Thursday, January 20, 2011


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.


  1. I prefer behind the screen because the one time I tried face to face, I sensed that priest was embarrassed because he was a friend of mine. Even if they do know it's me behind the screen, it's easier for them to act like they don't if they can't see me directly.

    I was lucky to have a wonderful Franciscan priest for my first confession in 20 years. He does prison ministry, so it's not like he was going to hear anything new from me! I cannot go more than 3 weeks without going to confession. As I've said before, if Carmelite nuns can find something to confess once a week, surely I can too!

  2. "The answer my friend is Livin' in all men.."
    LOL!!!! That had me doubled over with laughter! I can't imagine church like that. Thank God I missed that.

    Mary-C, last year I had to say "Bless me Father, it's been 19 years since my last confession." The priest was shocked.

    My church has a room with a screen with the Priest enclosed behind it. But it does have a kneeler. I need the privacy and I too want the kneeler. 20 years ago I had a face to face with a priest, but get this, he only wanted me to say my sins mentally. That was very easy, too easy if you ask me.

    You two ladies have inspired me to go to confession. I need to go this weekend.

  3. I did a 14 year confession. I know the terror you speak of! I remember seeing a fire extinguisher next to the confessional door...I remember thinking wryly - how very handy! The priest might need it!

    The confession was wonderful even as it was difficult. That priest is the only one I have ever truly come clean with in my entire life. Thank goodness for the Seal!

  4. I remember confessions, as a little girl, coming out after absolution. No better feeling in the world. maybe other than giving birth and hearing a baby cry. Great post, Mary C. Ros xx

  5. Well, I am in the minority here, but then again, I am used to that :) I am a convert, after many years of Evangelical wanderings. So I never had an affinity for the "box." That said, I am fine with it, but when I get the option, I go face to face. There are practical reasons, ALL the priests I go to know me and know my voice. I also tend to go to my spiritual director, and again, the knowing me thing. But I think the real reason is that when I came into the church, I got to know the sacrament of reconciliation as a gift. I went frequently, and would run to confession with no hesitation whatsoever. Now, have I ever taken it too lightly? Maybe, but not often. I just felt that this gift from the Lord and His Church was a place I could go and be touched bu God in the most personal, tangible way,and it was an act of love and trust that only strengthened with each time. I saw my life change before my eyes, and STAY that way; something I had never experienced in all my Evangelical years. Plus I was taught by the most joyful, love of Christ-bearing priest, how to go about confession-so that kind of stuck with me.

  6. When you truly, deeply, think about it though. Our God, our creator gave the authority to certain men, to absolve sins. How massive a truth is that? I mean, if you really ponder it.

  7. By the way, I love you, Mary Christine, even though we have never met, in the flesh. Ros xx

  8. By the way. I failed. I could not get to confession today. I feel ashamed. My church only has confession for a 45 min time and I missed it. I have to scout out all the churches in the vicinity and jot down their confession times so I can adapt to a complicated Saturday schedule.