A Priest Tells How Hearing Confessions Can be Wonderful and Nerve-Wracking


#1

see www.patheos.com/blogs/frmichaelduffy/2012/08/hearing-confessions-somewhere-between-joy-and-dread-not-really/


#2

When I was a boy, my parents house was a "home away from home" for all of the priests in our rather large parish. They actually had our telephone number written on the Rectory wall by their telephone in case someone was hurt or was dieing and they needed a priest in a hurry!
Anyway, one Saturday evening, Father so-and-so came into our house without saying a word, and with a sour look on his face. He had come in via the kitchen door and went promptly into the livingroom and sat down. My mother went into the living room to see who the visitor was, took one look at his face, and said "Good Lord, what's the matter"?
The priests reply was: "I've just come from 4 hours of hearing Confessions and I don't like people too much right not". Anyway, my mom gave him a beer and fed him a late supper and he felt better.
This was one of my earliest experiences at seeing priests as they are as human beings.


#3

Thanks for this. I never thought about this except imagining myself as the Priest but not as me being also the penitent. I should stop asking so many questions.:blush:


#4

Good article.

One interesting (and important) point made by this priest...

"I often tell people if you’re in the confessional for longer that a few minutes either you’re doing it wrong or the priest is. Confession isn’t meant to be counseling. It’s for the confession of sins and the reception of absolution."

Amen to that.


#5

Very good link. I couldn´t hear confessions. To much responsibility. It is indeed true that Priests deserve more honor and appreciation than the Angels. God bless:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:


#6

Thank you for sharing, another reminder of how blessed we are by these wonderful men. So many priests have meant so much to me during my life, I forget about the trials they must endure in their ministries.


#7

Excellent link! Thank you for posting


#8

And there is the quote from +Fulton Sheen

“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”


#9

[quote="Nigel7, post:4, topic:295828"]
Good article.

One interesting (and important) point made by this priest...

"I often tell people if you’re in the confessional for longer that a few minutes either you’re doing it wrong or the priest is. Confession isn’t meant to be counseling. It’s for the confession of sins and the reception of absolution."

Amen to that.

[/quote]

It is true that confessions can go long because some people seek counsel in the confessional, and some priests give too much counsel, but different people have different ways of confessing their sins. Some go down a "laundry list" and others feel the need to put them in context.


#10

Oh, the things they must hear. God be with them.


#11

[quote="Cavaille-Coll, post:9, topic:295828"]
It is true that confessions can go long because some people seek counsel in the confessional, and some priests give too much counsel, but different people have different ways of confessing their sins. Some go down a "laundry list" and others feel the need to put them in context.

[/quote]

I went to confession once when a man went in before me, he was the first, he was in for 20 minutes, it was only a 30 minute confession slot.


#12

I’ve had this happen before. It very nearly denied me confession and thus almost broke my effort to complete the five First Saturdays devotion. I would’ve been unhappy about that, and felt bad for the people behind me (I was the last one who got in).

If I’m ever a priest, I think I will make clear to people during my first Mass that while confession is important, those who need more of my time (either because they need extensive spiritual direction or its been a long time and they have lots to confess) should schedule an appointment, rather than hogging limited time during scheduled confession.


#13

[quote="Cavaille-Coll, post:9, topic:295828"]
It is true that confessions can go long because some people seek counsel in the confessional, and some priests give too much counsel, but different people have different ways of confessing their sins. Some go down a "laundry list" and others feel the need to put them in context.

[/quote]

I follow the directions of St. Francis de Sales, as well as always try to confess the root of the sin with regards to confessing. I'm still out in 5 minutes or less. My first general confession spanning 18 years only took me 10 minutes or less. I held off until the end when everyone else had gone.

I think we need to find happy medium between the rote laundry list (I lied, I stole, I punched my husband) and the long drawn out story for each sin. I think there is a huge problem with an insufficient amount of time allotted each week for confessions to begin with. I also think if people go to confession more frequently, they will be spending less time in the Confessional. I can afford to add a little more to my confession to give the priest something to go off of for a more tailored counsel than, "Maybe you should pray to the Holy Spirit to help you with that."


#14

I think we need to find happy medium between the rote laundry list (I lied, I stole, I punched my husband) and the long drawn out story for each sin.

What is the happy medium? Can you give some examples? I hate doing the "laundry list," but if I give much context, I feel as if I'm trying to excuse the behavior.


#15

I find the laundry list to be just too mechanical. Sort of like going into a fast food restaurant and placing an order to your family instead of going to a fancy restaurant and having a conversation with the server with regard to your choices for dinner.


#16

[quote="Joannm, post:15, topic:295828"]
I find the laundry list to be just too mechanical. Sort of like going into a fast food restaurant and placing an order to your family instead of going to a fancy restaurant and having a conversation with the server with regard to your choices for dinner.

[/quote]

Can you give a concrete example of a non laundry list confession. I know what my root sin is, and I would think the Priests would too when hearing my confession but I don't tell them each time. I just say what sins I have committed, starting with Mortal, and then any venial sins.

I would really appreciate further explanation on how these other types of confessions go. What is it that you tell the Priest aside from the actual sin?


#17

While I see why, in a confessional, especially before Mass and when there are people queuing, it is courteous to keep it short, I only go to make a confession this way in an emergency. Maybe a handful of times in my whole life.

