In last article I wrote, we began to deal with the “How To” of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I hope I gave you good news when I pointed out that there are no longer any mandatory words to use in confession! (But if you’d like to repeat some prayer formula you’ve learned, hey, that’s okay too!)
Another “How To” question I’m frequently asked is whether a person should go to confession anonymously or not. In other words, should the penitent remain “behind a screen” so that the priest can’t identify him or her? Or should the penitent sit, stand, or kneel “face to face” with the confessor?
Here again: it’s totally up to you. No one posture or setting is always best for everyone. Every priest and Parish church I know of offers either possibility as your option, just like they’re supposed to.
As I see it, either way has its advantages. If confession is but one part of a person’s more broad spiritual program, like as part of regular spiritual direction, then a conversational “face to face” encounter with the priest seems more natural and beneficial. But if the particular occasion of confession is a person’s real struggle with some really significant or embarrassing sin – or a plain, conscious attempt to turn one’s life around after being away from God and His Church for a long time – then absolutely I think it’s better to confess anonymously. And as we go and grow through life, our spiritual life can (and should!) change: what was right for me last year might not be best for me this coming year. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself into a more friendly and personal exchange in a “face to face” confession, but also don’t be afraid to rediscover the consolation and blunt directiveness that are enabled in anonymous settings either.
In short, regarding the posture and style of confession, the question we should ask ourselves is, “Which would be best right here and right now in helping me confront my sins and obtain the Lord’s forgiveness?” The answer to that question is usually pretty obvious to the individual.