I love going to confession.
Now that’s something you don’t hear every day. But it’s true, and it’s one of the weirdest things about me.
As a general rule, the Sacrament of Reconciliation tends to freak out even the most devout Catholics.
It’s not that I’m really good or holy, so my confessions are easy. I love going to confession because I’m such a sinner that my confessions are always formative. Who doesn’t want to leap into the arms of a loving father after they’ve fallen down dozens of times right in a row?
Reconciliation is in my routine. I go once a month, and have for five years. My regular confessor (who has since passed) at the time when I began this habit used to laugh at me and say, “Erin, no one is as happy coming into the confessional as you.”
But for me, it’s so easy to be happy. It’s the same way I feel at the end of the work day. I come home to my living room and I just drop everything in the door. My keys, my purse, my backpack, my shoes. The burden of my day is off my shoulders and I can collapse into a cozy couch, a warm dinner and some TV. That’s confession. After a long journey through the earthly world, we can drop our burdens right down and fall into the arms of a loving God.
At this point, you may be thinking to yourself, I am still not sold. That wouldn’t be surprising.
It’s estimated that only 2% of Catholics go to confession regularly. It’s uncomfortable and a little bit scary.
But in this season of Lent, I urge you to not just go to the sacrament, but go joyfully.
Nervous? Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through step by step.
You’re right—everyone does know
Get rid of the nerves that say, “But everyone will know.” Yes, when they see you standing in line for confession, people will know you have confessing to do.
But here’s the big secret: everyone already knows.
We’re all sinners! That’s why we’re here. You’re special for so many reasons as part of God’s creation, but your original sin is the least original thing about you.
In case you need more comfort, remember that no one will be looking at you anyway because everyone is nervous to be there.
Tip: Once you’re in line, just breathe, close your eyes and say a Rosary.
You are not talking to a human
You’re not talking to a human when you confess your sins. This is a tough concept to wrap our heads around because technically, we are talking to a human. But that human, that priest, is a holy stand-in.
Yes, sometimes you may end up talking to a priest that either a) knows you, so it’s awkward in the moment or b) makes you feel even worse in the moment. That’s the human part of them. But the more important part at play is the divine part.
The Spirit intervenes in confession, and it’s the Spirit who is calling the shots. The Holy Spirit is also the one who will make sure that if the priest knows you, they’ll forget everything you say later. If the priest says something that makes you feel guilty, the Holy Spirit will either heal that guilt or turn it into something constructive. Your forgiveness isn’t contingent on anything.
Tip: I never go face to face if I can help it, so if you’re nervous about confessing to a priest, try confessing from behind the screen. Kneeling in front of a screen helps me to stay in a place of prayer and I am able to focus on talking to God directly.
Confession isn’t the thing to fear
Of all the fear we associate with sin, going to confession shouldn’t be a part of it. Spiritual death, temptation, hell—these are the things that we should be truly afraid of. That’s the message that inspired me to first start going to reconciliation regularly. It wasn’t because I was onto something that other people aren’t. It was because someone at a Catholic conference said to me once: “Are you more afraid of admitting your sins to God than you are of an eternity without him?”
The choice was blindingly clear in that moment. I would go to confession regularly. I would embrace my sinful nature as an opportunity to lean on a God who loves me.
Tip: While there is no perfect love in fear, sometimes that can be a motivator, too. Father Mike Schmitz says, “Many times, we approach confession because we know it is something we need to do or because we fear the reality of Hell. Again, if either of those are your primary reasons for going to confession, please keep going!”
Read more of that awesome article on confession here.
Relax, you’re not the Savior>
Here’s the most important thing to remember. Saving us from our sins is not only in the Lord’s job description—it’s actually, literally his title. Savior.
We’re not alongside him, expected to achieve perfection, helping divide and conquer the saving. We’re the ones who need to be saved. There is so much freedom in that, and it’s a freedom I pray you come to know intimately.
If you haven’t been in a while, don’t fret. Here’s a refresher:
- Examine your conscience (here’s a cool version for single people)
- Inside the confessional, make the sign of the cross.
- Say, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been however long since my last Confession.”
- Confess your sins.
- Make an act of contrition.
- Receive penance and absolution.
- Take action on the penance the priest gave you.
For a more detailed walk through, click here.
God is waiting, patiently
Once we embrace our need to be saved, delve into humility and let God meet us where we’re at, the only place we’re going to want to meet him will be in the confessional.