how can i make a good confession
good confessions make it possible to be forgiven
Confession–Our Gift From God
Oh, how hard it is to remove our great desire for sin, so to come to truly love God over our sins (obtain a saving faith). Wonderfully, to assist us in our efforts, God has provided us with fantastic grace through the confessing our sins.
“Yes, my devout children, how many more of the damned would there be, and how far fewer saints, if we had not this sacrament [confession]? Oh, how the saints in heaven thank our blessed Lord that He has instituted this sacrament [to help save them].”
–St. John Vienney
This sacrament is so incredibly powerful.
But we should know confession doesn’t just send forgiving mercy (for those who can receive it), it also sends great helping grace for those who want to change (stop offending God).
Below are a few of the helping graces that can be received by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which helps us to:
- stop sinning, so we can stop offending God, whom we should be loving,
- grow in knowledge of our sins, so we know what to change,
- remove our desire for sin, so we can desire God alone,
- grow in humility from gaining knowledge of our sins and expressing of our sinfulness,
- grow into having continuous true sorrow for all sin–so we can void the fires of Hell from growing into a saving faith,
- avoid sin–provides us with strength to recognize danger and to make and keep resolutions so to avoid sinning,
- move towards a life of peace, by helping us stop the sins that are bring us a life of stress and sadness,
- come to know The Way, by helping us remove the sins which are blinding us
- gain a greater understanding of God’s love through experiencing His mercy,
- make right our wrongs through our penances,
- atone for our sins: grow in love for God/hatred for sin so we, who have gained continuous true contrition, can work towards becoming perfect saints.
But to receive these wonderful gifts from God, we need to learn how to confess well. Sadly, most confess so poorly in the sacrament of reconciliation, we aren’t receiving these gifts, we are actually RECEIVING PUNISHMENT since our confessions are sacrilegious (as explained in this article).
Therefore, we absolutely must learn and teach others how to confess properly (so we won’t be held accountable for their doom). Then we and others won’t hasten ourselves towards death but Life, like Our Lord intends with this most merciful gift of love.
Let’s learn where we are going wrong and what we need to do to change.
Why We Are Receiving NO Forgiveness or Helping Grace
Today, the sacrament of confession is hardly practiced, which is such a shame since we are missing the unfathomable grace from God He wishes to give us. But even for the few who do utilize this blessed sacrament, it is taken so lightly, we don’t know that our lack of properly partaking in it is forfeiting forgiving and helping grace from God, making our participation in this sacrament in vain.
This is because in order to be completely forgiven of all of our sins by God in the sacrament of reconciliation, we MUST have grown in our sorrow so greatly to have it become TRUE contrition (true sorrow) or at least imperfect contrition, for each and every sin we have ever committed. And this is quite hard to obtain.
True contrition is when we are so sorry for offending God, we would rather be tortured or even die than offend God, whom we desire to love, by the slightest sin. It is when we love God above ourselves. This is TRUE contrition.
Now, please don’t be deceived and think, sure I don’t have true contrition but surely I have imperfect contrition. Well, imperfect contrition is practically the same as true contrition. The only thing that separates the two contrition is WHY we would rather suffer anything than offend God. The intensity of our hatred for sin is the same; we must desire to suffer and not God.
Therefore, if we want to “suffer death than sin” rather than offend God (WHY) because we want to love God (can’t bear to hurt His Sacred Heart of Love) then we have perfect contrition. But if we want to “suffer death than sin” rather than offend God (WHY) because we want to avoid the punishment that awaits us for sinning then that is imperfect contrition.
Both contritions can receive forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation because both are based on fear of the Lord (faith) but perfect contrition is driven from love of God and imperfect contrition is driven from love of self. Yet, through this sacrament God has given his priests the power to make perfect what is imperfect, and we can be forgiven if we only have imperfect contrition.
Whatever sins we have perfect or imperfect contrition for are the sins which are forgiven in confession. But if we want to be forgiven of all of our sins and be removed from all guilt (for being guilty of one sin damns us), our sorrow must be with this kind of disdain for literally every sin…at least, during the moment we receive absolution…or we won’t be brought into the state of grace (completely forgiven). To learn more please read, “Can I Be Forgiven of One Sin and Not All Sins?”
