GUEST POST: I typically go to confession “when needed”…

confession of sinFrom a reader…


I know of your constant preaching about the need for confession, and so I thought to share my experience today.

I typically go to confession “when needed,” meaning when I perceive I have sinned in a grave matter, or on a monthly basis otherwise. I
(unfortunately) had such a need today and whilst traveling used the MassTimes website to locate a parish with scheduled confessions.

I traveled almost an hour out of my way to be there, and then stood in the freezing cold outside a locked church for ten minutes past the confession time. The bulletin, rectory phone service, and diocesan website all listed this as a time for confessions. After 20 minutes a janitor of some sorts informed me, through the locked door, that there would be no confessions but I was welcome to wait for mass in an hour when I could ask Father if he had time – I just had to wait outside.

I ended up driving to another parish with confessions an hour later, hoping for better luck. At this parish I came in 45 minutes early, and found Father sitting alone in the confessional. I was SO thankful I could receive the sacrament and SO thankful that confessions were available (and early!) that I’ve resolved to add this priest to my prayers for now – and of course the priest that disappointed me as well.

In any case, I have no question for you, I just wanted to share my confession anecdote since I read your blog daily. Many prayers.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in GO TO CONFESSION and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. pascal788 says:

    This is a good anecdote. I used to only go to confession once a year sadly. But due to Fr Z and his constant urging I now go more frequently.
    Thank you Fr. Z. It is a most wonderful sacrament and destroys the power of the devil.

  2. vetusta ecclesia says:

    I complained strongly to my bishop about confessions not being available at the advertised time (even in his own cathedral, the mother church to which people gravitate from all over the diocese). I understand he said something in an ad clerum.

  3. Andrew D says:

    The devil and his forces of evil are in full force right now. No one should think they’re safe from falling into in or habitual sin. We have to stay confessed – even if it means going every week or every day. The way the world is going, we could wind up slaughtered tomorrow without warning and NONE OF US want to face God stained with sin. Thanks for posting this Fr. Z, the cartoon is especially apt.

  4. I went to confession yesterday too! So happy! I went to my usual “neighboring parish” since I work at my own parish. When I got there the church was open but empty! Right at the appointed time the pastor appeared at the confessional and I was able to receive the sacrament. When I came out, still empty. But when I was finished with my penance and thanksgiving, a family had come in and were forming a line. Priests are people too. They get discouraged, too, sitting alone in the confessional when their 3000+ member congregation goes about their Saturday afternoons not thinking of their souls at all. Maybe that is why some of them cave in to apathy about the sacrament. Let’s pray for priests, and for an increase in penitents!

  5. dbonneville says:

    I have only heard a priest say “Get to confession”, or anything close to it in person, one time in the last 9 years. And the one time was at a children’s first confession. I’ve even been attending a TLM for the last 2 years, and don’t hear it there either. The fault for no lines at confession is squarely on priests shoulders, ultimately. What is so hard about a friendly reminder? It’s absurd that it’s not mentioned every week. In the parish I usually go to confession at, well over 90% of the time, my kids and I are the only people there. I remind my kids. Nothing hard about it. It’s a duty.

    This is a parish with 4000+ registered people. A mundane but repeated plea should be made at every mass, in every bulletin until lines start forming. It’s almost entirely (99%) the clergy’s fault for not teaching about sin. I mean, not even mentioning it.

    It’s somewhat the people’s fault for not knowing their catechism or what sin is, but in today’s relative climate and with priests who’s homilies are “joke + platitude + joke + ramble + movie commentary”, no serious adult education, etc., the awareness of sin is at an all time low. But, in that parish today, the pastor inserted a reprint from America Magazine on how Muslim’s are our brothers on one side, and how we are about to have a constitutional crisis on the other side. A reprint…from America Magazine. Hmmm…is there a correlation between the mindset of reprinting America Magazine and having no confessions (from young people)? And this is the “conservative” parish in the area.

    I’ve only ever, in 9 years, seen my children plus a max of two other (old) people at confession. This is a parish with a school of about 200 kids too. No kids at confession, ever. I did see one, once, and I’m there at least once a month, for the last 9 years.

