Saturday afternoon found me in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and in need of a trip to the confessional. (No, I’m not scrupulous. Just wretched.) Holy Cross Catholic Church is about the size of a large convenience store, done in the style of 1970’s Neo-Traditional with a vigorous nod to Appalachian folk art. Like the town itself, it is everything lovely and nuts and comfortable and joyful about American popular culture, Southern style.
For all that the parish embodies Americana, Holy Cross has something I’ve almost never seen in any of the many parishes I’ve visited: A greeter at the door during the hour for Confessions.
It makes sense of course. If you know you’re likely to have visitors, it’s logical that you’d want to be ready for them. I showed up, and the usher, with name tag and friendly welcome suited to his post, pointed out where the confessional was and where the line was forming and generally made sure I was all set.
Pigeon Forge is a small town in a rural county, and on any given Saturday the bulk of the Catholics on the ground are probably not parishioners. I don’t think people usually come to Pigeon Forge for the purpose of confessing, though if you wanted to make the trip for that purpose, I can vouch for the place in that regard. I do know that a lot of people come to Pigeon Forge for other reasons, and every single one of those visitors is a dreadful sinner just like the rest of us. A few of them perhaps want to give the soul a good sprucing up after a visit to the Nike Clearance Store (or whatever else it is people do in town — evidence is I did that).
I suspect the parish has a particular charism for the Sacrament of Penance and for Divine Mercy. In addition to the artwork in the nave and sanctuary, on the Lighthouse Media display rack in the lobby, there were exactly two talks on CD available for you to take home: Scott Hahn’s “The Healing Power of Confession” and a Spanish-language version of Scott Hahn’s “The Healing Power of Confession.” Somebody wants you to be good and forgiven.
CD cover art courtesy of Lighthouse Talks / Augustine Institute.
FYI if you dislike face-to-face confession, be assured that as you step into the combination classroom / office / confessional / room-with-a-view, there’s a solid screen with a kneeler so you have the option of confessing anonymously if you so desire. If you’ve ever sat in line at the parish, you know why I’m making that assurance. Don’t panic when you see people sitting in the window. You have other options.