But to obtain imperfect contrition or perfect contrition for just one sin takes great grace, since most won’t suffer death or actually do anything at all to avoid sinning. If we sin, we sin…we think nothing of it. We aren’t looking for what causes us to sin and making resolutions to avoid sin; we hardly do anything at all to amend even one sin…never mind work with all of our hearts to “sin no more” (to truly love God). Yes, our sorrow for sin is much much less than that…therefore, much much grace is needed to grow in faith….so we can confess true repentance.
“Few confess with tears of repentance.”
–St. John Vianney
But to obtain this kind of sorrow, that saves, God wants us to desire this sorrow and run to His mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation where He is waiting to send us helping (actual) grace, so our contrition can grow.
But to receive any helping grace from God in confession, we must have some amount of REAL sorrow…because confessing without having any amount of real sorrow, makes our confessions sacrilegious.
Oh, we must learn what real sorrow is, or if we confess without it, we are receiving nothing but punishment from this most generous sacrament that is meant to save us.
Real sorrow is when we are sorry for offending God and have some real desire to stop the sin.
Pretty much everyone when hearing this definition will think we have “real” sorrow, but I tell you, the devil is oh so tricky, and if he can convince us we have sorrow when we don’t, we won’t seek Mercy for the grace we need to obtain it, and then we will live blind and die.
Most have been deceived into thinking if we just “say” our sins and “say” we are sorry or even if we just go to confession, we are forgiven. But that just isn’t true.
From that misunderstanding, we are dying. Now, we have no sincere desire to gain real or true contrition nor seek Mercy for a real desire to amend our sins, so to not offend God, and we are hastening ourselves towards death with each confession, not Life.
Looks like Real Sorrow — But It Isn’t
Countless people confess because we like talking with the priest or want to be good Catholics, or because we feel badly for sinning, since we see how a sin has hurt us or others. But, to have some amount of real sorrow, we must be sorry because we have actually OFFENDED GOD, which is the number one reason we should have sorrow. But for most, that isn’t even part of our sorrow at all, which makes our sorrow not even real.
For example: we will hear people say, “I’m sorry I got divorced…it hurt my kids.”And it is good to feel sorry for hurting our children, but if that is the only reason we are sorry and we go to confession looking for forgiveness for hurting our children, we won’t receive it…even if we would rather die than get divorced again. This is because we MUST be sorry, not only for hurting others, but most importantly for OFFENDING GOD.
We must be concerned that we have sinned against GOD who deserves all of our love. That must be our greatest concern or our sorrow isn’t even real (not able to receive forgiveness or helping grace).
Oh, we confess because we are sorry for hurting our spouse, family, neighbor….or for getting caught (feeling personal guilt) etc….but most forget that each and every sin OFFENDS GOD. I can’t express this enough. We must consciously want to stop sinning not just to stop hurting others or ourselves, but most importantly to STOP OFFENDING GOD (either because we want to love God or because don’t want to receive punishment for our sins) or our sorrow isn’t even real.
Now, our sorrow doesn’t have to be so great to where we would rather suffer death than sin in order for us to receive God’s Helping Grace, but it does if want to receive forgiving mercy. But to receive God’s helping mercy, we must simply have some real sorrow…some amount of sorrow for offending God with some sincere desire to never sin again. Or God’s mercy will fall upon us during the sacrament, and we will just let it all fall to the floor (receiving none, since we have not even a little real desire to love Him). Tragic!
A priest who defers absolution to someone, who doesn’t express any real sorrow (sorrow for offending God with a real desire to stop the sin), is most kind to the penitent, for it will spare the penitent of being accountable for the Blood of Christ which will just fall to the floor and allow the penitent to understand how serious gaining true contrition or at least some sorrow really is.
“Confessors should give absolution to those only whom they judge properly disposed to receive it…so as to not profane the sacrament…A confessor who defers absolution because he does not believe the penitent will enough disposed, is not too severe; on the contrary, he is very charitable and acts as a good physician who tries all remedies, even those that are disagreeable and painful, to save the life of his patient.”
–Pope St. Pius V
We must remember, athiests are sorry when they hurt their families too and change what they are doing so to not hurt them. Therefore, our sorrow must be above that of an athiest or we wound God’s Sacred Heart of Love greatly when we approach Him for forgiveness, but we aren’t even sorry for offending Him. That is a sacrilege! To learn more please read, “What is True Sorrow.”
