
If we want our penitents to be brief, then we should do unto them as we would like them to do unto us. Right? RIGHT?
There we are… kneeling there… and we know there are people in the line. Of course, we are imagining that everyone out there thinks that we are the ones keeping the line from moving. Until, of course, the next penitents get into box and you get your garrulous clutches on them, too.
Just… please… do us all a favor. Keep it brief.
We penitents thank you in advance.