Confession: Getting It Off My Chest

The Transit Authority in my city pulled off a successful experiment/publicity stunt for the first 2 weeks in July.  It has set up confession booths in key areas of the city so anyone can go in and tell a camera their secrets, in 10 seconds or less.  The videos are played in my city’s extremely busy subway system.  Anyone can listen to the steady drone of sensational/mundane/attention-seeking confessions.  The video booths are proving to be very popular.

An entire television genre is built on the idea of true confessions.  Reality shows are some of the most popular offerings in the media, as are YouTube confessions.  The Ellens, Oprahs and Dr. Phils of the world are insanely popular, not to mention stinking rich.  Capitalism on the backs of the repentant.

If you can’t get on Dr. Phil, you can always unload on your hairdresser or barber.  Some of my patients have confided things to me that they won’t even tell their closest family members.

We all have a desire to unburden our troubled souls, seek validation and be reassured that we’re not so bad.  Unfortunately, it seems that too many broken people are going about it in ways that are  exhibitionist.  And many more people are literally making themselves emotionally and physically ill because of pent-up guilt.

In the Catholic Church, we don’t have to depend on video booths, reality shows or even our hairdressers.  We can bare our souls in private to another human being who is in persona Christi, and he will do more than tell us we’re OK.   He’ll actually forgive  whatever wrong we did.

So why are so many confessionals  empty?  Why is the Sacrament of Confession so unpopular among rank and file Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday?  How many times have I heard people say, “I don’t have anything to confess.”  Well, really!  Please tell me your secret because I haven’t figured it out yet.

I hate to say it but part of the blame lies with the clergy.  In many parishes, priests are not making it easy to get to confession.  Designating only 30 minutes per week to hear confessions is ridiculous.   Priests have to preach more powerfully on sin and its effects and on the beauty of the Sacrament of Confession.  Then they have to devote more time to actually hearing them.

“Progressive” ways of administering the Sacrament are doing more harm than good.  In one parish, the priest had everyone write down one sin on a piece of paper and put it in the collection basket that was sent around.  He then said a general absolution and told everyone their sins were forgiven.  Anonymous, painless confession does nothing to make a person feel contrite and doesn’t encourage an examination of conscience.  Sorry, Father.  I’m not sure what your intentions were, but that’s an insult to the Sacrament.

There are exceptions, of course.  I know a priest who regularly hears up to 4 hours of confession per week.   Another friend was made pastor of a church where the Sacrament of Reconciliation had not been encouraged or celebrated for years.  He preached on penance for many Sundays, expanded the times available for confession, and then sat for weeks in an empty confessional waiting for people to come back to the Sacrament.  Persistence paid off as parishioners slowly started lining up.

The other part of the blame lies with lay Catholics.  Most people I know who attend Mass every Sunday haven’t been to confession in a very long time.   Parents  are not providing a good example for their children, who in turn have not been to confession since their First Confession.  The cycle continues.

In persona Christi.

The Sacrament of Penance is necessary for our salvation.  It may be uncomfortable and humiliating, but that’s good.  Humility is good for the soul.  It reminds us that we are fallen and sinful and we need His mercy.

Don’t take my word for it.  I’m just a poor sinner who regularly has many sins to confess.  Here’s what the saints and one blessed had to say about the Sacrament of Penance:

Go to your confessor; open your heart to him; display to him all the recesses of your soul; take the advice that he will give you with the utmost humility and simplicity. For God, Who has an infinite love for obedience, frequently renders profitable the counsels we take from others, but especially from those who are the guides of our souls.
–St. Francis de Sales

Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in confession; in confession there is a chance for mercy.
–St. Isidore of Seville

Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.
–Pope John Paul 2

Deo Gratias

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19 Responses to Confession: Getting It Off My Chest

  1. catholic123 says:

    Great blog post! I wish confession was more widely available, but sometimes I think I just use that as an excuse to not go or I just happen to be “busy” on those available confession days/times. If we truly understood how important this sacrament is we would make every effort to clear our schedule for those 30min that are available.

