10 great benefits of confession

10 great benefits of confession July 11, 2011

We hear a lot about this during Lent.  But here’s a helpful reminder that this sacrament is welcome, and necessary, all year ’round.

From Sr. Mary Ann Walsh at the USCCB:

Penance, aka confession, is the sacrament of the forgiveness of sin. You can’t beat it for convenience. It’s available practically whenever. Tell a priest you want to go to confession and you’ll get his attention. One bishop I know was cornered on an airplane. Another passenger figured out what was going on and asked if he could confess too. It must have been an interesting game of musical seats. An interesting question for priests might be: Where was the strangest place you ever administered the sacrament of penance? The answers I’ve gathered include “in a sports bar, at a graduation party” and “on the golf course, walking up the fairway.”

Confession has benefits. Here are ten:

1. Confidentiality guaranteed. There’s nothing like confessing your sins to someone guaranteed not to tell anyone else. Sometimes you need to talk in absolute confidence. Even under subpoena, a priest can’t tell anyone what’s said to him in confession. He can’t even hint at it. Now that’s confidentiality.

2. Housekeeping for the soul. It feels good to be able to start a clean life all over again. Like going into a sparkling living room in your home, it’s nice when clutter is removed – even if it’s your own.

3. A balm for the desire for revenge. When you have been forgiven you can forgive others. If the perfect Jesus forgives me, who am I to want to avenge the slights in my life. Think: “Why did they promote him over me?’ or “Mom played favorites!”

4. Low cost therapy. It’s free, which makes it cheaper than a psychiatrist for dealing with guilt.

5. Forced time to think. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. To examine our lives and acknowledge failings marks the first step of making things right with God, others and ourselves. Life can be more worth living when you ponder the meaning of your own life.

6. Contribution toward world peace. Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, said that the imbalances in the world that lead to war and tensions “are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man.” Peace of soul leads to peace of heart leads to peace beyond oneself.

7. A better neighborhood. Confession leaves you feling good about yourself, thereby cutting back the inclination to road rage and aggressive shopping cart driving. With the grace of the sacrament you’re energized to, as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin no more.”

8. Realistic self-perception. Confession helps overcome arrogance when you have to admit you’re as much of a sinner as anyone else. It helps build tolerance for others’ perceived shortcomings.

9. One more benefit of being Catholic. There are lots of benefits, including a sense of community, liturgical rites to help us encounter God in prayer, and the wonderful sense of humanity exemplified in the saints, from Mary, the loving Mother of God, to Augustine, the exasperating son of Monica. The sacrament that leads us to inner peace is among the greatest boons.

10. Closeness to God. Confession helps you realize that you have a close connection to God and receive his grace through the sacraments. What can be better than knowing God’s on your team, or, to be less arrogant about it, that you are on God’s.

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18 responses to “10 great benefits of confession”

  1. The best feeling in the world is going out of confession. Walking lightly you feel the burden gone.

    Do go. Because the lines for confession are very small while the lines for communion are very large. One priest said that we are either very holy or … well.

  2. I agree with that Rudy.

    Long lines to Communion, short or non-existent for Confession. But I ignore it at this point and assume I am pulling up the rear.

    I think you are supposed to invoke the help of the Holy Spirit before you go, and I did that recently. Out of the blue a sin I had forgotten about popped right into the forefront of my mind. Not saying divine intervention, but it was interesting.

  3. Father Z has this up too. What a great piece. I love all ten points. Confession really gets at the heart of what it means to be Catholic. As a New Yorker, I love the fact that somewhere in the city, a priest is hearing confession. And there are some parishes where priests hear confession for hours on end, every day. Makes it easy for us city folk to get the sacrament. I feel for folks in smaller towns with limited availability.

    I also feel for those who only have the ‘meet me in my office’ option. I couldn’t imagine doing a face to face confession! Love that screen.

  4. It truly is a gift. As someone who stayed away from confession for years, arrogantly believing I didn’t need it – taking the protestant line that I didn’t need to confess via a priest, that I can tell God directly that I’m sorry – I am so glad that my deepening faith journey led me back to the sacrament of reconciliation. I currently pray that my husband finds his way back. He’s back at Mass after being away for nearly 28 years (his mother left the catholic church when he was 13) – so I ask the Holy Spirit to take him that next step along his journey back so that he can be in full communion with the church again. To anyone on the fence about whether to go back to confession I say “GO” – you don’t know what you’ve been missing!

  5. Nate, it is easier to go in a big city I agree. Very easy to go at St Patricks, a little harder in the suburbs.

    One thing I’ve always wanted to see in America which I saw in Spain was having confession right before Mass. That to me better shows the connection between confession and communion, and makes it more likely that people will go.

