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cooeedownunder
04-05-2011, 11:42 AM
I have a WIP set in 1966 and a very brief scene where I have a young girl in a confessional box who wants to confess her sins. I am wanting to know how a priest might have provided absolution, or how penance would be determined.

Although a Catholic, I haven't been in a confessional box for over twenty years, and after a few days reading Catholic text to try to find how a scene such as this might play from beginning to end, I realise it is impossible without a great refresher in finer religious points I have forgotten.

I realise after reading today, that the confessional box has taken different forms in recent years. I am wondering if anyone, has any ideas how this would have been handled.

For my scene to work I need to understand everything that would happen from the moment she walks into the box till the time she leaves. Are prayers said prior and after the confession? What might a priest say or prayer they might offer in the following circumstances.

My MC is confessing her sin as having had sex unmarried and being pregnant. She fears having her child taken from her by social workers to be adopted, and wants God’s forgiveness for the sin of having sex, so this doesn’t happen. I realise this might sound ludicrious today, but this is something that happened in our past to at least unmarried Catholic girls.

I understand a priest can’t provide forgiveness on behalf of God, though, but I’m curious if anyone has any idea’s of what they might say and what would be the procedure from the moment this girl walks into the confessional and after?

I’m happy to be PM’d if anyone doesn’t want to post here or needs more information.

Priene
04-05-2011, 12:26 PM
This guide (http://members.core.com/%7Eorcat27/rosary2.htm) covers the main points. It doesn't sound any different to the confessions I attended back in the 1970s.


My MC is confessing her sin as having had sex unmarried and being pregnant. She fears having her child taken from her by social workers to be adopted, and wants God’s forgiveness for the sin of having sex, so this doesn’t happen.

The priest is probably going to tell her that losing custody is a consequence of her having sinned. He can't intercede with God because it doesn't work like that. If he feels her repentence is sincere -- and bothering him about custody is a sign that she isn't -- he'll issue penance and forgiveness. If he's a pastoral kind of priest, he may be able to provide concrete help -- the Church would have organisations either to support unmarried mothers or split them up from their children.

shadowwalker
04-05-2011, 05:00 PM
Or call a local priest - most I've talked to over the years are more than happy to explain/discuss the sacraments - or most anything about how the Church runs.

Chris P
04-05-2011, 05:10 PM
1966 was well before my time, but back then it would have been behind a screen and not face-to-face (most churches today give a choice).

The form is pretty common. The person goes in, says "Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been [however long] since my last confession." The person then confesses their sins. Depending on the priest, there might or might not be discussion. Some priests believe their job is simply to listen while others will provide quick suggestions on troublesome problems. Nowadays (dunno about 1966) the person says an act of contrition, which is sometimes provided on note cards if they don't know it. It goes something like "Lord, I am sorry for having offended you...[and stuff]." The priest will suggest a penance, nowadays usually some prayers, but could also be repayment of stolen money (anonymously to a charity if revealing the theft will cause problems) or other things. The priest says absolution over the person (it might have been in Latin in 1966, again I don't know and it might have happened in English or Latin) and off they go.

Lil
04-05-2011, 05:17 PM
There are the formal prayers at the beginning and end, but what happens between those depends enormously on the kind of person the priest is, and that has always varied. He is likely to ask her if she is repenting because she thinks what she did is wrong or because she got pregnant and now has problems. The first gets her absolution, the second requires discussion.
But aside from that, he could be sympathetic and willing to help her or find her people who will help her, or he could scream at her that she's a wicked creature on her way to hell, or he could be something in between. He's your character, so you get to choose.

stormie
04-05-2011, 05:20 PM
I PMd you.

Confessions in '66 were in English.

Priests at that time period weren't much help to pregnant teens. Neither were the Sisters. And according to Catholic teaching, the priest is taking the place of Jesus here on earth. Yet back then, many didn't act helpful and many were not kindly.

fourlittlebees
04-05-2011, 05:26 PM
Vatican II was already rolled out in '66, so the prayers would have been in English and not Latin. This is my parents' era, so the more formal AoC would have been used, unless it was a super-liberal parish.

