Better Late Than Never, I Hope
Two weeks ago, when I wrote this post about confessions aka the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I mentioned that I had more to say and would try to say it later in the week.
Unfortunately, I now can’t remember what I meant to say! I think I wanted to write some more about my experience of going to confession so let’s do that here.
Seat & Seatability
I’ll start with my visit to Westminster Cathedral today for confessions. I arrived at about midday – confessions began at 11:30am and as it was quite early and today is not a particularly special day in the Church’s calendar, I expected the queue to be quite short. Wrong! There are seats for about thirty or so and every one of them was taken; for the first few minutes of waiting, I had to stand up.
Actually, this was not because not every seat was being used: as penitents head into the confessional, those waiting have a habit of not moving forward to the next seat. It can often happen, therefore, and in fact, invariably does, that at some point you end up moving forward several seats in a one go. This happened today.
With that said, there were still a substantial number of people waiting – 20 at least. In my previous post, I called confessions the Cinderella sacrament, and in the wider Church perhaps it is, but there is definitely a sub-section of Catholics who hold to it. And they are not the older generation, either. Today, I saw one woman who can only have been in her twenties.
Finding Her Way Home
Because of the numbers of people waiting, a second priest arrived. He took the confessional box furthest away from us. If you know Westminster Cathedral, it was the one closest to the Lady Chapel. The woman I mentioned a second ago had to make her way up to him and, if she knew the Cathedral, was obviously not familiar with this confessional. She first headed towards the empty one to the immediate right of where the priest was sitting. He popped his head out of his box to let her know where to go. Except, she couldn’t seem to see where to kneel (from where she was standing perhaps it was just out of her sight) and needed further directions. The poor thing – I hope she wasn’t too flustered.
The worst thing ever to happen to me while waiting in the queue for confessions – apart from the occasion I had to listen to an extra loud penitent make theirs – was witnessing a woman leave the queue to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist at Mass. That wasn’t the problem. The problem came when she returned to her seat and was quietly challenged on what she had done by the man sitting in the seat to her right. I couldn’t hear what he said, but I could certainly hear the woman’s indignant response. People arguing in the queue for confessions is one of those things that really ought not to happen so it all felt very awkward.
My view is that the man was certainly out of order. What the woman did was between her and God. And if he challenged her because he assumed that she was in a state of mortal sin, that too was wrong. Yes, that is one reason for going to confession but it is not the only one. One may also go because one has committed only venial sins as well. With that said, what she said did not look good. It makes one think, hold on, you’re going to communion even though you are aware of sins that you need to confess? But this is my problem to overcome, not hers to take account of.
An Unexpected Gift
On a happier note, after I made my confession today, the priest gave me a miraculous medal! He popped the medal through the grill and handed me an explanatory leaflet over the partition that separates the priest from penitent. I had thought that it was a wall that separated us but it turns out there is a little gap at the top. Anyway, I’m quite chuffed with this gift and it will certainly be coming with me to the Camino.
A Little Laugh
I converted to the Catholic Faith when I was at university in Dundee. In those days, I went to confessions at Dundee cathedral. The Parish Priest there was also the university Catholic chaplain. This meant we could, if we wanted, talk freely after the end of the confession. On one occasion, I went after England had beaten Scotland in the then Five Nations. After saying my confession I took advantage of our friendship and asked the priest if it was a sin to enjoy England’s win. It was, I admit, a You Had To Be There moment but we had a good laugh over it.
I finished my confession today at the same moment as communion was being held for the 12:30pm Mass, so I joined that queue straight away. I rarely finish my confession at this precise moment so it felt quite odd doing so. In fact, I wondered to myself if I should sit down to say my penitential prayer first. I was very unsure and therefore discombobulated; this is why after receiving Our Lord from one of the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist I forgot that the Cathedral doesn’t distribute communion under both kinds and went to the second Extraordinary Minister. I realised my mistake at exactly the moment as she did and put her hand over the ciborium. Oops!
By the way, the usual penitential prayer is, of course, x number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys. Today, the priest asked me to say the Divine Mercy prayer. I know about the Divine Mercy but not the prayer so if I had sat down to say it… I wouldn’t have been able to; not unless I got my phone out to google it, and that was not going to happen. There would have been nothing wrong with doing so, but I wouldn’t want to draw attention to myself that way.
As it happens, I clean forgot to say the Divine Mercy prayer when I got home and only remembered when I wrote the above, so let me draw this post to an end and go and say it!