Editor’s note: During Lent, many of us choose to go to confession (the sacrament of reconciliation). But, it may have been a while since your last visit. It may seem a bit daunting. And there are questions: “Why do I have to go, doesn’t God already know?” “How can I confess that face to face? The priest knows me.” Even people who receive the sacrament regularly have questions. With that in mind, The Compass asked some local priests and others involved in pastoral ministry to give tips about going to confession. We will feature a different writer each week during Lent. See if they answer your questions.
“Those who approach the sacrament of penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1422).
Reconciliation (also known as confession or penance) is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in his love and mercy to offer sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God. In reconciliation, one acknowledges one’s sins before God and his church. We express our sorrow in a meaningful way, receive the forgiveness of Christ and his church, make reparation for what we have done and resolve to do better in the future.
It is essential to approach this sacrament with a right and humble disposition. Before one enters the confessional, one should begin with prayer. It is necessary to begin with an examination of conscience to help call to mind one’s sins and failings during a period of quiet reflection before approaching the priest in confession.
It is important for a good examination of conscience to be thorough. This will help one learn the things that one may not be aware of; it is also a chance to develop your conscience. A well-developed conscience is a critical aid for a Catholic.
After a thorough examination of conscience, one should confess all mortal sins to the priest in number and kind. Simply confess what you did and how many times (exactly if you know, and approximately if not sure).
It is not strictly necessary to confess everyday faults (venial sins), however, it is nevertheless strongly recommended by the church. Indeed, the regular confession of our venial sins helps us to form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the spiritual life. By more frequently receiving the sacrament of confession, we receive the gift of the Father’s mercy and are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful.
A Catholic should approach all the sacraments very deliberately. It should be done with intention and purpose; namely deepening our relationship with God through humility and his mercy.
The sacrament of reconciliation should be something revered and highly appreciated for the gift that it is. So many of the gifts we receive in this life are taken for granted. The ability to return to the state of grace, after having lost God’s presence through sin, is one of the greatest gifts ever given. May we, as practicing Catholics, turn to our Blessed Lord often and properly disposed to take full advantage of his infinite love.
Fr. Broussard is a Father of Mercy and rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion.