It doesn't matter if it is Advent, Lent, a First Saturday, or any other Saturday during the year, come 3 pm there will always be a line for reconcilation in our parish. When our family of 8, 7 of whom go to confession, gets in line, it becomes a very long line for confession. Sometimes I feel bad that we make that line so long, but going all together is so much more convenient and ensures we all get to confession on a regular basis.
This last Saturday that line was incredibly long. At about a quarter after three, an elderly man entered the church and when he saw the line, he actually uttered a profanity loud enough for us all to hear. Yikes! He ambled to the end and stood for a moment until stating, "I can't do this,"and made his way back to the entrance grumbling and complaining the entire way. I actually felt sorry for the old man, obviously he really needed to go to confession, but not badly enough to wait in line.
As I've reflected on this incident a couple thoughts have come to mind. First, there may have been 15 people waiting that day, but at least half were children. It takes children more time to pray the act of contrition than to state their sins in confession. Children, even my teenagers, do not take more than 30 seconds in the confessional.
Secondly, as I stood waiting in that line, I spent more time examining my conscience and I recalled something I really needed to confess. Our priest is such an incredibly holy man and a wonderful confessor. He very often picks up on patterns of sin we are most in need of correcting and will counsel on those particular sins in a very gentle, and encouraging way, without making the penitent feel like he is off the hook. On this particular day, our priest knew the line was a long one, and while he sent a parishioner to fetch another priest, he did not skimp or rush in the confessional, in fact he spent a very long time counseling and encouraging me, especially on the sin I recalled while waiting in line. It was one of the best confessions I've ever had.
Pray that confession does not become a chore or labor of frustration. Rejoice in long lines at the confessional. It demonstrates the willingness of people to recognize we are all sinners and are in need of reconciliation, and gives you the opportunity to reflect and better prepare for your encounter with Christ in the confessional.