Sometimes I feel like Confession fails me.
I definitely have to stop attending those "communal Penance services." It's like drive-by Confession, and it's never a good experience--which is why I let two or three years go by between Confessions, until I feel absolutely driven to seek absolution, and I drag myself there.
For me, "communal Penance services" are a near occasion of sin. (So why do I go? Because they're not on Saturday afternoons, which are always so nutty that I can never manage to get to Confession for the 45 minutes our parish offers it at that time.)
If it were up to me, these services would be simple affairs consisting of a hymn or two, a Scripture reading or two, and a short homily from Father explaining how to make a good examination of conscience. After that, everyone lines up for Confession.
- Arrive and find a pew. Listen to announcement by cantor that if you forgot a "worship aid" you should raise your hand and a "team member" would bring one to you.
- Hymn, Liturgy of the Word, prayer.
- A combination skit/prayer/examination of conscience in which 6 costumed actors represented Isaiah, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus and lectors read prayers relating the examination of conscience to each of these Biblical figures.
- Lineup for Confession. After the initial scramble to get in line for your favorite priest, I waited 40 minutes, only to end up with the hard-of-hearing priest who was older than Moses and looked like he might not survive the night. (Good thing the church has its own defibrillator. I was afraid we might have to use it.)
- Parting gift. After absolution, Father handed me a handy-dandy refrigerator magnet "to remember this evening by."
I don't need "worship aids," "team members," costumed actors with props, and refrigerator magnets. And frankly, I don't want them. For me, they get in the way.
I know I shouldn't be snarky, and I'll need to go to Confession again over that. To be fair, the service was well-done. Good music, well-prepared readers, good flow. But it felt like a performance, not a prelude to a sacrament.
In the end, the grace of the sacrament is enough--which brings to mind this prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my will; all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them. All things are yours: Dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your grace; for this is enough for me.