From the Pastor: Confession and Holy Communion
The end of Lent is coming soon. The Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) will bring a change of Mass times, extra confessions, extra liturgical services including reception of Holy Communion outside of Mass on Good Friday, and extra confessions. Don’t panic! Those are not happening this coming week but rather the following week. But before we get there, I believe that there needs to be a little written about the proper way to go to confession, plus one little bit of advice about receiving Holy Communion.
To begin with, Sunday, when the confessions are listed as after Mass, that means that the confessions are after Mass. As in: not before Mass. Why? The two main reasons are, first, because I despise having to celebrate Mass without time to get ready. Running straight from the confessional to celebrate Mass makes for a very hectic Mass. The second is very much related to the first, in that I often have things of which I need to take care before Mass begins even if I am not the celebrant! If I am kept in the confessional until the last minute (or longer), I don’t have time for even such simple things as a potty break, let alone the things that much less obviously (to you) need to be accomplished. Paradoxically, the more confessions I could hear from those attending the 10:30 Mass before Mass begins, the sooner after Mass I could get out to bring Holy Communion to the homebound parishioners. But I would rather have a longer day than celebrate a Mass unprepared.
For those of you confessing, a few simple reminders. Get in line. Prepare your conscience while in line. Know how to confess. Don’t wait for Father to invite you in, give you a drink, light a cigarette for you, offer you some hors d’oeuvres, and finally get around to “business.” Many of you, because you don’t say anything after kneeling down, have heard me ask, “Did you come in here for confession or to take a nap?” or “Do you know how to confess?” or something similar. I used to say, “Begin whenever you are ready” but then some people remained silent and I didn’t know if they didn’t hear me or if they were just then preparing! I cannot see who is on the other side of the screen, so for all I know Silent Bob may simply be finishing up a text conversation on his cell phone! Enter, kneel, make the sign of the cross, and say “Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been (this long) since my last confession.” There are other similar phrases or additional prayers that can be used. Don’t worry about which is “right.” Any of them are better than plain silence. Have your routine down pat and start as soon as you kneel. Then confess. That is, briefly list the sins you have committed and of which you are repentant. Don’t reveal other people’s sins. Don’t tell stories. Give just enough information so that Father knows what you did wrong but not too many juicy details to make it seem like you are bragging, making excuses, or blaming someone/something else for your sins. If the priest asks you to please stop telling stories and confess your sins, don’t say, “Oh! Yes, sorry Father!” and then continue with your story just where you left off. If you do that and he repeats the request, don't get mad and say, “But Father, I need to set the whole thing in context so that you will see...!” I can guarantee that Father is only telling you this because you are not telling necessary details but are rather telling stories to the detriment of your own repentance. These casual conversations rather than actual confessions are most certainly the result of replacing confessionals with reconciliation rooms. Those facilitate sitting down for a spell, encourage idle chitchat, and make it difficult to be brief and blunt about what sins you have committed and repented of. Instead, it leads to long, drawn out descriptions that dance around the subject, covering up anything too embarrassing to say as you and Father look at each other, and deflecting blame so that he still thinks you are a good guy when you are done almost telling him your sins, implying—though not straight out admitting—what they were, hoping he understands enough to absolve you but not enough that he thinks less of you for being a sinner. Sheesh!
If you use a phone app or a paper pamphlet for your examination of conscience, you still need to examine your conscience before you get in, not after entering the confessional. For instance, Father should not hear, “Have I missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation? No, I have not missed Mass. Do I take the Lord’s name in vain? No, unless saying @#$%^ counts, but everyone does that. Do I...” If you have been in the confessional line, you should already have your list down pat. You don't have to tell the priest anything you didn’t do wrong, and you absolutely should not read the question and then give the answer for those things you did or did not do. Just confess the sin! Also, remember that mortal sins must be confessed both in kind and in number.
The only thing I want to say about Communion is, if you have an impressive beard, please hold it out of the way of the paten that the altar boy will hold under your chin to catch any fallen particle of the Host. If you don’t, your whiskers will act like a brush and either collect the particles into the hair of your chinny chin chin or sweep them onto the floor. Neither is good.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka