Tag: confession

15 Reasons To Go To Confession And Why Catholics Confess Sins To Priests

15 Reasons To Go To Confession And Why Catholics Confess Sins To Priests

Can You Go Straight To God?

Yes and no. We are told, as we see clearly in Scripture that we are to confess our sins to one another. Thus, the ordinary way we have our grave sins forgiven is through the Sacrament of Confession. Thus, this is the way that Christ has established as the ordinary way to forgive grave (i.e. mortal) sins. But, there are extreme situations where God may forgive grave sins outside of Confession if the person has perfect contrition (sorrow) for their sins, but these are extraordinary.

Can Only Catholics Have Sin Forgiven?The simple answer is no. While confession is the ordinary way to have your sins forgiven, it is not the only way. The Catechism says:

“When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible” (CCC 1452).

If someone is not Catholic (thus they do not have recourse to the Sacrament), then they can be forgiven, with perfect contrition and confession of their sins to God. If a non-Catholic is in situation of death, they can receive the Sacrament – if they are a baptized Christian.

“If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they show the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.” (Code of Canon Law, canon 844.4)

Here are 15 Reasons Why You Need To Go To Confession!

  1. God commanded we confess our sins to one another in the scripture. (James 5:16).
  2. We receive grace to resist sin through the Sacrament, as well as forgiveness.
  3. We learn humility by having to confess to another person.
  4. We receive counsel from the priest.
  5. We can be comforted hearing the words of absolution.
  6. Helps give you the strength to forgive others.
  7. We may not be positive that we have “perfect” contrition without it.
  8. Assists us to go deep within and think about how we can improve.
  9. When we realize (again) we are sinners, it is easier to be patient with others.
  10. Always confidential – what is said in the confessional stays in the confessional.
  11. No more guilt.
  12. We are better prepared to receive the Eucharist.
  13. Forgiveness is an essential part of growing in holiness.
  14. Our consciences can be better formed.
  15. If we have mortally sinned, then Confession brings us back into the family of God – The Church as well as restores sanctifying grace in our souls!
Don’t Be Afraid or Ashamed To Go To Confession Says Pope Francis

Don’t Be Afraid or Ashamed To Go To Confession Says Pope Francis

Trusting in God’s infinite mercy, people should not be afraid or embarrassed to go to confession, Pope Francis said.

“There are people who are afraid to go to confession, forgetting that they will not encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father,” Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 2 for the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer.

The pope also told the people gathered under a scalding sun that “when we go to confession, we feel a bit ashamed. That happens to all of us, but we must remember that this shame is a grace that prepares us for the embrace of the Father, who always forgives and always forgives everything.”

In his main address the pope commented on the day’s Gospel reading from the Gospel of St. John, which recounts how the crowds followed Jesus after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

“Those people followed him for the material bread that had placated their hunger the day before,” Francis said. “They didn’t understand that that bread, broken for many, was the expression of the love of Jesus.”

“They gave more value to the bread than to the giver,” the pope said.

Feeding the crowd, he said, Jesus wanted to lead people to the Father and to a life that was about more than just “the daily worries of eating, dressing, success or a career.”

Every person has within him or her a hunger for life, for meaning and for eternity, Francis said. Jesus satisfies that hunger with the gift of himself on the cross and in the Eucharist.

“Jesus does not eliminate preoccupations and the search for daily bread,” the pope said. However, “Jesus reminds us that the real meaning of our earthly existence is the end — eternity — the encounter with him, who is gift and giver.”

In giving himself, Pope Francis said, Jesus also gives people a task: “that we, in turn, satisfy the spiritual and material hunger of our brothers and sisters by proclaiming the Gospel everywhere.”



6 Lessons I’ve learned Going To Confession

6 Lessons I’ve learned Going To Confession

 

Pope Francis has made it his mission to try to coax people back to confession.

“There are people who are afraid to go to confession, forgetting that they will not encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father,” he’s said.

In my own trips to confession, I have learned that — and more.

I learned to take some sins more seriously.

I once wrote about the priest who heard my first confession in college after many years away. Five years later, when I was engaged to be married, I was back in the same confessional with the same priest. I went through a rote list of sins including, “I held a grudge against my fiancé for about a week,” and then moved on to “Also, I didn’t help my roommates out around the house as much as I should.”

The priest spoke sharply to me for the first time in five years.

“You did what?” he said.

“I didn’t help my roommates around the house enough?” I said.

“You didn’t forgive your fiancé! Son, you are going to be married soon. You had better get your moral life in order!”