    Father Z., kudos for the monotonous and repetitive badgering to get people to go confession (probably the most important thing you do on this blog), and for the same to get priests to be there for confession. But I have not heard you drumbeat for priests to TALK ABOUT SIN in homilies, or to get them to MENTION CONFESSION. If priests don’t talk about it, repeatedly (as in every Mass, every bulletin), no one will ever show up. You can’t catch fish without a line. Will you change your plea from:




    Why can’t priests stick it in there weekly like such: “…And the parish picnic here at St. Pollywoggles will be next Saturday at noon. Finally, some of you sinned this week. Probably a few of you have some sin to confess and be forgiven for. Remember Paul’s warning about coming forward unworthily, and take this reminder as an invitation to come to confession next Saturday at 4pm. I’ll see you there.” Just let it hang like that. Prick a conscience once in a while Fathers. Jeesh. Even Protestants do it (try to prick consciences), and they do it every week (“altar” calls). Why does this even have to be mentioned?

    Confession-rant concluded :)

  6. Adaquano says:

    This story makes me grateful that I have a great group of priests that have a men’s evening every month at their retreat center. There is always a priest available during Mass, dinner and the talks. Additionally, I’m blessed to live near a basilica that offers confession daily and a Polish parish that does too (even if the priests have really thick accents.)

  7. mimicaterina says:

    I am so fortunate that the pastor and his assiciate are in the confessional every day before and after Mass. Even in Sunday. This is in addition to the scheduled times on Saturday and also Wednesday evenings during Lent. There are frquent exortations to go to confession. We have 24/7 Adoration, say the St Michael’s prayer after every daily Mass and have daily devotions and novenas. The pastor is currently offering the Consecration to Mary with teachings and preparations. And this is a Novus Ordo parish!!

  8. greenlight says:

    The first time I went back to confession after a long absence I went through the same ordeal as the author. I knew I could’ve gone to my parish priest. I knew I could’ve flagged down just about any priest and they would’ve been happy to help, but my shame was great and I really wanted that anonymity. Sadly, on at least three occasions, no one was there during the scheduled times.

    Now I go monthly to the Latin Mass parish. It’s a bit of a drive but it’s not bad, I know they’ll be there, and there’s always a line. Now if only we can do something about the old ladies who, based on their confession times, must be into some seriously bad stuff. ;)

  9. Chiara says:

    Hi Father –

    I am so glad your correspondent found a priest to hear his Confession and absolve him!

    I make a practice of going to Confession monthly, usually on the 2nd or 3rd Saturday (the 1st Saturday is much busier for the Sacrament at my parish). My husband is a monthly penitent as well. I would like to point out a couple of things to remember.

    1) Please, if you can, do not get in line at the very last minute. At my parish, we have an hour of Confessions every Saturday, before the Vigil Mass. I usually come for a holy hour at that time, so I notice a lot of people wait until the last 5 minutes to get in line. Yesterday, there was even a man who tried to peek in the confessional door (we have frosted glass door panes – the door was shut because there was a penitent inside. It was very rude.) When the penitent finished, Father shut off the lights and left the confessional. The man stopped him and apparently requested a Confession, so Father kindly returned to the Confessional. Father had been in the Confessional for at least an hour already, and needed to prepare for Mass. Please consider the priests and come a little sooner if you can, so he is not so rushed.

    2) If it has been a while and you expect to have a long, involved Confession, call for an appointment. Also, if you need to talk about other problems with a priest, call for an appointment – don’t use the Confessional for this. My husband went to Confession at another parish yesterday. He and others waited in line for nearly an hour because one penitent monopolized the Confessional. Yes, it is very important to conscientiously confess our sins, but it is also important to consider that others need some time with Father as well. If you foresee spending more than 10 minutes in the Confessional, call for an appointment. I feel certain no priest would turn you away.

    3) If the confessionals are near pews in the church, be sure to use pews farther away for your penance, and leave at least 10 feet from the confessional to wait your turn. It is rude and unpleasant to intrude on another’s Confession, intentional or not. Some people, and some priests, are hard of hearing and must raise their voices a bit in Confession. Give them some privacy and space.

    Hope I haven’t spoken out of turn, Father. Thank you for your encouragement about Confession. Even though I am a monthly penitent, I still have to force myself into the Confessional, which is stupid.

    Peace and all good!

