Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Frequent Confession

22 February 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

Sometimes, the idea of frequent confession still succeeds in raising eyebrows among the uninformed today. Some would think this is a bit exaggerated. Others would brush it off as something unnecessary. For instance, when I advised someone (a friend of mine) to go to confession once a week, if possible (and I think for this friend, it was possible), I could notice a shock in my friend’s face.

I could understand my friend’s surprise. Most people think (and I think they’re not wrong) that one goes to confession only when he realizes he has committed a grave sin. We call it mortal sin.

It is called mortal because it cuts off the “supply of grace” that flows into our soul when we are in the state of grace. It is the “death” of our soul, so to speak. The other type, the venial sin, does not cut off the life of grace.

The Church teaches that we should confess immediately (as soon as possible) the mortal sins because “to die in the state of mortal sin without having repented and received the merciful love of God means to be separated from Him forever by one’s own and free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and with the saints is what we call ‘hell’.” (CCC, 1033).

But the Church still encourages that we should confess the venial sins. This is why, we are highly encouraged to go frequently to confession. The most prudent is once a week (with a fixed day), or as necessary (when one realizes having committed a mortal sin).

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Spiritual author Dom Benedict Baur, OSB, in his book Frequent Confession, Its Place in the Spiritual Life, has enumerated some advantages of going to confession frequently. He said that “the ‘profit’ of the confession of venial sins comes above all else from the fact that when we go to Confession we receive a Sacrament”.

First, we receive a “strengthening and deepening of the supernatural life already existing in the soul and an increase of the love of God”. Christian life is more than just avoiding mortal sins and erasing them once we commit them. It is absolutely erroneous to think that once we have avoided all kinds of grave sin or have confessed “once and for all” all mortal sins committed in the past, we are already living a perfect Christian life.

Christian life is loving God. And this love requires not only the eradication of grave sins but also its manifestation in smallest details. Love always finds a concrete and detailed manifestation. It would not allow even a venial sin.

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Second, “when venial sins are forgiven in Confession a greater part of the temporal punishment due to them is forgiven than would be outside the sacrament with the same sentiments of contrition”.

The Church teaches us two things: (a) that venial sins can be forgiven outside confession through an act of contrition. Maybe this is what makes others think that frequent confession (especially when it is only of venial sins) is unnecessary; (b) that all sins bring with it two consequences – temporal and eternal punishment (CCC, 1472). Eternal punishment or hell is separation from God forever while temporal punishment is the purification of the sinner from all its attachment to creatures, whether here on earth (through all our sufferings) or in the Purgatory.

The confession of venial sins could spare us also from the temporal punishment of these sins. In case of the mortal sins confessed, the eternal punishment is removed while temporal punishment remains and takes many form (our suffering is one). It should not be understood as God’s punishment but as a consequence that goes with the nature of sins.

St. Teresa of Jesus once commented: “It is better to suffer in this world and be purified than in the purgatory.” All our sufferings (physical, moral, spiritual), if offered to God, could purify us of all temporal punishments that we need to undergo in the purgatory. The Church also says that a conversion that comes from fervent charity could lead to the total purification of the sinner, to the point that no punishment could subsist (Cf. CCC, 1472).

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I THINK, the truth about frequent confession needs to be meditated today as we enter into the season of Lent. We need to teach this truth to others as it is our duty not only to know the truth about our faith but also help others know and understand it.
In so doing, we perform an excellent spiritual work of mercy. And like the four men who brought to Jesus the paralytic man through the ceiling (in the Gospel this Sunday), we too could bring to God’s mercy those who are paralysed by ignorance or by insufficient understanding about the Sacrament of Penance, in particular, about frequent confession.

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"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.