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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

They say it's good for your soul!

You know what they say, "Confession is good for the soul."  And if you are Catholic, it's more than good for the soul, it's required before you can receive your first communion.

Peter is in second grade which means he will receive his first communion this spring after he completes all of his required prep classes and after he receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka - his first confession).

I was raised as a Protestant and when I first considered joining the Catholic church, one of the things I balked at was the idea of confessing my sins to a priest.

I don't need a priest!  I can go straight to God!  Why do I need to confess my sins to a priest?  

These were the arguments I made in protest but as I started to read and reflect and pray about the matter, I  realized that confession is Biblical.

The text below which is taken from Catholics Come Home  answers the question of Why do Catholics confess their sins to  a priest instead of going directly to God? quite nicely and succinctly:

The quick answer is because that's the way God wants us to do it. In James 5:16, God, through Sacred Scripture, commands us to "confess our sins to one another." Notice, Scripture does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to says confess your sins to one another.

In Matthew, chapter 9, verse 6, Jesus tells us that He was given authority on earth to forgive sins. And then Scripture proceeds to tell us, in verse 8, that this authority was given to "men"...plural.

In John 20, verses 21-23, what is the 1st thing Jesus says to the gathered disciples on the night of His resurrection? "Jesus said to them, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.'" How did the Father send Jesus? Well, we just saw in Mt 9 that the Father sent Jesus with the authority on earth to forgive sins. Now, Jesus sends out His disciples as the Father has sent, what authority must Jesus be sending His disciples out with? The authority on earth to forgive sins. And, just in case they didn't get it, verses 22-23 say this, "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'"

Why would Jesus give the Apostles the power to forgive or to retain sins if He wasn't expecting folks to confess their sins to them? And how could they forgive or retain sins if no one was confessing their sins to them?

The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another. It also tells us that God gave men the authority on Earth to forgive sins. Jesus sends out His disciples with the authority on earth to forgive sins. When Catholics confess our sins to a priest, we are simply following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. He forgives sins through the is God's power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest.

I was 37 years old when I gave my first confession.  It was hard.  I was sweating bullets.  Think of all the sins you had committed by the time you were 37.  Now think about telling them to someone. Out loud.  Even someone as loving and nonjudgmental as a priest.  That's hard stuff.  

But when I left the confessional, I felt as light as air.  Even though I had prayed many times to God asking him for forgiveness for the discretions on my list, (and yes, I took a list into the confessional) I never truly felt forgiven until I told them to the priest and he absolved me of them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  

Peter gives his first confession on Saturday morning and I have a little advice for him. Don't be nervous.  Be honest.  Speak slowly and clearly. And remember what they say, little man, "Confession really is good for your soul!"


kim said...

great post. I try to explain this to ppl too but its one tough arguemnet that a lot of people refuse to believe.

and just on a human nature...isn't it good to just TALK to someone about all your worries and failings? PPl do it all the time. they go to therapists and everything hoping to talk to someone and get things off their chest. priests are free. I just think its a human need to talk to a human person. Sure God is always there but sometimes you need someone to say, its OK.

Aimee said...

God bless, Peter on his important sacrament day!!

Fiver just made his first penance in December, and he was actually excited about it.

I can't say I get "excited" about confession, but I am comforted, relieved, and joyful when I finish. There is nothing like knowing your soul is clean as a whistle. At least for a few minutes anyway ;)

Jamie said...

Beth, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this subject! I am curious about one thing though. My ex-step-mom was Catholic. She went to mass every week... but I don't recall her ever going to confession. If a Catholic doesn't go to confession, are they looked upon negatively by the church? Can it be assumed that they chose to confess directly to God? Or, is that frowned upon in the church? I'm asking solely out of curiosity about the Catholic viewpoint, not to start a debate!

Beth Cotell said...


Catholics are supposed to go to confession at least once a year. However, regular confession is a great practice and sincere Catholics should go frequently. Because with confession comes healing grace and the strength to avoid that sin again. Also, the more you love God and the closer you become to him, the more you are aware of even the smallest sins and the more you want to confess and ask forgiveness.

Confession is a private matter. No one in the church keeps track of it (you don't have to check in or register!). The more you go the better but I would not look down on anyone that hasn't been in a long time. (Actually I wouldn't even know, since most people don't discuss it.) Besides, if I did judge them for not going, that would just be one more thing I would need to confess! :)

I hope this helps a little!

Laural Out Loud said...

As a non-Catholic Christian, I've been wondering about this. Thanks for a great answer!