Skip to comments.In One Church, Confession Makes a Comeback (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 02/21/2009 3:02:39 PM PST by Pyro7480
STAMFORD, Conn. The day after Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni was installed in June 1998 as the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church here, he walked through the quiet sanctuary, appreciating the English Gothic grandeur and tallying all the repairs it required.
One particular sight seized him. The confessional at the rear of the pews had been nailed shut. The confessional in the front, nearer the altar, was filled with air-conditioning equipment. And these conditions, Monsignor DiGiovanni realized, reflected theology as much as finance.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, the Catholic Church began offering confession in reconciliation rooms, rather than the traditional booths. Even before the setting changed, habits had. The norm for American Catholics was to make confession once a year, generally in the penitential period of Lent leading up to Easter.
Monsignor DiGiovanni, though, soon noticed that there were lines for the St. Johns reconciliation room the only time it was open each week, for two hours on Saturday afternoon. So within his first month as pastor, he pried open the door to the rear confessional, wiped off the dust of decades and arranged for replacing the lights, drapes and tiles.
Then, in the fall of 1998, Monsignor DiGiovanni rolled back the clock of Catholic practice, having St. Johns priests hear confession in the booths before virtually every Mass. By now, as another Lent commences next week with Ash Wednesday, upwards of 450 people engage in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as confession is formally known, during 15 time slots spread over all seven days of the week. Confessions are heard in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese....
Confession as we once knew it is pretty much a dead letter in Catholicism today, the Rev. Richard P. McBrien...
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Speaking to an unseen priest through a screen seems to her a comfort.
The Catholic Church a couple of miles away (in a university town) doesn't have confessional booths that I have seen: confession takes place between priest and penitent all out in the open, but quietly.
Call me a stickler for tradition, but I think the booth is a good thing.
They were built new, copied from a confessional in a church in Budapest, and carved by a local craftsman.
I have confessed face-to-face and through the screen, and am coming to prefer the screen (although I have a VERY distinctive voice and every priest in the parish knows it!) When we have the big Advent or Lenten Penance Services, though, we have 14-15 priests hearing confessions and they are perched all over the place in corners with folding chairs. You lean close in and whisper (of course, I have an "Irish whisper" too . . . )
I prefer not seeing the priest myself. I have gone to confession both ways, but if I have a choice I prefer the traditional booth.
I prefer the screen, but for another reason. The sacrament is taking place between me and God. The priest is acting in place of Christ (In Persona Christi). I find it distracting seeing someone in front of me when I confess. I feel much more as though it is between God and me when a voice is before me, not a human being. I can close my eyes, bow my head, and allow myself to feel my contrition in a way I find it difficult to when in a conversation.
First off, my pastor called Confession by it's real name from the pulpit on Sunday - PENANCE. People are going to argue with me on this, but I'm right. And yes, words do matter. In fact, Monsignor refuses to use the word "reconciliation" when referring to the sacrament.
We only have the "booths" with curtains. Five of them. One side of each has a screen, the other has a chair and two are wheelchair accessible. On Good Friday, all of them are used, but normally, just two, and there is ALWAYS a line. They starting hearing confessions between Masses on Sunday about two years ago (in addition to Saturday afternoon) and ended up adding another hour, because the lines were so long. Confessions are heard until the canon of the next Mass, and I've seen people not able to be heard as there was such a long line.
It seems to me that McBrien is blinded by his own little world of wishful thinking. Confession is making a serious comeback. People are going and they are taking their time with the priests. Maybe it's just in pockets right now, but it's happening. Even in my parish, it's not everyone going, but the "make it available at convenient times, and people will take advantage" is in effect.
The biggest reason people around here don’t go to Confession is that the priests don’t hear confessions enough. They have one priest for one hour on Saturday afternoon, and that’s it for the entire large parish. When the hour is over, he gets up and leaves, no matter how many people may be waiting.
