Maybe you think you have sinned too much and your life is too messed up for God to be able to straighten it out through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Maybe you think your sins are so awful or so embarrassing that you will shock the priest and that he will look at you weirdly in the future.
Maybe you are afraid to face your sins and so have taught yourself to think that you don’t really need the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Maybe you don’t remember how to go to Confession or what to say and so you are afraid to receive this Sacrament.
None of these are legitimate reasons to avoid the great Gift the Father desires to give you! This post will explain why these fears should not prevent you from basking in the Love that the Father greatly desires to pour out on you! Once you have allowed Jesus to remove the obstacles of your sins through Confession you will receive an amazing Gift worth more than millions and millions of diamonds. And although this Gift cost Jesus all His Blood—it comes to you for free.
For Those Who Think They Are Beyond God’s Infinite Mercy:
In Confession it is Jesus Who through the priest forgives our sins. In 1944 Our Lady appeared to Claude Newman, a black prisoner in Mississippi on death row. Following her advice he requested that a priest catechize him. When they came to discuss the Sacrament of Reconciliation Claude said Our Lady had already taught him about it:
The Lady told me that when we go to confession we are kneeling down not before a priest, but we’re kneeling down by the Cross of Her Son. And that when we are truly sorry for our sins, and we confess our sins, the Blood He shed flows down over us and washes us free from all sins…..You should not be afraid to go to confession. You’re really telling God your sins, not this priest, or any priest. We’re telling God our sins. You know, the Lady said [that Confession is] something like a telephone. We talk through the priest to God and God talks back to us through the priest.
Jesus forgives our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God’s Mercy is Infinite. There is no sin that is too great for God to forgive and He desires that every person will decide to receive His Mercy and be saved. No matter what you have done you are always the Father’s beloved son or daughter. The devil will try to make you think that you have sinned too much to be forgiven, but Jesus explained to St. Faustina that for souls who approach Him humbly in the Sacrament of Confession there is no limit to His Mercy:
When you approach the confessional, know this, that I am the One who is waiting for you there. I am only hidden by the priest, but it is I who act in your soul. Here the wretchedness of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that it is only with the vessel of trust that souls draw graces from this font of mercy. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. My grace pours over humble souls in torrents. The proud remain always poor and wretched, because My grace turns away from them in favor of humble souls.
For Those Who Think Their Sins Are Too Embarrassing To Confess:
A priest is never permitted to tell or even refer to what a specific person has told him in Confession; he cannot even discuss this with a fellow priest. This is referred to as the Seal of Confession. Some priests, such as St. John Nepomuk, have died rather than break the seal of confession. In 1393 St. John was tortured and drowned for refusing to disclose to the King of Bohemia what the Queen had confessed.
Priests have heard every kind of sin. They understand human weakness and they are not shocked by any form of human sin or depravity. On the contrary, they are filled with joy to be able to be ministers of God’s precious Mercy. Jesus tells us that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10); I’m sure that priests experience this joy every time they participate in the great miracle of bringing a soul back to life through the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A priest’s memory is not focused on the sins you have confessed but on God’s amazing Mercy towards you! St. Augustine considered the restoration of a soul through Confession to be a greater miracle than God’s creation of the universe!
For Those Afraid to Face Their Sins Who Consider Confession Unnecessary:
It is Jesus Himself Who on Easter Sunday night bestowed the gift of this Sacrament on the Church: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23).
We are all sinners in need of God’s continuing Mercy! If we refuse to acknowledge this we are not hiding from God but only from ourselves. When a shaft of sunlight comes into a room all the dust that is in the air appears; if the shade is drawn the dust remains but becomes invisible. We need to beg God the Holy Spirit to enlighten our innermost selves so that we can see with clarity what obstacles are preventing us from achieving the unique and joyful missions we have been created to achieve and enjoy. Then we need to ask Him for the grace to make a good and complete confession of all of our sins. There is a very great joy waiting for us once we have cleared our souls of the obstacles that prevent God from expressing His Infinite Love to us!
