Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Anonymity, with extra Anonymity
As far as I am concerned, Confession must not only be in a proper confessional with a screen between confessor and penitent, but it should also be without any possibility of recognising the penitent by his or her voice.
Hence the various outings I have made in recent years. A couple of times to the Birmingham Oratory, but it's two trains from here, followed by quite a long walk from Five Ways station. I haven't been there for four or five years.
Once to Birmingham's St Chad's Cathedral, where the then-incumbent, Archbishop Nichols, offered the Mass, and then disappeared into the confessional. I was a bit intimidated at the thought of confessing to him, but he was kindness itself.
Mostly, these days, to the grand Georgian church of St Mary-on-the-Quay, in Bristol. A hassle-free train journey through delightful countryside, to Brunel's great Temple Meads station, and a bus that runs every few minutes from the station forecourt to the church. Couldn't be easier.
The church appears to be staffed mainly by overseas priests: from the Philippines, I think, and from the Sub-Continent/Sri Lanka. The priests are very good, and always give words of encouragement and advice. Yesterday was a little different: an Irish priest, also very good and kind, with his own style of guidance. All most edifying.
Confessions take place during the daily half-hour of Solemn Exposition, and this is followed by a lunchtime Mass at 12.15, ideal for the local office-workers. Naturally there are quite a few pensioners in the congregation, but yesterday I particularly noticed that there were a number of young and youngish men. I thought that was really impressive. And for the first time I saw a woman wearing a mantilla. I wore a headscarf, and this is another of those things I rather like: when I am in a strange church in a different town, I don't feel at all embarrassed about covering my head. There's a feeling of being able to express one's devotion freely; none of this fear of being thought to be posing as an über-Catholic.
Images: Confessional, from Fr Z's blog; St Mary's, from geograph.org.uk. Both via Google Images.