26 November 2008


It must be something they are teaching seminarians these days. A new graduation requirement -- a course on how to keep parishioners coming back to confession.

I try to make it to confession at least once a month. I think that's good for me right now since many times I have to plan in advance to have someone watch the kids. However, in the back of my head, I still hear my father's voice prodding me to go every two weeks. I've never been able to make it to confession with that regularity.

What is a little off-putting is to tell the priest my confession and have him tell me it was "a good confession."

I never used to hear this from the priests at my parish. Like many folks, I tend to, sadly, confess the same habitual sins each month with little variation. I do try to do a good examination of my conscience, but by and large, my sins don't change much.

I've been told "that was a good confession" quite often in the past few years from very fine priests that are not long out of the seminary. This is the same ol' confession I have been confessing year-in and year-out, the same confession that never made the priest skip a beat or pause to give me encouragement. Friends have told me they have been told the same thing. While I understand that the priest wants to put me at ease or indicate that they believe I have done a good examination of my conscience, the business of confession is exactly that -- confession of the sins we have committed -- how we have offended God. Nothing "good" about that.

For me, the last place I want to be patronized is in the confessional. I don't need to have the priest give me a verbal "atta girl" when I'm doing what I should be. Nothing tops the feeling of absolution (or the imperfect, but serious, fear of hell) to bring me back to confession. I need spiritual direction while I'm contrite and in the confessional, not a cheerleader.

I must be old school in that I want confession to feel like purgation. I don't want it to be foo-foo, frilly or touchy-feely, I want it to be a serious reflection of my sins with a heart-felt resolution to amend my life.

If the priest is holy and if he tells his flock the Truth they need to hear, then I would think that the rest, like frequent confession, would follow naturally, no marketing required.


Adoro said...

I hear the same thing, too. And I have been going "deeper", so I take it to mean that if the priest says this, I'm at least doing it correctly. I think that's what he's getting at. He also is one that does give more advice.

Recently, though, he told me I was really "doing well" and I caught myself wanting to argue. I had to remember the catechesis I've given others; that we're talking to Christ himself and the priest is acting and speaking on HIS behalf. And sometimes...we need encouragement. I had to, in other words, swallow my pride and receive that which Christ wanted to give me, and that was very humbling.

But I agree that more direction is often needed in order to overcome our average laundry list.

Look at it this way; you're not inventing anything NEW!

Lisa said...

Great post, Swissy. That is one of my resolutions-to go to Confession more frequently. I have had my own issues with this and it's time for me to get over it!!!!

I hope you have a very blessed Thanksgiving and that all goes well with hosting. If the relative humidity gets too high, keep some wine or beer handy!!;)

swissmiss said...

Good point, Adoro. The irony is that much of what I confess is rooted in the sin of pride (lack of humility) so maybe I need to not bristle and, like you, want to argue, when I'm told I'm doing a good job!

Like you said, at least my list isn't growing :)

I typically go to confession at St. A's on the eve of First Fridays since it's so hard for me to try to get there on the weekends. Except now my husband has been having grad classes on Thursday nights and I have to get someone to watch the kids...they are too young to inflict on others at confession and would be too disruptive.

Adoro said...

I go to confession nearly every week (ashamed to say that all too often it's because I HAVE to)

Anyway, because, like you, I'm always bringing up the SAME things, I've looked at different Examens, I've spent time praying, I've asked to have my sins revealed. And gotta say...St. Catherine of Siena put me under a SCALPEL. Wow! And that helped me go deeper.

If at all possible, try to go more than once per month. It does help, over time, to go deeper. I've found that my list isn't that different...but it HAS gotten longer, I'm seeing the roots of things, the seriousness of other things, etc. And I'm actally doing more in the Sacrament than rattling off a list. I've been able to articulate some other problems, briefly, but in a way that is acknowledging that I understand something MORE about what I'm doing. And it's helping the priest to be able to give me better advice.

I know for you it's harder to get there, but maybe if you find a different type of examination of conscience it will help you find things you hadn't considered or look at your usual list in a new light, seeing other angles. (Um...it's painful but it helps!)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Swissy: I hear that a lot too but I always feel that it is more an acknowledgment that I'm VERY straightforward when I Confess. I list it all number and kind without being asked. I start with the mortals first and then move down.

I'm a frequent Confessor. I'm probably there every 2 weeks on average. Definitely there for the First Friday obligation. Often before Holy Days (not Sundays). Sometimes, I'm there again within 24 hours.

Note to everyone: Just DO it!!!!

gemoftheocean said...

"I tend to, sadly, confess the same habitual sins each month with little variation. "

(and why should *you* be different?! :-D Now if you'd like some new and really unique ways to sin, I'm sure we can brainstorm!)

Seriously though, I think it's "normal" for depending on who you are and what your personality is,
"A" might be more prone to one type a sin than "B" is.

For instance: I'm not going to have to confess "being mean to my husband and short tempered with the kids" 'cuz I'm not married and don't have kids! On the other hand, I might be more prone to bitch out people in traffic, simply because people with their heads up their backsides while out on the public road get my dander up because I am short tempered as all get out. I did make a priest laugh once in confession though. I confessed to flipping off a person in traffic and cutting her off, because she'd cut ME off -- on top of it she had a "pro-choice" sticker. One OR the other I could have dealt with. But not BOTH.

swissmiss said...

I mean that I confess the same thing because I haven't somehow got the knack on how NOT to do those same irritating things over and over...but yet I expect my kids to learn from their mistakes the first time.

I confess everything you mention...mad at hubby and kids and cursing other drivers. The priest must think I'm one hostile psychopath who he had better not give a very harsh penance to for fear of his own safety :)

I have so many areas in my spiritual life that need work, primarily prayer. I think I need to ramp up my prayer life and spend some time in Adoration (both have taken a hit over the summer) and then I'd be more inclined to get to confession more often. I don't know, it's kind of a horse and cart thing...which comes first. In any event, I could do better in all areas, some more than others!