I was a little stung by the comment, but the more I thought about it — and I thought about it a lot, for weeks, and then years — the more sense it made. There I was, looking for forgiveness and not willing to give it. Jesus himself warned against that.

I learned to take some sins less seriously.

A caring priest in the confessional can be a great blessing. But sometimes an unconcerned priest can be a blessing, too.

Once, when I was working in San Francisco’s financial district, a sin I no longer remember weighed heavily on my soul, and I was convinced it was a terrible thing. I think I even refrained from receiving Communion over it. I went to the French parish by Chinatown and shudderingly unburdened my soul.

“That’s it?” said the priest, nonplussed.

“Yes?” I said, already realizing how underwhelming the sin was.

“Well, this kind of thing happens,” he said, assigning me a Hail Mary and then hurrying through absolution.

His indifference was a balm to my soul, convincing me that my sin had been no big deal after all.

I learned that you can’t negotiate with sin.

I once confessed to a great priest in New Haven, Connecticut. I had looked where I shouldn’t on the internet, but my rationalization made perfect sense to me. It was related to a news story, I was a journalist, and it was my duty to know what I was writing about.

I mentioned it in confession, then hurried on to, “Also, I didn’t help around the house enough …”

“Wait, let’s talk more about that,” he said.

“About not helping around the house?” I asked.

“No, the sin before that.”

The priest then subjected me to a cross examination that revealed that my rationalizations were weak and self-deceptive. I did not, in fact, need to see first-hand the darkest part of the story I was covering.

“You can’t play games with Almighty God,” he told me. Those words have come back to interrupt my rationalizations many times since.

I learned that priests are sometimes willing to negotiate.

My desk is a perfect illustration of the second law of thermodynamics — that disorder increases over time unless order intervenes.

I know the only sins I must confess are the grave ones, but I felt bad enough about my desk to confess its messiness once to a parish priest in Washington, D.C.

“For your penance,” he said, “I want you to clean your desk.”

I balked. “Um, Father, I don’t think I am capable of that,” I said. “Could I get a different penance?”

The priest relented, but I learned that I needed to be actually repentant about sins I confess, and not just use the confessional to alleviate the guilt while keeping the sin.

I also learned that some priests won’t negotiate.

Actually, I learned this through a college friend’s experience. Let’s call him Doug. Doug was going to confession way too often. I try to go monthly — he was going more than once a week.

The priest strongly recommended he come less often, but Doug kept coming. Finally, the priest got fed up, and had a great idea: He started giving Doug 10 push-ups as penance every time he came to confession.

Doug hated physical exercise and begged for 10 Hail Marys instead. “No. Push-ups,” said the priest.

Doug decided to stop going to confession quite so often.

I learned that you don’t need to “feel forgiven,” either.

I once confessed a sin that continued to bother me after I confessed it. So I brought it up in confession again, explaining, “I don’t think I said this right the last time.”

The priest said, “That’s already forgiven. Don’t doubt God. Get over it.”

One of my favorite confessional stories makes this point powerfully. It happened after Jesus appeared to Margaret Mary and told her to establish devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Her confessor wanted to make sure Jesus was really appearing to her, so he said, “Next time our Lord appears to you, ask him to tell you the last mortal sin I confessed.”

She did, and when she returned to confession, he asked her what Jesus answered. “He said, ‘I don’t remember,’” she told him. He had forgiven and forgotten it.

And with that, the confessor knew that she had really seen Jesus.

That kind of total forgiveness is an experience every one of us has in the confessional.



What’s The Deal With Catholic Guilt?

What’s The Deal With Catholic Guilt?

I think we’ve all seen or heard someone make a joke about “Catholic Guilt” at one point or another.

This article explores what Catholic Guilt really is. And if it’s actually funny. Or, on the other hand, if it a misrepresentation of something meant for our good.

What is Sin?

It’s important to get on the same page about sin before we even attempt to talk about this issue. Let’s turn to the Catechism to get our definition.

1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.121

1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.”122 Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,”123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.”124 In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125 

(emphasis mine)

Using this definition, I often break down the idea of sin to conclude it is any time where I choose to serve myself rather than another. It’s desiring my perceived good over my actual good. It’s refusing to love. And in refusing love, I am refusing God because God is Love itself.

Sin wounds my relationship with God, because I’m actively rejecting Him. It hurts my soul. It makes me sick.

When I think about sin now, I think about any one of us, if we gave in freely to our own passions, distorted from God’s good intent, might even find ourselves on earth in our own sort of personal hell.

Sin is serious business. But, thankfully, that’s not the end of the story.

