Lent Prep: Confession Primer

Been a long time since you’ve been to confession?

Well…Lent is coming

So are hard times.

If you’re feeling fretful, you may want to try incorporating some prayer and spiritual discipline into your life. And if you’re Catholic, and you want to get back into church, and begin to re-engage with the sacraments, or simply to get the most out of Lent, you might want to try going back to confession.

I confess, I love this sacrament and lately have been partaking of it once a month, both for the chance to talk things out, and for the graces it imparts. I know many people are comfortable with face-to-face confession. I have tried it a few times and frankly find it distracting. I’d rather be behind the screen. really focused and listening, rather than looking around, noticing a frayed cuff or that the rug is worn, but the church provides for both anonymous or face-to-face confession, so everyone can be comfortable.

Via Deacon Greg, these videos helpfully explain the process.

Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.
— Joel 2:12-13

Do not be afraid. God is merciful. There is pretty much nothing you can tell a priest in confession that he has not heard before. Remember That you are dust.

Related:

On Confession
The Sins and the Fathers

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.reasonanyone.blogspot.com Marcus

    Thanks for the posting these videos, reminders are always helpful ;)

  • dellbabe68

    Okay, here’s the deal. I go about twice a year; prior to Easter and prior to Christmas, though this year went once in between. I don’t love it and go to be in Communion with the Church. Still, I always feel so rushed. Never has a priest really given it the time needed, whether it’s face to face or behind the screen. I prefer face to face since I did my first confession that way and that priest was wonderful. I really am trying here but if there are any priest reading this, give people time and stop “ah-huhing” them.

    Two funny things:
    Last time I went, a Nun went first on one of the lines. The dear Fransicans who run my Church set up stations throughout the Church for confession. I went to the priest with no one on his line (I felt bad!) and the Nun went to the former pastor who must’ve been visiting. When I was done, I happened to notice she was still in confession (we were all out in the open in various pews, but far apart). When I was done with my penance, she was still in confession! People were beginning to tap their feet. I have to *confess,* I thought to myself, what on earth can she be saying?! I know I shouldn’t have been but there it is. I meant her no ill will; I just thought it was funny. Person after person left my line and there she was still sitting there.

    About two months later, I read a quote by Cardinal Avery Fisher, about Nuns who confess: “Hearing a Nun’s confession is like being stoned to death with popcorn.” I thought of that Nun! What a sweet older lady she was, pouring out her heart.

  • http://theanchoressonline.com TheAnchoress

    Yes I have read that nuns confessions really get into the minutiae; when a conscience is so planed down, every speck seems like a huge mar.

    If you really want more time for confession, though, you can always “schedule” one. It’s possible that the priest is simply worried about the line. If you make a confession by appointment, you’ll get the time you need!

  • Revchuck

    I had been away from the Church for about 20 years. I had been edging back in – going to Mass each Sunday – but hadn’t gotten up the nerve to go to Confession. Finally, there was a large, most-of-the-priests-in-the-diocese mass Confession in the cathedral church during Lent, so I pinned back my ears and went. Of course, one of the priests announced that this iteration was for short confessions, not for folks who’d been away for a long time, but I went anyway. :) The Lord went easy on the priest who heard my Confession; though I had tried to do a good examination of conscience, after I said “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it’s been 20 years since my last Confession, and these are my sins”, my mind went blank. I got out the major ones – after 20 years, they had built up – and received absolution. I don’t remember my penance, just that when I left the church and went into the beautiful starry night, my soul leapt for joy.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    dellbabe (and anyone else in a similar situation) –

    Of course, you do realize that prior to Easter and Christmas are going to be the most busy times — when folks who don’t regularly go start coming. And a “communal penance service” (where they set up stations around the church) is more likely to seem rushed merely because of all the people there.

    My suggestion? Go more often than the two most busy times of the year (lines are often low in summer), go to just a regular confession time, rather than the communal services, and “parish shop” to find a place you are comfortable with the priest in the confessional. You may find that it is less of a “big deal” then and, hence, there is less pressure and you will start feeling more comfortable with it. The more you go, the more comfortable you will start to become, and the more you will want to go, rather than feeling like you have to go.

    Me? I prefer the anonymity of, not only being behind the screen, but going to a parish other than the parish where I am registered and attend Mass. That way, I am much, much more comfortable disclosing all the horrible and awful and disgusting things that I have done. I know that many priests will tell you that they really don’t pay attention to the voice and pretty much quickly forget what is said in the confessional, but still . . . if I had to confess to someone who I knew knew me, I would probably hold back and, hence, not make a good confession (besides, face-to-face seems to me to be too much like psycho-therapy, not confession). Of course, if you go to the screen, you usually do have to keep the pauses to a minimum, or else the priest might think you are finished, but so long as you are talking, the priest is going to let you go on and on, although he may occasionally ask a question or engage in a discussion if it is especially troubling.

    Now, if you have some priest who insists on saying “uh-huh” and “right” and “go on” every two seconds, you just got to find someone else to go to. There are plenty of non-priests who do that and if they cannot break that annoying habit, the priest is not going to either.

    And if one goes more often, it stands to reason that there will be fewer things to confess (at least fewer serious things, or one should hope) and, hence, it will go quicker. Although, if one does go more frequently, then having fewer serious sins to confess, one starts recognizing the less serious faults as being sins as well and, so, confesses them. And, at some point, if you go more often, you find that you are receiving not only the graces of forgiveness, but the additional graces of being able to avoid those particular sins that you have tried and tried and tried on your own to stop doing, but having always failed.

    Yes, confession is a pain. It is embarassing. It is uncomfortable to do. It is understandable that so many people avoid it like the plague. The problem is that, by avoiding it, you don’t avoid the plague, you end up getting the plague. Now, once you get some nasty disease, it may take an uncomfortable course of treatment to get better, but it is necessary if one does want to get better. And if you go often, it becomes preventive maintenance, and not such a bad thing.

    My main complaint these days with confession is that every parish seems to schedule it at the exact same time — mid to late Saturday afternoon — so if you miss it at one parish, you miss it at all of them. One or two parishes do offer confession times during the week, but it would be better if they all offered confession more than an hour once a week.

  • dellbabe68

    Bender, I love the idea of going where I don’t go to Church. Thanks for your great suggestions.

  • http://rightwingnation.com rightwingprof

    I meet with my father confessor weekly. If I did not, I would not be allowed to commune. We usually meet for lunch, talk, then go to the church, but his aunt passed away, so I’m going after Vespers this evening.

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