Here's a good procedural (http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:OTOmYpbOCtUJ:www.holytrinityparish.net/Links/A%2520Guide%2520to%2520Confession.doc+oh+my+god+I+ am+heartily+sorry&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShlde4ZXrQ8DN98AOWGmGMiAz-3mRJl2nyoASIn6YvZFuGAy-6J6SLr74uJgW9520C1zqdZsmuadgJEG441QbJwbNlqVDPnJ2Hc q0kjLhpq_TBmywhJlp07IZvbWDFp8clgi3cm&sig=AHIEtbRfeV4p4lzSVUwU32HAJ-4mK03Izg&pli=1)

And this is the AoC (http://angelstarspeaks.wordpress.com/o-my-god-i-am-heartily-sorry/) my parents taught me (way more formal than my classmates used).

stormie
04-05-2011, 05:27 PM
And this is the AoC (http://angelstarspeaks.wordpress.com/o-my-god-i-am-heartily-sorry/) my parents taught me (way more formal than my classmates used).
Yep, that's the exact Act of Contrition used back then. AND it had to be memorized. No note cards.

citymouse
04-05-2011, 06:08 PM
In the US all confessions were in English, prior to and after V-2. However, the priest's absolution in 1966 would have been in Latin:Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

WriteKnight
04-05-2011, 06:29 PM
Confessions were normally held on Thursdays or Friday nights - so that your soul would be 'clean' by the Sunday mass. One would arrive at the church and other people would be kneeling in prayer, waiting their turn at the confessional. Confessionals were normally located at the back, or along the sides of the church. Typically, there were three doors - The center door used by the priest, the other two by penitents.

In the three churches I attended in this era - there were colored lights above the door, to indicate if they were occupied. Our church had two 'confessional' booths. One would not know which priest was in which booth. So if you had a 'favorite' priest you wanted to confess to, or avoid - you would try to get there early to see which booth he went in to.

If there were a lot of people there, you said your prayers in the church, and then stood IN LINE by the pews, waiting for a booth to come open.

Remember - you're standing in church - with the rest of the community - waiting to confess your sins. This was not a particularly shameful experience - EVERYONE was likely to be there - little kids to grandma and grandpa.

When I knelt on the kneeler, I could feel it 'give'. There was some sort of spring actuated switch that triggered the light above the door.

It was COMPLETELY DARK in the confessional of my usual church. The granparent's church had a very small nightlight in it - I think to help people find the door knob.

The screen had a slide on the priests side.

You entered when the booth was vacated, and knelt to wait your turn.

You could HEAR the priest whispering to the penitent on the other side - I could never make out any words - but I do recall hearing a woman CRY on one occasion.

The SLIDE would then be slid open - and you might get a bit of light through the screen - but you couldn't make out the priests face.

You started with the prayer "Bless me father, for I have sinned - it's been XXX since my last confession - since then I have..." Typically I would work through the ten commandments - as a child or young teen - I didn't have much to confess beyond 'disobeying my parents' - or 'fighting with my brothers/sister" or 'lying' - you were supposed to list the number of times you did each sin. I suppose this was meant to make you reflect on specific incidents - rather than run down a laundry list "I lied, cheated, stole..."

The priest may or may not interrupt to ask a question. I hated that when they did. They may or may not 'give advice' to the penitent. Then they gave you your penance. As a child, it might be "Say three Our Fathers, and five Hail Mary's" - as a teen it turned into rosaries - and/or perhaps instructions to volunteer some time at the rectory doing yard work. (Free labor, eh Padre?)

The absolution was in Latin. "Go in peace, and sin no more" was the cue to make your exit.

You would rise up, stumble out of the booth - go out into the sanctuary and say your penance.

And honestly - there really was a great feeling of 'relief' to be forgiven - and an uplifting feeling renewal and rebirth.

I'm not a practicing Catholic any more - but that was a very powerful sacrament.

Priene
04-05-2011, 06:49 PM
Surely confessions have always been held in the local language, Vatican 2 or not. My mum was going to confession back in the 1940s, and if she has latin skills, she's good at keeping them secret.

Chris P
04-05-2011, 06:51 PM
The confession itself was always in the local language, but as citymouse says, the prayer said by the priest apparently was in Latin before Vatican II.

citymouse
04-05-2011, 07:32 PM
The shift from Latin to the language of the nation or region was not instantaneous, but gradual. As I noted before, penitents made their prayers and confession in their own language. The priest communicated to them in their language. The absolution was in Latin, well after 1966. In fact the absolution language is really up to the priest. He can make his absolution in Urdu if he chooses.
I've always found it amusing that a church that insists the faithful accept, as matters of faith, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Incarnation of Jesus, the dual nature of Jesus, the mystery of Transubstantiation, et al, and yet loudly claims that it cannot teach its congregation the meaning of five hundred simple Latin phrases. I'm just say'n

cooeedownunder
04-06-2011, 01:29 PM
Thank you all very much. It has been a great help.

