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How to Go to Confession ^ | 07-21-06 | by Fr. William Saunders

Posted on 07/21/2006 7:46:10 AM PDT by Salvation

by Fr. William Saunders

Other Articles by Fr. William Saunders
How to Go to Confession

I admit I have not been to confession in many years and am no longer sure I know how to properly avail myself of the sacrament. Would you please review how one should go to confession?

A person should always begin with a good examination of conscience. We need to hold up our lives to the pattern of life God has revealed for us to live. For instance, we take time to reflect on the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the precepts of the Church and the virtues of prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice.

The examination of conscience is like stepping back and looking at the picture of one's life in comparison to the masterpiece of life revealed by God. Remember when we were children, we used to trace pictures. Tracing helped us learn to draw. We would take a piece of plain paper, hold it over the original picture and then put it up to the window. The light would enable us to trace the original picture onto our blank sheet of paper. Periodically, we had to stop and step back to see if our paper had slipped and was out of kilter with the original or if we had deviated from the lines.

In a similar way, as we live our lives, we are tracing them in accord with God’s pattern of life. In examining our consciences, we step back and honestly assess how well we fit God’s pattern and have stayed within His boundaries. At this time, we reflect on the progress we have made since our last confession in dealing with weaknesses, faults, temptations and past sins. Hopefully, we see improvement in our spiritual well-being.

However, when we have gone out of kilter or gone out of bounds with God’s masterpiece, we have sinned. We must distinguish the venial sins — those lighter sins which weaken our relationship with the Lord — from the mortal sins — those sins which sever our relationship with the Lord and "kill" the presence of sanctifying grace in our souls. Here we remember the words of Jesus, "Everyone who practices evil hates the light; he does not come near it for fear his deeds will be exposed. But he who acts in truth comes into the light, to make clear that his deeds are done in God" (Jn 3:20-21).

Given this examination of conscience, we have contrition for our sins. While we are sorry for sin because we do fear the fires of Hell and the loss of Heaven, and the just punishments of God, we are sorry most of all because our sins offend God whom we should love above all things. The love for God moves us to repent of sin and seek reconciliation.

All of the great saints regularly examined their consciences and made frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance. (Even our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, confessed his sins weekly, as did Mother Teresa.) One must ask, "Why? What sins did these saints possibly commit?" They loved the Lord so much that even the slightest omission or commission moves them to confession. They do not want even the slightest sin to separate them from the love of God. For love of God, we too are sorry for our sins.

Sorrow for sin moves us to have a firm amendment not to sin again. We probably will sin again, but we try not to do so. We do not plan on leaving the confessional and committing the same sins again.

We then confess our sins. When we enter the confessional in most churches, we have the option of remaining anonymous or facing the priest. Whichever option a person chooses, always remember that whatever is said during the confession is held in secret by the priest.

Remember also that we confess to the priest for three reasons: First, the priest has the authority of the Apostles by virtue of his ordination. On the night of the resurrection, Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound" (Jn 20:22-23). The priest is the minister of the sacrament acting in the person of Christ.

Second, he is a spiritual father. Just as we see a doctor for healing when we are physically sick, we see a priest when our souls are sick and need healing.

Third, the priest represents the Church and the people we have sinned against. In the early days of the Church, people publicly confessed sin at the beginning of Mass and were absolved. Much to our relief, for centuries now we have had private confession.

We proceed by making the sign of the Cross and saying, "Bless me father for I have sinned." One could also simply begin, "In the name of the Father...." We should then state when we made our last confession: "It has been (so long) since my last confession."

We then confess our sins. We must be specific. Sometimes people say, "I broke the sixth commandment," which covers everything from a lustful thought to rape and adultery. We do not need to provide the full-blown story, just the basics to enable the priest to help. We need to give some quantification — missing Mass once is different from several times, which is different from all the time. When we are finished confessing our sins, we state, "I am sorry for these and all of my sins." With this information, the priest may counsel us. He also assigns a penance for the healing of the hurt caused by sin and the strengthening of our souls against future temptation. He then asks us to say an act of contrition, which is generally the traditional prayer: "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I detest all of my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen."

