Confession on Holy Saturday

Can a priest hear confessions on Holy Saturday? The priest I go to for confession says that a priest can only hear confessions on Holy Saturday as an emergency, i.e. for someone who is dying and says he is not scheduling confessions for that day.

He is incorrect. This is a common misconception. All other sacraments are for emergencies on Holy Saturday. Reconciliation is an exception.

Most priests are simply so overworked during Holy Week/Triduum that they have a “only emergency” policy in place. Those who have not been behind the scenes at a parish have no idea how busy it is, it is Superbowl and the Oscars all rolled into one.

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I think this priest was suggesting it was some kind of official rule, not just something he was implementing personally because he was busy. He referred to the Roman Missal, saying the Missal said that the Sacraments are not celebrated on Holy Saturday

That’s odd. Of course, a priest can hear Confessions on Holy Saturday. It’s a longstanding tradition to do so.

That particular priest might not be able to schedule Confessions, given the rest of his schedule that day—but there’s nothing in the laws or theology of the Church that prevents it. Quite the opposite, it’s considered a very important day for Confessions.

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Here’s what the Congregation for Divine Worship had to say:

Prot. N. 690/03/L

Rome, April 9, 2003

Reverend and Dear Father,

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your letter, sent by fax on April 3, 2003 and continuing the question of whether it is permitted to schedule confessions during the Paschal Triduum.

Notwithstanding the Church’s ancient practice of refraining from the celebration of Mass at the stipulated times during Holy Week, as well as a prudent reserve regarding the scheduling of Baptisms and Marriages during the same times, the scheduling of Confessions on Good Friday and Holy Saturday is laudable and not at all in conflict either with the letter or the spirit of the liturgical norms. Perhaps one of the more eloquent arguments in support of this position is the practice of the Holy Father himself, who has personally heard confessions as a regular practice on Good Friday.

While it is not the normal practice of this Congregation to reply to individuals by fax even when a communication has been received in this manner, an exception is being made in the present case in view of the fact that your request may have been made in view of the upcoming celebrations.

With every prayerful good wish, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

[signed]

Mons. Mario Marini
Undersecretary

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That answers that. Now as to how this is done, our priest hears confession from the end of Holy Thursday until the last one is done, sometimes for hours.

Holy Week is a lot, a whole lot of work for our priest, as I am sure it is for all. Just doing the music, I have found it easier to take the last half of the week off work.

Fr David: Thanks for your reply. From what he said to me, I don’t think it’s a problem with not being able to schedule the time, he seems to believe that he is not allowed to hear confessions that day. But thanks for the information.

And there is indeed a rubric in the Missal saying that no sacraments, other than Viaticum, may be celebrated on Holy Saturday. The problem is how that rubric is phrased. It can lead to exactly that misunderstanding.

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