Lent is a wonderful time to experience the healing, freedom and peace that God offers through the sacrament of reconciliation. But if it’s been a while since you’ve been to confession (or even if it hasn’t), you may be nervous about going back. Here are some points to help.
Make time: We’re all busy, so it’s important to schedule time for your confession. Check the schedule at a nearby parish, or call to make an appointment. Some parishes also offer Lenten penance services.
Find a good examination of conscience: There are plenty of these online (and in apps), and you can bring one with you if you want.
Be comfortable: Most parishes offer the sacrament face-to-face or anonymously behind a screen. Either is fine.
Be not afraid: Fear is a sign we do not trust God. Remember that everything confessed remains under a sacred seal of confidentiality and can never be shared. The priest is there to celebrate God’s merciful healing — not judgment, vengeance, shame or punishment. Fear of confession is always from the evil one, who is trying to keep you from God’s healing love. Don’t give in to fear!
Ask for help: The priest will be happy to guide you if you don’t know what to say or do.
Be honest: Don’t hide any sins. Your experience of confession will be profoundly powerful to the extent you honestly acknowledge your sins.
Trust God's mercy: Sometimes we believe we’ve done something so bad that God won’t forgive us. That’s another lie from the evil one. God’s mercy is always greater than our sin.
Be contrite: Acknowledge your sorrow for past sins and express your desire to be free of sin in the future. The act of contrition is a prayer that will help you to express this sorrow during confession. There are various versions of this prayer that you can find online and bring with you.
Fulfill your penance: Most penances are quite easy to complete and are meant to be symbolic expressions of our desire to be reconciled to God and neighbor.
Offer thanksgiving: God’s forgiveness is a grace we do not deserve and cannot earn. Take time to praise God for his merciful love
Make a change: Think about how you can amend your life to avoid occasions of sin.
Come back regularly: Confession is not a one-time fix. Seeking forgiveness is an ongoing process of growth in spiritual health. Confession offers us the grace we need to grow in virtue and avoid sin. Frequent confession is especially helpful in breaking addictive cycles of sin.
Go forth in freedom: The evil one tries to trap us in guilt or shame for sins that have already been forgiven. Instead, remember God’s mercy and choose to move on in peace and freedom as a forgiven child of God.
Source: Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg
Northwest Catholic - March 2020