There were 15 priests there. I estimated somewhere between 150 and 200 people. But, that was maybe 10 minutes before the Penance Service actually started. And it seemed like people were continually coming in.
There was a reading from the Gospel (Luke 18:10-15), an examination of conscience, and then individual confessions. I waited until it seemed a majority of people had already confessed before I got in line. I was the last person in line to confess to a particular priest, a Monsignor. After I was through I went to a nearby pew to pray for a few minutes.
When I got up to leave I noticed something that I think had a more profound impact on me than my own confession and absolution. The Monsignor was absolving another priest who had obviously just confessed to him. And behind the 2 of them I could see 2 more priests across the Church – one confessing to the other.
All I could do was stare. At that moment I had more of a sense of the mercy of Almighty God than I did when I was forgiven of my own sins. It was a couple of minutes before I was actually able to move again. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.
I think that with yesterday’s Benediction, Mass this morning, and the Penance Service this afternoon that I have more than “put in my hour” this weekend. I was planning on attending Vespers this evening at yet a 4th parish. But, I am feeling exhausted. I think I will call it an early night instead.