It is not my desire through this short post to explain to Non-Catholics the reasons that we, as Catholics, go to confession, but to encourage those that read this to recommit themselves to this sacrament. We are about to end the liturgical year and begin a new one with the coming of Advent. During the “year end” it is always good to bring to mind the actions, thoughts, desires, and ways that we have acted that are contrary to what we truly believe and how we “left undone” the things we ought to have done. It is time to clean house and sweep away the dust.
Historically, the season of Advent was much like that of lent. I want to encourage the readers of this blog to consider again the historical meaning of Advent, the preparations that it entails and the spirit of sacrifice that it ought to engender in us. There will be several post that will be published that will help in the overall understanding of Advent, a novena to the Immaculate Conception, how to celebrate the birth of Our Lord in a traditional and holy manner with our families, and a few more posts as I have time to put them together. For today, I would like to focus on Confession and the spirit of Sacrifice that should pervade our thoughts at all time, and especially during Advent.
According to our Catechism and as one of the six precepts of the Church, we should all go to confession at least once a year. Now going to confession once a year is a requirement, but lets be honest, if all we are interested in is the “requirements” then we probably aren’t on very safe ground in terms of our eternal salvation. All of the saints recommend going to confession frequently and by frequently we are talking about at least every two weeks with many of the saints recommending weekly. St. Padre Pio said, “Confession is the soul’s bath. You must go at least once a week. I do not want souls to stay away from confession more than a week. Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust; return after a week and you will see that it needs dusting again!” If our goal in life is to become holy, then weekly confession is paramount to our soul’s well being.
Let’s examine the reasons behind weekly confession:
“Every sacrament imparts its own particular grace. The sacramental grace of confession is primarily the forgiveness of sins, but it is also, secondarily, the spiritual strengthening of the soul. This is why it is called a sacrament of healing. It heals (reconciles) our relationships with God and with the Church, which have been wounded or broken by personal sin, and at the same time strengthens those relationships. When we break a bone, the body will repair it with an extra dose of calcium, so that the bone is actually stronger at the break point after the healing than it was before the injury. Something similar happens with confession. God pours out his strengthening grace in a special way on the aspects of our spiritual organism, so to speak, that we present to him in confession.
Now you can understand why the devil works so hard to keep us away from frequent, regular confession. If our relationship with God has been ruptured (by mortal sin), he doesn’t want it reconciled. But even if it has just been wounded (venial sin), he doesn’t want it strengthened.
This sacrament, however, proffers even more benefits to the soul than the sacramental graces of forgiveness and strengthening. Making a good confession requires the arduous task of self-reflection. Ongoing self-examination is, all spiritual writers agree, a basic ingredient in spiritual progress. We have to discover, with God’s help, how miserable and needy we really are, spiritually speaking, in order to open ourselves confidently and eagerly to God’s action. Going to confession is also like doing a major spiritual workout. Through the process of self-examination, repentance, confession, and penance, we exercise every major spiritual-muscle group: the theological virtues (faith, hope, love for God), humility (it’s not exactly self-inflating to kneel down and systematically expose our faults and failings), justice, prudence, fortitude (it takes courage to step into a confessional), and self-denial. This sacrament is like a gymnasium of Christian virtue. Frequent and regular workouts therein will do wonders for our spiritual health.” (FR. BARTUNEK)
If we look at the sacraments as God’s divine love for us and the ways that He wants us to attain to holiness and the beatific vision then it behooves us to truly recognize them for what they are and utilize them. There is a reason Mass is said every day. There is a reason that Confession is offered (hopefully) every Mass, there is a reason behind every sacrament but some sacraments can be participated in more than once namely: Mass and Confession.
If the normal means of salvation that God has provided for us are administered through the agency of the church, primarily through these two sacraments, what does it say about us that we neglect them? What does it say about our love of God, our desire for purity, holiness and what does it say about where our heart is? If we neglect the spiritual food that is offered to us, why do we complain when our lives become filled with the world and the things of the world? Why do we complain when our prayers become harder to make, our thoughts harder to control, our passions harder to contain? We NEGLECT the grace that is provided to us when we do not partake of the sacraments and partake frequently.
We live in trying times. Times that our Lady of Good Success spoke of in the late 1600’s:
- “In those times the atmosphere will be saturated with the spirit of impurity which, like a filthy sea, will engulf the streets and public places with incredible license.… Innocence will scarcely be found in children, or modesty in women.”
- “He who should speak seasonably will remain silent.
- “There shall be scarcely any virgin souls in the world. The delicate flower of virginity will seek refuge in the cloisters.…Without virginity, fire from heaven will be needed to purify these lands.…
- “Sects, having permeated all social classes, will find ways of introducing themselves into the very heart of homes to corrupt the innocence of children. The children’s hearts will be dainty morsels to regale the devil.…
- “Religious communities will remain to sustain the Church and work with courage for the salvation of souls.… The secular clergy will fall far short of what is expected of them because they will not pursue their sacred duty. Losing the divine compass, they will stray from the way of priestly ministry mapped out for them by God and will become devoted to money, seeking it too earnestly.” (more)
The quotes from above are over 300 years old and speak, specifically of the times we live in, and yet, we continue along the pathway that leads to hell while ignoring the warnings and not taking advantage of the means of grace. Because, as a society and the church, we have neglected the means of salvation and we now live in the filth of a world that is devoted to destroying itself. Our lady also said in the same prophecy, “The small number of souls who will secretly safeguard the treasure of Faith and virtues will suffer a cruel, unspeakable, and long martyrdom. Many will descend to their graves through the violence of suffering and will be counted among the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the country and the Church.” These are dire warnings and they all have become true!
So how do the warnings of Our Lady fit in with confession and advent? Good question! Confession helps keep our soul pure. We live amidst filth. Our world has left off the Kingship of Christ and has followed the path of Satan. Our lady warned us of this and she has told us how to stop it. We can complain about our Pope, our Bishops, and our Clergy but what good does that do? We can sit demoralized and whine to God or we can do something about the issue. We are not going to save the Church. God can, and will through the Immaculate Heart but before He will do so we must do something and that something is repent and make reparations. Our Lady of Fatima said for us to, “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say often to Jesus, especially whenever you make a sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
If we are serious about Christ reigning in our hearts, our homes and in our countries we must first clean out those things and it starts with our heart. We must repent and the best way to do so is through the sacrament of Penance and to do so frequently. During this time of Advent, let us begin, again, to confess frequently. To make small sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, and to pray earnestly for holiness.
As we put down our phones, turn off our TV’s or our computers, as we get alone and pray, let us remember what we are on this earth for and where we want to spend eternity. God’s mercy is being poured out on the altars and in the confessional. Let us purpose to spend more time participating in both. Our soul and the souls of countless others depend on it.
— Jonathan Byrd I