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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Confession for Adults

The hot weather has finally found us. We have been so unbelievable untouched by the vicious summer heat that has plagued so much of the nation. I can't really complain about it now. Even though it's baking during the day, it's still downright chilly at night, so there is no opportunity for days of suffering.

And if there was, we could be reminded of the fires of Hell and redouble our efforts to be harmonious with God. Which brings us to today's question:

How does one make a good confession? Any tips would be appreciated.

We're not seven years old any more, so let's get real about confession, shall we? It's all well and good to examine your conscience and make a list of your sins and show up on Saturday morning with a "Bless me Father, for I have sinned" and recite your little laundry list of how many times you've been uncharitable, or lied or had unclean thoughts. That's the drill. A few Hail Mary's and you're on your merry way.

Not so fast, Bucko.

Confession isn't just an absolution to-do list. All that conscience examining is so that you can dig up how and where you are not living in harmony with God and feel sorry about it. Sorry enough to try and do better. "Go now and sin no more."--Jesus

Contrition is the key word here. You need to be sorry for your sins. This isn't just another round of Catholic Guilt that is so valued by the old nuns. Let's think this through.

Let's take a simple sin. Let's say you've gone out of your way to do something nice for your neighbor. (This isn't the sin part, yet.) You've made her a batch of her favorite cookies and used the expensive kind of chocolate to make them really special. (Not yet.) You wrap them is colored Saran Wrap with a pretty bow and take them over with a big smile. (Not yet.) She takes the cookies and says a lame, not very convincing sounding "Thanks" and retreats back into her lair.

You feel a little disappointed, maybe even hurt. (No, not yet.) You went through all that trouble and even a little expense and she didn't seem to appreciate it at all. Harrumph. (Here we go.) You start thinking of all the times you've helped her out, listened to her boring problems that are barely problems for most people, people with any brains, stuff you've lent her, watching her bratty kids when she had an emergency broken nail that needed immediate salon treatment and your resentment grows. (Now we're cooking.)

Now you're being downright uncharitable, harboring resentment and anger. You're sinning away. All day.

Are you sorry? Probably not. You're so wrapped up in your self righteous anger that you've completely forgotten the actual situation. You made a gift for someone to brightened their special day. It doesn't seem to have worked. That's all that happened. Her lack of enthusiasm doesn't make her a bad person. You've spent the day judging someone who you were trying to please.

So now, back to the issue of preparing for confession, we ask ourselves, "have I been uncharitable? Have I harbored anger?" The answer is yes and yes. So this sin is on the list.

But....are you really sorry? Or are you still a little wrapped up in your self righteous, 'where's my thank you note" thinking? That's the most important part.

The list is important. What would you be examining without the list? But reciting the list to the priest in the box with no actual feeling of remorse gets us nowhere in our spiritual growth.

Here's a little known fact: you don't have to go in there with your list and walk out with your absolution. You can actually say, "Father, I think this is a sin, but I just don't really feel very sorry about it." You'd be surprised what he might have to say. He might explain what you have to feel sorry about, how your actions keep you from God.

He might even say, "You know...that's not really a sin....yet."


Anonymous said...

Sometimes I ask for the grace to be sorry because I know I should be but I'm not. Sometimes it takes a long time.
Years ago, my mom had an experience where she did almost the same thing as your example except the neighbor was more abrupt in her reply. After years of being miffed and not speaking she discovered her neighbor was being abused by her husband and he never wanted anyone to come to the house. Very sad, she went to her grave being misunderstood by a lot of people who thought she was stuck up, those who knew the truth didn't speak up because in those days there was no network of help for domestic abuse.

Anonymous said...

How very sad. I work at a Domestic Violence Shelter and see so much. Thanks to God there is more help available these days.
As far as confession, I must confess that I'm one of those adults (48 years old) that never goes to confession. It terrified me as a child, and I'm really trying to get over that. Any words of encouragement to help me pull myself up by the bootstraps and enter that confessional? I tell myself it's about time I grow up, but I still don't go. My 15 year old son is seriously considering the priesthood, so I figure this is something I really need to get over!

jeliecam said...

To anonymous at 4:01
Perhaps you should go talk to your priest and explain why you haven't been going to confession. He may have some comforting advice.

To anonymous at 2:22
Your example shows how we do not always know what is happening "behind the scenes".

Anonymous said...

No worries! I always pray to our Lady for the courage to make a good confession. Then, just go in and tell the priest what you just said - you haven't been in years, and you're still trying to get over the fears you had as a child. He will treat you gently...

A Fellow sinner, 2 years older than you!

Jules at FCTS said...

Great post! I never thought about it like that!

Claudia said...

What I try to do is not worry over things I can not change and work to change the things I can.

I may get angry but honestly it doesn't last long. Life is too short to harbor resentment and I would be on a psychiatrist couch if I let everything get to me.

I took a long time to develop this mindset, but I feel much better.

Anonymous said...

I find that going to confession FREQUENTLY (like at least once a month) made going a LOT easier.

It also helped me begin to improve a little bit as a person during the times between confessions.
I am developing the habit of recognizing sin more easily and sometimes even see it coming and have become a little better at avoiding it.

But I still don't like it. :(


Erika said...

Thank you so much for this answer. I am a recent convert and still struggle with Reconciliation, mostly with "Am I doing this right?" and "Is this a sin?" type questions. No matter how much I study up on the topic, I am still unsure of myself...this helps a lot, especially since I have a tendency to tell myself, "Well, it wasn't that 'big' of a sin, so I can put off confession for another week...". I am trying to get that mindset out of my head!

Karen said...

Anonymous 4:01: Pray! Go!

I don't know if it helps; I'm 45 - almost your age. While some confessions leave me feeling better than others, I have to say that I've never been treated unkindly by a priest in confession.

I went many years without going, but I finally realized what an intimate encounter it is with a God who loves us and wants nothing more than to forgive us. I put the date on my calendar, carefully selected a priest I knew well, took the day off from work, and showed up before daily Mass at his parish. The night before, I could barely sleep, but it wasn't nervousness or dread; it was excitement over the prospect of meeting Jesus and being reconciled.

I had a bushel of mortal sins, but that wonderful priest never batted an eye. It didn't take long (I just did the same things over and over), I don't remember what my penance was or what he said, but I do remember sitting in the church afterwards and feeling like a warm blanket had been placed around my shoulders. I floated for days. It was truly a turning point in my life.

Go! It is an awesome gift!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all so much for your responses! Now I feel myself wanting to go to confession! We do have a wonderful priest in our parish. He has been a great encouragement to my son, signed him up for summer camp at the seminary this past June, etc. Although he can be a bit tough at times, now that I think about it I'm sure he would like to see more people coming to confession. Thank you!

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

I absolutely GUARANTEE your priest would like for his confessional to be busy.

Watch this: Fr. Corapi's Conversion Story

Diane said...

Leopold Mandic is a good patron for confession.

Anonymous said...

Hello my name is Taylor and i have never even told my parents this but i want too "come out of the closet" i have a wonderful girlfriend and i dont think her little heart could take this news :/ the man im in true love with a lad called Jake who doesnt love me back, what should i do? thank you :)