Stingy schedule for confessions in parishes and “New Evangelization”

During the summer months, I often mention in sermons the need for confession.  Summer is not vacation time from the sacrament of penance.   In the busy weeks and long lingering days – now getting shorter –  people must make time for this important aspect of our salvation.  

It’s only our salvation at stake.  Both the salvation of souls of lay people and the salvation of souls of the priest confessors themselves.

My ASK FATHER entry ("Quaeritur") from a lay person asking about the lack of confession times, prompted not only lots of comments, but also emails, from lay people and from priests.

Here is a note I received from a priest reader (my emphases and comments):

That’s an issue [lack of scheduled confession times] I’m dealing with here in my new assignment.  The previous pastor had Confessions scheduled at 5 PM, with Mass at 5:30 PM.  Oh, and Confessions "by appointment", of course.  The parishioners tell me that he was rarely, if ever, actually in or near the confessional at 5, and was usually busy getting things ready for Mass at 5:15.  One of the first changes I made, by the way, was to move Saturday confessions to 4 – 5 PM, and I will be there every time it’s scheduled
In addition, appointments are still welcomed.

I’m sure the official reason for the limited availability was lack of demand for the sacrament, but I don’t think that was the only reason. 

Yesterday, a parishioner told me that they hadn’t heard any homilies calling something a sin throughout the previous pastor’s tenure in this parish.  Why weren’t parishioners making use of the sacrament?  They don’t believe that sin exists any more.  Why don’t they believe that sin exists any more?  Father wasn’t preaching on it. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

[QUAERITUR:] How do we as priests fix this problem? 

First, preach on sin and the necessity of Confession.  Sin exists, and it is a serious matter that is being ignored in our culture.  If we don’t preach on it, the parishioners won’t hear it. 

Second, make Confession times convenient for your parishioners, publicize them as widely as possible, and be there.  Even if you spend the hour praying and doing spiritual reading, the parishioners need to be sure you’ll be in the Confessional when they come.  If you’re not there when they show up, they may not be as persistent as the reader above.  They might come back a second time. 
Maybe, but it’s more likely that they won’t even bother.  If you don’t make Confession a priority, they won’t either.

This is a problem which puts the souls of our parishioners at risk.  We as priests need to do everything we can to eliminate this problem.

My priest correspondent has hit the nail directly on its little flat button.

And this tale he tells is not rare.

I was once in a parish where the pastor clearly had contempt for confessions (and for priests who wanted to receive them).  They were scheduled for one half hour before the Saturday evening Mass.  The priest who was to say the Mass was to hear confessions.  But, he demanded that the priest be in the sacristy 15 minutes before Mass.  That cut the time in half.  Furthermore, he not only had me in residence, but invited in an old friend to say the Saturday Mass every third week.  That meant that I would have the chance to hear confessions for 15 minutes every three weeks.  There were always lines at my confessional.  People would beg me to hear longer when I got out to go to the sacristy.  Once I did hear longer, until about 5 minutes before Mass.  The pastor screamed at me – literally screamed – in the sacristy, in front of lay people, using vocabulary that verged on violating the 1st Commandment as well.  Not only a control freak, but a sign of his hatred for the confessional (and for me). This is the situation for many a younger priest under the eyes of aging-hippie pastors.   This is the state of affairs of lay people as well.  I am often amazed that so many people are still as faithful as they are, given what we priests have done to them for so many years.

By contrast, I know a priest in his 80’s who hears confessions before every daily morning Mass and before all Masses on Sundays.  And when there is a visiting priest to help with Sunday Masses, he hears confessions during Mass (which is both licit and laudable) up to the Offertory.

If priests are reading this – and you are – consider well your own salvation in attending to the confessions of the faithful.

In the Rite of Ordination as renewed by Pope John Paul II in 1990, the bishop asks the ordinandi a question:

Vultis mysteria Christi ad laudem Dei et sanctificationem populi christiani, secundum Ecclesiae traditionem, praesertim in Eucharistiae sacrificio et sacramento reconciliationis et fideliter celebrare?

Lay people reading this, perhaps may begin politely asking priests to preach about sin and confession and expand the hours.  And Then Go.

Repeat to yourselves:

New Evangelization… New Evangelization… New Evangelization…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thanks Be to God. I can vouch for the benefits of Confessions heard during Mass

  2. Yes, Fr. Z. Yes a thousand times.
    This is my opinion (maybe rather prejudiced), I hope not a rash judgment; but any priest who does not value the Sacrament of Penance by making it easily available, preaching on the necessity and graces of Confession, teaching it in all the possible catechetioal avenues, probably does not go regularly or at all himself.
    I believe Pope John Paul II, reiterated by Pope Benedict, have stated that a priest who avails himself regularly to the Sacrament of Penance will be a good confessor and will make this widely available for the faithful.
    If I may be so candid: Dear Bishops reading this: PLEASE encourage, exhort and make clear to your priests the importance of making confession times regular, ample and convenient for the faithful, as well as giving good explanations and encouragement in homilies and talks.

  3. stgemma_0411 says:

    This sounds exactly like the surrounding parishes where I live, sadly.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Our pastor only has Confessions for one half hour before Saturday Mass, and even then, he has been known to cancel, if he is not there and there is a visiting priest. He has Confessions “by appointment”. Sadly, this schedule is common is our diocese.

    Confessions by appointment are useless. The vast majority of people would not phone a priest and make an appointment, especially someone who is “coming home” to the Church after many years of being away.

  5. Father DiMaria says:

    Years ago there were many scheduled hours for confessions on Saturday afternoons and evenings. I vividly remember the older priests with whom I lived as a young priest speak about the “old days” and the long lines and long hours of confessions each week – as well as the wonderful Saturday night suppers and fellowship between confession times! These men were ordained in the early 1940s. It seemed to me that they genuinely missed those days.

    Confession times have been cut back so drastically in many places that it is no wonder that few receive the sacrament. I recently announced at my new parish that I was going to increase confession times – in addition to the traditional Saturday time there will now be two mornings when confessions will be heard for 20 minutes prior to daily Mass as well as an hour on Wednesday evenings. I told my people that the sign of a spiritually healthy parish was a well used confessional.

    It is my hope that by offering the added times and preaching about it, the people will begin to come and find the merciful forgiveness of our Lord. I can’t encourage priests enough to be generous with their time in the confessional. It reaps tremendous rewards!

  6. Tina in Ashburn says:

    A favorite priest of mine in this Diocese would use humor to admonish his parishioners and shame us to get to confession:

    “I am so lucky to be in such a parish with so many saints. This must be the case because so FEW come to confession!” He’d get us to laugh, and then seriously explain in great detail why confession is so important.

    It took years, but eventually confession lines were long and packed and frequent. When Father sponsored a confession ‘bonanza’, you could barely get in! Now regularly occurring in this Diocese, during Advent and Lent, parishes bring in extra priests [ten or more] on a certain day for a few hours, advertising heavily in advance. Helpers in the parish encourage the visiting priests by promising a good meal afterward to them. This past Lent, Bp Loverde instituted “leave the light on for ya'” by making all parishes offer confession EVERY WEDNESDAY night.

    Unfortunately, hard-to-find-confession-time is still a problem in many parishes.

    Can we please stagger confession times?
    Why are confessions typically offered all over the diocese at the same time on Saturday? For those that respect the Sabbath by not shopping or doing manual labor, Saturday is the longest day of the week while we feverishly make up for a heavy work week. You miss that sliver of Saturday time while mowing, painting or running errands, and poof, there goes another week not being able to get to confession.

  7. QMJ says:

    Hearing these horror stories makes me realize how blessed I have been for the accessibility of confession where I grew up and where I now am. At the church I grew up in confessions were offered from 4-5 on Saturday before the 5:30 Mass. When I was in high school we got a new pastor who did talk about sin. He was particularly tough on the youth at the Life Teen Mass. With teenagers leading the way the confession line got so long he scheduled more confessions on Tuesday from 6-7 after the 5:30 Mass in addition to the Saturday confessions. Since then I have moved to another state and am happy to say that there is usually a good line for confession at mutliple parishes here.

  8. pyrosapien says:

    I am very blessed. We have confessions every Saturday after daily Mass for 1 hour, then from 3:00-4:45 before the vigil Mass. Also on Wednesday evening for 1 hour, and on First Friday following Benediction/Exposition until all are heard. There is always a line.
    And our Pastor often preaches about sin.
    Very blessed indeed!

  9. JohnMa says:

    My territorial parish only has Confession 1 hour a week. It is not all that crowded. On the other hand, my quasi-domicile parish has Confessions 9 times a week for a total of over six hours. Instead of if you build it they will come priests should remember if you sit there they will come.

  10. Nora says:

    A few years ago, for not entirely laudable reasons, our parish switched from “just before Vigil Mass” to “just after Saturday morning Mass”. It keeps 2 blocks of “in church” time for the day for Father, but works ever so much better for most folks, apparently. The scheduled time is 9-10; Father can grab a quick breakfast between 8:00 Mass and Confession. About 3 out of 4 Saturdays, he is still hearing confessions at 11; if there was a plenary indulgence opportunity during the week, it goes on even longer. There’s no rush to get done in time for Mass. We have adoration all day on Saturday, so there is a constant stream of folks, making a visit, going to confession, preparing for the weekend liturgies.
    I heartily recommend the switch, having watched it in action for a while now.

