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Is my confession still valid if my priest seems bored?

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"If the priest doesn't care, why should I?"

Submit all questions to @askkatrina@aleteia.org

Dear Katrina,

I converted about three years ago and I am having a hard time with really bad confessions. The priest is very ho-hum about it and gives me the same penance no matter what I do. He doesn’t give any feedback with his absolution and sometimes I wonder if he’s even listening. If he’s not listening, does it even count? It’s really starting to affect my attitude about confession. If the priest doesn’t care, why should I?  

Aimee J.

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Dear Aimee,  

Not every priest has the gift for the confessional, and fortunately for us God’s forgiveness isn’t dependent on the skill of the priest. Also, when the priest is in the confessional he is in persona Christi, which means Christ is hearing your confession whether you think the priest is being attentive or not. The priest is just a vessel. So rest assured, your confession is perfectly valid.   

It also sounds like to me you may be confusing regular confession with spiritual direction. It’s  important to remember that typically the regular confessional isn’t the place where we get an analysis of our sins and in-depth counseling. Hollywood aside, Confession isn’t a free therapy session. That ho-hum attitude you described doesn’t necessarily mean the priest isn’t caring, but rather it’s just his efficient manner to get as many confessions heard in the time allotted. Remember, there’s a line behind you.

I understand some people need a little more coaching in the confessional, especially the newly converted. It is to be expected and perfectly okay, but for those instances my advice to you is to schedule regular private confessions with your priest. In that way, the priest can devote more time to your specific spiritual struggles and offer the guidance you’re looking for.  

Another thing to consider is that, not every experience in the confessional is going to be as amazing as that first confession. Your dissatisfaction is common among the newly converted. I remember my first confession and that euphoric feeling of getting a lifetime of sin lifted off my shoulders. Naturally, if I compare my regular weekly confessions with that one incredible experience they too will feel ho-hum. A simple re-evaluations of expectations could be enough to help you work through this particular hurdle in your faith.

I encourage you to ask for the intercession and aid of your patron saint and Guardian Angel as you make your pre-confession examination conscience. Also ask the Holy Spirit to help your confession be heartfelt and fruitful. Confession is between you and God, with the priest merely the conduit of sacramental grace. His reaction, or lack thereof, really is not a big factor. 

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