Getting back around to an old idea: confessions DURING Mass

The discussion of confessions during Mass is hardly new to long-time readers of this blog.  I’ve dealt with it many times.  For example, HERE, HERE, HEREHERE, …

This is hardly new also to Catholics who seek out the traditional form of the Roman Rite.  Very often in parishes where the older forms are used, if there are more than one priest, confessions are heard also during Mass.

Did I mention during Mass?

In case you were wondering, in Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 we read:

Furthermore, according to a most ancient tradition of the Roman Church, it is notpermissible to unite the Sacrament of Penance to the Mass in such a way that they become a single liturgical celebration. This does not exclude, however, that Priests other than those celebrating or concelebrating the Mass might hear the confessions of the faithful who so desire, even in the same place where Mass is being celebrated, in order to meet the needs of those faithful. This should nevertheless be done in an appropriate manner.

Cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter (Motu Proprio), Misericordia Dei, 7 April 2002, n. 2: AAS 94 (2002) p. 455; Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Response to DubiumNotitiae 37 (2001) pp. 259-260.

I think “in an appropriate manner” means that the place where confessions are heard is NOT in the sanctuary, it is NOT noisy, people aren’t walking directly in front of the sanctuary, etc.

Mirabile lectu, some other Catholic writers are getting around to the concept of confessions during Mass.  For example, in the online, digital edition of The Catholic Herald there is this week a letter to the editor about confessions during Mass.

Moreover, in Our Sunday Visitor Greg Erlandson writes about priests at his parish who came up with a creative new idea: how about confessions during Mass?  He writes:

My parish tried something unusual this Advent. It decided to make the sacrament available when parishioners were available. A few months ago, Father James Shafer, our pastor, proposed to his two associates that instead of hearing confessions for an hour Saturday, they try a “back to the future” idea.

“I told them that I always wondered what would happen if we heard confessions around the weekend Mass schedule,” he said. “Would making it more available and convenient for people help more of them experience his great forgiving love in their lives?”

The priests agreed. They first talked about confession from the pulpit. They published an examination of conscience in the bulletin. Then, for two weekend Mass cycles, as one priest celebrated Mass, the other two were available not just before and after Mass, but during it as well. For two weekends, the three priests logged more than 60 hours in the confessional, and according to Father Jim, more than 98 percent of the time, they were busy.

“On Sunday we began a half hour before the 7:30 a.m. Mass and never left the confessionals until 1:30 in the afternoon! We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of people. Many, many of them thanked us for making it available during Mass times,” he recalled, and many hadn’t been to confession in decades.

It’s not rocket science, is it?



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Supertradmum says:

    Several churches in Dublin have confessions during Mass, and only one is the TLM Chapel. And, this custom is popular. Here in Malta, in some parishes, one has to find and ask a priest to hear confession. I wish all churches would offer this.

  2. mamajen says:

    I’ve heard of this being done, but I’m a little confused…people aren’t leaving mass to attend confession and then coming back to mass, right? I hope? I can understand how planning confession times around masses that people are already planning to attend would be very helpful and convenient, but it seems that confession during mass would only benefit those who could attend mass at a different time.

  3. mschu528 says:

    I find it very distracting when I attend Mass where this is done. Theoretically, I like the idea of hearing confessions while the people are actually there, but I find people running about back and forth between the pews and the confessional during Mass to be a bit much. Of course, it’s not my place to decide: Redemptionis Sacramentum allows the practice; it is permissible.

  4. JonPatrick says:

    The whole Saturday afternoon confession thing worked great back when most Catholics were in cities and went to Mass a few blocks from their home; now sometimes people travel for an hour or more, especially to go to an Extraordinary Form Mass or seeking out a more reverent and orthodox parish. Having confessions around the Mass times is a great idea.

  5. FranzJosf says:

    I experienced this often when I was studying in Rome, especially at St. Mary Major on Sunday morning or at Vespers, or on a Saturday maybe confessions in one part of the church, a baptism in the Baptistry, and a wedding in the ‘other’ Sistine Chapel. It reminded me of paintings of medieval churches with all kinds of things happening at once. In a strange way, to me, it emphasizes the power of the sacraments: if we have a priest with proper matter, form, and substance we have a sacrament. No communal meal stuff as paramount; no puritanical (protestant) notions about Sunday morning sitting still with perfect behavior and being preached to or that no one can move around the aisles of a church during a service; rather, life and living in God’s house.

  6. fvhale says:

    Here is Apostolic Letter issued Motu proprio by Bl. Pope John Paul II, April 7, 2002 Misericordia Dei n. 2, cited above:

    2. Local Ordinaries, and parish priests and rectors of churches and shrines, should periodically verify that the greatest possible provision is in fact being made for the faithful to confess their sins. It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present at the advertized times, that these times be adapted to the real circumstances of penitents, and that confessions be especially available before Masses, and even during Mass if there are other priests available, in order to meet the needs of the faithful.