  11. Mike says:

    I go to a Novus Ordo parish that can drive me bonkers, but they do have regular confession times twice a week. The pastor, however, seems to dislike the word “sin”, even in the opening part of the Mass, he simply can’t get the word out!

    I teach at a school where the chaplains are Opus Dei priests. They are in the confessional alot. They will drop their own work at a moment’s notice to hear your confession. Thank the Lord for them, and all good priests who struggle to do the same.

  12. JosephMary says:

    Some of you may be envious when I tell you that my parish has confessions after the two daily weekday Masses and then again on Monday evening during adoration.

    Today our new pastor reinstituted our Saturday morning Mass (yeah!) and it had been said that there would not be confessions as there are already 11 confession times a week. But a long line formed and so Father heard confessions. (I do know of other priests who would have just gone to breakfast but not our pastor).

    But in the past we had a pastor at my former parish who disliked the sacrament. He would hire a retired priest to hear the confessions of his people. Once during the big group advent confession, he got called away on an ’emergency’. That was a lie. The ’emergency’ was one of my homebound and I had put in a request for a yearly visit from a priest six weeks prior. That night he got around to seeing my 90 year old lady; he did not have to hear confessions at the parish that way. This was only one sign of things amiss with him. I moved away.

  13. Fr Matthew says:

    At the parish where I have just started working (I’ve been here less than a month), we have 1 full hour for confessions every Saturday evening at both our main church and our mission church. Since I’m new here I’ve only been on “confession duty” one day, but unfortunately I spent most of the time waiting in vain and praying for more penitents to come. The pastor is interested in getting more people to confession, which is encouraging! I’ve preached about it at Mass already, and perhaps we can introduce one or two more time slots that could offer convenient alternatives to people for whom Saturday evening is a difficult time.

  14. Father G says:

    I just finished hearing nearly three hours of confessions this morning.

    At the parish where I am stationed, I hear at least six hours of confession per week. It’s been my impression that parishes staffed by religious orders (like the one I belong to) have more hours available for confessions.

    Please pray for me and for all those priests who spend hours in the confessional. It can be tiring on the body to be sitting for so long, but to be able to hear the confessions of those who have been away from the Church and the sacraments for so many years and then to absolve them of their sins is very humbling and rewarding.

  15. Sixupman says:

    The Holy Name, Manchester, UK: in the middle of the University area, Confessions frequently every day except Sunday (I think).. Chistmas Eve, Confessions, three priests, three benches waiting. Christmastide three High Masses. NOM as it should be Ad Orientem, Celebrated at side altars weekdays – with surprisiningly high attendances for the early morning Mass. TLM every Sunday afternoon.

    Liverpool Cathedral, Confessions advertised to be daily – but do not bet on it, clergy may be at a conference. Once asked when Confession migh be heard: nun looked at me as if I came from outer-space!

  16. Fr G: As a contemplative priest, I want to assure you that you, and all our confreres who dedicate themselves to the confessional, will be always remember in my prayers.
    God bless you always! What a wondrous example and great gift you all are to the faithful.
    You probably don’t get a lot of thanks and accolades, but I want to extend this to you and to all priests who give of themselves to God’s people in the confessional. Our Lady help you always!

  17. Father G says:

    I forgot to mention that I’ve printed out a stack of “Fr. Z’s 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession” which I have handed out to penitents to help them improve their confessions. I even translated it to Spanish for the Spanish speaking penitents.
    Thanks, Father Z!

  18. There are several parishes that are known in our diocese for their extraordinary offering of confession. One offers confessions for an hour alongside two different daily Masses and then for two hours on Saturday before the vigil – with both resident priests present.

    As a layman living in a more remote area, it was one of my greatest frustrations to try to seek out confession where they were a) scheduled for a window of an hour or less b)usually had between 10 & 20 people at each parish waiting & c) all scheduled at the same time on Saturday. It was a great joy to find a parish where the priest (a discalced Carmelite) was in the confessional every evening for an hour!

  19. basilorat says:

    If we play the “lack of numbers” or “lack of interest” game, we may as well just open the Church for Christmas, Easter, and weddings, if you do the comparison of numbers of Catholics to attendance! Oh but wait, then there’d be no collection! Oh dear! Bite the bullet and say a few Masses…oh, and make sure to take up the collection, Father dear.

  20. Fr. G: Since you have translated my text, would you send me a copy?

  21. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Ah, it’s good to be back and reading WDTPRS again. Now that I reside in East Texas, I will not be “harking” to what goes on at St. Stephen the First Martyr’s (FSSP) in Sacramento – but – we (sob, I mean they) have three priests. On Sunday, beginning 1/2 hour before all three Masses, two priests hear confessions and at least one continues through the Mass up until the Offertory. For the, at least, two Masses a day on weekdays and Saturday, confession is also heard beginning 1/2 hour before each Mass. On Saturday, there is also a scheduled additional confession time. The same goes for Holy Days. I now will attend Mass at a small mission church in the relatively new Apostolate of Tyler, Texas, with one very dedicated an dear FSSP priest, who also hears confessions before each Mass, each and every day. It has been my experience that these priests, if time runs out and people are still waiting, will return to the confessional after Mass and stay as long as it takes to hear everyone who waited. God bless them, every one.

  22. S. Murphy says:

    When I went back to Parris Island for a tour as a series commander a couple years ago, I went to the 0800 Mass at Weapons battalion, and saw that while one priest was celebrating the Mass, another was in the back hearing Confessions. I figured it was just a concession to the recruit training schedule – when they’re not on the rifle range, they can go to confession before the 1030 Mass in the mainside chapel. Now I know…
    The military is as short on priests as anywhere else – although we always had two Catholic chaplains on PI when I was a recruit, and when I was there as permanent personnel, the Corps (or the military archdiocese, or the Navy Chaplain Corps was talking about making it only one priest at each recruit Depot. When I was in Iraq last fall/winter, we had one Catholic priest (a Dominican who was a Navy reservist) in Al Anbar province. He was great. Had a couple of set times for confession, and was generally available. Always letting us know he was available, and encouraging us to confess, too. But he was working pretty hard- traveling around the province every week. Did two Masses on Al Asad airbase on Christmas eve, and then spent Christmas day traveling by helicopter to as many of the other FOBs as he could get to. We need more like him. (Most of the Navy chaplains I’ve met have been good to go.) If you know any good priests who are young and healthy enough, ask them to see if their bishop will let them join the reserves.

  23. AAJD says:

    I’ve maintained for years that if you are serious about restoring Confession you have to make it as easy as possible for people to access–regular slots, during the week and not just weekends, and don’t change them. In Canada, the Oratorians hear Confessions every day before every daily Mass and there are always people waiting. True to St. Philip Neri’s charism, they are all outstanding confessors. At St. Patrick’s Basilica in Ottawa, they do likewise–4 daily Masses, with Confessions before each; the noon Mass easily and regularly attracts 200+ people, and there are 4 confessors, with lineups, every day, as well as for the ‘usual’ Saturday afternoon slots. I’ve seen other parishes, with 3000 people on the books, advertise Confession for one Saturday a month for 30 minutes–if the priest bothers to show up. Predictably, nobody ever goes.

  24. Carolina Geo says:

    I heard a priest once give an excellent homily about the need for Confession, how to make a good Confession, the reality of sin, etc. It was very well thought out and beautifully delivered to a receptive congregation.

    Then he made the announcement that he would be gone on the following two Saturdays and that Confession at the parish was cancelled as a result.

    Oh, this was during Advent, too.

  25. Central Valley says:

    “Priests hearing confessions until the Offertory”. Oh, Fr. how this brings back the glory days of the San Clemente Mission in Bakersfield, CA, diocese of Fresno. Sadly those days and the long lines at the confessional are long gone from the mission. Thank you for the posting and thanks for encouraging prists to offer a very needed sacrament.

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    Do a little arithmetic. When it’s posted that there will be confessions for 1 hour on Saturday, how many people do you think can confess and get absolution in that time???? 1, 5, 10, 20, 500???? (Particularly when the priest thinks he’s a social worker and goes on and on with pop psychology etc, rather than doing what he should be doing.)

    And that calculation assumes that the priest even shows up at the posted time, which often–they don’t.

    Yet, the average church in this average small town where I go has at least 200-300 people per mass, for a total of more than a thousand per weekend, just going with a casual count.

    So how often exactly does the church expect us to go to confession, using a little basic arithmetic again? And how exactly are we supposed to manage that?

  27. eiggam says:

    After Saturnday morning Mass at my parish, we have as many as 3 priests hearing confessions for at least 1/2 hour- 1 hour. It started as a few people wanting to go to confession on 1st Saturday and has blossomed. By having the confessions after Mass, Father can prepare for Mass and be on time. If I go at other times and it’s starting to get close to Mass Time (15 min), I ask Father if he would rather I come at a later time. Thank your Priests for this wonderful sacrament!

