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Author Topic: Confession, tick the boxes  (Read 2335 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: October 22, 2008, 12:56:32 AM »


I was talking to someone in ROCOR, but not my parish, that when she goes to confession the priest kind of goes through a checklist - did you do "A", did you do "B", did you do "C". She said that she just says yes to all of them. I don't know if that is because she piously believes she did them all either in word or deed, or because she lazily can't be bothered thinking about it.

Anyway... is this common, and/or normal that the priest would say a list and just allow you to yay or nay each one?

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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2008, 01:10:41 AM »


I was talking to someone in ROCOR, but not my parish, that when she goes to confession the priest kind of goes through a checklist - did you do "A", did you do "B", did you do "C". She said that she just says yes to all of them. I don't know if that is because she piously believes she did them all either in word or deed, or because she lazily can't be bothered thinking about it.

Anyway... is this common, and/or normal that the priest would say a list and just allow you to yay or nay each one?



In general however your Father confessor wants to hear your confession, that is the proper way it should be done, for your salvation. Don't worry about how Fr. X does it somewhere else.
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2008, 01:19:04 AM »


I was talking to someone in ROCOR, but not my parish, that when she goes to confession the priest kind of goes through a checklist - did you do "A", did you do "B", did you do "C". She said that she just says yes to all of them. I don't know if that is because she piously believes she did them all either in word or deed, or because she lazily can't be bothered thinking about it.

Anyway... is this common, and/or normal that the priest would say a list and just allow you to yay or nay each one?



In general however your Father confessor wants to hear your confession, that is the proper way it should be done, for your salvation. Don't worry about how Fr. X does it somewhere else.

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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2008, 01:25:06 AM »


I was talking to someone in ROCOR, but not my parish, that when she goes to confession the priest kind of goes through a checklist - did you do "A", did you do "B", did you do "C". She said that she just says yes to all of them. I don't know if that is because she piously believes she did them all either in word or deed, or because she lazily can't be bothered thinking about it.

Anyway... is this common, and/or normal that the priest would say a list and just allow you to yay or nay each one?
My priest often encourages us to bring our own checklists/sinlists to help us remember, but he doesn't follow any kind of checklist of his own in helping us recall how we have sinned.  He may recall sins I have confessed repeatedly in the past and ask me if I need to confess one of those again, but that's about it for any kind of prodding I get from my priest.  Like username! before me, I also like Ukiemeister's advice.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2008, 01:25:58 AM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2008, 02:48:26 AM »

My priest often encourages us to bring our own checklists/sinlists to help us remember, but he doesn't follow any kind of checklist of his own in helping us recall how we have sinned. 
My Spiritual Father forbids this. While waiting in the nave with a group of people for Confession, someone went in to the room where Confession is heard with a list in their hand. After they finished, our Spiritual Father came out into the nave and asked if anyone had brought a written list of their sins with them. A few people responded that they had, so he gathered them up from them, tore them into shreds and burned them in an empty flowerpot outside the side door of the convent Chapel. Then resumed hearing Confessions.
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2008, 02:56:08 AM »

My priest often encourages us to bring our own checklists/sinlists to help us remember, but he doesn't follow any kind of checklist of his own in helping us recall how we have sinned. 
My Spiritual Father forbids this. While waiting in the nave with a group of people for Confession, someone went in to the room where Confession is heard with a list in their hand. After they finished, our Spiritual Father came out into the nave and asked if anyone had brought a written list of their sins with them. A few people responded that they had, so he gathered them up from them, tore them into shreds and burned them in an empty flowerpot outside the side door of the convent Chapel. Then resumed hearing Confessions.
I'm curious to know what his reasoning is.  Or has he ever shared this?


I wonder if it may have something to do with different methods of hearing confessions.  I'm used to the practice in my parish--I believe we inherited this from our Russian forbears--where I stand with my priest before the icon of the Resurrection (could be the Crucifixion as I've seen in other OCA parishes) and detail to God (in the presence of my confessor) the many ways I have sinned since my last confession.  As a general rule, my confessor doesn't ask a whole lot of questions and doesn't offer much counsel regarding specific passions until after I'm done and before he reads the prayers of absolution over me.  Such a practice by itself encourages a list approach, regardless of what the priest likes.