    I have experienced confession during Mass. The best experiences were in very large churches or basilicas where the confessionals were in another part of the large building (or a separate cloister) away where Mass was being celebrated [note: usually several Masses each day at the place]. I have also experienced this in a smallish parish church where the confessionals were at the ends of the fourth row of pews, and everyone had a clear, distracting view of who was going in and out of the confessional during Mass; it seems the intention was good, but the architecture was not so good.

    In many parishes there is a single (often overworked) priest for Mass, and there is no way he can do both simultaneously. We need more priests, and more priests living in community (for their salvation and ours). And it would be great, if there are two or three priests at a parish, if at least one could hear confessions (with appropriate architecture) during Mass rather than feeling they must always be concelebrating.

  7. Legisperitus says:

    mamajen: I would assume people who are using that Mass to fulfill their Sunday obligation would not be going to confession between the Offertory and Communion, but I could be wrong.

  8. Joseph-Mary says:

    The first time I ever encountered this was when I visited Mexico City (and Our Lady of Guadalupe) some years ago. But two parishes in my area have been known to do this. When confessions are offered for 45 minutes on a Saturday only and the parish is huge, hardly anyone will be receiving the sacrament. So when new priest came to these parishes and realized that almost no one was going to confession they had to meet the problem head on. It is successful I hear.

  9. kat says:

    You’re not missing Mass while standing in the confession line, unless your confessional is outside of the church. Ours is on the back wall of the church, and penitents line up along a side wall. They can see the altar, follow their missal, prepare for confession. When it’s their turn they go in, come out when they are done. They won’t be in there a super long time and miss most of Mass or anything. Even during the 3 main parts of the Mass, they are not “missing” Mass by going into the confessional when it’s their turn.

  10. Phil_NL says:

    Forgive me for being a tad sour, but there is one very obvious problem with this:

    One needs two priests. And in this day and age, in many places it is exceedingly rare to have two priests available at any time on a Sunday; normally they’re both saying masses at different locations (here in the Netherlands, priests are de facto, though not de jure, assigned their own parish within months of ordination. The only places that have two resident priests are catherdrals 9one is the bishop) and monastries. In much of Europe it’s not much better). So then, are we to cut back on the number of Masses? Don’t forget that cutting back on masses often means that the last mass in a church or even group of churches disappears. In urban areas the next opportunity may be reasonably close, but in more rural settings one easily adds 15 to 30 minutes to a one way trip.

    In all, I can see plenty of situations where this might have severe unintended consequences. Confessions before Mass (or after, if need be) seem much more economical to me. And frankly, most churches don’t have those either……

  11. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Mamajen is, as usual, on the right track. People in the Confessional are not attending Mass. [I think they are.]

  12. Banjo pickin girl says:

    We have the luxury of THREE priests and two traditional box confessionals with frosted glass doors on the sides of the nave and still the priests will always stop hearing confession as soon as Mass starts, with very few exceptions. I have been “left behind” a few times.

  13. Skeinster says:

    We’ve done this ever since the new church was consecrated, in addition to confessions before and after Mass. Now with three priests, the line moves even faster. Kat describes it well, and JonPatrick explains it perfectly: our families (EF) come from all over. Unless they are able to make a weekday Mass and go to confession then, Sunday is about the only time available. The to and fro from confessees is not noticeable- certainly less than the many trips to the cry-room.

  14. MichaelJ says:

    Dr. Peters, are you offering an opinion about the obligations of Catholics or an opinion about what Catholics should ideally strive for?

    My experience is much like kat’s. Are you saying that in order to attend Mass, one must be seated in the Pews and cannot be standing at the back of the Church? Or are you referring only to the time the faithful spend inside the confessional? That while in the confessional, an individual cannot participate in the Mass so therefore has not attended.

  15. padredana says:

    I used to help at a parish that did this, and man, oh man, there were hundreds of confessions ever weekend! I think the “get em while they are already there” plan works wonders! The only problem is that in my parishes, and in most of the parishes in my diocese there is only one priest, which makes this virtually impossible to do. I offer confessions before, and during Advent and Lent after Mass, but so many people arrive five minutes before, that it really is not attracting many people since at five minutes before Mass I am already in the Sacristy. If only we had more priests. Then we could really get the confession lines built up again! This is why we need to pray for more vocations!

    Personally, from a pastoral perspective, I would rather have parishioner miss four minutes of Mass and be able to receive Holy Communion worthily and freshly shriven than not going to confession but once or twice a year. The trade off seems well worth it to me. The goal is the salvation of souls, not nitpicking about missing a few minutes of Mass. After all, people with small children take them to the restroom or out of the church for disciplinary reasons and we don’t say they have to come back for Mass at a different time. So, leaving Mass to have ones sins forgiven certainly does not have an effect on whether or not their obligation is fulfilled.

