by Josh Hinchie
What is Confession?
Even though our sins were forgiven in Baptism, the truth is that even as Christians we’re constantly falling short of who God has called us to be. Lucky for us, Christ offered us a second chance when He gave His apostles and their successors His authority to forgive sins (Jn 20:23). Through this authority comes the sacrament of Confession, also known as Penance or Reconciliation. No matter how bad our sins may be, we can confess them to a priest and receive forgiveness through God’s grace.
Why should I go?
- Confession reunites us with God: When we sin, we harm our relationship with God, and sometimes we break it off entirely. In Confession, we are healed and our relationship with God is repaired. Plus, if we’ve committed any major (mortal) sins since our last confession, we must confess them before we receive communion.
- Confession helps us to grow in virtue: Even if we haven’t committed any major sins, confessing our minor sins frequently gives us a greater awareness of where we’ve succeeded and failed to love God with all our heart, and gives us strength to resist temptation and to grow in love of God.
- The Church asks us to go: Even though we’re only required to go to Confession once a year, the Church recommends that we go frequently. Why not try going once a month, or even once a week?
How can I go?
At St. Philip Neri Newman Center, we have confessions available at regular times:
- Sundays from 9:45 am to 10:45 am
- Sundays from 3:45 am to 4:45 am
- Mondays from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm
If these times don’t work, feel free to schedule a time with the chaplain. Also, other Catholic parishes around Tulsa have regular confession times that can be found on their websites.
What do I do?
In case you’re a bit rusty on the procedure, here’s a step by step breakdown:
- Examination of Conscience: Before entering the confessional, take some time to pray and examine how you’ve lived since your last confession, calling to mind the times you’ve failed to love God and neighbor. If you’re not sure where to start, there are guides on the table in the back of the chapel. Try to remember as many sins as you reasonably can, especially the major ones. If you forget something, though, God understands.
- Confession: When you enter the confessional, the priest will start you out and help you along. Be sure to tell him how long it’s been since your last confession, and begin to state your sins. Make sure you confess every mortal sin (major sin) you can remember since your last confession. It’s also good to confess your venial sins (minor sins), though it’s not strictly required.
- Conversation and Penance: After you confess your sins, the priest often talks with you about how to progress further in your life in Christ, and will then give you a penance. A penance is usually a prayer or a simple action designed to make reparation for one’s sins.
- Act of Contrition: The priest will then ask you to say a short prayer stating your sorrow for your sin, and your desire to turn back to God with all your heart. Don’t worry if you forget the words; the priest will help you out.
- Absolution: This is what it’s all about. Here the priest calls on God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and through the authority given by Christ to the apostles, absolves (forgives) your sins. When you walk out of that confessional, you’re free: free from the guilt of your sin and free to love God with all your heart. Just don’t forget to say your penance!
What if I’m nervous?
It’s okay to be nervous. It can often feel embarrassing to confess our sins to someone else: how do we know the priest isn’t sitting there silently judging us? However, Confession is a sacrament of mercy, not judgment. Priests don’t condemn you for the sins you confess; rather, they rejoice that you’ve decided to come to the sacrament to be forgiven and reunited with God. Besides, priests are human and understand our weakness, and we’re honestly not going to confess something they haven’t heard a thousand times before.
Still nervous? There’s a screen in the confessional you can hide behind; the priest doesn’t have to see you. Also, you can always go to a nearby parish and confess to a priest you’ll never see again.
What if I’m not Catholic, or I want to learn more?
While you have to be a member of the Catholic Church to receive the sacrament, we’d love you to learn more about it! Try coming to RCIA classes or see what the Catechism has to say about it.