Finally, the priest imparts absolution. Ponder the beautiful words: "God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." This formula emphasizes our merciful Heavenly Father, the saving mystery of our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, and the healing ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Church.

The priest then dismisses us, saying, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," to which we respond, "His mercy endures forever." (Many priests may simply say, "May God bless you.") We then leave the confessional to do the assigned penance.

The sacrament of penance is a beautiful sacrament through which we are reconciled to God, ourselves and our neighbors. Remember the words of St. Paul: "God is rich in mercy; because of His great love for us, He brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin" (Eph 2:4).

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

(This article courtesy of the
Arlington Catholic Herald.)

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Current Events; Eastern Religions; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Islam; Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Other non-Christian; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Religion & Science; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; confession; power; reconciliation; sacraments
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To: Miss Marple
I try and do an examination of consience everynight. It really does help.
21 posted on 07/21/2006 10:41:26 AM PDT by Theoden (Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum europe vincendarum)
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To: freedumb2003
3 --I feel like I should go to Confession

That is actual grace working on you. When you stop feeling this is when you should really worry.

22 posted on 07/21/2006 10:44:55 AM PDT by murphE (These are days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed but his own. --G.K. Chesterton)
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To: Miss Marple
As far as confession goes, you very often do, end up confessing the same thing, over and over. At least that is how it works for me. No need to get depressed about this, however. For it leads to a very beautiful fruit (eventually); humility and a realization of the infinite mercy of God.

Every time I kneel before the priest I find myself thinking..."didn't you just confess that the last time you were here, you hopeless twit?" Oh well......try again. A couple of weeks later I'll probably be back with the same sorry laundry list.

God is patient with us. Very patient.

23 posted on 07/21/2006 11:15:52 AM PDT by marshmallow
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To: Nihil Obstat

Bump to confession.

Just reading our Catechism lesson book chapters over the summer has brought things to my mind I was not even aware of.

24 posted on 07/21/2006 12:09:47 PM PDT by Global2010 (Show me da paw Ya'll)
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To: Salvation
Lesson 20: Confession (Part 2) BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER
Lesson 19: Confession (Part 1) BY FATHER ALTIER

Reasons for Confession [Sacrament of Reconciliation]

The Sin Box: Why have Catholics stopped lining up at the confessional?

Archbishop Sheen Today! -- Frequent Confession (Part One)

Archbishop Sheen Today! -- Fountain of mercy

Some reflections on Confession

Anonymity in the Confessional - And More on the Rite of Washing of the Feet

Mercy: Love's Response (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Make a Good Confession

How to be a Catholic

Catholic confession has evolved over time

25 posted on 07/21/2006 1:34:38 PM PDT by Coleus (I Support Research using the Ethical, Effective and Moral use of stem cells: non-embryonic "adult")
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To: Miss Marple

Congratulations on becoming a Catholic!!!

26 posted on 07/21/2006 2:02:56 PM PDT by Suzy Quzy ("When Cabals Go Kaboom"....upcoming book on Mary McCarthy's Coup-Plotters.)
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To: Miss Marple

Loved what you wrote. It gave me a grin a mile wide. Thanks.

Your post serves as a beautiful witness to the powerful grace delivered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I pray that it inspires and encourages those Catholics who've fallen away from the Sacrament to return to the confessional.

Thank God for converts like yourself who serve to invigorate and strengthen the faith of all of us members of the Body of Christ.

Welcome Home, Miss Marple. Welcome Home!

27 posted on 07/21/2006 5:00:13 PM PDT by AHerald ("For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened." Mk 6:52)
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To: freedumb2003

Why don't you make an appointment to go in and talk to a priest about your feelings.

I'm afraid Catholic Schools were "off-base" when harping (pardon the pun) on guilt.

God loves everyone -- including you!