When I go to confession, I do it face to face, by appointment with the priest, usually in the priest’s sitting room (or kitchen or some other random place :slight_smile: ). Normally about every 3-4 weeks, but there have been periods in my life when I went more frequently, on occassions weekly, always face to face. And yes, there has been a period in my life when I did not go for a longer period. :frowning: (I must add that I live in a big town in England where there are many churches and while most churches only offer confession “slots” only once a week for about an hour or even half an hour, priests are available and around, if you want to make an appointment.)

It takes about an hour. Not because I “expand” on the sins, or tell the whole story, or that I tell so many venial ones that it lasts long. Part of the reason it takes about an hour is because I usually also ask for spiritual direction. I might confess something relating to prayer, for example, and we would talk about my prayer life. Sometimes I would make a relatively short and concise confession - and then the priest would give me direction on various things, which might make me explain something else, and listen to his advice, while we would still be “in confession”, technically, i.e. before absolution. But it also lasts longer because it is - I don’t really know what word to use, the best one that expresses what I mean is “leisurely” but without the connotations of superficiality. This means that when I go to confession the priest lets me “breathe”; sometimes we are both silent for a while. Sometimes he would say something and we would both think about it. Sometimes I would ask a question and he would think before answering; or he would ask something and I would have to think before answering. The priest I currently go to has a beautiful icon of Christ in one corner of his sitting room. A few times it has happened that I had to look at it for a few seconds to be able to go on in my confession. At the end he would allow me sufficient time to make an act of contrition, not just saying the words but praying and thinking them over while I say them; and then he would give me absolution and we would sit there in silence for a few minutes so I can absorb what just has happened. This makes the whole encounter very holy and significant, a real important event in my life (as it is).

I hope this will not scandalise you all, but we usually have coffee during this time, too. But I can say very honestly that this does not make the occasion profane or less holy.

I will still go to a church and confess anonymously to any priest, if I have to. If I realise I’ve committed a mortal sin. But I would never adopt this as my usual way of accessing the sacrament of penance.


#18

[quote="Aggies08, post:14, topic:295828"]
What is the happy medium? Can you give some examples? I hate doing the "laundry list," but if I give much context, I feel as if I'm trying to excuse the behavior.

[/quote]

For example:
"I was impatient with my brother because I did not want him to call me names," or, " I copied on a test because I wanted a higher mark." Or, "Because of my pride and concern for human respect, I neglected to confess a mortal sin in my last confession. I neglected to confess missing Mass on Sunday once, which I did on account of my laziness and spiritual sloth."

This method works best by writing everything down and reading it. Otherwise you run the risk of babbling and rambling on, which is what eats up time.

You're not trying to excuse the behaviour, but rather get to the root of the behaviour so you and your confessor can come up with a plan of action for getting rid of it. This is actually taken out of the Baltimore Catechism.

I will give you a more practical example. I used to have a problem rear-ending cars. No matter how much I resolved to not rear-end cars, I still rear-ended them. It was getting annoying, frustrating, expensive, etc. Then one day my dad (a professional driver) was riding with me and noticed I was looking down at my wiper blades and the road directly in front of me. He quickly determined that it was because of that which was causing me to rear-end cars. He told me to start looking far ahead of the road. I started to do that, and low and behold, I don't rear-end cars anymore knock on wood. So, I was rear-ending cars because I was looking down at the road. This would be different from, I was rear-ending cars because I was speeding/following too close/texting while driving, applying mascara and the driver in front slammed on the brakes as a sick joke, etc. The counsel and the root action required to break the sin is different depending on the cause.


#19

[quote="Deo_Gratias42, post:18, topic:295828"]
For example:
"I was impatient with my brother because I did not want him to call me names," or, " I copied on a test because I wanted a higher mark." Or, "Because of my pride and concern for human respect, I neglected to confess a mortal sin in my last confession. I neglected to confess missing Mass on Sunday once, which I did on account of my laziness and spiritual sloth."

This method works best by writing everything down and reading it. Otherwise you run the risk of babbling and rambling on, which is what eats up time.

You're not trying to excuse the behaviour, but rather get to the root of the behaviour so you and your confessor can come up with a plan of action for getting rid of it. This is actually taken out of the Baltimore Catechism.

I will give you a more practical example. I used to have a problem rear-ending cars. No matter how much I resolved to not rear-end cars, I still rear-ended them. It was getting annoying, frustrating, expensive, etc. Then one day my dad (a professional driver) was riding with me and noticed I was looking down at my wiper blades and the road directly in front of me. He quickly determined that it was because of that which was causing me to rear-end cars. He told me to start looking far ahead of the road. I started to do that, and low and behold, I don't rear-end cars anymore knock on wood. So, I was rear-ending cars because I was looking down at the road. This would be different from, I was rear-ending cars because I was speeding/following too close/texting while driving, applying mascara and the driver in front slammed on the brakes as a sick joke, etc. The counsel and the root action required to break the sin is different depending on the cause.

[/quote]

I also find it help to explain a little. If I just come in with a list the priest has no context. I can say "I lied." But why did I lie? Was it a white lie or did my lie cause harm? do the circumstances of my lying uncover some deeper sin or problem? Am I less culpable because of the circumstances? Discussing some of my sinful behaviors in a bit more detail than just listing them helps the priest to give me advice to help overcome them.

I find that if I just list them the advice I receive is just too general and almost patronizing. When I go into more detail I get better advice.

But then again I often go by appointment and have all the time in the world to talk about things.


closed #20

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