Which is better: Private Confession or Parish Penance Service?


What is your preference for the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

*]Private Confession happens almost every Satruday. You enter the confessional or penance room, kneel behind a screen or see the priest face to face, and receive your penance and are absolved of your sins.

*]Parish Penance Service usually happens during Advent and Lent. You get to choose your preferred priest out of the many who come to hear the confessions. There is also a sense of “you’re not alone in this” because there are many other people there for the sacrament.

What is your opinion? Besides having your sins forgiven, what are the benefits of each? What’s more comfortable?

Now that it’s Lent, many people will be wanting to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (including me) and I just want to hear some ideas.

**I don’t know which one I’d rather go to. I’ve only been to parish penance service (usually through school). I’d like to make a decision based on some of the results!:rolleyes:


Sacramental reconcilation is the best. What can be better than the sacraments?


Both of those given as a choice are sacramental reconcilation.

One is private the other has a more communal aspect but it still contains a private confession.


I voted for the parish penance service with individual confessions.

My diocese has reconciliation on the Monday of Holy Week, all day. My parish has at least four priests hearing confessions, one in the confessional and the others stationed around the church. I made my first confession to my pastor at the parish service on Monday before Easter of 2007, face to face.

I liked the comfort of the numbers of people who were there. I also like that I can choose which priest I will go to. But that’s just me.


There is a distinct difference so it is comparing apples to oranges.

If you go to a communal penance service at a parish, you must followup with private confession if you have serious sin.

Parishes are using these services to avoid private confession. Communal penance and absolution is granted in cases of grave necessity (for example, a plane full of people is about to crash and there is a priest on board. He cannot hear all of the confessions so he gives absolution to all desiring it since their confessions cannot be heard).

Fr. John Trigilio has a good write-up on communal penance.

Bottom line: If one has grave sin on his soul, he must go to private confession. One’s preference has no bearing on which is better. Private confession is a must in such cases.


I think the OP was very clear in designating parish penance services, with individual private confessions. As opposed to general confession and absolution, which is an entirely different matter.


Call me “old-fashioned” <but not OLD, please :rolleyes: > I still prefer the traditional Saturday afternoon Confession.


I really like the penance services with individual confession. As the OP said there’s something comforting about being among fellow sinners. I think these are good at encouraging people who have been away for a while. That being said there are very few chances to go to a reconciliation service, and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to one. You are much more likely to find me in a confessional on a Saturday afternoon or early in the morning before daily Mass.


I chose the penance services (with individual confession) since they are somewhat different than the usual and therefore evoke a greater self-knowledge of my sins. (They are usually the only time that you hear about sin from the pulpit.) If they weren’t less common, I wouldn’t have a preference.


I like the penance service because they usually do some sort of examination of conscience in our parish as part of it, and even though I may be prepared, I often hear something that I may have over looked. Also it is an opportunity to pray for all those who may be going to confession as I wait my turn and when I am finished with my private confession to the priest. We also have pretty nice music happening while we are waiting and the homilies are very good.


I like the service in the parish, especially during Lent, because we sing traditional songs.
But that’s only twice a year. So I voted for private confession, because I do that once a month :slight_smile:
but if my parish had a penance service every month, I’d go to that :slight_smile:


Thanks for the replies! There’s a penance service at what we call our “sister” church next Wednesday. (There’s only two Catholic parishes where I live.)

I’m going to see if I can 1 - gain enough courage to go and 2 - get the rest of my family to go.

One more question – how does it feel once it’s all over with? (I make it sound like a bad thing, but it seems all stressful: you have to confess all of your secret sins that basically no one knows about, you have to say the Act of Contrition, etc.) :o


Ditto. And I have sometimes stayed until the last penitent is finished, for this reason. This, plus the opportunity to choose one’s confessor, are my two fave reasons for this event. However, I “confess” that once or twice a year is not enough for this sinful soul. I need much more frequent confession.
I do like the experience of being a pilgrim among other pilgrims.


Sometimes, if it’s been a particularly long time or a particularly difficult confession, I feel like I am floating out of the confessional. :slight_smile: Other times I have left thinking “ouch! that one hurt!”. Not because of anything the priest said or did - I have always been met with kindness - more from wounded pride on my part, I think. :blush: And other times, it doesn’t particularly “feel” much one way or the other. I say what I have to say, he says what he has to say, and we are done. :shrug:

It IS stressful - sometimes moreso than others. The important thing to know is that your feelings don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. What is important is to appreciate the great gift of merciful love that we have been given.

If you are worried about the Act of Contrition - you can make one up in your own words or you can print one of the internet and bring it in with you to read it.


I think both settings of the sacrament have their place. Obviously the “normal” private confession works very well if there is a very specific issue that you want to talk through more slowly. On the other hand I have found that the parish penance service can be very good when everyone is led through a slow and thoughtful examination of conscience.

Overall I have a slight preference for the parish service, but I wouldn’t want the more provate/solo kind taken away.


i chose private confession i just prefer it


For most people, both anticipating it and actually disclosing sins is anywhere from slightly stressful to very stressful. Think about it: Does it feel good to have unpleasant secrets (even non-sins) revealed to others, even to a stranger? So by definition, the more honest you are, the more anxiety could accompany it. Just pray. Pray for calmness and courage. Most people need that, no matter how many times you’ve confessed. Cradle Catholics, new converts, and priests themselves who must confess also to other priests. The more honest one is, the more uncomfortable one is likely to feel, going in.

But trust me: If your confession is thorough and your contrition heartfelt, and you pray for insight and courage, you will feel great afterwards. And the important thing is, confession brings grace to avoid sin, so the more you go, the fewer agonizing sins one needs to confess. (Just the annoying, persistent ones. ;))


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