Act of Contrition is Vitally Important
The act of contrition is invaluable, but saying we are sorry for offending God in our act of contrition means nothing too, if none of these truths live to any degree in our hearts and/or actions. But what a blessing it is to at least say the standard Act of Contrition (written by the saints–which is professing perfect/true contrition) so maybe perhaps if we say how we are supposed to be truly sorry, one day we might actually live these words we profess.
What a shame some priests omit such a vital part of confession–which can help increase our sorrow, which is the ONLY THING WE NEED TO RECEIVE GRACE! The more sorrow we have the more grace we can receive.
Praying–actually praying (not just saying)–the act of contrition can greatly move our hearts into growing or even gaining some real or even true contrition. But if it is left until after absolution–after God’s grace has been sent forth from the priests hands, that won’t allow the penitent to receive additional grace from the sacrament. Therefore, praying our act of contrition before we go into confession and right before we receive absolution is essencial to receive the most grace possible.
Whatever state of contrition we are in during absolution determines the amount of grace we can receive from this sacrament. So omitting this wonderful prayer or praying it at the wrong time, is a huge error that prevents souls from receiving all the mercy they can from God’s most generous font of life. Tragic!
But if we truly want to benefit from this sacrament, we must be striving to “sin no more” striving to become a real self-sacrificing saint as God commands of us…This is what we should be teaching others, if we love them enough to show them The Way to Eternal Life.
Oh, we must educate penitents as to what these requirements are to partake in this sacrament worthily, since this sacrament is supposed to save lives, not help damn them.
If we can’t utilize this life saving sacrament properly, the grace we needed to help us grow into a saving faith will be lost. But having some amount of real sorrow isn’t the only requirement to a sound confession…there is more.
Ways We Can Confess
Before we learn about the other requirements to confess well. We should know there are actually two ways we can confess our sins, which can receive help and forgiveness:
- Confession straight to God (Psalm 32:5-6)
- Confession to God through the priest – the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:19-23)
Both these means of repenting we want to partake in if we want to receive the fullness of God’s mercy.
Confessing straight to God is what we will do most of the time. Hopefully, we will confess straight to God throughout our day, like whenever we recognize ourselves sinning…and especially at night–or at some appointed time–when we examine our conscience.
However, even though many confess straight to God for at least some of our sins, sadly most of our sins are still never forgiven, since most of us still lack the amount of sorrow needed to accept God’s forgiving mercy by confessing to God alone.
To accept forgiveness by confessing directly to God, our real sorrow needs to grow greatly to were our love for God and sorrow for our sins becomes so great that it becomes perfect contrition (finial fear of the Lord/true sorrow).
Perfect Contrition: is when we love God so greatly and seek to obey Him so perfectly that we would rather suffer, even to the point of death, rather than offend God again...this is contrition driven from love of God.
Yes, perfect contrition is the same as true contrition, but imperfect contrition can also receive forgiveness in the sacrament of confession (as I explain below).
But if we want to be forgiven when we aren’t before God in the sacrament of confession, then we need to grow in grace to follow the example Christ gave us, who “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross [rather than disobey/sin]” (Philippians 2:8), like the saints have done before us.
If we don’t really hate sin that much, that we wouldn’t choose to be tortured or die rather than offend God even with a venial sin, then we don’t truly love God yet and still lack true/perfect contrition. This is common, since obtaining true contrition takes much grace. To lose our desire for the sins that we aren’t horrified we commit–like with our bounds of habitual sins, that we put forth a half-hearted or no real effort at all into removing–takes much grace from God. But through the confessing of our sins, God send His grace to help us obtain that goal (a saving faith).
But for one sin to be forgiven, through confessing to God alone, perfect contrition “suffer death than sin” needs to truly be in our hearts for that sin. But if we desire to be forgiven of all of our sins, then perfect/true sorrow must be present for each and every sin we have ever committed.
As we probably know, most of us just don’t have that kind of contrition for our sins. We might have some kind of sorrow, for some of our sins, but few have “maturity [of faith]” (Hebrews 6:1) to have true hatred/sorrow for all or sadly, even one of our sins (as I explain), since most aren’t seeking it. But if we want it, we can obtain it through God’s grace in the sacrament of reconciliation. To learn more please read, “Can I be Forgiven of Some Sins and Not All of Them.”