  16. AlexandraNW says:

    I was a convert to the Church at the age of 14, the only one in a family isolated from other family and friends. Hence, I could not drive. Our parish church was some miles away, so my mother needed to drive me; Saturday confession was not a usual option. This was in 1971 in the Extraordinary Form. Our church had confessions before and during Mass but only up to the point of the Offertory; Father would leave the confessional during the readings. It was my understanding that the minimum requirement of “Attendance at Mass” meant being present for the Offertory, the Consecration and the priest’s Communion. So if a penitent was back in the pew in time for the Offertory, they had “attended Mass.” Perhaps Mr. Peters could clarify if that has changed?

    Reverent and quiet behavior during Mass was the norm. Those who had confessed were unobtrusive as they slipped back into the pews.

    Phil_NL is correct that this cannot happen without more than one priest available. It is to be hoped that the offering of confession before Mass when possible will encourage souls and build the parish until it can support enough priests to offer confession at any convenient time.

    I am very, very grateful for the good and generous priests who spent so many hours in the confessionals in my parish in those days.

  17. AlexandraNW says:

    I apologize – I meant to type Dr. Peters.

  18. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I wrote what I meant, folks. If you are in the Confessional (presumably, confessing your sins) you are not at Mass. [I think you are.]

  19. acardnal says:

    But there are those who say if you get to Mass before the Offertory, you can satisfy your obligation.
    So, one could go to Confession before the Offertory and then return to the pew and satisfy one’s obligation. Right?

  20. aquinasadmirer says:

    Dr. Peters…

    Does this apply to me taking my screaming 19 month old to the vestibule, or basement? Would I be missing Mass be doing so? It always seems like the need for discipline and the Eucharistic prayer crescendo and the same time. :)

  21. mamajen says:

    Dr. Peters: Thank you.

    I am surprised to see that so many are verifying that people do, in fact, “multi-task” by attending confession during the mass at which they are fulfilling their Sunday obligation. Unless the situation is absolutely dire (person has grave sin and can’t go any other time), it doesn’t seem to me that missing a portion of mass for confession is a great idea or something that should be encouraged any more than praying the rosary during mass or purposely missing part of mass for any other reason. How can the case be made for missing part of mass when instead the hours for confession could be extended before or after mass? Granted, my ideas about active participation have been a little bit “off”, but this doesn’t strike me as correct. I still can’t tell whether Redemptionis Sacramentum is giving permission for this multi-tasking, or simply permitting confessions and mass to take place at the same church at the same time.

  22. jesusthroughmary says:

    Dr. Peters: At what point does “is not attending Mass” become “has not attended Mass”?

  23. wmeyer says:

    acardnal: I confess that this sort of legal view makes me a little crazy. I try to be in my pew 20 minutes before Mass, so I can properly clear my mind of worldly distractions, say my prayers, and contemplate the readings. Those 20 minutes are essential for me, and I have never understood those who come careening in in the middle of the 2nd reading, and believe they have participated at Mass.

  24. JacobWall says:

    @mamajen and Dr. Peters, I think your concerns are much more problematic in theory than they are in practice. People who go to confession in this way tend to finish quickly, because it makes it very easy to go every Sunday.

    In Mexico, this is the norm. And, judging by Fr. Z’s post, it seems that his has been the norm in many places and times. In my home parish in Mexico, people waiting for confession would sit in the back pews and participate in Mass while waiting to enter the confessional (at the back of the church.) Thus, going to confession during the Mass takes much less time that taking a toilet-training or screaming toddler out of Mass to deal with whatever issue (as aquinasadmirer suggests.)

    I think we have to be careful not to focus our attention on a theoretical problem that simply doesn’t come into play in reality. It seems to me that everyone who has seen this way hearing confession feels that it works.

  25. JacobWall says:

    @wmeyer – going to confession as Mass is taking place is not like running out to answer your cell phone, or rushing in late. The focus is still to prepare yourself to receive Christ, through examination of conscience, through confession – how can that be compared to rushing in late?

  26. acardnal says:

    wmeyer wrote, “acardnal: I confess that this sort of legal view makes me a little crazy. I try to be in my pew 20 minutes before Mass, so I can properly clear my mind of worldly distractions, say my prayers, and contemplate the readings. Those 20 minutes are essential for me, and I have never understood those who come careening in in the middle of the 2nd reading, and believe they have participated at Mass.

    Couldn’t agree more. Personally, I show up early for Mass (sometimes 30 minutes) to prepare myself, assist throughout the entire Mass, and stay afterwards to make my thanksgiving.

    I was merely raising an issue to see what canon law says about it.

  27. Mary Jane says:

    I’m struggling to see how taking a crying child outside during Mass (or running to get a drink, use the bathroom, whatever) is okay but standing at the back of the Church in the confession line during Mass and popping in and out of the confessional when it’s your turn is not okay…?

  28. Cricket says:

    I was just talking to a dynamic young priest from Peru about this very thing. He told me it’s quite common (& considered a model of efficiency) to hold Confessions DURING Mass in Latin American countries, where the number of penitents far exceeds the supply of priests.

