Saturday, October 21, 2006

In search of anonymity

An addition to the previous post.

When I was an assistant priest in St Leonards on Sea, there was another priest, who used to welcome penitents at the confessional shake their hands warmly enquire about their health, ask their names, all designed to put them at their ease.
One day a woman came into the the Church wearing a motorcycle helmet with the visor down. The priest stood at the confessional door, greeted her warmly, shook her hand and invited to remove the helmet, she refused saying she wanted to have her right to anonymity preserved.
From then on the priest stayed inside the confessional behind the grill.

I must say when I go to confession I want three things, to be able to confess my sins without interruption, to receive a penance and absolution. Confession is not about counselling, nor even about spiritual direction. It is simply about receiving forgiveness. Sometimes it is about confessing the same old sin over and over again, and receiving the same old forgiveness over and over again.

Same old sinner: same old God, same old sin: same old forgiveness.

There is one thing I want from a confessor, which is that he should make me want to come back and seek God's forgiveness again and again. The thing that puts me off is a long sermon, even if it is encouraging, just want to just confess and go, which is I think, what most penitents want.


Anonymous said...

I wish priests weren't surprised when you go to confession once a week. So many of the many of the saints did, some more often, the late Pope did. I find it useful especially overcoming sinful habits. At the Oratory no-one objects but then the Fathers of the Oratory go weekly. Maybe it is a reflection on the use of this sacrament by priests.

Anonymous said...

I also prefer to go to confession in a good ol' fashioned confessional with a grill. I remember the first time I went to confession face to face I walked into a Church I'd never been in before (I was travelling) to go to confession and when I walked into the what I thought was a confessional with a screen I found myself face to face with the priest. I was definitely uncomfortable but I couldn't exactly turn around and leave.

While I prefer anonymity, I don't mind going to confession face to face with my spiritual director though since there is nothing in my spiritual life that I want to keep 'anonymous' from him (not because I'm seeking spiritual direction in the confessional). Obviously he will not later bring up my confession outside of the context of the confessional but I've asked him to let me know if something comes up in the context of the sacrament that I should make a point of bringing up in spiritual direction (even then, the ball is in my hands to actually bring it up). That being said, even in this context face to face isn't absolutely necessary since he recognizes my voice.

Anonymous said...

The strahge situation of the grill and the formality and the distance, even if a priest does recognise a voice, means he can be a Father rather than a chum.

Physiocrat said...

Yes, I want to receive the sacrament and no fancy stuff.

Mulier Fortis said...

I've had some really weird experiences in Confession: eg. being told that I should get married (I did feel like asking if the priest, who didn't know me from Adam, had anyone particular in mind for me), and being asked if I always went this frequently...

Anonymous said...

I've had some weird ones too. . . like the priest who said at the beginning of confession "Just to let you know, I'm not the kind of priest who wants to hear how many times you've committed what sins, just tell me where you're at. . ."

Hmmmm. . . I seem to recall somewhere something being said about grave sins needing to be confessed in both kind and number. But then again, maybe I'm just that kind of Catholic.

Anonymous said...

I was once told "...for your penance, just go and be your glorious, redeemed self".
Afterwards I thought I should have asked, "How many times, Father?"
That would have been sacreligious though.

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