  28. Maltese says:

    I was once in a parish where the pastor clearly had contempt for confessions

    All I can say is that turd of a “pastor” doesn’t deserve that appellation! I was in downtown Phily today, and went to confession at Old St. Joseph’s (founded in 1733). The Jesuits there hear confession every day between 11:30 and 12:00. It’s a seemingly conservative church, especially it being a Jesuit-run one. From their website, they emphasize Gregorian Chant and polyphony from such greats as Palestrina. Haven’t been to mass there–I only go to the TLM unless I am forced by Sunday obligation to stomach a NO. But this is a wonderful-appearing church that anyone who finds themselves in Phily should march to, first thing.

    St. Padre Pio should be the patron Saint of the confessional; he could read souls like none other. He has probably saved more souls from damnation than any other modern Saint. And that is what we are talking about, damnation, a very real possibility for the unrepentant soul, and a very real possibility for the pastor who ignores his God-given responsibility of offering repentance to the unrepentant.

  29. Navarricano says:

    Every time I read one of these entries, I thank God for where I am and for the many excellent priests there are here who take confession very seriously indeed. The priests of Opus Dei preach on it and make it readily available with regular, daily confession times, as well as sitting in the confessional during Mass. While not a member of Opus Dei, I really have to commend the priests of the Work. They are generally excellent and very dedicated confessors, and I’ve benefitted enormously from the wise counsel I regularly receive from them in the sacrament.

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, if hours are posted but priests don’t show up half the time, it’s a terrific disincentive. People notice these things and draw conclusions. Maybe it’s not so important……..the priest doesn’t care.

    It can also be discouraging if the priest doesn’t treat confession like a sacrament, but instead treats it like some kind of visit or social thing. That’s not what it is primarily. They should wear the stole, get the words right and treat it like the serious thing it is.

  31. The stories here are enough to make any priest worth his salt go to confession himself, make a good act of contrition and amendment to be present to the faithful who desire/need to receive the Sacrament of Penance and do some more penance for his people (in the example of the Cure of Ars).
    I cannot accept that priests deny the faithful the Sacrament of Penance through their own negligence, laziness, mediocrity or just lack of faith.
    May the Lord and our Lady inspire the shepherd of souls to “get off their duffs” and do what they were ordained to do! Amen!
    And yes, Maltese, St. Padre Pio should be the patron of confessors.
    I think, maybe this is too earthly, he would have a good “dressing down” and kick in the rump for some of our “brethern” who do not do what the Church/our Lord requires!

  32. Maltese says:

    I teach at a school where the chaplains are Opus Dei priests. They are in the confessional alot. They will drop their own work at a moment’s notice to hear your confession. Thank the Lord for them, and all good priests who struggle to do the same.

    Interesting. Saint Josemaria Escriva (and Saint Padre Pio) offered, exclusively, the Traditional Latin Mass. They never once offered a Novus Ordo Mess.

    Good to hear (some) OD are diligent about reconciliation, but I wish they would follow the example of their founder more, and not be resistant to the TLM; the TLM leads to a proper understanding of sin, propitiatory Sacrifice for sin, and thus the need for confession. The Novus Ordo does not properly lead to this understanding. For more, you can read this .

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    Our parish has confessions Sat. afternoon before Mass. It’s pretty well attended, over the course of the hour typically anywhere from 20-30 people, but this is a parish with about 1800 families! And sometimes people sort of just trickle in, e.g. on holiday weekends.

    I asked our rector if we couldn’t institute just one other time, say on a weekday evening, and he said he couldn’t afford to put somebody in the confessional and take them off all the other things they had to do, and then have nobody show up. He and his assistants are extremely busy, and I didn’t feel like I had the expertise to say, “If you build it they will come,” although I think there are lots of people who can’t get over to the church on Saturday afternoon (I can’t always).

    When we have the Advent and Lenten penance services, with a dozen or more priests volunteering to hear confessions, the place is packed.

    What to do?

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    An American Mother:

    “take them off all the other things they had to do”….

    Like what exactly? They got something more important that saving souls to do???? I’d like to know exactly what that might be.

  35. a catechist says:

    Where I live, Wed. nights are the time for catechism classes for all the kids who aren’t in Catholic schools. It’s the one night all the area parishes (and Protestants, too) get the kids rather than sports, lessons, etc. etc. But there’s no Wed. night confessions! It seems to me that an obvious weeknight/time to offer confession would be when parents have just dropped the kids off.

    Yes, I know that ideally kids should see their parents’ example and ideally the priest should be able to visit catechism classes (that’s fantasy/fiction at the parish where I’ve been teaching). But as Fr. Z says, don’t let best be the enemy of better. Wed. night confessions make a lot of sense.

  36. EXCHIEF says:

    In all seriousness I can not recall any Priest in any parish (and there have been many)I have attended over the past 40 years discussing sin, its consequences, and the availability and necessity of confession. I have heard hundreds of homilies focused on love, social justice etc but never one (in that time frame) focused upon sin. Like so many other “negatives” regarding the Church the de-emphasis on sin and the need for confession seems to be another unintended and inappropriate outcome of the interpretation of Vatican II.

    Growing up I recall some hell fire and brimstone sermons by some old Irish priests. They had their faults but failing to talk about sin and urge confession was not one of them.

  37. yatzer says:

    Every so often I pray for all the priests who have heard my confessions,and esp. the one who showed up when I finally got my act together and darkened the door of a confessional for the first time in 15 years. God bless them all.

  38. AnAmericanMother says:


    There’s a large school attached to the parish, the priests are visiting, teaching, saying Mass, and running all the stuff that pertains to an 1800-family parish.

    I agree they could take another hour or so out of somebody’s schedule to get Wednesday eve confessions (which would fit in nicely with Wed. eve Bible study, confirmation classes, and choir practice).

    But my question is, how do I persist in asking for this without getting the rector’s back up? Catch more flies w/ honey, etc. etc.

  39. AnAmericanMother says:

    Go figure department:

    I was at noon Mass Friday at a downtown parish which is pretty notorious for being freewheeling, heterodox, ‘gay’-friendly, etc. etc. Confession is by appointment only.

    Could have knocked me down with a feather when the rector preached on the importance of the Sacrament of Confession!! Whazzup widdat?

  40. AnAmericanMother: Jesus is LORD!!
    He makes inroads whenever He can; isn’t it great?

  41. Fr Matthew says:

    Hmmm… Maybe Fr Z could do some sort of a poll about the times when the laity would most like confession available, besides Saturday afternoon or evening, based on the ideas that have emerged in the comments: the options could be, for example:
    – before daily Masses
    – after daily Masses
    – weekday evenings after dinner (like 7-8PM)
    The results could be helpful for us priests to plan better.

    Today I was hearing confession before Mass and ended up with people in line right before Mass, when I had to leave to prepare (after I’d been there for an hour with only moderate traffic). At the end of Mass I told the congregation I’d stick around for confessions after Mass if anyone had not had the opportunity to go beforehand. I didn’t get any takers, but it was worth a try…

  42. Mary Bruno says:

    Our confessions are on Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. before the Saturday Mass. I can rarely make it to Mass on Saturday “night” because the Mass is so early. The time from 3-4 p.m. especially when I am working is very hard to get to Church for Confession. I don’t know how many people go to Confession in this time slot.

    I tend to put off Confession until Advent and Lent when we have more times available including before and during Masses.

  43. Penguins Fan says:

    I am fortunate.

    My parish has Confession at two times on Saturdays, 1.30 to 2.30 and from 6PM until 7PM.

    The downtown parish where I go to Daily Mass (St. Mary of Mercy) has confession from 11AM until almost noon and from 12:30 to 1:15 Monday thru Saturday.
    There are almost always people lined up for Confession before 11AM.

    What I do after my confession is complete is tell Father Thank you, God bless you and have a good day. I also include a prayer of thanks to God for our priests, bishops, nuns and religious with my penance.

  44. Fr. Matthew: Just a guess…maybe those who wanted to receive Holy Communion, but could not due to their “spiritual state” (mortal sins) did not want to come after Mass…confessions AFTER Mass seem to be the prerogative of devotional confessions.
    Those who need to be absolved before coming to Holy Communion want to go BEFORE Mass.
    And that is why ample time is needed, whenever, whether it be Saturday morning, afternoon, before the Sunday Masses…
    the layfaithful, if they are going to be FAITHFUL, want to be absolved of mortal sin before attending Holy Mass.
    That’s no judgment upon you, dear Father. You are doing what you need to do.
    But for all the priests who neglect making the Sacrament of Penance easily available for everyone, mortal sinners as well as those who desire to receive the Sacrament devotionally (which is just as important),…get with it!

  45. mjd says:

    At my church, Father Stan hears confessions 7 days a week – 30 minutes before each Mass. If someone comes earlier – no problem; they will be accommodated.

  46. Henry Edwards says:


    ” … at a downtown parish which is pretty notorious for being freewheeling, heterodox, ‘gay’-friendly, etc. etc. Could have knocked me down with a feather when the rector preached on the importance of the Sacrament of Confession!! Whazzup widdat?”