Wonderfully, depending on the desires of our hearts, confessing straight to God, with whatever contrition (sorrow) we do have does send us grace to strengthen us to grow in faith. It doesn’t send us as much grace as the sacrament of reconciliation does, since it isn’t a sacrament, but it does send grace, according to God’s will, to help us. That is if we don’t mistakenly make a bad confession. To learn more please read, “How Bad Confessions Can Damn Us.”
Confessing to God through the priest–Participating in the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation–is what we should do as often as possible (within moderation and our abilities to receive grace) as GREAT GRACE is sent through the power given from God through the priest in this sacrament.
Even if we don’t yet have true contrition for all of our sins, MUCH helping grace is delivered from the blessed priest in this sacrament to help us increase our contrition and faith. This is God’s main gift to us to help us remove sin and grow in sorrow for the forgiveness of our sins.
Why Do We Confess to a Priest?
Before discussing the qualities to confess well, many don’t understand why we want or need to confess to a priest or where in the Bible it say we are to confess to a priest? But God Himself instituted confession to His sacred priests.
“[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you [to do as I have done].” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:20-23).
Confession has been the tradition of the Church, passed down from the apostles, since the beginning of Christianity. This sacrament of reconciliation isn’t something that just came about a few hundred years ago; it has been going on since the beginning.
Sadly, many have been deceived and don’t understand what they are missing and are intentionally running from the grace God has waiting for us in this great act of mercy.
So, what is this sacraments main purpose? The main purpose of confession is to HUMBLE us. Yes, the great purpose for God instituting the sacrament of reconciliation, is to create in us a humble contrite heart, because God knows without great humility (knowledge of our sinfulness and need for mercy), we die.
“The Lord Jesus Christ himself [gave us this sacrament]…to humble ourselves there by confession of sin”
–St. Albert the Great
Of course, this sacrament is also meant to restore us to Life, but we can’t get there without HUMILITY. Oh, how hard it is to honestly state our misery. Some can’t even say we sin, while others never advance from the basic declaration of our sin into a declaration of our true misery (as is explained below). But when we learn how to do this, we can grow in the humility this sacrament is meant to deliver.
Confession gives us all the tools we need to develop a wonderful humble heart, that is, if we approach it correctly.
Therefore, we need to learn how to confess our sins in a way that benefits us for our conversions. Everything we do, God intends to use for that purpose…so we can better know, love and serve Him, and confession is no different.
Requirements to Confess Well
To confess well and receive all the grace God intends for us to help save us, we need to approach the sacrament with the following:
- have some kind of real sorrow (or our confessions are sacrilegious)
- know how to confess (the mechanics)
- know how to examine our conscience (know some of our sins)
- know how to confess our sins correctly (how to say our sins in a way that will helps us grow in faith)
- know how to perform an adequate penance (to come to hate our sin and atone for them)
It is imperative we learn how to maximize the benefits of this great sacrament and learn how to do the above well,.because, if we die and are not forgiven of a single sin (mortal or venial) against God’s law, we reject Heaven for some wretched sin, since lacking contrition for sinning in any way (mortal or venial) against Divine Perfection is a mortal crime and leaves our souls guilty (unforgiven).
“He who departs this life guilty [not forgiven] of having violated God’s law is bound over as a convict to eternal chains and is tortured without end by unspeakable torments.”
–St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church
That is some scary stuff. The consequence of unrepented sin against Divine Perfection is just horrific. Let that warning motivate us to change. Therefore, let’s do all we can to sincerely come to hate our sins by learning how to confess well.
How Can I Confess My Sins Well?
To learn how to confess our sins well, lets look at different types of people who confess. There are the first communicants, elementary children, high school young adults, adults and greatly aged. At different ages of our life, we have different abilities of comprehension.
Therefore, each of those five requirements to confess well that are listed above, will be understood differently by different people…and God understands and only expects from us what we can do. Therefore, what is a good confession for one person, will not be acceptable to another.
Below I will explain more in depth each of the five requirements to confess well.
As said, the one ability we need that merits forgiveness and helping grace is having sorrow for our sins. No two people have the same amount/degree of sorrow…but to obtain something from Confession, we must, at least, have the smallest amount of real sorrow.
Therefore, we want to read the article “How Bad Confessions Damn Us” and “What is True Sorrow?” to learn more about sorrow since it is MUCH more complicated than most understand. Oh, there are many false sorrows that the devil tricks us into thinking are real.