Our priests are also awful confessors, but that’s another story. The real fact of the matter is that the priests don’t like to hear confessions, avoiding making it available, and that’s why people don’t go.
That sounds like our parish in ol’ Virginny, an hour a week on Saturday before the vigil Mass. But the priest does occasionaly urge folks to go. We have a pretty big parish as its the only one around, and I always think “what if EVERYONE showed up?”. That’s pretty bad that your priest just gets up and leaves, dude. Doesn’t sound very “shepard like” to me.
>>the Catholic Church began offering confession in reconciliation rooms, rather than the traditional booths.<<
This is why The Sacrament of Penance” as lost it’s appeal.
I would not in a million years confess face to face.
I would drive miles and go once a year to find a confessional.
St. Ambrose 6070 Church Rd, Elkton, FL, 3203
Has confessions 1/2 before Holy Mass. If there are two priests, they can continue through Mass and you make your obligation (provided mass is within earshot)
I’m so sorry Confessions are difficult in your parish!
For most it is much easier to make confession to a priest who isn’t looking at you and you have more of a sense that you are confessing your sins to God and the priest is sort of a telephone. When you are looking at him and he at you then it is more like you are confessing to a person rather than to God and for many it is harder to do that easily and completely.
Confession can be very hard on a priest. Especially in hard times, the torrent of suffering and anguish can be devastating.
I knew of one young priest, put into a terrible situation as a military chaplain, who when faced with an endless stream of traumatized soldiers, some confessing years of sin and misery, he suffered a nervous breakdown. Realizing there was a severe problem with morale, the unit commander brought forth a senior colonel priest, of the old school. The situation was restored to order in short time, morale improved strongly, and the need for the confessional as psychiatrist couch was changed back to a proper confessional.
Makes one wonder when the last time that McBrien was in a confessional as a penitent let alone as a Priest.
I love the confession booths in our church, and they are full and busy every Saturday afternoon. There are at minimum two priests working them. The church we RCIA’d in had a room. Seemed about as sacramental as a psychologist’s office. They said we only really needed to confess as a parish, together, and to join the CC we needed to think of one sin in our lives up until that time; the priest was busy and didn’t have a lot of time for confession! (run screaming! we did)
I’m with you, wtot. We have one old Irish priest who throws back the screen and sticks his face into the hole. I about jumped out of my skin, and I usually do not go to him. It is between me and the Lord.
Oh, and PS — the kids at our parish school are expected to go to confession too. The priest told me some parents put up a stink, but he stuck to his guns. :)
It was so sweet to see the little ones going bravely forward to tell Christ their sins, and their parents going before or after them and kneeling in the same way.
I think it's a great lesson for the kids that we are all subject to Christ - grownups and children alike.
That’s good news about St. Ambrose. I haven’t been to Mass there for quite awhile. Maybe it’s time...
The funny thing is that one of them will sometimes mention in the course of a homily that people should go to Confession. But how are they supposed to do that?
We have confessions 1/2 hour before every one of our eight weekend masses, so I have no clue what it’s like in a parish like yours.
My heart goes out to you!
I find it interesting that people say that the priests don't like to hear confessions. I guess it's a difference of place as so many of the priests I've gone to, including one pretty big name bishop, consider it a solemn and sacred duty and sit in those confessionals for hours. I guess we're just lucky.
At one of the big penance services, our rector (who's a heavy hitter and a very persuasive man) had an actual Cardinal who was in town for a Red Mass hearing confessions, as well as the retired Archbishop.
Our Parochial Vicar heard my confession, but my question is, do you say, "Bless me, Your Eminence, for I have sinned"!?!??!?
I'd guess that the formula ought to be the same for everyone from the newly ordained priest fresh out of seminary to the Holy Father himself, because it's Christ himself that forgives, but I'd like to KNOW.
we have confessions before all Sunday masses during advent and lent.
“The funny thing is that one of them will sometimes mention in the course of a homily that people should go to Confession. But how are they supposed to do that?”
