January 20, 2013

Confession, Interrupted

Fr. Mulcahy (courtesy: IMDB)
The Catholic sacrament of reconciliation (confession) is no laughing matter, but I can look back on a recent experience and chuckle. After all, as Fr. Mulcahy said on M*A*S*H, "The good Lord did invent humor."

While going to confession can feel like the most difficult of all the sacraments, it's also one of the most rewarding. I can't quite explain the amazing feeling I always experience as soon as I've done my penance.

On a Monday a few months back, I felt a pretty urgent need to go to confession. My own parish only does confession on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. But thankfully the cathedral in our diocese offers confession each weekday from 11 a.m. - noon, and it's only a few miles from work

Sometimes I've gone to confession at this time and gotten right in; other times I've had to wait. On this particular day, I ducked out of work for an early lunch break and arrived at the cathedral around 11:30 a.m. I noticed a sign near the confessional that said because there was only one preiest hearing confession, he would have to stop at 11:55 a.m. in order to prepare for 12:05 p.m. Mass. I looked at the long line and thought, oh no, I'll never make it. But you never know how quickly the confession line will move. So I tried to bury my mind in prayer and trust in whatever was going to happen.

The line was moving slowly. I kept glancing at the clock and realizing with every passing minute that time was going to run out. I was on edge and impatient. Preparing for reconciliation is nerve-racking enough. Trying to beat the clock just adds to the pressure.

Sure enough, I was about three or four people back in line when the priest came out of the confessional and headed off to prepare for Mass. As I hiked a few blocks back to my car I thought, Okay, God, what's the message you're trying to tell me?

I returned to the cathedral on Tuesday and even got there about five minutes earlier. The sign about the 11:55 a.m. cutoff was up again. But this time, thankfully, the line wasn't as long. I was quite confident I would make it.

But everyone ahead of me seemed to be taking an especially long time. I couldn't blame them; it's a blessing that so many people were confessing their sins. But a quick glance at the clock put me on high alert. It was about 11:50 a.m., and I was finally second in line. The guy in front of me went in. Yes, I thought, I'm on deck. I hope this guy is quick!

He wasn't. As soon as he was done, the priest left the confession booth to prepare for Mass. Wow. I was trying to do the right thing by going to confession but was rejected two days in row, the second day right outside the door.

As I walked back to my car, I glanced upward with a smile and thought, Okay, God, you really got me now. Clearly you are trying to send me a message.  To this day, all I can figure is that the message was this: Avoiding sin in the first place is a lot more convenient than having to confess to it later. Having to think about my sins for a couple of extra days must have been part of God's lesson.

Wednesday was too busy of a work day to leave at lunchtime. But on Thursday after work, I made it to confession at my own parish. Among other things, I had to confess to being impatient. But really, how can we justify being frustrated about a long confession line? Shouldn't the line for confession be just as long (if not longer) than the line for communion?


  1. What a good story. I have been there too.It is good to see that you were persistent,some would have told God: "You see God I did try" and never returned. At the end every thing that's good remains good. Bravo!

    1. Thanks, I appreciate your comment.