Entering the Confessional

I recently attended another parish and this Sunday I wish to go to Confession there. However I don’t know when to enter the confessional. There is a red light above the door of the Confessional, so should I enter when this light is on or off? Also should I knock on the door before I enter?

At my Church, there are three doors. One that the priest is behind (in the middle) and two on either side. When someone is inside, the light is red, do not enter. When the person leaves, the light turns greenish-white (and usually the door is open, but not always).

I am not sure about the setup at the Church you are at, but I hope that helps.

The red light means somebody is in the confessional, so do not enter.
I’m used to most churches having a red light and a green light. The green light indicates that the priest is available for confession.

from my experience the red light near or on a confessional usually means one of two things:

A. someone is in the confessional confessing to the priest.
B. the priest is not currently in the “priest’s side” of the confessional and you should not enter the “parishioner side” because there will not be anyone present to hear your confession.

I would contact the church office or the church rectory and find out when the normal hours are for confession, or you might make a special appointment with one of the priests for your confession so that he will be expecting you.

I haven’t been to anything but an open confession for 20+ yrs. Therefore, I sit across from the priest. I do not go because of the traditional church teachings. I don’t disagree withe rite of penance. Nevertheless, I have grown to appreciate admission, counsel and a forgiveness. I can ask God directly for reconciliation but the act of confession helps me to really “go forth and sin no more.”

I too prefer the open confession. Many confessionals are set so that a person has a choice. In my home parish, for instance, a person goes into the confessional and can choose to kneel, remaining hidden from the priest, or go around the screen and sit for open confession.
I find it interesting in my overseas parish that I confess while kneeling behind the screen (the only option). The priest has already seen and greeted me even before I kneel.
I also enjoy communal penance services.

Circa 1983 the altar was modified and we no longer kneeled at communion. I remember my duties as altar boy no longer included the gold plate, a “utensil” that prevented any micro crumb of host from safe delivery. Singing and guitar were heard during the Sat. evening and jam packed Sun 10:00 and the evening before at 5:30pm. I worked 2-3 funerals a week. Fr. Came to our classroom and we served from 9:30 until almost 11:00 - no class before lunch and my buddy and I made 2 bucks each by the time the Sacrostant got his taste from the either local, Family operated f
uneral home. Saturday at 3 and 4 were likely wedding masses, not ceremony alone, and a $5 or $10 gratuitous for us again. I think the best man was responsible for "takin
g care offor our tip. I often think about the weddings I witnessed, and how many couples are still wed. And our confessional were tossed and a couple of confessionals we
re built to allow face-to-face or anonymity at confession. However, at home and in various Retreat houses, without fail I too always found that the cost of every modern confessional is the walk past the priest who pretends to never see me beforehand.

Circa 1983 the altar was modified and we no longer kneeled at communion. I remember my duties as altar boy no longer included the gold plate, a “utensil” that prevented any micro crumb of host from safe delivery. Singing and guitar were heard during the Sat. evening and jam packed Sun 10:00 and the evening before at 5:30pm. I worked 2-3 funerals a week. Fr. Came to our classroom and we served from 9:30 until almost 11:00 - no class before lunch and my buddy and I made 2 bucks each by the time the Sacrostant got his taste from the either local, Family operated f
uneral home. Saturday at 3 and 4 were likely wedding masses, not ceremony alone, and a $5 or $10 gratuitous for us again. I think the best man was responsible for "takin
g care offor our tip. I often think about the weddings I witnessed, and how many couples are still wed. And our confessional were tossed and a couple of confessionals we
re built to allow face-to-face or anonymity at confession. However, at home and in various Retreat houses, without fail I too always found that the cost of every modern confessional is the walk past the priest who pretends to never see me beforehand.

I have been to confession in many different countries and some of them do not even have lights as indicators. The principle of going for confession is simple: If a priest is inside the confessional and if nobody is inside (doing confession), you can always go in. You don’t even have to knock. The only reason a priest is in the confessional is to hear confession. He has no other reason for being there; it is not a lounge where he can have his happy hour or a chapel for his holy hour. :wink:

The biggest hurdle for confession is to make that first step - stepping into the confessional. :smiley: Once you’re inside everything will be easy and natural. Do not be afraid that you’d make mistake or entering at the wrong moment. I have never heard a priest chastize anybody for that.

God bless. Have a blessed confession.

Ahhh - the confessional - where one red light means GO, and two mean STOP. At least that’s how it is at our parish. When we first started attending confession on Saturday afternoons, rather than at the once or twice a year penance service (where there is always a line), the lights were a big hurdle. The first time, I just sat there and watched for a while. Then I sent my younger son ahead of me to scope it out. :wink: (Might have knocked that time, but in general, there is no need to)

We have an “old-time” confessional that has apparently been modified to have a face-to-face side. The priest sits in the middle, and if the red light in the middle is on, that means he’s there. If there is another red light on, that means someone else is there, too.

I always go to the face-to-face side (the wall goes about half way up, and there is no indication from the outside which side is which), and twice Father has put his hand up in mid-confession to stop me, as he heard someone enter the other side. He leans over and tells them through the screen that he can only hear one at a time, and waits until he hears them exit. Then we pick up where we left off. His ears are better than mine, because I never heard a thing. This happened twice in a row. The next time I went, I told him that if someone walked in, I was going to buy a lottery ticket when I was done!

As indicated confessionals vary as to the set up of lights or if they have lights at all.
Usually there is a queue of people ahed of you, so just watch what they do and follow them in turn.
If there is nobody else waiting and you’re not sure if someone is in the confessional, simply open the door a little. If somebody is in there, just say “I’m sorry” and shut the door and wait for him to come out. It’s no big deal. Also the priest and parishioners might get the hint that they need to have a clearer indication whether the confessional is occupied.

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