A bishop promotes the Sacrament of Penance

“But Father! But Father!”, I read in my email, “You are always telling us to go to confession but around here priests don’t hear confessions very often if at all!  What are we supposed to do?”

Thus, I read of the plight of many in regard to their eternal salvation, and I am filled with dread for the souls of the priests who have the care of souls but who don’t hear confessions.  They will pay a heavier price at their judgment than those in the charge who die unshriven.

Therefore, I was glad to read on the site of the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, that a bishop has stepped up and is doing something to revive the Sacrament of Penance:

Bishop asks for hour of Confession every week in Lent

By Madeleine Teahan

The Bishop of Lancaster has launched a Lenten initiative to encourage Catholics to return to Confession.

Bishop Michael Campbell has written to all Catholic schools and parishes to announce the introduction of a co-ordinated weekly Confession on the same day, at the same hour in every church across the diocese. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
From February 29 until the Wednesday of Holy Week, every Catholic church in the Diocese of Lancaster will be open from 7pm until 8pm in order for the faithful to go to Confession.

Bishop Campbell said: “During the Lenten season we will invite those who seek to strengthen their relationship with the Lord to join us in this celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our priests are here to welcome you home, to pray with you, to be of service in the name of Jesus Christ, who offers all of us forgiveness for our sins and the gift of His mercy and love.

“Confession gives us the chance to start over, to hit the ‘reset’ button of our lives. It shows how forgiving and compassionate our God is and it helps us to grow in concern and love for others. Come to Confession this Lent and receive God’s mercy, for peace of mind and to deepen your friendship with Jesus, to receive spiritual healing and to increase your sense of joy and to experience Christ’s saving grace.”

Responding to the concern that many people feel too unworthy to return to Confession, the Bishop of Lancaster said: “God’s love for you is greater than all the sins you’ve committed or could ever commit. Now is the time to come and have God take away the burdens of guilt that can often weigh us down. If you’ve been waiting for a sign to return to the Church or to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, this is your chance to re-establish and strengthen a relationship with God that will last forever”.

A statement from the diocese explains that the “Light is On” programme is a preliminary to the forthcoming Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict XVI, which begins in October.

WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Campbell of Lancaster.

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  1. Philangelus says:

    I have a question. Actually it’s a complaint. :-) Why, whenever a bishop orders something like this, WHY do they invariably order that every parish do it at exactly the same time? Last year my diocese did this, and so did my mother’s diocese.

    Wouldn’t it be a little more conscious of the various responsibilities of the family if the Bishop said, “One extra hour of Confessions each week, on a weeknight to be determined by the parish priest”? That way if you can’t make the one at St. Thomas, you can go to the one at St. Lucy or St. Gabriel or…?

  2. JonPatrick says:

    Realistically I would think you would need more than one hour a week. If we take the time for an average confession to be 6 minutes (and some will be longer in reality) then in an hour you can handle 10 parishioners, which means in the 6 weeks of lent 60 people in the parish will get to go to confession, which may be only a fraction of the people. So if a couple of times were available, one could be at the set time and perhaps another at a time that varies by parish, as Philangelus suggests. Varying times helps with people that have different schedules for example someone working an evening shift.

    Having said that this is still good news and I hope we will see it in US dioceses also.

  3. NoTambourines says:

    What Philangelus said. I work evenings and weekends for now, so I have to plan well ahead on where my next confession is coming from. But I can appreciate the demonstration of unity by the parishes, and they’ve clearly tried to pick a time that should work for most people.

    In the U.S., MassTimes.org is a great resource for confession times as well as Mass times (though one should still call ahead or check the parish web site to be sure). It’s how I found the parish near where I work.

  4. Veronica says:

    I agree with Philangelus. It is a wonderful initiative and one example that should be followed by other Bishops. Now, let’s pray for something like this to happen here in the US. It’s so sad that precisely during Lent some parishes even post on their bulletin boards “No confessions during Holy Week” *sigh+rolling eyes*

  5. whynobeards says:

    I saw this the other week and it seems like a great idea. It means that all over the diocese people know they can call into any Catholic church and know that someone will hear their confession during that hour period. An extra hour of times, in the evening where many people are not at work, should be of great help to souls. Hopefully parishes will try and keep existing schedules in place in addition to this to give that range of times which some people need.
    (perhaps the bishop wanted to ensure parishes followed through with this initiative – how easy would it be or a parish to ignore a call simply to have more confession available during lent?)

