People love New Year’s Day for the same reason we love make overs and mulligans – they all offer a fresh start. As we try to come up with different ways to make the most of this opportunity of a brand new year, may I suggest a resolution to rediscover the Sacrament of Confession, which offers us the most important kind of fresh start. Here are some tips on Confession that I hope you find helpful.
1) Be Prepared: A good confession requires some preparation. We should be in the habit of doing a brief examination of conscience each day so that we become more aware of our weaknesses in the face of temptation, and of our habitual sins. When we get to church, we should take a few minutes to reflect on what we want to confess prior to entering the confessional. We also should know the proper way to begin our confession, saying: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been [x amount of time] since my last confession. I am single/married. And these are my sins.” It’s important to remember that we must confess all serious (mortal) sins that we’re aware of in order to be validly forgiven. That being said, it is also good to confess venial (non-mortal) sins, though confession is not strictly necessary to receive forgiveness for them. Confessing venial sins helps us to form our consciences, to be strengthened against future temptations, and to be healed so we can progress in our lives with the Lord. 2) Be Intentional: Plan to go to confession 4-6 times in 2023, and put those dates in the calendar now. If you’d like to go more frequently, that’s certainly a fine thing. If you need to go more frequently, you definitely should. Availing ourselves regularly of the sacrament takes the mystique out of going to confession, making it much easier to go. 3) Be Concise: A good confession should not be so vague that the priest does not know what you’re confessing, but it also does not need to be filled with many details. All that’s needed is the expression of the kind of sin committed and the approximate frequency of the sin. It’s important to resist the temptation to couch our confession with excuses or to confess in a way that makes it sound like something positive. Instead of saying: “I’m working on being more patient with my spouse,” say: “I lost my patience many times with my spouse.”
4) Bring your Family: The family is where we learn how to love, to sacrifice, to share, to forgive, and to ask pardon. Spouses who go to confession regularly develop greater self-awareness and a greater appreciation for mercy. Confession helps young people develop good consciences and instills in them an understanding that the Church is a refuge for sinners in an increasingly strange, confusing, and merciless world. The habit of going to confession is a very precious gift that parents can give to their children. But it only happens if parents go too! 5) Do not be Afraid or Discouraged: If it’s been a long time since you’ve been to confession, do not be afraid to come back. I daresay the priests in this parish are very nice – especially Fr. Mariusz! Both of us are happy to help you make a good confession. And if you find yourself confessing the same things over and over, don’t give up. As Pope Francis has said: “Although we often tire of asking forgiveness, Jesus never tires of forgiving us.”
Sin is a great burden in the human heart that even the best among us struggles with. We must not deprive the Lord the opportunity to relieve us of that burden and give us new life in exchange. After all, in St. John’s gospel He tells us: “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” New life in Christ is the freshest of fresh starts. And we find it in the Sacrament of Confession.