I understand, though, that the Greek practice is more like a conversation between the penitent and the confessor.  I believe the two will sit down together in a private room and talk about the penitent's life, all with the goal of diagnosing (if that's the right word) the many ways in which the penitent has sinned and how the penitent missed the mark and could have been more Christlike.  I guess that only after this conversation is done the priest and penitent will approach the icon of the Resurrection to read the prayers of absolution.  Having done this style once with a priest other than my own confessor, I can see how the idea of bringing in a list of sins would just not be organic to the rite--I just see it encouraging the penitent to keep his eyes buried in his list and not engaged with his confessor.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2008, 03:26:51 AM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2008, 03:14:38 AM »

My personal favourites are those who have laminated their confession lists (yes, I have seen this). Apparently, they pretty much know what sins they are going to commit, they make sure they commit them every week so their list is up to date, and on Sunday morning they are all prepared with their weather-resistant list.
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« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2008, 03:58:57 AM »

Weather-resistant, or tear-resistant (as in weeping)? Tongue

Still, a laminated confession list is pretty tacky.
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« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2008, 08:58:21 AM »

I made a list for my very first Orthodox confession 17 years ago.  There were some things I really did not want to forget, and you know we all forget stuff - consciously or unconsciously.  That one sin that was really bugging you all week is the one thing that gets remembered only after getting into your car or even as you're walking away from the confession.  I always try and remember the absolution which refers to sins that through forgetfulness are remitted.   I've never seen the practice of writing down your sins aside from the first biggie.  However, I don't think I really need to write my sins down anymore because they've gotten so repetitious that I could just say "Father, last confession, ditto to everything".
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« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2008, 09:57:52 AM »

I can see how writing down the sins can cause people to merely read a list rather than actually confess. But I did write down everything for my first confession, and as I was writing it, I was able to really dwell on why I was sorry for that sin. It was very helpful. After that, though, I have not made a list; now that confession is somewhat regular (about 3-4 times a year), it becomes more of an update on my progress or, more commonly, lack thereof.
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« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2008, 10:27:29 AM »

I never even heard about people making written lists of their sins.

As for the ways priests behave during the Holy Mystery of Confession, - I saw both of the above-descibed fashions in Ukrainian Orthodox churches this past summer, when I traveled there. In the St. Michael Golden-Domed monastery (in Kyiv), the priest simply stands near the penitent, facing the icon and the table where there is a book of Gospels and a cross. He speaks very little, actually letting the penitent say whatever is on the penitent's mind, and then offers a very short spiritual advice (something like, "you know what to do to fight this, just ask God every day to help you in your struggle, and if you happen to repeat this sin, just run here again that same day, as fast as you can, and see me"). In the St. Andrew's church (also in Kyiv), the priest behaves differently: he is much more pro-active, he actually asks the penitent, whether the penitent recalls committing this and this and that. The concluding part of the confession, of course, is identical in both churches, like it is (I assume) in every Orthodox parish or monastery.
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« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2008, 11:53:07 AM »

My favorite story is one that a professor here at the school told us a few years ago. 

There was this middle aged priest who had been hearing confessions for a couple of years, and he would consistently get this one man who would walk up to confession, and when asked if he had anything to confess, he would say "no" upon which the priest would just read the prayer of absolution and continue with the next person in line (confession was done during matins).  After trying to talk to the man many times, for months on end, the man would just not understand that confession was not a trifle and it that he needed to seriously consider the sacrament before taking part in it.  But the guy refused to listen, and he would just walk up every week and say "nothing" when prompted by the priest.  Finally, after some time, the man walked up as normal, and this time when he responded with his usual "nothing" the priest took off his epitrahilion (stole) and put it over the man's head onto his shoulders, got on his knees and said "please confess me then, because you are the first and only sinless man I have ever met"! 

Definitely a dramatization, but I thought it was pertinent to the conversation.  We should not go to extremes in either way.  We should not obsess over lists, but neither should we have nothing to confess.  Hence the whole meaning of confession...it presupposes you HAVE something to confess. 
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« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2008, 01:26:44 PM »

One of my wife's favorite stories involves the time I took her to the OCA Cathedral in DC for All-Night Vigil one Saturday evening.  There was a group of women off to one side who kept showing each other little slips of paper and talking amongst themselves while the service was going on.  My wife leaned over and asked me what they were doing.  I told her that those slips of paper were probably lists of their sins they were going to confess (Confession occurred off near the south deacon's door during the service) and, for some reason, they were comparing them like shopping lists.  Miranda was readily offended.  The fact that these women couldn't sit still and quiet was bad enough, but the comparison of their sins between one another in church and during a service just sounded plain wrong to her. 

