Recently I had a lovely email from a Catholic Weekly reader who paid me the most wonderful compliment. He admitted to me in writing that he hadn’t read my column before taking me to task (mildly) about it.
But his email address didn’t work, so Paul, I’ll reply to you here instead. The guts of Paul’s email was: Why do we really need to go to confession all that often? Surely just going for mortal sins is enough?
He’s right in that I often tell people to go to confession. I am a huge fan of this sacrament. (Can – or should – sacraments have fans? It sounds like sports teams. But that’s a discussion for another time.)
So because it’s the Easter season and the eighth day of creation, here are eight good reasons for frequent confession.
1.Jesus Christ. In this sacrament, you will have a direct personal encounter with Jesus Christ Himself. You’re telling your sins to the Man himself, via some anointed ears. He’s going to breathe the Holy Spirit on you when you receive absolution. You’re going to be spiritually regenerated. It’s like frequent Communion – why would you NOT want to experience this?
2.Humility. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not that great. You need to recognise your sins, weaknesses, petty cruelties, grudge-holding, and other things that lessen your human dignity and the dignity of others. When you start doing this regularly via confession, you will become more humble, and less unpleasant.
3.Healing. You may be already spending a fortune on psychologist’s fees and drugs, but there’s another source of healing you could try. When you show your inner wounds to Jesus in frequent confession, he will pour wine and oil into them. Your wounds are old and very deep, and it will take time for them to heal from the bottom up. Good, honest, humble and frequent confessions can work wonders.
4.Rebuilding. When you confess your sins sacramentally, you are repairing the damage your sins did to the living Body of Christ. Every sin you commit weakens the fabric of the Church. It makes it just that little bit darker, more corrupt, and more likely to give way. If you are keen on Church reform, I would expect you to put your money where your mouth is and hit the confessional at least once a month. Your personal sins have done just as much damage to the Church as the worst clergy sex offender or cocaine cardinal. Offload those sins now.
5.Reconciliation. This sacrament can also bring about healing in your relationships with others. There are no victimless sins. Every sin you commit affects another person, because it poisons your interactions with them – a spouse, a child, a stranger, a neighbour, a parent. Sacramental confession helps to make amends for that, because you’re at least trying to turn off that tap of secret evil that’s corroding your soul in private. It restores you to the land of the living and to greater union with others.
6.Wake up! If you never go to confession, you slide into numbness about your sins. They don’t seem that big a deal any more. This makes it easier to keep committing them and harming yourself and other people. Regular confession of those sins will wake you up, which is what you desperately need.
7.Help. If you are really struggling with compulsive sins – like porn, anger, theft, or any form of self-harming – you need help. We all know it’s hard to find a spiritual director, but there is a short cut. Find a good confessor, have a single session of spiritual direction with him first, and then go to him regularly for confession at the usual times. Identify yourself at the beginning so the priest knows who he’s talking to, and you will get all the help you need. Your confessions won’t be long, but they will be powerful and you’ll have some accountability.
8.Gratitude. Could you show a bit of gratitude to the God who made you out of nothing and saved you by bleeding to death in agony? Really? [smacks forehead] The attitude of gratitude cures depression, repairs marriages, brings love back to life, irradiates the world with light and beauty, and makes everything so much better. Frequent confession should help to revive the long-lost art of you saying ‘thank you’ to God more often than you currently do.
Go to confession as often as you can. You won’t regret it. (And always use a working email address when you write to me!)