I recently had a conversation with a good friend regarding the practice of a holy confession. I related that I often felt a deep sense of inadequacy in making a confession. I attempt to spend some time in preparing with a proper examen and by praying the seven penitential Psalms etc. Yet I often find during confession that my mind goes blank and I often leave the confessional with rather mixed emotion (grateful for having been shriven but dissatisfied with my own sense of inadequacy).
My friend related to me that when he went to confession, he simply allowed himself to be embraced by Jesus and to feel His love for him. He speaks directly to Jesus himself just as if He were sitting there and not the priest. He speaks directly to Jesus in his own wretchedness as his greatest love.
I have been watching the last few weeks a documentary series on the history of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A devotion that I have known and loved since my childhood. I have fond memories of sitting in my own parish church as a boy in the darkness which was only illuminated by the flickering of red votive lights before the image of the Sacred Heart and speaking to Him intimately heart to heart.
Our Lord comes at crucial times to remind us of His great love for us just as he did to St Margaret Mary. Jansenism which stressed the divine justice at the expense of the divine mercy had left many hearts filled with fear or worse with feelings of hopelessness. These vestiges of Jansenistic tendencies are very much alive within the Church (especially here in America and above all among traditional Catholics). Let us embrace Jesus in holy confession and allow Him to embrace us and to envelope us in His love and mercy in preparation for his birth. Let us pray for one another that we might all arrive at the feast of Christmas with souls swept clean and prepared to meet our bridegroom. However, let us do this out of love for Him and not out of fear.
1. Examine your conscience.
2. Be sincerely sorry for your sins.
3. Confess your sins to a priest.
4. After your confession, do the penance the priest has given you.
5. Do not forget to thank God for His forgiveness, and ask Him to help you as you try to do better.“The most precious result of the forgiveness obtained in the Sacrament of Penance is to be found in the reconciliation with God which takes place in the inmost heart of a son who was lost and is found again”.
Blessed John Paul IIExamination of Conscience
For any penitent:
Have I ignored God or excluded Him from my life?
Have I neglected my daily prayers or said them badly?
Is my daily prayer a real conversation with God in mind and heart?
Have I used the name of God, or of Our Lady, in anger or carelessly?
Did I miss Holy Mass on a Sunday or Holyday of Obligation through my own fault?
Did I receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin?
Do I observe the one hour fast before receiving Holy Communion?
Do I abstain from meat or perform some other act of penance on Fridays?
Do I pray for my husband or wife?
Am I critical of my spouse, putting them down in public or in private? What efforts have I made to demonstrate and foster the warmth of my love and affection for my spouse?
Do I try to make up whenever there has been a disagreement or do I allow things to fester beneath the surface? Am I too proud to say ‘Sorry’?
Do I mistreat my spouse verbally, emotionally or physically? Have we used artificial means of birth control in order to prevent having children?
Have I neglected to teach my children their prayers and give them a Christian education?
Have I set my children a bad example by not bringing them to Holy Mass, or being careless about my religious duties?
Do I take care to ensure that my children do not witness arguments at home? Do I watch over the books they read and the television and videos they watch? Do I take care to ‘befriend’ my children? Am I over strict or over lax with them? Do I explain decisions to them and so help them grow to maturity?
Have I been disobedient or rude to my parents or teachers? Do I treat my parents with affection and respect? Do I pray for them?
If I live away from home, do I write to my parents and other members of my family in order to keep in touch?
Do I quarrel with my brothers or sisters or other members of my family? Do I study hard at school or college? Am I grateful for the sacrifices my parents have made for me? Do I show my gratitude?
For any penitent:
Am I careful to set my friends a good example, especially in matters of behaviour, attendance at Holy Mass and moral issues? Do I realise that my support might help them live up to their Christian calling?
Have I been impatient, angry or jealous?
Have I taken part in, or encouraged, an abortion or any other means of taking human life?
Did I get drunk, use drugs, or give bad example to others?
Have I placed myself in danger of sin by reading or looking at what was indecent or pornographic?
Have I sinned against the virtue of purity by myself or with others?
Have I been dishonest by stealing or cheating?
Have I been lazy at my work or at home?
Have I been uncharitable or unkind in thought, word, or deed?
Have I told lies? Do I judge others rashly?
THINGS TO REMEMBER
• If it is a long time since your last confession you can ask the priest to help you.
• Don’t make the mistake of putting off Confession – that never solves anything.
• Try to go to confession frequently – at least once a month.
• Sin is any deliberate thought, word, action or omission which would be against the Commandments of God.
• We have to be truly sorry for our sins, and to have the sincere intention of trying to improve our lives, for our sins to be forgiven.
• We are bound to include in our confession every serious (or mortal) sin of which we are aware.
• The conditions for a sin to be serious (or mortal) are:
1. The offence must be serious.
2. We must know that we are committing a mortal sin.
3. There must be full consent of our will to the action.
- Begin by saying, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It is …………weeks (or months, or years) since my last confession”.
- Then tell the priest the sins you remember since the last confession. (If any sins are serious, you should say how many times you have committed them).
- When you have finished your confession, just say, “I am sorry for these sins, and all the sins of my past life”.
- The priest may give you some advice, then he will give you the Penance (to be said later); and then he will ask you to recite an Act of Contrition. This is a common one: O my God, because you are so good, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, and by the help of your grace I will try not to sin again.
- The priest then gives you the Absolution (in these words), through which your sins are forgiven:
- God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- The priest may add this prayer:
- May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the Saints, whatever good you do and suffering you endure, heal your sins, help you to grow in holiness, and reward you with everlasting life. Amen.