This week our 2nd graders will be celebrating their First Reconciliation. As we see them taking this important step in their lives, hopefully it makes us consider being open to the grace of this sacrament ourselves. At one time the sacrament was a weekly practice for many before they would receive the Eucharist each week, but today many Catholics would be hard-pressed to tell you how many years it has been since they celebrated the sacrament of Confession.
There are various reasons why it may have been a long time since someone has gone to Confession and I will try to answer some of them: I don’t have any mortal sins: Great. But we don’t need to have a mortal sin to need forgiving and to benefit from the grace God offers in this sacrament. If we are not open to that grace now it can only make it easier to fall into mortal sin and be harder to be open to the sacrament then.
I know I’m just going to do the same sins again: We might, and for some of the sins we probably will. But if we do not take the time to recognize and admit that they are sins, to realize we need forgiveness for them, and to ask for God’s help those vices that led us to these sins will only grow, instead of being open to God’s help to develop our virtues and eventually overcome those temptations.
It’s been so long I forgot what I’m supposed to say: It is easiest just to start out saying “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been ______months/years since my last confession.” You confess your sins and the priest will talk to you and give you a penance. Then you pray an act of contrition. You can use your own words or use a standard prayer such as “My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.” (this or a similar act of contrition is also available on cards in most confessionals) The priest will then give you the blessing of absolution.
God doesn’t need me to confess to a priest for my sins to be forgiven: Correct, God can do anything. But God gave us the Church and the sacraments as means to be open and cooperate with his grace. If we believe in God and the Church, then we should try to cooperate with Him.
As a priest, it is an incredible blessing to be able to minister the sacrament of Confession. Hearing people’s struggles in their lives who are truly sorry for their sins and striving to grow in their faith and their closeness to God is encouraging for me to see in those around me and to know that with God’s help, I can also overcome temptations in my life. Our Confession schedules here at St. Joseph’s are Monday-Friday at 11:15-11:50 am and on Saturday 4:00-4:45 pm and most other parishes are also available for Confessions on Saturday evenings. As we prepare for Christ’s coming, what better way than to celebrate this sacrament.