I hope you’ve been able to define and enter well into the Advent Season. A common Advent practice for many Catholics is going to confession. Listed in the bulletin are numerous opportunities to do just that. Many of our surrounding parishes will host Communal Penance Services. In addition, Mt Carmel will be offering extended times for Confessions closer to Christmas.
This is a good time to reflect on making a good confession. Below are excerpts from the article, Confession 201: How to Confess Like an Adult by Jeannette Williams.
For most of us, instruction in going to Confession took place in the second grade, right before First Holy Communion. We were taught how to confess like children but have not updated the practice to account for our thoughts and actions and motivations as adults. Without that update, we might think we don’t have anything obvious to say, we don’t know what to say, and we wonder if we should even go to Confession.
Making a good confession when you’re not obviously breaking the Ten Commandments is not easy. It takes work. But putting in that work is what propels the soul to the next level of spiritual growth.
Step 1: Change Focus
The first step is to have the right intention. Everything should stem from our relationship with Christ and our desire to grow closer to him. As Fr. Mike Schmitz says in his excellent video “Making a Good Confession“:
“Is God the center of your life? If not, you should confess that first.”
My goal should be to unite more fully with the Blessed Trinity—to grow in grace, which, as we learned in second grade, is “the life of God in our souls.” It is grace, God’s life in us, that makes us holy.
When my life’s focus is on growing deeply in love with God, then I will see myself and the path I need to take more clearly.
Step 2: Understand the True Meaning of Sin
Fr. Mike Schmitz, in his down-to-earth way, defines sin this way: “God, I know what you want, but I want what I want.”
So if we understand sin as rejecting God, and we are truly seeking to grow in relationship with him (step 1), then we will want what He wants, even in the smallest aspects of our lives.
Step 3: Examine Your Conscience Well
To know my sins means to examine my conscience. The key here, I’ve found, is to habitually examine one’s conscience, not just right before Confession. Ideally, we should do an examination of conscience every night before bed. Ask for the Holy Spirit to help you as you go back over your day, first reviewing all the ways you said yes to God and thanking him, then reviewing all the ways you said no to God and asking for forgiveness. Mother Teresa said it simply: “Ask at night before you go to bed, ‘What did I do to Jesus today? What did I do for Jesus today? What did I do with Jesus today?’”
Using a cheat sheet on a regular basis can deepen and improve your nightly review as well as your examination immediately before Confession. Common suggestions are the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Precepts of the Church.
Also check out the fantastic website, goodconfession.com, that offers descriptions and attributes of various theological lists to meditate on: the Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Capital Virtues, Three Theological Virtues, Four Cardinal Virtues, and even the Four Temperaments (personalities) and the strengths and weaknesses associated with them.
Step 4: Be More than Just Sorry
The next step after examining one’s conscience is to be sorry for our sins, or as one source said, “be heartbroken because of your sins.” This is true repentance. As Fr. Schmitz says in another video, Confessing the Same Sins Over and Over Again, we need to actually, formally renounce the sin. We’re confessing so that we will have a true conversion, a real change of thinking and change of lifestyle. May God bless you with good health and deeper
faith in the Christ child, Fr Charlie Goraieb