Seven Reasons to Return to Confession
Confession is available before all Benedictine College Masses, even Baccalaureate.
During the Fortnight for Freedom, the Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College is offering resources for promoting Catholic identity in public life in the simplest, most high-impact ways possible.
Today's suggestion: Promote confession.
But don’t take our word for it.
“The renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the practice of penance,” Pope Benedict told us at Nationals Stadium in Washington.
Pope John Paul II spent his last years on earth pleading with Catholics to return to confession, including in an urgent motu proprio document about confession and in his encyclical on the Eucharist.
He called the crisis in the Church the crisis of confession and wrote to priests: “I feel a pressing need to urge you, as I did last year, to rediscover for yourselves and help others to rediscover the beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation.”
Why all of this angst over confession? Because when we skip confession, we lose the sense of sin. The loss of the sense of sin is at the root of so many evils in our time, from child abuse to financial dishonesty, from abortion to atheism.
So, how to promote confession? Here are some talking points. Seven reasons to return to confession, both natural and supernatural.
- Sin aggravates you.
“Should I go too?” asked the patient, who had received the sacrament as a child. “No!” said the counselor. The patient went anyway, and emerged from the confessional with her first smile in years, and kept improving in the weeks to come. The therapist studied more about confession, eventually became Catholic and now counsels regular confession for all her Catholic patients.
Sin leads to depression because it isn’t just an arbitrary violation of rules: It’s a violation of the purpose built into our being by God. Confession lifts the guilt and anxiety caused by sin and heals you.
- Sin makes you aggravating.
“God is determined to deliver his children from slavery to lead them to freedom,” said Pope Benedict XVI. “And the worst and most profound slavery is that of sin.”
- We need to say it.
It is the same when we break something in our relationship with God. We need to say we’re sorry, and try to fix it.
Pope Benedict XVI points out that we should feel the need to confess even if we aren’t guilty of serious sin. “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,” he said. “Something similar can be said about the soul.”
- Confessing helps you know yourself.
Confession forces us to look at our lives objectively, separate the real sins from the bad feelings and see ourselves as we really are.
As Pope Benedict XVI put it: “Confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons.”
- Confession helps children.
It needn’t be like that.
Catholic Digest editor Danielle Bean once explained about how her brothers and sisters would tear up their confession lists after confession and drop them down the gutter by the church. “What a liberation!” she wrote “Returning my sins to the dark underworld from whence they had come felt wholly appropriate. ‘Hit my sister six times’ and ‘talked back to my mother four times’ were no longer my burden to bear.”
Confession can give children a place to unburden themselves without fear, and a place to get kindly adult advice when they are worried about speaking to their parents. A good examination of conscience (like this one) can guide children toward appropriate things to confess. Many families make confession an outing, followed up with ice cream.
- Confessing mortal sin is required.
Over and over again in the 21st century, the Church has reminded us that Catholics guilty of commiting a mortal sin can’t go to communion without confession.
“One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent,” says the Catechism.
The U.S. bishops reminded Catholics about common sins that constitute grave matter in the 2006 document “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper.” Those sins include: missing Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation, abortion and euthanasia, any extramarital sexual activity, theft, pornography, slander, hatred and envy.
- Confession is a personal encounter with Christ.
There is no greater accomplishment in life than helping another person return to confession.
We should be willing to talk about confession like we talk about every other significant event in our lives. The offhand comment, “I won’t be able to make it until later, because I need to get to confession,” can be more convicting than a theological discourse. And since confession is a significant event in our lives, it’s an appropriate answer to the question “What are you doing this weekend?” Many of us also have funny or interesting confession stories — tell them.
Help make confession normal again. Let as many people as possible discover the beauty of this freeing sacrament.