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.

 

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