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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Notes from a Friar: Five Reasons to Go to Confession

The sacrament of reconciliation is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Pope Francis has told us not to be afraid or ashamed to go to confession. You will not “encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father.”

One of my greatest joys as a priest is to be an instrument of God’s mercy to people in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Some people tell me they leave freer and with a lighter heart after hearing, “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.” I’m surprised more people don’t use the opportunity for forgiveness and grace.

I hope they don’t stay away because of memories of harsh confessors or dark, scary confessionals. Reconciliation rooms I know today have priests who are welcoming and kind.

Pope Francis has told us often not to be afraid or ashamed to go to confession. You will not “encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father. When we go to confession, we feel a bit ashamed. That happens to all of us, but we must remember this shame is a grace that prepares us for the embrace of the Father, who always forgives and always forgives everything.”

We know that confession is not the only way our sins are forgiven. When we are truly contrite and ask, God is ready to forgive. Every Mass begins with the whole community asking for forgiveness.


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Then why go to confession? I can list five reasons why I go.

1. I meet Jesus there. In the words of Pope Francis, again, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth….” After his resurrection and ascension, the risen Jesus works through the Church. In the Sacrament of Penance, Jesus acts through the visible priest who is empowered to forgive sins in his name.

2. My examination of conscience serves as a reality check on whether I am being honest with myself and with God, and taking responsibility for my actions.

3. I profit from the objectivity and advice of the priest.

4. The Seal of Confession gives me the absolute assurance that what I say will not be repeated to anyone else.

5. “The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being,” Pope St. John Paul II said. As a priest, I have been hearing confessions for over 50 years. Before I was ordained, I remember a priest-teacher telling me, “You will realize many people are much holier than you are.” I find that is very true. Only mortal sins need to be confessed, but the Church recommends confessing “everyday faults” (venial sins) like envy, pride, or impatience. Doing so helps form our conscience and alerts us to harmful tendencies. Both saints and sinners profit from the sacrament.

As a confessor, I respect the conscience of those confessing. Even if people are struggling with sin, I tell them that God sees their good will and walks with them in their struggle.

St. Augustine said, “Whoever confesses his sin is already working with God.” The penitents’ focus is their sins. My focus is God’s love and mercy. To use the metaphor of Pope Francis, the Church is like a field hospital. Spiritual wounds are cared for—for those willing to come.



Comments

Fr Carmen Scuderi OFM
Mon, 05/09/2022 - 10:50 AM
Fr Carmen Scuderi OFM
Well Said, Fr. Jeremy! As a fellow Friar-priest and confessor I well resonate with your words and appreciate your sage advice. It is a great Grace, both for the penitent and also the priest. What a tremendous privilege and gift to be the tool that God uses to relieve people of the burden and free them from the bondage that is sin itself. What a consolation for me to take advantage of this gift of forgiveness in my own life and experience the love that is God again in my life. Would there were more to take advantage of this Great Gift. Thank you !
Catherine Miller
Mon, 05/09/2022 - 04:53 PM
Catherine Miller
Every confession I've ever made has been with a VERY kind, Understanding priest, no matter my age or whatever parish. That in itself is amazing...and I believe spiritually influenced answers come to the Padre's. Certainly, they are definitely giving/communicating/sharing a sacremental blessing. The penance they give has always been kind and fruitful for me. Confession is a real blessing. But, for whatever reason, it has had, during my 7 decades, a lousy PR department, and people see it as uncomfortable and strict. It's quite the opposite. I'm a better person and much relief has come to me thru the sacrement of confession. Maybe the church needs to put cards in the pews educating us about confession. How much is gained, weight lifted etc. They all have cards in many parishes,( I've traveled a lot for work), praying for calls to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life. Perhaps we need a prayer or education card about reconciliation. It truly is a very real blessing from very real, wonderful pastors. Thank you Father's! Don't be dismayed. It's a true and Holy gift you've been given. It's just likeky that the laity needs a sweet educational nudge. Plus, old egg head, satan, wants us kept in bondage, with ignorance of the beauty of the confessional. So, Father's, please don't be dismayed. "All things are possible with God..."

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