At the Antiochian parish I visit frequently, the Syrian-born pastor pulls up two chairs to the icon of Christ on the iconostas and appears to have a conversation with the penitent.  At absolution time, he stands with the stole outstretched and the penitent kneels and everything else proceeds normally.
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« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2008, 02:08:09 PM »

When I first became Orthodox, confession was an enormous and intimidating ordeal for me. I wrote lists several times, simply because, when my turn came around and I was with the priest, I would begin to tremble with fear and often totally lose my voice. My mind would go blank and I couldn't remember a thing. Sometimes the priest would act like "just who do you think you are, without sin?" type of thing and it would hurt me, because I didn't feel that way at all, rather, I was very scared and intimidated. Fortunately, I have gradually become used to confession and no longer need the list and am no longer so frightened.

I've noticed though, that there are folks in my parish who have been Orthodox since infancy and they make lists (which I find reassuring). I have never seen anyone comparing lists in church though! That would not be encouraged, or proper!

I prefer to be with a priest who is very slow and patient with me and who does not put words in my mouth, and who lets me say everything I need to say and then gives some advice, either at the end, or after each point. I've experienced both types.
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« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2008, 02:12:13 PM »

Shultz; that is awful! I wouldn't even read my husbands list if he made one! Let alone passing it about. Talking about your struggles is one thing. But that almost sounds like a who is more or less evil contest.
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« Reply #15 on: October 22, 2008, 02:16:53 PM »

Schultz,

That would indeed be horrible and scandalous.  Do you think though that they may have actually been lists to pray for the departed/sick/etc?  That could be understandable that they were talking as to make sure no to miss people that they knew in common.
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« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2008, 02:23:57 PM »

I can't say for sure what all the lists were, but I know at least one of them had a confession list because I saw her filling it out shortly before the service began.  I noticed a number of them actually handing whatever slips of paper they had to the priest hearing confessions who read them over and then had a short conversation with the penitent before the absolution prayers.  The papers very well could have been lists of people to pray for, but my own sinful deduction (as I was paying attention to these women instead of to the service) is that they were confession lists.

I wasn't so nearly scandalized by it as my wife was.  It appeared to me to be more of a "what sins did I forget?" party than "which one of us is more evil" kind of thing.  All-in-all, the whole experience REALLY turned my wife off to Orthodox parishes because of all the walking around and "milling about", as she called it.  Thankfully we've been to other churches where there has been less moving around during services (at least by the adults) so her original experience is now just a funny story about her introduction to Orthodox worship.
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« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2008, 04:16:56 PM »

I use the little Antiochian prayer book that has a self-examination in it.  Goes through the ten commandments and, with every commandment, asks questions to the tune of "Have I done x, y, or z?"

Not so much a checklist, but it works to prompt me to rememberance of things I might not have mentioned otherwise.

I wonder if perhaps OzG's spiritual father might feel that recitation of faults from a list takes away from the sense of real contrition the penitent feels.  As in, if a sin were truly pressing on your heart, it would come from your lips unprompted by anything on a page.  I don't know; I remember a songwriter who used to say that if he felt he had to write a lyric down it wasn't worth remembering.  Maybe the spiritual father feels the same way about these sins.
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« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2008, 05:41:51 PM »

Quote
Anyway... is this common, and/or normal that the priest would say a list and just allow you to yay or nay each one?

I've never experienced that, but my experience is limited.
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« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2008, 11:08:10 PM »

My priest often encourages us to bring our own checklists/sinlists to help us remember, but he doesn't follow any kind of checklist of his own in helping us recall how we have sinned. 
My Spiritual Father forbids this. While waiting in the nave with a group of people for Confession, someone went in to the room where Confession is heard with a list in their hand. After they finished, our Spiritual Father came out into the nave and asked if anyone had brought a written list of their sins with them. A few people responded that they had, so he gathered them up from them, tore them into shreds and burned them in an empty flowerpot outside the side door of the convent Chapel. Then resumed hearing Confessions.

I would like to hear the reasoning behind this act.

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« Reply #20 on: October 23, 2008, 10:59:05 AM »


I'm curious to know what his reasoning is.  Or has he ever shared this?

I wonder if it may have something to do with different methods of hearing confessions.  I'm used to the practice in my parish--I believe we inherited this from our Russian forbears--where I stand with my priest before the icon of the Resurrection (could be the Crucifixion as I've seen in other OCA parishes) and detail to God (in the presence of my confessor) the many ways I have sinned since my last confession.  As a general rule, my confessor doesn't ask a whole lot of questions and doesn't offer much counsel regarding specific passions until after I'm done and before he reads the prayers of absolution over me.  Such a practice by itself encourages a list approach, regardless of what the priest likes.

I understand, though, that the Greek practice is more like a conversation between the penitent and the confessor.