As Jesus explained to St. Faustina:
Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of ] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late.
For Those Who Are Afraid They Won’t Remember What To Say Or Do
It is important to remember that humbly confessing his/her sins and requesting forgiveness of them is really the only essential role that the penitent has in the Sacrament of Confession. If you don’t remember the exact words you were taught, then use your own words. It is even possible that you have been baptized, confirmed, and made your First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church but you have never (or maybe only once) received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If so, you are like a child on Christmas morning who has not yet opened one of his/her most beautiful gifts! Here is a simple refresher on how to go to Confession:
How to go to Confession
(This Sacrament is also sometimes called Reconciliation or Penance).
- Pray to God the Holy Spirit for the gift to know your sins and to confess them honestly.
- Examine your conscience. This means to review your life since your last confession to see how you have sinned either by what you have done or by what you have failed to do.
- When it is your turn for Confession, go into the confessional and either kneel by the screen or sit in the chair facing the priest.
- Father may greet you. Then you say, “Bless me, Father. I confess to Almighty God and to you, Father, that I have sinned. It has been (say about how long since your last confession) since I went to confession.
- Confess your sins to the priest. It is necessary to confess every mortal sin and not to hide anything out of shame. You should also try to confess your venial sins. (A mortal sin is one that is serious, that you knew was serious, and that you did anyway).
- After saying your sins say, “For these and all the sins of my past life, I am sorry.” The priest will then speak to you briefly and will assign a penance to you. He will then ask you to pray an act of contrition. If you don’t know this prayer by heart you can make up a prayer telling God you are sorry for your sins.
An Act of Contrition
Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins because of your just punishments but most of all because they offend You, my God, Who are all Good and deserving of all of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Your grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.
- The priest will then pray the prayer of absolution. At the end when he says, “I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” you make the Sign of the Cross. The priest may then bless you and you leave the confessional.
Prayer of Absolution
“God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of His Son,
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.
Through the ministry of the Church,
may God give you pardon and peace
and I absolve you from all your sins,
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
- If your penance was to pray certain prayers, it is good to pray them right after your confession. It is good to take time to thank God for the gift of His Infinite Mercy and loving kindness.
An Examination of Conscience
God gave the Commandments to Moses about 1440 BC. Thinking about each of the Ten Commandments is one way to examine your conscience. Many other examinations of conscience are readily available online or in books but here is one that may help you:
First Commandment —I am the Lord your God, you shall not have strange gods before me.
Have I put God first in my life through daily prayer, reading the Bible, attentiveness to His Presence, reception of the Sacraments, etc.?
Do I pray daily to the Holy Spirit and ask for His guidance?
Do I have false gods in my life that I give greater attention than to God – such as work, fame, money, pleasure?
Do I deny my belief in God as a result of family or peer pressure?
Do I follow any occult practices such as: – fortune tellers, tarot cards, yoga, Reike, astrology, etc.?
Have I held any heretical beliefs such as reincarnation?
Second Commandment– You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Have I hallowed God’s name by praising and thanking Him?
Do I take God’s name carelessly or uselessly?
Do I curse or blaspheme or insult God?
Have I shown contempt for sacred religious places and people?
Have I made fun of holy things?
Have I received Holy Communion while in mortal sin?
Third Commandment–Remember to Keep Holy the Sabbath Day.
Have I tried to make Sundays special by putting aside the busyness of daily activities to spend the day praising and loving God and appreciating the gifts of life and family?
Did I miss Mass on Sunday or on a Holy Day of Obligation through my own fault? (Because of the Infinite value of each Mass, deliberately missing Mass is considered to be a mortal sin).
Do I deliberately allow my mind to wander at Mass?
Do I come to Mass late or leave Mass early through my own negligence?
Do I do unnecessary shopping and work on Sunday?
Fourth Commandment–Honor Your Father and Mother.
Do I love the Heavenly Father and appreciate the order He has put into the universe?
Do I love the Blessed Mother given to us by Jesus as He was dying on the Cross?
Do I respect authority?
Do I obey and honor my father and mother?