  6. philologus says:

    I have to admit ignorance on this issue. I had no idea there were places where confession was not heard. I’m not sure I understand the reason why priests wouldn’t hear confessions. A holy, penitent congregation can only strengthen the community. I am now very grateful for the fact that this sacrament is available to me every day.

  7. Stephen D says:

    This is a contrast to the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton (UK) who said that “people go to confession too often..” Apparently he became fed up with the same people regularly confessing the same sins when he was a priest at Birmingham Cathedral! Perhaps someone could have explained that sometimes healing is gradual but that you still have to keep applying the remedy.

  8. pmullane says:

    Thanks be to God this is my bishop. He also issued a good pastoral letter on the first Sunday of 2012 asking for lay catholics written responses to the problems facing our schools, and how best to work for the new evangelisation, specifically referencing the Holy Father and the’Year ofFaith’. I have a copy on file father if you would like me to send it?

  9. pfreddys says:

    He actually did it at a time that most people could go, way to go, common sense wise to this Bishop!!!
    I would like to point out, that very much to their credit, I’ve never been turned down by a priest when I have just shown up at the rectory and requested Confession.

  10. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Apropos of Bp. Conry’s foolish comment, as mentioned by Stephen D, I am reminded of advice given me by a confessor a few years ago – that you can’t stop a speeding train all at once. (I took it as encouragement to persevere, which is what I think he meant.)

    Incidentally, Lancaster is my own diocese. I am semi-detached from it, because of the lack of provision for traditionally minded Catholics here, combined with the influence of a regular apostolate from the ICRSP in the next parish, just across the diocesan border, and of traditionally minded secular clergy also in the neighbouring diocese of Liverpool (http://offerimustibidomine.blogspot.com/). I think this is a great idea, though, and I think that the common timing is important, because the initiative needs to be as simple as possible – explicable in one sentence, one line of text, no complications or caveats or “it depends”. (After all, those of us attached to tradition have been used for years to travelling to different places at different times depending on which Sunday of the month it is … and we know that’s hardly helpful.)

    I hope and pray that this initiative is fruitful. Here in Lancashire we have a strong Catholic tradition, but in recent years we have grown cold in our faith. My only concern is that it might not reach the public it needs to reach – I have only heard of it on blog posts like this. Please pray for its success.

  11. QMJ says:

    God save the bishop! This is the first time I have heard of an initiative like this and it sounds great. Better then lenten penance services.

  12. riopeljm says:

    one hour?! we have this at my parish now and it makes me angry! one hour a week is not enough for 350 families. when you have people who are asking for confession and there is none available unless you can drive 30-40 minutes, there is a problem. there is not even confession by appt. i have had to drive my kids into a large city for confession. why??? what is the problem? it is the duty of the priest to provide the sacraments. i don’t understand why there would be any doubt that they would be readily available. it would be like me, as a wife and mother, saying nope, i will not provide a meal but one time a week. i don’t wanna and i won’t do it! except my food is not a sacrament meant to save souls and lead the faithful to heaven!!!

  13. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Dear riopeljm,

    I don’t think you have understood the initiative properly, and probably don’t understand the diocese of Lancaster well.

    Although parts of the diocese are relatively sparsely populated, by American standards there are many, closely spaced parishes with small populations. We don’t have anything like the giant parishes I have seen in some places in the States. And this is not the only hour’s confession. All the parishes I know hereabouts advertise confession times. We don’t have the situation where we have large numbers of faithful travelling long distances to receive the sacraments, but one where we have a large number of Catholics who aren’t bothering. The initiative is designed to encourage them to return to the sacrament, not to constrain its availability.

  14. riopeljm says:

    tis true (X)MCCLXIII, this is what i get for drinking and blogging ;)

  15. mezzodiva54 says:

    Thanks so much to NoTambourines for the ref. to Masstimes.org! I would be thrilled if I knew that every church in the archdiocese were to offer confession regularly at a particular time on a particular day every week — currently if I want to go to confession, I know of ONE church in this whole city that offers confession (in a confessional) immediately (that is, 5 MINUTES) prior to the noon mass. If you can’t make that, or if you’re late for some reason, you’re out of luck. Failing that, I would have to drive 30 minutes each way mid-day on Saturday, which often torpedoes the day.

