Confession in the age of coronavirus

Posted on Mar 21, 2020

The governor of Illinois, where I live, has issued a stay-at-home order starting at 5 p.m. Central today through at least April 7. As a result, churches in both Roman Catholic dioceses in my area (Chicago and Joliet) are shut down. I had hoped confessions scheduled before 5 p.m. would be available, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, at least near me.

I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep; I worked through an examination of conscience and figured I could hit the confessional before things shut down, but now that’s not a possibility.

Fortunately, Pope Francis has reminded us in his March 20 homily that if you can’t reach a confessor priest, you can reach out to God directly, with the intent of eventually receiving the sacrament:

Lent is a special time “to let God wash us, purify us, to let God embrace us,” the pope said, and the best place for that is the confessional.

“But many people today would tell me, ‘Father, where can I find a priest, a confessor, because I can’t leave the house? And I want to make peace with the Lord, I want him to embrace me, I want the Father’s embrace.‘”

The pope said his response would be, “Do what the Catechism (of the Catholic Church) says. It is very clear: If you cannot find a priest to confess to, speak directly with God, your father, and tell him the truth. Say, ‘Lord, I did this, this, this. Forgive me,’ and ask for pardon with all your heart.”

Make an act of contrition, the pope said, and promise God, “‘I will go to confession afterward, but forgive me now.’ And immediately you will return to a state of grace with God.”