On Confession, Part II

Last month, I wrote on the sacrament of Confession and my experiences of it. Just thought I would add a little more to it, as this afternoon in confession, I made the priest laugh out loud (which is a lot better than making him cry), and because I got an email on the subject that gave me chills, and the writer has given me permission to reprint some of it.

How did I make the priest laugh? I went in, knelt down, did my little opening and then said, “Last Sunday, I had a flu and felt awful…I probably COULD have dragged myself into Mass, but – ”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” the priest said, “you might have picked up something worse in your weakened state, or gotten someone else sick!”

“Okay, very nice,” I said, “I understand what you’re saying, and I appreciate it, but you have to understand – I’m confessing it not because I’m fretting about the missing Mass part. I’m bringing it up because although a part of me regretted missing Mass, there was another part of me, waaaay down deep inside that said, “Yay! I don’t have go to Mass today!”

When he finished laughing, the good cleric (a youngish fellow) said, “okay…well…we call carry that little demon from our childhood…”

I liked that. It felt so true.

No, you can’t read about the rest of my confession. But you can read about the confession of one of my readers, name of “B”.

“My absence from regular church-going lasted [some]. Even after I started attending church regularly, it took me a few years to get up the courage to go back to confession. So I’m in line for confession, and I’m practically shaking. I have so much to say, and yet nothing at all. I have no idea what’s going to happen… I finally get into the confessional, and I can hardly speak. I manage to get started, and say that I’ve been away for a long time, and the young priest (what is it that makes young priests so good at this?) interrupts me and says “The healing of your soul begins today.” I will carry those words with me forever.

He then talked me through the commandments, and common and grave sins, essentially walking me through an examination of conscience in the confessional. Then he said the absolution, not quickly and mumbled, as prayers often are, but so that I could hear and understand every word. I will also never forget the special emphasis and deliberation with which he said the words “I absolve you.”

That was the confession I’d needed to make for years, and the Holy Spirit ensured that exactly the right priest was there to hear it from me and help me through it. Truly this sacrament is a treasure.”


About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Gracie

    My husband went through RCIA in 1987 and was confirmed during the Easter Vigil in 1988. He only told me during Lent of last year, that he had never been to confession. I knew he hadn’t been in a while, but I don’t know how he fell through the cracks during his RCIA preparation. I suggested we go to one of the penance services in town during Easter week. He agreed. It was a beautiful service and he wanted to be first in line. He said only after he heard the words “I absolve you” did his spiritual healing begin. Powerful words indeed!

  • Renee

    Ok, this may be a dumb Protestant question, but I just have to ask. I have to, because I feel drawn to this. Can a Christian go to confession or must one be Catholic? I have a feeling a know the answer but just want to be sure. Renee P

  • Renee

    Ok,let me try this again. The minute I hit the send button I knew I had phrased a sentence wrong. Can ANY Christian go to confession or must the Christian be Roman Catholic? There, that’s better.

  • anniebird

    I miss confession dearly now that I am a member of a Lutheran church. It is truly a beautiful experience.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    Can ANY Christian go to confession or must the Christian be Roman Catholic?
    Just off the top of my head, a very non-expert head, my first inclination was to say “Yes, any Christian can go to confession.” Upon further reflection, I find I must qualify that answer, however. “Confession,” like baptism or the Eucharist, is a sacrament, the sacrament of “reconciliation,” “penance,” etc. which, like the other sacraments, is not merely a pastoral discussion with a therapist or spiritual advisor, where you simply unburden yourself by admitting and affirmatively giving voice to the fact that you have sinned, that is, “confessing.” In addition to that is the “reconciliation,” that is, the absolution, which is not merely some guy saying the words, “I absolve you.” Rather, by such absolution, which is by Christ and through the Holy Spirit, the very nature of the soul is altered and cleansed. There is a supernatural and transcendental changing of the penitent’s person.
    So, to get back to the question — just thinking out loud here, I would think that in order to “go to confession,” that is, to receive the sacrament of reconciliation or penance or absolution, one would have to agree and believe in their mind and in their heart that (1) priests have the power to administer the sacrament and give absolution in persona Christi, and (2) Confession is a sacrament, not merely a pastoral “therapy” session, and (3) the act and consequence of absolution in that sacrament is a radical changing and altering of the person’s very being and soul. If a non-Catholic Christian were to agree and believe in these things, I would think that the sacrament would be open to him or her. If he or she did not agree or believe in these things, even if he or she were to physically enter into the confessional and go through the motions and rubrics, it might not be a valid sacramental confession.
    But like I said, I’m not theologian or expert on the sacraments. I’d be happy to hear from someone who is. (Or, I suppose, I could go look it up in the Catechism or somewhere.)

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    In Ecclesia de Eucharistia, our beloved Pope John Paul the Great states –
    “46. . . . ‘Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid’.97
    “These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders.”
    . http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0821/__P6.HTM#-2P

  • timmyboy

    As God is my witness, when you go to Confession the first time, or after a long absence, you will feel something you can’t quite explain. Maybe, it the touch of God. It has happened to me three or four times.
    If you want the non-rational proof of the existance of God in your heart, which is so much more important than knowledge in your head, I recommend the following prescription:
    1) Pray sincerely to God that He reveal himself to you.
    2) Examine your conscience for 15 minutes a day for a week.
    3) Go to sacramental confession.

    Let me know how it turns out.