  16. NoTambourines says:

    rioeljm– The one thing I can say in defense of the one-hour window is that I don’t know how taxing it must be for the priest hearing confessions. The intensity of concentration to listen, advise, and absolve again and again, dealing with the darkest corners of people’s souls, must be quite something. And some people who come to confess are “just-the-facts,” others take their time. Some of what they hear must also be disturbing.

    I was an ear-training teaching assistant for music students in graduate school. Sitting in a small room hearing an extended stretch of sight-singing exams was tiring, and all I had to do was assign a grade.

    I know your frustrations, though, with limited windows of opportunity with long lines. My parish recently cut its weekday confessions. Thankfully, the one near where I work offers a time I can catch with some regularity.

  17. n1tr0narc says:

    In the tradition of St. Pio, the diocesian chapel (not even a parish) which I attend for weekday mass has a priest available in the confessional from 8am till 8pm, mondays to Fridays, the line is always at least 6 people deep waiting. Goes to show that if you provide the priest and put it in big bold letters next to the mass schedule. People will come… especially the chapel being in the central business district… there is always that call

  18. n1tr0narc says:

    In the tradition of St. Pio, the diocesian chapel (not even a parish) which I attend for weekday mass has a priest available in the confessional from 8am till 8pm, mondays to Fridays, the line is always at least 6 people deep waiting. Goes to show that if you provide the priest and put it in big bold letters next to the mass schedule. People will come… especially the chapel being in the central business district… there is always that call to come to the peace of God.

  19. NoTambourines says:

    My grandpa’s prayer book and missal from 1907 includes a prayer for the priest in its section on confession:

    “O Lord Jesus Christ bless, I beseech Thee, Thy servant who has now ministered to me in Thy name. Help me to remember his good counsel and advice, and to perform duly what he has rightly laid upon me. And grant him the abundance of Thy grace and favor, that his own soul may be refreshed and strengthened for Thy perfect service, and that he may come at last to the joy of Thy heavenly kingdom. Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.”

  20. Brick by brick.

    One thing I would toss out for priests to consider is something I’ve seen priests at my parish do, and that is to go into the confessional outside of posted hours when something is going on in Church. Just sit there, pray your Divine Office or read something. You may not get anyone in the beginning, but once one person goes, others will follow. It’s catchy.

    Let’s say you have an hour of Adoration scheduled on evening weekly, especially on a Thursday night – the night of Our Lord’s Passion. Talk to the parishioners about Confession, mindful that they have been neglected in many cases, then go sit in the box and pray!

    St. Francis de Sales makes a pretty compelling case. Perhaps putting it into a booklet, along with an examination of conscience, and leaving it out will have people taking it home and reading it.


  21. Jack Regan says:

    This sounds like a really good thing. I used to live in (and work for) that Diocese and I think this is a great idea.

    I notice that schools are involved in the plan. I am all for far more confession in schools but I know that many Catholic schools in England can’t get priests to come anywhere near them. I hope, therefore, that the Bishop is also encouraging his priests to get into the schools as part of this drive.

  22. jhayes says:

    The archdiocese of Boston started the “The Light is on For You” program in Advent of 2010 and continued it during Lent and Advent of 2011.

    They have a special website with a video and other resources at:


  23. HeatherPA says:

    God Bless this Bishop! I pray that others will follow this example. We only have confessions once a week for 45 minutes before the Sat. Vigil Mass… I wish our priest would do them also during Adoration, but he doesn’t. I pray for this intention all the time.

  24. jhayes says:

    I usually go to St Anthony’s, the Francscan shrine in downtown Boston. This was built in the 1950s when confessions were still very frequent so it had about 10 confessionals in the ground floor chapel and, if I recall correctly, about the same number in the upper chapel, which were used when needed to meet the demand.

    Now, they are down to one confessional, but they hear confessions for 7.5 hours every day except Sunday, which is 1.5 hours (but with two priests hearing)

    They publish a schedule on their website so you know which priest will be hearing confessions at the time you choose to come.


  25. Will D. says:

    That’s an excellent prayer, NoTambourines! After I go to confession, I always try to remember to pray for my confessor and for the other penitents coming to him. That prayer will fit in nicely.

  26. Ana says:

    Good start! The one thing, as others have pointed out, all parishes offering confession at the same time is not good. What about shift workers, families with children that are in bed early or doing homework, or caregivers of the ill and elderly? We need to have varied confession times – including during the day – so to meet the needs of the entire parish and we need more than an additional hour per week as that also severely limits the number of people that we can reach.

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