Friday, August 17, 2012


Sorry that there was not a post yesterday.  Coming back from a short vacation there was simply not time to do all that was necessary around the parish and get the blog up and running again.
The sacrament of confession has no traditional social rites attached to it though in this day and age we tend to have a celebration for just about any achievement no matter how minor including “graduating” from kindergarten.  Occasionally after a first confession there might be a small token of celebration such as the family being together and perhaps having a special treat.  But what is happening here is a healing; a spiritual healing - so the proper response would be one of thanksgiving, not of merry making.  For example, upon leaving a doctor’s office cured of a sore throat one does not have a party, (though in celebration of being able to swallow again one might enjoy an ice cream cone while giving thanks to God for being made whole again.)

True manners, when going to confession, is being prepared and doing that which one is called upon to do.  This includes being punctual.  Seeing that confessions are from 7 to 8PM and showing up a few seconds before 8 is not being punctual.  The priest may need to begin Mass or some other function.  It is best to show up earlier in the confession time to assure that you have your confession heard.

It is also polite to all others to be prepared.  The confessional is the wrong place to start doing an examination of conscience or to read through an examination and say, “Okay, I didn’t do that one.  This one I kinda did . . .”  Upon entering the confessional one should be ready with their sins in mind ready to confess them.  Also, avoid explanations and excuses for sins and other people’s culpabilities in them.  (But he makes me so mad when he chews with his mouth open like that!)  Take my word for it that God already knows all of this.  If the priest needs more information in order to understand, he will ask you.  Also, Mrs. Fenner rightly recommends avoiding Lent and Advent seasons for making a general confession during the posted hours since these can go on for quite some time.  One must always keep in mind those waiting in line (or who might show up while you are in the confessional) waiting to have their sins forgiven – that they might not miss out because confessions are going unnecessarily long and either they or the priest must leave.  How sad a thought that is.  (N.B.  That is NOT to say that it cannot be done during these times if your spiritual life is in danger, only that if it can be avoided, it should be.)

There are times for general confessions, questions, and longer detailed confessions.  I highly recommend making an appointment for such a confession.  In this way there is no fear of someone behind you having to be turned away from the sacrament and the priest not being distracted about time.  Any priest worth his salt will make such an appointment available to you.

Bear in mind that the confessional is not, generally speaking, a time for counseling.  Though some may take place, counseling occurs at other times.  This time is set aside for individuals to celebrate this sacrament.

In waiting in line or going into the body of the church to pray afterword, one moves away from the confessional so as not to be able to hear what is going on in there.  If anything is heard, it is ignored, forgotten, and forever unspoken.  Making conversation with fellow penitents in the confessional line is rude and disturbing to those who may be trying to recall (or keep in mind) their sins or trying to do their penance and should be avoided except when absolutely necessary.  The point is to make confession as private and meditative for others as you wish for it to be for you.  This includes communal confessions (different from general absolution) when one is obliged to remain in the church until all have gone to confession and have prayed the prayer of thankgiving together at the end of the service.

And good manners are good manners even with God.  After receiving absolution it is good practice to stop in the church even if one’s penance does not call for it, and give thanks to God for the sacrament received.


Mikki said...

Thank you for these pointers/reminders/rules. They are very much appreciated. I never associated etiquette with confession. I confess I have not always followed these rules but plan to do so in the future.

L.W. Dickel said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Father -

One thing you did not address is posture while waiting for Confession. At my parish, we had always stood in line quietly, lining up under the First Station. After we merged, some of those waiting decided to sit in the pews to wait (none of these people were handicapped or elderly, BTW). It was not the custom at their old parish to sit in the pews to wait, so I'm not sure where this came from. When I stood in the usual place, I got hissed at from those in the pews, who told me they were all ahead of me. When I told them I seemed to be the only one in line and that no one could tell who was going next if they all sat down, I was impolitely told too bad - that was the way it is now.

Anyway, I found it impossible to go to Confession under those conditions (so I started to go to your good Fr. Pfeiffer). I'm one of those who has to shove herself through the Confessional door because I dread it so much, and to sit around, chatting and discussing who is going to go next like I was at a picnic just did not cut it - I need to concentrate and put myself in the right frame of mind to approach Confession.

I mentioned it to my pastor, and he put out a sign indicating the line starts under the First Station, but it was met with only partial success. I really would prefer to go to Confession at my own parish (as excellent a Confessor Fr. Pfeiffer is, and I am very grateful for him), but this seems to be the only solution for me.