In Sacramental Theology there exists an all-important concept for the efficacious reception of any of the Sacraments. This is called Dispositive Grace or Grace of Disposition. What this concept means is simply this: the graces that you receive in your reception of the Sacraments are in direct proportion to the disposition of your soul at the moment of the reception of that specific Sacrament.
In the Sacraments, Jesus touches us directly, in the most personal and powerful way that we could possibly imagine. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and Christ unites Himself with us through the Sacraments.
Receiving a Guest
One of the easiest analogies to understand the concept of Dispositive Grace could be the example of inviting a guest to dinner. There is a whole gamut of ways that the guest could be received, from totally poor to excellent. In inviting a guest, you might even forget that you invited him—pretty shabby! Or the guest might come and the door is open, but there has been no prior preparation. Still again, the guest might be received with a meal prepared, but all is done in a rush, in which the guest feels as if he were a burden. Then, there might be preparation for the guest with a welcoming committee, a good meal, and great desert.
Finally, it might be such that the house was cleaned the day before, the favorite food of the guest has been prepared, the guest’s favorite music is playing in the background, and then at the end of the meal the family offers the guest a special gift that the guest really likes! Obviously, every scenario is different. This can be applied with respect to the concept of Dispositive Grace, most specifically to the reception of Jesus in the Eucharist. He could be received very poorly or with an excellent disposition.
There are two Sacraments that we should receive frequently until we die and meet the Lord—Confession and the Holy Eucharist. In this article we would like to highlight specific ways that we can enhance the graces that we receive in the reception of the Sacrament of Confession, sometimes called Penance or Reconciliation. The suggestions will be very short, but we hope very useful to upgrade your reception of the infinite mercy of Jesus that comes through this Sacrament.
1. Trust. We must have s limitless trust in the infinite love and mercy that comes to us through Jesus in the Sacrament of His mercy, Confession. May this prayer issue forth from our hearts time and time again: Jesus I trust in you!
2. Read Luke 15. An excellent means to prepare us to receive the Sacrament of God’s mercy is to read and meditate upon Luke 15, sometimes called the Lost and Found Chapter.
3. Parables of Mercy. In Luke 15 we encounter the lost sheep and the sheep that is found, the lost and found coin, and the lost and found son—the Prodigal Son. Confession is being found and loved by our merciful Father.
4. Just do It. The modern phrase found on many young people’s T-shirts is Just do it! The devil will prevent you from going to confession. So, kick the devil in the behind and Just do it!
5. Priest-Christ. We must renew our faith that by going to confession to the priest we are really confessing to Jesus, the Eternal High Priest.
6. Biblical Truth. Recall the words that Jesus used in instituting the Sacrament of Confession, the 1st Easter Sunday night, when the Apostles were in the Upper Room. “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive will be forgiven; whose sins you retain shall be retained. (Jn. 20:21-23)
7. Confess ASAP. If you have had the misfortune of falling into mortal sin, in which you have lost sanctifying grace and friendship with Jesus, do not wait, but go to Confession as soon as possible! If your house were on fire, you would not wait. What about your soul in danger of eternal perdition, do not wait!
8. Prepare Well. As said earlier expressing the concept of Dispositive Grace, the better the preparation, the more abundant the graces. The fault is never in the Sacrament but in the poor disposition of the recipient of the Sacrament.
9. How? Get a good booklet explaining the Ten Commandments in detail and read through it; better said, pray through it. Jesus said to the rich young man that salvation comes through observing the Commandments. Indeed, they are Commandments and not Suggestions!
10. Write it Down. It could be very helpful to actually write down your sins on a piece of paper; this will prevent memory-loss in the moment you go to confession. However, after confession, trash the paper and the sins.
11. Grace of True Sorrow. Of paramount importance in making a good confession is begging the Holy Spirit for the grace of true sorrow for your sins. Imperfect sorrow is called Attrition, which is Fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of Wisdom. It is also one of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Imperfect sorrow is fear of going to hell. This is enough to receive forgiveness for our sins.
12. Perfect Sorrow. However, we want to arrive at perfect sorrow. This means that we are sorry for having sinned because our sins have hurt the One who loves us so much and the One we should love in return—Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
13. Beg for the Grace. We should beg for the grace to attain both imperfect contrition, as well as perfect contrition. Saint Augustine put it concisely: We are all beggars before God.
14. Firm Purpose of Amendment. What necessarily flows from true and sincere contrition of sorrow for sin is a firm purpose of amendment. In concrete this means that we are ready and willing to avoid any person, place, or thing that can lead us into sin.
15. Don’t Play With Fire. In other words, we should not play with fire. We should not walk on a slippery moral slope. We should not walk on thin ice. Often we sin because we place ourselves in harm’s way. We must be firm in avoiding all near occasions of sin!
16. Use images. Of great utility could be as you prepare yourself for confession, as you examine your conscience and beg for true sorrow, to pray before images that raise your mind and heart to God. Three in specific: The cross, aware that our sins nailed Jesus to the cross; Divine Mercy, so that our trust will be infinite; finally, Our Lady, to whom we pray as such: Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
17. Pray for the Priest. On one occasion, Saint Faustina left the confessional without peace and she wondered why. Jesus revealed to her the reason: she forgot to pray for the priest before she entered the confessional. So pray for the priest (a Hail Mary or a prayer to the Guardian angels—theirs and yours) and the confession will flow more smoothly!
18. Qualities of a Good Confession. Jesus also revealed to Saint Faustina the three most important qualities of a good confession: transparency, humility, and obedience. To be a good penitent, we must express our sins with great clarity. Then we should make no excuses when we confess our sins or blame others. Finally, we should obey what the priest tells us.
19. Start Right, Close the Door, Begin. Upon entering the confessional make sure that you close the door. Then start with the proper formula: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was… (for example, a month ago). These are my sins…
20. Stay on Topic. In that famous TV Program Dragnet, we heard those all-important words from Joe Friday: Just the facts ma’am, just the facts. So in confession the priest wants to hear: Just the sins, mam, just the sins. Cut to the quick and tell your sins; that is the essential matter for confession, and of course a true and repentant heart!
21. Acts of Contrition and Absolution. The Sacrament concludes with you, the penitent, praying with great sincerity and fervor your Act of Contrition. Then the priest imparts absolution. With the words of Absolution through the ministry of the priest, the most Precious Blood of Jesus washes your soul clean, as white as the snow!
22. An Attitude of Gratitude. Thanks the priest, as you leave thank Jesus for His infinite love and mercy that you have received in this wonderful Sacrament! Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.
23. Penance. The last a final step of making a good confession is to carry out the penance that the priest gave you. Once my spiritual director made a suggestion on the penance. He said always try to do double what the confessor gives you (not that this is absolutely necessary). However, it is a sign of good will and the sign of a really good grace of disposition. God will bless you all the more! God can never be outdone in generosity!
24. Healing the Wounded Heart and Soul. The specific sacramental grace of Confession is that of Healing. Sin wounds our soul, but Jesus heals us. As Jesus healed the many sick and infirm in the three years of His Public life, so He continually heals us through making good confessions. Rejoice in being healed! Indeed, Jesus is the Wounded Healer!
25. Be An Apostle of Confession! You have received so much peace, joy, happiness, love, and mercy through having received the Sacrament of God’s mercy, Confession, now go out and proclaim the Good News! Bring others to this infinite Font of God’s mercy!