03 April 2011

Short and Sweet

I remember arriving at the Sanctuary in Lisieux some years back, and joining the line for the confessional. A group of foreign tourists (from Latin America or someplace) were huddled about also waiting, and one among their number, arriving late, decided to ignore the line and cut directly in front of me without so much as a "Howdy-do." She wound up talking with Father for half an hour (it looked more like shooting the breeze and chatting it up, from what I could see through that transparent glass cubicle the modern Church in France passes for a confessional these days), and as she left, she smilingly informed me and all the rest patiently waiting our turn that Father was retiring for the day. I almost told her to hurry back and finish her confession by adding "total lack of consideration for others" among her list of faults...

For the love of God and our hard-laboring priests, learn to make a good confession. That usually means short and sweet. The confessional is not the place for spiritual direction. It's not the place to chit chat. It's not the place to talk about your feelings. And for goodness' sake, remember that there are people behind you just as anxious to unburden themselves as you. Understand that the concerned look on Father's face (if you're one of the types who prefers face-to-face encounters in the confessional, which I am decidedly NOT) doesn't mean he's somehow more personally interested in your situation than in anyone else's and wants to hear you going on and on; it's the same kind look he seeks to offer every penitent.

Avoid making excuses for your sins. St. Faustina used to mortify herself by choosing the fault she found most humiliating and making sure to confess that first. Such practices may be painful to the ego, but they are priceless in purifying us of self-love and, if done consistently, can only beautify the soul.

The confessional is for one reason only: to confess, be absolved, and, if necessary, receive brief instruction on how to avoid sin in the future. Say what you did wrong, heed his counsel, thank God for His absolution, promptly do the penance, and be off with you!

Short and sweet!