A Saturday Thought

During our Latin Mass Conference this afternoon, soon-to-be Fr Hunwicke, said something very sensible in his excellent talk.

Every time you go to confession, you make it easier for others to go. You make it easier for priest to hear confessions

So, even if you are a person of considerable sanctity, perhaps – in your kindness – you could remember a few venial sins on a regular basis.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I’m glad I don’t have that problem……

    No wait!

  2. What reply might one make to the counter-argument that those in line who don’t need to go to confession make it longer for those who do? So that some remaining in line when confessions end for the priest to celebrate Mass may be precisely those who most needed confession. In which case people going to confession without genuine need have, in fact, made it harder, not easier for others to go to confession. Which appears to happen regularly at EF Masses where the lines are typically long. This can be an issue where people travel considerable distance to confession and Mass, perhaps from areas where confessions apart from Mass are not readily available.

  3. Mary Jane says:

    Perhaps if those with only venial sins see they’re in a super long confession line, they might consider stepping out of line so others can have a chance to have their confession heard before the priest stops hearing them for the day.

    Otherwise, I say if people have made the effort to get there – and get there on time – then they have as much right to be in line as anyone else (regardless of whether they have mortal or just venial sins to confess).

  4. bookworm says:

    I think it depends on the situation in the parish. I would amend (soon to be ) Fr. Hunwicke’s comment to read:

    “Everytime you go to confession in a parish that has LOW TURNOUT for confession, you make it easier for others to go (because they won’t feel weird, or as if they are the “only one” who does it) and you make it easier for the priest to hear confessions (because he knows he’s not just wasting his time sitting in the confessional/reconciliation room).”

    The counter-argument claiming that people who don’t “need” confession (because they have no mortal sins to confess) hold up the line for those who do would, I think, apply primarily to parishes (EF and very orthodox/traditional OF) where confession turnout is very high and long lines are common.

  5. JordanH says:

    I’ve stepped out of line when I only had venial sins and the lines were long, in deference to those waiting.

    I confess at a lot of different places, with a lot of different priests and I’ve found that the longer the lines, the more comfortable the Priest seems to be with the experience.

    Another thought: If we’d fill up the lines more consistently, perhaps the Priests would be encouraged to expand the opportunities for confession.

  6. APX says:

    Every time you go to confession, you make it easier for others to go.
    Our priest was hearing First Confessions today after Mass. As I was leaving, I noticed something that didn’t happen when I had my First Reconciliation twenty years ago. The families were standing in line with their children whose first confession it was. Reminiscing back to when I was in the same position and how scared I was (not only was it my first reconciliation, it was the first time I had ever actually met a priest.) it would have been easier if it wasn’t just me and the other children going.

    Oddly enough, despite going to Confession weekly, I still find it difficult to go if there aren’t more people in line, but that’s just me and my crazy issues.

    @Henry Edwards
    What reply might one make to the counter-argument that those in line who don’t need to go to confession make it longer for those who do? So that some remaining in line when confessions end for the priest to celebrate Mass may be precisely those who most needed confession.

    Personally, I think the first step is to stop judging the state of someone’s soul who is in line. I think the second step is to raise the issue to the priest. If Sundays have visitors with excessively long commutes who have a need for Confession, perhaps explaining this to the priest and requesting the possibility for him to hear Confessions after Mass until everyone gets through, and perhaps making an announcement that as a courtesy for those who travel from other places, if possible, go to Confession at a different time. It never ceases to amaze me that there will be few people at Confession on Saturday evening when they’re scheduled or the many other times throughout the week (we pretty much have daily confession), but there will be a huge line up when I get to Mass on Sunday morning, and not all are from out of town.

    I can empathize with the long commute each Sunday. I used to commute round trip four hours every Sunday for Mass. We had Confessions prior to Mass, but I never went because it wasn’t reliable enough that I could get through, and I had no idea that the priest heard confessions after Mass. I used to do the four hour commute Saturday nights for confession, and then do the four hour commute again on Sunday.

