QUAERITUR: cutting back confession hours before Christmas

From a reader:

In the parish where I presently reside, it was announced today that the normal two hours of confessions heard on Saturdays, would be only one hour next week, and no more Saturday confessions before Christmas.

The three priests will hold a general confession service one afternoon next week. Is this normal?

Normal for what?  Normal for the 80’s perhaps.

Look.   I don’t know what the situation is at that parish.  It could be that the priests are in ill health.  It could be that they have many parishes to cover.  There could be good reasons for this.

However, it just doesn’t seem right.

If there are Masses, perhaps the priests could hear before Masses.

No more Saturday confessions before Christmas?

That strikes me as odd… but again, there could be a reason.

If you can’t find a good explanation from the pastor, why not ask your bishop what he thinks?

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  1. frjim4321 says:

    Yes, there must be more to this story.

    It could have something to do with the fact that Christmas *IS* a Saturday this year. Most of the churches in this diocese (as suggested by the diocese) are not having masses on either Christmas Day or New Years Day (anticipating the Sunday obligation for the Feast of the Holy Famly and Epiphany). It stands to reason that if there is no afternoon mass on either Saturday 12/25 or Saturday 1/1, neither would there be a confession session “before mass” since there is no mass. Also, since both are Holy Days and civil holidays which would include family celebrations, it is likely that the priests would be with their families on both of those Saturday afternoons.

    For Advent we add a Saturday morning session and a Monday evening session before Christmas for the Sacrament of Penance.

    Since the parish in question is using the first form (communal penance) prior to Christmas, it would seem that they are providing ample time to make up for the two lost Saturday afternoon sessions, plus adding an extra encouragement for parishioners to celebrate the sacrament.

    Still, I can’t quite understand why on Saturday 12/11 they would downsize from two hours to one hour, and why on 12/18 they would have none. That does sounds very strange. That’s why it seems that there must be much more to this story.

    Fr. Jim

  2. a catechist says:

    On a happier note, yesterday I heard Bishop Walker Nickless preach well on our need for repentance–sacramental Confession in order to enjoy the gifts of Confirmation from the 1st Reading–and he pulled no punches. He’s a quiet, gentle preacher but the message was real clear on our need for personal repentance and frequent reception of the sacraments. A really good sermon.

    If you can spare a prayer for him on his patronal feast day, he’s a good shepherd.

  3. priests wife says:

    These are the times that priests are waiting to listen to confession- I recommend calling and making an appointment. If your parish has 3 priests, it must be rather large- even if they might be in charge of missions as well. One hour for confessions means that maybe 6 people can confess or he tries to do a confession in a minute (?). As a lay person, you have a right to the sacrament. Of course, be polite and be flexible with the priest’s time, but make an appointment for a peaceful confession that might be more than a minute so you can also get a bit of counseling.

  4. Emilio III says:

    I’m happy to say that both churches I attend regularly have increased confession times for Advent, and one of them has asked priests from the nearby high school to help out “and we wouldn’t want them to feel that they wasted their time, would we?”

  5. tobiasmurphy says:

    Given the number of irregularly attending Catholics who could be brought back into Communion during Advent, this seems like a terribly missed opportunity. How many people would return to the Church if priests would forget the conventional wisdom (“it’s Advent; they’re too busy for Confession”) and be open to God’s work by making themselves available. There’s also the fact that tensions and depression run high this time of year, making Confession all that much more necessary.

    I was recently traveling through Birmingham, AL, and was extraordinarily grateful for a traditional parish with a priest who heard Confessions before ALL Masses. Thank God for priests who make the time on the weekends (you know, when we lay-people are most likely to have the time and inclination to go to Confession) instead of writing us off and assuming we won’t be there.

    Every parish I’ve visited where the pastor makes himself extra available, God supplies many penitents. Of course, maybe a lot of those same priests actually preach that there is such a thing as sin.

  6. SGCOLC says:

    In my parish, where the one priest hears confessions a half hour before EVERY Mass of every day, and where we usually have a penance service on the first Monday of Advent, the pastor has decided it would better serve people if he gave up the penance service, and heard confessions even MORE often! So he is adding confession times after Mass Tuesday and Thursday nights and after the second Sunday Mass. Way to go, I say!

  7. rakesvines says:

    It might be cold so, if someone needs a space heater and a bottle of rum, I’d be glad to donate a few. I just hope that they keep helping people get back to a loving relationship with the heavenly Father or grow in that relationship . That way, their parishes will thrive and they themselves will shorten their passage through Purgatory.

  8. Frank H says:

    Our wonderful new pastor and associate pastor have added confession times before each weekend Mass during Advent, and have reconfigured the parish grade school’s “penance service” into a real opportunity for individual confession for the school kids. Praise be!

    We are truly blessed to have two terrific priests, both pulling in the same direction!

  9. webpoppy8 says:

    Please, more more MORE confession times. Two jobs, four kids at home… Second most important service of any priest to the laity, after celebrating Mass. Sick calls and last rites are extremely important, but I think availability of confession is even more so.

  10. RichR says:

    General confession (assuming what’s being proposed by the PP is actually “General Absolution without individual auricular confessions”) is only valid in grave necessities, like a ship or plane going down, or in imminent danger of death. Even then, it implies that the penitent will go to individual confession and confess his sins if he survives the imminent danger.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    Um, Christmas Mass on Saturday is an obligation, is it not?

  12. moon1234 says:

    You got it. Followed by required Mass the following day. How many people you want to be are going to try and kill two birds with one Stone by going to Saturday EVENING Mass?

    I never understand why people want to do as LITTLE as possible for Mass? We are having Midnight Mass at Midnight; not ten, not eleven at MIDNIGHT!

    After a while it just gets tiring when you hear about parishes like one from the original story.

