The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a pretty amazing gift – it offers the forgiveness of sins! No sin too large or too small, they can all be forgiven through this incredible sacrament. Then why do so many Catholics go years or decades without going to Confession? For many, the main reason is fear. Fear of being embarrassed, fear of feeling ashamed, fear of not knowing what to do or what to say.
On St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ offered some tips to help conquer the fear of Confession, especially if it’s been awhile since you last participated in the sacrament.
A big part of why we’re afraid of what will happen when we go into Confession is that we’re not as prepared as we should be. Start writing things down. And start with the big things that come to your mind, those big things that have really separated you from Jesus. Start listing those things down. Get the big things out because as soon as you start getting the big things out on paper, the little things start to come. You start following up with, ‘Oh yea, added onto that there’s this thing. Added on to this, there’s that thing.’
Write it out. I know you’re going to want to burn that piece of paper, you’re not going to want anyone to find that piece of paper, I know. But write it out or put it on your phone, or do something where you have your password-protected phone and nobody will be able to get into your Examination of Conscience.
Do a good preparation, and then you’re going to start to realize the scope of your sin. It won’t be so amorphous. It won’t just be this looming sense of dread, and guilt, and shame hanging over your head. It will be clearly defined why you’re feeling the way that you are. It won’t make it easier, yet. But it will make it clearer for you.
Know How To Enter The Sacrament
And then take a few minutes to look at how to go to Confession. Because that is another big part of why people get nervous about it, because they forget how it all works, they forget what to say, and so they’re nervous that the priest is going to call them out, or look at them with a raised eyebrow, like ‘What are you doing? Don’t you know what’s going on here? I see you haven’t been here in a while.’
That’s not what’s going to happen. The priest is going to want to help you out, but you will be more comfortable if you remember how it starts. ‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been X amount of time since I’ve been to Confession. These are my sins…’
Be Open And Honest
And then you dive into your sins. Be honest, be totally open, maybe think about how those sins have betrayed Jesus in a certain way. Maybe think about how those sins have hurt Jesus, affected your relationship with Jesus. Don’t do it in order to feel bad about yourself. That’s not why we do it. We do it in order to be more honest, more transparent, and think more clearly. That’s the whole point. Jesus doesn’t want you to be discouraged. But He does want you to be honest.
These are things that really help with those fears that you might have, with the struggles and the difficulties. They’re not going to take the fears away completely. So if you’re struggling with fears a lot, you’re going to have to take a deep breath, you’re going to have to decide ‘I can overcome this. I can do it. I can go into that Confessional.’
The more you do it, actually, the less you will fear. Just imagine people jumping out of an airplane. I’ve done it once in my life – I had a parachute on, don’t worry – and it was nerve wracking, very frightening, very exciting; but the guide that took me out, that I jumped with, he was practically falling asleep on the way up because it was just another day, his 25,000th jump out of a plane. Because the more you do it, the easier it gets. The same thing is true when it comes to Confession. Don’t put it off.