There’s no way our priest could hear all the confessions of the parish, if more any than a slim % actually DID go to confession, at least in the time alotted. But it sounds as as if our priest is more “gung ho” about confession than your priest(s?).
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I occasionally go to the Latin Mass about 60 miles away, in Pittsburgh. Every single time I go, there is a long line for confessions. I was there two weeks ago and went to confession. I love going in the confessional. As the lady in the article said - it’s comforting. I got used to going to the face-to-face confession, but I’ve never been comfortable with it.
Historically, confessional booths did not come into the Church until after the Reformation. If you look at earlier woodcuts of confession—usually of people doing their annual Easter Duty—it involves the Pastor and several assistant priests seated on chairs in the front of the church, with long lines of parishioners waiting to confess and receive absolution.
The closed confessional booths began in Rome and spread through Europe beginning in the sixteenth century.
Having said that, they ARE now traditional, and confessing to a priest in a back room was never customary. The centuries old custom was broken by dissident-minded ritualist and bishops, mainly in order to break yet another custom and disrupt the sacrament. It was a way of saying, in effect, that confession isn’t really necessary.
I certainly support using the booths. More important, I support having many more time slots, including regularly schedule confessions before Mass for people who can’t easily get to the church at other times. That’s tiring for the priest and makes for a long Saturday night or Sunday; but it’s an essential part of his job to ensure that people receive the sacraments, and in particular that they go to confession after they have committed grave sins, and at least once a year during the Easter season.
FYI, 24 hours of confession
Interesting comments about “face to face” confession. As you may know, we don’t have confessionals. We kneel before the icon of Christ for our confession with the priest standing beside us, with his epitrachelion over our heads. Afterward (or before) there is a face to face time for some spiritual counseling. I must say it never bothered me to confess that way and I can’t remember when the last time was that I went to confession with a priest who didn’t know who I was. The foregoing notwithstanding, I can’t see why anyone would complain about using a confessional, or would want to do away with them.
I have never done the face-to-face, and I pray I will never have to.
He then took the time to hear the confession of every single one of us (There were over a hundred making first Communion that year) My sisters class had even more the next year and had to be split into two groups.
God bless you Father Schwartz you and your kind are sorely missed.
We have a nice room where you can walk in and kneel behind the screen or take two more steps and sit and talk to the priest face to face.
I prefer the face to face version.
|1449 The formula of absolution used in the Latin Church expresses the essential elements of this sacrament: the Father of mercies is the source of all forgiveness. He effects the reconciliation of sinners through the Passover of his Son and the gift of his Spirit, through the prayer and ministry of the Church:
**First off, my pastor called Confession by it’s real name from the pulpit on Sunday - PENANCE. **
My priest has been using the word “Penance”, too. Wow!
After all, repenting of our sins is part of the process.
I have heard it said that there are two indicators of a good parish:
1.) The length of the Confe3ssion lines. (Our priest always goes over before the Vigil Mass and had to add more time after a Mass during the week.)
2.) The number of vocations in your parish. I think more and more priests are starting to realize this.
**Makes one wonder when the last time that McBrien was in a confessional as a penitent let alone as a Priest.**
All priests have to go to Confession too. Good question.
Repentance is one of the themes of Lent.
Our priest mentions it probably every two weeks — and during Lent, very week.
Guess we are pretty lucky.
Just during Advent and Lent?
I can’t handle it if I don’t go to Confession at least once every four weeks. More often if I can. The reason is that the more you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the more aware you become of your sins.
It really is wonderful!
PS. (I’m not trying to brag here.)
**Historically, confessional booths did not come into the Church until after the Reformation.**
I was waiting for someone to come through with the history.
It was always face to face for a long, long time!
Fr. Richard McBrien
Claims that a future Pope must overturn the infallible document disallowing women "priests" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis).
Fr. Richard McBrien
Says, among other things, that Jesus did not establish the Catholic Church, and calls into question the virginal conception of Jesus and the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, and promotes dissent.