    Perhaps he figured “those types” need confession even more than most? Makes sense to me.

  47. Iconophilios says:

    St Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney is said to have sat in the confessional for up to sixteen hours on some days; not only that, but France was building railroads when he was alive, and the French government actually built a railroad that went to Ars (which was a small unimportant town) because of the amount of sinners going to him for confession. My favourite story, though, of the Curé, is how he could smell sin. He would sometimes actually leave the confessional to find somebody “who’s sins were stinking up the church”.

  48. chloesmom says:

    Our parish is among the stingiest types — confession two evenings a week, before Mass; 15 mins. before Sunday Mass; and 15 mins. before Monday and Wednesday AM Mass. I’d love to go more often, but AFAIK, there are no churches around where our neighbourhood which provide Confession on a regular basis. It seems to fit our parish where the pastor ends each Mass with the words, “Remember, God loves you!” I’ve been in the parish nearly 30 years, and have never heard a homily about sin.

  49. Susan says:

    Though I’ve been taking advantage of confession regularly for the last 10 years (after a long, long hiatus and a beautiful conversion of heart), I had been absent for many months recently due to despair over our current pastor and his very, very liberal ways with the liturgy, etc. (yes – I am at fault here). I had occasion to hear a newly-ordained priest say mass at our parish. It is his home parish where he grew up – so sad that he won’t be assigned here. He gave a daily mass homily in which he entreated us to take advantage of confession. Thank God he gave this homily with our pastor serving as co-celebrant (this was the first week of this new priest saying mass in his home parish before going back to Rome to study for a year). Our current pastor seems to hear confessions as if it is distasteful to him – no act of contrition, get people in and out as quickly as possible. After some teenage-bad actions on the part of my teen daughters, they have seen the value of confession, PRAISE GOD, and we now go every other week, after which we spend an hour at Starbucks drinking coffee and TALKING to each other. Thank you God for the grace of confession and how it has helped bring me closer to my girls in some difficult times. I will know that I am truly living in a postapocolyptic world when the sacrament of reconciliation is no longer available. It is helping my family so much! Thank you God for the new young priests who are living the faith as it should be lived!

  50. Philangelus says:

    My parish priest will cut you off after three sins. So if you’re keeping a man chained in the basement and you forgot to feed him and he starved to death, plan to confess that *after* mentioning that you swore once at a long red light, you ate meat on a Friday, and you forgot to call your mom on mother’s day. You always get three Hail Mary’s for penance, and it’s a struggle to get him into the confessional at all.

    Children are different: they only get to list one sin and then he’s delivering absolution.

    In the next town over where there’s a shrine run by Xaverian missionary fathers. They have two hours on Saturday for Confession, during which they have exposition. The shrine director is always there hearing confessions, and sometimes a second priest comes in when the line gets too long. I honestly believe the shrine director can read hearts. People wait extra long for him if they have to.

    Guess where we go to Confession? :-)

  51. A Sinner 2 says:

    One of the benefits of confession during Sunday Mass (which we are blessed to have at our parish, as well as before daily Mass) is that those at Mass who don’t go confession get to see others who do. That, plus our pastor’s frequent homilies on the need for confession, I’m sure has brought people back to the sacrament.

  52. Fr Matthew says:

    @Nazareth Priest: I understand your point about communion, but I imagine that if someone didn’t make confession beforehand, they could abstain from communion and confess after Mass so they wouldn’t run the risk of missing confession and communion again next time. I’d might even be willing to hear their confession after Mass and then give them communion if the asked… (is that kosher?) But yes, I totally agree with your point: we need to avoid having confession only available in a small window of time before Mass on Friday, out of consideration for both those in dire need and those who want to go out of devotion. The sacrament of reconciliation is one of our greatest treasures and we priests have a serious responsibility to make it available.

  53. Fr Matthew says:

    The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement at Graymoor in Garrison, NY, have confession available every day for several hours, morning and afternoon. All you have to do is show up a the desk within the scheduled hours, ask the receptionist to call the priest on duty for confession, and go to the confessional down the hall (where a copy of the schedule is posted). This is a real blessing – especially for priests who are busy hearing confessions in the usual time slots, and want to go themselves!

  54. o.h. says:

    Our old parish church has historical significance, and so there are often visitors, tourists, and wistful lapsed Catholics wandering into the vestibule. They’re easy to spot. One often has the chance therefore to invite visitors to stay for Mass. They say, “Oh no, I haven’t been to Mass in years.” And because our priests are so faithful to offering confession before Mass, *every single day,* one can say “Father is hearing confessions right now.” And yes, you see them in the confession line a few minutes later.

    This has happened, over and over. We laypeople can do our part to evangelize, but we need the priests to be there!

  55. Fr Matthew:A most beautiful comment; truly, if our faithful were sensitized to a “spiritual communion” while abstaining from receiving Holy Communion at Mass and then going to confession, “all would be well”…I do not say this with sarcasm or a hardened heart. That is truly the NORM, as far as I am concerned. If we could bring our faithful to understand this most important truth: one need not communicate at each and every Mass they attend, esp. if they are not properly disposed; their “obligation” is fulfilled by being present on Sundays and Holy days of obligation. It is most important that one be properly diosposed, to “discern the Body and Blood of the Lord” and one’s spiritual fitness. God bless you, Father. My prayers.

  56. lmgilbert says:

    I was going to save this for the next “Good News” request, but it fits here very well.

    A few days ago my wife and I were in Enterprise, OR on our way back from visiting our daughter In Nebraska. Enterprise is in the middle of NOWHERE- in the Wallowa Mountain area of drop dead gorgeous Northeastern Oregon.

    We went to Mass mid-week at St. Katherine’s, more or less braced for whatever liturgical abuses might come our way.

    What a surprise was in store for us. First, there was an altar boy, John Paul, and he knew what he was doing. The priest intoned the Kyrie and the congregation sang the responses beautifully and correctly. The lector was incredible and sang the responsorial psalm according to haunting music of her own devising.
    The priest gave a long, practical, excellent homily on Confession. He sang the Sanctus.

    It developed that he was a recently ordained Jesuit visiting his parents in Enterprise.

    The next day since we happened to be entering the church at the same time, I said to father with a smile, “The next time you preach a sermon like that on Confession, be sure to hear confessions afterwards.” And he told me, “Today is Part II.”

    The Mass was more of the same, and again he preached excellently on Confession.

    After Mass we made a thanksgiving and after a time I heard some clatter in the back-father exiting the confessional stole in hand. He had taken my advice, but I had missed my chance!

    One thing that struck me was his saying that over the years he has come to pay less attention to what priest he is confessing to, because he is confessing to the Lord in every case. Another thing was that the advice the priest gives in the Confessional is not one of the essential elements of Confession. It might be good advice or bad advice and has to be taken on its own merits.

    He also talked about Confession from the viewpoint of the priest, of the admiration and even awe they have for penitents who make a clean breast of their lives. Also, he spoke of the blessed amnesia that priests often experience after hearing confessions.

    All of it was intended to lead us to the confessional more frequently.

    And so begins the ministry of Fr. Anthony Wieck, S.J. May the Lord bless him and everyone like him!

  57. shin says:

    I tell you there is absolutely nothing like Confession before every mass. It’s absolutely priceless. It really encourages a person to go to mass, especially the dailies.

    I wish and pray and think every parish that possibly can should have it!

  58. prairie says:

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, so if this has already been said, consider my comment a “me, too!”

    Priests, please find out from your parishioners what times are convenient for them. Chances are very good that your Saturday afternoon time is very inconvenient for many of your parishioners.

  59. EXCHIEF says:

    So he was a visiting priest and not assigned there? Because if he was assigned there we’d make the 2 hour drive from Baker City to Enterprise. Beautiful liturgy at the end of a beautiful drive (except not in winter).

  60. Problems of this nature often defy solution because we look in the wrong place. In Taming the Wolf I write that frequently we must consider the reverse of the “obvious.” What about a situation is overlooked because it is counter-intuitive.

    In this case, perhaps the sacrament is not more available and not endorsed more enthusiastically because priests have not confessed their own sins. For whatever reason, they may have missed the opportunity.

    Often we find it is impossible to forgive another if we have not forgiven ourselves (or received forgiveness through the sacrament). The situation with confessions may mirror that dynamic. A priest may find it difficult to be enthusiastic about hearing the sins of another if he has not had the opportunity to unburden, or the opportunity has been unsatisfactory.

    Speculation. But perhaps worth consideration.

  61. imgilbert: (I love it that we have same surname, yeah?), beautiful.
    Just you wait and see. In these next ten years, what you have described will, I believe with all my heart, be the norm.
    The young diocesan and religious priests are going to actuate the “New Evangelization”; their reverent offering of Holy Mass and devotion to the Sacrament of Penance is in place…it is just going to take a few years to have them in positions of authority. And it will happen.
    Thanks for this most heartening experience; we need to hear it. We, here, pray for it daily.

  62. JohnE says:

    As a former lukewarm Catholic (former in the lukewarmness, that is) and one who used to go to confession the bare minimum of once or twice a year, I can say that morning confessions are more convenient, especially if you want to draw the “real” sinners back to the Church. A lukewarm Catholic will not likely want to draw too much attention to the fact that they’re going to confession. Mornings are less likely to be times when social activities would come up and “prevent” someone from getting to confession.