  10. papaefidelis says:

    A few months back, I went to the local “territorial parish”, which advertises confessions from “4:37-4:46 PM” on Saturday afternoons (only a slight exaggeration). I arrived at 4:41 PM and was quite please to find there to be no line and the door to the “reconciliation room” was open. “I dwell amongst the saints,” I thought to myself, “as no one is EVER queued for confession but me. Whoa, to my sinfulness!” I entered, shut the door and began, “Bless me, Father…It’s been two weeks…I accuse myself of….” I stopped. “Father? Father?? I looked and there was no priest. It was not 4:44, give or take. I looked around the church. Nothing. The “Leader of Song” was there, along with the “Mistress of Piano”, I suppose. I explained my predicament and they seemed oddly disinterested. “Hmm. Father usually is around for Reconciliation. I don’t know. Maybe he took a nap.” So, I waited by the confessional, uh, I mean the “Chamber of Sacramental Reconcialiatory Activity” until the prescribed time ended and went home, unshriven, praying to Merciful God that I not pass from this life in my sleep.

  11. hwriggles4 says:

    Fr. Z:

    I live in a larger city, and the downtown area has a Catholic chapel in close proximity to many offices. The busiest time for the priest assigned there are weekdays from 1100 to 1400. This good priest hears confessions daily, and does two daily reverent Masses (one at 1130 and another at 1215). Attendance during this time is well attended, where practicing Catholics can attend Mass on their lunch hour and on Holy Days of Obligation. It’s also a place to go to Confession, as some Catholics are skeptical to confess to a priest they know well.

    By the way, this chapel is part of our diocese. Another large city in the South has one like this too.

  12. hwriggles4 says:


    Unfortunately, that’s common in some parishes. A good religious order priest once explained in one of his talks how a Parish with 1000 families only has 20 minutes of Confession before the Saturday evening Mass. At a Parish this good priest was visiting, he heard three confessions.

    As a former Altar boy circa early 1980s, my older brother and I regularly served Saturday night Mass. Confessions were shown on paper to be 30 minutes before Mass, and that was it. As Altar boys, we always arrived early, and 90% of the time the priest would be in his clerics having a cigarette outside the sacristy. Looking back, I guess he had confessions if a parishioner asked.

  13. Lucas Whittaker says:

    The great Pontiff, St. Pius V, said: “Give us fit confessors, and surely the whole of Christianity will be reformed.”

    I once ended a letter to a bishop of another diocese with this quote. The letter regarded problems with a priest hearing confessions who did not believe in sin as such (he said that as long as we were working for social justice our sins did not matter). The bishop kindly spoke to his priest–personally, I might add, and the priest indeed resumed the much-needed practice of hearing confessions well. Shortly after I received a return letter from the bishop in question he was sent to another–larger–diocese.

    I first read the quote in “The Dignity and Duty of Priests”, by St. Alphonsus Liguori: A book that I highly recommend to any priest, but one that includes help even for the lay person.

  14. majuscule says:

    So lucky in my parish to have a priest who looks at hearing confessions as one of his important vocations. His first homily urged us to GO TO CONFESSION! And he hasn’t let up. Over and over he urges us to go to confession. He is available many hours per week. He has instituted Thursday evening Holy Hours once a month where confession is available.

    We recently had a parish meeting with the diocese asking us what we need in a pastor (have not had an official pastor for a few years). We were asked first to state what was currently working well in the parish. Availability of confession was mentioned over and over.

    I pray that an official pastor will not decrease the availability of confession. As lay people we must demand they be retained!

  15. rmichaelj says:

    As an aside St Liguori also has a great book of meditations : Preparation for Death- considerations on Eternal Truths. (However if you are overly scrupulous it was recommended that this might not be the best book to start with).

  16. Prayerful says:

    I am so lucky in comparison. A Passionist house has two hours of confession a day in the latter part of the week. The Indult parish has less, but usually before Saturday Low Mass and before and during Sunday High Mass. The SSPX chapel is meant to have before every Mass, but that doesn’t always seem to happen, but there’s no problem with knocking at the sacristy door and asking for a priest to hear my confession. Weekly as much as possible for me.

  17. Alas, the only thing you can do for those awful sinful old ladies is be holy yourself and pray for them. Although, in order to do that, you have to stop looking at them and look at our Lord.

    I am very blessed to have good and faithful priests very close to where I live. They sacrifice a lot for love of the souls entrusted to their care. I also know, and tremble at the thought that this only means much more will be expected of me. When I see their sacrifice, I know I must love more.

