October 26, 2009

What's Wrong Here?

A few years ago, when I was still in my dissenting Catholic period, I was fulfilling the ministry of door greeter/usher at the door of the parish I belonged to then. It was the Triduum. I believe it was Holy Thursday.

A woman that I’d never seen before came up to me with a young girl in tow and asked if she could have her Confession heard.

I knew right then that she was not a regular and probably not from around the area. If she had been, she would have surely known that our parish never offered Confession. When they did offer Confession it was only just before Advent and Lent and it was always Form III (for the record we were not in danger of death).
Technically, individual Confessions were available by request on Saturday afternoon but no one I knew actually called the Parish Office for an appointment for it.

At this point in my life I was starting to “come back” but I was not completely home yet. I knew one of our priests was “around”. He was not there to celebrate the Holy Thursday service (I’m not going to bother calling it a mass because it wasn’t). He told me earlier that he stopped by to get something and he’d been trying to get home for the last few hours. Neither of our priests lived on the church grounds. They had homes elsewhere. Not surprising since our Rectory was long gone.

I told the woman I would go find a priest for her. A few of the people around me tried to tell her “We don’t do THAT here” but I insisted I’d find a priest to talk with her. I did not do this out of any awareness that when people may need Confession they may be in serious trouble. I did it because I was never in the habit of turning people away from church without, at least, making an effort to fill their needs. She waited while I went to find Father.

I found him and he came out to speak with her. He told her ‘no’ and, technically, they can’t hear Confessions during the Triduum. She left without a word.

To this day, I wonder who she was. Why was a child with her? Was she able to find someone to hear her Confession? Did I fail her?

What happened bothered me. Father was, I guess you could say, pleasant to her. But, he usually was pleasant.

I know, every Triduum, there is the debate over whether or not a priest may hear Confession during that period. Leaving that debate aside, it bothered me that Father was using a technicality that, not only had I never heard before, but seemed irrelevent considering he might just as well have stated the reality as I knew it “no, we don’t “do” Confession here” Father seemed to be using the technicality as a convenient excuse. I had a feeling he was going to say “no” before I even went and asked him.

I was disappointed and it bothered me. I still think about it. Maybe it was one of the many episodes on my way to reversion. Well, I know it was.

I started to wonder. Aren’t we, as Catholics, assuming we are properly disposed, permitted to expect to be able to receive the Sacraments of the universal Church? Shouldn’t any of us expect to be able to receive the Sacraments we are familiar with in any of our churches? I should be able to walk into a Catholic Church in Ghana and, even with a possible language barrier, expect them to have times for Confession or a priest that can administer the Sacrament.

It’s not as though Father was leaving for an emergency or, as far as I was aware, did not have the appropriate permissions to hear Confessions. In any case, isn’t the need to receive Absolution a possible emergency? Who knows what may have been on this woman’s soul? I guess we may never know. Maybe she got disgusted and never went anywhere.

That Catholics can not get what they need from the Church is a disgrace. I’m not talking about the usual dissenting dramatics. I’m talking about the core practices of our Faith.

If someone where dying, wouldn’t a priest drop everything and run to give that person the Last Rites? I hope so but maybe some would get out on the technicality. If even a non-Catholic can go to Confession, why can’t a Catholic?

I don’t get this drama about Confession during the Triduum or not. I know I’m no expert on Canon Law but it seems to be that if we are required to receive Communion at Easter , in order to remain a Catholic in good standing, why can’t you find an open Confessional? I can go mail my tax returns as late as midnight on April 15th (as last minute as it gets) but I may not be able to have my Confession heard at the literal last minute.

What’s wrong here?


Blogger Angela M. said...

This is the first I have heard of the "no confessions during the Triduum." Father always parks himself in the confessional (and makes sure everyone is well aware in the bulletin, during announcement, homilies and on the parish website)that he is available from approx. 9:30 PM - to midnight. I always thought that was a wonderful thing!

I can't wait until Adoro pops by - surely she will have an answer.

October 26, 2009 9:53 PM  
Blogger Angela M. said...

I should have added he does this the evening of Holy Thursday.

October 26, 2009 9:54 PM  
Blogger nazareth priest said...

Cathy: There is confusion about this matter, still. This was clarified, I believe in 1988 with a document from Rome about the celebration of the Paschal Triduum (I don't have it handy so I'm going on my memory...which has holes in it for details, at times!). The "literalist" interpretation in vogue for many years about "not celebrating the sacraments" during the Triduum was that the Sacraments of Penance and Anointing were not be be administered unless there was danger of death.
Rome clarified this; the Sacrament of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick may be administered at any time during the Triduum.
It is the reception of Holy Communion that is distributed to the faithful only within the Mass on Holy Thursday and the Liturgy of the Passion on Good Friday.
The one exception is that the sick may be brought Communion on Holy Thursday and Good Friday but only the dying can receive Viaticum from the end of Good Friday's service until the end of the Easter Vigil Mass.
The Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday begins the Triduum; Mass is not celebrated again until the Easter Vigil Mass.
The Liturgy on Good Friday is an ancient practice of "fasting" from the Mass on the day the Lord's death is commemorated.
This is what is meant by not celebrating the sacraments,

October 26, 2009 10:31 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Confessions are definitely permitted during the Triduum - the Pope hears confessions on Good Friday. Some people think confessions are not permitted on Sundays or while Mass is going on - that is wrong too.

You did everything you could to help the woman - if the priest refused to hear her confession - he failed her.

October 26, 2009 10:32 PM  
Blogger nazareth priest said...

