Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” we were told on Ash Wednesday. This is a call to conversion, but not to a one-time conversion. Rather, this is the constant, ongoing conversion that leads us to life in Christ. To repent of sin is straightforward enough: say you’re sorry and stop doing the bad thing. But we know from experience that saying sorry is much easier than not doing the bad thing again. Stopping the sin can feel unsettling. Think of a teenager learning to drive. At first, their foot is heavy on the brake, making every stop a jarring and uncomfortable experience. When we try to stop sinning, especially with sins that are habitual, the stop can rock us. Over time, the young driver learns to stop smoothly. So we also learn to repent of sin more quickly and easily, and the stop becomes less disruptive.
During Lent, the Church encourages the three great spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In addition, the sacrament of Confession ought to play a significant role, at least once, in our observance of the Lenten discipline. You will find guides to Confession, with examinations of conscience at the doors of the church. There are also some excellent Catholic guides for confession available online, and in app form. The times for confessions here at St. Pius and at the parishes of Fairfield and Westport have been shared in the bulletin and on our website. You are invited and encouraged to celebrate this great sacrament!
People often approach confession with some fear and trepidation, which is understandable considering the content of the experience: talking about the things I regret doing most. Will the priest recognize me? Maybe, but if he does, he’s thrilled that you desire God’s mercy. Will the priest think less of me when he hears what I’ve done? Chances are you’ve done nothing he hasn’t heard many times before, and anyway, he’s thrilled that you desire God’s mercy. Will the priest ask questions about what I’ve done? Only as a means to help you confess all the sins you carry on your conscience (and some priests are better at asking clarifying questions or offering guidance than others), but no matter what, he’s thrilled that you desire God’s mercy. Will I shock the priest like in the movies? No, he’s already heard whatever sin you think is most shocking, and besides, he’s thrilled that you desire God’s mercy.
From the priest’s vantage point, these are a few tips that might help your confession be an easier experience.
- Confess your You don’t need to talk about everything your husband/wife/in-law/neighbor/co-worker/friend/enemy has done that bothers you. Confession isn’t about them. It’s about what you want to have forgiven. It’s ok to talk about yourself.
- Confess sins. For example, “I lied to my boss,” or “I used foul language in front of my kids.” Avoid broad general statements like, “I could be nicer to people,” or “I would like to be more patient.” Those aren’t sins, even if they are excellent moral resolutions. In the sacrament of confession, we ask God to forgive the things we have actually done, or the things we have actually failed to do. So we might modify those to say “I was uncharitable and unkind to people x-times,” or “I failed to be patient x-times.”
- Don’t bury the sin. Name it, to the best of your ability, with the proper name.
- Numbers help. How long since your last confession? What sins have you committed? How many times?
- Most importantly, confession on a regular basis is the best practice. The more confession becomes a regular part of your spiritual practice, the easier it is to do. With practice, comes growth in virtue, and with growth in virtue, comes fewer sins to confess, and a deeper appreciation of our need for God’s mercy.