  29. JacobWall says:

    as per mamajen’s last comment about rosary during Mass – (related but off-topic question): One of the things I hear repeated over and over and over and over (especially by those who criticize ad-orientem Mass in Latin, but others as well, such as Mamajen) is what a horrible practice it is to pray the Rosary during Mass. The way people go on about it, it sounds like it’s about the worst possible thing you could do during a Mass.

    I have never done this, and I have never seen another Roman Catholic do this. However, in my pre-Catholic days, I did once see this during an Orthodox Divine Liturgy. A Macedonian who was present took out his eastern-style prayer rope and prayed during the entire liturgy (except when he received communion). He looked to be very prayerful, reverent and focused on God. This is more than I can say about many other people in Mass or Divine Liturgy. To me, it certainly looked more on track than the more modern “active participation” that we see promoted so much.

    I’m not about to start doing this, or to promote the practice, or to teach it to my kids, etc. But I am wondering why people harp on it so much? Is the practice really such a horrible thing? Couldn’t it be a way to focus yourself on God?

  30. wmeyer says:

    acardnal, I thought as much, but have seen many (in my former parish) who habitually arrive late. Oddly enough, many of them also proceed straight for the exit after receiving.

  31. wmeyer says:

    I’m not about to start doing this, or to promote the practice, or to teach it to my kids, etc. But I am wondering why people harp on it so much? Is the practice really such a horrible thing? Couldn’t it be a way to focus yourself on God?

    My mother and grandmother used to have their rosaries out at Mass. (This was pre-conciliar.) I see nothing horrible in it. As to focusing on God, many in my former parish seemed much more focused on themselves and their neighbors.

  32. Imrahil says:

    Dear @mamajen, dear @Dr. Peters,

    though I’m awed by Dr Peter’s canonical expertise…

    still I remember to have read once in a manual of moral theology that those who are at confession (or specifically the priest, that I do not remember) fulfil their Sunday obligation.

  33. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Dr. Peters, I think your concerns are much more problematic in theory…”

    What “concerns” did I express?

  34. I am turning on comment moderation before this gets out of hand.

  35. JacobWall says:

    Dr. Peters, I’m sorry. The concern was really expressed by mamajen – i.e. that if you go into confession during Mass, you’ve missed Mass and failed to fulfill your obligation. When you said that mamajen was “right on track” I assumed you shared her concern.

  36. eulogos says:

    Recently I have been attending the EF in a city about 35 minutes from my home. The priests who say the EF are Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who don’t live at that church, but at a friary about 40 minutes away. The EF is the last mass on Sunday at that parish. A number of priests and brothers come early to move the table altar away and set up for the EF. A priest who is not going to say the mass is always in the confessional from about 15 -20 minutes before the mass and during the mass up to the gospel. Sometimes there are two priests. The exits to the confessional are on the other side of the side altars in a quite large church. There are side facing pews near those doors on one side that people sit in to wait, so they can follow the mass. The priests try to be done before the gospel which they take as the time from which one must be at mass. One once asked me to wait until after since it was now time for the gospel. (I had actually attended Divine Liturgy at my Eastern rite parish already but I just did what he said; I think he also wanted to be present at that mass.) Usually people are away from mass only for a short time to go to confession. I don’t really see this as a problem. Before I started going there, I was following the practice of my Eastern rite parish and going to confession only before Easter and Christmas. Other than that there were no stated times for confession. People did go in large numbers at those times, sometimes large enough numbers to fill the parking lot. But I found that I forgot so much, buried so much, over that long a period of time, that I wasn’t really making the best confessions I could or bringing the power of the sacrament to bear on my life as much as it could. When I went to the EF the first time and the priest was there I hadn’t had any plan to go to confession, but there were things on my conscience, and when I saw a little girl leave and no one waiting, I just popped in there. I am so grateful that those priests are there. I think it makes an immense difference.
    Of course I see that this would not be possible in many, perhaps most parishes. My Ruthenian rite priest is the only priest for two parishes. In my home Roman rite diocese, it is common for two or three priests to cover groupings of 4 to 6 “worship sites” , often leaving one right after mass and just arriving at another in time to say mass there. I am not sure having two priests present around the time of mass would be possible to arrange. Perhaps if they reduced the schedule from two masses per parish per weekend to one? But some places the little churches are packed and all the people could not be accomoded at one mass. I don’t really have the answer for this.
    But where it is possible it seems like a very good thing to me. When I first came into the Church in 1972, in Annapolis Maryland, there was a priest in the confessional before every daily mass, and the parish had something like four daily masses each day. There would be several priests in the confessional before each of the Saturday/Sunday masses as well. I think they would leave the confessional as mass was starting, but there were enough of them so this didn’t leave people unshriven.
    Susan Peterson

  37. MichaelJ says:

    I think a lot of the “bristling” going on here is that people are taking their own experiences and assuming that it is common. I know I am guilty of that. With that in mind, let me relate my own personal experience
    The confessional is usually open 30 – 45 minutes before Mass. If another Priest is available, and there are penitents in line, the Confessional remains open.
    The faithful in line participate in the Mass – including kneeling on the floor at the appropriate times. Anyway, when the little green light goes on, they enter the confessional, confess their sins, and then slip quietly into the pew.
    I see no trouble with this or how the 5 or 10 minutes spent inside the confessional is any different, as others have noted, then spending 5 or 10 minutes attending to a small child who has to use the bathroom.

