I have lived in two cities during my life, Boston and New York. In each there was always a place I could go, no matter what the day, where I could go to confession. No appointments. Show up, confess. I always thought that this is one of the greatest services a diocese could offer. Always available, fully anonymous confession.
I know very well that the shortage of priests restricts what individual parishes can do in this regard. I am not asking for miracles. But each diocese, I think, should have one place where confession is always available.
Saturday 4:00-4:45PM and by appointment just isn’t enough. The whole by appointment thing never cut it with me anyway. I suspect that many people in need of confession, even in the throws of remorse, might very well hesitate to go to confession if an appointment is needed and by Saturday afternoon the moment may have passed. I know this has happened to me.
Many times in the past I have availed myself of the grace of an easily available confession. Years ago I lived in Queens, New York and commuted to my job in Jersey City, New Jersey. Each day I would take the M train to Fulton Street and walk on over to the World Trade Center from whence I would take the PATH train to work. A few blocks North of the Trade Center was a Church that catered to the commuter. I don’t recall the name of it right now but it was always there. I had been to Mass there a few times on Holy Days and the occasional weekday mass. While there I noticed that there was always a priest in the confessional. Always.
A funny thing about riding the subway every day is that even while sandwiched between Hasidim and construction workers, stockbrokers and pawn brokers, amidst the noise and the jostling, you have the perfect time to search your soul. If I didn’t like what I found, I would just wait for my stop, turn right, and walk a few blocks. I knew he would be there, waiting for me. Always.
The knowledge that every day a priest sat in that confessional was always with me. Whenever I felt convicted of my sin, I need only catch an earlier train, walk a few blocks, and I would always find a priest waiting for me. I would always find Jesus waiting for me and not by appointment.
This post is not meant as a criticism, rather it is more an expression of longing. I wanted to go to confession before Christmas, but somehow last week I didn’t get around to it. I wanted to go today, but I had work and so I would need to call for an appointment. I didn’t go. I wished that today there was one place in my diocese where I knew I could turn. Some Church, even if I had to drive out of my way, that I knew if I made it there there would be a priest waiting for me. No appointments. Just there, waiting. I thought about my Church by the Trade Center. I wonder if they still have confessions there or the frequent masses? Maybe with the Trade Center gone, they have given it up. I hope not. I thought about going back there, but I am afraid of what I might find. I like thinking that a priest is still sitting in that confessional, waiting. I don’t think I could handle it if I made my way downtown only to find the doors locked.
At Christmas time we can walk into any store or any mall and find what we want. If it isn’t there, why there is a place just down the road that will probably have it. That is the nature of our consumerized world. You want it, you got it.
This Christmas I wanted what I really need, but unfortunately the establishment was closed with a sign that said, “By Appointment Only.”