Confession on Demand…

Confession on Demand… May 23, 2014

… Have you ever had to jump through logistical hula hoops to have your confession heard? Once I went almost six months between confessions. Turns out that one measly hour a week, Saturday 3 p.m. — 4 p.m., just isn’t enough. For three weeks the line was too long and confession ended before I had the chance to make mine. I even tried two different parishes and arrived 45 minutes early each time.

With so many penitents seeking the sacrament, I suppose that’s a good thing and I shouldn’t complain. Deo gratias indeed!

Eventually I got my confession heard. All I had to do was phone up the office and make an appointment for Father’s next available date… the following month.

This tells me two things.

One, priests are incredibly busy people.

Two, we need more priests. Lots more.

Catholic families have a responsibility to have lots of babies to potentially meet the growing demand of sorrowful sinners looking to be shriven.

In the meantime, while people like that inexhaustible baby maker Simcha Fisher, pick up our slack in the creation of future priests department, what exactly are us pathetic sinners to do when confession falls into an hour time slot once a week? Make an appointment for the following month?

Well, we could try really damn hard to avoid all the big, grave, mortal stuff. Also, we can take advantage of a little Holy Water, the Confiteor, and the Eucharist for the remission of venial sin.

Or we could simply walk into a parish, at random, and request our confession be heard. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes

So here’s a hack that I’ve used for many years. Not nearly often enough! But when I used it it served me well. It’s very simple:

Go into a church at random.
Find a priest.
Tell the priest you need a confession now.

That’s it.

By the way, priests are canonically obligated to say yes when they are asked for a confession. Canon law requires them to drop whatever they’re doing and hear your confession–the only obstacle to that is if they’re performing another sacrament, ie the Eucharist. But you wouldn’t walk up to a priest during Mass to chat him up.

The priests are there. You’re not imposing on them–they’re waiting for you to do this. That’s what they dedicated their lives to. And the Holy Spirit will certainly help you. Go. Grab one.

Yeah. I don’t know.

Maybe it’s the Southern in me and the fact that woman tend to be more appeasing, but I seriously doubt I could muster the gall to just walk up to a random priest and expect to have my confession heard because “he’s canonically obligated to say yes.”

It would feel like I was implying that a priest’s time is less valuable than my own.

Also, I can’t even remember the last time I was able to walk into a random church and not find it locked tighter than my mom’s liquor cabinet. Unless mass is about to begin, parishes in the U.S. are typically closed. That’s also the only time you’ll usually find a priest inside them — and they are hardly just idly sitting around waiting for penitents to wander in.

Lastly, I would never ever in a million years ever think to stop a priest out in public to request he hear my confession. One time I was at the airport and saw a priest refuse to hear a man’s confession because if he did he would have missed his connecting flight.

The priest profusely apologized but the gentleman was still visibly upset.

Did the penitent kill someone on his way to the airport or was he just taking “precautions” in the event of a crash?

Of course I don’t want to discourage anyone from seeking out the sacrament of reconciliation. I’m just advocating a more mutually respectful approach. Hear me when I say that confession is absolutely vital. Vital, I tell ya’. If you haven’t made use of it in a very long time please visit your diocese’s website and find a church near you. Here, let me make it easy for you.

I’m just wondering if the approach Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry suggests is necessary. If confession is a sacrament that is important to us (and it should be) then wouldn’t it stand to reason you’d make the time to go seek the sacrament when it’s regularly offered? Yes, even if it means a few trips.


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  • $1028912

    Hey, I’m helping, I’m helping! I haven’t been to confession in over 30 years — thanks to me, it’s a little less crowded for everyone else. Not to mention, the few seconds saved every time I don’t receive communion — those add up, too. You’re welcome!

    • ME

      We don’t want your help in this way. We’d much rather wait for you in line to receive the graces God is calling you to receive through the sacraments. 🙂

  • Kit15

    Almost all of the parishes in the area offer the standard Saturday hour but during Lent the bishop has started a program that confession is to be heard on Monday evenings as well. It had been a roaring success. The place is packed. Every time I go on a Monday I’m waiting 45 minutes to an hour beforehand even with multiple priests.

    Is it because it’s Lent? Perhaps. But I honestly think it’s because most people around here don’t have anything to do on a Monday night so they may as well get to confession. On the other hand, most people can find plenty to do on a Saturday afternoon at around dinner time.

  • Quittin’ time at Tara!

    You. Are. Awesome. Bless you.

  • Quittin’ time at Tara!

    I see this. In my old very Latino parish here in TX, the phenomena was so stark that it appeared only the white people went to communion. Literally 25% of the congregation stayed in the pews. For the Spanish language Masses, 50% stayed seated. I do not know why.

  • Jene

    I was born and raised if CT and this is sad. I wonder if a few dedicated persons could unite and beg the Lord in a spirit of reparation with all the possibilities for prayer and penance for conversion of priests and laity. I am really wondering that these aren’t situations without recourse of someway or another for deeper conversion. CT needs it badly!

  • Mary H.

    I love my current parish. They offer confession for 1/2 an hour before every Mass — daily as well as Sundays. My favorite time to go is 7:30 AM on Monday morning. That’s 1/2 hour before the 8:00 and just before the line gets long, so no waiting.

  • Some airports – fewer than they used to be, sadly – have chapels (or “prayer rooms”) and chaplains to go with them. So it certainly couldn’t hurt to ask the airport administrators what would be required to set up a “portable” confessional.

  • My parish has occasional “Mercy Nights” which combine adoration, music, and testimonies with priests available for confession and trained prayer teams available for healing prayer and/or appropriate spiritual counsel.

    I’ve heard about another nearby parish that does something they call “Dwelling Place”, which again combines adoration with confession and healing prayer. And the local Newman Center has a weekly adoration/confession followed by a social thing. I think they call it “Saturday Night Alive”.

    Anyway, many good fruits appearing in many places. Thank God!

    • ME

      That’s awesome that so many places are developing these types of movements. We are a part of our diocese that has many awesome things happening right now. We are so blessed to have been brought back to this area a couple years ago, so that we can be part of all of this. I guess the only thing we are missing is the “healing prayer” aspects of it. I forgot to mention, they usually have someone discuss a different topic each time as part of the service. Our Theology on Tap nights don’t exactly have as many in the prime target audience of the 20-40 year olds as we’d like, but we do get at least 100+ people each time. The older crowd love this format as well.

  • Bill Burns

    Yes, by all means, do this (discretely and within reason of course). Most priests truly want to help your sacramental life as much as possible and will do whatever they can. Of course, don’t expect spiritual direction at the same time, and make sure to keep it concise.