Saturday, June 1, 2013


Children who received their First Holy Communion from Pope Francis last Sunday:

Pope Benedict hearing Confessions:

Way back in the 1970's and 80's some smart catechist kind of theologians decided that going to confession prior to receiving Holy Communion messed little second graders up. So there was a catehetical trend (during the coloring book Catholicism era) to prepare children for First Holy Communion in the second grade (usually age 7, the age of reason) and then prepare them, and God only knows why this grade was chosen, in the 4th grade for their first confession.

That was challenged by the bishops of this country in the 1980's who mandated that children must be prepared for the Sacrament of Penance prior to receiving Holy Communion.

When I arrived here in 2004 our kids were still being prepared for the Sacrament of Penance in the 4th grade, but I changed that immediately to comply with the 1980's mandate.

Along with this unfortunate trend pushed upon parishes by stupid theologians, Catholics in general began to see a separation of going to Confession prior to receiving Holy Communion. In fact the practice of going to confession dropped significantly although the number of people receiving Holy Communion increased. Certainly a loss of the sense of sin is to blame and that many now believe they are entitled to receive Holy Communion regardless of their Catholic practices or lack thereof or the sins they have committed.

Sandro Magister of the Chiesa blog reports on Pope Francis' pastoral visit to the periphery of Rome to the parish of Saints Elizabeth and Zachary (I love that name, if I get to name a parish in our diocese I'm choosing that one!)

This is what he writes in part, you can read his whole article HERE.

ROME, May 31, 2013 – The visit of Pope Francis, on Trinity Sunday, to the parish of Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah to the far north of the city, the first of a series of his visits to Roman parishes, immediately distinguished itself by several original characteristics.

The pope arrived early in the morning, before the time announced, and the first thing he wanted to do was to meet one-on-one the children baptized in the past year, about fifty of them, together with their parents.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is highly sensitive about the baptism of children. On the previous day, in the morning homily at Saint Martha's, he had cited the example of a teenage mother who had asked to have her child baptized and was refused. “The child is in no way at fault for the marital status of his parents” - this has been his principle since he was a bishop in Argentina - and in fact baptism “often becomes for the parents a new beginning.” Woe to those who set up a “pastoral customs agency" in front of this gate of entry into the Christian life: “So many times we are supervisors of the faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people.”

The second novelty of the visit took place shortly afterward. The pope entered the sacristy, closed the door, and before celebrating Mass he heard the confession, one after another, of eight parishioners chosen at random. There were supposed to have been five, but three were added unexpectedly. The reporter from “L'Osservatore Romano” wrote: “When that door opened there came out a radiant face, most of the time furrowed with tears.”

Before him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI had heard confessions at St. Peter's during Holy Week. Pope Joseph Ratzinger had also heard confessions at World Youth Day in Madrid, in 2011.

Francis, however, wanted to hear confessions in the parish, right before Mass. He gave a good example to priests and faithful. He wanted to make visible the connection between confession and communion, which must be received only when one is “in the grace of God.”

MY FINAL COMMENTS: The last line from Magister is his opinion based upon what Pope Francis did in this parish, he heard confessions prior to Mass thus showing by example that priests should hear confessions on Sunday prior to Mass because of the "connection between confession and communion, which must be received only when one is "in the grace of God" (the state of grace as we say).

I can remember as a child prior to Vatican II in my Augusta parish that the priests always heard confessions prior to Mass. If the priest also had to say the Mass, I can't remember what time he stopped hearing, but I suspect it would be about 10 minutes before Mass began. But after Vatican II this same parish stopped doing it. I don't recall the rationale, but I think we were told we were too Jansenist for wanting to go to confession prior to Holy Communion and confessions were heard on Saturday, so go then!

I can't help believe that the drop in the number of those going to confession coincided with the dropping of having confessions prior to Mass on Sunday. Let's face it, it is a matter of convenience and if you can kill two birds with one stone, why not.

I suspect that if every parish in the world had confessions every Sunday prior to each Mass, we would see a dramatic increase in the number of Catholics making use of this sacrament.

We hear confession prior to daily Mass which is at 8 AM. So I or Fr. Dawid are in the confessional at 7:30 AM and I stop hearing at 7:50 to vest for Mass.

We have four Sunday Masses and I'm alone for the next three Sundays as Fr. Dawid is on vacation. I might experiment with Sunday confessions during Advent or next Lent, see how it goes and make a decision about doing it prior to all Masses on Sunday, but don't hold me to it. The ideal is to have only one Sunday Mass and no more than two, thus this would make Sunday confessions quite possible.