WhiteKnight mentioned that it was normally done on a Thursday or Friday nights. Was it never done on Sunday prior to Sunday mass?

If not was there a mass after confessional?

Ah, and does anyone know why we lit those candles prior to mass or just because we chose to?

I lived opposite a church in the 70s and we use to be able to go and light the candles day or night, until vandals insured the church doors were locked.

mccardey
04-06-2011, 01:34 PM
Candles were lit in association with prayers and feast days. I think they were meant as a kind of emphasis.

You were supposed to have dropped a coin in the offertory box. Lighting candles for free was awfully close to committing a sin. (So the nuns said)

Candles = Light and Jesus was the Light of the World. It was that kind of association, from memory.

You could also light a candle for someone you were praying for. That was pretty common.

Priene
04-06-2011, 02:56 PM
WhiteKnight mentioned that it was normally done on a Thursday or Friday nights. Was it never done on Sunday prior to Sunday mass?

Now that touched off a Proustian memory. I'd forgotten about Thursday nights. My guess would be that it was down to scheduling. At our church, there were three Sunday morning services. The priest would have been busy organising things and likely wouldn't have had time to run confessions. If there was a glut of penitents, he'd either have had to delay mass or send them away.

citymouse
04-06-2011, 03:07 PM
Now that touched off a Proustian memory. I'd forgotten about Thursday nights. My guess would be that it was down to scheduling. At our church, there were three Sunday morning services. The priest would have been busy organising things and likely wouldn't have had time to run confessions. If there was a glut of penitents, he'd either have had to delay mass or send them away.

6:30 Saturday evening was most common; less time to lapse into sin and therefore not show up for Mass with your envelope. Way back in the '50s Perry Como, a devout Catholic, had his TV show at 8Pm, and he had a spotless reputation. In some Catholic homes it was 6:30 Confessions and Perry Como. If you missed Como you simply weren't properly prepared for Mass! Silly, I know, but there you are--or were.

Ever notice that Protestants are "staunch" and Catholics are "devout"? More silliness.

Sunday confessions, were not usual because all Sundays, being the celebration of the Resurrection, are feast days, and not set aside for penance. That said, someone who felt the need to confess to a priest would be heard. The trigger phrase, was / is, Father I am a soul in distress. A priest is bound to respond. That said, my guess is not many Catholics these days know that. It wasn't discussed much.

Priene
04-06-2011, 03:14 PM
Come to think of it, I remember going with my mum after she finished work on a Saturday. That was a different area, though.

WriteKnight
04-06-2011, 05:34 PM
I suspect that confessional schedule was greatly dependent on the particular Parrish. Was it large? Were there more than one priest in attendance? I grew up in a Catholic suburb. It was the rare non-catholic in my neighborhood. The church was HUGE, and was attached to a very large Catholic school. You could grow up and go from grade school through high school in my neighborhood - so the Thurs/Fri schedule was probably for the priests convenience.

My grandparents (on both sides) were in smaller Parrish-es.

Candles could be lit as an 'offering' - you added a few coins to the coin box. In all three Catholic churches that I attended, there were little alcoves, where there were statues of saints - St. Jude, St. Joseph, St. Francis, St. Theresa and the Blessed Virgin were most common. In front of the statues were kneelers, and a rack of candles. You could kneel and give an offering - and ask for 'intercession' from the Saint on your behalf. One did not 'Pray to the Saint' - you asked the Saint to intercede with God on your behalf.

Seems so quaint now.

I was an Altar boy - learned the Mass in latin - just before it changed to English - and the altar got turned around to face the church. THAT was hard on the old folks - they didn't particularly care to hear the Mass in English.

stormie
04-06-2011, 05:38 PM
WhiteKnight mentioned that it was normally done on a Thursday or Friday nights. Was it never done on Sunday prior to Sunday mass?

In my parish, confession was always 2-4pm on Saturdays. Never Sundays, since our masses began at sunrise and ran til noon.

