Be an Apostle of the Sacrament of Confession

Many have drifted away from having frequent recourse to the Sacrament of God’s mercy that we call Confession. The reasons are many! Some have never had their conscience well formed; others are paralyzed with fear; still others simply blurt out: “I have no sin!”  Be it as it may, this crisis must be conquered.

The following are five concrete practices that you right now can undertake to promote the return to God’s mercy through returning to the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Confession.

1. Go to Confession! It would be insincere to try to convince others to go to confession if we ourselves are putting up pretexts and excuses to avoid receiving God’s infinite mercy by avoiding going to Confession. Prepare yourself today and go to confession tomorrow!  Do not let the devil of procrastination conquer you!

2. Mercy.  Then after you have experienced the infinite mercy of God by making your own personal Sacramental Confession to a priest, then invite somebody to go to Confession.  Remind this wandering soul, lost sheep, Prodigal son/daughter that God’s mercy is infinite.   Saint Paul reminds us: “Where sin abounds the mercy of God abounds all the more.”  Furthermore, the Diary of mercy in my soul of Saint Faustina Kowalska asserts that the greatest sinners can be the greatest saints if they simply place their trust in the Infinite mercy of Jesus. Actually, the greatest sin, according to Jesus, highlighted in the Diary, is a lack of confidence in Him!  This lack of confidence is what wounds Jesus most.

3. The Prodigal Son and Confession. (Lk. 15:11-32) Invite all to read and to meditate upon the Parable of the Prodigal Son before approaching the Sacrament of God’s mercy as well as to read and meditate upon this spiritual masterpiece after the Confession. You might even focus upon the wonderful gifts that the Father generously bestows upon the repentant son and their symbolic meaning. What are these gifts and the symbolism?

a)Kiss—God’s love for us never changes even when we make mistakes and even big mistakes!

b)Hug—God is a loving Father always willing and ready to forgive us as soon as we can say from the depths of our hearts: God I am sorry; forgive me!

c)Ring—God wants to establish once again a covenant of love with you, but also challenges you to be faithful to Him in the future and reject the temptations to sin.

d)New Cloak—Nakedness symbolizes sin and the loss of grace. The Cloak is symbolic of the clothing and cloaking of one’s souls with the royal garment of sanctifying grace, God’s deep and lasting Friendship.

e)Sandals—given so that we can walk the walk and talk the talk of truly following in the footsteps of Jesus who is the WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.

f)Party—after a profound confession, now we can return with joy to the Banquet of the Lord’s Sacrament, the Eucharist, in the context of Holy Mass.

g)Fatted Calf—Now in Mass, having gone to Confession and returning to grace we can nourish our souls on the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

h)Music and Dance—A good confession is always a reason to rejoice immensely. Experiencing God’s loving forgiveness, the soothing balm of a pure conscience, the invitation to start a new life, and the keen awareness of God’s all-abiding Fatherly presence—all of these are infinite reservoirs to exult with joy!

4. Examination of Conscience.  To facilitate the preparation for the Sacrament of Confession, acquire a good examination of Conscience that explains clearly and to the point the Ten Commandments and give this to this wandering and confused soul. Invite him to read it thoroughly, examine his conscience and even write down the sins that he is aware of. If they are mortal sins, remember to write down the number of times.  The Catechism specifies that mortal sins have to be mentioned in both species and number.  This is required for an integral and complete Confession!

5. Where? When? How? Somebody who has been away from the Church for many years and has not confessed for as many, may not even remember the basics on how to go to Confession. This could paralyze him.  Just go through the basics with him.  Tell him where the Church is that has Confessions. Remind him of the schedule posted by the priests in that Parish. Then remind him on how to enter the confessional, make the sign of the cross, and tell the priest how long it has been since his last Confession and then tell his sins to the priest who represents Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician.  In the Diary of Saint Faustina three important conditions are emphasized to make a good confession:

  • 1) Sincerity, which means transparency in telling one’s sins;
  • 2) Humility—not glossing over the sins, point the blame at others or trying to justify or rationalize one’s sins;
  • 3) Finally, obedience. When the priest, who represents Jesus, also as Teacher and Guide, gives advice as well as the penance, then we should humbly submit to and accept these words as coming from Jesus Himself.

Saint James encourages us with these powerful words on the importance of bringing a wandering soul back to the Lord:

“My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner form the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”(James 5:19-20)

These most encouraging words can apply to our efforts and attempt to bring a wandering soul and sinner back to the loving embrace of the Father of the Prodigal Son by returning to the Sacrament of God’s mercy which is the Sacrament of Penance. May Our Lady, who is invoked under the title “Refuge of sinners” as well as “Mother of mercy” spur us on to bring the wayward sinners back to the loving and merciful Heart of the Lord Jesus!

image: Doin Oakenhelm / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s note: To find times for confession near you, please go to MassOnTime.com where you can search by day and parish in your area. 

Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

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Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of From Humdrum to Holy, which offers more words of wisdom for how to become a saint today. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

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  • Elizabeth R.