    Pray for priests!

  18. iprimap says:

    I don’t know if this should go under Sunday Sermon Notes or this post. Nevertheless, today our priest gave a homily on Confession. So what I wrote is more my reflection on Father’s homily (since I failed to take written notes – argh! – his homilies are too good not to take notes on). Yeah, it has AA overtones (sorry – that’s me). You’ll see why when you read. I say thank God for this Sacrament. It has literally saved my stubborn behind.

  19. scaron says:

    Your story reminds me of the Caananite woman in Matthew 15. Even tho Our Lord tested her perseverance, she won thru and Jesus loudly praised her faith. I’m sure it is very pleasing to the Lord when we overcome trials to avail ourselves of His Mercy.

  20. otsowalo says:

    After a long bout of self-doubt and shying away from Christ and the Church, I’ve finally gone to Confession. I feel blessed that the church I went to made the Sacrament readily available almost all day.

  21. JonPatrick says:

    At my parish we are blessed to have confession Sunday morning before the traditional Latin Mass. The parish itself had besides the usual Saturday afternoon time, has an hour on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, plus an hour before the Sunday evening Mass.

  22. Pingback: Pascal On Confession – William M. Briggs

  23. HighMass says:

    For me going to confession should be ongoing….like many temptation is ever present. God Forgive me. In particular what is going on in the church between the hierarchy, more than ever wish Pope Benedict was still Pope. Look at Leo XIII he reigned into his 90’s.

    But Father they will be done.

    sorry Fr. Z for the ….means I would like to say more but shouldn’t

  24. HighMass says:

    sorry Father Thy will be done.

    excuse the typo’s :)

  25. CradleRevert says:

    I went through a phase several years back where I was fighting an attachment to a grave, mortal sin. I was visiting the confessional once or twice a week regularly for the better part of a year until, by the grace of God, I finally kicked the horrible habit.

    I can’t voice my appreciation enough to priests who not only have regularly scheduled confession times, but who honor those advertised times. I’m sure that many priests can fall into a rut where unattended confession schedules can feel like a futile waste of time, but trust me, there are those of us out there who, when a dire need arises, may need you to save our souls.

  26. Melissa Johnson says:

    Ah, the priest can’t win. If he offers confessions outside of the regular Saturday hour-and-a-half before vigil mass–say, for instance, an hour before daily mass each week–no one shows up or maybe the one daily mass-goer that confesses on a daily basis, day in and day out. If he should be called away or heaven forbid, his parish staff forgets to notify everyone that he’s temporarily out of town (I guarantee you, 99% of the time it’s the staff’s fault and not Father’s. Trust me. I’m the staff.), there will be the ONE person who has driven via dogsled to go to confession and WHY were they not personally informed??

    It’s not usual in the Western United States to have daily access to confession. If more people consistently demanded it from their bishops, maybe that would change. I don’t know. I’m lucky in that my smallish town has two adjacent parishes so I can confess to one priest if I can’t find the other. I realize everyone wants a priest to be their immediately when they need one, but (SHOCK) priests are human and not always 100% of the time available. Plan accordingly. I’d have more sympathy but when I was a kid I was used to traveling two plus hours to go to a SSPX mass that required a border crossing, and if you got there late, you were out of luck. Those French-bred SSPX priests don’t coddle you.

    Lastly, mass attendance is down. If all the people who claim to be Catholic (and not just the constant visitors to Fr. Z’s blog) actually LIVED their faith and went to mass even on the Sunday obligation, you’d see such a conversion and change in this country.

    Anyway, my two bits, and not worth much.

  27. Melissa Johnson says:

    I’d also add, you’d have a lot less of the panicked last minute drop ins and anguished left-outs if parishes did revert to the usual 30 min before Sunday mass (and daily mass) that the SSPX & FSSP offer.

    What’s required isn’t a top-down reversion. It’s from the parishes-up that it needs to happen. We have young priests ready and eager to return to ad-orientem and tradition, especially if it means a return to Christ and holiness, but we (at least out here in the hinterlands of the faith) do not seem to want it. I’ve had people expressly mention to me the fear of the return of any sort of Latin. The presiding pastor at the cathedral in my archdiocese (note: not the Archbishop, although under the Archbishop’s umbrella, I suppose) wrote an article about how we ought to get rid of the 2010 translation as it’s too hard to understand.

