Advent or Lent Penitential Service: Some Observations

During each Advent or Lent Penitential Service, several matters keep cropping up and I feel it is necessary to take heart:

1. Come early. Some priests come from quite a distance and if that priest is the one you are comfortable going to, coming late means you might "miss" him. Moreover, coming early gives you more time to prepare yourself to make a good confession.

2. If you have young children with you, please get your spouse or someone you can trust to keep an eye on them and hold on to them if necessary so that you and others can make a good confession in peace. Some young children may be hyperactive and start running around, which may cause distraction to others who are praying or reflecting.

3. Be brief when confessing. The priest wants to hear your sins, not the elaborate historical background to what led you to sin.

4. Confess your sins, not other people's. Some folks come for confession and start complaining about their husband, wife, children, etc. The priest is not interested in listening to your gossip.

5. Reflect carefully before going for confession. In this way, you can discover what sins you committed, especially serious ones.

6. Stay calm and focused. Don't get distracted with other matters before, during and after confession.

7. Be courteous. This is especially important when parking your vehicle or waiting your turn for confession. Don't cause other people to sin due to your behaviour or attitude. For example, when you arrive, park your vehicle properly as there may be other people coming later. Some folks have double-parked or parked indiscriminately and caused others to fume in disgust.

8. Remember the procedure. If you cannot remember how to make a good confession, the priest will guide you. However, it is better to know what to do and what to say, so that the confession can go on smoothly, instead of holding up other people.

9. Try to control your emotions. We know that some of you may cry due to feelings of guilt, embarrassment, etc. But the confessional is not meant to be a counselling session. I have seen some people come, and while confessing start raining down buckets. If you are experiencing such strong emotions, it may be better and necessary that you seek counselling later.

10. After confession and spending some time in prayer, leave peacefully. Don't loiter around the church too long, especially where parking space is limited, so that others can park and go for confession.

There may be other issues not mentioned in this list, but we hope that all faithful would take note so that the Advent or Lent Penitential Service could proceed smoothly for the spiritual growth and betterment of all..

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