Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top 7 things you need to know about confession

1. Everyone is scared of confession
Nobody is so confident of the insignificance of their sins that they breeze into and out of the confession box without a single worry. Most people fret so much about entering into a one-on-one with a priest that they literally shake and sweat. They believe their sins are so abominable that the priest will be shocked. Realizing that most people are scared of confession is a good first step to getting there.

2. Priests cannot tell anyone else your sins
No matter what happens, a priest is never permitted to tell someone else your sins or even imply them. Even if he faces death, he cannot reveal something you confessed under the seal of confession.

3. You needn't be embarrased
No matter what you've done that needs to be confessed, you don't need to worry about it. The priest has most likely already heard the same sins before, and even if he hasn't, he won't be shocked because he understands human weakness. Many priests say they actually forget what they hear in the confessional.

4. If you're not 100% ready, don't worry
You don't need to have an act of contrition memorized in order to go to confession. Simple recount the sins you remember and show some repentence. The priest will give absolution.

5. Penance ain't what it used to be
In the olden days, it seems penance could quite harsh. Often, people would have to confess publically, and then a very public display of penance would be given, such as wearing something indicating guilt for a year. Nowadays, penance is usually very minimal, such as saying one or two Our Father prayers. The usual complaint I receive is that the penance is too lenient.

6. You don't have to make yourself known
If you are feeling shy or simply prefer a more private confession, you can always stay behind the separator where the priest cannot see you. Many confessionals either have this as the only possibility or they will make either a private or face to face confession possible. Be careful though, try to understand the layout of the confessional before entering or enter slowly. One time I wanted to go privately, but ended up face to face with the priest. It's kind of hard at that point to just go to the private area and pretend that didn't happen!

7. Everyone, including the pope, goes to confession
The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. Priests, bishops, and even the pope regularly go to confession. Don't feel like you are the lowest of the low for going to confession. We're all human and confession strengthens us against the evils of the world. Fear not confession!

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