I Confess

I fail at Confession.

Sometimes I feel like Confession fails me.

I definitely have to stop attending those “communal Penance services.” It’s like drive-by Confession, and it’s never a good experience–which is why I let two or three years go by between Confessions, until I feel absolutely driven to seek absolution, and I drag myself there.

For me, “communal Penance services” are a near occasion of sin. (So why do I go? Because they’re not on Saturday afternoons, which are always so nutty that I can never manage to get to Confession for the 45 minutes our parish offers it at that time.)

If it were up to me, these services would be simple affairs consisting of a hymn or two, a Scripture reading or two, and a short homily from Father explaining how to make a good examination of conscience. After that, everyone lines up for Confession.

Here’s how it went last night:

  • Arrive and find a pew. Listen to announcement by cantor that if you forgot a “worship aid” you should raise your hand and a “team member” would bring one to you.
  • Hymn, Liturgy of the Word, prayer.
  • A combination skit/prayer/examination of conscience in which 6 costumed actors represented Isaiah, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus and lectors read prayers relating the examination of conscience to each of these Biblical figures.
  • Lineup for Confession. After the initial scramble to get in line for your favorite priest, I waited 40 minutes, only to end up with the hard-of-hearing priest who was older than Moses and looked like he might not survive the night. (Good thing the church has its own defibrillator. I was afraid we might have to use it.)
  • Parting gift. After absolution, Father handed me a handy-dandy refrigerator magnet “to remember this evening by.”

I don’t need “worship aids,” “team members,” costumed actors with props, and refrigerator magnets. And frankly, I don’t want them. For me, they get in the way.

I know I shouldn’t be snarky, and I’ll need to go to Confession again over that. To be fair, the service was well-done. Good music, well-prepared readers, good flow. But it felt like a performance, not a prelude to a sacrament.

In the end, the grace of the sacrament is enough–which brings to mind this prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my will; all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them. All things are yours: Dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your grace; for this is enough for me.

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11 thoughts on “I Confess

  1. I'm the same way Barb, I really dislike not only the way everyone clamors for a place in line, but the inevitable person in line who feels this is the perfect moment to come to confession after an absence of 20 years, and fill the priest in on every little detail of their lives that they feel needs absolution. Make it short and sweet people, the 30 or so folks in line behind you aren't here to watch you spill your guts, they've got stuff to say too. If I do go to thee things, I take 5 minutes tops, and less if I can swing it. Usually, I get done what I need to get done in a 2 or 3 minutes.

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  2. Our Apostolic Administrator – the pope removed our former bishop without a replacement set, widely interpreted as a sign of disfavor with the trends in this liberal diocese – just announced that communal penance services are not to be allowed. I approve!

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  3. Holy buckets! That would be a difficult experience. Our Communal Penance services follow the simple format you desire. Opening Prayer, Reading, short "homily" and teaching on Confession, line up, confess, and I think (but I may misremember) that part of the penance is staying until the end of the service and praying the Act of Contrition all together, but I could be thinking of First Reconciliation. There might be a hymn at the beginning and the end. One of the best confessions I had was at a Communal Penance service. And it does seem like some folk come back to Confession at a communal penance service. I know my Dad is much more comfortable at a communal service.

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  4. Our communal penance services are simple, like the way you wished yours were. Very quiet and reverent. Everyone stays till the end. We have one for advent and one for lent.I like going to confession both ways. What I like about the communal service is it reminds me that we are all sinners and our sins hurt our community as well as our own relationship with God. The sacrament is a beautiful gift.

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  5. Our communal penance services are simple, like the way you wished yours were. Very quiet and reverent. Everyone stays till the end. We have one for advent and one for lent.I like going to confession both ways. What I like about the communal service is it reminds me that we are all sinners and our sins hurt our community as well as our own relationship with God. The sacrament is a beautiful gift.

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  6. I haven't done one of those communal services in years. See if other churches near you have alternative days/times for confession. Schedule it on your calendar. Make it a new year's resolution.

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  7. I think for many people it is a way to come back to the sacrament, so I would be disappointed if there were no longer permitted in our diocese.I am with you, though I like such services to be simple and starkly contemplative. I go if I'm the assigned cantor, but my preference for the sacrament is the non-communal form.And given Saturdays in my life, I give up. I just make an appointment!

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