Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday

We’re in the Triduum today,  but I want to go back to Spy Wednesday. On the heels of my recent post about confession, Melanie and I went to the Salem citywide penance service on Wednesday evening at St. Ann’s parish. The church is a relatively recent building, the previous one having been destroyed by fire in the late 80s or early 90s, and while in a purely architectural sense, it’s a nice building, as a church I’m not enamored. It’s the now typical big square space with little ornamentation and very stark, austere feeling.

One thing that’s a problem with most modern churches is the lack of space for confessions. In old churches you used to have two or even four confessionals available for simultaneous use, but with today’s “reconciliation room” there’s now only one real space for it. So what ends up happing is that you have priests sitting in pews and chairs spread throughout the church. First, if you would prefer the anonymity of a screen, you’re out of luck. Plus, you often have oblivious people walking right by the pews on their way to various places in the church—other priests, the bathroom, the sacristy, etc. There’s the very real danger of someone’s confession being overheard.  It’s no wonder people don’t go to confessions anymore. The worst nightmare of the penitent is having his inmost, deepest, most shameful sins being broadcast to others. I would think the seal of the confessional would apply to the venue of the confession as much as to the priest repeating the sins.

Judas the mystery

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  • I appreciate your issues with some homilies: when I went to the Cathedral for Tenebrae (which was very nice, overall, I’d recommend it next year), that homily (not by Cardinal Sean) was also a bit wonky – not theologically damaged (except, perhaps, by misfocus), but somewhat random in the splatter of topics touched on without much depth.

    More and more, I appreciate C.S. Lewis’ idea (I paraphrase) that we have a ‘critical’ faculty and a ‘worshipful’ faculty, and the former too often trumps the other. For me, it’s rare that the ‘worshipful’ facility wins during a homily – but wonderous when it does.

    That said, if we’re looking for good homilies, we should all remember to look to Rome (article I found on Drudge, of all places): http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13509-2134140,00.html. The intro is here: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2006/documents/ns_lit_doc_20060414_via-crucis-present_en.html, and the details, I presume, will appear here later today: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2006/documents/ns_lit_doc_20060414_via-crucis_en.html.

  • Regarding Historical Homilies,

    At our Parish, at least , I find the historical homilies, such as the one Dom mentions to be quite good.  There are certainly logical inconsitencies in the Bible, and in our traditions.  From time to time, a Priest can really shed some light on these issues by showing the motivation behind the inspritation and so forth, and do it in a devout and evangelical way.


  • No, John, you miss my point. What I was saying is that the homily shed no light on these issues. It merely raised the problems without offering any solutions, creating doubt in the mind of the believer.

  • Fair enough,

    They can be done well, though.  I will copy you sometime when I hear a good one.


  • I went to the Tenebrae service, too. It gets better every year.

    While I didn’t find Father Sean O’Connor’s sermon wonky or even misfocused (the focus was on death and dying…the priest concentrated almost entirely on the recent death of Boston Police Chaplain Monsignor William Cushing Francis), I’m wondering why Cardinal O’Malley didn’t preach. He didn’t preach today at the Good Friday Liturgy either…Father Chris Coyne delivered the sermon.

  • Just a recommendation, if your confession is going to be that bad and it has been a very very long while make an appointment and not the regular hours set aside.

  • Just a recommendation, if your confession is going to be that bad and it has been a very very long while make an appointment and not the regular hours set aside.

    I don’t think this is a good recommendation, with all due respect to Renee, whom I admire very much.

    If your confession is going to be “that bad” then don’t wait an instant! You don’t need an appointment, if there’s a priest standing by to hear confessions.

    It’s the “that bad” confessions that priests — and Jesus! — want to hear. It’s called “catching a big fish.”

    Of course, if there’s no priest waiting when you decide to reconcile yourself with God, then by all means call and make an IMMEDIATE appointment. Probably that’s what Renee meant.

  • This reminds me to be thankful about what an incredible grace the Sacrament of Confession brings and how consoling a good confessor can be. I have had priests really understand and be so helpful in Confession and other than praying for them (which I don’t diminish) I wish there was some way to thank them.

    We had a beautiful Thursday Tenebrae with the procession of the Holy Eucharist to the Altar of repose. The altar of respose was surrounded with flowers, in stark contrast to the purple veiled statues and when we knelt to receive Holy Communion the perfume of the flowers was overpoweringly beautiful. Two little girls were flower girls preceeding the procession and the altar boys carried a canopy over Fr. Donovan while the carried the Blessed Sacrament. It was heavenly. And you know it was especially beautiful when you pass 1hr and 45 minutes so engrossed in the liturgy that you can hardly believe it is all ready over. At the end of the service families brought up a single red rose to represent their intentions.

