I have a confession to make – I found writing an article on Confession extremely difficult… for two reasons. First, my personal feelings about Confession are intensely deep, some of which I previously explored. Secondly, this is a sacrament which very many Catholics, let alone non-Catholics, have difficulty understanding. I have struggled to put into words the emotion and thought about this sacrament.
In short, Confession is a sacrament of healing – healing wounds which sever us from embracing God in His infinite glory, and from receiving His embrace. According to the Church, in order to be a Catholic in good standing, or considered a practicing Catholic, one must attend Confession once a year
(during the Easter season), or when under pain of mortal sin. As a practicing Catholic, if you have not been to Confession in a year, or have committed a mortal sin, you are not supposed to take Communion at Mass until you have entered into that power of healing the Confessional provides. For more on what constitutes a mortal sin, I recommend checking the conditions of a mortal sin (must be a grave matter, you must know and understand it to be a grave matter, and you must willingly choose to commit the sin anyway).
That said, many Catholics, myself included, struggle to attend Confession at times.
Take a look at the picture above – how the beauty of the land and sky is reflected so clearly in the water. Every bit of the landscape is perfectly etched into the vision of the water, and all the beauty and splendor is reflected back upon the landscape.
Confession is like that picture.
When we make an Examination of Conscience to prepare for Confession, all of our actions are reflected back upon us. We are the landscape – beautiful, majestic, glorious…
To go to Confession, we must take a hard look at what we have done, or in some times, failed to do, which may have offended God. And, that is the most daunting aspect of Confession.
Preparing for Confession is, perhaps, the most humbling activity in which I routinely participate. Preparing for the sacrament reflects my hopes, my fears, my dreams, my nightmares, my failures, and my successes. It holds me accountable – not to my priest, and not to my husband or family.
Instead, I am held accountable to myself – and, to Christ.
Preparing for Confession is, perhaps, the most humbling activity in which I routinely participate … The act of a solid preparation holds me accountable – to myself, and to Christ.
My struggle with this sacrament is rooted in the sin of pride – which is known as the devil’s favorite sin.
I don’t look forward to having to put my pride aside. I don’t look forward to having to admit I don’t have all the answers, and that I need help to get through life. I don’t look forward to having to acknowledge I am not the master of my universe.
But, I need to put my pride aside at times.
I need to admit I don’t have all the answers, and that I need help from someone outside myself.
I need to acknowledge there is One greater than I…
…because there is.
Heading into this healing sacrament, my soul knows Christ is there, ready, willing, and wanting to offer His love, friendship, grace, and forgiveness, which is probably why, in many instances, my soul feels lighter upon leaving the Confessional and completing the penance.
Because Christ is present!
And, through the body of the priest, He is extending His forgiveness of my sins.
Each time I head to Confession, He is bringing me closer to Himself. I am constantly bringing Christ to the forefront of my thoughts, trying to live a life closer with Him, and trying to lead a life that will make Christ proud.
Confession gives me a natural point where I reflect upon all I have done to make Him proud, and analyze the areas where I may have not acted in a Christ-like manner.
So, if you haven’t been to Confession in a while, I urge you – make use of the penitential season of Lent, and go! Two of my favorite places to seek an Examination of Conscience can be found at these two links: the Examination of Conscience for Married Couples by U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and the Examination of Conscience for Adults provided by St. William of York in Northern Virginia. You will not shock the priest – not with your sins, and not with the length of time its been since your last Confession. If anything, you may just receive a hearty embrace, and a welcome Home!
God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy.
I’d love to hear from you – what are your thoughts on Confession? How do you work through your struggles to attend?
**UPDATE: Based on a private conversation earlier, an edit has been made to strike Confession as a requirement during the Easter season. What is required, according to the third precept of the Catholic Church is reception of the Eucharist once a year, during the Easter season. The second precept of the Catholic Church is to go to Confession once a year. However, in order to worthily receive Communion, one must be in a state of grace (having committed no mortal sins, or having gone to Confession), therefore, one could argue that it would behoove a Catholic to attend Confession during the Lenten/Easter season, in order to be in a state of grace to receive Communion! For more information, please visit the Vatican’s website, or speak to a trusted priest, since the power to absolve sins is based on Apostolic Succession!**