That's funny, because in my experience I've been exposed to just the opposite. Priests from the Slavic tradition (including OCA priests from from the Russian tradition) have tended to want to "have a conversation", where as Greek priests tend to simply stand by and listen, (in front of the Icons of Christ just like you do) maybe ask one or two questions at the end and then pray the absolution. I actually find the whole "conversation" thing very uncomfortable during the Sacrament actually. Maybe just because my first priest and confessor and spiritual father (the same person) did it the way you described, but he was Greek, grew up in Greece and his family was from Constantinople, (but he was born in the States). So maybe Constantinople does it different than Greece, I dunno?

The first time I ever confessed with a priest other than him (after he passed away) and he started carrying on a conversation I was REALLY confused....and he came from the Slavic tradition. OTH another priest who came from that same tradition, didn't do the whole conversation thing....so I dunno. I prefer the method you've experienced, and only like the conversation thing with my spiritual father/guide, otherwise I feel like they are prying into my life since I've had bad experiences with the conversation style of confession in the past with a priest who wasn't my spiritual advisor.
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« Reply #21 on: October 23, 2008, 11:32:50 AM »

I understand, though, that the Greek practice is more like a conversation between the penitent and the confessor.

That's funny, because in my experience I've been exposed to just the opposite. Priests from the Slavic tradition (including OCA priests from from the Russian tradition) have tended to want to "have a conversation", where as Greek priests tend to simply stand by and listen, (in front of the Icons of Christ just like you do) maybe ask one or two questions at the end and then pray the absolution. I actually find the whole "conversation" thing very uncomfortable during the Sacrament actually. Maybe just because my first priest and confessor and spiritual father (the same person) did it the way you described, but he was Greek, grew up in Greece and his family was from Constantinople, (but he was born in the States). So maybe Constantinople does it different than Greece, I dunno?

The first time I ever confessed with a priest other than him (after he passed away) and he started carrying on a conversation I was REALLY confused....and he came from the Slavic tradition. OTH another priest who came from that same tradition, didn't do the whole conversation thing....so I dunno. I prefer the method you've experienced, and only like the conversation thing with my spiritual father/guide, otherwise I feel like they are prying into my life since I've had bad experiences with the conversation style of confession in the past with a priest who wasn't my spiritual advisor.

Every confession I've been to (I've mainly confessed to Greek priests; only once did I confess to an Albanian priest) has been in a conversational-style; especially with my spiritual father.  They always did it to help with Christ's command to the penitent: "sin no more."
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« Reply #22 on: October 23, 2008, 01:25:39 PM »

I Like using a list in confession because I say every sin on the list (I may have committed them and just not remembered it at confession ---In fact I am so sinful that I probably did do all of them at least in thought if not action)  however when I reach one that I remember  what I did  I stop and discuss it with father, ask for his advice and counsel. Other times father will stop me in the list and ask discerning questions that lead me to look into my life and sins more deeply. Such is the mark of a true pastor.

My priest, who usually does not use a listing, permits it because , my spiritual father who has now reposed used it and it is how I am used to doing confession. It has made the loss of my spiritual father less and nabled me to continue until I get another spiritual father , to continue repentance and growth.

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« Reply #23 on: October 23, 2008, 07:23:02 PM »

I don't use any kind of checklist.  One priest told me he'd prefer I don't use them, and I have kept that up.  After all, I've heard people say that they really don't need to do confession because they didn't do anything on the "short list".  In some ways, it seems to me those check lists could be dangerous in that you think you are okay when you really aren't.  I do take a list.  I only glance at it once in awhile to make sure I don't forget something.  For one thing, I've worked an 8 hour shift before I go to Vespers and confession and I'm usually tired. 
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« Reply #24 on: October 24, 2008, 12:33:17 PM »

I don't use any kind of checklist.  One priest told me he'd prefer I don't use them, and I have kept that up.  After all, I've heard people say that they really don't need to do confession because they didn't do anything on the "short list".  In some ways, it seems to me those check lists could be dangerous in that you think you are okay when you really aren't.  I do take a list.  I only glance at it once in awhile to make sure I don't forget something.  For one thing, I've worked an 8 hour shift before I go to Vespers and confession and I'm usually tired. 
I used to use a list but...
I became really scrupulous. I started thinking everything was a sin and I would confess over and over until I felt that I had made a perfect confession. I finally came to my senses, started making an examination of my conscience with the comandments but without writing everything down. I did my best to remember what I could and prayed for the Holy Spirit to help me in my confession. This took my confession down from two hours to five to ten minutes. I trust more in God's mercy now and not on the "perfection" of my own actions when I go to confession.
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« Reply #25 on: October 24, 2008, 03:00:08 PM »

I remember all my seriously egregious sins and I also include "any other sin which I committed in word, thought or deed" as a blanket cover for sins which I no longer remember.
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