The Empty Box


I heard eight confessions this morning. For one hour, facing a small crucifix in a spartan room, I listened to the ordinary transgressions of exceptionally good people. In the early church, these penitents would not have gone to confession. A devout participation in Eucharist would have eased their consciences, assuaged their guilt. I had ample time for breviary and meditation. Thirty years ago I would not have had time for a single decade of the rosary. I know when I return to this room in a few hours that I will have time for more prayer. People are busy with other things. While I enjoy the extra prayer time, I do wish more people appreciated the richness of this sacrament.

Why are the lines outside our confessionals so short, even when good confessors are available? Last fall the Wall Street Journal (September 21) reported that only 26 percent of American Catholics went to confession during 2005. What is going on with the other 74 percent? U.S. Catholic reported in October 2005 that the most common reason Catholics give for not going to confession “is that they feel uncomfortable confessing their sins to a priest.” Contrast that with self-help groups, where members readily seek out the help of others who “know what I’m going through” and can offer concrete advice or support.

When I...

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About the Author

Raymond C. Mann, OFM, a former missionary in Bolivia, is stationed at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.