Catholic Values Column: A time to confess


By the time this column goes to print, we will be well into the penitential season of Lent. Most of us are doing some sort of act to help up prepare for Easter, usually along the lines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

All these things, when done for the right reasons, are unquestionably good and can continue to draw us closer to the Lord even after Easter. And each person is going to find something different to bring them along that road.

However, there is one thing that we should all be sure to do throughout Lent. It’s something that everyone, no matter what their individual state might be, can and should benefit from often: the sacrament of Reconciliation.

I know, it seems almost pointless to suggest to Franciscan students that they make use of the sacrament. If the lines in Christ the King Chapel Monday through Thursday are any indication, a great number of students do take the opportunity for Confession.

But still, as long as those lines are that wind through the chapel, the benefits and graces that flow from Confession can still be heavily underrated at times and even neglected by other people, both here at Franciscan and across the universal Church.

It can be understandable, though. At least to an extent. Sometimes we don’t think that we need to; we’ve been “good enough” for the previous month or two and haven’t done anything too bad. Other times, we don’t want to go because it’s been a while and things have just built up and it’s going to be painful to get it all out there. I think most Catholics have found themselves in these positions at least once or twice before.

But that doesn’t mean that those are good positions to be in. Not by a long shot. St. John Paul II once said of confession that it is “an act of honesty and courage — an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.” That means that no matter how many weeks or months it’s been since your last Confession or what sins you might have committed, Confession is our opportunity to “be not afraid” and cling to God’s mercy.

Someone once likened going to Confession after some time away to flossing your teeth for the first time since your dental cleaning that was two months ago. Although the analogy struck me as odd at first, I think there’s a lot of merit in it.

Flossing for the first time after not doing it for a while can be very painful. Because we know of that pain, some are reluctant to take care of this basic hygiene. It needs to be complete; every nook and cranny needs to be examined so that you actually achieve the clean mouth you intended. And to avoid the inflamed gums and cavities that might pop up, flossing is something that needs to be done regularly. The benefits of flossing can’t be unlocked unless you commit yourself to flossing regularly and completely.

Similarly, with Confession, it can be hard to return after a period away, especially if there’s something we’ve done that we don’t feel ready to confess. Coming clean with that can be painful, but we need to make a complete confession of our sins. If we intentionally fail to acknowledge one of our sins, then the Confession is invalid, and we don’t receive the graces we had set out hoping for.

Sometimes, small things can build up after a while without Confession and will put us in a sort of rut. For this reason, we must make Confession a regular habit and commit ourselves to be complete in our examination of conscience.

St. Isidore of Seville once said, “Confession heals, Confession justifies, Confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in Confession; in Confession there is a chance for mercy.” And this is very much true. All the more reason, then, that we make use of the sacrament not just during this penitential season but throughout the entire year.