“I’m Gonna Confess, Support Me”

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The title is a Facebook status that one of my friends once posted. When I saw it, I thought she was asking for prayers because she was about to receive the sacrament of confession. Only after several other friends posted the same status did I realize that some Facebook game, meme, or even virus is going around.

Seriously, though, how often do we help our fellow-Catholics avail of the sacrament of Confession? How many Catholics who have been staying away from the sacrament would go if only someone else would encourage them to go? Perhaps we ourselves have experienced the joy of the sacrament because a friend or relative made us go; have we remembered how happy and grateful we felt afterwards and paid the favour forward?

Helping someone else go to confession involves several spiritual works of mercy and is one of the best things one can do for another. It brings someone else closer to God and benefits the whole Church.

Here are some tips on how to do it:

1) Efforts to get someone else to go to confession should start with prayer and offering up sacrifices. All the eloquent reasons we give will not persuade if not backed up by actual grace.

2) The fact that we ourselves need to go to confession should not hinder us from encouraging someone else to go. In fact, we may better convince another to go if he or she sees that rather than preaching to them from a position of moral superiority, we are accompanying them along this pilgrimage on earth.

3) The crucial step is actually speaking to the person whom we want to encourage to go to confession. It is hard to give general advice on how to do this since each reader would know better how to approach those whom they want to encourage. But in any case, one must not be discouraged by a “no” response. Even if one does not go further than suggesting the sacrament to another, one has already acted as a channel for God’s grace which will work in God’s own time.

4) It helps to review what the Catechism says about confession so that we could answer any question we are asked about it. Aside from the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself, there are many excellent books, pamphlets, online guides (like this one, and this), etc. that we could refer to.

5) Helping another person go to confession may mean helping with the logistics: giving him or her the confession schedules of a priest we know (this may help), setting an appointment with a priest if it is necessary, offering the person a ride to the church, and so forth.

6) It might be a good idea to go for some coffee or a snack with the other person afterwards. In fact, most likely he or she will want to celebrate!

Indeed, helping someone go to confession will make him or her very happy. I should know. I myself do not always find going to confession easy, but I always feel very happy after doing it.

Cristina Montes

Cristina Montes

Cristina Montes, from the Philippines, is a lawyer, writer, amateur astronomer, a gardening enthusiast, a voracious reader, a karate brown belter, an avid traveler, and a lover of birds, fish, rabbits, and horses. She is a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan who reads the entire trilogy once a year. She is the eldest daughter in a large, happy Catholic family.

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8 Responses

  1. Cristina, you may be too young to have experienced the devastating effects of what meant to use the confession guide based on the Baltimore catechism, guide that was in effect till late 1960; I am talking about commandment #6-impurity, where the priest would ask about the number
    of times and if done with someone else – in case the person does not confess it
    voluntarily. Have you been in this situation?
    If yes, how did you feel?…wounded ? wounded even more by the priest’s
    questions, with no positive results at all?

    …and this is why the confession guide based on the Baltimore catechism
    has been removed, after making millions of victims, with devastating life long lasting effects.

    The priests (men) who developed that guide are no longer alive, but some of
    their victims, are. And those victims continue to suffer even today. Now,
    priests are instructed not to ask such questions anymore.

    A sin is first of all, an emotional/psychological wound. Such a blunt and
    direct question, as indicated in the guide, can trigger devastating effects on
    someone who goes to confession but is not emotional mature enough to understand the meaning. I am talking here mainly about children.

    If you want to see the guide, you may check Q791 in http://www.audiosancto.org/inc/BC3/bc3-19.html

    1. Thank you for your comment. At the risk of sounding indifferent to those who have been traumatized by the line of questioning you describe, I say from experience that I have used the same guide ever since my first confession, and I have been taught from the start that one must confess the number and any “qualifying circumstances” of one’s sins. I have experienced being asked more details about the sins I have confessed, and while I may have been embarrassed about my answers, I never felt wounded by the priest’s questions. In fact, personally, I find it easier when the priest asks “leading” questions because it saves me the effort of having to spill out the beans myself. But maybe I was just lucky to have had sensitive and kind confessors 90% of the time, and i have been given a positive orientation towards confession since childhood: I was always told that the priest will never be shocked or scandalized by whatever we tell him since he knows the stuff that human nature is made of.

    2. …hence the need for proper catechism. We have a tendency to become numb and rationalize sins that we repeatedly do so I believe that the benefit of being asked “number of times” is to make the penitent more aware of sins that he/she commits repeatedly and deters them from committing the same ones again.

  2. The one point you didn’t make is that only Catholics can be absolved of their sins.I find this an immature manifestation of a church that doesn’t understand its own Savior who would forgive anyone who repented. Confession is also a clinical
    response to psychological pain and since everyone of every faith experiances
    this the denial of mental health services based on creed is a flaw in an otherwise
    essential sacrament.

    1. Hi, James! You are correct that Jesus Christ would forgive anyone who repents. However, Christ also established very specific ways by which one would manifest his or her repentance: baptism into the Catholic Church, and for sins committed after baptism, confession. The reason only Catholics can be absolved is that the sacrament of confession was established precisely for the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. I agree with you that it is, indeed, unfortunate that non-Catholics cannot experience the peace that comes from being absolved of one’s sins — just as it is unfortunate that many people would only like to accept the temporal benefits that the Church provides, while wanting to avoid the inconveniences involved in accepting the Church’s teachings. But the Catholic Church does not exist primarily to provide psychological help (although the psychological benefits that come from the sacraments and the personal relationship with God that the Catholic Church facilitates are undeniable). Nor is the Catholic Church the only available source of psychological help on earth. The Catholic Church exists to perpetuate what Christ has established, and because of this, there are certain things She cannot change.

      1. My family and I are safe, but the situation in the affected islands is bad, although it’s slowly getting better. Thanks for your concern.

      2. I think the psychological benefits of confessing is intimately tied up with the spiritual benefits and that is what we call the clearing of one’s conscience. The mind is, after all, a product of the soul.

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