It's funny how you get to know people in the confessional; through these regular encounters you come to know lots of folks without knowing who they are. After three years here in the parish there are several penitents whom I know even by the sound of their feet on the way into the confessional, or by the way they move the curtain or move to the kneeler. If I say that I don't know who they are in the external forum, I commit the masked man fallacy; what I mean to say is that I don't know if I know them or not. And it's none of my business besides.
It reminds me of the experience I've had at the moments of my life when I've been a regular commuter by subway or bus. I see people I don't know over and over. I get to know them without knowing them. I've even given them names: 'the purposeful girl,' 'the melancholic partier.'
But the confessional is much deeper than the bus. It's a sort of opposite of how relationships usually go. In life and work you become acquainted with a lot of people on the surface; you know where they live and what they do, perhaps where they come from and the configuration of their families, but not much more than that. In only a handful of close relationships do you really get to know people's hearts and dreams and sufferings. In the confessional it's the other way around; you get to know the heart and the struggles without knowing the ordinary stuff.
It all calls for a lot of reverence and respect.