Confession is the acknowledgement of one’s sin or wrong. It’s the disclosure of one’s sins in the sacrament of reconciliation.
In the Catholic Church it’s the process by which a particular man or woman confesses the sins he or she has committed after baptism to be forgiven and absolved by God through a priest. It is also known as Sacrament of Penance and sacrament of reconciliation.
Protestant churches has always asked this question “Why do Catholics go to confession and why do they confess their sins to a priest“. Some have criticized the Catholic Church saying its totally wrong confessing our sins to a fellow human.
This sacrament can be traced back to Bible, it’s a sacrament instituted by Christ himself and this article will provide you with the knowledge about the sacrament of penance.
Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest
Before Jesus ascended to heaven he gave his disciples the power to forgive or retain sin. John 20:21-22: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he has said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”. This event marked the second time God breathed on someone which makes it a significant event, the first time was when God created human.
Catholics approaches a priest for confession but don’t confess their sins directly to the priest rather they confess their sins to God through a priest. The priest acts as an ambassador of Christ and as an ambassador of Christ , he can declare the sin forgiven by the power which Christ has placed on him, any sin which he declared forgiven will be forgiven in heaven.
Jesus came to the world because of our sins and preached about forgiveness of sins throughout his ministry he forgave people their sins like the woman caught in adultery . Jesus wanted his work of reconciliation to continue when he ascends to heaven, so he gave his disciples the power to forgive sins. When he was ascending to heaven in Luke 24:46-47 He said to his disciples “This is what is written: the Messiah must suffer and must rise from death three days later and in his name the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.”. This passage made it clear that Jesus wanted his work of reconciliation to spread all over the world from generation to generation.
Benefits of going to confession
1. Going to confession helps us to learn in humility which is avoided when confessing through private prayer.
2. Through sacrament of confession, our sins aren’t just forgiven but we also receive special grace which non Catholics doesn’t receive.
3. Through this sacrament of confession a Catholic is assured that his or her sins are forgiven and doesn’t have to rely on subjective feelings.
4. During the confession the priest can give you a good advice in analyzing your sins which will help you to avoid future sins.
5. Low cost therapy. It’s free, which makes it cheaper than a psychiatrist for dealing with guilt.
6. It’s the means of reconciliation instituted by Christ himself.
7. After confession there’s always the joy and peace of Christ within us because we encountered Christ through the priest.
How to make a good confession
You can do confession in any place once a priest is present , but confession is normally conducted in confessional box, booth or reconciliation room. Every Catholic is expected to go for confession at least once in a year and it’s during Lenten period. All parishes are expected to have confessions at least once in a week.
The process of confession has 3 main act: contrition (sorrow of the soul for the sins committed), disclosure of the sins (the ‘confession’), and satisfaction (the ‘penance’, i.e. doing something to make amends for the sins).
Before confession examine your life and things happening around you, remember your sins and write them down if necessary to help you remember them, make an act of contrition, pray for God’s help for a good confession and for his mercy. We are to mention all our Mortal sins when we start the confession but don’t need to list all our minor failures .
When you are about to start the confession, you are to begin by saying
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Then proceed : “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It is [state the length of time] since my last confession”. Then tell him very shortly what your ‘state of life’ is, to help him understand your situation; e.g. “I’m a teacher, I’m a wife “etc.
Now confess your sins. Be simple and straightforward. Just put into words what you have done wrong since you last went to confession. Don’t make excuses; but if it helps, say a little bit about what happened and why. When you have concluded , say: “I am sorry for all these sins and the sins of my past life”.
The priest might then give you some words of advice . He will give you a penance to do (a prayer or action that expresses your sorrow and your desire to put things right and live a new life).
The priest will then ask you to make an Act of Contrition. Say one you know, or use the following one: “O my God, because you are so good, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you; and I promise that with the help of your grace, I will not sin again. Amen.”
The priest then says the prayer of absolution, which is the moment when God forgives your sins. He may add some other prayers as well.”
After the confession, if chanced you will do your penance(any prayer or work given to you by the priest during the confession) at the church immediately before leaving but if you aren’t chanced you can do it any other time. You must not miss to do your penance because that makes your confession complete. After the confession, your sins are forgiven and you will feel relieved and peaceful with full of joy.