St Francis Q&A

Monday, August 06, 2007

Regular confession = soul cleaning

Anon wrote, “’Regular’ confession is something I don't understand. What is regular? If I were to go to confession each time I succumb to my weaknesses, especially at this particular point in my life, our priests would be practically cloistered. I do examine my conscience regularly, and I do work on improving in my areas of weakness- the things that lead me to sin (acting out of anger, fear and doubt). Mostly my sins regard negative thoughts and lack of forgiveness as well as other things I believe would be considered venial. So given that as the case- how often should one go to confession? I'd also like some suggestions on how to make a ‘better’ confession- upon entering the confessional, I blather.”

Below is an exquisite reflection by Pope Benedict XVI about regular confession. When we talk about making a ‘regular confession’, it’s like talking about doing a regular cleaning in your home, as the Pope writes. It’s something that one does on a regular basis; a habit. Confession, as we and the Holy Father have said, is primarily for mortal sins. So, it should be that every time you (and anyone) succumb to weaknesses of a grave nature, you need to go to Confession. But, with venial sins, it doesn’t have to be every time they happen; we would all do nothing else except sin and confess, sin and confess, sin and confess…24/7!

The Pope writes below that regular confession helps a person to grow spiritually and personally. I have seen that very clearly and abundantly in my own life and in the lives of others. I don’t know of anyone who makes a regular confession who is not happy. In other words, going to confession with regularity (I recommend once a month) helps a person to grow in happiness because he / she is growing in freedom. By God’s Grace and through a sometimes slow process, the person begins to break free of the chains of sin and experience true freedom. Regular confession helps us stay close to God which is what makes us happy.

Regarding how to make a better confession, I recommend a daily examination of conscience. How does one make a good examination? There are good EoCs out there (I posted one on here last year) that walk you through the Ten Commandments in a very critical way. Also, reviewing the seven deadly sins and the beatitudes can help to know in what areas you’ve sinned. Some people write down their sins when they go to confession; most can recall their sins. It’s like giving a speech or a performance: if you’ve practiced and rehearsed it, you’ll be much less nervous and do a much better job. A regular examination of conscience is great practice for making a good confession.

Finally, when we go to confession with regularity, we may not see much change month to month. But, I guarantee, your confessions in five years will be drastically different than now. Grace is in the sacrament, and it works!!

“It is true: Our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our rooms, at least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to live in cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be seen, but it builds up.

Something similar can be said about the soul, for me myself: If I never go to confession, my soul is neglected and in the end I am always pleased with myself and no longer understand that I must always work hard to improve, that I must make progress. And this cleansing of the soul that Jesus gives us in the sacrament of confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open, and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons. Therefore, two things: Confession is only necessary in the case of a serious sin, but it is very helpful to confess regularly in order to foster the cleanliness and beauty of the soul and to mature day by day in life.”


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