Have You Been To Confession Lately?

clock November 30, 2012 08:49 by author John |

Go to confessionHave you been to confession lately? Advent is quickly approaching. Are you ready for it? Why not enter the season of Advent with a clean slate and a spotless soul? Head over to confession this weekend. Most parishes offer confession on Saturdays and some even on Fridays.

Here is some material for you to read up on if you are unfamiliar with confession or you have been away for a while.

How To Make a Good Catholic Confession

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience

What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)

What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)

The Act of Contrition

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)

Confession - Your Soul will Thank You!

clock November 2, 2012 11:09 by author John |

PenanceToday is the commemoration of the Faithful departed, commonly known as All Souls Day. We remember and pray for all of those souls who have died yet are awaiting the reward of Heaven still because they have not fulfilled the temporal debt due to them for their sins. You also have the added bonus of a plenary indulgence if you visit a cemetery and pray for the departed and complete the other requirements for a plenary indulgence (confession, communion, prayer for the intentions of the pope and freedom from attachment to sin). This is a great chance to wipe the slate clean and get that new soul smell back. Go to confession. Just do it. No excuses. Get a fresh start.

Most parishes offer confession on Saturdays, some offer it on Fridays as well.

Here are some resources if you would like to learn more about the sacrament of penance or you have some reservations about it:

How To Make a Good Catholic Confession

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience

What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)

What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)

The Act of Contrition

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)

How Often Should Catholics Go to Confession?

clock October 24, 2012 09:26 by author John |

Sacrament of PenanceThe Catholic Church requires every Catholic to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year during the Easter Season. This is one of the precepts of the Church, which means it is a bare minimum requirement that each Catholic must fulfill in order to properly consider themselves a Catholic. If we are truly engaged with our faith, we should be more concerned with how often we should go to confession rather than how often we must go to confession.

The frequency of confession is something of an unsettled question since it depends on several factors: 1) the state of the person’s soul, 2) the person’s tendency toward sin, particularly mortal sin, 3) the effects of Grace on the person’s soul, and 4) the availability of the sacrament. We will discuss each of these factors individually.

State of the Soul

This is the most important factor. If someone is conscious of a mortal sin on their soul, they should make every effort to get to confession as soon as possible. Confessions are offered on Saturdays in most parishes, but any good priest will make himself available for confessions by appointment as well. If you can’t make it to confession on Saturday, find another time/location to make use of the sacrament or call the church and schedule a confession. If you do not confess your sins, you place your immortal soul in grave danger. Don’t carry mortal sins around with you. You do not know the day or the hour that you will die, so don’t play Russian roulette with your soul. Confess those sins.

Tendency Toward Sin

Each of us has different proclivities to sin. Each of us has different abilities to resist those temptations. Only you and God know how likely you are to sin. If you are a weak in your resolve to avoid sin, then you should make frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are all weak, some are weaker than others. If you find that you are falling into sin shortly after going to confession, then perhaps weekly confession is the best option for you. Confessing your sins weekly has 2 major advantages: 1) you can confess your sins on Saturday and receive the Eucharist on Sunday each week and 2) you will receive tremendous graces from the sacrament that will help you avoid sin in the course of the week.

Weekly confession could pose a problem for some people if they are susceptible to scrupulosity. Scrupulosity is an overabundance of guilt or finding fault with yourself where it does not exist.  Keeping in mind the need to confess mortal sins as soon as possible after committing them, you may find that confession every 2 weeks or once a month works best for you. Having a hard and fast schedule for penance makes a big difference in your spiritual life. You change the oil on your car before there are serious problems; why not perform the necessary maintenance on your soul before you fall into grave sin?

The Effects of Grace on the Soul

The effect of grace on the soul is not a constant among people or even a constant for each person. Grace is given at the discretion of God in the abundance, time and case He sees fit. Our openness to that grace is something that we can control, however. If you are open to the graces conferred in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you will benefit greatly from them, and you may find that you do not have to confess your sins as frequently. Maybe you haven’t been to confession in a long time, and after confessing your sins you find that you need to go back to confession after a few days. Over time, the effects of the grace on your soul will build, and you may find that later, you only need to go to confession every 2 weeks or once a month.

