Looking back on my childhood, I find a disconnect between my Catholic schooling and our family’s home life. So many of the traditional Catholic practices that we learned in school were kept at school. We had different spiritual practices at home. My parents were active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Rather than my combining these two influences for a rich, adult spirituality, I left many of the more traditional practices behind at graduation. One of these was frequent Confession.
In school we went to Confession monthly. There was thus little need to go as a family. So as a young adult I went during Advent and Lent only. Since the Church only requires yearly Confession—and even then only for mortal sins—going biennially might seem sufficient. But reception of the Eucharist is only required once a year too, and I certainly wouldn’t stop at once or twice.
As a Secular Carmelite, I was encouraged to confess my sins monthly. No we go as a family every four to eight weeks. Here are five ways frequent Confession has benefited me:
1. It reminds me I am a sinner. Frequent Confession shows me my sinful habits. Since I confess the same type of sin over and over, I know what I need to work on most. I realize I am far from being a saint.
2. I receive grace for future temptations. Often the first few days after I go to Confession, I sail through temptations unscathed. My heart is at peace. I find it easier to be loving.
3. Reconciliation, like all the sacraments, is an encounter with Christ. I rarely hear the words of absolution without being moved. Jesus is speaking to me. He is not angry with me. He forgives and erases my sins. I am filled with resolve “to sin no more.”
4. The penance performed as part of the sacrament helps to make up for the hurt I have caused myself, others, and the Church. I can confess my venial sins to God at home and be forgiven, but unless I do some kind of penance as well, these broken relationships are not fully healed. Going to Confession ensures I make amends for my sins.
5. I can receive solid spiritual counseling from the priest. Granted, I have once or twice been misunderstood by priests who didn’t know me and gave me useless advice. But most of the time, the priest encourages me with the scriptures and advises me on how to do God’s will better in the future. I have sometimes been blessed to have a regular spiritual director who makes Reconciliation part of our meetings. It is priceless to receive absolution from a priest who truly understands my spiritual state.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful” (1458). Frequent Confession is an important practice for everyone who seeks to grow closer to Christ.
Share with us: What was your best or worst experience of sacramental Confession?