Have I forgiven my father or mother for offenses against me?
Have I asked forgiveness of my father or mother for offenses I have committed against them?
Did I neglect my duties to my parents, teachers, or those who have authority over me?
Have I failed to show love for my brothers and sisters?
Have I failed to cheerfully help my family with daily tasks?
If a parent have I treated my children with love and respect and set just limits on their behavior?
Fifth Commandment–You Shall Not Kill.
Do I treat every other person as I would treat Jesus Himself?
Have I killed or physically injured anyone on purpose?
Have I had an abortion or helped anyone to procure one? Have I voted for politicians who promote abortion?
Have I used contraceptives? In particular have I used contraceptives which may act as abortifacients such as the pill, IUD, etc.?
Did I think hateful thoughts about myself or attempt to hurt myself? Have I not taken care of my body?
Have I attempted suicide or done some other grave injury to myself?
Did I say hateful, vulgar, or mean things to another person?
Have I hurt other peoples’ hearts by the things that I have said to them or about them?
Have I refused to forgive someone who has injured me?
Have I asked forgiveness of those whom I have injured?
Have I injured someone’s spirit by mockery or gossip?
Have I endangered others by taking risks or daring them to do something dangerous?
Sixth Commandment–You Shall Not Commit Adultery.
Have I thanked God for the great gift of being created male or female in His image and being called through my sexuality to express self-giving love in creative ways?
Have I respected my body and the bodies of others as Temples of the Holy Spirit?
Did I commit impure acts with myself or with others?
Have I deliberately sexually aroused myself or another person to whom I was not married?
Did I deliberately look at or read pornography, whether in print, on the internet or movies?
Have I used contraceptives or been deliberately sterilized? (To deliberately separate the procreative from the unitive meaning of the sexual act degrades the persons into objects to be used for pleasure rather than subjects deserving to give and receive the entire self-gift of their husband/wife).
Did I tell jokes or listen to music that disrespects the holiness of sexuality?
Have I committed homosexual acts or condoned others committing them?
Have I thanked God for the gift of marriage and prayed for my future spouse if God is calling me to marriage?
If married have I committed adultery?
Have I entered into a second marriage while my previous spouse is still living and the first marriage is not annulled?
Seventh Commandment–You Shall Not Steal.
Have I appreciated and thanked God for the possessions that I have?
Have I prayed to know what talents God has given me and have I used them for His Glory?
Did I steal or cheat or keep stolen goods? Have I made restitution for stolen goods?
Do I waste time at work, school or at home?
Have I prayed to the Holy Spirit to ask Him how He wants me to spend my time?
Eighth Commandment–You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor.
Have I used the gift of speech to bring love and grace to my hearers?
Do I lie to my spouse, children, parents, family, friends, or others?
Do I deliberately deceive others by lies?
Do I gossip about other people’s faults and sins?
Have I failed to keep secret what should be confidential?
Ninth Commandment–You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Wife.
Have I tried to fill my mind with loving, peaceful thoughts inspired by Sacred Scripture?
Have I purposely thought impure thoughts about others and kept them in my mind?
Do I thank God for other people or do I view them as objects to be used for my own benefit?
Tenth Commandment–You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Goods.
Have I appreciated my neighbors’ talents and how God has blessed them in various ways?
Did I get angry, envious, impatient, revengeful, jealous or hateful toward another person?
Am I jealous of other things people have that I don’t have, or jealous of abilities they have that I don’t have? Am I resentful of what others have in their lives?
Do I thank God every day for my blessings?
Am I grateful or do I complain or whine?
Please remember that God’s Mercy endures forever! He always wants to forgive us and take us back into his Love! St. Thomas Aquinas said that God is offended by us only when we act against our own good. The whole reason God wants us to make use of the Sacrament of Confession is so that He can more abundantly bestow His grace, life, and love upon us!
Our Heavenly Father is waiting to embrace you like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son waited every day for his son and ran to meet him when he finally saw him coming (cf. Lk 15:11-32). Please don’t keep Him waiting any longer!
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.