The Year of Mercy: How to Go to Confession

One of the very practical efforts that might be made during the Year of Mercy is providing resources for simply the mechanics of going to Confession. (A simple and good guide may be found here.)

Although fortunately many parishes already have thriving use of this wonderful sacrament, in many places it might not be used as frequently as possible. There are a number of possible reasons for this (I’ve written about some of them here and here).

But I think another reason that people don’t go is that they simply don’t know how.

We professional Catholic types can forget how important it feels to regular folks in the pews to just not do anything wrong at Mass. As an example, I remember my first time going to Mass at a Dominican priory that has wooden seats that flip up, and feeling very self-conscious about how loudly they would slam if I made a mistake about lifting or setting mine down. A lot of people are probably like that in church, just wanting to do “the right thing” without disturbing the peace.

Imagine having the weight of this kind of fear of making a mistake, when considering approaching the sacrament of Confession, in addition to the normal inertia having to do with admitting sins, and everyone’s busy weekend schedules, and everything else that impedes frequent reception. Months and even years might pass, with God’s people carrying needlessly heavy burdens.

Fortunately this particular issue is very easy to fix. Most parish priests have already coached people through the process of going to Confession, both with schoolchildren and with adults entering the Church through RCIA. It wouldn’t take much to adapt the written resources to be referred to parish-wide in the bulletin, or to make an RCIA discussion into a homily where the benefits of Confession are discussed and the steps of going to Confession are outlined.

It might even be nice to have an “open house” for the confessionals, so folks could see the placement of chairs and screens, before attempting to go on their own. And written resources for examinations of conscience and the order of the sacrament are highly useful to have available.

It would be wonderful if in the Year of Mercy every barrier that gets in the way of sacramental reconciliation were removed as much as possible, so that people could avail themselves of the beautiful graces of this sacrament of mercy.

3 Replies to “The Year of Mercy: How to Go to Confession”

  1. We hear a lot about how confession can be offered to people, but very little really about the underlying reasons why they no longer go to confession. It can't be just about availability. There needs to be a thoroughgoing revaluation of the nature of sin, how we understand it and the need for confession. It is surely a much broader concept than the petty misdeeds and failures of everyday life, but that I imagine is what most people think of as sin – little more than being ordinarily human. Why should we feel guilty about that, they may think, and believe that God expects us to tell him how sorry we are about it?
    Is it not rather typical of the Church that we take the notion of God's mercy, which surely is also a very broad and deep concept, and reduce it to something churchy – the practice of our rituals?

  2. Taking one barrier at a time, yes, availability is a widespread problem. But this post is about a different issue having to do with comfort level and education on simply how to go to Confession. You might be surprised to know how many people are curious about this.

    The problem of the sense of sin is a bigger societal issue. How that could be addressed, I am not at all sure. We seem to have a presumption of innocence nowadays, an idea that we are "good people" who do not need to repent.

    Still, the hooks and the crooks of the fishers and shepherds should be many, and suited to the sheep, some of whom would like to go to Confession–if only they knew how.

  3. I like the idea of an open house. Also, I think the single most important aspect of getting people to go to the Sacrament is their conscience. If their conscience is not formed and sensitive to God’s will and law and Christ’s call for intimacy, the people will not be inclined or inspired to go. Work on forming the consciences of parishioners.s

Comments are closed.