Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to Make a Good Confession

As a continuation of last Saturday's topic, here are some guidelines for making a good confession.

1. Don't wait til 5 minutes before confession ends to get in line, unless it absolutely could not be helped. Get to church in plenty of time.

2. Take the time to practice good dental hygeine before going to confession. It's a simple consideration that we should show our priests. I have an image of a priest from childhood hearing confessions with a hanky over his mouth and nose. Need I say more?

3. Be honest and don't hide anything from the priest. You may succeed in hiding your sins from Father, but not from Jesus Christ, on whose behalf and upon whose authority the priest hears our confessions. There are many faithful Catholics who do not make a good confession because they're so ashamed of something they've done they can't bring themselves to admit it. That's why we have confession - so we can be thoroughly cleansed. You won't be the first to admit to a particular sin and you won't be the last. It's all part of the humility of going to confession but also the joy that will be yours when you unload that burden you've been carrying.

4. Don't turn your confession into a therapy session. Offer no excuses or rationales for why you did what you did - simply admit your sins and acknowledge your sorrow for having offended God. If the priest needs to know more, he'll ask you. If something is truly troubling you and requires more time than a few minutes, best to schedule an appointment with your priest. If you wish to maintain anonymity, consider going to confession at a church that offers them frequently. There are likely to be fewer people in line, possibly giving the priest more time to hear your issues.

5. If I get to confession and the line is really long, I sometimes decide to forego confession at that time so as to give someone else the opportunity. My thinking is this: someone in a state of mortal sin needs to go to confession more than someone who isn't. This is a particularly courteous thing to do if Mass is scheduled immediately after confession and there is the chance that not everyone who is in line can have their confession heard before hand.

6. Along that same line, if the line is long and a Mass is approaching, as a courtesy I might let Father know approximately how many people are waiting for him.

7. Remember that this is YOUR confession - not your husband's or your mother's or your kids', etc. You are there to confess YOUR sins and take ownership for what YOU'VE done, not someone else. Don't confess a sin and then blame someone else for making you commit it. No one can make us do anything. We can exercise our free will for our own good or we can use our free will to do spiritual harm to ourselves. "The devil made me do it" isn't a valid excuse.

8. Remember that you should say or do your penance immediately after your confession, or as soon as you possibly can if there is some reason why you can't do it immediately. For instance, some priests will assign you to read a particular psalm for your penance and you may need to wait til you get home to read it in your Bible.

9. If you remember something you did after you leave the confessional, that sin is still forgiven PROVIDED you confess it at your next confession.

10. Remember to thank Father for hearing your confession and to assure him that he will be remembered in your prayers. Priests need prayers as much as, if not more than, everyone else.

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