I walked into the church at ten to three and already fifty people were waiting. I went into the priest’s sacristy, took my coat off and put on my surplice and violet stole. Walking into the church I could feel the eyes of everyone in the church looking at me, wondering where I would go to begin hearing confessions and offering absolution. First though, I had to turn the lights on then the sound system so the gregorian chant could fill the church for the next six hours.
The four other priests began entering the church, taking their places and the lines automatically formed for each of them. Once the lines formed, they didn’t end for four hours. Five priests, each with lines 20 people deep at any given point throughout the evening.
Two priests were supposed to take a dinner break at 5 for 60 minutes and the other two at 6 for 60 minutes. So long were the lines that the first chance for a priest to even move from their station wasn’t until 7:15. I didn’t move until 8:00. We each took 30 minutes for a quick dinner and then returned to continue hearing confessions until 9:30.
I left physically exhausted, but spiritually renewed. My body ached from sitting for so long, but my soul felt like singing for having just witnessed such beauty.
Each year I’m tremendously impressed with the turn out for this “Reconciliation Monday.” But this year I was totally blown away. I’ve never before seen so many people flocking to the church for absolution. Each year it humbles me. Each year I am moved to tears at some point. 10, 20, 30 even more years away from the sacrament. From children to senior citizens. All were here to experience God’s merciful love. And what a joy as a priest to be a part of it all.
Souls were saved, sinners were redeemed. Christ was present to all. What a blessed way to start Holy Week.