    In fact in Spain I recall penitents leaving the confessional during the liturgy of the word until the liturgy of the eucharist. Then the priest came out and all focus was on that. 3 to 3:30 on a Saturday just doesn’t seem to cut it.

  6. Saturday I went to a relatively large church near me. Confessions from 11:00 to noon, three priests on duty, and lines for all three. Another two hours were scheduled for the afternoon, and if one counts two other nearby parishes, I calculate at least eight or nine “priest-hours” of confessions within a ten-minute drive of my house from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Saturday.

  7. One thing I know from personal experience, that until one embraces the sacrament of confession, it’s not likely that any or much spiritual growth will take place.

    I’ve also come to learn, that the experience of commuion is directly related to the frequency of a good confession. Before I staretd monthly confession, I had no idea of the “power” of the Eucharist, as if I was just “going through the motions.”

    I think many feel if not in mortal sin, why go? For all the reasons and more Sr. Mary Ann Welsh points out, another being the extraordinary grace and clarity that comes with that sacrament.

    FWIW and in reference to Brother Jeff’s comment, I’ve found praying to the Holy Spirit before confession, for my own “eyes’ to see, and also for my confessor, also makes a huge difference, enabling me to approach the sacrament truly as if I was walking in to talk to Jesus. Consequently, I’ve been “told’ things in confession that no one but Christ could know.

    I often say that we get the “miracles” in in life to the extent we believe. I truly believe that in the sacarment of confession, Christ is really there, merely using the priest as an instrument. Needless to say, I’ve experienced some extremely supernatual moments, and rarely, do I walk out without tears streaming down my face.

    Next to “Body of Christ”, no finer words than the words of absolution from a Catholic Priest (that’s when I always get teary-eyed).

    I LOVE confession.

  8. “And I absolve you of your sins” are indeed some of the most powerful and startling words in the English language.

  9. #10 could also be phrased “Sanctifying Grace” .

    With the Eucharist, the 2 sacraments in which we can receive this closeness to God on a regular basis.

    If it is good to receive the Eucharist regularly, even daily if possible, wouldn’t it also be worthwhile to receive the same grace through confession on a regular basis…say monthly?

  10. Confession was one of the reasons (that and the Eucharist) that my family converted when I was 12—now- 5 Catholic marriages and 21 Catholic grandkids so far!

  11. I’ve been going to confession regularly for the past two years, about once a week usually, but at least once a month. I’m not sure what I get out of it exactly. I don’t come away with any catharsis, it usually seems to be the same stuff week after week. I don’t really feel closer to God, although I do feel a little bit freer in terms of not being afraid of death. Mostly I just feel sorry for the guy on the other side of the screen having to hear the same stuff week after week.

    I wonder if the “the top 10 reasons” approach is perhaps a bit off somehow… should sacramental practice really be analyzed in terms of profit?

  12. It’s a sacrament and grace comes through each sacrament. Literally, from the inside out, we are becoming transformed into that perfected soul that Christ wants for us through this wonderful psychological cleansing. For folks who have never had this experience, you really can’t believe how constant and serious confession will clean you up and keep you from sinning to boot!

  13. Peregrinus, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Also i think the priests are trained to forget what they hear as much as possible, and i always try to ignore the particular personality of the priest. I just trust that it is doing something invisible to me for the good. It also definitely calms the fear of death.

  14. Reconciliation = (1) confession + (2)absolution +(3) penance. #2 does not take effect until you are finished with #3. I just mention this as way to help provide a basis for explaining to FC’s ( Future Catholics ), what they may not understand or what they have been misled to believe about the Sacrament.

  15. I was under the impression that valid absolution takes effect when pronounced, however, one of the requirements for validity is the penitent’s intention to perform satisfaction (the assigned penance, also termed “reparation”, cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1491). That reparation should be performed promptly and devoutly.

    But I cannot find an exact reference one way or the other. Can we find something on paper, please?

  16. Great post from Sr. Mary Ann!

    Went on Saturday. Should have gone a couple weeks sooner. But glad to have received the blessing of this sacrament. Spiritual housekeeping indeed. God’s mercy, the ultimate gift.

    Really admire and appreciate priests who put time in to make this sacrament readily available and who make people feel that they are welcome at the sacrament, not an imposition. A priest with a good ear and a quiet manner strengthens my belief that God is loving, that God is waiting eagerly to welcome home the prodigal–including me. Thanks for the priest who was in the box the other day.

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