  38. jhayes says:

    I lived for years near a Franciscan Shrine which had three chapels stacked one on top of the other. Two chapels had 15-20 confessionals each, staffed almost all day long by a rotating corps of priests. Two pews in front of each confessional were reserved for penitents and Masses were celebrated many times a day on overlapping schedules in the chapels.

    I never heard any suggestion that time spent in the confession pews or box interfered with attendence at Mass.

    These Franciscans were in the confession industry. Their charism was to make confession available at any time someone wanted it.

  39. happyhockeymom says:

    As one who has dealt with disobedient toddlers during Mass AND gone to confession during Mass, I can tell you that going to confession is much less distracting and helps my participation is Mass.

    Perhaps it is more of an issue during an OF Mass as things go very quickly and thus the possibility of missing more of the Mass…. but at the EF Mass, there are 2 confeiteors and the kyrie which are all about preparing your heart for the Holy Sacrifice. What is the difference between being in the confessional – and everyone I see do it during Mass is very quick about it – and perparing with the confeiteor? There is also the fact that the readings are both in English AND Latin. So, if I miss part of the reading in Latin, I will soon hear it in English.

    And I have never seen Father extend confessions past the gospel – nor has he needed to, because of the aforementioned quickness.

    When I am in the confessional line, I follow every part of the Mass and quietly return to my pew afterwards and save the penance for the quiet time after Mass.

    Also – I know many people who have obligations on Saturdays or kids sports, in a way that didn’t happen 50 years ago. I find it difficult to make it and I make confession a priority – going at least every 2 weeks. FOr those who have been away for a long time – making it available during Mass only makes sense.

  40. marytoo says:

    At my parish confession usually continues up to the Sanctus during the high Mass. Maybe it’s the TLM that makes the difference here – it is seamless, and so deeply felt and known that with time it becomes like breathing. We’re not afraid to miss anything because that would be impossible. We are there to witness an act of worship and we do: confession and private devotions interfere with that not in the least. We prepare our hearts and souls to receive our Lord in the Eucharist; some variation in how this is done is perfectly acceptable. Confession during Mass is actually a lovely experience.

  41. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Okay, guys, lessons in paying-attention-to-what-writers-actually-say concluded. Here are my answers to what I think most of you thought you were asking.

    1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with holding Confession during Mass.
    2. Confession during Mass was common when I was a kid, its common (enough) in many places around the world today.
    3. Confession during Mass does not address, in any way, shape, or form, the clergy shortage. (Where did THAT idea get started?)
    4. Attending Mass (ie, all of it) and participating in it “actively”, [! okayyyy] is a grave obligation on certain days of the year.
    5. There are some (imho, excessively legalist) interpretations to the effect the physical presence in the building, etc, counts as hearing-attending-etc., Mass. [LOL… well played… ]I know of those, and have extensive concerns about them, but for another place. For now, I suggest it is self-evident that human beings (unlike angels) cannot “do” two things at once like attending Mass and celebrating the Sacrament of reconciliation. They are distinct acts, with distinct ends, and distinct means. [And thus he falls into the trap. But this reasoning, you can never be sure that you were even at Mass at all, if you don’t admit that a priest can have a moral intention to consecrate if his mind is wandering during the consecration. I applaud your psychic abilities. Your Earth’s yellow Sun has given me great powers, but the psychic thing… not so much.]
    6. The amount of Mass missed by going to Confession (or praying a Rosary, or reading a life of a saint, or listening to a book-on-tape) might be very small, but it is still an act whereby the satisfaction of a grave obligation is diminished. Same for walking crying babies during Mass (which I have done) or arriving late because of sick kids or spouses (which I have done), etc. [And soon we will know what percentage is permitted… right?]
    7. The old casuistry about which parts of Mass can one miss and God still counts are not well refuted in a combox, so let me cut to the chase: The obligation to attend Mass applies to the whole rite: if one misses part of a Mass that one is obligated to attend, one has to explain to Someone considerably more impressive than a a canon lawyer WHY one missed whatever part of Mass one missed. [Manuals. Auctores scinduntur.]
    8. Those who rejoin “Well, God know I was in Confession, and I’m sure He’s okay with that” need, I humbly suggest, to think through their assumptions more closely than I can reasonably outline here.

  42. Denis says:

    I am very grateful to the priests of the Toronto Oratory that they offer confession right before and at the beginning of Mass. Unfortunately, I am only in Toronto for a few weeks each year. My usual parish in MN rarely offers confession at any time, Sunday or weekday.

  43. sthelensrcbarry says:

    Here in the Archdiocese of Cardiff, as far as I know, just one parish (St. Mary’s, Bridgend) had confessions during Mass on the 4th Sunday of Advent, they also, I believe, tend to do it on the 5th Sunday of Lent.