    I assume the Saturday 3-5pm time slot is likely to be most convenient for those hearing confessions since it is close to the vigil, but the overriding concern should be for the convenience of the penitent. And I try to say this as compassionately as possible for all the priests out there who are overworked already.

  63. Father, where are you getting these marvellously Ancien Régime illustrations?

  64. JohnE: Great point. We need to make confession as available and easy as possible. Otherwise, why speak of its importance?
    I do believe there is a movement happening, from the posts on confession here that I have seen, that the Sacrament of Penance, is and will be, more available; God willing, even more in the future, with the new priests being ordained who value this. God is not outdone in generosity; He does provide…even when it looks bleak and despairing. I keep repeating to myself and to others what Pope Benedict has said on several Easters, “Evil does not have the last word. God has the last word.” And I do believe it. And He will bring forth life from all kinds of death and darkness.

  65. smad0142 says:

    Confession and the Eucharist are essential to a thriving Parish. St Mary’s of Littleton here in CO is proof. These new Priests that have been given the parish, their order is DCJM, have spiritually renewed the Parish. They have the largest, most rigorous, most orthodox Catholic prek-8 in the state. They have perpetual Adoration. They have several thousand parishoners. And they have Confession a half hour before every Sunday Mass and for an hour on Saturday and an HOUR everyday before Daily Mass and for whoever wants to go afterwards as well.

  66. Mary G says:

    What I find sad is the unavailability of a priest to hear Confessions the evening before a funeral when the family gathers to say the Rosary. At the Requiem Mass the following day, many (all) approach Holy Communion without the benefit of this Sacrament, even if they have been away from the church for some time.

  67. Norah says:

    Confessions are readily available at parishes which have an Opus Dei priest or an OD priest cooperator.

    I think it would be a good idea for confession to be available before funerals and weddings. Of course it would be difficult in my little parish church – the confessional is a chair in the sacristy!

  68. Father G says:

    nazareth priest: Thank you very much for your kind words and especially your prayers. I have to add another two hours to my time of hearing confessions today. I just got out from hearing confessions for one of our parish youth groups that is having a retreat based on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

    Total time for hearing confessions this Saturday: nearly five hours.
    Off to bed. I have an early morning Mass tomorrow.

  69. Fr G: You make us priests proud.
    We have a horrible situation in our diocese right now, as we await the installation of our new Bishop, William Callahan on August 11.
    A beloved pastor and guardian of the middle school in La Crosse has been charged with possesion of child pornography; the officials of our diocese had no knowledge of this, or of his proclivities. It is now splashed all over the media…it’s horrid and disgusting, esp. the police report, where Fr. admits to all kinds of wrongdoing. Please pray for us.
    Your example and witness do my heart good; and I’m sure all of the faithful reading this.
    Bless you, Father G, and all the priests, the majority of our priests. who serve and give themselves in the imitation of Jesus, our Master and Good Shepherd.

  70. Jack Hughes says:

    Good on you Father G, NZP so sorry to hear about it, Prayers from Bristol for both of you.

  71. sawdustmick says:

    Shocked to hear your news Nazareth Priest. Praying for you and your Diocese, together with Prayers for all the Priests who have contributed in this thread, in addition to my daily prayers for ALL Priests.

  72. Sleepyhead says:

    nazareth priest

    What is “devotional confessions”?

  73. samgr says:

    In Rome this morning for solemn high mass in Latin @ Sta. Maria Magiore, Gregorian propers sung, etc.. One priest ready to hear confessions all during mass (a couple of people took him up on it), three or four more confessionals open immediately after mass, with many more penitents of diverse languages. Apparently, if you offer it, they will come.
    On a previous topic, although the sign outside the church calls it a papal basilica, the prelate at the end of the procession looked an awful lot like an Italian dressed as the Patriarch of Constantinople.
    Please discuss and explain.

  74. Andrew says:

    I’ve seen many threads and discussions about the subject of confession and I’ve contributed to some with my own lamentations, but this thread is the first one ever that gives me some hope. So many people understand. What a blessing, even if things appear to remain unchanged in my part of the world.And I believe that the underlying rationale for the decline is simple: members of clergy who do not confess regularly: you cannot give what you don’t have!

  75. pberginjr says:

    I actually find I use the confessional more during the summer than the rest of the year.

  76. Gail F says:

    Sleepyhead: I think that by “devotional confession” Nazareth Priest means confessing when you don’t have any mortal sins, as a spiritual exercise or discipline that strengthens you. The Church encourages confession for just this purpose.

    My parish has confession for half an hour a week and “by appointment.” The last time I went to confession I went to a Downtown church that has it every day for an hour. All sorts of people were there, waiting in line at the old-fashioned confessional. It was quite moving.

  77. Here’s a rhetorical question, intended (with all respect) for every priest who thinks, in his inner heart, that hearing confessions is a burden. If you’ve got the power, ‘in persona Christi,’ to forgive sins and heal the sufferings of guilty consciences, **why wouldn’t you want to use it???**

    When I was a small child I had a recurring dream that I could heal people physically by the laying on of hands. [Presumptuous, of course. But it was a dream and I was six or seven.] What I remember best about those dreams was how much joy I felt at the wonder and delight of those dream-people I healed. If you’re a priest, you actually DO have this power on the spiritual level. Why then would you want to deprive YOURSELF of the joy of using it?

  78. Supertradmum says:

    nazareth priest,

    prayers on the way.

  79. Gabriel Austin says:

    To what is due the shyness about mentioning the name of the parishes and the priests who make hearing confession difficult? Hiding behind anonymity – secrecy – is what got the bishops into the business of covering up.

  80. Supertradmum says:


    Bishops can tell their priests something and priests can ignore his words. This secrecy may come from the fact that some bishops know these things, act on them, and then the individual priests ignore the bishops’ advice or remonstrations. A layperson who points things out to a bishop in a letter or in person cannot keep going back after action has been taken.

    We saw this in action during the last election, when the bishop was very open about abortion issues and priests either totally ignored his guidance, openly disregarded them, or worse, openly encourage the opposite viewpoints.

    Same with Confession…

  81. Supertradmum says:

    their words, sorry

  82. Henry Edwards says:

    I waited 45 minutes after TLM today to talk to our priest about a minor community matter, finally gave up and left because he was still in the (actual) confessional, hearing the confessions of people who had been in the long line before Mass, but never got to the confessional.

    Of course I know by simple arithmetic that a lot more people receive Holy Communion at OF Masses than could plausibly have gone to confession anytime recently. However, among numerous parishes in multiple dioceses in the last fifty years — some of which seemed definitely on the “progressive” side — I really can’t recall a single one with no priest who took confessions seriously.

    Some of the comments in this thread make me wonder if I choose my parishes very carefully. (Indeed, I do.)

  83. catholicmidwest says:

    “There’s a large school attached to the parish, the priests are visiting, teaching, saying Mass, and running all the stuff that pertains to an 1800-family parish.”

    American Mother,
    There are teachers to manage the classroom; there are laypeople to staff the meetings. Priests need to attend to the spiritual well-being of the people STARTING with the SACRAMENTS. When the sacraments have been administered, THEN they can fill the REMAINDER of their available time with the lesser stuff like meetings, routine business, and LASTLY, clowning around with the school kids.

  84. catholicmidwest says:

    Remember, the parish exists not to keep the electricity on, the snow shoveled, the bills paid and the kids going to school. Those are services that parishes do.

    The parish exists as a religious entity FIRST. All the other stuff anyone can get anywhere else for a few bucks. And most laypeople know that.

  85. AnAmericanMother says:

    Counsel of perfection.

    All those things need to be done to run a parish. If parishioners don’t step up to do it, the priest and the deacons have to do it.

    And “a few bucks” ain’t always forthcoming either. If parishioners don’t step up . . .

    It is easy for the clergy to get stuck in a rut doing all the things other than the sacraments. But that’s what happens if the laity don’t do their bit. Too many people just show up, take advantage of the sacraments, don’t even put a little something in the plate, and leave. And they still expect the lights to be on and the air conditioning running whenever they show up.

  86. AnAmericanMother says:

    nazareth priest,

    Oh, dear. Prayers up.

  87. catholicmidwest says:

    No, American Mother, maybe you misunderstood what I said.

    The ONLY thing that Catholic parishes could offer that you can’t reasonably get someplace else .. like the mall.. IS SPIRITUAL HELP. You can buy everything else for a few bucks, but not from the parish! Most people realize this and behave accordingly.

    I’ve never seen a parish that didn’t have volunteers wanting to help. Around here there’s quite a pecking order, in fact, especially when people get the idea they might be paid something eventually.

  88. catholicmidwest says:

    You can’t get the sacraments anywhere else, and there is no substitute (thankfully) for them. This is what the Church must provide, first and foremost. Everything else flows from this.

  89. Henry Edwards says:


    I am familiar with your fine parish (unless I’ve misguessed entirely), with its legendary monsignor as pastor, three assist. pastors (called parochial vicars there), plus a fifth priest in residence, and five deacons (the last time I counted).