Availability of the Sacrament

The availability of the sacrament is another concern for many people. Some areas of the world are not a friendly to Catholicism. The Church is not as well established in many areas. Some places are desolate. On the other hand, some people may have to work during the appointed times for confession at their local parish. This can play a big role in determining the frequency with which you receive the sacrament. If possible, it may be best in these cases to attempt to set up a recurring appointment with a priest to have your confession heard. You may also benefit from spiritual direction if the priest is willing and able to work with you in that way. The salvation of souls is the first priority of priests, so they should be more than willing to work with you in any way possible to make sure that you are in the state of grace.


Other Articles You May Like:

How to Make a Good Catholic Confession

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience

What Does it Mean to Mention Sins in "Number and Kind" in Confession

What does it Mean to Mention Sins in Number and Kind in Confession?

clock October 18, 2012 07:11 by author John |

When you confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you are required to mention all of your mortal sins in both “number and kind”. You frequently hear this expression when reading guides to confession, but rarely is it explained. Most people who write these guides are very familiar with confession, and they likely take for granted that the reader knows what “in number and kind” means.

Kinds or Types of Sins

If you are unfamiliar with the Sacrament of Penance, a question naturally arises around the “kinds” of sins. What are the kinds of sins? Should I use the 10 commandments as a guide? What about the 7 deadly sins? How specific should the “kinds” of sins be?

Take for example being disobedient to your parents. You could confess 5 transgressions against the 4th commandment. If you do this, and your priest is actively engaged in helping you, which he should be, he will probably ask you to be more specific. You may wonder why this is. After all, “Isn’t it enough to mention my sins in number and kind”?

The simple answer is, no. The reason is that in sinning, we rarely find that our sins fit nicely under predefined categories. Expanding on the sin of disobedience, the circumstances make all the difference. If for example, your parents told you not to do drugs, and you disobeyed them, then you not only broke the 4th commandment, which requires obedience to your parents, but you also harmed your body by doing drugs, which is a sin against the 5th commandment. The priest can identify patterns in your behavior which he can then use to help you avoid those sins in the future. You may view the sins as disobedience, but doing drugs could possibly indicate a self-destructive pattern in your behavior.

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say that you have trouble with stealing things. Simply confessing that you stole 5 times doesn’t really help the priest understand the problem. If you stole 5 candy bars from a store, the gravity of the sin is relatively small, likely a venial sin. If you stole a car 5 times, or you took $100 from a person living paycheck-to-paycheck on 5 different occasions, then the sin is likely of grave matter, and would probably be a mortal sin in most circumstances.

People often find that they commit the same sins over and over. The situations in our lives present opportunities for us to hurt others and our relationship with God frequently. These are called “occasions of sin”. If you work in a jewelry shop, you may be tempted to sin by stealing gold rings. If you walk past an adult video store on your way to work, you may be tempted to go in and look around. If you work overnight hours, you may be tempted to sleep all day on Sunday, missing mass each week. These sins form patterns, which we may fall into repeatedly.

When confessing sins “in kind” it is best to be specific about the sins and describe any important circumstances that may affect either the severity of the sin or help the priest understand why you are committing these sins repeatedly.

Confessing Your Mortal Sins “In Number”

Once you have identified the “kinds” of sins you commit, the next step is to keep track of the times you have committed them. Why should you confess the number of times you have committed a sin? The answer has 2 parts: 1) it helps the priest understand how attached you are to the sin, and 2) it helps you avoid the sin in the future by bringing the frequency with which you commit the sin into your consciousness. We may not realize how much we sin until we actually keep track.

The next logical question is “What happens if I don’t remember how many times I sinned?” If this applies to you, do not worry too much about it. Just do your best. If you don’t have an accurate count, you can tell the priest roughly how often you commit the sin. If you missed Sunday mass, is it something that you do every week, or a couple times a month? Did you only do it once or twice? In general, just do your best in conveying to the priest how big of a problem it is in your life. When you commit sins in the future, try to keep at least a rough count of how many times you have committed the sin so you are prepared for your next confession, you can reflect on them, and the priest can help you move away from them.

Other Articles You May Like:

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience
How to Make a Good Catholic Confession
What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)
What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)
Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)

Go to Confession

clock October 12, 2012 09:23 by author John |

PenanceTry to make use of the sacrament of reconciliation. It is the sacrament Christ instituted to bring you back into His graces. Don't waste this opportunity. Most parishes offer confession on Saturdays, some offer it on Fridays as well.

Here are some resources if you would like to learn more about the sacrament of penance or you have some reservations about it:

How To Make a Good Catholic Confession

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience

What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)

What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)

The Act of Contrition

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)

St. Faustina's Message From Jesus on Confession

clock October 5, 2012 13:22 by author John |

Write, speak of My mercy. Tell souls where they are to look for solace, that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage, or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to Him one's misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were souls like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full.

