Churches usually offer communal reconciliation services only during Advent and Lent, the seasons with we recognize our sins and prepare ourselves to recieve our coming and crucified Messiah, respectfully. I like gathering with others to acknowledging our sinfulness before private confessions and so try to make take part in these services.
Here in northern Colorado there have been reconciliation services at nearly every area church. Our Lady had one the first week of Advent, and several other services have been held in Loveland and Fort Collins.
I was in FC last week and felt like going to the service at St. Elisabeth Ann Seton. I thought I knew where the church was--I'd been there for the Knights induction ceremony--and planned on getting there early. So I drove up and down Lamay Avenue without any luck.
When 7:00 came and went and I still hadn't found the church, I stopped to get online to Google a map. (This is much better for the male ego than actually asking for directions.) Alas, I'd been way too far north.
Now I was half an hour late, but figured I could still go to confession; I just wouldn't have the benefit of a communal examination of conscience. When I walked into the--I don't know what to call it, "worship space"?--there were people standing in lines, leaning against walls, sitting on steps, looking around, and shifting their weight from one side to the other. There was a quite murmur as the people in line talked to each other, wondering which line went to which priest, laughing, or discussing their day.
I slipped into one of the waiting room style chairs that were angled toward the altar, said evening prayer, and got out. This wasn't a reconcilation service in a church; this was long checkout lines at the mall. This was this chaos of the commercial Christmas season, not the peace of the Advent season.
Thank God that so many people came to experience God's healing grace, but it was done in such a way that obscured the magnitude of the sacrament.
So last night I went back to FC to the service at St. Joseph, where the people still lined up. But this time I had a pew and a kneeler, and I could see the tabernacle at the center of the sanctuary so I could focus on Him in prayer before receiving His Mercy in the sacrament.
And they even played Taize music to mask any murmuring.