And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins . . .
A few weeks ago I was asked if I offered confession during Lent. I think I offhandedly replied that I offered to hear confessions any time during the year, not just during Lent. As we talked, I realized that what was really being asked was, “When is a good time for me to come and make a confession?” They pointed out that some priests make it a practice to sit in church on certain days at certain times and simply wait for people to show up for confession.
I don't do that – sit in the church and wait, that is. What I do instead is to let people know that I am willing to hear confessions, but I prefer to do it through appointments rather than the hit or miss system of waiting in the church. And then it occurred to me that I may not have made that clear to the people of St. John's.
So let me be clear – if you wish to participate in a formal confession (officially known as the Reconciliation of a Penitent in the BCP) during Lent, or any other time for that matter, please contact me to set up an appointment and I will do so. All you need to do is say something like, “Do you have time to hear a confession?”
There are a few things you should know about this rite. First, we don't need to go through a litany of sins you have committed since 1975. Stay focused on one or two things that are troubling you at this particular time. It may help to spend some time in prayer before coming so that you are fully in tune with what needs confessing.
Second, this is not mandatory. The rite is available for all who desire it. It is not limited to times of sickness. And confessions may be heard at any time and in any place, although I prefer to use the church proper. There is an old saying that holds true regarding formal confessions: All should, some may, none must. The general confession we say together during Holy Eucharist is a catchall for the sins we commit. But you may feel this isn't getting to the heart of the matter and so desire to make a personal confession.
Finally, the Exhortation advises us to go to a “discreet and understanding priest.” And the rubrics for the rite specifically say, “The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken.” In other words, what is said under the seal of the confessional remains under the seal of the confessional until I die. This does not mean you can get away with murder (as there are procedures for those kinds of discussions), but it does mean that you can be assured I will not discuss your confession with any other person.
On Ash Wednesday you were invited to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance. If you find yourself bothered by a specific sin and feel the need to confess that sin, please know that, by the authority granted me through God's one, holy, apostolic Church, I am here.