For many of us, time flies when we’re not going to confession. The years and our excuses can start to pile up. Soon, that pile becomes a wall between us and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we add our fears to the top of that pile, it might even look insurmountable.
But it’s not. Sometimes, all it takes to get over it and into a church confessional is a better understanding of what the Sacrament is all about. Here are seven things you may not know about going to confession.
1. We’re Confessing to Jesus:
St. Faustina, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy,” had visions of Jesus speaking to her. The nun recorded them in her diary. She wrote that Jesus said to her “Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls.”
2. We Can Find the Miracle of Divine Mercy:
In that same diary in which she recorded her visions, St. Faustina also wrote that Jesus said “Write, speak of My mercy. Tell souls where they are to look for solace, that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. 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 souls 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.”
3. We Receive Amazing Grace:
In the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” that mercy is compared to the grace that Jesus told of in His parable of the prodigal son. The document states “The fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure, worthy and joyful - of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.”
4. Confessing Faults Builds Our Conscience:
In the same document, it’s written that confessing our faults – in addition to our mortal sins – helps us as well. It states “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful.”
5. The Absolution Sums Up the Sacrament:
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” further states “The formula of absolution used in the Latin Church expresses the essential elements of this sacrament: the Father of mercies is the source of all forgiveness. He effects the reconciliation of sinners through the Passover of his Son and the gift of his Spirit, through the prayer and ministry of the Church:
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and the 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 your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
6. It Makes a New Future Possible:
According to the same document, going to confession also helps us to make a fresh start. It states “The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.”
7. It Heals the Soul:
In February 2014, Pope Francis addressed a crowd at St. Peter’s Square. He said “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Sacrament of healing. When I go to confession, it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and to be healed of some wrongdoing.”
He later added “I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked for, is asked of another, and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our own efforts but rather a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the wellspring of mercy and of grace that flows unceasingly from the open heart of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Secondly, it reminds us that we can truly be at peace only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in the Lord Jesus, with the Father and with the brethren. And we have all felt this in our hearts, when we have gone to confession with a soul weighed down and with a little sadness; and when we receive Jesus’ forgiveness we feel at peace, with that peace of soul which is so beautiful, and which only Jesus can give, only Him.”
In that same speech, Pope Francis gave the crowd more encouraging words. Those words might help us tear down the walls we’ve built and go to confession. The pontiff said “Everyone count, everyone say ‘when was the last time I went to confession?’ And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go; the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you; he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!”