I would encourage you to look at your guilt through the lens of realistic guilt and unrealistic guilt.

I used to blame myself for my husband's death from smoking, for example. But the facts are that he chose to smoke since he was 12 years old until the day he died.

Pressures from me, the financial stresses of owning a business, having five children, etc., etc. had nothing to do with his death. He chose to smoke.

I have been able to give the guilt I carried for years back to him, because it was unrealistic guilt. If you want to talk some more about this..................please FReepmail me.

Remember -- God is love -- not guilt.

28 posted on 07/21/2006 7:32:35 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: ichabod1

**and now I WANT to go**

If only we could all feel like this! God bless you.

29 posted on 07/21/2006 7:33:32 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: ichabod1; freedumb2003

**Come'on home.**


All former Catholics are always welcome to return to the Catholic Church. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is waiting for you in the Holy Eucharist!

30 posted on 07/21/2006 7:35:10 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Miss Marple

**I now try to go at least once a month.**

The more often we take advantage of the awesome Sacrament of Reconciliation, the closer we are drawn to Jesus Christ.

I think setting a regular schedule and sticking to it is the key. For example -- we are having a heatwave in Oregon, and I really don't want to go to Confession.............but my timeline is here, so I will go this Saturday evening.

31 posted on 07/21/2006 7:37:52 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: mware

Gladly! You have a FReepmail.

32 posted on 07/21/2006 7:39:05 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Theoden

Good practice!

33 posted on 07/21/2006 7:40:40 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Global2010

If you were not aware of them at that time -- then you can talk to the priest about them, but I doubt that they are sins. You have to consent to doing something willfully for it to be a sin.

34 posted on 07/21/2006 7:42:40 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Coleus

You have some excellent links there. Thanks.

35 posted on 07/21/2006 7:43:35 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: COBOL2Java
I always prefer traditional (but I'm slowly morphing into the "old fart" category)... :-)

Some of us "not so old farts" prefer the traditional partition and kneeler too!" ;o)

36 posted on 07/21/2006 9:05:58 PM PDT by kstewskis (Hey La Raza and illegals....IDENTITY THEFT IS NOT A VICTIMLESS CRIME!!)
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To: al_c
Thanks for posting this. I'm leaving in about an hour to go take advantage of this blessed sacrament. Now I have some material to help me in my examination.

3 our fathers and 5 hail marys should do it. :-)

What you up to man?

37 posted on 07/21/2006 9:23:15 PM PDT by Invincibly Ignorant
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To: Salvation

Bless me father for I have sinned, my last confession was when I was 13. I've browsed the Jack Chick website, I ready "Foxes book of Martyrs" and I'm considering freemasonry. Take it easy on me. :-)

38 posted on 07/21/2006 9:26:39 PM PDT by Invincibly Ignorant
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To: Salvation

How to go to confession? Well, if you live in Boise, Idaho, first you hire a really good private detective to tell you when and where you might be able to ambush a priest. Then, having sprung your ambush, you put a gun to the priest's head and march him to a confessional.

Careful he doesn't get away. That would be a real disappointment, after having gone to so much time and expense to find a priest in the first place.

Of course, all that is only theory. There's no guarantee that the best private detective in the country would be able to locate a Boise priest during the time span from 30 seconds after his once-weekly mass until 30 seconds before the next one.

Crikey, what a diocese. I expect to die in Boise, so I guess I'll die without the last rites. I'm sure not counting on any of these modernist clowns to show up.

39 posted on 07/21/2006 11:00:47 PM PDT by dsc
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To: Theoden
I used to to go "through the screen" although the confessional has both ways. I prayed for the strength to go face to face and the Lord gave me the strength. I discovered it was pride on my side as I am active in Church and I am known and wondered what the priests would think.

I have discovered that the priest upon completion of your confession cannot remember what your sins were especially when someone pops right in after you. It is strange but I believe it is God given.
40 posted on 07/21/2006 11:45:04 PM PDT by franky (Pray for the souls of the faithful departed.)
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