But the sorrow we need to be aiming for is not just real sorrow, but perfect/true sorrow. That must be our goal. That is the contrition which can not only receive actual (helping) grace but forgiving mercy too through the sacrament of reconciliation.
No matter how old we are–once we obtain enough comprehension to know right from wrong–we can have true sorrow for our sins. So it doesn’t matter who we are teaching about sorrow…even young children can comprehend, if we don’t speak to them on a scholarly level.
True (perfect) sorrow isn't complicated: it is being so sorry for sinning, that we sincerely would never ever commit the sin again, no matter what...even if we were to suffer horribly (be made fun of, punished, fined, hurt, have to work real hard, even die, etc.) as a result of abstaining from sinning, all so we would not offend God so to LOVE HIM.
Now, if we read the article “What is True Sorrow,” we can clearly see how many will think we have true contrition, but we are actually far from it for many reasons.
Therefore, to attend confession well, we need to spend time before confession asking God and the Blessed Mother for help, so we can have true sorrow or at least some real sorrow (some hatred for offending God and desire to amend). If we can’t at least gain some real sorrow (sorrow for offending God) for at least one sin, then we shouldn’t attend confession. To would harm our soul.
We want the greatest sorrow we can obtain–hoping for it to be true–before we confess with a real determination to never repeat the sins again…not just with our words, but most certainly with our actions.
This is sorrow is increased through stating our great sinfulness and our act of contrition. These combined are to move us into the greatest state of sorrow we can obtain for the greatest mercy to be accepted into our souls.
2. Know How To Confess
This is the least important requirement, but we still want to know it.
There was a young girl making her first confession. She wasn’t with other children, but was in line during the regular confession time with a bunch of adults. However, she was very unprepared and was shaking, almost crying in fear. She was in great fear because she didn’t know how to go to confession.
So, how can we help this poor child or anyone right before they are to walk into the confessional, who is fearing this magnificent sacrament that performs the greatest miracles to truly repentant hearts? Well, it is easy.
Let the penitent (person going to confess) know it really doesn’t matter if she knows what to do or even if she can remember all of her sins…all she needs is to remember is just one sin and let the priest know this is her first confession…and all God is looking for is for her to have GREAT SORROW FOR OFFENDING HIM WITH ALL OF HER SINS. That is is.
That way, He can shed great grace into her soul from her desire to never offend Him again, which will help her in her life, so she can leave the sins that are keeping her from finding the Way of Peace and grow in faith to never offend God again.
Knowing this can help sooth anyone…and remove from our mind the fear of having to speak to a priest and put the focus on God (what He thinks) and contrition for our sins, where it should be. Yes, many people are terrified of speaking to a priest and some priests do seem very cold, which brings on more fear, while others are too lax, which brings on a lack of seriousness of what is at hand (no sorrow/hatred for offending God).
Therefore, if we can put the focus on God and contrition, and not what the priest thinks, then any imperfections of the priest are over looked. Some priests make confession easy to humbly express our sins and grow in sorrow, which can really help us grow in faith, but there are others, who when they see a soul begin to grow in holiness (beyond themselves), they will not know what to do and even some, will do many many things to stifle or discourage progress…we must beware.
What to do during Confession:
- Make the sign of the cross
- Tell the priest how long it’s been since your last confession
- Confess your sins to God and the priest with at least real sorrow seeking true contrition
- Receive a penance (what you need to do to make right your wrongs)
- Say your act of contrition (say how sorry you are for your sins AGAINST GOD by following the format of the saints, which is one of perfect contrition)
- Receive absolution (obtain forgiveness and grace based on the contrition in your heart for your sins)
- Perform your penance (asap)
3. How to examine our conscience
Examination of our conscience–looking to find our sins–is probably what people find most challenging, since most can’t see our vast sinfulness. We have spent our lives covering our sins so bring them to the light can be quite challenging. If we see very few sins, we won’t benefit much from confession. Outside of seeking to gain and grow in sorrow for our sins, performing a proper examination of conscience is the next most beneficial thing we will do in this sacrament.
Sure saying our sins in a humble manner to bring on contrition and performing a proper penance are greatly important too, but a humble examination of conscience, should bring to light what is in darkness, so we can seek God’s mercy so to remove the sins that are killing us.