My last comment has to do with baptisms and marriages. We sometimes do make Catholics who at least try to do the right thing by coming to the parish for these two sacraments feel as though they are idiots for doing so. Should we not put non-practicing Catholics into the hands of God and be nice to them when they come to us for baptisms, marriages and funerals. Why deny a mother who is single and may not be the best Catholic in the world the baptism of her child? It doesn't make sense. God can sort out the dragnet of people who come to us for this, that and the other. Why should we place more stumbling blocks in the way of God's grace?


Gene said...

I definitely agree that we should have Confession on Sunday before Mass.

Unknown said...

I think that a laudable practice would be to return to having confessions up to the Our Father at all Masses.

It would give the faithful every opportunity to make use of the Sacrament of Penance prior to reception of Holy Communion.

Obviously this isn't possible where there is only one priest, but in parishes where there are two or more, this is feasible and once the practice is properly promoted and the faithful catechized, it will work.

rcg said...

The situation of the single mother seeking baptism for the child addresses the dilemma we face as a Church with the care for the sacraments. IIRC, parents and guardians are asked to raise the child in the faith. It is doubtful the woman is able to do that. The specific priest should be able to determine that and not be second guessed by others in public. We have the Christmas and Easter Catholics and the politicians even the Pope himself won't give communion. We have stories of people who want a Catholic wedding because the Church is pretty. Atheists can do good works, but that does not get them into Heaven, the woman can want her child Baptised, but there is more to it than that. I would be over joyed to know the woman was sincere and taking the proper steps in her own life as well as the care of her child. But that must be known, not assumed.

Hammer of Fascists said...

Pater will probably go after me for this, since I'm going to discuss motivations, but is it not possible that the whole idea behind separating the two sacraments was based in presumption--that the goal was to eliminate, in the future adults' minds, the association of reception of Communion with that of being in a state of grace? I.e., might the goal have been to make Confession, as well as state of grace vs. state of mortal sin, irrelevant in the mind of the communicants?

Assuming that this wasn't the intention--assuming that those who researched the new practice and those who ordered its implementation to be reasonably intelligent people who simply wanted, in light of Dr. Spock, to spare children some sort of psychological trauma, surely they had to have been aware of other ramifications, right? Or were they so focused on avoiding this trauma that they were truly oblivious to the fact that their decision would have other effects?

A couple of weeks ago, Pater suggested that I think I know better than everyone else. I think it isn't a question of me knowing better or of being smarter than those who made the decision in question. I do think, as an armchair theologian who has the luxury of speculating at leisure long after the fact, I have one advantage over the decisionmakers. They were apparently caught up in the rush and turmoil and spirit of the times, as well as the perhaps heady realization that they had the authority to change things. As a result (and this is the most charitable view one can take of them) they made a decision much too quickly and without reflecting sufficiently. We here have the advantage of being able to reflect, and that reflection strongly suggests that there are a lot more Communions made today in a state of mortal sin than there were fifty years ago, and that many of them are directly traceable to the decision in question. I defy anyone to consider that a good thing.

If all this is right, it's a very good object lesson for the idea that changes should be very slow and they should be fairly few (i.e., a model that is the polar opposite of what happened in the wake of VII). It's just too easy to flush the benefits of centuries of experience down the commode. Children went to Confession prior to first Communion for good reasons, and those who changed that likely paid too little attention to those reasons (and/or thought themselves smarter than all of the prior generations) for their, or their flocks' own good.

Marc said...

When there are two priests, one could hear Confessions before and during Mass. He could then come out of the Confessional to distribute Holy Communion at the appropriate time.

Thus, you address two issues: hearing more Confessions and eliminating unnecessary use of EMHCs.

Carol H. said...


WSquared said...

"Way back in the 1970's and 80's some smart catechist kind of theologians decided that going to confession prior to receiving Holy Communion messed little second graders up."

If the child is old enough to commit a mortal sin, what is the sense of trying to shield them and ourselves from that reality? If anything, it is merciless to not point out that the Church has identified pitfalls in the spiritual life that can keep us away from God. Confession means that mortal sin has a remedy, and it means that we have room to fail. I think Pope Francis, when speaking about how there is no true Christianity without the Cross, also talked about triumph through failure.

These kinds of "catechetical trends" are outrageous nonsense.