    As Fr. Z says, write your bishops! Politely. Talk to your priests and support them, don’t assume they’re just lazing about while you twist in the wind. Often, they’re twisting as well.

    Anyway, sorry, it’s Monday and I’ve got too many opinions.

  28. Melissa Johnson says:

    Oh one final note, sorry Fr. Z for the wallpaper of posts. We’ve got a Serra Club here. If you want more priests, SUPPORT VOCATIONS in every way possible. Pray. Don’t bad-mouth already overworked priests. Appreciate the good ones you have and talk to possible candidates for seminary. And if you want more confession times, talk to other people in your parish and make use of the ones you have!

    /soapbox rant end

  29. iamlucky13 says:

    It often seems like the more trouble I have to go through to get to confession, the more it was worth it (and perhaps the more it was needed). Thanks be to God for the priest who was there for this reader!

    I’ve gotten into the habit after I’ve done my penance of thanking God not only for the sacrament, but also for the priest who ministered it. I also pray on behalf of the priest, including that he recognize how valuable the time spent in the confessional is, even if he spends most of it waiting for penitents, that he feels appreciated for it, and that he is guided to give good counsel. A comment from a priest I know leads me to think they could use the aid of these prayers.

    And lastly, I pray for vocations.

    Also, has been a wonderful resource, not only when traveling, but even at home when I need to find alternative confession (or Mass) times to my regular parish. I’ve even used them to find confessions while on long work trips in Europe. Their info is not 100% accurate, but usually pretty good, and I’ve started supporting them so they have the resources to continue improving.

  30. ray from mn says:

    “Mass Times” is not a really reliable source for availability of Mass and Confessions. It doesn’t really provide any information about the parish.

    Once I have found a few possibilities of churches, I look up up the parishes on the internet to see what the parish is like. The more activities listed on their web page, the more likelihood there will be that the times showing in Mass Times will be kept.

    The more mentions on their web page of retreats, novenas, Eucharistic Adoration, and Confessions multiple times per week, etc., the more likelihood that this would be a parish that I would like. The mention of Confession hours of 3:30 to 3:45 only on Saturdays would probably make me steer clear of such a parish.

  31. Ned Wall says:

    Try the myParish app. I have found it a reliable source for Mass and confession times at least in the archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington.

  32. MikeM says:

    I am blessed to live around a number of (otherwise) great parishes, but their Confession schedules are pretty unfortunate. I wish that more effort were put into that.

  33. Melissa Johnson says:

    I had a snow day yesterday and my mood improved considerably by not having to leave the house. On further reflection, as some posters have said, if a greater emphasis was placed on Confession and more catechesis offered as to both our duty and the benefits derived–as well as more confession times offered–where Confession returned to its usual prominence before mass, as part of mass, perhaps we would see some change.

    For now, I hear from people who do not feel they need to even fulfill their yearly obligation. On the other hand, there are (admittedly a very few) people who have apparently never heard of the affliction of scruples or understand their faith and who have reached almost neurotic levels of need in the confessional and monopolize Father’s time when he IS available.

    I also realize it’s not simply a ‘bottom up’ revival, that we need the change of heart and guidance of our episcopal shepherds, but it’s also a change of culture that’s needed, a shift of the dominant paradigm if you will. So easy to write about, so difficult to inspire in others.

  34. bibi1003 says:

    Our parish priest offers confession twice a week for 45 minutes each. He gives kind suggestions to help fighting the sins I’ve confessed, but I think that the penance is too easy. One thing that bothers me is that both the confessional and the adoration chapel are right off of the lobby or “gathering area. People enter the church yelling across the area to say hello to friends and laughing and talking out loud. I was in the adoration chapel before mass one evening and the noise from the lobby was really loud, and so irreverent to our lord. I went out and found a deacon and told him how I felt. I asked him if Father could make an announcement after each mass asking people to lower their voices before and after mass. The deacon listened, then gave a sight chuckle, and said he would. Father hasn’t done it.

  35. bibi1003 says:

    “Sight” above should have been “slight.” Sorry.

  36. frahobbit says:

    I think Mass Times relies on the parishes to keep them abreast of schedules. I always call the church 1st to be sure something hasn’t changed since the last time.

Comments are closed.