There’s a vicious cycle about confession, isn’t there? The more you sin, the harder it is to go; the less you go to confession, the more you sin. It becomes harder and harder to go to confession. And the Devil is always there, whispering in your ear: you’re too far gone, you’re too sinful, you’re not worthy, confession is not for you. Maybe we disagree with this at a theoretical level, but can there be something like that going on at a deeper level, within ourselves?
For a very long time, like a great many other people, I was terrible at confession. From my early teens until very recently, typically years would go by between confessions. Not good. Not good at all. (Now I’m in spiritual direction with a priest, so I go to confession regularly.) If we go to Mass, we might also not like the idea of confessing our sins to a priest we could encounter regularly–that shouldn’t be an obstacle, but it’s still an understandable one.
So here’s a hack that I’ve used for many years. Not nearly often enough! But when I used it it served me well. It’s very simple:
- Go into a church at random.
- Find a priest.
- Tell the priest you need a confession now.
By the way, priests are canonically obligated to say yes when they are asked for a confession. Canon law requires them to drop whatever they’re doing and hear your confession–the only obstacle to that is if they’re performing another sacrament, ie the Eucharist. But you wouldn’t walk up to a priest during Mass to chat him up.Now, of course, you shouldn’t abuse this prerogative. I am saying you should do this if you haven’t had a confession in a very long time and feel a pressing need. Otherwise, you should either have a spiritual director who’s a priest who can give you regular confession, or have another regular confession, or, if you’re lucky, have a local parish that gives good confession.
But in my experience, in those circumstances, the Holy Spirit has a knack for throwing the right priest in your legs at the right time, when you do that. This one time, I was staying with my inlaws, and I really really needed a confession. But I was uncomfortable, because the local priest there is someone who for a variety of reasons I had no affinity for. But when we went to Sunday Mass, lo and behold, coincidentally, there was a different priest from another part of the diocese to say Mass in that parish that day. I asked him for a confession after Mass and he gave me what I think might have been the best confession in my adult life. (It’s after this that I entered spiritual direction.) Never saw him before, never saw him again.
The priests are there. You’re not imposing on them–they’re waiting for you to do this. That’s what they dedicated their lives to. And the Holy Spirit will certainly help you. Go. Grab one.