  2. Holly Michael says:

    I’d love to use some of your blog post for our church. We are Anglican Catholic. My husband is a bishop. We also have confessions along with belief in the real pressence of Christ in the Eucharist. While Out priests hear confessions, the people don’t always take advantage of this sacrament. Loved this.

  3. dgcree says:

    Great post. I have copied it to my Google Docs for future reference, hope you don’t mind 🙂

    • No, I don’t mind at all. It ties in nicely with your post of today “A Sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit.” Hopefully, our posts will be used to help someone back into the confessional. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. lilyboat says:

    right after i became a catholic, i wasn’t comfortable with the confessing to the priest thing so I didn’t for a year.. then one day during my retreat at the monastery in Kentucky, I was walking by the chapel. there was a sign outside that said “confession in session” or something like that. I was moved by the holy spirit to go in and confess.. I did. I was so nervous but I came out feeling so humbled. I realized that that was what the Holy Spirit wanted. For me to be humble enough to go to a stranger that I have never met before in my life and tell him about my sins.

    After that experience, I kept trying to confess the same thing again but my priest told me that once is enough. He said God forgives, and I don’t have to burden myself with the old story. So I confessed something else. 😉

  5. Pope Pius the XII was a prophet when he said, “the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin”. Most of our priests aren’t helping the situation these days either. They rarely speak of the Sacrament and usually when they do, they discourage those who have only venial sins on their conscience to show up. I guess they are feeling overworked or something. A very good post. Thank you.

  6. nateaddington says:

    For your confessional enjoyment:

  7. Mr. V. says:

    Great post, and a message I really needed to hear. I don’t go to confession anywhere near as much as I ought, and I need to change that, and this reminder is something I definitely needed to read.

    Thanks for writing and posting this.

  8. Teresa Rice says:

    Great post! I know I use the excuse of being too busy or the times for confession conflicting with my schedule and don’t go as often as I should. We all need to make the time to go to confession for our soul’s sake. God is the ultimate therapist so as we would take the time to see a counselor it is a must for us to take time out to partake in the great healing sacrament. God Bless.

  9. Pingback: Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival | 8 Kids And A Business

  10. Confession takes a hammer to pride. In the end, most people have convinced themselves that saying sorry to God in their minds and in their rooms is just as good as a Sacramental confession. I was discussing this with somebody who tossed out the “So, you’re saying my Protestant Uncle who loves God will go to hell because they don’t have confession?” line.

    No, that’s not it at all. To whom much is given, much is expected. So too are the rewards. Uncle Ted may well receive forgiveness. Or… he may not. The great thing about confession is that, as you say, the Priest is there in persona Christi. When we are told “your sins are forgiven” we KNOW that this is true. Remarkable and as simple as it seems, that’s all we need to hear! The person asking for forgiveness all by their lonesome doesn’t have that assurance. Of course, if we are contrite God will judge perfectly. But if we are Catholic and have confession readily available, why wouldn’t He judge that we couldn’t be serious about seeking forgiveness if we can’t make the effort to use the Sacrament He gave us?

    I love confession, but I hate it at the same time. It’s no fun to tell someone all the wrong things you’ve done. But when it’s done, it feels great!

  11. Great post! I was lucky to have parents that took us once a month to confession, we would often drive over an hour to get to a confession time that suited our family. During a penitential service at our school I was standing with one of the teachers who said she hadn’t been to confession in years and didn’t feel like she needed the sacrament, this seems to be the trend why a lot of people don’t go. On the positive side I have noticed, in my own parish, more sermons on the importance of confession!

  12. vftmom247 says:

    What a great post! Thank you. Our family tries to get to Confession on a monthly basis (not easy always in Germany), and feel much better after our spiritual “oil change” to keep our spiritual engine running smoothly, without any clogging up.

  13. Super quotes you used to enhance your post. Great.

  14. Pingback: Confession Stories « Catholic Diatribes

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