Confessions during the Triduum

Each year one sees confusion about the Sacrament of Penance during the Triduum.

Some priests, liturgical experts, and even diocesan liturgy offices wrongly claim the rubrics of the Missal or “Sacramentary” forbid the sacrament of Penance.

However, this claim is incorrect.

Here is what the texts really say.

The previous 1970 and 1975 editions of the Missale Romanum (the Novus Ordo) said of Good Friday and Holy Saturday (BTW… the language of this rubric goes back to Pope Innocent III +1216):

Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta penitus non celebrat… On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments.

However, since this is in the Missal (the book for MASS), sacramenta refers only to the Eucharist, Holy Mass, and not the other sacraments.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) clarified this in its official publication Notitiae (1977 – no. 137 (Dec) p. 602).

In the 2002 edition of the Missale Romanum at paragraph 1 for Good Friday all doubt is removed.

The above cited text has been amended to say (the change with my emphasis):

Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta, praeter Paenitentiae et Infirmorum Unctionis, penitus non celebrat… On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

Priests can indeed, and probably should, hear confessions on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday.

Who can forget the image of the late and soon-to-be-beatified Pope hearing confession in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday?

Here is a bonus tip, speaking of confessions.

As I have posted before, it is both permitted and often appropriate for confessions to be heard during Holy Mass on other days of the year!

Want proof?  Try the CDWDS document Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 and also the Congregation’s Response to a Dubium in Notitiae 37 (2001) pp. 259-260.

Having a priest in a confessional before and even during Mass on Sundays and feasts could be a way to revive the use of this ailing but essential sacrament.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I’ve posted this before, but Fr. George Rutler, who schedules confession twice a day every day of the week and is obviously a great promoter of this Sacrament, always has several priests hearing confessions during his Good Friday services, and the lines never stop. They start before noon, and will sometimes go till close to 5:00. And the priests are really great. They listen closely to what you say and give excellent advice, unlike far too many churches I’ve been to.

    I believe that in order to really revive this sacrament, as Fr. Z states, is to preach about sin and how serious it is, instead of telling everyone that we are all just victims and not truly responsible for our actions. The only time I hear about sin in any serious sense of the word is at a TLM.

  2. JenB says:

    You also have to advertise it. People have to know it is offered, if they are to avail themselves of it.

    For instance, my parish has a huge sign out front. On it are the times for all the Masses, different meetings, etc. No mention of confession (which is only offered for one hour a week). And, apparently, there is a tradition of offering the Sacrement of Reconciliation on Lenten Wednesdays, but it is not even mentioned in the bulletin! I only found out about it because my children have choir rehearsal on Wednesdays.

    I have been known to read the parish signs when I am in an unknown town, and plan my stay there with that information in mind.

  3. Joan M says:

    This morning the Holy Week schedule was available at all Masses. Included in it is :

    Sacrament of Reconciliation:
    Holy Thursday, April 21st – 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm
    Good Friday, April 22nd – 10:00 am to 11:00 am.

    This is in addition to before and after the 9:00 am Masses on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

  4. Arieh says:

    Diocese of Steubenville, no confessions during the Triduum as long as I have live here. Don’t know about this year, but I assume no confession in any parish in the diocese.

  5. Brooklyn says:

    One of the worst things I have ever seen is a communal penance service. Everyone writes their sins on a piece of paper, you get line to walk to the front of the church where a priest puts his hand on your head to absolve you while you throw your “sins” in a big garbage can. After everyone is done, all of the “sins” are burned up. Some people actually believe this is as valid as confessing to a priest and being forgiven.

  6. pyrosapien says:

    We will have confession on:
    Wednesday: from 5:00 – 9:00 (not part of the Triduum I know) 4 priests
    Thursday Father will wash the feet of 12 Altar BOYS
    Friday 12:00 – 3:00 (3 priests)

    Easter Vigil Mass begins at 3:00 PM (just kidding Fr. Z…. it begins at 8:30, [sunset is at 8:09])

  7. mike cliffson says:

    I do NOT like seeing confessions going on during mass. This is churlish of me , since more than once, the opportunity being there during mass, I have felt impelled to confess, (either thru my own very recent sins or because getting to “scrape”beforehand was somewhat hindered by the things that happen with a large family,), and having had absolution, received communion joyfully, rather than gloomily not receive. True , I may be a case of my generation’s scruples about communion, I mean how can we ever be really fit and worthy of ourselves? pride disguised as despair a la Judas. ( I don’t mean the utterly mechanical only-go -to -communion -if -you’ve- had -confession-inthe- last -24 hrs- and -are -still -in a -simonpure state of grace , which meant many of my contemporaries, once adolescent,never,ever, communicated even to fulfil their mimimum yearly obligation , a nd mostly eventually lapsed altogether, perhaps for other reasons. ) Anyone else my age out there or are we all dead?
    Anyhow, quite a number of Spanish parishes where there is more than one priest do it.

