Boston: diocesan effort to promote confessions

The use of the sacrament of penance, reconciliation has been horribly eroded over the last few decades.

Ven. Pius XII said once that the sin of the 20th century was the loss of the sense of sin.

Surely that pertains now even more.

Here is a nice story from CNA:

Boston, Mass., Feb 3, 2010 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Seeking to promote the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Archdiocese of Boston has launched a new website about how to make a good confession. Its priests will also offer confessions in every chapel and church on Wednesdays during Lent. The website,, describes how to prepare for confession with an examination of conscience. It also provides an act of contrition to recite before absolution.

Auxiliary Bishop of Boston Robert F. Hennessey recorded a video message on the website. In the video, he quotes Jesus as saying that Heaven rejoices more for one repentant sinner than for 99 that never needed to repent.

“Every time that someone returns to the Sacrament of Confession, Heaven celebrates. And that unbelievable experience of joy becomes ours when we are forgiven.”


Read the rest over there.

WDTPRS says kudos!

Does your diocese have a special effort to promote the sacrament of penance during Lent?

Does your parish?

Do you?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JP Borberg says:

    Wow. There’s usually a priest in the confessional during both of the daytime Masses in our parish.

  2. Bryan says:

    In our parish…you almost have to make an appointment. They’re big on those group confession thingies where they bring in multitudes of priests, take over the school one evening, and push people thru. Last time I went…they pushed 800 + thru in about an hour and a half. Now…how much time does that work out to for, say, 25 priests, to devote to actually assisting in a good (and for that, I mean more than hearing the ‘bless me Father, I’ve done x, y, and z…ego te absolvo…” with NO guidance or consultation.

    Maybe if there was more time given to celebrating the sacrament (than the 45 minutes on saturday afternoon at 4….)…more would take advantage?

    If all parishes want to devote to it is those 45 minutes once a week, what does that imply about the importance of the sacrament?

    Just sayin’.

  3. JosephMary says:

    One of the more extraordinary things about my parish is that there are confession times 11 times a week. After each of the two weekday Masses and then during adoration at 6pm on Monday nights. (still folks complain because there are not confessions on Saturday).

    I have appreciated this very much and generally go midweek. Plus you can have a regular confessor if you so desire. We have as many penitents at any given time as a large parish might have at the 45 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. And being a regular frequent penitent, it was hard to aim for those 45 minutes on a Saturday when my children had soccer games and other things of family life needed to take first place.

    The way to increase confessions? Offer them frequently!!! Preach about sin!!! For years we heard that since we were now a ‘resurrection people’ and no longer a penitent people and Father told us everything we did was holy (!), I ended up with 19 years between confessions and my conscience did not hurt me a bit. After all I was a ‘good person’ and I had not killed any body. What sin?

    What I am saying here is that I heard from the pulpit that basically it was pretty hard to sin. Things like contraception, well, that was a ‘matter of conscience’ and with beign 19 years away from confession, my conscience was about dead. The sheep have needed shepherds…

  4. JohnE says:

    Our parish just went to Saturday morning confessions which I think probably works out much better for most people. You usually have to make an extra effort to go in the afternoon. Why not make it easier?

  5. TomG says:

    Abp O’Brien of Baltimore instituted Wed. confessions throughout the archdiocese last year (under that same “Light Is On For You” theme). The response (at least in our very large suburban parish) seemed to be pretty good. I haven’t heard anything yet, but I’d be surprised if we didn’t have it again this year. I think the initiative is just wonderful. (JP Borberg, you are very, very blessed)

  6. JP Borberg: a priest in the confessional during … Masses

    Good! If there are enough priests to do this, this is a good thing. Priests should know that it is permissible, and even a good idea in some places, to offer the opportunity for confession even during Masses, all due respect for the Blessed Sacrament of course. The Holy See has affirmed this and we have discussed it here before.

    Hearing confessions during Mass in Novus Ordo: yes… licit and recommended by the CDW

    Also, some priests are still under the false impression that confessions are forbidden… mirabile dictu… on Good Friday.  That isn’t true.

    QUAERITUR: Confessions on Good Friday

    Fathers… don’t be afraid to schedule confessions also on Good Friday is circumstances permit.

  7. Bryan says:

    Interesting…I was reading the Ordo for the Arch. of Philadelphia last night for Holy Week…and on Good Friday, the ordo says that unless needed for ‘pastoral reasons’ (that canard again…), the Sacrament of Reconciliation should not be scheduled from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday till after the Easter Vigil.

    That lets a lot of people off the hook…guess to give more time to decorate the Sanctuaries.

