Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Question for Readers: How Long is Your Confession Line?

As a lifelong Catholic without lots of adult experience going to confession, I have a question: How long is your line for Confession?

When I was a child, our mother used to drop the four of us off at our parish for Confession every Saturday. Two priests gave confessions and there was one line. So if you were at the front of the line, whichever  confessional door would open, you would enter. I mostly remember staring at the slate floors of our little church at everyone's shoes, and then the sliding sound of the screen. The whole process seemed to take quite a while.

That was 40 years ago. As an adult, my trips to the Confessional haven't included long lines. A priest of my acquaintance once told me he could read a Russian novel, with all the time he logs, waiting for penitents  on Saturday afternoons. Statistics back him up. In 1965, nearly 40 percent of American Catholics went to confession monthly, according to the National Opinion Research Center. Today, sociologists estimate that fewer than 25 percent of Catholics regularly go to confession, and that nearly 60 percent never or almost never go.

Still, over the past month, at our new parish, we have encountered something new: long lines for the confessional. The other week, it took me more than an hour to have my turn. This morning, we figured we'd be smart and get a jumpstart on the regulars by showing up 10 minutes early, before the pastor began offering the sacrament. Not early enough: already the nuns were ahead of us in line, along with a handful of other folks. (As an aside, my husband is one of those people who always runs into someone he knows, no matter where we go in the world. Today it was a fellow coach he ran into in the confession line before we bailed for lunch.)

After we feasted on stromboli, we walked back to the church. There still was a line, with new faces. A  few older men, college students, some young women. People of various races, all waiting for a moment to unburden ourselves of our sins. It still took an hour.

Lest you think I am griping, I'm not. Not too much, anyway. If I am going to be inconvenienced by a line, this is the line I want that to happen in. I have come to believe in the spiritual value of frequent confession.

Still, I am wondering. Is this hour-long wait"typical?" Let me know what your experiences are!


  1. There are long lines at my church, but it's a vibrant church. The churches in the area also have great lines, but back home in MN, the only line happens at Easter and Christmas. I like to see the people too.

  2. I rarely go to 'open' confession times simply because Saturday afternoons don't fit the schedule, instead opting for confession w/a solid priest. When I do go to 'open' confession, the lines are usually very long (at least 20+ people) at my parish. I know other parishes don't have the same 'problem' though.

  3. Rarely ever - other than advent and lent - is there a line, and the "line" means 4 or 5 or 6 people ahead of me.. Confessions are 30 minutes on Saturdays (though I guess it could go longer, if needed) and for about 10 minutes before daily Mass. During Advent and Lent, Father usually adds an extra hour, and it is pretty well attended.

    He is not long-winded, and though he often has valuable feedback, and I never have the feeling of being rushed, if there IS a line, it moves pretty quickly.

    I am part of the <25% and most times when I go, I can walk right up. The lines are definitely shorter than Wal-Mart's.

  4. Depending on when I get there, 3-15 minutes.

  5. I make an appointment, so no waiting! But when I go outside of that, can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 45, depends on the place.

    Good confessors have lines :)

  6. Interesting to see all this. Michelle: I do think that is part of the reason for the line. The confessors are all Oratorians and they by no means have a rote approach to confession. They do engage in conversation and challenge me, in a gentle way.

  7. Good confessors are a gift indeed, glad that you are so blessed, too!