Privileging hurt feelings over the reality that Hell exists probably speaks to why there's this sense of entitlement regarding Holy Communion: there's a lack of awareness that spirituality doesn't just involve feelings, but involves logic. Receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is spiritually untenable, because it is logically untenable: you can't simultaneously choose Jesus and Total Absence of Jesus.

"Why deny a mother who is single and may not be the best Catholic in the world the baptism of her child? It doesn't make sense."

Agreed. It gives her an opportunity also to begin again-- to be that better Catholic, knowing that the Sacraments will enable her. "Meeting people where they are" is not saying that their sins are okay, but offering the opportunity to begin again.

"Being supervisors of the faith" stems in good part from fear of being irresponsible. While responsibility is needed, we should never underestimate the power of the Sacraments: that's where we really are dependent upon God, and we need to let go. There's often a very fine line between insistence on "following all the rules" and needing to be upfront about what the Church actually teaches. In the latter, it comes down to a matter of maintenance, to be aware of what impedes the effectiveness of the Sacraments.

A good example of this involves sex and marriage. You want the young couple to be married in the Church and to have a successful marriage, and you want them to know what Jesus wants to give them. But it is also true that cohabitation before marriage and contraception are gravely sinful, and block the grace that allow for that successful marriage. There's no getting around that reality or the reality that receiving Holy Matrimony in a state of mortal sin is not okay, and what it boils down to is how to throw them a lifeline and the opportunity to begin again.

qwikness said...

I too agree. How many confessions would you say occur during a week?

Art Fleming said...

Offering Confession more often at at more convenient times WILL DEFINITELY increase the number of confessions. Of course, it also helps to have priests who don't treat the sacrament like some nuisance that takes away precious time they might spend elsewhere.

However, another problem presents itself in many parishes: CONFESSIONALS.

The whole "Reconciliation Room" experiment still causes a good deal of angst for even the youngest Catholics. If people know they can walk into a dark closet-like box and the priest will not know who they are, they are more likely to bare their souls to get the help they need. It's very embarrassing for many to have to ASK a priest for Confession, and even worse, they lose any hope of anonymity.

New church building need to have traditional confessionals.

Anonymous said...

It is possible, too, that the "I'll jump into the confessional 15 minutes before mass so I can go ahead and sin the night before" may have been a considerable impetus to the loss of a sense of sin. It the sin, repentance, communion nexus is so reduced, the whole thing collapses.

If a person wishes to receive communion, maybe NOT having confessions right before mass might encourage that potential sinner to refrain from sinning the night before...

Gene said...

"Reconciliation Room"...heh, heh...and, maybe, a Penance Patio with a Couch of Contrition and a Sauna of Sorrow. Everybody sit in a circle, hold hands, and the Priest will lead us in "You Are A Child of the Universe." Then, we'll retire to the Bong of wow, this is so real...

Hammer of Fascists said...

Anon. at 4:37: Re sinning the night before--I'd argue that anyone with that mindset is likely to be able to profane the sacrament of Reconciliation whenever it's offered. If one views the sacrament as a license to sin, then one has far worse problems than that of timing.

Gene said...

Anon 5, Please do not call it "Reconciliation," thus playing into the hands of the modernists/euphemists. It is Confession. There is a huge, a monstrously significant, difference.

rcg said...

Anons et al: even the most introspective and devote may not be able to conceive of their total sins, the Rite takes that into account. I would be comfortable with God's judgement on those who are tempting His Grace with stupid human games as long as the meanest among us were lined up for confession with contrite hearts only vagely aware of their full]ness of sin, yet fearful for it.

Unknown said...


You know our idea will never fly in today's Church though...because then certain ilks of priests will not be able to have coffee between Masses...


Seriously, if it will bring back the faithful to "the box," then it is can't be a bad thing.

On another related, but different note, I think that if priests were to get rid of face-to-face confession, then the faithful would come back in droves...with proper catechesis.

Unknown said...

Our parish has had this norm since 2006. Confession is always heard before each and every Mass, yes even early on weekday mornings. The norm is 30 minutes before for weekday Masses and an hour on Sundays and other bigger occasions. The celebrant stops hearing confession 10 minutes before Mass is due to begin.

Anonymous said...

Mark Nel - And when masses are celebrated at 8:00, 10:00 and Noon, and there is one priest in the parish, which is the norm in most parishes in this country, how does one hear confessions for an hour before each and every mass?

Marc said...

