Traditional General Confession and Growth in Holiness

Here is what St. Francis De  Sales says on how to grow in holiness in “Introduction to the Devout Life”.

“You see, my child, that I am now speaking of a general confession of your whole life, which, while I grant it is not always necessary, I yet believe will be found most helpful in the beginning of your pursuit after holiness, and therefore I earnestly advise you to make it. Not unfrequently the ordinary confessions of persons leading an everyday life are full of great faults, and that because they make little or no preparation, and have not the needful contrition. Owing to this deficiency such people go to confession with a tacit intention of returning to their old sins, inasmuch as they will not avoid the occasions of sin, or take the necessary measures for amendment of life, and in all such cases a general confession is required to steady and fix the soul. But, furthermore, a general confession forces us to a clearer selfknowledge, kindles a wholesome shame for our past life, and rouses gratitude for God’s Mercy, Which has so long waited patiently for us;–it comforts the heart, refreshes the spirit, excites good resolutions, affords opportunity to our spiritual Father for giving the most suitable advice, and opens our hearts so as to make future confessions more effectual. Therefore I cannot enter into the subject of a general change of life and entire turning to God, by means of a devout life, without urging upon you to begin with a general confession.”

Lent is a wonderful time of grace.  This would be a great time to do a general confession.  This takes time, so you would want to make an appointment with a priest.  The quality of the priest is not that important because you are not coming for spiritual direction but just to tell all the sins of your life.  This takes great humility.  Do not hold back any sins because of embarrassment.  Spend time writing down these sins before you go so you can be complete.  Again this is not necessary if you have already confessed with sorrow you past sins in confession.  But it is salutatory as St Francis De La Salle say.

Some of you may ask; “why even confess our sins to a priest who is a man”.  “I tell my sins to God directly.”   When you confess directly to God, did you here Him say “your Sins are forgiven”.  I do not think so.  In the Gospel of St. John chapter 20 vs 23, Jesus says “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you (apostles-men) forgive are forgiven.”  Another reason is that is what catholics have always done.  Another reason is you hear from the priest, “your sins are forgiven” in the place of God.

As you may know there is nothing so draining and difficult as to hear confessions.  You do not pay us priest to sit and listen to your sins.  So it is a gift from God that we priest do what is so difficult.  We get nothing out of it except the joy of hearing people converting and sorrowfully trying to become holier.  There is no human motive to hear confession, so it has to be a sacrament from God.  You can pay a psychologist to listen to you or you can go to God in the Holy Sacrament of Confession.

When Our Lady appeared to Claude Newman in Mississippi in 1944 after he put on a miraculous medal of Mary, she said: when you go to confession you are kneeling down not before a priest but by the cross of my Son Jesus.  And when we are truly sorry for our sins, the blood He shed flows down over us and washes away all our sins”.

When I became more traditional I started asking my parishioners if they would mind kneeling for confession (as Mary stated above).  I was afraid the rich parishioners would protest.  No, almost all of them were humble and knelt to confess.  There was a chair for those who could not kneel.  It just feels right kneeling in humility and contrition to confess.  Do not let the devil keep you an instant from the mercy of God offered freely in confession.  Better be shamed now for what you did wrong than forever when it is too late to do anything about it.

One afternoon after holy mass a young man was waiting to talk to me.  I did not recognize him.  He said; you do not know me, but a year ago I went to confession with you and it totally changed my life.  We priest never should get discouraged.  Maybe one person is becoming a holy catholic because of one confession.  And you who struggle with sin should not be discouraged either.  Maybe you could print out this advice by St. Francis de Sales and read it over and over so you never fall back into sin.  What a liberating thing is a well done confession.  We are so blessed to be traditional Catholics.