    I wonder if general confession should have been stated as communal confessional. As far as I know general confessions would take a lot LONGER. I think they meant communal confession which is strickly forbidden by the Church unless there is a dire need (Soldiers going into immediate battle, the titanic is sinking, etc. ) Communal pennace for the sake of not wanting to hear private confessions is sinful. Each participant would STILL be required to followup with a private confession at a later date.

  13. MargaretC says:

    Our cathedral priests have added confession times during Advent: one half hour before the daily 7:30 a.m. mass and another half hour each evening. Wish I could persuade them to keep the evening sessions permanently — my Saturdays fill up fast. It would be so great to have opportunities for confession during the work week.

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t get this. Friday night is Christmas Eve. [I’ll be at the midnight mass, as always.] But then there will also be all the evening masses that occur earlier on Christmas Eve in most parishes [I hope!] Then Saturday is Christmas Day, which is a Holy Day and ought to have morning masses.
    Then Saturday night is the vigil of Sunday, and Sunday should have a few morning masses, as usual….

    But people are already complaining that some folks will come only on Saturday night. Hmmmm.

    I suspect that some people are trying to freeze people out on Saturday so that they’ll see the Christmas masses as distinct from the Sunday masses and come twice. [Because there are 2 sets of readings and one apparently doesn’t trump the other.] Is that correct?

    That’s a big, big mistake. Christmas is Christmas. A lot of people won’t come to any more than one, because it’s confusing. And shoving them around over it is manipulative, folks. Get over yourselves. Be glad they come once.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    BTW, even after coming to mass on Christmas Eve, I might be looking for a Saturday night vigil mass, since the Sunday afternoon mass I like probably won’t happen that Sunday. There’s nothing wrong with this. Are you all who object to people working their schedules going to interview us all at the door and make sure we’re acceptable? Hope not.

  16. catholicmidwest says:

    Many priests need to put the remote control down, turn off the football and get over to the confessional. They’d ought to spend enough time in there to read paperback books when no one’s around. Just saying. It’s their vocation. And their job to be available for the sacraments. It’s why we have priests.

    [And here the in-crowd thought it was so they could go to umpteen million pointless & boring meetings. Wrong.]

  17. Bryan Boyle says:

    Next Tuesday, big, assembly line confession in Kendall Park NJ. 25 priests, no waiting, 7-8PM in the parish school. Get ’em in, absolve them, shoo them out. If you get, perhaps, 2 minutes face time with one of the 30 priests that will be there from all over the deanery, you will be lucky. For those who go every couple weeks (with my spiritual director…), maybe 2 minutes is all you need to tidy up the soul and get the seams straight so to speak, but, if the spirit has moved you to come back after 10? 20? 30 years…there’s a lot of territory to cover, I’m thinking. There will be adoration in the Church proper while it is going on.

    None till after the New Year. 3000 families, one priest (and 3 deacons…what’s wrong with that picture…??? Not that I’m complaining, because the deacons are holy men, but…just sayin’…). I’m thinking that if a priest’s job is the preach, pray, and sanctify…providing access to the sacraments should take precedence over making sure the decorations are tasteful, flowers just so, and the wreaths hung evenly on the pillars on either side of the sanctuary.

    Of course, with only one priest for 3000 families…so, we need more vocations. Even late ones at this point would be a help.

  18. AnAmericanMother says:

    Our parish’s regular Advent penance service is Wednesday at 7, after the 6 p.m. regular daily Mass.

    Our rector must call in chips all over the archdiocese, because there are typically anywhere from 10 to 20 priests all waiting to hear your confession. It’s not an assembly line process at all, if more time is needed you get it. I have never felt rushed, particularly with the young priests who seem to be an especially devoted and painstaking group of young men. Last year they brought a lot of the young kids in for First Confession, but the rector said he doesn’t think they’ll do that again as he likes to spend more time with them in a less chaotic and intimidating situation (priests perched on folding chairs in every nook and cranny of the church, big crowds, etc.)

    Two years ago our retired archbishop showed up and brought a visiting friend – a cardinal. He nobbled one of the confessional boxes and did yeoman service like everyone else.

  19. AnAmericanMother says:

    Which leads me to a question — I didn’t go to the cardinal to confession, but you still say “Bless me father for I have sinned,” don’t you? There isn’t some special form of address for prelates, is there?

  20. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I doubt many parishes will have an evening Mass on Christmas Day. If they did, it would be a Christmas Mass, not an anticipated Mass for Sunday, because Christmas takes precedence.

    I think there is a point when folks can make unreasonable demands of priests and expecting a priest to offer such a Mass for convenience seems to me to be unreasonable. And yes, I do think having a Mass on the evening of Christmas Day is for convenience.

    The problem of confessions for that weekend remain. As we have a 4 pm and 6 pm Mass on the Vigil of Christmas, confessions at that time just won’t work. We scheduled confessions on Friday morning, in place of those that happen at that time on Saturday morning.

    Also, you cannot get a 2-for-1 with holy days of obligation. Two holy days of obligation mean two times at Mass from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26.

  21. Charivari Rob says:

    Here in Boston we’re having a similar approach to the program from last Lent. In addition to their regularly scheduled times for Confession, on the 15th and 22nd every parish in the Archdiocese will be open from 6:30 to 8:00 pm for this Sacrament.

    Also – their research apparently showed that tens of thousands of people went to parishes other than their own for confession during the Lenten program. With that in mind, someone has written an I-phone app that will flag parishes near your current location and (when you select one of them) provide a link to directions on how to get there. There’s also a website with information on examination of conscience and making a good confession.

  22. JohnE says:

    Our parish had confessions every day last week for 4 hours. There will be confessions again this Saturday for 2 hours, and then that’s it until next year. I didn’t hear any explanation as to why.

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