    Glad to see you contribute to the Catholic Herald paper here in the UK, always try to read your column.

    Keep up the good work, Father, God bless you.

  44. Jacob says:

    I go to mass at a church run by FSSP priests. There are always confessions heard during each Holy Mass. It would be strange and inconvenient if there wasn’t.

  45. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If you’re not going to ban paramedics from coming into church and saving worshippers’ lives (and you’re not going to tell the old lady in the back row who just had a heart attack that she missed Mass), and if you’re not going to ban worshippers from slipping out to the bathroom to go potty or throw up or whatever, I think you’re going to have to confront the fact that saving souls at Confession is a lot more urgent need than saving bodies (or saving the floor from accidents).

    I’ve been to Confession during Mass. It works.

  46. LouiseA says:

    There is a compromise that I think works very well and have seen happen and find it very edifying. When hearing Confession on a Sunday or on a HolyDay of Obligation, the priest pauses Confessions during the most sacred part of the Mass, the Consecration, and then resumes hearing them after the Consecration has passed.
    How this works is either one of two ways: the priest, realizing (via the bells) that the Consecration is at hand, opens his confession door slightly which indicates to the next in line penitent to take a pause, too. But it works best when the penitent on his own knows not to enter the confessional if it appears he will be in there during this solemn moment. The priest realizes why there is a couple minute pause in his steady stream of penitents, and he knows not to think the line is over. He may sometimes step out of the confessional to kneel in adoration, too, which is a beautiful example to give.

  47. lana says:

    A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my mother in Trenton, NJ, I took my 2 teenagers and my mother to the EF at St Anthony’s in Hamilton (and by the way, WOW, 19 altar boys, beautiful choir, tons of people there, many teenagers, all well dressed…the whole thing was beautiful…. It was great to be one of the oldest in the congregation instead of the youngest, for a change). Anyways, I was surprised and happy to see a confession line. (with half of them teenagers) I pointed it out to my two boys who have NOT been attending Sunday Mass regularly. They both declined and I went ahead. About 10 minutes later my 18 yo joins me! And so finally received communion, first time in months, and also went Jan 1 and last Sunday. (back home, where our NO Mass is celebrated well) This was the second High Mass we have been to.
    A bit off-topic– I was looking on their web site, and they have has 31 altar boys! It probably helps that the minimum age is 12. (I think most teenage boys do not want to do a job that an 8yo boy can do.) And for the girls they have something called the Maids of the Miraculous Medal, and they have a lot of them! Whoever is running this is doing things well.

    I was a bit

  48. Saor Alba says:

    There are places in the world where the Novus Ordo is celebrated worthily, without abuse and by good, orthodox priests. If anyone has the opportunity to attend Masses or parishes given over to the priests of Opus Dei they will find confession before, during and after Mass as standard. And it is not a new phenomenon, but has been the practie for many years.

  49. Diogo says:

    I am usually a silent reader of Fr. Z’s blog, but this time I have to chime in:

    First, some anecdote: I was in St Peter’s in the Vatican for Easter Vigil. A friend of mine, a recent convert, was overwhelmed (either by the music or the beauty of the church) and, five minutes after the beginning of the Vigil, he wanted to confess badly. We were sitting with a priest, but he was attending the Vigil and it did not seem appropriate to interrupt him. So, my friend rushed to the nearest staff member (maybe a security?) and asked for confession: surprisingly, the man just wanted to know in which language he would like to confess, and as he said “portuguese”, he grabbed his walkie-talkie and said something. One minute after, a member of the Swiss Guard came and grabbed his arm, conducting him through the sacristy. They had searched for a brazilian priest who would confess him, and so this friend could participate – now more fully – in the Easter Vigil, experiencing first hand what we proclaim that night: “Christ beat death!”.

    Some personal insight: I live in Portugal, a country which was before deeply catholic, and now catholicity is resumed to very few people attending Mass on sunday as a social percept. Confession is quite rare, and confessionals are even rarer. I have debated many times to get a priest to confess me: when asked, some don’t refuse directly, but the looks they give me prevent me from confessing properly, as if facing God Himself. Worst is when you confess something and the priest says “you are too young, that is not a sin”, as if younger people only by their age were redeemed from sins in a different fashion! However, I had the grace of obtaining a first confession (at age 14) with a very thoughtful Capuchin Friar, and ever since I seek for confession willingly. Now, I go to a Opus Dei center near my faculty, and at the oratory there are, every single afternoon, priest in confessionals, and there are always cues. Some of them sit in the confessional through Mass as well, and as the confessionals are in a side chapel, ins and outs are not disturbing at all for those attending Mass. Besides, people in line for confession can follow the Mass easily. This is a common practice in every Opus Dei-run oratory and it works, as confessionals are full not only before but also during Mass. One must be honest and say that this is possible because Opus Dei has a lot of priests, and very fine priests!, who face their instruction to sit in the confessional seriously. Many of them make confessions their main ministry, and this is beautiful.

    We must pray for priest who sit in the confessional.