  8. drwob says:

    Ditto Fr. Z’s comments about confessions before/during Mass.

    In my and my family’s experience, this has been the single most effective means of encouraging regular use of the Sacrament of Penance. It completely removes inconvenience as an excuse (you’re there already) and seeing a line of penitents preparing themselves to worthily receive Holy Communion is a great impetus to an examination of conscience.

    Perhaps a better person doesn’t require these “crutches.” But their presence and my subsequent greater use of the Sacrament will, by God’s grace, make me a better person.

  9. lacrossecath says:

    At the Cathedral in La Crosse, WI, the Monday of Holy Week priest(including the bishop when we have one) hears confessions all day from 9 am to 6 pm(even during two Masses).

  10. MrsHall says:

    During Lent and Advent there are communal penance services that cover the vicariate. All the priests are there and after singing and a sermon based on penance and such, the priests go to different stations and people line up for confession. They have several of them, moving from parish to parish. I try to go to the regular confession once or twice a month so I am not in a big hurry to get to the communal penance because it’s so crowded. But some people only go to confession during those services so I guess it’s a good thing they have them. Fr. preaches on confession pretty often but old habits die hard.

  11. It seems that while the large confession services seem a bit untraditional, they do get people absolved which is a really good thing.

    Perhaps it is easier for people to show up at a church full of people and just do as everyone does in the context of a service, rather than individually choose a time and drive to church and wait in line.

    But I say, hats off to any pastor who recruits a crew of priests and then has 800+ people go to confession! There’s not many parishes at all that absolve 800+ in a month, let alone a day.

    Maybe regular (4 times a year?) large penance services (well-publicized and of course, done right) is the way to draw people back into a regular habit. Organic development, perhaps?

  12. MikeM says:

    I’ve mentioned in the comboxes to other posts here that I was a fan of the “The Light is on for You” campaign that Baltimore did last year.

    It was really helpful that they had an additional standardized confession time diocese-wide, so that, wherever you were on Wednesday evening, you knew that the nearest Church was hearing confession. That’s helpful for people who can’t make (or don’t know) their home parish’s confession time… I made it to confession twice last lent (as unfortunate as it was that that second time was necessary…) because I was able to drop into the Church that happened to be closest when I wasn’t in my usual neighborhood.

  13. MikeM says:

    Relatedly, I wish diocesan websites would keep an easy to read schedule of when confession is offered at its parishes. That would make it easier for those of us with irregular schedules to figure out when we can go.

    I have to admit that I’ve sometimes put of going simply because I’m too lazy to actually search through every parish website to find workable confession times.

  14. Bryan says:

    Patrick: I don’t disagree. I’m sure there was a lot of rejoicing in Heaven that night.

    Just begs the issue of whether or not there is enough discussion and encouragement from the pulpit (and not in a bland, tapioca-textured inoffensive fatherly talk, but a real stem-winding, Bishop Sheen-ish exhortation that calls it as it is…), and time set aside on other days for people to take advantage of His forgiveness…that you have to have a gang effort twice or three times a year. If you open the doors and people know you’re there, they will come.

    Actually, I’m not dissing my good pastor, he’s trying…actually used an EP other than his normal EP-II on Sunday last, which I made a point of thanking him for…and the other priests in the Deanery look forward to his massive push each holiday season…just that he has to do it to get folks ‘into the box’, as it were. I’m thinking, if our homilists talked more about developing a sense of sin…more would be lined up on Saturday afternoon…forcing the priests to schedule more times during the week.

    (FWIW, I have a priest friend (canon lawyer at the congregation of saints) who, every time he comes home and we get together, gently prods me to receive the sacrament. Says he can tell when it’s been longer than a couple weeks for me. He’s the one from whom I got my favorite saying “Life is short, eternity is long”.)

  15. ssoldie says:

    Our dear, Fr. Hoppe, in Flensburg, Mn who is 88 yrs this mo, hears confession before and after every Sunday T.L.M., he knows and we know how very important this wonderful Sacrament is.

  16. LRThunder says:

    My diocese or parish doesn’t really do anything special to promote the sacrament, although the parishes in the diocese do hold penance services during Lent. Also, the bishop hears confessions at the co-cathedral on Holy Saturday (he always celebrates the Easter Vigil at the co-cathedral).

    Personally, I am going to start doing a better job of examining my conscience daily (and twice a day if necessary).

  17. Mike says:

    Before Xmas, our pastor had 21 priests come over on a Tuesday night to hear confessions. He continues the tradition set up by our deceased pastor, who died in April ’09.

    I was happy to see among the 21 priests two that were alum of the prep school where I teach. They are both excellent priests!