My Protestant Practice

Before becoming Catholic, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the ways I rejected  or blocked God (Love) out of my life. Some of the churches I attended would have a moment for such reflections. But it was usually just that, a moment. And, to be honest, in those moments I most often thought “meh- I think I’m doing pretty good, comparatively speaking.” I shake my head at my past self now. And I’m still not exactly sure who I was comparing myself to… those convicted of crimes against humanity? The people in pews beside me, as some sort of holiness version of keeping up with the Joneses? Just the general sense that, in the grand scale of humanity, I was doing okay?

And then the service would move on and I would move on and I continue along my merry way. I knew I could ask God for forgiveness, but as someone who had come from a Once Saved, Always Saved tradition (for much of my life), I didn’t have an ingrained sense that my confession mattered. I had ‘invited Jesus into my heart’ as a child. And if you are Once Saved, Always Saved, then the moment you say that prayer, it’s a done deal.

Now, you can read more about how I learned that perspective didn’t fit with my actual life experience in my Coming Home Network conversion story by clicking here, but suffice it to say, I had accepted Jesus as a child, then possibly crossed over into rejecting Him as a young adult before I made my way back through the Catholic Church.

I learned through that journey that my choices do matter. They have eternal impact. And yes, everything good I do is by the grace of God, but I’m not an automaton. God can work through me to show his love and healing to this world, but He needs my yes to do it.

And so I’d better pay attention to the areas in my life where I’m letting Love in, and also to the areas in my life where I’m not.

The Value in Examining Our Conscience

I worry about the fading of the concept of confession in general as the trees of Christian separation continue to branch farther and farther away from their historical roots. And I have personally found immense value in examining my conscience on a regular basis, followed by a good Confession.

But first, what is an Examination of Conscience?

An Examination of Conscience is a beautiful exercise we do as Catholics, where we take stock of our lives and our heart. We spend time praying about and thinking about the areas where we are letting God (Love) lead the way, and the areas where we are turning from Him (Love) and choosing to serve ourselves first. We take an honest look at where we are being selfish, or prideful, or fearful, or careless, or impatient, or any number of things.

There are many ways to examine our conscience. 

But we don’t just leave it there when we’re done. We aren’t meant to just acknowledge our shortcomings and sit around feeling bad about ourselves. We know we have the ability to make a change. We can grow in virtue and holiness. We can turn our “No” to God, into a resounding “Yes.”

Once we have examined ourselves, we are ready to make a Confession.

Confession: A Healing Sacrament

It’s no secret how much I love Confession.

Confession is so many things. But one thing it is not. It is not a rote recital of our wrongs just for the sake of checking an item off a list.

It is a Healing SacramentAnd for good reason.

When we go to Confession, we sit before a Priest, who is standing in place of Jesus for us. We share with him those struggles we identified in ourselves. And we receive, not only God’s forgiveness to us, but we also receive penance, our medicine to help heal the wounds created by our sin.

We leave Confession with the Grace of God to continue to say yes to Him. And if and when we fail, we know Confession is always there, to help us right our path. To help us to learn to love others better than we could on our own. To help sanctify us, and to flood us with God’s Amazing Grace so we can effectively live as His hands and feet.

Back to Catholic Guilt

Nothing about the Catholic Church desires for us to hobble around, eternally burdened by our shortcomings. And long story short, anyone who has been haunted by Catholic Guilt in their life, has taken these beautiful practices meant for our own good, for our own healing, and for whatever reason, allowed them to become distorted.

When I’m carrying some burdens inside my heart, I might know it’s time to go to Confession. So I just set up a time and go. I know I want to let as much of God (Love) into my life as possible, and if I can be honest with myself about when I’m not doing that, then I can experience healing and let His Grace help me make different choices.

There’s a huge difference between the conviction we need to make something right, and then doing something to heal what we’ve broken, and the notion of “Catholic Guilt.” Guilt, when left to its own devices and void of the connection to healing, can turn us inward and makes us focus dangerously on ourselves. And when we focus on ourselves, we are entering a realm that is unhealthy for our souls. We are entering the realm of sin. 

So, no, Catholic Guilt isn’t funny. It’s actually probably a sign that someone has experienced pain in some form or another inside the Church, and have not yet found their way to the healing. If we know people who struggle with this, or who have left the Church because of it, it is so vital that we live Grace in our own lives. Forgiveness in our own lives. The joy of healing in our own lives.

We have the opportunity to be an example to those who misunderstand our faith, to those who are seeking, and to those who might be confused. Let us be an example of the Church’s beauty as we seek, more and more each and every day, to choose Love.

-This article was originally written and published by Lorelei Savaryn on The Catholic Family.



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