Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Frequent Reception of the Sacrament of Confession

A reader commented on my series about Confession that sometimes her desire for frequent confession is considered scrupulous since there are no mortal sins to confess. I want to direct you to some reading that will help to understand what the Church teaches about confession:

Reconciliation and Penance

This is a lengthy read, but I do recommend that you take the time to explore the wonders of the Sacrament through the teaching of John Paul II.

On a more immediate and pragmatic level, I can offer these options which are certainly not exhaustive of all the options available:

1. Examine your conscience thoroughly before going to confession -- list your sins according to the Commandment they have offended, i.e. I took the Lord's Name in Vain three times offending against the 2nd Commandment.

2. Find a priest who is willing to be your confessor -- arrange to go to confession with this priest once a month (or more frequently if advisable).

3. Go to different parishes for confession -- you may find that some of the spiritual advice you receive at other parishes will help you root out the habitual sin -- mortal and/or venial.

4. Frequent an evening of recollection or a spiritual retreat given by a secular institute such as Opus Dei or a religious order like the Dominicans or Franciscans for example.

5. Discuss with your priest your reasons for frequent confession and note their obligation to make the grace of the Sacrament of Confession available to the faithful who reasonably ask for it.

In a circular letter that was written from the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2000, it states:

5. Local Ordinaries and priests, to the degree that it applies to them, have an obligation in conscience to ensure that penitents have regular and frequent scheduled opportunities for individual and integral confession of sins in all parish churches and insofar as possible in other pastoral centres. In addition, priests are called upon to be generous in making themselves available outside of those scheduled times to celebrate individual and integral confession whenever the faithful would reasonably ask for it. "Other works, for lack of time, may have to be postponed or even abandoned, but not the confessional." (emphasis added)

It seems quite clear that no distinction is made in this statement about the type of sin that must be confessed, rather if the request is reasonable, the priest should be generous in making the sacrament available. Frequent reception of the sacrament is not scrupulous because you have no mortal sin to confess. In my opinion, it would be more presumptuous of you to stay away thinking that you don't need the grace of the sacrament.

I would suggest reading the entire letter -- the link is provided above -- as it may provide useful clarification about frequent reception of the sacrament. In this regard it might also be useful to recall the words of St. Peter, "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame." (1 Peter 3:15) Sometimes it is up to us, the laity, to remind the clergy of their mission with gentleness and for love of Christ Jesus.

As a Post Script -- A friend recommended that I share this book which she found extremely helpful in making a good confession. I have read excerpts and thought it offered helpful insights.

Frequent Confession, Benedict Baur

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