    In Knoxville, a magnificent Romanesque traditional church — filled with an amazing stained glass program, marble statuary, mosaics filling the dome and the ceilings, rose windows — has recently been finished, and has garnered much national publicity as one of the most ambitious new Catholic parish churches in recent years.

    During the entire design and construction of the church for this parish — just a bit smaller than yours, perhaps, but well over a thousand families, and with a thriving parish school — the pastor who was in minute oversight of everything, with constant additional fund-raising due to escalating construction costs in the wake of Katrina, with just a single assist. priest — had plenty of time for weekly confessions, and to catch up spent every first Friday all day in the confessional, from immediately after his morning Mass until at least 6 pm, with (to my knowledge) a single 20-minute break around midday. So sought as a confessor was he that there was usually a line all day. But, for sure, he never left the confessional even after darkness fell, so long as additional penitents remained in line.

  90. Thank you, all of you, for your prayers for our Diocese.
    I know they will give assistance to our incoming Bishop, comfort to the families of the Parish of St. Patrick in Onalaska, WI (where Fr. U. was the former pastor), the schools that he was involved with, the presbyterate of our Diocese, many of whom are shaken and very upset by this whole thing.
    Jesus bless you all. Mary intercede for you!

  91. Random Friar says:

    This may not go over well, and I understand this does not apply to all (I freely admit some priests are lazy or heterodox), but I think one of the dangers of the diocesan priesthood now especially (and this is rife in Protestant ministers as well!) is burnout. Physical and emotional burnout. When you get one or the other of these, you are almost certainly going to have spiritual burnout. I have seen it, lots of it, and it is sad.

    Part of this is because parish life has conflicting demands of a parish priest, especially one flying solo.

    -While a parochial school can be run suitably by a layperson (and most are), who do you think the children want to see visit? [Multiply a 5 minute visit by Pre-k through 8, sometimes double grades]. Where are the parents going to direct their complaints to when Principal Smith does not see eye to eye? The pastor is often the last court of appeals in these matters. At the same time, he is pastor of souls over the school as well. Would you want a pastor -not- to have oversight of the parochial school in case the school went off track? This doesn’t mean he has to run day-to-day details, but he cannot delegate the responsibility away fully.

    -We are now in the age of instant communication. While in days of yore, you could have messages taken, answer them when you could, etc, people want their priests available 24/7, and not just for emergencies. Again, the pastor is the final arbiter, so if two parish staff members have a big disagreement over who had the Hall reserved for 7 PM… “Well, I’ll just ring up/IM the pastor and settle this, then!” Or, “I know this is your day off, BUT…” What happens when two equally good and holy parish groups fight? Often, it’d be safer to be in the first landing wave in Iwo Jima or Normandy.

    -If a priest does not show up at each and every event, he is a “bad priest,” or that it “would be a big disappointment if he didn’t come.”

    -If the previous pastor or priest had a habit of relaxing at your house for dinner, or you just want to invite him over, and can’t understand why Pastor Newguy can’t or won’t come, know that even if only 1% of active parishioners wanted to have him over — that’s a lot of people he’s going to have to turn down, especially if he’s on his own.

    Yes, a lot of this is because priests/ministers do not set proper boundaries. And if a priest is burned out, he will become -clinically- depressed. And if he’s depressed, he’s either going to bury himself in work, ironically, to avoid facing the emptiness inside from not having a good spiritual life (because he doesn’t pray), and then his spiritual example will seem hollow, or he will withdraw himself from the parish, and become lost, like so many folks, in the bottle, the tv, what have you.

    Now, you might counter, “Well, pray for grace!” or “The grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders should give you the fortitude to do everything!” There are superhuman priests who have an abundance of grace that pours out. But God has never had all priests have the same level of grace, or the same physical fortitude, or the same mental stamina. God did not make all priests St. Jean Marie Vianneys, or St. Francis Xaviers.

    Yes, I think we *should* have more Confession times, more Masses, more devotions. But the demands of the modern parish, especially today, grinds many men’s souls to spiritual dust. The critical years of priesthood are not when men are pastors. It’s the first five years, for they see the shell of a man so many have become and sadly flee.

    catholicmidwest: In one sense I agree, in another I do not. The Church exists first and foremost to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ (see “Evangelium Nuntiandi”). The Sacraments then follow for the spiritual nourishment and healing of Christian souls.

    There is also the great danger of priests seeing themselves, or being treated only as “sacramental machines.” This can occur in both liberal and conservative parishes. I used to work in fast food way back in the day to support my way through college, and I’m sure many people could commiserate here, on how so many people de-personalize the person serving them or in any service industry, and treat them merely as instruments, if not worse. Yes, priests are instruments of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean they should be treated *only* as an instrument. It is hard on a human person after a while, and it really takes a lot of effort to maintain the proper spiritual attitude and discipline.

    I do not claim superiority to any priest or person. Don’t get me wrong: I love this vocation and try to do my part to recruit more priests and religious! But I know *very* well that if I have persevered this far as a priest and a Catholic, I do so only by the grace of God. May God grant me, my brother priests and all souls final perseverance and mercy.

  92. Random Friar says:

    Oops, did not mean the strikethroughs. Ignore my ignorance!

  93. Random Friar: You are correct, unfortunately.
    And I say this with utmost respect for you, and all the active priests, religious and diocesan, that give so generously, so faithfully, so diligently.
    But I must reiterate: the Sacrament of Penance is not just an option, nor something that can be confined to a half-hour,or an hour once a week.
    If we are serious about calling people to conversion, to holiness, to a life with God, we have to make this a priority, whatever that means. And, even though I am not an “active priest”, I get requests, at all hours of the day, for confession. And unless I’m sick or otherwise duly occupied, I respond, because Jesus gave me this power/authority to absolve sins; a counselor can’t do it, a friend can’t do it, prayer for hours can’t do it…by the ordination as a priest, I CAN do it, and I feel obligated, if it is possible, to do it, for the salvation of souls and the good of the people of God.
    Bless you, Father, for your loving care for the flock. These are just my thoughts.

  94. AnAmericanMother says:

    Henry Edwards,

    I think you’ve guessed right, although one of the priests in residence is full time prison ministry, and one of the other priests and one of the deacons are full time at the Spanish Mission (which is run entirely by this parish). And “legendary” ain’t the word for Monsignor, he really gives the impression that he could just put his head down and walk straight through a brick wall (without disturbing the ash on the omnipresent Maduro). Pretty intimidating, but a heart of pure gold.

    With that said (and they all always seem to be busy ALL the time), how can I gently broach the subject of perhaps a Wednesday evening time for confession when I’ve been told already that nobody has the time? It took us two years just to get some of the clergy to the choir party . . . . although they had a jolly good time and I think they’ll be back . . . .

    It’s kind of a circular problem — you can’t demonstrate a need until you set aside the time AND get people there —

    Also in a parish this large there’s unfortunately a bit of a “let George do it” attitude among a good number of the laity, so that the priests and deacons really are run off their legs.

  95. kap says:

    Forgive me, if this has been previously ‘said’….I believe if all priests would fraternally correct and encourage each other it would assist in the reception of abundant grace and mercy. Many times I have encountered ‘lukewarm’ priests that do not take the time to administer the sacrament of Reconciliation correctly…my greatest fear…is if they treat this sacrament this way then what are they doing with Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist? There have been too many times that I have experienced a horrible Confession and did not have any recourse…what is a pentitent to do? I do not like to speak this way of priests. Case in point: I attended confession at the Sat. alloted time- before Sun. vigil Mass – and was quite disturbed that I had to go to the sacristy for Fr. to hear my confession. He was not attentive to my confession as he was busy and moving about sacristy preparing for Mass. (I was on time and early for Confession.) Fr. normally hears confessions in the confessionals, but this day, he took me back to the sacristy instead. I have not gone back to that parish. Should I confront him? I don’t think so…also, please know that I pray daily for all priests!

  96. kap says:

    One more thing…per the title of your post Fr.Z…its not just stingy with the Confession schedule, its ‘stingy’ with the Sacrament too. : ( Thank you ‘Nazareth Priest’ and all priests who faithfully and lovingly administer the Sacraments!

  97. Random Friar says:

    nazareth priest: I agree 200%. By all means, we priests should make the Sacrament of Penance as available as often as possible! I try to do so as well and am edified you continue to do so, even in “retirement.” My intent was solely to let folks know that some good priests get torn apart or lost spiritually by the demands of a parish, even with good intentions from all parties. It is very, very sad to see.

    I just wanted to point out that it is difficult, if not impossible to reconcile both that priests should “stick to the Sacraments” at the same time that we want to shy away from, (justifiably, I believe), “Parish Life Coordinators.” Trying to be all things to all people is a difficult path –trying to *do* all things for all people is the Express Lane to burnout.

    I am a religious, and I cannot fathom how some lone priests can possibly survive. Obviously, God has blessed them with a strength He has not given me, lest I become proud.