Skipping this DAILY step in our spiritual life can be extremely dangerous to one’s salvation…and can cause us to live blindly in deadly habitual sin.
The key to a proper examination of conscience is having a desire to see. If we don’t want to see our sins, we won’t. Then we need to look into what we think, say and do and see where we fell short in loving like Christ loves.
4. How to confess our sins correctly
The purpose of confessing our sins to a priest is to humbly state our sins so we can grow in humility, not to look for a priest to tell us we are really a good person or to say some words to “make us feel good”…we shouldn’t feel God, we just offended God. We want guilt. Guilt = Contrition. To learn more please read “How Bad Confessions Damn Us.” We want the priest to help move us to SIN NO MORE.
Being able to confess our sins properly (with great humility) is easier for those just beginning in the faith, because when someone grows in faith, it becomes more challenging, because, from most, we lose our humility.
When we change our lives and want to live the faith and/or are looked at as “holy,” good people , then we expect ourselves to be good. And want others to see us as good too. Then of instead of surrendering our will for God’s, allowing others to see us however they wish: how we are (sinners) or even seeing us as worse than we are, we will do things to change reality. Our mind loses its focus on stating our misery but makes confession into isn’t focused on loving and pleasing God, but on others and ourselves to build up our pride. And this kills…our pride ruins everything.
To confess to a priest well, we absolutely must want him to SEE OUR SINFULNESS and being OK if he rejects us when he sees what a miserable person we really are, or even if he thinks we are being proud through our confession or perhaps scrupulous…whatever it is. It really doesn’t matter what the priest feels, hopefully he is filled with grace and understanding to have correct judgement, but he is human with flaws too (please be understanding). Sometimes, the priest is correct in his judgement and sometimes he isn’t. But no matter what the priest thinks, our mind is to be focused on God…stating our misery and how we are greatly sorry for offending Him, wanting to humble ourselves, seeking his grace and forgiveness to help us not offend God again.
But with all of that said, if we commit a great or even greater sin and don’t have enough grace to confess to our confessor or a priest we know (for we are embarrassed), rather than committing sacrilege (purposely omitting a sin), it would be better to confess to a priest we don’t know rather than die with that sin. But for those who do have much grace, it is best to confess our worst sins to the priest who thinks highly of us to help remove any desire for approval that might live in us.
If we do go to confession to various priests (since that is all God has provided) and we are confessing properly, we will most likely experience all of the above issues of mis-judgement, but please don’t allow that to deter us from confession, but use it as a tool to grow in humility. Remember, we are ONLY to care about what God thinks of us, but proudly never discredit what the priest says either. Perhaps he is right. Therefore, no matter what correction or judgement is given welcome it and look to see if it is true–sometimes God speaks to us through His sacred priests and sometimes through the angry man driving behind us…we must be listening so we can learn where we are going wrong and change.
God loves a truly humble contrite heart. Our goal is to paint the most honest picture of ourselves…one that God, who is listening, would agree with…to tell ourselves and the priest what a horrible sinner we are as we ask God for forgiveness.
Not one iota of the truth is to be altered to make ourselves not look so bad. That ruins our confessions. We are to paint the worst picture of ourselves as we can….because in reality, I don’t think we could possibly depict our sinfulness correctly, because we are so horribly miserable beyond our understanding.
Sins we should know better and have never committed are to be declared clear and direct…nothing is to ever be hidden. Confession is meant to humble us, not pride us. There are many ways our bad confession damn us…to learn more please read, “How Can Bad Confessions Damn Us.”
We want to confess all of our sins to the best of our ability, unless God has given us great light of conscience. Then we only confess what we feel God desires for us to confess, what embarrasses us and what we are currently working on amending.
If God has given us a great ability to see our sins, then we could literally write pages and pages of our sins. But what good does that do?
Does God need to know what our sins are? God already knows everything. He knows our sins and how much contrition we have for each of them…so what is the purpose of literally stating our sins?
Well, we state our sins for our benefit…to humble ourselves.
If we are new to confession, then perhaps just saying the general sin, like I lied, stole, gossiped, was immoral, etc. is all we can do. For some of us it, is terribly embarising and humbling to even say we sinned anything, which makes this fine for them.
