There is a poll to the right, I would be most appreciative if you would weigh in on this topic. It is anonymous, I am just interested in this topic. Because I am conflicted...
I grew up in the 50s and 60s (yes, I am old) and we just filed into church and waited for the confessional light to go out so we could go in. I never had any fear that Father would know it was me, I just humbly confessed my sins. When I left church, I always felt that my soul was gleaming white and pure as the driven snow. It was among the best feelings of my childhood!
At the age of 15, I left the church. There were myriad reasons for my leaving: I was having a tumultuous adolescence which happened to collide with Vatican II. I honestly think I would have stayed at church if it had remained the church of my childhood. I loved the church. I loved mass, I loved the rosary, I found great comfort in these things. But suddenly, when I needed the church the most, it had turned, well, I can think of no other word than silly. Suddenly we were singing awful versions of folk songs accompanied by the guitar. I clearly remember singing a paraphrased version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." The words were changed to "The answer my friend is Livin' in all men.." It was so corny and so transparent in its attempt to be "hip" and "relevant" - I left the church. And didn't come back for 25 years! Now, be assured, I do take responsibility for this, but I do think that the church changing so radically at this time contributed something to my throwing up my hands in despair.
When I came back to church after so many years away, I was ready to accept the church as it was. When I finally decided to go to confession, I was terrified. Imagine what I had to say, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned, my last confession was 25 years ago." I crept into the church on the Saturday afternoon before the first Sunday of Advent. I was shocked to see a line of people waiting to go to confession. I waited and waited. Two people ahead of me was an old woman. I thought that should take about 2 minutes, she was in there for a long time, and it put fear into me. The man just ahead of me agreed that we were shocked that it took so long! (Oh what a terrible thing for us to be doing when we should have been busy worrying about ourselves!) Now that I am nearing "little old woman" status, I can see what took so long for her!
It finally came my turn, I walked around a corner in the church I had never been to before. There was not a "confessional" in the sense that I understood one. There was a room. I walked into the room. There was a chair, and a screen behind which was the priest, and another chair in front of the priest. I stood there and told the priest I hadn't been to confession in 25 years and had no idea what to do! He told me "Take a deep breath, and then pass out." I laughed, then he explained to me that I could sit behind the screen or come face to face and make my confession. I thought I was being brave when I walked around to face him. I can't describe how wonderful it was to finally get all that garbage off my soul. I left there feeling like a free woman!
In the years since, I have made most of my confessions face to face. A couple of years ago, I waltzed into confession and sat in the chair facing the priest, dressed in my jeans and a sweater - Saturday afternoon clothes - and felt like such a brazen hussy! How on earth did I have no more shame than that! I felt, in that moment, that I had absolutely no shame for the sins I had committed! I just put confession on my list of things to do on a Saturday afternoon - grocery shopping, go to the mall, go to confession, etc., etc.
I have since found "real" confessionals to go to. Confessionals behind the screen with a kneeler, so that I can assume a position of contrition as I make my Act of Contrition. This feels so much more humble and sacred to me.
Perhaps it is another artifact of my age. If you could answer the survey, I would be most appreciative. I know I don't have that many readers, but I have really great readers!
Thank you and God bless you.