  98. kap says:

    I just found this after I posted…’Fr. B’ (B’ham,AL.) – today’s homily:

    “Handing on the faith is very much like tossing heavy boxes, one generation tossing the faith to the next generation. This handing on the faith has to be done properly or the faith gets dropped and
    damaged or people get hurt. Sadly, we see the effects of when the faith is handed on inappropriately. Sometimes we see the faith dropped altogether. Sometimes we see damage done to the faith as it
    is passed on. The box gets dropped because the one passing it on, the one who receives it, or both drop the box.”

    I would apply this to the Sacraments…

  99. kap: Sorry that Fr. was not being attentive as you made your confession.
    As I have said, probably ‘ad nauseum’, we just have to wait as the new “crop” of priests, properly trained, zealous for holiness and making the Sacrament of Penance available and a “good experience” for the faithful, take their positions in future as pastors, diocesan officials, etc.
    It WILL change.
    I am very hopeful and convinced of this.
    Many older priests do not go to confession regularly; they don’t see the need for it, unless one is a horrid sinner. That’s just not right; it’s not the teaching of the Church, nor her perennial practice.
    It is changing, “brick by brick”. But encouraging your pastors to be present in the confessional (as the example of our Sister here, who, in her life as a lay person, requested, often, to go to confession to a pastor who was negligent in hearing confessions) and thanking them profusely for hearing your confessions, may help turn the “tide”. God is so generous; if we just ask, He will act. I’m convinced of this.

  100. Random friar: You are most kind.
    Our association of the faithful includes diocesan priests; our superior is a diocesan priest. I do know, from experience, and the contact with them, how demanding diocesan life is. And, unfortunately, it deflects from the really central focus of growing in holiness, the primacy of the Sacraments, etc.
    Being a CEO is just not what a priest/pastor is meant to be.
    And with all of the demands of time re: meetings, marriage prep, pastoral counseling, etc.,
    I do wonder what St. Jean Marie Vianney would do with the contemporary demands of pastoral life;
    somehow, a balance has to be created. It is not easy; I realize this.
    But on the day of Priestly Ordination I did realize (and do continue to realize) that there are two powers/authority given to me as a precious gift; to consecrate bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Mass, and to absolve sins in the Name of the Holy Trinity…somehow these two precious gifts must remain the focus of our lives as priests.
    Bless, you Father.

  101. Random Friar says:

    Many thanks and blessings, nazareth priest!

    I think in the central points we agree. I imagine that St. Jean Marie Vianney probably had his share of critics in his day as well. To love is to open yourself up for criticism and rejection.

    It seems to me you strike a point that always bears repeating: we priests sometimes, in the name of taking care of the flock, neglect our own spiritual care, to our own danger and that of the flock! If even Our Lord took time away to pray alone, and our Blessed Mother took time to contemplate things in her heart, how can we sinful men do any less?

  102. John 6:54 says:

    If you offer it they will come. At parishes where they offer it before every Mass, I see it used, always.

    People who goto confession, and use it with freqency, know where & when they can get it, and for this penitent its not offered enough.

  103. catholicmidwest says:

    Random friar, you said, “The Church exists first and foremost to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ (see “Evangelium Nuntiandi”). The Sacraments then follow for the spiritual nourishment and healing of Christian souls.”

    Are you trying to tell me, ex-Protestant that I am, that preaching is more important than the Eucharist????? I certainly hope not, if only because Catholics are lousy, lousy preachers.

    The Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith, as is said so often. The Sacraments are not to be outdone by any other thing in the Church. They don’t compete, they participate in fullness in a way that can’t be replaced by anything else. And it’s a priest’s job to administer them. Period. Priests with bad attitudes may think of themselves as “sacramental machines” if they want to, just like a mother might think of herself as a baby machine, or a hardworking father might think of himself as nothing but a cash register. But we all know that those would be just pity parties, don’t we?? At least I hope in our better moments we do. Because if we don’t, why are we doing this at all???

  104. robtbrown says:


    The simple answer to your very good question is: What is first in the order of Intention is last in the order of Execution.

  105. Jason says:

    God bless all the Priests who have posted here. Thank you and I pray for you.

    I take great issue with the idea that Catholics are “lousy lousy preachers.”

    Catholics are the only preachers. There is only one bulwark of Truth and that is the Catholic church. Some individual priests may fall short of preaching that Truth but the Church is the only preacher.

    I am blessed with a good pastor. His preaching is absolutely Catholic, thereby absolutely true. What better preaching can there be?

    He’s not flamboyant, or demonstrative, or entertaining. What to me is lousy is the protestant notion of worship as entertainment.

    When a faithful Catholic Priest ascends the pulpit to speak of eternal Catholic Truth, it is like the Visitation whereby St. John the Baptist in his mother’s womb leapt for joy at being in the very presence of the Truth.

  106. Supertradmum says:


    Perhaps what catholicmidwest means is that not all priests preach the Truth, or if they do, not clearly. Most of the sermons I hear are based on “emotion” and not the Scriptures, or based on psychology, and not Christ or the fantastic teachings of the Holy Catholic Church. That would be a definition of “lousy” preaching.

    What we need to hear are sermons which teach from the Mind of Christ and not from the mind of a less than perfect human being-either protestant or Catholic.

    Still, the Eucharist is the center of our Worship, and the homily is and should be secondary to that Great Mystery of Transubstantiation. If a priest truly preaches on the readings of the day, then he is connecting the word with the Word. But, is not the Mass primarily the Sacrifice and the homily truly not the essence.

  107. Jason and Random Friar: Thank you.
    I’m no Fulton Sheen preacher; far from it.
    I just want to make known the truths of our Catholic Faith, as revealed in the Sacred Liturgy, of whatever Forma.
    Sometimes it is good; sometimes not. But hopefully, some bit of Truth will be given to the Faithful.
    The riches given to us in the texts of the Sacred Liturgy are far beyond my abilities; I just try to reveal some “nugget”; some powerful Truth that will give those listening a very real exhortation to live the Faith throughout the week; to make their lives a “living sacrifice” united with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; and a way for them to have the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity more deeply ingrained within them so that they can be the “Presence of Christ” in the midst of a sad, sorry and dark world.

  108. Jason says:

    I won’t engage your comments about the primacy of the Eucharist. Isn’t this a Catholic site?

    My remarks were primarily in thanks to the wonderful Priests who have posted in this thread and to state my opinion regarding the notion that Catholics are “lousy preachers”, which is a source of concern for the fellow or lady who submits to such a thing.

    I can remember how awful it was being subjected to modernist liturgy. It very nearly drove me away from the One Faith. The Holy Ghost grabbed me and took me to orthodoxy. Like our Redemption it was strictly a gift. My parish is an oasis and sometimes I forget that not everyone has access to sound liturgy and Priests grounded in Holy Truth.

  109. Jason says:

    God bless you and strengthen you nazareth priest and all our holy Priests. One Rosary a day for you guys is not enough.

  110. Supertradmum and Jason: You both hit on something so very central to the need for homilies that actually refer to living a “eucharistic life”…I am very grateful that I was trained in homiletics by holy priests, diocesan and religious, who emphasized always drawing the faithful to the Mystery being celebrated/re-presented on the Altar.
    No psychologizing, no “theology classes”, no dry hermeneutics of some idiot Scripture scholar (I’m sure there are quite decent Scripture scholars…we’ll just continue here!)….just plain common sense “how do I live this as Catholic here and now?”.
    The homily, from my understanding and training, is to always refer to the Eucharistic Sacrifice and how God’s Word makes a difference in living our fidelity to Him.
    Otherwise, we’re just reveling in our good feelings; psychologizing so that we can be “better people”; making light of the real demands of our Lord’s Holy Gospel…I read recently some “homilies” from certain websites from our own Diocese…absolute trash, despicable, nothing that a second grader from our parish school couldn’t produce…I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but we are doing no one any favor by preaching “cotton candy”…we might as well close shop.
    The secular counselors and psychologists do a much better job of it; at least they charge for their services and make a living…priests who preach “nothing” are living off the faithful who depend upon them to get them to heaven. That is not a fair exchange, in my mind.

  111. Random Friar says:

    catholicmidwest: I think others touched on what the Church teaches, but I urge you to read through “Evangelium Nuntiandi” to get what Pope Paul VI teaches more fully than a condensed version I can present.

    As for preaching, although it is not the “source and summit” as the Eucharist is, it is, nevertheless, important. One of the good things about Vatican II, I hope we can agree, is in its stress for good preaching. I also agree with nazareth priest above: the danger for preachers is that the homily becomes some kind of entertainment vehicle or feel-good message. There are times when the Good News must comfort the afflicted, but we cannot even try to compete as entertainment with the media. We clergy will quickly become boring if we try. Rather, we should lead the people into the Mystery which is Christ, yes, especially in His Sacraments, most often focusing on the Eucharist, but today we also need to educate on the value of Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick for souls, while strengthening the theology of Holy Orders and Matrimony. And all within 5-10 minutes! ;)

  112. Henry Edwards says:

    Rather, we should lead the people into the Mystery which is Christ, yes, especially in His Sacraments, most often focusing on the Eucharist, but today we also need to educate on the value of Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick for souls, while strengthening the theology of Holy Orders and Matrimony. And all within 5-10 minutes!