    Great article, Father! I am going to be passing this on to many family members who need a reminder of the many truths contained within it! 🙂
    And now I have a sincere question that is now troubling me…

    In your article, it is stated: “If they are mortal sins, remember to write down the number of
    times. The Catechism specifies that mortal sins have to be mentioned in
    both species and number. This is required for an integral and complete
    Confession!”

    I have fully and completely embraced the sacrament of confession and, in the past, have given my confessor full disclosure to SO many mortal sins of my previous and pathetically sinful life of debauchery (which was during my late teen years and early 20’s…I’m now in my mid-40’s and MUCH wiser and incredibly grateful for God’s Mercy on me!). Of course, before those confessions I first did an examination of conscience as I always do.

    According to your article, to be fully forgiven of those previous mortal sins, I would have to state the exact number of times those sins were committed?

    To be honest, back in those former days of vice and lack of virtue, I certainly wasn’t ‘keeping track’ of how many times I overindulged in my mortal sins, and after so many years having had gone by since I’ve repented and fully embraced God’s Grace, Love, and Mercy for me, there is no way that I honestly can remember an exact or an even close to exact numerical figure in order to fulfill that stipulation.

    As I previously mentioned, I had no problem fully disclosing those past sins during confession, but with no number of times given. (I only mentioned to Father something along the lines like: “I committed the sin of ___X___ many, many times over the course of ten or so years”). Now you have me wondering and worrying that I’m not truly and completely released from the bounds of those sins. And that also brings up something that worries me even more…that I’ve been receiving Holy Communion unworthily over the course of many years and committing sacrilege!
    AND if that’s the case, that would mean that all the daily plenary indulgences I have been diligently obtaining and offering to The Poor Souls have been invalid the whole time I thought they were ‘good?’ 🙁
    PLEASE advise…thank you so much in advance, Father!!!

  • Anonymous

    as an average person… i don’t think your confession is invalid since there is no way to know the exact figure and since you said it happened many times over the course of 10 years or so. i am pretty sure that’s valid as you where honest to the best of your knowledge and did not hold anything back along with putting a close figure on how many times it happened as it’s not like you pretended it was only a handful or times or something like that as then it might be invalid. i am confident your confession is valid.

    but at least you had no trouble confessing as i wish i had the courage to go myself (i find it very difficult) especially since it’s not easy for me to say much to people i don’t know well in general which makes it that much harder for me.

    but even in my particular case there above (which is this… http://goo.gl/kHAatj (i been completely free 100% of that sin for just shy of 1 year and 4 months now (which i credit The Holy Rosary). but don’t worry, i have not been receiving communion since i been aware that you should not be when you are potentially in the state of mortal sin)), there no way to know my exact figure of how many times i committed that specific sin but doing some math below i can probably get a ball park estimate especially if you know about how long it went on.

    like for example, my best estimates are that sin happened on average around 4 times a week, which means about 208 times per year and say roughly 15 years since i knew that it could potentially be a serious sin (even though it went on for longer) puts it’s in the neighborhood of 3000 times as i know it has to be less than 7,300 times though since that would average once a day for 20 years and i know there is no way i averaged that figure which means i know it’s less than that even though i am not sure how much less. i am confident it’s well over 1,000-1,500 times though as that’s only averaging 2 times a week for 10-15 years as that’s pretty safe to say i committed that sin at least that many times for a conservative figure, but likely well over that as i would figure 4 times a week is a ball park estimate for the average on how much it happened over a long period of time but it could be beyond that a fair amount though.

    but with that said, if i ever get the courage to go to confession at some point ill probably just say something like it’s happened roughly a few thousand times over the course of 15 years or so. or maybe something like it happened thousands of times over 15-20 years. i would imagine either way that would make it a valid confession since it gives the priest a ball park figure.

  • Elizabeth R.

    Thank you for your thoughts and advice Anonymous! I really appreciate what you had to say, and it really does make a lot of sense and makes me feel MUCH better! 🙂
    As far as for YOU and your sins, PLEASE go to confession ASAP!!! 🙂
    You will be SO glad once you go to get the full weight of sin off of your soul! Where I live, I am able to have either face to face confession or confession behind a screen…I personally choose to be anonymous behind the screen, but to be honest, I would have no problem with a face to face confession at this point in my life.
    Keep in mind that we’re all humans AND all of us are sinners…even the priests are too… and nothing you say in the confessional will shock them! So please keep that in mind and hopefully you will go this week!
    Also, remember this…the person you are confessing to IS but really ISN’T the priest…He is truly Jesus there in “Persona Christi” and so you are confessing directly to Our Lord and Savior so there is no sin or sins to be shameful of! Our Blessed Lord wants us to be there getting rid of all our guilt in the worst way possible so that we can become reconciled to Him and be able to spend our eternity in heaven! So PLEASE go, and I know you’ll be glad you did! May God Bless you and give you the strength to persevere! 🙂

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