    I don’t think the answer to those who confess venial sins regularly is for them to stop going to Confession because they “don’t actually need it”. The Sacrament of Confession bestows tonnes of graces, specifically for those sins that are actually confessed. For a lot of people, they really need that extra grace. Furthermore, just speaking for myself personally, I refuse to go to work every day and “address” the sins of my “clients” without addressing my own sins first. Far be it from me to sit upon my comfy chair in my office telling to people to quit sinning, and charging them when they don’t when I’m no better off than them; I’ve just received more graces than them.

    I think the answer here is for priests to offer Confession more generously, especially with times that are extendable should the need arise.

  7. APX: I have no desire to “raise the issue” with anyone. I simply realize that in my community–where our priest hears confessions both before and after Sunday Mass, and several times during the week as well–there are people who travel long distances from locations without confessions during the week, and arrive a half hour early but still cannot get to confession before Mass. I have no advice for anyone, and no responsibility for anyone but myself. What I can and occasionally do personally is to step out of line and wait until after Mass (or later) if the line is so long that it seems thereby an opportunity for a tiny act of Christian charity.

  8. David A says:

    This post almost made me go, immediately, to confession. And yet the hesitation…

  9. Dan says:

    I didn’t plan on going to confession today, but I saw this post and started to examine my conscience, and surprisingly enough, it turns out I had plenty of failings I could bring to Our Lord in the confessional. So I went and just got back, feeling refreshed and more properly disposed for Mass tomorrow.

    Sometimes we get complacent and think that if we haven’t committed any big mortal sins, there’s no need…but, to borrow a line from the Obama administration, confession can be good “preventive care” as well…

  10. Hidden One says:

    Some of us have a fairly short ‘commute’, but for varying reasons have few opportunities to go to Mass. I’ll rhyme off a half-dozen reasons, no particular order:

    1. Shift scheduling
    2. Family responsibility – to spouse, children, etc.
    3. Youth / age.
    4. No driver’s license/car/public transport access
    5. Living with non-Catholics (especially parents) or non-practising Catholics
    6. Classes/course/anything academic

    In conclusion, if you can go, do go.

  11. Lori says:

    I had an eventful confession time today. I had to chase down the visiting Priest as he left (before the posted confession times) before I was finished examining my conscience. Then, someone opened the confessional door and looked in on me during my confession! Fun times! Thankfully, I am absolved…..

  12. Jael says:

    I don’t know where these ideas came from (they certainly aren’t orthodox):

    1. “People who don’t need to go to confession…”
    There is nobody on the face of the earth who doesn’t need to go to confession. We are called to grow in the virtues, not just walk the knife-edge of keeping away from mortal sins. It is a lot easier to grow in the virtues with the grace acquired by weekly confession, and saints have advised doing so. How will there be much-needed saints to help with the crises of our day if only the spiritually dead get to go to confession?

    2. “only venial sins”: There is no such thing as “only” a venial sin. Venial sins lead to mortal sins. They are dangerous. It is good to confess them. Venial sinners need the grace of confession, too.

    If the line is too long, the priest needs to arrange more time to hear confessions. Not the other way around, with people not going to confession because the line is too long. To me, the latter seems to be a very wacky way of thinking.

  13. Jael says:

    Someone opened the door during my confession this week also. What I learned: If I sit on the chair during confession (because of a temporary medical condition) the light stays green. Kneeling on the kneeler is what makes the light turn red! High-tech confession…the modernists would love it :-)

  14. oakdiocesegirl says:

    When I was a Catholic Schoolgirl, our church provided benches along the walls leading to the confessional. They are now gone; no churches seem to have them anymore. This is important to me now because I am disabled & can no longer stand in line without holding onto a rail or something. If I use a walker, I block the whole aisle, making it impossible to do this during Mass. So yes, I bet some disabled folks might just be avoiding confession when they have to stand in line. Interestingly, confessional benches seemed to go away when public restrooms were brought in [none of the 1920’s vintage churches in my town originally had restrooms for parishioners.] Was this another result of Vatican II? Is there a Yelp rating services that mentions whether a church has such amenities? I am serious-Thanks!