-Diary entry 1448


Why not set aside the time to head over to confession. Most parishes offer it on Saturday, some on Friday. Your shoulders will thank you for removing the burden of your sins!

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don’t Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)

clock September 27, 2012 20:49 by author John |

Recently I stumbled upon a forum on a secular wedding website that was discussing preparations before marriage. The topic of confession came up, as did several candid opinions on the topic. There were a few people that mentioned being nervous, unsure how to confess, or embarrassed.

This made me ponder why many people don’t go to confession. I frequently assumed (probably incorrectly) that it was a defiant thing. I thought most people just didn’t agree with the practice. I decided to do a little unscientific research on the topic. I combed the Internet looking for the various emotional/non-defiant reasons people listed for not making use of the Sacrament of Penance. Here is the list in no particular order, with a few points to consider if this reason applies to you.

1. It has been too long (or never) since I have gone to confession, and I am afraid of that first part (It has been _______ since my last confession).

This was one of the reasons I saw over and over again. It seems many people are just plain afraid of telling someone that they haven’t been to confession in a long time (or never). If you have been struggling with this, know that the priest is acting in “In Persona Christi”, which means in the Person of Christ. Jesus wants you to come to Him no matter how long you have been away from Him.

Remember the story of the prodigal son? The son took all of his inheritance and left his father’s house to live a depraved life, wasting the inheritance. The son returned looking for a job from his father. The father welcomed him back home and treated him like a king, forgiving the son and rejoicing that he returned. Jesus is the same way. He will always accept you with open and welcoming arms. The priest will mirror this. While he might remind you that it is important to confess regularly, he will gladly hear your confession because he wants you to rebuild your relationship with Christ.

Be at peace, no matter how long you have been away, it is always better to return as soon as you can. The priest will not judge you for being away. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. You aren’t the only one with this dilemma, and you probably won’t be the person who has been away the longest that the priest has ever heard. Even if you are, that will most likely mean that the priest will give even more thanks to God for having the opportunity to welcome you back into the fold.

2. I know the priest and he knows me – I don’t want him to know my sins.

This is a common feeling, even for people that confess their sins monthly or more. We all have secrets, “skeletons in the closet”. It is reasonable for you to feel this way. After all, priests are people, just like you and me. It is embarrassing for someone you see on a regular basis to know your struggles and failings.

There is the option of going to a priest at a neighboring parish. This may not be the best choice in the long run, but there is nothing explicitly prohibiting you from choosing where you go to confession. There is a benefit to developing a relationship with your confessor so that he knows your struggles and can suggest ways for you to overcome them. Also, you may find that you have a “louder conscience” if you know that you will have to tell the priest about the sin later. This may help you avoid the sin in the first place.

3. I don’t know the “formula” to use when I go, and I don’t want to “mess anything up”.

I was a bit surprised when I saw this one. I didn’t realize people had this fear. I suppose it could be a bit awkward if you are not familiar with how confession works to just walk into the confessional and not know what to say. While there is a formula for people that frequent the sacrament, it is really just a guide to help the confession go smoothly. If you are totally clueless about what to say, have no anxiety about this one. Just let him know that you are not really sure how to proceed. The priest is ready and willing to guide you through the confession. You should at least have an idea of what your sins are before you go into the confessional. An examination of conscience will be a big help in getting you ready in that area.

4. I have done some really bad things and I am embarrassed.

Here’s the deal with this one: let’s use murder as an example, because that is one of the biggies. First of all, it is entirely possible that the priest has heard this sin before, but it is probably a safe bet that he doesn’t hear it every day. Rest assured that he will not freak out. Keep in mind that he is bound under a strict seal not to reveal your sins, no matter how terrible to another living soul ever. (See #10 for more on this point)

You should also keep in mind that the priest is not allowed to require you to turn yourself in. He may suggest it for the good of society or for your own good, but he cannot require it.

You have the right to anonymity in your confession. You can choose to go to a priest you have never met and sit behind a screen so he can’t see you. Given that you have so many safeguards to protect your anonymity and reputation, you shouldn’t worry about that.