  • I’ve been to these kinds of holiday confession arrangements, too, where there are several priests and lines.  I don’t prefer them because you are expected to just confess a sampling, or the worst or something like that.  This is so that the line flows quickly, i suppose.  I find that odd.

    Generally, I make sure I just get there during the regular times or catch the priest after the last mass.

    The exception to this was one memorable time I went to confession in a garden in Rome on a pilgrimage.  There were people about, but there was no line and it was a bit more private although out in the open.

  • Michigan: Apparently there’s no such rule in my town. Everybody took their sweet time. wink

    Miss Kelly: The angels sang as you came to Our Lord in confession. Congratulations and thank you for sharing that. It made my Triduum. grin

  • At my church confessions are heard in the sanctuary, in the sacristy, in the back corners of the church, as well as the two confessionals.  This works out to be fairly private.  Face to face is a given, of course.  I’ve often wondered if sometimes women fail to confess something they would like to confess because they can’t do it face to face.

  • You’re fortunate, Domenico.  I live in the Midwest and we have our own problems here.  We didn’t have a big share of the abuse problem here, but the practice of the faith is as barren as dust, almost like an afterthought for many Catholics.  Many who can’t deal with the barrenness simply go off and become protestants in order to realize some semblance of professed christianity and community.  It’s very unfortunate.

    I tell you by way of explanation—we are told that we are not to take more than a minute or two at these confession services so we don’t “inconvenience” others.  I’m serious.

    Also, the necessity of fast was excused by our bishop yesterday.  Apparently, they can do that.  I was told by a priest that “Catholics don’t do that anymore,” with the attendant finger-wagging.  Did that happen where you are too??

  • Ohio is sort of the midwest also, but we are not excused from the fast.  In fact father talked about it at the start of Lent, reinforcing the need for it, and explaining the exact time when “over 59” kicks in. 

    Catholics certainly do still fast!  Sad about your priest.  I wonder what he would think of the Orthodox fast?  Ours is a mosquito compared to the elephant Orthodox fast!  If fasting determines our place in heaven, the Orthodox are going to be way down in the front pews and we Roman Catholics are going to be out in the vestibule trying to get a glimpse.

  • Yes an immediate appointment, a priest would be glad to make the time available for you. I’m just saying if it has been a few years (in my case the college years), you might need a bit of time and you don’t want to feel rushed with a line.

  • Yes, anybody overhearing another’s confession is bound by the seal.

    Can. 983 §1 The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.

    §2 An interpreter, if there is one, is also obliged to observe this secret, as are all others who in any way whatever have come to a knowledge of sins from a confession.

  • Carrie,

    I thought it was just this priest who was ignoring the fast because he phrased it like it was a universal thing, but I guess after talking to a few other locals, the bishop excused it here in the diocese and that’s why we were told that.

    What a crock.  I cannot imagine sloughing off like that when the rest of the Catholic world is united in fasting.

    Crazy.  Teaching people to say “why bother” teaches them to leave the church for greener pastures.  Don’t they know this?

  • Teaching people to say “why bother” teaches them to leave the church for greener pastures.  Don’t they know this?

    I feel certain that they know this, and so when they say it, they tell us more about themselves than about the matter at hand.

    One cannot consciously fast without thinking about the reason one’s stomach is growling.  It is a given that fasting will bring with it thoughts of Christ, and on Good Friday, thoughts about the crucifixion.

    It is best if we can know that we are united with other Catholics in our fast.  But even if the rest of Catholicism decides to abandon the fast, fasting is a very personal thing.  It is like praying.  It engages us on a physical level as prayer engages us on a mental level.  While the Church may impose fasts, no one can tell us not to fast.  And the best fast is the one taken up voluntarily, and not because someone told us we had to do it.

  • michigancatholic,

    I’m so sorry. Now I understand why sometimes you sound so angry and bitter. As bad as things sometimes seem here in Boston, they aren’y that bad! 

    Dispensing people from the fast especially hits home for me. I haven’t been able to fast this Lent because of the baby and I have missed it. I feel like I wasn’t able to really enter into the Lenten journey this year as much as I have in the past.

    Carrie, a beautiful reflection on the meaning of fasting. You said it better than I could. I suppose I’m in the odd position of having to offer up the inability to fast.

    God bless you both and Happy Easter.

  • Melanie, just remember that fasting is not an end in itself, but only a means to bring our attention to that which our senses have no opportunity to comprehend.  If not being able to fast accomplishes the end to which fasting is directed, then the same purpose is being served.  Ultimately all and everything must rest in Christ.