There are endless resources online about confession that you can find with a simple search. So because of this, I don’t need to write about the doctrine.
What I want to do, however, is to encourage you to go if you haven’t been in the last year.
October is a great month to go back to confession. School has started, the colors are changing, and the crazy rush of the Holidays are only weeks away. If there’s ever a great time to go, it’s now.
The benefits, though, FAR outweigh the moments of nervousness. On top of just feeling better after confessing, your soul is wiped as clean as it was on the day of baptism. Not only is that a really cool thing, it means you’re properly prepared for death which can come at any moment. After all, the gate is narrow and you need to be ready at all times.
If you’re still worried about confession, keep these things in mind as you prepare to go. (If you want more moral support, connect with me on twitter and I’ll pray for you!)
1. Nobody ever regrets going to confession, no matter how tough it was.
Ask any practicing Catholic, and they will tell you that confession is one of the highlights of being a Catholic. The peace from letting it all go, confessing the guilt, and hearing that your forgiven even for these sins is indescribable.
Remember that your sins do not define you. But they will continue to eat at you until you let Christ destroy them in confession.
2. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since the last time you went.
The Bible, actually Jesus, says,
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15.7).
I can assure you that no matter how long it has been, the priest is not going to accuse you and say, “Well, where have you been? Get out of here!” On the contrary, the longer it’s been since your last confession, the happier he will be to see you back.
If you’re worried about how to confess, or what exactly to confess, you can do two things:
- Read, download, print resources that will help you prepare, like this one.
- Go to confession, and tell the priest that you have no idea what you’re doing. He will gladly and joyfully help you through. Believe me, I did this for the first two years as a Catholic because I was too lazy to study how to actually do it right. I was never reprimanded ever. Also, the prayers are usually taped to the kneeler or the wall to guide you through.
3. You can confess anonymously.
The Church requires the ability for anybody to confess anonymously. That means that when you go into most confessionals, you will have an option to kneel down behind the screen so the priest can’t see you, or to sit in the chair in front of him if you are comfortable talking to him face to face.
If you’re still afraid that he will recognize your voice, you can always go to confession at a different parish, although in reality, the priest really won’t care or judge you.
4. There’s nothing you can say that the priest has not heard before.
Continuing from point 3, after years and years of confessions, you can confess just about anything and you’re not going to shock the priest with your sins. He’s heard worse.
5. The priest is not allowed to discuss your confession, EVER, even to you.
It’s true. It’s called the “Seal of Confession”, meaning that what is said in the confessional stays in the confessional. It’s like Vegas but better. The 1983 Code of Canon law 983 §1 says,
“The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”
I want to bring this one home, because it’s important. One time I was in confession with my spiritual director. During the confession, he asked me to bring up this sin next time in spiritual direction. I said, “Father, remind me if I don’t.” He then quickly reminded me that it wasn’t an option, because he didn’t have the right to bring up anything that was discussed inside confession, even if it was to me.
The Church has this requirement for a few reasons. The best part is so that you can feel comfortable and be 100% honest in confession, with no worries that anything will be revealed outside of the box. It’s a generous gift that the Church has given, and it should be heeded.
Additional reading: Father Z. has a post about this.