ASK FATHER: When to make an appointment for confession

From a reader…


Would it be better (in order for the priest to have more time with the penitent) to make an appointment for confessing VERY grave sins (something even the most lenient person would say needs confessing) or should you just go at the beginning of the normally scheduled time?

Thank you in advance. Your insight into confession is invaluable.

I don’t see why a person needs more time to confess “VERY grave sins”.   Just tell the priest what you did, how many times or often, and include any relevant information about the circumstances.   In other words, cut to the chase and just say it.  That doesn’t take a lot of time.

If a person has a lot to confess, or is uncertain about how to make a good confession and wants help from the priest, or if for some reason advice is needed – which might take longer – then consider an appointment so that you are not taking up too much of the scheduled confession time.

BTW… priests don’t always want “more time with the penitent”.   They usually are content for you to be brief and be gone, so they can hear more confessions.

Make a good examination of conscience before getting into the confessional.  That really helps.



And don’t ramble.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Would you recommend one make an appointment if its been a Long time since one went to confession? Say years or even decades? Or if one is unsure how anymore?

    [That could be a good idea. Of course a lot can depend on a person’s examination of conscience. However, if you know that you are going to be a while, and there is a line, you might wait till the end or make that appointment.]

  2. Julia_Augusta says:

    Last year when I came back to the Church after decades away, I made an appointment with a priest because I knew my Confession would take a long time. I had decades worth of sins to confess. To prepare, I read “Manual for Church Conquuering Deadly Sins” by Father Kolinski, and other online resources. I created an Excel spreadsheet of my sins, categorized according to type, with the number of times I committed them. This may sound excessive but it helped me tremendously not just in doing a detailed examination of conscience, but in ensuring that I would not waste the priest’s time. My Confession took a little over an hour.

  3. JesusFreak84 says:

    I can think of another time where an appointment might be best, even necessary: if the person is handicapped in some way that requires accommodation. I’ve been in very few wheelchair-friendly confessionals, even in OF parishes =-\ And with my dad’s poor vision, many confessionals are FAR too dark for him to so much as find a kneeler, let alone to find the door again afterwards. While I lean VERY strongly towards traditional architecture in churches, 99.9999% of the time, the confessional is one area where I do wish ADA was followed more often, when possible. I can help my dad in and out of the pew, etc., but I can’t follow him into that confessional (and wouldn’t want to!)

    There’s also the case of someone who only speaks in sign language, etc., or otherwise needs a translator (and an appointment would also give the priest a chance, prior to “Bless me, Father,” to remind the translator that the Seal binds him/her as well!)

    [Thanks for the point about handicapped access and appointments.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  4. I agree with Father. Sins are sins. They need to be confessed. And in confession that is it.

    I have often had penitents who have not been to confession in decades (as all priests have) and who don’t know how to confession. I offer to take them through the 10 Commandments with all the ways of violating them (given in the CCC), asking them to say just “yes” or “no” and how many times. This never takes more than 5 to 10 minutes. They are surprised how simple this was, and they now know what to confess in the future. This does not mean that short suggestions about avoiding near occasions of should not be given! Of course they should.

    Perhaps the reader is really asking about the status of marriage or some habitual spiritual problem. If that is the case, the penitent needs to call the rectory for an appointment to have a meeting to for canonical advise or spiritual direction. But that kind of spiritual assistence should not be done in the confessional.

  5. JPD says:

    I think if someone wants to make a General Confession; then yes more time will be required. However, I have stood in the confession line waiting for 10, 15, 20 minutes for one person to finish. I can only speculate they are there to receive spiritual direction, but that should be done at another time. My view is go in, say your sins in kind or number (although if I don’t remember the exact number, I say something like over x amount of times).

    One of the worst confessional experiences I had was when I went to confession; gave my sins in kind and number, and mentioned any relevant circumstances; only for the Priest to spend the next 20-30 minutes giving me an extended homily. I had the impression that he was a Jansonist, and whilst I shouldn’t, I corrected his theology. My wife had the same issue with him as well.

  6. RichR says:

    If you are sincere in your penitence, wordiness is unnecessary. God knows your heart and your sins better than you do. The priest just needs to know your sins (number and kind) to exercise his ministry of binding and loosing in God’s name. [God knows what’s going on, but the priest also has to know things like important attendant circumstances, how long it has been since the last confession, state in life, etc. It could be better to leave to priests to say what priests need to hear.]

  7. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z.

    A couple of tips. Pastors: Please post an examination of conscience prominently on your parish website so that people can find it *before* confessions.

    Regarding handicapped access, I am finding that many elderly can’t kneel. So when possible, it is a good idea to modify the confessional room and screen so that there is a kneeler and grill on one side and a chair and grill on the other, plus room for a wheel chair. I’ve made this modification in the past.

    But Father! But Father! some may object. If we do that there won’t be room to go face to face anymore! To which I say, good! I have found from years of pastoral experience that people get much more chatty (and more tempted to ask for spiritual direction) when they are face to face rather than behind a screen. There is no canonical requirement that a priest offer face to face confessions.

  8. youngcatholicgirl says:

    These comments about seeking spiritual direction in the confessional remind me of what a friend of mine was told by a Dominican sister: “Don’t use Confession for spiritual direction, or the other people in line will kill you.” ;)

  9. Ben Kenobi says:

    “appointment might be best, even necessary: if the person is handicapped in some way that requires accommodation”

    Very true. I go by appointment exclusively for this reason. I get nothing from behind a screen. [You mean, perhaps, other than absolution?] I have such a wonderful confessor here. He is an amazing priest.

  10. APX says:

    I remember once making an appointment to make a General confession over a half hour before the regular time, only to have some other woman who came to the church early walk into the confessional during my appointment time as I was walking towards the confessional and she wasn’t brief, so guess who ran into the regular confessional time?

    I didn’t make an appointment when I returned to the church. I went during the evening scheduled Confessions and let everyone else go ahead of me. I was done in 15 minutes, though, it only felt like a few minutes.

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