But this step shouldn’t last for too long, as there is so much more to confession than merely stating our sins like a laundry list. That is only for those in the infancy of their faith, who haven’t yet been able to see the sin under the sins and can clearly humiliate/humble ourselves by stating our sinfullness, our sinful reasoning/justification why we did what we did and what vice was used to offend God…so to be able to put a stop to it.
…and that is a start, but that doesn’t do much except allow us to state that we are sinners, which can be very beneficial for some, since some can’t even admit they do anything wrong.
But we most certainly want to advance out of that most basic form of confession towards maturity, which will really help humble us and bring about true sorrow. But if we have a hard time even seeing where we have lied, stole, gossiped, or were immoral, like MOST have, then we will need to learn how to look into ourselves. To learn more please read, “How Can I See My Sins.”
But once we see a sin, and wish to confess in a way that will help us amend, we need to look into “why” we committed the sin, to see the vast sins, which are supporting the one sin we do see.
5. How to perform an adequate penance
How to Find a Good Confessor
Finding good confessor can make all the difference with our confessions, since God can be a direct channel through him to us. But few of them exist today. It takes great humility for both the penitent and confessor for this to occur. Both must be willing to allow themselves to be nothing…and not to try to prove to the other they are holy…but nothing at all, both must allow each other to see their weakness (sins and imperfections), so God can speak through the priest (pride won’t inhibit it) and so grace can be accepted into the penitent (pride won’t inhibit it).
If we can find a humble priest to go to confession with, please try to stick with him alone. That is the greatest good. But for most of us today, that isn’t God’s will for one reason or another. One reason we might be that we are not be able to find a confessor who is available to meet our desire/need for confession, since there are only so many hours in a day and a good priest might be very busy. Or there might not be any priests at all who are humble enough, since we do live in the time of great darkness. Therefore, finding a priest with much grace and understanding, who can truly help isn’t common.
If this is our reality, then we won’t be able to benefit fully from this sacrament. But that is OK. God’s will is perfect…so never fret with what God allows, just trust in that as being the greatest good for our souls and pray for a confessor to come, according to His will. But fully accept what He allows, carrying any crosses along the way.
But if God sends a priest enlightened with the correct Light, we are one of the most blessed few. There is such fantastic power for souls coming from such a priest, it is amaizing! For he can really motivate, enlighten and help us grow in faith correctly. There are so many benefits of having scheduled confessions to one wonderful humble priest such as:
- motivation to not slack with our examination of conscience or we might not have any sins to confess
- motivation to see we do attend confession; if someone is waiting for us, we are less likely to not go, than if God alone is waiting for us
- motivation to amend a sin, so we don’t have to embarrassed ourselves by re-confessing it again, if not wanting to offend God again isn’t enough
But in contrast, oh how much a priest walking in great pride, can harm us. Beware!
Since we live in a time of great darkness, finding a priest who can truly help and not hurt, like I said, can be challenging to find. But even if we can’t find a priest, who can correctly help us, perhaps we can find a priest, who doesn’t harm our soul in the sacrament of reconciliation. That is the next greatest good.
If we have little to no experience with recognizing the poor qualities of a priest, which come from us already having recognized the same sins within ourselves and having repented and changed from them or having experienced the negative effects of them, it can be hard to know what to lookout for. Below is a list that can help.
A priest who doesn’t harm us (the good qualities) are when a priest:
- doesn’t have much pride, since pride is what destroys all,
- doesn’t lack much knowledge or wisdom of The Way–loves the cross,
- doesn’t make light of our sins, but wants to help us grow in our hatred for our sins,
- doesn’t restrict us in the confessing of our sins, but lets us humbly state our sins,
- doesn’t try to convince us our sins aren’t sins, but wants us to see our sins, for what they are…sins (even though it is possible we might be confused as to what is sinful and what isn’t),
- doesn’t try to convince us that God doesn’t want us perfect, to try to make us feel better, which is really robbing us of our hatred for sin/contrition, but truly wants to help us to sin no more,
- doesn’t try to convince us God’s mercy is so great, we shouldn’t have grief over our sins, but wants to encourage us to grow in our hatred of our offences against God and not just seek to take His mercy…but strive for true contrition,
- doesn’t give us advice without knowing anything about what occurred, but asks questions,
- doesn’t give advice that leads us astray, but enlightens us to The Way.
