Getting to the Point
I enjoy reading the rants of Fr. Zuhlsdorf, an American priest who goes by the moniker “Fr. Z” on the web. He reminds us that priests are people too. They often have the same frustrations dealing with people that we all have. In this article, Fr. Zuhlsdorf talks about how you don’t have to provide every little detail to the priest to make a good confession. Furthermore, you can still have a good confession even if the priest doesn’t provide great guidance. After all, not every priest has the gift of being a great confessor. Follow the link below to read Fr. Z’s post.
I’m actually comforted by the idea that I don’t need to recall my sins in vivid detail. After all, who wants to recount the times they offended God or hurt others? God already knows the details. He doesn’t need to hear your rambling rendition of them. You just need to recall your sins and feel genuine sorrow for them. For me, voicing those sins provides powerful motivation not to repeat them.
Confession != Therapy
Many of us want the Sacrament of Confession to feel like a therapy session. We want to tell the priest our sins, and then he gives us guidance like a psychologist. Some of us figure that the more details we provide, the better the advice will be. We then leave the confessional slightly disappointed when we receive generic advice and an easy penance.
Remember, God’s ways are not our ways. He does provide all the guidance we need in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It just may not be in the form of words from the priest. Instead, when we are free of our sins, we allow more room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to guide us. We receive counsel from God, not necessarily from the mouth of a priest, but from Him through prayer. Think of Confession as an opportunity to better hear God’s Word for a little while until it’s once again obscured by sin.
Let’s reflect on the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary — The Agony in the Garden. The fruit of this mystery is sorrow for our sins. Of course, Jesus didn’t have any sins to confess but he’s a model for how to approach God in the Sacrament of Confession. We should come to him and ask for his saving grace with all sincerity and humility. Jesus pleaded with God to avoid crucifixion. Likewise, when we’re in the confessional, we should sincerely ask God for mercy and forgiveness.
Notice how God didn’t answer Jesus’ prayers by freeing him from crucifixion. The apostles looking at Jesus’ arrest may have concluded that Jesus’ prayers were in vain. Similarly, we may not feel like God answers our petition for forgiveness during confession. This is especially true if the priest doesn’t provide much counsel. But the power of Confession is more than the advice you receive or how you feel immediately afterward. God infuses you with the strength to resist sin similar to how he infused Jesus with the strength to do his will during the Passion.
Finally, remember the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus Carrying the Cross. The fruit of this mystery is patience. Many times when receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we do need patience as we wait in line for our turn. It often seems like our time will never come. But we also need to have patience in feeling the effects of a good confession. We may not feel like we received the virtues of prudence and fortitude. But like physical exercise, the benefits of Confession our felt over time. We need to be patient with how God strengthens us through this underutilized sacrament.