ASK FATHER: Why no confessions on a feast day?

12_04_06_confessionalFrom a reader…


At the end of today’s mass (Feast of the Assumption), the priest announced no confessions would be heard because “Sundays and solemnities are joyous occasions, so we don’t hear confessions.”

I was dismayed. I find reconciliation to be so very joyous, and I am sure God does too! God’s mercy poured onto me—my soul reconciled to His!

I’d like to say something to the priest, but I’d like to make sure I’m not incorrect before I do.

Is it normal to not hear confession on Solemnities? Is there a reason?

Is there any prohibition against Sunday confession?

What immediately came to mind was what Our Lord said:

Dico vobis quod ita gaudium erit in caelo super uno peccatore paenitentiam habente quam super nonaginta novem iustis qui non indigent paenitentia … Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  (Luke 15:7 RSV)

Had the priest said, “Folks, no confessions today because I have a dentist appointment”, I’d get.  But… no confessions because we are happy? Who says that joy precludes confession of sins?

When a Catholic comes to understand her sins and experience the grace that urges us all to confession and absolution, she will know how merciful God is, which is a cause for ineffable joy even as she still feels compunction.

Even when you are sorry for your sins, aren’t you also happy that Christ gave us the Sacrament of Penance?  This is the ordinary means by which Christ wants the sinner to be reconciled.  What’s more joyous than that?

What might we call this?  Grave joy?  Happy sorrow?  This is similar in a sense to the seeming contradiction which informs the famous felix culpa of the Exsultet (and Augustine and Ambrose).

There is no prohibition of confession on Sundays or Holy Days, Feasts, Solemnities, etc.  As a matter of fact, I know quite a few priests who hear confessions for a while before Masses, yes, on Sundays and feasts.

Furthermore, it is entirely appropriate for a priest to hear confessions during Masses on Sundays and feasts! In Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 we read (my emphases and comments):

Furthermore, according to a most ancient tradition of the Roman Church, it is not permissible 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 Dubium: Notitiae 37 (2001) pp. 259-260.

There is nothing to prevent the reception of sacramental confessions during Mass on any day of the week, or during any liturgical service, that is, during Mass or recitation of the Office.


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  1. You’d think priests would want to make confession available on solemnities and other days of precept in order to make it possible for more people to receive Holy Communion on those days.

    Unless, of course, they don’t believe you need to confess mortal sins before receiving Communion.


  2. arcanum_divinae says:

    Confessions available during the Mass are wonderful when available. I’m very grateful when the confessional light is on at the beginning of Mass – to want to prohibit it for the whole *day* seems like madness to me.

  3. Clinton R. says:

    Speaking of Confession, I went this past Saturday. It is such a blessing Our Lord gifted us with this Sacrament. Thank you Father Zuhlsdorf for always telling us to GO TO CONFESSION. The joy I felt to be reconciled to God is indescribable. Deo Gratias.

    [My work here is done.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  4. Fr. Hamilton says:

    I will admit I cannot assert the following with absolute certitude. That being said, however, experience tells me that priests who invoke some uninformed liturgical purity in order to refuse confessions on Sundays and Holy Days (when otherwise it could be offered) would not want us checking the purity of the rest of their liturgical behavior or ars celebrandi! Something tells me that Father is likely inconsistent in his application of liturgical purity.

    There. I said it. Now, Fathers, do the red and say the black. Go to confession, Fathers! And get offering confessions in a way consistent with your other liberal tendencies!

  5. Panterina says:

    ineffable… “You keep using that word: I do not think it means what you think it means.” ;-)

    [I think I do. “Prepare to die!”]

  6. TWF says:

    That is indeed very odd. Our cathedral had confessions before and during holy mass this evening… Big line. While not a day of obligation in Canada, we had a full house. The priest who celebrated the Mass is very EF friendly and celebrated today’s OF mass as traditionally as he could… A schola chanting in Latin… the priest’s parts in English but chanted (including the Gospel)… Incense…

  7. Fr. Reader says:

    Thank you for the useful quotation, I was asked about this just recently.

  8. JMGriffing says:

    There’s the Eastern term “joyful sorrow.”

  9. Prayerful says:

    Every Sunday, if I need Confessions, it is available half an hour before (Hight) Mass and until the Offertory (or thereabouts). Those two priest hearing Confessions then assist the priest saying Mass. That does not change whether there is some Feast of First or Second Class. After the Mass Confessions are available. The only time there is no Confessions around Sunday Mass is if there a logistical issue. Priests can get sick, sometimes they go on holiday.

  10. wolfeken says:

    If this priest is so intent on completely separating penance and solemnity, perhaps ask him if the principle also applies to the offertory collection. [heh heh]
    Are you saying, Father, that almsgiving should only be performed during Lent, and not this glorious and joyful Sunday?

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  11. JKnott says:

    I love to go to Confession on a Feast Day. It is a great moment to hope for Heaven and yes, with joy! Thankfully we have it available at all times.

  12. Papabile says:

    Kudos to Ken Wolfe (Remnant and great press guy). That is the first time I have ever seen a second gold star for the day ever given out.

  13. bombcar says:

    Roman Ritual, Penance, 20:

    Rarius autem vel serius confitentibus vel in peccata facile recidentibus, utilissimum erit consulere, ut saepe, puta semel in mense, vel certis diebus solemnibus, confitaentur, et si expediat, communicent.

  14. Pingback: ASK FATHER: Confessions during Mass – followup | Fr. Z's Blog

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