I have an ongoing debate with a friend about Confession. It goes something like this: “I’m going to confession, you wanna come with?” (strength in numbers). “I don’t need to go.” “Huh?” “I haven’t committed any sins.” “Hah! What about…?” “No mortal sins! I just confess my venial sins straight to God.” etc.
I can kinda see her point. For the most part we committed our mortal sins in our “wasted” youth. I’m sure some priests would agree with the late Fulton Sheen that hearing our confessions now would be “like being stoned to death with popcorn”. I guess it takes a special kind of priest to sit through the confessions of people whose sins don’t involve tragedy, chaos and breaking all 10 Commandments.
People who are looking for a deeper relationship with God.
People who want more help and direction in imitating Jesus and correcting their character defects.
I’ve been lucky since I returned to the church. I haven’t yet been laughed out of the confessional. Even when I haven’t prepared very well, I can think of at least one thing that plagues me and that can be enough. Resentment. Impatience. Entertaining distractions during Mass or personal prayer. Foul language. The list goes on. There is always something to wrestle with. Even if I just bring up one issue, whatever priest I am confessing to, whether he knows me or not, has been able to address that fault and suggest the steps to take to correct it.
I trust in the seal of the confessional. That my anxieties and failings aren’t going to be gossipped about. I trust that most priests have been trained to give appropriate guidance and spiritual direction. I also know that they are imperfect men. But in the Sacrament of Penance, as at Mass, they are an open channel to Jesus Christ. To bestow grace and forgiveness. Forgiveness we sometimes refuse to give ourselves. In the confessional, the Holy Spirit should influence any advice the priest imparts. It should always lead one to a closer walk with Jesus. One of my resolutions was to go to Confession more often this year. I’ve already started. Won’t you come along with me?