Confession? Why, Yes Please!


Sitting in a bar the other night I mentioned to my close friend, Scott that I was going to start seeing a Catholic priest for confession. As a Mennonite and one who believes strongly in the priesthood of all believers, Scott’s immediate response was a quizzical look followed with, ‘Why don’t you just confess to us?” I tried to briefly explain amidst the clinking beer bottles and overhead music, that it wasn’t so much about my not feeling I could share my garden-variety transgressions with my community but that I was genuinely drawn to the traditional spiritual practice of confession. I’m not yet convinced a priest can offer me more “effective” absolution than my fellow struggling companions following The Way. But I do still have enough of my cradle- Catholic tendencies to want to try formally meeting with a confessor. Yes, I’m a cradle catholic who has never been to confession. That’s a story for another day.

The point for now is that for the past several months I have found myself thinking more and more about practicing confession. I am not exactly sure what I hope to get out of embracing this practice. I just know that once I began to think about it the invitation seemed to grow louder. I imagine that like all spiritual disciplines, at its core, the practice of confession holds more gift than sacrifice. I know the new term is “reconciliation” but I can’t get used to that. There is something humbling and transparent about the word “confession.” It connotes a distinct posture in my mind, one that suggests a willing humility and powerlessness before God. In the myriad of ways in which we hurt one another and ourselves at the center of our violence is movement away from God, from the one who invites us to love because we first have been loved. So even though I recognize the importance of confession and repentance within our communities I of late have been compelled to think about holy confession before God.

Maybe it’s because I have spent the last year and a half training to be a spiritual director in the Ignatian understanding of spirituality. I have become even more sensitive to the transformative power of habituating oneself in traditional ancient spiritual disciplines. Confession seems to be one of those practices that religious and spiritual people easily do away with as antiquated and unnecessary, and yet, culturally we live in a ubiquitously confessional society. Politics, reality TV, and celebrity news offer public outlets to “get things off our chest,” without creating genuine communal contexts for people to “repentant and turn around.”  Confession is not about “finally bearing our secret shames.” It is not about unloading our guilt, or working to be better individuals. I think confession is primarily about remembering our identity as forgiven and reconciled children of God. And it can be a powerful way of immersing ourselves back into the story that claims us above all other stories.

I see my confessor for the first time next week. Honestly, I am both apprehensive and eager. Certainly, I can think of a fistful of mildly deplorable sins by which to initially ease into things. I just have this sense that if I go into this expecting to meet with God then God might actually show up. And that’s probably what throws me off kilter the most.


  • DS

    How can confession be “primarily about remembering our identity as forgiven and reconciled children of God” when the act of confession is seeking that very forgiveness and reconciliation? For Catholics, confession is a sacrament–a conferral of grace through reconciliation–not a symbol. Sin is real, as is God’s justice.

    • enumaokoro

      Thank for engaging this piece DS. I think confession is about remembering our identity because we are ALREADY forgiven and reconciled children of God. When we practice confession and seek that forgiveness and reconciliation anew from God and others we harm we are casting ourselves back into the story that holds us. We are acknowledging who we believe ourselves to be, reconciled children who get to come back again and again by God’s grace. I also do understand that confession is a sacrament in the Catholic church. I’m a cradle catholic. But there are many non-catholics who could benefit from the practice of confession whether or not they believe it to be a “sacrament.” Confession cane sacramental in nature for non-catholics. And I believe confession can take many forms besides visiting with a priest. But that’s why I’m thinking about writing a book on this very topic. Thanks again for reading. ~ Enuma

      • Sophie

        Thank you for this post. How can non-Catholics benefit from confession? I’m assuming some sort of penance would be given after confession (with all that goes with it) and many non-Catholics don’t believe this. I don’t think the Catholic Church allows this yet. Anyway, I think confession can take many forms besides visiting with a priest. That’s a great thought! Apart from confessing to God which is of utmost importance, I find that confessing to others is spiritually refreshing. I look forward to your book on that topic.

  • Maria

    As a priest in the (Evangelical Lutheran) Church of Sweden, that recognizes confession and absolution as a sacrament, I have listened to confession a few times. The way we do it, is a series of conversations over a few weeks that eventually lead up to the rite of confession.
    It is an amazing event. So emotional, so strong. So meaningful and life-affirming. There is something very liberation about hearing the words of absolution from someone else, phrased like it has “always” been phrased. The connection with history, with God, and with, yes, the priesthood of all believers (in knowing this has been done for centuries, and in the sense that priests need to confess and be absolved just as much, probably more, as everyone), it’s very powerful.
    I hope you have a meaningful and wonderful confession experience. Naming our weaknesses brings them out into the light, and de-arms them. I just wish more people in all our different traditions would take the chance and confess, and be absolved.

    • enumaokoro

      Maria, thanks for reading. I completely agree that confession is big and wide in scope and not simply for one tradition. I hold it as both a sacrament in the traditional sense of the word, and as sacramental.

  • Albetina

    recently came across your article and have been reading along. i want to express my admiration of your writing skill. great to know that!