WriteKnight
04-06-2011, 08:05 PM
Confession 'on request' was always possible - just had to corner a priest. But that would usually be the case of a 'mortal sin' - some serious sin that needed addressing. Otherwise hang on till the regular call.

As others have mentioned - the regular schedule was set by the particular church - so work it out for your own storyline.

Chris P
04-06-2011, 08:40 PM
My church currently offers confessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30 pm. They used to be on Saturday afternoons. In short, it depends on the priest's schedules. Confession by appointment is always possible.

thothguard51
04-06-2011, 08:45 PM
In my parish, confession was always 2-4pm on Saturdays. Never Sundays, since our masses began at sunrise and ran til noon.

^^^Same at our church, 2-4 on Saturday afternoons.

Like White Knight, I am not a practicing catholic anymore, but the confessional sacrament was very powerful in renewing ones thoughts on salvation. The church almost had me as I thought about being a Monk, until 6th grade when I kissed Mary Jo during the Sunday afternoon movie in the Church rec hall.

Since I went to Catholic school, the Priest all knew my voice and would use my name so I would know that they knew my sins. As penance, it could range from a few Hail Marys, Our Fathers, to full stations of the cross, the last being for really big sins since doing the stations took a lot of time...

I think we always ended the confessional with the Lords Prayer.

citymouse
04-07-2011, 12:17 AM
I think we always ended the confessional with the Lords Prayer.

...and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of because I offended Thee my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love...

That's imperfect contrition; standard in the confessional. Less standard, is the perfect contrition: ...I repent of having offended Thee, my Lord and Redeemer. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, then do with me what You will... In this perfect contrition, there is no fear, only the longing of the soul to be subsumed into the Spirit of God.

cooeedownunder
04-07-2011, 02:20 AM
You guys are brilliant. Thank you so much. :)

cooeedownunder
04-07-2011, 02:21 AM
...and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of because I offended Thee my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love...

That's imperfect contrition; standard in the confessional. Less standard, is the perfect contrition: ...I repent of having offended Thee, my Lord and Redeemer. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, then do with me what You will... In this perfect contrition, there is no fear, only the longing of the soul to be subsumed into the Spirit of God.

What's the difference between imperfect and pefect contrition?

citymouse
04-07-2011, 03:06 AM
What's the difference between imperfect and pefect contrition?

The imperfect contrition is the first prayer. The penitent is sorry for his/her sins in part out of fear of God's judgment.

In the second prayer, only remorse, and surrender to God is expressed.

WriteKnight
04-07-2011, 03:59 AM
^^^Same at our church, 2-4 on Saturday afternoons.

Like White Knight, I am not a practicing catholic anymore, but the confessional sacrament was very powerful in renewing ones thoughts on salvation. The church almost had me as I thought about being a Monk, until 6th grade when I kissed Mary Jo during the Sunday afternoon movie in the Church rec hall.


Hah! My two older brothers went to Junior Seminary - and I was slated to go. Went to a one month 'orientation' at the seminary one summer - between sixth and sevent grade - decided I liked girls WAAAAY too much to let 'em go!

johnnysannie
04-07-2011, 03:34 PM
Thank you all very much. It has been a great help.

WhiteKnight mentioned that it was normally done on a Thursday or Friday nights. Was it never done on Sunday prior to Sunday mass?

If not was there a mass after confessional?

Ah, and does anyone know why we lit those candles prior to mass or just because we chose to?

I lived opposite a church in the 70s and we use to be able to go and light the candles day or night, until vandals insured the church doors were locked.


In my experience as a child back then and in our parish, confessions were always heard before a Mass, either Sat. evening or Sun. AM. Lighting candles can be done for many reasons, to say a prayer and remember a deceased love one, for a special prayer or petition, as a form of thanks, etc.

cooeedownunder
04-09-2011, 01:50 AM
In my experience as a child back then and in our parish, confessions were always heard before a Mass, either Sat. evening or Sun. AM. Lighting candles can be done for many reasons, to say a prayer and remember a deceased love one, for a special prayer or petition, as a form of thanks, etc.

Yeah, I thought I could recall them being on a Sunday morning, but my memory is shot to pieces it appears. It probably doesn't really matter except for the time frame in my story, just needs to be altered slightly to fit when it was.