  15. kat says:

    @ Jael,
    thank you for posting what I was thinking; you said it so well. I don’t get this mentality of confession only for mortal sins. Shoot, the whole goal is to NEVER commit a mortal sin. God’s grace is there and that is what He wants. This will not be possible without going to confession frequently and confessing the habitual venial sins, the intentional venial sins, and getting the help and advice, or at least the grace if no advice is forthcoming from the prest, to remain free from mortal sin throughout our lives.

    We teach our children to go every couple weeks; I pray to God they never commit a mortal sin in their lives, and they keep their baptismal purity forever. Tough thing in this world; but certainly not impossible, especially if we receive the Sacraments frequently and well.

    Priests, PLEASE hear confessions often, so that grace may be retained in the souls of all. We do not want to drive the Trinity from our souls ever.

  16. Tradster says:

    An important consideration frequently overlooked and unmentioned is the requirement of confession within 8 days of any indulgences. That requirement forces the issue of frequent confession even for those without mortal sin.

  17. APX says:

    Hmm, tonight was also an eventful Confession on my end. I got there only to find that there was a special Mass going on in the church during our old rite confession time. The pastor didn’t want Confessions heard in the confessional in the back corner during Mass because it would be too distracting for the priest celebrating Mass seeing people enter and exit the confessional. Funny how suddenly they’re concerned about distractions during Mass. We ended up having face-to-hand Confession in a room. That didn’t really workout out for me, as I started having an anxiety attack and couldn’t breath. It was two hours ago and I still have a case of the shakes and the adrenaline hasn’t left my legs. Don’t talk to me about distractions.

  18. John Nolan says:

    I was present at the London conference and found all the speakers well worth listening to, not least you, Father! When I was at university I often skipped lectures, and now 40 years later I find myself paying to attend them. This morning I attended Low Mass in the EF (40 minutes drive away) celebrated by a priest who is so crippled with athritis that it must be a trial for him to carry on. His mass was served by two boys; the elder was no older than nine. Their Latin responses were well pronounced and clearly enunciated, and it is obvious they knew exactly what it was they were saying. As far as the rubrics were concerned they did not put a foot wrong.

    It took me back to 1959 when at the age of eight I served Mass for the first time, and was fully conscious of the immense privilege it was. Normally at the EF Mass these days you will find adult servers. But back then the servers would have been boys (adults only got involved at the principal Sunday Missa Cantata). The fact that these boys have learned to understand and serve the Mass is of enormous significance.

  19. my kidz mom says:

    My teen daughter wanted to go to confession yesterday. My thoughts were like Dan’s above: I didn’t plan on going, but saw this post and started to examine my conscience, and…ended up going. Afterwards, daughter and I high-fived, happy to have received the good Lord’s grace and forgiveness.

    Thank you Father Z for your consistent encouragement about this wonderful sacrament.

  20. albizzi says:

    Just a suggestion to our dear priests who have the difficult task to hear our miserable confessions:
    May they have a look at the line’s length so that they may shorten some rather unsignificant confessions, when that seems possible, in order to hear more important ones.
    Possibly I am wrong, but I think that a priest has the right to end the confession in giving the absolution even if the penitent wants to stay longer in order to get any spiritual advice. The spiritual advice may be postponed later during a further talk in a comfortable office instead of a confessional box.
    Too often penitents are abusing priest’s and other penitent’s time. Being denied a confession after a long trip to because the priest must begin to say the mass is rather disappointing.

  21. APX says:

    I don’t think it’s right for anyone to start labeling confessions as important and unimportant. They’re all important. How do you know penitent’s are abusing the priest’s time? How do you know it’s not the priest? How do you know what’s going on in the confessional?

  22. Jael says:

    Albizzi: Priests are not supposed to be gawking at the confession line. If they do, then anyone in that line who wanted to make an anonymous confession will leave. Also, there is no such thing as an “unsignificant” confession (see my comment, above). And I agree with APX…how in the world do you know what is going on in the confessional?

  23. Jael says:

    Kat, well said! The nuns in my elementary school urged us to never commit a mortal sin, and to go to confession weekly.

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