  18. Therese says:

    There is a lovely article in the Knights of Columbus publication Columbia highlighting the renewed focus on confession in several dioceses. On the other hand: I attended recently a talk given to parents of children preparing for First Holy Communion at a local parish, where the “pastoral assistant” of many years standing, a religious sister, explained that should you be aware of sins on your soul as you approach to receive the Blessed Sacrament, it is acceptable to say an Act of Contrition and “call it good.” Someone in the audience raised his hand and asked if this would cover things like missing Mass on Sunday; he was assured that it would, given he had not intended to offend God when missing Mass, etc.

  19. Girgadis says:

    Our current pastor makes it a point during Lent to offer confessions before and after every devotion, such as our weekly Novena and Stations of the Cross, and he hears confessions in the box. This is in addition to regularly scheduled times on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

    The archdiocese of Philadelphia tried having confessions every Wednesday evening in Lent about two years ago. Some priests took this order from the cardinal very seriously and others did nothing more than the bare minimum to encourage lapsed Catholics to return. Sad. I hope if the cardinal orders something similar in the future, he makes some unannounced visits to see how well it’s going.

    As for what I personally do, I urge everyone in my own family and friends to go and I offer to take them with me. I assure them I will not direct them to a priest who will be harsh with them or berate them. There is a church in Center City Philadelphia run by Franciscans who hear confessions Wednesday thru Saturday. I tell folks that there is almost nothing those priests haven’t heard already. The biggest argument I get from people is that they don’t go to confession because they don’t want to give up an attachment to something that is a grave sin, like living together outside of marriage. I still encourage them to go because it’s quite possible they can be offered a counsel by the priest that will at least get them to consider tha gravity of what they are doing.

  20. Susan the Short says:

    In my Polish parish, Our Lady of Czestochowa in Turners Falls, MA,
    Father is in the confessional EVERY DAY, one half hour before EACH Mass……. not just in Lent.

    He hears over 7,000 confessions each year.

    We have Penance Services to start Advent and Lent, with visiting priests.

    Our website:

  21. ArtND76 says:

    At St. Lucy’s in Campbell, California, the pastor decided to make an announcement at the Sunday masses that he would be available in the confessional every Friday from 7 PM to 9 PM, whether anybody showed up or not. This time was not put into the bulletin, he just let the word spread on its own after that. He reports that on Friday nights he has stayed until 10 PM, and on occasion has been there after 11 PM due to the number of parishioners taking advantage of the opportunity.

  22. nemo says:

    I go to an FSSP chapel. Confessions are scheduled every day. Also, even if they are not scheduled and the priest sees anyone waiting in the confession area, he goes into the box to hear your confession. They recommend going to confession every two weeks so we can try to get a plenary indulgence every day. They also preach on sin, purgatory, and hell.

    On another note, the regular parish that we spun off from also has confessions scheduled daily. In addition, before Christmas and Easter, the pastor schedules 3 days of confessions from 9 AM until 7 PM.

  23. edwardo3 says:

    I heard the new pastor of the Pro-Cathedral in Indy has cleaned out the old confessionals(they have been used for storage for years) in the side chapels in anticipation for large crows for Confession because of the number in recent years.

  24. capchoirgirl says:

    At my parish, there is confession daily after the 11:45 Mass, and before Sat/Sunday Masses. It is a wonderful grace.
    The day before Christmas Eve this year (the last day for confessions at our parish, as there were none on Christmas Eve/Day), the church was packed at 12:15. I think at least 200 people went through in the hour I was there waiting–parishioners in age from 7 to 77. Fantastic to see.

  25. phyllis says:

    Dear Fr. Z,

    Boston’s neighboring Worcester Diocese also announced a push for confession asking priest to preach on the how to, offer during Lent, and in the evening. Currently my parish offers confession only twice a year – 1 hour on a Saturday morning during Advent and Lent. Our confessional is used as a storage closet. Father has the children making for the first time sit in a chair across from him aside of the altar for all to see with music/CD playing to prevent the class and parents from overhearing.

    The Bishop’s initiative is a tremendous blessing.
    Bishop Announces Penance Initiative

    January 29, 2010, WORCESTER, MA — Faced with a continuing decline in the number of Roman Catholics who go to confession regularly, Most Rev. Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester, issued today a Pastoral Letter on the Sacrament of Penance. In it he provided a brief summary of the church’s teaching on the need for the sacrament and called for Catholics in the Diocese of Worcester to partake in the sacrament, particularly during the upcoming season of Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17.
    In order to make the Sacrament of Penance, also known as Confession, more readily available, the bishop has asked all parishes to participate in a Lenten initiative called Come Home to God’s Mercy. This will include offering the sacrament throughout the diocese in every parish on Tuesday evenings from 7 pm to 8:30 pm in addition to their current schedules, frequent preaching on the sacrament, as well as focused education in Catholic schools, religious education programs, and adult faith formation settings. Special flyers for bulletins, articles in The Catholic Free Press, and other forms of media will be used to develop greater awareness and a deeper understanding of the sacrament….

