Cold Feet and Confession

Cold Feet and Confession March 26, 2012

Our wonderful pastor has been reminding us to come to Confession now, before the rush of Holy Week, for the past five weeks of Lent. During the season of Lent, our parish offers Confession three times daily (before each Mass) as well as on the weekend, so there really are plenty of convenient opportunities to receive the sacrament. Today as he was again reminding us of these opportunities, he said “Please, come to Confession and receive the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness. If it has been 2 months since your last Confession, please come. If it has been 6 months, please come. If it has been 30 years, please come.”

I began thinking about some of the people in my life who, for various reasons, have not been to Confession in a very long time. I began thinking about why this might be so, and what might encourage them to go back to receive the sacrament after so many years away. My guess would be that many have just fallen out of the habit of going to Confession for one reason or another, and are uncomfortable going back. They can’t remember exactly what they’re supposed to say upon entering the confessional, they only remember bits and pieces of the Act of Contrition, and they are worried that they will be judged for the time that has passed since their last confession.

That is why I am so happy that our pastor, at a recent meeting of our Catholic moms’ group, fielded several questions regarding the practicalities of Confession. He told us exactly what we should say when we enter the confessional (Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been _______ since my last Confession), that it is just fine to bring a copy of the Act of Contrition, and that there will be absolutely no judgement for the amount of time since the last Confession. He emphasized God’s joy when we come back to receive his sacrament of Reconciliation, and the grace that follows. He gave people hope that it is never too late to make a fresh start, and encouraged all of us to renew our commitment to regularly receiving the sacrament.

So today, I am brainstorming ideas on how to encourage some people in my life to come back to the beautiful sacrament of God’s love and forgiveness. For some loved ones, I am praying that someone in their life will offer the encouragement and information that they need. For others, I am asking for the wisdom to know if there is something that I can proactively do to help them make that first step. If you have any wisdom to share on this subject, please share it with all of us in the comments!

A blessed week to all of you! Mary, Hope of Sinners, pray for us!

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  • JMB

    At a chapel near my house that offers confession a few times daily year round, two things stand out that make it easier for me to get there: the screen and the laminate “Act of Contrition” in the confessional. I’m not a big fan of the “face to face” confession. I find it too personal, if that makes any sense. I also think that having the “Act of Contrition” available permanently in the confessional, there’s no need to freak out or worry that you will forget. I also think it helps to talk about the fact that you went to Confession with friends and family. It might spur someone else to go – and it demystifies it. I’ve been telling my friends to go to this chapel for confession and a few of them have taken me up on it.

  • Juris Mater

    Kat, great topic. It’s definitely harder to go back the longer I’ve been away–it’s such a matter of staying in the habit, as you say.

  • An offer to swap child care can be an easy way to bring friends to confession, if those friends are other young mothers. We have a group that meets once a month, and we all watch each other’s children while one mom at a time slips out to the confessional. I know that I am more regular about going because of this standing appointment and no excuses! Within that group, once a year (on Mardi Gras) we open it up to friends, so we can offer to watch someone’s toddler for them while they go to confession. We have had a good response to this.

    Since the priest just gave that great talk to your mom’s group, it might be worth seeing if a priest could be available for confession at the same time as the group so that women could slip out one at a time, or if you could set up another time for something like that, with shared childcare.

  • FYKW

    I think it is always helpful to talk about your experiences with going to confession with a particular priest, at a particular church, where the person can also go to confession. I think there is some fear of how the priest will react to hearing your deepest darkest sins. I actually had a rather traumatizing confession once where the priest berated me on everything I told him. Not counseling or what I viewed as a healthy dialogue, but full on guilt-inducing scolding, about EVERYTHING. I didn’t let it deter me from going to confession the next time to another priest, but while he still went through at the end absolving me of my sins, I walked away feeling hurt. I could see how that would influence someone to skip confession the next time it was suggested! I think knowing what you are getting into is really helpful for many people–and while you may be able to look about the Act of Contrition beforehand or have it printed with you (and some priests have either had me repeat after them or say my own form of the Act of Contrition if I find myself really at a loss), being comfortable talking with the priest listening is something that might be unknown to those who have stayed away for a while or who are new to the area, etc. Also, I think some people are deterred from going to confession with a priest that they see every Sunday–perhaps you can suggest other priests with whom you might be familiar that would give them more of an anonymous feeling. I know it shouldn’t matter in the end, but I think that people really do fear being judged and thus recognized!

  • texasmommy

    I second this suggestion. Even if it is meeting a friend at church and sitting all the kids in one car for a few minutes to let her go in, because there is no way I am going to keep my kids and someone else’s kids quiet inside! I think having a “do whatever it takes” attitude is really inspiring and sometimes just the offer to watch someone’s kids may make them realize that they really could find the time to go if they write in on their calendar and told their husband!

    Also, I think that Lent and Advent are good times to send out the schedule of Confession times to church/moms group email lists, with an offer to help with kids if necessary!

  • Kathy

    It seems like the blog is getting a lot of hacks – or at least odd email responses – many of them for products. Just thought I’d give you a heads up on that.

  • maryalice

    We actually used to just park the cars next to each other and leave all the kids buckled in to their car seats with music or a story on in the parking lot — so one mom was supervising two cars full of kids, all buckled in!

  • maryalice

    Yes Kathy, thanks. We have been getting about 1-2 spam posts a day, so this seems to have been an uptick today. I don’t know why the spam filter is not working well, we may have to switch back to Disqus comments so that we have a typy thing (I can’t remember what they are called) for security.

  • maryalice

    It is amazing the number of people who have stayed away because of bad experiences like this, and then need a lot of hand holding to come back.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the concept of a “General Confession” — in this case, the priest can help you, but you basically highlight any mortal sins (these should be easy to remember), and then you can be general about the venial sins, mentioning in particular the faults you know you struggle with (sins about vanity, or what have you). Then I think that you receive general absolution for anything that you confessed and anything that you may have left out. This is a great help for those coming back to the Church, or just coming back to the Confessional.

  • I had never heard about the concept of “general confession” before, thank you for mentioning it!

  • We actually set up a “confession buddy” system through our moms’ group list serve last year – basically, someone could post the day and time that they wanted to go, and then someone else who could use that same time slot buddied up with them. It seemed to work quite well!

  • Our priest is hesitant to add more time slots because we already have three per day during Lent – there is only so much that one priest in a parish of 16,000 can do! I think that if someone really wants to get to Confession, they will figure out a time that works for them. The bigger obstacle for most people, I think, is really getting over that initial hurdle of going back. I love what one commenter said about having laminated Acts of Contrition in the confessional – genius! I also prefer confession with the screen – this is the only way that our parish offers confession.

  • I think it helps to be honest about how hard it is sometimes to muster the courage to go! A lot of people never got in the habit of going regularly, and it can seem overwhelming. And a lot of them have never heard a priest say how GOOD it is to hear confessions, so they think the priest is sitting there thinking about how awful you are instead of thinking about how great it is that your relationship with God is being healed.

    Though I wish my chapel even OFFERED confession regularly. It’s once a week on Saturday evening at the main parish, which is quite a haul.