Now, the embarrassment is a terrible feeling. Rather than being afraid of it, embrace it. The embarrassment is a good thing. It is guilt, and no matter how much the culture tries to get rid of it, guilt will never go away until you confess your sins. Your guilt is a gift from God; it is His grace working in you. It encourages you to change your life and come back to Him. Once you have confessed your sins, you will feel like a truckload of bricks has been lifted off of your back. It is liberating, refreshing, and you will probably walk out of the confessional with a smile on your face just from the feeling of relief.

5. I feel awkward telling my sins to someone else.

This is also a very typical and normal feeling. As with the embarrassment mentioned in the previous item, embrace the uncomfortable feeling. If confession was an easy thing to do, we would be more likely to sin. It is too easy to tell your sins to Jesus and not have true sorrow for them. Telling your sins to the priest ensures that you think twice about your sins.

The feeling of dread in telling your sins to someone else is a powerful motivator to avoid sinning in the future so that you don’t have to mention those bad things you have done any more. Rest assured that the priest is not there to judge, condemn, or belittle you, though you should be open to taking constructive criticism or correction – it will help you.

He can’t tell your sins to anyone else, and he genuinely wants to help you. This is the way Jesus wanted confession. Telling your sins directly to Jesus is a good thing to do on a daily basis. It shows that you are sorry for them, but the way God established this sacrament is confession to a priest. That is the only way we know of to be assured that your sins will be forgiven.

6. I’m afraid someone outside the confessional will hear me.

Some confessionals are more secluded and private than others. In general, it is best to speak in a gentle and soft, but still audible voice. Something you may not know is that people who overhear something from somebody else’s confession are bound under the same seal of secrecy as the priest. They are not allowed to divulge anything they overhear from a confession.

That being said, it is best to take some precautions if you think that sound may travel far enough to be heard. First, if you can hear someone else’s confession, it is generally expected that you will move out of hearing range or in the worst case scenario, just cover your ears and hum a tune. If you think someone may overhear you, you can always ask them to take a few steps back so as to protect your anonymity. Any reasonable person would agree to this. If not, you can always offer to trade places with them in line and just let them go first, backing off yourself so that people behind you get the clue.

7. I don’t want to go face-to-face and my church doesn’t have a screen.

You have the right to a screen between you and the priest to protect your anonymity. If your church does not offer one, bring it up with the pastor. If he still refuses, then you can certainly look for another parish that respects this mandate and offers a screen.

There can be some benefits to going face-to-face, if you are open to it. You may find that it helps to have a good relationship with your confessor. He can help you through your struggles and identify weaknesses you didn’t realize you had. 

8. A priest was angry/judgmental/rude to me last time.

This is inexcusable and just plain wrong. A priest should be gentle yet firm with a penitent. He has no right to be angry or rude (at least outwardly) with you. If you feel that the priest was out of line, you can mention it to the pastor of the parish (if the priest is not the pastor), or you can bring it up with the bishop’s office, which might have received other similar complaints and can correct him if necessary.

You should keep in mind, however that correction is not necessarily anger, judgment, or rudeness. Consider if you perceive honest and firm correction as something more than it is simply because it implicates you or you disagree with it. Sometimes we have a tendency to take things the wrong way. This is not always the case, but it does happen.

9. I’m not really sorry for my sins, and/or I don’t intent on changing, so what’s the point?

The point is that you are taking a step in the right direction. It is legitimate to stay away from confession if you feel that you have no intention of changing. Perhaps you should take a step back from yourself and think about what this type of a statement means. By saying this, you acknowledge that you are sinning, so that is a good first step.

What does it say though if you really don’t want to change? Well, to be honest, it says that you are rejecting God’s love and grace. God has given you the grace to accuse yourself of your sins. Why reject his grace, which might help you overcome them and be a better person? Your life will be better if you make the active and sometimes difficult decision to try to follow Him.

Sometimes the fear of doing something difficult or uncomfortable keeps us from making the right choice. We all make mistakes and most of the time we make those mistakes repeatedly. We all struggle with sins – each and every day. That is why confession is available to us in the first place.

There is no requirement that you expect to be perfect after confession. There is only the expectation that you will try. Let’s be realistic, we already know that you and everyone else in this world will fail at some point. The important thing is to get back up, dust yourself off, get to confession, and try again.

10. I know the priest is supposed to keep my confession a secret, but I think he might tell someone my sins.

The priest is forbidden from revealing your sins to anyone ever. He is not even allowed to reveal that he heard your confession at all. He is not allowed to record it or to let the police listen in. There are laws that protect the priest-penitent privilege. In the US, and most other countries, anything said in confession is not admissible evidence in a trial.

