During the 1960s, the worst part about going to confession in Immaculate Conception Church in Elmhurst was waiting in line bestride its two confessionals. We had a lot of sinners in Elmhurst and most of them went to confession on Saturday afternoon, this being mandatory if you wanted to receive communion at Sunday mass.
Two things made this stressful. First, it isn’t fun to stand in a line of sinners, publically, for anyone to see. Second, there was no talking while waiting. The silence of the contrite is deeper than any other silence I’ve known.
My fellow bad-doers tried tricks to minimize the stress. Some pretended they just waltzed into church on a lovely free afternoon, carefree. These sat in pews waiting until a line shortened, then dashed to the end, as if nobody would notice. Others fingered their rosary beads and sometimes their lips moved, as if to illustrate their holiness despite the sorry state of their soul.
In line, I strained to hear the muffled conversation ongoing between the current confession-ee and the priest. Never could. I also prioritized the sins I planned to confess and generally held to the idea that telling the worst sin last might result in that one going unnoticed. Never happened. I also made promises to God. It is stunning the promises you make when you are scared and I made some whoppers.
And, yes, this was problematic because breaking a promise is a sin.