Impromptu Confessions Over Cocktails…

… Did you know that you can ask a priest to hear your confession anywhere, not just that one hour of the week on Saturday evening or by special appointment. Anywhere, any time. Like at bars, in restrooms, parked cars, over dinner. I’ve heard some pretty humorous stories about these impromptu confessions but I’ve always thought it terribly gauche to impose on a priest when he’s off the clock and out of his box. Like those people who accost doctors at cocktail parties and ask them to diagnose their festering suspicious looking sore, I never dared to ask a priest to hear my confession unless it was during the allotted and approved times.

I always thought that priests needed time to spiritually prepare to hear a confession. Say a prayer, put on a stole, light a candle… whatever. Never in my wildest dreams did I think or expect them to be able to drop what they are currently doing to attend to my wicked soul. Turns out, it’s perfectly kosher to ask a priest to hear confession regardless of the current circumstances. Or maybe this particular priest is just kindly and patient. I still think there are some boundaries that probably exist. I’ve never been good with boundaries.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • MaggieGoff45

    I love this post, and I love the photo accompanying it.

  • Neal Meyer

    I am not a priest, so I can’t speak as one, but I did spend a lot of time discerning that vocation, even going to seminary for a year and a half.  While discerning, that was one of the duties I was most looking forward to, reconciling people to God!  

     I think most priests, especially the really good ones, would be more than happy to help here your confession, no matter what time or where.  You say “off the clock and out of the box,”  you must understand it’s less like asking a Doctor to diagnose your health issues and more like a child asking his father for help.  It’s a labor of love.  Cardinal Dolan, in his book “Priests for the Third Millennium”  (a great read, even for a lay-person),  recounts an incident from  before he was a bishop.  He ran  into another priest at the airport.  The other priest was in civies, Fr. Dolan in clerics.  The other priest said (I’m paraphrasing, I don’t have the book with me)  “I never go out in clerics, especially when flying, someone might hassle me about the faith or ask to here my confession.” Dolan said (again paraphrasing), “that’s exactly why I do wear my clerics.”

    My point is, it depends on the priest.  If the priest lives the life of a glorified bachelor, looks at his priestly duties as a job, and watches too much TV; then he might be annoyed or bothered by the “off the clock” request.  A priest on fire for the Truth, who LOVES his vocation with a passion that makes Romeo and Juliet look like 19th century Anglicans…he will LOVE to hear your confession.  I’m serious.  You could catch him in the middle of a golf game and ask him to hear your confession, and he’ll whip out a purple stole and get to work.  

    A word of caution, remember St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio  would work to the bone and forget to do little things…like eat and sleep….in order to hear confessions.  So if it’s not mortal and you have other opportunity to go to confession, let the priest enjoy his time off.  Though if it’s mortal, and you have no opportunity to go to confession before Mass, then pull him aside and ask!  Chances are he’ll hear your confession with joy!

  • Lee Gilbert

    When the Opus Dei center in Manhattan was under construction Fr. C. John McCloskey was riding the elevator down when it stopped and a construction worker got on.  Without pausing even to ask he said, “Bless me, Father for I have sinned” . . .made his confession and got off several floors later, shriven of his sins.

    Many year ago a man told a group of us that he was in a leadership position of some sort in the parish when he went out of town on a business trip.  He committed a grave sin on this trip, and on the very evening of his return was expected to be part of some liturgy in his leadership capacity, and in fact was seated within the sanctuary.  He felt that his failure to receive Communion would cause scandal.   So when the priest approached him to give him Holy Communion, he asked him to hear his Confession briefly then and there, which he did. 

    • Maureen O’Brien

       I applaud his boldness.

      I worry about his parish. Sheesh, most people just assume somebody who doesn’t go to Communion ate a donut at the wrong time, or cussed too hard on the road to church.

  • Frdonmalin

    I AM a priest.  I was taught a big lesson by a former army chaplain regarding this very topic.  He would wander around the mess-hall joking for “catholic-looking” names and join that man (it was before women were in the general populace of the army) for dinner, lunch, or breakfast. As he would talk with the man he would let on that he was a Catholic priest and so things would eventually turn to the man’s faith life.  And more often than not, if he was Catholic, he would mention something that he had done, like not going to Mass for a while, or something.  The Chaplain would encourage the chap to tell him more, thus uncovering some other indiscretions.  Near the end of the meal, he would ask something like “Is there anything else you would like to tell me before I give you absolution?  You have just gone to confession to me and have expressed sorrow.”  Usually the chap would be surprised and say something like “It’s THAT EASY??”  Yep it is!  More often than not the young man would come back to the sacraments.
    I have been in a Wal Mart, or Kroger store and had similar experiences.   I am ALWAYS ready to reconcile someone who wants to come back to the sacraments!

    • Frdonmalin

      oops, not joking–looking!

  • Allamanda

    I don’t want to seem dramatic, but wouldn’t it be important for priests to hear confession anytime they’re asked to because…well…who knows? That may be the last chance that person gets, or the last time he feels repentance, or something like that.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    I am a priest. There is no clock. There is no ‘box’ in the broader sense. There are no boundaries. That’s what I signed up for, deo gratias.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Wow, there seems to be a lot of priests chiming in here, so I’ll ask a question. It’s not about “being on the clock” so much as confessions made in public. I guess I had always assumed that because the priest is obligated to keep the seal of confession that they had to be made in private. But if confessions can be done in public places, and is the person doing the confessing doesn’t really care who overhears, then that is okay? (personally, I’m of the odd variety that would love my confessions to be overheard in hopes that they may prevent someone else from making the same dumb mistakes I have made.)

    Anyway, if that’s the case, then are there any particular rules about say, having young children with you in the confessional? As a single mom with a two year old that cannot be left alone for even 5-minutes, and in a town where I don’t really have any family nearby… my assumption of the “inapropriateness” of bringing him (along with my difficulty in finding a babysitter during the appointed hour) has kept me away from confession for almost a year now.

    Well I suppose even if that is inapropriate, at least now maybe I won’t feel so awkward about requesting tomeeting during my lunch hour when he’s at daycare. So thanks!

    • lethargic

      Hi Kristen, I used to take my littles into confession with me … keeping them quiet was sometimes a chore, but their presence was never questioned by any priest …

  • Cordelia

    As a fairly recent convert, I’m always glad to hear about Confession from other Catholics…and especially from the priest’s perspective. It’s something I feel I still don’t really know how to “do”  properly. Of course, more practice would be a good thing too…!

  • lethargic

    Are you saying you made a confession over cocktails … wah ???  Well, regardless, I did an impromptu confession once … I was deeply disturbed in my heart and happened to be going into the church for a little private prayer time and there in my path was the pastor …. well, and when I asked, he whipped out his purple stole from who-knows-where and we sat right down and got to it … cool … and exactly what I needed at exactly that moment … {praying for all priests right this instant}

  • Lynn

    I’m a convert.  I was once at dinner in the home of friends, and our pastor was with us.  When we were clearing the table, I just quietly asked Father if he would mind hearing my confession, and he did it cheerfully.  The funny part was how fast my friends high tailed it out of the room :)

  • Mimi

    The photo cracked me up. Interesting to ponder, what  a blessing that your confession was heard.