And one more thing about "the Easter duty": this begins from the first Sunday of Lent until Trinity Sunday.
This is the obligation to receive Holy Communion once a year while being in the state of grace.
But if you are a practicing Catholic why would you not want to and be able to receive Communion after going to confession on Easter?
This long time period is universal law because there are many places where people see a priest very rarely or infrently (mission countries).

October 26, 2009 10:37 PM  
Blogger RJW said...

Too many Fr. (whatevers) and not enough Fr. Eriks.

October 26, 2009 10:51 PM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

The lines are long at St. A's at these times of year since everyone is trying to get in and worthily receive the sacrament. I thought most parishes stepped up their Confession schedules during Lent and Advent.

If someone where dying, wouldn’t a priest drop everything and run to give that person the Last Rites? I hope so but maybe some would get out on the technicality.
When hubby's grandmother was dying, we tried to get the local priest in her area to come for Last Rites. It was hunting season and we were told he was going to be in the woods for a week (vacation I guess) and we were NOT to call because the priest didn't want to inconvenience his hunting party with asking them to bring him home to say Last Rites. What about inconveniencing a soul, a long-lapsed soul in great need? I had hubby call back and get the name of another priest who would visit his grandmother. The parish secretary very reluctantly put him in touch with an elderly priest who was sitting around watching his beloved GB Packers but immediately came to visit hubby's grandmother. Unfortunately, I don't think she received the sacraments (she had advanced Alzheimer's) because the priest told my husband when he showed up to visit her, she just started crying. As if that wasn't a clue as to her contrition for having been away from the Church for so long. It's like you need a cattle prod to get some priests to perform the most fundamental functions.

October 27, 2009 6:53 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

When they did offer Confession it was only just before Advent and Lent and it was always Form III (for the record we were not in danger of death).

While folks may not have been in danger of death, Cath, surely they were in danger of eternal damnation.

I had a situation come up at the hospital the other day where I was responsible for getting a priest for a person who hadn't been to Confession in 25 years or so. But then I lost contact with him and felt really guilty about not helping him find a priest and a parish and prayer aids, etc.

In talking to others about this kind of situation, and the one you describe, Cath, at some point, trust Jesus and the Holy Spirit to pick up the ball and run with it after you have done what is proper.

October 27, 2009 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Macabeus said...

Your story tells all of us that there is work to be done with our priests as the Church continues to recover from the misdirected intrepretations of Vatican II. A well respected researcher recently came up with these facts about our American priests and Confession -

28.8 % use the Sacrament at least monthly
57.4 % go at least every 3 months
88.6 % go at least once a year
11.4 % go LESS than once a year

Please pray for them.

October 27, 2009 8:43 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Excellent comments here.

Father (Nazareth priest): I believe you are correct. However, sadly, many have not bothered to learn what the documents say. The Litany of Excuses is longer than the Litany of the Saints.

October 27, 2009 9:10 AM  
Blogger Shirley said...

I agree with Terry, that you did not fail this mother and daughter, but the priest did. I also believe that when we are troubled like this about a person, it's a good indication that we need to pray for them, that they need our prayers right at the moment we are thinking about them.

October 27, 2009 11:27 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

The Litany of Excuses is longer than the Litany of the Saints!

That should be in Bartlett's Book of Quotations!

RE: 57% of Catholics going to Confession at least every three months. That would be pretty great if that were true. But the lines in many parishes (non-existent) when Father is in the box indicate otherwise.

October 27, 2009 12:22 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

I think the survey limited itself to Catholics who met certain criteria-based upon regular Mass attendance. I, agree, that if the survey was of all people who called themselves Catholic the number are higher than I would suspect.

October 27, 2009 1:46 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Oh, yes, absolutely we must pray for our priests. Many of them try very hard. I should post about that.

October 27, 2009 1:47 PM  
Blogger Chris Mac said...

Yes, please do post about praying for priests!

I remember hearing a story from a friend in my area. The hospital telephoned a certain priest (who was "on call" for the town) to come to see a critically ill patient. The priest actually refused to come. The patient died. The next morning my friend went to daily Mass and the pastor at her church came out almost shaking with anger -- he had heard the news from the hospital just before Mass. Nothing, however, was done by the diocese. The priest who refused to go is still "in good standing" as they say... but I imagine he is in desperate need of prayer. Nothing you could wish on anyone will be as bad as what the lazy priest will face if he doesn't repent.

October 27, 2009 7:57 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Ray - stop complimenting Cath - I'm tired of your heaping praises on her.

October 27, 2009 10:37 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

I kinda have to compliment her, Ter. She gets so dang many comments on her posts that I need to hang around to find out her secret.

If I get one comment a week, that's time for a celebration.

But if I don't whip an "attagirl" at her now and then, she might ban me from the place.

October 27, 2009 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

Lk 13:10-17

October 28, 2009 7:52 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray "heaps" on me for sure. Not always praise..LOL

October 28, 2009 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Macabeus said...

I apologize for my earlier confusing comment. The survey quoted noted the frequency of using the Sacrament of Confession by the PRIESTS themselves, NOT the frequency of use by the laity. It points out that many of those who lead us are not leading much of an interior live themselves. God help us all.

October 28, 2009 9:46 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Mac: Thanks for the clarification.

Pray for priests!

October 28, 2009 11:35 AM  
Blogger ignorant redneck said...

Cathy of Alex,

Remind me to write one day about getting the Annointing for my late Father, while he was ingrave danger of death with his 4th heart attack.

October 28, 2009 1:03 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Redneck: I have the feeling that is probably a very powerful story. I'm looking forward to reading it when you are ready to share it.

October 28, 2009 1:30 PM  

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