Putting Confession into our lives
Lent is the perfect time to look at our Sacramental life. Personally, I don’t look forward to going to Confession. I’m not sure if its going and admitting my faults or taking time out to do it. Maybe it is all of the above? Why couldn’t things be a little more convenient to my daily schedule? I actually considered asking if I could just call into the Church and confess over the phone! Kids, the house, my blog, Softball practice, Football practice, Band Practice, Wow I never realized how many activities they are all in! Getting a time alone in Church, and going to Confession could be a welcomed relief!
I guess I was not really built on a firm foundation with my faith. My life consisted of doing what I was told to do and not really understanding why I was doing it. What resulted was a very ill informed and lukewarm Catholic. My relationship with God was impersonal. He was there, I was here. The outcome, a life of faith that will not sustain you through tougher times. Our desire for the Sacraments should come from a want to be close to Jesus. We must learn about why we partake in the life of the Church and we must approach the Church and Sacraments with a proper disposition. Taking and approach like this, will help us to build on a solid foundation. “Like seed planted in good soil, that will bear fruit”
A wonderful book on the Sacrament of Reconciliation that I would recommend is Scott Hahn’s book: Lord, have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession. Scott Hahn is a convert to the Catholic Faith, a Theology Professor at Franciscan University in Ohio and knows just how to convey with simplicity the Sacraments and teachings of the Church.
Sacrifice and Love go hand in hand
Love equals sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if it is in faith, marriage, parental friendship; Love requires sacrifice is some way. Our relationship with God, requires us to sacrifice something to be closer to Him. Daily, we must choose between something that holds us back and God. We are called to show, through our actions, our Love. Getting up and going to Church on Sunday, is a small sacrifice. What do you do to show your Love? Do you offer forms of Sacrifice to God daily? Confession can be one of those ways you show your Love to God. Attending and maintaining a moral and sacramental life, affords you the best option of a good relationship with God.
Step by Step Guide to Confession
Prayer is the way to begin our Confession. Our first step is to open up, with a contrite heart and ask God, to enlighten us. We need to do an Examination of Conscience. We need to prepare for confession. Here is a good guide to an examination of conscience. I personally do not advise anyone to use an app. or to write them down. I don’t trust apps and, I don’t think we should lean on electronic devices to assist us with Sacraments. It is just my own personal feelings.
Helpful tips for finding a comfortable spot to go
There are several options you can try to get to confession. One is to attend confession at the regular times your parish offers. A second option is to call the Parish office and set up a time for a priest to hear your confession. If those options do not work out, you can always ask the parish office if there are any penance services in the area.
Face to Face or Behind the Screen?
There are two options, face to face and anonymous. You decide, which way makes you feel comfortable. If you choose to go face to face, you can do that same, or as I have heard some say they have to look someone in the eyes and be held accountable. It is truly what you are comfortable with, pick what helps you.
The priest will greet you, he may read scripture, or say a short prayer. I liked to always tell people this Sacrament is one of the most relaxed in terms of structure. It speaks to the Church wanting you to be as comfortable as possible. It is a place of healing, of mercy of Love. If you forget, or if you don’t know what to do or say next. Do not worry! If you walk in and forget everything. Tell the priest, let him know you are nervous, let him know. He is there to help you. Your humility, is an overwhelming joy to the Lord, the priest knows this and will welcome you with open arms. Fear is what the evil one will use to keep you from God!
After you kneel down and the greeting is done, you and the priest will begin with the Sign of the Cross. You will begin with “Bless me, Father for I have sinned, It has been (days, months, or years) since my last confession.”
Now you begin to confess those sins which you have, through prayer, brought to mind. You must say all the sins on your mind, and if possible how often you did them and how many times. If you need help, tell the priest. Be specific and blunt. The priest may ask questions about specific ones you list, to get a better idea of the situation. You should finish with “I am sorry for these and all of my sins and any which I may be forgetting”
The priest will discuss with your some of the sins, offering advice on overcoming them, or clarity on them. He may even tell you that some of what bothers you is not a sin (it happens). Some small things may be his focus as we overlook some sins which are huge violations of the Law, It has happened to me. You dismiss something small and turns out after he explains it, that it is a really bad sin, and hurtful in ways we did not realize.
The priest will give you your penance, It might be a prayer, a work of Mercy, reading scripture. It might be something of an act of Charity. Ask questions and make sure you understand your penance.
After the priest assigns your penance, he will ask if you have any questions. No question is dumb! Make sure you are humble enough to say – I don’t know or I don’t understand! After this you will offer an Act of Contrition this can be done in a manner of different ways, here is the Act of Confession most used:
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart,
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you,
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and did for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
As you finish up your Act of Contrition the priest will extend his hands over your head and pronounce the words of absolution, and you will respond Amen. I like to listen intently to the words of absolution, they are very powerful and very touching. Hearing the words “I absolve you” is WOW!
The priest will then offer a form of praise by saying “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good”, you would respond “His mercy endures forever.”
The priest will then dismiss you with “Go in peace.”
At this time I like to go and kneel down in the Church in front of Jesus and offer my penance if it is possible. If I can’t do my penance right then, I still kneel down and offer my thanksgiving to God for the Sacrifice of His son. It is truly an overwhelming feeling of Joy, and Mercy.
A Helpful Tool!
I have suggested this Handbook of Prayers in some of my other blog posts. It is really that good that almost all the pages will have this on it. Not only does this Handbook have any prayer you may ever need, it also has the Examination of Conscience, the Sacrament of Confession outline, and the prayers needed. It really is a great addition and help! I carry one with my other books so I always have one with me.