Best Ways to Bare Your Soul

'How do I go to confession?' and other member questions answered by Beliefnet staff and contributors.

 
Have a question about religion, or about how to act at a religious ceremony? Send mail to columnists@staff.beliefnet.com.

I am Jewish and my mother passed away a year ago. We are having the unveiling soon. What would be the proper attire for me to wear at the unveiling? I am a woman.

An unveiling is a Jewish graveside service dedicating the headstone at the grave of a loved one, and usually takes place about a year after burial. While there are no hard and fast rules for unveiling attire, keep in mind two factors: the solemnity of the event, and the fact that it is held outside. While an unveiling is not generally as sad or solemn as the funeral itself, it is the last formal service commemorating the death of a loved one, and the attendees' attire should reflect that. At the same time, it is held graveside, so it is not inappropriate for those in attendance to take the weather into account when choosing an outfit for the day.

I want to go to confession. How do you do it?

Whoa there, pardner. First of all, let's look at what's bothering you. If you feel conscious of a grave wrongdoing and want to get it off your chest, there are various things you can do, only one of which would be to receive the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) at a church.

If you're simply upset or worried about something you've done, think carefully about how that action has impacted you spiritually. Do you feel that what you've done has alienated you from others and from God (or had a negative effect on your spiritual life)? If you answer "no," or think that your action stems from deep-rooted relationship problems, you might consider counseling. Ask someone you trust for the name of a good psychotherapist or psychiatrist.

If you feel pretty sure that what's weighing on you constitutes a sin, and if you are part of a church or other house of worship, you might consider making an appointment with the congregation's leader. If you're not comfortable with that option or don't belong to a house of worship, try calling 1-800-225-5603 or going to

http://www.aapc.org/centers.htm

to find a pastoral counselor near you (more about

pastoral counselors

).

Whichever you choose, you can talk over your actions and perhaps work out a way to make amends to someone you've hurt and repair your relationship with God and others. If you end up talking with someone at a Christian church, the minister may or may not carry on the process as confession. In some churches, confession is a sacrament and may have formal rules; in others, talking about your failings is a more casual conversation.

If you definitely want to confess and receive absolution from a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian priest, who is bound by the seal of the confessional not to share what you say with anyone, you'll first need to become a Catholic or Episcopalian. In most cases, this process takes at least a year.

Obviously, changing your religion is a big step and involves a lot more than getting the, um, "perk" of confession. If you're just curious about what goes on in those mysterious boxes at the back of Catholic churches, here's a

step-by-step guide

about what happens during confession.

Finally, if the action you've committed constitutes a crime and you talk to someone about it, be aware that--with the exception of priests bound by the confessional seal--most ministers may be required to report crimes to the authorities.

It's much more likely that you've done something minor that you're not proud of, as all of us do. Good luck to you as you make your peace with those around you and with God.

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