Confessor Station

Busy day today. First Reconciliation this morning. Thirteen second-graders, plus family. Still out of the church, so our lower lounge, ordinarily the setting for social life and large group catechesis, filled in as a space for worship.

Left, one of four confessor stations.

Catholics devote lots of pen and internet strokes to the orientation of the priest at Mass. I’ve never seen any discussion of the orientation at Penance. The old confessional booth usually finds the priest facing at right angles from the penitent, who is usually oriented toward the confessor.

Outside of the booth and leaving the screen behind, what orientation makes sense? Different priests I’ve worked with have different opinions. One liked to have the chairs facing each other. That is the way the “face-to-face” option is usually set up in the reconciliation chapel upstairs. Other confessors opt for side-by-side.

When we’re in our church, some stations are set up in pews, so the orientation is more the former. Otherwise, I angle the chairs at ninety degree, as imaged here.

Which makes sense given the Catholic understanding of Penance? Would some arrangements, and some clergy attitudes, cloud the action of Christ in the sacrament?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Confessor Station

  1. Liam says:

    How is/are the non face-to-face option(s) set up? (Of course, canon law makes a grill non-optional – as anonymity can be chosen by either the priest or the penitent as the default choice; I certainly strongly prefer anonymity not out of shame but because I find it allows me to focus without lapsing into ministering to the reactions of the priest, which I would by nature tend to do in face-to-face, and thereby losing sight of what is really going on: anonymity is deeply liberating in this context; I also love the dark, too, for similar reasons: it offers wonderful liberation of focus, but I understand it should be merely an option, not imposed.)

    As for face to face options, I think something more like a 120 degree angle might be better, with each seat facing an icon of Christ…. IIRC, the Eastern tradition is for confession to normally take place before an icon, right?

    Also, who has the chair with and without arms? Old folks tend to prefer chairs with arms, but there are other laity who need sturdy chairs without arms, and that visual you provide could signal inaccessibility in ways that people would be too ashamed to mention to you so you’d never know. (Hint: think like people who would have problems with either of those chairs. I understand you are a university-oriented community, but still, always consider accessibility issues that people will tend to avoid mentioning.)

  2. RAnn says:

    I like the set up where the priest is facing away from the entrance, line etc–in other words doesn’t know who is next in line. Behind the priest is a kneeler, so the penitent can kneel anonymously behind the priest. In front of the priest, facing him, is the penitent’s chair, for those who want to go face to face

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