The church would treat a breach of this seal more harshly than your worst sin. The priest would be immediately excommunicated by breaking the seal. The penitent is placing incredible trust in the priest to keep this secret. Priests have given their life to protect this trust. I would go so far as to guess that more priests have been martyred protecting the seal of confession than have broken it. That is how serious this is. God gives the priests special graces to be able to forget confessions and helps them in this sacred duty of secrecy.


Other Articles You May Like:

A Thorough Catholic Examination of Conscience
How to Make a Good Catholic Confession
What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)
What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)
Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession (and Why You Should Consider it Anyway)
What Does it Mean to Mention Sins in "Number and Kind" in Confession

Go to Confession!

clock September 21, 2012 10:20 by author John |

Go to confession today or tomorrow. Before we can grow close to God, we must first clean our soul of the sins which separate us from Him.

We All Confess at Least Once

clock September 16, 2012 19:32 by author John |
stained glass window
Image Source: Flickr User - Borkur.net

Last week I attended a meeting after work. Training. Blah. Meetings after work strike me as a particularly heinous form of punishment. Not only are you held captive during time that is supposed to belong to you, but you are tired from working all day, and in my case driving an hour from the office at my client to my own company’s office. To make things worse, there was PowerPoint. Lots of PowerPoint.

At the meeting, we received training for an exam we would need to take with a manager. This manager is very particular and a bit of a perfectionist, which means we would have to know the material – all of it. Every last detail. There was a lot of material too. One of the other managers offered to give us a practice exam with him before we had to face the music of the real exam. We all agreed that was a nice gesture and helpful too. Still the real test was going to be a real pain.

Every time I begin feeling sorry for myself,  I call to mind the Passion and Death of Jesus – on a Cross, nails in His hands and feet, crown of thorns, scourging, spitting, mocking, gasping for breath, bleeding…Yeah, maybe I can suck it up a little. That usually helps me get off the feeling sorry for myself train.

Anyway, beyond all the usual tired, bored, rather-be-somewhere-elseness, there was another stress I was dealing with – yeah, it was Thursday and tomorrow I had planned to go to confession. It wasn’t a major stress, it was just one of those back of the mind type things – I kept thinking to myself “Don’t forget, you have to get up early tomorrow, so you can get to work early, so you can leave early, so you can get to confession right after work.“

Normally, confession is just one of those things I do whenever I think about it. I try to go frequently; otherwise, it turns into more of an ordeal if you know what I mean. I had some thoughts pop into my head, you know the type: “Hmmm, it is getting late, this meeting is going longer than I planned. I’ll be up late. It is going to be an early morning. Well, I don’t HAVE to go to confession.” Maybe it was just the tired speaking, but I found myself trying to talk me out of going to confession. This type of thing never ends well, so I try to dispel the negative thinking as soon as it shows up. Luckily, or maybe more accurately, by the grace of God, I didn’t talk myself out of going to confession.

Well, the next day, after work, I did get to confession, thanks be to God. No thanks to the guy who decided that he needed to cause gridlock by moving up into the intersection just as his light turned red. No thanks to the guy who cut me off twice on the way to the church. Yeah, I do a lot of driving. That is why I try to get to confession as often as possible. Anyway, I unloaded the spiritual baggage and moved into the pew for penance and a little reflection time.

Looking up at the stained glass window of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I saw lots of light streaming through. The church was dark, and all of the light in the church was coming through this one window. It reminded me of the light at the end of the tunnel you hear about when people are approaching death. It was a beautiful quiet moment. This must be a little like seeing Jesus at the end of your life. It was just Jesus and me – alone. After finishing my penance and saying a rosary to start the 54 day election novena, I began to think about what this moment meant.

I thought about what it will be like when I meet Jesus for the face-to-face when everything is said and done. What would I say? Would I say anything? Would he do all the talking? Worse yet, would he make me do all the talking? How am I going to explain everything I have done in my life? How am I going to explain all of my sins? Then it occurred to me that I have been practicing all of my life. I have been going to confession, admitting my mistakes and resolving to stop making those mistakes. It is a bit like practicing for the big game. You only get one shot, so wouldn’t it make sense to practice a few times before you take the field?

We all go to confession at least once whether we like it or not. We will all stand before God at the end of our lives to give an accounting for our actions. Why not get a little practice in beforehand?

Go to Confession!

clock September 14, 2012 11:35 by author John |

Yes you! Who did you think I was talking to? Get over there tomorrow (or today if available) and free yourself from the burden of your sin!