Hi everyone. Not sure if this very long post should go here, in Liturgy and Sacraments, or perhaps somewhere in Catholic Living. I witnessed an altercation today, just before Mass. It's weighing on my heart & I don't shock easy. Some elderly & handicapped folks, who often sit at the back of our Church, were very upset by this. Turning to you for some answers.
First- some background. Our Pastor came from another country, learned English & has accomplished so much. In just a few years, he's managed to sell the original church building, construct a new, much larger one, start all sorts of ministries.. the list goes on & on. So many Catholics have come Home! Still, he's only 1 person & can only do so much. Our local population skyrocketed. It's estimated that in our Diocese, there are nearly 2,500 Catholics per Priest. 3 retired Priests volunteer to assist, but the work load for Father must be tremendous. Even so, he remains ever cheerful & compassionate.
Now for today- Normal hours for Reconciliation are 3-3:30 PM Saturdays, with evening hours added during Advent & Lent. Reconciliation is followed by 4 PM Mass. After that, there's Divine Mercy in the Chapel. There are Saturday weddings, too. Today, 2 priests were hearing Confession. For privacy, I'll call our Pastor Father A & the visiting Priest Father B.
Father A couldn't stay the entire time. About 10 minutes before Reconciliation was to end, he was called out on an emergency. Those of us waiting by his room were asked to go to the other Confessional, which had about 5 people waiting. By 3:30, when Reconciliation ends, there were about 15 people waiting. Reconciliation was technically over, but by 3:45, dear Father B was still hearing Confessions. He was scheduled for Mass in 15 minutes.
At 3:50, I was in a back pew, silently praying the Rosary. A disgruntled man entered the Church with his wife & 2-3 year old child. He stood outside Father B's Confessional door, near the Font. An elderly volunteer did his best to explain that Reconciliation was over @ 3:30. When questioned more, he explained Father B was hearing the Confessions of those who had arrived by 3:30 & was covering for Father A, but also had to say Mass in 10 mintues. He advised the man to make an appointment for Confession at any time, tried to console him etc, but the guy grew louder & more frustrated. He began shouting at this older fellow, there in Church:
"... Don't care **what* time it is! This is Lent & that Priest pointing to Confessional is going to stay in there until my wife's Confession is heard! If she can't have hers, I refuse mine! I'm staying right here & he will hear my wife's Confession! If he refuses now, well he'd better do it after Mass. By not letting her in, he is denying my wife her absolution & today's Communion! We are owed & entitled to this! I have a right.. "*
Father B wasn't refusing anything. He had remained in the Confessional since 3 PM. One lady sitting nearby is the elderly sister of a deceased Priest. She was just so upset, her face was all red. I patted her hand, motioned to my Rosary. She nodded, then took out hers, silently praying for the man.
I just felt.. so bad.. for Father B, for whoever was in Confession with him, for Father A (who will probably get an earful), for the parishioners who were upset & for this yelling man, his wife & child.
After finishing the Rosary, I went for a quick trip to the ladies' room. In my path, standing in the hall outside the doors, was the man with his arms crossed in front of him. I was thinking maybe a warm smile & hello might help soothe him. So, I softly smiled, nodding in greeting & said, "Hi." He gave me such a hateful look.
Father B did say 4 PM Mass. Don't know what happened after that- if the man & his wife's Confessions were heard. He had complained that Lenten Confessions should begin earlier. But there are other things going on before 3 (weddings, etc.) & even if Reconciliation were scheduled earlier, this fellow would still have arrived late.
Thanks for reading all this & if you can, help me out.
Was it stupid to smile & greet the guy? He was in my path. Should I have ignored him? Do you think my greeting made him feel worse, rather than better?
More importantly, if the man complains, which is likely, will Father A or Father B get in some kind of trouble? Were he & his wife, as he said,* entitled* to Confession (& absolution) by Father B today, no matter the date or time?