Sunday, January 25, 2009

Come Early for Absolution

I've mentioned before in this space that my wife and I often attend the 11:30 am Saturday mass at Maria Stein Center. The Sisters of the Precious Blood who run the center generously arrange for the priest who celebrates mass to hear confessions before mass, with a scheduled start time of 11:00.

If you decide you want to go to confession though, you should show up early.

We took two of our daughters with us yesterday and arrived at about 10:45, 15 minutes before the scheduled start of confessions. The priest was already in the "reconciliation room" (they don't have an actual confessional, so they set the priest up in a side room with a shield for those who don't want to go face-to-face), and the line was four deep. Our little group doubled the length of the line.

The priest was pretty efficient, and the line moved rather quickly. By the time it was my turn (I went last from our family), there was only one other person in line behind me. I don't think that I spent a lot of time confessing my sins and circumstances, but when I was done, I was stunned to find the waiting room packed, with Sr. Regina scrambling to find more chairs for those waiting.

As efficient as he was, the priest was not able to hear the confessions of all the penitents before mass. He generously offered to stay after mass for any who were unable to receive the sacrament of reconciliation before mass.

Why are the lines for confession at Maria Stein so long? Part of it might be the convenient time. Part of it might be the opportunity to confess your sins to a priest other than your pastor. I have to admit that it's been a long time since I've gone to the 4:00 scheduled confession time at our own parish, so I don't know whether the lines there are comparable. One thing that I am certain of is that it is simply not accurate to assert that there is no longer a sense of the reality of sin. There is a substantial population that appreciates the damage that our sin does to our relationship with God and the need to be forgiven and reconciled with Him.

Now what I don't understand is why some people, having just been absolved of their sins, don't stay for mass!

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