I had some shopping to do, so since it was a very nice day today I went into Manhattan for my day off. In addition to my errands, I completed what has become my routine of religious activities when I visit the big city: Confession at St. Francis of Assisi on 31st St., visiting the Daughters of St. Paul on East 52nd, and then proceeding to St. Patrick's Cathedral to pray None before the Blessed Sacrament in the Lady Chapel and light a candle at the shrine of the Little Flower. (Being a Friday of Lent, the visit to Papaya King was omitted.)
My experience of confession today was rather remarkable. I went in and knelt behind the screen--though I prefer face to face, my experience of the priests there is that they seem more comfortable with the screen! I made the Sign of the Cross, explained my state in life, how long it had been since my last confession, etc. There was no word of welcome or anything, but I thought, whatever, sometimes priests just listen until you're done. As I started my confession, I began to wonder if there was anybody there on the other side of the screen. I didn't want to look or ask. (For whatever reason, my experience is that some priests get annoyed by departures from established procedure in the confessional.) So I continued to confess, making long pauses, as if to invite the priest who might be there to interject a word of encouragement or counsel. Towards the end of my confession I was convinced that nobody was there. The priest must have been taking a bathroom break or something. A few moments after I finished my confession I heard the door handle rattle and the priest walked in and sat down.
Here's the funny thing: my confession, which I made amidst my increasing suspicion that no other earthly person was there, was a great confession. I was free and honest about the grace and sin in my life in a way that I rarely achieve. So when the priest did come in, I only had to repeat what I had said before.
Perhaps there is a spiritual practice of preparing for confession present in my funny story today.