  26. John 6:54 says:

    1st can we request that no one use the term “Xmas” per a prior comment.

    2nd I think every parish should be required to give 1 evening during the week, and a 2 or 3 hour period for confession on Saturday. If you offer it they will come.

  27. JAZ says:

    There is nothing wrong with the term “Xmas.” The letter X is an ancient symbol for Christ because it is the first letter of the word “Christ” in Biblical Greek.

  28. Nan says:

    Some of the churches where I live don’t have Confession very frequently; I looked for options one day and realized that 3:00 Saturday is pretty standard, and in my neighborhood, that’s the only option. At my church, there’s Confession before the afternoon Mass every week day and Confession during Adoration on Saturday and while there’s typically only one priest on a weekday there will be 2-4 on Saturday. They also have penance services during Advent and Lent, which feature bunches of priests and individual Confessions, as well as having more than one priest on weekdays closer to Christmas and Easter, since the lines get longer. There’s also a late shift several days before Christmas and several days during Holy week. This is at a Cathedral with two priests who are also responsible for another church.

    At another church I sometimes visit, they have Confession twice a day during the week, except on Monday when there are three times. I’m told it’s a destination parish for priestly Confessions. I don’t remember if they have Confession on Saturday and the only ways to find out are a) word-of-mouth; b) the sign on the door of the church and c) their bulletin.

  29. James Locke says:

    Here at UD, we have confession every day except sunday. The priest in Campus ministry is really good (vocations director for Dallas) and is very insightful and he hears confessions during the times he is in his office. We have a trio of priests that teach and they hear confessions during their office hours too, especially one beloved (and legendary) Cistercian priest.

    At Home at St. John the beloved in Virginia, we have confessions on Wednesday and Saturdays of every week. I am not home right now, so I do not know really if this has changed, but I have always loved my priests back home!

  30. James Locke says:

    I remember before the mass in DC, basically all of the priests of the three surrounding dioceses were set up in tents to hear confessions en masse. It was wild seeing the lines wich seemes to have hundreds of people in them fly right through. Despite the horrific music, I was moved by those confessionals!

  31. Bill says:

    It is important to help children to establish the habit (virtue) of regular confession that they can take into adulthood. How many parish schools and CCD programs do that?

    In addition to the priest in the confessional during Mass, how about having school children attend Eucharist adoration one hour a month with the priest in the confessional? For Catholic schools, one hour of class time a month should not be too much for adoration and confession. For CCD students it would be more difficult. Does anyone know of efforts like this anywhere?

  32. colospgs says:

    I’m not sure the diocese can do more for lent than it does for confession every day, other than preaching about the need for it. Because in Colorado Springs we have a Catholic Center at one of the local shopping malls complete with a chapel for Mass, confessionals, and a priest on duty during all mall hours. So anyone here can go to confession Monday through Saturday, 10:00am – 8:00pm. They have a website:

  33. kellym says:

    Growing up (I attended CCD in the mid 70s) going to confession was akin to a dentist visit. Even in the single digits I understood on some visceral level that confession was not meant to be in a room with two chairs and sun streaming through the window. It just wasn’t right.

    In Boston I used to go to confession at St. Anthony’s Shrine at Arch Street and you could be guaranteed of at least a 45 minute wait for a priest. One because there would be only 2 or 3 priests hearing confession and because the pews were filled with those of us waiting. I preferred going there where I was anonymous rather than at my parish where I was known. LOL
    But seriously, I do think that the doing away with the traditional confessionals has had a lot to do with folks skipping the act entirely. I know I did. However at the TLM there was always a line prior to Mass and probably confessions being heard even after Mass began.

    My current parish in SF converted the traditional confessionals into storage cubbies of some sort way back when; the red light indicators removed, etc. All that exists is the face to face room which is the kiddie crying room during Mass. Sorry, but that doesn’t exactly make for a comforting or solace-inducing environment.

  34. Supertradmom says:

    In my home diocese, priests are explicitly not allowed to hear confessions during Mass. This has been announced from the pulpit. I remember confessions being heard during Mass in England years ago. Sometimes, there is only one priest in a parish, so the question cannot even be considered.

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