  50. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “But this reasoning, you can never be sure that you were even at Mass at all, if you don’t admit that a priest can have a moral intention to consecrate if his mind is wandering during the consecration.”

    Not sure I follow that; I know I didn’t raise the point. Anyway, fwiw, I readily grant the effectiveness of a distracted priest’s consecratory intention.

  51. Father S. says:

    For those parishes with only one priest, I’d like to offer a suggestion. When I arrived at my previous parish, I was the only priest there. We had Confessions scheduled for only one hour a week, and no one came. So, in order to address the issue, I tried to pay attention to what was convenient for my parishioners. I noticed that Saturday afternoons from 3:30-5:00 were convenient only for one person–me! So, I started offering times before work for 30 minutes, and before all weekend Masses. Additionally, on the first Sunday of the month, we had exposition and Solemn Benediction before the first Mass, preceded by a Holy Hour and Confessions. Do you know what happened? People started coming to Confession. It took about eight months for the lines to form, but people started coming. Additionally–and I think that this was a big help–my Confessional had an outside window, being built into the side wall of the church. So, at 6:45 am, people would drive through our small town and see the light on. They came to expect it, and they would comment about it. I like to think that it was a good reminder to people.

    So, while not every parish can have Confessions heard during Mass, I think that trying to find convenient times for your parishioners is a good first step in getting people to the Sacrament.

  52. pledbet424 says:

    At the “Church of the Holy Ghost” in Denver, the Oblate priests often hear confessions during Mass. I don’t think anyone notices this, as the line is at the extreme side or back of the church.
    I have often made a confession during Mass, and I asked the priest whether I was fulfilling my Sunday Mass obligation, since I missed 5 minutes of Mass. He just replied, “yes”.

  53. Love when Confession is offered during Mass. Sometimes a sermon brings back to mind a mortal sin, and Confession being right there allows to get back in the state of grace quickly…It works quite well and parishes that have the staff should do this.

  54. Mary Jane says:

    Dr. Peters, with all due respect:

    If the pregnant lady has to step outside because she feels sick and needs some air, if the mother with two young children needs to take them out so their crying doesn’t disrupt the consecration, if the choir member who has been singing for an hour has a parched throat and needs to visit the drinking fountain for some water, if one’s mind wanders for a split second to the breakfast waiting for them after Mass is over…you suggest that by all of these things the “satisfaction of a grave obligation is diminished” and that one will then have to “explain to Someone considerably more impressive than a a canon lawyer WHY one missed whatever part of Mass one missed”. This line of reasoning does not make sense and it can easily be taken to extremes.

    If humans cannot do two things at once like “attending Mass and celebrating the Sacrament of reconciliation”, then why do we have Nuptial Masses? The couple has just received the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and Mass follows. You can bet the couple is distracted, having just become married, and is probably having trouble staying completely focused on the liturgy. Well, the “satisfaction of a grave obligation is diminished”. Should there not be Nuptial Masses?

    I took your comment to extremes, yes, but it was an easy comment to take to extremes. Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 would not read the way it does if Confessions during Mass were truly a problem.

  55. Mary Jane says:

    One other thought, Dr. Peters. You said, “…an act whereby the satisfaction of a grave obligation is diminished. Same for walking crying babies during Mass (which I have done) or arriving late because of sick kids or spouses (which I have done), etc.”

    I strongly disagree with this. Taking your crying child outside so he will not disrupt others is an act of Charity, not to mention that it is part of your vocation as a parent. It cannot be diminishing the satisfaction of a grave obligation.

  56. marytoo says:

    It occurs to me that confession is actually tied to Holy Mass in a beautiful way: Christ died on the cross for our sins; the Mass is a reenactment of this sacrifice. There is not just one correct way to hear Mass, there are various legitimate methods, and the practice of confession during Mass can be better understood in light of this. In the TLM the missal is not a script; there are no responses that must be said by the congregation. There are spans of absolute silence and also long spans of chant during high Mass which lend themselves to deep meditation. Many people take advantage of this by going through the readings before Mass and then uniting themselves with our Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary through prayer during Mass itself, pausing of course for the consecration,etc. Confession/rosary during Mass shouldn’t be compared someone listening to a book-on-tape – that is a belittling example (and something I have never witnessed, thank God). The sorrowful mysteries lend themselves very well to a deep union with our Lord during Mass. These practices are quite beautiful and edifying.

  57. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Folks, you don’t really think that I…oh, cui bono.

  58. Dr. Peters, I’m a bit confused about what you’re getting at.

    Is what you’re saying, essentially, that any break in one’s attention to the Mass itself contributes to what we might understand as a marginally decreased percentage of one’s participation in the Mass? And that by going to confession during Mass (or taking a crying child out of the nave, slipping out to use the washroom, etc.), for the time one is in the confessional as opposed to following the Mass, that their participation is temporarily ‘broken’?