Anonymous at 8:06 -

Let me see if I can figure that one out. Lets see

7:30-7:50 - Confessions
8:00-9:00 - Mass

9:30-9:50 - Confessions
10:00-11:00 - Mass

111:30-11:50 - Confessions
12:00-1:00 - Mass

What's complicated here? Did I miss something?

Marc said...

Andy, I've seen Confessions during Mass just once - at the ICRSS oratory in St. Louis. It was an incredible sight. Of course, as I walked into the Oratory that morning, there was a low Mass going on at a side chapel as well.

I've never felt more Catholic. And the rupture with the past was never more clearly demonstrated to me than that day. It pains me now even to think about it, really. I'm nostalgic for a time I wasn't alive to experience.

Unknown said...


It happens in many (if not all) FSSP parishes as well. I get your point about nostalgia, but it really shouldn't be. There is no real reason why this can't be a norm in parishes around the world where there are multiple priests.

It is a sight to see lines for Confession while Mass is being sung.

Marc said...

Andy, I'm glad the FSSP is doing this. I haven't seen it at the couple chapels I've been to, but there may have been a lack of priests in those cases.

I think there is a reason why this isn't being done as a norm in most parishes today: bishops and priests and liturgical committees who see the Mass as a show instead of what it really is. That's why they send the kids out for the children's liturgy and bring up as many performers as possible to help out.

Heck, take this blog's author as an example. No doubt he's done some great things with the liturgy at his parish. And yet, recognizing the issues and their very simple solutions, he is held back from implementing necessary reforms. Why? His bishop? His parishioners? His own qualms as a result of his formation?

I don't mean to knock Fr. McDonald; only to point out that if priests like him can't or won't do these things, who will?

Templar said...

Father, I pray you find the time, strength and courage to try Confessions on Sunday before Mass. You know I have long been an advocate, and it would be a Blessing for Our Souls. I pray daily for you to have the courage and strength to do those things that I know must tug at your heart and mind as fitting, right and proper.

Gene said...

Marc, I think Fr. is held back by all three... let's call them Bishop, bitching, and background. I know nothing about this Bishop, but I know that Bishops are political animals and try to avoid conflict and upsetting parishioners. He is a Franciscan, and they are not known for being liturgists. They like birds and stuff. I am assuming he made Fr. stop intinction (when Fr. was asked why he stopped intinction, he said, 'It is a hierarchical mystery..."). To me, this means some parishioners bitched to the Bishop. Why they would is a mystery almost as great as the Real presence.
Having been a prot pastor for many years, I know about dealing with mouthy, whiney parishioners. My situation allowed me to pretty much ignore them (while being diplomatic...difficult for me), and address them in sermons on stewardship, pride, and Total Depravity. LOL! Fr. has more constraints.
I believe there are many more things he could liturgically do that are not proscribed or prohibited but, again, he would not be wise to upset the Bishop. It is easy to discipline a is a real pain to deal with angry parishioners and a fractured parish. Which do you think the Bishop would choose...regardless of what is liturgically or doctrinally correct?
Then, there is the issue of the many parishioners who really like what Fr. has done but who do not let the Bishop know and who may not rise to his defense if it became an issue. Despite the few mouthy ones, most Catholics are a lot like sheep. If it were a Baptist or Presbyterian Church and there was an issue, you couldn't count the committees that would be formed or the petitions that would be sent!
Yes, I wish someone higher up would just say, by fiat, ok, back to ad orientum, one kind only, get rid of EMHC's, no more altar girls, and find jobs at Wal Mart greeters for the LCWR. I believe the Church is far more fractured than we are willing to admit and the pace of "reform" reminds me of the verses we made up for "Onward Christian Soldiers" in seminary:
"Like a mighty snail, moves the Church of God,
Brothers we are standing, where we've always stood...."

rcg said...

I expect Gene is correct concerning the Bishop. I have seen the pattern in all sorts of businesses and I believe the Church is causing, if not forcing, Diocese and parishes to be run based on numbers. They can't quite bring themselves to trust the long view that the numbers of parishioners who will attend Mass, and donate, sill be as large, or at least large enough, to keep the Diocese running. They are chasing numbers for the schools and other ancillary projects and hoping the decrease of the numbers in the pews will miraculously stop with out changing anything in the Mass itself.

As nutty as our Diocese seems to be the Archbishop had the inspiration to allow the FSSP to set up a parish in Dayton. The entire exchange was odd and seems a little miraculous.

I reluctantly think Gene is right that the Church is more fractured than we will admit. I do not understand why the presence of the TLM offends so many OF people, but it clearly does.