  8. Random Friar says:

    My liturgical sense is that it normally shouldn’t go on during Mass. But as has been observed, we need to get people in there, STAT! Especially these “submarine Catholics” who only come up for air twice a year!

    And it’s easier to hear confessions during Mass than to try to drag people to the Saturday hours. The mountain needs to go to Mohammed, sometimes.

  9. andreat says:

    We have had an extra priest visiting for the last couple of Sundays, so have had confessions during Mass on Sundays, as well as before and after Mass. There has been a constant stream of penitinents. Which just goes to show, sit in the box and they will come…

    I did a bit of a survey of confession times in my city recently. It worked out about 25 hours per week (and that was being generous) and most were just after Mass Saturday morning, or just before Mass on Saturday evening. There were only two half hour slots during the week. Even if everyone was encouraged to go to confession once a month, there would not be enough time to cover them all.

  10. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    I go to my parish largely for the fact of there being confession there every Mass for the whole Mass, as well as before and after. I know you have to have the man power to do it, but it’s wonderful when it can be done.

  11. eiggam says:

    Here in the Kalamazoo diocese, confession times have really increased, especially this Lent. We have confessions on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and scattered other times during the week. There’s always a big line after Saturday morning Mass. The parish that has the 5 pm Sunday mass offered confession earlier in the afternoon and people were coming. Continuous improvement here!

  12. cuaguy says:

    My “parish” (it really isn’t a parish, but it is my Church home in DC) ,the Basilica of the National Shrine in DC, has extended their (already extensive) Confession hours from 5 hours a day spread out throughout the day, to 8 hours a day, from 10AM to 6PM on Wednesday, the 20th to Saturday the 23rd.

  13. kiwitrad says:

    In our city there is only 1 1/2 hours of cxonfessions per week between 3 churches and ALL of them are on Saturday morning! I was shocked to read in my Parish Newsletter that if you want to go to confession during Holy Week you have to ring the priest and make an appointment. Very sad.

  14. Gail F says:

    At my parish, confession is only one day a week — Saturday afternoon — for half an hour. The last few times I went I was the only person there. A neighboring parish has a new priest who has added a lot of confession time (to the standard half-hour on Saturday) but it is all on Sunday morning around their mass, and we go to our parish mass. Anyway, I think it is quite obvious to people that if confession is half an hour a week on Saturday no one really expects you to go. And I suppose it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as no one goes and the pastor figures the thing is a waste of time.

    Several of my relatives who have made recent trips to Europe have told me about confession going on during mass in several countries — which seem to have a far more casual attitude to mass than we Americans. In some countries people come and go throughout the mass, and go to confession during mass. I would go to confession at mass if it was offered, because it is very difficult to get there any other time.

  15. Random Friar says:

    The National Shrine, as cuaguy mentioned, has tons of availability for Confession, although that is due in large part to the large number of supply priests handy (e.g., the Dominican House of Studies across the street!).

  16. Ed the Roman says:

    Good Friday, we’ve got nothin at all except the Passion: office closed, etc.

    But confessions are available Holy Saturday from 10 to 11.

  17. frjim4321 says:

    We did the first form here on the Monday of the Third Week of Lent with eighteen priests and a full church. Almost all of the stations had screens, which the folks seem to prefer. When the first form is done correctly (and it seldom is) it seems to be very effective in promoting the sacrament. Per the Pastoral on the Triduum by Bishop Griffin, we don’t offer the second form during the Triduum.

  18. Sacristymaiden says:

    We are going to have confessions all the way through Triduum at Wyoming Catholic College!

  19. James Locke says:

    Jealous of above.

    At the University of Dallas, they are having a big, multi priest, confession service. And thats it.

    One of the Campus Youth leaders (since I refuse to call them ministers) just announced over Facebook that ALL other Confession times are hereby cancelled. Of course, they says, we can just walk into Father’s office, provided he is there and not busy to ask for confession at any time of the day.

    I wish there was a little more due reverence to this sacrament on campus from the CM. We sadly dont have confession everyday. Most days its just 45 min and of course you must arrive 30-40 min BEFORE the confession times start to not be 10th in line or worse, especially saturday.

    It is great to see how many students go to confession though. Despite all of the problems, the best thing about UD is not the Catholicity of the CM or the parish priest/Prior, but rather the fait of the students.

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