This was not your typical penance service for a number of reasons:
- I was unable to count them all, but I'm not far from the truth when I say there were just under 30 Priests in attendance, a mix of diocesan and religious, young and old, bi-lingual, multilingual, etc.
- In about 90 minutes, some 750 people received God's mercy through Sacramental Confession. Again, I was unable to count them all (I was a bit busy), but the pastor had an usher do a headcount as people came through the main doors of the school.
- The confessions were held, not in the church, but throughout the parish school: classrooms, offices, even the auditorium had a number of Priests stationed throughout. This meant that the church was a quiet place where you could send penitents to pray (The Blessed Sacrament was exposed) and perform their penance. It also meant that people waiting on line for Confession weren't overhearing the sins of others. Also, you didn't have that din of the crowd that tends to happen in a church, as you tried to hear the sins of someone trying their best not to have them overheard. With a whole classroom to myself, I could hear each person perfectly, whilst each person had no worry that they were being overheard. Noise in the school; prayerful silence in the church. "These are a few of my favorite things."
- Following the penance service, there was an open house for the Priests. A gathering of Priests can be therapeutic, and this is the season of, "After the confessions, come back to the rectory." That's a good thing for Priests who'd normally spend their night alone, sitting in their rooms watching TV. Many is the Priest who will tell you, "If I wanted to live with other Priests, I'd have joined a religious community." To which I say, "But Father, if you wanted to be guaranteed to live alone, then you should have joined a hermitage." It was a great time.
Finally, a special "shout out" to those of you who said hello to me and told me you read this blog. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Keep reading!