Yesterday we had to go on a bit of a pilgrimage, because in this holiday corner of the world there is no Saturday morning Mass to be had anywhere. So into the diocesan CBD we traipsed and went to the cathedral. Awaiting us was something unexpected, and inspiring.
The other thing we needed was an opportunity to go to the Sacrament of Penance. Thankfully there was a regular time slot prior to the Mass on Saturdays. When we finally reached the cathedral it took quite a while to actually locate where the confessionals were. Most confessionals could do with better sign-posting; our new church is almost 5 years old and regulars are still discovering where it is! At the church we went to on Saturday night I couldn’t locate the confessional, even though I knew it had to be there somewhere.
Upon locating the waiting area for the Sacrament we had to do a double-take, because there were over 20 people already in the queue. They were of all ages, genders and nations of origin. An anxious wait then began, because only 40 minutes of official confessional time was left. Admittedly this was a city church, but even so it has been a long time since I’ve seen that many lined up for individual confessions (as apposed to second-Rite celebrations in Advent and Lent.)
Human beings aren’t good at waiting, but each person lined up in the rows in front of us did so without complaint and without fidgeting. None of them gave up and went off elsewhere. By their patience each one silently witnessed to the importance of this Sacrament in their lives. That was inspiring! Answering our pleas, the good Lord arranged for us to take our turn inside the confessional just as the official time slot was up. May He be praised!
On the other hand, the longer I sat the more I appreciated the dedication of this priest within the confessional. Easily he could have sent the penitent before me back to the waiting area with a message that the confessional time was up, and to come back later. This he didn’t do. On the contrary, the priest kept hearing confessions for an extra 15 minutes after the official hour for confessions was over, right up until he had to go and vest for Mass. It has been quite a while since I’ve been privy to priestly generosity of this magnitude.
It’s certainly been quite a while since I’ve waited 40 minutes for the Sacrament of Penance, but it was worth it.
For the gift of being pardoned by God we will wait. However we don’t wait well at traffic lights, or at the entrance to theme parks and restaurant queues. At least that shows we have our priorities right.
May the good Lord bless this confessor and all those like him, and grant His graces to all those who waited with us.