    Doesn’t preaching at Mass often suffer from confusion of objectives? Is the homily an integral part of the liturgy — heightening the Mystery and leading people into it — or is it part of the catechetical program of the parish? If you try to do it all in those 5-10 minutes, is any of it done well?

  113. RichR says:

    Here in Bryan-College Station, we have Texas A&M University , a real vocations powerhouse (I think they’re up to 60 priests and religious so far). The sacraments are available before every daily Mass, with extra times on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night, and Saturday. The students are demanding it because they are getting solid formation and catechesis.

    Even in the local family parish (St. Thomas Aquinas), the people have asked for extended hours. So the pastor, Fr. Michael O’Connor (who regularly inserts a plug for Confession in his amazing homilies) has Confessions Saturday, Wednesday, and Friday – and people show up.

    I would say that a good Examination of Conscience is appropriate if you are going to revive this Sacrament. There are some crumby ones out there that are very vague and will not help (and may hurt tender consciences or inspire tepidity).

  114. Random Friar says:

    Henry: Not all at once, of course. The homily can have a catechetical value, especially in these times where catechesis seems lacking. Many times folks do not realize fully the value of the Sacraments (well, which one of us does, anyway?). Why not bring them further into the Mystery. The readings will point us the way we should go, taking the state of souls and local situation into account.

  115. lofstrr says:

    Our aging, somewhat liberal pastor has seemed to be tacking conservative in the past couple of years. This last year during lent he directly mentioned the importance of confession and that there would be more confession times than in previous years. Every evening for 2 weeks and 3 hours on the two Saturdays. I was really impressed. I don’t know if this was from him or came at the prompting of our new Bishop but either way it was good to see.

    But what I don’t like about the normal 1 hour on Saturday is that it is easily missed being right in the middle of the afternoon and then you are stuck trying to decide if you want to bother father for some of his time during the week.

    There is another thing that disturbs me. When making an appointment for a confession, how is it supposed to be anonymous when you call, get the secretary, have to give her your name and what the appointment is regarding? Does the right to an anonymous confession only refer to the contents of the confession or does it also cover that you fact that you are having a confession? Within a reasonable degree.

  116. irishgirl says:

    nazareth priest, Random Friar, and all the other priest posters-thank you for all you do for us as our spiritual shepherds!

  117. Rob F. says:

    Just a few questions for those involved in parish ministry.

    1. Is there any reason why confession can’t be held on Sunday? After all, it’s on Sunday where most of us have or make the time to be present at the church.

    2. Is there any reason why confession can’t be scheduled right after mass instead of right before mass? It would be nice if Father did not have to hurry off to the sacristy just when your turn has (finally!) come up.

    Quite a few people have commented on how convenient it is that their parish has confession for one hour during the week as well as one hour on Saturday. While I’m sure that any day would be more convenient than Saturday, what time could possibly be more convenient than Sunday right after mass?

  118. Joshua08 says:

    Confession can be heard on any day, even Good Friday, and certainly on Sunday! It can be heard at any time, even during a Mass (presumably of another priest….it would be wrong, outside of an emergency, to have the celebrant interrupt the Mass and hear a confession)

    However, Sundays are busier days. Where there is only one priest the ability of him to hear confession after a Mass may be restricted. Say if another Mass is to be celebrated soon, or he has another parish/mission Church to tend to. At my parish currently there is no longer confession during the earlier Masses on Sunday, because the other priest is having to say Mass at another Church. However, when both priests are there there is confession before and during Mass. While many places could do far better in offering the sacrament more often, we must be mindful that the priest (well most of them) cannot bilocate

  119. Random Friar says:

    Rob: Re Sunday Confession, it’s more a matter of practicality. If you have one priest at a parish, especially if he’s preaching, he’s going to be awfully busy between Masses. Grabbing him at the Sacristy just before Mass is understandable, but priests really should prepare for Mass as well. It’s hard for some of us to just “jump in” cold turkey. “Well, so what if Mass starts a few minutes late?” That is an unnecessary annoyance to and unfair to the majority of parishioners. If you have more than one priest, it’s a lot easier to grab the one(s) that is/are “off.” I was once grabbed by someone who wanted a Confession… as I was walking up the aisle to read the Gospel and preach. The penitent did not seem to understand that it was not a reasonable request (although I did say I would be around after the homily!).

    And maybe it’s my cynical side, but if you grab Father just before Mass starts, I have a feeling many know full well that Father can’t “waste” time to get into good spiritual questions and advice. They want to receive the Eucharist, period. (To receive the Eucharist in a state of grace is laudable, but to treat Confession with such a mechanical manner is not). I almost never have people who want a Confession 1/2 hour before Mass. But for some reason, 5 minutes before Mass seems to be the starter’s pistol shot to get people for Confession. ;)

  120. Rachel says:

    Our dear beloved deceased pastor made it a priority to have confessions before every Mass, 7 days a week. When he died, some of us at the parish were concerned that whoever would take over would discontinue it. We weren’t the only ones who took advantage of the confession times. Many people in the diocese would come to my parish just to have their confessions heard because nearly all the other parishes in the diocese had their confessions between 4-5 or 5-5:30 pm on Saturdays.

    Thankfully, our current Pastor (who was the associate pastor at my parish) has continued what our beloved pastor did. We still have confessions before every Mass. I hope that it continues because often times the only time that I can get to confession is before Mass on Sundays.

  121. JonM says:

    My parish is outstanding with Confession availability. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday have regular times scheduled; whoever is receiving confessions will stay past the hour.

    Incidentally we also have three days each week of Adoration.

  122. catholicmidwest says:


    Temporal priority is not the same as importance. If preaching is indeed supposed to point to the Eucharist in any but the weakest way, then some priests had better do a better job because Catholic preaching by and large does not do a good job of that now regardless of the fact that it happens 10-15 minutes earlier in the mass.

    Most homilies, and mind you I’ve been all over the country, start out with a joke. Then we’re reminded to “luv” one another (not “love” which involves obedience and all those nasty things). And then they often end with a joke or a “big thought” which usually doesn’t consist of anything but another reminder to “luv” one another. You know, the pagans “luv” one another. I’m surrounded by them all the time and I’m not blind.

    When a priest’s homily sounds like an episode of Romper Room, it’s always interesting to try to figure out if it sounds that way because a) the priest really thinks he’s preaching the Catholic faith and just missing on all cylinders, or b) he’s trying not to upset the “dumb laypeople” he thinks he’s talking to.

    I go to a parish that for about 10 years had a priest who preached consistently about little woodland creatures and their adventures. Little squirrels and woodchucks making huggy and kissy, yes indeed. And of course, all the kids were invited to come up and sit on the altar. Nobody learned anything. Heck, I’d be willing to bet that nobody even thought of anything that had anything to do with the faith. They were all hoping that little Janie wouldn’t pee or say something really loud about grandma’s teeth, etc. We don’t have that priest anymore. Now we have one that tells ribald jokes. I don’t know if that’s an improvement or not.

    None of that was necessary, you must realize. Laypeople do very well for themselves. Preach the gospel and we will rise to the occasion.

  123. bookworm says:

    A parish in my area has confessions 20 minutes before every weekday Mass , as well as on Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. I usually end up going on Saturday afternoon, but I have taken advantage of the weekday morning schedule at times when I really did not want to put it off. I can do it right before going to work if I leave a little bit early.

    I’d love to see more confessions offered during lunch hours, even if just once or twice a week. In medium to large size cities with a lot of office workers who run errands on their lunch hour I think it would be well attended. It wouldn’t require a special trip the way Saturday afternoon confessions do.

  124. irishgirl: Thank you, dear. Really.It’s really nothing; God has ordained me to be available for the faithful to confess their sins; but I do really appreciate your kind accolade.
    As to this other mess:
    why is it such a big deal?
    Priests of God: can’t you give an hour on Saturday AM and Saturday PM to hear confessions? I know you are busy; I know you have all kinds of everything to contend with;
    but for Pete’s sake, are two hours devoted to hearing confessions going to kill you/put you in the mental ward/alcoholic rehab center?
    I mean, really?
    Jesus will bless you; Mary will help you; the faithful will love you and give you all kinds of help and support. I mean it.

  125. Random Friar says:

    catholicmidwest: I think the only time I mention little woodland creatures in a homily might be in a recipe. We Dominicans love our little animal friends as much as our Franciscan brethren; we just love them grilled or deep fried. ;)

  126. AnAmericanMother says:


    There’s a place for all God’s creatures – right next to the mashed potatoes!

    Mrs. Mallard: “I object most strenuously to these proceedings!”

  127. catholicmidwest says:

    “We Dominicans love our little animal friends as much as our Franciscan brethren; we just love them grilled or deep fried. ;)”

    I hope your antecedent is “animal friends.” :|

    Maybe you should sign your name Random Fryer. Just kidding. =)

  128. Agnes of Prague says:

    Catholic Midwest, that was a GOOD one!!!!!!!!! Wow! Indeed the lack of the word ‘do’ after ‘brethren’ leaves it open to interpretation. This Franciscan type is laughing.

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