Confession is perhaps one of the most beautiful sacraments in the Catholic Church, yet people often fear it and sometimes even avoid it all costs. There have definitely been times where I have been too ashamed to even go near the confessional, but I chose to go because of what confession is. Confession is where we go to find forgiveness and reconciliation for whatever sin we have committed, but it is also the place where we find perfect, unconditional love. It is ironic that the place where we bring the worst parts of us and hold them up for God to see is also the place where we find peace and love awaiting us. So what happens in confession? How do you prepare your heart for confession? Why is confession so important as Catholics?
How To Prepare For Confession (Examination of Conscience)
Before we even step foot into the confessional, we must recognize why we are confessing. We must recognize that we are sinners, and that we have hurt God and hurt our souls by separating us from the true source of life. The purpose and intention of confession is to go back into God’s arms and be clean of all of the sins we are carrying, just like the prodigal son (Luke 15). Maybe you are a little nervous and are letting fear keep you from finding peace. Read the examination of conscience on usccb.org and take time to reflect on what you have done, your mistakes, and your shortcomings. Reflect on the sorrow you feel in having offended God by sinning against Him, and prepare to have an open heart in the confessional to give God everything you are carrying. You can also write down your sins to make it easier and not stress about forgetting the sins you committed.
How Do You Start A Confession?
Once you are in the confessional, let the priest guide you and lead you towards the forgiveness your heart so desperately yearns for. He will begin with a sign of the cross, might ask when your last confession was, and then invite you to tell him what your sins are. This moment is crucial to finding peace, because you want to be honest with God and share everything you did. He knows your heart. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed with shame and be afraid to tell God everything we have truly done. I felt this once during confession and shared it with the priest, and he told me something I will never forget: “Imagine you are floating in the middle of the ocean. Do you see how wide and never ending the ocean is? That is God’s mercy for you. You never have to worry about His mercy ending, because He will always be waiting for you with loving, open arms.” Examples of sins to say at confession include stealing, cheating, lying, and many others which you can find on the Catholic Examination of Conscience.
Why Is Confession Important For Catholics?
Sins keep us away from God’s love, and as we sin, we are choosing the world over God. We must truly be sorry for our sins, because the essential act of Penance is contrition, where we recognize that we have sinned, but promise to never do so again. Of course we are sinners so we will most likely sin again, but we must not leave the confessional with the intent to sin again. The latin root of repent literally means “to repent immensely”, so in confession we are literally grieving for the sins that separates us from God.
After we have confessed our sins, the priest will give us a penance to do after we leave the confessional to express our true repentance out of love for God. He might invite you to pray an Our Father, an entire Rosary, or read a chapter of the Bible. No matter your penance, it is important to complete it as soon as possible to help our hearts heal from the pain of sin. We will say the Act of Contrition prayer (see below) and as he ends our confession, we will find Absolution and be forgiven. As Catholics, confession is crucial to grow in our faith, to keep a strong relationship with God, and to be able to receive the Holy Eucharist. As we walk in this valley of earth, we must keep our eyes on Heaven and strive for holiness. Confession is our shield and defense from temptation, and each time we go to confession we grow in virtue. Confession is a beautiful, magical sacrament that helps our souls grow and heal through God’s forgiveness.
Act of Contrition Prayer
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.”
Let’s celebrate and thank God for this sacrament that helps keep us in His loving embrace. God in his goodness and love for us gave us this sacrament to remind us of His constant forgiveness and ocean of mercy. Let us take advantage of this sacrament and grow in our faith together to keep striving for Heaven. If it has been time since your last confession, I invite you to take time this week to step foot into the confessional and find mercy. Come back to God, I promise you will find nothing but pure love and forgiveness. He is waiting for you.