Priests who bear the opposite of these qualities aren’t good fits for us, and if we are sensitive to these issues, we will not feel a connection with the priest. But if we lack experience or these problems aren’t obvious, we might have to learn the hard way, before we can see how they can’t help us.
But we must always remember, regardless of whether God sends us the perfect priest or a very imperfect priest, we are blessed…as what God allows is the perfect path we must take to Life.
But so we don’t live proud thinking we are humble enough to always know good from bad, even if we think a priest bears a wrong quality for being a good confessor, we might be misunderstanding something. It very well might not be the priest who has the issue, but US. Therefore, always, look for our sin, so we won’t be tricked into thinking good is bad.
The only way a priest, who doesn’t bear these qualities could not be hurtful, is if they say nothing during the sacrament as some priests do. Yes, sometimes, the only priest God will provide to help us, is someone who doesn’t guide us at all in the sacrament of reconciliation.
Frankly, long winded speakers aren’t necessary good, since much of the time just a few words, guided by God’s light, are most powerful and best.
But if the best priest is one who doesn’t speak at all, that is fine. When a priest doesn’t know The Way, from misguided love, he unknowingly speaks words of death, not Life. And for souls, who seek to perfectly obey the priest or don’t know the truth well enough themselves, we might become confused and/or perhaps walk on the path of darkness…or be stripped of our contrition. We must be careful.
By the way, if the priest isn’t our dedicated “confessor” we don’t have to follow his suggestions. If we go to different priests after priest to hear our confession, we can hear many conflicting advice and we don’t have to flip flop and follow all of it all….just what helps us grow in faith or what we believe God wills us to obey. But, we do have to do the penance from all priests. But again if the priest is our “confessor” the one priest we are to trust to guide us to the Light, then we must obey. Obedience is everything to God. God will use our obedience to transform our souls…so we need to make sure our confessor is a good one and if something doesn’t seem right, don’t keep him as a confessor for long as following wrongful advice can kill.
If we don’t live where anyone preaches The Truth, or it is preached but from someone who seems to be suffering from much pride, then we can be pretty sure these priests around us are suffering from much darkness and won’t be able to correctly help us. But I can’t stress this enough, if we haven’t been greatly humbled by the Lord, we will think someone is prideful who isn’t…for if we still bear much pride in ourselves, much of the time we simply can’t tell good from bad…please beware or will mistake a good priest as bad. So work on removing our pride first before picking someone to be our confessor. To learn more please read, “How Does Our Pride Kill Us.”
But regardless of whether the priest knows The Way or not, magnificent grace pours forth from His sacred hands during this sacrament…even if he thinks we are crazy, as long as he says the words of absolution, God sends His grace. And that is the main reason we attend the sacrament, as we always pray for our beloved priests.
So if we can’t find a priest to correctly guide us, seek a priest who says nothing. It might even be very beneficial to help humble us, to confess to a priest, who feels something is wrong with us: perhaps he thinks we are scrupulous since we are concerned about our venial sin or perhaps he thinks we are self-righteous, since we were seen as not agreeing with him, or whatever it is…as long as they don’t speak wrongful guidance, they can be quite helpful. We will most likely be tempted to prove we aren’t guilty of whatever we are being falsely judged of, but never try to justify our good behavior that they misunderstand, to gain his approval, but rather delight in being falsely accused–like Christ. That will greatly help humble us.
Please know the deceiver is always trying kill us through our pride…playing mind games with us, convincing us we are humble and doing good, when we are far from it. Always, look for the pride in ourselves. It is there. If we think it isn’t, then we are blind (unless of course we have obtained perfection and can no longer choose to sin)…but for everyone else, it is there.
Having to approach someone who misunderstands us and doesn’t like us, will help us to focus on confessing to God and not seek the approval of man, these are qualities that will reap great benefits during our confession. But if the silent priest begins talking to you and tells you to do things harmful to your soul, you need to find someone else to confess to.
But regardless of what kind of priest God allows us to confess to, there is always a lesson God is wanting to teach us, lets learn it.
“He who says that he has repented of a sin ought not only to be pricked with compunction for his sin, but also to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. He who has been corrected in first faults, and received pardon, if he sins again prepares for himself a judgement of wrath worse than that former. He, who after the first and second admonition abides in his fault, ought to be brought before the person in authority, if haply after being rebuked by more he may be ashamed [to motivate him to change].” –St. Basill