I've written before about how sudden requests for confession have been one of the surprises of my priesthood. Well, today was the first time I refused to hear someone's confession. Perhaps it was a sin of selfishness brought on by the occasion of distracted stress, or perhaps it was good boundaries and self-care. I'm not sure.
Palm Sunday is the most stressful Sunday morning of the year. Not only is it the longest Sunday liturgy, but there is more to do in between the Masses. Between the middle and last Masses today I had exactly thirty-two minutes to greet parishioners, extinguish candles, re-set books, bring in the vessels to be re-set and brought out again, put out bread and wine, put out palms, greet servers, check in with musicians, get vested, pray my private preparation and be ready for the procession with palms. So, when I was right in the middle of this procedure, carrying out bags of palm, ripping them open and slicing the rubber bands with my trusty pocket knife, someone approached me for confession. I said that I just couldn't do it at that moment. I did point him in a direction where I was pretty sure he would find a priest who had a minute, but I still felt bad. I hate to have to do something like that for the first time.
The request was obviously unreasonable under my circumstances, but the incident reminded me that it's one thing to be able to keep appropriate boundaries, but it's quite another another to really accept them in one's scrupulous heart.