.This message has been edited. Last edited by: KristiMarie,
Preparation for a penitential service is the same as for confession.
Because mass attendance at Christmas and Easter is typically much larger than the average Sunday mass, and since many RCs often delay going to confession until prior to these holidays, the church some decades back decided to conduct Penitential Services to expedite confession and thereby maximize the receipt of this sacrament, realizing many would perhaps be discouraged from partaking of it if lines were inordinately long.
At a Penitential Service typically a larger number of priests are available. You make your confession as always and receive absolution and penance, but the priest does not take time to question or discuss, or in any way minister to you, while in the confessional.
A lot of folk like that, of course. This quickens the passage of people through the process. Also, there usually are visiting priests who don’t know you or would recognize your voice – which is a comfort for a lot of people as well.
You are of course, making your confession to God in any event. So examination of conscience, true contrition, and a firm purpose of amendment all still accompany your pre-confessional mental activity; and as always you do your penance after exiting.
Different parishes and dioceses conduct the pre-confessional ceremonies slightly different. Mass is not always part of such a service – more typically it isn’t (it seems to me). Sometimes at the service the priest gives some discussion on the various commandments of God and the church in order to collectively stimulate the examen of the members of the congregation, and also some teaching on God’s mercy and forgiveness, the need for all of us to forgive others and not hold resentments, and often discussion of the ‘magic-slate’ reality that accompanies absolution.
O loving Pelican, clean me in your blood. – St. Thomas Aquinas
Hope that works for you as an explanation.
p.s. Confession is GREAT! There is nothing, NOTHING like its magic-slate new-start reality. So freeing! SUPER – almost better than Eucharist. That non-RCs fear or question it is so tragic, so foolish. It’s the BEST! ABOLUTELY!!! Absolutely.
In my experience, I don't see non-Catholics fearing or questioning confession. I'm not too familiar with Anglican/Episcopal churches, but I know Lutheran churches offer private confession, and many churches have corporate confession.
I've seen a painting of a man at a Catholic confessional speaking in the ear of the person behind the screen, and in the painting the Priest leaning His head in an intimate act of listening is Christ Himself. I thought that was a wonderful depiction of how it's really Christ listening through the priest, and speaking through the priest.
I think it's something else that I've seen non-Catholics, myself included, question about the Catholic teaching on confession. And I've been thinking of asking about it here sometime...but not now. (I don't mean that to sound mysterious or ominous..I just mean it can wait till after Christmas.)
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