    If I’m on the right track here (and I honestly am not sure if I am), then my follow-up question is how we should be understanding active participation. It does not seem to me that it is necessarily true that we cannot multitask. I would think that it depends on the nature of the multitasking, and that taking advantage of the sacrament of confession being available is perhaps quite complementary to participation in the Mass.

  59. Jack Regan says:

    Many years ago, as part of a youth retreat we had Mass with the individual Confessions offered in place of the Penitential Rite. [That is forbidden.] It worked very well, though it was very long. [If it must not be done, how well did it work? I wonder.]

    I appreciate it’s probably against the rules though.

    On another matter, picking up on Dr. Peters’ point, I have often wondered about what does and does not constitute being at Mass. Okay, so we can all argue over “active participation,” but I think there are limits. And I think if you are focused on something entirely different while Mass is going on in the same room/ building then you are not really fulfilling your obligation. Or if you technically/ legally are fulfilling your obligation, then surely it’s at least less than ideal. [Who wants to suggest that only the ideal is the only way to fulfill your obligation? Who wants to make the perfect the enemy of the good?]

  60. CharleyCOllins says:

    All I can say is that if Dr. Peters is right on this one, the Bishop of Rome needs to get his Diocese in order. Almost all churches in Rome offer confession during Mass, and at no time have I been told by a priest I was sinning by “missing part of Mass”, nor told I should attend another Mass. This includes at Papal Basilicas like St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. But it happens at all churches in the Pope’s Diocese! I currently live outside of Rome, with only one chapel within walking distance on Sunday. The chapel seats 20, and has one Mass on Sunday. Yet, now I am in pain of sin if I take my screaming 2-year old outside the door? I’m sorry, no interpretation of Mass attendance I have ever seen would imply this.

  61. gkeuter says:

    I would like to tell you about my parish of St. Anne. We recently began extended confession hours, the highlight of which is Sunday starting at 6:30am lasting until the consecration starts at the evening Mass (6ish pm). There is a significant line at all of the weekday hours and during the Saturday and Sunday Masses. The only time confessions are no being heard is from the start of the consecration until the end of that Mass. The priest hearing confessions comes out to distribute communion and then prepares to say the next Mass. The celebrant then goes to the confessional to begin hearing confessions.

    Our two priests are an amazing blessing to all of us, both St. Anne parishioners and other Catholics in our town. They even expanded these hours during the last week of Advent and according to our pastor, heard 1000’s of confessions that week. Some have begun to compare us as a new Ars. From their lips to God’s ears I pray.

    Having confessions during Mass has, for the fist time in my life of 47 years, created lines for confession that are in some ways similar to the lines for communion. I also think of the witness it is to the Catholics that come to Mass each (or maybe most (or maybe some)) weeks and see their brothers and sisters in Christ lining up to receive forgiveness and absolution. Our pastor has told me of one instance of a man saying to him in the box that he had not been to confession for decades but seeing others lines up week after week had pulled at his heart to the point he could not not go any longer. BTW, Father told me that he was not breaking the seal since this man had already spoken of this to others outside of the confessional.

    At any rate, I wanted to pass this along. What Fr. z has been saying for years is true. If you offer the sacrament the people will come. The Hound of Heaven will pursue them until resistance is futile. Thank you Fr. Z and to all priests for your service to God’ people.

  62. I must confess a ponderous perplexity with regard to the case Dr. Peters is making. Is he arguing that there is some confusion over what constitutes satisfaction of the obligation? I cannot believe he is, for Can. 1248 tells us what satisfies the obligation to participate in the Mass: assisting, i.e. being physically present. Here is the text of Canon 1248:

    Can. 1248 §1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.

    So…the question appears to be, “What does ‘assist’ mean?” and here, we can rely on the Latin, which is the language of the law, and which thankfully contains little of the ambiguity of the English.

    First, for methodological scruple, the full Latin:

    Can. 1248 — § 1. Praecepto de Missa participanda satisfacit qui Missae assistit ubicumque celebratur ritu catholico vel ipso die festo vel vespere diei praecedentis.

    Now, the Latin “assistere” is a composite formed from AD, meaning “to” or “toward” or “at”, and “sisto, -ere, steti, statum” means “to set in place” or to “stand”. Taken together, “assistere” means “being there”. Thus, the law requires physical presence. That’s it – and – that’s all of it.

    To argue that one is not physically present in church while a Catholic rite is being celebrated, because one is in a confessional that is in the church while the rite is being celebrated, is just plain silly.


  63. Chris Altieri: This reminds me of what I recall a distinguished judge once saying about the proper purpose of secular law. . . . That it’s purpose is something quite different from determining what is factually true or false, or what is morally right or wrong. And therefore that expertise in the law may not be an adequate guide for ethical behavior in all circumstances.

    Similarly, a well-qualified interpretation of particular canon law in contradiction to a practice long-sanctioned and even encouraged in the Church–in this case, confession during Mass by those attending in satisfaction of their Sunday obligation–may suggest that the proper purpose of canon law is, well, something quite different. And thus that expertise in canon law may not provide a good basis for reliable moral or spiritual direction in such matters.

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