In my previous post I explained the Sacrament of Confession by using information from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The purpose of Part I was to describe the theology of the sacrament.
The purpose of Part II is to provide tools and guidance for participating in it.
After reading this post, I hope you feel excited to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
In this post I’ll focus on:
Two Helpful Books
I didn’t grow up going to confession regularly. I received the sacrament before being Confirmed and didn’t return to it for almost ten years.
When I experienced a reversion to God and the Church, I wanted to go to confession regularly, but I felt nervous!
I didn’t know anything about the sacrament, especially how to participate in it.
Because of this, I read a book from my dad called 7 Secrets of Confession.
It provides theology as well as spiritual insights, which I found very helpful. The author, Vinny Flynn, explains the sacrament simply and thoroughly.
Sometime later, I learned about the Divine Mercy devotion and read parts of Saint Faustina’s Diary. I now have a better understanding of God’s mercy and how it’s the foundation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The information in this post comes from: Flynn’s 7 Secrets of Confession, St. Faustina’s Diary, other sources, and personal experience.
“I will call to mind the Passion of Jesus at each confession, to arouse my heart to contrition.” ~ St. Faustina
- Think about the Passion of Jesus and all that He suffered for you.
- Think about the pain and agony that our sins cause Him.
- Think about how much He loves you.
- Do an examination of conscience. This involves prayerful reflection of one’s thoughts, words and actions in order to identify sins.
- For examples of how to examine one’s conscience, click here. On this website there’s an examination for: children, young adults, single people, and married people. There’s also one based on the Ten Commandments and another based on Catholic Social Teaching.
- Write down your sins or use an app if you find it helpful. (I write my sins on a piece of paper and bring it with me to confession because it helps me feel more comfortable. I tear up the paper and throw it away when I leave the church.)
“Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul.” ~ Jesus to St. Faustina
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your sins so your confession will be sincere and complete.
- Ask the Blessed Mother to be with you and the priest.
- Pray for the priest and ask God to speak through him.
- Begin with “Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It’s been (amount of time it’s been) since my last confession. These are my sins.”
- Be honest and open about all of your sins.
- Be humble.
- Obey the guidance of the priest, if any is given.
- End with “I’m sorry for these and all my sins” for any you accidentally forgot to say.
- Thank God for His mercy.
- Do the penance as soon as possible.
- Pray for the priest. (The priest must also pray and do penance for every penitent he encounters.)
I recommend this formula, or something similar, but it doesn’t have to be followed.
I follow it because it helps me feel prepared and that I’m trying to make a good confession. It also reminds me that I’m being spiritually supported through the experience.
“My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of My goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed Myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.” ~ Jesus to a sinful soul
Even though I used to feel nervous about going to confession, now I love it and go at least once a month.
Sometimes I feel lighter and freer after receiving absolution from the priest. Other times I don’t feel anything.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll feel anything after receiving the sacrament, but I can guarantee that your soul will be cleansed and as white as snow!
We must remember that God is working in us, regardless of what we can see or feel.
The saints went to confession frequently because they were aware of their need for God’s mercy.
A saint isn’t someone who is perfect; a saint is someone who recognizes their imperfections and relies on God’s grace.
Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, two modern saints, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation every week.
It’s wise for us to follow the saints because they show us the path to holiness.
As I wrote in Part I, the priest acts “in the person of Christ” when administering the sacraments; so when we confess to the priest, Jesus is truly present.
There’s nothing you could tell the priest that he hasn’t heard before.
There’s nothing you need to feel embarrassed or afraid to confess.
“The Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him” (Catechism 1467).
Because of this sacramental seal, you don’t have to worry about anything you say being repeated or shared.
Of all the times I’ve received the sacrament, I never felt like I was being judged. Each priest I’ve encountered has been compassionate and merciful.
You can always ask the priest for help if you’ve been away or you’re not sure what to do.
Freedom from the Past
You, or someone you know, may have had an experience in the past that resulted in an avoidance of the Church and the sacraments.
If that’s the case for anyone reading this, I’m truly sorry for whatever it is that you experienced.
Please come back to the Church.
If you feel too afraid or hurt to return, ask the Lord and Our Lady for help. Also, find someone you trust in the Church to point you to a faithful and welcoming priest.
It would be a shame to allow the past to keep you from Jesus and the many graces available in the sacraments.
Remember, this is a sacrament of healing and God desires to heal all of our wounds.
“Tell souls not to place within their own hearts obstacles to My mercy, which so greatly wants to act within them. My mercy works in all those hearts which open their doors to it. Both the sinner and the righteous person have need of My mercy. Conversion, as well as perseverance, is a grace of My mercy.” ~ Jesus to St. Faustina
Whether it’s been five months, five years or twenty-five years since your last confession, please go as soon as possible if you’re Catholic.
I encourage you to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Christmas.
Then, I advise you to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month going forward.
Monthly confession is recommended by many within the Church and is a good guideline for Catholics to follow, especially those who want to progress in the spiritual life.
Every parish offers the sacrament at least once a week. If you feel nervous, uncomfortable or you’re unable to attend during the scheduled time, call the rectory and make an appointment with a priest.
I hope you trust my words and know that I care about you. The advice I give is for the good of your soul, and it’s advice that I follow in my own life as well.
The Lord is waiting for each of us with open arms. Let’s not keep him waiting any longer…