Monday, August 06, 2007

Regular confession = soul cleaning

Anon wrote, “’Regular’ confession is something I don't understand. What is regular? If I were to go to confession each time I succumb to my weaknesses, especially at this particular point in my life, our priests would be practically cloistered. I do examine my conscience regularly, and I do work on improving in my areas of weakness- the things that lead me to sin (acting out of anger, fear and doubt). Mostly my sins regard negative thoughts and lack of forgiveness as well as other things I believe would be considered venial. So given that as the case- how often should one go to confession? I'd also like some suggestions on how to make a ‘better’ confession- upon entering the confessional, I blather.”

Below is an exquisite reflection by Pope Benedict XVI about regular confession. When we talk about making a ‘regular confession’, it’s like talking about doing a regular cleaning in your home, as the Pope writes. It’s something that one does on a regular basis; a habit. Confession, as we and the Holy Father have said, is primarily for mortal sins. So, it should be that every time you (and anyone) succumb to weaknesses of a grave nature, you need to go to Confession. But, with venial sins, it doesn’t have to be every time they happen; we would all do nothing else except sin and confess, sin and confess, sin and confess…24/7!

The Pope writes below that regular confession helps a person to grow spiritually and personally. I have seen that very clearly and abundantly in my own life and in the lives of others. I don’t know of anyone who makes a regular confession who is not happy. In other words, going to confession with regularity (I recommend once a month) helps a person to grow in happiness because he / she is growing in freedom. By God’s Grace and through a sometimes slow process, the person begins to break free of the chains of sin and experience true freedom. Regular confession helps us stay close to God which is what makes us happy.

Regarding how to make a better confession, I recommend a daily examination of conscience. How does one make a good examination? There are good EoCs out there (I posted one on here last year) that walk you through the Ten Commandments in a very critical way. Also, reviewing the seven deadly sins and the beatitudes can help to know in what areas you’ve sinned. Some people write down their sins when they go to confession; most can recall their sins. It’s like giving a speech or a performance: if you’ve practiced and rehearsed it, you’ll be much less nervous and do a much better job. A regular examination of conscience is great practice for making a good confession.

Finally, when we go to confession with regularity, we may not see much change month to month. But, I guarantee, your confessions in five years will be drastically different than now. Grace is in the sacrament, and it works!!

“It is true: Our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our rooms, at least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to live in cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be seen, but it builds up.

Something similar can be said about the soul, for me myself: If I never go to confession, my soul is neglected and in the end I am always pleased with myself and no longer understand that I must always work hard to improve, that I must make progress. And this cleansing of the soul that Jesus gives us in the sacrament of confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open, and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons. Therefore, two things: Confession is only necessary in the case of a serious sin, but it is very helpful to confess regularly in order to foster the cleanliness and beauty of the soul and to mature day by day in life.”


At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter recently asked me a question- not about confession- but about talking to a priest. She knows what is said in the confessional is held in confidence, but is it the same for a converstaion outside the confessional with a priest? I I told her I thought it would be, but it got me thinking. What if a teen came to a priest to talk about their drug or alcohol use, and it was obvious they needed some kind of help but were unwilling to go to their parents? Would a priest approach a parent to say they need to get help for their child, or would that be considered a breach?

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had experiences before and during confession of being really embarrassed to say something I did. Fortunately, those times no great details were asked, and I was able to briefly state my sin and be done. I've gone so far as to go to this priest or that priest for “those” confessions, b/c I was looking at the priest more as a person whose opinion I cared about more than thinking of him as my confessor.

Recently, I had a full physical during which many very personal questions were asked (and answered), sometimes with detail, and I thought nothing of it- no embarrassment then. I guess I felt okay b/c I was thinking it was all about my health- not my character. I wouldn’t change doctors (mine is very good) b/c I’m worried she'd know some embarrassing detail of my medical history, and I’d never think to keep any of that from her; a greater good (my well-being) is at stake.

So the next time I have one of "those" issues to confess, I'll try to employ the same thinking- that is to think about the greater good (strengthening my relationship with God) and think less on how my character looks to another.

At 4:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question about a first confession. I am contemplating asking to join the church and have been regularly attending mass and keeping up with the daily readings when I don’t go. I realize that part of my process will involve an initial confession and being in my mid 40s and having never gone before I have a lot of time and actions to cover. How does one usually approach this? Is it sensible to go to several sessions with each one organized around a theme or topic? Does one start with the most recent, the most severe?


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