Ingenious lights for portable confessional

The Sacrament of Penance has been devastated far and wide due to decades of neglect from bishops and priests.   However, in some places it is being revived.  Young priests especially are giving it some new impetus and some bishops are asking that confession times be more widely offered.  I hope that this Year of Mercy might, if it accomplishes nothing else, give a little oomph to the revival of the Sacrament of Penance.

Thus to my point.  A relatively new priest where I am is as part of his pastoral mandate serving as chaplain for a large Catholic summer camp.  He put together a handy portable contraption which serves as confessional lights.  You know the drill.  Father gets into the confessional and turns on the light indicating that he is in there.  The light over the penitents door – when there is no penitent within – is either dark or green.  When a penitent enters and (usually) kneels down, the outside light either turns on or turns red, depending on how the system is set up.

Now to this video…

Ingenious, no?

I wonder if Father has made a clear diagram of the circuitry so that other priests can make these.

Kudos to Fr. Gernetzke who, by the way, took the bishop’s urging seriously and learned how to read Holy Mass also in the traditional form of the Roman Rite before he was ordained.  He is now one of the priests who actually knows his Roman Rite and is not half-informed.  Father also generous serves on Pontifical Mass crews when the Extraordinary Ordinary pontificates.  I believe his next outing will be for the Feast of the Most Precious Blood when we use our new red pontifical set for the first time in its fullness.

Finally, everyone…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Very good idea. I think it could be even simpler using LED lights, which are so inexpensive, have long battery life, and eliminate the need for complex hard wiring. This should be a link to a possible solution at Amazon (I used Fr. Z’s search box so I hope it has the coded info to ensure he gets credit from Amazon).

  2. acardnal says:

    I see a potential HAM radio operator in Fr. Gernetzke.

  3. majuscule says:

    This might be a little off topic but still concerns confession…

    My first confession after I started attending Mass regularly after so many years was scary! I couldn’t remember how the lights worked! I had to ask someone for help and I ended up in tears before entering the confessional! (I smile about it now.)

    But I still have a problem with the confession “line”. At my church, unless you are the first person to arrive, people are plopped down in the pews in the vicinity of the confessional. There is no line.

    I try to stay out of hearing range but then later arrivals will come in and take a pew closer to the confessional. It’s very difficult for me to interact with people, but by the grace of God, when I arrive and there are people in the pews in the vicinity of the confessional, I will quietly try to find out who is last in line so I will know when I’m next.

    It’s really really difficult for me to confront someone who has arrived later than I have and who thinks they are “next”. (I have told myself that they probably have a more urgent need. Maybe this is their first confession in years!) My solution has been to arrive 30 minutes early. Even then there’s usually someone already waiting, but it’s pretty clear who is first!

    I guess the line problem is actually a blessing. A priest is offering frequent, convenient hours and people are coming!

  4. greenlight says:

    majuscule, I’ve never been in a situation where people stake out pews for their place in line. I say you start the line. If someone wants to go to confession, let them stand in line. If someone wants to hang back in the pews to pray beforehand or wait until the line dies down that’s fine.

    And as long as we’re getting off topic: twice now I’ve had a priest sitting in the confessional with the curtain completely open so he could see straight out ahead of him. Unless you were sneaking up from the side he could easily see you coming and going. Both times it was an older, classic confessional, refurbished so that one side was face-to-face. Both times there were enough people there that the priest knew there were waiting penitents. Once was before a Latin Mass by an older priest, once at a regular parish during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

    Is this common?

  5. un-ionized says:

    I went to a parish with lots of disabled and elderly people. At least at 4pm Saturday people would wait in the pews and at 4 would line up. If someone couldn’t stand for 20-30 minutes they simply sat in the pew nearest their line position and people remembered when their turn came.

  6. Mike says:

    Sometimes church acoustics make it difficult not to hear at least muffled sounds, no matter where you line up or what pew you retreat to.

    A few years ago I made a retreat under the direction of Fr. Buckley FSSP. We all went to Confession on Saturday, and resolved the noise-leakage issue by praying a group Rosary audibly in the pews. I don’t remember that being a distraction to me or other penitents when each of us had his turn in the confessional, and if it was to Father, he didn’t say anything.

  7. Sonshine135 says:

    We always know that our Priests are there for the purpose of saving souls, but I never cease to be surprised about the many other talents they have as well. My take is that Father would also be very handy at wiring a home office or a home theater.

  8. Nan says:

    majuscule, I was in the confession line one day and the penitent must’ve been face to face. The white light was on although a penitent was in the confessional. There was a long line, nevertheless a woman walked past everyone and opened the door, thereby embarrassing herself and interrupting confession. Then she went to the end of April line, saying SE was in the National Guard, having just returned from deployment and thought the white light meant nobody was in the confessional.

    I assumed she was from another parish or was just that desperate to confess that she walked past a long line of people who had been waiting, not thinking to question why the confessional would be empty in the face of a long line. While there are sometimes a few people waiting for their preferred confessor, it seems unlikely that the entire line would wait for the other priest.

  9. iamlucky13 says:

    Combining portable confessionals with the spirit of Laudato Si, I think the next innovation we need is solar powered confessional lights.

    This idea should be good for a Department of Energy grant or two.

  10. Pingback: MONDAY EXTRA – Big Pulpit

  11. markomalley says:

    This sounds like an ideal Arduino project :)

  12. The Masked Chicken says:

    Of course, what we really need is an App that lets people know the status of the confessional. Now, that would be easy to make.

    The Chicken

  13. BenjaminiPeregrinus says:

    Yes a wiring diagram would be useful, though the suggestion made by RAve might work for the portable unit I built for my parish. [ ] I usually gets set up in the sacristy as an extra or carted to the school and set up in a classroom.

    majuscule – they used to do that at one of the local churches, you just have to start, starting a line until the regulars start to catch on.

  14. iamlucky13 says:

    “Of course, what we really need is an App that lets people know the status of the confessional. Now, that would be easy to make.”

    Feature request – after 10 minutes in the confessional, Siri/Google Assistant/Cortana pipes up and offers to dial the parish secretary to schedule some time for spiritual direction outside of confession.

  15. Skeinster says:

    As we are blessed to have new attendees arriving all the time, Fr. simply reminds us at announcements that the confessional line is along the east wall of the church. (We have three priests, so confessions are heard during Sunday Masses.) There were some instances where people were trying to form two lines, as we have two sets of confessionals, but that solved it.

    As a former member of the Altar Society, it made my day to get to clean the confessionals. Both the priests’ cubicles were loaded with aids to spiritual growth: booklets, pamphlets, copies of prayers and instructions, vials of holy oil, medals, scapulars and so on. The directions were to dust, sweep and disinfect but do not disarrange “Father’s stuff”.

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