A number of fellow Catholics over the years have asked me for advice and encouragement about going to Confession. Few things make me more glad than to share my love and appreciation for this very special Sacrament, and I pray very hard that all Catholics may be drawn to it. At the same time, I also understand that it’s not an easy thing to do. So, especially now that we are in Lent, I would like to offer some encouragement for my brothers and sister who might be having difficulty approaching the Sacrament. (The following is from a letter I wrote to one dear person this evening; but I think it might be applicable and helpful to many people.)
I understand how much trepidation we can experience about going to Confession. It never completely goes away; I still struggle with it occasionally, and I’m sure everybody does. The reason is that the devil wants to prevent us all from going and receiving the tremendous grace, nourishment, and healing of the Sacrament. He will throw every lie and every negative feeling at us in order to stop us, to make us afraid, to make us distrustful and doubtful.
To withstand these difficult things takes God’s grace. Nobody can do it alone. And so, what you should do now and very often is simply ask the Lord for His peace and for the grace to go to Confession. It may be helpful to pray this Act of Contrition–and note especially the part I’ve emphasized:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest my sins because of Thy just punishment, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
Pray that at least once a day, and it won’t be long until you start to feel much more at ease and even eager to go to Confession.
Trust that there are good reasons that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation and made human priests ministers of His mercy. The Sacrament itself provides not only sanctifying grace, but a very special, particular sacramental grace–that of stronger resistance to sin. The priest, as a fellow sinner and fellow penitent, can provide valuable help and guidance. As a fellow human, he can speak those wonderful words of absolution in a voice we can hear.
You certainly have nothing to fear from a confessor. You may think that he will be judgmental or perhaps even outraged at your sins. But he won’t. I’ve heard many priests say that sin is just sin–it’s boring, it’s dull, it’s unimaginative, it’s completely unremarkable. What they find truly remarkable is the courage and humility and faith of the penitents who come to them. And they feel privileged to be able to help and heal and minister to them.
I will just add here what I have told myself and others many times: In the whole universe, there is only one person who benefits from our not going to Confession–and that’s Satan. Don’t give him that benefit!
Also, I welcome anybody to contact me to ask further questions about Confession. I don’t ever get tired of talking about it!