The Sacrament of Penance
What is Confession?
Last Sunday, after Life-Teen Mass, we were told to go to church, so that we would have the opportunity to go to the sacrament of Penance and… There we were, sitting, waiting to go to confession… But... How do I do it?- I wondered. Will the priest be horrified at how sinful I am? Will he reproach my actions? How can he understand my troubles? All my peers are looking at me, will they laugh when they see me coming out of confession? Will I be able to look at Fr. Joe straight in his face the next time I see him, after going to confession with him? Is confession, really necessary?
All of the above may be a few of the many questions that a teenager can have, when faced with the idea of going to the sacrament of penance or otherwise called, confession.
W hat is Confession?
hat is Confession?
Confession is the sacrament of Penance. It is a sacrament, a gift from God. Jesus left us with the sacraments to strengthen us in our lives, here on earth. I imagine them as a water canteen that in our walk in the desert of life, contains the precious life we lack otherwise. By baptism we are born into Christ’s kingdom (CC 1215), by confession we are sustained and strengthened in our walk toward heaven.
I read some time ago, in a secular magazine, that of all Christian denominations Catholics have the lowest percentage of going to the psychiatrist. I believe that it is so because we have the sacrament of Penance. We are able to go to a priest an openly in total confidence – out loud – repent of our sins. We take a good look at our strengths and weaknesses when we examine our conscience.
But why confess to a priest?
The priest represents the Catholic Church and as we confess our sins to Jesus, in the presence of the priest he is the witness, of our confession. He may counsel us, direct us, or simply listen. But he is vowed to secrecy, he cannot reveal to anyone what you have just confessed.
How do I do it?
Before going to confession, we do an examination of conscience, reflect upon how we have followed Christ, or neglected to do His will. We think of the Ten Commandments and the commandments of the Catholic Church. Have we attended to the corporal work of Mercy, and to the spiritual works of Mercy. Then we pray to God for the forgiveness.
( See the article: “Examination of Conscience”)
To make a good confession, we have to examine our conscience- thinking of our sins and acknowledging them. We need to feel sincere grief in our hearts for having offended God. We have to make up our mind that we are not going to do it again. We confess our sins to God in the presence of a priest in the confessionary and accept the priest’s absolution- Go and sin no more - Then finally we go and do penance.
The most important element in this sacrament in my opinion is our faith and sincere desire of amendment, through it Christ pour His graces upon us, making us stronger in times of temptation.
I wonder - Will the priest be horrified at how sinful I am?
No, the priest is not there to judge you. Like Christ He is there to help you heal and grow stronger spiritually. He represents the Church. Remember, you are talking to Christ with the priest there to witness your confession and give you advise and counsel if needed, and the absolution. Avail yourself of a good confessor and he will help you grow in holiness.
Will the priest reproach my actions?
No, the priest is there not to judge you, but to help you in your spiritual walk.
How can he understand my troubles?
Give it a try, you may be amazed.
All my peers are looking at me, will they laugh when they see me coming out of confession?
I doubt it. You may find that they will respect your courage and they may be even be lead to go themselves, and follow your example. Friends in Christ are forever and when you go to the sacraments with your friends, the friendship and trust increases.
Will I be able to look at Fr. Joe straight in his face, the next time I see him, after going to confession with him?
Fr. Joe will not acknowledge or remind you of your confession. He will not judge you. Remember, he is vowed to secrecy.
Is confession, really necessary?
Yes, I would explain it this way: Are a pair of shoes, really necessary? I do not mean to compare a sacrament to a pair of shoes in a derogatory fashion, but both sure can help us in our walk of life and make it easier- Confession in our spiritual walk, and a pair of shoes in our earthly walk.
A cool piece of advice:
Know yourself and you will be able to walk with your strength and carry your weaknesses. Avail yourself of the sacrament of Penance and your teenager years will be easier - Christ did not send you in the “desert of life without a canteen.”
All of the above may be a few of the many questions that a teenager can have.
Do you have any other questions? Send them to email@example.com and we will be happy to answer them and if we do not the answer, we will search for someone that knows.
The Sacrament of Penance- References:
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1420-1498, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota © 1994
The Sacrament of Penance and the Jubilee Year- Questions and Answers,
http://www.nccbuscc.org/jubilee/pastplan/q%26a.htm - U.S. Bishops' Web Site
How to Go to Confession,
http://www.nccbuscc.org/jubilee/pastplan/confess.htm - U.S. Bishops' Web Site
This article was written by Marta Alves- for LEAP OF FAITH- www.faithleap.org
© 2000- LEAP OF FAITH – Marta Alves– www.faithleap.org
Published by LEAP OF FAITH- www.faithleap.org
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January 21, 2000