Waiting in line for confession? What to do and not do

March 26, 2012

Faith and Reasons

In line for confession at the Vatican or anywhere else, make the most of the wait time. Photo/rufty Licensed under Creative Commons

I plan on going to confession before Easter and I know I’m not alone. No matter how often Catholics receive the sacrament, many find this is an especially good time to seek forgiveness and healing in preparation for Our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

I don’t know if there will be a long line at my church when I go but I’m guessing I’ll  have to wait. I don’t like it but it’s a great way to work on patience–a virtue that comes up often when I’m in the confessional.

If you’re like me and you sometimes do your formal preparation for confession during the car ride to church, waiting in line to receive the sacrament of reconciliation offers the chance to slow down and really think about what I’m doing.

If you get to church and find a long confession line, maybe the first thing to ask is, do I really need to go right now? If you’re confessing venial rather than mortal sins, confessing them is a good idea but when many others in line may have more serious sins to confess, you can seek forgiveness during Mass, as Father Zuhlsdorf suggests in his blog.

Ways to prepare for confession while waiting

  • Pray: Ask God to help you make a good confession. Pray the rosary for His guidance. One friend prays that he can be honest and confess all the Lord wants him to, and also that he’ll be receptive to what God wants to reveal to him through the priest. Here are some pre-confession prayers.
  • Prepare: This site offers a good guide for making a confession and Catholics Come Home offers a number of resources.
  • Examine: If you’re not sure everything came to mind during your car examination, make a more thorough examination of conscience now. Check one of these sites while you’re waiting:
    Here’s one that offers both preparation for the sacrament and an examination of conscience.
    This one might be hard to read on a phone but I think it’s good.
    Father John Hardon offers an in-depth examination of conscience.
    This examination is also thorough.
  •  Reflect on your sins and seeking forgiveness. Read the bible. Some churches offer guides with prayers or reflections near the confessional. Orthodox priest Father Ted Bobosh offers a beautiful meditation on confession and the wisdom writings in the book of Sirach on his blog.

A  few things not to do in line

  • Talk:  This is not the time to get to know fellow parishioners. You disturb others who are praying and concentrating on receiving the sacrament.
  • Text, Surf or play games on your phone: Using your phone or iPad to pray or do an examination of conscience will help prepare you for the sacrament but texting or using other apps won’t. Try turning it off if you’re not using it for preparation.
  • Sing or pray out loud:  Find another place in the church for this if it helps you prepare.

The idea of going to confession makes some people anxious enough without adding a long wait in line. If we can see this wait time as a gift rather than an early penance we can go into the confessional the same way we leave it–with peace.

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About Susan Klemond

I'm a freelance writer who enjoys writing about the Catholic Faith, local issues and people. I love the challenge of learning about the Church and discovering the reasons behind her teachings.

View all posts by Susan Klemond