The other day I had one of the worst Confession experience of my life. Now, so you know, I go to confession at least once a month and try to go more often, which is not always my fault. I live too far from my parish to drive there whenever Confessions are scheduled, and they're always scheduled on Saturday at 3:30pm. I don't like to go to the Saturday evening Mass, I prefer to start my Sunday with Mass. And trust me, I get the whole 'Sunday starts on Saturday' thing.
Every FSSP parish that I've gone to does it right. They hear confessions for a half-hour before every Mass. Sometimes, if there's another priest around, they'll hear confessions during Mass (yes, it is allowed) when the lines are too long.
Granted, not every parish can manage this schedule. I'm from a mission diocese where one priest saying three to six Masses at three to six parishes in one weekend, because of the distance between parishes and the lack of priests is so great, isn't uncommon. Understandably, they can't hold confession before every Mass because there's no time. But I digress...
Back to my bad Confession experience. Every confession begins with the sign of the cross and then we begin by saying, "Bless me Father for I have sinned." This time, didn't happen. I walked in and waited for the door to close and then, "HEY! HOW YOU DOING!"
"um... ok I guess."
So, I began, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son..." I accused myself of my sins and waited for my penance.
"Why don't you say two Hail Marys? Go ahead and make an Act of Contrition if you want."
If I want? So I did. He absolved me and I left. Made my penance and an Act of Thanksgiving.
First of all, I've never received only two HMs. That for me is a new record, and like most people I don't confess entirely new sins every time I go. The mood in the ambience of the confessional was very strange and did not lend itself to a feeling of contrition. For me, it's hard to make a solid confession without help and a few questions from the priest. Generally, the best confessions that I've made were because of the helpful interrogation of the priest. A good confessor will know what questions to ask and how to keep the questions from flustering you. But in the end, you feel like you confessed everything, and you feel like going to Confession again sometime soon.
That was not the feeling I got this time.
I was once asked by an older Catholic who no longer goes to Confession what it was called these days.
"Is it called Confession, Reconciliation, Penance, or Spiritual Counseling." This particular gentleman asks these sort of questions to make a point.
"It's not called Spiritual Counseling, but any of the others is acceptable," I replied.
"Oh. That's why I don't go anymore. There's too much emphasis on sins. I'd rather just talk about how to be a better person."
"Do you get Spiritual Counseling then?"
If it wasn't for sin, there'd be no need to talk about how to be a better person. It's true though that a helpful Confession is one that gives some advice. My experience with Dominicans leads me to expect a lot of advice. The whole reason for Confession is sin and any Confession that forgives sin is indeed a good Confession.